Archive for the 'General' Category
Wednesday, March 24th, 2010
MyMoneyBlog.com was unceremoniously shut down this morning by Capital One 360 and RSA Security when they sent a long, scary e-mail to my web hosting provider accusing me of phishing.
The page, now still removed just in case, involved Capital One 360′s person-to-person referrals, which Capital One 360 offers users in order to promote it’s banking service. One user refers another user, and if a new user opens an account, both get a cash bonus. My page was a simple page where other readers could post up their referral links, and have another person come by and claim the other end of the bonus. Win-win, right?
I should also mention that this specific page has been up for about 4 years, with not a peep from them. I can confidently say over 1,000 people have gotten a new account at Capital One 360 through this page.
Was there an warning e-mail saying “Hey Jon, this page angers us.” or “Hey Jon, remove this page or we’ll shut your site down with our big bad lawyers.”? Nope.
Finally, all of the links directly go to a Capital One 360 page. There is no link on mymoneyblog.com that asks for any Capital One 360 user information, least of which full name or login credentials, nor had there ever been. Their accusation is like Bank of America accusing me of phishing when I link to a $100 account bonus that they’re offering at bankofamerica.com. (Don’t get any ideas, BofA!)
I’m also kind of disappointed with my web host, LiquidWeb. You’d think if I buy a dedicated server from them, I’d at least get a phone call before having everything shut down.
Conclusion. I called RSA Security directly to get this all straightened out. After checking their records, they said (over the phone, I’m paraphrasing somewhat) “There was a misunderstanding with Capital One 360. They first contacted us to shut down your site. Then they realized you work with them as an authorized partner. So a few hours later they told us never mind. Everything is okay. You don’t have to take down anything. We apologize on behalf of Capital One 360.”
Of course, neither my web provider nor myself got this “all clear” e-mail. Capital One 360 still acted like a big faceless corporation, and I haven’t yet received any apology from them directly. Being just a little peon, I’m just happy my entire site wasn’t shut down further because of this. Now please excuse me while I throw up from all the stress…
Thursday, March 11th, 2010
Although relatively new, Monoprice.com has quickly become a very popular place to buy cheap but high quality audio/video cables and adapters online. I recommended shopping there if you’re trying to connect your laptop to your TV (and maybe drop your cable subscription?). I’ve probably bought from them five times in the last year, and I don’t even shop online that much.
However, if you bought anything from them recently, I would check your credit cards for any fraudulent charges. Monoprice shut down their site today and placed this message up:
A few of our customers recently reported to us that information from credit cards they used on the Monoprice website had been misused. We promptly began an investigation with the help of expert computer forensic investigators to determine if any card data had been stolen from our computers.
To date, the investigators have found no evidence that card information has been stolen from Monoprice’s computer network. As a precaution to ensure that our customers’ information is not at risk, we have taken our website offline temporarily while we and our investigators complete the audit of our computer network.
Thursday, February 25th, 2010
Here are the results of a recent study by industry research firm IBISWorld that compared the price of an average grocery cart in Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago.
In general, organic products cost about 20% more than simply name brand items. However, the organic grocery cart is nearly 40% more expensive than a cart filled with store-branded products whenever possible. I wish there was more information on what makes up an “average” grocery cart, but I’m guessing it contains a wide variety of items.
Which reminds me of a previous post on which fruits and vegetables you should buy organic. If you value organic but are still on a budget, certain conventionally-grown vegetables retain much higher amounts of pesticides than others. Prioritize your spending with this updated list from Foodnews.org (you can even download an iPhone app with the chart):
Wednesday, January 27th, 2010
Ever heard the term “Keynesian economics” and wanted to learn more? Here’s a new rap video that explores the competing theories from the Austrian business cycles of Friedrich von Hayek and the interventionist theories of John Maynard Keynes. Yes, I said rap… and it’s actually pretty good! I like the quotes at the end.
We’ve been going back and forth for a century
[Keynes] I want to steer markets,
[Hayek] I want them set free
There’s a boom and bust cycle, and good reason to fear it
[Hayek] Blame low interest rates.
[Keynes] No … it’s the animal spirits
Full lyrics and song download available at EconStories.tv. Via NPR, thanks to reader Tim.
Thursday, January 7th, 2010
Update: This offer has expired, but there is a coupon code CABIN-20D good for an additional $20 off their $49 dollar LLC or Incorporation filing package. Net price under 30 bucks!
In case your plans include formalizing your business ventures, MyCorporation is offering their LLC formation and incorporation filing services for free until 1/31 with the coupon code MYFREE. You must still pay shipping fees and the filing fees charged by each state.
Free Corps & LLCs: Regular price of $149 is being waived when coupon MYFREE is used to obtain discount. Document shipping, state fees, publication fees, and additional product fees are additional. Discount valid for orders placed for a new corporation or limited liability company only. Prices subject to change without notice. Limit one discount or coupon per order. Coupon is not valid on any other product or service. You must enter/mention the coupon code at the time your order is placed. Coupon or discount is not valid on previous orders. Refunds/credits/adjustments will not be issued on prior orders.
