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July 2005

The State of the Web

This article was written by in Administration, Internet. Comments Off

As blogging became more mainsteam — first in 2000 with Blogger, then after 2001 with all the political blogs that arose from seemingly nowhere — new business models developed. On one front, bloggers have convinced the corporate world that blogs should be an integral part of a company’s marketing and public relations plan. It’s a great way to reach the customers, etc. This way, individuals who enjoy online journaling have found a way to to make themselves marketable to companies.

Warning, this is a long one.
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75 Dollar Surprise

This article was written by in Taxes. Comments Off

As I checked my bank account balance this morning, I noticed something I wasn’t expecting: a tax refund from the New Jersey 2004 FAIR Tenant Rebate Program is scheduled to be deposited on August 1.

Even though I don’t directly pay property taxes, I pay them indirectly through a portion of my rent. Here are the qualifications for receiving the 2004 rebate (for tenants), for which it is too late to apply for those who are required to submit a tax return. However, I assume there will be a similar program in 2005 and the requirements will be the same.

* You rented and occupied a dwelling in New Jersey that was your principal residence on October 1, 2004
* Your principal residence is subject to local property taxes, and property taxes are paid on that residence through rent
* Your principal residence is a full living unit with its own separate kitchen and bathroom
* Your gross income for 2004 was $100,000 or less.

If any of the following are true, then you are not eligible:

* Tenants living in dwellings owned by the State, County, Municipal, or Federal Government.
* Students living in on-campus apartments at State colleges and universities.
* Tenants living in dwellings owned by a religious, charitable, or other nonprofit organization (including on-campus apartments at private, nonprofit colleges and universities), if the property is exempt from property taxes.
* Tenants living in dwellings on which P.I.L.O.T. (Payments-in-Lieu-of-Tax) payments are made to the municipality. These payments are not considered property taxes for purposes of the FAIR rebate.

A similar rebate exists for homeowners and the qualification requirements are different.

Although it’s “only” $75 for me this year, every little bit helps.

Free Music, Woo

This article was written by in Consumer. Comments Off

If you like free music, and who doesn’t, and Gap jeans, then you might be exicted about this deal. Gap is running a promotion where those who simply try on a pair of one of its new styles will receive a free song from iTunes. I’ve never used iTunes to purchase music, but a song is likely about $0.99, right? Hardly worth a trip to the mall, but I suppose if you’re there anyway, it won’t hurt.

The Overtime Test

This article was written by in Career and Work. Comments Off

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been running a sort of experiment. My job is designed such that I end up working a fair amount of overtime. To go into the details, I work a 37.5 hour week, salaried. If I work an extra 2.5 hours in one week, I get paid my equivalent hourly rate for those hours. Any time over 40 hours I work brings me my salary times one and a half.

When I get paid every two weeks, I have been transferring out the amount over what my net income would be for a pay period without overtime. This “extra” money has been going into an Emigrant Direct account (where it earns a decent amount of interest for a savings account). The “experiment” is to see how much I rely on overtime for my regular expenses.

The experiment has shown me that I’m relying on my overtime pay too much. I’ve dipped into my savings at ING Direct (with a less favorable interest rate) in order to cover all expenses for the month, even though there hasn’t been anything out of the ordinary.

I’ve learned I have to be more diligent about cutting expenses and saving money. I’ll be keeping myself on a strict budget during the vacation next month. I haven’t been good about bringing in my lunch to the office. That should change.

My goal is for my overtime pay to be “extra” so I can put it aside for something special. I may not always have the opportunity to work overtime, so I don’t want to be required to rely on that income.

Personalized Google Uses RSS Feeds

by Luke Landes

The Google personalized home page now allows you to add custom RSS feeds to your portal. Be sure to add Consumerism Commentary‘s RSS feed to Google or any other feed reader or aggregator with this address: www.consumerismcommentary.com/index.xml

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Frugal Hotels?

by Luke Landes

As frugalists, we try to save money wherever possible by looking for bargains or cutting corners where plausible. Some hotels are apparently cutting some corners to save money, as well. Marriott International says it’s a growing industry trend to cut back on changing bed sheets every night. [H]otels are explaining the move as an effort ... Continue reading this article…

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Carnival Reminder

by Luke Landes

Don’t forget to send your submissions for the next Carnival of Personal Finance to Steve at In Cash Flow We Trust. Peruse past Carnivals and future Carnival hosts if you have some time and would like to browse more Personal Finance blogs. Side note: Consumerism Commentary now uses “friendlier URLs” for posts. Old links will ... Continue reading this article…

