Friday, August 24, 2007

AOR (app-o-rama) with Business Credit Cards

In the past few weeks I have applied for 3 business cards, one through Advanta ($10k credit line, but only $5k can be used for balance trasnfers), Bank of America ($20k credit limit, but only $10k can be used for balance transfers, and Chase ($20k credit limit/balance transfer limit). Among these 3 cards I took out respectively $4500, $10000, and $17500, so a total of $32000, which I have deposited into a high yeild savings account offering 5.30%. All of these balance transfers carry a 0% APR for 12 months, except for the Advanata card which is for 15 months. Each card had a 3% balance trasfer fee capped at $75 except for the Advanta card. Overall I am aiming to make nearly $130/month. This will vary with the min payments that are due for the cards, but that shouldn't change my initial earning by much. Bad part is that this income will have to be reported on my taxes, but hopefully my CPA will suggest some things that I can consider to be deductible.

An advantage to using business cards is that the credit line is not reported to credit agencies, thus it hardly effects one's scores. The main credit hit takes place when applying for the card. Hopefully the impact is not much, but then again I am not looking to make a major purchase or finance anything in the near future.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Finally Refinanced!

As mentioned before I went through Bank of America to refinance my home mortgage. The whole process was wonderful and easy! I looked into Bank of America after coming across an ad on their site. I applied, was instantly approved, and the next day a rep called me. For about 3 days the rep and I went back and forth as I was trying to negotiate a good rate. I used examples of rates that other web sites/banks had offered me. Eventually I got a rate I was looking for. For the next process, during the next 2 weeks I was working with another rep who worked with me to get my home insurance information, payoff statements for my current mortgage, and anything else needed. My current mortgage company was not cooperating, which I sort of expected since they were not timely in providing a payoff statement. Luckily I could get this from their web site. Right before closing, the 2nd rep passed my mortgage info to the underwriter who approved everything. In order to close within the 30 days, Bank of America sent me all of my documents via FedEx overnight. I went to a local Bank of America branch, signed the documents, had the needed documents notarized, and then sent everything back via a prepaid FedEx overnight envelope. All communication was done via email and a few phone calls. With emails I would get an immediate response or a response within an hour. Not bad. Overall this has been a good experience.

Monday, August 6, 2007

$19.99/month Service Plan for A/C, Heater, and Water Heater

The other day my dad was telling me about a service plan that my local utility offers which covers the a/c, water heater, and heater in one's home. My father has has this plan, which is added to his monthly gas and electric bill, but he was suggesting that i should maybe get it as well. This got me thinking whether or not if this was actually worth it. Instead maybe I should save that $20 and put it into a high yield savings account as an emergency fund in case if anything went wrong with my a/c, water heater, or heater. Annually this is roughly $240 that I could save or that I could pay a company. The gas and electric company's service contract covers pretty much anything that happens to any of the mentioned equipment. This does sound like a tempting deal, especially since installation, labor, or parts for these items could be costly, but then again my house isn't too old yet either. I am still debating this issue, but if I do decide to get this service contract, I won't sign up for it until it is a little closer to the winter months.

Starbucks at Target Coupon

I came across a coupon for a Buying 1 Grande size Starbucks beverage and getting another free when I was checking out this site:

The coupon is currently the eighth coupon on the list. I know for a financial related blog it may be contradictory for me to promote buying beverages at Starbucks, especially since their prices just went up, but hey at least your wallet will thank you when you are craving a Starbucks drink. Plus it may come in handy if you are with someone and you both want a beverage from Starbucks. Either treat the other person or split the total cost.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Insurance Update

Yesterday my insurance agent's secretary emailed me the application that I had to sign for my auto and home insurance policies. I immediately read over the documents and signed what needed to be signed. The bad part was that the agent wanted the original signed documents and I couldn't just email or fax them back. This morning I stopped by my agent's office and dropped my paper work off as well. Actually I really like the insurance company that I am working with and the agent is great! In the past when I was under my parent's policy, this agent has always provided great service and rates. Since I am refinancing my mortgage as well, the mortgage company needs proof that I have gotten the new insurance, so my agent's secretary is supposed to fax the bank a copy with documents to verify my new policy. I will probably call my mortgage agent to ensure that she received the documents. Another big thing in saving some money on my insurance was that if I pay the costs for my automobile insurance upfront rather than in quarterly installments, I save roughly $150. I was considering on paying them quarterly, but keep the reserved funds in one of my online bank accounts that offer a high interest, but in the end this would not save me money. Anyways I am paying for to automobile policy upfront.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Insurance and Refinancing

