Personal Finance 
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BVC #1 – Filter Personal Finance Experts [VIDEO]

I spent the last week out in San Francisco and couldn’t sleep the other night so I thought I would, in my sleepy yet unable to sleep haze, put up a video blog post to kick off the Bargaineering VideoCast (BVC) series. This one will talk about how you should always take what personal finance experts say with a grain of salt. Whether it’s an advisor or some talking head, the adage still holds true. If you don’t follow it, then you deserve everything you get.

Word of warning, the camera does have a little bit of shake (I’m holding it) and I’m new at this so I hope to improve it. Please don’t get sick! :)

Here’s the Wikipedia page for Suze Orman, ranked number 1 by Google (through some fine SEO I’m sure!) for personal finance expert. I have nothing against Suze Orman (unlike James Scurlock), I merely pointed her out because she’s one of the hot names in personal finance right now. At times I think her abrasive attitude is a bit over the top (but for some, it’s absolutely necessary) but that’s hardly a fault.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this little experiment, on what I have to say, on pretty much everything!


 Devil's Advocate 
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Don’t Donate Money To Charity

Devils Advocate Logo
This is a Devil's Advocate post.

Donation BoxThis Devil’s Advocate post will cover something that’s bound to elicit a lot of discussion – here are four reasons why you shouldn’t donate money to charity. That’s right, you read that correctly, I have four reasons why donating your hard earned money to a charity is a bad idea and chances are there is at least one reason here that you didn’t even consider. If there was ever a Devil’s Advocate post to end all Devil’s Advocate posts (don’t worry, it’s not the last one), this would probably be one of them!

Americans are one of the most charitable groups in the world, having donating $306 billion in 2007 according to the Philanthropy Journal, an increase of 3.9% over the year before. While the donation amounts in 2008, a period of economic uncertainty, are not yet known, chances are Americans will still be sending hundreds of billions to philanthropic organizations… so in the face of that, I present to you four reasons why you shouldn’t donate money to charity.

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 Education 
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Salary Breakeven for Private vs. Public College Graduates

Bachelor of Arts English DegreeI had lunch today with a few friends and the topic of private versus public college came up, a topic they recommended I put on my blog (so to appease them, I did!). As the graduates of private colleges, we were all curious what the difference in salary between graduating from a private college, paying $30,000+ a year for tuition/room/board/etc, and graduating from a public college, paying $10,000 a year for room, board, etc. The impetus of the conversation was that one friend knew someone who was graduating as a radiation oncologist and did a similar analysis between doctors and typical engineers (his analysis said it took twenty years for the doctor, a radiation oncologist, to “catch up” to an engineer, after accounting for typical raises, college loan debt, and other factors). So what’s the break-even point between private and public college graduates?

The answer …?

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 Taxes 
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IRS Tax Payment Plan: Don’t Pay Taxes With A Credit Card

When you finish filing your taxes, perhaps with one of these free tax filing resources, you may find yourself owing a little or a lot to Uncle Sam. If it’s a little, good job. If it’s a lot, don’t panic. The IRS will inform you of the opportunity to pay your tax bill with a credit card through one of their IRS e-pay service providers. If you owe a lot, it may be very tempting to just put it on a credit card and worry about it later but that’s probably a very bad idea.

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 Your Take 
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Your Take: Do You Use Money Management Software?

Pen & Paper is Money Management Too!When I started working five years ago, I tracked my spending down to the penny. I wrote about my “Budget Bible” before when talking about financial leaks. I felt that tracking my spending down to the penny was a great way for me to identify the areas I was spending and gave me an opportunity to review those areas. I didn’t realize it but that Excel spreadsheet was my first foray into money management software!

Back in 2003, there weren’t many personal finance tools out there. The tools that did exist were young and untested. Nowadays, there are plenty of personal finance tools available to help you manage your money! You have the beautiful, feature-rich, venture-backed Mint.com, you have the big branded cash flow focused Quicken Online, and you have the relative gray beard of the bunch, Yodlee, all at your disposal.

Of the three, I’ve played with Mint.com and Quicken Online and use them sparingly. My question for you, on this fine Friday, is – Do you use money management software? Either online or offline? If so, which one? If not, why not?

As for this week’s bribe, I have a copy of Quicken Premier 2009 to give away to one lucky commenter. You don’t have to say you use Quicken or that you’ll try Quicken Online, you just need to leave a comment and share which software you use or if you don’t use any at all! Contest closes in one week, February 27th, and it’s void where prohibited. Good luck!

(Photo: paulworthington)


 Frugal Living 
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Ten Tips for Successful Meal Planning

Grocery ShoppingI think these two words bring different thoughts for different people. I know I may be unique, but all of my adult life I have found I love planning my trip to the grocery store – writing the grocery list, pricing out the items, going shopping.

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 Investing 
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Investment Clubs

Stock MarketEvery month, my wife and some of her friends go to one of their houses, fires up the fondue set, and has “book club.” They usually have a book picked out, since it’s book club and all, but the whole event is more about socializing than it is about books (there’s nothing wrong with that). So, to counter this, the guys periodically have scotch night. We dispense with the pleasantries of calling it something else, it’s really about a bunch of guys getting together, enjoying some scotch, and hanging out. I don’t want to change that but I’m thinking we need a better counter event, something that at least sounds as productive as book club, and I fell upon the idea of starting an investment club.

I’ve never been in an investment club before but ever since I started investing in the stock market a few years ago, I’d been intruiged by the idea of starting or joining an investment club.

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 Credit 
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How Accurate Are Credit Estimators?

Red LED ScoreboardQuick answer? Close enough.

A while back I wrote about two free credit score estimates tools: myFICO’s Credit Estimator and CreditKarma. In the course of reviewing myFICO’s ScoreWatch, I learned my actual credit score. So the natural question was, how did my real score compare to my actual score?

The answer is that they were close, but not within the same “tier” of credit quality. The difference isn’t surprising though because they used data from different bureaus and each used their own equation for calculating the score. I think the scores were “close enough” to validate the use of credit score estimators. Here’s how they stacked up.

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