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

Written By: Gary on January 8, 2009 No Comment

Suze Orman's 2009 Action Plan Suze OrmanDon’t forget (unless you hadn’t heard already) that you can download Suze Orman’s 2009 Action Plan for free starting today. It’s downloadable in English or Spanish.

Offer expires at 11:59 p.m. CT on Thursday, January 15.

Written By: Gary on December 29, 2008 One Comment

I know I should stop drinking bottled water, but I can’t. It’s too convenient to just grab a bottle on the go. It’s generally less than 17 cents a bottle when I purchase a case (this week it’s way on sale for 11.5 cents a bottle for an odd sized case of 35 at Meijer). I keep a case by the car in the garage and I take grab one to go all the time. I generally refill it as the day goes on. It’s just too easy to grab it and go; if I make it more inconvenient I might end up drinking less water and I probably don’t drink enough as it is (I used to hate drinking water).

Brita 42629 Slim Pitcher BritaAnd yes, I do understand that much of the bottled water is tap water.

Why am I talking about this today? Because I just read 10 Reasons To Stop Drinking Bottled Water over at The Good Human and I’m feeling a little guilty. The two statistics that really blew my mind were that it can take nearly 7 times the amount of water in the bottle to actually make the bottle itself and that on a weekly basis, 37,800 18-wheelers are driving around the country delivering water.

Nalgene ATB w/ Lid BPA-Free Bottle - 22oz NalgeneI will mention that at home I do drink tap water and while I prefer to run it through the Britta Filter first, it’s not a requirement. I do not open bottled water to drink in the house and I’m perfectly fine drinking non-filted ice from my freezer (hmm, I wonder if there is a filter on the freezer that needs changing?).

I just don’t see me washing out some kind of travel bottle to reuse over and over. If I drink two plastic bottles a day (and that would be a lot) we’re only talking about saving $2.50 a week (not counting purchasing and cleaning the reusable bottles and the time); wouldn’t I be better off saving a gallon of gas or two? I see me needing to get out of the house and wanting some water and the bottle isn’t clean or full or the Britta pitcher is empty or some other barrier stopping me; a few times a week I’d probably have to skip it and have to stop somewhere and buy a bottle for $1.50 which is counter productive. Maybe if I had 3 or 4 refillable bottles?

Written By: Gary on December 19, 2008 No Comment

THIS OFFER IS OVER.

20081118 Tows Holiday2 284X218Here’s a free Christmas Album sponsored by Oprah. This is the same album from a few weeks ago.

Don’t miss the cover art links too!

Once again – It says it’s only available for 48 hours, but I don’t know when the clock started ticking…

  • Faith Hill, “Joy to the World” from the album Joy to the World
  • Tony Bennett, “I’ll be Home for Christmas” from the album A Swingin’ Christmas
  • Il Divo, “O Holy Night” from the album The Christmas Collection
  • Josh Groban, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” from the album Noel
  • Brian McKnight, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” from the album I’ll Be Home for Christmas
  • Amy Grant, “O Come All Ye Faithful” from the album The Christms Collection
  • Harry Connick Jr., “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” from the album What a Night! A Christmas Album
  • Aretha Franklin, “Silent Night” from the album This Christmas
Written By: Gary on December 19, 2008 No Comment

Walgreens Photo offers a Free 8×10 Photo Print with coupon FREEGIFT through December 20, 2008 with free in-store pickup.

Found at SlickDeals.net

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Written By: Gary on December 13, 2008 One Comment

I cannot believe how much gas has dropped in the last few months. It’s really insane, but in a good way.

Ch.Gaschart
I got this graph from DetroitGasPrices.com. Looks like they shot back up 10 cents in the last few days, but still. Compared to gas prices from 5 years ago, we’re right around the same area but pretty much since then it’s a much better deal.

I was talking two years ago about “how low” prices had dropped but it almost peaked at a dollar less these past few weeks.

FYI, when I buy my gas I try to check DetroitGasPrices.com (I think it’s an offshoot of GasBuddy.com). I’m not going to drive way out of my way for a few cents, but if I’m driving through an area that’s cheap, I’ll wait until I get to the cheaper place…

Written By: Gary on November 30, 2008 No Comment

At Flowing Data they posted a great flowchart on the current financial crisis (it’s way to big to reproduce here. Informative and easy to follow.

