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Monday, June 30, 2008

The Drugstore Game Illustrated

Drugstore Game scenarios show you how to get a lot of stuff for just a little money, which is a concept that's easy enough to grasp. However, it took me a little longer to understand that buying more things can often cost less. Here's a good example:

I wasn't planning to go to CVS this week, but I realized on Sunday night that I am running out of overnight pads. So I started crafting some deal scenarios for today, the last day of the June deals. (I ended up not being able to go, so these deals are now entirely hypothetical.)

If I scanned my card at the front of the store and got a $3 off $10 CVS brand purchase, I could have done a great transaction. I used to be able to take those coupons for granted, but I haven't scanned my card for a couple of weeks now, and I've been reading about a reduction in scanner coupons, so I'm not sure I would have gotten one. However, if I had, I would have done the following deal:

1 CVS brand overnight pads - $2.69
1 CVS brand cotton swabs - $3.19
2 CVS brand petroleum jelly - $3.98
1 Gold Emblem candy - 99 cents
1 Huggies body wash - $3.49
Subtotal: $14.34 ($10.85 CVS brand items)
Coupons: $3 off $10 CVS, $2 off CVS skin care, $1 off Huggies
Total after coupons: $8.34, paid with $8 ECB and 34 cents on a gift card
Receive $8 in ECBs: $2 for the cotton swabs (monthly deal), $2 for the Huggies (monthly deal), and $4 for the petroleum jelly (hidden deal via A Full Cup)

In essence, I could get all of the above for 34 cents.

My back-up scenario was as follows:

1 CVS brand overnight pads - $2.69
1 CVS brand cotton swabs - $3.19
Subtotal: $5.88
Coupon: $2 off CVS skin care
Total after coupons: $3.88, paid with $3.49 ECB and 39 cents on a gift card
Receive $2 in ECBs for the swabs

I would lose $1.49 in ECBs in this scenario, which isn't bad, considering I'm buying something I really need, but it's definitely not as great as the first scenario, thanks to the $3 off $10 CVS brand purchase coupon.

And that, my friends, is why playing The Drugstore Game is so fun and rewarding: you can spend less and get more.

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The Drugstore Game in June: Zero out of pocket at CVS

That's right! Thanks to ECBs and free gift cards that I earned through MyPoints, won from My Good Cents, and received for new prescriptions, I spent zero dollars out of pocket at CVS during the month of June.

The amazing thing is the tally of things that I picked up this month, all for free: lots of toilet paper and paper towels, Lysol wipes, Listerine SmartRinse (regular Listerine devastates my mouth, but this stuff is great), bandages, batteries, toothbrushes, diapers, wipes, and more.

I saved over $150 by shopping at CVS. That's the amount I would have paid at Target during my pre-Drugstore Game days, and that's assuming the best price scenario with sales and coupons.

I didn't even include in my $150 savings the stuff that I wouldn't have bought if it wasn't free or almost-free at CVS: things like deodorant, cotton swabs, cookies, and more. I'm now finding a use for these items, giving them away to friends and family, or donating them to a good cause. And I just have one thing to say . . .

I love The Drugstore Game!

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

New rewards program at Ralphs

Ralphs is all about change right now. Along with cutting their coupon policy, they've instituted a new rewards program called Ralphs rewards. You can visit the official web site and FAQ (and see for yourself that "rewards" is written rewards every time, even at the beginning of a sentence).

The new program incorporates Ralphs Club (which used to get you the sale price) and also has an earnings component. You earn one point per dollar spent. (Exclusions apply - scroll to the bottom of the page to see them. Does anyone know why milk is excluded?) You can also earn points by bringing your own shopping bags. Once per quarter, you'll receive a $5 "rewards certificate" for every 500 points earned. Points roll over from quarter to quarter, but reset to 0 every January 1.

Supposedly, they will also send coupons and "offer emails," but I'm a little skeptical that they'll do it often or that the coupons and offers will amount to more than a token savings.

At least converting the card was fairly easy. They put a very personable young man at the table near the main entrance, trained him to call every woman "Miss" no matter how old she was, and put out a plate of cookies that immediately attracted Tyler's attention. (I loved hearing the young man say "Miss" to the 80-year-old woman who wanted to know the effect of the new program on her Senior card. The answer: there are extra perks for seniors anymore.) All I had to do was hand over my Club card, wait for him to transcribe the old number onto the new card application, then fill in my name, address, phone number and email address. Normally, I wouldn't provide all that info but I haven't heard or experienced anything bad about spam or junk mail sent to Ralphs Club card holders, and I had to provide my address to receive those rewards certificates. And maybe they actually will email good coupons, especially with programs like Shortcuts now in place.

