Personal Finance 
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What’s Hot This Week

Ahead of my little vacation, I haven’t had much time to peruse other blogs lately so pfblogs.org has been pretty helpful in putting all the pfblogs into one tidy package so I can read headlines real quick and figure out what interests me.

While only put out just a little while ago, FMF tackles a persistent question: Should you pay off debt or establish an emergency fund? It’s a summary of his reader’s comments and he doesn’t necessarily answer it, since there is no “right” answer, but publishes opinions so that you can make your own decision.

Here’s a two shotter from Nickel this week. First off, while I can’t sign up for Dish Network, Nickel can and he’s written a scathing review of Dish Network’s customer service. Also, since being scammed is on my mind (read this post about Carl Grossman steailng $150 of my money), Nickel writes about his experience buying Home Depot coupons on eBay, luckily it wasn’t for hundreds of dollars.

For a little summary of the recent Roth IRA tax laws from a professional, check out JLP’s explanation.

Check out this article by MightyBargainHunter. Makes you wonder what’s worse, buying a 103″ plasma television or shelling out six grand on a birthday party for a five year old? Personally I’ll take the plasma TV because I don’t know many children who remember their fifth birthday party, then again most didn’t have one that cost that much.

Flexo hasn’t opened his mail in a week and so he felt the need to share with us the contents of his mail. :) I’m only kidding, I love getting the mail and I’m not sure why… it’s like little gifts every day – from credit card companies.

LAMoneyGuy calls out a DataQuick Chief Analyst for terrible math and while I didn’t read the original article (it requires registration and I was too lazy to go to bugmenot) I’m inclined to believe that LAMoneyGuy’s right – DataQuick was too quick with the data.

Tricia of Blogging Away Debt just moved her blog away from blogspot (Congratulations!) so give her new place a good breaking in. As for interestingness, I found her experience with AFLAC (think of the duck that keeps yelilng AFLAC but no one pays attention) pretty informative.

Also, don’t miss this great article by Claire of Tired but Happy titled “Is your house a starter home?” I am going through the same thing, my house is nice but needs new windows and sliding doors, has a couple other things that need to be done too but I’m putting off… basically this entire article is on point. Reeaaaaaad iiiiit. This post about MyPoints is pretty informative too.

Lastly but not leasty, Nick at Punny Money has a little rant about Carnivals (he’s a few weeks too late on this rant) where he actually credits me with putting together a decent carnival. ha! Tricked another one. :)

I’ll be out for a week so if you’re emailing me, I apologize if I don’t see it before my departure and don’t respond, nothing against you. Nickel as agreed to hold the fort while I’m gone so don’t try anything spammy. :)


 Personal Finance 
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Guest Posting Reminder

This is just a friendly reminder that if you want to see some of your posts published on this blog that you have until tomorrow at noon to get them to me. You’re certainly welcome to send them after noon but I can’t guarantee I’ll see it in time to get it published next week. I’m not going to sit here with a clock or anything, just setting a soft deadline is all.

Thanks!


 Shopping 
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Carl D. Grossman of Joplin, MO Stole My Money

Carl D. Grossman reneged on a deal and stole $150 from me. Yes, I am a sucker for sending my money to a stranger and trusting he would refund it if I couldn’t use a voucher. I am not crying about the voucher, I just think it’s strange he would rip me off at the tail end of the deal in this way and I was hoping for some advice as to what I should do.

Remember when I posted about needing frequent flier vouchers for the trip I’m going away on this next week to Lake Tahoe? Well, a certain Carl Grossman of Joplin, MO emailed me saying he had a Delta voucher that I could try to use. I talked with him a couple times on the phone and he seemed and sounded like a honest guy. Carl, at one point, even told me he was an honest person and I believed him.