I think they got it from here.

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Written By: Gary on November 28, 2008 No Comment

20081118 Tows Holiday2 284X218Here’s a free Christmas Album sponsored by Oprah.

  • Faith Hill, “Joy to the World” from the album Joy to the World
  • Tony Bennett, “I’ll be Home for Christmas” from the album A Swingin’ Christmas
  • Il Divo, “O Holy Night” from the album The Christmas Collection
  • Josh Groban, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” from the album Noel
  • Brian McKnight, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” from the album I’ll Be Home for Christmas
  • Amy Grant, “O Come All Ye Faithful” from the album The Christms Collection
  • Harry Connick Jr., “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” from the album What a Night! A Christmas Album
  • Aretha Franklin, “Silent Night” from the album This Christmas

    Don’t miss the cover art links too!

    It says it’s only available for 48 hours, but I don’t know when the clock started ticking…

    THIS OFFER HAS EXPIRED!

  • Written By: Gary on November 12, 2008 No Comment

    This is trickier than it sounds. Imagine trying to open an account in the US without a Social Security card and without a mailing address…

    I got all my paperwork in order:

  • They normally two letters of reference from banks that I normally do business with (seemed very old fashioned to me). I ended up using a letter of reference from a local Costa Rican organization and one letter of reference from a bank. I didn’t think I even needed the letter from my bank (I thought the Costa Rican letter would supersede it) but I was told a few days before my trip I needed it (definitely in conflict to other info I was given); in hindsight I’m not certain I needed it but it’s in my file now.
  • A utility bill, I used one the same as what I was using for my local address.
  • Copies of my passport and entrance stamp page.

    Once I got all that in order I went to the bank, got sent to another building, waited, got walked back to the first building to the person who sent me to the second building. Then I bet I sat at his desk for 90 minutes while he keyed in all sorts of things in the computer kept leaving the office and coming back again. All the while I’m intermittently signing things for the accounts, on-line banking, an ATM card and I think a debit card (built into the ATM card).

    I have to go back for my ATM card and I can’t set up the on-line banking until I have that card. I’ll come back to the bank to pick up the card next week (I had other stuff going on so I didn’t go back for a few weeks and it was all ready). They possibly could have sent it to another branch, but they seemed hesitant, so I wouldn’t chance it (especially since my schedule is a little grey still).

    So now as I see some other branches I’ll do a few tests depositing a check and making a withdrawal to see how it works. Better to know now then when I have an emergency.

    No one could really explain to me if I should open the accounts in Dollars or Colones. Most people said both but couldn’t say why. It seems like I can deposit into either account in either currency and withdraw in either currency also. It’s never seemed to bother my US bank if I withdraw in Dollars or Colones. If I’m in CR, I’m only going to take out Colones (unless maybe I’m at the airport leaving the country…)

  • Written By: Gary on October 26, 2008 No Comment

    Just a quick tip on winning: The easy way to remember which pieces are the winning game pieces for this year’s Monopoly game is they are the last piece alphabetically in their set; except in the case of Boardwalk (which is the major winning game piece).

    Be sure to keep me in mind if you use this tip to win the big bucks ;)

    I believe this is the same system they’ve used in the previous five years (possibly longer).

    My problem with this is remembering the other pieces in the sequence to know if it’s the last one alphabetically…

    Water Works – $50 – Odds 1 in 639,000
    Mediterranean Avenue – $100 – Odds 1 in 5,701,000
    Short Line Railroad – $500 – Odds 1 in 311,389,700
    Vermont Avenue – $1,000 – Odds 1 in 106,921,400
    Virginia Avenue – $2,000 – Odds 1 in 106,921,400
    Tennessee Avenue – $5,000 – Odds 1 in 307,947,900
    Kentucky Avenue – $10,000 – Odds 1 in 307,947,900
    Ventnor Avenue – $25,000 – Odds 1 in 769,869,600
    Pennsylvania Avenue – $50,000 – Odds 1 in 769,869,600
    Golden Avenue – $100,000 – Odds 1 in 178,065,100
    Boardwalk – $1,000,000 – Odds 1 in 591,287,650

    Pretty slim odds, even for the low-end prizes.

    * FYI – This is what I found out from looking around on-line and is the system I’m using. I don’t have any connection with the official game/rules.

