Thursday, December 31, 2009

3 Months of Amazon Prime

You can once again get a 3 month trial of Amazon Prime. This is an awesome deal. I had this once before and it was really nice... free faster shipping!

Monday, November 16, 2009

USAA Expands Membership

USAA has further expanded their membership to include all veterans who were honorably discharged, no matter what the length of time in service. Family members of service members may be eligible as well. If you think you might be eligible I highly recommend that you check it out. You can read some good comments about USAA here. I have been more than pleased with my membership.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

ING Plans to Sell ING Direct

Apparently my favorite savings bank, ING Direct, is set to be sold by 2013 by it's parent company, the ING Group.  I plan on keeping my ING account at least until I find out who they plan on selling it to.  It is FDIC insured so I'm not worried about losing my money.  I believe the bank is still in good shape, but even if it's not, your money should be safe and move seamlessly over to any new owner.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

World of Goo Name Your Price

You can get the independently developed, award-winning game World of Goo for whatever price you want through October 19th.  The game is normally $20.  This deal was spotted on

2010 Chick-fil-A Calendar Coming Soon

If you've never received a free Chick-fil-A calendar, take my word for it that it is a treat you will enjoy the whole year through.  The calendar is usually very creative and contains great coupons.  The calendar is on the Chick-fil-A website, but is not available yet. 

Friday, October 9, 2009

First-Time Homebuyer Credit Extended for Military

Jim over at posted the news about the First-Time Homebuyer Credit being extended an additional year for some military.  The only catch is that you have to have been deployed for at least 3 months.  Right now this is only a bill and it has only passed in the House.  It is expected to be pushed through the Senate and to the President shortly.  You can read the full post here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Starting Salary A Critical Difference

I found it interesting to read about a young accountant's situation on the Bogleheads forum.  He was unhappy with the fact that despite being a top-performer at his company, someone else was making slightly more than him just because that person was there longer.  Some of the comments that emerged mentioned that the school you went to could impact your starting salary.  From here it was pointed out that the starting salary can be a key difference and that it may take a peer with a lower salary several hard-working years to catch up to the peer with the higher starting salary.

DiscoBunny1979 wrote:
"My experience has been that it's really important to obtain the appropriate compensation from the beginning because all pay increases go from that initial salary."

This seems like an important tidbit to keep in mind if you are hunting for a job.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Why You Still Need an IRA

As you may know, I am in the military.  More than once I have had someone tell me that I don't need to be putting money in my Roth IRA each month since I'll have a pension waiting for me after I retire from the military.  Ignoring the fact that I could become disabled or choose to leave the military before the required 20 years to claim retirement, there is another reason why it is important to have your own retirement funds.  Boston Gal has the story of a U.S. Army retired ranger who did not get his retirement pension despite serving over 20 years and being wounded in combat.

Note: The views expressed on this blog are strictly my own and do not represent the opinions of the U.S. Military or any other agency.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Budget Tracking with Google Docs

Many of you may have heard about the recent acquisition of by Intuit, the makers of Quicken.  I really like using to monitor my financial status.  I have yet to really embrace the budgeting aspect of it though.  For budgeting, I use a little more antiquated method... spreadsheets!  I originally created my own custom spreadsheet, first in excel, then in google docs.  Having it available anywhere and being able to quickly update it without launching spreadsheet software is a plus.  I can also easily share my budget with my fiancee.  Recently, I discovered the wonderful library of templates available on google docs when I needed to create an invoice for some freelance work I did.  Out of curiosity, I also checked out the personal finance templates available.  If you are looking for an easy way to create a budget online, I highly recommend you look into the spreadsheet function of google docs and also check out what templates are available in their template library.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

50 Cent on Investing

CNBC has an interesting interview with 50 cent.  Some parts, such as the speculation that the recession will be over in a couple of years or less, were a little worrisome.  There were some bits that made me think though.  For example, when he talked about the fact that Mike Tyson's made over $500 million in his lifetime but now he wakes up in his old bedroom.  It was also nice to hear him say he lives below his means, although I'm not sure how accurate that statement is.  I guess he can live pretty extravagantly and still live below his means.

Monday, June 15, 2009

New Credit Card Law

Congress recently passed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act (Credit CARD Act... cute, huh?). Here are some of the highlights.

