Cars 
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Jiffy Lube’s Scam

It’s easy to promise to have an oil change done in 15 minutes if you don’t actually change the oil, isn’t it? NBC4 in LA put cameras in cars and then sent them over to Jiffy Lube to get some service done, turns out 6 of the 9 didn’t actually perform the work promised but charged customers anyway. In response to the expose, Jiffy Lube fired all the mechanics and installed their own cameras in 31 LA stores. Interesting is the fact that this is the third time in three years they’ve been told to “clean up their act.”

My advice to anyone who gets any sort of work done, always watch them if you can and always ask for the old parts. Getting something swapped out? Ask for the busted or worn out part. Then check the part that’s in its place, it better look new. If the mechanic isn’t pouring oil into your car, then he’s not changing your oil. If you have no idea what that even looks like, do research on the Internet. Don’t be a sucker.

Thanks to The Consumerist for picking this up.


 Personal Finance 
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Word around the PF Blogosphere

Seems like posts about how to save money on gas have slowed down but there’s still some good info out there:

Flexo reviews MSN’s six steps to becoming your own boss. The first one involves getting some experience.

Nickel starts investingating what’s necessary to take a home office deduction. The comments, from other bloggers, are particularly helpful in clarifying some of the sticky wickets.

JLP writes about the hazards of ARMs. With the way rates have been increasing lately, you’d have to be insane to consider an ARM. Rent instead!

MBH discusses an MSN article about raising the minimum wage and the potential unintended consequences.

FMF talks about identity theft stats with the first one being $422, the average loss per theft. There are other interesting stats in that article too and they’re pretty surprisingly low.

Finally, if you’re a personal finance blogger and you’re looking to connect with other bloggers to trade tips on blogging, monetization, etc; consider stopping by the Money Blog Network Forums. We’ve been actively discussing a lot of topics and you never know what you’ll learn!


 Banking, Credit, Personal Finance 
2
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Extra Extra! Emigrant Direct to 4.65%!

Okay, it’s really not that exciting. Emigrant Direct going to 4.65% won’t make anyone change from their bank to Emigrant Direct (a few banks have higher interest rates for an online savings account) but it will prevent someone like me, who hasn’t yet switched, jump ship. Emigrant isn’t trying to be the leader anymore amongst the better known online savings account banks out there but it does appear to be interested in fighting off newcomers like HSBC, whose rate was raised to 4.65% following their promotional rate last week.

This is a much different strategy than ING Direct who probably believes, probably rightfully, that their $25 referral bonus and an almost-but-not-really-close interest rate of 4.15% is enough to entice new folks into joining (the bonus should be, it only requires a deposit of $250 so we’re talking an immediate 10%). I personally believe that ING thinks that they have enough exposure that the $25 incentive will get folks in the door so they can begin marketing their other products, such as no closing cost mortgages and 12-month CDs. If you want a referral link to ING Direct, please contact me.


 Government, Personal Finance 
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IRS Ends 3% Long Distance Telephone Excise Tax

During the Spanish-American War of 1898, the government started collecting a 3% excise tax on long distance telephone calls from wealthy Americans and until recently, this 3% tax had been collected month after month after month. You might remember receiving a flier along with your bill telling you to call someone in the government about it. Well, today the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service released press releases announcing the ending of the tax and the return of taxes paid in the last three years (since Feb. 28, 2003) plus interest.


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 Personal Finance 
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Suze Orman’s College Graduate Money Test

I’m a sucker for a “test” and so when I saw a brief five question test on Suze Orman’s Money Matters Column (I’m not a fan of Suze Orman or her attitude), I jumped on it. The questions are pretty straightforward, you’ll probably get them all correct, but I think her answer to #2 isn’t entirely correct (you can pick one of two answers and be right).

1. If you wait till you’re at least 59½ to make withdrawals from your 401(k), 403(b), or traditional IRA, you’ll only pay long-term capital-gains tax on your investment gains.
The correct answer is False, you are going to pay income tax on the disbursements whether their your contribution or earnings. What’s scary is over a third of the respondents thought you only pay long-term capital-gains tax on the gains… but that doesn’t explain why more people aren’t opening up these retirement accounts.


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 Education 
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George Mason (and Others) Makes SAT Optional

In quite possibly one of the smartest and innovative moves by any large institution, George Mason is making the somewhat controversial SAT exam optional for applicants in the top 20% of their class with a grade point average about 3.5. In return for not taking the SAT, students simply need to write an essay and submit two more letters of recommendation, something that shouldn’t difficult for a high performing student. However, that’s not the part that surprises or impresses me, anyone can remove a requirement, but the justification was something I’ve always believed – “the university examined the performance of students who did well in high school and found that SAT scores were a poor predictor of how those students would fare at the university.”


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 Frugal Living, Shopping 
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2006 Sales Tax Free Shopping Dates

In thirteen states and the District of Columbia, sales tax free dates have been set and approved for 2006. Usually the tax exemption is on clothing and shoes but in some areas it’s extended to other items as well. Before you think that thirty-seven other states are just being cheap, five states have no sales tax year round and three exempt clothing from sales tax year round as well. And finally, five states are currently in the process of approving a sales tax free period for 2006.

The theme of most of these sales is clothing and shoes (how the first tax free dates included) and have expanded to include education items such as school supplies, computers, and software. Some have also embraced energy efficiency such as Georgians who give breaks to those buying energy efficient appliances on the tax free day.


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 Investing, Personal Finance 
3
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Fat Pitch Financials Contributor’s Corner Review

Fat Pitch Financials is run by George, a guy constantly scouring the investment world for arbitrage opportunities. In his words, his quest is to “find dollar bills for 40 cents…” He used to publish all his arbitraging notes for free but the traffic got so high that he considered taking it all away until a friend suggested he ask for donations – a fair request I think. Well, I asked George if I could have a peek at what was actually back there and write a review and he agreed. My plan was to try one of the arbitrage opportunities he found, go through the trials and tribulations, and write about it. Suffice it to say the result was positive and George has recently revamped the entire Contributor’s Corner section so it’s much more streamlined, searchable, and sexy.


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