Tag Archives: money

Saturday Sneak-Peak: PFfirewall.com

Welcome to this weeks edition of Saturday Sneak-Peak! Every week I explore a personal finance blog and give a brief review of the site. My major intent of the adventure is to expose everyone to new and/or obscure blogs. Up this week is PF Firewall.

Firstly, I want to congratulate Jesse. He and his wife added a new bundle of joy this past week! If you don’t click on any of the links, at least leave a comment and congratulate him on this great blessing (they had a girl). ūüôā

Jesse has been blogging since February and has been know to have lengthy, well-thought out posts. He averages about 15 posts a month so those of you who do not like to be bombarded with posts, he is your guy!

Here are some of my favorite posts from him:

Selling Oil Changes Door-to-Door?

Shopping Out of Season

The Real Reason for Lehman Brothers’ Downfall

Now off to the questions!

YMR: Why did you want to start a personal finance blog and what blogs did you read before you started?

Jesse: I started my blog for several reasons. I am actually really new to the blog scene, I hadn’t even read any blogs previous to late 08 aside from The Consumerist, which I didn’t realize was a blog.

When reading The Consumerist, I read about a girl that paid off around $14k in debt by following some Consumerist tips. This led me to think about my debt which I was completely ignoring. One of the tips was to call credit card companies and ask for rates to be lowered, and if they didn’t lower the rate, transfer the balance to another credit card. While searching for credit cards with better rates, I happened on MyMoneyBlog.com, which led me to a few other personal finance blogs including GetRichSlowly.com, BudgetsAreSexy.com and BrokeAsASpoke.com and I was hooked on Personal Finance blogs. I started following blog networks and finding more and more blogs about personal finance to read.

So I decided to start a personal finance blog to track my finances. I also thought if my finances were out there in the open, I would be more accountable and wouldn’t be able to ignore my financial incompetencies.

A second reason, I have always felt like teaching is the best way to learn. By researching what I want to write about, I learn so much about finance from those out there that know more about it than I do, then I can share the information with my readers knowing it is accurate.

Yet another reason was that I am a pretty big geek, and having my own website is one of those things that I wanted to do, coded completely from scratch of course. I had started several websites from scratch but none of them really had a purpose so I would code them, put them up and never update them. I felt like this was holding me back from learning more about web development, so I thought if I started a blog that was really easy to update, using a blog engine like WordPress instead of coding from scratch, I could get the content rolling, get motivated, then be able to spend time coding and modding the blog. I am happy to say this is working. I recently released a new custom theme for my blog, I have been doing a ton of design work in photoshop such as logos, banners and icons, and I have even been hired to redesign someone elses blog.

I even started another site coded from scratch with a purpose/idea that I found while writing my blog. This new site hasn’t really gone public yet as I am still designing it but it fills my geeky void ūüėČ

YMR: Which post (on your site) has been your favorite and why?

Jesse: I think my favorite post was The Most Important Part Is Starting: Debt Recovery and the reason is I felt like the post, massive as it was, was really going to help people. The post was spurred by a friend that was having trouble getting started on the road to debt recovery. I realized there may be more people out there like her that have no clue on how to get started repaying debt so I was really happy to be able to help a friend out as well as anyone else that may read the post.

YMR: How would you describe your writing style?

Jesse: Another reason I started my blog that I left for this section is that I wanted to use my blog to start a writing portfolio. I have always loved to write and thought of doing some freelance writing but I have no public writing experience.

So my writing style reflects this desire. I write as if I am writing for a newspaper. Factual, informative and to the point. I try to hold myself to professional standards. I am known to be long winded but I want to make sure I cover all the facts and leave nothing out that may be important. On that same note I try and make the information more understandable as if I am talking to my readers versus writing to them.

YMR: Tell us something about yourself that some may not know.

Jesse: I am much geekier than I let on in my blog. I am a Linux user..I worked on the Geek Squad when I was younger..and even my TV is running on Linux. I even switched keyboard layouts to be more efficient when typing. I use the Dvorak instead of QWERTY layout and now type a few dozen words per minute faster than I used to. It took about a year to fully switch.

I am much geekier than I let on in my blog. I am a Linux user..I worked on the Geek Squad when I was younger..and even my TV is running on Linux. I even switched keyboard layouts to be more efficient when typing. I use the Dvorak instead of QWERTY layout and now type a few dozen words per minute faster than I used to. It took about a year to fully switch.

YMR: Tell me a little bit more about this financial highway adoption you got going on.

