Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cyber Monday Shopping and Some Holiday Hacks

Retailer competition may grow this season in the face of decreasing consumer spending. Consumer spending was down one percent from last year, the largest amount since the September 11th terrorist attacks. Even if you’re not in the mood to spend, there are a number of retailers out to sweeten the deal to entice you to spend.

If you didn’t seize any deals on Black Friday you still have opportunities to find deals on Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday is a term coined by the National Retail Federation in 2005 to describe online sales the Monday following Thanksgiving. According to CNBC, 84% of retailers will offer cyber Monday discounts. A quick search of the phrase “Cyber Monday 2008” yielded 9.5 million hits this Friday morning. Some of the deals available today and/or Cyber Monday include:

* One dollar ($1) doorbusters hidden on Ebay which include a 2009 Chevy Corvette and 65-inch Panasonic Plasma HDTV, each for only one buck. One dollar doorbusters can be found on Ebay from 24 Nov to 3 Dec. Here’s the Ebay promotional site. I'm unsure as to whether or not the "hidden" doorbusters can be found via Ebay searches. If they can, I've already formulated my techniques for looking. I have already favorited two pages in my web browser: $1 Chevy Corvette and $1 65 inch HDTV searches on Ebay. You also might find doorbusters using common letter seaches in the Ebay search box, modified for $1 items only. The letter "E" is the most common English letter (followed by t, a, I, n, o, s). This latter technique may be a little time consuming and may only suit you if you're bored. If any of these techniques nets you the Corvette or 65 inch TV, please make a small donation to charity on behalf of Plugged in Finance. Plugged in Finance prefers the “Fisher House” charity.

* According to CNN, PayPal is planning to promote its site by supporting five to thirty percent discounts at various retailers. I couldn’t find a full list of the online retailers providing this PayPal discount, but you may want to keep an eye open for it. A preliminary list of retailers includes American Eagle Outfitters, Overstock.com and Blockbuster Video.

* Amazon also plans on taking 65 percent off of watches and will offer a $157 knife set for $49.99.

If you prefer to avoid Cyber Monday shopping, you can always find a deal at Woot. Woot is an online retailer that sells one item a day at deep discount.

Do you consider the preparation of Holiday cards a bit mundane? If so, consider going to the
US Postal Service where you’ll find an affiliate known as Cardstore.com. At this USPS sponsored site you can personally design cards for any holiday and many religious faiths. You can insert your own personalized notes and also buy gift card inserts. The service costs $2.99 per card plus postage. Discounts up to 45% off can be achieved by joining “The Club Card.”

Last, but most importantly is toy safety. If you are skeptical of the safety of toys, you might want to check out a product of the Consumer Product Safety Commission titled “Which Toy for Which Child: A Consumer’s Guide for Selecting Suitable Toys.” This item can be found here. The commission provides the following safety recommendations:

* Check for sturdy toy construction, and when buying soft toys make sure the eyes, nose and other attached parts are secure.

* When buying for infants and toddlers, avoid items with small parts they may put in their mouth or long strings which could get twisted around the child’s neck.

* Arrows or darts used by children should have safety cork tips, rubber suction cups or other protective devices. Make sure these tips are securely attached.

* Electric toys with heating elements should be given only to children over age 8, and then only with adult supervision.

* Avoid toys that shoot or propel objects that could injure eyes.

I wish you the best these holidays.

You Can Win a New F-150 Pickup Trip or Tickets to BCS College Bowl Games Through This Online Ford Sweepstakes

One of my side hobbies is entering into contests for new cars or trucks. My wife and I have two high mileage cars. I recently got rid of our highest mileage car (98 Lexus, 160k miles) and bought a used 2004 Lexus for my wife last year. Her car has already racked up 30k miles since purchase, it now has 74k miles. I drive a 98 Acura with 134k miles and plan on getting a new vehicle within about two years.

Anyways, I'm watching FOX NFL Sunday and saw an advertisement for the Ford "BCS Roadtrip." If you go to BCSRoadtrip.com you get the opportunity to enter for the following prizes:

*Grand Prize: All new '09 F-150

*First Place: A ten (10) day trip for two (2) from 12/31/08 – 1/9/09 to attend the FedEx Orange Bowl in Miami, FL (1/1/09), the Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, LA (1/2/09), the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, AZ (1/5/09) and the FedEx BCS National Championship Game in Miami, FL (1/8/09).

*Second Place: A six (6) day trip for two (2) from 1/4/09 – 1/9/09 to attend the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, AZ (1/5/09) and the FedEx BCS National Championship Game in Miami, FL (1/8/09).

*Third Place: A three (3) day trip for two (2) from 1/7/09 – 1/9/09 to attend the FedEx BCS National Championship Game in Miami, FL (1/8/09).

Entry doesn't take long. Sweepstakes ends 6 Jan 2009. One entry per household. Here's the link for entry.

Funny Cure For Those Who Waste Money on Lottery Tickets

Yes, lottery tickets provide some hope and opportunity to dream. They have huge upside and low downside, if you control your spending. I think they are a reasonable indulgence if limited to one or two bucks per week. Some people may have a strong religious belief against anything gambling related... More power to you.

