Best Of 2009 Consumer Guide

consumer money

As the year ends, there will be a plethora of ‘best of’ lists. best song, best movie, best album, best cheese, best web app…

I thought that with the struggling economy, that it would be helpful to have a list of the best ways to spend (or save) your money. I gleaned this information from many sources, including Forbes, Kiplinger’s, Consumer Reports and, of course, my own experiences and those of my colleagues.

  • Best Carry-On Travel Bag – With its rounded sedges and flexible nylon sides, the Red Ox Air Boss hasn’t met an overhead compartment it couldn’t squeeze into.
  • Best Online Savings AccountING Direct is simple, has a clean web interface with great rates.
  • Best Low Cost Travel Destination – Panama! panama vaction It’s like the South Pacific without the outrageaous airfare. In fact, recently found a 6-night stay for 2 in a 4-star hotel for less tha $2000, including the $351 roundtrip ticket.
  • Best All-Around Retirement AccountRoth IRA is still the best vehicle for long-term retirement savings. You can even tap earnings early to pay for college or buy a first home.
  • Best IRA for KidsCharles Schwab is one of the few financial institutions that lets you set up a custodial IRA for your child. Minimum investment: Only $100.
  • Best Online Broker – Better known for their mutual funds, Fidelity does well when it comes to online brokerage. Great research and a user-friendly website (important to me) as well as reported great customer service, they came out ahead for an online stock picker.
  • Best Mutual Fund for a Bear Market – The aptly named Grizzly Short Fund (GRZZX) is the ultimate hedge for a falling market. When the market fell, it was up over 83% for the year compared to the S&P’s 38% loss!
  • Best Last Minute Travel Deals – Some of the best airline and hotel deals pop up at the last minute, and shows you how to take advantage.
  • Best Car Insurance Web lets you compare price quotes form several major insureers and offers tons of tips on how to save money on premiums.
  • Best Stock for Dividends – Like P&G, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) J&J logo is an “all-weather” stock that can be expected to survive all kinds of economic turmoil. With recent yields of 3.3% it also provides much needed income.
  • Best Non-Dividend Stock – What a great time to be Warren Buffet! (was there ever a bad time?) Stock prices are low and if you have extra cash laying around (and don’t want to donate it to me), the “Sage of Omaha” will be like a kid in a candy store. You can join in the fun by buying some of his Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) shares.
  • Best Stock to Buy and Forget – Even during lean times (recession), people still buy razor blades and potato chips. Procter & Gamble (PG) is a steady ship in stormy markets.
  • Best “Starter” Fund – If you are new to investing, the Amana Growth Fund (AMAGX) is a great way to get your toes wet for just $250. By folowing conservative investment principles, it managed to sidestep the recent debacle in financial stocks.
  • Best Web Site for Cheap Gas – Rater than rely on “spotters” updates fuel prices daily via a data feed from the Oil Pricing Information Service. Just type in your zip code.
  • Best Airline – There are no “gotchas” on Southwest. southwest logo You can check two bags for free, and you’ll pay no extra fees for changing tickets or selecting seats. I was reminded of this several times this year when I had to fly on other airlines and had to pay several SURPRISE! fees at the ticket counter.
  • Best Hybrid Vehicle – Although it gets slightly lower mileage than the Toyota Prius, the honda civic hybrid Honda CivicĀ  Hybrid is a better overall value and just plain cooler.
  • Best Non-Hybrid Car for Fuel Economy – Though it is new on the scene, the new 2009 Honda Fit has the best combination of fuel economy (28 mpg city/35 mpg highway with manual transmission), utility and overall quality.
  • Best Place to Fill Your Prescriptions – Unfortunately, Wal-Mart comes out ahead as far as price is concerned; $4 for 95% of the prescriptions written in most drug categories if you can stand being there long enough to get it filled.
  • Best Smart Phone – The iPhone. iphone 3g Need I say more?
  • Best Small Digital CameraSony Cyber-shot DSC-T700 has a fantastic view finder as well as easy to use controls and slides into most pockets easily.
  • Best Credit Card for Low Rate – If you carry a balance, consider transferring to the Wells fargo Prime Rate card for its 5% interest reate and $19 annual fee.