Sunday, 27 July 2008

Where to go for the freebies?

What could be better than getting something for free? I would certainly would want it, but where do you find all these free things? Doing a Google search with the keyword freebie brings up 7.9million hits.I have come cross three place that. Some of the hits only provide links to promotions like "get a Free iPod if you click on this advert, and then only if you and then of your fiends sign up for an online survey and ....blah blah..", I think you know what I mean.

Having said that, I have three sites that are has quite reliable information about freebies, what to do and where to go etc.

The Freebies Blog - This is my favourite in getting what is going for free. What I like about it is that it also has pictures of the freebies received.
BuckScoop Forum - BuckScoop has a forum for freebies. This is good as it is a forum and many users would provide feedback on how good the freebie is. This Crispy Creme freebie is a good one, stirs out the patriotic blood. :-)
Whirlpool Forum - Whirlpool also has a forum of freebies. Similar to the BuckScoop foum, it has reader feedback, however it does not appear to as active as BuckScoop's forum.

The two forum sites are mainly focused on Australian Freebies, while The Freebies Blog are mainly Australian and American.

Does anyone else know anymore of these sites?

Thursday, 24 July 2008

The twin's mums just lost an unreasonable case.

A few months ago, I wrote an article about the parents of an IVF twins suing their obstetrician for implanting two embryos instead of one, causing a set of twins to be born.

Well, the case has been settled in favour of the defendant. This article from The Age has some details on the case.

Apart from the ridiculous amount money being sued for, the following quote stunned me.

"The court was told the twins' birth mother had lost her capacity to love and the couple's relationship suffered as they became mired in everyday tasks associated with raising two children."

Having read this, I get the feeling that this set of parents have lost (or perhaps, never gained) the notion of being parents. Not only have the mums blessed with children via the amazing IVF program, they have twice the amount of enjoyment with the twins.

I am not saying that having twins is an easy job. I have a young toddler myself and I can imagine that a pair of twins will be even harder, but as a parent, I will never lose the love for my son.

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Tuesday, 22 July 2008

High fuel price costs jobs

About two weeks ago, when I was waiting for my car to be serviced, I had an interesting conversation with the mechanic at the car dealership. It goes something like this.

"Did see the price of petrol today? It is getting pretty high."

mechanic: "When I drove in to work this morning, I saw about $1.70 per litre."

me: "I hope that it goes down a little in the next few weeks"

mechanic: "Well, I think the damage is already done. Some of my mates had to quit their jobs because the petrol prices are too high."

me: "Really?!?"

mechanic: "Yeah. They had to travel about an hour to work, and the cost of petrol is around $125 per week. They just couldn't afford it."

At that point, I start the feel how lucky I am to be working about 5 minutes drive from home. In a city like Melbourne where the suburban sprawl of extremely wide, it is quite common for workers to travel for more than two hours each day between home and work. The lack of public transport to service the widening suburban sprawl does not help these people.

The mechanic went on to say that his friends would have got more money in their pockets if they went on the dole, or unemployment benefit, however they manage to find similar jobs closer to home.

If I was in a similar situation, I probably would have seriously consider this option as well. In the current economic climate, having enough money to provide for your family the number one priority.

What would you have done in a similar situation?

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The real cost of that hamburger, movie, or kid

Welcome to a guest writer, Aaron Stroud, who blogs On Financial Success. He provides plenty of down-to-earth writing around personal finance. Many thanks to Aaron for the guest post.

What do burgers, kids, and movies have in common? They all involve opportunity costs.

When you buy a burger, you can't use that money to rent a movie, pay down debt, or invest. And when you sit down to watch a movie, you've traded your time and money for two hours of entertainment.

Sometimes a movie is the best use of your time and money, but that's time you can't spend reading or walking in the park.

These alternatives–the missed opportunity to read, walk, pay down debt, or to invest–are the opportunity costs of picking one option over another.