    Written By: Gary on October 20, 2008 No Comment

    This applies only to amounts above $8,950 (assuming the standard deduction of $5,450 plus one personal exemption of $3,500) for an individual. For example, a single individual without children pays:

    Single Filing Status (Tax Rate Schedule X)
    10% on income between $0 and $8,025
    15% on the income between $8,025 and $32,550; plus $802.50
    25% on the income between $32,550 and $78,850; plus $4,481.25
    28% on the income between $78,850 and $164,550; plus $16,056.25
    33% on the income between $164,550 and $357,700; plus $40,052.25
    35% on the income over $357,700; plus $103,791.75

    http://www.moneychimp.com/features/tax_brackets.htm

    http://taxes.about.com/od/2008taxes/qt/2008_tax_rates.htm

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_bracket#Tax_brackets_in_the_USA

    This table applies only to amounts above $8,950 (assuming the standard deduction of $5,450 plus one personal exemption of $3,500) for an individual. For example, a single individual without children pays:

    Late: Hmmm… Looks like I started to write a post on this and never finished it. I’m guessing it got published when I changed from MovableType to WordPress. This happened with a few posts. Sorry…

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    Written By: Gary on October 17, 2008 No Comment

    So I stopped at Kinko’s to fax something, unfortunately I had to fax it twice since I forgot a page (duh!). But I was looking at their computer area and I see they want $12 an hour to use a computer. One person here just looks like they are just checking their fantasy football and that’s got to get pricey after a while; others are just surfing and one guy is working on a Word document. They could probably lease/rent a computer for less than $24 a month (that’s the going price for an iBook with Apple’s credit) and subscribe to a T-Mobile WiFi for $30 a month and could sit at the same Kinko’s and recoup their costs in less than 5 hours. Plus, you’d have a laptop for anywhere use and you can use it at free WiFi spots and most other T-Mobile spots.

    You’d have to pass a credit check to get the computer but other than that it seems like the way to go to me. It’s a decent neighborhood where I am and none of these folks look homeless so I can’t think of any reasons not to go this route. Any one have any thoughts on this?

    Looks like they have some new print on-line service that you can print and ship via FedEx (it’s actually called FedEx Kinko’s now) from home or remote.

    Written By: Gary on October 11, 2008 One Comment

    Dollar rent-a-car needs some cars moved so they’ll rent you a car for $1 a day (max 10 days) for a one-way delivery. Lots of pickups all over the place with specific destinations all over (especially Florida). Ends October 25th, 2008.

    Not so useful if you don’t need it, but if you need to go to one of these places…

    Written By: Gary on September 26, 2008 2 Comments

    So it’s that time for my five year ARM (Adjustable Rate Mortgage) to start adjusting. Was a little nervous because I didn’t know how it would go. It could have go up 2% but it only jumped from 4.25% to 4.875% so I’m pretty happy about 5/8ths of a percent (it’ll stay that rate for the next year). What I couldn’t understand was why my payments dropped if the rates went up? Turns out they recalculated my mortgage based on what I currently owe and since I’ve been paying extra on my mortgage it went down; so even though my interest is going up $45-ish a month it actually dropped my monthly payment.

    I’ve had a really great experience with my first mortgage. I set it up with a local company and it was immediately sold to HSBC (it was sold so fast; I signed Friday at 4 pm and Monday I got HSBC paperwork dated from Friday). I purchased the five year ARM at 6.875 interest (I think I paid a small amount for points to drop it 3/8 of a percent) then a few years later I had them redo my interest rate to 5.25% with just a phone call (and a $750 processing fee on my MasterCard) and then I did it once more (5 years ago) to 4.25% for another $750 phone call. The phone call required no paperwork, just them checking my credit and my payment history. So I managed to stretch this 5 year ARM out to almost 9 years while dropping my interest rate in the mean time.

