No Thanks, Magazine Subscription Service Company!

Around two years ago, I wrote about how we were able to keep our frequent file miles from Delta alive by putting activity on the account via a magazine subscription.  At the time, if you went so long without some sort of addition or subtraction of miles, they simply wiped you out of their system (they’ve since updated the policy and miles no longer expire).

At the time I wrote about how I redeemed some of the miles for a one year subscription, and also wrote about how awesome it was that I was able to add a second year for the price of two dollars.

Oops.

Look like I spoke too soon.

Read moreNo Thanks, Magazine Subscription Service Company!

The Financials of Freelance

Being a freelancer means you are your own boss. You can set your own schedule and work at your own pace. Even the amount of work that you take on is up to you. However, when it comes to setting up your finances around your new job, things aren’t as simple. Whether you are considering business loans or you want to use your savings to get started, you need to know just how money works for freelancers.

What is Your Cost of Living?

Business loans can make the transition to freelance work easier but you still need some idea of what it costs to live. Add up all of your monthly bills. This includes your mortgage, your car payment and even your utilities. These are things that you probably can’t live without.

Read moreThe Financials of Freelance

Looking For A Good Reward Credit Card For Gas Purchases

At the end of last year, I reported that we were the proud owner of a new camper which will become our main source of vacation time starting this upcoming summer.

A few days ago, I started having a mild panic attack when I looked at the gas price situation and some of the surrounding news.  In Michigan, gas prices have gone up around 30 cents over the past couple of weeks.  It seems every year the gas price rise starts earlier and earlier in the year, and the projections get a bit higher for the summer projections.

This year, people are already talking about $5 gas.  Thinking about the cost associated with towing a camper, it seems that any ‘savings’ we are getting on paying for cheap campground accommodations would be negated by higher gas prices.  The vehicle we tow with gets about 20MPG regularly, and I’m assuming that will drop significantly given that we’ll be towing another several thousand pounds.

Read moreLooking For A Good Reward Credit Card For Gas Purchases

Making One Good Decision Is The Key To Everything

Monday through Friday, my alarm goes off at 5:04AM.  I have two options:

  1. Get up, go downstairs and exercise.
  2. Flip the switch, resetting the alarm for 5:39AM.

That’s a gap of thirty five minutes.  It’s thirty five minutes of extra sleep or it’s a thirty minute workout.

My goal is to work out three times a week minimum.  More would be nice but anything less than three and it’s not a good week.

I don’t do anything too intense. I have a recumbent exercise bike in the basement, so I’ll head downstairs to use that.  Sometimes I’ll lift some of the dumbbells that we have down there.  During spring and summer months, I’ve been known to walk around the neighborhood and enjoy the sunrise.

But, it all starts with that first decision.

Read moreMaking One Good Decision Is The Key To Everything

My List Of 500 Things To Do This Year

I love lists.  I get WAY more done working from a list than I do without one.  In the past year, I’ve started a habit at work whereby every morning I make a list of things to do that day.  When new things come up, I’ll add it to the list.  When I do something, I’ll cross it off.

I love crossing things off.  Or using check marks 🙂

I decided that I needed to apply the same principle to keeping up on the little things that need to be done around the house throughout the year.  Our house is usually pretty clean and we try to keep clutter to a minimum, but sometimes things get kind of dirty.  We also try to keep up on standard maintenance stuff but many times things get delayed or slip through the cracks.

Read moreMy List Of 500 Things To Do This Year

My Job History, Part One: The Golden Decade

Last month I wrote about the best job I never took.

I figured it might be interesting to highlight some of the various twists and turns that my career has taken.  I thought I’d start off with the time after college.

I graduated college in 1996.  My first job out of college was working at a call center for a major IT company. I did technical support, helping people with password resets, troubleshooting printer problems, and other such things.  I was the youngest person on the team, but I was noticed quickly.  I was part of a team that traveled to other parts of the country to gather information from other call centers to form better processes.  I was named team leader after a few months.

(Side note: This job was awesome for so many reasons.  The pay sucked, but it got me practical experience, plus it was pretty entry level across the board.  It makes me sad now because I’m sure that these jobs simply don’t exist today as most call center activity is overseas these days.)

Read moreMy Job History, Part One: The Golden Decade

Amazon Mishandles A Necessary Change to Amazon Mom

I’ve written before about the Amazon Mom program.  When it first came out, the deals were too good to be true.  They basically gave a free year of Prime shipping benefits, plus 30% just about any baby item, namely diapers.  As soon as the program came out and I found out about it, I signed up, and we’ve saved plenty in the meantime.

It was such a good deal that I figured it would really have to pay off big for Amazon, otherwise they’d probably scale it back or eliminate it.  I noticed the first signs a few months ago when some of the deliveries seemed to be taking place by non-traditional (read: cheaper) carriers.  Next, they cut the discount from 30% to 20% on items you weren’t already buying.

So, the e-mail I got last Thursday wasn’t really a big surprise:

Read moreAmazon Mishandles A Necessary Change to Amazon Mom

Debunking The Amazon Prime Pricing Myth

Amazon Prime is something we have strongly considered purchasing for quite some time.  We originally got a free one-year subscription by joining the Amazon Mom program, but when that ran out, we reverted back to the Free Super Shipping option.  Giving away the one year for free is a great gimmick, because you really don’t know how much you appreciate it until you don’t have it anymore.

