Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Get up off my ads - why advertising sucks

Here is where I stand on advertising - I hate it. Why? From the downfall of the American diet to the rise of Rachel Ray, all of this can be attributed to the adverse effects of advertising.

When personal finance blogs open up their page to artificial advertisements, I can't help but notice the irony. You're promoting financial literacy and saving money, yet your ads take me to sites that allow me to spend money or pay more for a given product? Some notable atrocious advertising on personal finance blogs include: $1500 payday loans, buy homes no money down, bad credit loans. The scary thing is, these are on sites I read and like. But the advertisements? No siree, not for me, thank you very much.

In addition to the moral conundrum presented by such advertising on personal finance sites, most advertising is not aesthetically pleasing. What color-blind, harebrained advertiser came up with such creative ads such as these?

If I were a goat cheese merchant, I'd be totally offended. And the thought of being lumped together with those smelly pizza cheese merchants, the audacity of GoogleAdsense!

Another problem I have with much of the advertising is you can't control the content. GoogleAdsense and many other programs, simply find keywords in the blog and insert ads accordingly. Let's say I write an article about how to get 2 Free CDs +$11 in YOUR pocket, but Google picks up the name "Vince" and gives me ads for "How to dunk like Vince Carter" or "Vince Gill guitar licks" What interest do you have in either of those?

Now you may be thinking, "But you have links to all of these places, what's up with that?" Here is my promise to you, the reader. All of the links on my site will be for products that I personally endorse and most likely own or have tried. In almost all of the deals, I take part. In all of the cashback programs, I am a member. In all of the financial institutions, I own an account (unless otherwise noted). In all of the crazy money making ventures, I venture. You get the point.

After that tirade against advertising, I will make some exceptions - call it clearing my conscience or what you will. I have recently become an Associate. What that entails is, I post links to for certain products I endorse. As you can see from my most recent product endorsement, however, I add a disclaimer at the end.
If you're interested in reading this book, I got mine for free from, so I highly recommend that route or borrowing it from your public library.
Why? Because does not offer the best price. But it offers many useful reviews of products, and if by chance you're one of those people that must buy it new, then I might as well profit from it, right?
While many personal finance bloggers look to make a personal profit through blogging and advertising, I have no such illusion. My conscience is worth more than the few dollars I would make by allowing such dishonest advertising on my site. I do this out of the satisfaction of knowing that I am spreading the good word about saving money - earning referrals is secondary to this. Rest assured, I am on your side, and I will always save you money. No link here will ever lead you astray.

Links to my favorite advertising averters:
I Will Teach You To Be Rich
Ask Uncle Bill
Millionaire Artist

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Festival of Frugality #59 Summary

Money, Matter, and More Musings hosts an excellent Festival of Frugality #59 this week. I'm taking part in it with my post on free airline miles. Now for the best of the fest:

Traveler's Pen pens an article about airline vouchers. In addition to writing an article that kind of goes along with my submission, this lady is from the ATL - double brownie (unadulterated) points! I've taken a gander at some of her other articles, and they'll be useful come traveling time.

The Digerati Life presents 14 ways to stop binge buying. Well I wouldn't if the TV commercials didn't make the sausage on a stick look so yummy!

My Financial Journey takes us on his pimp ride. Now, all he has to do is create a show on how to buy cars really cheaply and sell the show to MTV. You think it would sell?

And last, but not least, Money and Values asks the question "When's it time to "grow up" and upgrade your stuff?" As much as I'd like to believe I could live like a student forever, I realize that eventually, I will have to stop attending interest meetings just because I'm interested in the food, and furniture found on the street will no longer be acceptable. I'll live this way for as long as I can, but just a little food for thought. Always good to end the day on a question - keeps your mind working.

That's all for today - 3 posts, what more could you ask for? Some real articles coming soon, stay tuned!

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Carnival of Personal Finance #85 Summary

I'm taking part in the Carnival of Personal Finance #85 hosted by Five Cent Nickel. After doing the last edition of the Sunday Paper, I realized how much time it was taking to read all of these posts and write about them, so I contemplated not doing these summaries/Sunday Paper, but that wouldn't be fair to neither me nor you all (y'all to those in the Bible belt, yous guys to the Yanks), so I've decided I'm going to implement a much more rigorous selection procedure as such:

1. If the title sounds uninteresting, I will not read it.
2. If I like the title, I will take a glimpse at it, but if the first few sentences don't make me want to ready any further, I will press the X at the top right corner of my window.
3. However, if there is something shiny, I will most likely read it, or stare at the shiny thing for a very long time.

Taking these new rules into account, here's the best (and shiniest) of the Carnival:

Clever Dude discusses the 3 methods to pay down debt. Financially, option 1 is the best choice as in it will save you the most money in the long run, but for some people, psychological benefits may be more important to success in paying off your debts, so to each his/her own.

ProBargainHunter shows us how to get De-LIGHT-ful savings. The epitome of my rule #3 above.

The Simple Dollar deconstructs Robert Kiyosaki. I must admit, I read his book a couple of months ago (for free while I sat in my local Borders one afternoon), and I was inspired to become financially independent. However, after reading several reviews of him, I've come to discover that this guy is basically a fraud, although perhaps not as much as this guy. Thanks for the inspiration, but I'll take the advice of some people who know what they're talking about. Times like these, I'm glad I'm cheap.

