April 30, 2015

Three New Credit Cards : Should Net $700 in cash & points

My FICO has recently hit 837.   Time to go use that good credit and get me some free money.

I just signed up for three new credit cards in order to get some promotional cash and points.

The three cards are :

1. American Express Blue Cash Everyday
2. US Bank Cash+ Visa Signature*
3. Chase IHG Rewards Club Select Mastercard  (via MyMoneyBlog)

For the Amex card I got an email offer from Amex offering me the card with a $200 bonus if I spend $1000 in the first 3 months.       Looks like that $200 deal was a targetted offer since when I go direct to Amex to find the card I do not see a promotion like that.   The Amex card also has 3% cash back at supermarkets, 2% at gas stations and 2% at department stores.   I've already got cards that meet or beat those.

The US Bank card will give me a $100 bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months.   I am not sure where I ran across that deal, but it seems to be a promotion as well.   *The link I have for it seems to be a referral link from someone.   So if you click that someone (not me) might get a commission.      The US Bank Cash+ card also has 5% cash back categories that you can pick.   Some of the options are department stores, clothing stores, charity, cell phone bills.   I figure that benefit alone would give us an extra ~$50 a year in rewards (above earning 2% on our Fidelity Amex). 

The IHG Rewards Club gives 70,000 points after spending $1000 in the first 3 months.   I'm linking to MyMoneyBlog on that one as he covered the card in an article.   Using his links will probably give him a commission, but hey... why not?        I have 7,000 points on IHG rewards now so another 70,000 points will give me enough for 3 hotel nights.   The hotels we'd stay in usually run us about $150 a night so I value those rewards at about $450 total.     You also get one free nights hotel stay every year with this card.    However the card does have a $49 annual fee which is waived the first year.

Combined I'll need to spend $2500 in 3 months to get the promotions.     I should be able to do that easily enough, but if necessary I can always buy some gift cards if I'm nearing the end without hitting the required spend.

The total expected bonus money I'll get is $300 cash and about $450 worth of hotel nights.   If I'd used my Fidelity card to spend $2500 I'd get $50 cash back so the net benefit is about $250 cash + $450 in hotels or $700 in total value.

The USBank and IHG cards are probably keepers for us.   The 5% cash back categories from the US Bank Cash+ will be worth using for the extra few bucks it will give us.    The IHG's annual free night is worth about $150 to us and that makes paying its $49 annual fee worth while.

Chase seems to trust me
I signed up for all three cards within a few minutes and was approved instantly online for all three. 

Shockingly the three new cards came with a combined $68,000 credit limit.   

Other cards I considered but passed on are :

  • Citi ThankYou Premier card offers 50,000 bonus points after spending $3000 in 3 months.   Those points are worth $625 in travel or $500 in gift cards.  
  • Chase Sapphire card which gives $500 in travel benefit if you spend $4000 in 3 months.
  • American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card which gives 10,000 points for signing up and 15,000 more points for spending $5000 in 6 months
  • CapitalOne Quick Silver card that pays $100 for spending $500 in 6 months

Those are all decent deals.  However I only wanted to get 3 cards for now and wanted to limit my required spend.   So I chose the 3 cards that gave me the best reward for a minimum spending requirement.

After 3 months I might sign up for one or more cards out of that runner up list.

* this looks like a comission link, but I don't remember where I found it

April 29, 2015

15% off and 6% cash back at Living Social via Ebates

You can get 15% off at Livingsocial right now through Ebates. by using promo code EBATES15APR

Plus you get 6% cash back from Ebates.

Combined that gives you about 20% off total.

Looks like the promo code expires tomorrow.

Standard Ebates blurb:To get cash back from Ebates you need to be signed up with Ebates.  Then simply go to Ebates to get the referral to the store before you do your shopping.  I also get a referral bonus if you use my links to sign up with Ebates.  

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

April 28, 2015

Cheapskate Computer Project - April update

I outlined my Cheapskate Computer Project last month.     This is my first update on the project and my status so far.

My shopping list with base prices for the project is :

CPU ~ $48
Motherboard $43
Chassis $46
Memory 4GB $30
120GB HDD Drive $20
OS = $100
TOTAL = $287

I had a goal of getting under $100 w/o the OS.

