Archive for December, 2008

SteinMart Coupons Available here
December 26, 2008

Back in June, we aired an “Ask Amy” segment about a SteinMart Class Action lawsuit. It resulted in a settlement where SteinMart agreed to print coupons in newspapers across the country.

Gail Folloder emailed this week. She says she never saw the coupons in the Chronicle and she wondered if she could still get them. Thanks to my sleuthing (ok, so I googled “SteinMart coupons :)) she can have them and so can you! 

The coupons are good through March 7, 2009. Print them out and take them with you.


Your Electric Bill
December 17, 2008


Tonight at 10, we answered a couple of the dozens of emails we’ve received from frazzled customers about CenterPoint estimating your meters instead of actually reading them.

Tomorrow, the Public Utility Commission is addressing some of your frustrations too. It will be a public meeting in Austin. Remember this summer when several electric companies went bankrupt or closed their doors, shuffling customers to new companies with outrageous rates?

Well, this meeting is the culmination of months of work by the PUC to try and pass some new rules that would prevent that kind of electric consumer catastrophe again.

Thre document describing all of the changes under consideration is 141 pages. I have it in PDF, but for some reason it’s not downloading here.

Here are some highlights:

The rule will improve disclosures to customers for retail electric service by updating the requirements of the electricity facts label and terms of service documents and will clarify advertising and marketin responsibilities.

  • The commission notes that its current rule does not permit a termination penalty to be assessed in the event that a customer moves to a different premise, regardless of whether the customer moves next door or to a different state.                                                                 


 Some power companies suggested to Commission members that moving constitutes a termination of service and that electric providers should be able to charge you an early termination fee for relocating.

  • Should the commission allow plans that do not have a method of determining the price from a publicly available data?


In other words, should electric companies be allowed to have variable rate plans, but not reveal what causes the rate to change? Right now when you sign up for a variable rate plan, most electric companies spell out that “market  conditions” like the cost of natural gas could cause fluctations in your price per kilowatt. You can easily look up or find the cost of natural gas or a barrel of oil.


Gateway, First Choice, TEAM, Reliant, ARM, Green Mountain and Tara supported allowing products for which a method of determining price is not specified.



The Commission believes that the customer information documents must clearly disclose the current price and a recent price history for the product and provide a description of how the price for the product is determined or a notice in bold print that states the price can change with no advance notice at the discretion of the REP.

  • The Commission wants all electric companies to notify you 45 days before a rate increase on your bill, even if you signed up for a variable rate plan.
  • The Commission may approve 3 types of rate plans. Right now, there are many more. The 3 types will be Fixed rate, variable rate and index rate. The “index rate” will most closely follow the price of electricity on the wholesale market.

Here is how the Commission explains an “index plan:”

The value of this product is in the fact that the customer can independently verify that it has been billed appropriately. The purpose of these classifications is to assist customers by giving them a shorthand description of a plan that will facilitate comparing it to other similar plans. The commission concludes that the idea of an indexed price is one that has a logical meaning in the competitive energy market and can be readily understood by customers.


If you haven’t fallen asleep yet, and you still want more information, you can read all of the Commission’s ideas (and the objections and input of elecrtic companies) by clicking on this link: PUC Filings Retrieval

Where it says “Control Number, ” type in “35768.” Then hit “Search now.” You can click on all of the links and read away!













How is your family saving money?
December 15, 2008

Recession, depression or just saving for any sort of economy-related emergency, lots of people are cutting costs.

In the spirit of Christmas, here are:

The 12 Ways of Saving this Season: (I’ll put a * next to the ones we’re actually doing in my house).  

12 minute showers. You’ll save on your water and gas bill. Just put a timer in the bathroom.

Take 11 books off your shelf. And trade them in at Half-Price Books or keep the cash for selling them. * 

Take 10 from your gym. Dump that monthly bill and try running outside instead. It’s free! * (currently under consideration)

Save 9 dollars by checking out two books from the library instead of Blockbuster. It appears the Houston Public Library rents out DVDs.  I never knew this. If you can’t get a new release, try RedBox. Movies are just $1.

Take 8 minutes each Sunday to clip coupons from the paper. But you gotta follow through and use them.*

Be there at 7! Invite friends over for a night of games (or whatever you do) instead of going out.

Whether it’s 6 bucks or $60… set a limit on Holiday spending on gifts and get everyone in the family on board.*  

5 brown bags for each day of the work week. Pack your lunch instead of eating out.*

Use cold water 4 more loads of laundry. Unless you’re washing towels or really grubby clothes, most items can be washed in cold water, saving money on gas (or electric, depending on what kind of hot water heater you have).

3 reasons to dump your landline: Cell phone plans are less expensive, long distance is free and you’re always reachable. * 

2 months of no clothes shopping. I set a goal and stayed out of all clothing stores from Oct. 18th through December 15th (Yes… today I gave in). * Set your own goal and challenge yourself.

Make 1 gift co-workers will appreciate. Instead of the usual gift card or stressing over what to buy your co-workers, make something instead.* I made cookies and candy… actually gotta go… the kitchen timer just went off.

Let me know what you and your family are doing to save money.

Fast Food Value Menu Items Not Such a Great Deal
December 11, 2008

Ok, I know. Most of us don’t order off the dollar menu beacuse we think it’s healthy fare; but a new report can help you choose the lesser evil for your figure.

The Cancer Project, a non-profit food watchdog group, examined value menu items from 5 fast food chains and lists the worst to the.. uh… least worst.

With #1 being the Worst for you, here’s the list:

1) Junior Bacon Cheeseburger from Jack in the Box

2) Cheesy Double Beef Burrito from Taco Bell

3) Breakfast Sausage Biscuit from Burger King

4) McDouble from McDonald’s

5) Junior Bacon Cheeseburger from Wendy’s

Hmmm… sounds like Chik fil-A for dinner. Have you tried their homespun milkshakes? It’s like drinking heaven.

Where to take your old analog TV
December 10, 2008

Tonight, our “Ask Amy” segment focused on all of your questions about the switch to DTV.

One of those questions is where you can recycle your old TV if you’re upgrading to a digital set.

The City of Houston has 2 drop off sites that accept old electronics. You can stop by the WestPark or the Environmental Service Center on South Post Oak.