Tuesday, January 31, 2006

End of Greenspan Era

January 31, 2006 marks the end of the Greenspan Era. Al Greenspan's term as the Federal Reserve Chairman was the second longest, at 18 years, five months and 20 days.

He made sure that the inflation rates were low, and pushed the central bank to keep the funds rate up, so the economy would be slowed.

This is one quote from him that I found funny - "'I guess I should warn you, if I turn out to be particularly clear, you've probably misunderstood what I've said.'' --1988

Ben Bernanke is our next Federal Reserve Chief.

Greenspan faces last rate-setting meeting

Let's hail for a good and strong economy state that America is in! ::toasts::

Friday, January 27, 2006

idiots out wandering around

Yes. America, we have idiots. My coworker showed me this article. How stupid can people be? But wow, it can be really scary...

"Dumb money moves people make"

We sure make it easy for the identity thieves. I sure hope my college (Rochester Institute of Technology) has removed the restriction of writing down SSNs on the exams. At my time, we were to write down our SSNs on the sheets. Very scary when I looked back. Thus, I became a victim for identity thieves. Someone stole my SSN and used it to open a credit line with Walmart in Rochester NY and charged over $900 to my name.

I did not know about this for months (it happened in October 2002) until someone kept calling my parents' house in the summer of 2003 and I finally got someone to talk to me on TTY (hmm he must know I'm deaf). I was really skeptical because he was saying those things... and my dad took over and demanded him to tell me my SSN, my date of birth, and where I was from. We gulped - the guy knew all of my data. He was the detective looking into the identity thief case. I was not the only victim. There were 8 or 9 other victims from RIT, all students.

I called all of the three credit bureaus, and filed a claim for each, "FRAUD ALERT", and received my reports in mail (it is free in mail, i think, if you are filing for fraud). When I read them for very first time in my life, wow. I was charged $900 and I did not know about it for 9 months. That was the same summer I was moving to Kansas City, so it sure did not look good for me if I was going apartment hunting or opening an account.

The issue was resolved, and the $900 was removed from all of my credit reports, so I am all clean now... so far. Be careful, please keep your personal information to yourself, do not carry them with you, except when it really is needed.

But, for goodness' sake, do not write PIN on your ATM card or spend $50,000 on a cat.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Scavenging the Cairo...

I use cairo.com for the local deals around if I need a specific item to buy. For example, I ran out of shaving cream gel, so I got on www.cairo.com and entered my zip code, and searched "shaving cream". Tada. Zoomed down to Kmart, 2 miles away, to buy the cream gel at good price.

The website seeks through the current ads of local stores and comes up with those who are selling that certain item. Saves you time of rummaging thru Sunday ads, eh?

Nice website to have on ur bookmark.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Pensions cut

More companies are cutting their pension programs to save costs, moving the money to 401k instead. IBM is one of them, starting 2007.

As for myself this is no gain/loss as IBM will be contributing the equal amount, only that it is entirely in my hands how to manage the money properly (i.e. which funds to invest in). But when a coworker shows me this article, it makes me want to growl...

CEOs cut pensions, pad their own

Saturday, January 21, 2006

I LOVE NY & Company!

::squeaks:: I love NY & Company clothing store! Angela and I shopped there this morning because I had this 30% coupon and they are giving out $15 coupon every $30 of purchase. Yep. It is my day. I bought 6 items for the total cost of $78.28!! 2 formal pants, 2 buttoned pant shirts, and 2 nice tops. Wow. And the cashier forgot to ring up the sixth item, so I saved myself 5.99 with some taxes. And in return, I get $30 worth of coupons, to be used in last week of February. This receipt says I saved a total of $100.19. ::whistles::

That is why I love NY & Company. :) :) :)

Friday, January 20, 2006

Tax Preparation Begins

First of all, I would like to share you this Chicken of the Sea coupon, if you like tuna. It is last day to fill this out to receive the coupon.

$2 off Tuna

Now, back to the subject. 2005 has ended, and I'm sure you have been getting some mail regarding your tax, such as W2 form or 1099-B. Confused of what you really need to get all prepared for filing your taxes? This website lists all items that you may or may not need

Also, this other website talks about standard/itemizing deductions. If your itemizied deduction is below the standard deduction, use the standard deduction. If the itemizied deduction is greater than the standard, use the former. Rare that ever happens to me - that is, using the itemized deductions. But this was my first full year of paying mortgage interest, so I get to use itemized deduction. Whooo! Anyway here is the article which talks about what you can use for itemized deductions and the standard deductions for your filing status.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Year of the Dog

On January 29, 2006 is the end of the Year of Rooster (end of my year ::sniffs::), but it embarks on the new year of the Dog!

