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Better Ways

If you live in a major city where tolls are part of your everyday commute, you probably don’t give them too much thought – until the next time you hear they’re going up again.

But if you don’t use them very often, or are visiting from out of town, it’s easy to get stung by tolls. Particularly if you don’t have an electronic tag or pass that makes it easy to pay as you drive over tolled roads.

Before you know it, that one unpaid trip on a toll road could add up to a lot of pain.

It’s that time of the year again. Your advice about the annual rise in your health insurance premiums has just arrived. But don’t just sigh and make a mental note of the extra dollars coming out in a few days. Take it as a sign - a sign to reexamine your policy and make sure it is working for you.

It’s not just about your age, but your stage in life. Are you thinking about having a baby? Do you need a lot of physio? Is your health deteriorating to the point you think you might be more likely than not to need to go to hospital within the next year?

You may not want to ditch your health insurance altogether, but by taking a closer look and thinking about what and where your policy delivers - or isn’t delivering - you could get a lot better value for money.

We’ve all dreamt of winning the lottery but you could already have a tidy sum — a small fortune, even - in your name and not know it.

According to the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), there’s about $1.5 billion of unclaimed money just waiting to be returned to its rightful owners. This money may be tied up in forgotten bank accounts, life insurance policies, superannuation, or other financial accounts. If you think you may have some unclaimed cash, it’s worth doing a little digging.

“Their voice is not always as loudly heard in Washington as the voices of smaller and better-organized groups – nor is their point of view always defined and presented. But under our economic as well as our political form of democracy, we share an obligation to protect the common interest in every decision we make.”

John F. Kennedy was writing on March 15, 1962, on what is now known as World Consumer Rights Day, in a “special message to Congress on protecting the consumer interest”. But swap Sydney or Melbourne for Washington and the then US President’s words are just as true for Australian consumers in the 21st century. If not more so.

Buying a TV used to be straightforward. You'd simply pick a model with the largest screen that you could afford, and you’d be home on the couch with the remote in no time.

Now, there's a whole new vocabulary with bewildering terms like 8K, HDR and Quantum Dots. What does any of it mean? And how do you determine whether that $3000 television really is worth more than the one half its price?

We’ve all seen the ads encouraging us to find out our credit score or check our credit report, but how much do we really know about the process?

According to Choice, one in three Australians have no idea how credit reporting works and have never seen their credit report.

A credit report, also known as a credit file, helps financial institutions determine whether or not to lend money to an individual. A good credit history indicates that you are likely to pay your debts on time and in full. Poor credit history could make it difficult - even impossible - to get approval for loans, car leases, mortgages, or other forms of financing.

The warning signs were there from the start.

Just before we took possession of our new rental, we were informed that the kitchen on the lower floor had been flooded. Not an event anyone could have foreseen. So we decided to move in after an agreement outside the lease was made to reflect the need for repairs.

At first, we were all working together to get the job done. But the real estate agent soon showed how bad life can get with a terrible property manager. In fact, as our experience showed, the property manager is far more important than the property.

What's your plan for Valentine's Day? Romantic dinner? Tick. Chocolates? Tick. A beautiful bouquet of roses for your Valentine? A big cross!

Flowers are the most popular Valentine's Day gift in Australia. A study published last year found Aussies would spend more than $110 million on flowers for their loved ones - or the ones they’d like to love. And why not? They're pretty, smell good, and are generally cheaper than jewellery and healthier than chocolates.

But while they look blooming lovely, there’s an ugly side to the flower industry. Behind the fragrant scent of roses in full bloom are toxic chemical fumes designed to keep flowers fresh and pretty, specifically the imported ones.