Archive for July, 2008
In this corner…
Standing 6’0, weighing 180 pounds, Queens, New York born and bred, former street hustler, ex con, survived being shot 9 times, multiplatinum record selling rap artist, the man behind G-Unit Records, two acting credits under his belt, creator of Vitamin Water, hard abs, killa body, millionaire and entrepreneur extraordinaire, better known to the world as 50 Cent… Mr. Currrrrrrrrrtis Jackson!!!!
(crowd goes wild)
In this corner…
Born in 1962 through the ingenuity of Glen Bell, started its humble beginnings in the small town of Downey, California, sold at the tender age of 16 to Pepsi, subsidiary to Yum! Brands, holding its own with nearly six thousand locations across 4 continents, home of the Big Bell menu, sole mastermind behind the Chihuahua craze, sales in the billions, filling more than 2 million hungry bellies every year, tacos anyway you want.. sliced, diced, tethered or tossed, Mr. Thinking Outside the Bun himself, yo te quiero… Tacooooooo Belllllll!!!
(crowd goes huh?… just stick with me people, I am going somewhere with this… I think!?!)
Let’s Get Ready to Ruuuuuummmble!!!!!!!!
Ok Mr. Cent, Mr. Bell… I want a clean fight, no hitting below the belt, holding, tripping, or biting off ear lobes. Got it? Ok, touch gloves, gentlemen and get ready to fight!
Commentator (me) in…
Tsk, tsk, tsk on Mr. Bell. Apparently he’s not fighting the clean fight. So now Mr. Cent is suing.
Mr. Bell made a rather simple request. He asked Mr. Cent if he would change his name to either 79, 89 or 99 Cent… (just for one day) in order to promote Mr. Bell’s new “79-89-99 Cent Why Pay More” campaign. In exchange, Mr. Bell would make a donation to a charity of Mr. Cent’s choosing.
Mr. Cent declined, citing that he has a reputation to maintain. What would the fellas in the neighborhood think if fity… fity cent, went around rapping about 99 cent tacos? I am flattered Mr. Bell, thanks, but no thanks… it ain’t happening.
According to the federal suit Mr. Cent filed on Wednesday, Mr. Bell would not take no for an answer and ran the ads starring a 50 Cent imitator. Mr. Cent claims that he image was stolen without his permission… and to top it off, he was neither compensated nor was a donation made to a charity on his behalf.
10… 9… 8… 7… 6… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Mr. Bell is out for the count.
But these Taco Bell coupons and deals are not…
Enter the Taco Bell Frutista Freeze contest by August 31st to win two coupons for a free Frutista Freeze
For my Hawaiian friends… Purchase an A&W Good Deals for Good Deeds Fund-Raiser coupon book and you’ll find 8 Taco Bell coupons hiding inside
Complete this My Local Taco Bell Concert Series VIP Ticket Sweepstakes Entry Form to win tickets to Tony Hawk’s Boom Boom Huck Jam (enter by August 4) or PROJEKT REVOLUTION 2008 (enter by August 8 )
Live in Michigan? Sign up here to get email notices about Taco Bell deals
Oklahomans… go on a diet and get a free taco… fresco style
Remember that job I told ya’ll I hated? Well in addition to me daydreaming about Cayo Espanto, I also pictured myself escaping on a Harley. Just me, my hog and the open road. I am not sure if it is its muscle like sculpture or the tough boy image… but there is something I find sexy about a Harley. I don’t have one… I’ve never ridden on one… I have never even touched one… but boy I sure do want one! If I had one… I’d to take long weekend road trips… wind in my hair and a Harley between my legs.
But what I would really love to do is take my Harley up to Canada. Canada is the best place to tour on a motorcycle. If I could, I would spend a year zig zagging across the Canadian roads and stop in every city to enjoy the roses. But first I have to get a bike… and figure out how to operate it.
There is a Harley Davidson shop not too far from my house. They actually rent out bikes and also offer motorcycle driving and safety courses. For the longest time I have been saying that I am going to rent a bike for the weekend… but other things keep coming up and the bike keeps getting pushed further and further down on my list of to do’s
Harley Davidson also offers motorcycle insurance to its riders. I never really thought much about it before, but bikers do need insurance. Biking can be a dangerous hobby. Not long ago the National Highway and Safety Commission launched a huge motorcycle safety awareness campaign.