So how much does a $2 hamburger really cost? Well, over the next 25 years you're missing out on:

  1. $65 if you carry credit card debt at 15%
  2. $9 in saved interest on a 200k mortgage at 7%
  3. $34 in missed retirement savings if you earned 12%

Perhaps it is worth rethinking your options before ordering that hamburger!

Oh, and the costs of children? Costs vary from family to family, but one thing is for sure—children are expensive. Fortunately they pay dividends superior to any stock.

Aaron Stroud shares reliable, easily followed steps to build wealth at On Financial Success. Subscribe to his feed to follow along or ask a question to direct the conversation.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Would you use a fuel price monitoring service?

With the fuel prices almost reaching the $2 per litre mark, I am always looking for different ways to spend as less as possible when I am filling up the car. One of this ways was to exploit the volatility of fuel cycle. Sometimes, I believe that the fuel cycle is manufactured to keep the illusion that the poor driver is getting a bargain at the bowser, (I am probably too cynical).

Fuel watch
was a program that was first used in Western Australia with varying degree of success. It was introduced in 2001, so its effect on the local fuel prices would be well understood if it was to be introduced for the test of the country. Fuel watch was to provide the drivers to make an informed decision on when and where to get the next load of fuel.

An article in WA Today today has indicated that fuel price cycle in Western Australia has basically disappeared. It is not conclusive that Fuel Watch was the main reason. If the price cycle is as predictable as it is, what difference would Fuel Watch make?

I believe that fuel cycle will not totally disappears. It's price will still go up and down,following the world oil prices. It just that the fuel prices is not going to be as volatile as it has been. The volatility cycle will probably be measured in weeks rather than days.

Instead of investing money into Fuel Watch for the rest of the country, that money should be invested into more worthwhile projects such as ways of dealing with housing crisis, or getting more people in homes.

What do you think about a monitoring service like Fuel Watch?

Monday, 14 July 2008

CoPF #161 up at The Budgeting Babe.

The 161st edition of Carnival of Personal Finance has just been hosted by the Budgeting Babe. My entry on the rental crisis was also selected for publication.

Some of the articles that caught my eyes were.

  1. Sallie's Niece on how she spent $900 on Gyros.
  2. Money Ning on adjusting your invesment contribution.
  3. Our Four Pence Worth has some wise advice on splurging on that next purchase.
There are many other great articles at the carnival. Get over there and take a look.

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Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Watch out for David Rhodes and his crazy chain letter

About two weeks ago, I received a letter in the mail addressed to "T. Chin", Upon opening it, I discovered it is a letter from David Rhodes. It had a 5cent coin taped to the top corner of the letter. It certainly caught my attention on what it was all about. Having never heard of David Rhodes, I read a bit more. It dawned on me that this is a classic pyramid scheme/chain letter that no one will ever be the winner. Furthermore, this type of activity is illegal and will incur a heavy penalty if found guilty. The Consumer Affairs of Victoria has a nice bulletin of what this chain letter is all about. The fines are more than $24,000! Wikipedia also has a good article on the history of this letter.

Essentially, the chain letter works by having you sending a gift of $10 to the person at the top of a list of 5 people. Of the 200 letters you send out, the person on the top of the list is removed and you placed yourself at the bottom of the list. The person that receives your letter will do just as you have done. You get your $10 when you have reached the top of the list.

That evening, I read it again trying to understand why so many people would be drawn into it and give it ago. Let's have a look at some of the letter characteristics.
  • The plan itself appears to be extremely plausible for it to work, and the instructions looks thorough enough for it work. It even contain steps on how to fold the letters so that the creases in the folded letter does not mess up any future photocopying by your receiver.
  • The chain letter contain a calculation of a scenario where it appears to be reasonable and realistic. It used a 3% response rate on letters that you sent out.
  • The outlay for the participation is about $200. Most people may think that this is not such a large outlay and would be willing to risk to receive the "guaranteed" $70,000 return.
  • Everyone loves a rags-to-riches story and caused them to think "if it happen to him, it certainly can also happen to me as well." The letter also contain several other rag-to-riches testimonials.
This is the first time that I have ever received such dangerous spam through the post. However, it is only dangerous if I acted upon it. The best thing I can do is take the 5cent coin off the letter and throw the letter into the recycling bin. At least that way, that letter did increase my wealth by giving me 5cent, better than nothing.

