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!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Stop paying retail for contact lenses

Lens.com
What's more important to you - convenience or a great deal?

I find myself struggling with this issue all the time.

In a busy world, where we hardly have time to relax and think, its much more convenient to shop at familiar places and buy things on the spot as opposed to doing a little research to find the best value.

As a result, we often pay significantly more than we need to.  With a little self control, planning and patience, we can save significant money on our wants and our needs.

When it comes to buying contact lenses, most of us tend to buy it directly from our optometrist.  Why?  Most likely because we're fond of the doctor and feel that he/she is trustworthy and will offer us the best possible deal.  Other times, it might be because we don't want to go through the hassle of finding a better retailer.

Until about a year ago, I bought my contact lenses from my optometrist.  He's a great guy and I simply didn't know how easy it was to buy contact lenses online.

Last year, I thought I would take the leap forward and buy my contacts online.  I first went to 1-800-Contacts thinking that they would offer me the best deal.  They seemed to have the most money for advertisement and I assumed that would mean they would have the lowest prices as well.

Needless to say, I was disappointed because the price they offered for my Bausch and Lomb PureVision lenses was only slightly cheaper than what my optometrist offered.

I began a more exhaustive research and found that Lens.com offered the lowest price!

A few weeks back, I had my annual eye exam and it's time for me to order new contact lenses.  This time, I was fitted with the Bausch and Lomb PureVision 2 HD (it's the best pair of lenses I've ever worn) and Sue is sticking with her Acuvue Oasys which she has been wearing for years.

Of course, I went straight to Lens.com and placed my order and some post shopping research showed me that I once again got an unbelievable deal!

Here's how the prices from Lens.com compare with 1-800-Contacts:

Lens.com
  • Acuvue Oasys: $19.99/box x 8 boxes = $159.92
  • Bausch and Lomb PureVision 2 HD: $29.99/box x 4 boxes = $119.96
  • Shipping: $7.95
  • Insurance & Handling: $18.20
  • $25 Dollar Off Coupon Code: FIRST-12GN
  • Total: $281.03
1800Contacts.com

  • Acuvue Oasys: $29.99/box x 8 boxes = $239.92
  • Bausch and Lomb PureVision 2 HD: $42.99/box x 4 boxes = $171.96
  • Shipping: FREE
  • Insurance & Handling: FREE
  • Total: $411.88
By shopping with Lens.com, I saved $130 or 32% off from 1800contacts.com's price.

To get the lowest price for your contact lenses, use the drop down below to search Lens.com.






Find the lowest prices on contact lenses at Lens.com.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Conservative Aggressive Investor


After the sharp decline that we’ve seen recently in the market, it’s inevitable that most investors feel blindsided by the market—the speed of the decline, and in particular in leading stocks, can make your head spin.

And the fears fueled by these declines mean many investors who want to invest in potentially big-winning stocks find themselves scared out of most winners. So, today, I want to talk about an investment style that I’ve been thinking about for a while—I call it the Conservative Aggressive style.

To explain it, let’s consider two systems, the first of which gains, say, 18% per year over three years, while the second system has 15% returns over three years. Clearly everyone would want the first system, right? Well, maybe not.

Imagine we dug further and found that the three years of returns for the first system were +11%, -15% and +74%. On the other hand, the year-by-year returns of the second system were +10%, +15% and +20%. From my back-and-forth with thousands of subscribers over the years, I believe that most investors would prefer the results of the second system because of the steadiness and persistent gain in wealth—especially after they’ve gone through a few jaw-dropping corrections or sour earnings seasons.

In the real world, the more volatile your results, the more faith you’re going to need to stick with a system. It’s easy to stick with the plan when all your stocks are going up; but it’s infinitely more difficult when a falling market and some bad earnings results are gashing your portfolio, especially when the pain continues for many months.

Thus, many investors are searching for a system that (a) invests in cutting-edge leading stocks with dynamic new products or services, and in turn, allows them to hit the occasional home run … but (b) they don’t want to see their portfolio take enormous draw downs during the occasional sour earnings season.

