Category Archives: Saving Money

No Free Yankee Tickets This Year

For the last two years I have promoted and yankees logoenjoyed an offer from Hess for two free Yankee tickets. In both cases I was able to obtain good seats and had an very enjoyable time.

With a new season underway I was looking forward to taking advantage of this giveaway once again. On top of this I had several friends and family members who heard about my experience and were looking to do the same. What Yankee fan wouldn’t want free tickets?

I was unable to find any mention of this offer this year and was a bit confused. I searched a few sites and contacted Hess only to learn that sadly this contest is no more. Hess has sold their gas stations to Speedway and with the end of Hess so goes their giveaway.

I really enjoy Hess gas stations, their app, and their ticket giveaway. For these reasons and several others I am sad to see Hess go. I am also left wondering what will happen to the Hess Truck this Christmas? I will have to inquire.

Despite this set back I will continue to try and find a replacement deal for my loyal readers. I have a few ideas that I am looking into. I will share them with you shortly.

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The Patriotic Choice to Grieve My Taxes

This country was founded by a populace that hated high taxes. They were so committed to this desire that they fought a war to rid themselves of this onerous financial burden.  Now over 200 years later we have slid back into this unfortunate state of punitively high taxation. No where is this more true than on Long Island NY where our property taxes are amongst the highest in the country. It is quite common for homeowners to pay over $10,000.00 a year in property tax here.

Now to many of you living in the over 45 states in this country where property taxes are under 3 grand a year this probably seems like madness. You are absolutely correct. My taxes are about $7000.00 a year and many of my friends and family consider that low. Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 10.46.59 AMThese “low” taxes were one of the main reasons why the Bride and were able to afford our home when we bought it last year. Had our taxes been the “normal” 10k, it would have raised our mortgage by about 200 dollars and put our beloved home out of reach.

This dire situation only gets worse when you consider that taxes almost always go up. If my taxes rise by 3% a year for the next 5 years I will be burdened with a nearly $9,000.00 bill and that means my monthly mortgage payment will rise every single year. Will my salary raises rise by that amount? I hope so, but if another recession comes it would seem doubtful. What can I do? Aren’t higher taxes inevitable?

Not necessary, the area in which I live does offer me the option of grieving my taxes. As a homeowner if I believe that my taxes are too high when compared to those of my neighbors, or if I can demonstrate that the value of my home has declined since my last assessment I can request a reduction. All I have to do is fill out a complex set of forms and possibly got to small claims court to make my case.

My other option is to hire a company to grieve my taxes for me. I selecting ZapMyTax.com, based on the recommendation of a friend and their mostly positive online reviews. While there is a cost, this grievance service provide me with two positives, one I know the filing and paperwork will be done correctly and two if it does go to court I will have a competent and experienced person speaking on my behalf.

All areas are different and grievance regulations can differ from county to county or even town to town. In my situation here are the important facts about the grievance process:

  • ZapMyTax only charges a fee if they succeed in lowering my taxes, that fee if half the amount of the reduction plus a $75 fee. That means I split the first year and the the amount saved ever year going forward is mine. I like that.
  • Grieving your taxes can never cause them to go up, nor should you have to fear any fear of retribution from your local assessor. This is very important to keep in mind.
  • You can grieve your taxes every single year if you like. I plan to do so.

Please keep in mind that the lower the taxes are on your home the more valuable it will be to a buyer. If you had to choose between two similar homes, one had a $11,000 tax bill and the other had a $6,000 a year tax bill which one would you pick? Even if the house with the lower taxes was $20,000 dollar more you would still be tempted to pick it because the tax savings would make up that difference in 5 years and your mortgage payment would be lower on that house.

So if you can, it might be a good idea to grieve your taxes. It just might shrink your mortgage bill and raise the value of your house. The only thing your have to lose lose are those high tax bills.

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Tonight’s MVP is Going to Disney World. I Just Want a TV.

In early December I tried unsuccessfully to buy a 4K TV. I built what looked like was an amazing deal and shortly after ordering I discovered that it was in fact a total bait and switch rip off.  As you can imagine I was very disappointed, but retro tv 1I came away from the experience a little wiser. Here are the take aways from my journey thus far:

