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ING Bonus Referrals

April 4th, 2007 at 10:19 pm

Want to earn a 10% return IMMEDIATELY? Open an ING Savings Account (see the handy links in the right-hand sidebar) with $250 and receive a $25 bonus! How's that for some cool savings?

Hey Readers!

February 22nd, 2007 at 01:47 am

Hi, my name is Peg and I am a reader. I will read any book that's lying around. Even if there are no boks handy, I will read anything as long as it has words- cereal boxes, junk mail, the ingredients in my toothpaste. Hehe.

Because of work, I cannot get to the library during the week and heck, it's even hard to make the trip during the weekends, but for all my fellow readers out there- there's hope! To my great surprise, there are many websites offering free online books- a lot of the great literary classics can be found. My favorite is bibliomania which I stumbled upon while trying to find a copy of "Dubliners" by James Joyce (yup, it's on that site). The site also has poetry and plays, as well as some handy reference books in case you want to look up that obscure word or try and remember who said what quote.

I could probably spend hours absorbed in reading (and rereading) many books online, but sometimes you just don't have the time. Which is why dailylit is the perfect solution. Enter your email address and choose a book, and each day you will receive a "fragments" of that book. These portions are perfect when you have 10-15 minute break and just want to read a little bit. Reached a cliffhanger? Don't despair, you can have the next fragment sent immediately.

Lastly, I must must MUST mention paperbackswap. I love websites that promote sharing and fellowship among a community with common interests, and paperbackswap lives up to it's name. Imagine a communual bookshelf that is accessible to the entire US. Members list their books and then you browse other peoples' bookshelves and request whichever books catch your eye, and then that member mails their book to you! It's that simple, but of course, the concept works because of karma; you must actively post AND mail books in order to receive credit to ask other members for their books. This site is especially good for catching up on the bestsellers, since they tend to be volatile and constantly requested and reposted for others to request. There have been too many times I've purchased a "beach/vacation" reading book and ended up donating it to the library or trying to sell it at a garage sale. With paperbackswap, it's nice to be able to exchange my book for one that I want to read...or maybe even keep. If you join paperbackswap then look me up (I'm "paigu"). I don't have as much books on my shelf now, but I'm planning to list more.

Well, I've certainly given you lots to read. Here's what's up on my "To Be Read" list:
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
The Opposite of Fate by Amy Tan
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Happy reading!

Bank of America is Crazy

February 16th, 2007 at 02:43 pm

I wrote this entry about Bank of America, not as a rant but more as an FYI that banks are not out to be your best friends.

Bank of America must have read it and decided they wanted to win me over. Because they've been giving me not one, not two....but FOUR bonus checks for opening a new account, when I should only have received one.

I've never had a really bad experience with BoA; I certainly don't *love* them, but they have so many branches in the towns I've lived in that I decided to stay with them out of convenience. Now they're giving me all these bonuses and it makes me happy, sure, but then I think, "What sort of wonky tracking system do they have on their computers????"

Being the honest person (yes, my conscience kills me) I actually called BoA service rep after receiving the third and fourth checks. The most recent call was, in fact, last night. The rep did her thing on the computer (who knows, maybe she was playing Doom or Minesweeper) and then asked me did I, in fact open a new account? I told her, yes, and then she was like, "Well, those are your bonuses!" She clearly was of the mindset that I was a nutter, but after I'd asked my barrage of questions to cofirm that these bonuses were legit and did not contain hidden traps (such as signing me up for some credit card or "protection" services or marketing scheme) she pretty much said, "If you insist, then we can deduct the amounts from your account."

And I decided to just keep the money.

Stay tuned for any updates in case Bank of America decides to pull a 180 on me and demand a refund!

Think twice before you "Keep the Change"

February 5th, 2007 at 03:08 pm

You might've seen the Bank of America commercials for their "Keep the Change" promotion. You know, that annoying commercial where the happy shiney people hand over their debit card to pay for purchases, and then do this rather sensual, clandestine little touching-of-fingers move. I have the feeling Bank of America purposefully uses the cutsey handplay motion to distract viewers into thinking this "Keep the Change" promotion is a better deal than it is in reality.

Face it; any sort of bank deals always have some sort of catch. The bank isn't out to give you a bunch of free money, as the "keep the change" advertising may lead you to believe. Instead, the bank is simply trying to pocket more of your money. Think about it. The way the promotion works is, if your total purchase is $3.58, the bank will round up and debit $4.00 from your checkings, then automatically deposit the 0.42 cents in change into your savings account. Essentially, instead of having the loose coins rattling in your pockets, they go straight into the bank.

As my mom pointed out, psychologically, this concept works really well for some. Some people don't keep track of all their loose coins (re: dropped coins), so it is a better deal to have the bank keep track of those pennies and dimes. For those who would otherwise might have lost those coins, it would impress them to watch their savings balance "grow."

