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Information on saving money or really cheap (or free) deals.

Written By: Gary on December 5, 2013 No Comment

So I’m checking out flight prices for a trip, baggage fees are always interesting. The flights that I’m looking at allow me to take two 70 pound bags down for free, but only allow me to bring on 50 pounds back for free.

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That’s a different carrier on the way back, but it’s all booked through the same airline. Even if I pay $40 for the second bag, I can still only bring back 100 pounds in my two bags.

I would never need more than 100 pounds, I’m just saying. Maxing out a pound bag on the way down is pretty easy for me, so I might need two on the way back since I only get 50 pounds for the first bag. But booking it that way looks like it’ll save me just over $100 so paying for the second bag certainly works out.

The airlines I was looking at weren’t too bad for luggage costs, but when you look at some airlines (Spirit) they give you no bags, how can you possibly go to another country for two weeks and not take any bags?!?

International flights used to always give me two bags (at least on the airlines I flew) so if I happened to go over the weight of the first bag I’d take a second smaller bag that actually fit in the first bag. I’d separate them to fly, but then combine them at the destination and I’d only roll around one bag. These days I’m taking a lot less books on a trip since I just take my Kindle with me although I still take one paperback to read during takeoff since they don’t like you to have electronics on; I know that rule is changing, but if I don’t know in advance for sure, I still have to be prepared…

Later: The more I think about it, 70 pounds seems to be a lot. Maybe 50 pounds is what used to be normal and I’m actually getting just getting extra in both bags on the way down?

More later: It turns out the two 70 pound bags on the way down were due to those seats being first/business class. I was shopping with points and didn’t really notice that it was that much of point difference.

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Written By: Gary on December 3, 2013 No Comment

So I’m pretty excited about the gas prices! I got it for $2.99 a gallon today!!! The funny thing is that gas only dropped a nickel in price, but it dropped under that $3.00 price that makes it seem so special. I probably only saved 50 cents on the ten gallons that I got.

But a few weeks ago gas dropped about a quarter a gallon, I’d have saved $2.50 on the same amount of gas, but it was nowhere near the same milestone (in my head).

It’s just kind of weird when you think about it. Do you feel the same way? Or are you happier just when it drops in price?

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Written By: Gary on November 21, 2012 One Comment

Many Electronic Arts games are way on sale today. Their annual Thanksgiving sale seems to be the best year round, it may last throughout the weekend; no promises for how long it will last, so get them before it runs out. scrabble-badge-notification.png
I listed some of the most popular ones that are $0.99, these games go on sale occasionally but never cheaper than this. Scrabble for iPad is often between $4.99 and $9.99, so 99 cents is a great deal.

Personally, my favorite is Scrabble, which will connect to Facebook play against the computer or you can play multi-player and use other iPads, iPhones or iPod touches as tile racks, local network play and it supports GameCenter (but I’m not sure how that part works). I occasionally pull out Boggle too, which is way easier to play than in real life since it knows if the odd words are actually words. The classic game SimCity (the Sim before all others!) is pretty great too!

I see Scrabble for Kindle is 99 cents, they might be on sale for your Android devices too, so check out your on-line store.

I own many of them but the only ones that have gotten a real bit of play is: Scrabble, Boggle, Lemonade Tycoon and SimCity.

What Electronic Arts games do you play?

Written By: Gary on July 27, 2012 No Comment

I live alone, so buying in bulk at CostCo is tricky sometimes. If I eat it all, it’s generally a big value but what if I don’t eat it all? Costco_Logo.gifI see some people at the store saying “I won’t eat all 36 eggs before the expire” but I ask, but are you saving money even if you only eat 24 of them and throw the rest away. Personally, I hate to be wasteful but paying more for less eggs somewhere else is also wasteful.

In case you don’t know, CostCo is a bulk warehouse of food (and many other non-bulk items) similar to Sam’s Club or BJ’s warehouse.

Since you asked (you were going to ask, right?) these are my staples at CostCo.

Regular Food:
EXTRA LARGE EGGS, you have to buy 36 eggs at a time, I eat one egg a day, so sometimes the dates work out close for me, but generally I don’t get to eat them all. But even if I don’t eat all of them as long as I eat at least 24, I’m generally saving money. Since they have the date, I know how many I’ll have left near the end, so I can drop those off (in advance) at Mom’s when I visit.

WATER the 16 ounce bottles are the same price as the 8 ounce bottles (sometimes cheaper). Why would any one buy the 8 ounce bottles (water is actually good for you). Water lasts a long while and I drink a lot. The generic brand is almost always cheaper than anywhere else. To be clear: at home I drink water from the fridge, the bottled water is just to take with me on the go (I actually leave it in the garage); I know I should use reusable bottles, but that’s money and time so I think I’d end up drinking less water and more soda.

BANANAS they have a huge bag at a good price, I don’t always get through them all, but value-wise I think it works out. Regardless, I eat more of them because of that and fruit is good for me!

MICROWAVE BACON, I have two pieces a day and the date is generally months in advance. There is incredible savings in the larger packaging on this. Sometimes you can find good sales at regular grocery stores but these are really good prices (and large pieces of bacon).

LUNCH MEAT, I get the Hillshire Farms brand but I have to get 3 pounds of it! The date is usually in the future aways and the 3 different flavors are in 3 different 1 lb. bags. In the summer months I usually eat it all (I always pack a sandwich to take biking, hiking, blading or reading) and it’s a huge savings. But other times, even if I only eat about 2 pounds, I think I at least break even.

BUTTER, I put in the freezer so it lasts forever.

ORANGE JUICE I drink (at least) one big glass a day so I have no problems. I buy the Tropicana (4 ½ gallons) so it’s about the price of an average sale (but way better than non-sale prices). If they’re way on sale at a local grocery, I stock up there.

BREADS and BUNS for the above sandwiches, I buy and put in the freezer then I pull out 3 or 4 at a time and put in a zip lock bag.

MILK, I only have to buy a gallon and it’s generally a great price (or an okay price), I usually get this here.

CEREAL, I get it every so often, but I’m generally disappointed, it seems more crushed than smaller boxes, I break even I think, but I’m disappointed so I don’t often get them.

The Costco Experience, Revised and Updated Edition Larry GerstonSnacks:
SUN CHIPS has 30 bags in a case and is usually good for 6-8 weeks (and will last much longer than that). Good value for me generally any time of year (but I eat more of them in the summer). It seems like they have these on sale (CostCo coupon) a few times a year.