So far I've only bought two items with one decent price success and a minor blunder.

I bought a chassis for $10 after rebate.   It was a $35 chassis with a $25 rebate.
The chassis does not come with a power supply so I'll have to keep an eye out for a good price on a decent PSU.    Tigerdirect has a HEC model for $20 which is OK but I'd like to get one cheaper.     I actually have a spare PSU that should work, so I might end up cheating on this item.  

I also got a $20 DVD read/write drive for free after rebate. Score!    Except then after I bought it I realized its the old PATA interface instead of SATA.   doh!   PATA is so old I didn't even think to check to make sure its SATA before I bought it.  Oh well, its free so I guess it wasn't that big of a mistake.   Anyone want a PATA DVD writer?

The two rebate forms I did took me a total of 25 minutes to fill out and I had to spend another $1 on the 2 stamps.  

I will also make 2% cash back from my Fidelity Amex which should amount to about $1.10 and I made 35¢ cash back from Ebates on the chassis purchase.    I think I forgot to use Ebates with the DVD purchase.

I passed up on a deal to get a 8GB DIMM + McAfee software bundle for free because it required signing up for McAfee auto-renewal and I just didn't wanna bother with it.   TigerDirect also has a similar deal for Windows 7 + Mcafee for $60 after rebate.    I'm passing on that too.   But those Mcafee rebate deals can be a good way to get a fairly high value part for free.   It does however require you to sign up for McAfee and then cancel auto-renewal at the right time.   So its a bit more hassle than just mailing in a rebate form.

All together I haven't made much progress and I haven't seen any good deals on most of the key parts I need.   A single $10 chassis isn't that much of a bargain.

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


April 27, 2015

Use CashBackMonitor.com to Maximize Cash Back

Checck this site out : CashBackMonitor.com

They monitor the different cash back portals to see which one gives you the most cash back for each retailer.    So say you want to buy something pricey at Home Depot and want to make sure you get the most cash back .  If you go to Cashbackmonitor.com right now they say that the max cash back is 5%.  Top Cashback and Discover Deals are both giving 5%.   

They seem to monitor a bunch of cashback sites, some of which I haven't even heard of.

Looks like a good way to make sure you get the best cash back.

I did however notice that for Amazon at least they list the top cash back at 8.5% but thats only available for some products.   So you may have to sort out some figures that are really "up to" the amount.


April 26, 2015

Is the Extra Work From Owning a Rental Worth it Versus Buying a REIT?

My rental investments have performed better than simply buying a REIT index.    I estimated this a while ago and its held true.  But if I were to just buy a REIT instead it would be easier and take less of my time.   Whether or not its worth it to spend the extra time to directly own and manage properties versus just buying a REIT depends on their relative investment performance and the amount of work I put into the rentals.

I've previously estimated that it takes about 1 hour a week to handle a single rental.    That adds up to 52 hours a year.    If I were to handle 40 rental units then it would amount to a full time job.   I'd certainly want my return per hour to amount to a decent wage.

One property we bought in 2006 and jointly own with my father.    If I add up all the rent we've made on that unit and the current market value of the property I've seen a 100% return on my initial investment over the 9 year period.

If I had simply bought the Vanguard REIT index (VNQ) then the cumulative dividends and current REIT value would be about 44% increase.

I can figure the amount I've made per hour worked on the rental versus just buying a REIT by subtracting the gain on the REIT from the gain on the rental and then dividing by the hours worked.   Doing this I come out with about $33 per hour worked before taxes.   Thats a pretty good wage.

There is however more risk in owning the individual property versus the REIT.

In this case the rental has been worth it as far as $33 /hr being a decent return on my labor.   But if I can find better things to do with my time to net $33/hr then I'd probably be better of just buying a REIT and putting my time elsewhere.  

What if I'd instead hired a property manager to do all the work?    That would have cut the hours I spent considerably but also reduced the profitability of the rental.       I figure that if I'd had a property manager running the rental then my return would be about 85% on my initial investment but my return per hour of my personal time would be more like $200/hr.