Carl Grossman wanted $250 for the voucher and we agreed that I would send him $150 now and $100 after I redeemed the voucher, while I trusted Mr. Grossman I did hedge myself a little so in the event he was scamming me (which was still kinda likely depending on what unsavory characters you deal with) I would only be out $150. He agreed. This is what vexes me… he sent me the voucher Fedex next day and I received it the next day. When I went to the airport I was told 1) I needed Carl D. Grossman actually there with photo ID and 2) there weren’t any discounted seats available (some Q or Z class, I forget). So, I called up Carl with the bad news and said I had to send it back. He agreed to send me my money back and I mailed off the voucher. Except the money never returned.

A week later I called Carl Grossman and he said he sent a money order and would look into it with the post office and call me back. I waited two days and called but he didn’t answer. I called his home number which he answered and he hung up on me. I’d been officially scammed and I’m not exactly sure what I can do, that’s where I need your help. What should I do? (besides suck it up)


 Cars 
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Check Out These 5 Gas Myths

I think an article like this is way overdue and, having no way to come up with it on my own, I defer to CNN Money’s cadre of experts to come up with these, probably common-sense, give gas myths (some of which I thought were wrong but let’s go anyway):

1. Your driving style is more significant in determining your mileage than your car’s EPA estimate. Pulling out my “duh” card, it makes sense your driving style affects your mileage. I know people who hit the gas in parking lots, it almost doesn’t even matter what their EPA estimates are (and the fact that they’re inaccurate). However, I find it hard to believe you can take an EPA estimated 30 MPG vehicle and drive it so inefficiently that it would get under 10 MPG.

2. Gas saving products don’t work. Hmmm… I buy those fuel injector cleaner additives and use them maybe once every oil change (~8-10,000 miles) because I’ve been told it’s good to send that stuff through to get the injectors a little cleaner. Usually I get them for free after rebate from one of the car care stores (they’re only like $2/bottle anyway) but I’ve never tried anything that claims to boost performance. I know you can get additives to reduce emissions and octane boosters that will definitely improve mileage if you’re driving a car that requires premium and you put in regular (lower-octane gas) with the booster, but I’ve never tried a straight up booster. Sounds kind of hokey anyway.

3. Using higher octane gas doesn’t improve performance. I’ve written about this before and many people have weighed in, check out my article “High Octane Gas Myth”.

4. Not all gas rebate cards are the same. They warn to check out fees and interest rates, while I can’t talk about interest rates because I never carry a balance, I would never get a card that had a fee (unless I had no choice). Personally, I wouldn’t sign up for a gas station company branded card (like a Shell specific card) because you have to go to that station for the savings. Go instead for a gas station company-agnostic card that gives you rewards on your purchases at any gas station.

5. Air conditioning wastes gasoline. First off, AC doesn’t “cost” so much gas that it’s worth sweltering, especially in 100 degree temperatures, just to save a couple drips. Secondly, it actually is more efficient than opening your windows at speeds over 55 mph according to some studies (I’ve looked it up but I don’t have the site available) because of air drag. So, if you really want to save then use windows under 55 mph and use AC above it.

Source: CNN Money


 Cars, Insurance, Personal Finance 
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Esurance Quote Update

So my friend received an Esurance quote last week and called this week to follow up. Here’s his experience, in his own words:

So i called up esurance to finalize the details cause i know the online quote is just that….a quote. They take my SSN and calculate some insurance number or what have you and say the price is $959 (that’s with the 10% discount for paying in full)…so I said thanks but I will keep looking. I think I am going with Travelers whose price was $876 with no discounts applicable and I am getting Renter’s insurance with them that actually reduces my Auto nsurance costs $30 every 6 months…strange the way that works. So $846/6mo. for Auto Ins…and Renter’s Ins for 1year…not that bad. I am disappointed about esurance, their commercials and website are cool, I wanted to give them a try.

So it appears that the original quote of $709, which I assume didn’t take into account my friend’s credit rating because they didn’t have his SSN, wasn’t over $250 off. Either my friend’s credit is awful (I doubt this) or Esurance’s online quoting system is ridiculous unreliable. Anyone else experience this?


