October 31, 2011

Two Major Potential Drawbacks with Electric Tankless Water Heaters

Back in 2008 I wrote about tankless water heaters.   At the time I thought they were a great deal.   I discussed a Powerstar AE125 tankless electric heater that is rated for output of 4 gallons a minute and costs

Powerstar AE125
However if you look at the specs on that heater there are a couple very important details I didn't pay attention to before.

First :  The heater requires 120Amp electric service.   Thats a lot o' power.  Your typical 50 gallon tank water heater only uses around 20-30 Amps.   Your home will likely be wired to provide that much power for an electric water heater.    To install a tankless water heater and provide the 120A of service you may need to upgrade your electric panel.  Older homes may only have 60A or 100A service so you may need to upgrade to 200A level.   Upgrading an homes amperage capacity could be a $2000 bill.

If your home isn't outfitted for the high amperage requirements of a tankless electric water heater then it could cost you a substantial amount of money to install the electrical service to support a tankless electric heater.

Second : The amount of water you can heat at a given time depends on the temperature of the water coming into the home.   They quote a 4 gallon per minute output for the heater.  However that is only true if the inlet water is relatively high temperature to begin with.  

The specs for the heater say:
Flow Rate @ 45°F Rise (gallons/min) : 4 gal (US)/min
Flow Rate @ 77°F Rise (gallons/min) : 2.4 gal (US)/min

The 4 gallon per minute rating is assuming that you're heating the water by 45F.   If you want your water to be 105F then that amount of temperature rise assumes the water starts at 60F temperature.
But if you have to rise the temperature 77F then you can only get 2.4 gallons a minute.  

If you live in a warmer area like Hawaii, California or the US South then your water will be 55-75F when it comes into your home.   In these climates you can then heat your water 45F and get it up to the 100F level.    However if you live in a Northern state then your water will be 35-50F when it comes out of the ground.  You'll need to heat that water a lot more to get it up to the 100F level. 

I also found a spec sheet from Rheem that shows the same effect.    The graphic to the right is from the Rheem site and shows how the temperature works versus gallon output.   As you can see in the graph if you live in a colder climate with 35F water then the 27 model tankless heater will only get you 2-2.5 gallons a minute.  But if you live in Hawaii where the water is 75F then the tankless can put out 4.5-5 gpm.

If you live in a colder climate area then a tankless electric heater may not be able to heat enough water to service a whole home.

Bottom Line :  Electric tankless water heaters may require costly electrical upgrades and may not be practical for homes in colder climates.

This article may contain referral links which pay this site a commission for purchases made at the sites.

October 30, 2011

Heat Pump Water Heaters are Here

A couple years ago I wrote about heat pump water heaters.   However at that time they hadn't quite hit the market.   Well now they are available for sale.  Not long ago I was in Home Depot and I saw one for sale.

Heat pump water heaters are more efficient because they use the warmer surrounding air to heat the water instead of just directly heating the water with a heating element.    Generally I would say that a heat pump water heater would be a good option if you do not have gas service.  If you have natural gas then a tankless gas heater is likely to be a better option.   However many homes do not have access to natural gas.

Home Depot has a Rheem heat pump water heater for $1298.   Its a 50 gallon tank and should be a drop in replacement for a standard electric water heater.   Energy guide says it uses $234 a year.    (based on 10.65¢ per  kwh)

By comparison an equivalent standard 50 gallon GE Model is just $429.    However the traditional tank model uses $520 of electricity per year based on its energy guide.

The heat pump water heater is significantly more expensive to purchase but it cuts your electric usage by more than half.

You can also get tax incentives and rebates to help pay for the more efficient heat pump water heaters.   Right now there is a tax credit of $300 for buying a hybrid water heater.    You may also be able to get state credits or rebates from utilities but those will vary and some places have no such incentives.

Lets compare...

Hybrid heat pump :
Cost $1298
Tax incentive $300
Out of pocket cost $998
Annual operating cost $234

Standard electric tank:
Cost $429
Annual operating cost $520

Additional cost $869 - $300 tax credit = $569
Annual savings $286 in electricity
Payback = 2 years

The electric savings from a heat pump water heater will pay back the higher purchase cost in just 2 years.

Or we can look at the total cost over 12 years which is the warranty period for both tanks.

12 year totals for initial purchase plus 12 years operation :
hybrid = purchase ($1298 - $300 tax cred) + (12 years x $234 per year) = $3806
normal = purchase ($429 )+ (12 years x $520 per year) =  $6669

Your total savings over 12 year life is $2863

Bottom Line :  If your home uses electricity to heat water then a hybrid heat pump water heater is a good deal.


October 28, 2011

Best of blog posts for week of October 28th

Every Friday afternoon I share some of the more interesting or notable posts that I have seen in the personal finance blogs and other sources for the past week.

Getrichslowly shares tips for Beating the Single-Shopper Penalty

Bargaineering gives us 5 Tips for Selling Your Stuff Online

PT Money says It’s Okay to Spend Your Money on Things You Really Want and I agree


FREE - $2 in MP3's at Amazon

Right now you can get a $2 credit for MP3's at Amazon.

See : Tweet and Get a $2 Credit

To get the $2 you have to follow them on Twitter and automatically tweet a message about Amazon.   The deal and $2 credit expires October 31st.  See the Amazon link above for all the specifics.

This article may contain referral links which pay this site a commission for purchases made at the sites.

October 27, 2011

Is Culinary School a Rip OFF?

 Do you ever dream of being a chef at a fancy restaurant?   Do you see TV commercials about culinary schools that say they can train you to be that kind of chef?   Do you put your dream and that commercial together and think maybe you should enroll in culinary school?   Think again.    

This Time magazine article Top Chef Dreams: Are Cooking Schools a Rip-Off?covers the topic of culinary schools pretty well.   One of the culinary schools is being sued by 800 of their current and former students who claim they were falsely mislead about their employment prospects after graduation.  Thats not a good sign.   You can read the full TIME article for their whole story.   But I'll share this one quote from Eric Greenspan a Food Network star and head chef and owner of the Foundry on Melrose, a high-end restaurant in Los Angeles saying: "These kids are paying law-school prices, and [culinary schools] are training them for minimum-wage jobs." ..."How do rock stars become famous? They work hard. They don't go to guitar schools," he says.

OK but... is it a RIP OFF?

I would say that the culinary schools are NOT a rip off in general.   I say that because from everything I see they do train you to be a chef.    As long as the school is not misleading you about what they train you or your employment prospects then I wouldn't call it a rip off.   You may consider it over priced or not worth the time and money.   Thats not exactly equivalent to a 'rip off'.   While culinary schools may not be a scam or rip off they don't seem worth the money and time.

You do not have to go to culinary school to be a great chef.   