MyCorporation is owned by Intuit, makers of TurboTax and Quicken. I view such online incorporation services as similar to TurboTax for taxes. Yes, you could fill out your 1040 tax forms manually, but it’s much easier to go through a question-and-answer software that walks you through it and explains the steps. However, if you’re talking about a huge business or something that is complex, then you should hire a professional to handle it (accountant for taxes, lawyer for incorporation).
When I formed my S-Corporation, I used one of their primary competitors LegalZoom and paid about $150 for the service – not including the state filing fees and shipping – so having it done for free seems to be a great deal. (I’m sure they’ll try to upsell you some additional services.) It was good to have someone look over the forms before submitting, while avoiding thousand of dollars of fees from a lawyer for our little venture.
The decision between staying a sole proprietor/partnership or forming an LLC/corporation is not always simple. If you’d like to dig into the details, I recommend the book LLC or Corporation? How to Choose the Right Form for Your Business from Nolo Press. I chose to go the S-Corp route primarily for the payroll tax savings.
(You can even have a LLC and chose to have it taxed as an S-Corp, as if things weren’t confusing enough!)
Monday, December 28th, 2009
Do you have an Capital One 360 savings account with unused referrals? I usually have lots of $25 bonus links available, but have been falling behind again.
The first 25 people who comment below tonight and leave a working contact e-mail (real name not required, e-mail will not be shared publicly) will get one filled by me for free, which is $10 for you. (All done!)
As a bonus to my always-helpful commenters, if you’ve also left a comment with the same e-mail address ever on any post before, you’ll get an additional referral filled for free.
Due to comment moderation, your comment may not show up right away. One referral per person. Look for a message from me to your e-mail address with further instructions later on. This usually goes fast, so thanks for helping me out!
Sunday, October 18th, 2009
There seems to be a lot of noise about previously struggling financial companies who were begging for bailouts but now are paying out billions of dollars in bonuses to employees.
I’m not trying to be political here at all, just thinking out loud. First, I don’t see why any private company should be allowed to be “too big to fail”. Otherwise, the whole point of bailing out these companies was… to bail them out and have them recover to be successful once again. The question is, why didn’t the government borrow a credit card tactic and charge them a nice 5% “balance transfer fee” and 35% APR since they were a “high-risk” borrower? You know, the same terms they’ve been giving to consumers forever, even forgetting things like payday loans. Then taxpayers would have earned a nice interest rate on their lent money, the public wouldn’t feel so angry about these bonuses, and the banks can repay quickly and move on with a better public image.
From this Forbes article, it appears that many of the TARP recipients got a deal for about 5% interest rate for the first 5 years. Banks like JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley have already paid back their money.
Tuesday, October 13th, 2009
There is a new web browser plugin called WebofTrust which is a “free Internet security addon for your browser. It will keep you safe from online scams, identity theft, spyware, spam, viruses and unreliable shopping sites. WOT warns you before you interact with a risky website.”
Unfortunately, it seems that my domain somehow made it on a list of sites that promote a get-rich-quick scheme by buying links on Google Adwords. The original page seems to be here, where I am associated with some guy named Scott Hunter. What makes it worse is that a user on the MyWOT Forums
is was* telling people to blindly rate all of these listed sites negatively without even actually verifying the content. As any regular reader will know, I have never posted anything to do with any of these Adwords schemes.
As a result, my site has been labeled as a scam site! Users visiting my site will see a pop-up indicating I participate in “phishing or other scams”, and that my site is dangerous.
*Update: It appears I was confused with my-moneyblog.com (note the dash), which is indeed a spammy site and is pretending to be me on some level. The original WoT forum member has edited their post, and the negative reviews have been removed. If you use this plugin, please feel free to rate my site honestly.
Tuesday, October 6th, 2009
More quality links for your enjoyment:
Free Day at Disney For Volunteers [WalletPop]
Disney will give a free day of admission in 2010 to 1 million people who complete a day of volunteer service. As with its free birthday promotion, which is in effect this year, people must register with the parks’ Web site before embarking on their day of service, which must be handled and certified by the widely operating HandsOn Network.
MonaVie Threatens PF Blogger [Lazy Man and Money]
As much as I enjoy $50 bottles of MLM-flavored juice, I don’t like it when they threaten lawsuits against my blogger colleagues. Naturally, this means that we link to his site in an effort have his page show up whenever people want to learn about MonaVie. He’s currently 4th in Google.
Top 10 Consumer Complaints And How to Protect Yourself [CashMoneyLife]
I guess buying $50 juice didn’t make the list. #11 perhaps?
iPhones and Peer Normative Behavior [Well-Heeled]
AKA, you don’t really realize you want something until a friend gets one and plays with it in from of you. Story of my life. Must. Resist. iPhone.
Anyone ever make fun of you for being frugal/crafty? [Budgets Are Sexy]
I one-up cheeseburgers by stating that I have brought in entire bags of Act II 25-cent microwave popcorn + a tub of ice cream into a movie theater when I was a teenager. I must have smelled aweful!
4 Estate Planning Documents You Need Today [Moolanomy]
Not a happy thought, but I view these documents as helping out your family and not just yourself.