Making Our Way examines the great big lie about personal finance blogging. Why do I do it? I do it for the ladies.

Personal Finance for Students and Fresh Grads (he should really consider changing his name because it makes my fingers hurt every time I have to type it) gives us 12 tips for finding the best financial aid. Good reminder, I should get on that......

Even with such stringent selection criteria, many submissions survived the rounds of reduction. We'll see how the next one stacks up.... Festival of Frugality coming up next.

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Free 2GB SD card + $10 in YOUR pocket!

I don't know what it is with, but they seem to be giving these things away like a prostitute with an STD (last week). This week, it's a free 2GB SD card and $10 for using Google checkout.

Use BigCrumbs (2.7%) to make an additional $1.35 or Ebates (1%) to make an additional $0.50.

Whoever said there's no such thing as a free lunch didn't have these deals back in the day!

2 GB SD card at

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Sunday Paper #4

The Sunday Paper 4th installment:

Mapgirl's Fiscal Challenge tells her story of unsacrificed travel. While she calls it unsacrificed, I would say that putting all your income towards a trip is a pretty large sacrifice, but I guess it you compare it to say, selling your kidney on the black market, it's not as great of a sacrifice. I'm a huge believer in the concept of pay-it-forward, and it's good to hear how it affects the lives of others.

Get Rich Slowly takes a stab at behavioral finance. I find human behavior pretty fascinating, and given its implications with finance, it can help you examine your own financial habits.

Blueprint of Financial Prosperity takes a look at historical federal tax brackets. I didn't realize that taxes were so much higher at some points in history. I think that's part of what is wrong with our generation - people are too self-centered to contribute to the greater good. During World War II, some people paid 94% in taxes. If any politician suggested that nowadays, they would have absolutely no future in politics. Of course we're not in a war to the extent of WWII, but we have Iraq, Social Security, education, and plenty of other needs that should be addressed, but most people aren't willing to pay for higher taxes. You can't have it both ways people.

I Will Teach You To Be Rich examines the lifestyles of his three friends who spend money like it's going out of style. He argues that since these people have their financial futures in order (contributing to IRA/401k, they should feel free to spend any excess money in whatever fashion they choose. While I agree that one should spend money to enjoy life, I find it rather sad that these people feel compelled to spend money on such fickle items. They are letting material possessions define happiness and who they are. If I were in their shoes, I would probably be more like the partier, but I would spend money on people whose company I enjoy. Sure, that may be akin to paying for a prostitute, but regardless of what you spend money on, you do vote with your wallet. Would you rather spend money on a $500 pair of shoes whose profits go to some lady in Paris or a good friend whose advice and company you enjoy?

Personal Finance Advice considers the skid mark safe. Being a DIY guy myself, I think I'll try and make my own one of these days.

Ask Uncle Bill gives an example of thinking outside the box - one of those ideas that is much discussed but rarely encountered, sort of like the Loch Ness monster.

The Simple Dollar gives some tips for a college student crushed by credit cards. Unfortunately, this is an all too familiar scenario, and if you're reading this, it may be preaching to the choir, but perhaps send this to your friends who could use the advice. shows us how AOL is branching into the online video field with videos that teach how to make home repairs. Being a DIY kind of guy, I'll probably be checking this out quite frequently to see what they put up.

That's it for this edition of the Sunday paper. If you have any articles next week that you find interesting, send them this way, and I'll try and post them.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Festival of Under 30 Finances #15 Summary

I'm taking part in the Festival of Under 30 Finances #15 hosted by Money, Matter, and More Musings with my article about high yield savings accounts. In addition, here are my picks for the best of the fest:

American Inventor Spot shows how to get paid to be green. Not as in "green with envy"green but more like "I don't shower but once a month because I like to conserve water" green.

Queercents discusses how peer pressure spending affect one's financial decisions. Yet another example of how people feel compelled to keep up with the Joneses. The solution? Take a look at what this guy did - you might recognize him.

It's Just Money explains why American Idol is ruining America. I'm not quite sure that it's directly related to money, but entertaining premise nonetheless.

An English Major's Money explains very eloquently (I would expect no less) the symbolism of money. It's definitely something that I've had to deal with as well, and it never crossed my mind to think of money having any sort of symbolic significance - except for that S with a line through it. What a smarty pants.

Ok, enough for now, I'll definitely write some more tomorrow to further delay my inevitable studying.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

The Richest Man in Babylon (free book!)

I just finished reading my first ever personal finance book, the Richest Man in Babylon. I chose it since it seems to be one of the most commonly recommended books by personal finance bloggers. The book gives some insightful lessons on finance through parables set in Babylon. Each chapter has some sort of lesson of its own, but one of the chapters explains the Five Laws of Gold.

1. Gold cometh gladly and in increasing quantity to any man who will put by not less than one-tenth of his earnings to create an estate for his future and that of his family.
This idea is echoed by many personal finance gurus who stress the importance of paying yourself first. Before spending your money, just put away 10% in savings and forget about it. It sounds like a lot, but surprisingly, you won't really notice that it's missing.