If you do get a new card, don't forget to register it with UPromise, if you're already a member there.

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New Rational Investing in Irrational Times Winner


Thank you to everyone who entered the Rational Investing in Irrational Times book giveaway. The original winner never contacted me, so I've selected another winner. Congratulations to ...

Deepa!

Deepa, you have 48 hours to email me at cfoblog [at] gmail [dot] com with your mailing address.

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

My toilet paper/paper towel dilemma: what I ended up doing & what I learned

Last month, I mentioned that we were running low on toilet paper and paper towels, and that I was torn between taking advantage of a good deal at Target and waiting for a great deal in The Drugstore Game. Mercedes of Common Sense with Money was kind enough to let me know that there was an upcoming Charmin/Bounty deal at CVS if I could wait a week or two, and Gina of Mommy Making Money was kind enough to send me coupons. So I waited.

And you know what? It all worked out. I acquired a lot of paper towels in that deal, and enough toilet paper to last us a little while. (I acquired more toilet paper this week, so I'm totally set now, and can wait for the next unbeatable deal to come along.)

I learned some useful things from this experience. Someone (I can't remember who anymore, maybe Mercedes?) kindly taught me about Hot Coupon World and A Full Cup, where I now find previews on upcoming deals at drugstores. And I've discovered that I can buy one or two things as I need them while I wait for a good deal. I can't always wait (the boys desperately needed new toothbrushes a couple of weeks ago, so I used the Buy One, Get One Free Oral B Stages coupon from the June 1 P&G circular at Target), but if I can, I will. It will save me money in the long run to wait for CVS and Walgreens deals because rolling store rewards significantly reduces my out of pocket expenses. In fact, if I have a gift card, I can pay zero out of pocket at CVS, so even if the price is higher than it is at Target, I'll still come out ahead at CVS. In sum, I've learned to trust The Drugstore Game.

Thanks for helping me learn, everyone!

Note: I haven't wanted to bog CFO down with the details of my drugstore transactions, but if you're interested in them, head over to CFO Reviews, where I've written about my latest plays.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

One recall today: Jackets & hoodies

If you think you have the following item(s), click through to the CPSC press release for more details:

Children’s Jackets and Hoodies with Drawstrings Recalled by Coolibar Inc. Due to Strangulation Hazard - Click through for an additional picture.


As always, I highly recommend signing up for recall notifications by email at the CPSC web site.

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New Ralphs coupon policy

Out here in California, we have Ralphs supermarkets, which are part of the Kroger family. Up until Wednesday, Ralphs doubled coupons with a face value of up to $1 (so you would get $2 off for a $1 coupon). But according to the LA Times, now they only double coupons with a value of up to 50-cents. They will take off $1 for coupons with a face value of 51 to 99 cents.

I used to do most of my grocery shopping at Ralphs, but five years ago, there was a widespread lockout/strike at the major chains. The supermarkets agreed that Ralphs would stay open and share the profits (which might have been held illegal, if memory serves). Since I felt bad crossing the picket line and didn't want to face the picketing workers, I started shopping almost exclusively at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. And for the last five years, I've done my weekly shopping at Trader Joe's. I particularly like their wide selection of and reasonable prices on organic and hormone/antibiotic free products.

But lately, as I've gotten into using coupons more thanks to The Drugstore Game, I was thinking about shopping more at Ralphs. With double coupons, there could be some really good deals to be had. And I did pick up a $330 gift card for $300. But this new coupon policy is putting a damper on my enthusiasm for shopping there again.

How much does a store's coupon policy affect whether you shop there?

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Can you think your way to more money?

My dad has always been a big believer in positive thinking, so I was probably only 13 or 14 when I read Dr. Norman Vincent Peale's famous book, The Power of Positive Thinking. But maybe because positive thinking has always been a part of my life, I've never really paid much attention to it. I accept the basic premise, that we have the ability to shape our life with our thoughts. But can positive thinking increase your income or net worth?

Millionaire Mommy Next Door thinks so. She's in the middle of an "abundance experiment" in which she is "open[ing her] mind to receive increasingly more money." Her idea is to imagine how she'd spend increasing amounts of money and how she could bring in that money. She's a little worried that the experiment will make her focus on what she doesn't have and make her discontented, so she's also expressing gratitude for the good things in her life.

It's an interesting idea. MMND says the experiment is working and that she's started bringing in some money by selling things on Craigslist.

