Thursday, November 25, 2010

Plan to go out Black Friday? Shop right now.

I know for some people the thrill of black Friday is not only the deals, it's the atmosphere and spirit of competition that comes out when you're battling grandma for that last game boy. Black Friday is essentially the Superbowl of shopping, except more violent - trust me I've got the battle wounds to prove it. But if you are one of the many shoppers that do not want to wait in line for 10+ hours and only want a few deals you may be in luck. Over 40 well known retailers have already put the bulk of their sales online. Check out http://www.bfads.net/ for the full list. This includes walmart, best buy, target, tigerdirect, kohls, kmart, amazon, and jcpenny just to mention a few.
Many stores are offering free shipping with orders over $x amount of dollars. I just got the 32gb ipod touch with free shipping and a $20 gift card for 279.99 from amazon. If you have a .edu email address you can sign up for a free year of amazon prime and get anything you order by tuesday! Now instead of waiting 10 plus hours at walmart I can go to other stores and get items I wanted. (If you are in the market for an ipod touch amazon has the 8gb for 199 - free shipping, essentially only $10 more than the deal from walmart after tax-gift card (225*7% sales tax-$50GC= $190)

So what are you waiting for? Check out the deals now at www.bfads.net and avoid waiting in long lines this year!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Black Friday, Freebies, and Mint.com

I'd like to update everyone that I am just under the half way point with about $440 in freebies. You can check out what I've received so far Here Currently I'm crunching for 3 exams this week so I have not be able to put together the online album for the blog yet.

However, I will get that up during thanksgiving break and post my picks for top black Friday deals. Currently you can check out almost of the ad scans that are out at www.bfads.net - sign up and you can go through each ad and create a shopping list for black friday. I've used this site for years to plan out what stores to go to. Next week I will also post about walmart's price matching policy and how that can be used to your advantage on black friday.

I'd also like to thank Susan Johnston and mint.com for recently featuring this blog in an article about college budgeting. You can read the article here

As always here are some of my favorite freebies that are still available:

The pilot coupon for a free 16oz drink is still available here
Pilot also added a coupon for a free copy of their magazine

This Friday burger king will again be giving out free coffee. The deal is as follows: "Free Coffee every Friday in November only at Burger King. No purchase necessary. One free 12 oz hot Seattle’s Best Coffee per customer per visit during breakfast hour only. Offer good on 11/5,11/12, 11/19, 11/29 at participating restaurants. While supplies last. Not valid on flavored shots or whipped topping."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Time goes, you say?
Ah no! Alas, Time stays, we go.

Hey guys,

I want to first apologize for not updating this in two months or so. Once school started back up I was swamped with group meetings, homework, and work. The good news is that things are starting to slow down and my weekends will be free after October 31st. (I work at a corn maze on the weekends and that is our last day) The first weekend of November I will be attending a conference sponsored by MEDA - a micro loan and entrepreneurial non-for profit. There I will be competing in a group case competition against business related majors from other schools. I hope to post some exciting information from the conference and case competition once I get back. After that I will be back to focusing on my quest for $1000 of freebies and be posting reviews on the best Black Friday deals - and possibly reviews of products or hints and tips on where to save a few bucks this holiday season.

*Update for the road to $1000 worth of freebies
I'm currently around $400, but I'm backed up on taking pictures and uploading them. I plan on having a separate album from face book on here for other visitors to see, which will probably be up mid-Nov. Until then check out my face book page for the most current updates on my quest.

I wanted to leave my readers with some exciting freebies that they can go out and claim. Waffle House is giving out free waffles when you print off a coupon. Here's the link for the coupon

Also if you become a fan of pilot on face book you can print off coupons for a free mountain dew whiteout and free hot beverage. Click here for their facebook page

The waffle house deal expires Nov. 1st and the pilot coupons are good through Nov. 30th, but be sure to print them out now just in case they disappear!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Road to $1000 Update

As of today I have passed the $150 mark. I've got numerous cologne samples, some free food, coupons, small nutritional samples, and hair and body samples. In the mail is an amazon gift card and SOBE flipflops which will bring me close to $200 by the time they come.