TRAIL MIX (asst. nuts, M&Ms and raisins) has really good dates, but the price on these have really gone up. I thought they used to be in the 40-50 cent (each) range and a few months ago I noticed they were 55 cents and a few weeks ago they were 65 cents each! I passed last time, but I really miss them, I might cave on these next week. These would be a better value for me if there were 24 smaller bags in there instead of 18 larger ones…

WELCH’s CHEWY FRUIT SNACKS in the tiny bags, (I don’t know the actual name of these). These are hugely cheap and have a huge quantity and are way cheaper than at the grocery store. I like them a lot (sometimes I eat two or three), a few friends like them, but my mother thinks they’re awful!

RICE CRISPY TREATS is one I occasionally get. They last forever. A decent value. If they’re on special (CostCo coupon) it’s a great value.

Lunch:
While I’m there, I’ll get lunch. Usually a bottomless Coca-Cola and a hotdog (great value, but the hot dogs are a little boring there) or a large slice of pizza and a coke (grab some extra napkins to dab off the grease).

I get a variety of other things at CostCo, but these (and gasoline) are what pay for my membership.

This post started as a really long (slightly off topic) comment over at The Simple Dollar so I turned it into a longer post and posted it here instead.

Written By: Gary on May 9, 2012 No Comment

Selling on-line through eBay is easy and (at the same time) challenging. It’s slightly addicting and euphoric when people bid and you make a sale. I was at a comic convention and some stuff I had I couldn’t sell (my target audience is right there) no matter how low I made the price, but on eBay I’ve sold more than a few for more that the same price at the convention. Setting it on a table with a sticker is way easier than photographing it a posting it on-line and then wrapping it and shipping it (and collectables are harder to wrap).

eBay For Dummies (For Dummies (Computers)) Marsha CollierI sold some used 5 Finger shoes for close to what I paid for them (originally on sale), they were in great shape (almost new) but I just didn’t like the way they felt compared to my four other pairs; I sold a well worn pair too, much more than I thought I’d get for them. Stuff I think should sell high, sells low (or not at all), stuff I think won’t sell get snatched up in ten minutes some times (wished I’d made that buy it now price higher). If possible I post extra pictures (if free) and tell why I’m selling it.

If you’ve never shopped on eBay, go buy something, anything; get a spare charging cable for your iDevice or cell phone. Then come back here. Why? Because you need to understand the buyers end of the transaction. Plus, to buy something you need an eBay account and a PayPal account and if you have those set up then I don’t need to explain that part…

It’s easy to sell:

  1. Take a picture, make the item take up most of the photo (or crop it if you know how). Some items let you post more than one picture for free (generally collectables?).
  2. Write a single line title (mot categories charge you for more than one line).
  3. Pick a starting price. Most people say start at a penny, and I understand the logic (more bids makes an object look more desirable) but if it’s an odd item and no one is looking for it…
  4. Pick a buy it now price. If they don’t want to bid they can buy it now for this price (FYI, you pay a slightly higher price if they chose buy it now).
  5. How long is the auction for? Pick 7 days (10 usually costs more).
  6. Write a short description. I say make it a bigger font and center it and use a few colors. Presentation is everything!
  7. Pick a price for shipping, for your first few: if it’s heavy (up to 6 pounds put $8-$10), if it’s light (less than a pound) put $4-6; you’re learning if you lose a few dollars on the first few, not a big deal, right?
  8. Pick where you’ll ship to. This is important, who knows what shipping costs to Timbuktu (yes, it’s a real place), narrow it to the continental 48 states for the few few.
  9. Make sure your additional charges are $0.00 then submit it (then submit again not he next page).
  10. Wait.

It seems like until someone bids on it you can revise it. Sometimes (maybe if people are “watching” it) you can’t revise the title. Even if someone bids on it, you can revise it, but it appears appended at the end of your description.

An eBay item end time is set the instant you publish it (for the number of days you select). If it’s an auction, don’t end it at 3 AM, a lot of the bidding happens in the end few hours. I try to end my auctions during the work days (3 or 4 PM Eastern) or in the evenings on the weekend (Sunday evening seems to be a big time) or even on a week night (I seem to sell a lot of buy it now items on weeknights). But I like to make the ending time be when a good portion of the country is at home or still at work, not during that travel time. For 10 cents you can delay the publish time to be a time of your choosing (I use this occasionally, it’s 2 am and I’m ambitious, I’ll post these to not go up until the afternoon of the next day.

eBay 101: Selling on eBay For Part-time or Full-time Income Steve WeberIf after a few days no one is bidding, consider lowering the start bidding price and the buy it now price. Or look around and see what other people selling are charging or what they’re saying in the description.

What does it cost to sell on eBay? If it’s an auction, it’s 9%. If it’s a fixed price (or buy it now?) it depends on the category, they take 7%-13%. eBay motors is probably different, but you’re not going to sell a car as your first item are you? You also get charged around 3% for the credit card transaction via PayPal. So 10%-16%. If you sell more than 50 items in a month, there might be some small fees just to list an item with buy it now, but you haven’t sold anything yet, so don’t worry about that.

Every so often they have (1-3 day) specials for listing fixed price for free or adding buy it now to auctions for free. It seems like it’s towards the end of the month, but not always.

And I think there is a limit of 100 items per month to sell (or $5000) but what you do to expand that, I’m not sure. I haven’t had that “problem” yet.

Books, DVDs and CDs are a whole different animal, I’ve sold a few, but it’s barely worth it. There are a million people selling these exact items and there really isn’t much of a difference between them. I think the people who are making money on these have thousands of items for sale and make their money by quantity. I’ve made more money on a used pair of $50 shoes than on a half-dozen new (still shrink wrapped) DVDs. I’m not saying don’t try it, I’m just saying don’t make it your first item.

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Written By: Gary on April 2, 2012 One Comment

The penny costs to much to make and it uses too much time to spend them. Plus, what can you buy with a penny? I’m not even sure what you can buy for five pennies theses days, so occasionally I’ll take a jab at the nickel too (maybe).lincoln-penny.png

I’m going to mention this every so often, why? Because it’s interesting to me and hopefully you’ll think so too. According to this video, it’s 1.8 cents to make a penny (how counter-productive is that?) and I’ve heard numbers higher that that. I don’t think any machines even take pennies. Although, I did hear in a West Wing episode that toll booths in Illinois will take them.

old-penny.pngFYI, individual items wouldn’t be rounded to the nearest nickel, just your final total.

Watch the video, the theme is “Why Pennies are economically inefficient and should be abolished”, the guy who made it makes fun ones and he’s got some surprising points later on towards the end.


Watch the Death of a Penny video in YouTube.

Please note that at 52 seconds in, he says we make 4 million pennies a year, but in the text on the screen he corrects it and says billion.