The list of Best chefs of 2011 from Food & Wine lists the education for each chef.    Out of the 11 chefs listed 6 of them did go to culinary schools.   However the other 5 did not go to culinary school.   Two of those chefs Jason Franey and Kevin Willmann appeared to only have on the job training and no formal education is listed in their profiles.   Three more chefs went to some form of college but not culinary schools.   James Lewis got a business degree at U. Alabama.   Carlo Mirarchi went to NYU and it doesn't say what he studied there.   Finally Ricardo Zarate went to college in Peru for unknown studies.    If 5 of the 11 best new chefs in the nation can get to where they are without going to culinary school then thats clear evidence that culinary school is not required to succeed as a chef.

The TIME article mentioned above also cited Eric Greenspan as giving the advice that : "He says students would be better off getting their foot in the door with a chef they admire and working very hard to climb their way to the top"

Culinary Arts schools can be pricey

The Culinary Institute of America; Hyde Park, NY. runs around $25,000 a year roughly.   Le Cordon Bleu schools charge about $17,500 for a 9 month certificate or $37,000 for an Associates degree.   Full time tuition at the French Culinary Institute is over $33,000.

Why I think it ain't worth it

Ok so clearly you can be a rising star chef without going to culinary school.   Therefore culinary school is not necessary to succeed as a chef.   But that doesn't mean culinary school won't help.   What if the alternatives are spending 10 years plugging away as a line cook and gradually making your way up the ladder in the kitchen versus going to culinary school and jumping straight into a sous chef job?   That could make it well worth the money to pay for culinary school.   Basically I think that the reason culinary school isn't worth it is that if you're a good chef then this will be evident pretty quickly.   You have to be a very good chef to have a chance at one of the high end jobs.   There are only around 90,000 chefs or head cooks and their earnings are in the $30,000 to $50,000 for the vast majority of them.   There are about 3 million cooks and food prep workers and their median earnings are around $24,000.   Clearly the competition for the chef or head cook jobs is going to be keen.    Even if you do get a head chef job only the top 10% of them make over $70,000.   If you have the aptitude to rise to the rank of cook or head chef then you can probably do that with on the job experience.   Spending $30,000 to $50,000 on culinary school may be a very poor investment for the vast majority of cooks who are unlikely to land a high paying chef job.   If you have the talent to make it as a chef then you can get there without spending a lot of money on a culinary school.    For the vast majority of people they will not rise higher than a $50,000 chef job and many are unlikely to even get to the level of chef or head cook.   Therefore I'd say that culinary school is generally not worth it.  

There are likely to be some exceptions where individuals used a culinary school as a fast track to a chef job, but its just as likely that those individuals could have rose up the ranks to chef nearly as fast if they'd simply skipped school and spent more time working in restaurants.


Well first of all you need some practical experience.   Start cooking in your own home.   This seems like an obvious thing, but I want to cover it so its not taken for granted.   I'm sure you can learn many cooking skills on your own from books and online resources totally for free.   Of course this may not be enough to get you into a job as a chef but you have to start somewhere and any work you do at home will help hone your skills.

On the job training seems to me like one of the best ways to learn to cook.   Some of the best new chefs on the Food & Wine list seemed to start this way so it can get you into a high end chef job.    Would you rather pay to go to school or get paid to work in a real kitchen?  

Still it may be a good idea to perfect some of your skills with a formal education and a degree might help you get your foot in the door at a higher end restaurant.  If you want formal education then check the local community colleges to see which ones may offer a culinary program.   Not all community colleges will have culinary programs.    The CC in our city doesn't have a full culinary school.  However another CC in our state has a certificate program and an associates degree in culinary arts.   Tuition at that school is just under $3,000 per year.

Finally I think that doing an Apprentiship via the American Culinary Federationmight be a  good way to go. This would give you formal training, on the job experience plus a mentor. 

Disclaimer : I know nothing first hand about being a chef and I have no personal experience with culinary schools.


October 26, 2011

Track and Value Your Donations for Tax Deductions

Intuit has a free tool on its TurboTax.com site called It's Deductible that you can use to track and value the charitable donations you make.   If you make a fair amount of charity donations in a year then such a tool can be helpful.   Its particularly useful if you donate many household goods or clothing items which need to have a 'fair market value' associated with them.   The tool uses values based on the IRS guidelines which helps you keep within acceptable limits.  My wife and I have used a spreedsheet to track our expenses and just taken guesses on the fair market value.   Our system works OK but its not perfect and I think it would be better to have an independent source to use for the FMVs.

Signing up is pretty simple and they don't ask for your personal information like SSN or address or anything.   Once you've got all your information in the tool you can export it to Turbotax, PDF file or HTML.   

First of all you can enter the name and address detail for the specific charity once and then use the same entries out of a drop down list.   I started with an entry for our local Goodwill store.

Then you can search for specific items to add or navigate the different categories.   Shown here I searched for 'pants' and it gives me various categories of items that include the words 'pants' :

 Once you find the category you want you then get several more options.   I clicked on the entry for Pants under Mens Clothing and it gives me several options for different styles of mens pants.   I can then enter the number of each style that I donated for those that are in the medium or high value category.   The IRS no longer allows deductions for items of 'low' value so that section is grayed out.

 Lets say I had a pair of cargo pants and a couple pairs of jeans.   They were used but still OK.   I decided they were in the 'medium' quality section.   The final entry would look like this :

From here I could add more items or finish the donation entry.

From the main screen on the tool you can look at summaries of your donations.   This lets you view a HTML or PDF version of the donations that are nicely formatted for printing.  

This is a pretty handy tool for tracking your charitable donations.   Its free too.

This article may contain referral links which pay this site a commission for purchases made at the sites.

October 25, 2011

Ebates has 52% cash back on Magazines from Magazines.com - Today only

Today's daily double on Ebates is for "up to" 52% cash back from Magazines.com. 

They are giving 5% cash back on purchases of books and 52% for magazines.  Thats why they say "up to" 52%. 

If you're looking for a magazine deal then this could save you over half.   Of course you should make sure to shop around.  I checked the price of one magazine and with the 52% cash back it would be a few dollars lower than Amazon, but I didn't look at others and they may be higher on some items and lower on others.

To get the cash back you need to be signed up with Ebates.  Then simply go to Ebates to get the referral to the Magazine.com site before you do your shopping.  I also get a referral bonus if you use my links to sign up with Ebates.


What You Should Know about Financial Gurus

You're watching TV and you see an interview with a financial expert who is predicting that the real estate market will go up or down or that gold will rise or fall.    Maybe you should go buy / sell the asset in question.    If that guru on TV says its going up/down then who are we mere mortals to question them? 

Sometimes the gurus on TV may know what they are talking about.   But more often than not they are just voicing their own opinion and in the worst case they may be biased and trying to pitch a product they themselves have a vested interest in selling.