Here is how the options compare :

REIT : 4.6% return and no work
Rental ran  personally : 8% return or $33/hr of work
Rental handled by a property manager : 7% return or $200/hr worked


April 24, 2015

Best of Blogs for Week of April 24th

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

Zillow Ranks Best Markets for Buyers, Sellers giving the top 10 of each


$10 Free when Signing Up for Ebates

If you're not an Ebates user then go sign up now.     When you make one purchase via Ebates you'll get a $10 credit.

I've used Ebates for a few years and I've made $532 total in rebates.     While a lot of it is $1 or so at a time with 1-2% rebates on misc. purchases it adds up if you use it consistently.     But if you focus on some larger purchases like hotel stays or  the like you can get some larger checks too.

 But hey even if you don't end up using it for ongoing rebates you can still get $10 free pretty easily with just one purchase via Ebates.

 If you refer your friends you can also get extra cash bonuses.    Thats what I'm trying to do.  So be my friend and sign up for Ebates using one of the numerous links to Ebates.

Standard Ebates blurb:To get cash back from Ebates you need to be signed up with Ebates.  Then simply go to Ebates to get the referral to the store before you do your shopping.  I also get a referral bonus if you use my links to sign up with Ebates.  

Did I mention Ebates ?

-- This article contains many many referral links which will hopefully pay this site a commission for purchases made at the sites.

April 23, 2015

Does it Really Cost $8876 a Year To Drive a Car?

AAA says that the average cost to own and operate a sedan is $8876 a year.    Thats the result of their "Your Driving Costs" study.    Does that seem high to you?  

I knew for a fact that this is much more than what the average American actually spends.   We can see in the BLS Consumer Expenditure Survey for 2013 that the average household spent $9004 for 1.9 cars.   Thats $4739 per car.

I wondered how AAA figured it and you have to read  quite a ways into the article to find that they say:  " Ownership costs are calculated based on the purchase of a new vehicle that is driven over five years and 75,000 miles"

Ah, so they're really figuring the cost of a NEW car.   Well thats not really the same as the average cost of driving.  Its the average cost of driving a new car.

And the methodology they use sounds a lot like how Edmunds figures the TCO for cars.  I figured I'd check how AAA and Edmunds compares.    I don't see an average TCO cited by Edmunds anywhere but I can pick a few car models to get an idea.

AAA total for 5 years would be $44,380

Here's a sample of cars and their TCOs from Edmunds.
Toyota Corolla = $31,835
Honda Accord = $36.976
Ford Fusion = $40,085
Buick Regal = $45,493
BMW 3 series = $51,714

This puts AAA's figure more in the average or even closer to entry level luxury car.    I'd say the AAA number may be accurate as a true average figure as more expensive cars will skew the numbers upwards.

I think AAA's figure is accurate but its just an average for new cars and includes all the high end and expensive cars.


April 21, 2015

How Long Will It Take To Pay Off a Mortgage With Extra Payments?

Lets say you go buy a house for $200,000 and put $40,000 down and then take out a 30 year $160,000 mortgage at 4%.   You decide you'd like to pay off the mortgage faster and you put an extra $100 into your monthly payment.   How long will it take you to pay off your mortgage?  

You can find the answer by using an online calculator like the
Early Mortgage Payoff Calculator at TimeValue software

I used the calculator myself to generate some example numbers below.

For a $100,000 loan the number of years it will take to pay off an original 30 year mortgage based on making extra monthly payments  of $100 to $600 :

4% 5%
$100 21.6 21.3
$200 17 16.75
$300 14.1 13.8
$400 12 11.8
$500 10.5 10.3
$600 9.3 9.2

Roughly speaking if you pay an extra 50% on your mortgage monthly then it will cut your loan to about 15 years.   

Doubling your payment will cut it down to about 10 years.


April 19, 2015

Discount Restaurant and Travel Gift Cards at Costco.com

Costco sells gift cards for some restaurants and some other merchants at discounts rates.
Most of the gift cards are $100 value for $79.99 so you're basically getting 20% off.

Here are the current restaurant gift cards I see at Costco.com      You might see other regional options at your local store as well.   In addition to the restaurants and movie theatres they also have a variety of travel related gift cards on discount.