I first remember playing the lottery as a 14 year old. As a teenager I spent no more than $10 bucks on lottery tickets total. On one of my lottery tickets I picked all but one number correctly. Unfortunately, I threw the ticket away because I thought that you had to get all numbers correct to win. It wasn't a mega-million or powerball. I would really be kicking myself if it was! Today, I typically play the lottery only when the payout rises above 100 million and the local news is covering it. I normally don't track the lottery at all and would be oblivious to the prize pool unless the local news is covering it. I typically buy $5 to $10 worth of tickets when the lottery exceeds 100 million. I realize this is a bit overboard.

We all know that the costs add up. I recommend you watch the following Chris Rock video titled "Money Makin' System" if you spend more than two bucks a week on the lottery. The video will help remind you how stupid it is to waste money on the lottery with a little humor to boot. Warning: the video has two minor curse words (a-s and b-t-h) but is otherwise clean.




My reference to a cure in the title was simply done because the video aims to remind all of us how stupid wasting money on the lottery can be.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Top Ways to Waste Money

I found this good AOL slide show on "Top ways to waste money." This slide how was generated from the feedback of AOL readers Here's what the slide show states as the top ways to waste money:

(1.) Paper towels. Use dish cloths.

(2.) Tanning salons. Accelerated skin cancer plan.

(3.) Government-funded space exploration. Use the money to fund health care & feed the poor.

(4.) Movie rentals. Check with local library first. If not there, wait till it reaches the library or cable / broadcast networks.

(5.) Disposable razors. Perfect solution, ask for an electric razor for Christmas.

(6.) Pet clothing & accessories. Crochet a sweater before you buy one.

(7.) Convenience stores. Shop in bulk and avoid convenience store visits.

(8.) Nail Salons. $60 for a routine visit. Get Real!

(9.) Eating out on lunch break. Brown bag it!

(10.) Leaving lights on.

(11.) Caring for lawns.

(12.) Insurance you don't use.

(13.) Death row inmates.

(14.) Duplicate spending due to disorganization.

(15.) Clothes Dryers. Use a drying rack.

(16.) Buying new (vehicle) or other things for that matter.

(17.) Designer handbags.

(18.) Children's birthday parties.

(19.) Huge houses.

(20.) The War in Iraq.

(21.) Swimwear. LOL, obviously from a nudist.

(22.) Alcoholic drinks at restaurants. For that matter soda too!

(23.) Overpacked items.

(24.) Organic produce.

(25.) Disposable diapers.

(26.) Using super unleaded.

(27.) Energy drinks.

(28.) Plastic cups.

(29.) Junk food.

(30.) Disposable cleaning supplies.

(31.) Playing the lottery.

(32.) The wedding industry.

(33.) Convenience store drinks.

(34.) Underwear. I have to disagree. It's cheaper to wash underwear after each use as opposed
to jeans or slacks.

(35.) Strip clubs.

(36.) Four-year Universities. I disagree with this one.

(37.) Designer skin care.

(38.) Extended warranties.

(39.) Brand names.

(40.) Luxury hotels. I agree, but I also avoid the econo-hotels. I prefer middle of the road
Holiday Inn Express.

(41.) Driving a gas guzzler.

Here's the AOL slide show titled "Top Ways to Waste Money."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Black Friday Online Coupons

Check out this site for some good Black Friday online coupons.

Here are some black friday adds. site.

Link Love: TheDigeratiLife, FinancialArmageddon, BreakingEven, MasterYourCard, MoneyCrashers, BudgetsareSexy, FunnyaboutMoney, FMF, MilitaryMoneyMight

Here's some good articles from writers of blogs on my blogroll:

Free Money Finance. Good article on winterizing your household.

Military Money Might. Getting a free Papa John's Pizza through Facebook.

Funny About Money. Introduces Tip'd, a personal finance network site.

Budgets are Sexy. Million dollar house being raffled off.

The Digerati Life. Top posts of The Digerati Life.

Money Crashers. Introduces a website you can use for making money at home.

Breaking Even. Introduces ways to find car-pooling commuters.

Breaking Even. Four things under $5 that save her a ton of money.

Financial Armageddon. No particular article. Whole website is great for those that are bearish on the markets and economy.

Master Your Card. 12 Side Hustles to Stay Afloat.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

How to Make Money From Your Blog

I've been blogging since early 2006 i've earned approximately $300 from my blog. This is paltry money. It looks slightly better when you take into consideration that I took a sabbatical from blogging in 2007 (was against regulations to blog from Afghanistan) and had to network with bloggers all over again to build my network rank.

I've found that the most important thing to make money is your page rank. I've used Technorati to monitor my page rank. I've also monitored the number of sites linking back to mine. You can go to google and do a "link:yoursite.com" to figure out how many link backs you have.

Over time i'm getting more interested in earning money from my site. Just recently I made the investment in a custom domain name. It will cost me $10 a year. Google blogger does the hosting for free. Anyways, my motivation for today's post is the Howcast video below.

