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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My twittering friend, Jose Castillo, just emailed me with info on savvy shopper, a new applications that takes uploaded photo of product UPC then searches the net for the lowest price available.

Maybe this is what Quicken is using for it's 2009 update -- Quicken will auto send you info on savings on products that you by a lot. I haven't tested it yet.

Has anyone tested this? Please comment if you have!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Bounty Paper Towels and the Target Gift Card

Bounty Paper Towels pricing policy is annoying. I love their paper towels, but it's getting hard to figure out the best value for the towel. It's a game with the manufacturer that I'm determined to figure out. Is it the mega roll? The giant roll? The super roll? Or is it the basic that you are buying? If so, how much per roll is enough? And when is it a deal?

To make it easier, I did some research on pricing when I could, use "sheets" as the common denominator for comparisons and found the purchase strike point in November 2008 of:

$0.009 per sheet at Sam's
Paper Towels, Bounty, 12 mega rolls, 160 sheets/roll
$18.12 total

I could just go back and get another 12 mega roll box from Sam's, but Target has upped the interest these days. Their flyer shows a $9.99 per 8 pack of giant rolls PLUS a combo purchase of other Proctor & Gamble items will snare you a Free $5 target gift card! Sweet....

But is it really a deal? If the sheet count holds true, in the past I found the giant rolls to hold 84 sheets per roll. So 84*8 = 672 sheets. 9.99/672 sheets = .0148 cents per sheet. If I paid that same price at Sam's, I would pay much over $28.00 for the same 12 mega roll pack. Or to make the comparison easier, the Sam's price at Target should be 672 sheets *.009 cents per sheet = $6.72. That's $3 out of the $5 gift card I can get myself, just by going to Sam's instead of Target.

But maybe the second product will make it worthwhile. I would have to add another purchase from the selected list to get the gift card. In my case, I picked the $12.99 63-80 load powder version of Tide. Is that a good price? Checking back on my pricing research, the $12.99 deal is unfortunately $2.00 higher than the same Tide powder version 2 months ago ($10.99). I don't have noted where it was priced at that amount, but I know it wasn't Sam's, so it's a good possibility it was Wal-Mart or Target, where I was doing most of my price comparisons.

The liquid Tide version is a little better buy, if you do choose to take the deal at Target. It's currently .20 per load at Sam's (21.97 / 110 loads) and the same price per load at Target ($12.99/64 loads).

So the Target gift card isn't really a free offer at all. Not a big surprise, but it's really a crummy deal if you think about the time involved in getting the gift card from the store, and the possibility that it won't all be used by the person you give it to.

But at least you can buy the liquid version of Tide at $12.99 per load for the 48-64 ounce packaging and know that you are getting Sam's pricing at a much nicer store to shop in....(in my personal opinion, anyway). And if you go, don't forget your $1.00 off coupon for Tide products of any size in Sunday, November 30th's flyer. Then it really is a deal!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mint.com

25 years ago I was afraid I couldn't pay the rent. Before the stock market ever crashed, before it was cool to buy TIPS, way before anyone dreamed of living without their credit cards, I became addicted to personal finance information; websites, books, blogs, theories, gurus. A lot of what I've picked up along the way has helped me become debt free (no credit card debt, no mortage, no car loans).

Now I'm a single Mom with a stinky liberal arts degree who has helped her daughter go to the college of her dreams (Baby Coco has only $5,000 in student loans after 2.5 years at a sub-ivy costing $45,000 grand a year). Most of what I tried works really well...and if it doesn't, I spit on it and toss it out.

"The trick is to live a little beneath your means...because it's true...money does grow more money..."

I forget where I found that quote, but it's pinned to my bulletin board in my kitchen.

Mint.com is my most recent find - I can see how all of my accounts are doing, and it's really, really simple with almost automatic updating. So far, net worth is still in the low six figures. Ten years to half-a-million? Can I do it? Can you?
_____________________________________________
Links I Love, and How You Can Be Free and Happy Too

How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt and Live Prosperously
Selling the House for a Profit

Monday, July 21, 2008

Garage Sale

I made $250 on my garage sale on Saturday. Minus the $14.40 in newspaper ad fees and the $12.00 in supplies, I did pretty well. Met my goal, in any case, which was to give stuff to people who want it, so that I don't have to move it or carry it away to Goodwill.