  • Companies required to mail statements at least 21 days before the payment is due.
  • The payment due date is required to stay the same each month.
  • Credit Card companies will be required to show how long it will take to pay off your balance making only the minimum payment. *I think this is a great change. Too many people don't realize the impact of small payments with high interest. Too bad they don't show how much total interest you would end up paying.
  • You can no longer be charged an over-the-limit fee for transactions that exceed your credit limit unless you sign an agreement saying that you specifically want to allow transactions that will exceed your limit.
  • Payments in excess of the minimum amount will be required to pay off balances with the highest interest rates first.
  • Companies won't be able to increase rates on the existing balances for the most part, but they will be allow to increase the rate on new purchases after the first year. A penalty rate cannot be applied unless you don't make your payments for more than 60 days, and then a 45 day notice is required before the rate change. *I disagree with this provision. I think it is the companies right to fluctuate the rate in response to the market. If you don't want to be subjected to market changes in interest rates, then you shouldn't take out unsecured credit.
  • For rate changes on new purchases, 45 days notice will be required. Also, you will have the option to close your account if you disagree with the new rate.
Source: USAA

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Thrift Savings Plan Upgrades

In typical government fashion, a tobacco bill is carrying changes to the Thrift Savings Plan.

From the article:
• A Roth 401(k) option, which would let participants
put some or all of their after-tax salary into an account that will
grow without tax liability on future earnings.
• Automatic enrollment of new federal civilian employees.

The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board said this will encourage
more young employees to start saving for their retirement as soon as
they begin working for the government and take advantage of matching
funds offered by their agencies.

• A survivor benefit that would allow spouses of deceased TSP participants to maintain TSP accounts.

• A mutual fund option that would allow participants to direct their
TSP funds to private-sector mutual funds. The board would be authorized
to select the mutual funds that would be available to plan

It’s far from certain that a mutual fund option will become reality.

I think the first three are definitely good improvements to the program. The fourth one I could care less about. It's noncongruent with the Boglehead philosophy. I'm very pleased with their current low-cost index funds. As long as they keep those, I'll still be happy. The bad thing is that people will bite off on these funds, which I think is a mistake.

The original article from the Federal Times can be found here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Free Mother's Day Card

There is no longer any excuse for not showing your mom some love this Mother's Day.  Hallmark is offering a free customized card through their website.  The best part is they even mail it to your mom for free!  Check out all of the info from the SlickDeals post.  Also, to help you get in the Mother's Day mood, here's a message from Mr. T.  I pity the fool who doesn't send his mother a Mother's Day card!

Mr. T - Treat Your Mother Right

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

iTunes Ups Their Prices

From Slashdot "Steve Jobs vowed weeks ago that when iTunes shifted to a tiered
price structure in April, older tracks priced at $0.69 would outnumber
the contemporary hits that are rising to $1.29. Today, several weeks
later, iTunes made the transition. While the $1.29 tracks are
immediately visible, locating cheaper tracks is proving to be an
exercise in futility. With the exception of 48 songs that Apple has
placed on the iTunes main page, $0.69 downloads are a scarce commodity."

I stopped using iTunes a while back and have been very pleased with the decision.  The DRM is an unnecessary hassle that just makes life more difficult.  I used TuneClone to convert my iTunes songs from DRM'ed m4p files to mp3.  It creates a virtual CD burner and allows you to 'burn' playlists to the virtual drive.  It automatically converts any songs sent to the drive into mp3 and stores them in the folder you specify.  As far as purchasing new songs, I've chosen to use since they've already had songs less then $0.99 for a while and their music is already in mp3.  They are obviously aware of consumer wants and aren't just out to trap consumers into their products indefinitely.  I don't like how Apple has always been less open than other tech companies.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Free Game from Amazon

Amazon is again offering a free game.  Big Kahuna Reef (which was offered before) can be yours, free, from

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

This Too Shall Pass

Here is some more info on past bear markets compared to the current one. All of them were bad, but all of them eventually recovered. Try to keep your cool and maintain your plan and asset allocation no matter what the markets are doing.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Free Credit Score... If You Hurry

Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) is giving 10,000 people their credit score for free.  Click here

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Is $6600 Really That Low?

I know the state of the economy right now is troublesome to most people. Many people have investments that have lost half or more of their value. However, I don't think we're necessarily that far off from what we should expect. Take a look at the chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, below.

