Thursday, April 30, 2009

Carvel Gives Free Icebergs for 75th Anniversary

Celebrate with Carvel

Iceberg

Iceberg

The three-quarters-of-a-century-old ice cream shop Carvel is throwing itself a birthday party. There’s no free cake, but you can stop by for an Iceberg, a slushy drink topped with vanilla soft-serve ice cream.

Icebergs are new to Carvel’s product line, so the shop — which is now old enough to be my grandpa’s fishing buddy — is celebrating the release of a new product as well as its 75th birthday.

Where is Carvel?

Carvel has 185 locations in New York, and 500 stores total in the United States. You can find the Carvel location nearest you at the Carvel Ice Cream web site by using the store locator.

Birthday parties including free Icebergs will be held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET.

Free stuff

Americans are jumping on free stuff like it’s an interest-free cash advance. Word of any chance to get a treat and avoid using the credit card spreads like wildfire.

Actually, it doesn’t need to be totally free. Baskin Robbins gave out ice cream scoops yesterday for 31 cents and had quite the response. Imagine how people will react to a free 8-ounce Iceberg. Icebergs come in orange, root beer or cola flavor. ... click here to read the rest of the article titled "Carvel Gives Free Icebergs for 75th Anniversary"

Homeowners Should Examine Reverse Mortgages

The recession has increased the appeal of having older homeowners borrow against their home equity. The loan doesn’t have to be repaid until the homeowner dies, moves or sells the home.

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Q&A: Cashing In With Reverse Mortgages

The recession increases the appeal of having older homeowners borrow against their home equity. The loan doesn’t have to be repaid until the homeowner dies, moves or sells the home.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Google Public Data and Government Transparency

Get the skinny with Google Public Data

You’re online, you Google. It’s nearly as much of a given as breathing. Unless you’re one of those Yahoo! only people… you know who you are. But are you using the search tool to its ultimate capacity? It can have a big economic impact upon you. Let’s say you’re looking to move to another state and you need public data like unemployment rates… because you’ll have to work in your new home state and you want to know how likely you will be to hold on to your employment.

Government agencies should make such info easy to find, but they don’t. And when it can make the difference between making a good decision with stable outlook or a less fortunate decision where lower average salaries and higher costs of living lead to a greater need for cash advance loans and mortgage loan modification,you want the right info when you need it.

Kim Hart reports for the Washington Post that Google has launched a search tool that helps users uncover public data that can be difficult to find on government Web sites because they are buried in a sea of facts, files and other unrelated information. Called Google Public Data, it makes federal, state and local governments easily accessible to citizens. This is very much in line with President Obama’s goal of making government more transparent for the people. ... click here to read the rest of the article titled "Google Public Data and Government Transparency"

Jobless? Get Noticed In The New Economy

The unemployment rate is up across the country, and so are the numbers of people looking for new jobs. Conventional wisdom says it’s probably time to polish up your resume. But with people showcasing their talents on YouTube and networking on Linkedln, are resumes relevant?

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Teeth Whitening For Everyone

You can significantly change your appearance by constructing a whiter smile. As the world is getting more competitive about looking top notch, wearing a dazzling smile has become vital part of how one looks. A good way to whiten teeth is to use teeth whitening bleach, which can used to lighten as well as erase the stains from your teeth. Some drinks like coffee, red wine and tea can reduce are white your teeth are dramatically. You should try to avoid these drinks to keep your smile looking its best. Also smoking cigarettes is another reason for dull and less attractive teeth.

There are many ways to whiten your teeth without visiting a dentist. For teeth whitening, there are many teeth whitening tooth pastes available. These tooth pastes contain a main element; peroxide, which acts as a bleaching agent and is able to remove deep stains from teeth.

Another option for to whiten your teeth, is laser teeth whitening, and it has increased its popularity in recent years. Laser teeth whitening can give you a brighter smile but this procedure can also be fairly time-consuming and costly.

The results of whitening your teeth can vary depending on the precise nature of the discoloration. Teeth whitening does not last for ever if the source of discoloration is not removed. Over the time, discoloration of the teeth starts returning. To stop this, the teeth whitening procedure should be repeated in intervals.

The cost of teeth whitening varies from product to product and from dentist to dentist. Teeth whitening from at home is obviously the cheaper option than going to a dentist. Don't be afraid of consulting a dentist though for teeth whitening procedure.

