Archive for the ‘ Money ’ Category

Krusty lighting cigaretteSo my cable was switched off in the wee hours of last night. I woke up and my cable no longer worked. It feels like I forgot to pay the bill or something. Or maybe I just choose not to pay the exorbitant price of cable TV when I found myself mostly watching ABC, CBS and NBC. Here goes nothing. Readily equipped with a Mohu Leaf, I’m anxious to see how this whole cord cutter thing plays out. I also have a Mohu Leaf Ultimate shipping that should be here Saturday and a discounted (thank you credit card perks) 3 month subscription of Hulu that I’m planning on starting at the end of the month when all the shows come back in full force. Let’s go over the plan.

We always start the day watching a mix of NBC local news and PBS for some Sesame Street or some Martha Speaks. She’s not always right but still that Martha speaks. Regardless, it’s all free over the air.

Come home from work… What to watch? Perhaps last nights Colbert Report from the web streaming to my Chromecast through Plex. The same episode that Comedy Central would play at 7pm anyway but this one’s free. Maybe I’ll tack on some Daily Show while I’m at it.

Afterwards, depending on what the toddler’s plans are, we can watch some free Crackle. I have a lot of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee to catch up on. I also have a ton of Always Sunny’s to catch up on with my Amazon Prime Instant. I’m sure in a few weeks I’ll have plenty of Hulu to catch up on.

Prime time? Whats on ABC/CBS/NBC? The shows I was watching anyway but paying out the wahoo for. All free OTA. Actually, tonight, I’ll be watching what most of America will be watching. The first NFL game of the season. Except I won’t be paying to watch it. Nope, I’m watching it for free. Just like every Eagles game and all the other football games I would normally watch all day, every Sunday. Looks like I’m on my way to saving $70-80 bucks a month without even blinking. That sounds like a win to me.

I’m still just nauseous thinking about all the money I’ve wasted over the years. All the years I was paying for cable so that I could watch nothing but Stargate and Battlestar Galactica on Netflix. That Summer I watched Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune every night from 7-8. The years where all I cared about was Lost. All those years I was filling up my DVR on ABC, CBS and NBC shows, essentially paying $80+ a month for a hard drive to store free TV shows on. But no longer will I be lighting cigarettes with $100 bills. No longer will I be betting against the Harlem Globetrotters. Nope, I’m no longer handing money over at gunpoint to a way overpowered, overpriced oligopoly (well except for the internet… there’s still no way around that one that I know of). I’m officially a cord cutter.

cable cutterWell it’s settled. Just got off the phone with Verizon and only 2 more weeks until I’m officially a cable cutter. I do have to thank FiOS for making it as painless as possible. With all the Comcast horror stories circling the Internet lately, I was ready for just about anything. Just know you’ll have to call FiOS to get anything done; the online chat support is essentially worthless.

This has been a long time coming. I’ve been testing the over the air for months now and it has its hiccups but it’s completely doable. I’ve changed my watching habits ahead of time (I feel like I’m watching a lot less TV which is probably good) and hopefully we’ll survive the Fall sweeps without a DVR. I know there are a lot of non cable, OTA, DVR options but I’m going to try and save the money for now. And my credit card rewards already got me a deal where I was able to buy 3 months of Hulu for less than the price of 2. I guess that’s really how I’ll be surviving sweeps.

So I thought I’d be switching to Comcast’s Internet only Blast 105 package and have been telling myself their far inferior Internet would be survivable since I’d be switching from my direct 50/50 FiOS line to a shared 105 Comcast line. I thought it’d be a good deal cheaper so I sold myself on it. In the end, FiOS was able to come through and match the price. The savings were too good to pass up.

So in the end, starting next month I will only have Internet in this house. As scary as that sounds, the extra money we’ll be saving brings a tear to my eye. We’re talking probably $1000 year. Those $1000 savings over 20 years compounded at 7% comes to almost $50,000. Or maybe we can afford to take the toddler to Disney World. Regardless, that’s some expensive TV.