Since I was already looking to change insurance companies for my home insurance, I figured why not look into refinancing my home loans since now the rates aren't bad and plus I can bet on getting a lower rate than I currently have. When I bought my house, not many companies were looking to offer me a mortgage. Granted my salary was no where near than what it is today, but I guess companies thought I would be a risk. In the end I ended getting 2 loans, one 80% and the other being a 10% loan to avoid and PMI fees. These mortgages were 5 year ARMS and at the time I really wanted to buy the house. Plus the mortgage broker I went through gave me a decent monthly payment amount, which I could manage. One mortgage had a rate of 8.125% and 11%. Plus my monthly payments for one of the mortgages was creating negative amortization (I think that is the term) since I was paying below the payment option that covered just the interest. I shopped around for rates and ended up with a good deal with Bank of America. I am looking to close sometime around next week. So far the process has been very smooth and easy. Everything so far has been done through phone calls, email, or by faxes. I got a rate of 6.25%, only have to pay $2500 for closing costs, and do not have to pay any points. Since I am also changing home insurance companies this was perfect timing for me to change my mortgage company as well. My monthly payments have increased a little, but at least now I will not have to face any negative amortization, which could have been costly down the road. Overall I am happy with the process and will post an update once the refinancing has been completed.


Back around March I changed positions with my current employer and have been part of a new team. Majority of my fellow coworkers on my team regularly play golf every Friday mornings. A lot of coworkers in the company actually participate in this ritual, but 80% of the coworkers on my team participate. This soon got me thinking that maybe I should consider playing a round of golf with my coworkers since it would in a way be a physical activity, which allows one to stay healthy, and also allows social interaction with my coworkers when not at the office.

I decided to go ahead and look into get a golf set and practice a bit before playing a game with my coworkers. A contractor on my team actually makes custom golf sets. He approached me about this and mentioned he won't charge me anything except for the material. This was wonderful since I a tad below average height and people have been saying I may need a custom golf set. After comparing prices of a decent golf set, which typically with a bag and irons was around $130, I decided that it was well worth the $200 to get a set that is custom and made from material that will last. This whole process took at most 2 weeks from ordering the set till when my coworker gave me my whole set, which was custom made. The website we ordered the material from actually badly messed up my order, but I ended up getting better iron heads and was billed only $30....not bad at all!

To get used to a swing, I went to a local golf course that also has a driving range. A medium size bucket of golf balls cost $7.50. As far as quantity there is enough balls to surely keep me busy until I get tired. After 4 visits to the driving range I played my first 18 hole round of golf with my coworkers. Granted playing the actual game is totally different than hitting balls at the range, but it was surely a great experience. My coworkers were helping me and encouraging me as well. I didn't have a putter yet, but one of my coworkers even lent me his until i got my own putter. The 18 hole round cost me about $30, but in the end I think it was well worth it especially since I now have a better bond with my coworkers, I can now participate and understand conversation in regard to golf, and you see a different side of your coworkers when not in the office building.

Sure the $30 may seem like a lot at first, but majority of my coworkers do not eat out for lunch everyday, so I think of the moving being saved there goes toward the round of golf with the coworkers.

Eventually I paid regular price of the the expected $170 and even got my father a golf set. We know both go to the golf range together, which has also allowed me to have more father-son time with my dad. I haven't taken my dad out to play on the course yet, but I guess after taking him to the range 2 more time, he will be good to go.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Home Depot - Storm Door

Two weeks ago on the local news broadcast there was a report on a technique known as key bumping, which criminals use to break into a house. The report mentioned that You Tube has videos on how to perform this technique. I watched various movies on You Tube and wow this is crazy!!! The process of key bumping is cheap, fast, and easy! Very creepy!!! Since that report I considered looking into a storm door for my main door. I went to Lowes and Home Depot, but Lowes seem to be pricey at first. Thus, I went to Home Depot. The problem with Home Depot is that that if they are performing the installation they charge $25 for a required measurement session. They also offer a $75 mail in rebate for installation, so the deal looked good to me. They had a storm door which looked well built and was around $210. I figured $210 plus the $150 installation minus the $75 rebate for a total of $285 was well worth it for an extra piece of mind. After the measurements were taken I went back to Home Depot, since they do not disclose the information over the phone, which is odd. I went to the store, but wow did Home Depot try to rape me with the price. They said my door needed some custom work to be installed as well as a custom sized door would have to be ordered. The grand total the sales rep gave me was $675!!! I was shocked and pissed off. The rep at first when I went to the store said the total should be around $350 at most and he even wrote this down on this card for me. I figured that isn't too bad, but $675 is way too much for a storm door at the moment. Knock on wood I luckily live in a pretty safe area, but I still wanted to eventually get a storm door. Anyways, I canceled my order with Home Depot and argued to get my $25 measurement fee back as well. I guess I will have to shop around even more or find a reputable contractor. I never knew a storm door would cost that much. Oh well. I guess on the bright side it saved me some money. Plus I guess this is part of the whole home owner experience.