I think that the key here is, as MMND put it, opening your mind to new possibilities and considering things you haven't thought about before. In a way, MMND is just brainstorming over an extended period of time. But I think what's interesting is that, as she gets into the high dollar ranges, she'll have to consider more radical ideas. (She's currently at $51,200, and since she's doubling the amount each day, her next spending spree will be $102,400.)

So can radical ideas turn into more money? Of course they can! That's how many successful businesses get started. I'm going to start contemplating some radical ideas of my own.

How can you think your way to more money?

Image credit: Amazon.com - The Power of Positive Thinking(affiliate link).

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Rational Investing in Irrational Times winner


Thank you to everyone who entered the Rational Investing in Irrational Times book giveaway. Congratulations to the lucky random winner ...

[forfeited]

You have 48 hours to email me at cfoblog [at] gmail [dot] com with your mailing address.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Two recalls today: More cribs & a toy helo

If you think you have the following item(s), click through to the CPSC press release for more details:As always, I highly recommend signing up for recall notifications by email at the CPSC web site.

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Baby Trend recalls Rigid Latch-Loc car seats

Update 7/2/08: Thanks to Rebecca for alerting me that the notice from Baby Trend has gone out. There's still nothing on the Baby Trend site that I can find, but the inclusive dates are now up at the NHTSA notice. The affected car seats were manufactured between May 14, 2007 and April 1, 2008. Unfortunately, Rebecca reports that she can't get through to Baby Trend on the phone. Baby Trend does have a contact form that you can try using. Also, if you haven't registered your car seat, you might want to do so immediately. It's been my experience that companies often send out replacements automatically to registered owners. I don't know if Baby Trend is doing that, but it can't hurt to register since you'll have to give them your info at some point anyway.

Update 6/27/08: Liz reported yesterday that the Baby Trend customer service representative said they have no knowledge of the recall and suggested she call back in a week. I'm speculating that the NHTSA released the recall info a little early, and that the company is waiting to announce the recall until it knows the inclusive dates. There's still nothing at the Baby Trend site.

Baby Trend has recalled all Rigid Latch-Loc car seats. The recall includes the Magnum (model no. 6439), Galaxy (model no. 6481), Silverado (model no. 6448) and the Model No. 6400 Base that was sold separately. The inclusive dates of production will be provided later.

From the NHTSA email notification:
Incorrect steel was used on the latch connector locking pawl. As a result, the pawl can crack allowing the seat base to detach from the vehicle's latch anchors during a severe crash. A detached seat can not provide the proper protection for its occupant. Baby Trend will replace the base free of charge. Owners can contact Baby Trend toll-free at 1-800-328-7363.
I can't find the recall notice at the Baby Trend site yet, but the NHTSA notice is available (although it doesn't say much more than what I've cut and pasted here). If you have this car seat, definitely call Baby Trend to see if they will give you more information (and if you wouldn't mind, let me know what they told you and I'll update this post).

If you are concerned about the safety of using this car seat now, it seems like the problem is with the base only and that you could get around it by attaching the car seat with the seat belt. I assume this is an option, since my Graco car seats could be installed without a base. Of course, be sure to read the manual to verify that this is an option and that you install the car seat correctly.

If you'd like to receive your own email notifications of car seat recalls, sign up with the NHTSA.

Image credit: Amazon.com(affiliate link). It looks like Amazon has been notified of the recall since all Rigid car seats are "unavailable."

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More on Social Security Disability

When I was filling in for JLP at All Financial Matters last week, I discussed Social Security Disability benefits and they actually sounded pretty good. But it looks like they might be rather difficult to get. Beachgirl just shared that her dad, who hasn't been able to work for some time now, was just denied disability benefits. And from what I can gather, he's not able to work at all.

It would be one thing if the Social Security Administration's letter said that since he still has cognitive abilities, he could find a different job. But if I'm reading the portion she posted correctly, they're saying that they think he could still do his job as a maintenance worker. Huh?

Fortunately, her parents have consulted an attorney, who believes they have an excellent chance of winning an appeal. I hope he's right!

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Start your holiday shopping now

Frugal Dad cracked me up with his post yesterday noting that there are only 185 days until Christmas. It seems kind of silly to be thinking of Christmas (or Hanukkah) in June. But it's an excellent idea.

My favorite holiday shopping strategy is to shop year round, starting with the after-Christmas sales in January. I always pick up cards, wrapping paper, ribbons, and other things that I wanted but balked at paying full price for.

I wish I could buy presents year round but we generally only exchange gifts with our immediate families and the tradition has generally been to buy what's asked for. And our relatives would not be receptive to me saying in January, "What do you think you'll want next holiday season, so that I can keep an eye out for stellar deals during the next twelve months?"

