1

Using Amex Reward Points For A Blu-Ray Player & A Television.

Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote about cashing in my American Express points and closing the account? Well, I redeemed my first batch of reward points this morning for a $200 Dell gift certificate, which I promptly turned around and used to buy a new Samsung Blu-Ray DVD player. Since in 2 weeks when I move (I promise, I will get to the “why” soon) I am about to be without a TV and a DVD player, I decided that this would be a good use of some of the AMEX points I had accumulated. And because I planned carefully before I bought the DVD player, I did a few things to make sure I received the maximum benefit from my purchase:

1. Bought it through a Dell store link over at MyPoints, meaning I got 2 points for each dollar.
2. Used my Chase Amtrak card for the small balance, so I received more rail miles

I still have a lot of points left, and I plan on using some of them to get another $200 certificate to Dell to put towards a new television, which I will have delivered directly to my new home in Colorado (so I don’t have to move it with my other belongings). Makes sense, right?

Sometimes the reward points do come in handy, but I still plan on canceling the card before my renewal date in a few months, as I no longer want to pay annual fees to use a credit card. Luckily, I am getting back way more in rewards than I ever spent in annual fees, but that won’t be the case anymore as I don’t really use that card anymore. For people who really have a ton of expenses, reward cards like this one might be worth the fee, but for me, it isn’t anymore. Besides, all my recurring bills go on my Amtrak card so I can get free train travel, which is much more important to me than random electronics. But in this case, I needed a new DVD player and a new TV, so it made sense. See, reward credit cards are not all bad as long as you use them wisely!

9

The Cost Of Living…In 1972.

My mom just sent me this little book called “Remember When” and it has all sorts of info about the year I was born. (They make them for every year) In looking through it, I came across a page titled “Cost Of Living” and was amazed at how much average prices have changed in 37 years, and figured you guys would get a kick out of it too. Let’s take a look…

New House – $27,600

Average Income – $11,859 per year

New Car – $3,853

Average Rent – $165 per month

Tuition to Harvard University – $2,800

Movie Ticket – $1.75

Gasoline – $.55 per gallon

Postage Stamp – $.08

Bacon – $.83 per pound

Eggs – $.45 per dozen

Fresh Ground Hamburger – $.64 per pound

Milk – $1.20 per gallon

If you ever come across one of these books for your birth year, I recommend you check it out. There is some pretty interesting information in them!

7

Tip: Put An “In Case Of Emergency” (ICE) Number In Your Phone.

Got a cellphone? Then you need to make sure there is a contact number in it in case of an emergency situation that you may be involved in. EMT workers don’t know that your mom’s name is Barbara or your significant-others’ name is Lisa, so they won’t know who to call from your address book in case something happens to you. But the contact EMT workers do know (and other emergency personnel) to look up is the phrase ICE – In Case of Emergency. From Wikipedia:

In case of emergency (ICE) is a programme that enables first responders, such as paramedics, firefighters, and police officers, to identify victims and contact their next of kin to obtain important medical information. The program was conceived in the mid-2000s and promoted by British paramedic Bob Brotchie in May 2005. It encourages people to enter emergency contacts in their cell phone address book under the name “ICE”. Alternately, a person can list multiple emergency contacts as “ICE1”, “ICE2”, etc. The popularity of the program has spread across Europe and Australia, and has started to grow into North America.

I just added 2 different ICE numbers to my contact list, just in case. You never know when a situation may come up that you need it, but better be safe than sorry. Do it today.

2

10 Ways To Increase The Value Of Your Home.

From an old torn-out page from Domino Magazine I found here in the house while packing things up, here is a list of the top ten most cost-effective renovations you can do to increase the value of your house. With foreclosures occurring at the rate of 1 every 13 seconds in this country, those looking to sell their house fast would do themselves a favor by looking at this list.

1. First impressions are key, so pay attention to your house’s approach – Paint, plants, etc.

2. Stick to cosmetic changes and stay away from major structural renovations that require permits or architects.

3. Spend money on top-of-the-line appliances, which instantly raise the value of your home.

4. Bathrooms and kitchens deserve upgrades, not overhauls.

5. Repaint or refinish existing surfaces.

6. Switch out doorknobs, light fixtures, and other hardware.

7. Color and design choices should be simple. A blank canvas allows buyers to project their own vision on the house.

8. Opt for off-the-shelf products where possible.

9. Use modest materials in high design ways to give spaces instant impact.

10. Landscape smart – Plants can mask a multitude of sins.

What about you? Did you make any changes prior to selling a house that you think increased it’s value? What would be on your list if you were trying to sell?