Some highlights of the Howcast video:

(1.) Don't expect to get rich quick
(2.) Focus on your content
(3.) Don't be a sell out. You should strike a proper balance between your pay-per-posts and other site advertisements.
(4.) Google's Adsense is an easy starting point for inserting ads on your site.
(5.) Consider using a site like blogads.com.
(6.) Consider using a site like payperpost.com. At pay per post you don't have to make a positive review, but you have to disclose that it's a paid for advertisement. I'm definately going to check this site out. Perhaps, I can make some good money after my page rank increases.
(7.) Consider selling merchandise.
(8.) Beg. You can use a site like Paypal to embed a donation widget on your blog.

Finally, the video provides some inspiration, stating that some of the most popular blogs earn greater than $40k per month. Here's the video.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Having Difficulty Finding a Job? Then Start Looking at Jobs Others Typically Don't Want! Three Examples With Potential Pay Between $30k and $100k+!

If you need a job, you should seriously consider those jobs that nobody else wants... Jobs that have a high turnover rate. Good examples are retail service, government customer service and military.

Picture this, it's Black Friday and you have to deal with stressed out and aggressive shoppers. Or, you're manning the phones as somebody yells at you because they don't want to pay the IRS their overdue taxes. Finally, picture yourself deployed to the Middle East on Thanksgiving, Christmas and your anniversary, all in the same year! These are examples of things people hate to do. But, if you suck it up, you can land yourself a decent paying job! Heck, if you're out of work, you stand a lot to gain by jumping into one of these demanding jobs.

I know one person who worked her way into a managerial job making just over $30k per year when she was 18. She had a store management job for a shoe store (Lady Foot Locker). Many people hate retail. The hours are brutal. You frequently work on most holidays. But, it's money in the bank. Even if you don't get hired on as a store manager, consider accepting a lesser position. If you are willing to relocate within a district, you can frequently promote up to a store manager position once you've proven yourself and your store manager vouches for you with the district manager. If you want a retail job, start at your local mall and check out Monster.com.

I know another person who works for the IRS. Jobs with the IRS as a customer service representative (CSR) are pretty demanding. If you're assigned to phones, you spend most of your day talking to people who owe money to the IRS or otherwise need assistance with their taxes. People that owe the IRS money typically aren't the most cordial to the IRS. Because of this, IRS CSRs have a high turnover rate. But, this type of work could be for you if you have a thick skin and don't take things personally. IRS CSRs are typically hired around July to September. It's to late for this year, but if you can stretch out your unemployment pay, the IRS may be a good fit for you next fall. As an IRS CSR, you get about 3 months of training and start off at the GS-5 paygrade. GS-5 pay ranges from $26,264 to about $32,176, depending on your locality. As a new hire, you get pay raises every year and top out at somewhere between $46,839 to $57,382. Even more money can be made if you accept overtime which is widely available early in the year. Finally, you will automatically get some 401k matching and can qualify for a pension amounting to 1% of your base pay for every year on the job (5 year minimum to qualify for pension). If you want a government job, check out usajobs.gov. Unlike IRS CSR positions, other government jobs are available year round at usajobs.gov.

Finally, if you're college bound or already out of college, consider becoming a military officer. In 1992, I accepted a full military scholarship worth over $70k. I completed a four year degree and was making around $30k when my peers were making $41k just out of college. Military work is demanding. As an officer, there's the potential for you to be away from home frequently. You also have the potential to move every 2-3 years. But, if you stick through it all. You qualify for a pension after only 20 years. An O-5 (typical paygrade for somebody in 20 years) qualifies for a pension that is worth about $46k per year, starting immediately after you retire. I'll be 41 yrs old when I can collect! If you're exceptionally good and get promoted to an O-6, and serve 30 years, you can retire with a pension of about $86k per year. I've been in the Navy for just over 12 years now and make about $96k per year. If you want a military job, go to your local recruiting office.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Citibank Gets $20 Billion Plus $306 Billion in Loans and Securities Guarantees

Robert Schmidt of Bloomberg News reports that:

"The U.S. government agreed to protect $306 billion of loans and securities on Citigroup Inc.'s books against losses, as it seeks to shore up investor confidence in the bank.

Citigroup will, as a fee for the guarantee, provide preferred shares to the Treasury and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the regulators said in a statement. The government will also inject $20 billion into the bank from the Treasury’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program.
'We will continue to use all of our resources to preserve the strength of our banking institutions and promote the process of repair and recovery and to manage risks,' the regulators said in the statement.

The Federal Reserve, the Treasury and other regulators have been negotiating with Citigroup throughout the weekend. Citigroup lost 60 percent of its market value last week as the company’s prospects faltered, rattling customers, counterparties and employees."

Real Unemployment Rate 2008 (U.S. Figures, Numbers, Definitions, etc.)

Many people view the U.S. unemployment rate with cynicism. What people regularly see on the U.S. National News does not fully represent those people that are "marginally attached workers" or "employed part time for economic reasons."

