Billshit Column


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 Billshit, Travel 
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Traveling abroad requires planning at home to avoid unexpected fees on credit card and cell phone bills


My big trip this year is a 10-day Italian vacation. I’m excited, but I’m also doing a lot of planning beyond where to get the best pizza and what shoes to bring.

I’m making sure that I spend as little as possible on foreign transaction fees, current exchanges, and smartphone use so I’m not hit with any surprise charges once I’m back in the U.S.

Here’s what I’m doing before I go to make sure there are no nasty surprises when I get home.

Credit Cards

You want to bring a card that has no foreign transaction fees. Otherwise, you’ll be paying an extra 3% on everything you charge.

Fortunately, there’s lot of these cards are available.

If you already have a Capitol One card, you’re set — they’re foreign transaction fee free across the board. Most hotel and airline rewards cards are the same way.

If you’re signing up for a card just because it doesn’t charge those fees, make sure it also doesn’t also have an annual membership fee, or that you cancel it before the fee kicks in (most waive the fee for the first year), or that the fee is worth it.

I’m bringing my Chase Sapphire Preferred card with me as my main credit card (with a Bank of America card as a backup).
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 Billshit 
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Your electric bill: so much Billshit, so little time

Your utility bill: so much Billshit, so little timeSince October, I’ve spent only about $25 a month on electricity. Impressive, eh?

Well, maybe I shouldn’t toot my own horn quite so loudly. Because last summer, I spent an average of $130 a month on electricity. Since then I’ve made an effort to reduce my energy usage, and it looks like it paid off. As you can see from the screenshot below, my total energy bill for October-December was $49.32. That’s for two months, and that’s the lowest my electric bill has been. Ever.

In this edition of Billshit, I decided to inspect my energy bill to learn more about each charge and see if I could cut it down even more. Let’s check it out.
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 Billshit 
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Billshit: A line-by-line look at your bloated, horrible cable bill

Paying too much for cable stinksI know. Here I am, a person who writes about living frugally and saving money and all that, and I still subscribe to one of the biggest rip-offs of all time: Cable TV. I’m not proud of it, and I blame Breaking Bad. I couldn’t exactly get rid of cable when Walt went on the lam, and, ever since then, well, I’ve just been lazy.

Despite the variety of alternatives that now exist, lots of people still have cable. So in this edition of Billshit, I thought I’d run down my bill, call my cable company and get the details of every single line item. It was pure hell, but hopefully reading about it won’t be.
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