Last day to sign up for free TransUnion credit monitoring

September 24, 2008 · Posted in Personal Finance · Comment 

TransUnion is offering free credit monitoring as part of the settlement in a class-action lawsuit, since they violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act and sold consumers personal and financial information to marketers.  Good stuff!

According to the site:

“The Settlement Class is defined as: All consumers who had an open credit account or an open line of credit from a credit grantor located in the United States at any time during the period January 1, 1987 to May 28, 2008.”

This pretty much means that any adult is eligible!  Today (9/24/08) is the last day to sign up at listclassaction.com.  Note that the six months of free credit monitoring will not begin until the final approval in the courts.  After approval in the courts, you will receive an e-mail that will allow you to take action.

Prosper no longer allowing PA residents to lend money

September 16, 2008 · Posted in Personal Finance · 1 Comment 

I haven’t discussed Prosper.com much on this blog, but it is a peer-to-peer lending site that I have been thinking about getting involved with.  I was looking into the tax implications of peer-to-peer lending before getting started, but I guess I don’t have to worry about that anymore.

This morning, I got an e-mail from Prosper – basically, if you’re a resident of PA, you can no longer lend money out or sign up to be a lender.  Seems kind of sudden, despite “ongoing discussions”.  I would be pretty ticked if I were more involved in Prosper.

Are you a PA Prosper lender?  What do you think of the announcement?

It’s potty time!

September 8, 2008 · Posted in Kids · 6 Comments 

I think that we may be lucky, but we started potty training about 2 weeks ago, and we’re doing pretty well.  The kid sometimes does the potty dance, but accidents have been very few and far between.  He does wear a  diaper to bed and a pull-up during naptime.  Other than that, it’s undies all day long!

Am I missing something?  I thought that the terrible twos were horrific, but we’ve had a lot of fun so far.  Of course there are craptastic days, but overall it’s been a wonderful experience.  Maybe he’ll turn into a demon on his third birthday?

I think we’re going to stop at one kid.  This one got all the good DNA :)

Our temporary computer compromise

September 2, 2008 · Posted in Frugal Spending · Comment 

Well, our Dell is still dead.  Because we had to deplete our emergency fund to pay for truck repairs, we’re not comfortable with buying a new computer before restoring our savings.  In addition, there is a good chance that we are going to have to make a trip home this month for family reasons, and we haven’t saved up for that yet.

However, we do have some data that we need to get off the old computer, and we currently don’t have the required hard drive space on the Mac.  So we decided to compromise.  We purchased an external hard drive that is both Mac and PC compatible for $95 (we will get 5% cash back, but we’re not counting that right now).  We also used an Amazon gift certificate to get the cable ($20) needed to connect our laptop hard drives to our current computer via a USB port.  I was thinking of an external hard drive enclosure, but we have two different hard drives that are two different sizes.  In addition, if we sell the laptop at a later time, the hard drive enclosure wouldn’t be worth the cost.

The external hard drive will be useful to us even after purchasing a new computer.  I think that it’s a good temporary solution until we get back on our feet financially.

Would you have done the same thing?  Why or why not?

Saving money on our natural gas bill

August 30, 2008 · Posted in Personal Finance, Saving Money · 1 Comment 

We all know about some of the ways to save on our energy costs – having good windows, sealing up leaks, insulation, etc.  But once that is all said and done, how can we save money on our actual bill?

Until now, we haven’t worried too much about our natural gas bill.  We do what we can to save on heating costs, and have enrolled in our provider’s budget plan to make life easier.  The budget plan is really nice – you pay a fixed amount 11/12 months out of the year, and then pay the remaining balance on the 12th month.  We’ve been pretty happy – our monthly bill is about $95, and our remaining balance last month was less than $50.

We got our updated budget plan today, and were a little surprised.  We expected an increase, but were taken aback by a new amount of $150.  This increase is due to the expected rise in energy costs this winter.  Wow!

After looking at our provider’s website, I found that we have the option to choose our natural gas supplier, and that some of them offer fixed rate plans.  One supplier had a fixed rate plan for this year that was already 0.13 cheaper/ccf than our current rate, and it would be locked for one year.

I know that this isn’t going to add up to a lot of money if the rates stay where they are, but it is reasonable to expect that rates are going to steadily rise as winter approaches. I’m thinking that it might be a good idea to lock in a rate now.

Do you have a fixed rate plan for natural gas?  If so, I would love to hear about your experience!

Make a free $10 donation to Alzheimer’s Association

August 28, 2008 · Posted in Charities · Comment 

I saw this posted at Meishien.com this morning when dropping Entrecards, and thought that I would spread the word.

Basically, Caring.com will donate $10 to the Alzheimer’s Association for every blog or website (up to 1000) that creates a purple ribbon and puts it on their site. You do need to click on the ribbon once in order to activate it (I’m assuming that upon activation, the ribbon is validated and the donation will be made).

Seems like an easy thing to do for a good cause! If you like, please take a moment to create your own ribbon today.

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Boomertowne review – proceed with caution

August 26, 2008 · Posted in Making Money Online · 16 Comments 

I’ve reviewed Boomertowne in the past, and talked about how it used to be a legitimate place to earn gift cards.  Even after June 1, when they made some changes, I still thought they were pretty good.  Now I would like to change my opinion.