Speaking of dogs, one coworker asked me for my advice on getting a dog, especially the costs. I found this website which talks about costs of owning a dog

Costs of owning a dog

I want to make it clear to anyone who is considering getting a dog - it is going to put a dent on your budget if you do not plan for it properly. Since I started keeping track how much I am spending on my dog since July, I have paid $1482.07. Yup. That is alot. The article is not joking. I get upset if a person is considering getting a dog but his/her financial situation is not wonderful. It will put the strain on the dog's relationship.

The experience of owning a dog is priceless to me, despite the dent Socks is putting into my budget. Take your time before adopting/buying one. It is not a toy that you can discard; it is a companion of lifetime.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A religious view..

Please do not get me wrong, but I am not religious and do not intend this post as a controversial one.

Anyway, a coworker of mine was telling me about the "Debt-Free Living" course being offered at his church. I thought it is very cool that even in a religion they support personal finance. I have this booklet of information on it, and saw 2 quotes on it that I thought I should share with you -

"A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, but the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous." Prov 13:22

"And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day." Deut 8:18

I am curious what other religions talk about personal finance now, such as Buddhism, for example, hmmm...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

50 Ways to Trim Your Budget

My friend gave me this good website that she said she bookmarked it for reference.

50 Ways to Trim Your Budget

I am pleased to see that I am already applying most of those tips especially:

"Douse unneeded lights and turn off TVs, computers and other electronics when not in use"
That is my HUGE pet peeve when people visit my place - leaving lights on in rooms when they are not using it! I kindly remind them to turn the lights off. ::mutters::

"Use shades, blinds and drapes to regulate your home temperature: Keep them open in the winter to let in light and drawn in the summer to block the sun's rays."
Every morning in winter, I open the blinds facing SOUTH - this is the direction where you get most heat. AT the evenings, I shut those Blinds. It is a nice habit to have.

I like how this article groups categories and their tips, like automobile, clothing, food and health care. Very useful article. Worth checking it out.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Clarifying some confusion

I was visiting my friend last night, who asked me about the free credit report. I realized that I wasnt clear in my post about checking your credit report once a year. It is FREE to check all THREE of your credit reports (Transunion, Equifax, Experidan), each a year. It doesn't mean you check Transunion and you pay to check Experidan.

It is very important to check all three and to check for errors. Checking one is not good enough. I first learnt about the credit bureaus, when I was an identity thief victim. We need to be aware and protect our credit reports by checking them once a year.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Chatzky's top 10 money saving tips

A friend of mine paged this article to me this morning. Repetitive, but sound and good advices, that I think you need to read. I find it ironic that first tip talked about setting bills to be paid automatically. That was what I talked about in one of my previous entries. It completely avoids late fees, and paying for stamps.

Seventh tip is what I am trying to improve and follow. Once every two months or so, I drive up to Minnesota and back which is 450 miles one way. I do not speed above 5 mph the limit. Any more than that, my gas goes down fast. My Passat also has this feature that tells me my real-time MPG and the average MPG. Once in a while, I try to "make" it above 20 mpg average for streets with tons of stop light. If it is below 20 mpg, I try to drive as slow as I can, so it will increase to 20 mpg, that is, if there is no car behind me. It is a game to me, if I am in the mood with time to kill. Fun and save me gas :-D.

Yep, yep, I was (am?) guilty of spending too much on eating out, regarding Tip #8-10. I think I have drastically improved since spring/summer, so I am very glad of that. Setting myself on $200 a month for food budget really helps. Know what? I have not spent anything on food SINCE that $15 sushi lunch last Thursday. Wow! So I am treating myself for a Thai lunch today :-D I did hesistate, but it is my former team lead's birthday tomorrow, so who would want to miss the lunch for that.

The article truly has good tips that I think all of you should at least check it out.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Intelligent Energy

I wannnnnnnna this!!!

Can IBM help cut your energy bill?

Be aware of your credit

You will be doing yourself an injustice if you do not check your credit reports (https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp), thanks to my other coworker who provided me with the link. It is FREE if you check them once a year. Any more, it charges you. So use your time wisely and check the credit reports when it is due. For example, I checked mine last Spring, so it is probably best for me to check again this May.