Home and Car Insurance

So my home insurance policy with the current insurance company is about to expire in August. For now I have still been under my father's automobile insurance policy which is with another provider. I figured now since I am 24 I should look into getting my own car insurance policy as well as see if I can get a discount if I was to get my home insurance policy through the same insurance company. Long story short I will save roughly $150 on home insurance and my auto insurance is the cheapest that anyone else has quoted. Knock on wood I have a clean driving record, which helped. I did shop around but staying with the same company who has provided my auto insurance since I was driving greatly helped me save some money. Plus you can't beat their service, which is really worth it.

All in all other finances are the same for the most part, but with some slight increase in savings. Recently I have done some decorating around the house with the help of my girlfriend. She actually has been finding me some great deals on various items such as curtains and a large mirror.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Updates - Cell Phone, Electric Rate Hike, Golf

Yes, I know it has been a long while since I last posted. Overall there have been some minor changes since my last post. My spending has remained to be the same overall. I have not really splurged on anything in particular, except for a few gifts for my parents (since I hardly ever got them anything before). I did receive a minor salary increase, which surely is not bad. My savings is slowly but steadily growing as well, which is what I love to see.

I used to have a Sprint family plan with multiple cell phone lines, but I have finally consolidated to just one line, which is only $30/month before discounts. I analyzed my past cell phone usage and now see that ever since graduating from undergrad I do not use my cell phone as much. At home I have a VoIP line and at work I can casually use the desk phone when needed. From my employer I have a Verizon Blackberry, which gets free Verizon mobile to mobile calling, so I use tjat to call my friends who have Verizon. To help out I also signed up with Grand Central for a free phone number, which can then forward calls and even screen calls. I got Sprint to offer me free "Sprint to Home" service, which allows free calls between my cell phone and a designated "home number". In this case my Grand Central number is my "home" number. Now I can freely distribute a number when needed. If I get any annoying calls I can black the caller or block any callers whose name or number show up as private or unavailable on caller id. These callers can also be screened.

Electricity rates in MD have gone up significantly and I have been trying to adjust with this change. I used to be a huge advocate for using the air conditioning, but now ever since having my own place I watch my a/c usage. So far I have greatly limited my use to mainly having the a/c on only when I have guests over, which is not too often, thus helping ease the transition to the increased electricity rates. Most of the bulbs in my house are already the CFL bulbs. One major saver on electricity was when I switched from having a desktop running 24x7 to having the laptop run instead. I mainly have a computer on for server related functions, plus I am a computer nerd, but by switching my server related functions to a laptop I have noticed nearly a $30 drop in my electricity bill. To fight the heat I have purchased 3 $35 tower fans from Wal-Mart, which actually work great. They even came with their own remotes. The fans have helped keep the temperature near comfortable levels throughout the house.

Recently a lot of my college friends have been getting engaged, so I have been busy attending these events and even buying gifts for such events. I actually need some good ideas on such gifts.
Since March I have been part of a new department within my employer. It is still IT related, but a different side of IT than before. My coworkers love playing golf and most of them play golf every Friday morning. Best part is on Fridays when they do go to play golf they come in around 9:30, which is normally after eating breakfast after the game, but yet they leave around 3:30pm, and my manager is fine with it as long as everyone gets their work completed. Due to this I figured I would learn to play golf and even go golfing with my coworkers. This is in a ways a social event since I can socialize with my coworkers as well as I can improve on my golf skills. I ended up buying a custom built golf set, which cost me $120 just for irons. The website that my coworker recommended I order the golf equipment from totally messed up my order, thus I got nearly a 50% discount. I gotta admit though that even if the price still seems to be high, I really do like these clubs. Granted these are only an iron set as well as a driver, but I can always buy other clubs later. Plus I figured the $120 "investment" is worth the socializing time with my coworkers. Hopefully this will help build a stronger relationship and help me advance in my career path. The driving range I go to costs roughly $10 for a huge bucket of balls. A 9 hole game is around $20. Overall this isn't too bad. I guess it makes up for not eating out for lunch. I played my first 18 hole golf game 2 weeks ago and it was great. I am surely not the next Tiger Woods, but it was amazing to see that so many of my coworkers actually golf. I was even surprised to see a fee of them, but yet was glad to see them there.