The problem is that sometimes when people ride bikes for entertainment, they can get too carried away with the exhilaration of it all and fail to exercise caution. But by far, the biggest danger to bike riders is other drivers. They simply don’t see bikers.
But I’ll talk about motorcycle safety in another post. Today I wanted to discuss the basic of motorcycle insurance. Motorcycle insurance is very similar to auto insurance. Depending on which state you live in… some minimal amount is liability coverage is required and other types of coverage is optional.
Liability coverage – In the event that you are legally responsible for damages caused to someone’s property or person (bodily injury) … liability insurance can cushion the financial repercussions.
Collision coverage – If you are in an accident, this coverage pays for repairs to your damaged motorcycle. In the event that motorcycle is not repairable… this coverage compensates you up to the book value of the motorcycle.
Comprehensive coverage – This covers damages to your bike that were caused by anything other than a collision. This coverage also protects you against loss from theft.
Uninsured motorist coverage – This coverage protects you if you are injured or your motorcycle is damaged by an uninsured motorist. In addition to repair cost, it also pays for medical bills and forgone wages.
Other Add-ons – You can also get additional protection such as guest passenger liability, which protects you if your passenger is injured. Most insurance only covers factory equipment, but if you plan to sup up your bike with after market upgrades… then you can get optional equipment coverage. You can also add rental reimbursement or towing coverage.
In order to get a good rate on your motorcycle insurance, you should…
- Keep a clean driving record
- Take a motorcycle rider safety course
- Opt for a cruiser instead of a sports bike and,
- Combine all of your insurances with one company.
Who are they?
In 2001, the Wachovia Corporation was born through the merger of Wachovia and First Union banks. Today, the company operates over 3300 offices in 23 states. Wachovia offices can even be found in Nassau, London, Georgetown and the Grand Cayman. With 15 million customers and $450 billion in deposits, Wachovia ranks as the fourth largest holding company. Its unique name is a derivative of Wachau, which was the name given to a group of early North Carolina settlers.
Earlier this month, Robert Steele, a University of Chicago graduate and former U.S. Department of Treasury under secretary, was brought on to take over the role of CEO. The position was vacated by Ken Thompson, who retired in the beginning of June.
In the news
Wachovia has been experiencing some financial instability in recent quarters. One year ago, Wachovia (WB) shares were trading for $50 each. On July 15th of this year, shares were barely selling for $10. However, as a sign of good faith, CEO Robert Steele invested over $16 million of his own money in Wachovia one million shares of stock. You can chalk this up to either insiders’ knowledge or optimism about good things to come. Despite Mr. Steele’s hopefulness, Wachovia stock is still on many do not buy lists.
On the same day Mr. Steele purchased the shares, Wachovia announced the elimination of at least 10,000 positions. In the same announcement, the company reported that it will be reducing dividend payments to 5 cents per share.
In other news:
Wachovia’s will soon be in search of a new CFO. Tom Wurtz, the current CFO, is expected to resign from the position soon.
The state of New York filed a suit against UBS amidst accusations of fraud and deceptive marketing practices. Wachovia may soon find itself in the same predicament. Missouri’s Secretary of State office searched Wachovia offices looking for evidence resulting from similar allegations.
And aside from its financial troubles, Wachovia can also be a dangerous place to work. In the past month there has been story, after story, after story, after story (and many more) of armed heists at branch locations.
- For new accounts, an introductory APR of 0% on balance transfers for twelve months
- Depending on the level of the credit card account (classic, platinum, etc.), APRs range from as little as 6.99% to 16.99%
- Annual fee – depending on the card the annual fee is either zero or $29
- 25 day grace periods
- Tier structured late fee of $15, $29 or $39 depending on the card balance
- $20 over the limit fee
- 1% currency exchange fee
- Membership in the Wachovia Possibilities Rewards program
- One late fee and over the limit fee will be automatically waived every 12 month period
- Can be link to your Wachovia checking account for free overdraft protection
- A one percent reduction in APR for Wachovia employees
As far as credit cards go… I like Wachovia. The terms are reasonable and the perks are nice. There are three things that really stand out about the card. First… the tiered late fee structure. Most credit card companies sock you with a $39 fee even if your card balance is $1. Secondly, the over the limit fee is one of the lowest I’ve see. The norm is somewhere between $29 and $39.
