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Monday, June 13, 2005

financial info author Ric Edelman

I just discovered Ric Edelman has a web site. Edelman is the author of several well-known finance books, including The Truth About Money(I highly recommend it for a good overall view of personal finance) and Ordinary People, Extraordinary wealth, among other works.

Edelman's web site is pretty informative, with links to information on most of the big life changing money events in our lives, such as weddings, health, kids, savings, taxes, retirement etc. It's great to see a finance pro give out free advice online. Other experts seem to use the internet as a big order blank, you need to pay or register for any information. That's why sites like Bank Rate and MSN Money are so popular- they're free.

I don't blame self promoting financial pros like Suze Orman or Dave Ramsey for trying to make money on their sites, that's why they are in business, after all.They do have some helpful information, it just seems to me that more would greatly enhance the 'stickiness' of their sites, providing more incentive for people to stay around and pay for additional services. JLP is a financial planner who does a good job of this, at All Things Financial. A good web site is itself self promoting. Would you go to Orman's blog on a daily basis, knowing it hasn't been updated in weeks, or JLP's, which has new info every day?

Edelman has a tv segment for PF stories too, so see the excerpt from his web site if you're interested in being part of a human interest personal finance story- Wanna be on TV?


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Just got out of debt? How to stay off the bench

Starting over. Great, you’re out of debt. You haven’t used your credit cards in a while, and you’ve just made that last payment to the balance. Now what?

It’s a level playing field. It’s as if you’re a ML baseball player and there are no more steroids in baseball. The fans are still there though, clamoring for longer home runs more than ever before. If you can’t beat the record, you’ll never be out on top. If you don’t buy the large screen tv, the big house, the hot car, you’ll never keep up- those fans are there too.

You need to recognize where you are now and what is important to you. Just because ‘everyone else’ is still clamoring for more, doesn’t mean you have to. A home run just has to be over the fence. It doesn't have to be in the parking lot. A nice steady savings and retirement fund growth is just what you need, anything else is extra bases.

Ok, I could go on but I'm tired of the baseball analogy. Repeat after me, the way to stay out of debt is the same way I got out of debt. You can use your credit cards, but pay off that balance monthly.


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Cutting drug costs

Great article by Andrea Rock of Money Magazine today with tips on how to cut the high costs of buying drugs. I can relate. My HMO has a prescription drug program for $20/drug, but I learned to my surprise a couple of weeks ago that not all drugs are covered. Although I normally shop at a local drug store because the service is so spectacular (extremely helpful pharmacists, free local delivery), I now planning on buying non-covered drugs at Sam's Club(which is much like Costco). Drugs, including over the counter stuff like allergy relief medicines, are upt to 75% less than in other stores.

The articles tip's include: Going generic, buying substitutes, comparison shop, ask your doctor (get samples, etc.) Here's how much you can save-

"Substitute an older but equally effective drug: 75%
Buy generic drugs instead of name brands: 70%
Split higher dosage medication in half: 50%"

SamsClub
Costco
Familymeds
Drugstore.com


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Weekend money

I've spent most of the weekend writing for a couple of other non PF blogs (which are not yet on-line), so I didn't get anything posted here. I did spend money though!

I saw Mr./Mrs. Smith which was surprisingly entertaining ($5.50 matinee). I also ordered a book for my brother's birthday present, Hell or High Water : Surviving Tibet's Tsangpo River. He's an avid kayaker and I think he'll like it. I saw it at the bookstore last week and almost bought it then. Luckily I didn't have my credit card with me, the new book (24.95) plus postage would have cost me almost $29. I found a new used copy on Amazon from a reseller for only $4 and had it shipped directly to him.

It probably would have made a good Father's Day present too, but I'll just have to think of something else. In the past I've given my Dad a couple of magazine subscriptions that he loves and continues to renew every year himself. One is Wired . My parents aren't really tech oriented, but he likes the writing. I also gave him Budget Travel because my parents are always planning the next trip (they're retired). I bought his original subscriptions through ads from our campus bookstore, where they were very inexpensive. Check around, the on-line prices I found look pretty good. Or if you have a university bookstore nearby, they often put the cheap ad forms in the bag with your purchase. This year? Probably get Dad a book, I just haven't decided which one, I could use some good ideas. I'll be browsing the online lists at lunch today.


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Friday, June 10, 2005

Waste not...

want no e-garbage. What do you do with your ‘old’ technology? I know that in the office, our old tech is getting newer. We used to have lags of more than 5 years to get a new computer, or copy machine, or fax. Now they are replaced every couple of years. We just had a lot of PCs replaced that had nothing wrong with them. They had plenty of speed and memory, no problems, and were used primarily for email and internet goofing around. Yes, this is where your state taxes are going, folks.

Cities and counties have to cope as best they can with this e-waste, a major problem today as our piles of high-tech garbage grow. Some landfills are not equipped to handle high tech garbage, which often contains unsafe elements that have to be stripped from the machines before disposal. Other sites charge a fee.