If we look at 1980, the Dow was around $830. A common number for the average growth of the market is 8%. So if we take $830 in 1980 and grow it at 8% for 29 years, it comes out to $7,733.34. This is higher than where we're at, but not too much higher. Even at 10%, we'd be looking at $13,166.37. I think the $14,000 range that the Dow was at previously (July 2007) was outside of the norm and that at least part of the drop in value is due to a correction back from that bubble. I know that won't do much to comfort those (myself included) who have seen a drastic drop in the value of their portfolio, but maybe it will help keep you from worrying too much about a total collapse of the market.

Friday, March 6, 2009

What is the Savings Deposit Program?

The DoD describes the Savings Deposit Program as "A safe way to save for those members serving in designated combat zones."  Basically, it's a savings account for the military with a really good interest rate.  Here's what you need to know.
  • Must be in the armed forces and receiving Hostile Fire Pay
  • Must be deployed 30 consecutive days or at least part of 3 consecutive months
  • Deposits may not be more than your unalloted pay and allowances for the given month.
  • 10% APY, compounded quarterly
  • Deposits must be in multiples of $5.00
  • Withdrawals may only be made when you leave the combat zone or in the event of an emergency (requires commander's approval)
  • However, if you have more than $10,000.00 in the account, the amount of $10K (the part not earning interest) may be withdrawn while still deployed
  • Interest will continue to accrue for up to 90 days after you leave the combat zone (so wait three months to withdraw the money! Or, redeploy within three months to keep it going.)
This is a really good deal, especially given current rates on savings accounts.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Oldie but Goodie

Don't Buy Stuff You Can't Afford. A simple one step program to being debt free! This clip is pretty old but still funny and especially pertinent now-a-days.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Industry and Frugality in 1919

I was skimming the results that come up when you google "Industry and Frugality."  The second one was from an article written in 1919.  I'm not exactly sure what the circumstances were but they were referring to high costs of living.  The quote I like from the article was by Governor Milliken, "Nothing but the return of the old-fashioned virtues of industry and frugality will solve the problem."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Unfathomable Spending

If you have ever had any significant credit card debt, you know how difficult it can be to dig yourself out of a hole.  Now imagine a 787 billion + 75 billion + 200 billion = 1.062 trillion dollar hole.  This number is most likely difficult if not impossible for you to imagine.  In fact, I'm willing to bet that a very large majority of people could not write this number down if you asked them to.  I'd like to see this challenge on one of those clips you see on late night talk shows.  This number is close to the total known digits of pi as of 2002.  It is also more than 6.5 times the total market capitalization of Microsoft (161.1 Billion).  And, according to this article, our federal governments obligations now exceed the world's gross domestic product.  Add to that the interest accrued when we borrow from China and other countries.  It is going to be impossible to pay this off in the foreseeable future.  I cannot believe that our politicians are running the country this way.  Individual responsibility and now national responsibility is going down the drain.

P.S. - 1.062 trillion is 1 062 000 000 000

Monday, February 16, 2009

How to Add the TSP to

I didn't think it was possible but after receiving a tip from a fellow Boglehead I've figured out how to add the Thrift Savings Plan to  Go to your mint account and under "Overview" (the first page that shows up after you log in) click "Edit" on the top left next to "Your Accounts."  From here you will see all of the accounts you have added so far.  Choose to add a new account and then search for "Thrift Savings Plan."  This is what it should look like.

After you click "Search" you should only have one option.  Choose that and then you should get the next screen shown below.  Make sure it says on there somewhere.

Now just fill in your information, you'll need your TSP account number, your ID that you created on the website, and your web password.  Notice you'll need to enter the TSP account number 3 times.  I recommend copying and pasting because there's no worry of putting in the wrong account number.  It won't go through if the password doesn't match.  If you haven't created an ID yet, you'll have to go to the website and then wait for your custom ID to become active before adding the account to mint.

After you're all done, you will see your TSP account listed under investments.  Hurray!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

More Tax Software

Apparently you can get TaxCut Standard 2008 for $1 at the Dollar Tree.  Also, if you meet certain requirements, you may be able to use TurboTax Free edition.  The free edition is really for people who don't have a business and haven't sold any investments in the past year.