    It’s worked out quite well for me (other than the fact that housing values have dropped) especially since I never thought I’d live here even 5 years :)

    Written By: Gary on August 19, 2008 No Comment

    So the school system in the State of Michigan has an option as part of it’s retirement plan. You can actually “purchase” up to five years of work (called Universal Buy-In) and then then when you have twenty-five years of work into the system it actually counts as thirty so you can retire five years early. Now it’s a convoluted formula based on your age, your maximum salary and how many years you have in the system; so the younger you are and the least you make they cheaper it is. Plus, they’ll take the money out of your check pre-tax dollars so you can get into this deal for as about $35 less every two-weeks (that’s $50 pre-tax). When I got in on the deal the plan was better, now they charge you interest on what you owe, so now you’re better off paying it off fast, before you had to spread it out. (Warning: if you’re bored now, the post really doesn’t get much more interesting. The part in bold near the bottom is the slightly/semi-interesting part that caused me to write this post.)

    Ors logoI recommend this plan* to people who are in the Michigan retirement system and I always mention it to the new teachers at school. The younger you are when you start the cheaper this will be; I don’t want to hear you say you can’t afford it, you can start this at about $17 a week, that’s not that much and it should really pay off in the long run.

    In my case, I didn’t hear about it until I had been in the system for a few years so it wasn’t cheap but since I knew I’d get five extra years of retirement payments so it seemed like a deal to me. I had it spread out evenly over the years I had left so it’s been getting paid down slowly.More details: If you leave the system (aren’t employed for a while by this system) they credit the years you’ve paid for and if you come back they’ll redo the above calculation with you being older, making more, having more years in system and factor in interest. This didn’t sound like such a good deal to me. Also, If you don’t actually work the 25 years, you have to wait until you’re sixty years old and it just increases your payment (or I think you can roll it in to some other kind of retirement).

    So late last year I decided I wanted this paid off work was way too stressful late last year and I felt as if I could quit at any time, so I increased my contribution quit a bit. It wasn’t going very fast so I stopped contributing to my other IRA/403b retirement-type things and put almost all of my check into paying this off (I lived off of savings in the meantime) and eight paychecks later I was done. Hopefully, putting that much in pre-tax doesn’t goof up my exemptions come tax time.

    This allowed me a few different things:

  • I don’t have to make those payments anymore.
  • I could move or take another job and not be concerned about this (if I left and wanted to pay it off it’d be one huge non pre-tax payment).
  • I could leave this retirement system for a few years and come back and this part is already taken care of.

    It was something I didn’t have to worry about anymore. I don’t like payments and since I paid it off it was something I didn’t even need to think about. I don’t even like thinking about payments, my house is really my only thing that I owe money on. Now I need to replenish the savings that I lived off of but that’s different feeling altogether…

    * I’m not a financial consultant nor do I portray one on TV (does anyone?), this is just my own thoughts on this.

  • Written By: Gary on August 8, 2008 No Comment

    11250188 155 155Every day RCA has a free song download. Today it’s Blame is a Killer by Amy Ray (one-half of Indigo Girls fame). Just thought you should know…

    Written By: Gary on August 2, 2008 2 Comments

    61Qqzivjx9L. Sl500 Aa280 Okay, so I’m not a big fan of “I Kissed a Boy” but I’ve seen it so often at the thetop of the iTunes store charts I thought I would mention this sale: Katy Perry’s MP3 album One Of The Boys is only $2 for today only at Amazon in 256kbps MP3 format and it has the “I Kissed a Boy” song on it. So it’s a deal if you like her or this song…

    I’m not even sure what else she plays but this seemed like a great deal so I thought I’d mention it. Usually their $2 or $3 deals are much older albums.

    THIS DEAL IS NOW OVER AND IS BACK TO IT’S REGULAR PRICE.As of Sunday at noon (EST) it’s still listed as on-sale.

    Written By: Gary on July 26, 2008 One Comment

    I felt like they were giving it away. That’s really really sad…

    Written By: Gary on June 30, 2008 One Comment

    Since my local Farmer Jack closed and went out of business I’ve been paying attention to different groceries stores and prices. I didn’t pay as much attention to pricing as I should since my mother worked at a Farmer Jack’s and I wanted to support them (also, I felt they had good prices). Plus, it’s just me and it’s not worth driving around all over to save a little bit when I don’t get that much (I average less than $30 a week but I do pick up some grocery items when on sale at Target).

    My nearest FJ was purchased by Kroger. I’m not a big Kroger fan for two reasons: I’ve never been thrilled with their meat section that much and it always seems like their dairy products don’t have very long life for their expiration dates. Also, they never seem to have Orange Juice on sale for very good prices (I drink a lot of it).