Here's some deals to share with you:

- Write 10 qualifying reviews by 8/31/2010 and receive a $10 amazon gift card:
Click Here

- Free autographed celebrity photos
Click Here

- Free Sam Club's Day Pass
Click Here

Thanks to http://gimmiefreebies.com/ for all the great finds!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Road to $1000 and free sample of the week.

In case you haven't seen on facebook, I've started a quest to collect $1000 of free stuff. I have no idea how long idea this will take me, but I'm determined that through a combination of coupons, samples, and other deals that I can find $1000 of free stuff. I started last month with the amazon prime deal and have since got a free roast beef sandwich, spaghetti dinner, and small french fries. That is in addition to a new book bag and apple-bees gift card. I'm currently waiting on a free Ohio state miniature fathead and a $25 amazon gift card from my-points, not mention crazy amounts of free samples ranging from nose wipes, underwear, vitamins, and more free food. It wouldn't be fair to my readers if I didn't share some of the savings and freebies that I'm finding, so I'm going to try to post "samples of the week" Most likely these will be included after a blog post or on the side of the page - I'll be sure to post an update on facebook when I've posted new ones. For more free stuff, online deals, and coupons check out http://www.freemania.net/ or http://gimmiefreebies.com/



Freebie of the Week:
Register here and they will send you a coupon for a free bottle of the original Country's Bob's All Purpose Sauce. They say it's great on hamburgers and steak - but since it's all purpose I'm assuming you can use it for anything ;)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Just in time for a new semester


Amazon is offering current students 1 year of amazon prime for free! What is amazon prime? Amazon prime is usually $79 a year to purchase and allows prime eligible items free 2 day shipping and upgrades to 1 day shipping for only $3.99. This is a great deal for college students who may not know what books they need for classes until the last minute. Now students can receive their books quicker and cheaper than amazon's regular free super saver shipping. The nice thing about prime also is that you do not need to meet any minimum requirement like the $25 requirement for free super saver shipping. In addition amazon student members get exclusive discounts on a variety of products and categories. Discounts and promotions will be e-mailed to your Amazon.com e-mail account or made available on the Amazon Student membership page at www.amazon.com/student. Eligibility is only to students currently enrolled in a college or university who have a valid .edu e-mail address, which you will need to confirm in order to participate in Amazon Student. To sign up just follow the link here: Sign up for Amazon Student If you have a current amazon account all you need to do is provide your school and major and have a .edu email address. Amazon will send an email to your .edu address within a few minutes and in no time you'll be saving on shipping charges.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Earn more than just points at Mypoints

Everyone loves free stuff, so this post is dedicated to a website I’ve been actively using for over 4 years now. www.mypoints.com is a rewards site where, once signed up, you can receive points for purchases over the internet similar to the bing cash back program. These points can be redeemed for gift cards at popular retailers. Online purchase deals range from receiving 1 point per dollar up to around 5 points per dollar, although they have special offers that may be worth more points. Sometimes you can receive a bulk of points from a first purchase - such as 500 points for signing up for so-so’s service. Don’t want to buy online? Don’t worry. You can still earn points for signing up for different interests and receiving emails for those interests. Once you receive the email just click the link and voila – you’ve received 5 points. Also available on their website are coupons powered by coupons.com. The nice thing about these coupons is not only are you saving money through the coupons, you also earn points for each coupon that is redeemed. Personally my big point earner through my years at Mypoints has been the frequent customer survey’s that you receive through email. The surveys can range from 10-15 points if you do not qualify for the complete survey and 25-100 points if you do. A full survey can range from 15 to 45 minutes, and can be almost any topic. This is a great opportunity to be part of market research as you can give your opinion on products and ads way before they hit mainstream. Once you’ve racked up some points you can redeem them for gift cards. Many mainstream websites (Amazon, iTunes, FTD) and brick and mortar store (Wal-Mart, target, GameStop, best buy, home depot) gift cards are available as well an array of restaurants (Applebee’s, McDonalds, red lobster) and gas stations (BP, Shell).