I do buy toys and books throughout the year, keeping my gift box stocked for birthdays (it seems like we're going to three or four birthday parties each month now). As I mentioned on Monday, there are some great deals on books in the Scholastic flyers that are sent home from school, so if your child's school participates, pick up some of those inexpensive books and stash them away for gift giving. (Update: Gina has a couple of ideas for getting the Scholastic deals if you don't have access to the flyers.)

I like Frugal Dad's idea of saving now (or throughout the year) in a "Christmas fund" so that you aren't scrambling to find money to buy gifts in December. If you have a big family and lots of presents to buy, you may want to propose that everybody cut back on the gift giving. There are lots of variations on this idea: only the kids get gifts; or kids get gifts from everyone, but the adults (or couples) draw hats and give and get only one gift a piece; or each family (not family member) gets one gift; Grandma and Grandpa give gifts to everyone, but everyone else's gift giving is cut back in some way. And so on and so forth. If you make the proposal now, well before the holiday season, everyone will have a chance to think about and get used to the new tradition.

What are your best holiday savings ideas?

Image credit: Amazon.com - Holiday Two-Stack by Elegant Cheese Cakes(affiliate link). It's $350 with shipping, so I don't recommend buying it, but isn't it gorgeous?

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Two recalls today: Sandals and cribs

If you think you have the following item(s), click through to the CPSC press release for more details:As always, I highly recommend signing up for recall notifications by email at the CPSC web site.

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One more way to earn MyPoints

The USO is one of my favorite charities, so I was surprised and delighted to receive a MyPoints email yesterday offering 5 points per dollar donated to the USO, up to 1250 points (that's a $250 donation). If, like me, you donate to the USO anyway, why not take advantage of an opportunity to earn more points?

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Review: MySurvey.com

I've been recommending MySurvey.com to subscribers for about a month now, so I thought it was time to write a review. (If you've signed up for MySurvey via my affiliate link, thank you!) I've been a MySurvey member since February, and I love how easy it is. I just spend a few minutes every few days answering a survey, and I earn points. (It never takes me as long to complete a survey as the estimate says it will.) 1000 points can be redeemed for a $10 check (or something else). And that's it.

MySurvey will usually email you to tell you that there's a survey to complete. But every day that you log in, you earn an entry into that month's sweepstakes. In fact, MySurvey usually has a few different sweepstakes going on, and entering them is easy. (Each completed survey also earns you a sweepstakes entry.)

My only complaint is that points are rather slow to build. That might just be due to my demographic and personal information, however, since other bloggers seem to accumulate points much faster. (It probably doesn't help that I select "prefer not to answer" whenever possible.) Once I did build up enough points to redeem, my check arrived in about three weeks.

So, if you have a few minutes each day and are looking for a simple way to earn a little extra cash, I recommend MySurvey. And if you're already a MySurvey member, please leave a comment and let us know what your experience has been.

Disclosure: If you sign up for MySurvey via my affiliate link, I'll receive 150 points. Thanks!

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Inexpensive Birthday "Cards"

If your child's school participates in the Scholastic book flyer sales, I highly recommend buying the 95-cent books that are frequently available. Sometimes the books aren't that great, but sometimes they are quite good. I got a paperback version of the Chicken Little book pictured here for just 95-cents.

The best thing about 95-cent books is that they make a great birthday "card." Just write a message on the inside cover. Ninety-five cents is cheaper than almost any birthday card you can find in a store, and the book won't be looked at and thrown away after the thank-you card is written.

You can purchase the hardcover version of the Chicken Little book depicted at Amazon.comfor $4.00 (affiliate link). Or just keep an eye out for the deals in the flyers - they sometimes repeat!

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Money Saving Tip: Tint Your Windows

I love our house, and I especially love its location. But if I could change one thing, it would be its orientation to the sun. You see, in the summer, our house gets full sun on the east side in the morning, and full sun on the west side in the afternoon. It's utterly devastating - without air conditioning, the temperature in our house would be over 90 degrees on the hottest days when it's 115 degrees outside. Needless to say, our air conditioner works overtime on such days, and it shows on our electricity bill.

But things could be much worse. A few years ago, after we'd lived in our house for a couple of years, we had our windows tinted. Under our homeowners' association rules, we couldn't go that dark. But even the mid-level tint that we chose has made a huge difference.

The window tinting cost $600 about four years ago. That first year, I estimated our savings at $300. I haven't done the math since, but I assume our savings have increased with the rising cost of electricity. So tinting our windows has saved us over $1200 and counting.

