Money Tips For Life: Financial wisdom for the average Joe.

Helping you make and save more so that you can enjoy the finer things of life!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Honing your skills with the perfect knife set

Once I got married and the need to feed the spouse (and myself) became a priority, I realized I had to invest in the right kind of kitchen tools. And it all begins with a good set of knives. Initially, we had a set of serrated knives, and cutting through meat and even some vegetables was a tedious chore, not to mention the fact that the meats were almost always ruined at the end of the task. After much research, I came across J.A. Henckels International Forged Premio 13-piece block set. Although I did feel the set was out of my price range, I gave in based on the quality Henckels is known for. Besides, I did not want to keep shopping for new knives every few years.

The set includes all the knives you’ll need to work some magic in the kitchen. Included in the box are:
·         8-inch chef knife
·         7-inch santoku knife
·         5-inch serrated utility knife
·         3-inch paring knife
·         Six stamped steak knives
·         9-inch sharpening steel
·         Kitchen shears 
·         Hardwood storage block

The blade is not made in Germany because the set is not part of Henckels top line of German made knives. However, this is probably the best out there for amateurs like us who cannot fully appreciate the beauty and character of a $150 (or more) Zwilling. The Premio does have a professional air about it. The stainless steel blade provides clean and precise cuts and slices. I’ve been using these knives for a few months now, and having gotten quite a few cuts and nicks myself, I will attest to their razor sharp edges.

A general reminder: even if the product description says it is dishwasher safe, it is always best to hand wash and dry your knives immediately after each use. It goes a long way in maintaining the longevity and sharpness of the product. But yes, the knives are dishwasher safe.

When I buy a product, it must fit in well with the general aesthetics of the room. The J.A. Henckels International Forged Premio 13-piece block set adds just the right amount of modern touch to the rest of my kitchen. A quality product with the right price tag, this is the perfect knife set for you or a loved one. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

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Ebates Deals of the Week - 3/25/12

The week's hottest cash back deals:
(in addition to the "Spring into Fashion with Double Cash Back" promotion) 

Bath & Body Works – 3% cash back. 20% off exclusive Body Care, Candles, Wallflower, Gifts, & more.

Bloomingdale’s – 6% cash back. Friends and Family – take 20% off on almost all items from Women, Men, Kids, & Home, (10% electronics): Code – EBATES20

Dick’s Sporting Goods – 3% cash back - 6% cash back. Free shipping on $25+ orders for new customers.

Eastbay – 2.5% cash back. Save 15% when you spend $75. Online code: LKS12335

Freshpair – 6% cash back

HSN – 2% cash back. $5 off your beauty purchase of $25 or more. Code: C11533

Sears – 2% cash back. Save an EXTRA $35 off $350, EXTRA 50 off $500, or an EXTRA $150 off $1,000. Code: SAVEMORE

Target – 3% cash back – 3.5% cash back

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Stop going over your data limit with this app

Have you ever gone over your data limit and ended up paying ridiculous overage charges?  In our family, I have an unlimited data plan but Sue only has 200 MB which we recently found out isn't going to cut it.

Before you jump to conclusions and call me a terrible husband, know that until recently, Sue always had easy access to WiFi connections throughout the day and never needed the 3G/4G connection that she gets through her trusty T-Mobile myTouch. 

In a few months we will be upgrading our plans but until then, we needed a way to monitor her data usage and keep track of apps that are data hogs.  Doing a little research, I came across Onavo and their data monitor apps for both iOS and Android.

The app provides some very useful features and is very easy to use.  The part I love about the app is that it tracks data usage for every app on your phone and will tell you which ones are data hogs.  When you find the offending apps, you can restrict it to download data only when on WiFi.  In my case, most of my data usage is from 3 apps - Pandora, Google Listen and gReader.  There isn't much I can do about Pandora but I can definitely set Google Listen and gReader to download podcasts and rss feeds only when on WiFi.

Here's a blurb about Onavo's Andorid app Data Monitor from their website:

Data Monitor for Android helps you control your 3G data and manage your data plan to avoid overages. With three beautiful widgets, tailored alerts, crowd sourcing engine and data blocking tools, Data Monitor will keep you safe from bloated data bills.


