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The Conspicuous Consumer

Kingdom Come: The little-known discount on Disney resort rates

"Fun" fact: The best deal on resort rates at Disney World in Florida, for hotels right on the Disney property, is reserved for AAA members. When booking a room only - not a package plan - AAA members get a 10 percent discount.   I've been taking advantage of the discount for about 20 years now (I am a big fan of Disney World, and have visited an embarrassing number of times), and that 10 percent adds up to a significant amount. But not many people 0

Home Ownership: Don't pay add-on fees for deeds, other documents

 Attorney General Martha Coakley issued a warning last week about deed collection services, which offer to provide homeowners with a copies of their deeds - for anywhere between $50 and $90.   Coakley's objection? The same documents are available for free online, or for a modest fee - usually 50 cents a page or less - at Registry of Deeds offices.  "Homeowners should not spend a significant amount of money to obtain a copy of the deed to their home," the attorney general said in a press 0

Graphic Art: Expensive specialty papers for next to nothing 

I needed to chart the design for a needlepoint Christmas stocking I am making, but could I find my pad of graph paper? Of course not.  Over the years I've bought just about every configuration of graph paper imaginable - 8 squares per inch, 10 squares per inch, 14 squares per inch - at considerable expense. So the prospect of shelling out yet another $5 or more for something that's somewhere in my house was annoying.  Then I discovered a website called printablepaper.net. It has downloadable PDFs 0

Show Me the Money: Searching out the best foreign ATM fees

A few weeks ago I wrote about the importance of letting your bank know if you plan to travel to a foreign country - and plan to use your ATM card while you're there. The reason? ATM activity in a random far-flung spot can be a red flag for a stolen card, and the bank may shut down your account until it can contact you.  In that same piece I also mentioned that using your ATM in a foreign country will trigger additional fees. A reader 0

Spare Change? The easy alternative to rolling up coins by hand

Like lots of people, I routinely toss my loose change into a jar, and every so often - when the heft feels about right - I spend an afternoon piling coins into stacks and sliding them into paper wrappers. It's an oddly satisfying pastime - I feel both frugal and industrious - and I've always enjoyed it. Until last week, that is, when I dumped piles of change onto my dining room table only to discover that I was out of wrappers.  I'm heading to the 3

Culture Dash: Get free admission this Saturday at hundreds of U.S. museums

Mark your calendar: It's time for Smithsonian magazine's annual Museum Day Live!, which offers free admission to museums around the country. The date for 2013 is this Saturday, Sept. 28, and more than 70 Massachusetts museums are included. Among the local choices: Wistariahurst in Holyoke; Memorial Hall Museum in Deerfield; and the Yiddish Book Center and the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst. Also participating: The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, where the main exhibit right now features Northampton resident - but 0

Too Much, Too Soon: Why do magazines keep pestering me with renewal notices?

As a rule, I like to get the cheapest price for whatever I'm buying. Who doesn't? However, there's one category where I decided to make an exception to that otherwise hard-and-fast rule - magazine renewals.  Over the years I've gotten so fed up with renewal notices that start arriving almost as soon as my magazine subscription starts, then keep on coming and coming, months in advance of the expiration date, that I've thrown up my hands in defeat. Instead I've opted for a time-saving, paper-saving approach: 0

Copy That: Why it's important to make a list of what's in your wallet

I've only lost my wallet once - and fortunately, I got it back the same day, with no harm done. At a college graduation I'd put my pocketbook on the empty seat next to mine - foolish, I know, but I was busy taking pictures - and it was scooped up by the father of another graduate, who thought it belonged to his wife. Some time later, after she'd set him straight (and after I'd accosted the campus police in a panic and also checked 0

E-Z Does It: Tolls are returning to our part of the Pike, so get ready

The free ride is over in western Mass.  The Legislature voted this summer to reverse its 1996 decision eliminating turnpike tolls for interchanges 1 through 6, and the tolls return on Oct. 15. The $12 million in expected annual revenue will fund improvements to the turnpike - all of them, according to the state Department of Transportation, west of Interstate 95.  How much will we have to pay to use the Pike? Here are a couple of examples. The charge for traveling from West Springfield (Interchange 4) 0

Truly Gifted: Now's the time to be on the lookout for gift-card deals

This week (Sept. 8 to 14) CVS is running a promotion on iTunes and App Store gift cards: Spend $50 on them and get $10 in extrabucks rewards, which can be used at any CVS - the equivalent of a 20 percent bonus on your purchase.  Retailers often sweeten the gift-card pot with offers like these, especially as the holidays approach. Last November Big Y Supermarkets ran a series of similar promotions, and I was able to get $50 worth of Amazon.com gift cards, for instance, 0