Personal Finance 
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Weekly Blog Roundup

Do you want a Spring cell phone plan for a mere $20? Read about how anyone can take part in the Sprint Employee Referral Offer on Hustler Money.

Nickel shares some of his experiences with drawing up an estate plan.

MBH continues the discussion of how much is your time worth and believes that “it depends.” (which I agree with)

Flexo writes about the new dollar coins the Mint is about to release.

FMF shares some of the comments on his post about the purpose of tithing.

Last but not least, being a Financial Advisor, JLP is in a knowledgeable (albeit conflicted) position to give advice on what a fair amount to pay for financial advice is. While shelling out $150-$200 for advice is a little steep from my mid-twenties “never talked with an advisor” mentality, he is correct in that if it can save you thousands in mistakes, it’s clearly worth it. But when they say that monkeys with darts can out pick experts, it’s a little difficult to justify paying more than a handful of bananas… right?


 Cars, Free, Personal Finance 
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Received Credit Protector Letter + $100 Gas Certificate

I received in the mail two lovely letters from Citi informing me and my fiancée of our enrollment in Citibank Credit Protector. Included at the bottom of the welcome letter was the mail-in gasoline cash back certificate worth a nice fatty $100, the most I’ve heard a credit card company offer for a credit protection program enrollment (usually you hear about $15 checks or $50 in rebate certificates) so this one definitely caught my attention when I blogged about the $100 gas certificate earlier this month.

Some have reported not being able to get to it through the URL I copied (this link) or on the site while others have. I saw it specifically on my Citi Professional card screen in a huge box to the right (where they usually list promotional offers). That took me to the URL above and the credit protector sign up page. If you don’t have the Citi Professional, I’m certain it appears for other cards so just keep refreshing until the promotion pops up. I checked today and it still appeared.

The instructions are simple, here they are straight from the certificate:

We will send you a check for the price of gasoline up to $100. Simply fill out the certificate and return with your original gasoline purchase receipt(s) attached by December 31, 2006 TO: Redemption Center, Department #79095, P.O. Box 134, Niagara Falls, NY 14302.

Terms And Conditions:

Receipt(s) for purchase of gasoline and this certificate must be sent within 30 days of gasoline purchase and no later than December 31, 2006. Any illegal or wrongful use or reproduction of this certificate will be prosecuted by the fullest extent of the law. All information must be completed and subject to verification. Please allow up to 4-6 weeks for payment.


 Credit 
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American Express My Wishlist Starting December 1st

American Express sent me a postcard the other day notifying me that they are running the My Wishlist promotion again in 2008 and once again the gifts are pretty incredible… the top prize is a 2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK350, a luxury sports SUV that might not exactly please too many people. I know that it’s not as appealing as prior years, but it sports some pretty nice specs. But an SUV? After a year of ridiculously high gas prices? Hmmm…

Here are some of the other “prizes” available:

  • 42″ Sharp Aquos Full HD 1080p LCD TV for $700 (December 2nd)
  • Dell Studio Laptop for $499 (December 8th)
  • A Dream Dining Experience with Gordon Ramsay – The London NYC Package for $2,500 (December 9th)

Need an American Express card? There are a couple on this 0% credit card list (cards that offer 0% on purchases or balance transfers) but you’ll have to act fast, My Wishlist has already started!


 Business, Government, Taxes 
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How To Deal With An Aggressive Accountant

For anyone who runs their own business and has hired an accountant (or anyone who has gone to an H&R Block, based on what I’ve heard), you’ll run into someone who will aggressively pursue deductions even if you’ll feel a little uneasy about taking them. Now, it’s hard to figure out whether or not the deduction is legitimate for your situation and each one of us has a different level of tolerance for aggressive deduction taking but Jeanne Fleming and Leonard Schwartz recommend that you simply ask the accountant to explain the reasoning behind the deduction.

I agree with their argument that you shouldn’t accept any of these explanations:

  • The likelihood of an audit is low.
  • Everyone else is doing it. (Seems very grade school-ish of an answer doesn’t it?)
  • The penalties are low if you’re caught.

