Looking for a completely new and original way to save money on your utilities? How about a static electricity house?
Courtesy of personal finance video log
Looking for a completely new and original way to save money on your utilities? How about a static electricity house?
I received quite a few emails and private messages regarding the return of AllAdvantage in a updated form under the name AGLOCO (A Global Community). If you were on the Internet in the late 1990s and trying to figure out a way to make some money, you will undoubtedly remember AllAdvantage. They paid people to surf the Internet and went out in flames when they couldn't afford to pay what they promised. While many seem really excited about their return (since they did pay for awhile), I am a bit more cautious with the program (and a little depressed knowing that the forums will soon be filled with spam from this program as people try to recruit others -- I've already had to start deleting it)
The first caution sign is that they are set up under a Multi-Level Marketing (sometimes called Network Marketing) system again. While these make those who get into the programs first money, they have a high failure rate. Some companies that do exist under the MLM system are Herbalife, Avon and Amway.
Basically, you get paid for surfing plus you get paid a portion of the Internet surfing the people that you recruit do down to 5 levels. Since you are limited to only 5 hours of surfing a month on your own, that means that the only way to really make money is to recruit others. When money is primarily made by recruiting people and not by what your are selling (in this case time spent surfing on the Internet), it starts to get difficult to know whether it is legit or a pyramid scheme (another caution).
The way people are drawn in is through the MLM Calculator which show if you recruit 5 people and they each recruit 5 people and so on, you will receive just under 5000 (4886.25) in earnings per month. What those "earnings" actually translate into is still in question (another caution point) since there isn't a set price you're paid (you share the revenue) and since part of the earnings will be paid in stock which doesn't yet have a value. If you have ever done MLM before, you will also know that while recruiting 5 people may sound easy, unless you have a system already in place, it will be extremely difficult to do.
This "paid with stock" seems to have quite a few people excited, but I just want to remind you that a stock that has no value isn't worth the paper it's printed on. Companies also usually pay in stock when they don't have enough money to pay in cash. It sounds similar to the way people were talking during the Internet bubble when everyone wanted a part of the company and this again should lead you to be cautious.
I'm sure that those who are enthusiastic about this will say that I'm being overly cautious and there is nothing to lose in trying. My personal opinion is that this statement is dead wrong. While you won't be losing money since the program is free, you will be losing the time invested in recruiting others. When viewed in this light, I believe that you would be far better off spending your time working on beginning or expanding a part-time business instead of recruiting people for this program.
The third annual "Light to Unite" drive to support AIDS research is currently underway. All you need to do is to go to LightToUnite.org and light a virtual candle. Once done, Bristol-Myers Squibb will donate $1 (up to $100,000) to the National AIDS Fund. There is nothing to sign up for, no catches and no mailing lists - all you need to do is light the candle and make a difference.
With winter upon us, the thought of a warm, crackling fire in the fireplace is probably a quite appealing image to a lot of you. What you probably don't realize is that your fire will cost you a lot more than the price of a couple of logs.
Your fireplace is one of the most inefficient heat sources you can possibly use. Basically, you're sending money straight up the smoke stack. While the perception is that you are only sending up heat generated by the fire, the fire must consume oxygen to produce the heat.
Your nice roaring fire can consume and exhaust more than 20,000 cubic feet of air per hour. All that air being exhausted is replaced by cold air coming into the house. The cold air forces your heating system to work hard to warm it up, which is then sucked up by the fire and exhausted through your chimney again. It's an never ending cycle while the fire is roaring meaning that your heater will be working extra hard and costing you money the whole time.
The most energy efficient decision you can make is to not have fires in your fireplace. If you decide to take this approach, consider plugging and sealing your fireplace flue.
While that is the most efficient approach, it isn't a whole lot of fun. A winter fire is nice to have once in awhile. If you know there will be occasions when you will want to have a fire, there are still some things you can do to make the fire as energy efficient as possible. You'll want to keep your fireplace damper closed at all times except when a fire is going. Accidentally leaving the chimney flue open is like leaving a two foot square window open. You also want to make sure that when the damper is closed, it closes snugly and doesn't leave gaps where air can escape.
Most fireplace dampers are form fitting which prevents air leakage when they are closed. As years pass, however, the damper metal can warp due to the heat from the fires and moisture from the outside. This can cause the seal to loosen which will allow room air to escape up the chimney. Close the damper and light a candle to see if it flickers when placed near the damper seal. If it does, you need to either repair or replace the damper to close the leak.
When you do have a fire going, open the dampers at the bottom of the firebox if your fireplace has them. If not, open the nearest window to the fireplace about an inch and close all the doors to the room. This allows the fire to consume fresh air that hasn't been heated before exiting up the chimney again. You should also lower your thermostat setting to approximately 50°F while the fire is going to make sure your heating system isn't heating air that will soon be leaving up the chimney.
Making sure that your damper is always tightly closed when not using the fireplace and following the above steps when the fireplace is in use can save you hundreds of dollars in energy costs each winter that you probably didn't even know that you were wasting.
If you have a great small business idea that has been floating around in your head and you needed an excuse to write it down and organize it, that time has come.
There is a new contest called "Idea Wins: The Ultimate Challenge" that is searching for the most creative small-business idea in the US. The winner of the contest will receive rent free retail store space in New York for a year plus $100,000 seed money to get the small business going.
All you need to do to enter the contest is submit an application. Submissions will be judged on marketing approach, financial & logistic feasibility, originality and public interest. January 31 is the deadline for submitting the application and the finalists of the contest will be notified on February 9.
This is an excellent opportunity to get any small business idea you have organized and I highly encourage you to apply. The application process will help you think through your idea in more detail which will benefit you even if you don't win the challenge. Go for it and best of luck.