2. Gold laboreth diligently and contentedly for the wise owner who finds for it profitable employment, multiplying even as the flocks of the field.
This is basically saying make your money work for you. Invest it in something with a decent return, and let compound interest work its magic.

3. Gold clingeth to the protection of the cautious owner who invests it under the advice of men wise in its handling.
If you're going to invest your money, it's wise to follow the advice of experts in the field rather than your next door neighbor (unless he happens to be an expert).

4. Gold slippeth away from the man who invests it in businesses or purposes with which he is not familiar or which are not approved by those skilled in its keep.
This is kind of the opposite of rule 3, and something that Warren Buffet preaches: don't get involved in something you don't completely understand. As much potential as there is in tech stocks, Warren Buffet can admit that he doesn't understand the industry very well, so he avoids investing in it. Amazing to see such humility nowadays.

5. Gold flees the man who would force it to impossible earnings or who followeth the alluring advice of tricksters and schemers or who trusts it to his own inexperience and romantic desires in investment.
Essentially, don't get caught up in something that sounds too good to be true - because in most cases, it is too good to be true.

There are many other important lessons in other chapters. While the book is well written, I can't point my finger on anything that caused a lightbulb to go off in my head. I think I've heard the ideas presented in the book many times, but that just goes to show how truthful those statements are. If you think you're pretty familiar with most basic financial concepts, you probably won't learn anything new, but if you're a novice, this can be a great guide to the pillars of personal finance.

If you're interested in reading this book, I got mine for free from, so I highly recommend that route or borrowing it from your public library. I am also giving away my copy, so if you leave a comment or send an email stating your desire for this book, you will be entered into a random drawing to be held in one week.

Also, does anyone have any recommendations for good personal finance books that are a step above the basic books?

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Carnival of Students 6th Edition

We had some super submissions this week for the Carnival of Students 6th Edition. describes how to quit procrastinating. While the post title mentions free beer tomorrow, it's mentioned no where else in the post. Perhaps it was one of those gimmicks to draw attention? If so, it worked beautifully on this alcohol appreciator.

CampusGrotto lists 12 ways to improve yourself over winter break. A little too late for me since I sat around being a waste of space for 2 weeks, but maybe next year.

Debra Moorhead, continuing the kick of self-improvement so common in the new year, shows how to set goals you can actually achieve.

Rich Dad Says the job outlook for the class of 2007 looks pretty good. My question is, how good does the class of 2007 look?

Although many of us are driven to succeed academically and professionally, Live the Power describes an atypical success - her high school English teacher. I may be a bit biased given my teaching background, but I believe teaching is one of the most underappreciated yet important professions in our society. The amount of influence teachers can have is enormous. I'm glad that Live the Power was fortunate enough to experience such a relationship with a teacher.

The Blue City describes his experience failing linear algebra. His experience dealing with adversity sounds a lot like some old Chumbawama song.

The Student Help Forum explains why students should blog. I agree completely, as long as you keep me entertained.

Musings of a Med Student helps us catch up on all of the new fangled fashion terms that we miss when we're too busy studying in school. I'd have to say this was the most entertaining submission - amazing how people can come up with such creative and fitting descriptions for bodily exposure.

Overall, I'd give this round an A! Please read the wonderful submissions for this carnival, and go to Blog Carnival to submit your articles for the next Carnival of Students!

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Free 512MB SD card/USB drive + $10 in YOUR pocket

I bet you've been in a situation where you thought to yourself, "you know, I could really use another SD card for my digital camera." or "I wish I had a portable storage device that could store more than this lousy 1.44MB floppy disk." And I'm sure most of you have already solved that problem by going out and buying it. If, however, you've been like me and held out for these great deals, or if you just happen to need another one, today's your lucky day! has two offers good through 1/27. One is the Kingston 512MB SD card, and the other is the Kingston 512 MB USB drive. Both normally cost $27, but they currently have $27 rebates, plus shipping is free, so they are absolutely free! If you want to make this deal even sweeter, use Google Checkout, which currently has a $10 off $10 offer for new customers, and you actually make $10! Can it get better than this? Well, actually, it can. If you make the purchase through BigCrumbs, they offer 2.7% cashback. Now 2.7% back on $27 doesn't come out to that much - $0.729 to be exact - but every little bit counts - that's why they call me stingy. If you've already signed up for Ebates, and don't want to go through the hassle of signing up for another program, they actually offer 1%, so you'd be getting back $0.27. Not quite the $0.729, but who's counting (except me)?

Today just seems to be a day of free stuff, huh? Whenever deals arise where you have the chance to actually make money, I have a hard time saying no, especially if it's something I've been jonesing (see previous post). I'll try and post more real content soon though, I think my brain just needs a little time to recover its creative juices again.

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Free airline miles!

You're sitting at your computer right now "doing homework" or waiting for the first assignment of the day to come to your desk (even though you had to get to work at 8 this morning). Instead of wasting time reading blogs like mine, what if you could spend that time earning free airline miles? This is what the founders of e-miles had in mind. All you have to do is "watch" a few ads and answer some questions about them, and poof, you have free miles! Of course you're probably not going to earn yourself a free ticket anywhere just by doing this, but if you just need a few more miles for your next free flight, things like this can help. They say that When you rack up 500 miles, they can be transfered to the frequent flyer program of your choice (currently, Delta, Northwest, Continental, and US Airways are taking part).

