Have you read my post on How 5 Minutes Can Save You $120? If so, beware the advice I gave because it may come back to bite you!
How 5 Minutes Can Cost You $180
Comcast just pulled a version of bait and switch on me today; don’t fall into the same trap. I didn’t give the details in my original post, but I was able to drop my cable bill $20 a month for 6 months by upgrading from Expanded Basic to Digital Cable. What I didn’t know is that I was actually setting myself up to lose money in the long run.
Comcast Baits the Trap
At the time Comcast offered several tiers of service: Limited Basic, Extended Basic, and Digital Cable. I felt I was paying more money for cable than I needed to be. We receive many, many channels we don’t watch and wanted something in between the Limited & Extended Basic plans in terms of channels available and rates. They didn’t offer such a package and wouldn’t give me a discount on Extended Basic but did make the offer to drop $20 a month from my current bill if I upgraded for “free trial” of Digital Cable. I wasn’t really interested in Digital Cable but wanted the discount so I agreed to the deal. I specifically asked the phone rep if I could switch back to Extended Basic after the 6 months ended and he assured me that I could.
The Trap is Sprung
My six months has ended so my cable bill jumped back up, not to the Extended Basic rate but the even higher Digital Cable rate. I took in my digital box today to cancel Digital Cable and revert back to Extended Basic and they informed me that was no longer an option. Comcast is phasing out Extended Basic and slowly moving channels over to Digital Cable in preparation for a 2009 change to all digital broadcasting.
Comcast’s Bait & Switch
Comcast knew what they were doing six months ago when they baited me into changing over to Digital Cable. They knew Extended Basic was going away and that I wouldn’t be able to change back to the service when my promotion ended.
I’m not sure what angers me more, the fact the phone rep lied to me last spring or the horrible customer service they offered when delivering the news today. Their only response to my protests about being lied to was:
“We apologize an uninformed associate gave you the wrong information but we can’t help you. We’re not allowing anyone to transfer to Extended Basic”.
A company that values their customers and discovers that one of their employees misled a customer will take the necessary action and correct the wrong in the eyes of the customer. The fact that Comcast isn’t willing to do that leads me to believe they knew exactly what they were doing when they made the offer and intentionally lied to me in order to convert me over to Digital Cable.
Now I’m faced with the option of paying an extra $15 a month for Digital Cable ($180 annual increase) or looking for an alternative. For whatever reason, Comcast is the only cable option in my part of the city so I’ll have to research the Dish network or DIRECTV. Be aware of this tactic since Comcast seems to be heavily promoting the Digital Cable route. As I stood in line today I heard the reps try and push the digital box on many other customers. You’ve been warned : )
I mentioned a while ago the great deal I got on a wireless router. This is my first experience with using a wireless network and I’ve run into an annoying problem that has me a little concerned.
I’ve started to get an “Incoming Connection Alert” from the software firewall on my PC containing the message below:
Someone from 184.108.40.206, port 3510 wants to send UDP datagram to port 1026 owned by ‘Generic Host Process for Win32 Services’ on your computer.
The message is always the same with the exception of the IP address which changes with each occurrence. I have the option to Accept or Deny the request and I always Deny it but it still has me worried.
This only began happening after I installed the wireless router. What I want to know is why I’m getting these requests into my computer all of a sudden and what I can do to stop them. Also, I’m looking for some good online resources on wireless home network security. Any advice you could offer would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
What is a Quiet Millionaire? I’m not exactly sure yet but I imagine I’ll figure it out as I read the book the Quiet Millionaire – A Guide for Accumulating and Keeping Your Wealth by Brett Wilder. The publisher sent me a copy of the book to review and I broke it open this weekend. I’d like to be a millionaire of any type; loud, quiet, or any volume so we’ll see if this book is helpful for reaching that goal. I did particularly like one paragraph in the book intro:
“Financial miracles do happen, but the quiet millionaire does not wait for a miracle in order to become financially successful. Depending on what and how much you want, you need to commit to taking action and to making some well-thought-out, informed choices, regarding what is really important to you and your financial life. This may require you to throw in some willing sacrifices, steadfast perseverance, and rolled-up sleeves hard work.”
