Monday, August 31, 2009

Bring in the Bing Cashback

I am not suggesting anyone to go on a shopping spree. However, if you really need to (really!) buy,  Bing Cashback may be something you would like to try.

Search any product on . Follow instruction (trust me you will see lot of Bing cashback logos), buy item after open your Bing cashback account.

Once you have at least $5, you can request your cash back from Bing about 60 days after purchase (time varies by store) via PayPal, direct deposit to your bank account, or mailed check (Disclaimer - that's what I read).

PS. I have not used Bing Cashback yet (because I haven’t  bought anything recently). Please post comment if you have used it. 

Friday, August 28, 2009

Managing Debt Without a "Debt Management" Plan

Debt management plan involves you depositing money with an organization, which pays off your unsecured debt such as credit cards. Debt management plan, at best, manages your existing debt, but usually at the cost of ruining your credit history. Foremost, I don't like debt management plans because I don't want to pay for anything that I can get for free.

Many me(s) with debt go to a debt management plan, primarily due to lack of payment discipline. If you decide to do so, please check beforehand Federal Trade Commission's information on debt management plan.

Here is alternate free debt management plan in 7 steps.

1. Call and ask your bank(s) to lower the interest rate(s). If a customer service agent is not helpful, call again couple of times. Trust me, quite a few bank will at least knock of few percentages.

2. Open a separate bank account in a different bank.

3. Choose credit cards (or other debt) you want to pay with this system.

4. Direct deposit a portion of your income enough for a minimum payment+$x for each debt.
(Amount of $x depends on how fast you want to get out of debt. High interest and/or low balance debt should have higher $x. My suggestion is make $x maximum and readjust $x once you pay off one account completely.)

5. Automatically set monthly payments.

6. Destroy the ATM card, credit card, check or any other method that will allow easy access to the money in new bank account and old credit card accounts.

7. Adjust and check your new debt management plan every first sunday.

PS. If you still want to pay someone, I accept paypal.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Really Free Credit Reports and Credit Score
United States government Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) mandated website providing free credit reports (not scores) from three major credit reporting agencies. Note, the website is operated by the reporting agencies, which often offer visitors other paid services or 30-day trial offers during the free reporting. If you do not want them, [politely] decline the offers.
Me: Credit reports checks out fine (i.e., no surprises, just old debts)
With targeted advertising,
Credit Karma (review) provides free proprietary credit scores (not credit reports, not FICO scores) and credit management tools. Its credit score are based on reports from TransUnion. The scores are on a scale of 300 to 850, same scale as FICO, but exact score are expected to slightly differ. The factors included in
makeup of the credit score remains similar but weighing algorithm is different.
Me: As expected, high revolving balance (debt) is indicated as culprit in lowering my credit score to average 723 to otherwise stellar credit history.

Additional Cautionary Tale:
Getting free credit reports or score will need you to verify your identity through social security number or other details. However, they will never ask you for your credit card number. If they do, they are likely duping you into enrolling one of their credit management offers that remains free for few days.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Save Money by Being Green

Biggest argument against environmental friendliness is that it’s more expensive. Here are a few simple green things that can save you a few greens in return;

  • get paperless bill and pay electronically (setup email reminder)
  • use CFL bulbs (or better LED bulbs)
  • recycle grocery bags as garbage bags (reuse plastic)
  • avoid disposable plates and silverwares
  • turn off power strip with unused appliances (TV, cable box, DVD, printer, computer)
  • use rechargeable batteries
  • get GPS, don’t waste gas or printed pages to find a place
  • plan your grocery (or any other) car trip to save gas
  • get vegetable garden started (start with easy plant/herb)
  • [send me more tips and I will add here]

See more tips and green products from Consumer Reports’

Why I (you) don't need my (your) cable?

Why don't I need my cable? Let’s do simple cable math.
One year cost of cheapest cable for me is 803.20 (63.60×12+40 setup fee) without any taxes. According to Nielsen Company, average American watches 1812 hours TV per year, which is about 4.94 hours per day (that’s a lot!). If you watch TV 5 hours everyday, then you are paying $800 for 1812 hours, which comes down to just under 50 cents per hour. Unlike average Nielsen viewers, I watch 2 hours of TV per day by myself, which makes my cost $1 per hour.
Nielsen Company also indicated, about ¼ of viewing take place during primetime.Most of prime time is available free time-shifted viewing on networks website or on Most of primetime shows are on free over-the-air stations such as ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, MyNetworkTV, PBS, or The CW. In the same way, you can argue that, more than one person can watch the cable too. But really, how many households of more than 5 or 6 people do you know? Usually digital broadcast from station has additional digital channels with minor programming like weather, local events etc. See list of over-the-air television network .
To save a cost without sacrificing quality of your TV entertainment, you may need to spend a little upfront. What I suggest is;

  • Get a digital TV (which is under $400 for 32 inch now), if you already haven’t done so. All digital TV have RGB port for connecting computer to TV.
  • Get an antenna ($10-25)
  • If you don’t have laptop and wish to watch time-shifted TV on screen, get an extra computer/laptop ($400). Note, don’t upgrade old computer because hi-def video needs a lot of CPU. If you are debt free get computer with decent graphic card, wireless, HDMI output and TV input capability. Free alternative for TV is Hulu and less expensive alternate for other entertainment includes Netflix’s ROKU (subscription required).
  • Connect your computer to TV.
Look for other blogger such as, Mike Elgan’s experience on online TV is much better and Marguerite Reardon’s alternate ways to eliminate $100 cable bill. Save or pay your existing debt. I expect to pay more than $1000 this year toward my debt payment by cutting my cable.