Can you have both? To some extent, I believe you can. To get there, all you need to consider are two simple portfolio management techniques.

The first is good old-fashioned position sizing. If you want to own the fastest-moving stocks but don’t want to live and die with every tick, then buy smaller amounts, dollarwise, of the stock at the outset.

I know that some investors get an ice-cream headache when presented with any math, but calculating a “proper” position size is important. There’s nothing wrong with owning a smaller dollar amount of a very volatile stock.

The second method is something few investors do—take partial profits at pre-defined levels. This way, you don’t have to take a small initial position … but you will have to take some profits on the way up (dubbed offensive selling) when things are good.

There are a million ways to do this, none necessarily better than the other. But the point of partial selling isn’t really to book a quick profit (that’s all about trading, which isn’t my thing). Instead, booking a relatively small initial profit changes your mindset, and actually gives you leeway to hold on to your remaining shares through deeper corrections (because you know the overall trade will show a gain).

For example, you might buy a stock at 50, and place a loss limit at 45 (that’s 5 points of risk). If the stock rises, say, 7 to 10 points (1.5 to 2 times your initial risk), you might sell a chunk—not more than half your shares, but enough to take a worthwhile profit.

With the rest of your shares, you’d place your new stop-loss (mental or in the market) at breakeven (in this case, 50), so even if you get stopped out, the overall trade was a profitable one. With that in mind, you can then give your remaining shares room to breathe, sitting through earnings reports and some adverse moves, hoping to ride out a big winning stock.

As I wrote a couple of Cabot Wealth Advisories ago, the key in the stock market is really the outliers—your big losers and your big winners. To get the big winners, you must invest in fast-growing leaders … but you also need a position you can hold on to for months without panicking, because big moves play out over time. The above methods can help you do that.

Next time, I’ll write about a strategy for the “Aggressive Aggressive Investor,” giving you the viewpoint from the other end of the spectrum.

—Advertisement—
Tired of Being Tossed Around by the Market?
Want to follow an investing system with a proven track record?
Then give Cabot Market Letter a try today!
Editor Mike Cintolo has fine-tuned Cabot’s time-tested (since 1970!) stock picking, portfolio management and market timing rules to guide the Model Portfolio.
Mike’s had such fantastic results that Hulbert Financial Digest (the barometer of newsletter performance) again named Market Letter one of the top five performing newsletters in the country during the past five years.
Click here to give Cabot Market Letter a try today.


Back to the current market. We’re in a correction, there’s no doubt about that—selling began cropping up a couple of weeks ago and really accelerated on Tuesday of this week, when volume exploded and many leaders went over the falls.

That said, I am not overly defensive here … in fact, I wouldn’t say I am defensive at all. I did advise subscribers to raise some cash, mainly by selling a couple of stocks that had broken down.

And that’s what I think is your best move—let the stocks you own tell their own stories. If you own some that show abnormal weakness (big-volume breaks off the 50-day line, especially after lagging the market for a few weeks, etc.), then punt them.

But I don’t advise wholesale selling at this point because, while the short-term is likely to bring some more pain and choppiness, I do think the odds favor higher prices down the road. Thus, if you have a good-sized winner or own a few resilient stocks, I would advise giving them a chance to breathe here (though taking partial profits is fine).

As for new buying, I’m not eager to do much here; again, I think the short-term could be rocky, and earnings season is just getting going, layering more uncertainty. Still, when putting together my watch list, I’m focusing on names with great growth that are still acting properly.

