June 28, 2015

Cheapskate Computer Project - June Update

For background see my original post Cheapskate Computer Project and the April update

EDIT :  Double OOOPS!!!    Looks like I forgot to hit submit when I was ordering that motherboard at Newegg.  Thats a bummer.   I went to the newegg site and the item was still in my shopping cart, i see no order in their records and theres no email confirmation of the order.   Sigh.

I haven't had any activity in my computer project since my last update in April.   I just haven't seen any particularly good deals worth doing.   But a good deal came up this week.  

Citibank had a Citiwallet promotion for $20 off of a purchase of $50 or more at Newegg.    By buying with Citiwallet via Masterpass and using CITIWALLET promo code at Newegg you'd get $20 off.   The deal ends July 12th.   [edit :   the Citiwallet promotion is closed now, as they used all the  available discounts]

None of the items on my computer project shopping list were over $50 individually.   I thought about getting the memory and motherboard combined which would run me roughly $70 and I'd save $20 but thats only about 28% savings.    

Instead to maximize the deal I used a free after rebate for a Refurbished battery for $11 with a $11 rebate (ends June 30th) plus the $40 motherboard to pad the purchase up to over $50.  

MSI H81M-P33  motherboard for $40
Refurbished battery for $11 + $2 shipping
CITIWALLET promo - 20
total spent $33

I should also then get that $11 rebate to give me a total net cost of about $22.   I have to buy a stamp to mail in that rebate form so its really more like $22.50 in the end.  

I still need to get a processor and memory.     I think my best shot at getting those at a discount rate is the kind of promo deals like the one I used today with the $20 off for using my Citibank card.

I neglected to use Ebates to make the purchase at Newegg so I lost out on their 1% cashback.   Opps.


June 26, 2015

Best of Blogs for Week of June 26th

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 discusses How Much Does Car Insurance Cost? in which they have a couple lists of average costs per state

TSD also answers What Is a CPN, or Credit Privacy Number?
subtitled - spoiler alert : its a scam

Planet Money looks at  Husbands And Wives: Who Works, Who Doesn't?

MoneyBox asks What Happened to the Teen Summer Job?

The Big Picture points out that Where You Live Correlates to a 20% Investment Bias 
and Home State Investing Bias May Be Skewing Your Portfolio


June 25, 2015

Some Interesting FIndings from the American Time Use Survey

The BLS' American Time Use Survey for 2014 is out. 

Looking at Table 1. Time spent in primary activities and percent of the civilian population engaging in each activity, averages per day by sex, 2014 annual averages

Here's some findings I thought were interesting : 

0.1% of men don't sleep.   It says that 99.9% of the male population engages in the activity so that means 0.1% don't.  Huh.   I suppose they could be pulling an all nighter with double shifts or college students studying all night.   Maybe its just reporting errors but who knows.    It says 100% of women sleep, so good for them.

We spend 8.8 hours sleeping on average.   That seems like a lot to me.  But the averages are raised by kids and retirees and other people who don't work.

4.4% of the population doesn't eat or drink.     This ones difficult to believe, but the study found that only 95.6% of people engage in those activities during the day.   I wonder how it works if someone eats while engaging in other activities?    Or is this really a result of poverty?

20% of people don't watch TV in a given day.    The average time spent is 2.82 hours.   Nielsen studies claim people spend 5 hours a day watching TV.   I prefer to believe the more reasonable ATUS figures.

We spend more time shopping than engaging in religious or volunteer activities.    Purchasing consumer goods averaged 0.36 hours and religion was 0.14 and volunteering was also 0.14.

Women do everything more frequently then men except for lawncare, work and sports.   The biggest difference is work.   47.6% of men work and 36.8% of women do.


June 23, 2015

Entertainment coupon book for $4.95

Entertainment.com has their 2015 coupon books on sale for $6 using promo code MISSYOU6

If you shop via Ebates you also get 17.5% cashback on the deal so with a cost of $6 on the book thats $1.05 cash back for a final net cost of $4.95.

Make sure to check out the deals available on the Entertainment.com site first before you buy.   In my area the coupon books are giving lower value than they used to (at least for me).   The last books I bought were $5 and I only found one very good $5 in the book so they barely paid for themselves.    YMMV.