  1. Black Friday and Cyber Monday’s are legit. I’ve always thought that these two retail holidays were more flash than substance, but in my TV  buying experience they are the real deal. In my current situation the TV that I have been following the closest, the “Samsung 8550 55 inch TV” the Cyber Monday price was $1400. A few days later it popped up to $1600 and then oddly enough $2000. Presently its sitting at $1700. If I pulled the trigger weeks ago I would have saved myself  a lot of time and headaches.
  2.  Prices are going to Drop. Several stores and websites that I have called are offering a price matching offer until today. That means if I bought a TV last week and another recognized retailer is selling it for less they will refund me the difference. All of them picked today as the cut off point. That tells me that after the lights fade on the Super Bowl prices are going to drop big time.
  3. Out with the Old and in With the New. For some odd reasons TV’s have model years, like cars. Retailers are stocking the shelves with their 2015 models and want to push out their 2014 sets. I find this puzzling, does anyone care if they have last years TV? Could they even tell? Do TV’s change that much year to year? When all is said and done it doesn’t really matter, what does is that prices on previous model year TV’s usually drop greatly in an effort to get them out the door.
  4. President’s Day is the Pinnacle of TV Sales. Depending on a huge variety of factors Black Friday and Cyber Monday might only win the silver medal in retail discount savings game. I certainly hope so.

So when tomorrow arrives I am hoping it brings some amazing TV deals with it. As always I will share my results with you, fingers crossed.

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5 Things You Can Do to Improve Your Finances in 2015

Day 1 of 365 in our new year. We are all setting our plans and goals, trying to turn our hopes into realities. Most people want to lose weight, some want to exercise more, somewhere on that list for many of us is “improve finances”. It can seem like a tricky one, kinda hard to gain a handle one. Eating better and exercising are pretty self evident. Managing your money,shrinking debt, not so easy. Here are a few suggestions to get the ball rolling. 

  1. Move your credit card debt to a 0% card. The average household has over $10,000 in credit card debt.slate That is a massive burden and the 20% interest rate is only making it worse. The road to debt free living leads through the 0% balance transfer. The interest cards alone on 10k in debt at 20% is $2000.00. With one simple step of moving it over you will save yourself almost $170 a month. That is money you could be using to dig yourself out of that hole. I would recommend the Slate card from Chase. It has no annual fee and a 0% interest rate for 15 months. It also has a no transfer fee which is very rare. 
  2. Switch or Bundle Your Insurance. A few year back I decided to ditch my old 1000 auto policy and shop around for a better one. I found a 700 policy and never looked back. A year later I got married and bought a house. We bundled our homeowners with our auto and saved even more, I went from paying over a grand to under 500 on my auto policy just by taking a few simple steps. 
  3. Renegotiate Your Cell Phone Bill. You can’t turn on a TV without seeing a commercial for one cell phone carrier or the other. Now I realize you might be in a contract, but if it’s near its end you have a lot of leverage and if you are going to bundle your plan with a family member all the better. I dropped my cell phone bill form $100 a month to $70, just by making a few calls. That was over a year ago and the switch has saved me almost 500 bucks! If youbillcutterzaren’t interested in the art of haggling you could hire someone like BillCutterz to do it for you. My buddy tried it and he was very pleased. 
  4. EBay It! You have too much stuff, we all do. If you are honest about it, you don’t need it all. Like that Xbox 360 that you haven’t played in years. Sell it and your library of games on Ebay. You might not get that much, maybe 100 bucks, but its money you didn’t have before. Not only will you get the cash but you will lose some clutter. 
  5. Work As a Secret Shopper. I’ve had some experience with the secret shopping app “Field Agent” logo FAand I was very pleased with the experience. Such an app could easy bring you a few extra bucks every month, perhaps hundreds of dollars a year.  

Everyone’s situation is unique, but if you pursued even one or two of these ideas the result could be very helpful. Best of luck to all of you in the New Year. 

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My 4k TV Christmas Deal Can Be Yours Too!

**** RIPOFF ALERT: DO NOT TAKE THIS DEAL, PLEASE SEE MY LATER ARTICLE ABOUT WHY*****

 

I bought my current HDTV back in 2006. It cost $2000, down from $2500, and I was over the moon. To have a flat panel plasma TV was a movie lovers dream come true. Now almost nine year later, my beloved little (40 inches) TV is starting to show its age. From time to time the screen will go black and I will have to jiggle the cables to get the picture to come back on. Now it’s only a matter of time before a catastrophic failure ends my set. Could I open the case and reenforce the connections? Maybe, and that’s  big maybe, sometimes opening up a set and messing around with it can cause more harm than good. From the looks of things, it’s time to get a new television. 

If I am completely honest about it I welcomed the opportunity to buy a new set. So much has changed in TV’s since 2006. Sets have gotten bigger, cheaper, 3D, smarter, and with better (4k) resolution. I still love movies as much as I did so many years ago and I was pumped to bring an even better movie watching experience into my living room. The search was on. 

I clicked over to Cnet and poked around. The true champ of picture quality was one of the OLED sets, but the price was north of three thousand dollars, no go. Eventually I paired down my search to one TV, the Samsung UN55HU8550, which I viewed as the perfect balance of quality, features, and price. My parents have a Samsung TV 4K TVwith a smart remote and I was very impressed. Reputation goes a long way with me. 