  • Widgets. A set of three widgets to keep you updated on data usage, including a world first Live Data Usage widget, showing which apps are using data right now.
  • Alerts and warnings. Receive status notifications about apps that are hogging your data, when approaching your data cap, or when traveling (data roaming). Data Monitor for Android will even predict when you will reach your monthly cap.
  • Data hog blocking. Restrict specific apps to WiFi, or block your 3G data altogether once you exceed your data cap to avoid any additional costs.
  • Crowdsourcing. Join the Onavo Android Community to tap into the collective wisdom of Android users everywhere. This will help you keep your mobile data in check, letting you know whether an app is safe to use as soon as you download it.
  • Advice. Get tailored tips on best value data plans from your carrier or other carriers, based on your actual usage.
  • Simple setup. Get going in seconds: Set your monthly cap, bill cycle and cost - and you’re good to go!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

$10 Gift Card for $5

AmazonLocal is having a special 50% off gift card deal going on. Here's the deal text from their site:

What could be better than doubling your money? The answer: not very much. Take advantage of today's exclusive offer and watch $5 turn into a $10 gift card on, the world's largest online retailer.

Whether you're in the market for a Kindle eBook, an Amazon MP3, movies, electronics or new clothing, your $10 Gift Card could go a long way. Use it toward millions of items, including a brand new Kindle Fire, your Cloud Drive, sporting goods, toys, appliances and more. An offer this great won't last forever, so pick one up and stay tuned for what's to come on AmazonLocal, your source for unbeatable deals.
What You Need to Know
• Gift Cards (“GCs”) do not expire
• Limit one GC per household
• GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods on or certain of its affiliated websites. GCs may not currently be used for purchases on AmazonLocal.  For redemption options, see
• Except as required by law, GCs cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. Purchases are deducted from the GC Balance. You must pay for any remaining balance on your order with another payment method. Your gift card claim code may be entered when prompted during checkout. To redeem your gift card using the 1-Click® service, first add the gift card funds to Your Account. To redeem or view a GC balance, visit “Your Account” on If you have questions about redeeming your gift card, please visit  Amazon is not responsible if a GC is lost, stolen, destroyed or used without permission.  See for complete terms and conditions. GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. ©,®,™ Inc. and/or its affiliates, 2012
• Purchase of GCs on AmazonLocal is valid for US-based customers only

5 rookie homebuying mistakes and how to avoid them

Gina Pogol wrote an interesting article for on rookie homebuying mistakes.  I wish I had read this article a few years ago before I converted my ARM to a Fixed.
5. Fixating on the 30-year fixed rate mortgage
Why it's a mistake: To very conservative folks, traditional 30-year fixed rate mortgages are the only home loans to consider. However, especially for younger buyers, hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs)--which give you a fixed rate for a specified number of years before becoming adjustable--may be better.
According to the National Association of Realtors' 2010 statistics, the average home seller in the U.S. owned the home for eight years. If you're younger, it's possible that you may need to be even more mobile for a job move or family change. If it's simply not very likely that you will keep your home for 30 years, why get a mortgage that assumes you will?
ARMs usually give you a 1 percentage point or greater discount from the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. You can select a fixed rate for three, five or seven years and might save enough in interest throughout those years to pay for a car. Some mortgage experts suggest taking out an ARM, and during the fixed-rate period, paying the higher monthly payment as if you took out a 30-year fixed at a higher interest rate. This way, when the loan adjusts you'll be ahead of the game in paying both principal and interest.
A closely related myth is that adjustable rates always increase. If mortgage rates fall, ARM rates can adjust downward, too. Homeowners with ARMs today are finding that their mortgage rates have dropped into the 3 percent range.
How to avoid it: Think realistically about how long you might own your first home. When shopping for a mortgage, ask about ARMs and hybrid ARMs with various fixed-rate terms, and compare them to fixed-rate loans of various lengths.
 The full article can be found here.

Monday, March 19, 2012

An eco-friendly money saver: PUR water dispenser

I’m someone who tends to follow the rule of drinking eight glasses of water a day. Most of America drinks water straight from the tap, but Jersey City has exceptionally hard water that is near impossible to allow down the throat. So we depended on bottled water and staying hydrated soon began to get slightly expensive.