He makes some interesting points. Personally, I don’t carry change on me. I keep it in the car and generally use it for parking meters and if I’m getting a 99 cent or $1 item at the drive through. They’ll get mostly dimes and nickels and 9 or 10 pennies to help me get rid of them.

Written By: Gary on November 2, 2011 No Comment

Having a phone that works internationally is great in case of an emergency. The problem is that when you’re in another country calls are $2.29 to and from the United States, even if you don’t answer the phone, you’re billed for as long as it rings. I found this out a few trips ago, I only avoided the charges when I could show my chat transcript that indicated I was trying to disable everything and not pay anything.

att-logo.jpgDisclaimer: The tips below are not for someone who wants to make a lot of calls and be reachable at all times, they’re for the person who can wait until later to return the calls. Also, I do not work for AT&T, this is how I do it and it appears to work for me, billing terms may change. You are responsible for verifying that everything works this way for your account! None of this requires any hacking or jail breaking to do these things, I have a free Google Voice account set up (it’s sort of like Skype) and it’s set to forward my phone calls to my cell number.

Texting – On AT&T I receive texts internationally for free, I can send back to the United States for 50 cents (I’ve never tried to send from another country to the country I’m in, I’ll check that next trip). If I want to reply to a text it’s 50 cents but if I want to send a photo with the text, I believe it starts to use data and you’ll be billed for it (probably the same applies if someone sends you a photo). If I need to text someone in the US, I pay the 50 cents or I find WiFi location and use Google Voice to send and receive texts (it’s like a chat at this point), I can use the iPhone App or the Google web site. If I miss a sent Google Voice text message, it forwards it to my e-mail (so I always tell people to initiate a chat via my actual cell phone number).

Phone calls – Before I even leave the US, I turn off my 3g data and forward my AT&T calls to Google Voice (I do this from the iPhone settings), so my calls never even get sent out of the country. Google Voice is smart enough to not forward it back to my cell if someone calls, it just dumps them into GV voice mail. This way I can carry a working phone with me and if I have an emergency I can make a call.

google-voice.jpgIf someone calls, GV will e-mail and text me the message (with text recognition transcription) so I know they called and if it’s a good transcription, I even know the topic. Then I can decide if I need to work my way to somewhere with WiFi or make a $2.29 a minute call on my phone. Otherwise, I just check the voicemail the next time I’m on the computer or have Wifi on my iPhone or computer (with Skype or GV). From outside the country to call the United States or Canada, GV charges 2 cents plus a penny a minute (I pay Skype $3 a month for unlimited calling to the US from anywhere).

Data – AT&T significantly dropped their international roaming data plan charges this past summer, I might give a small package a try on my next trip. Don’t forget Onavo can save you money on your data plan.

Written By: Gary on August 31, 2011 No Comment

1,000 FREE rollover minutesAT&T customers can get 1,000 FREE rollover minutes by texting YES to 11113020. It’s that simple!

As you can see I’ve already gotten my response. This is the same number they used for a similar promo earlier this year, I did it then and those minutes did show up in my account.

With my mobile-to-mobile and A-List plan, I’m actually still using those minutes…

I just saw this on another site:

Note: Readers report intermittent success redeeming this promotion. Some claim that you must have unlimited messaging to qualify. Also, it is unclear if people who previously redeemed this promotion can do so again.

But by this point hopefully you’ve just tried, it costs only a text message to try…

Written By: Gary on August 23, 2011 No Comment

Yes, I know it’s not an iPad but it’s a Kindle, a video Skype Phone, a clock(!) or a variety of other things. Once they crack it and put android on it, I’ll probably wish I’d bought the bigger one. These were actually nice tablets at $500, but they weren’t an iPad, but for $99 it’ll do.

As you can see, I’ve redacted most of the information below because it changes so quickly. I expect all vendors will be dropping price, keep your eyes on SlickDeals.net, if you scroll down you can see they are even keeping a list of who has them at full price (because they’ll be dropping).

Their servers are getting nailed so be patient. Just click to order and wait until it times out, then try again…

Barnes and Nobel has 16 GB for $101.95 as of 6am Eastern (but they still want $600 for the 32 GB). I’d order one, but I haven’t gotten a rejection letter from my CostCentral order (that I’m guessing was sold out).

Cost Central has the 16 GB for $99 and the 32 GB for $149. hptouchpad.jpg

As of 10 PM eastern Cost Central had 10,000 of the 32 GB and 7,000 of the 16 GB (this is listed on the product pages). It was $9 for shipping (that may vary) and probably no sales tax for 49 out of 50 states.

These were on Amazon Sunday for the same pricing and I spent too much time researching it before purchased it and they sold out (I guess HP had them for that price earlier). So I had a little regret about it, but then I saw these. Even if I get a rejected order message, I’m sure the other places that have them still at $500+ will be dropping prices, so keep your eyes on that SlickDeals link above, they’ll keep it updated with who has it in stock.

You can get Touchpad specs and overview at the HP Site.

Supposedly PCmall and MacMall have them, but their sites are even hit worse, 32GB or 16 GB.

In case you are wondering why the price is so low: HP is spinning off it’s hardware business and discontinuing the mobile / tablet (hardware) business. I think these devices just came out in July 2011.

UPDATE: I actually ordered these from two places, the one canceled after a week, the other still says it’s expecting a shipment (but I’m not sure from where at this point). So it looks like I’m not getting one…

UPDATE 2: Early November, the second company sadly canceled my order. Looks like it’s time for a Kindle Fire!

Written By: Gary on August 1, 2011 No Comment

So I’m going to try this, one photo a day for every day. It’s not to late to start! Well, it is too late, but you can still post your photos!

banner-31days-125x125.png

31 Photos in 31 Days has begun for August 2011, so don’t forget to take 1 photo today, post it up on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, blog or anywhere else you share your photos, and then post your link by clicking the ‘Click here to enter’ (on their page).

I was trying to come up with a theme, but I couldn’t come up with something. So I’ll do a photo each day and talk about it and theirfore I’ll be getting some blog posts done at the same time!!

This my newest pair of Vibram Five-Fingers Shoes
IMG_2736.jpg

So I got a new pair of Vibram Five Fingered Shoes, I got the ones like my first pair of Vibram Shoes called “Sprint”. I was googling all over trying to find a good price but I know there are a bunch of fakes out there. What I ended up getting was a pair from someone on eBay who had the wrong size. They look brand new, the soles felt a little thicker than my current pair (but my old pair is definitely broken in) but when looking up information on fake Vibram’s everything seems to pass. The color is off a little, just check out my big toe! But otherwise everything seems to be okay.