Running your computer is pretty darn cheap when viewed at an hourly rate - approximately $0.02 an hour. This figure was obtained with the following assumptions: The typical desktop computer uses around 200 watts of energy per hour (with a 50% / 50% split of energy consumed between the computer and the display screen). We pay about $0.10 per kilowatt hour for electricity where I live (this varies across the US, so you can put in your actual rate here). From there you simply divide the watts used by 1000 (since electricity is charged at a rate in kilowatts - 1000 watts) multiplied by the rate charged: 200 divided by 1000 = 0.2 x $0.10 = $0.02.
With the cost of using a computer so cheap, many people believe that it isn't worth the time to bother turning it off. When multiplied over time, however, it can add up. That $0.02 an hour comes to $0.48 a day, $3.36 a week, $13.44 a month and $175.20 a year if you leave your computer on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
That means if you turn off the computer for half the day while asleep, you have saved $87.50. Add in a few extra hours it will likely stay off on the weekends, and you have reached $100 a year in savings by simply turning off your computer. If you have a small business with 10 computers, making sure they get turned off at night means an extra $1000 to your bottom line (and if you work for a business that rewards employees that submit money saving ideas that get implemented, you could even earn a bit of money by suggesting this).
You may have some other arguments for not turning off the computer like doing so will put extra stress on the computer's internal components. While it is true that there is a slight "stress" each time the power is turned on due to the heating and cooling, this stress is quite small. It can also be argued that it is balanced out by giving the moving parts of the computer like the fan a rest. Turning your computer on and off should not shorten its life.
I've also heard the argument that computers use much more energy starting up so that it makes more sense to leave them running all the time since this will cost less. I haven't been able to find any study that supports this (that you save more money leaving a computer on for 12 hours than turning it off and on again) and it appears to be a urban legend.
Those issues having been addressed, let's be perfectly honest - shutting down your computer can be a real pain. This is especially true if you typically run a number of programs at the same time which all need to be configured with certain documents. It can also be a pain if you leave your computer on at night to run timed tasks such as virus protection updates.
There are also a number of legitimate reasons why you may not be able to shut down your computer at night. If your computer handles network or Internet tasks at all hours (as a de facto server), you can't turn it off. If you participate in web based computing tasks such as searching for intelligent life in outer space then you may not want to turn off your computer.
If this is the case, there is still a step you can take to reduce the cost of running your computer (and if you can turn off your computer, this further reduce your costs). You can do this by placing your computer into sleep mode (there is a misconception by many that screen savers reduce the amount of energy the computer is using. Unfortunately, this is a myth and a computer running a screen saver is using just as much energy as one that is in use). While your savings won't reach $100, it can reduce the cost by as much as $50.
Either way, taking one or both these steps will save you some money with little effort as well as help save resources.
This is one way:
Everyone wants to save money, but not if saving that money means they must give up something they like. The fact is, there is likely over $1000 worth of pain free savings right under your nose waiting to be taken if you want. That is savings where you are able to save money without having to give up any of the activities that you enjoy doing or changing your lifestyle in any significant way. Here is a list of ten that will save you over $100 each this year.
Call Your Cable Company: If you have cable TV, satellite TV or some other form of paid TV and you are paying the regular subscription rate, you're paying too much. This is an extremely competitive business and by calling with a competitor's advertisement in hand while threatening to switch, in most cases you'll get a much better deal than you are currently getting. For detailed information on how to do this step by step, you can read Saving 50% On Your Cable TV. The last time I did this for my mother, we saved $235.50 over 6 months.
Call Your Gym: Many people don't think about trying to get a better rate on their gym memberships, but this is another competitive industry where it is less expensive to keep you at a discounted rate than to let you go to the competition. Asking for a better deal on your gym membership is worthwhile if you are paying the regular membership rate. The last time my friend did this he was able to save $120 over three months.
Call Your Credit Card Company: If you have a credit card that currently has a balance on it, call your credit card company to try and get the interest rate lowered. Depending on how good of a customer you are, this can be easy or difficult to do. Always ask to speak to a manager (since they have more power to grant your wish) and you can follow this information to help you. If you can get your credit card interest rate lowered, you will save hundreds to thousands depending on your credit card balance and the time period it takes you to pay them off.
Call Your Car Insurer: If you are like most of people, you probably have the same auto insurance company that you had when you first signed up for your auto insurance policy. There are several steps that you can take to help painlessly reduce the costs associated with car insurance. 1) If you haven't been comparing rates on a yearly basis, you should compare rates to see if you are paying too much. You will also want to check the car deductible to see if you can get some savings there. Lastly, you want to make sure that you are receiving all the discounts that you qualify for (your agent may not have told you all that you do qualify for). Taking these steps should save you several hundred dollars at a minimum.
Call Your Internet Provider: Just like the other business mentioned above, the ISP business is highly competitive. Again, using competitors offers, it's likely that you can call and get the amount you pay for your Internet service reduced. It doesn't even have to be a large amount. For every $10 a month you can get in reduction, you save $120 a year.
Call Your Phone Service Provider: While I could break this category into two (long distance and cell phones), the principle is the same with both as with the others mentioned above. In addition to calling with competitors rates, be sure to have them analyze how you are using your phone. They may very well have a plan suited to your particular calling habits that can save you money. Between these two, it should be quite easy to save more than $100 a year.
Energy Audit With winter now upon us, call your local utility company to get an energy audit of your house. Many utilities companies offer these for free or at a very low cost. They will come to your house and do a thorough check to find out where the energy leaks are in your house that are causing your energy bill to higher than it needs be. They may even offer items to reduce your energy costs for free or at rates discounted more than you can find in retail stores. If you local utility doesn’t offer a free energy audit, you can do a free virtual energy audit at the government’s Home Energy Saver website which will also allow you compare your heating bill to others in your area. By finding out where you are losing money through energy waste, you will likely recoup more than $100 in savings during the year above any costs you have.
