Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Buying Used Instead Of New

We all buy things.  Just about every day most of us buy some thing or another.  But how often do we buy used items?  Over the summer of '09 I was unemployed.  I wanted a set of dumbbells so I could workout in my apartment.  Over the summer I went on Craigslist and purchased dumbbells... pair by pair, using the subway and my rolling suitcase.  I ended up with a set ranging from 5lbs to 30lbs.  I never paid more than 50 cents a pound.  Had I purchased those same weights new, it would have cost me over $2 a pound!  Needless to say, I saved a lot of money by going used.

Below I've included a link taking you to a great article about things you should consider getting used instead of new.  A car is a perfect example.  My brother and his wife just bought a 2008 Camry.  It had quite a few highway miles but they knew the owner well and knew that the car was well cared for.  They paid only $9,000 for that car.  If they had purchased a NEW Camry (2010 model) like my father did, it would have cost them $21,500.  As we all know, aside from the whole sticking-accelerator thing, Toyotas are great cars and will last a long time when well cared for.  The only disadvantage of buying a car used is that you usually have to pay all cash for it, unless you want to get hit with a high interest rate.  But if you have the cash, it's the way to go.  My Dad scored 0% financing on his purchase, so that was pretty cool too.

Click here to see more items you may consider buying used to save your hard earned cash.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Today, while basking in the Central Park sun, I looked over and noticed a sign reading "Charge your phone here."  I was intrigued.  Not because I needed to charge my phone, but because I was in the presence of a really smart business idea.  I immediately went over and started talking to Victor, the man behind the plan.

He sits out in the middle of Sheep's Meadow on a sunny day where tourists and locals throw frisbees and sip their mojitos and Coors.  The only piece of advertising is a nice, simple sign attached to a walking stick.  He waits.  They come.

Victor has a fully charged battery inside his backpack.  He charges the battery from home.  As you can see in the photos, he also has a solar panel.  He says the panel basically just "keeps the battery fully charged."  He can plug several phones in at one time, having most types of chargers to suit an array of phones.  A typical charge for a dead phone takes about 30 minutes to fill back up.  The cost?  Tips.  That's right, he works only for tips.  There is no set charge.  He says most people tip him about $5.  Sometimes a little more.  Seems like a super good deal considering the closest Apple store is at 5th or the new Upper West Side location.

In the time I observed Victor's walkup traffic - about 1 hour - he took in nearly 10 customers.  As I spoke with him there were three phones charging on his charging docks.  He said "yeah, two of these belong to these guys (the fellas in the photo just above) and the other one to that group over there.  They're gonna charge about 30 minutes or so."

He's been at it for about a week now, coming to the park, plugging people in, and saving them precious play time on sunny days.  When the day is over, he packs it all into his backpack, unfolds his scooter, and rides off.

If you happen to see Victor in the park on a day when you need a refill, give him a visit.  Not only is he offering a great service, he's also a really nice guy.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Balance Transfers And Getting A New Card

This past week I was in Boston doing a reading of a really cool new musical called Unknown Soldier,  by Daniel Goldstein and Michael Friedman at the awesome Huntington Theatre.  While there, a fellow cast member asked me if I knew of a good credit card for transfering her high-interest rate balance.  I didn't hesitate: "Actors Federal Credit Union Gold Card!"  Why this particular card?  Well, they have a ZERO balance transfer fee which is basically unheard of these days.  Any time you want to transfer a balance to a new card, or even an existing card, you will most definitely incur a fee of 3 to 4 percent.  That's a lot!  Plus, you may not even get a 0% interest rate on that transfer.

However, at Actors FCU, if you qualify for the Gold Card, you'll get a zero balance transfer fee and an introductory (6-month) APR of only 1.9%.  That's really good by current standards.

So, if you're one of those people (and there are many right now) who needs to transfer a balance to save money from high interest rates, check out the Actors FCU Gold Card.

One more note of interest: the rate after 6 months only goes up to 8.9%!!!  Good luck finding a better deal elsewhere.. just sayin.

And as always, charge with care :)

Click here to see the card offer.

A link worth visiting.

There are lots of reasons to avoid using your credit card, if you aren't responsible.  One of the main ones is if you don't intend to pay off the balance in full at the end of the month.. especially if you have a high interest rate.  There is an exception: when you are in a "promotional" period and you aren't getting charged interest for 6 to 18 months.  However, if you still have a balance at the end of the promotion, be ready to get hit with big interest charges.

This link goes into a little more detail about the credit card thing.

There are other great pieces of advice in the link as well.  For instance, why you should avoid refinancing your home if you're a homeowner.  Many people buy a home because they want an "investment" and don't want to throw their "hard-earned money" away on rent.  Well, yes, if you buy a home, it CAN be a good investment.  BUT if you refinance, it basically means you're borrowing against the newly gained equity in the home.  Which basically means you're going to owe more money on your investment.  Which basically means you've just reduced your investment by borrowing against it.

But if you choose to "throw your money away on rent," and invest in a Roth IRA, or your 401K, you'll be less inclined to borrow against it or cash it out.  In turn, you won't reduce your investment with careless refinancing.  Also, as we've seen in the recent years, homes can lose their value quickly and take a long time to recover.  Your IRAs and 401Ks and lose value quickly as well, but they don't take nearly as long to get their original value back.  What does this mean to you?  Well, if you're just renting, you won't have to worry about how much your apartment is worth, because the bank won't call in the loan.

If this is too much jibberish, just google the terms "mortgage crisis," "call in a loan on a mortgage," and "why homes get foreclosed when values fall."

It's lots of fun.

Enjoy the link and happy saving!