Its hard to know who these gurus, financial experts, economists, etc. that get interviewed as experts on TV actually are.   The TV segment just gives them a credit as an expert then asks them their opinions.   There is no resume and there are usually few if any credentials cited.   They are labeled an expert and we're supposed to trust this because the TV said so.

Well I have one  solution for this. ...   You can read about many of these experts and find out about some of their biases and track records on Eric Tyson's website in a section he calls the guru watch.

Some examples of Eric's work from the guru watch...

Have you just caught an interview with economist Robert Prechter declaring we're heading for a depression?   Check out :  Robert Prechter's track record

Did you read an article about Peter Schiff declaring that the US real estate market is going to see significant losses in the next few years?   Find out about how wrong Schiff's been even though he says “...I Don't Think I've Been Wrong on Anything”'

Is Glenn Beck insisting that gold is a great buy and suggesting you stay tuned for more of his wonderful theories after you hear a brief message from a Goldline?    See if you should listen to Beck's financial advice.

If you're a Dave Ramsey fan then you may have heard of his Endorsed Local Providers.    Find out why you should avoid them.

Ok, so you may be asking yourself:  "who's this Eric Tyson guy and why should we trust him?"    Thats a pretty good question you have there.   Eric Tyson is a well known author of several books.   He has an MBA from Stanford and several other impressive credentials.   But that doesn't matter that much.   The point is that he's collected information on the gurus.   That information is generally public and can be independently verified.   He is providing information about the experts that is useful in itself.   The source doesn't really matter so much since its stuff you could verify elsewhere.   Tyson just collected the information for us.    I do trust Tyson though.   I've read some of his books (Investing for Dummies is one good one).  He knows his stuff and he talks a lot of sense.

So next time you see an expert on TV making predictions about the economy or recommending that we all buy or sell one asset or another, first check out Eric Tyson's guru watch

October 24, 2011

Free Magazines from RewardsGold

I just got myself a two year subscription to Entrepreneur magazine for free from RewardsGold.   RewardsGold is a website that gives you free magazine subscriptions for gaining points on their website.  Its easy to get points by completing surveys.

How it works :

When you register with RewardsGold you get 250 points to start.

There are several ways you can earn more points:

250 points  = Refer a friend
250 points = complete a survey
500 points = complete a survey and product review
250 points = register with a Rewardsgold partner
250 points = enter sweepstakes with Rewardsgold partner
500 points = make a purchase with Rewardsgold partner

I think the easiest way is to take the surveys on the RewardsGold website.   Their surveys are simple one page surveys that only take a minute or two.   I timed myself on one survey and it took 70 seconds.   They currently have about 3 dozen surveys to choose from. 

Some of the other methods to gain points don't seem to be available right now.  Like the option to register with a partner or enter a sweepstakes just say that they will email you when opportunities become available.

You can also get 250 points by referring a friend.   To do that you have to give RewardsGold your friends email.   I'd check with your friends first before you go sending them solicitations.  

The magazines they offer change from time to time.   Here's a selection of the magazines currently available:

700 points = Maxim
1400 points = Working Mother for 2 years
1400 points = Cigar Aficionado
1700 points = Entrepreneur for 2 years
2000 points = Forbes
2400 points = Barrons for 26 issues
2400 points = Golf Week
3400 points = Wall Street Journal for 26 weeks

RewardsGold is a simple and easy to use site.   I used it quite a couple years ago to get a free subscription to BusinessWeek and it worked like a charm.   Theres no strings attached and it is really free.


October 23, 2011

Does it Cost More to Use a Kettle or a Microwave?

I use an electric kettle to make tea.    Our kettle is an Aroma Kettle.  I'm not sure of the exact model but it is similar to the one pictured on the right.  I used to heat water in the microwave to make tea.   At some point I switched to using a kettle instead.   I can't even remember why I switched.  

I was curious to find out exactly how much power a kettle uses versus a microwave so I decided to test it.

The test

I boiled one cup of water with the electric kettle and I heated one cup in the microwave.   I measured the electricity used in both using my kill-a-watt meter.   It was a fairly simple test and the results are straight forward.  

First the Microwave:

I guessed that the microwave would use 0.0167 kWh.   Its a 1000 Watt microwave and if I run it for 1 minute then thats 1/60 of an hour.   Running a 1000 Watt device for 1/60 of an hour equates to 1/60 kWh or 0.0167.   I measured it to be sure..

I hope you can see that well enough.  Sorry the picture isn't that great but the lighting isn't good due to the kitchen cabinets overhanging the AC outlets.   The kill-a-watt meter shows 0.02 kWh consumption.   Thats close to the 0.0167 rounded up.

The electric kettle

I really had no idea how much power the kettle would use.

The kill-a-watt meter shows that it used 0.05 kWh.


The electric kettle uses approximately 2.5 times as much electricity to heat water as does our microwave.

Kettle = 0.05 kWh
Microwave = 0.02 kWh

Winner = Microwave

How much does this matter?

0.05 kWh is not a lot of electricity.   If I used the kettle to make a cup of tea every day of the year then that would equate to 0.05 kWh x 365 days x 11¢ per kWh = $2.01 electricity per year for the kettle.    THe microwave would use $0.80.    I'm spending about $1.20 more per year using the kettle than the microwave to heat my cup of tea.

[edit:  fixed references to 0.167 to properly read 0.0167]

October 22, 2011

Should You Have to Pay a $200,000 Cell Phone Bill?

Recently a story broke about a woman who received a $201,005.44 cell phone.   Apparently the charges were legitimate and not just a clerical error or fraud.  She has a deaf brother on her plan who uses his phone to communicate and he went to Canada and didn't turn off data roaming.   T-mobile didn't enforce the full charge and cut the bill to $2,500.

First of all it just seems wrong to have a $200,000 cell phone bill and I don't care how much you used the phone.  

Second while its nice that T-mobile cut the bill about 99%, it still seems excessive to bill someone $2,500 for a months worth of cell phone use.

I would like it if a phone company would notify you if your bill hits certain thresholds.   That seems like common sense.  Nobody is intentionally or knowingly running up $200,000 bills.    If your bill does hit a ridiculous level then i think the only right thing to do is to waive the majority of the bill like T-mobile did.  

What do you think?   Should people be made to pay such a bill if they actually incurred the charges?   Or is this predatory gouging by phone companies?


October 21, 2011

Best of blog posts for week of October 21st

Every Friday afternoon I share some of the more interesting or notable posts that I have seen in the personal finance blogs and other sources for the past week.

FMF writes about Two Ways You Could Be Sabotaging Your Retirement

MyMoneyBlog reports that Savings I Bonds September 2011 Update: 3.06% For Next 6 Months

fivecentnickel discusses Ain’t-Trepreneurs

October 20, 2011

Saving Money With Online Clothing Discounts

In the past few weeks I've bought a pair of pants from Dickies for $7 and a pair of jeans from Lands End for $11.   Both items were bought on a clearance sale and the shipping was free.   All I did to buy the pants was to watch online sales sites for deals.    Paying $18 for two pairs of pants is pretty significant savings over the typical retail prices.   I figure $30 is a typical price to pay for mens pants so I saved about 70%.

