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9 dumb moves to financial failure

by Jen A. Miller on August 10, 2015

At Bargaineering we usually talk about ways to save money, imparting practical advice on the best ways to get the most bang for your buck.

But it’s summer, and things are a little goofy, so today we’re going to suggest a few ways to wreck your finances and stop building wealth.

So here’s nine dumb things to do with your money. Fair warning: I have my sassy pants on, and I’m not afraid to show it.

Dumb Move 1. Buy or lease a luxury car. Investing $600 or $700 a month in a Mercedes, BMW or Land Rover is totally worth the admiring – even jealous – looks from your friends and family. You might not be rich, but all of the dudes and chicks in the Taco Bell drive thru will think you are.

Dumb Move 2. Pay for everything with credit cards. It’ so easy to whip out the plastic or wave your smart phone in front of a terminal. You might lose track of how much you’re spending but when you want something, when you need something, you’re never out of cash, and never leave a store disappointed.

Dumb Move 3. Chasing fashion trends You can’t expect to land the best dates, or invites to the hippest parties, if it doesn’t look like People Style Watch threw up on you. Yeah, today’s trends are so short-lived that they’re on way out before the credit card bill arrives. But you’ve got to wear something, even if the major purveyors of “fast fashion” are bad for the planet. (That John Oliver is such a know-it-all..)
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Those heavily promoted $10-a-month gym memberships are great … But will you ever go?

by Jen A. Miller on May 28, 2015

Health clubs have a brilliant business model that counts on members who sign-up with the best of intentions rarely, if ever, showing up.

If everyone who belonged to a gym actually worked out on a regular basis there’d be chaos (for a deep dive into the economics of gyms, check out this Planet Money podcast.)

But the super cheap $10-a-month deals health clubs are touting these days are pure genius.

It’s the perfect play for customers who know they’re unlikely to actually go and are wise enough to reject a year-long contract that costs $30 or $50 a month.

At $10 a month — and no long-term commitment — it’s almost irresponsible not to embrace the financial risk and take another shot at remaking yourself into a dedicated gym rat.

I say another shot because I’ll bet these deals attract a surprising number of new members who’ve spent hundreds of dollars on unused memberships in the past.

Maybe even at the same club.

So what happens if you fail this time?
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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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