California Pizza Kitchen  2 x $50 for $79.99

Mcormick and Schmick 2 x $50 for $79.99

Smashburger 4 x $25 for $79.99

Peet's Coffee 5 x $20 for $79.99

Dickey's Barbeque Pit 4 x $25 for $79.99

Lucille's Smokehouse BBQ 2 x $50 for $79.99

Baja Fresh 4 x $25 for $79.99

Buca di Beppo 2 x $50   with extra $5 off for $69.99

Regal Cinemas 4 tickets and 2 x $10 concession cards  for $49.99  (currently out of stock)

Regal 10 pack of tickets for $84.99


April 17, 2015

Best of Blogs for Week of April 17th

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

MyMoneyBlog has a list of the Best Interest Rates for Cash Reserves – Updated April 2015

MMB also has a Prosper vs. LendingClub Investor Experiment: 2.5 Year Update

MoneyBox discusses How Many Pro Football Players Actually Go Broke? Fewer Than You Might Think.

Statement Credit Cash Back Deals on Discover Deals

The Discover  credit card offers promotional cash back rates and statement credit deals on their Discover Deals website.    Currently the cash back deals offered include :

$1 back on a $5 purchase at Panera - exp 4/29
$5 back on $30 purchase at Red Robin - exp. 4/22
$10 off a $30 purchase at Kohl's - exp. 4/19   (requires a coupon)
$10 back on a $50 purchase at ULTA beauty - exp 4/22
$25 back on a $75 purchase at bella Terra mineral cosmetics - exp 4/29
$5 back on a $75 purchase at skyo - exp 4/29

Note that you can stack these deals with other promotions usually.   But you should check the actual offer on the Discover card site to see the specifics.  

They also have various promotional cash back deals and discount deals.  


April 16, 2015

How Much Work Are Rentals?

Rentals are not truly a passive investment.  Owning and running rental properties requires work on your part.   You can minimize the amount of work you do by hiring people to do everything possible.  Or you can save money and do everything yourself.    Clearly then the amount of time you put into a rental is something you can control yourself at least to some degree.

For our properties we've done a mix of everything as far as the level of work we put in.    Some of our properties are in other states and we don't manage them directly.    I bought a couple properties with my parents and my dad now runs those for us.    Another house we own was my wifes old house in another state she used to live in and we have a  property manager that runs that one for us.    The other rentals we have are local and we do all the work on those ourselves.    I've also seen my dad run properties for a few decades now.  He has multiple rentals including mostly mult-unit properties.  

My rough estimate is that on average a single rental is likely to take about 1 hour a week of your time if you run the property yourself.   

Some of that work is collecting rent regularly, some of it is handling random repair needs, you'll have to spend some time doing paperwork and taxes, and then a large chunk of the work will revolve around handling vacancies and turnover.

My 1 hour per week estimate is a gross average based on my opinion and experiences.   There are going to be huge variations in the amount of work required for rentals.    You might spend 10% of that or you might spend 5 times as much.  

Work on rentals varies considerably over time.     For long periods you may do nothing at all on a rental except collect your monthly rent check.   Consider yourself lucky if that lasts.  Eventually there will be a problem that needs repair or a late rent payment you need to chase.   Then sooner or later you'll have to handle a vacancy and all the work that goes into that.

How you do things will impact the amount of work that rentals take as well.    I'm not talking about hiring people versus doing every bit of work yourself.  Instead I'm talking about how you manage your time and what you decide to do for the rentals.   Consider something simple like collecting the rent.   A landlord could decide to visit every tenant in person on the 1st of the month to collect rent in person.   Or you could just have tenants mail you a check which you then deposit in the bank.    Or you could even have them deposit the rent payments directly into your bank.   Comparing these possible options you'd look at anywhere from a 1 hour round trip to do it in person to virtually zero time spent with an electronic payment.   There are various examples of how you might spend more or less time working on your rentals based on how you do things.  

The amount of work will also vary depending on your experience level.   Generally the first time you do something it will be new to you and likely take you longer.   Then the next time and subsequent times you do the task it will be easier and quicker. 

The nature of the rentals themselves and the kinds of tenants you have will also impact the amount of work you have to do.   Less expensive apartments are likely to have more turnover and thus be more work than a larger single family home.    Lower income tenants are also likely to have more turnover than higher income tenants.   Of course these kinds of things are broad generalizations but on average I'd expect lower rent properties to have more mobile tenants.     Older or poorly maintained buildings are going to experience more frequent failures and need repair more often.  

