Nov 29 2010

Carnival of Personal Finance #285 – Google Search Money Stories Edition

Welcome to the Carnival of Personal Finance #285 – Google Search Money Stories Edition here at Realm of Prosperity!

I loved the refreshing Google ad played during Super Bowl XLIV, which used web searches to tell a story. And once in a while, I like to take things in a creative direction (check out this funky post). So, I’ve created three personal finance-related Google Search stories for your enjoyment as you peruse this week’s fine articles.

Hope you like them and please comment with your favorite video (the last one is another Search Story from Google)!

Editor’s Picks

Let’s start off my favorite articles by paying tribute to the personal finance blog that inspired me to create Realm of Prosperity over 3 years ago.

Bob from Christian Finances presents How to Save Hundreds of Dollars By Taking a Day Off Work. Life will entail making plenty of sacrifices and we will often need to determine whether a certain sacrifice is worth making. Should one less day of income equal much more in savings, is it worth taking a day off?

Elle from Couple Money presents Our Savings System – Reaching Our Goals. If you want an example of an elaborate savings outlook, search no further. Detail has always been recommended when it comes to setting proper goals – key to making them come true.

Miss T. from Prairie Eco-Thrifter presents We’re Spending Without Using Our Brain. The fact that our bodies, as a biological system, plays a huge role in our relationship with money management is often overlooked. It makes us wonder whether we should attribute our spending behavior to our bodies or our personalities.

Bret from Hope to Prosper presents This Year I am Thankful for my Job. The economy remains a rough environment and many of us are glad to have a job that allows us to put food on the table. Other may be more grateful for having a job that meets their financial obligations and intrinsic fulfillment.

Money Management

Kyle from Amateur Asset Allocator presents How Much Liquid Savings Should You Have?.

FMF from Free Money Finance presents How to Retire at 50.

Chris from Dealerity presents Charitable Giving Statistics – What’s normal?

ElizabethG from Modern Gal presents Should We Teach Personal Finance?

Jeff from Before You Invest presents Should You Save Money Or Pay Off Debt?

Miranda from Personal Dividends presents End the Year Financially Fit: 5 Items for Your December Checklist.

Frugality and Saving

N.W. Journey from Networth Journey presents How to Plan Your Spending.

The Wealth Planner from The Wealth Plan presents A Theory on Financial Freedom.

Jason from Live Real, Now presents Quality Time – The Best Way to Enjoy Time With Your Kids.

Michael at The Dough Roller presents 25 Christmas Gift Ideas Under $10.

Mike from Green Panda Treehouse presents The Importance of Money During The Holiday Season.

Ryan from The Military Wallet presents What is a 529 College Savings Plan.

Jim from Bargaineering presents 2011 Retirement 401K, IRA, Roth IRA Contribution Limits.

Tom from Canadian Finance Blog presents How To Save Money Every Month.

Budgeting

Crystal from Budgeting in the Fun Stuff presents Top 5 Reasons Not to Budget.

FruGal presents Your silly season checklist.

Trent Green from Money for Regular People presents 5 Steps to Make an Effective Christmas Budget.

The Smarter Wallet presents Planning Your Budget & The Benefits of Forward Thinking.

Debt

Aloysa from Aloysa’s Kitchen Sink presents How a Debtless Aloysa Became Buried in Debt.

Kris Bickell from Debt Relief Tips presents 3 Things You Can Learn From A Credit Card Calculator.

Craig Ford from Money Help For Christians presents 4 Debts You Should Try to Avoid.

Investing

Ryan from Cash Money Life presents How to Tell if an Option is In the Money.

D4L from Dividends Value presents 6 Dividend Stocks That Will Make You Smile.

Mike from The Dividend Guy Blog presents Socially Responsible Stock List That Pays Dividends.

IS from Intelligent Speculator presents Back to the basics: ETF 101.

Pat from Do Not Wait presents Why It Is Important to Have a Plan.

Money Thinker from Money Thinking presents Basic Market Strategy.

Jim Smith from Ultra High Networth presents My life as a Day Trader or How I lost $5,000.

Alex Garcia from Commodities Universe presents Commodity ETFs – A Quick Guide.

Credit

Neal Frankle from Wealth Pilgrim presents Need To Borrow Money? 5 Tips to Keep You Safe.