Here’s the math:
Poland Spring (1 gal): $0.99.
4 bottles/week = 4*$0.99 = $3.96
Money spent on bottled water/month = 4*$3.96 = $15.84
Annual expense (on bottled water!) = 12*$15.84 = $190.08

That is when we realized we had to look for other options. After much research, we decided to go with the PUR 18-cup dispenser. The PUR dispenser holds around a gallon of water. Each filter can be used for 2 months or for 40 gallons of filtered water. One of my favorite things about the filter is that it eliminates the odor and taste of chlorine in the water. PUR also guarantees that the filters remove 99% of microbial cysts and 96% of trace levels of pharmaceuticals. The sleek design makes it easy to place the dispenser even in small spaces or in refrigerators.

Some more math:
PUR 18-cup dispenser with one pitcher filter = $39.99 (on sale, it is cheaper)
Replacement filter (pack of 4) = $24.99
Number of filters needed in a year = 6
Total cost of filters per year = $37.49

Although you spend about $40 on the initial purchase, you end up saving around $150 from the second year. Most users of the product give it rave reviews, and I am one of them. We have been using this water dispenser for over a year without any issues. The water tastes fresh and crisp. We’re saving good money. The product does not take up a lot of space. Besides, if you’re into the concept of going green and reducing your carbon footprint, the PUR water dispenser is an excellent way to go. All in all, a great purchase!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ebates Deals of the Week - 3/18/12

My favorite Ebates deals for this week (3/18/12-3/24/12):
(in addition to the "Spring into Fashion with Double Cash Back" promotion) 

  • Bath & Body Works - 3% cash back (20% off order w/ code PICKED4U)
  • DSW - 4% cash back (Free shipping on $35+ order w/ code SHIPR)
  • - 6% cash back (New customers - $5 off $30+ or $10 off $50+)
  • JCPenney - 3% cash back (Free shipping on $50+ order)
  • Lancome - 14% cash back (Free 4 piece sample and free shipping with $45+ order w/ code LANMARCH)
  • - 8.5% cash back (10% off and free shipping on any order w/ code SHOEBUY)

Spring into Fashion with Double Cash Back

Ebates is currently running a "Spring into Fashion with Double Cash Back" promotion.  Check out the stores and cash back percentages!

bloomingdale's - 6%
J.Crew - 6%
Kohl's - 6%
Lancome - 14%
lastcall by Neiman Marcus - 5%
Macy's - 6%
Nordstrom - 5%
Piperlime - 7%
Saks Fifth Avenue - 6%
Sephora - 8%
Tommy Hilfiger - 7%
Victoria's Secret - 4%

Don't forget that you can also use online coupon codes when shopping with any of the vendors on Ebates.  You can find coupon codes on Ebates and on other sites such as (a personal favorite).

Saturday, March 17, 2012

De-cluttering 101: simplehuman wall mount grocery bag holder

Do you save your grocery bags for other uses? We do. I used to store the bags in a large paper bag in one of the kitchen cabinets. Soon, the cabinet started overflowing and I had to find other alternatives. That is when I came across the simplehuman wall mount grocery bag holder.

The SH wall mount grocery bag holder is sleek and stylish. Not only is it convenient in that it does not require much space, but the grocery bag holder is also quite sturdy. It can be attached using the Velcro strips or simply by using the two screws that are included. Once attached, the grocery bag holder is ready to be used. Fold the bags and insert it from the top of the holder. When you need a bag, simply pull one out from the opening in front for your use.

simplehuman products are known for their design and ease of use. Buying this product was one of the best decisions I made. I have enough space under the kitchen sink now. The grocery bag holder is on the wall of a small cabinet, and the bags are stowed away from plain sight. It is also a great deal in terms of price, for those of you who are looking to stay within your budget. Whether you are trying to de-clutter your home or simply make more space, the simplehuman wall mount grocery bag holder is a good beginning.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Get Out of Debt! - Step 1: Know the landscape

Today, I want to help you get started on your journey of freedom from debt.  It is not going to be easy but the rewards of being debt free is well worth it.  Being debt free relieves us of unwanted financial stress and gives us the freedom to truly live life - to pursue our passions and dreams, and plan our future with clarity.  