Slickdeals.net routinely features discount sales and promo coupon codes for online clothing merchants.  
They have a sub-section on Slickdeals for apparel

As I write this Slickdeals is featuring some MLB shirts at Amazon for $5.40.   Only some teams and sizes are $5.40 though.

With a little patience you can really find some great clothing bargains online.

Here's some example bargains found on Slickdeals.net
Womens Jeans at JCPenney's for $5.76
Micro Suede Jacket for $12.79 also at JCP
Suit coat or slacks at Mens' Wearhouse for $20 or $30
Coldwater Creek half off sale with Jackets for $10, Pants for $5.50, sweaters for $7.50, etc.

I'm sure there are other sites that feature online discounts.    Another way to go is to watch the clearance section on the retailers you prefer. 

Here are a few keys to finding great deals while doing online discount clothes shopping.

Be selective

You don't want to buy clothes just because they are on sale.  The best way to go about online bargain clothes shopping is to know what you want before you go shopping then hunt and wait for a sale.   I bought those two pairs of pants because I needed pants.   Don't fall into the trap of buying things because they are 80% off or because the prices are great.   Spending $5 on a pair of pants is only a good deal if you need the pants in the first place. 

You have to be patient

It takes some time to wait for a good clearance and then find something you like that is your size.  If you're looking for mens jeans then it may take a few weeks before some suitable jeans go on sale. 

You have to be fast

Usually the clearance sales don't last long.  The best items in the more popular sizes get sold first.   You may lose out if you don't watch the sales and then quickly make a purchase the day that you see the deal.   Yesterday Slickdeals featured some clearance sales items at Kohl's.    They had 7 different mens shirts for $2.60 or $3.00 each.   Now only 1 of the 7 styles is still in stock and they only have a couple and colors and they don't have my size.   

Watch the shipping charges.   

The shipping can range greatly across online merchants.   Free shipping is pretty common as a promotional deal.   But if the sale doesn't include shipping then make sure to figure out the shipping charge and add it to the cost to make sure your deal is really a good deal when shipping is included.   Some stores will also give you free 'in store pickup' which is where the merchant ships the item to the local branch of their store and then you go to that location and pick it up in person.   This is a way to avoid shipping but it also requires you to make an extra trip spending both your time and gasoline.

October 19, 2011

You Don't Have to Love Your Job

A couple months ago The Simple Dollar wrote  Switching Jobs / Switching Careers  about what to do do if you love your job but hate your career or vice versa.   His article was really meant for people who hate their job or career.   But the mention of "loving" your job or career made me consider the notion of loving your job.

I do not love my job.    I like my job.   And thats just fine with me.

You do not have to love your job for it to be a good or even a great job.     Its fabulous if you do love your job.   However loving your job shouldn't be the expectation.   If you go about life with the thinking that you ought to love your job or that loving your job is the measurement of a successful career then I think you're setting the bar too high and setting yourself up for a failure.

Loving your job is not the norm at all.   In fact lately most Americans aren't even satisfied with their jobs.  In a poll earlier this year only 45% of Americans reported that they were satisfied with their jobs.  This may not be news to you that most people aren't happy with their jobs.   But if you listen to much to the career advice gurus you might get the idea that everyone should be passionate and love their careers or jobs and that this is somehow typical, but it just isn't.  I'm not saying we should all be satisfied with jobs we hate or that disliking our jobs is good enough.   But the point here is that its not normal to love your job and in fact if you merely like your job you're doing better than most.

Not loving your job isn't a mandate for change.   On the other hand if you hate your job or simply dislike it then that may warrant some change.   Hating your job isn't automatically a reason to quit the job or change careers.   You have to examine exactly why you hate or dislike your job.   What do you dislike about your job exactly?  Why are you unhappy.   Sometimes you can fix things by some changes in how you do your work or interact with your coworkers.  

You should also seriously think about your own state of mind and consider if the reason you are unhappy at work might be due to other things going on in your life more than the job itself.   If you're getting 5 hours of sleep, dealing with constant headaches, have a spouse that you fight with regularly and are behind on your car payment then its unlikely you'll be in a wonderful mood from 8am to 5pm.   Maybe its not the job as much as your poor mood.   OK before you get mad ... I'm not trying to blame the victim here, but merely suggesting that you step back and look at what might be influencing your moods.   Are all your coworkers equally unhappy with the job as well or do they all seem satisfied?

Personally I think that liking or enjoying your job is a realistic goal.   Loving your job would be pretty nice, but I'd consider that a 'stretch goal' rather than a realistic expectation.   Plan to like your job and consider anything above that as a bonus.

October 18, 2011

FREE - Blackberry apps

RIM is giving away $100 worth of premium Blackberry apps starting tomorrow.   This is meant as compensation for their recent service interruption.   See the RIM press release for the full story.

Some of the free apps are :

• SIMS 3 - El3ctronic Arts
• Bejeweled - El3ctronic Arts
• N.O.V.A. - Gameloft
• Texas Hold’em Poker 2 - Gameloft
• Bubble Bash 2 - Gameloft
• Photo Editor Ultimate - Ice Cold Apps
• DriveSafe.ly Pro - iSpeech.org
• iSpeech Translator Pro - iSpeech.org
• Drive Safe.ly Enterprise - iSpeech.org
• Nobex Radio™ Premium - Nobex
• Shazam Encore - Shazam
• Vlingo Plus: Virtual Assistant - Vlingo

October 17, 2011

Airline Bereavement Fares

When a loved one who lives far away passes may want to take a trip to attend the funeral.   However air fares purchased with short notice are often very expensive fares.   For this reason airlines have traditionally offered special 'bereavement' fares that offer discounted rates for people traveling to attend the funeral of a family member.  

Recently my wife and I had to attend a funeral half way across the country.   We made use of a bereavement fare from American Airlines and it cut about 33% off the cost of our tickets.   The tickets would have cost around $750 normally if I'd purchased them via online brokers but the bereavement rate fares were only about $500.

The policies for bereavement fares differ depending on the airline.   Generally they allow certain family members of the deceased to get a discount ticket.  The airline may also require some information or proof about the deceased such name, address and phone number of a funeral home.

The bereavement fare rate may or may not be the cheapest fare.   Some of the airlines offer a rate that is 50% off the full fare rate.   That may be better or worse than the discount fares.   Make sure to check the discount rates first so you know what you'd pay otherwise before booking a bereavement fare rate.

Many airlines no longer offer bereavement fares but some still do.