Note that Bank of America regular savings account earns a pithy interest rate of 0.20%, which is pretty much equivalent to keeping the coins in your pocket. However, at the end of the year, you'll earn 5% interest on the cumulative change- NOT on your total balance, say, if you originally had $500 deposited into your account. Still, considering how much ends up going into the ol' coin jar at home, then it might be nice to earn that extra 5% interest...provided you can keep your hands out of that savings account during the year.

One very attractive prospect that might push you to enroll is, during the first three months, Bank of America is price-matching your change. Now, this is an actual "free money" offer (not 100% free since it will be reported as 1099-INT) that might be worth taking advantage. If you were sly enough to purchase an item for $1.01, then Bank of America would be forced to price-match and add in 0.99 to your savings. That's almost like getting your full cashback. Purchase something for $2.02, get 0.98 from the bank, which means you ended up spending $1.04, or ~50% off the original price. Spend $10.05, get 0.95 from the bank, bringing the original price down to $ get the idea.

In conclusion, "Keep the Change" is more a way to reallocate money than an actual money-making scheme. Instead of taking change out of your pocket and then having it spent or scattered to the winds, it goes automatically back into the bank. The alleged "savings" is really your own money, just being held in the relative safety of the bank instead of lying in the car cupholder. But if you are good about keeping track of loose change then those coins might be better off in your pocket. And if you are a "cash only" person in the first place, then "Keep the Change" is definitely not for you since it involves debit/credit card usage.

Future gazing

January 30th, 2007 at 12:58 am

Months ago, I thought my goal was to own a house by August of 2007. Now it seems my mind has changed. Argh! Why is it so hard for me to make financial plans? I keep saving for "it" but I haven't identified what "it" is. I'd been stashing my savings into easier access money markets and CD's, because I'd anticipated needing to make the large down payment on the hhouse this summer; now I want to start putting more money into my long term accounts- the Roth IRA, brokerages, 401K.

If I had a crystal ball, I'm sure gazing into it would be like trying to peer through swamp water.

It's so easy to say, "I need to pay my car insurance now," and then reallocate funds to pay it off in one quick payment. Or I can think, "I'm going to take a vacation in three months" and then I start up a short term "vacation fund." Short term goals are a cinch, but long term goals? Since "House 2007" seems to be falling through, should I just rename it "House 2008" and try to shape my savings plan around that?

Netflix vs. Blockbuster

January 27th, 2007 at 03:47 pm

In the on-going battle for DVD-by-mail supremacy, Netflix seemed to always have an edge over Blockbuster. As a previous Netflix subscriber, I was recently made aware that Netflix will soon be offering customers the option to download and view movies online. When this becomes available, Netflix thus becomes a "movies on demand" type of service. Compare that to Blockbuster, which at first had the advantage of "instant" gratification in that if you really couldn't wait, you could go to the actual store and obtain a movie by simply trading in your mailer. Now you can be an ultimate couch potato and just point and click your way to a movie on your computer via Netflix.

Blockbuster still has one slight advantage, but this applies only to gamers. You can rent video games for Xbox and Playstation at the stores. By being a subscriber to the DVD-by-mail program, you receive ecoupons which you can redeem in-store for a video game. Given the, ahem, episodic (re: addictive) quality of certain games, and depending on whether the "no late fees" applies, this could be a very good deal (though I have the feeling that is not the case). But if your thumbs were aching for a quick fix for Madden NFL 200-whatever, then Blockbuster could be your cure.

Pricewise, Netflix and Blockbuster are neck in neck. I don't know how prices will change when Netflix unveils the downloading service, but people may be willing to pay a little more for the convenience. Blockbuster would have to drastically lower prices to get people's attention.

I have personally tried both Netflix and Blockbuster and experienced no delays receiving DVD's in the mail from both services on a timely basis. There's no handy listing of the distribution sites, but perhaps some people in non-metropolitan areas have experienced shipping delays. My friends and I have received cracked/unplayable DVD's from Netflix a few times; can't say anyone really minded, though, because there were always other movies to watch and things to do. And WOW, Netflix let us return it with no problem or charge. Guess it's impossible to finger who's to blame.

Ultimately, the thing that draws me (and my friends) to Netflix are the 2-week Free Trials. For awhile, a group of us would take turns applying for the free trial membership, then we'd all get together to watch the movies. After three rounds of this, we did all chip in to pay for a subscription (we felt bad). When we canceled, Netflix offered ANOTHER free trial period to keep us, so we took that. Then we ran out of movies to watch =) But, my point is that FREE is always a big plus.

Still hesitant to give Netflix a try? Enter this code: 80004745 for a 4-week Free Trial Bring on the popcorn!