It takes about 1600 points for a $10 gift card and 3600 points for a $25 gift card.
So what are you waiting for? Sign up now and start saving today!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010

Basics of Financial Reform – How will the bill affect you?

On July 14, 2010 the bill popularly known as Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, passed congress and was sent to President Obama to be put into law. What’s in this bill? Reuters.com says that “the bill would impose tighter regulations on financial firms and reduce their profits. It would boost consumer protections, force banks to reduce risky trading and investing activities and set up a new government process for liquidating troubled financial firms.” I wanted to find out more about this bill since has changed and added many new regulations into the industry that I one day hope to become part of. This is what I’ve found across several different sites. References are listed at the end.

Mortgages: Liar loans are over. Lenders will be required to collect documents of borrower's income before providing a mortgage loan. They will also be required to determine that the borrower can repay the loan. High fees and bad loans terms have been hacked away at and prepayment penalties for most mortgage loans will no longer be allowed, the downside for consumers is that these regulations will make mortgage loans less profitable for banks, meaning for borrowers - it will be harder to get a loan and interest rates may rise or new fees may pop up/ incentives in other areas will be terminated to make up for the loss of income. It’s also foreseen that down payments for mortgages will increase.

Debit Card Interchange Fees: This part of the bill is aimed at helping businesses who have to pay a small fee to card carriers such as Visa and MasterCard every time a debit card is swiped. The fee for debit cards currently averages 1.6% -- credit cards' swipe fees average more than 2%. The bill is looking at capping the debit card fees to a "reasonable and proportional to the actual cost incurred." According to Yahoo Finance “It will take months for the Federal Reserve to decide what's reasonable, but in Europe, Visa and MasterCard interchange fees are as low as 0.2% -- in Australia they're capped at 0.5%. Odds are that caps here will be higher than those charged on other continents, but lower than they are today. In lobbying for this change, retailers virtually assured Congress that they would pass along their savings to consumers. Many consumer advocates, however -- including this one -- are skeptical.”

Consumer Watchdog Group: One of the most controversial parts of the bill deals with the establishment of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau within the Federal Reserve. Yahoo finance said that “This new agency will have sweeping powers to regulate virtually every kind of lending activity and lender, from the largest banks to the smallest pawn shops.”

Bank Bailouts: The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) will borrow from the Treasury to pay for the cost of liquidation, and then get its money back by selling off the institution's assets. If asset sales aren't enough to repay the Treasury, the FDIC could charge a fee to other banks. If a bank fails, the FDIC will have the ability to take back compensation paid to its current or former senior executives for the two years preceding its failure. In addition, the government can ban senior executives found responsible for a bank's failure from future work in the financial services industry.

Say on Pay: Shareholders must be provided with the right to cast a non-binding vote approving the domestic companies’ executive compensation. The decision is non-binding. Shareholders also get to determine how often and when additional or recurring say on pay votes will be held.

Free credit scores: Consumers can already get a free look at their credit reports once every year from the big three credit bureaus -- Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Only consumers who are denied a loan or suffer some other sort of "adverse action" to get a free look at their credit score. Adverse actions include an increase in the cost of insurance, being charged more for or being denied a car lease, or if the interest rate offered on a credit card or loan is higher than one being offered to those with excellent credit.

References:
Yahoo Finance
Boardmember.com
Banking.Senate.Gov
MSN Money
Moneytalksnews.com

Friday, June 4, 2010

Value is what you get

A few of the main goals of savings are for growth and security. I looked into different types of savings briefly and have come up with some pretty basic stuff. According to Crown Financial Ministries, there are three main types of savings. The first is an emergency reserve fund. It to be used for emergencies and then replenished. The second type is an accumulation fund. This is used for large expenses or major purchases. Last, but certainly not least are long-term investments which are designed for family security, inheritance, and retirement.