The Importance of Money
The first chapter, “What is Important about Money to You”, is really about defining who you are, what your goals are, and what you want out of life. This is a pretty standard intro for many personal finance books and for good reason. In the end it’s not really about the money, it’s about what the money does for you. As Wilder says, “Money is the fuel for achieving your life goals and objectives.”
Personal Self Discovery
The book offers two interesting methods for personal self-discovery that can help us reflect and perhaps re-evaluate our thoughts about money.
The first is “Listening to Yourself”. It’s pretty simple really, just setup a microphone and start talking out loud to yourself about your financial situation and what changes you want to make. Wilder suggests that as you play back your recording you’ll notice places where either you’re not being honest with yourself in your answers or you’re not really sure of what you want. These are the areas you need to clear up before making financial plans.
The second method is “Writing to Yourself” a daily diary. Basically, a daily diary of your thoughts; he recommends doing it first thing in the morning with a fresh mind. The approach he likes to take is to “let it all out” as you write then go back and review it later on. The goal here is to learn more about your about your inner self and later build your financial goals around your hopes and dreams.
So far, a good start to the book. I’ll write more in the future when I find time to progress on to the next chapters.
Maybe I’m being a little over the top but in terms of value gained in relation to money spent, the purchase of my Zen Nano Plus mp3 player is the best investment I ever made! What’s so great about it? Never ending learning and self-improvement, anytime and anywhere.
Whether it’s driving to work, waiting in line, or doing housework all weekend I’m constantly learning through the audio I download from across the web. I can stuff tons of financial tips, business building resources, personal development audio, and expert interviews into the 1 GB of storage space. The problem I have is making time to apply everything that I learn!
I bought it for a steal about 18 months ago. The information I’ve absorbed over that time has earned or saved me thousands of dollars and hopefully many more to come : ) Definitely my best investment ever. If you don’t have some kind of portable audio player, I’d recommend searching the web for one on sale and filling it full of information you want to learn. While you’re shopping, look for one that you can dictate into as well so that you can record mental notes for yourself as you listen and learn.
If only all the personal finance sites would just record their content on audio, I could listen to posts about money all day long : ) Oh well, until that happens we’ll just have to read them, here are some good ones this week:
–What A Financially Painful Childhood Can Teach You about Money @ Money, Matter, & More
–Reader Question: I’m Investing Regularly, but How Do I Know if I’m Doing Well? @ Generation X Finance
–Where Would You Put Money Now? @ Lazy Man & Money
–There are Lifecycle Funds. Then There are Lifecycle ETFs @ Suns Financial Diary
–Yet Another Finance Giveaway! Enter Our First Year Anniversary Prize Giving Event @ The Digerati Life
–Credit Card Debt: It’s About Responsibility, Not Math @ Blueprint for Financial Prosperity
–Look Before You Leap: Roth IRA Conversions in 2010 @ Five Cent Nickel
–Find Out How Bad (Or Good) Your Situation Really Is @ No Credit Needed
–List of money-related forums and discussion boards @ Mighty Bargain Hunter
–I Almost Saved $100k on a Home! @ Free Money Finance
–When Everyday Life Gets in the Way of Your Dreams – And A Plan To Get Past It @ The Simple Dollar
Thanks to Mighty Bargain Hunter for hosting the Carnival of Personal Finance last week. I’ve done it once before and know it’s a LOT of work. Also, I’ve recently become acquainted with another network of personal finance sites that offer interesting money stories and tips you might want to check out, the sites are listed below:
- Being Frugal
- Christian Finance
- Gather Little By Little
- I’ve Paid For This Twice Already
- My Two Dollars
- Plonkee Money
- Single Guy Money
- The Dough Roller
Warning: Some eBay sellers may not like this idea. You might think it’s not worth your time or might think it’s tacky. This tip isn’t for everyone but if it works for your eBay Business it will save you money guaranteed.
eBay Shipping Costs
Shipping costs are becoming more of an issue for eBay sellers. The higher cost of gasoline is raising shipping rates across the board and eBay is making it easier for customers to search based on both product and shipping price. So what can you do to keep your shipping costs competitive without eating into your profits? How about getting free boxes?