(NY job seekers in line)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) defines marginally attached workers as persons who currently are neither working nor looking for work but indicate that they want or are available for a job and have looked for work sometime in the recent past. BLS defines persons employed part time for economic reasons as those who want and are available for full-time work but have had to settle for a part-time schedule.

In October 2008 the BLS stated that the U-3 unemployment rate was 6.5%, up from 6.1% in September. The unemployment rate which combines the regularly publicized rate with both those who are "marginally attached workers" and "employed part time for economic reasons" was 11.1% in October 2008, up from 7.9% in October 2007. This composite rate is coded as U-6 in the following hyperlinked BLS table.

The BLS table shows both "not seasonally adjusted" and "seasonally adjusted" unemployment rates. Basically, the seasonally adjusted number attempts to smooth out seasonal variations in unemployment throughout the year.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Extended Finance Blogroll

In the interest of minimizing the number of links on my main page, a few additional finance blogs can be found below:

Where Does All My Money Go

Frugality in the Making

Super Annuation Fund

Debt Free Living Guru

Military Money Might

Out of Debt Again

My Frugal Freedom

Paper Economy

No Spend Zone

Savings Account

Stock

Your weekly address from the President-Elect, Barack Obama, November 22, 2008 (Video and Transcript)

President-Elect Obama's weekly speech posted to the web today focused on the economy and his two year plan to reinvigorate the economy. The plan aims to add 2.5 million more new jobs by January 2011.

A transcript of the President-Elect's November 22nd weekly address follows the below video.





"Good morning.

The news this week has only reinforced the fact that we are facing an economic crisis of historic proportions. Financial markets faced more turmoil. New home purchases in October were the lowest in a half a century. Five-hundred-forty-thousand more jobless claims were filed last week, the highest in 18 years. And we now risk falling into a deflationary spiral that could increase our massive debt even further. While I’m pleased that Congress passed a long-overdue extension of unemployment benefits this week, we must do more to put people back to work and get our economy moving again. We have now lost 1.2 million jobs this year, and if we don’t act swiftly and boldly, most experts now believe that we could lose millions of jobs next year.

There are no quick or easy fixes to this crisis, which has been many years in the making, and it’s likely to get worse before it gets better. But January 20th is our chance to begin anew – with a new direction, new ideas, and new reforms that will create jobs and fuel long-term economic growth. I have already directed my economic team to come up with an Economic Recovery Plan that will mean 2.5 million more jobs by January of 2011 – a plan big enough to meet the challenges we face that I intend to sign soon after taking office.

We’ll be working out the details in the weeks ahead, but it will be a two-year, nationwide effort to jumpstart job creation in America and lay the foundation for a strong and growing economy. We’ll put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing schools that are failing our children, and building wind farms and solar panels; fuel-efficient cars and the alternative energy technologies that can free us from our dependence on foreign oil and keep our economy competitive in the years ahead.

These aren’t just steps to pull ourselves out of this immediate crisis; these are long-term investments in our economic future that have been ignored for far too long. And they represent an early down payment on the type of reform my administration will bring to Washington – a government that spends wisely, focuses on what works, and puts the public interest ahead of the same special interests that have come to dominate our politics.

I know that passing this plan won’t be easy. I will need and seek support from Republicans and Democrats, and I’ll be welcome to ideas and suggestions from both sides of the aisle. But what if not negotiable is the need for immediate action. But what is not negotiable is the need for immediate action.

Right now, there are millions of mothers and fathers who are lying awake at night wondering if next week’s paycheck will cover next month’s bills. There are Americans showing up to work in the morning only to have cleared out their desks by the afternoon. Retirees are watching their life savings disappear and students are seeing their college dreams deferred. These Americans need help, and they need it now. The survival of the American Dream for over two centuries is not only a testament to its enduring power, but to the great effort, sacrifice, and courage of the American people. It has thrived because in our darkest hours, we have risen above the smallness of our divisions to forge a path towards a new and brighter day. We have acted boldly, bravely, and above all, together. That is the chance our new beginning now offers us, and that is the challenge we must rise to in the days to come. It is time to act. As the next president of the United States, I will.

Thank you."

Friday, November 21, 2008

SNL Suze Orman Episode / Video

I love Suze Orman. I use to watch Suze every weekend when I was in debt. Everybody knows she's quirky. This Saturday Night Live (SNL) video knock off of Suze is pretty funny. Enjoy.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

How To Feed Your Family Healthy Meals on a Tight Budget

This video highlights some essential items required for feeding your family healthy meals on a tight budget. Inexpensive food staples include:

(1.) Oatmeal

(2.) Evaporated milk

(3.) Bagged vegetables, when on sale

(4.) Seasonal fruits

(5.) Bananas

(6.) Apples

(7.) Popper and corn

(8.) Nuts

(9.) Inexpensive cuts of meats, eaten up to 3 times a week

(10.) Peanut butter

(11.) Chunk light tuna

(12.) Eggs

(13.) Beans

(14.) Brown rice

Here's the video, provided by "Stabbey" of Howcast:


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How to Save Money at The Grocery Store

Below you'll see a useful video detailing how to save money at the grocery store. Some grocery store tips include:

(1.) Make a list

(2.) Have a plan. Learn the grocery store system / layout to minimize the time you
spend wandering between aisles.