From Cnet I went to my trusted first stop for shopping, Amazon. They are selling this set in the 55 inch size for $1797.99. As much as I wanted the 60 inch, its almost 1000 bucks more or 200 dollars and inch, way too much. The original price of this set was $3000.00, high for sure, but it is a 4K set. At nearly 1/2 off I was heading in the right direction, but I knew I could do better. On a side note, I checked the price one Cyber Monday and I could swear it was around $1500.00.

From Amazon I went to the search engines and compared prices. Most sites were in line with Amazon’s, but here is where things get a little tricky. Some retailers that I have never heard of were offering much lower prices. I avoid such sites because of the high potential for fraud. These cheaper TV’s could be different models that are being miscategorized, they could be refurbs, who knows. Not worth the risk in my opinion.  

I continued my search and then, up popped a cheap price from a seller I had heard of “Abe’s of Maine”. These guys have been around for decades and have a good reputation. I have bought electronics from them before and don’t recall having any issues. Their price for my future TV is $1399.99, about $400 dollars less than Amazon. They were offering free shipping and depending on where you live they don’t charge tax. Of course being the obedient citizens you are you will check your state laws and submit the appropriate taxes where applicable.

Now this is where a little leg work can pay off. I didn’t want to leave any savings on the table. The first step was easy, right on their home page was a 2% coupon code, “save2″. Boom, 2% or about $27 right off the top. On top of that I went over to BigCrumbs and found a 3.5% cash back offer. Build that deal! Finally at check out, I paid with my discover card for a sweet 5% cash back. Now I have to check on that BigCrumbs offer because it says up to 3.5% so I might not get the full amount, but all in all it looks like I saved and additional 10% off or about $140. 

So when all is said and done “the Bride” and I bought ourselves a 4K, LED, 3D, 55inch, Samsung Smart TV that originally retailed for $3000 for $1260.00 or about 65% off. It’s being delivered for free and should get to out home a few days before Christmas. A gift to each other that we hope we can enjoy of many years to come and a deal that I am sharing with all of you. 

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Cyber Monday Pre-Shopping Check List

It’s here, I was going to say final here, but the sales and commercials this year have made everyday since Halloween feel like “Black Friday” or “Cyber Monday”. Hype aside, Cyber Monday has arrived. 

Time to find those deals! So many places to look, so much to decide. It can be overwelming and that can cause you to act too fast. Resist this temptation and realize a few moment of planning before hand can lead to huge savings. Almost any deal can be made a little sweeter if you follow these steps. 

  • BigCrumbs – An old favorite of mine, big-crumbs-logothey are a very effective way to stack a deal. For those of you who may not know, BigCrumbs gets cash back from purchases you make on site they direct you to. They then turn around and split that money with you. The percent differs from site to site, but it’s always worth a peek
  • Ebates – They are a competitor to BigCrumbs ebates2which is good for you as a user because they are always trying to out rebate each other. You should always check both to see who is giving you the edge.  
  • DiscoverCard – Did you know that right now they are offering 5% cash back on online purchases? Have you enrolled? It literally takes a few seconds. (Please know that this is capped at $1500)
  • CardPool – If or when you max out your cash back from Discover you can always go to the gift card exchanges to find a few more percent of savings. 

By incorporating these deals into your shopping its very likely that you could add another 5-10% of savings onto of even the sweetest deals. So stack them up and keep that money in your pockets. 

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Black Friday: Load Up Your Apps and Bring Your Friends!

Here we are, right in the thick of it, the deal hunters moment of glory. Thanksgiving is behind us and Christmas is mere weeks away. It’s time to get out there and find those deals, right? Not so fast! You can’t just run out into the mall willy nilly. You need to prepare, you need a plan, you need tools. 

Specifically, you need your smart phone and you need apps. Long gone are the days when you walked into a store, found something you liked and hoped you were getting the best deal. Now you can investigate, you can research and compare, all before you even walk up to the register. Here are three must have apps that will allow you to build the best possible deal:

1. PriceJump: This is savings.com’s own app. pricejumpIt is a price comparison app that searches over 5000 retailers to provide you with a snapshot of available prices. In addition to that, it will search local stores near you and show you their prices as well. This provides you with an online and in store comparison. Be mindful though it does not factor in shipping costs or taxes. 

 

2. RetailMeNot: I have been using this app retailmenotfor over a year now and I can honestly say that it is the Cadillac of shopping apps. You get updates and offers pushed to your phone the moment you even walk near a mall or shopping center.  They work with all the big retailers and will show you every possible sale or door buster imaginable. While I enjoy these features my favorite “RetailMeNot” feature is the coupon codes. They are hands down the champs when it comes to codes. Whenever I buy something online, I always look for codes with them before I complete me order. 

