As featured in The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, and more!

June 2008


As June comes to a close, I’d like to thank visitors, readers, and commenters who enjoyed or contributed to Consumerism Commentary over the past month. I particularly like to mention the blogs and related websites that helped sustain Consumerism Commentary by linking here and providing paths for visitors to arrive. Here are the websites, not including RSS readers, social media websites, and search engines, that sent the most visitors to Consumerism Commentary over the past 30 days.

  1. Get Rich Slowly +2
  2. Lifehacker 0
  3. MoneyBlogNetwork +3
  4. AllFinancialMatters +4
  5. No Credit Needed +7
  6. Free Money Finance +4
  7. The Simple Dollar 0
  8. Five Cent Nickel new
  9. My Open Wallet new
  10. I Will Teach You To Be Rich -7

Here are the most popular articles from the month of June.

  1. Getting Ripped Off for New Jersey Gasoline: Inaccurately Calibrated Pumps, Part 2 and Part 3
  2. Carnival of Personal Finance #157: Third Anniversary Edition
  3. McCain vs. Obama: Your Future Tax Bill
  4. How Much the iPhone 3G Really Costs You
  5. Passive Income: Real Estate? Blogging? I Don’t Think So
  6. Quicken 2009 Beta Open to Volunteers for Testing
  7. How I Could Find $10,000 Per Year if Necessary
  8. Personal Income Statement, May 2008 (Net Income: $9,943)
  9. Obama Proposes Second Economic Stimulus Package
  10. Personal Balance Sheet, May 2008 ($158,793, +7.8%)

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I’ve come across a number of interesting websites thanks to the Wall Street Journal podcast, the Tech News Briefing, including the E-Report with Tom Dziubek and and Paul Herrmann. (Note: Tom has interviewed me three times for the E-Report.) Most recently, the podcast informed me about RepairPal, a website that helps you find a local mechanic including reviews, get your car questions answered by other community members (or by experts for a fee), and keep track of your own car’s service records.

The tool I find most interesting is a survey of the actual costs paid to have maintenance performed on any make and model. For example, I wanted to compare my recent oil and filter change for a Honda Civic with the prices paid by those living near me. I paid $25 after rebate.

RepairPRice EstimateHere are the results. The prices paid for an oil change range from $22 to $40 in my area, with the low end of this range paid at independent shops and the high end paid at dealerships.

The search results also include links to location information, phone numbers, and reviews for local shops. If the site can attract enough people to write reviews, this will be a handy resource. As of now, the site is new, so the list of shops is use but not as good as word of mouth for recommendations.

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I don’t think “market timing” is a good investment strategy — in fact, it’s not a strategy at all — but it can be a worthwhile experiment if played with money you don’t mind losing.

One way to time the market is to buy low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs). These investments act as mutual funds — a portfolio of a number of stocks — that can be purchased through the stock market like any other stock. Using ETFs rather than individual stocks for market timing allows the investor to mitigate the risk of investing in just one company. Powershares Dynamic Banking (PJB) is one such ETF, designed to track the retail banking industry.

Are banks ready for a rebound? PJB is down 23% over the past 12 months. If it’s the right time, banking stocks might be able to provide not only a short-term gain, but a long-term gain if the market believes that this sector is deeply discounted due to all the various market conditions that have affected banks over the past year.

Some experts are saying that now is a good time to buy into the banking sector, but others believe that there will be more bad news ahead, trending stock prices further downward.

I’m investing for the long-term, but I wouldn’t mind finding bargains that might provide a significant increase over the next few years. Is banking the right industry for a fast recovery, and is now the right time?

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Despite contributions totaling thousands of dollars so far this year, since January 1, the value of my investment portfolio is down 10%. That’s enough of a decline to make anyone consider giving up on the stock market. It’s an understandable point of view.

My 401(k) offers an automated interview to help you choose your asset allocation. Several questions resolve around the comfortability during losses. When the stock market has been in an upward trend, it’s a lot easier to say you’d be willing to experience a 20% decline over one year. However, during a bear market, those who believe they are suited for aggressive and risky investing are put to the test.

Do you cut your losses? Is it time to reconsider your long-term strategy?

I don’t think so. I’ll be sticking with my plan. If you have several decades to retirement, the stock market should continue its upward trend. In fact, staying the course and buying smartly during a bear market provides the opportunity for bargain-hunting.