(3.) Look beyond your eye level

(4.) Shop with cash

(5.) Always eat before you go grocery shopping. I use a similar rule before going to Movie theaters.

(6.) Oddly enough the video doesn't talk about using coupons. It goes without saying, use coupons.



Source: DailyHub.com, posted at Howcast.com

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Current Day Great Depression: What Would the Depression of 2008, 2009 and Beyond Look Like?

Mr Drake Bennett of the Boston Globe writes a beautiful / believable article on what the Depression of 2009 could look like if policy makers don’t take appropriate mitigating actions. The article does not state what the Federal government should do but details with exceptional detail what the depression would look like. Excerpts from Mr Bennett’s article include:

(1.) “Unlike the 1930s, when food and clothing were far more expensive, today we spend much of our money on healthcare, child care, and education, and we'd see uncomfortable changes in those parts of our lives.”

(2.) “The lines wouldn't be outside soup kitchens but at emergency rooms, and rather than itinerant farmers we could see waves of laid-off office workers leaving homes to foreclosure and heading for areas of the country where there's more work - or just a relative with a free room over the garage.”

(3.) “Already hollowed-out manufacturing cities could be all but deserted, and suburban neighborhoods left checkerboarded, with abandoned houses next to overcrowded ones.”

(4.) “And above all, a depression circa 2009 might be a less visible and more isolating experience... Instead of dusty farm families, the icon of a modern-day depression might be something as subtle as the flickering glow of millions of televisions glimpsed through living room windows… the cheapest form of distraction available.”

(5.) “To be worthy of the name, a depression needs to be more than a few years long - far longer than the eight-month average of our recent recessions - and it needs to put a lot of people out of work.”

(6.) “The Great Depression lasted a decade by some measures, and at its worst, one in four American workers was out of a job. (By comparison, unemployment now is at a 14-year high of 6.5 percent.)”

(7.) “In a modern depression, the swelling ranks of the unemployed would likely change the landscape of the country, uprooting people who would rather stay where they are and trapping people who want to move.”

(8.) “Renting an apartment - perhaps in a city, where commuting costs are lower - might be more tempting.”

(9.) “Many suburban areas have already seen upticks in crime in recent years, which would only get worse as tax-poor towns spent less money on policing and public services.”

(10.) “young families moving back to their hometowns to live with the grandparents when they can no longer afford to live on their own, parents moving in with their adult children when their postretirement fixed incomes can no longer support them.”

(11.) “Lean times might kill off much of the taboo around buying hand-me-downs, and with modern distribution networks - and a push from the reduce-reuse-recycle mind-set of environmentalism - we might see the development of nationwide used-clothing chains.”

(12.) “New technology would grow less seductive, basic reliability more important… The neighborhood appliance shop could reappear in a new form - unlicensed, with hacked cellphones and rebuilt computers.”

(13.) “specialty and organic food - which drove the success of chains like Whole Foods - would seem pointlessly expensive.”

(14.) “Among the green lawns of suburbia, kitchen gardens would spring up. And it might go well beyond just growing your own tomatoes: early last month, the English bookstore chain Waterstone's reported a 200 percent increase in the sales of books on keeping chickens.”

(15.) There will be more demand for “meals like packaged macaroni and cheese and drive-through fast food.” Basically, “cheaper, easier calories.”

(16.) “Dropping health insurance would be an immediate way for families to save hundreds of dollars per month.” Emergency rooms will see increased demand and longer waits at least in part from the increasing numbers of uninsured as well as consolidation of ERs.

(17.) “In their place people could rely more on federally-funded health centers, or the growing number of drugstore clinics, like the MinuteClinics in CVS branches, for vaccines, physicals, strep throat tests, and other basic medical care.”

(18.) “Students unable to afford private universities would opt for public universities, students unable to afford four-year colleges would opt for community colleges, and students unable to afford community college wouldn't go at all. With fewer applicants, admissions standards would drop, with spots that once would have been filled by more qualified, poorer students going instead to wealthier applicants who before would not have made the cut.”

(19.) “A depression would last too long for unemployed college graduates to ride out the downturn in business or law school, so people would have to change career plans entirely.”

(20.) There will be an “uptick in applications and interest is government work”

(21.) “The Depression was, famously, a boom time for movies - people flocked to cheap double features to escape the dreariness of their everyday poverty. Today, however, movies are no longer cheap. Nor is a day at the ballpark.”

(22.) “Much of a modern depression would unfold in the domestic sphere: people driving less, shopping less, and eating in their houses more. They would watch television at home; unemployed parents would watch over their own kids instead of taking them to day care. With online banking, it would even be possible to have a bank run in which no one leaves the comfort of their home.”