Except, my tan line at the top of my foot doesn’t line up at all. I’ve got a similar casual pair that is like the Sprint (but without the strap and it’s not made out of the same waterproof material) and the tan line doesn’t stand out like this. Anyone out there have a few different pairs of Vibram Sprints that don’t line up the same?

So until they really break in, I’m really not sure if I’ll purchase them again like this.

Written By: Gary on July 30, 2011 No Comment

According to CNN, Apple now has more cash on hand than the United State government. Wow!!!

“the government had an operating cash balance Wednesday of $73.8 billion.

Tech juggernaut Apple had a whopping $76.2 billion in cash…”

Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World's Most Colorful Company Owen Linzmayer, Owen W. Linzmayer The thing to keep in mind is: isn’t most of the ca$h the government has already allocated for something? This money that Apple has isn’t even allocated to do anything (to our knowledge). Their stock has hit it’s highest numbers ever and they’re likely to release a new iPhone in a month or two when they usually release new iPods and new iPod touches.

The was a rumor the other day they might buy Barnes and Nobel for $1.5 billion, that’s pocket change when they’ve got $75 billion(!) in the bank. Imagine how cheap they could have got Borders if they had wanted it.

Written By: Gary on May 20, 2011 No Comment

So I recently downloaded Onavo for my iPhone. It cuts down on your data usage by compressing cellular data on the fly. I guess it zips up the text and lowers the quality of images (I usually don’t notice, but sometimes I do) SprintPCS used to do this on their 1G(?) network and it was great.

onavo.jpgI’m getting over 50% overall compression. It’s free but it’s likely they’ll eventually start charging (so try it now, while it’s free!). But if you’re just squeaking by on a 250 MB plan, this could keep you from jumping up to the next plan at $10 more a month, I assumed it’d be less than $5 a month(?). Most apps it’s compresses 70-80%, others no compression and some others at 30-50%. It works on the iPad too. It’s compression on the downloading, not on the uploading. It says that it has no effect on tethering.

I love it! I actually think it speeds my data up (if it’s only pushing half of it around, but they aren’t marketing it that way). It doesn’t touch secure data and doesn’t appear to touch your mail unless you specifically enable it (and it has to be MS Exchange); it converts your e-mails to text, but I actually think that’s better on the smaller screen. I did just change my gMail config to use the MS Exchange protocol to test it out (Google does support this); I’m getting 50+% compression.

I have the data unlimited plan so this isn’t such an issue for me, but I might be tempted to pay for a international data plan next time I travel. Although, now that I look at the list, I don’t see Costa Rica in the list, I thought it was there before…

I’m grandfathered in on the unlimited plan with ATT, but I have friends considering the iPhone 5 (4s?) whom 250MB might not be enough, but 500MB could certainly be enough. Sometimes I think it might be eating my data more, but I’ve been forcing the phone to stay on 3G and not join any WiFi networks so that I can see the savings.

Written By: Gary on January 16, 2011 4 Comments

Donate a $1 at Wendy’s and get a free Frosty Jr. with every purchase you make at Wendy’s for the rest of the year! Okay, so I guess this really isn’t free, but it’s such an awesome deal!

wendys-free-frosty-IMG_2179.jpgThey did this last year (but didn’t start until April) and it was the best deal ever! They give you the tag for your keychain and you’re good to go! Buy a double-stack burger for 99 cents and get a free Junior frosty (what a deal!).

Be sure to getyour keychain tag now, because once they’re gone, you can’t get them any more. I think they should charge $5.00 for them. The donated money goes to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

This is only at Michigan Wendy’s as far as I know (and this tag says only in Michigan). If your state offers a similar program, please leave a comment and let me know..

Written By: Gary on January 3, 2011 No Comment

It seems about every two months that Wendy’s resets their on-line coupons (this batch is good until Feb. 20, 2011). It’s a $1 off combos, $1.99 kid meals and a few 2-for-1 deals (singles, chicken and twisted Frostys). There appears to be no printing limit, I just printed a stack and stuck them in the car. wendys-logo.pngI go 2+ times a week so this is a no brainer for me. I’ll have $14-$20 extra in my pocket by the time March rolls around.

And the address hould be easy to remember it’s http://MichiganWendys.com/

Yes, the coupons specifically say they’re only good for Michigan.

Written By: Gary on September 26, 2010 No Comment

When I purchased my home I thought I’d stay in it around four or five years, give or take a year, next month will make eleven years! I’d never owned a home before, but interest rates were good, I had a condo that I liked and when the rent on my Southgate apartment jumped way up, it sealed this was the deal for me.

Mortgages For Dummies, 3rd Edition Eric Tyson, Ray Brown The rates on the 5-year Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARM) seemed pretty decent; I knew rates were down but I like to cover my bets, and any year after five years the mortgage could go up 2% a year. Silly me, I was worried that if the economy got better I’d have a higher mortgage rate; but I never thought I’d live here more than seven years (when it would have the opportunity to have jumped up 2% two times).

Well it’s that time of year again and my mortgage adjusted, it went down 1/8th of a percent. I’m now paying 3.125%, this is much less than my original 6.875%. While I understand the value of my home has probably dropped, at least I’m not paying a higher mortgage at the same time, the lower value means less property taxes.

Year Rate
1998 6.875%
1999 6.875%
2000 6.875%
2001 5.25% (paid $750 to lower rate*)
2002 4.25% (paid $750 to lower rate*)
2003 4.25%
2004 4.25%
2005 4.25%
2006 4.25%
2007 4.25%
2008 4.875% (first yearly adjust)
2009 3.25% (yearly adjust)
2010 3.125% (yearly adjust)

I was paying the higher rate in the beginning when I owed a lot more money, so the higher interest rate did affect me more, but at the time it was a low interest rate. I think the rates were around 7% at the time and I paid a few hundred dollars ($300-ish) to lower it 3/8ths of a percent, which was supposed to take three-and-a-half years to make that few hundred dollar fee back, but since I paid the $750 to lower the rate I lost out on that (I think it was three years to the day) but only the $30-$50 I hadn’t recovered; I still think that was a good decision, who could have predicted a crisis of 9/11 proportions would occur?