Free Shipping Boxes
Do you know how much stuff people buy every day that comes in cardboard boxes? Just look out your window on trash day and you’ll see the boxes lined up, house after house. How would you like to get your hands on some of those boxes? Now, you likely don’t want to drive around your neighborhood pillaging boxes from the trash heap. Not only would it be inefficient in terms of gasoline and time but you might get some weird looks from your neighbors as well. The good news is there’s a much better way to get loads of free boxes.
Here are the steps to finding “box paradise”. Do a Google search on “cardboard recycling” and the name of your town to find directions and hours for the closest recycling center. Block out an hour of time on the weekend, throw on some work clothes, show up to the recycling center in an empty vehicle, and pull up close to the cardboard recycling.
You now have access to hundreds of free boxes, of various sizes and shapes to meet your shipping needs. I know this tip works because I’ve used it many times before. As a matter of fact, I actually took back a load of boxes today because I’ve been a little overzealous in my box collecting over the last 6 months and had too many free boxes!
Save on Shipping
Since all of my shipping boxes are free, I can offer lower mailing costs without costing myself any money. If you make one big trip for free boxes every month or two the time and gas it takes is tiny spread across all your sales. I still charge more than UPS or the USPS fee in order to cover my time to package & ship, ink for the printer, and gas to drop off packages but the total shipping charge on eBay is still very competitive.
The tip is a little dusty and you’ll need somewhere to store the boxes but it can definitely save you some money. Of course, you can always get free eBay branded boxes delivered from the USPS but they only come in certain dimensions. This strategy is excellent for locating an ongoing free supply of all different size boxes to help lower your shipping costs and keep you competitive on eBay.
What are you waiting for? Intuit is giving away $40K cash and $10K in business resources to someone that will pledge to resign and start their own company!
Okay, don’t get carried away and give your two weeks notice yet. However, you should put together a video or an essay that answers the following questions:
- What’s your idea for starting your own company?
- What you will resign from?
- What you would do with the winnings to pursue starting a business?
- Coffee Shop
- Nail Salon
- Golf Website
- Organic Hot Dog Stands
- Doll Clothing
- Comic Book Venture
- Clothing Line
- Law firm
- Personal Shopping Business
- Yoga studio
- Job website
- Social website
Remember it’s a competition, being judged by Anita Campbell, John Jantsch, and Ramon Ray so make a convincing argument. The grand prize is valued at $50K and two other people will win $5K each. The deadline for entries is December 15, 2007 and the winner will be announced on February 10, 2008. Even if you don’t have the time to enter, you can always sign up for a free copy of Quickbooks Simple Start 2008.
Who is Participating?
I was browsing the video entries and heard a variety of interesting stories. There were mothers that wanted start their own company so they could set their own schedule and spend more time with their families. Some entrants got laid off and decided to take the plunge into working for themselves. Another set of people weren’t happy in their job and knew they needed something different. One teacher started a business over summer break and it did so well that she never went back to teaching.
I was surprised at the number of people who were greeted with words of support and understanding from their boss when they gave their two weeks notice and described their new venture. I guess I just assumed most bosses would be upset an employee was leaving. It’s smart to leave cordially and not burn any bridges since you never know how the venture will work out and if you may need a job again in the future.
One lady made the point of saying it’s important to take the risk and be aware that it might fail. If it doesn’t work out you can always go back to what you were doing, or something similar, and you will have gained valuable experience.
Another piece of advice I thought rang true was to start with small steps and build a business over time. She began by working out of her kitchen in her spare time figuring things out as she and her business partner went along. It seems intimidating to think about everything required to run a successful business but if you look at it one step at a time the task seems much more manageable.
Most videos end with the contestant smiling into the camera and advising us to “Just Start”. If you’re interested in getting started, enter the contest or at just sign up for your free copy of Quickbooks Simple Start 2008. Good luck!
How do you decide how much money things are worth to you? How do you decide when you’ve spent enough?
I had an eBay customer ask recently for a discount if they bought two of the same item. I knew how much I stood to make with and without the discount and both amounts fit the profit margins guidelines I try to follow for all sales. On one hand I wanted the sale so maybe it was smart to offer a discount to close the deal. On the other hand, I try to maximize the amount I earn off each sale and a discount would drop down the margins.