We all have three reports, so please check every one of them and look for any inconspiracies/errors, and report to the credit bureau responsible to fix. TransUnion, Equifax, and Experidan are the credit bureaus. If you have lousy report, you get a lower score, meaning it is more difficult for you to get a loan or apply for a credit card.

How we can acheive a better credit report, is to, of course, pay all of your bills on time. Also, avoid checking with too many loan officers or credit card companies. They will check your credit reports. If they check your credit reports too much, it will affect your rating significantly. Avoid having too much credit cards, loans, or late payments. Hmm that's all I can think of right now, but I am sure there are other ways to improve credit score.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


This is not the first time. I forgot to submit payment for my car loan....again. What the problem with this is that I do not get the reminder monthly, I have to remind myself to pay. I was given this booklet with monthly payment stub, to put in the envelope along with my check, to mail monthly by the 15th. It is the 11th today and I do not think I have time to mail it out and avoid a late fee. Not only that but I also lost the payment stub too. What's the matter with me? My solution, basically, is to call my credit union who is in possession of my car title, to make a payment over the phone. It does not charge anything. In fact, it saves me 39 cents in stamp.

Speaking of stamps, I groaned when the Postal Office decided to increase the cost of the stamp again. That definitely is pushing me to pay bills online instead of thru mail. Several of my friends and coworkers are doing online bills but for some reason I like paying bills "physically" (i.e. via postal office).

All of my bills should be moved to online, except for my car loan and my mortgage. So that way I can decide how much I want to pay extra monthly. Although the mortgage should have an option for me to pay extra. I do not think Credit Union has that option of paying my car loan online. I'll have to push myself to find out and sign up for all online payments. It will definitely make my life easier, to make all of them automatic paid monthly. Hmm.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Energy Saving Audit

I probably got some kind of reactions from some of you regarding my gas bill and my size of my home. As I joked to my coworker, my insulation is probably at R-0 (meaning no insulation). I live on a second floor condo of 1200 sq feet. I have an attic over me, with this insulation lining, but a previous owner flattened the insulation with heavy things, so the level is like at R-3. Gross. It's expensive to buy new insulation, but I do not own the attic as the HOA (Home Owners Associations) owns it. I will have to go to one meeting and propose to buy new insulation for all attics, but I doubt it will be passed because the owners living on first floor would not care as they are already insulated from the second floor above them. That, and my condo is not new - 20 years old. The insulation in the walls is probably almost gone, and my windows are original so they do not have much insulation left. Thus the high gas bill despite all of my efforts.


As it was mentioned in my Jan 4 post (here), we should do a home audit annually. My coworker found this site which does a free home audit http://hes.lbl.gov/. I tried to do this, but it seems to apply to actual houses only as it does not factor in living on the second floor only and other such things. But it is cool to do it anyway to determine how much you should actually be paying annually. This site also offers tips of energy saving here .

Monday, January 09, 2006

Evil gas bill..?

I received my month of December gas bill. Eeek! Here's how it is broken down:

Service Charge $8.95
Delivery Charge $20.54
Weather Normalization $2.64
Cost of Gas $109.21
Franchise Fee $3.54
City Tax $1.63
County Tax $1.61

Total: $148.12

What's this? The cost of gas is $109.21 but with all of the fees, taxes and charges it sums up to $148.12. Wow. This bill has this chart on the left which shows how much I used gas in December '04 so I can compare it against December '05. It looks good- I used less gas now than last year. I suspect it is because of the new furnace I got last Spring (a long story yet to be told here), the weather stripping, covering the windows with plastics, and my new programmable therometer. Well. That and not being home for 2 weeks :) I set the temperature to 58 when I was gone. That helped. A bit. Hmm.

Also, thank goodness for EPP plan. After living for one year in the same place, the company is able to do an estimation of equal payment for every month due to the previous year record. So, I do not pay $148.12, whew, I just pay $60. Good news indeed.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Justification of Sushi

As I mentioned in the previous post, I decided to go out for sushi for lunch yesterday. It aint your typical $4 lunch meal from Burger King. My lunch cost me $15, eek. But I seeked for justification, as usual. My boss is taking my entire team out for lunch today. I'm having free meals for the entire weekend, except on Sunday but I will be eating at home, I think. So that justified my $15 lunch meal yesterday.