Airlines that offer Bereavement Fares

American Airlines - call for reservations and pricing
Continental - online booking with discounts of 5% off for fares under $500, 10% for fares up to $1000 and 20% for fares $1,000 or more
Delta Air - call for reservations and pricing
United - call for reservations 10% off any published fare within 6 days of travel.

Airlines that do NOT offer bereavement fares

As far as I can find these airlines have no bereavement rates:
AirTran, Alaska, Frontier,  Jetblue, Southwest, US Airways

This list is not meant to cover all airlines of course and the policies may change over time.  

October 16, 2011

10 Things List of Things Won't Tell You

Have you seen articles like these?  10 things Airlines won't tell you.  10 things Social Security won't tell you13 Things Your Hairstylist Won't Tell You, etc   These '# things [someone] Wont' Tell You' lists seem to pop up every other day.   I'm starting to hate these lists.  

Here are 10 things that "wont tell you lists" wont tell you:

1.  The lists are written by writers who aren't experts on the topic.   They don't really know what they're talking about.  I'm writing this list.  Am I an expert on this topic?   Did the author of the other list tell you that they aren't an expert?
2.  The items on the list may be public knowledge.   The words "won't tell you" make it seem like the people or organization in question are hiding stuff from you.   But the items on the list are not necessarily hidden at all and there aren't any lies being told.  For example the social security list is full of items that are public knowledge and documented explicitly on the social security website. 
3. The list is full of opinions.   Just cause someone writes a list of stuff doesn't mean that any of it is a fact.   The writer will put in their own opinions or just write down someone elses opinions.
4. The items on the list are not necessarily true in all cases and don't necessarily apply to you.    For example the #4 item on the list of things restaurants allegedly won't tell you is that there are cameras watching you eat.   That is undoubtedly not true at many if not the vast majority of restaurants.  It may be true at some restaurants but its not true in all cases and probably won't apply to you.  Just because some building contractors have some poor practices that doesn't mean that all building contractors will treat their customers poorly.
5. Items on the list may be simple common sense.    You really don't need your college professor to tell you that the 22 year old TA is not a seasoned and highly trained teacher.
6.   There is always another side to the story.   There could be very good reasons that the organization or group does what it does.  
7.   Its kind of stupid to think that the people would tell you some of this stuff.    Sleazy used car salesmen are not going to tell you how they trick you.   No business is going to tell you every bad thing about themselves and most businesses have enough sense to not run around advertising their faults. 
8. Items on the list are redundant or virtually the same thing.  
9.  The list is padded 'cuase they want to have 10 things on it.   The number 10 is a nice round number but 7 or 8 doesn't sound so good.   They want to have 10 things on their list so it makes for a better headline.    Thats why the last item on this list is gibberish and why some of the items in this list are not as good as the other items.
10.   Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.

 Next time you're reading a list of things that someone "won't tell you" please take it with a grain of salt.

October 14, 2011

Best of blog posts for week of October 14th

Every Friday afternoon I share some of the more interesting or notable posts that I have seen in the personal finance blogs and other sources for the past week.

MoneyCrashers talks about Buying a Duplex – Advantages & Disadvantages

Consumerism Commentary discusses The Emergency Fund in 1939

The Simple Dollar gives us A Dose of Financial Reality

Carnivals of personal finance :
Totally Money Carnival #40: The Money Slang Edition at Buck$ome Boomer
Carnival Of Personal Finance 330: Canadian Thanksgiving Edition hosted by Boomer and Echo
Yakezie Carnival – October 9th, 2011 Edition at Faithful With a Few
My article You Need A Strong Password was included in all three

October 13, 2011

Why 3.2 Million Unfilled Jobs Isn't as Big as It Sounds

Image by bgottsab
Recently CNBC ran an article about how there are 3.2 million job vacancies in the US.    Given that there are around 14 million unemployed people and over 3 million vacant jobs it would seem that if we simply matched the people to the jobs we could cut unemployment significantly right?   Well no, the solutions to our unemployment are not that simple or easy.

The 3.2 million job vacancies are primarily due to natural worker turnover.   Every day people quit their jobs or are fired.   This happens day in and day out whether the economy is strong or if we're in a recession.   The 3.2 million open jobs are mostly just transitional jobs that are being vacated and filled week to week.

A certain amount of employee turnover is a normal thing for any business.   Fast food restaurants can have turnover of up to 300% which means they replace 300% of their workforce in a single year.   In other words the average employee only lasts 4 months.    THats pretty extreme and most businesses are far lower.   On the other end of the spectrum some of the Best Companies to Work For have voluntary turnover rates as low as 2% per year.   Even at the best places to work, some people will naturally move on to other things whether through retirement, moving or simply a desire to change jobs or careers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks the job vacancies and turnover at the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) site.   Here are the latest stats from July 2011:

job openings = 3,228,000
job openings rate = 2.4%
hires rate 3.0%
turnover rate 3.0%
quits rate 1.5%
layoffs/ discharges 1.3%

The total number of unemployed people in the nation is not a static group of individuals and people are always joining and leaving the ranks of the unemployed.   IN the month of July 1.5% of the workforce quit their jobs and 1.3% were laid off or terminated.   Those two figures add to the number of unemployed.   There are also other separations from retirement and 'other'.   On the other end 3% of the population was hired.   That figure subtracts from the unemployed. 

The total 3.2 million job vacancies which is equal to 2.4% of the workforce is just a snapshot of one day in time.   Anytime someone quits their job or is fired the number of job vacancies goes up.  When someone is hired the job vacancies go down.   It takes time to fill any job so at any given point in time there will be jobs open.  The open jobs may have been open for a day, a week, a month or 2 years.    If 3% of the population either quit or was let go from their job and 3% of the population was hired then for the month 3% of the population was in transition from unemployment to employment.   Seems reasonable that if you take a snapshot of the economy then you may find 2.4% open jobs. 

Illustrative Example

 Lets look at a pretend example to illustrate how this happens.   Consider imaginary XYZ corp. who makes widgets.  XYZ has 100 employees.   Right now they have 3 job openings.  THey need to hire a welder and two warehouse stockers.   In the first week of the month, Bob in accounting retires and is replaced by Jane who is fresh out of college.   Bob had given his notice a month ago and HR hired Jane officially last week.  Ed the delivery driver is fired for having another accident with the company truck.  The ongoing interviews for warehouse stockers finds two good candidates Mike and Rick.  Mike stays but the Rick hates the warehouse job and quits after just 3 days.  Becky in clerical has also quit since she is going to go back to college and get her masters degree.  At the end of the month they hire Dave to replace Ed as the new delivery driver.   At the end of the month there are openings for a welder still, another warehouse stocker and the clerical job Becky left.