If you hire a property manager then the amount of work required will be significantly lower.   I'd estimate that to be more like 1 hour a month.    A lot of that is overhead involved in doing your own paper work and simply occasional discussions with the property manager to approve repairs or similar.


April 15, 2015

NFL Players Don't All End Up Bankrupt

The idea that NFL players all end up bankrupt is kind of a common myth.    In 2009 Sports Illustrated published an article saying that "78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce."     I think that data point has been spread around that 78% go bankrupt which is pretty much saying almost all of em.     But the article really says that they "have gone bankrupt" OR are "under financial stress" because of "joblessness or divorce".     Thats really 3 things there.  1, bankrupt  2. unemployed or 3 divorced.    I mean doesn't joblessness and divorce pretty much always cause some form of "financial stress"?    Yeah pretty much.

A new study has much different result when they look at bankruptcy rates alone.    Bankruptcy Rates among NFL Players with Short-Lived Income Spikes at NBER  found that 12 years after retirement 15.7% of players have gone bankrupt.    Thats certainly a huge difference from that 78% figure above.

15.7% of players going bankrupt in 12 years is still a pretty high rate.     But how does it compare to the general population?    

About 1 million people (roughly) go bankrupt every year.   You can find the US bankruptcy stats here.  Thats roughly 1 in every 120 households.   In a 12 year period we'd see about 12 million bankruptcies which is roughly 10% of American households.    Then, figuring roughly, about 10% of Americans go bankrupt over a 12 year period.

NFL players go bankrupt about 50% more often than the US average.

Thats still bad given how much money the players make.  But theres some major causes for it.  Most of the players have short careers and do not make the mult-million salaries.     A short and high paid career may lead players to spending beyond their means while they have money only to end up bankrupt shortly after their careers end.   That result is almost natural and predictable.   Give any average American $1 million today and then give them a random chance of getting another $1 million next year and then expect to manage it prudently for the next 25 years and I bet the failure rate will be pretty high.


April 14, 2015

Magazines.com is the Daily Double at Ebates Paying 52% cash Back - Magazines for Half price

Today the daily double at  Ebates  is Magazines.com at 52% cash back. 

If you're looking for a magazine subscription this is a good day to get 1/2 off the price.    And that cash back is on top of any of the sales at Magazines.com

Also see my previous coverage of Magazines.com :  Cheap or Free Magazines -  Review of Magazines.com


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

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

April 10, 2015

Best of Blogs for Week of April 10th

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

MyMoneyBlog shares Global Asset Allocation Book Review: Comparing 12+ Expert Model Portfolios    (spoiler : there was under 1% difference)

MoneyBox shares the fact that People Left $674,841 in Spare Change at U.S. Airports Last Year
I think that works out to less than 1¢ per person going through security on average.

The Simple Dollar gives some good advice on Rising from the Absolute Bottom

April 9, 2015

Buy IGH Points 50% off

IGH points has a deal right now to buy their points 50% off.   The prices at the 50% rate works out to getting points for about 6¢ in bulk.

 15k for $90 = 0.6c per point

25k for $150 = .6c

50k for $293 = 0.586c

100k for $565 = 0.565c

This could be a useful deal for someone to add points to top off their account or if they want to simply buy point to use to book rooms at a discounted rate.   According to the points site  the points don't expire and there are NO blackout dates.     Also when you book with the points you can get a flexible fare that can be cancelled up until the day before the trip.    This benefit alone makes the points a reasonable deal for me personally as I sometimes want to book trips over the winter but I might need to cancel them if the weather is too bad.   Usually you have to pay a premium for the flexible room rates.

In the city my Dad lives hotels go for 25k points and would cost $138 to $179 including taxes out of pocket.   The cheaper rate is for nonrefundable queen and  the $179 is for a fully refundable king room.    So buying 25k for $150 would save you $29 on that refundable king room.     Not a fabulous deal but might be worth doing for me.

If you get the 100k for $565 points then you can use the points for 2 nights in a 50k hotel room.

