Jen A. Miller's Articles

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Let’s save ourselves from costly ‘help’ like this

by Jen A. Miller on February 16, 2015


Beware of yet another start-up that’s out to take advantage of the self-employed and part-time workers trying to make a living from several jobs.

Even is a new company launching later this year that promises to help smooth out the erratic income of those of us who don’t have a single, steady employer.

They posit themselves as insurance on your checks: Give them your money, and they’ll pay you a weekly salary out of it.

If your income isn’t up to snuff that week, they say they give you an interest free loan.

If all systems are go, your extra money is saved for the next time a check is late or your shifts are cut.

The big problem: Even charges $5 per week to hold onto your money for you. That’s $20 per month and $240 per year. In exchange, they give you zero interest in your savings.

What a terrible idea.

Look, I understand the frustration when your incoming is coming from a dozen different sources. I’ve been self-employed for 10 years, and sometimes checks are late.

But there’s a very easy way to even things out yourself.
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Asking me to tip the maids at high-end hotels is a lousy plan to fight poverty among women

by Jen A. Miller on November 17, 2014


When you stay at a Marriott hotel this fall you’ll be asked to pay for more than just your room.

The giant hotel chain wants you to start tipping its maids.

Tip envelopes have been placed in 160,000 of its 700,000 guest rooms at Marriott, JW Marriott, Courtyard, Renaissance, Fairfield, TownePlace Suites and Springhill Suites hotels.

It wasn’t actually the company’s idea. Marriott was asked to do this by Maria Shriver of all people as a way to fight poverty among women.

Wow. What a breathtakingly dumb idea.
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How to buy furniture you like without spending too much money

by Jen A. Miller on October 27, 2014

In February 2013, I moved back into my house. Yes, moved back in.

I bought the place in 2007 and turned it into a rental property when I moved in with my then-boyfriend.

The relationship went bust at about the time my tenants were moving out, so I decided to go back home, and used that transition as an opportunity to finally create the home environment I always wanted.

First, I stripped out the carpets, refurbished the hardwood floors and painted the interior walls. That was easy. The harder part was finding furniture to fill the house without going broke.

I like older furniture that’s solid wood instead of pressed board, so used was always my first option.

But I didn’t just take anything that came my way.

Here’s what I did.
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Why I’m no longer afraid to deposit checks by mobile phone

by Jen A. Miller on October 20, 2014


Your co-worker, your neighbor, the corner market owner. They all joined the modern world long ago.

For awhile I was reluctant, but I too have gotten hip to the new age.

Yes, I’ve started cashing checks through my smartphone

I resisted the convenience for two big reasons.

First, when the technology debuted, the time from upload to deposit was slow. At least, that was the case when ING Direct, now Capital One 360, first offered CheckMate in 2012.

The bank would make $100 per check available in my account the business day after I made the mobile deposit. The remaining balance on the deposited check became available a week later. And any check for more than $3,000 had to be deposited by mail.

I’m a freelancer writer, and a lot of my clients still pay me in paper checks.

That kind of time between the deposit and when the money became available is unacceptable.

Why jump through these hoops when I could just go to the bank a mile from my house, deposit a check through the ATM and get access to all of my money the next day?
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‘Free’ smart phone game is a shameless money suck

by Jen A. Miller on August 18, 2014


As always, there’s another scam to separate you from your hard earned money. Only this time, we can stop the madness.

The latest money grab comes from none other than Kim Kardashian, who has partnered with Glu Mobile on Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, a smartphone game where users advance by living the celebrity lifestyle.

In order to go from an E-List to an A-list celebrity, players do things like going to fashion shoots and hanging out with other celebrities.

Yes, it’s vapid, but a lot of online games are. It’s not like there’s any existential meaning to Angry Birds or Candy Crush.

The problem is that people are blowing millions – yes millions – on the game.

The game itself is free but Kardashian and Glu Mobile makes their real money from in-app purchases. Players can buy “koins” to move ahead in the game, and can spend anywhere from $4.99 to $99.99 in one shot.

Estimates put those in-app purchases at $700,000 a day.
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New law mandates in-state tuition for vets studying at all public colleges starting next year

by Jen A. Miller on August 11, 2014


Good news for U.S. vets: starting next year, you’ll qualify for in-state tuition at any public school, no matter where you live.

This perk was part of the $16.3 billion Veterans Administration reform bill that President Obama signed into law last Thursday.

Thirty states already offer in-state tuition to all veterans. But this will extend the discount to the remaining 20 states, including California.

At the University of California, for example, in-state tuition and fees are right at $13,200 a year. For non-California residents, it’s more than $36,000.

So the new law could save a Berkeley or UCLA-bound vet $22,800 a year – which is not small change.
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Online coupons and discount codes can save lots of money, at lots of stores, on lots of stuff

by Jen A. Miller on July 21, 2014

Although I’m a frugal person, I’ve never been a couponer.

Cutting out and organizing paper coupons takes a lot of time. I saw my mom do this when I was a kid and it looked like an exhausting way to save a couple bucks.

So beyond checking out the ValPak that comes in the mail (there, I get $1 off at the local bagel shop and $7 off an oil change), I don’t clip.

But I still want to get the best possible price. That’s why I check for online coupons and discount codes before shopping almost anywhere, for almost anything.

Here are three sites that can help you with that, no scissors required.
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Are hamsters the cheapest, yet cutest, pets ever?

by Jen A. Miller on June 09, 2014


We shall now pause to consider one of the Internet’s most hotly debated financial topics: The relative worth of hamsters.

Well, to be honest, we aren’t going to waste so much as a pixel on the curmudgeonly views of hamster haters. (What is wrong with some people?)

But we will take a realistic, dollars-and-cents look at just how much they cost to own — and just how adorable they can be.

When Jennifer Keishin Armstrong and her then-boyfriend decided to get a pet together, they didn’t even consider a cat or dog.

“A friend of mine had just bought a dwarf hamster for her daughter,” says Armstrong, who today lives with her now domestic partner in Manhattan. “When I saw that, I thought ‘I must have one of those.’”

Three years later she’s had five.

“They’re the cutest little things,” Armstrong says. “I love sitting there watching TV and holding them.”
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