One of them is LinkedIn (LNKD), the fast-growing professional social networking site that sports a sky-high valuation … but also has huge sales and earnings growth and even bigger potential down the road. Here’s what I wrote about the stock in Cabot Top Ten Trader back on March 26:

“LinkedIn is a leader in the new wave of social media Internet stocks. The company is basically Facebook with a suit and tie—the company’s 150 million-plus members use LinkedIn as an online Rolodex, and because of that, it’s emerging as one of the best ways for companies to find the talent they’re looking for. Thus, the whole job-seeking industry is being turned on its head—instead of companies advertising job openings and individuals having to make the first move, companies can now take the lead, finding the people that could fit best … even if they’re not looking for a new job! LinkedIn’s largest and fastest-growing revenue source is from its hiring solutions segment, where companies pay for the tools to successfully mine its database. Advertising and paid subscriptions make up the rest of revenues, and both of those are growing rapidly, too; efforts by the company to make itself something of a professional portal, where relevant business articles and ideas are presented on a user’s page, have resulted in vastly increased traffic. Of course, investors are already excited about the concept—LinkedIn has a lofty valuation (about $10 billion, compared to just $522 million in revenue during the past year), but the triple-digit revenue growth and healthy earnings estimates (up 80% this year, and another 73% in 2013) make this one of the top “glamour” stocks in the market. If management continues to make the right moves, this company could go far.”

At that time, LNKD was hovering just over 100 per share after a jazzy analyst upgrade on the shares. It then pulled back into the high 90s on very light volume … impressively light considering the market’s wobbles. And then it surged higher today on some positive analyst commentary.

However, after a terrific advance in recent months (60 to 106!) this stock has earned a breather and my guess is that shares won’t simply explode higher from here. It might even build out a new base. I think LNKD is one to keep on your watch list, though, as the huge-volume accumulation during the stock’s January-through-March advance, the quiet retreat in recent weeks and the huge potential for its business all suggest the stock could be a big winner.

If you really want to nibble, try to get shares around 100 or below, but keep a stop around 89 if you do so. For me, I’m content to just watch it for now, giving it room to wear out some weak hands.


The original article by Mike Cintolo can be found here: The Conservative Aggressive Investor

For more information about wise investment strategies, see related article: How to invest in the stock market without gambling



Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Philosophy of Failure

Though I’ve been reading and writing about money for six years now, I still do stupid things sometimes. Most of these errors are un-interesting — it’s the compulsive spending that’s interesting, and I seem to have that under control — but sometimes it’s instructive to look at the mundane mistakes I make, like shopping while hungry.

Well, last week I made another relatively un-interesting mistake, but one that’s educational at the same time. Since it’s typical of the dumb things I do from time to time, I want to share it, and talk about why I’m not going to let it bother me.

The Importance of Routine

Because I know myself and my forgetful ways, I’ve tried to create routines around many basic financial chores. (Learning how to outsmart yourself is a great way to make behavioral change.) For instance, I’ve automated most of my bill payments so that I don’t have to worry about forgetting to send a check. Plus, I sit down for 30 to 60 minutes every weekend to work on my finances. Doing this prevents me from losing track of what I have and what I owe.

These routines help me, but they’re not perfect. Even with rituals in place, I sometimes make mistakes.

For instance, last weekend I did my month-end financial chores: I paid credit card balances in full, I prepped my bank deposits, and I wrote checks for upcoming expenses, including my rent. On Monday I mailed the bills and made a deposit. Done deal, right? Wrong.

On Thursday evening, somebody slipped a note under my apartment door. It was a notice that since my rent payment was late, I owed a $75 late fee. Say what? I knew I had written the check, but I verified everything in Quicken anyhow. Yep. Bill paid. Plus, I remembered taking the check downstairs with me when I went to pick up a package at the office. And the final proof that I’d paid? I couldn’t find the check anywhere. I must have made the payment.

But a quick check with the rental office revealed they’d never received the check. Where was it? Eventually I discovered it neatly tucked between two pages in my checkbook register. Alas, a typical J.D. mistake.