Another strategy I use to earn free miles is eating. Yes, eating. Many airlines offer miles for dining programs run by the Rewards Network. All you have to do is to register a credit card with the program, and whenever that card gets used at participating restaurants, you get credited miles. Sure, I don't eat out that much.... but my parents do. With the frequent bonuses they were giving out last year, I earned several thousand free miles through this program. The only complaint I have about this program is that the number of restaurants is kind of limited,
but beggars can't be choosers, right?

If you want to learn about some more ways to earn frequent flyer miles, here are some other resources, for your edification:

Flyertalk - Sort of the FatWallet of flying. Members post deals, experiences, and anything else you want to know about getting the most air for your buck.

Free Frequent Flyer Miles - I just found this as I was writing this up, but it has some useful information about ways to earn frequent flyer miles. I guess it's kind of the Cliff Notes version of the above. I especially recommend the Student Programs section.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Carnival of Personal Finance #84 Summary

Blueprint for Financial Prosperity is hosting this week's Carnival of Personal Finance. This week, there were an astounding 77, yes 77 submissions. I went through all of them and picked out my favorite. The bright shiny ones especially caught my attention.

Digerati Life writes "How Rich Neighborhoods Can Be Deadly" And you thought living in the ghetto was dangerous.

Wise Bread explains how to buy a car using a broker. I didn't even realize there was such a thing as a car broker, but I guess there's a broker for just about anything. Real estate, insurance, cars, sex, you name it. Also, read the part 2, where he explains how to do it on your own. Good tips if you're in the market for buying a car.

Time to Budget expresses her displeasure with those pesky 50 year mortgages. Another thing I didn't realize even existed. She makes good points about how debt has become such an accepted part of our lifestyles, that people don't think twice about having a debt for 50 years. If you're at the stage in your life where you're buying a house, your expected life expectancy from that point is probably about 50 years! You're in debt for life!

Clever Dude enlightens us with 5 Xtreme Saving Ideas! I'll admit, I do one of the five. I'll let you guess which one.

Financial Fitness explains her situation where she did not work for a year (intentionally). It's actually a pretty inspiring story, and just goes to show, money doesn't buy happiness. Making whopee does.

While I find taxes generally very boring, Roth & Company, P.C. (is this even a blog?) tells the true story of a man trying to evade taxes... and authorities. So maybe the tax world gets an interesting story once in a blue moon.

A Girl Worth Saving shares with us her Financial Achilles' Heel. I think everyone can relate to her story of having something we like to splurge on. Nothing wrong with treating yourself once in a while. It only becomes a problem when you start jonesing it. (I've been hearing this term flung about by the youth these days, so I thought I'd try to sound hip and incorporate it into my daily vocabulary.)

Money for the Rest of Us explains "You Are What You Eat" A simple thing you can do to save money is packing your own lunch - something I do everyday. I'm a big fan of the PB&J too. warns us, "Don't Rely on the Lottery" A great post on why you shouldn't play the lottery (as if you needed another reason). Unless you want to subsidize college for kids who probably don't need it anyways - but it is a great political platform.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I did. I hope to post more in the next few days because we have a little break, so keep coming back for more!

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Sunday Paper #3

It's that time of the week again. Who would've thought that I would actually start looking forward to these things? Or maybe it's just because I can use it as an excuse for a little break from my studying. Anyways, here goes.

Get Rich Slowly asks, "Who Is Responsible for the Payday Loan Trap?" Yes, you heard correctly, it is a trap. He goes on to make a good argument comparing credit abuse to drug addiction. Yes, that's right, you heard correctly once again. Very interesting, check it out.

Same Writer conducted an informal study comparing fuel efficiencies at different speeds, so that we can save money on gas. Not quite what this guy does, but maybe, just a little bit more practical (if you call driving 55 mph on Atlanta highways practical).

I Will Teach You to be Rich explains how to impress friends, get girls, and lose weight. How, you ask? Simply by setting smaller goals for yourself. I totally agree. Quite appropriate since I'm learning about behavior change in one of my classes.

Punny Money goes onto explain that you can advance your career through heavy drinking. Is this a week of bold statements or what? First comparing credit abuse to drug addiction, and now this? Just goes to show that you never really graduate college - the only thing that changes is what you're drinking.

Dumb Little Man tackles a topic that no one really likes to talk about: "Answers to 10 Embarassing Health Questions" Got an itch down there?

Personal Finance Advice explains how taxes really work. Interesting take on it. I must admit, I've never really thought about it from the rich guy's perspective, seeing as I've never been the rich guy - and hence this entire blog. Personally, I think the owner shouldn't offer the discount and should instead invest in education, but hey, I'm only one guy.

Simple Dollar covers a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Food. He makes some good suggestions on how to cut down on your food expense. I'm making myself a mental note to write something on this later.

Sorry, this took a lot longer than I expected, so I'm just going to leave it as a list. I'll come up with witty comments tomorrow.

