Zecco Affiliates Can’t Criticize Zecco relies on a mixture of advertising and affiliate marketing to generate income. Part of the affiliate marketing piece is that we get paid when someone signs up for accounts, such as a trading account with (not everything, just some things). A lot of personal finance bloggers pay the bills and generate income this way. Until about a month ago, no company has tried to influence my opinion until Zecco.

About a month ago, Zecco’s affiliate manager notified me that I would no longer be compensated for leads sent to Zecco because I had negative reviews about them on I was told that I had to “remove any negative reviews of Zecco and [I] can resume promoting and sending orders.” They phrased it in a way that seemed like I was unfairly picking on them, so I said I’d take a look if they told me which posts they found to be negative.

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Daycare vs. Stay At Home: A Mom’s Perspective

Dancing in DaycareEditor’s Note: Last week, I wrote a brief post about the financial tradeoffs of daycare versus being a stay at home parent. Kelly of The Centsible Life offered to write a more detailed guest post on the subject because, as a mother of four, she is clearly way more qualified to speak on the tradeoffs than I am. I gladly took her generous offer so here is a mom’s perspective on the issue.

In Jim’s original post he posed a seemingly simple question: Stay at Home or Pay for Daycare? Since Jim isn’t a parent yet, there are many intricacies and options that the post didn’t discuss. I’m here to fill that gap. 🙂

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How to Research Debt Collectors & Understand the Law

DebtThis is the first guest post in a special How to Fight Debt Collectors series on

So you’ve received a debt collection call or letter…

In this day and age where you have rampant foreclosures, layoffs and job losses, it is simply inevitable that an individual may come across a debt collector, and frankly even without these external factors, it may just happen by a chance wrong number or even being related to someone going through a hard time financially. Many people have questions and are unprepared to deal with this, but after reading this series of articles, you will be. I will detail the key steps you should take to secure your rights, aggressively defend yourself, and ultimately make the debt collectors pay YOU to go away. This is not your typical “just pay your bills and get a second job” column, so please read on.

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Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel Review

Secrets of a Stingy ScoundrelBy his own admission, Phil Villarreal is a stingy scoundrel. I didn’t know much about him before I received his book, other than how he also wrote articles for The Consumerist from time to time, but his book – Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel is an awesome and educational read.

The book contains a hundred little tricks and hacks that will save, or earn, you some serious money. He admits that while his advice does contain “a few splashes of innovation,” much of it is common sense – and it is. However, if the Darwin Awards are any indication, common sense is in short supply and we could all use a little refresher.

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 Personal Finance 

Financial Companies on Twitter

TwitterTwitter is quickly becoming one of the hottest new communication mediums online (you can find me as @bargainr). The ability to quickly broadcast out your thoughts, questions, and comments (and get responses back just as quickly) is a powerful and useful tool. If you start using it (as I have @bargainr), it’s very important to include others in the conversation if you want them to respond. For example, if you want to complain or laud a recent customer experience, it’s important that you include the company or individual if you want them to respond.

To help facilitate this, I’m compiling a list of financial companies that are currently on and actively using Twitter for something other than broadcasting new offers. I hope this will become a valuable resource people can use so if you know of a company that isn’t on the list, please leave a comment and I’ll try to include it.

Warning: Never tweet sensitive account information across Twitter.

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How to Fight Debt Collectors Series

List of Credit Card Debt Starting next week, we will be publishing a series of articles in a new feature series called How to Fight Debt Collectors. I’ve tapped the expertise of Craig Cunningham, known as Codename47 on the Fatwallet Forums, who has been a citizen warrior in the fight against debt collectors. If you have a debt collection problem and you post it on the Fatwallet Finance Forums, the first name that everyone recommends you message is Codename47. If you do a search on his name on Fatwallet, you’ll see he’s out there helping everyone being hounded by a debt collector.

This guy is a real deal.