Somewhere off the point, I am trying to cut my lunch costs (except for justifications as one mentioned above), by bringing my lunches to work, such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and apple sauces. Of course, there are mornings when I am not in mood to prepare my sandwich for lunch at work, so I bring in frozen lunches such as hot pockets. As for those frozen lunches, I try to look for best deal, like try to spend less than $2 per frozen meal. Hot Pockets package usually cost around $2.50 (with coupon or on special) so thats approximately $1.25 per pocket ( a package comes with 2 pockets). Of course, sandwiches are the best deal of all, because you buy a loaf of bread, and you use it everyday for lunch, using up 2 slices, and spread with peanut butter and jelly. You get a satisfying meal for cheap, along with fruits like bananas or apples. They don't cost much.

As for going out to lunches, we tend to go to places where they do specials- Talk of The Town, for instance. All of their burgers are half priced every Wednesday. It is a ritual for some of us. Their burgers are HUGE and the meal comes with french fries, and with a cup of water, I pay $5 (with tip) every time. Pretty good deal for a full meal that lasts me til practically 8 pm at night, then I eat small dinner. Other restaurant, which is my favorite Mexican food in Johnson County here, offers cheap lunches but very fulfilling meals. I pay $5 every time I go there, including tip and taxes. Mmmm mexican....

Now I'm going to fulfill my hunger by heading out to Olive Gardens with my team... have a nice lunch!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

When frugality has gone too far..

I made a discovery yesterday. Frugality is my sport, or a hobby. It is not to make ends meet, but to smile with glee when finding the best deal out there. For example, I was shopping at Target yesterday and I was about to buy this larger box of cereal, but then I saw a better deal of 2 regular boxes set at 2.99, saving me 20% plus $1 rebate toward the next cereal. Of course, the reason is cuz those smaller boxes dont have wheat grain, and the store is trying to get rid of those, as it seems. Looks like General Mills stops making them. The cereal I am taking about is Cinnamon Toast Crunch. The popular type is the one with wheat and less sugar. So, the cheaper boxes are not of wheat and are full of sugar. Mmmmm... :)

Again, my coworker showed me this another interesting article (if you guessed, yup we share same interest - frugality). Here's the link : Frugality as a Sport

It talks about how it is a sport to some. For some others, they have umm gone too far. Dying a pair of pants black 4 times, or buying 2 ply toilet roll to seperate into 1 ply.. stop right there, please... Wow!

Yes, I pride at being frugal, but sometimes I just gotta spend what I enjoy. For example, I decided to reward myself with a $15 lunch today for sushi. Sushi is my favorite delicacy, but I do not go out to eat sushi weekly. It is more of like 2 times a month. Enjoy what you earn, that is, but don't spend too much if you can get something cheaper somewhere. I do not buy $30 shirt if I can get $5 shirt somewhere at a good quality.

Enjoy your frugality and be careful not to trip over the border line.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

New Year resolution

Well, its the new year. Yup, its time for resolutions to be achieved. What was your 2005 resolution? Mine was to achieve happiness, and I think that was achieved very well. Now my 2006 resolution is to be more financially secure, I believe. I first started to realize I was spending too much eating out at expensive restaurants back in Spring of 2005, and did something about it. I reduced my eating out to maybe 2 to 3 times a week, at less expensive places, and my budget drastically improved. It's amazing. Here's a good article my co-worker gave me on 2006 financial resolution - finanical calendar, actually


I do agree with almost all the advices. The January one, is as always, a good idea. Increase your savings. Try as much as you can, even a extra $5 a month means a lot. There's this new one - especially the October one, completing a home audit to increase energy savings. I did not know about an online audit thing. I should try that, hmm.

There is one thing on the list that I am found guilty of not having - a ROTH IRA/Traditional IRA account. I have 401k thru my employer but not my own IRA. For some reason, I am procasinating to open one. I should heed the January advice - put more savings, meaning put little by little toward IRA, even less than hundred a month. The February advice says that I have until April 16 to make my 2005 contribution. And I have yet to open one. Any suggestions?

Anyway, here's a toast to the safely sound fiscal year of 2006!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Gas rebate credit card

Hello! Finally I have gotten around to start a blog of my own. The point of this blog is to talk about money, money and money. Especially on savings, being frugal, and looking for good deals. I hope to write some tidbits in here and provide information and links on such information. Here's to get you started:

Gas Credit Cards

Gas rebates - are they a good deal? Basically, not really, unless you are savvy and read the fine line. However, like the article says, the bottom line -- is to be savvy. Hence the inspiration for the name of this blog "savvywolf". The reason why I add wolf is because if you know me personally, I am really crazy about wolves. Awroo!