Jesse: Well, I started my blog to be more financially responsible yet I spent about a hundred dollars on hosting. I knew it was necessary especially on the commitment and motivation side but I felt bad about it. Even before I started trying to get my finances in order, I had a real hard time spending money on myself for any reason. Even my play sites that I mentioned before were hosted on my home computer, making them unbearably slow. I couldn’t bring myself to ask for donations in the traditional way because I felt like a hypocrite, telling people to save money yet asking them to give me money. So I started thinking of ways I could reduce the cost of my blog without asking for a hand out.

My adoption system does just that. When someone adopts my blog, they pay a small piece of my costs, roughly the cost of hosting per year divided on a weekly basis, and in return get recognition from my readers for doing so. They get a banner in every post of their week and a banner on a dedicated page, forever.

I also want my readers to feel like they are a part of the little community my blog creates. Through the people that have adopted so far I have made some great contacts and friends, and gotten to know some of the bloggers that read my blog much better.

Thanks Jesse! Have a great weekend everyone! I am heading off to PA so limited posting this weekend.

Weekly Roundup – May 10th

Hope your weekend is going well! Ours started off with a bang yesterday when we booked our honeymoon! Heading off to Jamaica at the end of July (during hurricane season of course) for an all-inclusive extravaganza. I am working on a post for tomorrow detailing our experience with AAA travel. I’ll just say that it was a good one.

Now for a quick plug for the Carnival of Money Stories. Tomorrow is the last day to submit for the return of the carnival. It will be hosted by Gather Little by Little on Monday. You have until 5pm EST today to get your submissions in!

Great Reads From the Week

J Money from Budgets are Sexy wants to grant you one luxury wish. What would you pick? My answer is in the comments!

Bob at Christian Personal Finance explains the art of phishing scams with a great video that he found. That’s one of the things to avoid in my list of identity theft tips.

Free Money Finance tells you how one bad experience can ruin a company.

One Caveman’s Financial Adventure has a great list of 8 things new parents don’t need. I hope I don’t have to worry about these things for a few more years!

Make sure you check all of them out and I look forward to a great week of discussion! ūüôā

How MyRate From Progressive is Saving Me 20% on My Auto Insurance

As I mentioned in my post on auto insurance, I am currently insured with Progressive. I switched to them because #1, they were the least expensive and #2, they offer the MyRate program. What is the MyRate program you ask? I’ll tell you!

Progressive MyRate Program

The MyRate program helps out drivers who are safe and drive only occasionally. In my case, I fit both of those classifications. I hardly ever break hard, go over 75 mph, etc. I also only have to drive 2 miles to and from the train station each day. Actually, it seems I am getting ripped off for insurance because I drive so little (I pay around $500 every 6 months). So in other words, I am being “classified” as a typical driver when I am actually not.¬† Here is how the MyRate program works:

1. Plug in the MyRate Device in Your Car

The device that they send you (for free) plugs right into your car. It monitors things such as time spent in the car, speed, breaking, excessive acceleration, etc. So obviously, if you do all of those things in excess, this program is probably not for you.

2. Drive as You Normally Would

The device then wirelessly and securely sends information to Progressive. It’s that easy! You really do not even know it’s there.

3. Log In and See How Well You’re Driving

This is by far the funnest part. I love logging in and seeing how my driving compares to the masses. Here is how I compare to the nation on average per day:

Number of Trips Per Day:     Me 3  |  Nation 5

Driving Time:     Me 0:52  |  Nation  1:12 (in hours)

Over 75 mph:     Me 0  |  Nation 0:42

Mileage:     Me 30.7  |  Nation 31.1

Sudden Starts:     Me 0  |  Nation 2

Sudden Stops:     Me  0  |  Nation 4

Those are some pretty good numbers on my part. You know what that means? I SAVE MONEY!

According to the renewal rate, I will be saving $105 at my renewal. A savings of around 20%! Not to bad for being a good driver.

I think I will be staying with Progressive from now on thanks to this program.

Anyone else using this program or planning to switch after reading this?

Weekly Roundup – May 3rd

Welcome to this weeks roundup! There were plenty of great articles this week and it was hard narrowing them down to some of my favorites. However, I did it and am very happy to share them with you.

On a side note, I wanted to mention that I have resurrected the Carnival of Money Stories. It is a weekly blog carnival where bloggers share their unique money stories/experiences. I am currently looking for hosts. It is a great way to get some recognition (and links) from other bloggers. If you do not want to host but would rather submit one of your articles, head over to the submission page.