Now I only wish Ruben Amaro would put a better product on the field so I wouldn’t miss watching the Phillies as much. That part’s going to suck but Ruben made it all a little bit easier.

U.S. Stock Market Is Rigged

Mr. Moneybags has rigged the stock market and is stealing your money!Note to all us suckers… the stock market is rigged. The rich will always find ways to rig the game, you’re playing by their rules and you will lose.

The Wolf Hunters of Wall Street is a fascinating read delving into some insanely major problems with Capitalism and greed within our lovely stock market. I may just have to read Michael Lewis’s new book, “Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt” which it’s pulled from. The NY Times piece is not a quick read so if you need to get the gist, 60 Minutes did a “Is the U.S. Stock Market Rigged” piece on the book this past Sunday. It’s just a jaw dropping look into everything that’s wrong with society. You don’t need to produce a damn thing of value to become extremely wealthy. You just need to walk all over people and make the world your personal casino. And these high frequency traders don’t even seem to be taking any risk in their “gambling”.

Sure there are going to be the good guys fighting the powers that be, but are there enough good guys and can they do enough? We can always hope so but you can only get punched in the gut so many times.

One of the commenters on the NY Times site, Hank, wrote “If this is what Capitalism breeds, how can it be better than government?” It is an interesting way to look at it and hard to argue after you read the article. You can’t quite say all government is better than all capitalism but there definitely needs to be a stronger middle ground or else you’re going to get these scumbags that are legally stealing from all of our retirement funds. Something has to be done about this. I hope what IEX is doing is enough but certainly good for them for trying.

compound interestHave you seen that recent commercial from one of the Big Four banks that’s constantly on the TV? Young girl comes home with her first paycheck, the family is super excited, she wants to deposit it, nobody has time for that so she takes a picture of it with her phone, boom it’s deposited and her grandma is proud?

I loathe that commercial. I despise it. That poor girl worked hard for her money only to have her money sit worthlessly in a Big Four bank account doing absolutely nothing for her. Thanks a lot evil bank for blatantly stealing from this girl and rubbing it in everyone’s face in this “heartwarming” moment. This is not heartwarming, this is robbery, and this girl, like most, just doesn’t understand anything about everybody’s friend, compound interest.

Compound interest is how the rich get rich. Instead of working for money, money works for them.

Compound interest is just that, interest on interest on interest. Your money just so happens to grow over time. Now of course you need a lot of money to simply live off of interest but that’s no excuse for putting your money in a bank account that will give you 0% interest like the Big Four bank from that commercial and then they turn around and charge someone else 7% interest loaning out your money. Can you tell me how much interest you’re getting from your bank right now?

A few years ago there was talk of a massive movement to run far, far away from these titans. The Move Your Money Project‘s goal was to get people to switch to credit unions and smaller banks. Credit Unions typically provide not only more interest for their members but they provide a kinder overall banking experience. Since they aren’t in the game to make a profit, they can be in it for their members. The movement didn’t really gain too much steam though and years later we still have the big banks getting bigger.

This is a bank. You’re giving them your money so that your “gold doubloons” are not sitting at home in a chest under your floor boards. The bank, in turn, lends it out to others to make HUGE profits. So when they give you ultimatums such as “make a monthly transfer and we won’t charge you a maintenance fee” on YOUR money, that crap is ridiculous. I’m loaning you my money; you’re darned right you won’t charge me anything extra. And Mr. Bank, as a matter of fact, you should give me a larger slice of your pie. Give me more interest.

If you don’t want a credit union, there are other options. Leave the brick and mortar banks altogether. Stop losing your interest so your bank can advertise their business by putting a bank location at every street corner. Online banks provide some of the highest interest rates that you will find anywhere. At the time of this writing, Capital One 360’s savings account gives 0.75% and Ally Bank’s savings account gives 0.87%. The Big Four give 0.01% and that’s only if your money is in the right account. Otherwise you could be getting 0%.