Job vacancies at the start of month = 3
Separations: Bob who retied, Ed was fired, Becky and Rick quit for a total of  = 4 separations
Hires : Jane the new accountant, Mike and Rick the warehouse staff and Dave the new driver = 4 hires
Job vacancies at the end of the month = 3

The 3 job vacancies at the start of the month are not the same openings as the 3 jobs available at the end of the month.   The only job that stayed open the whole  month was the welder job.   The other jobs were filed or opened during the month.  

If you take this example and then multiply it by about 140 million and you get something that looks like the US labor force.   On any given day someone is getting fired, laid off or retiring.  Jobs are opening and other jobs are closing.  

How long do jobs stay open?

The BLS doesn't seem to track the time that jobs are open.  At least I can't find anything about that on their stie.    However I found some other studies that discuss the time jobs stay open in general.

I found this study from Utah which looked at their job market in 2009.  At that time they measured how long jobs were staying open.    45% of their jobs were open less than 30 days and 28% of the jobs were filled in 30-60 days.    They also listed 23% of the jobs in the 'constantly recruiting' category.   For those jobs the employer has enough turnover that they always have openings.  This is likely at a bigger company like GE or retail places with high turnover like McDonalds or Walmart.thats 68% of the jobs.   What I think is more striking was the fact that only 4% of the jobs were open for over 60 days.   That is a very small amount of jobs that stay open for a long period of time.  The majority of the jobs openings were closed within a month or are openings that are always open due to constant turnover.  Of course thats specific to one state in 2009 so it isn't exactly the same across the nation or in other years.   But its evidence how many of the open jobs at any given time are NOT open for long periods.

Another study from 2004 measured the 'average time to fill' job vacancies.   They found that the average time it took to fill a job opening was 37 days.   It varied by industry from 26 days for retail at the low and 51 days for government jobs.

Of course the employment market in Utah and the numbers from 2004 are not what we'll see today nationwide.  But I can't see any reason to think the national job vacancies today are significantly different than these studies showed.   I would assume that most of the job vacancies in the USA are open for less than 60 days and or constantly recruiting.   And I think its also safe to assume that only a small minority of the job openings stay open and unfilled for a period of time longer than 2-3 months.

Bottom Line:   The 3.2 million job openings are not jobs that stay open a long time and are primarily due to ongoing employee turnover.

October 12, 2011

FREE - 12 DVD rentals from BlockBuster

The following promo codes are good for $1 DVD rentals at BlockBuster Express kiosks.   The codes expire October 17th.


This one is from Fatwallet

October 11, 2011

How to Cash In Your Free Travelzoo Stock

EDIT UPDATE Dec. 21st 2015 :   The information below is  now obsolete.    Travelzoo did a 1-25 reverse split and 25-1 forward split forcing a cash out of the stock.   If you didn't get a notificcation or check then you may have unclaimed funds held by your state.  Try looking up your state of residence at Unclaimed.org

EDIT UPDATE Nov. 8th, 2013:    It looks like the information below may now be out of date.  The links I used before seem to differ from what I used.   I think Travelzoo may have hired Computershare to administer their shareholder services and I don't know what the current process to claim your old free TZOO shares would be now.  


Earlier this year I wrote about how I had cashed out my old Travelzoo shares for $xxx.     Since then a couple people have asked about the process for getting your shares.   Wolf asked via Facebook :

"Recalling a post possibly from early this year, how did you verify with Travelzoo that you were a stockholder?  I had some shares, but don't recall if I registered them with Delaware when they had some sort of organization change."

I'm sure there are many other people out there who got those free Travelzoo shares and then never obtained the shares or cashed them in.   You can get those shares with a little bit of leg work.      As I write this Travelzoo (TZOO) is trading at $21.60.   You aren't going to get rich off this but if you have 8 shares like I did then thats $172 in stock you own.

Travelzoo has a section on their website for shareholder services.

From there you'll see the following options :

· Transfer Travelzoo Inc. stock into your brokerage account

· Update your contact information

· View your account with Travelzoo Inc. online

· Revoke consent to electronic communications

· FAQs

· Contact 

To get your shares you'll need to know the email you originally started with.

Step by Step process to get your Travelzoo shares

1. Recover your account number and password If you have access to your original email account then enter it on the page to recover your account information.    Travelzoo will then send you an email with your account number and password.  
- or - 
If you can no longer access that old email account then you can still get your info.  Enter the email address on the recovery page and then they will tell you the physical address you can send a snail mail request to.  You'll have to then send them a letter with your info to request your account info. 

2.  Log into your account and possibly update your contact info  Once you have your account # and password you can log into your account at   View your account with Travelzoo Inc. online    Theres not a whole lot to see on this page, it tells you the # of shares you own.    But when you log in you also want to verify that they have your name and address right.   If you need to update your address or otherwise fix something then do so at their page to Update your contact information.    On that page you can change your email and physical address.   If you have the same bad luck as me and they spelled your name wrong then you'll have to send them a letter to ask them to fix that.

3. Get your shares.   To get your shares you have to go to the page Transfer Travelzoo Inc. stock into your brokerage account  and from there you follow the 2 step process : 

Step 1:
Create and mail a "Request for Physical Delivery of Common Stock Certificate" form to Travelzoo's transfer agent, Computershare Trust Company, N.A.
Step 2:
Send the stock certificate which you will receive from Computershare Trust Company, N.A. to your broker.
Basically in step #1 they give you a form "Request for Physical Delivery of Common Stock Certificate" which you print out and then can fill in.   To do that form you need to get it signed with a Medallion Guarantee.   Notary public is not good enough and you need the Medallion Guarantee, (which they clearly say on the form once you get to that point).   I previously talked about how to get a Medallion Guarantee and you can get them at a lot of banks or brokerages.

4.  Get a broker if you need one   Once you fill out the form and get the physical stock certificate from step #3 you can then deliver the paper stock certificate to your broker.   If you don't have a broker then you'll need to find one.      You can choose whatever broker you want.   Many brokers have a minimum amount to open an account and if all you want to do is sell a few shares of Travelzoo then that could be a problem.   My understanding is that TD Ameritrade accounts can be opened with no minimum and their commission on trades is $9.99.   Thats just one option and there are many brokers out there that will work.  

5. Sell the shares.   Deliver the shares to your broker and then once they are registered in your account you can sell them on the open market or hang on to them.   

6.  Remember to pay the taxes.   The shares you got were free so the cost was $0.   If you sell them then you'll owe tax on the entire amount.   You would have owned the shares for many years since they were originally given out free over a decade ago so it will be a long term capital gain. 

An alternative to selling the shares via a broker is to give the shares to a charity.   If you choose this method then you could donate the shares to the charity of your choice directly.   This will get you a possible tax deduction if you itemize and you won't have to pay tax on the gains.

You could also just keep the shares.    If you don't want to cash them out then you can simply hang on to the shares.   In fact if you just want to hang on to them then you could just let them sit in Travelzoo's hands.  The only real problem with that is you don't have the flexibility to sell quickly since getting the shares into your hands can take a while.