You can also take advantage of free samples that are available from teeth whitening companies through their websites. For the best results, you should follow the recommended course of treatment, and research the product before using it. Be sure not to overexpose your teeth to the whitening solution, and brush your teeth before application process.

There are many different ways to whiten teeth from your home, which can be tried out for free or at a lower cost.



Repair Your Credit | Last Line of Defense (Pt. 4)

What to do when options are few

Welcome back to “Repair Your Credit.” CLICK HERE if you missed part three of this article on how credit repair and a lessened dependence on payday loans can help you to keep your financial boat afloat.

As you look at your balance transfer options, isolate the best offers and apply for them first. I’m talking lowest APR or no APR for the longest period of time, of course. This is important because inquiries made on your credit history will appear on your credit report and have a negative impact upon your FICO score (if there are many inquiries, in particular). According to the business world, your FICO score is THE indicator of your credit worthiness. Thus, you want to make the best debt consolidation choices possible to repair your credit.

Revisit the results

Once you have found a good, low-interest balance transfer candidate for consolidating your debts, go through the application process. After approval, go back to the payment calculator and determine your savings in both time and money over the life of the debt.

If the ship is sinking

If you have missed several payments resulting in a low credit score, you may not be able to take advantage of the low interest balance transfer options. But all is not lost! ... click here to read the rest of the article titled "Repair Your Credit | Last Line of Defense (Pt. 4)"

The Rich Are Still Rich

On the Wall Street Journal blog The Wealth Report, Robert Frank makes a good point:

There is a growing consensus that the rich have lost about a third of their wealth. First came the U.S. surveys, which show millionaires down about 30%–both in wealth and population–as a result of the global financial crisis. Over the weekend comes news that the Sunday Times Rich List shows that the crisis has wiped out about 155 billion pounds ($227 billion), or a third of the wealth of Britain's 1,000 people. Sir Elton John, for instance, is down 26%.

So if we were to "reset" the world of wealth, we should just knock off about a third….

As Frank points out, wealth isn’t the only thing that has declined: prices are going down. And much of what defines wealth is relative anyway.

If your wealth has fallen 30%, and everyone else's stayed the same, you would feel poorer. But if your wealth fell 30% along with everyone else's, wouldn't you still feel as wealthy as before?

And if the prices of things you buy also have fallen 30% or more, wouldn't your experience of being wealthy stay the same?

It is accepted wisdom that a rising tide lifts all boats. Wouldn't a sinking tide, when all boats are falling, still leave the yachts on top?

I hope someone will tell this to some of the Wall Streeters profiled in this recent New York Magazine cover story:

"I'm not giving to charity this year!" one hedge-fund analyst shouts into the phone, when I ask about Obama's planned tax increases. "When people ask me for money, I tell them, 'If you want me to give you money, send a letter to my senator asking for my taxes to be lowered.' I feel so much less generous right now. If I have to adopt twenty poor families, I want a thank-you note and an update on their lives. At least Sally Struthers gives you an update."

Jerk.


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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How to Avoid the Credit Trap

As the US struggles with one of its deepest recessions since the 1930s, credit is on everyone’s mind. Mounting layoffs, declining benefits, and depressed assets are leaving people without steady streams of income and forcing them to question how they will pay their bills. Paying by credit card has lost its appeal as consumers worry about getting caught up in a downward spiral of debt. But credit cards aren’t evil in and of themselves. Used responsibly they can become an important spending tool that can also pay you back.

Before you can begin putting credit cards to work for you, you should understand that they can be seductive. The New York Times reports the average household’s current credit card debt is $8,565. That’s a lot of money, and it’s easy to accumulate this much debt without even noticing, something that doesn’t happen when you are paying by cash (your wallet will be noticeably lighter).

  • Spending money is easier with a credit card than with cash because you don’t feel like you’re spending money.
  • Individuals might be less likely to pay attention to how much they are spending or question their bill when using a credit card.

While it easier to spend money you don’t have with a credit card, there are real benefits to owning one.

  • You have electronic records of your spending month to month.
  • Credit card issuers are lending you money (for free!) for a month at a time.
  • You can earn rewards like miles or cash back for the money you spend and receive other benefits that accompany many cards.

Using a credit card is also an integral part of establishing and strengthening your credit history, a report of your financial health used by lenders, employers, and others to determine if you are a risky bet.