I’m living on the East side of Dearborn (Michigan, United States) and they’ve finally removed the old deserted Montgomery Wards building and finishing a new office building which might help (a tiny bit) in revitalizing this side of town…

I made pretty good money decisions on this for my first time. The one big mistake I made was at the time of purchase I did have the ability to put 20% down (I had put down 15%) and I wish I had done the 20%; yes I know that’s a lot to put down these days, but my mother always taught me to be a good saver and I knew I’d want to buy someday. Here’s why: The PMI insurance, this is the insurance that you pay for to guarantee that you won’t default (but only for the first 20%), was harder to drop than they made me believe: you had to pay for an inspection and if the value of the house had dropped it wouldn’t be 20% and it wouldn’t get waived so I was a little nervous and a little annoyed. But it was $35 a month that I was putting towards nothing (for me, at least) that could have been towards my house and I didn’t like seeing it on my statement. It was about $35 for every 5%, so if I’d put down 0%, it’d have been $140 a month (that’s $1440 each year!). But if something had happened at the time and I needed the money, that would have been gone from my reserves (but I’m still kicking myself for it).

So other than my PMI rant, the whole home owning process has gone really really well. I’m still happy with the home. It’s been very centrally located to the three different jobs (Allen Park, Redford, Hamtramck) I’ve had since I lived here.

*Surprisingly, when I paid the $750 for the ARM to adjust adjust the rate, it actually restarted the 5-years over! So when I ended up changing to the 4.25% rate, it held for the next 5 years.

Written By: Gary on August 12, 2010 No Comment

Just had the best dessert at Applebee’s for only one dollar! A tiny warm brownie with a small scoop of ice cream. It was delicious!!! And did I say it was only $1?

brownie-bites-IMG_0815.JPG

Not the best photo, but the flash was too bright and it was kinda dim (this photo) without it, it was even better than it looked!

I guess they’ve only been doing this Brownie Bites deal until 4 PM, but they (at least the Allen Park Applebee’s) is extending it.

They had Long Island Iced Tea’s for $4 and I got a huge amount of shrimp and fries for $11 with it. Yum!

Everything was great there (thanks Tiffany!) except there were at least 5 feet of receipts printed off for my purchase (I paid with credit and finished off a gift card) which was a little insane….

Written By: Gary on July 10, 2010 One Comment

I like using a NewsReader on my iPhone (or iPod Touch) and one of my favorites is Doppler. It’s easy to use and it synchronizes with Google Reader so it makes off-line reading easy to do. So this means that when you read an article it marks it as read on Google so you don’t end up reading it again.

doppler.175x175-75.jpgIt caches all your RSS feeds for off-line reading so it’s pretty fast when you’re going through the news since it cached it in advance; but this means you do click to click on the link a minute before you’re ready to read since it doesn’t download in the background. I usually tap it before I leave the house since it’s faster on the WiFi, even if I don’t read it soon, it’s cached most of the recent articles so that when I do sync over 3G it’s already got most of the new news…

TIP: When configuring to sync with Google it lists all your individual feeds at the top of the list, but if you scroll to the bottom of the list you can choose your “folders” as defined in Google Ready

I’m mentioning this software today because it’s free for download until July 20th, 2010. It’s worth the money, but free is better, isn’t it?

Written By: Gary on January 9, 2010 2 Comments

Here are some of my easy tips for reducing spending. I don’t go in to as many items as Kim (from the Friday Question) does but these can add up quick so I’ll share a few of my easiest ones. Actually I think most of these add up faster than shopping around for gas prices (even if you drive a big vehicle).

Managing Your Money All-In-One For Dummies (For Dummies (Lifestyles Paperback)) Consumer Dummies1) Pay your bills automatically (and on time)! I don’t mean electronically (this is work), I mean automatically so they just deduct your account. Set up auto-bill payments just one time so bills comes out the of the bank (generally on the day due, you can’t pay it any closer that that) any you don’t have to write checks, buy stamps or take the time to do it. If it’s a regular payment (same amount every month) that can’t do direct withdrawal see if your bank can send a check for you, my bank does it for a quarter (less than a stamp) and I never have to think about it. If you do this you’ll avoid any fees or fines for tardy bills. I’m assuming you already do direct deposit for your checks, don’t you?

2) Keep what you drink around you. If you’re always drinking water keep a few in the trunk. Or grab a cold soda on the way out of the house. I keep a case of water bottles* in the garage, if I take an empty out of the car, I put in a full one. If you’re heading out to a picnic bring the sodas with you. If you’ve got a fridge at work, keep sodas/water/etc. there. If this stops you from buying one drink a day ($1.00-$1.75) and you purchased your drinks on sale (stock up dummy!) you could easily save $365 a year, if this stops you from buying two drinks a day you could double that. Even just twice a week could pocket you a $100 at the end of the year. I’m not suggesting that you take your drink into a restaurant or movie theatre just if you’e going to get one anyways.

3) Pay a little attention to grocery sales. I shop for groceries for myself and traditionally when trying coupon cutting I waste more time cutting and looking at the store for the coupons then I save. But look for the obvious: If Orange Juice is on sale for $2 a gallon (down from $4) and you drink a gallon a week, stock up, pay attention to the dates though. If the cereal you like is on sale, stock up! And if you soda pop you drink is on sale, buy lots, it keeps for a while. Besides you want to keep some at your desk at work.

4) If you ever eat out, buy an Entertainment book. It’s not just food, most food coupons are B!G!, but could save the price of a book just with the Radio Shack, Target and Border’s book coupons. I’m not saying go to restaurants that you don’t normally go to, I’m saying just look at the book and go to the same places you already go! After the first year, you’ll buy one for both of your cars (if your family has two). Better yet, buy one before the family goes on vacation and use it there, because if you’re going to eat at unfamiliar restaurants, you might as well as use one you’ve got coupons for!

5) Don’t pay too much for gasoline. Speaking of saving money when shopping for gas, you can pay more than the cheapest place, just not too much. Some people drive across town for 5 cents a gallon, but not out of the way may save them 3 cents. Take two seconds to check prices at GasBuddy.com and see what’s average and if prices are going up or down (once you select your cities you can bookmark it). For example, there’s a few places at $2.59 but that’s across town but there is a bunch around $2.63 on the way to where I’m going but now I know to ignore the $2.77+ stations, which is what it was a few days ago. BTW, there’s an iPhone app for that.

6) Use the library for books, audiobooks or DVDs. Figure out how to reserve items on-line and they’ll contact you when it’s sitting at the counter. My library seems to put books in the electronic catalog when they order, so I can reserve best-sellers months before they come out; they’ll even ship them between branches for me. Just return them on time so you don’t pay fines.

7) Don’t buy lottery tickets! But then again if you don’t play you can’t win. That reminds me, I need to check my ticket numbers. I’ll admit, I do buy tickets, but $3 would be a busy week for me. But someone has to win, don’t they?

Most of these, especially the first five, are easy to do and don’t require much change in your life. If anything the first one will save you time and money.