And finally, automatic fee forgiveness every 12 months is an attractive deal. Most companies will waive the fee every so often if they see that this is not your typical m.o. However, you have to call and ask for the waiver. The rep has to put you on hold to discuss the situation with the manager. The manager has to lecture you about being late or over the limit. Then they may or may not ok it. In other words, it can sometimes be a hassle to get the fee waived. But Wachovia does it automatically.
My take: I would be hesistant about recommending that you buy $16 million worth of Wachovia stock, but their credit card is a good bet.
Last year my DH and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary. As I reminisce over those 10 years, I have to say that our marriage has been a very enjoyable experience. I can say this is because we are so in love and all that other sappy stuff. While we are very much in love, the truth behind why and how our marriage is so blissful is because he has learnt the art of compromising… or really conceding. You see, he knows that if the wife is happy… we are happy.
Even though he gives in a lot… he is not one of those pansy, push over kind of husbands. He does wear the pants in the family. But he also understands that he should pick his battles wisely. And most battles aren’t worth fighting… especially not with the person who prepares your meals anyway. So this keeps peace in the home, keeps me happy and keeps us happy.
Anyway for our 10 year anniversary… we had a wonderful time. I used to have this job that I really hated… I mean really hated. In order to get me through the day, I would go to the Cayo Espanto website and imagine myself in all of the pictures. It really took me away, if only for a moment. And it got me through the day.
Eventually, I found another job, but I could not let go of Cayo Espanto. I daydreamed about it all the time. Cayo Espanto is a private island off the coast of Brazil. The island is surrounded by mesmerizing turquoise water. There are only 6 villas on the whole island. And they are spread so far apart, that you never have to see another guest while you are there. There is some limited interaction with the island staff, but it really is a place where you can recess into tranquility. No email, no smog, no cell phones ringing… a true escape.
But Cayo Espanto is not a place to vacation for the meager. The villas cost upwards of $3,000 a night with a minimum stay of 3 to 7 nights depending on the season… this does not include airfare, taxes and any other expenses, such as mini excursions off the island. But regardless of the cost, I wanted to go. I had been saving up my pennies and I figured in 20 years or so, I might have accumulated enough.
Reserving time at Cayo Espanto is not easy. Villas are usually booked six months to a year in advance. But occasionally something happens that causes a slot to become available. So I signed up to receive notifications about their rare specials and promotional rates. And I really mean rare… I signed up to receive notifications fours years ago… and in all that time, they have had only two special rate offers.
The last one I receive 4 weeks before my 10th anniversary. They told me that a last minute deal was available, but that I had to book within 2 weeks and travel dates were only available for a short date range. The deal… 50% off the regular package rates… practically a give away. Although I still did not have enough pennies saved up… I resolved to move some money around so that we could go.
And we did. We booked the Private Island Honeymoon package and for 5 nights (including our anniversary night) we laid out on the deck of our villa and watched the sun rise and fall over blue water. It was surreal… the best experience I’ve ever had.
Although last minute travel deals to Cayo Espanto are an unusual find… there are many other last minute travel deals that you can find that’ll save you hundreds if not thousands on your next vacation. You can begin your search here :
I seldom watch HGTV. I like the shows but every time I tune in I get all of these ideas about how I can razzle this and dazzle that. And razzling and dazzling HGTV style gets expensive. So I purposely try to limit my expose to this channel.
However yesterday, I sort of got caught up. I was innocently flipping through the channels when the batteries on the remote gave out. And miraculously the station it stopped on… HGTV. Yeah I could have gotten up and changed the channel. But I figured it was meant for me to watch it. Why else would my batteries die at that very moment?
So all day yesterday… I was immersed in HGTV. And sure enough I now have all of these creative ideas about how I can spruce up the house. In particular, I want to revamp the guest bathroom. Right now it is themed with blue and yellow fish. I had been content with that for many years, but now all of a sudden I want to do something a little bit more HGTV-ish.
Although I would love to do a complete remodel with new tiles, sink, tubs, toilet and other fixtures, my budget only affords me the basics. I think I am going to repaint the walls and replace the yellow and blue fish accents with something that is a tad swankier.