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Again, More $25 ING Direct Bonus Links

by Luke Landes

Once again, I have refreshed the list of ING Direct $25 bonus referral links. New customers are eligible for a $25 bonus just y opening an account and depositing at least $250. Consumerism Commentary readers have been very helpful by providing these links for other readers. As a reward, ING Direct provides the referrer with ... Continue reading this article…

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SteamVac Results: Very Good and Weekend Blog Roundup

by Luke Landes

Earlier today, I put the Hoover SteamVac I purchased last week to the test. The SteamVac required assembly, but the instructions were straightforward. The parts are mostly plastic and they had a “cheap” feel, but when the SteamVac was assembled, the construction was lightweight and easy enough to move across the carpet, even with full ... Continue reading this article…

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7 Ways to Lose Your Money

by Luke Landes

The idea of “getting rich slowly” may well be a fallacy. While slow and steady is a great method of accumulating wealth over long periods of time thanks to compounding interest and returns, the power of inflation — real inflation, not government-reported inflation, eats away at the value of your funds almost ensuring you will ... Continue reading this article…

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All New ING Direct $25 Bonus Codes Available

by Luke Landes

I have posted all new bonus links for new ING Direct savings accounts as of today. If you are a new customer to ING Direct, one of the first internet-only banks that took advantage of low overhead to offer great interest rates on savings accounts, you can receive $25 for opening a new account. They ... Continue reading this article…

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25,000 Bonus Miles on Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage® World MasterCard

by Luke Landes

The offer you are interested in has expired. Read our review of other Citi cards.

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List of New Jersey Gas Stations in Violation, Part 3

by Luke Landes

Here is the third part of the list of gas stations in New Jersey that are ripping off customers. For more information, see this first part and the second part. The first part also contains a map of every gas station fined for violation of a variety of regulations. This list begins with Morris County.

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List of New Jersey Gas Stations in Violation, Part 2

by Luke Landes

Here is the second part of the list of gas stations in New Jersey that are ripping off customers. For more information, see this first part. The first part also contains a map of every gas station fined for violation of a variety of regulations. This list begins with Essex County.

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Getting Ripped Off for New Jersey Gasoline: Inaccurately Calibrated Pumps

by Luke Landes

If you buy gasoline in New Jersey, you may want to avoid the gas stations listed in this article. The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has fined 350 stations out of 1,025 total inspected during a recent three-day operation across the entire state. Most of the stations fined were guilty of innacurate pump calibration, ... Continue reading this article…

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New York Philharmonic’s Free Concerts in the Parks

by Luke Landes

Throughout the summer, as they have been doing for the past 43 years, the greatest orchestra in the world is offering free concerts to the public. Last night, I saw the first of the “Concerts in the Parks” series in Central Park, Manhattan, New York City, presented by the New York Philharmonic. The weather was ... Continue reading this article…

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Deduct Your Miles at 58.5 Cents Each

by Luke Landes

The Internal Revenue Service is recognizing the increasing costs of transportation and has revised the rate that taxpayers can use for deducting business-related travel expenses. For miles driven between July 1 and December 31, 2008, the new rate is 58.5 cents per mile, up 8 cents from the rate used for the first half of ... Continue reading this article…

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Rich People Spend Their Time Stressed

by Luke Landes

The American Dream in terms of being wealthy, is to work only four hours a week, outsource your tedious chores to those whose time is worth less than yours, and to put your feet up and relax while being pampered from all sides. With more money, you’ll get there, right? It turns out that wealth ... Continue reading this article…

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Get Ready to Consolidate Your Student Loans

by Luke Landes

If you have variable rate student loans, mark July 1, 2008 on your calendar. After that date, you can lock in interest rates 3 percentage points lower than what’s available now. I’m not eligible for lowering the rates on my student loans because I’ve already consolidated and I have no new student loans to add ... Continue reading this article…

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Are You Expecting an Inheritance?

by Luke Landes

According to a 2004 survey, 21 percent of people born in 1964 or later expect to inherit money from family some time in the future. Many expecting recipients may be in for a surprise, however. A recent article by Ron Lieber at the New York Times identifies eight reasons why inheritances, perhaps not those in ... Continue reading this article…

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Purchased a Hoover SteamVac to Deep Clean My Carpets

by Luke Landes

When I first moved into my apartment a year ago, my carpets looked brand new. Even though I vacuum regularly, months of shoe and sneaker traffic, feline hairballs, and who knows what else has diminished the look of the most lived-in portion of the dwelling. In my old apartment, I didn’t care much for the ... Continue reading this article…

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Managing Your Money Vs. Micromanaging Your Money

by Luke Landes

When first attempting to gain some control over your finances, it’s particularly helpful to micromanage. If your money is in a state of disarray due to spending more than you’re earning, then it’s helpful to look at every little expense, at least for a time. This will help give you a more accurate picture of ... Continue reading this article…

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Weekend Blog Roundup: Emergency Charity Fund, MLM, and AMT

by Luke Landes

Here are a few articles worthy of review. Lazy Man and Money wonders whether you should have an emergency charity fund. He plans on splitting his charitable giving in three parts: 50 percent to the American Cancer Society and split the rest between Kiva and any natural disaster that happens to strike. Generation X Finance suggests ... Continue reading this article…

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