If you'd rather donate your stuff to Goodwill, or Volunteers of America, or any other charity, instead of watching strangers reject your stuff, or worse yet, haggle over it, it's doable... (I can't believe you let your children play with this precious heirloom jewelry! How could you! I'll give you .50 for each earring!) It's simple to deduct it. Here's a good guide for how to organize that process for tax deduction purposes.


Turbo Tax will not only help you organize your charitable giving by item, the "It's Deductible" feature lets you figure out how much to take off for each item.

Good luck!

P.S. - what sells? Tools, small furniture items, housewares, plastic bins, yard implements, Karoake machines, small vaccuum cleaners. Not old rugs or ladders. Go figure..

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Finally found an apartment that...

is bigger than 900 square feet, has a screened porch area for the cat, is 3 minutes from work, and costs $1100 per month (but includes water, sewer and pest control).



It's $160 per month higher than the place I was going to rent (great vistas, totally updated, big kitchen, only a shared floor, no shared walls, good neighborhood) and $260 higher than my mortgage payment. But the place I was going to rent didn't have any screened porch area, and someone had let a cat pee all over the carpet, creating a horrible odor. Their plan for rectifying the odor didn't sound like it was going to work, to tell you the truth, they were very vague. And I had nighmares about my cat doing the same thing to their new carpet!



So, after a protracted battle with the landlord, I got my deposit back before even moving in and went down the street to a higher rent neighborhood, especially when I realized that the two bedroom apartments that weren't disgusting in the neighborhood had almost all been rented. And the deposit was only $200, an amount that looked great compared to the $1,000 deposit from a neighboring complex that really didn't want my cat in their building.



I'm in for six months, with an eye toward buying a condo in the $155-$160,000 range, that I can pay off in 5 years and rent if necessary. All of this moving, looking, etc., has made me into a complete basket case.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Craigs List Sold the Pool Table - once I avoided the "$2,300 profit" scam

John and his girlfriend are Teach for America teachers who must troll Craig's List for deals. They called about the pool table and picked it up last week. Somebody else had also showed up to purchase it, but I promised to hold it for John. He arrived right on time with his pick-up, so it sold within 72 hours of listing. I pocketed $150 in cash and they got a great deal on a table, sticks, wall mount for sticks, etc. John did have to help dissassemble the table - with help from my friend Errol, but hey, it's a great deal!

At the same time that I was emailing John and his girlfriend, I got a "scam" email from someone claiming to want to send me a check for $2300 for the pool table, which only cost $150! I figured this was some crazy Nigerian banking copy-cat scam, so I played along, and gave the ebay guy an address to mail the check too (which would then be followed by a different address where he could send a shipping service to pick up the table).

My friends laughed about this one for a week. Until today, when the check came in via UPS. $2300. CRAZY!!! Moving, etc. is just CRAZY!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Virtual addresses at UPS Stores

My virtual address has been established at the UPS store, it is a street number, but it also includes a suite number. I have a key to my "house" in the UPS store, and can access it 24/7. They will also accept packages for me. The cost was about $15 per month and I purchased 3 months. Hopefully, by then, address forwarding will be working!

Monday, July 7, 2008

2nd Step - Creating a Base

The same address, the same house, for 10 years. That could go away in just a month. Or I could end up at a closing meeting, where everything falls through on August 1st, and not move at all.



I need a stable base - an address I can count on!



So I'm going to go to the post office this week and rent a P.O. Box. And I'm going to start the mail forwarding process to that P.O. Box. Whether I move August 1st, or put the house back on the market to move September 1st, October 1st, ... it doesn't matter. I'm still on my way to somewhere different. And in the meantime, I've got a place that I can count on to receive my important documents, regardless.