I have a vision in my mind of what the newly designed bathroom will look like. So today I began looking around for items that embodies that vision. I found everything I need all in one place… Bed, Bath and Beyond.
Bed, Bath and Beyond is a retail chain that specialize in home décor. And even with the downturn in the housing market, the company has managed to maintain decent profits. I like Bed, Bath and Beyond. Shopping at this store give us grown ups an opportunity to reconnect with our inner child by playing house. Just about anything you need to your beautify home can be found in any of their hundreds of locations. And plus you can take advantage of these special savings.
By the way, they also accept competitor coupons so you can also use this Linens N Things coupon to get 20% off a single item purchase.
- Now through September 2nd enter here for a chance to win over $40,000 in prizes, you can enter daily
- Sign up here to get on Bed, Bath and Beyond’s direct mailing list. Once you register they’ll send you valuable in store coupons
- Refer a friend to sign up for the gift registry and get a referral reward of $25 off a $50 purchase
- Save for college with this 1% contribution to your Upromise account
- Redeem Citi Thank You points for a $25 Bed Bath and Beyond Gift Card
- University of Pennsylvania students and alumni… earn a $25 gift card for spending $150-$300 or a $40 gift card for spending over $300, valid through September 30th
Used car salesmen have gained a reputation for being unscrupulous. How many times have you heard the same ole adage… my wife drives a car just like this one… or this car belonged to a little old lady who barely drove it. The reality is most used car dealerships get their inventory from auctions. The dealers have never seen the previous owners. And about that “my wife drives a car just like this”… I am sure he’s made that very statement about every car on the lot.
Ok so they lie! But can you blame them? The guy has got to make a living. How else can he afford to buy his wife 32 different cars? Just don’t let them make their living by shafting you.
Before you go to the used car lot… inform yourself of the games the dealers play to rope you, know what to look for in a used car, and have an idea about how much the car should cost.
The games used car salesmen play
1 – They try to create a sense of urgency by saying things like… This is a good deal and it will not be here long. I have somebody else coming in at 4 to look at this same car. Don’t fall for this type of pressure. Even if it is true that someone else is interested in the car, you can probably find 5 more cars just like it for sale within a 10 mile radius.
2 – They act like as if they are doing you a favor by saying things like… My manager would be upset if he knew I let this car go for so low. Or… I can get you into this car for only $200 a month. But he fails to explain that the interest rates and payments terms are equivalent to that of a loan shark. Don’t think he is doing you a favor… he is in the business to make money, not friends.
3 – Don’t get sidetracked by fresh paint and shiny wheels. Of course he’s going to dress up the car. Who would want to buy something that had an unsightly presentation? But remember a lemon covered in a fancy gloss is still a lemon.
4 – The tricky does not stop once you have settled on a car prices. Read the terms of the contract and make sure it says the same thing that you agreed to verbally. And be wary of the add-ons. Even if you manage to get a good deal on the car… dealers like to persuade you into getting overpriced extras that you don’t need like scotch guard and rust coating.
What to look for in a used car
1 – Take a look under the hood. Does it look crutty? Check out the fluids. Is the oil black or honey brown? Black is not good. How does the transmission fluid look? How does it feel? The transmission fluid should be red and should feel smooth and not gritty. Do the belts and hoses look worn? All of these will give you an indication about how well the car was maintained.
2 – Look at the tires. Is there any thread left? And while you are down there looking at the wheels, look under the car? Is there anything leaking?
3 – Look in the interior. Use all the buttons to make sure they works. Does the radio come in? Do the windows roll down? Does the hood latch work? (I purchased a used car when I was in college. I thought it was a good deal, but I was duped. I let the dealer pop the latch so I can look under the hood. Well, a few weeks after I purchased the car I had to open the hood to fill the wiper fluid. And there was no latch! It was broken off. It took me nearly 3 days to figure out how to rig the car so I could open the hood.)
4 – And look at the gauges to make sure they are properly calibrated and functional.
How much is the car really worth
Happy Car Hunting!
Children grow up so fast. My son is 14 and is about to embark on his freshman year of high school. This is an exhilarating time for him… football games, pep rallies, proms, girlfriends, driving. Here is yet another example of where his excitement translates into my horror.
