Archive for December, 2011

Is Plastic Jungle safe and legit? For a buyer of gift cards, it’s virtually risk-free, but it is important to understand the potential harm from buying off Plastic Jungle especially for stores such as Lowes and The Home Depot. I have written in the past about saving money at Lowes and The Home Depot and many of my suggested methods use Plastic Jungle as a tool for maximizing your savings, but I’m here to break some sad news, Plastic Jungle is most likely helping criminals cash in on theft.

Let’s backup and start at the beginning, you are doing a home rehab in an urban neighborhood. You purchase tools, materials, etc. and get to work, your day ends and you lock up the house. You arrive the next morning to find everything gone. Your Dewalt cordless screw driver, your ladder, and even your basic building material such as flooring and copper tubing. What would these criminals do with my flooring material you might ask. They might return it to the store.

That’s right, they pull up to Lowes or Home Depot and return the items without a receipt. They are asked for a driver’s license and are given a store credit on a “merchandise card.” Let’s say they get $1456.55 for your flooring material. Now what do with this merchandise card… Oh wait, let’s convert it into cash using plastic jungle.

Now it isn’t to say that all the gift cards on Plastic Jungle are obtained this way, but I think it is a very safe assumption to think that many are obtained this way. You ever wonder why there are so many odd amounts of gift cards/merchandise cards on plastic jungle? Odds are, most of them are returns.

That being said it isn’t really your responsibility as a plastic jungle buyer to confirm how the store credits were obtained, and it’s arguably not the responsibility of Plastic Jungle either, but I am confident this has become a channel for laundering.

My suggestion to correct this? Plastic Jungle should have harsh limits on how much a person can sell. If you sell $52,424.41 a year of Lowes or Home Depot cards – questions should be asked.

A side note: I wonder if Plastic Jungle serves people with large payouts Form 1099’s.

Amazon sellers can rejoice this time of year, the time of year when prices for used items such as electronics increases. I myself am an amazon seller and I’ve watched the prices of items throughout the years and things usually get pretty crazy right about now.

I sell a lot of iPod touches and iPod nanos in particular. An example of this pricing increasing is an iPod Touch 1st generation 8gb. Currently selling for $139.00!!! Mark my words, these will be below $90 in January. I myself have sold at least a dozen of these under $100. Also I would like to warn anyone buying these iPod touches to make sure you check all generation’s prices. The used 3rd generations have been cheaper than the 1st generation’s all week! Just because it’s the oldest generation does not mean it is currently the cheapest.

2954733_sbAnother interesting story this year is the lack of inventory for LeapFrog – LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer Learning Tablet. Apparently if you don’t buy this toy for your child you do not love them enough, I am told. The way people talk about this device is that is virtually is a game changer. I personally have no experience with it other than watching it go for $99.99 one week to going to $179-$199 a week later on amazon. The company failed no matter how you look at it. They either did not make enough inventory or they did not price it properly, but amazon retailers are always happy to cash in on mistakes like this.

All of these prices are sure to drop soon, but it’s an early Christmas for many amazon sellers.

How to Organize Your Bills

paying-billsOrganizing and truly managing your bills is a task that many of us neglect to do, but it is a vital part of managing your personal finances. Water bill, electric bill, cell phone, internet and television, car payments, mortgages, and trash pickup are a fairly comprehensive list of my personal bills. What can be frustrating about bills is that some run on different cycles (such as monthly vs. quarterly) and some bill’s charge high fees if they are not paid via check or cash. There are several tips to help your bills get paid on time.

Move Your Due Dates to a Single Date

This can be time consuming, but is sometimes a vital step to get your bills in line. Sadly some companies are starting to charge fees to move your due date (which I find ridiculous).

Make a Chart of All of Your Bills

Generally a chart that shows your username/passwords, account numbers, and due dates is all you really need. You can add on a hotline for support if need be, but just get it on paper. Make sure to store this in a secure location. Also if you have passwords that you commonly use, try hiding them. For example if your password is always blueberry123& you could record the password on the chart as “b——–1—&.” This adds another layer of protection for your chart.

Avoid Sending Checks, Pay the Transactions Fees to Pay Via Credit Card

My yearly auto insurance bill is approximately $600 and they run a $7 fee to process credit cards. You can send it via mail to avoid this fee, but why would you! My credit card gives 2% cash back, $600 * 2% = $12 cash back! It can be frustrating for small bills, but usually its not worth your time. My water bill is approximately $30 a month with a service charge of $3 for my credit card. That is 10%, but I get back 2% and I don’t have to pay for a stamp or waste my time preparing a check. I get approximately $1 of that back through the cash back and saving the stamp.

$2 is worth it to me to avoid checks, stamps, and the hassle. Also, I have a better record of it via credit card and there is no lost mail risk.

Tally Up Your Bills At The End of Every Month

It sounds so simple, because it is! Reconcile everything you do and you will have a much better grasp on your personal finances!

Need some more memory for your computer? Need to upgrade all of your computer hardware? Should you get a Mac or PC? When is the right time to spend the money to make a substantial upgrade?

I myself have come to a point where I am having issues with my computer that have made me contemplate whether or not I should upgrade.

When should you upgrade:

When your computer is substantially hurting your performance and efficiency.

  • If you spend 2 hours a day on your computer and upgrading your computer would give you even a conservative  10% boost in performance, you could save 12 minutes a day, that’s 4380 minutes a year or 73 hours. I myself use my computer a heck of a lot more than 2 hours a day. Also that 10% efficiency improvement could be larger if its been a while since you have upgraded.

When you spend as much time as I do on the computer.

  • Building off the point above, I spend a lot of time on my computer, especially on weekends. The fact that I spend that much time makes it very easy to justify an upgrade that I desire. I like to think that an upgrade should last you about 2 to 2.5 years. If you take 2.5 years * 365 days * hours a day of usage – it becomes fairly easy to justify a cost. Let’s say you are a heavy user at 3 hours a day, that is 2,737.5 Hours of use!  [2.5 *365* 3= 2737.5 hours]

When your computer is so old that components are harder to find and more expensive to replace.

  • A great example of this is DDR2 and DDR3 ram. DDR2 ram is older – however it is more expensive than DDR3. As  time goes on – the older components become harder to find (especially at good prices). If it would be near impossible to repair or replace your computer if a component failed – it’s time to upgrade.

Mac or PC? That is the debate. I’m going to sum it up as short and sweet as possible.

Mac’s are generally easier, less hassle, and a more polished product. They tend to be virus immune and definitely cater to people who do not want to deal with the hassles of formatting hard-drives, having driver issues, etc.. PC’s tend to be cheaper and slightly more nimble and upgradable (if you later want to upgrade components), but for the general user the only real advantage now a days is simply cost. $700 dollars would get a PC that would keep up or surpass a Mac that costs twice that, but if you want the hassle-free experience it might be better to pony up for the Mac.

I could sit here and analyze the difference between the two, but as I said – short and sweet. Mac = Easier and PC = Cheaper.

I myself tend to go on the cheaper side and go with the PC. I find myself constantly frustrated with my PC, but the price is just too steep for me to embark on a journey with Apple. Most likely I will drop about $500 – $700 and have a computer that will hold me over for years.

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