Note: edited 1/22 to increase entertainment value

See, isn't that better?

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Student Loan Corporation Doesn't Know Jack

Last week, a representative from the Student Loan Corporation came to our school to give a seminar on financial aid and budgeting, and since they offered free lunch - who am I to turn down free food? - I went. I wasn't anticipating much, but their presentation turned out to be far worse than I expected. Some of their key mistakes:

1. "Begin saving a part of your loan and put it into a savings account."
Now there's nothing wrong with placing your money in a savings account instead of your underwear drawer, as I mentioned in a previous post. However, there is something wrong with saving a part of your loan. If you don't use up all your loan money, you should immediately return it, so you're not being charged interest (more on this in #3). In fact, it's almost better to underbudget, and end up needing to borrow more later, at least if you're in grad school since they'll loan you as much money as you want whenever you want it. The less time you have the money, the less interest you are paying.

2. "There are some high yield savings accounts such as ING and I think it's called HCBC?"
Half-way there lady. If you can't remember four letter words, you must have a hard time finding something to say when you want to yell in frustration. Try HSBC.

3. "If you put your money in a high yield savings account like ING, you end up making money."
This was a comment made by a student when we were talking about savings. This was one case where audience participation resulted in the lowering of the financial IQ of the audience. Student loan interest rates are at 6.8%. Currently, the leading savings account offers 5.61% APY, but that's for balances above $25K. Even if you did have that much, it's less than 6.8%, and you'll be getting a nice tax on that at the end of the year, making it even less. I had to respond to this demonstration of ignorance, and I corrected him, but I don't think he believed me.

Beyond that misinformation, they basically talked about how to budget, but all I could think about then is that budgeting comes down to personal discipline. If you need to go to Starbucks for a quad venti mocha latte every morning to perk you up, then you should know that that costs you a couple grand every year. If you are "too busy" to cook for yourself and choose to eat out every night of the week, then you should know that if you saved up that money, you could easily buy a nice new HDTV. It all comes down to priorities and discipline.
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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Festival of Frugality #57 Round-up

I'm taking part in the Festival of Frugality #57 hosted over at FIRE Finance with my article about getting 2 free CDs and making $11. Here's a list of my top picks from this week's festival:

Penny Pinching asks 8 questions that will prevent impulse spending. These are important points to remember when .sticking to a budget I wrote some similar comments in an earlier article explaining my philosophy, and it sounds like we have much in common. Or at least more than me and say, these folks.

Personal Finance for Students and Fresh Grads gives us his take on Pragmatic Personal Finance Tips for College Students: Part 2. I do a lot of these, and I know it's saved me tons of money over the years. I especially like some of his advice on purchasing books. What is it? You'll have to read it to find out!

What? Did someone say food? Money$martLife shows us 10 ways to cut your restaurant bill big time. Speaking of food, can I say how happy I am that IHOP brought back their All You Can Eat Pancakes(even CNNMoney thinks that's big news)? At the same time, it makes me die a little inside to think about how that's not helping our ever expanding obesity epidemic. And it makes me die a little inside when I eat that many pancakes too.

My favorite post this week was from ProBargainHunter who shows us how to buy cheap airline tickets. For those of us who like to travel for whatever reason - to see significant other(s), family, earn better exchange rates, rack up frequent flyer miles, or to indulge in the fragrant flatulence of the stranger in the next seat - he lists some very useful tools and search engines that will help us get the cheapest flights. Now if only I could find a way to sneak my way into first class....

I apologize for the long delay in getting these up. The festival's been up for a couple of days now, but I've been busy being a student instead of a blogger. Ah, such is life.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Free college coupons

I've never been one to spend too much time clipping coupons, but what if you could just print them out at your computer? Here's a site that has specific coupons for many different colleges. The deals can be hit or miss, but you can't beat the convenience of simply hitting control + P!

College Coupons

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Ode to the Ramen Man

On January 5, 2007, we students lost a hero we never knew we had - the man responsible for many a nights of nourishment, Momofuku Ando, the inventor of the instant ramen noodles. Is there a more quintessential source of salty goodness for starving students everywhere than that which comes in a styrofoam cup with the directions just add hot water? What food in the history of mankind can rival the ramen noodle in its delicious simplicity? What food can provide carbs (noodles), protein (freeze-dried meat), fat (soup), and vitamins and minerals (freeze-dried veggies) all for a mere 10 cents?

While I outgrew ramen noodles by the end of my freshman year of college, they continue to be a source of sustenance for many students and others of limited means. If you're reading this blog, you must be familiar with the ramen noodle.

The crisp manner in which you pull away the paper lid - but only to half-way. The stream of boiling water meeting its destiny. The obligatory 3 minute wait. As you tear off the entire lid, the smell of noodles dances out of the cup, transforming your barren dorm room into a small bit of olfactory heaven, albeit with an undertone of smelly socks. When that first bite hits your tongue, waves of euphoria rush through your body. As you sip the last remaining bit of broth, you know that you've experienced culinary perfection.

Let's raise a cup (of ramen noodles) to the man who would be culinary king - Mr. Momofuku Ando.

New York Times article

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Get Your G's Together, G: #2 High Yield Savings Accounts ($25 Free!)