High school means that in four short years, he’ll be off to college. Mothers have all kinds of reservations when their youngins fly the coop. Will he remember to put on his seat belt every time? Will he remember to wash down the counter after prepping raw meats? Will he remember to pay the electricity bill? Will he remember that certain things that college kids experiment with, like binge drinking and unprotected sex, can be lethal? That and so much more. I am mother… it is my job to worry.
But not only do I worry about his well-being… I also worry about how I’m going to pay for his college education. He has long told me that he wants to be a medical researcher and that he wants to go to college in California. To me this equals… room and board, tuition, meal tickets, out of state fees, travel back and forth to home… do you understand my horror? It’s sticker shock!
Over the past year I have been reinforcing to him that high school is his time to shine. If he does well enough he can get a scholarship to pay for college. But scholarships are very competitive and they still won’t cover all of his needs. Getting a college education is expensive… and that is putting it mildly.
Since he was 5, I have been stashing money away in his 529 savings account. But there is not nearly enough in his account to pay for out of state fees. Out of state fees can sometimes be 3 or 4 times the cost of in state tuition. So either I have to increase my contributions or he needs to get a scholarship. Or else he’ll be forced to stay instate.
Because the cost of a college education can nearly be the same as the cost of buying a home, the IRS offers tax incentives to encourage parents to save for college. There are two qualified tuition plans which are authorized by Section 529 of the IRS Code. One is the prepaid tuition plan; the other is the college savings plan. Both plans have unique features and different eligibility requirements. This very detailed chart that I found on fool.com shows the comparisons.
I selected our state sponsored 529 college savings account many years ago for my son. And because I’d always planned to further my education, I also opened an account for myself as well. There are many options when choosing a 529 plan. There are more than 80 state sponsored college savings plans available. And nearly all of them are open to non state residents. They all offer both federal and state income tax benefits. And many of the plans have no set maximum contribution.
Which one should you choose? All of this information can be a lot to sort through. But Morning Star and Bankrate has simplified the process for us. Morning Star issued a best and worst list based on benefits and expenses. And Bankrate ranks the best performers based on investment return.
If you have children, start saving from day one. The cost of college is expensive. But preparing early and making use of a 529 plan can lessen the distress when the bills start piling in.
It’s weekly carnival round-up time again. There are great personal finance articles out there in the blogosphere so be sure to visit the carnivals and check them out.
- Carnival of Personal Finance #162 (The Baseball Edition) was hosted by The Credit Cards.com Blog and you can find our post entitled Travel Deals & Cheap Student Airfares for Students listed there.
- Finance Fiesta #8 (The Austin Edition) was hosted by The Credit Cards.com Blog and you can find our post entitled Dental Insurance: Helping You Take Care of Your Pearly Whites listed there.
Who are they?
In 1962 Sam Walton opened his first Wal-Mart store. He operated the store under a simple premise, buy products in large quantities to take advantage of volume discounts. He was also skillful at mastering the just in time inventory strategy. Actually Wal-Mart’s inventory management strategy is iconic and is studied in Marketing and Inventory Control classes around the world.
The company’s stock has often been considered the premier buy. You may have heard many people say, if I had bought a hundred shares of Wal-Mart 20 years ago, I’d be rich. And it is true. Wal-Mart stock prices have outpaced that of its competitors. Wal-Mart has had great financial successes.
However, for all of their successes, Wal-Mart has been plagued with image problems since nearly its beginning. Its founder, Mr. Walton, is legendary for being cheap. This attribute is something that spilled into his staffing practices. More often than not, maximum employee compensation was the minimum the law required. He also had the tendency to hire as few people as possible to get the job done.
Several times, Wal-Mart has been accused of forcing employees to work off the clock to avoid paying overtime, scaling back on employee work hours to prevent them for qualifying for full time benefits such as health insurance, and gender bias when it came to promotions. The company has been sued and lost many times over because of these practices.
For these and other reasons, Wal-Mart has acquired its fair share of nemeses and has become the mark of many advocacies groups. In just about any city, when Wal-Mart applied for an operating permit … there was a long line of protesters waiting at the front door.
Wal-Mart… people either love them or hate them.