It’ just nice to be able to log in, order something, not really worry about whether your order totals $25, and have the item in two days (of course, you still have to be careful that the items are shipped by Amazon, as many third party resellers are not included in Prime).

Read moreDebunking The Amazon Prime Pricing Myth

Resolve To Use Your Gift Cards

My wife had a great idea for one of her New Years resolutions:

Use up as many gift cards as possible.

As soon as I heard it, I thought it was a great idea that I had to share with my readers, so big shout out to Mrs. Beagle for this one.

See, both my wife and I are savers.  We don’t like to spend money frivolously, and we also both spend money with assigned purpose.  So when we get a gift card, whether it be as an actual gift or a store credit for a returned item, we’ll often say to ourselves that we want to use it for something specific.  Then, it sits there.

For example, we’ll return an article of clothing we bought for one of our kids at Meijer, which also happens to be where we do our grocery shopping.  We’ve actually sat on gift cards there with the mindset that we won’t use it until we buy another piece of clothing for that particular child.  Which sort of makes sense.

Read moreResolve To Use Your Gift Cards

7 Predictions For 2012

Many bloggers are posting predictions for 2012, so I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring.  Hopefully I’ll remember at the end of the year that I did this and will take the opportunity to look back and see how I did.

  1. President Obama will be re-elected – I don’t think Obama has done a great job while in office.  He ran in 2008 on a campaign of ‘change’ and began a ‘business as usual’ approach the first day he stepped into the Oval Office.  Regardless, the economy has improved, unemployment has gone down, and the Republican party is anything but united, which in my mind will add up to a second term for Obama.
  2. The tide will begin to turn on strategic defaults and underwater mortgages – Last I saw, roughly 22% of mortgages were underwater, and many of those homeowners have continued to choose to give their homes back to the bank.  I see both of these numbers slowing down for a couple of reasons.  First, I think the real estate market has finished it’s free fall.  Prices may not go up for awhile, but a stabilization in prices will take some of the fear of the unknown away.  Second, people that are paying their mortgages are gaining traction.  Simply put, if people make their payments while the value of their home remains stable, they will start getting closer to positive equity.  For those who have stuck with their homes for the last few years, this glimmer of a light at the end of the tunnel will reduce the temptation to ‘walk away’.  Third, low interest rates and an easing of the HARP program will make re-financing a continued option that can allow homeowners to more pay less interest.  Personally, I wish that one stipulation would have been (for those who have not suffered income loss) that in order to take part in this, you had to re-finance such that your monthly payment remained roughly the same, meaning that you would merely shift payment from interest to principle, thus providing more infusion of equity into the housing market.
  3. The Eurozone crisis will not go away but will get less attention – The financial crisis of the Eurozone created an enormous amount of volatility in the stock markets in 2011.  Positive news one day would send markets soaring 3%, only to have that entire gain wiped out the next day when negative news came back to the forefront.  This happened over and over again. I don’t expect the news to change much, meaning that we won’t see a ‘solution’ but we also won’t see any catastrophes, but even though things won’t change, I expect investors to start tuning out the news a little bit, reducing some of the market swings that have been tied to Europe.
  4. Blackberry will be history (or at least RIM will be) – Blackberry was once the darling of the smart phone industry.  You didn’t have a smart phone unless you had one.  Now, they’ve been passed by and many owners (myself included) are merely counting the time until they can upgrade (six months and two weeks!).  I expect that Research In Motion will either sell out or declare bankruptcy.  Carriers will continue support for legacy products and new devices could even roll out if another company purchased them, but I expect that RIM is done by the end of the year.
  5. Apple will either provide a dividend or make a giant, unexpected purchase – Apple is sitting on nearly a hundred billion dollars in cash.  Something has to give.  I expect that they would either start answering to investor pressure to release a dividend, but I have a feeling that they could shock the world with a purchase of a company or technology that nobody sees coming.  I have no speculation on what that might be (and no, RIM wouldn’t count!) but I have a hunch they want to show the world that they plan on continuing to make headlines even after the passing of Steve Jobs.
  6. Unemployment will continue to dip, the economy will continue to improve, the bottom line of businesses will get better, but consumer spending will lag – That’s a lot rolled into one, but I think the first three tie together.  What may surprise out of all that would be the consumer spending element.  Maybe I’m being too optimistic, but I see consumers taking the opportunity to de-leverage (pay down debt) as part of a way to apply the extra income that would result from the other items mentioned (namely the reduction in unemployment).  While not everybody will follow the model, there are enough people who have gotten into debt either because of foolishness (taking advantage of easy credit and getting in over their heads) or necessity (having to charge expenses just to put food on the table), and people will take advantage of an improved opportunity to get out from under the burden of that debt as well as take measures to ensure that it doesn’t happen again so much that consumer spending will not rise as fast as other key indicators.
  7. Discovery will pull the plug on Oprah – Oprah has tried to do something that no other person ever has, make an entire TV network work on the back on her brand name.  It hasn’t worked so far and despite a committment by her to get more involved, I feel it will be too little too late, and the OWN network will be bid adieu by the end of the year.

What do you think of the predictions above?  How would these predictions impact you?  What are your predictions for the rest of 2012?