October 10, 2011

Student Loan Debt Clock Stands at $947 billion

Finaid.org has a live running tally of the total outstanding student loan debt.   Here's an embedded feed of their debt clock :

As I write this the number is over $947 billion.   It keeps ticking and growing so as you read this the number will be more.   In any case its a big amount of money.

The clock is not a true representation of the debt.    Student debt grows in large spurts right around the start of the school year and start of each semester or quarter as students take out loans for the new term.   Then over the year I would actually expect the total debt to drop marginally as people with outstanding debts pay down their loans.   But the clock is setup to just show the debt and show how its growing over time.  

October 9, 2011

Should You Pay More for an Apple Computer?

Image source:  Mac Users Guide
A while back one of my relatives purchased an Apple laptop.   I asked her why she had bought the Apple and her answer was that "everyone says they're good" (or words to that effect).    She didn't have any experience with Apple laptops or any particular knowledge or specific reason to get an Apple laptop.  She had simply heard they are good and given the good reputation and good experiences she'd had with other Apple products like the ipod she decided to buy Apple instead of PC.

All the other computers in my relatives home are PCs.   I doubt she could tell me any specifics about the hardware in the Mac versus any other computer.   She had no specific requirement to use a Mac for school or work.   In fact I doubt they use the Mac for much more than light web surfing and her kids playing around with the built in webcam and other applications.   From what I know I would think if she'd bought a cheap $500-600 PC laptop such as a ASUS K53E-A1   then it would have served their needs just fine.

Apple makes some very good products and has significant success in recent years.   They were recently ranked the #8 brand name in the world.   There are a lot of good reasons to buy an Apple Mac laptop.   

However these great Apple products don't come cheap.    The least expensive Macbook is $999.  You can get a PC laptop of similar hardware specs for $600 to $800 range.   However its hard to do a true apples to apples comparison between the Mac and PC since the Macs have solid state drives and  PC laptops generally seem to only offer those on high end models.  The SSD would add about $50 to the actual costs so you are getting the benefit of a +$50 more expensive drive with the Apples that you dodn't see on PC laptops in similar price range.

Apple has some very enthusiastic fans.   I'm not about to try and convince an Apple fan that they should not buy an Apple.   If you already have a long list of reasons of why you want to buy an Apple or if you attend Apple conventions then this article is not targeted at you.    I'm trying to address the general consumer out there who doesn't really know too much about the differences between the PC and Mac platforms other than what they see in clever Apple commercials.    I'm talking about the people like my relative who bought an Apple on little more than general perception of the brands reputation.

Do you have a particular NEED for an Apple system?

When I say 'need' I mean a real specific, justifiable reason to buy an Apple rather than a PC.      This would be something along the lines of requiring specialized software for work or school that only runs on Apple.   If you're a graphics design artist then its quite common for people to use the Mac platform.   Or if you're already an Apple user and have been for some time then you may have a lot of files that are in Mac native formats and difficult and/or time consuming to transfer to PC.

Can you really afford it?

If you're barely getting by or you have consumer debts that are unpaid then you really should not be paying extra for a more expensive brand name.   Apple laptops are significantly more expensive.   If you can not absolutely afford that extra cost then it should not be something you spend the money on.   Generally unless you have a 'need' as discussed above then paying extra to buy an Apple is really a splurge or a luxury.  You should not rationalize it as a 'need' just because you 'need' a computer.    You may 'need' at minimum a $400 simple laptop but you 'want' to spend an extra $600 to get a $1000 Apple.

What will buying an Apple get you?

You should be able to list the benefits of buying an Apple or buying a PC. You may be buying an Apple because you like the ease of use or because you appreciate the styling or due to the higher reliability.   On the other hand buying an Apple may have some drawbacks such as poorer compatibility with the computers at your work or unfamiliarity with the Mac OS.

So what are your answers to these questions? 

1. Do you NEED an Apple for a specific purpose?
2. Can you easily afford the extra cost for an Apple?
3. Can you say specifically what the extra benefits of the Apple are?

If you didn't answer yes to any of those questions then you should not buy an Apple.    If you can afford to spend the extra money and you have a legitimate need or at least know the specific reasons you're spending more money then it may be worth it to you to spend the extra money.   

Generally I would argue that most people should not spend the extra money for an Apple laptop.   Most people can get all they need out of a more affordable PC laptop.   But if you really like apples or really know what you're paying extra for and you can afford it then that is OK too.

The bottom line here is that you need to know why you're paying more and make an informed decision and of course nobody should spend extra on a product when they can't really afford it.

October 7, 2011

Best of blog posts for week of October 7th

Every Friday afternoon I share some of the more interesting or notable posts that I have seen in the personal finance blogs and other sources for the past week.

My Money Blog shares a tip on  Free Southwest Airlines Points For Email Sign-Up, Watching Video

fivecentnickel poses the question Money vs. Happiness: Which Would You Choose?

PersonalFinanceWhiz takes a contrarian attitude and says that Everyone is Wrong About Bank of America's Debit Card Fee

Is Flying First Class Worth The Cost?

No.  Flying first class is not 'worth' the extra cost.   I guess I'll have to elaborate or this article will be way too short.

The other day Consumerism Commentary wrote about their Traveling First Class for the First Time.  Coincidentally I have also recently flown first class for the first time.

On a recent trip my wife decided to splurge by upgrading to first class on one flight segment on our return flight.   The flight in question was a short one hour trip.  When we checked in the automated self service checkin computer pitched the upgrade.     The cost of the upgrade was $45 per seat.   With two seats it cost $90 total.  However we were checking a bag and the bag was free for 1st class versus paying $25 fee to check it for coach.  We actually spent $65 more than checking the bag and flying coach so it was $32.50 extra per seat to upgrade.   I figured if I was ever going to fly first class spending $65 to do so wasn't a bad way to experience it.

I think I can say as a fact without getting much argument that fist class is nicer than coach.   The seats are comfy and there was more leg space.  It was nice.   They also pamper you a little bit.   You have a single flight attendant serving a few people and you get real glassware and silverware for the food.  The experience overall was nice and fun.   I wouldn't say it was worth the extra $65, but it was a splurge so we enjoyed it.

After that flight I was curious myself if paying more for first class tickets might be worth it as a splurge.   I did some quick searching to compare the costs between coach fare and first class on both domestic and international an example trips.