A Philosophy of Failure

A few years ago, I would have been angry at myself for making a mistake like this. Of course, a few years ago I wasn’t as financially secure as I am now. But more than that, I didn’t have the experience, the maturity, or the wisdom to cope with financial failures, even small ones. Now I can view things more objectively. I’ve developed a system for responding to small financial mistakes. Namely, I:

Figure out what went wrong. When I make a mistake, I take time to analyze why it occurred. In the example that prompted this post, a simple act — tucking my check into the checkbook register — eventual cost me $75. I wasn’t mindful enough to remember the check when I spoke to the apartment manager; during the two minutes it took me to get to his office, I had forgotten about it. Lack of mindfulness is the source of many of my financial mistakes. Sad but true.

Make a plan to prevent the mistake in the future. In this case, I know not to tuck the rent into the checkbook register next time. But more than that, I’ve resolved that every month I’ll just walk the check downstairs and put it in the rent slot as soon as I write it. Why wait? Procrastination is never productive.

View each mistake as temporary and isolated. The worst thing I can do when I make a mistake — financial or otherwise — is to treat it as a part of larger problem. Maybe it is part of a larger problem, but in the moment, as I’m responding to the error, if I view it this way, I begin to think of myself as a failure, which only leads to further failures. So in this case, I’ve reminded myself that never before in my life have I been late with a rent or mortgage payment. This is is an isolated incident. And it’s temporary.

Another reason I don’t let small mistakes bother me is that I’ve come to recognize that all these tiny errors, while annoying, actually make me a better person. These little failures are the price I pay in order to find success. I mean, Get Rich Slowly would not exist if it weren’t for the hundreds of small financial mistakes I’ve made in the past.

And that’s the thing: A single small mistake is no big deal. It’s when these small mistakes compound or become habitual that you get into trouble. I used to be the sort of person who allowed mistakes to compound and to be come habitual. It was a disaster. But I’m not that guy anymore. Sure, I’m human. I do make mistakes, but I try to learn from them so that they aren’t repeated in the future.

The original article by J.D. Roth can be found here: A Philosophy of Failure

My Thoughts

I've been in the same situation as J.D. but I offer a different solution to the problem than how he has dealt with it.  He resolved to physically walk the check and deposit it as soon as he writes it but I propose that automation is the most efficient solution.  I can't remember the last time I wrote a check to pay a routine bill.

Most banks nowadays offer free online bill pay and I recommend that everyone should take advantage of it for three reasons:
  1. you will never forget to pay your bills
  2. you will save the cost of postage and 
  3. most importantly, you will save the time and effort required to write and mail a check.
I do most of my banking with ING Direct and they have a neat tool where you can view and schedule payment of electronic bills from participating vendors if you do not want to set up automatic payment directly with the vendor.  The ING Direct user interface is also well designed and you can quickly see which automatic payments are coming up and which e-bills are due.

In addition, I also recommend that everyone have a financial management tool like Quicken or Mint.com.  I've used Quicken, MS Money (no longer available) and for the past 3 years, Mint.  I love the convenience of having access to all my financial transactions in one place and the ability to track and analyze my spending habits.  Mint also has a bill reminder feature that will notify you a few days before your bills are due.

Even since I implemented automatic bill pay, I've found that paying bills is no longer a stressful process that requires thought and diligence.  We all lead busy lives - why complicate it by doing manual tasks that we can easily automate?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

31 Steps to a Financial Tuneup

Taking time out to put your personal finances in gear can reap both immediate and long-term benefits, from cashing gift cards to reallocating investments.

Ron Lieber, the Your Money columnist for the NY Times has put together a great checklist to help us streamline how we manage our finances.

This checklist can help you formulate a strategy, providing tips, the time needed to achieve them, and links to additional resources. For each category, Ron offers his insights on video. You can customize your list by removing items to suit your strategy, and then print a personalized list of the items you plan on tackling today.


For the full checklist please go here: 31 Steps to a Financial Tuneup

Before working on Ron's list, it would be helpful if you had tools in place that will help you follow his guidelines.  Here are some of the tools that I use to manage my finances:
For  advise on investing in the stock market, read my post How to invest in the stock market without gambling.




Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How to invest in the stock market without gambling


Investing in the stock market is a risky business if you don't know what you're doing.  I learned this the hard way as well :)

After a few years of doing my own research (i.e. asking friends, reading the feeds on Google finance, etc.) and having some hits and misses, I decided that I needed expert advise if I really wanted to invest in the market as opposed to placing bets on the market.  And to set the record straight, I consider placing bets on the market without thorough research to simply be gambling.  You win some but you lose a lot more! 

I started researching for stock recommendation services by a trusted and reputable organization and came across Cabot Heritage Corporation - one of the oldest and most respected independently owned financial newsletter publishers in the U.S.  They offer 12 investment advisory services and serve more than 200,000 individual subscribers in 141 countries.  Their offerings serve the appetites of investors of all level - from the newbie to the expert.

Some of my favorite features of their newsletters are:
  • Easy to Understand - they are written in a clear and concise manner 
  • Max Buy and Min Sell Price - they tell you the max buy price and minimum sell price of a stock/security so you know exactly when to buy and when to sell
  • Personal Advise - you can reach out to the editors via email/phone with any questions you have on the recommendations or any questions about the market in general
  • Educational Resources - they have a huge library of resources to educate you better on the inner workings of the market 
  • Excellent Price - all of their newsletters are priced better than similar services from their competitor's
  • Money Back Guarantee - they offer money back guarantees to try out the services
Of the 12 investment advisory services, I recommend the following for the conservative investor or the investor who is just starting out:
In my three year relationship with Cabot, I've subscribed to Cabot Market Letter, Cabot Benjamin Graham Value Letter, and Cabot Top Ten Trader (only for the aggressive investor) and have found the service to be invaluable.

I know the market seems very volatile at the moment but with the right advise, money can be made in any market environment.  The financial advisers at Cabot believe that the best is still ahead of us.

Read on to hear what Michael Cintolo (VP of Investments, Editor of Cabot Market Letter and Cabot Top Ten Trader) says about the prospects for the rest of 2012.
I don’t know how you’re investing now, but I do know this: 2012 will be remembered as one of the most profitable years on record.

In fact, the numbers we’re seeing indicate not only a powerful presidential rally of epic proportions but also the opportunity to grab another three years of profits in the next six months.

I’m not just guessing either.

Here’s why:
1. The consumer spending, jobs and construction pictures are improving exponentially.
After all, the nation not only added 227,000 jobs in February but also it was the eighth month in a row the economy added at least 100,000 jobs … the longest streak since 2006.

What’s more, the commerce department’s numbers show that construction spending not only rose 1.5% in December but also it was the fourth increase in five months—pushing spending to an annual rate of nearly $1 trillion. All while remodeling activity rose 22.8% year-over-year. Compared to the last three years, my friend, those numbers are huge.

And as if that weren’t exciting enough, experts expect consumer spending to rise in select niches, with consumer electronics spending expected to hit nearly $1 trillion in 2012. Americans aren’t just buying smartphones and gadgets either. They’re buying cars too—a whopping 13.1 million in 2011—which experts see rising past 14 million in 2012. The only reason this is happening is that Americans are growing more confident.

You should be growing confident for 2012, for this second reason too:

2. We’re also entering one of the most profitable and predictable investment years of the decade: The run-up to the presidential election.
Most investors don’t know this, but over the past 15 presidential election cycles, the market has risen 12 times.

The reason is simple. The current administration always pulls out all the stops to keep the market humming in order to get reelected.

Make no mistake: Given President Obama’s approval ratings, he will be doing everything he can to make nice with the business community to get the U.S. economy humming.

When you add in the fact that manufacturing business conditions were at the highest level since June 2010*, you couldn’t ask for more signs that not only is a turnaround in the works but that the DOW could hit 14,000 or more by election day 2012.

This is why our time-proven technical indicators are forecasting a MAJOR BREAKOUT ahead for our stocks that are profiting from these growing trends.