If you're looking to reduce your cooling costs and the temperature in your house rises due to exposure to the sun, I encourage you to look into window tinting. Most of the house maintenance and improvement research falls on Marc's shoulders, and we had the work done several years ago. So I don't remember much about the experience anymore. I do recall that Marc found out what we needed to know online, then contacted several installers. We had one consultation, during which we picked the tint we wanted and the man (owner? sales manager?) took measurements. Then it took about a day for the man who actually applied the window film to do the work (we had every single window and our big sliding glass doors done). It was worth every penny!

Image credit: Amazon.com - Maximum Heat Control Window Film (affiliate link).

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Earn More MyPoints

A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed MyPoints, which I have been loving more than ever because I can redeem points for CVS gift cards. And I just love paying nothing out of pocket at CVS! So I thought I'd share a couple more ways of earning points that I've recently discovered:
  • Coupons.com - If you print Coupons.com coupons via MyPoints, you'll earn 10 points for each coupon that you redeem. Combine MyPoints coupons with The Drugstore Game and you'll rack up extra points quickly.
  • Bzz Agent - I recently joined Bzz Agent, which is a word of mouth marketing company, after learning that their rewards program ("Bzz Perks") now includes MyPoints. In just a couple of weeks, I've earned approximately 100 easy points, and I should earn more as I gain more "status." I'll write up a full Bzz Agent review after I've been a member for a while.

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This Week in CFO History: Saving the environment, more on breastfeeding, financial responsibility, and pasta puttanesca

Last year, I listed ten small ways to save the environment.

I've got nothing from two years ago - I was still a miserably sick preggo and not spending much time in front of the computer at all.

And three years ago, I was having a blast with my brand new blog. I wrote a bunch of posts about breastfeeding - Breastfeeding Problems - Supply Part I, Breastfeeding Problems - Supply Part II, Other Breastfeeding Problems, and Thoughts About Breastfeeding Pillows. I also discussed how being financially responsible is one key to happiness, and shared my recipe for pasta puttanesca.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Work/Life Balance (or Blog/Life Balance)

A couple of blogs I read have recently ceased because the time commitment was too overwhelming for the authors. The authors are parents who wanted to spend more time with their kids, and I found myself questioning whether I'm shortchanging my boys by doing as much as I do. Although I would definitely have more time for them if I cut back on my commitments, I think they get plenty of me and we're all fine. I really enjoy the things I do, and I think it's good for them to see that Mommy has a full life of her own. It does, of course, help tremendously that my husband does at least half of the childcare, probably more.

But since work/blog/life balance has been on my mind lately, I was really struck by an article at Law.com about trying to bring in business as an associate. (Law firms are generally divided into "partners," who own the firm and make the most money, and "associates," who are employees of the firm and may be invited to become a partner, typically in the 7th or 8th year, though that varies.)

The article includes the stories of several young associates who spend quite a bit of time cultivating relationships that they hope will eventually lead to a new client. It also mentions that many associates don't bother.

It was the first associate they profiled that caught my attention, since she's a mom with a young kid who billed 2150 hours last year and spends an additional 20 hours a month on developing business. To put that in perspective, 40 hours for 50 weeks equals 2000 hours. An attorney works more hours than he or she bills, so this attorney is working at least 45 hours per week without taking a vacation (probably more). Additionally, she spends about five hours per week volunteering and developing relationships that she hopes will lead to more.

I don't know this woman personally, but the article at least makes her sound content with her choices. I know many attorneys who wouldn't be, but the vast majority of attorneys who are unhappy with their jobs wouldn't bother cultivating relationships in the first place. So I think it's probable that she's fairly content with her choices and ambitions.

Do I do this? No, but I'm not trying to make partner, nor am I worried about job security. On the other hand, if I didn't have kids and had more time, I would definitely do this. I think the wonderful thing about it is that you are cultivating relationships that can lead to true friendships and maybe help you in the future, even if they don't lead to a future attorney-client relationship. Networking is incredibly important in business, so why wouldn't you do it?

What do you think?

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

One recall today: Charm key chains again

If you think you have the following item(s), click through to the CPSC press release for more details:

Wal-Mart Recalls Additional Charm Key Chains Due to Risk of Lead Exposure - Click through for additional pictures.



As always, I highly recommend signing up for recall notifications by email at the CPSC web site.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Price per diaper

Angie at Baby Cheapskate has compiled a very handy list of the number of diapers in each package of Pampers, Huggies and Luvs. This new list includes the "price to beat" and replaces Angie's old "price to beat" list. The new list will make it super easy to figure out the price per diaper when you see a sale price (just divide the price by the number of diapers in the package) so you can quickly determine whether it's a irresistible deal. It's nice to know that I'm not the only one who's noticed the way Target conveniently removes the diaper size and quantity from the picture of the diaper box in the Sunday circulars. Thanks, Angie!

