Buy Microsoft XBox Kinect for Christmas!
Typically, I'm not interested in gaming devices because I'm just too busy, but there's a new gaming console product on the market that I think is revolutionary. It's called the Microsoft Kinect Gaming System - part of the Microsoft XBox 360 gaming unit. Think of it as the next generation Nintendo Wii, except now your free and indepedent movements control the game. Just too cool. Microsoft has a hit here with the Kinect and XBox 360, and it will undoubtedly become the hot, must-have product this Christams. How can you Buy a Kinect? Where will you be able to get a Microsoft Kinect this Christmas? There are two places that I really recommend: Buy your Microsoft Kinect and XBox360 at Amazon or Buy the Microsoft Kinect at eBay.
The experience to buy Microsoft Kinect online is a great one, but it also important to understand what can potentially happen to you online that differs from a retail store. If you're buying from a private seller, you'll need to know what to look for and how you can stay protected from fraud. With the pending Kinect shortage, understanding the online shopping scene is important when you look to buy Microsoft Kinect.
Buy Microsoft Kinect: Safe Buying Experience
The first thing you should look for when you buy Kinect is the seller's feedback rating. Places like eBay have sellers who have usually sold items in the past. You can freely check their rating by clicking on a number next to their screen name. There you can see if there are other people like who were looking to buy Wii and did so through this person. The feedback is usually going to be positive or negative. This is also true if you buy Kinect at Amazon as well.
Another important aspect you should understand when looking to buy Microsoft Kinect or XBox360 is the protection you have when buying from places like eBay and Amazon. Places like eBay automatically give you protection for free so you don't get caught empty handed. Amazon also has a similar system. It is rare that someone will scam these days, but it can be a hassle if you fall into a trap when looking to buy Kinect - especially when looking to get a Kinect for Christmas.
Buy Microsoft Kinect and XBox 360 Links:
Time for another installment of MSE: Money Saving Expert
November is upon us. The air is cool and crisp. Some of us have snow on the ground. What does that mean? Time for Christmas shopping, or better known as the fast track to financial ruin.
Out With Summer - In With Christmas Shopping
The winter seems to be the time of the year that we get off their financial tracks. After spending the summer scraping together a few bucks, not running up credit card balance, and enjoying outdoor activities and festivals (yes, the often free ones), it's now time to overspend and get little in return. Alas, there is some hope. First, the economy is still in the dumps. Sure, Wall Street might be looking better, but the consumer is still not spending, and that means that retailers are going to have to get very aggressive very early this year to even get close to making their numbers and to get rid of all their aging inventory. Who wants to hold onto gladiator sandals any longer than they need to, right?! (Yes, be impressed by my knowledge of fashion, because that's where it ends.)
There are deals out there, especially online
Also, I think that online shopping this year is going to really come into the mainstream, if it hasn't already. Site like eBay and Amazon simply have better deals than traditional retailers because they don't have to pay for overhead. Any of the problems with shipping to/from these sites is gone as well, with the advent of sites like Zappos.com, which ships both ways, for free of course.
Further, it is estimated that a whole 31% of shopper this year are going to use online tools to compare prices online and at traditional retailers!
So here's the advice: be a stickler this year when shopping for Christmas. Be on the lookout for pre-Black Friday discounts. Enjoy all the things you can actually afford (set up a budget and stick to it!) and don't click the buy button until you've shopped around. You'll get some nince stuff for the holidays, and not feel like the year's financial efforts have been a waste.
What is a balance transfer?
A balance transfer is the act of transferring debt from one credit card to a new card that has a lower, more favorable interest rate. So, it stands to reason, that a 0% balance transfer is moving your interest bearing credit card balance to a card with a 0% interest rate. There are two types of balance transfers: limited duration balance transfers and fixed rate balance transfer.
A limited duration balance transfer provides a low interest rate on balance transfers for a specific amount of time. For example, a credit card that offers a 0% APR on balance transfers for 1 year. Obviously, a credit card company makes money by charging interest on balances, so you won't find a fixed APR balance transfer offer at 0%!
A fixed APR balance transfer offers an interest rate that will not change until the balance is repaid or a predetermined time period expires. For example, a credit card that charges a 4.99% interest rate until the balance is repaid. People can usually take advantage of these offers when moving away from your first credit card, that you ran up a balance when your credit score was less than desirable.
How do I do a balance transfer online?
Transferring balances online is a quick and easy process. When you select a credit card offer, you have the option of entering the information from your current credit cards along with your application to expedite the transfer process. In our online world, Visa, Mastercard, Chase, Bank of America, and all the other financial institutions have spent considerable effort to make this online process easy. However, you may want to wait until your credit card arrives in the mail before initiating a balance transfer, as the credit limit on your new card may not be large enough to cover the balances you wish to transfer. If this is the case, then:
- Transfer balances from your credit cards with the highest interest rates first.
- Consider applying for a second balance transfer credit card so you can consolidate the rest of your high interest balances to a 0% rate.