Charles Cooper’s perspective today on C/net, Time to clean up tech's act has to do with this problem. Cooper points to San Francisco where e-waste is obvious, and some ways people are trying to deal with the growing situation. A spokesman for a Bay area a nonprofit program that takes in old computers said that, "We handled over 12 million pounds of electronics last year. This year, we've already doubled that number--and it's only June."

Jim Lynch of TechSoup.org pointed out problems inherent in trying to donate equipment to schools and nonprofits. Outdated tech is often left at thrift shop or charity drop off sites. Lynch explained that outdated equipment is not saleable, and all people really do is transfer the disposal problem to a non-profit who has even less resources for disposal than the average person. Organizations such as the Salvation Army often have to deny such donations today. His site explains,

“The "Exporting Harm" PDF report estimates that 50 to 80 percent of U.S. e-waste ends up in Asia. Experts debate the exact number, but the practice is quite common in several countries and is creating some of the most concentrated lead pollution on the planet. Electronics scrap brokers buy e-waste legally in this country, are able to get favorable shipping rates, and then low-wage workers are hired to pull re-sellable components and heavy metals, like copper yokes out of CRT monitors. The real problem is the incapability of the U.S. to recycle or reuse the 50 million or so computers being disposed of each year.”

Consumer and political demand has prompted some computer manufacturers such as Dell, HP, and IBM to take responsibility with recycling and disposal programs.

Apple announced a free recycling program for the iPod recently, urging customers to bring their players to Apple retail stores for disposal. Yahoo! News reported that “the company has been under siege from environmentalists, who say the company hasn't done enough to promote recycling of its products, which often end up in landfills in the United States and in developing countries.” Apple said their recycling program is environmentally friendly, and that hazardous computer parts would not be shipped overseas.

So, what do you do?

1. Get involved – try to get your community to at least look for ways to manage this problem. After all, it is in your backyard. So far we’ve seen nothing come out of the new Congressional E-Waste Working Group. Instead, check out SVTC’s Clean Computer Campaign, and the Electronics Recycling Initiative.
2. Keep your old tech longer – be frugal – do you really need a new cell phone or computer?
3. IF it is in good shape and still useable - give it to someone who can use it – let your kids use it for computer games, give it to the kids next door, donate it to a nursing home or retirement center.
4. Cell phones – look around. There are a ton of cell phone drop off places that give the phone to homeless shelters and abuse centers. These phones are still useable for emergency use even with no regular phone service.
5. Yard sales, garage sales - you’d be surprised. Really old tech is in demand by collectors, and you can get a good price on EBay for it.
6. 10 things to do with old PCs from PC Magazine.


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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Your Best Investment

I couldn’t resist. When I saw the link over on Slashdot about the New York Daily News article on a geek dating service, I just had to write about it. You no longer have to hang out at geek fests like Gnomedex or Star Wars conventions for a hot date. Instead, there's a an online personals service just for you. After all, your best investment is really yourself. Who you end up with will change your life. There are a lot of dating services online. Some of the better known ones are:

AmericanSingles
Date
DreamMates
eHarmony
Lavalife
Match
Matchmaker
PerfectMatch
SingleMe
True
udate
Yahoo! Personals

The Dating Services network has a lot more links for Christian singles, free services, etc. And don't forget Geek to Geek.

Not sure what service to choose? DateSeeker, DatingSitesReviews, and eDateReview. compare the dating sites and offer tips.


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Old home vs. new home

Time magazine's recent Web Guide: Real Estate reminded me of a topic a friend and I discuss frequently. She’s quite a bit older than me, and is currently renting from a relative, but is saving to build a small house. I, on the other hand, have no interest in new construction. I love the lines of older homes, woodwork embellishment, craftsman details, tudor-style brickwork, and natural materials. Leaving the definition of ‘what is old’ and ‘what is new’ up to the reader, here are some of the pros/cons of old vs. new when looking for real estate:

Old construction
Better location – often situated closer to the center of town or the community with schools, hospitals etc.
Safety – Radon testing, termites, asbestos; home inspections are a necessary precaution, and dealing with older issues can be extremely expensive.
Taxes – may be higher (because of the location) but shouldn’t fluctuate too drastically.
Neighborhood – already established community.
Landscaping – older and established, so more apt to have large trees and shrubs.
Price – older homes, esp. ‘fixer-uppers’ are often less expensive.
Craft – some handwork is just too expensive to do anymore, plus in some areas local policies even prohibit certain natural building materials (such as wood shingles) due to fire precautions. Wood floors.
Personality – the new craftsman rage notwithstanding, the personality and charm of older homes is undeniable.

New construction
Customization – you can build what you want. Generally you get what you pay for. In older homes, remodeling costs are often not returned in a resale.
Safety – from fire and earthquake codes to personal security systems, newer construction is generally safer.
Taxes - as more utilities are built, schools are built or get larger, and your local infrastructure is enhances, your taxes will also increase.
Landscape – as with construction, is easier to customize rather than having to demolish old existing or dead plantings, but unless you do it yourself, landscaping can be incredibly expensive.
Price - new products such as composite decking and roofing materials are longer lasting and sometimes less expensive. New subdivisions are often on the outskirts of town instead of closer in, and thus less expensive.
Efficiency – from tech ready to double paned windows, newer homes are hands down more energy and cost efficient.
Maintenance – well-built new homes have much less maintenance issues than older homes.