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Giveaway: Rational Investing in Irrational Times by Larry Swedroe

Update: Anonymous entries will not be accepted, simply because I can't identify you as the winner. If you entered anonymously, please re-enter using your name or pseudonym.


Back in October, I was lucky enough to win a copy of Larry Swedroe's book, Rational Investing in Irrational Times. SVB at The Digerati Life was kind enough to let me select between Rational Investing and The Complete Tightwad Gazette. I chose Rational Investing because I read the Tightwad Gazette years ago and I need to learn more about investing than I do about frugality at this point. Unfortunately, it's been more than six months and I haven't touched the book. I have been super busy, and I don't see that changing in the near future (maybe around the time Tyler turns three and doesn't need a constant eye on him to make sure he's safe).

Since I hate that the book is just sitting idly on my bookcase, I've decided to give it away to one lucky randomly selected winner. To enter, simply leave a comment on this post with your best investing tip.

For an extra chance to win, subscribe to my feed via RSS or email and leave a separate comment telling me you have done so (or that you're already subscribed).

And for a third chance to win, write about this giveaway on your own site, then leave me a separate comment with a link to your post.
It's important that you leave a separate comment for each type of entry because each comment constitutes one entry.

The giveaway ends at 6:00 p.m. PDT on Wednesday, June 25. I'll use Random.org to generate a number that corresponds with the winning comment.

The winner will be announced here on CFO. The winner will have 48 hours to claim their prize; otherwise a new winner will be randomly selected.

One entry per type per person. Sorry, this giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.

Good luck!

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Workout Tip: Change your clothes when you get home

It's been nearly three months since I decided I had to make some drastic changes to improve my health and appearance. I'm disappointed to report that there isn't much outward change. But,
I'm working out almost every day and I'm eating better. Baby steps, right?

One thing I do to make exercise easier is change right into my workout clothes when I get home from work. I make dinner, do the dishes, bathe the kids, and do book time and bedtime, all in my workout clothes. As soon as the kids are in bed, I can jump on the treadmill or turn on a yoga DVD without having to think.

So that's my Works For Me Wednesday tip: Change into your workout clothes when you get home so there's nothing to slow you down when it's time.

For more tips, head over to Rocks In My Dryer.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

New Gymboree Baby Play book winner


Thank you to everyone who entered the Gymboree Baby Play book giveaway. The original winner never contacted me, so I've selected another winner. Congratulations to ...

Jen!

Jen, you have 48 hours to email me at cfoblog [at] gmail [dot] com with your mailing address.

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Oliso Frisper Freshkeeper winner


Thank you to everyone who entered the Oliso Frisper Freshkeeper giveaway. And the lucky random winner is ...
PS, who said:
Baking soda and laundry soap work the BEST on a flat surface cook top! I'll never use soft scrub again!

PS, you have 48 hours to email me at cfoblog [at] gmail [dot] com to claim your prize. Also, I'm curious - do you mix the baking soda and laundry soap together?

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

New Heels.com gift certificate winner


Thank you to everyone who entered the $50 Heels.com gift certificate giveaway. The original winner never claimed their prize, so I've picked a new winner. Congratulations to ...

EJW!

EJW, you have 48 hours to email me at cfoblog [at] gmail [dot] com to claim your prize!

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Happy Father's Day!

I hope all of you dads out there have a spectacular day today. And that your child isn't reluctant to actually wish you a happy Father's Day . . . not that something like that happened around here.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I'm guest blogging at AFM again

I had a lot of fun filling in for JLP at All Financial Matters last year while he was on vacation, so I was delighted when he asked me to fill in for him again this year.

Yesterday, I discussed how I could find $12,000 in our budget if I had to. And today, I explained what I've learned about Social Security death benefits. Tomorrow, I'll write about Social Security disability benefits.

If you don't read AFM already, I encourage you to subscribe. JLP is a certified financial planner and much more knowledgeable than I am about investing and the economy. He's also very good with numbers, doing the kind of calculations that make my head spin, to back up his assertions. (And the lawyer in me appreciates the factual basis!) I learn a lot when I read AFM and I think you will, too.

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Johnson & Johnson Melt Away Stress prize package winner


Thank you to everyone who entered the Johnson & Johnson Melt Away Stress prize package giveaway. And congratulations to the lucky random winner . . .