    So I’ve been checking out the other stores nearby: A Meijer which I like but isn’t very close and a Wal-Mart closer and on the way home from work. The prices are significantly different between the stores, I need to hit these other stores on purpose and more often. I need a grocery web site when I can put in (and have it remember) my most often purchase items: OJ, milk, cantaloupe, bananas, jumbo eggs, etc. and have it tell me where I should shop this week.

    When my kitchen gets a lot smarter with RFID this will probably be a breeze. It’ll know what I need and tell me it’s time to go shopping or (better yet) tell me to wait a few days since everything I need goes on sale at one of the stores. And tell me while I’m not low on cereal it’s so cheap this week I should stock up.

    Written By: Gary on May 30, 2008 No Comment

    Have you used Google’s Free phone information service at 1-800-GOOG-411 or 1-800-4664-411? It’s voice activated directory service! They’ll even connect you for free if you’d like!

    If you’re on a cell phone Say “text message” or “map it” and they’ll text you the information with phone, address with web and map links (with driving directions too).

    It’s not new but I’ve never gotten around to mentioning it. Here’s direct YouTube link to Google’s Free phone information.

    Written By: Gary on May 13, 2008 One Comment

    The New York Times did a really cool graphic last week on what Americans spend their money on. It’s a big graphic and you can zoom in (one level) to read the parts you can’t see and the colors indicate change in prices over the last year. I really like the way they did it.

    I’ve say it’s very Edward Tufte, except for the odd shapes of all the pieces. He would have put it down differently, something more symmetrical (or square) so that you could have more easily compared milk to dry cleaning.I found this at Get Rich Slowly.

    Written By: Gary on May 1, 2008 No Comment

    I saw this on SlickDeals.net, get a free Star Wars book “Legacy of the Force: Betrayal”) PDF, MP3, Kindle or Sony eBook through Tuesday, May 13, 2008. (If that link doesn’t work try this link).

    It looks like it’s part 1 of a “Legacy of the Force” series that they’re trying to promote, book 9 comes out on the 13th. The series is supposed to cover a “new era in the Star Wars universe and features the beloved characters from the original trilogy, answering the questions of what happened to Han, Luke and Leia after the conclusion of Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi”.

    Written By: Gary on April 15, 2008 One Comment

    So the Automatic Teller Machines have been when I generally use for ca$h when I travel. Travelers Checks have always been a hassle. Charging always works well too, I never seem to get any related fees (or the little fees I get are pretty minimal). And the exchange rate is usually really good on the charge or ATM cards.

    But the only ATMs in the southern Nicoya Peninsula appear to Banco Nacional and they don’t like my card (but they list my network). But it might just be their machines, since those machines are pretty inconsistent: sometimes it asks me for the language, sometimes it still gives me Spanish, sometimes the network just times out and other times it gives me a useless message (like ‘you can only take out between $10 and $200 per day’, but that’s all I was trying to do).

    So going inside the banco is a trip, guards with shotguns and you walk into a decompression-type chamber (closed in while they x-ray you, and then they open the second door, imagine walking into an ultra-secure government facility). Then it’s kinda set up like the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) and you wait and try to communicate what you want. They have this neat system that you can phone in for live translation for English/Spanish, and when I say “neat” I mean if it worked. So after several tries, we determined that their ATM system was so crappy no one could say if it did / would / could work with the US.

    So we decided to do a cash advance instead, we didn’t know what the fees would be but we needed some more cash; not everyone takes charges and many charge premiums (and I think some discounts are because the money never gets reported somewhere down the line). This still took a while and they do everything in triplicate down there but I think it’d be hard for people to cheat the system since there are so many checks and balances.

    Once we got much more north the other ATMs took our cards just fine (I had a problem in Jaco once and I think it was the same bank but I just went to a different companies machine and it worked fine).

    Here’s the problem: Being curious of the fees of the Visa cash advance, we got on-line to check and discovered that the advance was done twice on the card, the fee was done twice and since it went over the card limit, tacked on another $39 fee. FYI, the cash advance fee was only $12.58 for $400 (and the back charged a dollar). The bank’s already been e-mailed and it’ll probably be fine from here.