Use Autopay- but don't turn off your brain

January 26th, 2007 at 05:41 pm

In this day and age, almost everything is automated- car washes, cappuccino machines, even sidewalks now move for you. There's even Auto Bill Pay, where you can set up financial transactions that will occur on their own on a regular basis. In the words of that rotisserie commercial, "Set it, then forget it!"

That's all well and good, but I've always eyed Auto Bill Pay with much caution, mainly because I feel that, if I sit back and let the utilities and other companies automatically take deductions (which could vary month to month) from my checking account, I might become lax about double checking the actual bill. There's always the possibility of a mistake, and, should an error occur, it's much harder to fight the company for a credit (once they have my money, they're usually reluctant to return it). There have also been many situations where automatic payments have still gone through despite having cancelled the service.

On the other hand, you could use Autopay to help in your investments. The whole concept of "pay yourself first" is simplified when you set up an automatic deposit from your paycheck into your IRA or savings account. You can also choose to deposit a set amount each month into investment accounts such as Sharebuilder or Buyandhold, which then purchases fractions of ETFs or stock. The drawback here, though, as I learned the hard way, is that sometimes linked accounts/brokerages are slow to transfer money, meaning that sometimes although it says they withdrew money on XX/XX date, the balance doesn't show up until day(s) later. I ended up not having sufficient funds in my checking account because I thought my brokerage had already taken out the amount. Grrrr.

In summary, automatic bill pay can be helpful but I wouldn't put 100% trust into it. You still need to put in the effort to keep track of when your billing periods end, so your scheduled payments fall within the deadlines. It's just like driving on cruise control; you don't have to keep the foot on the gas pedal but you still need to stay alert for the bumps on the road =)

My (secret) Money Saving Tip!

January 18th, 2007 at 01:54 am

Sometimes, you can save money just by speaking up and asking flat out for a discount. Don't believe me? Try it out and you'll see. Don't just limit yourself to yard sales and flea markets; many brick and mortar stores may offer you a discount as well, especially on open-box items, high-price items, or items with visible dents/blemishes (of course, first check to see if it works). If you buy in bulk or you shop/eat often at that store, ask for a bulk discount or if there's a frequent shopper/diner card.

Still tongue tied? If you are a college student, ask if there's a discount for students. Belong to AAA or AARP or any affiliation? You might qualify for a discount as well.

Don't be mean or demanding! Ask in a nice, polite manner and remember to smile. Even if you get denied, don't take it personally. Thank the merchant and then go on with your business. In the end, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain, so...just ask!

Two for Tuesdays: Rite Aid Watch Continues!

January 16th, 2007 at 01:33 pm

I'm starting to feel like a Rite Aid cop! There's one within walking distance of my office, so it has become one of the staples of my lunchbreak walk. I don't always go in with the intention of buying, but after perusing the aisles, I must say that there's great prices and sales to be had. And if you've been paying attention to my entries, my last one was a bit of a *rant* against Rite Aid....I take it back! Yesterday I noticed the confusing price tags had all been replaced. In fact, it looked like every sales item now had it's own shelf tag; all of them had the same wording/jargon. Even more eye-catching was the sales items were grouped together on the shelves, so you couldn't help but notice them. I did do a bit of policework and poked through the tags but nope, there was no case where the tags were hiding the prices of non-sale items. So good job, Rite Aid!

With that said, I will now kick-off my Two for Tuesday series by mentioning some of the deals I saw a la Rite Aid. The "2 for 1" sales expire 1/20/07, but the 50% Off (essentially the same deal) sales look to be running "while supplies last!" Some things worth considering:

-Finesse (my fav! yay!) shampoo/conditioners
-Aveeno lotion and body wash
-Neutrogena cleansing products (they rock)
-Cosmetics, though the 50% off nail polishes looked, err, crappy (ever see the layers separate? not a nice sight). Actually, I would hesitate to buy some of the foundations, too, since most contain SPF nowadays, and many sunblock ingredients lose potency over time. Those discount cosmetics have obviuosly been sitting around for awhile, so buy at your own discretion
-Banaids (I stocked up here)
-Certain L'oreal anti-aging products: though I don't use them myself, I did read an article/expose that revealed drugstore brand lotions are just as, if not more, effective than those department store brands. So don't scoff at buying anti-wrinkle cream at Rite Aid instead of at Nordstroms! (though the best best best skincare will always be sunblock)

And, of course, Christmas items were 75% off. Some cute stuffed animals that were tempting even for an "adult" like myself!

Confusion at RiteAid

January 10th, 2007 at 04:59 pm

The other day, I was in RiteAid when I noticed some confusing sales tag in the aisles. Certain skincare items were on sale this week; to promote these items, there were yellow shelf tags reading "$1.50 savings" posted (more or less) below the item.