(23.) “Depression, unsurprisingly, is higher in economically distressed households; so is domestic violence. Suicide rates go up in tough times, marriage rates and birthrates go down. And while divorce rates usually rise in recessions, they dropped during the Great Depression, in part because unhappy couples found they simply couldn't afford separation.”

Here is Mr Bennett’s full article.

Monday, November 17, 2008

CNBC Million Dollar Portfolio Challenge Daily Trivia Bonus Bucks

I will answer the Trivia Bonus Bucks questions in this post (link back to or bookmark the page). Each of the six bonus bucks questions posted daily will give you a chance at an additional $2k per question for a total of $12k in bonus bucks for your portfolio(s).

*** I am no longer updating bonus bucks answers on this specific post. Instead, I will update bonus bucks answers via daily postings at or near the top of my sites home page. ***

Dollar Store Meal Deals

Dollar stores are already known for these top deals:

(1.) Shampoo
(2.) Snacks
(3.) Cleaning supplies
(4.) Gift wrap
(5.) Kitchen accessories

You may already frequent the dollar store for the above items. But, with some creativity and an open mind you can also score good deals on your meals too!

Here's some highlights:

Don't know what to do with the discount food ingredients you bought at the dollar store? Go to a site like Recipe Matcher and plug in the ingredients to get some recipe matches. Recipe Matcher also works if you're trying to figure out what mixed drinks you can make with the left overs from your bar.

Also, some pantry items from the dollar store can pull double duty. Consider using some of the following as ingredient substitutes:
(1.) Use evaporated milk instead of milk
(2.) Use bargain pancake mix instead of flour
(3.) Use reconstituted onions instead of onions

Here's the dollar store meal deal video:



The video was taken from Hulu but was initially posted at Howcast.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Saving More, Spending Less - Saving $1500 to $2500 a Month

Stretched thin financially? The Wall Street Journal has a good video of two financial advisers (twins) discussing tips on how you can save $1500 to $2500 a month. I think it will be a little tough for people to save as much as the advisers claim, but their recommendations are good regardless.

Here's some highlights:

(1.) If you drive less than 15,000 miles per year, contact your insurer and negotiate a low mileage discount.

(2.) Stop eating out. The average American spends $34 each time they go out to eat.

(3.) Stop paying for services you can do yourself. Examples include:
- manicures
- pedicures
- grass cutting
- hair coloring
- maid service
- oil change, basic maintenance (my addition)
- car wash (my addition)


Here's the video of Jonathan and David Murray (video).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Generic vs. Brand Name Products (18+ Items Reviewed)

Here's a great post comparing various generic and brand name product. A site by the name of Walletpop provides a 58 page slide show where it compares a number of products to determine if a number of generic products are worth recommending. The following comparisons favored the generic brand:

(1.) Nabisco Wheat Thins vs. Kroger Wheat Crisps
-Verdict: Tastes just like wheat thins, with less salt and $3.05 cheaper

(2.) Muir Glen Organic Garden Vegetable Soup vs. Whole Foods 365 Organic Vegatable Soup
-Verdict: Virtually the same as name brand, $2 cheaper

(3.) Nature's Path Organic PomengranPlus Granola w/ Cherries vs. Whole Foods 365 Organic Fruit & Nuts Granola
-Verdict: Cereals slightly different in contents, but stick with generic and save 90 cents

(4.) Cheetos Crunchy vs. Kroger Crunchy Cheese Curls
-Verdict: Kroger brand better and 26 cents an ounce cheaper

(5.) Walker's Shortbread vs. Walgreen's Shortbread Fingers
-Verdict: Stick with Walgreen's brand and save up to 38% when you buy two Walgreen boxes

(6.) Stoneyfield Lowfat Raspberry Yogurt vs. White Rose Raspberry Yogurt
-Verdict: Go with White Rose brand, save 30 cents per serving but get higher dose of sugar

(7.) Kellogg's Frosted Flakes vs. Pathmark Frosted Flakes
-Verdict: Go with generic and save about 33%

(8.) Huggies Natural Care Wipes vs. Safeway Mom-to-Mom Wipes
-Verdict: Safeway generic wins hands down, also save 25%

(9.) Ocean Spray Cranberry Cocktail vs. Target's Market Pantry Cranberry Juice Cocktail
-Verdict: Go with Target brand and save 10%

(10.) St. Ives Apricot Scrub vs. CVS Brand Apricot Scrub
-Verdict: Go with CVS brand and save 25%

(11.) Planters Whole Cashews vs. Kirkland Costco Whole Fancy Cashews
-Verdict: Go with Kirkland and save 38%

(12.) Cascade Dishwashing Detergent vs. Kirkland Costco Liquid Gel
-Verdict: Go with Kirkland and save 67%

(13.) Tropicana No Pulp Orange Juice vs. Wegmans No Pulp
-Verdict: Go with Wegmans and save 13%

(14.) Dimetapp Children's Grape Cold & Allergy vs. Wal-Mart's Equate Children's Cold & Allergy Grape
-Verdict: Go with Equate and save 66%

(15.) Slim-Fast Optima French Vanilla vs. Wal-Mart Equate Ultra French Vanilla
-Verdict: Go with Equate, save 34% and avoid 2.5 grams of saturated fat.