    Written By: Gary on March 15, 2008 No Comment

    I’m a huge fan of SpamArrest, a mail program that uses challenge/response CAPTCHAs to only allow mail from humans, instead of from spammers. It works great but the price has gone up from $60 for two years to $90, so I’m checking for other options. It’s only an additional $30 but if the price jump is $30 (or worse, 50%) every 2 years, it’s gonna get kinda pricey in the next few renewal cycles. The price jump is kind of large after a few years especially since I know many of their costs should have gone down (disk space, servers and bandwidth); the software is already written and has had minimal user changes over the last two years.

    Honestly, I’m sure it saves me more way than $45 a year worth of time. But can something save me more time, I know in the past MailBlocks saved me more time. So I’m looking for suggestions for some other Challenge/Responce mail system.

    There is one thing I really dislike about SpamArrest, while I can use any mail client to read my mail, to check and approve spam I have to go to their web site and that takes a lot of time (and this is a feature I miss from the now deceased MailBlocks). The reason I have to check it is for mailings from new companies that I deal with and for people who don’t pay attention to the e-mail that gets mail back to them immediately to ask them to confirm they are human (I even have info about me and a picture of me in the e-mail so they know it’s really me).

    In the meantime, I’m using my free gMail account. I want to see how well that works, they give me all sorts of space for free and it’s pretty fast and it works well on cellphones (their client, their web interface and should work with phone clients). They’ve got a fancy web interface and plain web interface so it works pretty well everywhere. Although, with my client I can’t see the spam folder there either. Google lets you create additional addresses for the same account and have decent filters. Plus, they will let you use your own domain if you’d like to; so if it really works out, I’ll attach my GaryLaPointe.com domain to it and use it for my mail (as long as that supports IMAP). And if it works as well for me, it’s free! There’s some weird mapping between GMail and the Mac Mail.app (I think by default you get duplicates of the mailboxes) but there’s some work arounds, or maybe the new Mail.app in Panther fixes it…

    Also, I figure after trying it for a few months, SpamArrest might send me a promo to lure me back. If that’s the case I’ll know I’ve done due diligence to try another option and I’ll have possibly saved a few bucks in the mean time.Actually, I have one other minor complaint about SpamArrest, the interface could be faster. There’s something about the web interface that slows things down. I notice when I travel, it’s unbearably slow and I’m not sure why. But it’s a huge minus when I travel…

    I do get some referral dollar$ from SpamArrest (maybe $8.75 a year?), so I figure if I’m sending clients to them, so are others (therefore, they’re likely growing).

    Written By: Gary on March 12, 2008 2 Comments

    I can’t believe these prices. I only paid $3.23 yesterday but I paid $3.25 on Friday. I think that’s the highest I’ve ever paid. And “they” say it’s going to keep going up…

    I’m so glad I don’t drive far. Generally, less than a tank gets me through the week.

    Written By: Gary on February 16, 2008 No Comment

    So I found a free offer code for CreditKarma. They’re offering free daily credit scores (from TransUnion). Use code CKFRND as invitation code at https://www.CreditKarma.com/ (I’m not certain I should be giving this code out, so I’m not hot-linking the site address) I found this at SlickDeals.net. The site is appears to besponsored by advertising and you will not be required to enter your credit card information or sign up for trial offers, but you will receive relevant partner offers (i.e. junk mail) based on your profile. This will not affect your credit rating (other than you paying attention to it).

    I’ve always wondered how much my credit score fluctuates but even when I’ve had free offers before, but I’ve never bothered to log on every day to check. This looks like that on-line they give you a nice progressive graph from when you started (it’s hard to tell since I’m just on day one), hopefully it keeps a daily tally even when I don’t log in. Plus, they rank you to national stats and other members; their community has a some good credit, I actually score better nationally than with their membership (and I’ve got great credit).

    UPDATE: So I’ve done this for a few days and it looks like the graph is just going to get me monthly averages, although it appears to pull the score daily (but it hasn’t changed for me yet).

    UPDATE 2: I did ask for a credit increase on Wednesday, I was charging a few vacations so I wanted some wiggle room and I noticed my score went down three points today. I’m not sure if that’s for the credit check or the one vacation I already charged and sine it’s raised my debt level a tiny bit…

    Written By: Gary on February 9, 2008 One Comment

    HowimetAt Amazon Unbox they have 4 FREE missing episode of ‘How I Met Your Mother’! At least I don’t think I’ve seen them before. You can download these to your Windows based computer or TiVo for free! The 4 missing episodes cover Marshal and Lily’s honeymoon…

    You can get the Infamous “Robin Sparkles” video too!