Written By: Gary on December 3, 2009 No Comment

Here’s a free download to the soundtrack of Disney’s and Pixar’s Up Up Walt Disney Recordsbe sure to use the code latimesdisney when it asks for it.

This promotion has expired.

The soundtrack was nominated for “Best Original Score” but I’m not sure which award (Oscar, Grammy, Academy?). It was done by Michael Giacchino who did Ratatouille, Lost, The Incredibles, Star Trek, Alias, Fringe and more.

This offer is only supposed to be good until the end of Thursday.

Please let me know in the comments if this works for you (or more importantly, when it stops working)…

Written By: Gary on September 26, 2009 One Comment

I originally purchased my condo almost ten years ago. I purchased it with a five-year ARM (Adjustable Rate Mortgage) which means that after the five years my interest rate changes once a year. Since I never thought I’d live here five years, let alone ten it seemed like a good option for me. I’m still living here and due to a variety of circumstances my rate never started fluctuating until last year (see my ARM story from last year).

I was pretty happy when my mortgage rate only jumped up a little last year, but with the economy even worse this year my rate actually dropped 1.625% to a new total of only 3.25%! I know this shows the economy isn’t very good right now, but (while I don’t really talk about it) my personal economy isn’t so great right now either, so this is really a good thing for me.

I believe my mortgage rate is is based on a margin of 2.875% plus an index (1 year treasury-bills) which is currently 0.40% so that makes that a 3.25%. So unless the index can go less than 0.0.% (and I don’t think it can) I’m pretty much as low as it can go.

FYI, My mortgage was bought up by HSBC as soon as I got it (within hours) and they’ve been a pleasure to work with. And to get my mortgage, my first mortgage, my bible was Mortgages for Dummies. Also, Here’s a place to get the current and past rates from the U.S. Treasury.

Written By: Gary on September 20, 2009 No Comment

This new free add-on to AT&T Cell phones that starts today for sign-up. You’ll get to choose 5 numbers with unlimited to and from calling for individual plans $59.99 a month or higher. Family plans $89.99 a month or higher get to choose 10 numbers (shared between all users). It looks like this is Unity or Nation plans; see http://att.com/alist for more info (this link still gives you info, but the login seems to generate an error, so just login normally and click on manage your A-List).

That’s calling to any other company cell phones or land-lines!  It’s a free upgrade to those who qualify so it’s kind of a no-brainer to sign up.

alist-att.png

Five numbers for an individual plan. That’s huge! I’d guess 95% of my minutes go to the same five numbers; 75% percent probably go to just three numbers.

Only standard domestic landline or wireless numbers may be added. Directory assistance, 900 numbers, customer’s own wireless or Voice Mail access numbers, and machine to machine numbers are not eligible. Only voice calling is eligible.

- From the AT&T A-List “Feature Terms & Conditions”

Even if you have enough minutes, it’s silly to not sign up and get the free leftover minutes put into your rollover account. It might even be worth it to lower your plan if you have a much higher plan.

Here’s the thing though, if you have more than enough minutes, this really isn’t going to help much, you’re probably already on an appropriate plan. It’s really most helpful if you were already considering raising your minutes. If you were considering adding another phone (or two) to your plan, you might get away with doing it and not having to add more minutes. Or if you’ve considered ditching your land-line and just going cellular. Remember AT&T is doing this to be competitive and probably did the math for everyone’s most called numbers; it was probably this or lower prices and who wants to give up money these days…?

Please let me know in the comments how this plan might benefit you most. And remember to come back in a few months and let me know how this affects your bill, especially if you change your plan and save money because of it.

Written By: Gary on September 8, 2009 No Comment

The new A Fine Frenzy album Bomb In A Birdcage has been released today. I’ve mentioned A Fine Frenzy many times and seen Alison in concert several times.

Here’s the great thing the MP3 album from Amazon is only $3.99, that might only be a today only offer (but sometimes these deals last for days). That’s 12 tracks if you get it from Amazon (I think one is a bonus track but it’s a different bonus track than the $9.99 iTunes version). I actually don’t know how long this offer will last, but I picked it up a copy. FYI, the Amazon songs are 256 kbps and will play on your iPod/iPhone and the Amazon downloader will put them right into your iTunes for you!

UPDATE: You can can purchase just the iTunes bonus track of Coming Around for 99 cents. That gets you a deluxe (nonexistent) version of the album!

Personally, I like buying the actual CD verses the digital media, but I figure there’s a good chance I’ll see here in concert and get the CD autographed so I’ll pick it up from her then. Here’s a link to the actual 11-track Bomb in a Birdcage CD at Amazon.

FYI – These are affiliate links above. I get a small kickback if you follow these links and buy anything.

Written By: Gary on August 23, 2009 2 Comments

defygrav.jpgSo I noticed not only does iTunes still have the Defying Gravity pilot for free the next episode is also free (that’s 3 episodes, the 2-part pilot and Threshold) and it’s in HD! So if you’ve been wanting to catch up, now is the time…

Who knows how long they’ll keep doing this, it’s been three weeks for the pilot now. If I knew they were putting up HD episodes all the time, I’d be happy to watch the show a few weeks behind. I’d even be happy if they inserted advertisements to pay for it. Are you listening Apple and the TV distribution cartel?!?

And dont’ forget, all the episodes of Defying Gravity is on Hulu and they’re in 480p if you have the bandwidth.

Written By: Gary on August 4, 2009 No Comment

So iTunes has the Defying Gravity pilot for free! And it’s available in HD! It’s probably only free for a few more days (but who knows). (UPDATE: Defying Gravity is on Hulu in 480p.)

defygrav.jpgI forgot this was going to be on this week, I set the TiVo up a few weeks ago. I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure where it’s going to go. I think it’s only on for six weeks, so don’t fall too much in love with it.

It’s in 2052. It’s not a super high-tech 2052, they’ve got cooler TVs and while the spaceship is great, the rest isn’t that science fiction-ish. But you mostly forget about it. What really caught my eye was that we don’t have a Space Elevator yet!?! They had to launch to get up to get in to orbit (to get on the big space ship).


Direct link to the preview.

So they astronauts (think) they’re on a mission to all the planets in the solar system. But there is some mysterious (alien?) intelligence guiding their way, so who knows what the mission actually is.

It’s got an A Fine Frenzy song (Last of Days) in it too! About 30 minutes in if you have commercials, probably bout 22 minutes in without. She’s awesome!