Unfortunately, most investors will miss the next run-up as the financial media continues to scare them with story after story about the jobless recovery, the poor housing market, rising energy costs, and the many other forces that indicate a double-dip recession is in your future…

…all but ignoring the mounting scientific data showing that in fact, yes, the economic picture is not only brightening but also offering you the opportunity to scoop up 30% to 50% gains by the end of 2012.
All financial planners agree that investing in the stock market is a MUST if you want to grow your wealth.  Historically, the market grows over the long term, and because of that, the sooner you start, the better your chances of having a nice nest egg for retirement.

If you've never opened a brokerage account, may I recommend the firm that I use: OptionsHouse.  They have an excellent platform with a lot of useful tools and for $3.95 per trade, it's a great low-cost brokerage.  They're also offering 100 FREE trades if you open an account and fund it with at least $1,000. 

If you're not quite ready to invest with real money, you can sign up and use their virtual trading platform to learn the ins and outs of stock trading without putting your money at risk.

If this appeals to you, may I suggest that you:
Until next time, happy investing!

[P.S.: If you find this article useful, please help spread the word.]

5 Credit Card Tips for Students and Newbies



I should have paid closer attention in college for a variety of reasons, but that is a different article. Often, I would find myself sitting in class, daydreaming and looking around the room where, on the bulletin boards, flashed advertisements and applications for credit cards. Boy, with spring break approaching and with no money to pay for a trip, those credit cards seemed like an easy solution. Heck, I would graduate and get a good job then pay off the card. Well, it did not quite work out that way.
This occurred in the late 80's and with the new regulations which went into effect in 2010; the college market is not quite the fertile farming ground it once was for lenders.
However, many of the same traps exist today as they did 25 years ago.
Credit is important to establish when you are first entering the workforce as it will allow you to develop a credit history. Your credit history can hurt you or help you depending on how responsible you are with managing your credit. Here are some smart strategies to implement so you can start off on the right foot.

5 ways to help build excellent credit

1. Use credit cards for convenience not credit
This title sounds odd given the cards are called "credit" cards, not "convenience" cards. However, if you develop the habit of paying off your credit card balance each month, you are likely to build solid skills in managing your credit. Carrying a balance each month on a credit card is what leads many people into financial difficulties. Pay off the balance each month!
2. Make payments on time
The penalties for paying your credit card payment late can go far beyond the monetary lashing of late fees. A hike in your interest rate could be your ultimate reward for paying late. However, the real penalty could come in the form of a blemish on your credit report which could make future credit both more difficult and more expensive to obtain.
3. Have only one card
Say you didn't follow the first tip, and now you've maxed out your card and need another one. Yep, I was young too and also made this mistake. This is where many people find they have taken a detour with their financial future. Seeking more credit because you have maxed out your existing card is a recipe for financial failure. One way to safeguard against making this mistake is to maintain only one card.
4. Consider automatic deductions
We all get busy and sometimes we simply forget about the stack of mail sitting in the corner. However, as I pointed out in Tip 2, the penalties for paying your bill late can have serious repercussions. Consider setting up an automatic deduction your credit card company or so that your payment is guaranteed to be paid on time.
5. Don't use your card for cash advances
Credit card companies typically charge a higher rate for cash advances then for purchases. Additionally, your payment may be applied to your purchases first and your cash advances last. Basically, this means that if you carry a balance and don't pay off your card each month, you could find that cash advance to be a very expensive loan.

Final thoughts
Look for credit cards which have no annual fee and have reasonable rates. Some cards have some additional nice features such as a rewards program which offers cash back on select purchases. These are nice features to have, but not always at the expense of higher interest rates and annual fees.
The original article by Marc Pearlman can be found here: 5 credit card tips for students

Monday, April 9, 2012

You’re crazy if you pay for credit monitoring!





If you want to keep tabs on your credit report to catch errors, improve your score or keep an eye out for fraud, you might be tempted to sign up for a credit monitoring service.

A credit monitoring service tracks your credit report at one or more of the three major credit bureaus and immediately sends you an alert if any change or suspicious activity occurs.