Articles of the Week

My Life ROI give you 6 signs that the recession is ending. I hope #2 doesn’t end soon. We are shopping for our honeymoon!

Wealth Pilgrim has 7 steps to turn your college-bound kid into a financial genius.

Pinyo at Moolanomy says that college students should take responsibility for their financial situation.

Miranda at Yielding Wealth recommends not using your 401(k) as a savings account. I second that!

Matt at Stupid Cents has a great tip on how to get discounts at eBay.

Is it better to sell to an atheist or a virgin? Kevin at The Money Hawk lets you know the answer.

Baker at Man vs Debt compares Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey. Which one is right?

Hope you enjoyed this weeks great posts!

Saturday Sneak-Peak: MoneyTLD.com

Welcome to this weeks edition of Saturday Sneak-Peak! Every week I explore a personal finance blog and give a brief review of the site. My major intent of the adventure is to expose everyone to new and/or obscure blogs. Up this week is MoneyTLD.com. Mike has contributed to the discussion on the site a few times and I greatly appreciate that.

Mike has some great tips on his site and I suggest you head over there and check them out. Here are some of my favorites:

Five Tips for a Successful Phone Interview

When Should a House Guest Start Paying Rent?

When is Mega Millions Worth Playing?

I asked Mike some questions to help you get to know him. Here they are!

YMR: What have you enjoyed most about blogging?

Mike: I most enjoy the ability to learn more. Although I consider myself knowledgeable in the area of personal finance, blogging forces me to think about that knowledge in a more structured manner. I have to organize my thoughts to make them coherent for other people, so I learn by teaching. If I don’t have the details right, then I do research to make sure I do have them right. I try hard not to fudge my knowledge. Plus, my readers shouldn’t hesitate to call me out on something if it looks like I did. Without that give and take, I’d just be in an ivory tower and would lack the capacity to improve.

YMR: What post did you enjoy writing the most?

Mike: While I didn’t necessarily write it, I really enjoyed hosting the Money Hacks Carnival on March 25. Compiling it was ridiculously time-consuming, but hosting that carnival really enabled me to see what else was out there. And even for the blogs already in my feed reader, I got to re-examine the posts that those bloggers thought were worth submitting. I find that much of my reading online is simply skimming, so this gave me a better chance to really delve into and think about the material.

YMR: How would you describe your writing style?

Mike: Conversational. In my head at least, I write the way I talk. As a result, I probably use too many cliches and could certainly write more tersely, but I hope that my writing thus feels familiar and readable.

YMR: What did you learn since January (about blogging) that you did not know before?

Mike: Hmm, that’s actually a pretty tough question. I’ve been blogging for several years at various sites, so the process isn’t new to me. However, if there’s one thing I’ve relearned, it’s that keeping up the pace is really difficult with blogging, especially when starting a new blog. At the beginning, you have no readers, no advertising income, and no real motivation to write aside from the idea of creating a kick-ass blog. Without a big marketing budget or celebrity status, gaining a readership is a very slow, organic process. While getting into blogging is super-easy, continuing to blog is very difficult. The many out-of-date blogs littering the internet attest to this fact.

I want to thank Mike for letting me interview him. It was a pleasure! Please head over to his site and poke around. I am positive that you will find something that you will enjoy!

Do you have a new blog (less than 6 months old)? Would you like to be featured in a Saturday Sneak-Peak? Contact me and I will set you up!

Have a great weekend!

9 Quick and Easy Tips to Prevent Identity Theft

Identity theft occurs when another individual uses your personal information, like your Social Security number and drivers license, to commit fraud or other crimes. In general, the FTC estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. With a majority of things now done electronically, consumers should be extra cautious when doing even the most basic of tasks.

In order to help you fend off identity theft, I have compiled this list of 9 easy tips for you to follow. They are very easy to implement and can be completed with ease.

1. Clean Out Your Wallet

Many people do not realize how much information is in their wallet. Typical Americans carry several credit/debit cards, a driver’s license, insurance cards, etc. Some people even carry their Social Security card with them. If your wallet¬†is stolen, the thief will have all of the information that they need. They would have your name, address, Social Security number and major credit card number. They can do a lot of damage with just that info.

It’s recommended that you take as much personal information out of your wallet as possible. You should only be carrying one major credit and debit card, your drivers license, insurance cards and other discount cards. You should NEVER carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Only carrying one credit card will help you keep track of them better. If you are carrying 7 credit cards, you may not notice if one were to go missing. That’s just what the thief wants to happen.