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Time to Quit Your Job

by Luke Landes

How do you know when it’s time to quit your job? I’ve left jobs before, whether it was because it was time for me to do something else or because it was due to a “mutual agreement to move in separate directions.” But how do you know if you’ve stayed too long in a less-than-ideal ... Continue reading this article…

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Peek Into Supreme Court Nominee’s Portfolio

by Luke Landes

Slate has an interesting article on Supreme Court nominee John Roberts’ portfolio. Can you tell an individual by his or her investments? Most of the article talks about Roberts’ stock holdings (Coca Cola [KO], AT&T [T], XM [XMSR]), but it also mentions that his bank accounts amount for the largest portion of his holdings, between ... Continue reading this article…

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Foreign Exchange Trading

by Luke Landes

An article in the Wall Street Journal, Currency Markets Draw Speculation, Fraud [free], talks about day trading in the foreign exchange market. The story focuses on Marc Coppola, one of my favorite Q104.3 DJs, who apparently also dabbles in trading foreign currency. To summarize, this type of trading has grown in popularity despite its risk. ... Continue reading this article…

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That Is Really Offensive

by Luke Landes

Some of my favorite commercials on television right now are GEICO spots. You know the ones. Salesman/actor: “Buying car insurance from GEICO is so simple, even a caveman could do it.” Caveman: “That is so offensive.” Seth Stevenson from Slate Magazine feels the same way and cites another good one, the “Tiny House reality series” ... Continue reading this article…

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Hands Off The 401(k)

by Luke Landes

Hewitt Associates, the same company that processes my company’s accounts payable, has performed a survey regarding 401(k)s. They discovered that almost half of workers leaving their jobs convert their 401(k)s to cash. This is despite the fact that in addition to income tax, there is a steep penalty (10 percent) for cashing out the tax-deferred retirement ... Continue reading this article…

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August Vacation to Williamsburg

by Luke Landes

My girlfriend and are are planning a four-day vacation to Williamsburg, Virginia in a couple of weeks. We’re trying to limit our expenses as much as possible, while still having a good time visiting Colonial Williamsburg, Busch Gardens, and other random touristy locations. We’ll be cutting expenses with discounts where possible (such as those offered ... Continue reading this article…

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Carnival #6

by Luke Landes

The Carnival of Personal Finance #6 is up at Free Money Finance. The full Carnival schedule is here, along with an introduction. I was hoping to write an article for the Carnival yesterday, but I was sidetracked by classowrk for my masters degree and a corneal abrasion that sent me to the hospital. (I’ll be ... Continue reading this article…

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Current Checking and Savings Rates

by Luke Landes

The table containing the latest checking and savings account rates has moved. Please update your links.

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Emigrant Direct, Moving On Up

by Luke Landes

Hot on the heels of ING Direct’s rate increase announcement, Emigrant Direct has raised the interest offered on their web-based savings account to 3.50 percent APY. I’ll update the table of the highest national Internet savings accounts over the weekend.

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Shopping Addiction

by Luke Landes

CNN Money is featuring the story of a compulsive shopper with an addiction to the activity. She’s 36 years old (which, as I get older, seems increasingly younger) and her shopping spree began when her fourth child was born and she stopped working to live off her husband’s $140,000 annual income. This provided her with ... Continue reading this article…

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Good ING Direct News

by Luke Landes

Good news for all ING Direct account holders. The bank has finally increased the rate on its savings account from 3.0 percent to 3.15 percent APY. Unfortunately, they’re still behind Emigrant Direct (3.25 percent), UFB Direct (3.40 percent), Presidental Bank (3.75 percent), and some others. Read on for some of the text of the announcement.

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Does the Merchandise Have Large Talons?

by Luke Landes

Let the merchandising begin. If you like action figures and strange movies, you’ll probably love the new Napoleon Dynamite action figures. Watch out for them in your local toy store or local Internet.

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Overpriced Cities

by Luke Landes

According to Forbes, here are the top ten overpriced cities in the United States. The ranking takes cost of living, job growth, income growth, and housing prices into account. Here’s the list: 1. Seattle, Washington 2. New York, New York 3. Portland, Oregon 4. Chicago, Illinois 5. San Jose, California 6. Bergen and Passaic Counties, ... Continue reading this article…

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