Wash Your Clothes In Cold Water: Simply walk over to your washing machine and move the switch from a hot wash to a cold wash. What people often forget is that it's not the electricity to run the washer that costs the money, but the energy needed to heat the water going into the washer. Unless your work can be featured on Dirtiest Jobs, a cold wash - cold rinse should get your clothes just as clean as a hot wash. Assuming that you average about a load of wash a day, running your washing machine with a hot wash - cold rinse setting will cost about $100 - $125 a year. Doing the same number of loads with a cold wash - cold rinse setting will cost about $10 a year. That's over $100 in savings and can be much more if you have kids and do more frequent wash loads.
Prescription Drug Coupons: If you have brand name prescription medication that you need to take, simple go to the website for that medication and sign up for their newsletter. Once you do, you will likely receive discount coupons for that medication which can result in hundreds of dollars in savings a year.
Mortgage: I debated whether to include this one as "easy & pain free" since there is more time and effort involved than with the others I have mentioned, but decided that it should be included due to the sheer amount it can save. If you can lower the interest by even a percentage point over what you are currently paying, that can mean tens of thousands of dollars in savings over the entire loan period. So while a bit of effort is required, the payoff is much greater than the others mentioned above. Just be sure that you don't confuse paying less on your mortgage with saving money.
The above options are all pain free meaning that you don't actually switch services or products. For example, there are a lot of discount options for long distance calling that you could use in place of what you are currently using. If you are willing to switch, you can save even more, but if you're not, these ten will still save you over $1000 without disturbing your current lifestyle.
I started making this list a while back and never got around to finishing it. Nate was doing some work on the blog yesterday, read it and said that I should finish it. I'm sure that some of you are going to say, "what?!? This is the guy running this website?" after reading this (I probably would be), but I enjoy reading about all of you so sharing these seems to be appropriate. So here it is - 50 things about me that you probably don't want to know, but hey, it's me...
1. I had a Mohawk in college - electric blue.
2. I still had the Mohawk when I attended my father's second wedding (although I did take the electric blue coloring out)
3. I have jumped into a glacier ice pool naked. It was cold...I mean really, really cold (I haven't always been the brightest bulb of the bunch)
4. I ran a marathon. I could barely walk for a week afterward. I never plan on running one again.
5. I was a slacker until college and credit my friends there for turning me around. They would have conversations about virtually any subject and all were able to give a quality opinion about whatever the subject was - something that I couldn't do at the time. I decided that I wanted be able to hold a quality conversation on any subject and that is when I began to enjoy learning.
6. One of the greatest compliments I have ever received after graduating was that I can hold a conversation on any subject.
7. For the "how to do" something class presentation I had to give in high school as a junior, my class presentation was "How to cheat in class and get away with it" I got an A on the presentation, but also landed in the principals office.
8. I wrote a paper in college on the the differences between US and Japanese non verbal behaviour so I had an excuse to travel and visit my best friend who was studying in Japan at the time. A perk of being a Sociology major (although worthless in every other respect).
9. I also wrote a paper on the behavior of people waiting in ski lines which meant I had to go skiing 3 straight weeks (have to study ski lines all over the slope since the ones at the bottom might not give an accurate representation of all of them). Maybe the Sociology major wasn't such a bad choice after all
10. After sitting on the bench for my high school basketball team for three years, I finally worked my way into a starting position my senior year. I gave it up to go on a two week trip with my dad through Asia over winter vacation (instead of attending mandatory practices). It was one of the toughest decision I had to ever make, but I don't regret it at all. I still love shooting baskets and it one way that I relax when I get stressed.
11. When I landed in Japan, I didn't know a word of Japanese. I was promptly shipped out to a small town in the Japanese countryside where nobody spoke a word of English. I spent the next six months with a headache trying to understand what everyone was saying and wondering what I had gotten myself into.
12. Due to my terrible lack of Japanese skills, I mangled the language enough times to write a book about mistakes not to make in Japanese including:
Telling the mayor of my town that he was a giant cockroach
Telling the women that had babies in town that their babies looked "pitiful" for several months
Telling all the students at the junior high school where I taught that I liked to take drugs in my spare time
Telling a police officer that my car had broken down and there was a dead body in it.
I think you get the drift that me and the language were in conflict a great deal of the time
13. I played competitive badminton in high school. I did so because I had a crush on one of the girls on the team. I never went out with her, but became one of the better badminton players in our school district.
14. I traveled with my wife for 9 months around the world before we got married. I figured if we were still speaking after that time period traveling, then marriage should be a breeze.
15. My policy is to not eat blue food. It's just not a natural color for food to be.
16. I'm an insomniac. I usually get to bed around 3:00 AM, but I have mastered the art of taking thirty minute power naps when needed.
17. I have travelled to 30 different countries. My goal is to reach 100.
18. I hate it that many countries no longer stamp your passport. Passport stamps are just plain cool. I sometimes ask if they will give me a stamp if I think they aren't going to give me one.
19. I was living in the Kobe area of Japan when the Great Hanshin earthquake occurred. I went into downtown a few days later to deliver medicine to my wife's aunt. It looked like a war zone and it's something I hope I never have to see again.
20. I have never owned a mobile phone nor do I have any desire to own one.
21. I've learned to eat virtually any type of food (except if it is blue, of course) although I have also learned to never ask what I'm eating until after I have finished it.
22. When I have have to teach a class or give a speech, I get physically ill before hand. Once it starts, however, I feel fine.
23. I like being alone, especially when I walk. It gives me time to think.
24. I never go for the closest spot in the parking lot. This drives my wife crazy.
25. I hate driving. The one thing I really miss about Japan was that there was no need to drive anywhere since public transportation was so good.