(16.) Fiber One Chewy Bars vs. Target's Market Pantry Fiber Chewy Bars
-Verdict: Go with Target brand and save 21%

(17.) Green Giant Whole Kernel Sweet Corn vs. Shoppers Food Whole Kernel
-Verdict: Go with Generic and save 56%

(18.) A&W Root Beer vs. Wal-Mart Root Beer
-Verdict: Go with Wal-Mart brand and save 43%

Check out the Walletpop website. It's worth a peruse. Here's the full Walletpop slideshow.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mutual Fund CEO Beats Michael Jordan in One on One (YouTube Video)

I guess this is personal finance related. John Rogers, CEO of Ariel Investments, displays his skills against one of the all time greats of basketball, Michael Jordan, at Jordan's high-end "flight school" camp in Las Vegas. Mr. Rogers was the Captain of his college basketball team at Princeton University. The Jordan-Rogers match up starts 39 seconds into this 3:37 minute video.



Here is John Rogers' website.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cost of Bailout $3.5 Trillion!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here's the link.

Our government is one step further in pumping up the national debt. The national debt was already a big albatross for the nation. It's difficult to fathom the full impact it will have on our kids and grand kids. But, it goes without saying that entitlement programs will have to be cut back. Dead weight being carried by the government through entitlement programs will have to be carried by families. Perhaps we'll migrate back to extended families living under one roof like in much earlier days.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Federal Reserve Refusing to Disclose Specifics on Where $2 Trillion in Taxpayer Dollars Went!

Bloomberg News has requested that the Federal Reserve disclose where $2 trillion in taxpayer funds have been dispersed. These disbursements are actually "emergency loans" to financial institutions. The Fed has refused to disclose.

Two trillion is a lot of money. To put that into perspective one might ask what is the total value of all publicly traded companies in the U.S.. Using my good friend Wiki, I found that if you multiply the Wilshire 5000 index (DWC) by one billion you get the approximate value of our U.S. stock market, $9.009 trillion. Well, this $2 trillion equals about 22.2 percent of total U.S. stock market value. This percentage is significantly higher if you only apply the $2 trillion across all publicly traded financial institutions.

Bloomberg News has requested details of the Fed lending under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and filed a federal lawsuit Nov 7th seeking to force disclosure. Under FOIA, our government has 20 days to disclose and may elect a ten day extension. I don't know when the initial FOIA filing occured, but i'll assume that it was on Nov 7th also. Thus, one might expect the FOIA release to occur on or about 7 Dec if the Fed waits till the last moment.

Fox Business has also filed for details of the emergency loans.

So much for market transparency, at least in the short term. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for news on this subject. Once news hits, the companies receiving these emergency loans and the collateral they tendered will be scrutinized by Wall Street.

This information can't be kept secret forever. I would think that bits of the info may start surfacing in quarterly and annual financial reports.

The full Bloomberg News story is here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Link Love (Breaking Even, My Good Cents, No Spend Zone, Forest on Finance, Dual Income No Kids, Blogging Away Debt, Military Money Might)

Here's some good posts from bloggers on my blogroll:

Military Money Might - "You Can Easily Search For Missing Money Online," Post details website which can be used to find potentially unclaimed money held in your name.

Blogging Away Debt - "Seven Things We Did to Slash Our Finance Charges from $400/month to $0/month," Tricia writes a good article about reducing her credit card finance charges to $0.

Dual Income No Kids - "Bankruptcy Filings Peaking," short article highlighting a 40% increase in bankruptcy filings year over year in the U.S..

Forest on Finance - "Using ING Sub-Accounts to Help Achieve My Goals," I like his idea of creating sub accounts. It sounds like ING direct is incredably easy for doing this. I personally have a philosophy of keeping $20k between our checking accounts. This covers our emergency fund requirements and ongoing bills. After I pay off our houses i'll likely do something like what "Forest" refers to.

No Spend Zone - "Lessons From Monoply," Interesting parallels are drawn between the Monopoly game and real world real estate.

My Good Cents - "Coinstar Holiday Promo," Details $10 Amazon Gift Certificate bonus offered by Coinstar for coin exchanges of $40 or greater.

Breaking Even - "Lobster Becomes Affordable: How Being Aware of Food Prices Pays Off," This posting clues you into how cheap Lobster is... A screaming deal.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Buying a Foreclosed House; Pitfalls Encountered Yet Successful Outcome Achieved

Here's a good article about buying foreclosed property. It is written by a reporter, Peter Hong, who sold his condominium in 2005 in favor of renting and recently snatched up a foreclosed property. For the full article click here.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Free Flash Video Games

I stumbled upon www.y8.com this evening and found that it had some cool games that I was use to playing as a kid. It's a good time killer.