What is a good balance transfer offer?
A number of credit card companies offered fixed apr balance transfers and no fee balance transfers. There is competition amongst these companies to get your business, so deals are out there to be had. Presently, the average balance transfer offer provides a 0% APR for about 12 months. However, some credit card companies do offer 0% balance transfers for up to 15 months or even up to 18 months from time to time. You have to be a superior customer that spends significant amount on their credit card with a flawless repayment history to get an 18 month offer. Other applicants may only get a 0% for as little as 7 months, depending on the offer. In these cases, I think the credit card companies want you to miss a payment, so you get hit with the fees and interest.
What are balance transfer fees?
Balance transfer fees are a nuisance charge that, at present, are 3% to 5% of the balance transferred. Over the past two years, these fees have increased dramatically, and most credit card companies will likely continue to charge 3 to 5% fees for the foreseeable future. Again, based on the competitive environment of the credit card industry at the time, you'll get different fees.
How much can I save with a 0% Balance Transfer
Taking fees into consideration, a person with a 14% interest rate can expect to save about $100 in interest for every $1,000 transferred. Thus, a person with $5,000 in debt can expect to save in excess of $500 over the course of a single year.
Plus, if you transfer your balance to a different 0% credit card at the end of the introductory period, you can cut interest expenses out of your life and repay your credit card debt at a significantly faster rate than you could without a balance transfer. For many, having a 0% APR for 1 year can reduce the time it takes to get out of credit card debt by as much as two years.
I get this question a lot, so I figure I'll give you my take:
What do I do if I need a credit card, but have bad credit?
What are the best credit cards for bad credit? A simple answer: prepaid visa and mastercard credit cards and debit cards for bad credit. I know that's a mouthful, but in the wake of the financial crisis the millions of people that had their credit destroyed and are looking for ways to rebuild their financial reputation.
Prepaid and debit cards offer the convenience of a card without the hurdle of a credit check. Because money is funded directly from your bank account, these cards do not report to the major credit reporting agencies.
Remember, these credit cards and prepaid cards are specifically designed for people with less than perfect credit. If you have a poor credit history, limited credit history, or no credit history at all, these are the perfect cards for your needs. These credit card products can help you build, rebuild or reestablish your credit history if you maintain all balances below your credit limits and make minimum payments on time. As an added benefit, they report to the three major credit bureaus monthly, so use of these cards at the millions of accepted vendors helps you build your credit score.
Many of these prepaid cards are instant, secure, and free of upfront and annual fees. If you're tired of not having a credit card to pay with at lunch with everyone else, here's your chance to take advantage - click any of the cards below now and start the free online application process.
Finding the highest bank CD rates can be a real challenge. To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of making serious investments in CD's - since the time I've been investing, the rates have been extremely low and it didn't make sense to tie up sums of money in a vehicle that returned potentially less than 1.5% per year. Granted, this is better than nothing, but see the following example:
If you put $50,000 into a CD for an entire year, with a 1.35% APY (annual percentage yield), you're looking at:
50,000 X 0.0135 = $635.00.
$635! Total. Kaput. That's it folks. That's all she wrote. Any other cliches? Oh, and don't forget, you owe tax on this amount.
You get the picture - a certificate of deposit is an easy, safe place to park some money for a year, but you're really not getting much for parking a lot of money. Alternatively, look at the following investment:
This is the chart for Philip Morris USA (Ticker: MO). Let's not get into the social aspects of investing in a cigarette company, but simply for what it is - a stable investment that pays about a 6% dividend yield. This means that every three months, they're going to pay you about 1.5% of your initial investment. Yes, this is 4x better than a CD. In fact, at the beginning of the year, the yield was closer to 10%. It's a company that has been increasing dividends consistently for years, they have a legal product that people are addicted to, and there's no slowdown in cash flow seen in the near (or long-term) future. Personally, I'd recommend investing in a mega-cap high dividend paying stock before I'd open a certificate of deposit at a bank. Plus, you get the flexibility of additional liquidity, and for the time being, a beneficial tax status.
Where I do recommend a certificate of deposit? In one situation - investment of your emergency fund. They are a lot safer than any stock, they have liquidity (granted, with penalties), but when you're talking about an EMERGENCY fund, you don't play around. And if your emergency fund is $50,000, then getting an extra $635 bucks a year is better than nothing.
For competitive current CD rates, the BEST customer service, and an easy to use website, click the ING logo below for all your CD's, savings, and checking accounts!
I just got back from a very interesting talk with a gentleman named Gary Hoover. Mr. Hoover is the founder of a company called Bookstop, which was sold to Barnes & Noble. Later, he started a company called Hoovers, who he eventually sold to Dun & Bradstreet. All in all - this guy has seen success. He's seen success as a young entrepreneur and as an old entrepreneur. He knows how to start a company, run a company, and sell a company.