Note : This deal is good through 6/25 only.

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.

June 19, 2015

Best of Blogs for Week of June 19th

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

DoughRoller compares discount cell phone plans from Republic Wireless vs. Straight Talk vs. Virgin Mobile


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

June 18, 2015

Unique and Rare Employer Benefits

I was curious how many employers offer employee stock purchase programs (ESPP).    I found the answer in a report from the Society for Human Resource Management : 2013 Employee Benefits An Overview of Employee Benefits Offerings in the U.S.   The answer is 12%.    The report also has statistics on a wide variety of other benefits that employers might offer.  Some are commonplace like health insurance and 401k plans.   Others are typical perks like free coffee or casual dress day.     Yet other benefits are unusual and obscure like nap rooms or pet insurance.

Some unique or rare benefits offered by companies to their workers and the percent of employers that offer them taken out of the SHRM report :

Bariatric coverage for weight loss 34%
In vitro fertilization coverage 30%
Retiree health care coverage 23%
Smoking cessation program 44%
On-site massage therapy services 9%
On-site nap room 6%
Roth 401(k) savings plan 38%
Employee stock purchase plan 12%
Restricted stock options 10%
Nonqualified stock options 9%
Time off
Paid maternity leave 16%
Paid paternity leave 15%
Paid vacation cash-out option 9%
Paid day off for employee’s birthday 8%
Unlimited paid sick time 3%
Unlimited paid vacation time 1%
Other perks
Free computers for employees’ personal use 6%
Adoption assistance 11%
Babies at work 2%
Casual dress day (one day per week) 60%
Casual dress (every day) 34%
Telecommuting on a full-time basis 20%
 Free coffee 72%
Vending machine snacks and beverages 50% (full or part subsidy)
Organization-sponsored sports teams 16%
On-site haircuts 1%
Pet health insurance 8%
Prepared take-home meals 3%
Employee keeps frequent flyer miles 69%
Rental car upgrades 15%
Paid minibar snacks at the hotel 10%
Paid travel expenses for spouse 7%
Paid pay-per-view movies at the hotel 5%
Company picnic 55%
Pets at work 5%


June 16, 2015

5% Cash Back Promo Credit Card Categories for Q3 2015

In Q3, July to September, the 5% promotional cash back categories are :

Chase Freedom:gas stations and more
Discover :Home Improvement Stores, Department Stores and Amazon.com
Citibank Dividend : airlines and Hilton hotel properties

Some pretty good categories there.   Gas stations at Chase and Amazon from Discover both give lots of opportunity to get 5% back.    Airlines could be worth a good amount if you're planning any air travel but you'd have to book direct with the airline.


June 14, 2015

Next New Credit Card - Citibank ThankYou Premier Should Net $500-625 reward

Its time for a new credit card!

I just finished up meeting the minimum spending requirements for the last three new credit cards that I got at the end of April.      With those three cards I had minimum spends of $500, $1000 and $1000 for $2500 total.    I was able to finish those within two billing cycles.   I could have probably easily met the $2500 minimum in a month but I wanted to keep a chunk of our spending on the Sallie Mae Barclay card we've got because it gives 5% cashback.    Doing that maximized the rewards and made us probably an extra $25 or so.

The next card is going to be a Citibank ThankYou Premier card.    Also see MyMoneyBlog's take of the card : New Citi ThankYou Premier Card Review*

The card gives you 50,000 ThankYou points after spending $3000 in the first 3 months.    That $3000 spend requirement shouldn't be too hard to hit since I just hit $2500 in about half that time.     The card has a $95 annual fee after the first year and I see no compelling reason to hang on to it after the initial sign up bonus.   I'll probably cancel it.

The 50,000 points is good for $500 in gift cards or $625 in travel if booked through Citibanks Thankyou Travel Center.    MyMoneyBlog checked out tha ttravel center and he confirmed the prices there are comparable to booking online.   So it really is a $625 value.

I signed up for the card and was approved instantly online.   My credit line is about $10,000.    

* there are no commission links here.  However if you wanna be nice use a link from the MyMoneyBlog review to sign up for the Citibank card and he'll get a payday.