Lets be honest.  What is holding us back from pursuing our dreams?  At the end of the day, it is the state of our finances.  If we knew that we had enough money to support the necessities of life (and our creature comforts), wouldn't we take the risk to start that business or take that trip around the world?

Its time to get started on building a better tomorrow!

Debt can be quite overwhelming and we often don't know how to get out from under it's grip.  Which debt can we pay off first?  Which debt do we pay off first?  What do we do with all these credit card debts?  Will we ever have enough money to pay off all debts?  What if we have an emergency and don't have enough money saved up? 

To help you get a better picture of your finances, you need a firm picture of your financial landscape - in other words, determine how deep a well you're in.  If you're ready to commit to being debt free, then follow these guidelines.

[Note: To help you, I've created a Google Docs spreadsheet you can access here.  Please save it to your Google account or download it before entering data.]

Step 1: Make a list of all assets

Include in this list everything you own that is of value and that can be sold (if necessary) to raise capital.  

Items in this list would be broken down into these categories - cash (ex. money in the bank),  investments (ex. stocks, bonds, mutual funds), and property (ex. houses, cars, jewelery).  For each asset, enter it's name (description) and current value.

Step 2: Make a list of all liabilities

Include in this list all debt that are not monthly recurring expenses (don't include expenses that you incur on a monthly basis - like your monthly utility bill).  

Items in this list would be broken down into these categories - mortgage, loans (ex. student loans, car loans, wedding loans, payday loans), credit card balances, legal & medical bills, and miscellaneous.  

For each liability, enter it's name (description), amount due, due date, minimum monthly payment (if applicable), and interest rate.

Step 3: Make a list of all revenue sources

Include in this list all monies that you receive on a regular basis regardless of whether it's weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.  When entering your paycheck, make sure you enter the take home pay (after all taxes, 401K contributions, insurance contributions etc. are taken out).  

For each item, enter it's name (description), amount, frequency (weekly, bi-weekly, etc.), and revenue type (is it a fixed amount each time or is it variable).

Step 4: Make a list of all recurring expenses

Include in this list all expenses you incur on a regular basis.  

Items in this list would be broken down into these categories - home (ex. monthly mortgage payment, rent, association fees), utilities (ex. electricity, gas, phone, Internet), auto (ex. insurance, tolls, gas), loans (ex. monthly student loan payment, monthly car loan payment), legal & medical bills monthly payments, food & dining (ex. grocery, fast food, restaurants), entertainment, shopping (ex. household products, clothing), personal care (ex. hair cut, mani/pedi) and miscellaneous.  

Its important that you enter your recurring expenses in as much detail as possible.  For example, under food & dining, break down your expenses into grocery, fast food, restaurant etc.  You need this level of detail to help you tackle how you can cut your expenses and pay down your debts.

For each recurring expense, enter it's name (description), average amount, frequency (if applicable), expense type (is it a fixed amount each time or is it variable).

Step 5: Take a step back and review your financial landscape

Its very important that we capture all assets, liabilities, revenue sources, and recurring expenses.  Once you're confident that you've captured everything, sum up your total revenue and your total recurring expenses.  Hopefully your revenue is greater than your expenses.

Step 6: Rank your recurring expenses

In order to pay down our debts (assuming that we don't have significant assets that could be liquidated), we either need additional revenue sources or we need to cut our expenses.  [Side Note: I should send this post to Congress and the White House]

At a later time, I will post on how to increase revenue but for now, lets focus on identifying expenses that we can cut.  Go through the list of items from Step 4 and next to each item, mark it as either a necessity (ex. mortgage, rent, legal/medical bills), a good to have, or a luxury.  

I know that it can be hard to break your expenses down into these three buckets but its vital that you do.  Also, make sure that those things in the necessity bucket are truly those things that you must have or you must pay.

I hope this exercise was not too painful for you and that you will join me for the rest of the journey to financial freedom.

Stay tuned for my next post titled...