Marjorie from CardHub.com presents Get Your Credit Card Interest Rates Lowered.

Jeff Weber from Smart Balance Transfers presents What are Balance Transfer Fees and Should You Pay Them.

MD from Studenomics presents Are Free Money Offers Always Good?

CreditCardGuru from Credit Card Forum Blog presents Visa vs. MasterCard: Who’s Better?

Michael from Consumerism Commentary presents Citi Dividend Platinum Select Card $100 Cash Back.

David from Credit Card Offers IQ presents 4 Cards With $100 Cash Back Offers – Which One Is Right For You?

Silicon Valley Blogger from The Digerati Life presents Top Hotel Rewards Credit Cards To Save On Travel.

Tim Chen from NerdWallet Credit Card Blog presents Rewards Showdown – Chase Sapphire vs Capital One Venture.

Ben from Money Smart Life presents Credit Card Promotions for Holiday Shopping.

Craig from Free From Broke presents SimplyCash Business Card From American Express OPEN Earns Your Business Real Cash – Right Away.

Real Estate, Taxes, and Career

Simon from Realm of Prosperity presents How to Keep Your Landlord Happy.

Debt Ghost from Debt.se presents Scams of Bank and Mortgage Servicers.

Ken from Spruce Up Your Finances presents How a Home-based Business Helps You Reduce Taxes Even More – Part I: Deductions.

Philip Taylor from PT Money presents 2010 Tax Brackets: What Is My Tax Bracket?

Mike from The Financial Blogger presents Looking For The Perfect Job.

Economy

Darwin from Darwin’s Money presents How Inflation Impacts the Poor the Most.

Janet from Credit Cards Canada presents Online Spending Continues to Surge [Infographic].

Arjun Rudra from Investing Thesis presents Discussing Sovereign Debt, Global Economics and Investing with Jonathan Wellum of RockLinc Investment Partners.

Other Great Reads

Shaun from Money Cactus presents Designing Your Wealthy Life.

Madison from My Dollar Plan presents Quicken Tip List Former Money Users Will Like.

Mark from Buy Like Buffett presents My Favorite Financial Book and The Worst Finance Book That I Have Ever Read.

Paul Williams from Provident Planning presents Where to Keep Your Will and Other Important Documents.

Ramsay from MoneyedUp presents Are You Ready for Cyber Monday?

Len Penzo from Len Penzo dot Com presents How to Pick the Perfect Christmas Tree (In 3 Easy Steps).

It was an honor to host this week’s Carnival of Personal Finance. Remember to leave your comments about the videos!

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Nov 27 2010

How to Regret Your Black Friday Shopping Spree

By now, most of you shoppers who were out and about yesterday morning should have recovered the lost sleep after coming home with bags of new stuff and a higher credit card balance. Contrary to popular beliefs, Black Friday was never a day dedicated to helping consumers save money – it is a custom promoted by retailers to encourage spending.

For some of the sleep-deprived shoppers, their post-Thanksgiving shopping spree may not have been the most financially sound decision for their particular situation. Blame the tradition, the profit-hungry retailers, and consumerism.

“Why Did I Buy This?”

It may have been a blast to weather the long hours in cold temperatures for the sake of grabbing an HDTV at a 50% discount… until you come home – after the dopamine and adrenaline in your system has dissipated. Because Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year, it is also the day that many consumers suffer their biggest case of buyer’s remorse.

It is entirely human to be tempted by a super sale and then to regret spending a ton of money when you shouldn’t have. Feeling bad about it will serve to build your ability to refrain from repeating it in the future.

To Mope and Sulk

  1. Lay out the bags and stare at the new stuff you bought. Take a good look at the everything you just brought home. Don’t be fooled by the smile on your face as you scour the lovely new toys you just got. Remember: the higher you climb, the greater you’ll fall.
  2. Log onto your credit card account and stare at your balance. A mere glance wouldn’t be suffice. Give your credit card balance about five minutes of attention. Let it really sink into your mind. If done correctly, there should be hints of worry and fear resonating in your chest.
  3. Check your Mint.com account and stare at your net worth. Again, look at your whole financial position. Do you have abundant savings and formidable retirement accounts? It’s time to shed some light on your priorities when it comes to your money. This is the “big picture” and is worth a few minutes of your eyes’ time.
  4. Go back and return what you bought. Yes, it may be humiliating to go back to the store to return an item that you waited 8 hours to buy. But, you provide one minute of humor to someone else and get (what possibly could be) a lifetime’s worth of financial comfort.