After giving it some thought I informed them there would be no discount and they bought both items anyway. This transaction got me thinking about how it is that we value our money and how we decide what we’re willing to pay as consumers.
This lady liked the price but it didn’t hurt her to ask for a discount. She may have even paid more for the product if I’d been asking a slightly higher price. When you’re in the store or online browsing for a purchase, how do you decide how much is too much? Some people spend $10 bucks for a pair of jeans on the sale rack at Old Navy while others pay $675 for Diesel Denim Gallery jeans. The end product is pretty much the same exact thing, I don’t care how you look at it, jeans are jeans.
What makes a cheapo like me think $20 jeans are too expensive and a big spender in New York think $675 is a rational amount to pay for a pair of pants? If you looked around enough, you could almost always find the same thing you just bought for a little less or a little more. So how do we choose that magic number that makes something affordable for us?
Do you ever have a flash of inspiration, stayed up all night working on your idea only to see it’s brilliance fade away the next morning? My computer is littered with projects like these, so many in fact that I’m almost an expert at working hard and getting nothing done.
Running Standing Still
It can be quite an overwhelming feeling actually, having a dozen partly finished projects sitting around waiting to be completed. The idea behind them is still good but I start to doubt whether they’re worth the time I’m putting in or whether they’ll be successful or not. As one loses steam, I hop to another. I can literally work until the break of dawn every night for a whole week and come to Saturday having brought closure to zero projects!
In terms of productivity, often times I’m my own worst enemy. Having bursts of ideas is better than having no ideas at all but it makes staying focused an extremely difficult thing to accomplish; I guess you could call it web ADD. Chasing multiple ideas at a time has several negative consequences:
Think of when you’re trying to do twenty things at once on your computer. Your PC slows down as it tries to share its finite CPU and memory across the multitude of tasks. Instead of being more productive by multi-tasking, you end up waiting on the computer and getting less done. The same thing happens with people, namely me. I’m spending so much energy organizing my time for projects and worrying about which to work on, I don’t get much done.
Seth Godin has a book out that I should probably read called The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick) :
According to bestselling author Seth Godin, what really sets superstars apart from everyone else is the ability to escape dead ends quickly, while staying focused and motivated when it really counts.
Winners quit fast, quit often, and quit without guilt—until they commit to beating the right Dip for the right reasons.
I listened to a conference call with Seth and Andy Wibbels when he released the book and from what I gathered, he says if you can’t be the best at what you’re doing, quit and pursue something you can excel in.
It’s hard to be the best when you’re working on ten things at once. You may not even complete them all and the ones you finish you only turn in a mediocre showing. Why do I work so hard for a lot of sub-par output when I could spend the same amount of time creating one thing that’s awesome?
Poor Return on Effort
Time is money. Since I’m working on so many projects at once, it takes forever to finish one of them. While the many projects are sitting idle, the time I invested in them is lying there with no return on effort. I’ve sunk a lot of sweat equity into tasks that may potentially never see the light of day.
Making a Change
Okay, so I know I have a problem, what should I do about it? I obviously need to make a prioritized list of all my projects and make a decision for each one: Drop it, Delay it, or Do it.
These are projects that just don’t make the cut. It will be tough getting rid of ones I’ve already invested a lot of time into but if I don’t drop them now, I’ll never get anywhere.
I’ll just put some projects on the back burner for now. These are ideas I think could be successful but I just don’t have time to work on. Maybe down the road once I’ve finished several active projects things will click and these can come back to life.
Finding the right number of projects to put into this category will be difficult. Obviously just one would allow me to focus all my energy but sometimes it’s nice to have at least two things on my plate to prevent getting stuck in a rut. When I hit a wall with a project, I like to be able to switch over to something else for a change to get my creative juices flowing again. Hmmm, what’s the magic number?
I have to remind myself that working my fingers to the bone for progress isn’t my only option. If I have a project that really has potential there are other ways to get it done with less concentrated effort.