Get Out of Debt! - Step 2: Set Your Priorities
P.S. If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment and help spread the word (post to fb, google+, twitter etc.)

Ebates Deals of the Week - 3/11/12

My favorite Ebates deals for this week (3/11/12-3/17/12):

  • Bloomingdales - 6% Cash Back
    • Take $25 to $250 off on almost any purchase.
  • J.Crew - 6% Cash Back (was 3%)
  • JC Penny - 6% Cash Back (was 3%) 
  • Kohl's - 6% Cash Back (was 3%)
  • Land's End - 6% Cash Back (was 3%) 
  • Macy's - 6% Cash Back (was 3%)
  • Nordstrom - 5% Cash Back (was 3%)
  • Saks Fifth Avenue - 6% Cash Back
    • Get free shipping on $150 or more! Code SFAMAR.
  • Tommy Hilfiger - 7% Cash Back (was 3.5%)

Health & Beauty
  • - 12% Cash Back (was 6%) 
  • Philosophy - 10% Cash Back (was 5 %)
  • Sephora - 8% Cash Back (was 4%)
  • The Body Shop - 5% Cash Back
    • Free Shipping on $30 or more.  Code Ebates.

  • Home Depot - 3% Cash Back

  • Blue Nile - 5% Cash Back (was 2.5)
  • - 5% Cash Back (was 3%)
  • TigerDirect - 2.5% Cash Back

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Get Out of Debt!

"Keep out of debt and own no man anything." - Romans 13:8

Getting into debt is one of the easiest things to do in our modern consumerist society.  Part of the problem is that we all struggle with "keeping up with the Jones" and that leads us to accumulate thing we probably don't need.   On the other hand, the cost of living has gone through the roof and we live paycheck to paycheck just to make ends meet.  Before we know it, we're in debt and there doesn't seem to be any way to get out.

What does the Bible say about debt?  The clearest verse on this topic would be Romans 13:8 - keep out of debt and own no man anything.  I don't think we need to really dig any deeper to understand the intention of the verse :)

I've tried to live by this verse since my first job as a cashier at McDonald's at the age of 15.  By being fiscally conservative, I always spent less than I made and never went into debt (w/ the exception of a car and house loan).  I was also fortunate enough to go to college with scholarships, grants, parental support, and jobs so that I graduated without any student loan.

After graduating and entering the workforce, my interest in finance and wealth management grew and I began taking a more diligent role in managing my finances and learning as much as I could on increasing net worth.  Having a firm handle on my finances has helped me avoid (unnecessary) debt, live a modest lifestyle, buy a house, and now (post marriage) live as a single income family (my wife - Sue - is a volunteer teacher at a parochial school).

I have learned a lot over the years and wanted to share some tips on getting out of debt (and hopefully not getting into debt to begin with).  These tips will be shared in a series of blog posts and I hope you'll join me for the journey.  

First post in the series: 

Get Out of Debt! - Step 1: Know the Landscape

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cash Back Shopping through Ebates

Online shopping is the way to go in these busy times and Ebates is the portal to go with if you’re looking for some cash back. It is the best option for those who want to make the most of their everyday purchases. We have been using Ebates since 2011 and have been saving money on our online purchases since then. 

Ebates has been around since 1998 and was started by two Deputy District Attorneys who used to prosecute online identity theft and fraud. That should allay fears regarding the legitimacy of the site. Also, the site has been featured in the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal, as well as on CNN and Good Housekeeping.

Cash back shopping is possible because online merchants pay a commission to Ebates for directing a customer to their site. Ebates then shares a part of that commission with you simply for clicking a link on their site. Using the site is extremely easy. 

Cash back and coupons are offered for over 1,200 stores. Choose the coupon you want to use by clicking on the link. You will be directed to the store after the Ebates tracking ticket pops up. Complete your purchase as usual. You can also use other coupon codes during the transaction, depending on the retailer. 

Your Ebates account will show the amount you received from the order right away or in a few days. If you decide to return a product, the cash back is not given out.

Sometimes, you find offers with double cash back, making the deal even sweeter. Normally, one would get 3% cash back on purchases from JC Penny. But now, they’re offering 6% cash back. Buying from Sephora gives you 8% back, while offers 12% cash back for online purchases through Ebates.