Emergency reserve funds can be obtained through banks, credit unions, and money market mutual funds. The key is to seek savings accounts that have little if any withdrawal penalties and fees. As a general goal, one should try to keep this fund at the equivalence of three to ideally six months pay in case of an emergency of injury or sickness. Even a small amount of $5 a week will accumulate. Banks will usually offer the lowest savings rate, with credit unions being next in line, and money market mutual funds offering rates 1-2 percent higher than credit unions. The key to any of these is liquidity and safety so in case of an emergency one needs not worry about the availability and fees to the withdrawal of their funds.

Accumulation funds essentially are longer term reserve funds. It can cover unexpected major expenses or large purchases. These funds should be used sparingly, letting value accumulate. With a larger time frame in mind of 1-5 years, one should seek higher returns instead of easy liquidity. Types of investments that fall into this range include certificates of deposit (CDs) or short term bonds. The time frame of CDs one should look into can range from 6 months to 2-5 years. Longer term CDs often offer step rates which increase in 6 month periods. CDs offer safety and reasonable returns but lack flexibility due to early withdrawal penalties. One should shop around for the best rates when deciding to open up a certificate of deposit. Short term bonds can be in the range of two to three years, and offer the potential for better returns at a slight increase in volatility.

Long term investments help your family achieve a greater degree of security, provide an inheritance for your family, and fund retirement. According to Crown Financial Ministries there are five tiers for long range investments.

Tier one. Secure income investments, such as government securities.
Tier two. Long-term income investments. These are investments that are higher risks but have a higher rate of return, such as municipal bonds, mortgages, corporate bonds, insurance annuities, stock dividends, and money funds.
Tier three. Growth investments such as undeveloped land, housing, and balanced mutual funds.
Tier four. Speculative investments such as common stocks/aggressive growth mutual funds, and precious metal options.
Tier five. High-risk investments, such as gold and silver, oil and gas, commodities, collectibles, precious gems, and limited partnerships.

As a general rule, only 5 to 10 percent of your investments should be in cash, or be in liquid investments. These can even include bonds, certificates of deposit, Treasury bills, and money market funds. In addition, no more than 5 to 10 percent, if anything, should be invested in high-risk vehicles.

With a combination of financial discipline and maintaining a well prepared budget, saving is the best way to prevent being encumbered by debt.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship - Benjamin Franklin

As a college student it is not uncommon for one to go out and make irrational purchases. Often these are sporadic trips to taco bell late at night or a Wal-Mart run because of simple boredom. These little trips, although infrequent, can really add up. I know I used to go out and just waste money, spending it on items of want, instead saving them for items of need. It would be far simpler to eat one of those packages of ramen noodles you’ve got stored away then go spend $10 on a pizza. I’m not saying that a change-up isn’t bad every once and awhile, but everyone needs to remember to live within their means and for the average college student, our means aren’t very great.

I think something that always annoyed me was when I would check my wallet to see how much money I had and had an unpleasant surprise that it was far less than what I expected. “Where did all my money go?” I’d ask myself. I mentally thought through all my small purchases and they were really starting to add up. Finally I got the motivation to create a way to keep track of my income and spending habits. I opened up Microsoft excel and started typing away. Now I keep track of every purchase I make with information of what I bought, how much it cost, and where it was from. I also have each item added to the month it was bought in and category the item would fall in. This way I can see how much I spent in each individual month and what kind of items I am spending my money on. Now I know there are services online that will do the same thing, but honestly I have not really looked into them. I wanted something customized to my needs and I knew I could make what I wanted fairly simply.
Here is the basic outline of the excel sheet to track purchases. The image below it is a separate tab on the same file that can keep track of income.




If you like the way that this is laid out you can download here:


You can change colors, categories, personalize it to your needs, if you don’t want to take the time to fill out this, you don’t think it will meet your needs, or you have limited excel knowledge I ask you to visit www.mint.com which has some of the best budgeting and financial tools available on the web.