If you use a credit card and have debt or are thinking about applying for a card, here are some tips for getting yourself out of the debt trap, finding the right card to earn rewards for your spending, and then keeping your credit card debt at zero.

Step 1: Pay Down Existing Debt-Start Yesterday

Fifty-five percent of credit card holders carry a balance month to month. Paying off these balances with high interest rates will take consumers years and rack up billions of dollars in finance charges.

If you are someone who carries a balance month to month on your credit card, paying down your existing debt is the first step towards improving your financial health and getting on the right track to using your credit card responsibly. Begin by transferring your outstanding balance to a card that charges no interest on balance transfers for up to 12 months. Most issuers offer a few cards with this powerful feature. After those months pass, transfer the balance again to another card with no interest and keep paying down your debt. Find one area where you can reduce your spending each month, like dining out or going to the movies, and funnel the additional savings into your credit card payments.

Step 2: Get the Right Credit Card - What Should You Look For?

There are hundreds of cards out there, and picking the right for everyday purchases is daunting. The first thing to look for is no annual fee. Many issuers offer great cards that don’t require an annual fee. Often, the annual fee isn’t justified by the card’s benefits, and it creates an extra expense. If you are looking for a card that offers rewards for a specific program like American Airlines miles, you might not have a choice. If this is the right card for you, try to get the first year free. You can also call the credit card company and try negotiating for a lower fee if you have a strong credit score or a history with the company.

Step 3: Get Rewards for What You Spend

You are going to be spending money on your credit card, so you might as well earn rewards for your purchases. First, determine whether you want to receive points, miles or cash back. Next, evaluate your spending patterns and try to find a card that offers bonus rewards for the purchases on which you spend the most. You will find many cards that offer bonuses for groceries, restaurants, travel, and numerous other categories. Mint.com can help you see where you spend your money each month and get a card that fits your spending patterns.

Step 4: Don’t Spend More Than You Can Afford

And now, the catch: Once you have the right credit card, the most important thing to remember is not to spend more than you can afford. In other words, make sure you can pay your credit card bill in full each month. Perhaps this message sounds easier said than done or overly simplistic, but it is by far the most important part of using your credit card wisely. By adhering to this principle, you will be able to take advantage of the benefits of using a credit card while avoiding the debt trap. What is a good tactic to accomplish this? For one, make reasonable monthly budgets for yourself and keep track of where you spend. If you exceed one of your budgets, figure out what pushed you over and how you can cut back. By simply monitoring your spending closely, you will find you are spending more than you previously thought and be able to determine how to adjust your spending.

Getting the right credit card for your daily use and staying out of debt while using it are not exact sciences. Some approaches work well for some and not others. However, by following the broad guidelines outlined here, you will set yourself on a path towards financial health. Don’t spend more than you earn and pay your credit card bill in full every month. Then make your card pay you back in the form of rewards.

After that, be creative. Try one approach to stay within your spending goals for a month or two and see if it’s working. If not, try something different. Hopefully, the right solution will reveal itself, and you will be able to take full advantage of what credit cards can offer.


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Bacon is one of the tastiest foods ever made

Even though it is made from the fatty part of a pig, it sure tastes good. I love waking up to the sizzling sound of bacon cooking in the morning and the aroma of it spreading its way through my home. One thing I've noticed about the smell of bacon, it takes hours for it to leave, good thing it smells wonderful. Bacon is best when it's cooked just enough so it's only slightly crispy. It can't be too crispy or else it loses most of its flavor and it can't be too uncooked or else it tastes too fatty. If cooked just right, bacon can taste wonderful and literally melt in your mouth.



Puzzle

Today I did a puzzle with my niece and nephew. I have done the puzzle with them before so I knew exactly what to do. I taught them before that they should do the edges before they do the middle part. I think it is about one hundred pieces but they are all really big so it is ok. It was a picture of the Amazon with tons of different animals. It has giraffes and elephants. It had birds and zebras. It was a lot of fun. My niece really enjoyed putting it together. She was really excited when it was all finished.



My favorite card game

I think my favorite card game would probably be Egyptian Rat Screw. The game is meant to be really quickly played. It makes it harder because it doesn't give people time to think. In the game, the point is to get all the cards. Once someone has gone out, they still have an opportunity to come back in by slapping the deck when there is a sandwich or two of the same number in a row. Most people won't come back after going out like that. It is pretty lucky when someone can find a way to do that. It is interesting that people always want the jacks in that game. I can't wait to play that game again.