Jeno!

I'll announce the last winner on Monday, along with a new giveaway, so stay tuned!

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Autographed copy of Alive & Kicking winner


Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway for an autographed copy of Alive and Kicking: Legal Advice ... for Boomers. And congratulations to the lucky random winner . . .

BlueViolet, who said:
The best thing about getting older is watching my children enter their adult lives and enjoying everything with them.
BlueViolet, you have 48 hours to email your mailing address to me at cfoblog [at] gmail [dot] com to claim your prize.

More winners coming up later this week!

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Two recalls today: Overalls and merry-go-rounds

If you think you have the following item(s), click through to the CPSC press release for more details:As always, I highly recommend signing up for recall notifications by email at the CPSC web site.

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Are college students covered by their parents' insurance policies?

If you've got a child headed off to college in the fall, it's not too early to start looking into their insurance coverage while they're away. I found a handy little column in the June issue of Westways, so I'll share what they say:
  • Health insurance - Most health insurance policies cover dependents up to 25 years of age if they're in school full-time. You'll want to check your own plan for its specifics, though, and talk with your child about what "full-time" means. (One dropped class could mean no health insurance - yikes!) You should also take a look at what out-of-network costs might be if your child's school is far away. If your policy doesn't cover your child, or you're worried about those out-of-network costs, you can purchase a temporary policy - I seem to recall my schools always offered one, though I never bought it (they always seemed a little shady to me - maybe they were actually catastrophic policies? - so make sure you read the fine print).
  • Property insurance - If you can still claim your child as a dependent, she will most likely be deemed part of your household and her possessions will be covered under your homeowner's policy while she's away at school. But the coverage might be limited, so check your policy and decide whether renter's insurance might be a better bet. In this situation, I would probably call up my insurance agent for guidance.
One final note: If you're bearing any kind of responsibility for your child's college education, you may want to make sure your life insurance coverage is adequate. It's occurred to me that our very first term policies will expire just as Alex heads off to college, and the polices that we acquired shortly after his birth will expire while he's still in school. I expect our finances to be such that we won't need additional policies at that point, but if we aren't as financially secure as I hope we'll be, I'll consider five-year term policies so that money won't be a source of stress in the event of the unthinkable.

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CVS giftcard & Cascade winners


Thank you to everyone who entered the $10 CVS gift card and Cascade dishwashing gel giveaway. And congratulations to the lucky random winners . . .

Brett, who wins the grand prize of a $10 CVS gift card & a bottle of Cascade dishwashing gel

And the following winners, who will receive a bottle of Cascade dishwashing gel:

Shelly
Laura
Mary512
and Kait

Winners, please email your address to me at cfoblog [at] gmail [dot] com within 48 hours to claim your prize.

More winners coming up later this week!

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Gymboree Baby Play winner


Thank you to everyone who entered the Gymboree Baby Play book giveaway. And congratulations to the lucky random winner . . .

[forfeited]

You have 48 hours to email your mailing address to me at cfoblog [at] gmail [dot] com to claim your prize.

More winners coming up later this week!

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Car insurance that works the way it's supposed to

Remember that tiny dent that I mentioned Alex put into the car parked next to us a few weeks ago because I wasn't watching closely enough? Well, the other car's owner went ahead and called his insurance company, and our insurance agent called us.

And although I wasn't looking forward to the call, it wasn't so bad.

First of all, I want to say that I love our insurance agent. He's nice, professional and competent, and he's also straight forward and helpful.

With that in mind, he gave me the option of deciding whether to claim the incident on our insurance or handle it ourselves. And he helped me make the decision by giving me all of the information I needed.

The damage to the other car is $300. Our deductible applies only to damage to our own vehicle, so the insurance company will cover the entire cost. Because the claim is a low amount, it won't impact our premiums.

The only thing to be concerned about is the possibility of losing our good driver discount if there's another incident in the next three years. (The discount is $80 per year.) Hopefully, that won't be something we have to think about again, though!

One thing I wish I could find out is what the other car's owner thought about before he filed his claim with his insurance company. He did absolutely nothing wrong (both our cars were parked within the lines) so it seems like the claim shouldn't impact his policy at all. And since we'll pay for the damage, his insurance company isn't out any money either. But I've read that multiple small claims can result in higher premiums - although this could apply only to home insurance policies, since there will rarely be a responsible third-party to absorb the cost of those claims. Hm, does anybody know?

All in all, I'm really pleased that our car insurance policy seems to be doing exactly what it's supposed to do, even in a very minor incident!