    UPDATE (Sunday evening): So I finally watched these “episodes”. They weren’t real episodes, they were just a few minutes long and they were “videos” of they’re honeymoon. They’re pretty bad too, but then again aren’t home movies supposed to be? I’m not sure what kind of promotion they shot these for, but they end with a still frame with an advertisement for the show. It was the fact that these appeared to be “lost” episodes that made me ask if the show was canceled, since these aren’t much more than some kind of odd promo/commercial I retract the original question.

    Written By: Gary on February 6, 2008 No Comment

    As reported on msnbc.com, United Airlines will charge fliers an extra $25 per bag to check more than one bag starting May 5th, 2008 (“silver” and “premier” frequent-fliers will not be charged).

    It’s a bit, but it’s cheaper than paying the overages for the first bag being over the weight limit. If your itinerary includes international flights you will (may?) still be able to check the second bag for free; this will help me, probably more than half my air travel is international.

    Found at DealMac.com.

    Written By: Gary on January 27, 2008 No Comment

    So I was Burger King today and once in a while I’ll see one of the local homeless people in there (usually it’s when it’s really cold out), I think there’s 3 in particular that I recognize. Today, all three were in there (actually one was on the was out as one came in) which I thought was strange since I’ve been at BK a little more than usual lately and today it’s nowhere near as cold as it has been. Two are schizophrenic, not that I’m qualified to judge, and the other is kinda quiet. The one guy just seems to drink his coffee and step outside for a smoke and talks to himself, he seems to be the most well off, I’ve even seen him get a beer or two at the bar before (it’s possible this guy isn’t homeless). The quiet guy seems to have all his stuff with him (3 big bags) and he must have been there for a while, I saw someone ask him to leave after a while. The woman, I’ve seen her pull stuff out of the trash, and she asked me for my left over fries one time and I gave he those and some cash. Today I intentionally left my uneaten onion rings and my half-eaten Whopper on my tray at the table and she had grabbed it before I got out the door; I’m not sure why it’s a problem for me to just offer her a few dollars.

    When I’m out of town if someone asks nice (even semi-nice) for some money, I’m easy to cough up a buck or two; and in some places, that’s every block or so. I always make sure I have some cash on me for that reason. But the local homeless, I never know how to deal with them, actually they’ve never asked for money at the Burger King but I’d be glad to give them some money, but I hate to offer and for some reason I’d hate them expect it from then on (not that it’d really be a problem).If I’m somewhere around town and someone asks for cash, I’m more likely to buy them a meal if there’s an opportunity, I’d rather spend $5-10 on a meal then hand them a few dollars cash if I can (especially if I can smell alcohol or see bloodshot eyes).

    It’s when it’s the locals that I see often when it throws me. And I’m not sure why this keeps me so off balance…?

    It all makes me sad and feel pretty ungrateful when I complain about stuff in the wonderful life that I have. I’ve got a nice paying job, no debt (other than my house) and I’ve been doing pretty good at saving for my retirement someday. I give money to the shelter when they are doing fund raisers and to school when they’re having auctions and other things when they are happening around town; I could do more I’m sure, but I could certainly doing less too.

    Written By: Gary on January 17, 2008 One Comment

    So I went to the Social Security Office with my Mom today. There are just so many (too many) scenerios with all of it! It’s interesting how they talk about it, they think of everything as the number of checks you get, not so much as the money you get (months, not dollars). If you work more after you retire, they hold back checks, not dollars. It’s odd, but I guess every job has it’s own language.

    My Mother did make a decision today. As a bonus, it’s the same one I would have told her to do if she had asked me to make the decision so that worked out well. Without getting into too much of my mother’s details:

  • The decision we made today probably had equal dollar amount pros and cons between the two choices we liked best.
  • I think money-wise our choice will work out to be a little better or about the same dollar amount as the other.
  • If we made the wrong decision, I still think it was the one with the least amount of risk.
  • If it turns out to be less it’s probably just a little bit (and if we were way way wrong in the worst way, it’s still not a catastrophic dollar mistake).
  • One of the other reasons I liked this choice was that this decision pretty much causes no other decisions to have to be made in the future. A few steps need to be taken in the future (at times to be determined), but pretty much we’re committed to the steps in order now.
  • She’ll lose sleep tonight thinking if she made the right decision; I’m the opposite, it won’t keep me up since the decision is made (less choices = less stress).