Here's one of my favorites, Galaga:

Galaga



Click here to play this game

Friday, November 07, 2008

USE RENT.COM TO FIND AN APARTMENT AND GET A $100 VISA DEBIT CARD

I used Rent.com to find my new Apartment this past summer. I moved into the apartment this July. I notified my Apartment complex that I used Rent.com to find them and filled out a $100 Visa debit card request at Rent.com. About two months later (today) my $100 card came in the mail. I plan on using it to treat some of my personnel from work out to eat tomorrow at Red Lobster.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Eureka! A Frugal Discovery in The Kitchen. Here's a No / Low Cost Air Freshener for the Trash Can.

I already use grocery store bags for my trash. Most stores give these out at no additional cost. I layer these trash bags to ensure that I don't get leakage through to the bottom of the can.

Today I discovered some orange peels between two of the bags in the trash can. I found that it adds a pleasant smell. I'll leave these peelings in place until I can reseed my bottom trash bag with new orange peelings.

The plastic store grocery bags are already small. I tend to take out the trash most days after my wife prepares dinner. The orange peelings should help offset any smell from trash that accumulates during the day and in some cases overnight, if I forget to take the trash out.

This frugal solution shouldn't be uncommon. There are already a number of cleaning solutions with citrus fragrances added.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Just Funded First Loan at Lending Club Peer-2-Peer Lending

With Prosper.com shut down for a significant period of time going forward, I opened up an account at LendingClub.com to start originating loans. I transferred $100 into my new LendingClub.com account via PayPal without any added fees.

The site is not as good as Prosper's. There are no pictures and the search / filter option at Lending Club is crude, relative to Prosper's filter tools.

Interest rates on loans at this site are also lower than that at Prosper. Lending Club charges a lenders a 1% fee on all payments received.

So far, I've only discovered two good things about LendingClub.com

(1.) They are open, while Prosper is closed.
(2.) Minimum loan amount is $25.

I ended my user experience funding just one loan to a US Air Force service member who had orders elsewhere and had to move out of his house. Unfortunately, the member needs to make some improvements to his bathrooms to make his empty house marketable as a rental property. I chose this "D" rated loan because the member should have a secure job for the next two to three years. Generally speaking, the military won't move you to another job without you owing the government significant time at the new job to complete a tour. I've been burned in the past funding "D" rated loans. Unfortunately, this was the only satisfactory loan (meeting my criteria) that gave me a net return after fees > 10%.

I'll likely post a little more about LendingClub.com in the coming months.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I Just Canceled my ESPN Insider Subscription: Thank You ESPN for Your Professional Customer Service

This was the first time in ages where I cancelled a subscription service without a hard sell on not cancelling. The service is ESPN Insider which costs roughly $10 per month. Subscribers to the service get access to additional website content and a monthly subscription to ESPN's magazine. I originally joined around 2005 to assist with my fantasy football research. Later on I found that rotoworld, cbssportsline and fantasysharks are great no cost sites.


Thank you ESPN for your professional customer service!


Next thing to cancel: My extra cell phone subscription. I have a work cell and it suites me just fine.

Monday, November 03, 2008

How Much Is That College Degree Worth?

US News and World Report finds that a Bachelors' Degree is worth $300k extra in your pocket (in today's dollars) plus:

- Lower lifetime unemployment rate
- Higher likelihood of health care at job

Here's the US News and World Report article by Kim Clark.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Using Online Survey Panels to Earn Gift Cards

I've been a member of mypoints.com for years and have enjoyed my membership. On Friday I joined E-Rewards. It was an impulse decision prompted by receipt of a junk email from Macy's. My wife use to work for Macy's and I've been receiving emails from them ever since. I opened a Macy's email and followed their referral to E-Rewards. After joining, I took several surveys within less than 30 minutes and ended up with $6 E-Reward dollars. The E-Reward dollars appear to be redeemable for gift cards.

Anyways, during one of my surveys it asked if I used any competing survey sites. It listed the following:

American Consumer Opinion(R)
goZing
GlobalTestMarket
Greenfield Online(R)
Harris Poll Online(R)
Ipsos i-Say
JDPowerPanel(SM)
Keynote(R)/Vividence
Lightspeed(R)
NFO MySurvey
NOP
NPD Research
Opinion Place(SM)
PineCone Research
SurveyDirect(TM)/Authentic Response(TM)
SurveySavvy(R)
SurveySpot
Synovate
Valued Opinions
Web Perspectives
Your 2 Cents

I typically don't like doing surveys because they increase your chances of receiving junk mail / email. However, if you like doing surveys, you might want to start checking out the online surveys. With exception to Mypoints.com and short term experience with E-Rewards, I have no experience with the other listed sites. Nonetheless, I thought the list was worth sharing with others.

Anybody have experience with E-Rewards, Mypoints or others that they'd like to comment on?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Net Worth Unchanged for October

Our household net worth had some tough sledding for October. Ten percent of our net worth is in stocks and commodity ETFs. We took about a 17% hit in these. Also, we had a $500 net decrease in value across our three rental properties (per Zillow.com). Our household monthly income offset these losses to leave our Net worth unchanged for the month of October.