Payments are made every three months, so at the end of every quarter you’ll find a check in the mail. If at any time you run into problems, customer service takes care of matters quite efficiently.

Spending money can be good when you get some back. Signing up is easy and free. Just click on the button below to get started. You’ll also receive a $10 gift card to stores like Target, the Home Depot, and Barnes & Noble as an added bonus when you sign up from here. Used in conjunction with a cash back rewards cards, the savings are unbeatable!

Monday, March 5, 2012

We have moved!

Dear Reader,

We have moved!!!

Many of you have asked us to create a URL that's easy to remember. We have listened and you can now find us at

Spread the word and thanks for being a loyal reader.


Asish George

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Coupons - The online way

Once we got married and became a single income family, my husband impressed upon me the need to save as much money as we could. After all, a few pennies saved will eventually go towards those cute shoes you really want to buy. Not being used to coupons, I found it slightly crazy and sometimes annoying to scour the web for money savers. Eventually, I did find a couple of great virtual places, some of which you may already be aware of. If not, go ahead and bookmark them for future use. – One of the first places I found and also the one-stop-shop for coupons as far as I’m concerned. For printable coupons, all you need to do is visit the site, click on the offers you like and then print them all out. If this is the first time you’re printing from, you will need to install their Coupon Printer software. Even if you like a deal but don’t think you’re going to use it soon, go on and print it out. Since many of the coupons have more than a few weeks before the expiration, you can always save them for your next shopping trip.  Coupons are added almost every day, so you do want to check the site regularly. If you don’t have enough coupon-clipping time, you can always subscribe to their weekly SuperSaver newsletter.

There is another great option for those using Savings Cards. Once you register at, you can add your Savings Card to the account. Click the tab for Savings Cards coupons and add deals that interest you directly to the Savings Card. Just make sure you know which coupons you added so you can shop accordingly. However, remember that once a coupon is added to the card, it cannot be removed or printed out. Also, once a coupon is printed, it cannot be added to your Savings Card.

Coupon Mom is replete with coupon codes and printable coupons for various categories. Registration is required to make use of these excellent offers. The site is organized well and going through it is a breeze, although I do hate being transferred to other sites to redeem some offers. Once a week, Coupon Mom adds new deals. Each item has the sale price listed as well as available coupons. To make things easier for the shopper, the percentages to be saved are also displayed. If you are new to the world of coupons, Coupon Mom provides helpful information on how to coupon, make the best of deals by combining coupons with in-store promotions, and drugstore shopping at virtually no cost. 

Retail Me Not is yet another repository of coupons - printable, grocery, and online codes. Users can search for a particular store and find all available coupons for that retailer. Grocery coupons may be printed. Local coupons are also available. Shoppers vote on the coupons showing how reliable each of the featured codes are. Having used Retail Me Not on a regular basis, I can honestly say this is one of the best sites I have come across.  

Coupon Sherpa, Mr. Free Stuff, and Gift Card Granny are some of the other penny pinching superheroes I follow. 

Coupon Sherpa offers online, printable, and mobile coupons for restaurants, retailers, and a variety of services. Some of us like to stay in the comfort of our homes and buy things with a click of the mouse. Coupon Sherpa offers coupon codes to make our shopping experience better. Users can search for coupons by category or store. Shoppers also vote for the coupons they have used, making sure only the reliable ones are featured on the site.

Mr. Free Stuff has quite the collection of freebies available on cyberspace. They’re NOT scams. Each offer comes with a description, terms to keep in mind, expiration date, and the link to the offer home page. They also make it possible to have fun on a budget. “Free Things to Do In” lists out the various activities you can do in some of the major US cities. 

Gift Card Granny lists discounted gift cards from a wide variety of merchants. If at any time you wish to sell a card you no longer use, you can do that in the “sell” section. Bookmark the site if you’re into using or gifting plastic.

And remember, if you cannot find a coupon online for a product, try contacting the manufacturer. It doesn't hurt to ask, and you might just save some money on your next trip to the store.

SueAn (Extra)ordinary Life