So again, make sure your money is working for you as much as it can. Sure maybe you won’t make millions but at the end of the year, maybe that’s an extra toy for your child or an extra dining out experience you can share with your family. Or you could let it compound for 20-30 years and watch it really grow. If that’s the case, I wouldn’t necessarily leave it in any bank as that may not be the wisest move either. However the most important fact about all of this is to open your eyes. I’m not talking about complicated estate planning or any difficult investing moves. This is simply choosing a bank that is truly better for you. Make sure you’re getting the money that’s yours and you’re not letting the fat cats get any fatter. It’s always time to trim the fat.

Zenith TVMost people under 30 don’t realize there was a time before cable TV. They don’t remember when your TV was not just the focal point of the room but it was a full fledged piece of furniture; made of wood. Hey, I had that giant wooden behemoth even after I had cable TV, only before cable TV we had rabbit ears. Rabbit ears sucking all those air waves down into our homes and bringing us television that we didn’t have to pay for. We only had to watch commercials. Then somebody decided it was a good idea to make people pay for a bunch of programming no one really needed, still keep the commercials and make a whole lot more money. It all sounds kind of absurd. I pay an astronomical cable bill and I’m still getting bombarded with hours of commercials.

Regardless, in the last 20 or so years, rabbit ears disappeared, giant wooden TVs became hanging picture framed works of art and the pictures are so large and crisp and pausable and rewindable, yet those same old free air waves never really went away. In fact, by 2009, Upgrayedd, in the form of the FCC, found those old air waves and forced them to be digital. And beautiful. And still free. Yes! Free over the Air TV!

So how do I get free over the air TV? It’s easy. If you have a newer TV with a digital converter inside (which I think most TVs since ~2006 have) all you need is some type of antenna. I would assume those old rabbit ears would still work however I actually went out and purchased a Mohu Leaf HD antenna for about $40 to conduct my test. That’s a 1 time fee. Not a monthly stranglehold. And let me tell you, the picture is absolutely amazing; most of the time possibly even better than the cable picture. Full HD TV over the air. Apparently it has something to do with all of those thousands of cable channels coming into your house compressed whereas the over the air signal is not compressed in any way. I get all the basics… CBS, ABC, NBC, PBS, FOX, WB plus about 35 more channels of free programming.

If you do have an older TV, like my Sony HD TV from 2004, you will also need a digital converter box to convert that digital over the air signal to your analog TV. It works almost like your current cable set top box. I see them online for, again only a 1 time fee, of sub $50. A family member actually had one laying around unused from when the conversion originally happened so I didn’t need to worry about purchasing it. Again, it turns that Mohu Leaf into a magically free TV experience for older TVs.

So if this over the air TV experience is so great, why doesn’t everyone do it? Well because people get stuck in their ways… people just don’t know about it… people just don’t care… and there are some downfalls of course. Lets go over those downfalls.

  1. You only get the basic stations. What about the cable TV shows that I actually do watch? Some of those 1000 stations actually do have some worthwhile content every once in a while.
  2. Sports! – If you want to watch almost all MLB, NHL, NBA, MLS, La Liga, etc. games, you need cable. Very little is broadcast over the air.
  3. But what about my DVR? I can’t record shows or pause live TV?

Those are the main issues I have run into so far. But there are solutions for most problems and we will go over them in future posts. For now though, it’s NCAA Selection Sunday and I have some bracket work to do. Almost all of the NCAA tourney is broadcast FOR FREE over the air. My cable, that I’m paying money for, will sit idle as I watch CBS for the next few weeks. What a waste.

Check Those Gift Cards

Almost everyone has some type of gift card lying around. Maybe you burn through them as soon as you get them, maybe you have that one gift card for a place you just do not want to go to that’s been sitting in your drawer for 2 years. Either way, gift cards are as prevalent as credit cards and only as safe as cash. Do you know what’s going on with your gift cards?