This is the second in a series of basic personal finance articles for students. The first can be found here.

When that big loan disbursement comes out at the beginning of each semester, where do you put it? Ok, I'm sure some of you go fill up the coffers of the local mall, but after that, where does it go? If you're like most people, you just stick it in your checking account. Easy access to write checks, pay bills, right? Ok, not bad, at least it's not under your mattress. You may even have a savings account at your bank that earns almost 1% APY if you're lucky. But you could be doing better.

I used to be like you. I had my extra money stashed in my savings account at my bank earning a measly 0.8% APY. Imagine my shock when I discovered that there were banks with online savings accounts that offer in excess of 5% APY. Think about it, instead of keeping that big hunk of cash sitting in your checking account, you could put it to work for you. It'd be earning interest while you sit around claiming to study, when in fact you're reading this blog.

Let's say you get $12000 for living expenses each year. If you just left it sitting in your savings account at 5%, you'd make an easy $600. Now you won't make exactly that much since you'll be spending it as the year goes by, but you get the idea. You could make a couple hundred easy bucks just by letting the money sit there while you go to class, watch TV, sleep, or do anything else. What about paying bills, writing checks? I'll get to that when I explain to you my two favorite High Yield Savings accounts.

ING Direct was my first foray into the field of high yield savings accounts. While the interest rate lags behind most of the leaders right now (4.50% APY), it does have a nice sign-up bonus of $25 if you're referred by a member and fund the account with an initial deposit of $250. That's $25 easy bucks just for parking $250! You can take the money out after you get the bonus because there is no minimum balance. If you want to get an account started, here are a couple referrals.
ING link 1
ING link 2
ING link 3

I'll be upfront, I get $10 as an affiliate, but you get $25. Without a referral, neither of us get anything, so this is a win-win situation!

After you sign up with ING, you open up an account where they offer higher interest, so that you can transfer your money as soon as you get the $25.

HSBC Direct is where I have most of my money now. Currently, it's at 5.05% APY (minimum balance $1), which is one of the best rates. There are other banks with higher APRs, but I have heard that the customer service isn't nearly as good, and they sometimes have problems with transfers, which is a scary thought. With HSBC, I have never had a problem, and whenever I call, their customer service is top-notch. Each month, I can make 6 transfers out of my savings accounts (the same as ING), so when I need to pay my rent check, I just transfer that amount to my rent a few days before I write the check, so it has time to clear (usually 2-3 business days). My credit card bills, I pay directly from this account, so I'm earning interest on my money nearly all the time! Another added bonus with HSBC is that they offer a set of free checks with their free checking, so if you ever have an emergency where you need to access this money immediately, you can use these checks.

For those of you wary about using a bank without a local branch, another great option is with Washington Mutual. They currently have a deal where if you sign up for their Free Checking online, you can earn 5.00% APY on a Statement Savings account (minimum balance $1). The advantage of Washington Mutual is that they do have branches in many locations, so if you like the idea of having a real bank to go to, this works as the best of both worlds. While I don't have an account with them, I may open one in the future because I really like their free checks for life deal.

You really can't go wrong with any of these options. They are all reputable banks, and you'll be earning more interest than a pair of hot girls making out at a bar.

I also found a couple of posts from other bloggers who have some experience with some of the other banks:
Poorer Than You - Emigrant
Broke-Ass Student - iGObanking

Whatever you decide, please pass the word along to your friends. If we're going to be borrowing money, we might as well make some money along the way, right?

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Sunday Paper #2

Here's my second installment of The Sunday Paper:

I Will Teach You To Be Rich shows how one reader got his company to pay $16,000 for him to go to school, all for just a few hours of work! What an amazing story. It's just a reminder that whenever you want to go to school, a conference, etc. just ask to see if there's any money available. Asking's never hurt anyone.

Punny Money gives us a list of the top 5 professions with unprofessional websites. I didn't mention this in my New Year's resolution, but I'm planning on creating some websites for local businesses this year. If anyone has any advice as far as website designs or good books/tutorials, let me know!

The Simple Dollar tells us of an article she read in Mother Jones about a class of drivers - hypermilers - that get amazing fuel efficiency out of their cars by using certain techniques. Apparently, this guy can get 59 mpg in a plain old Accord! I use some of his techniques, such as avoiding the use of my breaks and timing green lights, but some of the others, I have yet to try. Driving behind a semi with my engine turned off? I think I'd like to live a few more years. But shutting off my engine whenever I'm stopped for a long time? I think I could do that.

..... and that's about it. Surprising dearth of quality articles this week - either that or maybe I already covered them in my festival summaries. I guess we can't all have a great week unless our name starts with "A" and ends in "pple."

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

2 free CDs + $11 in YOUR pocket!

