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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, December 21, 2006

Give yourself a financial gift that doesn't cost you anything

By Greg Wiles
Advertiser Columnist


Have a question about money matters? Akamai Money columnist Greg Wiles can try to answer it in The Advertiser. Reach him at gwiles@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8088.

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Holiday spirit should extend to your own finances. Why not give yourself a gift that won't cost you anything and improves your financial well-being?

Below are some quick ideas on how you can save some money or take advantage of some offers.


You've probably complained about gasoline prices. Why not do something about it? If you don't mind taking on another credit card, look into one that gives you a discount or cash back on your purchases. The Discover Gas Card gives you 5 percent back on your trips to the pump.


Get $3 off your monthly Hawaiian Electric Co. bill by signing up for its EnergyScout program. In times of system emergencies, HECO may temporarily shut off your water heater via a device it installs at your home. Most people forget it's there, the utility says.


Get your credit report by going to www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling (877) 322-8228. You'll be asked for personal information, including your Social Security number, to be sure they are giving out the right report. Don't get confused and go to the disingenuously named www.freecreditreport.com, which offers a free trial membership to a $13 monthly service.


Call your broker if you haven't reviewed your life insurance in a few years. Because of the competitive environment among life insurers, you may be able to find a cheaper rate. You also may not need as much coverage if your children are grown and no longer need your support. You can compare rates by going to the Internet, but Consumer Reports notes that people need to be careful about which ones they visit because some may only be a lead-generator for agents.


Get your FICO credit score through a free trial offers at MyFico.com you can sign up to receive a score from Equifax. The site will send a reminder e-mail after several weeks saying that you are nearing the end of the 30-day trial offer. Be sure to cancel at that time. If you don't, you'll be charged $90 for an annual subscription.


If you haven't checked your wireless telephone plan in several years, review how many minutes a month you are using on average. You may be able to switch to a less costly plan. Or check whether your wireless company has modified plans and now gives more minutes for what you're paying. You also might look at bundled services from Hawaiian Telcom for as little as $66 a month.


The availability of state and federal tax credits and rebates from utilities mean you should seriously be considering a system if you don't have one. There is a 30 percent federal tax credit, a 35 percent state credit and rebates of at least $750 from the electric companies. Translation: The system may pay for itself in less than three years.


If you are strengthening your house to withstand hurricanes or have done so in the past four years, you may be eligible for a state reimbursement program that pays qualifying homeowners $2,100 or 35 percent of the cost of the work. To learn more, go to the state's Web page at www.hawaii.gov/dcca or call the state Insurance Division.


The state is administrator of unclaimed property left in bank accounts, utility deposits and at other companies. Finding out if some of the more than $100 million is yours is easy. Go to http://pahoehoe.ehawaii.gov/lilo/app or call 586-1589 on O'ahu.

Do you have a question about personal finance, taxes or other money matters? Reach Akamai Money columnist Greg Wiles at 525-8088 or gwiles@honoluluadvertiser.com