26. People often have a hard time telling when I'm telling the truth and when I'm joking. My humor tends to be very dry.
27. I would never want to be recognizably famous. Being a foreigner in rural Japan gave me a taste and it sucks.
28. I can easily amuse myself and I often laugh out loud when alone. This drives my wife crazy because it is considered very strange in Japan.
29. I was forced to learn to swim when I was young after almost drowning (I vaguely remember this and it might be my earliest memory). I ended up being a lifeguard and taught swimming lessons for all the summers I was in college.
30. My first job out of college was working for Hallmark Cards. It didn't take me long to know I didn't want to spend my life writing greeting cards.
31. I drove a stick shift car 3 hours through the mountains when I had a broken leg (it was in a cast, but the broken leg had to use the clutch) to pick up a friend stranded with a broken hand (long story...)
32. I like money not because of the merchandise it can purchase, but because of the freedom to do the things I want it gives (and I think a lot more people would be happy if they learned that).
33. When I ski, I use a monoski (single ski like a snowboard, but regular ski bindings pointing straight ahead like skis)
34. I am one of the few white males I know that has seen both subtle and overt racism directed directly at him. I think everyone should feel that once (but only once) and I think the world would be a lot more tolerant place.
35. One of the most profound points of wisdom came from a six year old girl who looked up at me and said "You're tall. You must see the world much differently from me." It made me realize that two people in the exact same room can see something completely different depending on what they focus on and their perspective.
36. I am a man and I can ask for directions when lost.
37. I had a machine gun pointing at me for an hour over bumpy roads in Guatemala (the gun was in between the legs of a soldier who leaned it in my direction and promptly fell asleep). I prayed the whole time that the safety was on and haven't been more scared in my life...
38. I've seen a jaguar in the wild (not an easy feat) and have swum with dolphins in the open ocean. I want to go to Africa to see the wildlife there before I (or they) die.
39. I spent my senior year in high school wearing one black shoe and one white shoe to school for no other reason besides it didn't make sense to anyone else.
40. I'm totally bummed that I lack artistic talent.
41. I paid for a good portion of college education with baseball cards - probably the first entrepreneurial experience I had which started in jr. high school. I never thought of it that way then. I just had fun doing it.
42. Even though I warn people to be very careful when loaning money to family and friends, I loaned my best friend from college a large sum at one point. It was one of the best decisions I made.
43. I love to people watch.
44. When people ask me the question "what animal would you like to be?" I always answer "a sponge." I don't remember exactly why I decided on a sponge, but one time when I was in jr. high school I sat down and decided to come up with an answer to that question and that was the answer I came up with (the reasons to the question "why?" that inevitably comes have changed over the years). I have used it automatically ever since and it always catches people by surprise.
45. I took my date to the Golden Gate Bridge, walked to the center, set up a folding table and chairs and had sparkling cider, cheese and cracker (wasn't brave enough to try champagne) before our senior prom. Great memory, but we froze our butts off.
46. I have participated in a Rocky Horror Show lip sinc contest before.
47. I sleep on the floor when I travel (beds seem to be too soft most of the time).
48. I work much more efficiently when there is some type of background noise like the radio.
49. I am more disappointed when I go to sleep than when I wake up because I know there isn't enough time to do all the things that I want to do.
50. My goal is to be writing this blog from exotic locations all over the world within the next 3 years.
If you find that you're having trouble getting your kids to wash their hands (a good habit to get them into doing), this little novelty item may be something to place on your Xmas list this year - Money Soap. The soap is actually made with money inserted into the center of the soap bar, so the harder and the more often the kids wash their hands, the quicker they can get to the prize. I don't think you'll have to provide more motivation than that for them to wash their hands. There is even a chance that you can make money with this gift (although highly unlikely). The company claims that a $1, $5, $10 or even $50 bill can be found inside the bar of soap.
I explained earlier tricks to get Black Friday items without having to get up early and stand in line. If you decide to do any Black Friday shopping, here are the things that you can get for free. All the items listed below are "Free After Rebate" unless otherwise noted with an (*) which means they usually require a purchase of some type.
DeWalt Magnetic Drive Guide Set, 16 pieces.
PowerGlide Variable Speed Rotary Tool
Shimmering Driveway Markers 3-pack
Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES)
$20 Gift Card (*Free For The First 200 Customers)
Digital Innovation Clean Dr. Vacuum
JVC 3-Pack of 60-Minute DVC Camcorder Tapes
Panasonic 2-Pack of Double Sided DVD-RW Discs for DVD Camcorders
Sharp Teaching Calculator
3.2 MP Polaroid Camera (*Free With Any $249+ Purchase Friday 5 - 11AM Only)
EMachines Desktop PC w/Intel Celeron D Processor 352 + 17" CRT (*Free With Vonag)
Wireless Controller (*Free w/Playstation 2 Purchase)
American Telecom Pay N Talk Phone 2.4Ghz Cordless Phone
$10 Kohls Cash Card (*Free For Every $50 in Purchases)
256MB Secure Digital Media Card
256MB XD Memory Card
Home Video Patrol 4.0
Internet Security Suite
Tivo Single Tuner 40 Hour DVR
iTunes 15 Song Gift Card - (*Free w/iPod Purchase)
CA Internet Security 2007 3-User Edition
McAfee Internet Security 2007
Staples 6-Outlet Strip Surge Protector
Continental Breakfast (*Free - Until 9:30 AM)
$10 Gift Card (*Free To First 200 Customers)
Revlon Fabulash Mascara
Schick Quattro Razors
Scene It? Trivia DVD Game Assortment
Understanding Free After Rebate: This is where you initially pay for the product and then are able to send in some type of proof of purchase (this usually consists of the product's bar code with the store's receipt) to get your money back. While these are a great deal if you actually go through all the steps to get your rebate, a lot of people think they will, but don't in the end.