Some of the 50k hotel rooms are pretty pricey.  
InterContinental New York Times Square

Can run $576 per night with taxes.    You can get 2 nights for $565 by buying the points. Thats about half price and a pretty good deal if you're looking at a specific location thats pricey.

On the other end of the spectrum they have the cheap rooms for 5k at select locations.   You can buy points to stay in those locations for about $30 per night all in.   Thats hard to beat.   But the locations with 5k rooms are pretty limited and generally smaller remote cities.  But if you're really itching to spend a week in Fallon, NV or Abilene TX then this could be the deal for you.

You can also sign up for their credit card and get 70k bonus points after spending $1000 in 3 months.   MyMoneyBlog talks about that in their article Chase IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card Review: What Does 70,000 Points Get You?


April 8, 2015

Homeownership Rates by State for 2014

Curious how many people own homes in each state?   I knew you were.

I got the following numbers right out of the Census page on Housing Vacancy and Ownership

The home ownership rate per state in 2014 :

Alabama 72.1%
Alaska 64.9%
Arizona 63.5%
Arkansas 65.4%
California 54.2%
Colorado 65.0%
Connecticut 67.4%
Delaware 74.3%
D.C. 41.5%
Florida 64.9%
Georgia 62.9%
Hawaii 58.4%
Idaho 69.6%
Illinois 66.4%
Indiana 70.1%
Iowa 69.4%
Kansas 64.7%
Kentucky 67.6%
Louisiana 65.3%
Maine 71.0%
Maryland 66.2%
Massachusetts 63.0%
Michigan 73.8%
Minnesota 71.4%
Mississippi 73.2%
Missouri 70.5%
Montana 66.9%
Nebraska 66.7%
Nevada 56.0%
New Hampshire 72.2%
New Jersey 65.2%
New Mexico 66.3%
New York 52.9%
North Carolina 66.4%
North Dakota 64.5%
Ohio 67.3%
Oklahoma 69.3%
Oregon 62.8%
Pennsylvania 69.7%
Rhode Island 61.8%
South Carolina 72.9%
South Dakota 69.2%
Tennessee 66.7%
Texas 62.2%
Utah 70.9%
Vermont 73.5%
Virginia 68.7%
Washington 63.6%
West Virginia 75.6%
Wisconsin 67.8%
Wyoming 70.8%

The states with the highest home ownership rate are :

West Virginia 75.6%
Delaware 74.3%
Michigan 73.8%
Vermont 73.5%
Mississippi 73.2%

And the lowest are :

D.C. 41.5%
New York 52.9%
California 54.2%
Nevada 56.0%
Hawaii 58.4%

Basically I assume what we see here is that if housing is expensive fewer people own.    Or if states have more or less established populations you will see more or less home ownership.   That second
reason is why I think Nevada is low and Delaware is high.

The Census page has annual data going back to 1988.    Comparing 1988 to 2014 you can see some gradual changes in the home ownership rates per state.

States with the largest drops in home ownership were :

Kansas -3.9%
Louisiana -3.2%
North Dakota -3.2%
Oklahoma -2.8%
Arizona -2.6%

And the states that saw home ownership go up the most were :

Alaska 7.9%
Missouri 5.7%
Alabama 5.6%
Hawaii 5.2%
Illinois 5.0%

I honestly can't begin to guess at reasons that would explain why home ownership would have gone up or down in those states.


Amazon Subscribe and Save Filler Items under $2 for April 2015

Updated list of items under $2 eligible for Amazon Subscribe & Save :

Eldon's Sausage and Jerky Supply Canadian Jerky Seasoning, 0.235 Pound= $1.38

BC Analgesic Powder, 6 Count  (aspirin) = $1.41

DEWALT DW4518 4-1/2-Inch by 1/8-Inch by 7/8-Inch General Purpose Metal Cutting Wheel = $1.44

Bull's Eye Texas Style Regional Barbecue Sauce, 17.5 Ounce Bottle = $1.44

Pac-Kit 1-009 Fabric Adhesive Light Woven Flexible Knuckle Bandage, 3" Length x 1-1/2" Width (Box of 8) = $1.48