June 12, 2015

Best of Blogs for Week of June 12th

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

I agree with MoneyBox opinion that The New York Times Should Apologize for the Awful Op-Ed It Just Ran on Student Loans 

The Big Picture shows us the The Emotional Investing Roller Coaster

Dough Roller compares Quizzle vs. Credit Karma vs. Credit Sesame


Four Personalized 5" x 7" Greeting Cards for $1.31 Shipped at Shutterfly

Shutterfly has a deal right now for $10 off of $10 using promo code TOPTEN   details on promo
The promo expires June 14th

Using this promo code you can get four personalized photo 5"x 7" greeting cards made and shipped to you with envelopes for $1.31 total.   See screenshot from my shopping cart.

You could make some fathers day cards for dad and granddads or make some birthday or other holiday cards in advance to keep for later.

Note it took a little work to get the prices just right to get this deal to work.    I have instructions below.

You can buy custom 5" x 7" photo greeting cards for around $2 to $2.50.    Shipping on the first 1-4 cards is just 99 cents.   If you create four of the cards to hit a total cost of $10 then you're basically just paying for the shipping.    I'd just do 5 cards but with 5 cards they increase the shipping cost to $5.99 and you end up paying more like $6-7 for 5 cards so its not such a good deal that way.   But I can get 4 cards at $2.58 each (based on current 20% discount price of the cards) by adding an option for either rounded corners or pearl shimmer cardstock.

I was able to make four custom cards for $2.58 each for a total of $10.32.    With 99 cents shipping the total is $11.31 and after the $10 off $10 discount the actual cost including shipping is $1.31.

Steps I took to get the $1.31 price : 

1. Create a custom 5"x7" photo greeting card.
2. This is a key detail to get the deal to work : add option for either rounded corners or pearl shimmer cardstock to add 19 cents to cost to hit $2.58 each 
3. pick the option for "send my cards to me" to get all 4 cards shipped direct to yourself without extra shipping charges
Once in the shopping cart each card ought to look something like the image below with a total cost of 2.58 each:

4. repeat steps 1-3 to get 4 cards total

5. add promo cards "TOPTEN" at checkout

Total at checkout for me came to $1.31 with 4 cards shipped to my house in envelopes

Note that shipping the cards directly will invalidate the TOPTEN promotion so you have to pick the option to have the cards sent to yourself  (send my cards to me).


June 9, 2015

Single Life Annuity Rates as of April 2015

I got the annuity rate here out of the Annuity Shopper Buyers Guide April 2015 posted at ImmediateAnnuities.com

Average single life annuity rates from a $100,000 premium :

Life 3% cola 20 year
50 M $397 $249 $387
50 F $380 $233 $374
55 M $430 $280 $412
55 F $409 $263 $398
60 M $474 $324 $441
60 F $447 $300 $426
65 M $534 $383 $472
65 F $499 $352 $458

I have listed the average rates for people 50, 55, 60 and 65 years old either male or female.

So for example if you're a 65 year old male and buy an annuity with a 3% cola you'll get $383 a month for the first month with a $100,000 premium.

The 3 columns are : a simple single life, life with 3% cost of living adjustment (cola) and a 20 year certain payment which guarantees to pay out at least 20 years or life whichever is longer.

Annuities with the 3% cola pay about 30-40% less than a regular life annuity.


June 7, 2015

Restaurants Don't Fail Any More Often Than Other Businesses

I recently saw someone say that 90% of restaurants fail in their first year.     I wrote about the topic of Misleading failure rates on small businesses a few years ago and later Business Survival Rates  in which I pointed to actual BLS data on the topic :  Chart 3. Survival rates of establishments, by year started and number of years since starting, 1994–2010.    All of that discussion was about failure rates of small businesses in general.   But are restaurants that much more prone to failure?   I mean it seems like a bit tougher business and we often see restaurants opening and closing... so maybe.

Turns out that, no, restaurants don't really fail much more than any other small business in general and the failure rate is nowhere near 90% in the first year.