Yes, you read it right, 2 CDs and $11 in your pocket. Here's how -chapeaus off to savoirfare over at Slickdeals:

- Log into Ebates which is offering a $12 rebate if you sign up for through their link. If you don't already have an Ebates account, you will get a $5 bonus for signing up and completing one offer.
- Go the Music Stores and click on the link (for the $12 sign-up rebate)
- Once you get to, enter 'gamecd' in the promo code box. This drops your price from $6.99/cd down to $5.99/cd AND gives you a free CD
- Choose a cd that you want to put in your queue; you won't get this one right away. Click on the start now button and go through the sign-up process.
- Once you're signed up, look for another CD that you want to get right now and add it to your cart.
- Go to your cart, click on the Redeem Free CDs window and drag it to 1. Then update your cart - the CD in your cart should now be FREE including shipping.
- After you get your free CD and the CD in your queue ($5.99), cancel your subscription.
- TOTAL: 2 CDs for $5.99 - $12 rebate = -$6.01, if you include a $5 Ebates bonus, -$11.01

They don't have many to select from, but I got a good pair - Nick Drake and Vince Guaraldi. Yes, go ahead, you may laugh at my musical tastes.

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Festival of Under 30 Finance #12 Summary

The Finance Journey is hosting the Festival of Under 30 Finances #12. This is apparently a relatively new blog festival, and it's my first time participating, but there are some good articles, many relevant to the under 30 crowd (who would've thunk it?)

My Opinion on Everything describes his Battle with Paypal. Personally, I've never had any problems with Paypal, but apparently there are a lot of folks out there who are getting ripped off. Since Paypal currently has a monopoly on the eBay market, it's hard to not use it if you're an eBayer, but word on the street is that Google is coming out with something to compete with eBay in the near future because many people are dissatisfied with eBay's increasing prices and the poor service of Paypal. Competition is great, no?

English Major's Money presents Pragmatic Personal Finance Tips For College Students: Small Liberal Arts Schools And Beyond! I couldn't have put it better myself. That's why she's the English major, and I'm not.

And last, but not least, Ask Uncle Bill explains why raising the minimum wage is a popular but stupid idea. While I can't say I agree with all of his opinions, I do like the way he presents his arguments because he presents them in a logical, coherent manner. I think it's especially good to hear the other side of the argument because it always keeps you thinking.

That's it for now. I'll be posting a few articles this weekend, so be on the lookout!

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Festival of Frugality #56 Summary

I'm taking part in the Festival of Frugality #56 hosted by Savvy Steward with my article Best Book Prices. I really like the theme the host created with the Ten Commandments of Frugality - mine is number 4.

Here are some other articles of interest (or at least I found them interesting).

"Walking in a Winter Wonderland for $1300" by The Digerati Life. Sure $1300 is expensive, but for 7 people? Not too shabby. His way is the way to go when traveling. As students, it's easy to find a bunch of people to go, and fun times can be had on the cheap if you're splitting costs a bajillion (apparently, spell check thinks this isn't a real word) ways.

"Paying for Branding" by An English Major's Money. No, not that "MOO" kind of cow branding, the branding as in Gucci, Coach, Juicy Couture, and all the other stuff I could neither afford nor want.

"Traditional Food Preservation" by Wisdom from Wenchypoo's Mental Wastebasket. I'm not sure what this has to do with finance except how food rots, but I still like it. If you like this article, I'd recommend "On Food and Cooking" by Harold McGee. Alton Brown of Good Eats cites it in his books, and I got a chance to read it over Christmas break. It's extremely informative, perhaps even too much, and the science/culture nerd in me loves knowing everything about food. If you want to get it cheaply, I wrote how in a previous post..... in fact, the same one that was in this carnival! Even if you want to spend lots of money on it, please buy used because this book is ginormous (again, spell check does not likey me words). If you buy it new, just think, you'll be cutting down 5 more trees just to print this book - ok, so maybe that's a slight hyperbole (no, it's not another BCS bowl game) - but I have other good reasons.

That's it for now, happy reading!

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Sunday Paper

Some people spend their Sunday mornings reading their Sunday paper while others may go to church, sleep in, or dread the coming of Monday. Well, since I don't have a newspaper subscription and don't do any of the aforementioned activities except perhaps the latter, I've decided to survey the blogosphere on this holy day and post a list of my favorite articles or resources. I'm hoping to make this a weekly thing, but we'll see how it goes. Without further ado, here's my Sunday paper:

I Will Teach You to be Rich, one of my favorite blogs, had a couple of interesting posts:
Man Spends $30 on food for a month
At first, I thought he was talking about me...
Food and Personal Finance are Similar
The table by itself is quite depressing and shows why obesity is an epidemic.

Violent Acres has also become one of my regular reads. This woman writes like a pit-bull with her back against the wall, barking and biting left and right. Her style may be a little brusque for some, but it's highly entertaining.
This post relates to the one above and is a good example of her style.

My Two Dollars shows us Where to get free photographs for your blog or website. What? Did someone say free? I'm there. Look for more pretty pictures to be up on here.

Frugal for Life posts the results of her dumpster poll, along with some accompanying articles. I'm glad to know that real adults do it too instead of just students!

I'm usually not one to read posts that tell you what to buy or how you should do things unless I need to do them, but this is a great one to keep for future reference. The Simple Dollar gives us 10 ideas for cheap birthday presents..... when you forgot that it's someone's birthday.

I'm glad that other people feel the same way I do when Everybody Loves Your Money says that My Super Sweet Sixteen Made Me Ill.... and no, not ill as in cool.