Personal finance experts are divided about whether these services are worth the cost, but many say signing up can help some consumers. But it's important to be able to distinguish exactly what these services offer, how much they cost and what you can expect in return for your payment.

Here are some tips to help you navigate the pros and cons of credit monitoring services:     

Credit monitoring 101
Basic credit monitoring services usually track your credit reports at one, two or all three of the major credit bureaus -- Experian, Equifax and TransUnion -- and send you an e-mail, text message or letter, depending on your preference, if there's an inquiry or other activity. Many also offer unlimited access to your credit report from at least one of the bureaus, tracking of your credit score, telephone help with fraud resolution and even reimbursement of some out-of-pocket expenses incurred while trying to resolve identity theft or other fraud.

"Credit monitoring services can be helpful for spotting certain problems, such as if somebody opens a new credit account in your name using your stolen information," says Susan Grant, director of consumer protection for the Consumer Federation of America. "But they don't necessarily alert you to every type of identity theft you could encounter. For example, if somebody is using your stolen personal information to get a job or a cell phone -- something that wouldn't necessarily be reported to a credit reporting agency -- then credit monitoring isn't going to pick that up."

Does credit monitoring pay off?
Consumer advocates don't all agree on whether credit monitoring -- which typically costs $10 to $15 or more per month ($120 to $180 a year) -- is worth the money. Some say it's an extra layer of protection that's smart to have, while others say it's unnecessary.

Consumers can monitor their own accounts to catch errors or look for fraud and also can take other free or low-cost steps to protect themselves, but credit monitoring might make sense for someone who has been the victim of identity theft or fears their personal information has been compromised, says Suzanne Martindale, an attorney and associate policy analyst for Consumers Union.
"Monitoring seems more appropriate for someone who has reason to suspect their credit information has been at risk or has been exposed; for example, if you got a notice there was a data breach and your Social Security number might be flying around," Martindale says.

Read more: http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/pros-cons-credit-monitoring-services-1282.php#ixzz1ra1810EX

My Take

You’re crazy if you pay for credit monitoring services!  All the basic services that a credit monitoring services provide can be gotten for free – a saving of up to $180/year. 

I learned this the hard way.  Since 2006, I’ve been paying $9.99/month for credit monitoring services from LegalShield (previously known as Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc) for their Identity Theft Shield.  In return, most months I would get an email that said “There has been no activity on your credit report.”  Why did I get this email?  Well, because no one had tried to open an account using my social security number.  Of course, when I had taken an action that would be reported to the credit bureaus, the email would tell me that as well. 

I recently canceled my plan (after spending $720 over the past few years) and found a much better and cheaper solution: Credit Sesame

It’s not only cheaper, it’s FREE!


Credit Sesame automatically track and monitor your loans and debt information and tell you how you're doing. You'll see your loans, debt and credit accounts, all in one place. You'll know where your credit score stands every month and understand how to improve your debt situation.

In addition to monitoring your credit, Credit Sesame gives you the right tools to take control of your finances.  Some of the coolest features are:

  • Credit score updated monthly
  • Better options to your current loans and debts
  • ‘What If’ modeling to see how things change – haven’t you wondered what would happen to your credit score if you paid that credit card off?
  • Single portal for applying for new loans
Credit Sesame is accredited with the BBB and is run by a great management team.

Regardless of whether you currently pay for credit monitoring services or not, Credit Sesame’s tools are a must have for anyone who wants to get a better handle on their finances.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

What Are Investment Strategies for 30-Somethings?

Yesterday, my wife and I were discussing our asset allocation strategies and one of the points I raised was that I regret not investing heavily in the stock market in my early 20s. 

I thought there might be others in the same boat and with a little online research, I came across a pretty straightforward article that addresses the basic next steps for us in our 30s who missed out on financial planning in the early 20s.