I found two pretty good sources on the topic with similar numbers on the topic :

Bloomberg article The Restaurant-Failure Myth says that research from H.G. Parsa  an associate professor in Ohio State University's Hospitality Management program, "found that about one in four restaurants close or change ownership within their first year of business.  Over three years, that number rises to three in five."

Forbes article Restaurants Don't Fail, Lenders Do
"According to the National Restaurant Association 30% of new restaurants fail in the first year, and of those that survive, another 30% close in the next 2 years.  Sure that is significant but according to the Small Business Administration’s Office Of Advocacy the two-year failure rate for all small businesses is 31%, and after five years the rate increases to 49%."


June 5, 2015

Best of Blogs For Week of June 5th

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 US Census has a page on New Single-family Homes in 2014   The page has direct links to census reports for various characteristics of new homes.    I might be one of the only people around who got excited seeing the page.   I found it via The Big Picture.


June 4, 2015

Amazon Subscribe and Save Filler Items Under $2 for June 2015

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

Pac-Kit 12-015 Antiseptic Povidone PVP Iodine Wipe (Box of 10) = $1.02

Queen Helene Facial Masque, Mint Julep, 2 Ounce [Packaging May Vary] = $1.23

BC Analgesic Powder, 6 Count  (aspirin) = $1.26

DEWALT DW4518 4-1/2-Inch by 1/8-Inch by 7/8-Inch General Purpose Metal Cutting Wheel = $1.29

Pac-Kit 1-009 Fabric Adhesive Light Woven Flexible Knuckle Bandage, 3" Length x 1-1/2" Width (Box of 8) = $1.33

Curad Rolled Gauze, 4 Inches X 4.1 Yards = $1.46

Barilla Protein Plus Spaghetti Pasta, 14.5 Ounce = $1.65

True Lime Limeade Stick Pack, Black Cherry, 10 Count (1.06oz) = $1.68

PureBites Beef Liver Cat Treats, 0.85-Ounce = $1.69

Wilton Red Sprinkles = $1.69

Palmolive Tropical Tango Dish Liquid, 12.6 Ounce = $1.69 

Speed Stick Antiperspirant, Ultimate Sport, 1.8 Ounce = $1.70

 Lipton Pyramids, Bavarian Wild Berry 20 ct = $1.80

Orville Redenbacher's Gourmet Naturals Popcorn, Classic Butter and Sea Salt, 76.3g Bags, 3 Count = $1.85

Speed Stick Deodorant, Musk, 3 oz = $1.88

Scotch-Brite Mirror Cleaning Cloth, 29cm x 29cm, 1-Count = $1.94

I'm citing the price for each item including the 15% discount that you'd get with 5 items which is the point here.

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. 

Prices change!   Note the list will get out of date within days or weeks.  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.

June 2, 2015

Safeway Delivery Versus Whole Foods Instacart

There are only a couple of options for grocery delivery now where we live.   Safeway delivers to homes and you can also get Instacart delivery.   Mostly for curiosity sake I thought it would be interesting to compare the prices for a sample shopping cart of items.

I'm comparing a small sample of organic items from Safeway home delivery and Instacart delivery from Whole foods :

Safeway Whole
juice 2.99 4.99
eggs 3.79 3.99
milk 7.19 5.49
banana 2.52 2.8
chicken 6.59 4.99

23.08 22.26

The total price for the groceries I chose isn't too far apart.   But there are pretty decent price differences on most items in my example.   The juice, milk and chicken are each $1-2 different.   So depending on what you bought you could easily see either option being cheaper.

If these prices seem high then thats because they are organic and home delivered.  

The normal delivery fee for Instacart is $7.99 for orders under $35 and $3.99 for orders over $35.   You'd be best then to order over $35 if at all possible to minimize that fee.    Instacart has a 1 hour delivery window.

Safeway charges $9.95 for orders over $150 and $12.95 for orders under $150 and they might also tack on a fuel surcharge.    But if you pick a wider delivery window time you can get $3 or $6 off the charge so that could bring it down to as low as $6.95 for this order.

With the normal delivery fees included you'd come out over $5 cheaper for my example if you used Instacart.   With a broader delivery window you can get it cheaper with Safeway.

Bottom Line :  Depending on what exactly you order and what kind of delivery window you need you could get a cheaper price with either option.

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