They currently owe my husband and I over $500 in gift cards, and nothing has been sent for orders placed after May 9.  Apparently communications are starting to break down (checking the Discussion Forums on the Boomertowne web site is one indication).  There are reports that some people have gotten a gift card here and there, but the overwhelming majority of people are wondering if the site is going to tank.

So for now, I would not recommend this site.  Hopefully they will get things back on track, but the lack of communication is, in my opinion, a very bad sign.

If you’re a member of Boomertowne, when was the last time you received a gift card?

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We’re blessed

August 25, 2008 · Posted in Frugal Spending, Personal Finance · Comment 

It was an interesting weekend, to say the least…

On Friday evening, our tv and light started turning on and off on their own, as if possessed.  Upon investigation, we found that a switch that is used to turn on that particular outlet was extremely hot and making popping noises.  This didn’t seem good.  After cutting the circuit and letting things cool down,  we took the switch out of the wall.  It looked like it was from 1950 (when the house was built) and smelled awful.  Ironically, we smelled this earlier in the week, but thought it was the computer that had just died.

After avoiding an electrical fire on Friday, we hit the road early Saturday morning to look for a new computer (and stop at Lowe’s for a new switch).  We carried the cell phone with us, since we were hoping to pick up my husband’s truck on the way back – it was in the shop for an oil change and to have the brakes looked at (it started shimmying when going down hills this week, so we wanted to have it checked on right away).

On the way to the store, we got a call about the truck.  I knew the news could not be that good, as my husband used words such as “Really?”, “Wow”, and “Sure, Monday would be fine…” when he was on the phone with the mechanic.

“So, what’s the damage?”  I asked, after he got off the phone.

Basically, the tie rods were about to come off – the mechanic said he was surprised that my husband had not been in an accident – they were that bad.  We were also going to need new rotors, as the old ones had been machined a couple of times already.  Coupled with the annual inspection and emission test, along with a radiator flush, I knew things weren’t looking too sunny. The price tag?  Close to $1000.

My husband cringed as he broke the news – I think he was waiting for the four-letter words to start flowing, which is rare now that we have a kid.  But in old times this situation might have warranted at least a couple of them.

I kept silent for a minute, and then asked him if he thought they would let me use my $30 off $300 coupon.  We both burst out laughing.  Even the kid started laughing from his car seat, as if the idea was hilarious.

The way I see it (and my husband agrees), we are very lucky.  Our house didn’t burn down, and I much rather pay $1000 in car repair bills than have a husband in a car wreck.  We’re thankful that we have the emergency fund – a couple of years ago, this would have been a pretty big financial hurdle.  Now it’s just a bump in the road.

We’ll still put the bill on the credit card (to get the rewards), but will pay it off in the same day.  Needless to say, we’re going to put off purchasing another computer for a couple of weeks (at the very least).  I know that we still have a lot of debt, and are not close to true financial freedom yet, but it’s so nice to be able to laugh at things like this and easily see the bigger picture.

What about you?  Could you laugh this off?  Or would it have been a string of expletives?

Ding Dong, the Dell is dead

August 23, 2008 · Posted in Frugal Spending, Technical · 7 Comments 

It’s almost official.

We decided not to extend our warranty on our Dell Inspiron 9100 (from 4 years to 5 years) because of the cost. It would have been about $350, and we had just gotten a new hard drive, DVD drive, and motherboard while it was still under the 4-year warranty. What could possibly go wrong?

Maybe the CPU could die?

That’s a possibility. At least, that’s what the error code said yesterday. I reseated the CPU in a lame attempt that it might have been knocked loose. This process took a little over an hour and countless numbers of tiny screws, but I still got the same error message after putting it all back together (hey, at least I didn’t break anything in the process).

So here’s the question: Should I purchase a refurbished CPU for about $120 and hope that this is what is wrong? It could also be memory, but I reseated both individually to no avail, and I doubt that both of them went bad at the same time. It could also be the motherboard, which isn’t even worth replacing (in terms of cost). From what I can find online, if purchasing a CPU doesn’t work, I would have to pay the shipping to send it back as well as a 20-25% restocking fee.

We could also start looking for another computer. This behemoth of a laptop is almost 5 years old, and my husband hates it (he’s the one that is the primary user). Ideally, I would like to find a new computer, and then try to repair the Dell and sell it online.

I want to be frugal, but at the same time I don’t want to pay money to temporarily revive a dying horse. What would you do?

The Money Case

August 18, 2008 · Posted in Personal Finance, Saving Money · 3 Comments 

If you’re looking for a free tool to help you at your first attempt at making a budget, I would recommend taking some time to check out The Money Case.  After taking a couple of minutes to put your initial information in, you are given a breakdown of your budget by percentages.  After taking the time to input your actual expenditures, you are able to compare them to your budget.  Good stuff!

This software is very visual, with graphs that make it easy to see where your money is going.  I currently use Microsoft Money, and most of the time the graphs aren’t accurate – this software does a better job.

If I could change anything about this program, I would like the ability to enter monthly income (as opposed to yearly).  Although my husband’s salary remains constant throughout the year, mine changes monthly.  Therefore, the accuracy of the percentages is off for our budget.

I would highly recommend this program for anyone just starting out with a budget, as well as anyone considering going from a double income family to a single income family.  Being able to look at percentages can really help one to see where extraneous expenses can be cut, and whether or not it is realistic to be able to afford to live on one income.

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