But what happened when they attempted to do double coupon savings? RiteAid often has clip-out coupons within their print ads; if you're lucky, your desired sale item might get this additional discount. This week, for example, Eucerin lotions price were cut by $1.50; there was also an in-ad coupon for additional $1.50.

You'd think RiteAid would print one sticker that read "$3.00 savings!" but instead, RiteAid got lost in confusion. I saw one sticker which read the following:

$1.50 savings
-$1.50 In-Ad savings
0.00 total savings


What it should've read:
$1.50 savings
+ $1.50 In-Ad savings
$3.00 total savings

I saw yet another tag (on the same shelf, no less):

-$1.50 Less
-$1.50 Less with In-Ad Coupon
XXXXXXXX (no total "less")

Why all this tagging variation? Why the emphasis on being Good Student and adhering to the rules of addition/subtraction of negative numbers? Or is RiteAid following the strict rules of English rhetoric that say the words "less" or "savings" imply subtracting from a number?

It seems RiteAid is being a bit too smart for their own good!

Target Pricing Policy

January 9th, 2007 at 01:06 am

For you jolly good time Target shoppers, here's a fun tip regarding the pricing for Target clearance items (you know, the ones hiding at the ends of shelves):

- Target's full prices end in 9. So the first price tag will be $14.99 or $27.99, something like that. Then, every time Target discounts the product, the final digit of the price drops. The lowest the last digit will drop is 4. If you see something you want at Target and the price ends in 4, buy it. The price won't go any lower. (credit:

From personal observation, can't confirm if that's true. Also, the cynical part of me is thinking, "Hmmm, ok full price is $9.99, first sale price is $9.98, next sale price is $9.97, then $9.96...." (just kidding, Target, we know you are capable of better discount slashing than that)

Anyway, thought this might be helpful for those of you who might sometimes be on the fence about buying something from Target....if the price ends in 4 then that's as low as it'll go. But, of course, the best savings advice would be to not buy the item!

Free Lunch (sort of)

January 5th, 2007 at 04:30 am

Nothing in life is free, eh? I was pulled into an emergency meeting that lasted the entire morning, then had to do a teleconference with the FDA, who then wanted a resubmission with additional info. Oh they wanted it this afternoon. Yay, deadlines. Though yes, my boss was kind enough to order some Wegmans sandwich platters. I guess that nets me the $5 I would've otherwise spent grabbing a meal at Subway.

Also ran today. Another 5 miler since my knees are killing from the fall I took. 45 more cents to add to the challenge.

Previous total: $50.66
New total: $56.11

Have we forgotten basic math?

December 29th, 2006 at 01:44 pm

Heard a funny but sad, sad tidbit on NPR this morning. Apparantly, some stores in Great Britain are giving away free "shopping calculators" to shoppers to help expedite their ability to calculate the price of marked down goods. Or could it be that people have forgotten how to do what amounts to simple math???

Anyone- seriously!- can learn to figure out just how much that percent discount will save you. Here's what I do; take the price of the item and scoot that little decimal point one space over to the left. Voila, you've just calculated what 10% of the cost is. Now use that as your basis for the rest of the discounts. If an item is marked down 20%, then double your number. If it is marked down 70%, multiply by 7. Hey, stores make it easy for you by using nice, round numbers.

Oh no, what if it is a 5% discount? No fear, just half your 10% value.

If you really want to be a discounting pro, then figure out what 1% of the price is (hint hint, just scoot the decimal point two places to the left) and you have a base by which to calculate ANY percent-off.

Confounding Refunds

December 28th, 2006 at 02:31 pm

Happy holidays! I'm sure everyone is in the midst of vacations and time offs. Me, I am back at work and absorbing the overflow of projects due to the absence of half the team. No rest for the weary.

Anyway, aside from me working, I did read that this week would be yet another shopping frenzy, not only as people cash in their gift cards, but also to return unwanted or excess gifts. A helpful hint to all- keep your receipts!!!! Lots of scams going on from people trying to return stolen merchandise, which unfortunately could make the act of returns a big hassle for some innocent, honest shoppers.

I had to return an item as well, but since I'd purchased it online from, it was a matter of mailing back the package. I kept the same box, just peeled off the mailing label or xxx'd it out with black marker. had links where I could print out a UPS or FedEx label, then I just dropped it off at a nearby shipping store. There were some ominous "warnings" on the amazon returns page, stating how they'd deduct shipping costs and assorted fees from the grand total, so in theory I shouldn't be getting my full refund. At the time, I thought, oh well, that's the price I pay for convenience of online shopping.

However, I got an email from saying they'd received my item and they were issuing a refund. Somehow, despite them deducting fees of some sort, they added BACK an amount because I'd bought the item under the Free Shipping promotion....I think....I haven't bothered double checking the math but bottom line is, I got my full refund! Maybe I shouldn't probe too deeply and take it and run. Yay,!