Personal Finance 

BVC #16: Introduction to Envelope Budgeting [VIDEO]

Here’s a little video discussing the ins and outs of envelope budgeting, how it’s done (at a basic level), why you might want to consider it, and my thoughts on its effectiveness. I’m by no means an expert on envelope budgeting, but I do understand the basics, so I invite those of you who do use this on a regular basis to chime in with your thoughts!

 Personal Finance 

$2.11 Million Lunch Bill: Historical Look at Lunch with Warren Buffett

Warren BuffetToday marks the day that Zhao Danyang, winner of the 2008 Warren Buffett charity lunch, will be dining with the Oracle of Omaha at Smith & Wollensky steakhouse. Zhao Danyang, who runs the Pureheart China Growth Investment Fund in Hong Kong donated a whopping $2.11 million to the Glide Foundation for the opportunity to invite seven of his closest friends to join him and Warren Buffet.

Buffett has been doing these charity auctions for several years and it wasn’t until 2003 did the auctions move online. The proceeds benefit the Glide Foundation, a San Francisco non-profit that offers housing, job training, health and child care, and meals for the poor. In addition to the winner’s donation, Smith & Wollensky also donates $10,000 to the charity as well.

(Click to continue reading…)


How Debt Settlement Works

List of Credit Card Debt Everything I’ve ever read about debt settlement has been extremely negative and, for the most part, ugly. It’s because debt settlement is designed for people in very dire circumstances.

A friend of mine recently got into the debt settlement business since he was working with a lot of individuals in weak financial situations. We spent the better part of three hours discussing how debt settlement worked, why debt settlement made sense to some people, and why the business had such a bad reputation. My friend is a stand-up guy, I trust him, and so it was refreshing to hear about the business, warts and all.

In this Foundation series article, I hope to pass on some of that knowledge to you.

Disclaimer: I’m not in the debt settlement business, I’m a personal finance blogger. I know debt settlement is fraught with scams, frauds, and other unsavory characters and so I’m writing this for educational purposes only. I’m not advocating anyone use debt settlement and I cannot guarantee the accuracy of anything in this article because I’ve never been through the process.

Please consult a lawyer and an accountant before making any decisions based on the information you read here.

(Click to continue reading…)


Ally Bank Application Review

Ally BankTwo weeks ago, I applied for an account at Ally Bank, the new rebranded name for GMAC Bank. Their rates have fallen in recent weeks but are still competitive, so I wanted to open an account to take advantage of certificate of deposit rates while they were still strong.

Ally claims the account opening process takes only 10 minutes, which, after my experience, is probably accurate if you don’t run into any problems (more on that later). It’s also important that you have all the information present, including but not limited to your social security number, your driver’s license, and any banking information for the accounts you want to link to your Ally account (ABA routing number, name, account numbers, etc.) It’s all fairly standard stuff.

(Click to continue reading…)


Review: The Options Playbook

Options PlaybookStock options is something that has always both intrigued me and confused me.

Fortunately, I’ve become friends with some people over at TradeKing and one of them sent me a copy of The Option’s Playbook, written by their Senior Options Analyst Brian Overby . It’s a print version of their entire options education center, available to registered users of TradeKing (sign up for free by clicking here).

(Click to continue reading…)


OptionsHouse Review: $3.95 Stock & Options Trades

OptionsHouse Logo$3.95 a trade.

(Update 1/14/11: OptionsHouse recently increased their commission from $2.95 to $3.95)

That’s how much it’ll cost you to make a trade at OptionsHouse.

That’s pretty cheap. TradeKing is currently my go-to broker and they charge $4.95 a trade, 67% more than OptionsHouse. Zecco, which is free if you meet their stringent requirements, is the only one that’s cheaper and they can never seem to get their customer service issues resolved.

(Click to continue reading…)

 Frugal Living 

Square Foot Garden

Square foot gardenReaders of Bargaineering probably are aware that my wife and I grow a garden every year. We live in a townhouse without much land so our garden consists of vegetable plants put into a variety of containers. Every year we grow tomatoes, eggplants, peppers (hot and regular), some spices (oregano, basil), and then some random ones we think would be fun.

If I were to do it over again, one option I would consider is building a square foot garden (inspired by Mel Bartholomew’s 2006 book by the same name), instead of buying all these containers. Container gardening is perfectly fine, but the containers themselves are often very expensive and they take up a lot of space. The pots themselves are usually wider up top so you lose a little space in that tapering. Square foot gardening avoids that loss and looks like a lot of fun. In fact, after a quick search I found that fellow personal finance bloggers Lynnae at and Frugal Dad built their own square foot gardens already!

(Click to continue reading…)


Ally Bank’s No Penalty CD Rate Arbitrage

Ally BankIf you look at Ally Bank’s current rates, there appears to be a discrepancy in the way they’ve structured their rates. I tweeted about this last week and it appears the difference in rates has persisted through a recent rate drop, making it doubly curious. Let me explain what I mean.

As of today (June 22, 2009), here are the current rates of several of their products:

  • Traditional 9-month CD: 1.75% APY
  • No-Penalty 9-month CD: 2.15% APY
  • Online Savings Account: 2.00% APY

Two things surprise me:

  1. A traditional CD should never have a lower yield than a no-penalty CD of the same maturity. With a no-penalty CD, you have the right to close the CD before the maturity period without penalty. The bank can’t close it. You should be paying, through a discount on the interest rate, for that flexibility. When the no-penalty CD first debuted, its interest rate was a tenth of a percent lower than the traditional CD’s rate.
  2. The no-penalty 9-month CD with a higher yield than the online savings account represents an opportunity. We’re in a period when rates on savings accounts and CDs are dropping. However, should rates ever make a turn and start rising, being locked into a CD might be bad news. However, with a no-penalty CD, I can close at anytime so the risk is minimal! There is no reason why someone should keep their funds in an online savings account when the same exact bank is offering a no-penalty CD option with a higher interest rate.

This morning I transferred all my funds from my Ally Bank online savings account into the 9-month no-penalty CD to get that extra 0.15% APY. If the two accounts weren’t at the same bank, I wouldn’t have done it because the transfer time would’ve cost me interest. However, anytime someone is willing to give me a $2 bill in return for a $1, I take it. 🙂

Is there something I’m missing?

Advertising Disclosure: Bargaineering may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services, or your clicking on links posted on this website.
About | Contact Me | Privacy Policy/Your California Privacy Rights | Terms of Use | Press
Copyright © 2016 by All rights reserved.