International flight
flying time :30 hours for 1 stop versus 18 hours for nonstop

Coach : $835 for one stop or $1,028 for nonstop
First : $10,392 for one stop and $13,156 for nonstop

Domestic flight
flying time : 7 hours for 1 stop and 5 hours for non stop

Coach : $196 for 1 stop and $231 for nonstop
First : $633 for 1 stop or $765 for nonstop

The cost of a first class fare is anywhere from 200% more up to 1200% more than the coach fares.   This is a huge markup.    One argument for first class I've heard is that its much more worth it for the longer international flights.   I certainly would enjoy a comfy first class journey as opposed to a crampt coach flight for a long 8 hour flight overseas.   However those international first class fares are over $10,000 more expensive than the coach fares.  You could buy a car for that much money.  

Free food, free booze, Free bags

One benefit of first class flight is that you get some free stuff that you'd have to pay for in coach.   My wife and I avoided the $25 checked bag fee by upgrading.  If we'd eaten meals or drank any booze then that would have been free too.  Generally I'd estimate that this could save you up to $100 roundtrip if you check bags and eat meals.   That helps offset some of the cost of first class but alone is not going to make up for much of the added cost.

Generally flying first class is just a luxury.   I can't see any way that I could justify spending 3 to 13 times as much for this luxury.

October 6, 2011

Updown Performance : May to Sept

Practice invest

Its been a few months since I updated my Updown  performance.    My last update was for the April results.   There have been 5 months since then.

Here's a summary of my performance versus the S&P 500

Freeby50 S&P 500 diff.
May-11 -0.3% -1.4% 1.1%
Jun-11 -1.3% -1.8% 0.5%
Jul-11 -3.1% -2.2% -0.9%
Aug-11 -2.0% -5.7% 3.7%
Sep-11 -4.6% -7.2% 2.6%

As you can see I beat the S&P 500 for 4 of the 5 months.   In total from May to Sept. my account has lost -11% but the S&P 500 is down -17%.

In 2011 so far I'm 4.8% ahead of the index.  My portfolio is 5.8% down and the S&P 500 is 10.7% down.

I haven't been actively trading in Updown since May.  I originally started playing Updown to test how well I could pick stocks and to get some experience trying out different methods or strategies without wasting real money.   I'm not sure if I'll continue to use Updown or not.    

Summary of What I've Written About College

I've written around 50 articles over the years about college.   Obtaining a good education in College in an employable field is one of the key ways to help ensure your financial success.   Today I'll review the various college related topics I've written about so far.

If you have a child headed to college then you might want to start by reading some Good Advice for Parents with Children Going to College   But if you're like most parents you're probably just too focused on panicking about the cost of college and wondering how you'll pay for it all.

Saving money and cutting costs      You can try Using a 529 plan to save for college to do that you should first Evaluate the Quality of Your 529 Plan Options and keep in mind the benefit of Pre-Paid Tuition 529 Plans.  Parents also get some tax relief via The Hope and lifetime learning tax credits for college do don't forget about that. 

As a parent its hard to foot the full bill so you should find ways to keep the costs contained.   Before they even get to college you may want to encourage your kid to Take Advanced Placement classes to Save on College  while they're in high school.  One of the best ways to pay for college is to have someone give you a free ride via scholarships.  Its definitely a good idea to encourage your child to pursue any and every scholarship they could get.   To be realistic about the chances there you should understand How Many College Students Get Scholarship? and be aware of a potential gotcha with the tax bill. Do You have to Pay Taxes on Scholarship?  For those of us in the West, another possible tactic is to take advantage of Cheaper Out of State College Tuition in Western States

Deciding If You want to go  

Before anyone pays for it the student should of course first decide if they even want to go to college.    You should know What is a college degree worth?   I found some anecdotal evidence of the value of a college education by looking at The Education Level and Job Status of My Friends

There has been discussion lately about whether or not college is worth it.   In response to that I jokingly asked Is High School Worth it?  But the value of a college education is a valid concern.   College is expensive and many people spend too much and get too little from it.   Unfortunately A lot of people waste money going to college so it can be a poor choice for many people.   I don't think everyone should go to college.   Honestly that idea is impractical and a little silly.    Because of this I annoyed some people by declaring that If you Can't Get A's & B's in High School Then Don't Go to College  and I later provided some good evidence that suggests the idea holds true pretty often  High School GPA versus College Success

Borrowing to Pay for it

Once you realize your savings and scholarships probably won't cover everything you'll likely end up turning to loans.  I sometimes feel like I'm one of the only people that actually thinks that Student Loans Are Good For You (within reason of course.)   Some people are pretty bent out of shape about the amount of student loan borrowing and on that topic I ask Is There Really a Student Loan Problem?   But to keep things in perspective I also pointed out Real Student Loan Borrowing Rates Flat for a Decade  Of course too much debt is a bad thing.   You should certainly set a reasonable limit so you don't borrow too much and decide What is the most you should borrow for college?  If you get in too far over your head with the loans and/or are unable to find a decent job then the New Income Based RePayment Plan for Student Loans  might help you out there.    Along the lines of borrowing I also answer the stupid sounding question of Should You Pay College Tuition with a Credit Card?

Where should you go?  There are thousands of colleges out there to choose from.  You can go the inexpensive route with Cheap Online Degrees starting at $16,080  But I'd avoid the private for profit online choices and I certainly think you should Avoid High Priced Private Two Year Schools    Instead of going the cheaper route you might want to shoot for a more prestigious degree like one of the Top Undergrad Business Schools  I also think its important to not write off the ability to go to a very good school based on costs which I discussed in Ivy League Tuition : Yes You CAN Afford It (cause of generous student aid.)

Once you've got that bachelors you may want to go to even more college.   One choice is an M.B.A and for that I looked at the  Cost Benefit Analysis of M.B.A. Degrees You could also get a law degree but I think that Law School is a Bad Investment   (well at lest for most people.)   

Deciding what to study is as big of a choice as deciding where to study.   Many people recommend that you should follow your passion.   I don't totally agree there and I discuss what I think can be The Hazardous Road of Following Your Passion  but I also offer a middle ground solution of  Double Major : Possibly the Best of Both Worlds

College Cost inflation and Why it goes up
We all know that college is expensive and the costs have been growing.   I showed the Rate of Inflation for College Costs   and the  Public College Cost Inflation 1980 to 2010
I looked at why college costs go up.   I found what I think is a Big Reason Why College Costs Have Increased : State Funding vs Tuition  and for that you have to also understand that Tuition is a Fraction of Public College Revenue   Some people like to point the finger of blame and claim that one group or another is are the reason costs go up.  I countered some of those claims with College Costs : What Part Do Professor Salaries Play?  and  University President Salaries Not a Large Cause of College Costs  and for people looking North of the border with a little envy I answer Why Do American Universities Cost More than Canadian Universities?

And finally in the college topic I also wrote several articles with statistics on college degrees and education in general:
Education Attainment by Age Level In the United States,
How Many Jobs Actually Require College?,
What Fields to People Get Graduate Degrees in?,
Most Common Degrees Obtained by Gender, and
What Majors Graduates Get Bachelors Degrees in

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