You may have always wanted an older, more traditional home, or you may have always lusted after a clean, modern design. Regardless, always consider the alternative. You may decide in the end that convenience and price outweigh design, or vice versa.
..And here's an article on the same subject


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Fun Money

Design your state quarter -

As part of the 50 State Quarters Program, some states are inviting you to submit ideas for your state quarter. A couple of current submission sites are for the Washington State Quarter and the Wyoming State Quarter.

You can see designs for existing and upcoming quarter releases at the site of the 50 State Quarters Program.

The U.S Mint

Contact your state governor’s office to see if they will be accepting design submissions for the following states. Quarters are to be released within the next couple of years from:

2.Alaska Governor
3.Arizona Governor
11.Hawaii Governor
12.Idaho Governor
26.Montana Governor
31.New Mexico Governor
36.Oklahoma Governor

This takes just a minute and can also be a fun project for kids, although anyone can submit.


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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Consider spending more time on...

just about everything. One of the most common excuses for: not taking public transportation, shopping at expensive 'convenience' stores, frequenting 'fast food' places, not exercising, impulse buying, buying pre-packaged meals, expensive gas, expensive airline tickets, you name it, is "I don't have time."

Make time. How many times have you ran a red light? How many times, in a more relaxed mood, have you commented to the passengers in your car- "I can't believe that guy ran a red light, it's not like he's going to get there any faster."

Think. Consider. You probably do have time. You need to arrange your priorities. If your priority is family relationships, then spending time cooking with them, eating with them, and talking to your family is worth the time you spent buying and preparing fresh food. If your family is a priority, than your life insurance better be paid up if you're running red lights, because your actions don't mesh with what matters most to you.

If your future retirement, college savings, and your personal finances are a priority, its worth the time to check out airfare savings sites such as Expedia and Travelocity, and its well worth the time to plan far enough in advance (of anything) to get the best rates.

While I'm not an extreme adherent to the 'slow living' lifestyle, there are a lot of things there we can all take advantage of to add value to our lives, in monetary and emotional terms.


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Buy a Pet

Are you ready for a pet? First, you need think about all of the issues concerning having a pet in your household. Too many parents act on impulse and give a pet for Easter (bunnies are extremely popular), or a puppy for Christmas, etc. You need to make sure your child is ready for a pet. It's not fair to the animal or child when you give the child a responsibility they are not ready for.

Pets are wonderful. They provide fun and companionship. Studies show that pet owners generally lead longer and healthier lives. Pets can be a wonderful additon to the family, providing children with a sense of disclipline and responsibility. Pets are also a lot of work, some more than others.

Do your research
The implications of having a pet: there is a plethora of information online concerning pets. If you are considering adding a pet to your family, do your research. The life of a living animal is not to be taken lightly. Too many people are emanored of the idea of pets as gifts. "Selecting safe pets" is very important, especially if you have children. Some diseases such as salmonella can actually be transferred directly from a pet to a human being. You need to know what to be aware of, what to watch out for, and what to do if your pet becomes sick. When you are choosing a pet, be aware that not all pets are appropriate for children, and not all animals are appropriate as pets!

The cost of a pet is probably a lot higher than you think. Besides food and shelter, you must make sure your pet gets appropriate care, medical attention and checkups, just like humans. This is for your health and safety as well as theirs. This doesn't mean that pets are too expensive for the frugal or low income. I think the benefits of having a pet by far outweigh the costs. The Dollarstretcher library has a lot of good information for pet owners on a budget, as does an article from BankRate on lowering pet costs.

Where to find a pet
I love Petfinder. It is a great resource for finding all kinds of pets, whereever you live. Talk to a vet about choosing a pet for your family, and you will likely be told the best family dog is a mixed breed, widely available at animal shelters. Petfinder has a great Pet search to use to find your pet.

So if you're ready for a pet, start your research and have fun!


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Driving costs and public transportation

There's a nifty little site I found through a link on MSN Money called Sperling's Best Places. Their most recent study is about the most expensive cities to drive in. Funnily enough its the Southeast that is pointed to as the most expensive, even though it has the lowest gas prices. Least expensive, Brownsville, TX. Most expensive, Atlanta, GA. The article explained that "the places experiencing the smallest impact of the rising gas prices have one or more of the following traits; low gas prices, high family income, and a shorter daily commute."

The article focuses on commuting, so don't let it dissuade you from visiting any of the cities on your vacation travels. The southeast and some of the other cities mentioned may have high commuting costs but still be cost effective additions to your summer vacation trips.

Anyway, why don't people use public transportation? Here is a fabulous site, publictransportation.org that is a resource of links and schedules to your county transportation systems. This is a great site. I always have kept schedules I use the most often (city bus, university bus, ferry, train, Greyhound) bookmarked on my computer, but this will be much easier to use. I used to search for the different schedules but this site has their links all in one place.

Also, here's a tranport system resource link for the UK.


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