Written By: Gary on July 16, 2009 No Comment

Abnormally Attracted To Sin is only $2.99 (it’s now up to $949 [7/22]) right now at Amazon for the 17 track album. Abnormally Attracted To Sin Tori Amos/Republic RecordsI can’t say how long this offer is going to last but I just picked up my copy!

iTunes wants $11.99 for Abnormally Attracted To Sin with one (1) bonus track (Oscar’s Theme), probably not worth $9.00 for that much more.

What iTunes does offer is an Abnormally Attracted To Sin deluxe edition with with fifteen (15) videos for $13.99 (which also includes the 18 songs!), that might be worth it for the big fan. Personally, I don’t watch the videos enough to make it worth it.

Obviously these prices will change eventually, but I’m sure the the $2.99 price probably wont last long.

Written By: Gary on July 5, 2009 No Comment

Seriously, I’ve done similar offers in the past for offers like these, it’s been a while since I’ve seen them worth this much. This is for a Chase card and it looks like after your first month’s purchase you get 25,000 points to fly (up to $312.50 because you get a 25% bonus for booking on-line) or you can turn that into gift cards. Picture 34.pngI read somewhere you could also turn that into cash, but I haven’t actually done that before (I’ve signed up for cards with $250 rewards for first purchase though).

Make sure you click on a link at the site that says you get the 25,000 bonus; if not, you’ll just get 10,000. I got there from this link.

Who knows how long this will last, but if you’ve been dying for an iPhone 3gs, here you go…

Yes, it seems too good to be true, but what do you have to lose. If it doesn’t work just cancel the card. No annual fee for the first year.

Found at SlickDeals.net. I just signed up and was approved on-line. PS – You might have noticed I’ve redone the ads around the site, but this is not any kind of a referral link that benefits me.

Written By: Gary on May 30, 2009 No Comment

This has happened to me several times at Kohl’s Department Stores. I’ll return something after paying my bill and while I might buy something there I’ve still got a credit with them (i.e. they still owe me money). So they send me a refund check.

This time it was only for $8.37, and after a month or two they mail me a check refunding me the amount. For one thing, it’s a pain, I have to go deposit the check and it’s not not for a very big amount. And (B) it’s not like I won’t be shopping there again. This has happened to me a few times before, I think always for small amounts. It just seems a waste on many levels, time, stamps, billing, etc. (I understand the computer just spits it out, but there is still expenses); not even to mention the non-greenness of it. BTW, Kohl’s is the only credit card that I have that won’t automatically deduct a bill from my checking account.

Better yet, they should mail me the check but tell me I can take it to any Kohl’s store and can redeem it with the attached five dollar coupon or (better yet) one of their 30% off coupons and get me to spend more in the store. In theory I’ve got this ‘found money’ plus whatever bonus they might offer me. They’d have to put limits on this so people don’t scam the system, but it’s not like they don’t pass out similar coupons all the time. It would have cost them nothing to put such a thing in the same envelope.

Another thing, mailing checks to people’s mailboxes when they aren’t expecting them strikes me as a security thing; now this wasn’t a large amount, but I really don’t want large checks sitting in my mailbox when I’m not expecting them (or when I might throw them away).

On a side note: I called a friend today and they were shopping at Kohl’s and I thought “I haven’t been there in a while” and instead of running over there today, I’m sitting here blogging about their weird refund policies :)

Written By: Gary on April 13, 2009 354 Comments

So I get an e-mail from iTunes today stating that an episode for my new season pass for “Sophie” has arrived. The first thing I thought was that I accidentally clicked “buy season” when I downloaded the free pilot last week. But when I check the receipt I see six other items (in addition to the season pass) totaling $61.93! Not only that, I see another order for $5.97! Not a chance that I placed these orders (FYI, the orders were placed at 1 am and 5 am).

Here’s the really strange part:Almost all of the purchase was videos (tv, movies, movie rentals) and I think those kinds of videos still have DRM in them and no additional computers were authorized. What good are these to anyone if they didn’t authorize a computer? Can they even play them? Wouldn’t it have been easier to have just downloaded torrents of these files? These oddities make me think it’s an accounting error.

So I had to “report a problem” to Apple/iTunes for each of the 10 individual items. The e-mails went something like this:

I did not place this order for any of the 3 items on this order. Nor has my computer downloaded these items. It’s order XXXXXXXX I also have another order from today (ZZZZZZZZ) that I did not place.

I’ve changed my password as a precaution. I also tried to play some older protected/DRM’d music and it still plays (so I’m guessing if someone hijacked something they didn’t deauthorize my computers).

Gary LaPointe (phone ###-###-#####)

PS – These purchases don’t even meet my normal purchasing patterns.

My responses appear to be identical other than contact info (and I only got one response for each of the two orders):

Dear Gary,

My name is Jane Doe with the iTunes Store. I’m so sorry to hear of the unauthorized charges made with your iTunes Store account. I can certainly appreciate your concerns, and will do everything I can to assist in having this resolved.

With regards to financial reimbursement for the charges in question, these would have to be removed by a specialized team, designated to handle requests of this nature. I would urge you to contact your credit card company as soon as possible to inquire about canceling the card and removing the unauthorized transactions. A member of your credit card’s fraud department will contact the iTunes Store directly, and this team will resolve the issue. I apologize that I’m unable to remove the charges myself, but all unauthorized transactions must be handled in this manner.

If you suspect you are the victim of identity theft, please consider following these recommendations:

(they then gave 14 lines of tips that I cut out)

I sincerely hope that you are able to resolve this matter with the help of your credit card company, as soon as possible, Gary. Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance.

Sincerely,

Jane Doe
iTunes Customer Store Support

Please note that I work, Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 12:30 PM – 9:00 PM this week

The identity theft issues don’t even make sense. Why would someone steal my charge card number and log into my iTunes account? The CC number won’t even get them into my account and if they had a CC number, they could just create their own new account and I wouldn’t have know about it for days. And Apple doesn’t display the account number. I’m thinking, it’s an accounting or some bits on the web got mixed up. And the responses were generic enough where I’m not 100% sure they read the post.

I did notice they they did include their working schedule, which was even evdifferent for the two different people who responded (neither of whom were named “Jane”), it’s a nice touch but they both had the same return address (although the “follow-up” code could possibly redirect it).

I responded with:

Jane,

I will have my charge card company dispute/remove the charges as you said to do below. I have changed my password.

I have four (4) questions below in bold.

Unless I’m mistaken, they only gained access to my iTunes account. They don’t have my charge card number, iTunes doesn’t display the number for them to see, correct? A charge card number will not get them into my iTunes account. If they actually have my charge card number, I’d think they’d charge more than $70 of music/videos and

So this is either someone guessed my password (which was letters, numbers and non-alphanumeric characters) or some data packets got mixed up as someone else was placing their order. Since I have the two authorized computers in my possession and I know no one else was here using them, I’m assuming the latter.