It's also important to read the fine print and terms before making the purchase. There is a good chance there are some restrictions which can make getting the rebate difficult. You want to take the time to know that you'll qualify for the rebate and can receive it with relatively little work before you purchase the item. If you don't, you may find that the freebie is not so free after all.
One issue to be careful about is whether the original receipt is required for the rebate. If this is the case, you want to purchase the "free after rebate" item by itself in a single transaction and not with other free after rebate items. (For example, if you get four "free after rebate" items, you'd want them each rung up separately at the cash register so that you had an original receipt for each)
My mom asked me to replace a light bulb in the bathroom yesterday. When I went to do so, I was amazed to see that the light actually took four 100w light bulbs. This seemed a bit of an overkill for the bathroom that isn't that big.
Instead of replacing the light bulb, I I decided to take it out along with one of the bulbs that was still working and placed the cover back on. There was hardly a difference.
A bit later I found some energy saving bulbs stored in a drawer and went back and switched the 100w regular bulbs with the higher efficient bulbs. This worked so well that I went to the other three bathrooms in the house and did the same. I was able to eliminate 6 bulbs and switch 6 others to the high efficient models. My little step to save the earth for the day
*This is a series of photos that shows money as part of our daily life.
This isn't going to be a typical Black Friday article because Mark (who has asked me to change his real name so that nobody will know who I'm talking about, but which I find absolutely hilarious because any friend will instantly know who I am talking about even with the changed name) is not a normal Black Friday shopper. He lives for this day and prides himself (brags endlessly?) on coming home with all the best deals from the Black Friday fliers while the competition is left crying because they didn't get the things that they wanted. These are his strategies...
But before we get into those, I need to inject a disclaimer on my part. While I do admire Mark for his determination and cunning in getting the best Black Friday deals, I do disagree on one major point. Mark goes out and purchases anything which he sees as an outstanding deal. I, on the other hand, believe that if it is something that you wouldn't normally buy or something that you really don't need, it's a waste of money no matter how good the price. So while I will relate the strategies that Mark uses, I would encourage you only to use them if there is something that you were already planning to purchase. And onto the strategies...
"If you start preparing a week before Black Friday, you've already taken out 90% of the competition"
Preparation is key to getting what you want on Black Friday. The best deals are usually offered in limited supplies and most people don't decide where they will go or what exactly they want until the day before. As Mark said with a chuckle, "those people are lambs being lead to the slaughter." What will happen is they will go to the store wanting something that they saw in the ads, but by the time they arrive, it will already be gone. Not wanting to "waste the trip," they'll end up buying something else (this is why retailers love Black Friday) that isn't such a great deal.
The problem is that most shoppers start in the wrong place. They make the assumption that the Black Friday deals are found in the Black Friday advertisements. While this may seem like common sense, it's a convenient distraction that allows Mark to have much less competition. As Mark pointed out with emphasis a number of times during our discussion, "the Black Friday deals are found in the store's return policy."
Before you even begin to look at the Black Friday advertisements, you want to know the store policy on returns. The question you need answered is if they lower price on an item that you have already purchased, will they refund the difference? If so, what time period (usually a month) is this service in effect? If the store will refund the difference on an item purchased for more on a prior date, then there is no need to wait in line to purchase that item on Black Friday. Simply go to the store the week before Black Friday and purchase the item. When Black Friday comes along, stroll into the store (conveniently bypassing all the lines and crowds of people fighting for what you are carrying -- or even waiting until the afternoon when the crowds have thinned out a bit and all the items are already gone from the store) and ask for the difference. Unfortunately, it is becoming harder to get these deals. As Mark noted, "as more people have learned about this strategy, more stores are implementing a policy that price refunds are exempt for Black Friday even when they are in effect at other times." Still, it's worth finding out the policy because some stores do still allow this. Depending on how generous the stores are in your area, you can take care of quite a few items on your list this way.
The other problem that has arisen with more people learning of this method is that the items sell out quickly once the advertisements are sent out to everyone. There is an easy way around this mini stampede. More and more websites are placing up the Black Friday ads as soon as they are leaked. There are a number of sites that list these such as blackfriday.info. You can sign up and you will get an email notification each time a store's Black Friday advertisement goes up. This will allow you to get to the store long before the ads go out in the newspapers.
If you use this method, it's best to use a credit card that has a buyer protection clause. This will allow you to return the item within a certain period of time for any purchase you make. Sometimes stores don't honor what they say they will and the credit card can be a good friend if you need to return the item (many credit cards have this protection, but check with your credit card company to make sure yours does)
For those items that can't be secured by the above method, the next strategy is to utilize the power of the computer. While most stores don't open until their regular hours (or possibly a few of hours early), if the store has a website, the Black Friday deals will likely take affect at the stroke of midnight. Quick use of the computer will allow you to add some more items on your want list while those out of the know are lining up outside stores "freezing their butts off in hopes of trying to score what you just bought with a click of a mouse in your cozy house."
If there are items that can't be obtained in the above two ways, there is still a method you can use to get items without getting up early to stand in line. You want to find which stores will "price match" the competition's Black Friday ads. With so much competition on this day to bring customers in, many stores will agree to sell items for the same price that a competitor is advertising even if it is marked at a higher price at their store. The key to utilizing this strategy is to go to the store that has the highest advertised prices (or better yet, a store that has the item in stock, but chose not to include it in their Black Friday advertisement) which will price match. While everyone is pushing and shoving to get the limited supply at the store which advertised the rock-bottom prices after spending hours in line, you can stroll in at opening time and get what you want for the same price. You will usually have to bring in the competing store's advertisement to get their price matched.