By the way, just found the Make Money Fast Hall of Humiliation. Reading the comments, I am amaze on how gullible some people are.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Rental crisis and what you can do to avoid it.

The ever increasing affordability of housing in Melbourne is causing some grief in the rental market. The landlords may be loving it as there are no shortage of potential tenants. This situation has inflated the rents of properties. I don't believe that the situation is isolated to only Melbourne, the other capital cities are also experiencing similar effects, especially in Perth and Brisbane.

Unfortunately, the rent for a property is almost dictated by how many people wants to live it. In today's rental market, I would not be surprise if the rent is higher than a mortgage's repayment.

In the Frankston area, just a short drive from where I live, the landlords are being opportunistic in trying to extract as much rent as possible. This article from the local paper discusses the sad state of affairs.

So, if you are renting, what you do to help with the rising rent rates.

  1. Move the an area with cheaper rent. Some suburbs has lower rent rates than others for many reasons. If you are happy with the reasons on the lower rent rate, consider moving to these locations.
  2. Negotiate with your landlord. Most land lords are reasonable people, and an attempt with communication with them shows that you are willing to discusses the crisis with them. In most cases, most land loads are happy with a good tenant with a reasonable rent rate than a bad tenant at a high rent rate.
  3. Know your tenant rights. If your land lord is not is reasonable, have a good knowledge of what your rights are. For rentals in the state of Victoria, you can contact the Consumer Affairs for more information. The are similar government bodies in the other states an territories.
  4. Consider purchasing a house. If the rent that you are paying is so high that it almost as high, if not higher, than a mortgage repayment, then consider purchasing a house. In today's market where new house purchases are declining, the developers are extremely accommodating in the terms and conditions. Have a chat with them. Be aware that purchasing a house is not something to be entered into lightly, it is littered with traps and pitfalls.
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Public Housing and the homeless
Would you miss a meal to pay your rent?

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

Today is the new day of the new financial year in Australia. For most of Australian businesses and general public, the financial year ends on the 30June, and the new one starts on the 1July.

So what can be expected for this financial year, from my perspective, I can't see as many positives as I can see the negatives. Lets start with the negatives.
  • The interest rates are expected to rise. My prediction is that mortgage rates will hit 10% by the end of the year. Recent reports of the slowing down in the economy such as spending in retail and housing will probably stop the interest rate from going much further than 10%.
  • The petrol prices will continue to increase. Even though there was a recent conference among the oil producers to help reduce the cost of oil, I feel that the days of seeing the pricing at around $1.20/ltr are long gone. I expect to see the price of unleaded petrol to hit $2/ltr by the end of the year.
  • Australian manufacturing industry to slow down dramatically. The current Australian economy is really riding on what the land can provide, more correctly, what the underground can provide in mining. Another industry such as manufacturing, services and farming will probably suffer due to environmental reasons and economic reasons. Personally, I would like to see the manufacturing industry enjoying the same economic boom as the mining industry, I don't think it will happen in the near future.
  • Due to the on-going drought and increasing fuel pricing, the groceries prices will be increasing.
  • Our superannuation fund is on its way to give one of the worst return ever. We can blame the US subprime problems for this.
Feel free to shoot me down in flames with these predictions, and I hope that I very wrong with some of these predictions.

A couple of the positives are
  • The personal tax rates have changed, which means that you should be getting a little bit more in your pocket each payday.
  • With the increase of petrol, focus on alternative energy are being looked at in a serious way. So hopefully, a commercially viable solution is not too far in the future.

With those predictions, let's try make the best of the new 08/09 financial year by viewing the negatives as problems which solutions are to be created for, especially on a personal finance level.