Launch in Beta
I could just take a project I’m in the middle of and launch it as is. I guess with Web 2.0 you just do that and call it Beta : ) The good thing about this approach is that I could get a feel for what kind of response I’d get before sinking any more work into it. I could garner feedback, then make adjustments as necessary. Of course, the downside is someone’s first visit may be their last if they don’t like half-finished.
I was talking with a friend the other day and made the comment “I wish there were 48 hours in a day”. “There are”, he said. “Just hire someone to do 24 hours worth of work for you.” I’ve never listed a job on eLance before but will do so soon.
I’ve actually already done this. I went in on a site with a friend where I’m the idea/technology guy and he’s the subject matter expert with industry connections. Sadly, I’ve neglected the site for the last few weeks due to another new partnership but need to get back in the saddle.
The new venture is really more of an apprenticeship with a successful internet entrepreneur that I’m really excited about. I’m helping him create a site and he’s teaching me his tricks of the trade. Nothing like learning from someone else’s experience instead of having to learn from your own mistakes.
Working with a partner really helps divide up the workload and generate great new ideas. I need to find partners for the other ideas I decide to pursue.
Getting Things Done
I’m tired of working extremely hard and getting nothing done. I think I have a pretty good initial plan in place, we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully I’ll get more done in the same amount of time, maybe even by working less. What techniques do you use to control your flood of ideas and choose the best projects to work on?
Saving money and saving the environment are sometimes complementary objectives. A lot of it has to do with limiting your resource consumption. For example, using less gasoline is good for your wallet and helps reduce your footprint on the environment. While we’re not the world’s foremost conservationists we do try to manage our resource usage.
On the road. My wife and I own Honda’s in part because of their good fuel efficiency. I looked at buying a hybrid about 3 years ago but the price tag scared me away. I always try and combine errands so I’m not making multiple trips. I used to ride the bus to work before we had our son. That saved a good deal of gas and money but due to a new job location and kid duty I’m back to commuting in the car.
At Home. This one is pretty simple. Keeping the thermostat lower in the winter and higher in the summer makes a difference. Of course, since the baby came along we’ve been keeping the temperature more moderate for him.
Our local recycling center used to be pretty close to our house. About a year ago, they moved it to another part of town so now my trips there are less frequent. We still recycle everything; just store it in our garage until the bins are overflowing. I’m amazed at how quickly the glass, plastic, paper, paperboard, newspaper, and aluminum pile up. I’d hate to think of all that stuff going into the landfills instead. Recycling doesn’t save me any money but in some areas where they charge you if you exceed a certain number of trash bags, this could translate into savings.
One other thing I’m amazed by is the amount of things people in my neighborhood throw in the trash. I’ve seen kids toys, BBQ grills, lawn furniture, lamps, and decorations sitting by the curb for the garbage truck this summer. One option these people have is to get rid of old stuff they don’t want anymore through Craigslist or eBay. They could make a few bucks and get the item to someone who wants it, instead of tossing it into a landfill. If they don’t want to take that approach, they could just donate it and get a tax write-off . Not having time to drive it to Goodwill is not a good excuse since there are non-profit groups who send trucks around the neighborhood to pick up donations every month or so.
Blog Action Day
This post is a part of Blog Action Day, where people around the world are taking time to think about their impact on the environment. Thanks to the instigators of this project for getting me to take another look at my impact on the environment. Now that I have a son who will inherit any damage I do to the environment, conserving our resources takes on an additional importance.
Every business day they review a different stock, the video I saw covered both fundamental and technical analysis. I’m somewhat familiar with the fundamental details of a company’s financial health but know nothing about the technical analysis. I’m not looking to become an expert in technical analysis but I’m glad to get a basic understanding of how it works.
The thing I liked about the video is that it not only shows you data like earnings history, earnings per share, growth rate, sales history, and industry information but discusses the numbers and what they mean to you. The same is true for the technical analysis side. The video not only presents the information but it also explains what it means and puts it in context. Since technical analysis is all new to me the combination of audio and video analysis of the chart was pretty helpful.
The best part about the video is the service is free! The analysis I watched ran just over 7 minutes long. I figure catching a short video analysis of a stock every few days will be a good way to help me learn more about stock valuations.