2

Cook Up A Plan For The Future In Three Easy Steps.

The following is a post from the guys over at PocketSmith, who developed a web-based calendar that forecasts your future cash position and who also invest 5% of subscriptions in micro-lending to entrepreneurs from poverty-stricken countries.


Create a simple and delicious financial plan for the coming 6 months, filled with good decisions and a satisfying payoff at the end.

Cook time: 10 minutes
ҬLevel: EasyӬ
Yield: Clairvoyance

Ingredients
Р1 free PocketSmith accountӬ
– Today’s bank balance”¨
Р1 estimated recurring incomeӬ
– 3 estimated recurring expenses

Recipe
Few would admit to enjoy budgeting. It tends to takes ages, is dry and dreary, and upkeep is a bother. But what if we told you that you budgeting could actually be compelling – if not fun – and that you could get your own budget up and running within minutes?

food1

This personal finance recipe is the first in a series that shows you how to use PocketSmith to budget with the features available on the Free plan. PocketSmith is a free tool that lets you generate a financial forecast – meaning, it helps you see how much you’re predicted to have in your bank account in the future. Furthermore, it uses a calendar, which helps makes those numbers meaningful and easy to work with.

In 10 minutes, you will find out:

  • How much you’ll have in your bank account by Christmas and beyond
  • How small changes in your budget affects future outcomes

Let’s get started. First, you’ll need to create a free account at PocketSmith.com. When you’re done, we can begin. Feel free to either substitute the numbers and events below with your own, or just go follow the steps to get an idea as to how the recipe works. You can always start over with your own forecast later.

1. Take a look at today’s balance from your bank account and put it into the textbox that says “˜Enter amount here’, e.g. 5000. This starts you off with a running balance of $5000 from today onwards.

The running balance is indicated at the bottom of each day. In the graph above, you’ll also see a jump from $0 to $5000. This means that if you didn’t do anything with your money, you would continue to have $5000 remaining in your account for the next six months. But we know that’s not likely to happen, as you have recurring financial events that will change this.

2. PocketSmith has a few events prepared earlier to help you get started populating your Forecast Calendar. This recipe assumes you get paid $1200 as a salary every fortnight on a Tuesday.

Move your mouse over the Salary event until it turns orange, then click on the arrow icon and drag it onto a Tuesday. You’ll see that the event repeats automatically, changing the running balance as it occurs. You can move the event around the calendar by the same dragging motion. You can also edit events simply by clicking on the event title, which will bring up a window with a range of editable options such as title, value and repeat types.

Now you would have noticed that the graph has changed as well. If you hover your mouse over the graph, you’ll see the numbers increase as you move towards the future. It’s August at time of writing, and PocketSmith estimates that you’ll have $18,200 in your bank by February next year! Of course, we have yet to include your expenses.

3. Do the same with the recommended expense events. Drag “˜Groceries’ and “˜Entertainment’ onto a Monday, and “˜Utilities’ onto the 21st. These examples have also been pre-loaded with different repeat types (weekly and monthly), but these can be changed. Note again how each new event changes the running balance.

Now you’ve effectively cooked up a forecast with PocketSmith. You’re budgeting in broad strokes to get a good idea as to where you’re headed financially. From the end of August, your forecast tells you that you’ll have $8400 at the start of November and $9700 by Christmas! Now, you just need to stick to the plan.
You can still reset your running balance at any point if you experience a change in fortunes – just click on a balance on any day and put in a new value. You can also clear all my events and start again from the Preferences area.

food2

Look around other areas such as the Forecast Graphs and Cashflow Statement to see what your financials look like in graph and statement form. Next time, we’ll show you how to use PocketSmith as the key ingredient to finding easily out where your money is going. It’ll take 5 minutes!

Did you like this personal finance recipe, and what would you like to see in others? Let us know in the comments!

Photos from Shutterstock

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