 Government 
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COIN Act to Kill Penny

First Lincoln gets offed by Booth and now Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Arizona) makes a second attempt to make sure the penny doesn’t get a centenial celebration (the penny was introduced Aug 2. 1909). Lincoln gets no respect these days. The Currency Overhaul for an Industrious Nation Act (someone worked real hard at fitting a bill to the acronym COIN) would have everyone round all cash transactions to the nearest 5 cents but all other transactions would still be to the penny – thus eliminating the penny. There are a lot of financial reasons to remove the penny but now that the cost of zinc makes a penny worth 1.4 cents, Kolbe’s making another try at it. There are some surprising statistics in the article such as:

Over half of the U.S. Mint’s coin production comes in the form of pennies. At current prices, the Mint would spend some $44 million producing pennies this year, nearly $14 million more than in 2005.

Personally, I think the penny is useless and we could go far in eliminating its use in everyday life and anytime you can remove some excess in the government I’m all for it. While $44M isn’t all that much in a budget of trillions, it’s better to spend it on something else than some coin no one really uses.

There are other parts of the bill that have merit as well such as a change to who can supply the Mint paper. Right now the rules make it so that Crane Paper in Massachusetts is the sole supplier of paper to the Bureau of Engraving, a protection they’ev enjoyed since 1879.

Down with the penny!

via CNN Money.


 Credit, Personal Finance 
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Getting AT&T Universal Rebate with Under $50 Balance

After Citi decided to close the AT&T Universal Card they sent out a letter to all their cardholders to let them know, about a month in advance, that they were closing the card. Honestly, I get a million pieces of junk mail, most of them “convenience checks,” so it’s no surprise a large majority of cardholders either didn’t receive the letter or destroyed it thinking it was junk mail. So, when the card was closed, many didn’t know and couldn’t spend more to get above the $50 requirement for a cash rebate check.

You can still get the rebate, the first step is to call up AT&T Universal Card and ask. If they refuse, because you have under a $50 balance, threaten to contact your Office of Attorney General. If they still refuse, ask to speak to a floor manager and repeat the threat. If they still refuse, contact your Office of Attorney General.

Reader Frank Kelly did just that and received a check of $35.21:

If you have a rewards balance of less than $50.00, contact your local OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL. I did contact the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Attorney General in Allentown PA. They sent a letter to Citibank and they sent me my $35.21

The more people complaining should get Citibank to be responsible and forward checks to all of their customers in the amount they are due on their Rewards account.

Frank

It’s your money, get it back from the credit card companies. If I had a penny I’d do it just out of principle.


 General 
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Used Harley Davidson Motorcycle, $10,000 Cheaper for 16 Miles

I have a funny story about my uncle that I wanted to share with you all. Sometime in the last year he bought a Harley Davidson Motorcycle and as a gift of some kind, his friends had gotten him a Harley Davidson leather jacket that was either too big or too small. So, he was at a dealership trying to get the sizes swapped on the jacket when a guy was trying to sell his newly purchased motorcycle back to the dealership. Apparently what happened was that he bought it, rode it home, got into a fight with his wife and had to return it. The only problem is that the dealership couldn’t accept his return even though he only drove sixteen miles (home and back) and bought it earlier that day. They argued a little bit and eventually the dealership said they could sell it for him, obviously in their used department, but it would cost him. My uncle, hearing the commotion, asked what was going on and heard the story. That’s when my uncled offered to buy the motorcycle off the guy for $10,000 less than what he just paid a few hours earlier. $10,000 off a basically new motorcycle with a mere 16 miles… incredible.

Two lessons to take away from this:
1. Sometimes you’re just at the right place at the right time.
2. Talk to your wife before you go buying a motorcycle you moron.

(My dad told me this story when I was home one weekend and I thought it was funny. I don’t know if I messed up the details in my memory but it went something like that. Just so you know, my uncle has a habit of getting stuff at great deals because of luck, haggling, etc. This story is just about par for the course)


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