Despite what they teach you in high school econ class, My Money Blog shows why Dollar Cost Averaging is for wusses.

This one goes along with my first New Year's Resolution. Dumb Little Man shows us How to Choose a Charity.

And last but not least, Personal Finance Advice explains how to extend the life of your razor. Yeah, I'll do a combination of those suggestions in addition to, perhaps, not shaving?

I hope you liked the first edition of the Sunday Paper. I'll probably keep doing this more for my own sake, but don't be afraid to leave suggestions for the editorial staff consisting of...... me.

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Best Book Prices

Another semester, another trip to the bookstore to spend money on books which you probably won't crack open until exam time. Sound familiar? Not anymore! Yes, that's right, this is the semester you stand up for yourself! You tell the bookstore, "No, I need my booze money!.... errr, lunch money"

Since I was looking to buy some books, I went through and examined nearly 20 sites that do a metasearch of book stores. My most important criteria was whether the site found the cheapest price for a given book. Surprisingly, many of them failed on even that count. Either their price was outdated, they didn't take into consideration possible discounts, or they simply didn't search some particular bookstore that happened to have the lowest price. Then, out of the remaining ones, I looked at user-friendliness. I give to you the results of my study: - Very solid and thorough search - claims to search 129 bookstores and 100,000 sellers. Also offers a search for many other products that would interest students (computers, music, movies, video games) and even offers a search for selling your books. - Similar to CampusI, except it seems to search a smaller number of stores. However, they have a feature where you can input multiple ISBNs, and they will search the best prices all at once. They also offer a search for selling your books. - This one probably impressed me the most. Isn't as extensive as CampusI in terms of search capabilities, but if you're buying multiple books, it combines different prices and deals from each seller to create the lowest possible price for all of your books. If you're a member of any of the bookstores, it also considers member discounts. Like CampusI, it can also search, dvds, music, games, and even school supplies!

In addition, once you find the place with the cheapest price, you can go through certain cashback programs to get money back! Some of the more common bookstores and the programs with the highest cashback payouts:
AbeBooks - Ebates (5%)
Alibris - FatWallet (5.5%)
Barnes& - Ebates (4%)
eBay - BigCrumbs (36% of listing fee) - InstantProfitz (5%) - InstantProfitz (5%) - Mr. Rebates (5%) - InstantProfitz (5%)

Here are some coupon codes for Alibris:
$10 off $100: TEXTBOOKS10
$5 off $50: TEXTBOOKS8
$2 off $15: BOOKFINDER

Also, if you're a new customer to, email me and I'll send you a $5 coupon.

The great part about these cashback programs is that some of them give you an instant registration bonus - Ebates $5, InstantProfitz $3, and Mr. Rebates $2.50!

There are also some lesser known ways of getting cheaper books. Did you know that you can get international editions of books at a fraction of the cost of books here? In most cases, they're paperback versions, and they may be printed on a lower quality paper, but the content is the exact same. - India's largest online bookstore - that's a whole lotta books. Shipping may take a bit longer, but if you can wait, you can find some great deals here. The prices are in rupees, but you can plug the price into this currency converter. - Mentioned in an earlier post. Although the book you need probably isn't here, doesn't hurt to try.

An even more unorthodox way to get books is to see if your library carries it and borrow it and keep on renewing it for as long as you can. I managed to do this with one of my books last semester, which saved me a few bucks. Of course you may find yourself on the receiving end of unfriendly glares from your fellow classmates, so beware.

I hope this was helpful in saving you some money. Be on the lookout for some more money saving/earning tips!

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Thursday, January 04, 2007


Two Carnivals I'm taking part in.

The first is Carnival of Shopping #7 hosted by Pocket Change. Not too many submissions, but my favorite was easily "Unclaimed baggage and bargain hunting" by I think I may have found my next road trip destination.

The second is inaugural Carnival of Ethics, Values & Personal Finance hosted by none other than Money and Values. I must say, this is one of the best carnivals ever. Maybe it's the subject matter. People are writing with such heart and honesty, I think the topic just strikes a chord. Some of my favorite from this carnival:

Green Money by Millionaire Artist. While the blog name sounds oxymoronic, the entry is nothing but outstanding.

Jon Derbyshire's Wonderful Life by Jon Swift. You'll have to read it to believe it.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Free Talib Kweli CD

This seems to be a legit free download of the entire CD, cover art included. I'm gonna take a listen - got nothing to lose, right?

Talib Kweli & Madlib - Liberation

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Carnival of Personal Finance

I'm taking part in the Carnival of Personal Finance #81 hosted over by the Might Bargain Hunter with my article "Get Your G's Together, G: #1 Budgeting".

Here are some other noteworthy entries into this week's carnival:

Save Money describes how she got her Discover card rate dropped. If any of you have credit card debt, it doesn't hurt to ask because if they drop your rate, it can equal some pretty substantial savings.

Money $mart Life describes how he turns trash into cash using the same strategy that I use - saving packaging material. Of course when I ship things out, everything looks ghetto-fabulous, but if it works, it works, right?

And last but not least, Personal Finance for Students and Fresh Grads describes he went on a free trip to Europe. Gotta love the world of academia.

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