The May issue of Consumer Reports features 101 savvy secrets gleaned from the magazine's testers and writers. Many of these folks have worked there for decades, so this is a truly unique knowledge-set. They either learned by messing up or by hearing from viewers who did!
As a longtime consumer reporter myself, I approached the article with a bit of swagger --what could they possibly teach me that I don't already know?-- but I came away humbled by some truly novel, niche advice. I figure if it's news to me, it will be to you too. Here are my top picks for saving your money, your time and your sanity
• Avoid the Arial font. Consumer Reports tests have shown that it uses more ink than Times New Roman and other fonts.
• Keep your printer on. It uses only a smidge of power in standby mode, but wastes a ton of ink recalibrating each time you start it up.
Tires: Don't pay extra for nitrogen in your tires. CR points out air is about 80 percent nitrogen anyway! And since tires leak over time, better to fill them with something free.
Airfare: The cheapest airfares are found online from Monday night to Thursday night 8ish. One expert claims 3pm EST Tuesday is the golden hour.
ID-Theft Protection: Don't spend money on special protection for your credit card. Your liability is $50 if your card is stolen and zero if just your number is taken.
GPS: If your car gets stolen with your GPS in it, do you really want the thieves to know where you live? Don't program your address in under "home." Hide it under some other heading --like "police station!"
Fire extinguishers, smoke detectors: These critical alarms don't last forever. They actually expire --typically after 12 years-- so record the end dates and replace them, or add more, when the time comes.
Passwords: Longer passwords work better than complicated ones and the best of all are not real words you can find in the dictionary because crooks can run programs to try every word in the dictionary.
Save your Sanity... or Calories
Smart phones: They are mini computers, so just like you need to restart your computer every few days, do the same with your phone to purge unneeded programs and fix glitches.
Thermoses: You know that funky taste that a thermos or carafe gets if it's ever had coffee in it? It's then awful for tea or water. CR says you can get rid of the coffee funk by dropping denture tablets into hot water and soaking.
Granola: Love granola but want to avoid the fat and sugar? Mix puffed cereal in with it to get the taste but cut the calories.