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How to have a mower that’s still working in 15 years

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Whatever kind of lawn mower you have, proper maintenance should help keep it going a decade or more. Consumer Reports, working to improve the lives of consumers by driving marketplace change, offers the most common ways to have your machine humming.

Gasoline degrades and gums up over time. Ethanol in the gas can compound the problem by degrading rubber and plastic parts and coating linkages.

— Add stabilizer, particularly one designed for ethanol, to gas before fueling.


Ready to ‘cut the cord’ and save some money? Here’s how

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With new Internet-based video-viewing alternatives springing up almost weekly, an estimated 1.5 million dissatisfied cable and satellite-TV subscribers this year will “cut the cord.” An additional 2.4 million will downgrade their service, according to a recent survey by Digitalsmiths.

Big brands like HBO, CBS, Dish Network, Sony, Showtime, Apple and Verizon are jumping into the fray with Web-delivered subscription-TV services, joining biggies Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video, now in two of every five U.S. homes.

5 Spot: Gather ideas, ask questions before you hire a landscaper

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Ready to hire help to spruce up your property this year?

Before you dig too deeply into hiring a landscaping contractor, take time to do two things:

GROCERIES: Do labels mean what they say?

Real! Simple! Artisanal! Even old brands such as Progresso have been slapping those words on their product labels lately, notes ShopSmart, the shopping magazine from the publisher of Consumer Reports.

They can give you the impression that a product is higher quality. Or they can make food appear more healthful, according to the Hartman Group, a Washington-based firm that specializes in market research and food trends. And that might get you to choose one product over another and maybe even pay a higher price.

GROCERIES: Five websites that really deliver

If you’ve never bought groceries online — or if you have and found it unsatisfying — now is a great time to give it a try, says ShopSmart, the shopping magazine from the publisher of Consumer Reports.

ShopSmart looked at five national companies. They all let you browse food categories as you would in store aisles or search by keyword or UPC. The trade-offs: Some sites require a minimum purchase, shipping fees can be steep and most offer only dry goods.

GROCERIES: ‘Fresh’ trumps ‘cheap’ in 2015

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What makes a supermarket great? Years ago, says Consumer Reports, the answer might have been low prices, checkout speed or variety. Now another consideration is top-of-mind: “fresh.”

When the typical shopper makes each of his or her 83 yearly grocery trips (running up an annual tab of about $5,400), he or she is demanding a wider than ever choice of healthy, unprocessed fruits, vegetables, meat and fish, as well as more organics and local produce. The clamor for “fresh” also extends to freshly prepared meals that can be taken home. So when Consumer Reports did its annual supermarket survey, it asked readers to rate their grocers on traditional characteristics such as service and cleanliness — but also asked them to rate the selection of local produce and the price of organics at their stores.

Good deal! When new cars are unveiled, prices can fall on old models

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DETROIT — When auto companies roll out exciting new models like they did at the recent New York auto show, the unveilings can sometimes push down the price of cars already on sale.

Usually the immediate impact is small, according to industry analysts, but the deals can get a whole lot better once the new models hit the showrooms and the automakers try to clear the old models from dealer lots. And the extent of the impact depends on whether the latest models are significantly more appealing than the old ones because of new features or styling changes.

Health law bumps up tax refunds for some; others take hit

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WASHINGTON — As the April 15 tax deadline nears, people who got help paying for health insurance under President Barack Obama’s law are seeing the direct effect on their refunds — hundreds of dollars, for better or worse.

The law offers tax credits so people without access to job-based health insurance can buy private coverage. Because these subsidies are tied to income, consumers must accurately estimate what they will make for the coming year.

5 Spot: Avoid getting fleeced by your broker: Ask questions

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Can your broker or adviser be trusted? There is no way to be 100 percent certain, but far too many investors don’t even take a few simple steps to protect themselves. Start by asking questions. Here are four key ones, and tips for finding the answers.

— WHO’S PAYING YOU? If a broker or adviser is pushing a specific investment, maybe it’s because they’re getting paid to do so. Many mutual funds charge one-time “sales loads” or annual “12b-1” fees that come out of your pocket and go into theirs. Cheaper, equally good funds may be available, but they may not tell you.

The top 5 ways to raise your home’s value

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Real estate is a careful balancing act, Consumer Reports notes. Over-improving a property — say, by adding a swimming pool or sunroom — will cost you because the market won’t support the asking price you need to break even, let alone turn a profit. Under-improving your home, namely by ignoring essential repairs, will also drag down its value.

Consumer Reports offers the following strategies that strike the sweet spot between too much enhancement and not enough.




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