    It’s an interesting thing to keep in mind that you can start collecting SS but keep working. I think once you start to collect SS, if you makes more than $13k a year they start to give you less money. For every $2 you makes over that amount, they give you a dollar less. So pretty much once you hit that dollar amount, your salary is cut in half (sort of taxed at 50%). I’d try harder talk he into working working to earn that much per year since you don’t get as much value but then she’d lose her health benefits and that’s got some value these days.

    None of the above is to be considered retirement advice; I do not work in the financial sector nor do I portray someone who does. :)

  • Written By: Gary on January 14, 2008 2 Comments

    I know everyone keeps their eyes open for good gas prices and will hit one gas station over another since it’s a few pennies different. I’m sure some people sometimes waste gas by driving a little farther. I know I’m always happy when I can save a few pennies per gallon (I usually fill up on Tuesdays since I’m usually over by some cheap stations). Here’s something to keep in mind, 6 cents more a gallon (if it’s around $3) is only a 2% difference (12 cents more a gallon is only 4%).

    Normally, when I eat at McDonald’s I get a number 3 meal (Quarter Pounder – no pickle, no mustard which includes a 20 oz soda and medium fry). At the McDonald’s by work (Plymouth/Beech, Redford, MI) it’s $4.77 (tax included); at the McD’s by my house (Michigan/Greenfield in Dearborn) it’s $5.36 (tax included). That’s a 59 cent difference! That’s 12% more at the more expensive McDonald’s. FYI, both the McD’s I’m referring to have been renovated in the last few years and the cheaper one has a playland.

    So keep in mind if your $3 gallon of gas was 12% more at a nearby location it would 36 cents more per gallon! Now it’s not cost effective for me to take the time (and gas) to drive home to save 60 cents, but maybe I should check out the other two nearby McDonald’s to see what they charge. Plus Kelly always refers to the Redoford one as an expensive one (that’s the one I say is cheap).

    When they talk about fuel price gouging, maybe we should consider all types of fuel…

    Written By: Gary on November 24, 2007 No Comment

    So I’ve always liked Skype it’s a great backup for my phone and it’s great for calling home when I’m on vacation. At 2.1 cents per minute, it’s hard to beat the price as long as you’ve got a semi-decent internet connection. Not that I talk a lot when I travel but I always feel like I’m being initiated when trying to figure out long distance calling when in a foreign country. They 2.1 cents is just for calls to the US, other countries have different rates.

    Skype - call the world at rock bottom pricesThe goofy* thing is that it’s 2.1 cents to call the US wherever I am, from next door, Egypt or Costa Rica it’s all 2.1 cents! But with the same reasoning it’s 6.4 cents to call Costa Rica, that’s if I’m here in Michigan or down there. Of course if I’m calling someone else’s Skype computer it’s free from anywhere to anywhere.

    I just upgraded to the new Mac version, I was 1.1 versions behind. I think the call quality is significantly better and I noticed the touch tones work better, so now I can call my (misplaced) cell phone and listen to my messages.* – It’s not really goofy, it’s what they pay for phone calls at the destination, the Internet probably doesn’t cost Skype any more regardless of where I’m calling from.

    Written By: Gary on November 17, 2007 One Comment

    Colon-Trend-TenyearSo the exchange rates are pretty good for people from the US traveling to Costa Rica these days. You can see from the graph it’s been going up ever since my first trip in 1999, prices have gone up there too, especially costs for tourist type things, but it’s still been a decent value. Especially when you compare it to Britain or Canadian exchange rates, where the dollar has considerably dropped in value lately. It hasn’t really changed much since my last trip but it should be pretty good for my next one, it’s about 520 to $1.00 today.

    Current Rates
    $1.00 (US) = CRC
    1000 CRC = $ USD
    Currency data courtesy coinmill.com

    More info on The exchange rate, some from Wikipedia (currency photos) and from Vacation City (currency photos).

    Written By: Gary on November 5, 2007 2 Comments

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