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Thompson: One simple call can save you phone time
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Do you hate getting calls where the caller ID shows, “Private Number” or “Unknown?” Odds are it’s either a sales call or something worse. Here’s a neat trick to block these types of calls. Simply dial *77 on your phone. The service will automatically block them. To turn the service off, simply dial *87. Check with your phone service provider to see if there’s a charge. (Whatever the charge, it’s worth it!)

Speaking of phone tips, here’s another one. Instead of dialing 411 for assistance, call 1-800-FREE-411. It’s a free service; you just have to listen to a commercial before you can get your information. The commercials are quick and painless.

If you’re a bicyclist, here’s a really cool new gadget for you. It’s called the “Safe Turn.” It’s a bright light that attaches with a strap to your left wrist. When you move your arm to signal either a left or right turn, the light automatically senses the movement and begins blinking to notify nearby cars. The light has a computer chip built into it that senses your arm movement and knows when you’re signaling. The chip is also programmed to ignore other “nonsignaling” arm movements. You can only get the device online at and it costs $18.

Before you step into a car dealership to buy a car, you need to have your financing figured out. You should already have shopped interest rates and found the best deal that you’re eligible for. The car dealer will offer you financing, just tell them the best deal you’ve found and ask them to beat it. Trust me, this will save you some bucks. I just recently bought a new car. Coincidentally, so did a friend of mine. I know my friend pretty well and I know he hardball negotiated with the dealer. Unfortunately for my friend, he didn’t shop his financing and just took the word of the dealer as to what the going interest rate was. Big mistake. His interest rate was two points higher than the one I got from my credit union. (The same credit union he belongs to). This two point difference is going to cost him more than $2,000 over the life of the loan.

OK, there are probably a lot of you out there that have heard the previous tip before. I bet you haven’t heard this one, though: Shop “Gap” insurance before you go visit the car dealer. What’s Gap? Well, if you buy a new car and total it within a short period of time after driving it off of the lot, most insurance companies will only cover the resale value of the vehicle. This means that if the car cost you $25,000 and you wreck it a week later, the resale value may only be $20,000. Gap insurance is what covers this $5000 difference on your loan or lease. Car dealers will try to sell it to you. If you’ve already shopped Gap insurance yourself, you’ll know if the dealer is trying to rip you off.

Tim Thompson lives in Gainesville. E-mail Tim your ideas for tips, tools or tricks.
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