I definitely don’t sound like an advocate of Black Friday. The great deals should help shoppers who actually need something instead of simply picking up whatever offers the most discounts. These people are buying to be a part of this annual ritual of consumer madness.

(Photo credit: lrargerich)

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Nov 24 2010

Could QE2 and Inflation Be Good For Consumers?

All this news of QE2 (second phase of quantitative easing) from the Federal Reserve has been saturating the media – and it rightly deserves that spotlight. It is yet another desperate move to resuscitate the troubling economy. And, the intended outcome is inflation.

For a long time, we have talked about how inflation eats away at our spending power and our investment returns. We try to keep up with, and ideally beat, inflation with high-yield savings accounts and riskier investments. Generally, we are not fond of it and see it as a negative economic phenomenon. But, inflation, especially at this point in time, can be a financial tool for typical consumers such as you and I.

How QE2 Tries to Spur Inflation

The Fed’s decision to implement QE2 involves creating money out of thin air – to the amount of $600 billion, which will be injected into the U.S. financial system over the course of six months.

So, in half a year, our money will be worth less than it is today. As a result, retailers will be raising prices on goods and services. Meanwhile, our incomes will most likely not increase to reflect the inflationary changes.

Understanding “Printing Money”

Imagine a nation had a piece of gold currently worth $100 and it backed one hundred $1 bills in circulation. So, $1 represents 1% of that piece of gold.

Should this nation implement quantitative easing by “printing” one hundred more $1 bills, there would be $200 in circulation – but the amount of gold owned by the nation remained the same.

Effectively, a $1 bill equates to 0.5% of that piece of gold. For people who had money prior to quantitative easing, their money lost 50% of its value.

Why Inflation Doesn’t Totally Suck

Inflation can be beneficial to people with debt, which probably includes almost every American adult.

With time, the economic environment will follow inflation (i.e. higher investment returns, savings accounts yields, and income).

The ideal beneficiary of inflation is the consumer who is carrying a large amount of long-term debt with fixed rates such as student loans and mortgages. Let’s say you took out a 30-year $100,000 mortgage loan 20 years ago to buy a home. That $100,000 could buy much more house back then compared to now – yet, you are still paying it off with today’s inflated currency.

Businesses can change prices according to the effects of inflation but the balance on a debt cannot increase according to inflation. Therefore, inflation will devalue your debt.

Please don’t mistake this as advice to rack up debt now. Quantitative easing doesn’t offer any guarantees. If inflation does result, it will not make a big difference in the short term future because it takes quite a long time to have a significant effect on the individual consumer. Your surmounting credit card debt will suffer little devaluation (you should be more worried about interest charges).

(Photo credit: Packmatt)

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Nov 23 2010

How to Keep Your Landlord Happy

Is a happy tenant more important or is a happy landlord more important?

Well, your answer probably depends on whether you rent your home or own your home. But, most would agree that a great tenant-landlord relationship is mutually beneficial while a bad one could mean hell.

Although I do not yet own my own home, I do play a small managerial role when it comes to dealing with the tenants in my parents’ house. Having been on both sides of the spectrum, I can say that it isn’t easy for either side.

As I currently play a partial landlord role, the responsibility of dealing with less-than-perfect tenants becomes an occasional inconvenience. That’s why landlords appreciate the tenant who gives them no trouble – what seems to be one of the rarest type of people around. It’s difficult to understand how much of a hassle it can be until one is put in this position.

What Makes the Landlord Smile

Landlords just want to collect your rent with as little trouble and frustration as possible. Yes, it feels like there are just way too many rules. But, you are living on someone else’s property, which will have rules in place to protect it. These are the things you should be doing no matter where you are living.