Can someone actually download songs/videos to a non-authorized computer if they guessed my password?
Since videos still have DRM, someone wouldn’t actually be able to play them, correct?

Someone at the iTunes Customer Store Support can’t actually intervene in some way, at least to stop someone from downloading the season pass?
If it’s just an accounting error, it’s still going to download the season pass to my computer the next time I purchase a song.

Without my new password I’m assuming someone cannot download more of the season pass. I don’t even see how they could have in the first place without authorizing a computer.

Thank you,
Gary

And I can’t even dispute these charges yet since they haven’t fully been charge to my credit card company yet.

If anyone from iTunes/Apple is reading this and wants to fix this. You can leave a comment below or contact me directly.

UPDATE:

Wow! Lots of people with similar problems these last few weeks (see comments below), but I’m the only one that didn’t seem to have gift cards purchased on my account.

So it looks like my charge card is refunding the two dollar amounts to my charge card. This is contingent to Apple not disagreeing with my claim. FYI, after I said it was kind of stupid that they weren’t going to cancel the season pass since I was disputing it and they were still delivering the shows, Apple did contact me to say they would refund the rest of the season pass (right around the same time).

PS – It appears the Apple does not allow you to cancel a season pass! This is insane, it’s to their benefit to get you to subscribe, the fact that you can’t cancel is a non-motivator. Obviously if it was a discounted season pass and you canceled it, you’d pay the full price for episodes already received. Just seems like an obvious solution.

I still don’t understand what they are doing with these iTunes protected movies/shows if they can’t play them? Why not just download torrents off the ‘net if they are going to steal?

MY UPDATE: I got Apple to cancel the season pass and I did get my money refunded from my credit card company. It was confusing the way it cam through, I might have actually gotten credited from the rest of the season too (so I might have come out ahead, but after all the e-mails/contacting, I’m sure I ended up way behind).

——- ARE YOU FROM BOSTON?!? ——

A news station is doing a story on this and was looking for some people in the Boston area. If you are interested in being contacted please state so in your comment. I’ll pass your e-mail on to them. If you put your phone number, I’ll pass that on too, but I’ll delete it from the comment (if you’ve never commented before your comment should not appear until I approve it). Sadly I never heard any more details about the Boston story after forwarding details to them…

Written By: Gary on April 3, 2009 No Comment

TGIFriday’s is a sit-down casual restaurant chain in the US, I think they’re all over. They’ve got a deal for penny appetizers and buy an entree get an entree for a dollar.

TGIFridays.pngIf it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it’s that awesome of a deal:
0) Print the coupon and read the fine print on the coupon.
1) Sign up for their “Stripes” (frequent flyer) program and they’ll mail you the coupon within 24 hours.
2) Go to the bar and eat an appetizer for a penny (any except the two big sample plates).
3) You must order a drink (doesn’t no have to be alcoholic).
4) The e-mail says to move to the tables to order the entree, but it seems they don’t care.
5) It’s one coupon per person: So two people can get one appetizer and two entrees for somewhere about $11.01 (1 penny + two $10 appetizers) plus your drinks.
6) Don’t forget to tip your wait staff based on the price before discount.
7) They then generally tell me to proceed to come back again to use the same coupon until April 30, 2009. FYI, the coupon I have does not require the card so you can print more.
8) Come back here and tell me what great deal you got!

You could use this for two people for two one-penny appetizers with two of that coupon. Ask before you try this, but I’ve done it once.

Obviously, if you don’t like TGIFridays, it’s not that great of a deal.

Written By: Gary on January 21, 2009 No Comment

Study Emerald TileHarper Collins books has a free audio book for download. You can download A Study in Emerald from Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things (one story from a book of short stories). And it’s read by Neil too!

Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders (P.S.) Neil GaimanHere is a direct link to the download (right-click to save).

Written By: Gary on January 11, 2009 No Comment

As a followup to my post on saving money for the holidays (over at WeLikeMoney.com) I’m going to talk about managing your utility bills, specifically your gas and electric bills.

Your electricity and natural gas bills fluctuate throughout the year: Air conditioning in the summer, heat in the winter, filters for the pool in the summer, more lights in the winter and many other factors. Many utility companies offer something some kind of balanced budgeting billing (my company calls it BudgetWise® Billing). What they do is figure out what your average bill is, guesstimate what it will be over the next 12 months and start charging you this amount. Every so often they re-evaluate they amount (6 months) and every 12 they credit or charge you the difference.

This is great for those months where you get some outrageous bills, especially if they haven’t done any meter reading in a while. Mine is usually pretty accurate and I’ve never owed at the end. This is a saving feature I’ve never used before a few years ago, I was helping a friend with some really tight budgeting and we wanted a specific amount to budget to; when we set up his, I added it to mine and I’ve enjoyed having it ever since.

Pros and cons:

  • No shocking bills! They are all the same.
  • You could get a big bill at the end (this hasn’t happened to me).
  • If you can do this with gas but not electric (or vice-versa) and they sway differently it might not be as useful (my gas and electric are the same company).
  • If you don’t pay enough attention to your bills you might not conserve enough. Not enough shock might not make you conserve enough, which costs you in the end.

From a budgeting standpoint this makes all my utilities the same every month: cable, cell phone, gas and electric. My water is part of my condo association fees so I’m not sure if anyone offers budgeting on water bills since I’ve always lived in some kind of multi-person dwelling.

Hopefully this works out for you as well as it has for me. If anyone has any experiences on this (good or bad) please leave a comment.

Written By: Gary on January 9, 2009 No Comment

I’m guest posting over at We Like Money today.

My post is about using your bank’s Christmas accounts not only for the holidays but other large yearly bills too. So go over and read my post and also check out how Tiffanie and Dave have been working to get out of debt for the last six months.

If you’re visiting Gary Said… for the first time then let me say “Welcome to my home on the internet” and please leave a comment today and mention how you got here. And don’t miss the free Suze Orman finance book download that I mentioned yesterday.

Written By: Gary on January 8, 2009 No Comment

So I found this web site for Calling America that lets you make free phone calls to the United States. It seems to be fully supported by advertisements on the screen. You just type in the number and then you get a pop-up asking if it can use your microphone. You also have to wait 10-seconds before it dials (time to read the ads).

Not the best quality, but if you’re over your minutes it’ll work. My most likely use is when I’ve misplaced my cell phone, since it’s my only phone I don’t have a way to call it and have it ring…

I’ve tried a few calls on it so go check it out. You’re limited if you don’t sign up for their free service (numbers of calls and time length).

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