2. Keep an Eye on Your Statements

Keeping a close watch on your bank and credit card statements will allow you to notice problems before them become to large to handle. If you notice an inconsistency, let your bank or credit card company know as soon as possible. The sooner you let them know, the better chance you have of getting the charges removed. Credit cards and debit cards have different limits for liablity in cases like these.

3. Buy Yourself a Paper Shredder

This is one of the most important steps¬†because many identity thieves are dumpster divers. In other words, they rummage through your garbage in search of documents with your personal information on them. Shredding all of these documents stops them dead in their tracks. I recommend getting a middle of the line shredder from Staples. The larger ones¬†can handle more pages and have larger baskets so you do not have to empty them as much. However, if you cannot afford a more expensive one, a basic one from¬†a discount store¬†will do the trick. It’s better to have a cheap one than none at all.

You can also guard against dumpster divers by decreasing your junk mail. Head over to the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, Transunion) and have them take you off the pre-approved credit marketing lists. That will eliminate half of your shredding! You can also go to www.optoutprescreen.com to complete the task faster.

4. Check Your Credit Report Often and For Free

Your credit report contains your Social Security number, present and prior employees, account numbers from creditors, etc. Monitoring this will help you spot inconsistencies quickly. If you find one, make sure you contact the credit bureaus to dispute the charge, late fee, new account, etc. If something doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t.

I recommend checking your credit report every three months at www.annualcreditreport.com.This is a free service offered by the three credit bureaus. Avoid companies such as freecreditreport.com because you must first sign up for the credit monitoring program (which costs $) before getting the report.

5. Secure Your Security Passwords

Do not place all of your security passwords on a piece of paper and carry it around with you. That’s like giving the keys of your car to a car thief and saying “take it”. Try as hard as you can to memorize all of your passwords but be sure to omit personal information from them. Do not make your bank account password your date of birth, anniversary, pets name, etc. They are what thieves will try first. If you must write down passwords, place them in a fireproof safe in your home and have it bolted to the concrete floor. Yes, your passwords are that important!

6. Don’t Give Out Personal Information to People You Don’t Know

Sounds ridiculous right? Well, many individuals do just that on a daily basis. Whether it’s people giving their Social Security number to a Saudi Prince that contacted them from Gmail or a “creditor” that called them at 9PM, it happens often. Whatever you do, do not give out your personal information to anyone unless you initiated the call and know who you are talking to. If someone calls your home and asks you to verify your account by giving your Social Security number, do not do it. Ask if you can call the company directly and solve the matter. If they agree, do not call the number that they give you. Make sure you look up the number for the company yourself. If they do not agree and insist that you give them your personal information, hang up. The same goes with online emails. If the email says that it is urgent that you sign on and verify information, chances are it is a Phishing email. They (identity thieves)¬†are trying to get you to go to¬†a fake website where you enter in your info so they can copy it.

7. Wipe Your Computer Data Clean

Selling or donating a computer? Make sure you delete all information off of it beforehand. Deleting a file, partitioning a disk, or formatting your hard drive will not erase hard drive data. I repeat, just reformatting your hard drive will not erase personal information from your hard drive. Because of this, many identity thieves have been targeting used and donated computers. Shield yourself from this by doing a complete hard drive erase using a program such as WipeDrive.

8. Skip the Mailbox

If you have something to mail, take it straight to the post office (or one of the blue USPS boxes). Placing mail in your mailbox invites thieves to take your mail (and your personal information). Don’t have time to make it to the post office? Is the post office too far? If so, invest in a mail box that locks. That way, your mail will always be safe and sound inside the box where no one can get it. They can run a little pricey but it does not compare to the amount of money you may lose if your identity is stolen.

Going on vacation? Have the post office hold your mail until you return. This way you do not have a stockpile of mail in your box.

9. Know Who to Call If You Suspect Fraud

If something looks strange on your credit report, chances are you are a victim of credit fraud. Having copies of all of your account numbers and customer service numbers (in a locked safe of course), will make the process of reporting fraud much easier. It also pays to call them ASAP because it will help limit your liability in the matter.

There are also services out their such as LifeLock that will handle much of these problems for you. They have a program called WalletLock that will assist you in contacting your creditors in the event your wallet is stolen. They also have a generous $1,000,000 guarantee . They state that if your identity is stolen while a member of LifeLock, they are willing to spend up to $1,000,000 to help you get your good name back. Click here to get a 10% discount on LifeLock.

As mentioned before, identity theft is no laughing matter. Just ask the estimated 9 million individuals that have had their identity stolen over the past year. Follow these steps and stop identity theft in its tracks. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!