  • Pay your rent on time. Money is #1 here. This is the only reason any property owner would rent out their home. Landlords have the right to impose a late fee!
  • Keep a low noise level. Not only does noise bother everyone else in the building, it could keep the neighbors up as well. I don’t want to have to wake up at 2AM to tell you to be quiet as much as you don’t want to see me ruin your party.
  • Keep it tidy. Nobody wants to come home to mold-riddled walls, roach-infested cabinets, and a scummy bathroom. Unsanitary conditions can spread and affect the health of everyone in the building.
  • Don’t break anything that isn’t yours. As a tenant, it is your responsibility to take care of anything that was there when you moved in. Sure, the security deposit might cover some of the costs of the damage but landlords don’t want to deal with it if they don’t have to.
  • Proper garbage disposal. Recycle. Put the right type of garbage in the right garbage container. No spills please!
  • Good communication. The landlord may not know everything that is going on so it is up to you to let them know if you have questions or concerns. It’s nice to know that tenants are looking out for the residence as much as the landlords do.

Landlords Aren’t All Mean

It is also of great interest for tenants to make their landlords happy because some landlords are very nice people. If you are a great tenant, they are more inclined to be a great landlord as well and return the favor. In the long run, it could save money and a bunch of heartache.

  • Wards off rent increases. Something that many tenants dread is the annual rent increase. How much the landlord likes you can drastically affect the decision of a rent increase. The more you piss off a landlord, the higher your rent increase. If you were an excellent tenant, I would consider not raising you rent at all.
  • Quicker fixes to problems. You pay to live in place with acceptable living conditions. It is the landlord’s legal duty to maintain a habitable environment. Some landlords are quick to repair problems with the rental property and some just don’t give a crap. Establish that guilty conscience in a landlord if they don’t fix your problems immediately because you are such an awesome tenant.
  • Perks here and there. Sometimes, you might need little favors from the landlord. If you are not home to receive a package, ask the landlord. If you are going on vacation and need someone to check up on pets and belongings, ask the landlord.

The Best Tenants We’ve Had Yet

Two female NYU college students occupied an apartment on the second floor. They were nice, soft-spoken ladies who took care of their living areas. They were quiet and, even with a few guests over, they kept the noise down. And, most importantly of all, they were never late with the rent payments.

My parents never raised their rent. During the summer, they happened to not have an air conditioner. We just so happened to have an extra one so we lent it to them and helped them set it up. From time to time, my mom would offer them some home-cooked Chinese food. One of the tenants worked at a frozen yogurt shop and would bring back some for us.

Sadly, they left after graduation…

To other landlords out there: share some stories of your superb tenants. As a landlord what makes you smile? Renters, how’s your relationship with your landlords?

(Photo credit: ellie)

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Oct 22 2010

How to Not Piss Off Everyone Else Waiting for the ATM

Chase Bank ATMsIn the city, it is not a rare sight to have a line of people waiting to use the ATMs. Many of us accept it as the consequence of living in highly populated area. I am usually the orderly fellow to patiently stand in line just like everyone else.

But, it does drive me nuts when there is that one person who becomes consumed in the mindless fiddle with the ATM to complete a simple transaction that should take no longer than two minutes. Everyone else on line would’ve agreed with me.

If it weren’t for the privacy factor, I’d walk right up and try to help speed the process along.

That’s why I suggest all banking customers to get familiar with the ATM interface so as to avoid pissing off all the other people who are waiting on line. On the plus side, it saves time and helps prevent crime (such as ATM skimming).

Mastering the ATM

Being an ATM ninja may not be something to boast about but you will be grateful when it shaves off those few precious seconds when you’re in a hurry.

To the point: There are only three reasons to use an ATM – to make a deposit, withdrawal, or a balance inquiry. While technology has advanced greatly, ATMs can’t do much more than that, yet.

  • Learn to navigate the ATM interface for the 3 basic transactions. Please don’t pick the ATM in one of the busiest streets in town to do this. Wait for a time with low traffic to practice making each of those transactions. Don’t be afraid to ask a bank representative to show you how.
  • Set your ATM preferences beforehand. It can get annoying when the ATM keeps asking the same question every single time you are making a transaction (and you keep giving the same answer every time). You can set the quick withdrawal, language, and receipt printing preferences at the ATM or through your online account.
  • Know what transaction(s) you will be making before you get to the ATM. We all are wasting time when we don’t know what we are doing. Get in, do your business, and get out.
  • Don’t stare and sulk at how much little money you have in your account! Go do something about it.

Time yourself the next time you go to the ATM. A cash and check deposit should take only a couple minutes to finish.

Note: Please keep it green. Don’t print the receipt. Save trees and your time.

(Photo credit: TheTruthAbout)

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