Curad Rolled Gauze, 4 Inches X 4.1 Yards = $1.63

Barilla Protein Plus Spaghetti Pasta, 14.5 Ounce = $1.84

Keebler Fudge Shoppe Grasshopper Cookies, Mint, 10 Ounce = $1.88

Kraft Catalina Salad Dressing, Sweet Honey, 16 Ounce = $1.88

Wish-Bone Salad Dressing, Light Balsamic & Basil Vinaigrette, 16 Ounce = $1.89

PureBites Beef Liver Cat Treats, 0.85-Ounce = $1.89

Wilton Red Sprinkles = $1.89

Lipton Pyramids, Bavarian Wild Berry 20 ct = 2.01
Orville Redenbacher's Gourmet Naturals Popcorn, Classic Butter and Sea Salt, 76.3g Bags, 3 Count = $2.07

Ok so I lied, a couple of those are a little over $2 but they seemed like items more people might actually want.

I try to list a variety of items so you'll have a better chance of seeing something on this list that you'd actually get use out of so its not just bought and wasted.

Warning :  If you use items off this list then make sure to watch them and cancel your subscription if you no longer want them or if the prices go up.   The cheap items I find seem to change pretty quickly so they may have large price hikes or be removed from the subscribe and save program. 

Note the list will get out of date within months or days.   I'll probably post a newer list before all of the above items are gone or have price increases.  But if you can't find something good here you can always go to Amazon and search for Subscribe & Save and sort based on prices and poke around to find something cheap to use as a filler.

I've discussed before how you can get a  better discount on Amazon Subscribe and Save purchases if you order 5 items at once.  However if you don't buy a lot of stuff then it can be hard to come up with a 5 item order.   However if your products are worth enough then it can be worth it to add some filler items to get up to 5 items to get the 15% discount. 

Say for example, you want to buy a couple cases of Pampers Swaddlers Diapers  that run $45.97 each with a normal purchase.   With Subscribe and save you'd get a 5% discount.to get the price down to $43.67.    But if you have 5 items in your S&S order then it is only $36.78 or a $6.89 savings.   And if you're buying two of those then thats double or $13.78.    Adding the 4 cheapest items listed here to the S&S order would only cost you $4.99 total with the 5 item discount so its worth buying those items to get you a net savings of $8.79.

Note if you don't want the filler items and only use them to get a 5 item discount then you can of course always give away the food items to someone you know or donate them to the local food bank.

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

April 5, 2015

Average CPA Fee for Tax FIling is $273

My wife and I haven't gotten our taxes done yet but we're working on it.   We hire a CPA to do our taxes for a few reasons.  1, I'm lazy, 2, the forms are complicated with Schedule A, D, E,  covering multiple rentals and stock purchase and stock incentive options at my job, 3. I'm lazy, and 4, we can deduct some of the CPA fee as a rental expense.   Still its pretty pricey and I question if I should just stop being lazy and do it myself.   Maybe next year.

We pay around $500 a year for our taxes.   Thats a hefty sum.   But apparently its not far off the averages.

According to the National Society of Accountants the average cost for preparing a typical 1040 with Schedule A and state tax form is $273.

The NSA website has more details on costs and breaks it down by region and costs for additional forms.     They also have an infographic.

In the Pacific states area where we live the average is $348 for that kind of form.   Plus we've got schedules D & E on top of that which average $115 and $126 respectively.     Added up the average cost for a filing like  ours seems to be more like $589 total.

Its good to know I'm not over paying compared to typical fees.   But it doesn't make me feel all that much better when I write the check to the CPA.

I'd say unless your taxes are particularly complex (like ours) then you're best to just use tax accounting software and file on your own.   That is certainly cheaper than hiring a CPA and most peoples taxes are easy enough to do with computer software.  


April 3, 2015

Best of Blogs for Week of April 3rd

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

The Simple Dollar lists Affordable Online MBA Programs
and Affordable Online Master’s Degree Programs in 2015

However I'd caution about paying money to get an MBA from school that isn't very highly ranked unless you've got a very specific need for the degree.  MBAs don't necessarily equate to big raises or job opportunity.

The Big Picture shares a graphic from the Census showing Net Migration Between California and Other States: 1955-1960 and 1995-2000
I thought it was interesting along the lines of my old post Everybody Isn't Moving to Texas... Kinda


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