Frugal alternatives to school pictures [MSN SmartSpending]
I don’t think my parents ever bought the school-sponsored ripoff pictures. We just kept the little purse-sized samples!
How I Lived for 3 Months on $450 [TightFistedMiser]
Found this nice story in the archives, and apparently you can still rent a room for $100 a month in Central America.
Finding and Selecting a Tenant [Four Pillars]
Mr. Cheap shares his thoughts on an important part of being a landlord.
Free Printable Grocery Store Price Book [NoCreditNeeded]
Handy dandy, or just use as template for your own notebook.
Monday, August 17th, 2009
A Second Home, a Starter Budget – NY Times
An article about a young couple who rent in Brooklyn but instead bought their first house in the Catskills – a two-bedroom, one-bath, 700sf fixer-upper for $95,000. Check out the picture gallery, I like their sense of interior design using Craigslist finds.
Rental Rates – InvestorLoft
Another resource for tracking rental rates, with a focus on single family homes and condos. Not sure of where they get their data, though. Compare with Rent-o-meter, which I think pulls from Craigslist.
News from 1930
This site reads the Wall Street Journal for each corresponding day in 1930, and offers a sometimes eerie look into the similarities and differences between today and then. (The Great Depression is said to have started with the crash of 1929.) Just like now, there is a lot of uncertainty about the future, and there is always the headline “Leading economists say [insert wild guess here]…”
Textbook Publisher to Rent to College Students
What’s not clear is how much cheaper it is than simply buying new and selling back later. I never understood how a book on a subject like Calculus could have a “new” edition every two years. There should be a law requiring at least 20% new material or something on new editions.
More good stuff from other personal finance blogs:
Tuesday, June 30th, 2009
The Accidental Slumlord
A writer whose lives in Massachusetts buys a two-unit rental property in Pocatello, Idaho for $62,750 during the housing boom. Read what happens when he actually visits his house and deals with his tenants.
OptionsHouse Brokerage – $3.95 Stock Trades
Another new discount online brokerage with cheap trades, but actually won #1 in Trade Experience in recent Barron’s Broker Survey, beating out E-Trade. Offers flat-rate pricing at $3.95 for stock trades regardless of number of shares, and $9.95 flat for options (no per-contract fee). $1,000 to open, $100 balance needed to trade. Anyone try them?
New research sheds light on the habits of successful savers
Includes a lot of expected characteristics, but worth a skim to see how you compare.
AMC Theatres A.M. Cinema
“A.M.Cinema, a new program providing early-morning guests the opportunity to see first-run movies at the best ticket price of the day. The program invites moviegoers to visit their local AMC theatre before noon Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays to enjoy ticket prices of $4, $5 or $6 depending on the theatre and market.”
F*** my job, Selling Everything!
Found in the Best of Craigslist section. Have you ever had the urge to simply sell everything you own, cash out your investments, quit your job, and just travel the world until the money runs out? This guy did.
Credit Bailout: Issuers Slashing Card Balances
People are haggling directly with credit card companies to lower their amount owed. However, the articles neglects to go into detail about the impact on credit scores. I suspect that there will still be significant damage to your credit if you “settle” in this way.
Tuesday 10: Good stuff from other personal finance blogs
Friday, May 29th, 2009
Here are some neat links from readers and interweb wanderings. I want to expand on them later as well.
Petrofix: Hedge and cap gas prices
A website that will let you control your cost of gasoline in the near future – for a price. If gas prices rise, they pay you the difference. If they fall, you are out the hedge price. The risk? Well, first I haven’t checked out the prices. Also you pay now, but who knows if the company will be around to fulfill their promises in the future. I’d rather hedge against higher gas by buying an oil ETF or use real options with better liquidity. (Disclosure: I did buy some OIL in my fun portfolio at end of 2008.)
The Great Commodities Debate with Larry Swedroe and Rick Ferri
A long multi-part series on HardAssetsInvestor about the role of commodities within a portfolio. Should you add them to your asset allocation? Swedroe and Ferri flesh out their arguments in a moderated battle, and I still don’t know who wins. However, I am glad I didn’t buy commodities the last two years or so when they were in vogue.
Jeremy Grantham / GMO 7-Year Asset Class Forecasts
Each month, Jeremy Grantham and GMO publishes on the web its predictions of the future return for various asset styles over the next seven years. You must register for free on his site to download them. Grantham has gotten increased publicity recently due to how accurate his previous predictions have been. You can read his 2009 Q1 newsletter “The Last Hurrah and Seven Lean Years” without registration. In the end, he’s just another guy with an opinion, but at least he is forthright about it.
Breakdown: The Credit CARD Act of 2009
Cap of StopBuyingCrap has a nice concise list of the changes to credit card laws coming in February 2010, in case you didn’t feel like reading the entire thing. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out. I think that rumors of annual fees or eliminating grace periods for people who don’t carry balances are just scare tactics by credit card lobbyists. They’ll continue to make money from merchant transaction fees, as always.
An online tool that monitors your home’s power usage in real time. Currently only available in very limited areas where people have the right “smart meters” already installed. Sounds even cooler than my Kill-a-Watt energy meter.