In the news
After more than 15 years, Wal-Mart has a new look. Late last month the company unveiled its new logo. The hope is that this new, more organic look will help peter out the company’s image problem.
In Park City, UT, Wal-Mart faces, yet again, strong aversion. At a public hearing, opponents fought fiercely to block the expansion of a Wal-Mart Supercenter. Their efforts were, at least, temporarily effective. The city commission delayed approval of a permit.
Wal-Mart concedes with a Chinese Union and agrees to increase the wages by 16% over the next two years.
Looking for a Wal-Mart credit card? Well, you’ve got two options. There is a Wal-Mart credit card that can only be used in Wal-Mart stores. There is also a Wal-Mart Discover that can be used anywhere you see the Discover card logo. Here are some features of the Wal-Mart Discover card.
- No annual fee
- APR as low as 12.37%
- Issued by GE Bank
- 25 day grace period
- 1% cash back on all purchases
- Save 3 cents per gallon of gas at Wal-Mart gas stations
- Up to $100 cash advance with purchase
- No interest on purchase of $250 or more if paid within 12 months
I am not one of those people who hate Wal-Mart, but I do shop there is little is possible. However, I think the card has really nice features. The two that I am most impressed with are the ability to save 3 cents per gallon on gas. Also, no interest for 12 months on purchase of $250 dollars or more is a very good offer.
My take: I have some personal reservations about the company as a whole. But as far as the Wal-Mart Discover card, it has nice extras. And when used responsibly, it can help save you money.
I view my home as a conduit for creating lasting childhood memories for my children. Leaving cookies and milk by the fireplace for Santa, running through the sprinklers in the backyard, carving Jack-O-Lanterns on the kitchen table… but my home not only allows my family to have these experience, but it is also my most valuable monetary asset. And for most other people, the same holds true… their home is their most valuable asset.
One thing that we homeowners have in common is homeowners insurance. It is just one of those residual responsibilities that come along with home ownership. Yes, shelling out an extra thousand dollars or more for insurance can be a pain, but it is necessary. Homeowners insurance protects your most valuable asset in the event of tragedy, natural disaster and more.
Most policies are structured in a similar way. The main dwelling, or your home, is covered based on either the actual cash value or replacement cost. Generally, the actual cash value is the market value or the predicted selling price if the house were for sale. The replacement value is how much it would cost to replace the house, brick by brick, beam by beam, in the event of a total loss. Normally replacement cost is more than actual cash value.
Then, other structures, such as fences or outside storage sheds, are covered. More often than not this coverage is 10% of the dwelling coverage. Personal property is also covered as either replacement cost or actual value. This means that the contents of your home, such as electronics, appliances, furniture, jewelry and even flooring, is insured from loss as a result of theft or other destruction.
The typical policy also comes with actual loss sustained or loss of use coverage. This reimburses you for expenses incurred while your home is inhabitable and being repaired. This may include costs such as rental expenses or storage.
Standard policies also include personal liability and medical payments coverage. Personal liability kicks in in the event that you are sued by someone who is injured on your property. This can assist with legal expenses or for the payment of a claim. Medical payments will, up to a specified limit, pay the medical bills for a person injured on your property.
Homeowners insurance may also include a series of endorsements for things such as an inflation guard and lock replacement.
Homeowners insurance can be expensive, but there are things that you can do to reduce the cost:
1 – buy a home in a low risk area
2 – increase the policy deductible
3 – reduce personal property and/or liability coverage limits
4 – combine all of your insurances with a single company
5 – remain loyal to one company – insurance companies often give discounts to loyal customers
6 – install a monitored alarm system, smoke detectors and/or sprinklers
7 – trade your pit bull or Chihuahua in for a less aggressive breed
8 – get rid of the trampoline and put a safety fence around the pool
9 - shop around, rates can vary differently from company to company
While it is good to look for ways to save money on your homeowners insurance policy premium, it is also important that you not be sparing with your coverage. You do not want to end up in a situation where you reduced your coverage to save $100 upfront… but wind up having to pay $20,000 on the backend.
Review your policy annually to make sure that you understand it and to make sure that you have adequate coverage. If you think that you can safely reduce some limits… do so. But if your current limits are insufficient to meet your needs… don’t skimp… increase the limit.
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