I’ve written about how to fight debt collectors in the past, but I wanted to put together a dedicated series authored by a true expert. For that, I tapped the most experienced, knowledgeable, battle-tested person I knew. We were strangers before the process started but I’m glad to have made his acquaintance and had the benefit of learning from his experience.

In this series, Codename47 will be discussing the advice on how to fight back against debt collectors. This is the same advice he uses when helping folks on Fatwallet, just distilled into article form, and it’ll cover tactics such as how to conduct background research on the collector, how to confirm they are following state and local laws, how to craft a good dispute letter (keep it simple stupid), how you should document violations so you can take them to court, and other parts of the process only a seasoned veteran can know.

This won’t be a guide for people looking to get out of legitimate debts. It’s going to advise you of your rights under the law and protect you from being harassed. I feel personal accountability is always important and that one should fulfill their financial obligations, but not at the expense of your liberties (or sanity).

As the articles are published I will link to them here so bookmark this page, or subscribe to the RSS feed, if you want to ensure you don’t miss an article.

Debt Collection Articles

  1. How to Research Debt Collectors & Understand the Law If you have a debt collector calling you, it’s important that you conduct background research on them and familiarize yourself with the debt collection laws in your state.
  2. Writing Your Debt Collection Dispute Letter – Is the debt legitimate? Are they the ones who would be collecting? Make them prove it to you with a dispute letter.
  3. What Constitutes Debt Validation? – You sent your debt dispute letter and they responded, but was the response a legitimate and adequate validation of your debt?
  4. Case Study: Classic Debt Collection Story – A reader shares with us her experience with a debt collector and Craig gives his post-mortem debriefing on how he would’ve handled it differently.
  5. When Debt Collectors Violate the FDCPA – So you sent a letter, told them that calling was “inconvenient,” but the collectors still call… what do you do when debt collectors violate the FDCPA? Read and find out.
  6. What are Junk Debt Buyers? – Many of the debt collectors that operate today bought the debt, sometimes known as junk debt, from another party. Find out how it all works and how you might benefit from knowing if the collector is a junk debt buyer.
  7. Understanding 1st Party and 3rd Party Collectors – Not all debt collectors are created equal, find out the difference between a 1st party and 3rd party debt collector.
  8. How to Sue Debt Collectors – Now that they’ve broken the law, take them to court.

(Photo: pumpkinjuice)


Your Take: How Long Is Your Commute?

Miniature GridlockCNN Money played with the 2008 Census data released on Monday and discovered that the nationwide average commute is 25.5 minutes. If you work five days a week and fifty weeks a year, that’s 12,750 minutes spent in the car. For the math whizzes out there, that’s 212.5 hours or 8.85 days.

The average American spend over a week sitting in his or her car driving to or from work. It’s no wonder driving is more dangerous than flying, we spent over a week in the car just getting to and from work. This doesn’t count the time we spend on vacation, going out, whatever.

The longest commute belonged to citizens of East Stroudsburg, PA where many of the residents commute the 60 miles to work in NYC, spending 40.6 minutes a trip. The shortest belonged to folks of Grand Forks, ND where the average commute was a scant 14.3 minutes each way.

When I used to drive to work, mine was about 25 minutes to the home office each way. At one point I supported a client around the Washington DC area and my commute ranged anywhere from 45 minutes to several hours if the weather or traffic wasn’t cooperative. I passed the time listening to some audiobooks, sports talk radio, and/or NPR shows.

How long is your commute? And what do you use to kill the time?

(Photo: ethandb)


7 Steps to Improve Your Credit Score

Credit Repair SignWhether you think we’re out of the recession or not (I would bet “no” based on the responses last week), it’s always important to play a little personal finance defense. Today, the topic is on credit scores and how to improve your score by taking a few small steps.

These aren’t steps you can use to boost your score 100 points overnight… those don’t exist. These are simply smart moves you can make, over and over again, that will ensure your score will be as accurate and as high as possible. And if anyone says they can boost your score 100 overnight, chances are it’s a scam (unless you have some egregious errors on your report!).

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