 

3. Raise: Finally, when you have found the raisegreatest gift at the best prices, this little app can give you just a little bit more. Raise is a gift card marketplace, people sell and buy gift cards, usually at a slight discount. This discount is where you can save and extra few percent. Let’s say you found a great deal at “Bestbuy”, now all you have to do to sweeten that deal is load up your raise app and buy a gift card. Right now they are selling at a 3% discount, so you would have made your deal that much better. The card loads right into the app and you show it to the cashier for them to scan. Two seconds of effort for a nice little reward.

 

This apps are a great start for your smartphone shopping tool bag. Load them up and keep them at the ready when you head out into that Black Friday world. 

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Triple the Ebay Bucks!

For the next two days Ebay is offering a special promotion to “Ebay Bucks” imgeBayBucks_174x36_1enrollees. For those of you who aren’t familiar, ebay bucks are a cash back on any items you buy on Ebay. It’s usually 2% of the selling price. For the rest of today and tomorrow they are tripling that offer. Now you can get 6% back on your purchases. A nice deal, but you can sweeten it by adding some Big Crumbs and a good cash back credit card. If you work it out you could potentially get 12% back.

Please keep this in mind, you have to enroll first. It takes a few seconds, but it is certainly worth it. Perhaps you can use this as an opportunity to get an early jump on your Christmas shopping? Or just buy something for yourself, I won’t tell. 

 

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How Doing It Myself Saved Me $200

On Sunday mornings I like to plan out my week, draw up a “to do” list, check my bank statements and bills,  basically get things ready for the days ahead. Well, as I was brushing my teeth last Sunday all of that changed. I felt the warm rush of water on my feet and noted how good it felt. “Wait a second, why is warm water pouring onto my feet.” I opened the doors to my sink vanity and found that the drain pipe was leaking badly. What to do? I could call a plumber. It was the weekend and many charge off hour or emergency charges. This would be on top of his normal fee, either flat or hourly. 

I could have waited till Monday, but even then I was looking at a huge bill, probably around 200 bucks. I decided to try my hand at it. Since it was a drainage pipe and not and water pipe I knew their was little damage that I could do. If I screwed up I could still call the plumber and endure his mockery of my amateur efforts. With no real foreseeable down side I decided to go for it.

I noticed that the connection between two of the pipes, the “J” pipe and the one that connects tot he main were the spot of the leak. I took a trip to my local homedepot, explained the problem, and it was suggested that I needed a new washer. It set me back 2 bucks and I returned home. 

It all seemed too easy and of course it was. When I went to replace the washer one of the pipes began to crumble in my had. PipeI couldn’t see from the outside, but the entire pipe had been undermined by rust. I would have to replace it, or call a plumber. I decided to keep going. 

That night, after work, I began to remove the damaged pipe with tools I borrowed from my grandfather. I am going to be honest, it was not easy. I could not unscrew the collar that held the pipe to the wall, it wouldn’t budge and laying under the sink didn’t offer the best angle. I decided to disconnect the faucet and slide the vanity away from the wall. 

This allowed me a much better angle on the pipe. Even still the collar wouldn’t budge. I tried and tried and was only successful when I resorted to literally standing on the wrench. Victory? Not so fast, 60 years of being joined together fused the pipe  to the drain pipe. I had to break the pipe in half and pull the remnants out using a pair of needle nose pliers. 

After two hours of trying the pipe was out and the Bride and I were brushing our teeth in the kitchen. The next morning I went back to home depot and purchased a replacement pipe. After another two hours of adjusting and tightening and more tightening (that collar was almost as difficult to put back on as it was to take off). Still after two hard fought hours the sink was back to form.

Well, almost, it was draining that well now. Replacing the pipe kick dup a lot of junk inside there. I grabbed a plunger and went to work. Finally after another 5 minutes of plunging I heard a pop and all of the water went rushing down my newly repaired sink. Victory!

A day later and all is well. I have a sheet of paper towel under the sink and I check it from time to time, no leaks. The total cost of the project set me back about $15. I saved over a hundred bucks by buckling down and tackling the problem on my own and not only does it feel great, but I have earned the respect of the Bride. I got to be the hero of the day and it felt great. 

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Ebay Crumbs Just Got BIGGER

Last month I shared the news with you that Big Crumbs had begun offering cash back on qualified Ebay purchases. ebay logo piggybankbuilderToday I am happy to report that they have doubled that amount from 1/2 a percent to 1 percent. It may not seem like much but when you add Ebay Bucks and a good cash back rewards card you can really build yourself a nice deal. 

If you are an avid E-bayer head over to BigCrumbs for the details. 

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