NOTE: While I was going to leave out the following two methods, Mark insisted that I should include them so that people know what others are doing to secure Black Friday items and what they are up against.
If there is something that you must have and you don't believe that any of the methods previously mentioned will work, you can be ruthless (and the reason I believe Mark wanted me to change his name) by hiding the item you want within the store before Black Friday. While not something that most people would consider fair, it goes on a lot more than people would suspect. You take the items and hide it in some area of the store where only you will know where it is. Then on Black Friday you go to the hiding place and get the item while everyone else in the store is fighting for the same item it the area where they are regularly kept.
Another devious way to secure popular items is to bribe friends that are working at the store to place them to the side for you or purchase the item for you before the store opens to the general public. Since many employees also get a store discount, Mark pays the advertised price and the employee friend receives their employee discount in cash for their effort.
While I do not encourage anyone to use the devious methods, the above shows that if you play the system, you can increase the chances of getting the Black Friday items you want without getting up early and standing in line like you probably thought you'd have to.
The weather has turned a bit colder which means I made the switched from water to hot tea as my beverage of choice (well, at least while working on the computer ). While it is true that tea does cost more than water, it's minimal compared to what I used to spend on soda. Besides, have you ever tried drinking plain hot water? It tastes like crap (not even a lemon wedge helps too much).
This is a pretty easy $75 in the form of an American Express gift card if you are chosen. I just completed one and I thought others might be interested in participating in these surveys. Mine took about an hour.
You sign up and when they need you for a survey, they will email you with times. You reply back the times you're free and they will confirm the time and date plus attach a non disclosure form to send back. Not difficult at all and the survey is a pain-free hour.
You can sign-up for the surveys at Google
I've started to think about holiday gifts and one of my all time favorite ones to give is a 64 set of Crayola Crayons. I think they are the greatest gift to give because no matter how old someone is, they will bring a smile to the person's face. Of course, kids love them, but I also give them as gifts to adults (of course, the adult has to have a certain personality to appreciate them and not think you're absolutely nuts, but those who do will treasure them years later as one of their favorite Christmas gifts). There is just something about a box of them that brings a bit of joy upon seeing the box.
I think that they inspire imagination and that is what brings the joy no matter the age. It's that inspiration that I look for when I choose all my holiday gifts and what I find is that gifts that inspire often cost very little...
While Britney Spears and saving money aren't two images that usually pop up together (hey, it's not often a personal finance blogger like me finds an excuse to legitimately place a photo of Britney Spears in my blog - or even write about her ), I found it interesting what some legal analysts are saying about the timing of her divorce filing.
It appears that Britney Spears filed for divorce from Kevin Federline on November 6 in order to avoid having to pay him an extra year of money in their divorce settlement. Legal analysts are noting that Britney filed the divorce papers at Los Angeles Superior Court exactly two years and one month from the time when they were officially married on October 6, 2004.
The rumor is that the pre-nuptial agreement said that Kevin Federline would receive increased payouts for every year the two remained married. While the two have been married for 2 years and 1 month, most pre-nuptial agreements of this type have a 30-day grace period. That means that November 6 would have been the last chance for Britney to get out of paying half of her income on the third year of their marriage (by filing on November 6, Kevin can now only claim half of Spears' earnings during the first two years).
I'm not sure financial reasons should be the determinant that you file for divorce, but then again, if financial reasons are behind the decision to get divorced, then the divorce was probably inevitable anyway...
I stopped by a friend's house while he happened to be cleaning out the drawers of his desk. Inside he found three cell phones that he no longer needed and so he was going to throw them out. I told him that while he needs to be careful to erase all the data on the phone (he said that there was nothing on it that would be of interest to identity thieves), he could actually sell the phones for a bit of money if he sold it to a place like cell4cash.com
While we found that the Motorola phone was too old of a model to get money, the two Nokia's were worth $5 each so they are being sent off. The Motorola will be donated to a cell phone collection box at the local library.
Over the past week, this subject has come up in a number of different ways, but the central theme has been "is it really possible to make money on the Internet?" and "How can I make money on the Internet?" I'm a perfect example that it can be done because if I can do it, anyone can.
I possess no special skills and I'm no more talented than the next person. I'm not especially computer literate and although I know a lot about the subject matter I write about, it has all been self taught. So why is it that I have been able to make blogging and websites a full time job when many who have better skills and talent haven't been able to do so?
Here are the skills I think made it possible for me to make money on the Internet. I don't believe that making money is easy or simple (yes, some people get lucky and it is for them, just like there are lottery winners, but far more people that are making money simply appear to have been lucky. In reality, they worked their butts off for many long hours to get where they are). While this is probably not a typical list of traits and skills that are associated with making money, I don't think I would be where I am today without them:
Stubbornness: Being stubborn has helped me to keep going even when it seemed that nobody knew that we existed on the Internet. I think most people quit because the success doesn't come quickly or easy enough for them. It isn't easy money. It takes a lot of work and dedication just as it would take to make any business successful. Being stubborn and refusing to give up has helped me clear many hurdles that could have stopped me dead in my tracks.
Passion: I love what I do. Since creating something that makes money on the Internet is difficult, if I didn't love doing what I'm doing, I would never have had the stamina to keep going. Passion let me spend long hours working on the sites without realizing how much time I was actually spending because even with all those long hours, I still liked what I was doing above all the other choices I had.
Creativity: Working on the Internet will always pose some unexpected problems, so creativity has helped us to solve the numerous problems that have arisen along the way. The solution to problems often doesn't reveal itself right away. We have had to be willing to try new ideas and multiple failures until we hit on something that worked for what we were trying to accomplish. Being able to be creative and adapt has helped a lot in making everything work.