Senate Bumps Up Homebuyers Tax Credit

Currently, a tax-credit of $7,500 is offered to new homebuyers.  The senate has voted to increase that amount to $15,000 as part of the economic stimulus package. 

The Senate voted Wednesday night to give a tax break of up to $15,000
to homebuyers in hopes of revitalizing the housing industry, a victory
for Republicans eager to leave their mark on a mammoth economic
stimulus bill at the heart of President Barack Obama's recovery plan.
The tax break was adopted without dissent, and came on a day in which
Obama pushed back pointedly against Republican critics of the
legislation even as he reached across party lines to consider scaling
back spending.

Look for more information in the coming week.  The original article can be found here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Evil Landlords, Archaeologists, Scuba Divers, and Scruffs?

SlickDeals has a post today about 4 free games from  The only one I've played before is Build-a-lot, which is a somewhat entertaining, although mindless, real-estate game.  I've heard of Jewel Quest before but haven't played it.  Not sure about the other ones, but you can't beat the price.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Free Tax Cut Premium

Monday, January 12, 2009

P2P Lending Debacle

For those of you who haven't heard, the P2P Lending sites (with the exception of Lending Club) have been under a cease and desist order for some time.  Normally in my Prosper account, I would have a return of 13.8%.  I typically reinvest the payments I receive when they reach the $50 minimum to bid on a new loan.  However, since Prosper is no longer accepting new loans, my money just sits there not earning interest.  This is cutting into my effective APY.  For this reason, I'm in the process of withdrawing my funds from Prosper.  I haven't decided whether or not I will move them to Lending Club.  With the economy how it is, the risk of default is probably higher.  I think I may just put the money back in savings.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Chop Your Mortgage

Have you ever heard that you can chop years off your mortgage just by paying a little extra each month?  Well, it's true!  Let me show you how you can calculate your savings resulting from extra payments on your mortgage.

For this example, I'll be using's Mortgage Prepayment Calculator.  Let's say you have $100,000.00 remaining on your loan.  You've owned this place for 1.5 years and so you've got 28.5 years left on the mortgage.  Your interest rate is 6.5% and you make payments every month.

1. Enter 100000 as the loan amount in the first box
2. Enter 6.5 as the interest rate in the second box
3. Now, you need to figure out how many months are remaining on your mortgage. 28.5 years * 12 mos./year = 342 months.  So, enter 342 for the third box.
4. Most likely you make payments every month.  So, enter 12 for the fourth box.

5. Now, if you'd like to know what adding $200 / month will do for you, setup the first line of extra payments like this: Monthly | 200.00 | 1 | Until End of Loan | [leave this blank]

Now click "Display Extra Pmt Benefits."  You will see that an extra $200 /mo. will result in a savings of $59,379.04 and shorten the length of the loan by 151 months (12 years and 7 months)!!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

$7500 Federal Housing Tax Credit

For aspiring home owners who find their goal stubbornly elusive, newly enacted legislation providing a tax credit of as much as $7,500 for first-time home buyers might just be the opportunity of a lifetime.

But like so many of the good things in life, time is of the essence for buyers who want to take advantage of this outstanding opportunity. Only homes purchased on or after April 9, 2008 and before July 1, 2009 are eligible. Use the links below to learn more about the tax credit.

If this offer sounds too good to be true, it's because it is. Reading the website you might not realize what the catch is. Although the government is giving $7500 to qualified new home-owners (income of < $75,000 and have not owned a home in the past 3 years for single individuals) you are required to pay that money back over 15 years or whenever you sell the house. You make no payments for the first 2 years and if you sell the house at a loss, the debt is forgiven.

On the whole, I would not recommend this unless it's absolutely necessary. I don't think it's a good reason to buy a house you wouldn't otherwise buy or be able to afford, and I'm always against taking on unnecessary debt. However, if you think you are disciplined enough to invest it instead of blowing it on something and you can afford your new home with or without the tax credit, then go ahead.

2009 Action Plan for Free!!

As someone once told me, "if it's fo' free, it's fo' me!" Until January 15th Suze Orman is offering up her book, Suze Orman's 2009 Action Plan, for free!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Jack Bogle Wishes Bogleheads a New Year

Jack Bogle, founder and former CEO of Vanguard, visited the Bogleheads forum to wish everyone a new year. If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend grabbing a copy of The Bogleheads' Guide to Investing and finding out what it means to be a Boglehead!