Personal Finance 
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Lazy Sunday Reading

Bored? Trying to relax and unwind? Then you definitely don’t want to be on the computer and reading about personal finance. For everyone else, here are some choice bits that I thought were entertaining and/or informative reads.

Mighty Bargain Hunter talks about cheap magazines and going toe to toe with a challenger (tongue in cheek of course).

JLP discusses some tips from Neale Godfrey’s A Penny Saved about teaching your kids about money and responsibility.

Nickel reports that 74% of respondents to his poll stated they received a refund. I forgot to vote but I received a refund and I really don’t care that I lost out on $2.54 in interest in my interest-free loan to the government.

Want to read about another successful visit to Disneyland? (for Disney, of course, which I am part owner) Flexo writes briefly about his trip to the happiest place on Earth.

FMF gives an obvious tip, save money by paying your bills on time, but adds a very important and quantifiable statistic: how much the average family will have to pay extra in fees and interest for missing one payment (and the rippling effects of that missed payment on their credit score).

Kay Bell of Don’t Mess with Taxes (love the play on words) talks about her desire to end an undervalued Lincoln.

Can you last a week without television? Dawn says she’s been overworking her imagination so she’s going to skip tv-free week this time around. As for me, Lost has a new episode this week so no chance of me shutting off the tube for seven days.


 Frugal Living, Personal Finance, The Home 
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Latest Maryland Electricity Rate Hike News

This applies to the latest news prior to the rate stabilization legislation enacted in mid-2006. Proceed to the following link if you’re interested in learning the latest 2007 Maryland BG&E rate hike news.

Governor Ehrlich revealed a deal on Thursday where the shock of energy price hikes, an estimated 72% increase, would be spread out over 18 months (if you opt into it) instead of immediately hitting in July. In this new deal, customers are paying the same amount (there is no relief at all), it’s only spread out more. This deal does not save you money. The plan is a little complicated because how much customers will pay depends on whether a merger between Constellation and FPL Group Inc. of Florida succeeds. If it does, those who opt in (by default you are not opted in) will only see a 19% increase on July ’06 and then another 25% in June ’07 and then whatever increase is necessary to reach market rates in January ’08. If you opt in, you will pay a $15/mo. fee if the merger succeeds and $19/mo if it fails. Those who opt out pay no such fee. Basically the deal that supposedly died a week or so ago went through, except it ignores all the sticking points.


(Click to continue reading…)


 Frugal Living, Personal Finance 
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Eat Out, Cooking Isn’t Worth It

Yes, you read that title correctly (because it goes contrary to what everyone else says) but it comes with a caveat, it’s only true if you’re cooking for one. My friend Perry, of pmoa.net fame, did a non-scientific study where he compared buying groceries and eating out. The caveat that you must understand before you go savagely flaming him is that he bought premium food (not cheap bulk stuff in an effort to save money) because when you go out to eat, you’re usually eating better stuff. Now, go over there and savagely flame him.

OTB


 Frugal Living, Travel 
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Low Cost Weekend Ideas: United States Mint Tours

If you happen to live in the Philadelphia or Denver area, both of those Mints offer a free tour of their facilities. Unfortunately those are the only two that offer tours at all. For more information on tours for the Denver facility, click here, and for information on tours for the Philadelphia facility, click here.

Tours cover both the present state of coin manufacturing as well as the history of the Mint. Learn about the craftsmanship required at all stages of the minting process, from the original designs and sculptures to the actual striking of the coins. (tour information website)

If you’re a resident living in the Washington D.C. area, there is a US Mint Kiosk in Union Station that showcases some of the products for sale but not much else. “The kiosk offers the latest commemorative and annual coins, the popular new quarters, collector maps, medals, and a variety of coin jewelry.”

Folks who don’t live anywhere near any of those can go on a free Virtual Tour, if you have Macromedia Flash 7.

More Low Cost Weekend Ideas


 Cars 
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Are Gas Prices Affecting Your Behavior?

With all the gloom and doom of higher gas prices, a lot of bloggers are weighing in and asking what you’re doing to conserve gas… but have you honestly changed your behavior because of gas prices?

If you, on average, drive 12,000 miles a year (that’s benchmark mileage per car you should use when you’re looking to buy used cars to assess wear and tear) then you’ll consume about 600 gallons of fuel, if you estimate efficiently at 20 mpg. If you’re used to paying $2 and are now forced to pay $3, the difference is $600 a year, or only $50 a month. I know I haven’t changed though I understand if people do. $50 when you’re making minimum wage is over ten hours of work (taxes!) which is enough to put a damper on any budget.

Do you go to fewer movies? Do you carpool more? What about eating out or going on trips? Have you honestly made any significant decisions as a result of gas prices?


 General 
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Don’t Flush Money, Even If It’s German

A retiree in Germany flushed around 30,000 deutchmarks down the toilet because he thought they were worthless. The money ends up blocking up a pipe and the cleaning coming comes in to find all this old money, and then they find out the retiree reported his pipes blocked the same day. Upon questioning, he explains he thought the money was worthless so he flushed it down the toilet!

Not only were the 30,000 marks worth $18,900 but he had another 30,000 in his apartment. Whoops. Moral of the story is don’t flush money down the toilet.

Story has been taken off ABC News.


 The Home 
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Zillow – Two Months Later

A baby looks pretty gnarly when it first enters the world and it takes a little while before it’s cleaned up and donned with a stupid pink or blue hat, which is how I saw Zillow when it first came out about a month ago. A review of my home showed it pegged a little higher than two months ago, $282k, but the range of home values for all the townhouses in the same cul-de-sac were all over the map. I don’t understand how they could differ in value by more than a few thousand dollars when Zillow knows nothing about the differentiation of the homes in the neighborhood.


(Click to continue reading…)


 Cars 
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How Long Is Your Commute?

Mine is about 15 minutes and it’s great, enough on ramps and lane changes to make it interesting, but not too long that I start getting bored or dread the drive to work or home. But this guy commutes 186 miles, about three and a half hours each way, between his home in Mariposa, CA to his job at Cisco in San Jose. Unbelievable. (I bet you at least one person brags that their commute is 5 seconds, the walk from the bedroom to their home office!)

And with gas tipping the scales at over $3, here are some tips for conserving a little extra gas.


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