Self Motivation: Since I'm working for myself, being able to motivate myself to keep writing and putting effort into the project when it didn't always seem to be worthwhile to do so was essential. If I hadn't been able to find ways to keep myself motivated at all stages of growing the sites, these would not exist today. It wasn't always easy to keep going when it seemed there was no reward for the effort, but even during those times I found a way to motivate myself to keep producing material.
Vision: I don't think we ever had a grand vision of where this would all lead, but we have always had a vision of where we want to go. Instead of being at the bottom of a mountain and looking at the top and saying we wanted to get there, we were at the bottom and saw a step in front of us and formed a vision of how to climb up to the next step. As we grow I think we are beginning to look a wider, but that concentrated vision in the beginning was extremely helpful.
Time: We new we were in this for the long haul from the beginning. In fact, when we started there wasn't any platform out there for people to make money from content alone (adsense still didn't exist). It never entered our mind that we would make a lot of money quickly. We felt that if we could produce good quality content and information for people that eventually it would be of value for advertisers and figured it was going to be years down the road. Had we assumed that we were going to make money in a short period of time, we would have been highly disappointed and probably quit long ago.
Voice: I have brought my own voice into what I'm writing. While this may sound obvious, it has been hard. I'm not the best writer in the world and I would even dare to say that a good description of my writing style is "common" When I see other writers that put the words down so much more eloquently than I am able to do, I want to change my style. In the few attempts I've made, it has been disastrous because it simply isn't me. That is not to say that I don't incorporate things that I see other writers doing that I like, but when I do this I do it in my own style instead of trying to change mine to theirs.
Faith: Not faith in the spiritual sense, but that what we're creating is helpful to others. Although for a long time we weren't getting any feedback that this was the case, we had faith that what I was writing and Nate was building could help people positively in their lives. We had the faith that if I could accomplish this, then our time and effort would be rewarded in some way.
Help: We wouldn't be where we are today without a lot of help along the way. When we first started out, it was brutal trying to get the word out that we existed. Over time, however, we were able to find other people that were in the same situation as we were and we banded together to help each other sites as best we could. There were also some slightly bigger sites that could see our potential and drive and thankfully were willing to take a chance on us. We could have never done it on our own.
No Life: This is Nate's contribution to the list and to a great degree it is true. We gave up a lot of other things we could have been doing to place our effort into creating the sites. When I was working full time at another job, it was literally like doing two full time jobs at the same time. So in a sense, I did have no outside life for a period of time there.
As you can see, my list of what you need to be successful on the Internet doesn't match up well with most of the others you have probably read, but I think it is a realistic list of what got us to where we are today. For those that are looking for easy money, I'm sorry if my list disappoints. What I can say is that the skills listed above are ones that every person has within them and so it can be done if that is what you want to do. It's also a wonderful experience along the way and makes it that much more satisfying when you can say that it is your full time job.
Working long days on personal finance I sometimes need a break from anything financial. I walked down to the local library today and picked up some non financial reading. Now the question is whether I'll actually find the time to read it before it is due back...
I actually need to spend more time in our local library. It is an amazing resource space which I don't take advantage of as much as I should.
I was running some number for my niece who is 16 months old and what her college is going to cost when I came across the LAUMC Children's Center in the area where I live. These parents must be the super obsessed types that you read about in the newspapers (or those in Japan) because they are paying $2,700 a year for a 2 year old's education (talk about starting them young) and $6,500 for a 5 year old's education. For the entire preschool (remember, the child hasn't even hit kindergarten yet) you're looking at tuition costs of $16,800 (better start saving the second the kid is conceived)
Of course, I did a bit more research and found that those numbers weren't anything. The Third Street Music School in New York charges $9,150 for 5 morning classes a week for a total of $36,600 for those 3 - 6 years old. I don't think my college education cost that much and there are certainly a lot of colleges where you could get a degree for less than that.
I'm thinking that maybe I should get into the prestigious preschool business...
If you're looking to make some extra money this holiday season, consider being a Christmas Light Installer. I did this a couple of seasons as a high school student and have a friend that still does it as an extra money earner during the holiday season. He brings in a five figure income for the 2 month period now that he has a regular clientele list. I sat down and talked with him and here are some basics that he passed on about what the job entails and what you need to do to help make it a successful season.
The Work: A Christmas light installer puts up the holiday lights on houses for people. There are also opportunities to earn money taking them down, cleaning gutters and hauling off Christmas trees as add on income.
Equipment Needed: You will need a ladder, hooks to hang the lights on and tools to install the hooks (a battery operated drill comes in handy - you can also use nails and screws, but if you think you will be doing the house in future years hooks make it easier and look better) to hang the lights on. While you won't necessarily need the strands of lights (the homeowners may already have them), it's good to have a least a couple of strands on hand for quick sales (he uses the basic strands that can be picked up at any Costco store and sells them at 100% - 200% profit for those that need them).
What to Charge: You need to use your own judgement for the area where you will be doing this. He charges $50 - $100 per house for a basic light installation and installations rarely last more than an hour.
Marketing: This is probably the most important part of the process. You want to find an area where it appears that the the people living in the homes are the type that would like to place up holiday lights, but may not have the time to do it themselves. A good indication is if other homes in the area regularly place up Christmas lights.
You should start putting out fliers in the next few weeks (he begins in mid November) and basically leaves the flier at the doors of houses in the area where he expects to work. Handing these out should get you a few jobs.
Once you have a few, the best time to sell is while you are placing up the lights. Once he finishes a house, he walks around to the neighbors and says, "I just installed Christmas lights on the house over there, and since I'm in the area, I'm offering a discount if you'd like your lights installed today." This usually gets him one or two more jobs.