Evolution is an interesting thing

I remember learning in my science class about evolution. I think it is interesting that so many people don't believe in evolution. It is obvious and impossible to ignore that things evolve. Even humans evolve over time. That's why we have different skin colors. It all depends on where our original civilizations evolved from. The more sunlight there is, the darker our skin is. I am very white. It is almost disgusting. Maybe my body will learn to evolve if I go outside more. I guess that is also why we tan. Evolution is an interesting thing. Maybe one day I will be able to study and understand it just a little bit more.



I need to go!

When my sister was a little girl, my parents took her with them to the hardware store. My dad was looking at tools. If you knew my dad, you would know that this meant he was going to be there for quite a while. My sister had just been potty trained and was complaining that she really had to go to the bathroom. She kept complaining to my mom that she needed to go pee. My mom kept telling her she was going to have to wait. Finally, my parents looked around and she wasn't there anymore. They went to look for her and found her peeing in the display toilet. My poor parents and those poor workers had to clean it all up.



Monday, April 27, 2009

Back Home to Roost

For five years, Felicia Brown had the luxury of living by herself in a three-bedroom townhouse in Upper Marlboro.


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Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Personal Finance Hour, Episode 6: Vacation and Travel

Summer’s approaching, and that means family vacations. What are your best tips for travel and lodging? That’s the topic this week on the sixth episode of The Personal Finance Hour, a BlogTalkRadio program all about personal finance. You can catch it live at 3pm Pacific (6pm Eastern) every Monday.

During this episode, Jim and I will be discussing our travel experiences. I just returned from an annual weekend vacation with friends. I’ll also talk about the benefits of cheap hotels. Do you have something to share about vacation and travel? We encourage you to call with your comments and questions.

Progress! We’ve had complaints about the audio quality of my half of the conversation. As a result, I’ll be using Skype from now on. We hope that this will make the show more listenable.

There are three ways to hear the show. You can listen through an audio feed at the show page, or you can dial the call-in number at (347) 327-9144. You can also listen through this widget:

Note that the widget always holds the archive of the most recent episode. So, right now it contains last week’s episode. Monday afternoon it will contain episode number five.

Added fun! The show page will feature a live chatroom while we’re broadcasting, so that you can ask questions and leave comments in real-time. Each week, we’ve had about dozens of listeners adding to the fun.

Jim and I intend to do this every Monday — possibly with guests! — and we hope you’ll join us. We think this will be a fun way to connect with readers and to help everyone learn more about money management.

Update! We’re now on iTunes! You can subscribe to The Personal Finance Hour as a weekly podcast by following this link (which will open iTunes).


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Market Crash Coming?

I feel uneasy to talk about this, since I always advocate investing for the long term and be in diversified investments while ignoring the noise.  However, I have been slowly selling my stocks in my taxable investment account and I would really feel bad if I did not say anything and what I predict really happened.  So here goes.  I’m selling because:

  • The stock market has been on an huge upswing lately, so it’s a good time for me reduce my risk as I’m planning to buy a house within 1-2 years.  While I firmly believe that the stock market is always the best possible investment when the time horizon is 10+ years, it could be very volatile in the short run and I don’t need the stress because I want to buy a house no matter what happens to the S&P 500.
  • The other, which is the main reason why I’m scaling out, is because I feel that the market is potentially going to go way down.  Everyone these days are feeling better about the housing market, and in turn the stock market.  Unfortunately, the mid to upper housing market in Southern California is on the verge of a huge crash due to the flood of foreclosures that are coming.

    Some of you may know that the local and federal governments have put out memorandums to delay foreclosures in September of last year but as those ended in January, notices of default went out to the market during the first quarter of this year in record numbers.  Since foreclosures usually come onto the market around seven months after a notice is sent, it means the troubled house listings will flood the market starting July of 2009.  (For a more complete analysis and proof with actual data, go here where you will see a chart that shows notices of default going way down during September to December of 2008) More supply, lower prices.  Lower prices, more problems.  More problems, lower stock prices.