Whew. http://www.theupsstore.com/products/maiandpos.html. UPS has a mailbox for me, that even looks like a street address, not a post office box. I'll have to check on prices for that next week too, and report back.

Apartment Hunting

I'm 0 for 0...

I spent the weekend looking at two apartments for rent in the Condominium complex close to the college campus.

  • The owner has decided to sell, and she's decided that if I can't come in with full cash $140,000 next week, then she'll just sell the apartment to the Home Owner's Association. She also said something like "if you have cash, then we don't have to have an inspection...". Is she thinking I wouldn't want one??? Yikes. This sounds like sour grapes, but I'm thinking I don't want to rent OR buy from this lady.

  • I was on the waiting list for another apartment in the same complex, 2 story, much better location. The owner kept telling me, "I'll show it to you as soon as the current renter gets from vacation after July 4th..." I called and asked to go ahead and set up an appointment NOW. I was reassured that I would be called, he had all my numbers...and I never heard back, and the For Rent sign is gone. What a creep. He could have just told me it was already rented.


Spent some time on http://www.move.com/rentals/apartment-search-tips/Fighting-For-The-Perfect-Apartment.aspx in the "Apartment Hunting Tips" section, and realized I'm probably the only one going Apartment Hunting game without a

1) super-bowl level game plan for winning AND

2) check book, credit references, paystub and resume in hand.

As a final kick in the gut -- I had two bites on the pool table and both fell through.

I've got to find my competitive instincts again -- it's been 11 years, and I'm off my game. The anxiety is starting to get to me. Time to hit one of the hypnosis tapes!



Sunday, July 6, 2008

First Steps in Downsizing

What the financial gurus don't tell you about downsizing...

  • 1) It's easy to getting sucked into an emotional tail spin while moving, signing closing papers, etc., which could affect my judgement leading to....

    2) Wasting money on items I don't foresee, but crop up as emergencies.

    3) Pretending that there won't be any emergencies!

    4) Panicking and renting a place that is too expensive, wiping out my gains and making me wonder -- what did I go through all this crap for? To live in less of a house, in a neighborhood I don't like, for exactly the same expense? Could be VERY depressing.

    5) All of which would imperil my job performance, relationships with friends and my daughter, my mental health...YUK.

    Keep reading this blog to find out how anyone downsizing can overcome these issues. Have you downsized recently and have tips? Please post and share in the comments box.

A psychologist reminds us here that downsizing, and moving, are expected to be stressful. "Of course you will feel like this!" is the mantra here...http://fearfreeselling.com/Moving%20Stress.htm

A way to avoid major losses of furniture, etc., in the move here: http://www.hrmreport.com/pastissue/article.asp?art=268450&issue;=172

Here's a way to reduce your emotional stress, with hypnosis relaxation tapes, http://www.hypnosisdownloads.com/downloads/stress_management/moving-house.html

Friday, July 4, 2008

Selling the Pool Table


As much as I like the old pool table, it's a major impediment to down sizing! Even though this one if fairly light, I'm going to try http://craigslist.com and EBay http://ebay.com to see which one I can sell it on. For $150, someone can get the whole set. Then I'll apply the dollars toward moving costs.

Downsizing the House

When my husband passed away, we had been in our new house only a couple of years. I was 40 at the time, and we still had a $110,000 mortgage on a $145,000 home. The house needed a tremendous amount of maintenance, including foundation work.



As of August 1st, someone is buying the house for $240,000. I've put about $50,000 in maintenance in it over the past 8 years, and had $20,000 down when we purchased it, have to pay a real estate agent, settle some of the cash on my daughter who is a co-owner of the home, so I'm taking about $30,000 in profit out of it. Sounds great, except that it took 10 years to do it! I learned to keep a maintenance journal, which contractors to hire, what can be done on your own, all subjects for another post.


Now I have to conquer Moving....a huge emotional task considering that my daughter considers this house her home and her last tangible connection to her father.


Watching my female peers hand money to their bankrupt elderly parents has taught me a lesson, though. I believe giving my daughter a mother who is financially stable is a greater gift than a house with a mortgage that still sits at $105,000, after 10 years of full payments.