While there are businesses that do full out Christmas layouts for people, if you're first starting out you want to keep it basic and simple. Look for single story houses that can easily be accessed with a ladder or two story houses where all the light hanging areas can easily be accessed.
Add On Income: When talking to the people about placing up the lights, you should ask if they would also liked them removed for an extra $25 (or whatever you decided to charge). This gives you some extra income after the holiday season as well. If they don't want you to take them down, then you want to ask if the person wants their gutters cleaned (if the do want you to take the lights down, wait until that time when you have more time). You are going to be up there anyway and you can usually charge $100 or more depending on how dirty they are. If you come back to take down the lights, if you have a truck you can also ask if they would like their Christmas tree removed which you can also charge a fee for doing. These add on income earners can greatly increase your holiday take.
Just like any business, you will have to do legwork and spend time finding customers, but it can be a quite lucrative business for the holidays with little start up costs.
One of the things that I miss most about Japan is their efficient public transportation system. There is absolutely no need to own a car in Japan. The same can't be said in the US. When I do go to San Francisco, I try to take the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system as much as possible. While it doesn't compare to Japanese public transportation for convenience and scheduling, it does save me money compared to driving to the city and trying to find parking.
*This is a series of photos that shows money as part of our daily life.
I was a personal taxi today for my dad and his wife who were flying off to New York. Instead of paying $100 to get driven to the airport, I was asked to do the honors and in return, I get their car for the week while they're gone.
It works out well for everyone involved. They get to the airport and back for a lot less than paying for a taxi and since we don't have a car, this gives us a week to get done all the things that we need to get done with a car without having to rent one. A nice solution for everyone involved that saves everyone money.
*This is a series of photos that shows money as part of our daily life.
I can tell that fall is here and winter is just around the corner. The leaves outside are yellows, oranges and reds while the days are getting colder. Last night my dad decided to have a fire in the fire place since it was just that kind of night. Instead of getting a few logs from outside, a bit of kindling and shoving newspapers underneath to get the fire started (as we always did when I was a kid), he simply turned the gas nozzle and lit the flames. Instant roaring fire.
I haven't decided if I like the gas log fire place yet. I know that it makes financial sense. There is no need to purchase firewood. It also doesn't pollute like a regular fire does which gives it environmental points. In fact, at night when the room is dark and the fire is lighting the room, it looks beautiful and you would not even know that it was fake.
The problem I have is during the day when it is obvious that the logs are not real. I guess that the savings and environmental friendliness outweigh the daytime ugliness, but you'd think they could make them look a bit more real...
*This is a series of photos that shows money as part of our daily life.
Stopped to fill up the car today. Most days my dad won't go out of his way to purchase gas at Costco versus the local gas station because it is only a few cents less and the distance negates any savings at the pump. The last couple of days, however, there has been a larger than normal gap ion the prices. While the local station is charging $2.34, Costco has been charging $2.19. Making payment with a Costco credit card gives a 1% cash back making the price $2.17 a gallon and he decided that a $0.17 a gallon difference in price was worth driving a couple of extra miles.
*This is a series of photos that shows money as part of our daily life.
I was in the city and came across these huge pieces of art down by the bay. What made them so unusual was that they were made entirely from junk. Basically, they had been constructed from old nuts, bolts, scrap metal and various other pieces of material that were to be thrown away (close-up shown in photo 2).
I love the creativity that was used. This artist is creating something new from material that that was bound for the dump. S/he has found a new use for it. Furthermore, values is being created out of something that appeared to others to have no value (I assume the artists gets paid for the completed work). With a little creativity and ingenuity, I think that anyone can do something along these lines.
This is a series of everyday photos taken to show how money affects our daily lives
This is a great trick that my wife taught me when she got tired of me folding my shirts in all shapes and sizes (and not very neatly). If I can do this, anyone can. Your friends will be incredibly impressed when you show them how to do this. Enjoy and pass it along
The IRS has announced a standard telephone tax refund for anyone that paid long distance tax after Feb. 28, 2003 and before Aug. 1, 2006. Anyone who did will be able to claim the following refunds on their 2006 Federal tax return:
$30 for someone filing a return with one exemption
$40 for someone filing with two exemptions
$50 for someone filing with three exemptions
$60 for someone filing with four or more exemptions
Earlier this week, Tim over at My Money Forest asked me quite a few questions for his blog about Nate and I and SavingAdvice.com. If you're curious about the two of us that are running this site and about the sites we run, the following questions were asked and answered:
Jeff, how did you and Nate meet?
How long have you two been working together?
Are the day jobs you two have related to any of your websites?
What prompted you two to start your own Internet empire (in the making)?
How is the empire structured legally (Inc., LLC, partnership)?
Across all the websites: How many page views? How many uniques?
How much time on average per week is dedicated to the maintenance and content creation of your websites?
From what I’ve been able to gather you two have nearly 50 satellite sites, how many do you plan on creating?
Of all the sites you two own, which one[s] is/are your favorite to work on?
Do you two tend to use open-source platforms like WordPress, Joomla, and others? Or does Nate tend to code them?
At some point will blogging and website creation turn into a full-time job?
What’s been the biggest challenge in running the websites?
I bet it feels really good to have mainstream media pickup on your articles. How long after SavingAdvice.com was launched did you get the first media mention
When you launched SavingAdvice.com how did you encourage people to sign up for the forums and post messages?
You host over 100 personal finance blogs on SavingAdvice, is there profit sharing with the bloggers or do they blog for free?
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned from your members on SavingAdvice?
Why do you think you two have been so successful?
What inspires you two to keep working on your businesses?
Anything new and exciting in the pipeline you’d like to mention?
You can find all the answers in his post Get Personal Finance Advice at SavingAdvice.com Enjoy and feel to throw out more if you'd like
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