    Note that I have no idea what the real situation is nationwide, and a local problem may not be bad enough for the stock market to react badly. I’m not a stock market expert nor a housing expert, so I don’t have sufficient knowledge to predict how exactly this affects the banking sector and the economy as a whole. I just know that this can’t be “good” news, and I don’t want this possible downturn to negatively affect my lifestyle. Therefore, I am selling.

    Also note that it’s almost impossible to predict short term behavior of stock prices, so the market can go up for a long time (some say the S&P 500 could get up to 1,000 by year end, a 20% increase following the 30% run during March and April) even if there is a problem waiting to happen. I just want to give you more information and what I’m doing, so you can decide for yourself.

There. I said it. Please be reminded that this is not advice. I just you to know what may be coming before you hit “buy” (a house or a stock). Good luck and may your choice turn out to work out for you.


Related Articles at Personal Finance Blog by Money Ning:


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Friday, April 24, 2009

I Can’t Pay My Student Loans

The good news: Yes, you can!

Opportunity rich, cash poor, deeply in debt

graduates

New college graduates are opportunity rich. But most are unemployed and so cash poor they can’t even get a small payday loan.  Many are up to their ears in debt before opportunity begins to materialize.

But when it comes to student loan repayment, lenders know who their borrowers are. If you're worried about your student loans, the first thing you should do is call the Default Prevention Department of American Education Services (1-800-328-0355). They can help you even if you haven't missed a payment yet.

Repayment options to meet your needs

There are several alternative payment programs for student loans. Depending on how far behind you are in your payments, you may be able to stretch them out over a longer period and structure them to increase as your income increases. You can also defer payments of principal for a period of time.

blue-phoneYou can sometimes obtain a forbearance with reduced payments, an extended repayment time, or a temporary cessation of payments until your career and financial circumstances improve. If you have several student loans, you can consolidate them into one loan and spread the payments over a longer period of time at a lower interest rate. In some circumstances, you may even be entitled to forgiveness of a portion of your debt. ... click here to read the rest of the article titled "I Can't Pay My Student Loans"

What Exactly Is A Trillion?

The International Monetary Fund this week estimated that it will eventually write down $2.7 trillion dollars in assets. Our Planet Money team decided to find out just what is a trillion.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Q&A: Credit Card Crackdown

Congress is looking to crack down on what critics call abusive practices by the credit card industry. And on Thursday, President Obama meets with 14 representatives from the industry. Here’s a look at what’s in play.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Daily Links: Making Money Edition

Building wealth involves two broad skill-sets: cutting costs and increasing income. Most personal finance blogs — including this one — tend to focus on the former. Frugality tips have broad appeal because they can be applied by nearly everyone. But in reality, it can often be more effective to boost your income. You can only cut costs so much, but there’s no real limit on how much money you can earn.

For today’s link roundup, I’m sharing several recent stories about boosting the income side of the wealth equation:

I’m a huge fan of money-making hobbies. I think that generating a little cash from something you like to do can be a great way to help improve your financial situation. But sometimes it can be difficult to see exactly how your hobbies can produce income. Craft Stew has come up with a list of 20 ways to make crafts pay that may serve as a source of inspiration.

Next, Trent at The Simple Dollar recently compiled a collection of 50 side businesses you can start on your own. There are some great ideas on this list. I have many friends who do these sort of things to pick up side income. Maybe you can, too.

Can you make money blogging? A recent article in The Wall Street Journal is making waves. Mark Penn writes that bloggers for hire are striking it rich. Others, including Jason Kottke, question Penn’s methodology. My favorite look at this subject recently comes from Penelope Trunk, who offers a reality check: you’re not going to make money from your blog. I’m closely acquainted with several people who have found wealth through blogging. I’ve done it myself. But let me tell you: it takes a lot of work and it takes a lot of luck. Still, in most cases I do think it’s possible for a good writer to earn $100-$200 per month after becoming established. That can certainly help a family’s bud get!

Finally, here’s an article that Ramit Sethi contributed to Free Money Finance last month. He writes that if you want to earn more money, you need to stop wasting your time. If you’re trying to boost your income, you need to focus on the things that make money — not the things that don’t. Simple, yes, but oh-so-true.

How do you feel about articles the discuss entrepreneurship and making money? I’d actually love to cover this topic more frequently at Get Rich Slowly. In the past though, I’ve got the impression that there’s only modest interest.


Related Articles at Get Rich Slowly:


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