Hoover seems to spend a lot of time talking to students at the University of Texas as well as the University of Chicago, where he completed his undergraduate degree (interesting side note: he studied under three Nobel prize winners!). You can tell he's got a 'canned speech', where he gets on his soapbox and opines on eight key factors for success.
Here's his list:
Key No. 1: Be curious
Key No. 2: A sense of history
Key No. 3: A sense of geography
Key No. 4: Clarity of vision
Key No. 5: Consistency of vision
Key No. 6: Service
Key No. 7: Unique vision
Key No. 8: Passion
If you're interested in learning more, check out Gary's blog here.
In my opinion, he certainly directs students in the right direction and spurs motivation. On the other hand, he's light on giving specific advice on how to execute. I guess that's part of the learning process. Keep reading, keep learning, and keep on trying.
When you're good, you're good. Look back at my earlier post regarding the actions that big banks are likely to make based on changes in the foreclosure process. What happened? Within 24 hours of my post, another article (Link to Article) is circling the internet regarding the end of free checking. Bank of America is making mass changes to its traditional banking programs in an effort to generate additional fee revenue.
What do this mean for you? Maybe higher fees, maybe not - but likely higher fees. It will be interesting to see what happens to the "Chase Free Checking", "My Free Checking", and all the other free bank account offers that companies have built a reputation for offering. In my opinion, the online bill pay, online trasnfer, and other banking software that used to differentiate the service from a big bank is now available everywhere, so my choice for an online checking account is WTDirect. Quick, easy, and free. It's simply the way the banking industry is going, without the hassle and fees of big banks.
The Wall Street Journal Online is reporting that Bank of America and GMAC recently lifted their freeze on foreclosures in a move to counteract the allegation of fraudently foreclosure practices. (Link to article)
The two companies represent major US lenders, and could potentially signal other lenders that instituted foreclosure moratoriums to restart actions. Currently, this means that over 100,000 cases have been reopened - people will start receiving notice of foreclosure and will be faced with finding new housing options. Easier said than done for those people.
James Mahoney, a BofA executive, is quoted as saying, "This is an important first step in debunking speculation that the mortgage market is severely flawed". Some would argue that Bank of America's actions signal the exact opposite: to restart the process of foreclosure when there is debate on the legality of actions could point to a severe flaw in the system.
On the other hand, getting over the foreclosure wave for a bank like BofA is an important step in cleaning up their financials and getting investors comfortable with their long-term viability. Too many homes in foreclosure and constant foreclosure news inject uncertainy in a company where the business is making home loans.
Further, many would say that NOT foreclosing on a deliquent borrower is unfair, as the rest of society shares the cost of having families living in homes for free - the cost is typically seen in government handouts (which, remember, you ultimately pay for) or higher costs from banks and lenders to fill the gaps. Also, don't we run into a moral hazard issue, where people that could afford their mortgage decide not to pay because there's no downside and 'everyone else' is doing the same thing?
What's your take? What should we do going forward about the foreclosure crisis?
Here an interesting artcile from our friends at CNBC.com (Link to article)
The Federal Reserve is proposing to provide some additional credit card protections to prevent customers from being socked with exorbitant interest rates.
Under the proposed rules, credit card companies that offer to waive interest rates for six months would be barred from ending the promotional period early and charging higher fees, unless customers fall more than 60 days behind on payments.
The Fed also recommends limiting the fees customers may be required to pay before they open an account.
The proposed changes would make sure credit card customers in these instances would be covered by stronger consumer protections provided by Congress in a 2009 law.
The last of those rules went into effect in August. The Fed is proposing the changes to clear up confusion in how companies apply the new rules.
I've got to say that I'm a little bit torn about the proposed new changes. First, people are still getting used to the last set of rules changes. Adding additional changes this soon could cause confusion. Second, for each action, there's a reaction. If you start limiting the way credit card companies generate fees/revenue from one source, they'll certainly find ways to charge in other areas. Here's a thought - pay for your credit card on time and you won't get hit with fees!
As Thanksgiving and Christmas quickly approach, my mind has turned to shopping, looking for the best deals online, and free deals online.
It's turning into big business - finding the best online deal. The internet used to be so simple: It was eBay then Amazon, eBay then Amazon. Rinse and repeat. Then a few other sites came along: Overstock.com, Zappos.com, Buy.com, et. al.
Web 2.0 started and it really changed the game. What's Web 2.0? Nobody is really sure, but once that buzzword started being thrown around, Google Shopping showed up on the scene, niche sites became the norm, and the web moved towards specific items for targered customers. Local businesses fought back and established their online prescence.
Welcome Groupon.com; Hello Restaurant.com; Giddyup BabySteals.com.
The latest rage in online shopping are these local/niche daily deal sites that give deep discounts for particular items. Great idea, but they'll see their time in the spotlight fade as well.
What's next in the evolution of shopping on the net? I don't know, but I like where we've been, where we're at, and where we're going. Happy Online Shopping this online shopping season.