You can read the full article here.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

20 Items on Sale in April

We often don’t make our purchasing decisions based on when something is on sale but the savvy shopper knows that there is always an ideal time of the year to find the best bargains.
April is a great time to buy the following items:

  1. Candy (from chocolate bunnies to jelly beans) – If you can wait till after Easter, you can find anything themed that can’t be repackaged up to half off.  April 22 is also National Jelly Bean Day (never knew that existed).
  2. TVs, laptops, and tablets – New iPad Anyone?  I’m personally an Android fan who enjoys using his wife’s Kindle Fire.  It’s also a great time to buy electronics accessories.
  3. Children’s dress clothing – Right before Easter and Passover, parents will see dress clothing marked down by 25% to 50%.
  4. Party items – Spring party planners can save as much as 70% off right after the holidays.
  5. Rain gear and swimwear – Umbrellas, slickers, and jackets are 20% to 30% off.  Shorts, T-shirts and tank tops are 25% to 40% off.
  6. Leaf lettuce and other produce – Specifically romaine, green leaf, red leaf, and butter lettuce.  Other products on sale include artichokes, asparagus (yuck!), strawberries (yummy!!!), and mangos (my favorite fruit).
  7. Patio furniture and plants – It’s time to enjoy the warm weather.  You can find 20% to 30% off on patio furniture.  Nurseries and garden centers will run super low prices on select items.
  8. Spa services – For Spa Week (4/12-4/22), more than 800 participating spas are offering promotional deals.
For the full list of items on sale, read Dana Dratch’s article  “What’s on sale in Aprtil?” at bankrate.com.

Shop Amazon - Best Sellers in Computers and Accessories

$5 for $10 at Starbucks

Google offers is having a great deal at Starbucks.  Pay $5 for $10 worth of product.  Check out the offer by clicking on the image.

Give yourself a $2,000 raise

Margarette Burnette wrote an interesting article on bankrate.com about 7 simple ways to save money in 2012.

She advises consumers to take a look at small expenses that tend to drain the budget and then determine how to reduce or eliminate them.

I don’t think all of the advises (for example, use a free texting service) are practical but others are well worth the consideration.  My personal favorites are “Switch to Internet streaming for movies” and “Ask for promotion rates” when dealing with vendors.

For more info on the 7 ways money experts say you can save money and give yourself a $2,000 raise, click on the above image.

Man Up with Double Cash Back (This Week Only)


Great cash back deals ending this week.  Click on the image to see all offers.

Ebates Deals of the week - 04/01/12

Hottest deals of this week:
(in addition to the "Spring into Fashion with Double Cash Back" promotion)

  • Saks Fifth Avenue: 6% cash back.
  • Sears: 2% cash back.
  • Lowe’s: 2.5% cash back. 10% off major appliances.
  • DSW: 8% cash back. Gucci: Savings of up to 40% off.
  • Bath & Body Works: 3% cash back. 20% off exclusive Body Care, Candles, Wallflowers, Gifts & more. 
  • Target: 6% cash back. Save up to 20% on Patio items. 
  • Dell Home: 2% cash back. 
  • Bliss Spa: 4% cash back.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Amp it up with the X-Mini II Capsule speaker


Asish loves his music, loud and piercing through the eardrums. So it was quite a disappointment for him when he found out that my laptop had terrible speakers. Frankly, I thought they were quite awful as well. So for Christmas, he decided to surprise me with the gift of portable speakers. Introducing, the X-Mini II Capsule speaker.  

The unique design caught my attention immediately. It is compact for the person on the go. For its size, this gadget packs quite a punch. There is almost no distortion in sound and the capsule twists and springs open for enhanced bass. The X-Mini II Capsule comes with a USB splitter to charge the device, and a handy storage bag so you can take your speaker wherever you want. When fully charged, the X-Mini II works smoothly for about 10-11 hours. Another good feature is that you can daisy-chain two or more of these speakers if you’re craving a higher decibel. You can plug it to your laptop, iPod, or your phone. As for its price, the X-Mini II is worth every cent on its tag. I’ve been using the speaker for a little over two months and I absolutely love the clarity that comes with the amazing sound. Now, I like my music nice and loud.