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Heels.com Giveaway Winner


Thank you to everyone who entered the $50 Heels.com gift certificate giveaway. And congratulations to the lucky random winner . . .

[forfeited]


You have 48 hours to email me at cfoblog [at] gmail [dot] com to claim your prize.

More winners coming up later this week!

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Two recalls today: Swing sets & camo PJ's

If you think you have the following item(s), click through to the CPSC press release for more details:As always, I highly recommend signing up for recall notifications by email at the CPSC web site.

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My Personal Finance Tipping Point

Tipping point: The point at which a slow gradual change becomes irreversible and then proceeds with gathering pace.

I was in my mid-twenties when I graduated from law school. I had a lot of student loan debt, which didn't really sink in until I looked at the monthly payment amounts. Goodness, that was a lot of money each month!

That realization was my personal finance tipping point, the moment when I realized that I needed to learn about personal finance and change my financial situation. Fortunately for me, I had been dating Marc for a while and we had decided to move in together with the understanding that we'd be getting married soon. So at about the same time I had to start paying back my student loans, I also had someone to share living expenses with.

Also at about that time, I discovered The Dollar Stretcher. I learned about living within (and preferably below) my means, how to match coupons with sales, and how to cut expenses. I learned to track my expenses, make a budget, and take control of my finances. I was never irresponsible about my money, but for the first time, I actually felt in control.

Since graduating from law school, managing my family's finances has become my favorite hobby. I am always looking for ways to minimize our expenses while maximizing our lifestyle, build up our savings, and invest for the future.

But as far as I've come, I still have a lot to learn, which is one of the great things about personal finance. I am educating myself more about investing so that when my student loans are paid off (which should be fairly soon!), I can invest more of our money as wisely as possible.

What was your personal finance tipping point?

This post is part of Free From Broke's personal finance tipping point contest. Check it out to learn how you can win a $25 Amazon gift certificate.

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KABOOST giveaway winner

Thank you to everyone who entered the KABOOST giveaway. And congratulations to the winner . . .

Ginnyberry!

If you didn't win, you may want to think about buying a KABOOST - it's a very reasonable $35.26 with free shipping at Amazon.

More winners coming up later this week!

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Review: MyPoints.com

Update 1/25/09: Read the comments for others' experiences and be aware that it might be best not to make any purchases via MyPoints.

Update 11/1/09: I've never made a purchase through MyPoints, but I can accumulate a couple hundred points a month just by printing and redeeming coupons through their portal.

About a year ago, I read a post at The Frugal Duchess that mentioned a program called MyPoints as a means of earning points that could be redeemed for gift cards. Intrigued, I set out to learn more. Conveniently, Mighty Bargain Hunter wrote up a nice review at about the same time, confirming what I'd already learned and offering some additional tips.

So what's MyPoints? The great appeal of MyPoints is that points can be earned without spending any money. Every member receives "bonus" emails, and clicking on the link in the email usually earns 5 points. And multiple emails go out every day. When you have enough points, you can redeem them for a variety of gift cards.

It really has been that simple. The lowest value gift cards are 500 points, so you can earn rewards extremely quickly.

On the other hand, the higher value gift cards require fewer points, proportionally. For instance, a $25 CVS gift card costs 3600 points, but a $50 CVS gift card is less than twice that at 7100 points.

In fact, I had been saving up all of my points for a $50 Amazon gift certificate (no longer available). But then I started burning up my ECBs at CVS buying things my family needs, so I redeemed 3600 points for a $25 CVS gift card. I'll be able to stretch that $25 into hundreds by playing The Drugstore Game, so the loss of points is more than worth it. If not for the CVS gift card, though, I would have continued to save my points like David of My Two Dollars. (Note to self: It took about three weeks for my CVS gift card to arrive, so I can't wait until my ECBs are gone to order my next gift card!)

In addition to clicking through bonus emails, you can earn points by answering questions on the MyPoints site and taking surveys that they email you. The surveys are typically 10 points if you don't qualify (and more points if you do). They don't take very long, particularly if, like me, you select "prefer not to answer" whenever possible, since that seems to disqualify me quite often.

Other ways to earn points for free include downloading and using the MyPoints tool bar, playing their promotional games (usually held around holidays), and completing registrations and "exclusive offers". You can also earn points by shopping through their portal (though I generally try to go through Ebates since that gives me cash back), playing their online games, using the MyPoints Visa, and referring other users.

MyPoints
Banner via MySavings.com

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate and/or referral links, and may refer to items that were sent to me for review. However, all opinions are my own. You can read Chief Family Officer's full disclaimer and disclosure policy here.

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