With the wealth of information on the internet, you can simply shelve the deduction for now and do a little research on it. While nothing online, short of the IRS website, can be a definitive answer, many sites can easily tell you if you should be wary of taking a deduction. You can always email me and I can give you my unfounded opinion or, if you’d like, I can post the question on this site and hopefully someone will be able to steer you in the right direction.

Remember, in the end it’s your neck on the line with your tax return, no matter who actually fills it out, so if you wouldn’t feel comfortable taking a deduction after doing your research, don’t take it.

Source: CNN Money


 Personal Finance 
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Happy Thanksgiving!

This will be the second Thanksgiving that this blog has seen and once again we’ll be hosting it our home, my fiancée’s parents, sister, uncle, and grandmother will be meeting up with my parents, my sister, and my cousin to feast on an 18 lb. turkey and a little hammy ham (plus all the other little extras). Once again, I am thankful that another year has gone by, everyone has by and large remained pretty healthy, just a tad bit more wealthy, and maybe taken another step along that wise route (no guarantees); I wanted to wish you and yours a happy Thanksgiving weekend of feasting and general merriment.

For those of you who have been reading since the last Thanksgiving, I wanted to thank you as well, I’m glad I didn’t write anything too incendiary to make you quit reading! In this past year I’ve seen a lot of new blogs show up and many of them are quite good (I won’t list them out because I don’t want to offend anyone by leaving someone out) and picked up a few frequent commenters (again, I won’t list them out but those of you who are regular know who you are since I’ll email you after a particularly poignant comment) that I really enjoy having around. For all those times I was wrong, thank you for correcting me.

Last but not least, I wanted to thank my parents (my mom actually reads this blog now, which may or may not be a good thing) and my fiancée for supporting me both now and in the past.

Have a happy turkey day and don’t eat too much!


 Personal Finance 
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World’s Easiest Inflation Calculator

You know how people talk about how inflation has historically been 3 or 4%? Well I just found an inflation calculator at the Bureau of Labor Statistics that is straight from the source, ridiculously easy to use, colorful, and quick. The only downside is that the dollar values have to be under $10,000,000 (I have no idea why) but otherwise it’s really easy to use.

(okay this wasn’t a fun tool but I thought it was useful enough to mention)

BLS CPI Inflation Calculator


 Personal Finance 
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Forbes Money Meter

Here’s something fun I stumbled onto when I was poking around Forbes this morning, it’s their Money Meter, a stopwatch type online application that takes your annual salary and compares it to a ridiculously wealth person and the average American worker. As the time counts up, it calculates how much money you’ve earned, how much the average American worker earns, and your ridiculously wealthy friend. My first choice was Alex Rodriguez but second was definitely none other than Warren Buffett. After two minutes, good ole Warren has made over a thousand dollars where I’ve only broken $1 (maybe).

The fun part is the section underneath where it shows you what you could’ve purchased and it’s funny to see 0.00465 greens fees at Pebble Beach or 0.088 liters of Jack Daniel’s.

Since it’s a light pre-Thanksgiving Wednesday, I’ll try not to load you up on heavy personal finance stuff today and try to find other fun little applications to play with (and please do let me know of any fun ones that you are aware of!).


 Personal Finance 
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New Inflation Indicator: Bagel Index

No, the bagel index isn’t “real” in the sense that it’s a true economic indicator, it’s just something Jim Jubak came up with to illustrate the actual bite of inflation, as opposed to the CPI calculation which takes into account a lot of things that don’t actually directly affect the average consumer. I think another reason I liked this article was that Jim talks about a schmear of cream cheese, which is an entirely foreign concept in the bagel joints I frequent down here in Baltimore. When you order a bagel with cream cheese, it comes with enough cream cheese (based on my tastes anyway) to feed a family of eight. Anyway, the price of a bagel in Jim’s neck of the woods jumped ten cents to $1.95, or a solid 5.4%. – much higher than the official numbers (which don’t actually account for food or fuel).

I’m a fan of food indices like the Big Mac Index because they add a little bit of reality and applicability that are otherwise absent when it comes to cold quantitative facts and figures. Now I need to find a bagel place here that will just give me a schmear.


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