I have learned the hard way that gift cards can suck. Lesson 1: Read AND REMEMBER the fine print such as those pesky expiration dates. I had a juicy rebate card that I knew had an expiration date on it but for some reason I didn’t use it right away. It expired and I may as well have burned that cash like Krusty the Clown lighting up a cigarette. Know your dates and don’t lose that hard often free money. When you do, the terrorists win.

Lesson 2: Check, know and keep track of the card value. Recently I had that gift card to the place I didn’t want to go. I sat on it for well over a year because I checked and it didn’t have an expiration date. Great… No rush. It was a card with a face value of $50. I thought about trying to get 2 meals out of it but I didn’t want to have to go back there so I figured I’d eat extra good that night and get as close to $50 as possible. Turns out there was a mistake with the card and it was only worth $25. My free dinner just ended up costing me $20 and I didn’t even like the place. If I would have checked the value before going out, I would have been a lot happier. Instead, the terrorists won.

Oh, and let’s not forget that you can just plain lose a gift card and ::poof:: it’s gone. Fun stuff.

Some good news though. There’s a new service called Cardpool that can possibly change the way we all deal with gift cards. Cardpool is a gift card exchange for buying and selling gift cards. Buying cards from them can save you up to 35% at certain stores and if you’re absolutely not interested in using a gift card you currently own, you can actually sell it to them for up to 92% cash back depending on the store. The rates all vary, most likely depending on popularity, however you could essentially sell one card and buy another one for close to the same price, pretty much trading a card worthless to you for one you may actually use. Good deal. With the aforementioned pitfalls of gift cards, I wouldn’t suggest stocking up on them. However if you know for a fact that you’ll be spending money at a store very soon, and they have a card for it, that’s some instant savings that would be tough to pass up. It takes some planning because the cards need to be shipped but again, instant savings.

First You Get The Money

I spend way too much of my thought process worrying about money. Outside of sugar (according to Homer Simpson), it’s obviously the first thing you need if you want the power and the women. If you don’t really need power or women though, you still need the money. The sugar is bad for your liver; stay away from it. Heck, even if you don’t really need tons of money though, it’s still nice to have enough. Greed is a deadly, deadly, sin though, and it runs rampant in today’s society. Don’t get caught up in it. In this scenario, no one needs Bill Gates money, I just wanna live comfortably and most importantly retire ASAP.

So I worry about how to make small dollars, not big dollars. I scour the internet for how to do this. I make spreadsheets. I forget about these spreadsheets and make more spreadsheets months later; sometimes I end up recreating the same spreadsheets. I do the one thing that comes natural to my generation though; I turn making money into a game. And I hate losing. That net worth is my high score and I want to keep that score climbing. Forget Call of Duty; unless you’re the best in the world and making money winning tournaments, it’s getting you nowhere. Oh you want to buy something? I hope it’s worth it because that guy in the abandoned building over there just pointed his sniper rifle your way.

And that’s why I’m a little bit crazy. I’m hardwired at this point to not waste money. I just want to win. I don’t think it’s cheap, but frugal. Sure I’ll spend money when it’s a necessity or when it’s just plain worth the risk but in the end, I just hate losing enough to stay content.

Get Ready to Get Rid of Cable

I pay upwards of $160 a month for my FiOS Triple Play package and right now I’m being forced to watch TV for free over the air because I’m taping 2 things and want to watch a 3rd. That’s some selling point. A selling point to get rid of cable TV.

I planned on starting a series of posts regarding my thoughts about getting rid of cable but I sure didn’t plan to start it like this. It just happened to work out that I wanted to watch 3 things tonight, like I do on most Monday nights, before I ran into the wall that is cable TV. No, that’s not frustrating at all.

So throughout this series, we’ll talk about the options available, including the over air option already mentioned (yes, just like the Flinstones). We’ll weigh the positives and negatives and I’m sure we’ll discuss many other things because this is a pretty hot topic in my household at the moment and I honestly can’t stop thinking about it. I already got the ball rolling in my house so join me as we take this journey to ditch cable TV together.