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Hilarious and Brilliant Halloween Frugality Idea from BFP: Recycling Candy

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

I was surfing on PFBlogs.org and found this hilarious post from Blueprint for Financial Prosperity. This is so cheap, I’m a bit ashamed that I never thought of it.

They basically would go out trick-or-treating early in the evening, and then check back in with the parents and unload the candy they didn’t like to add to the pot for giveaway to other trick-or-treaters. Absolutely brilliant!

No kids just yet, so we’ll have to wait a while to do this. Until then I’ll just have to stock up after Halloween when everything goes on clearance.

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October 31, 2007 Posted by | Tips | , , , | Leave a comment

No direct deposit? No problem!

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

How many times do you see the offers from banks: “Free checking with direct deposit” or “$100 bonus when you open a new account with direct deposit”? So many bank offers and fee waivers are contingent on having direct deposit, and with good reason. Banks know that the more integrated your account is with the rest of your financial life, the more likely you will remain a customer and hopefully use other services from them. They are counting on that you are too lazy to go to the trouble of contacting your payroll department at work to have your direct deposit redirected to a new account. The same reasoning is why so many banks are now pushing bill payment services. You’re less likely to close an account if most of your bill payments are already set up through that account.

The problem with this is that there are lots of people such as the self-employed and employees of small businesses that don’t have direct deposit as an option. There are others of us that maintain multiple accounts (for instance, a local checking account for ATM access and small deposits and a high-yield checking through an online bank) and don’t necessarily want to send our direct deposit to a particular account.

Well, there is hope for those who are in this situation or that just want to take advantage of bonus offers requiring direct deposit. A direct deposit is simply an electronic transfer of funds to your account. This is usually done by a method known as ACH. The thing is that a ACH transfer to your account can be done in a number of ways besides through a company’s payroll department. Transfers from other bank accounts (either your own or someone else’s) and even from online payment services like Paypal are done by ACH as well. Unless a real person is looking at the detail of the ACH transfer, there is no real way to automatically tell if the ACH is a payroll deposit or not. Most of the time a bank will count these non-payroll transfers as a direct deposit, which allows you to avoid service fees and/or collect promotional bonuses based on the use of direct deposit.

The easiest way to simulate a direct deposit is by using another account you control that offers free outgoing transfers. Online savings accounts like ING Direct (click here for info on getting a referral for a $25 bonus), Emigrant Direct, or HSBC Direct all allow this. A few banks and credit unions offer this service free of charge as well. Some people have also successfully used PayPal transfers to simulate a direct deposit.

There is a lengthy thread on Fatwallet discussing this concept and compiling user experiences simulating direct deposits using various methods with different banks. I would caution that you SHOULD NOT CALL the bank and ask if whatever method will count, as they will almost always tell you no and it may tip them off to look for such activity on your account.

October 30, 2007 Posted by | banking, Tips | , , , | 2 Comments

My Coke Rewards: The point of these points?

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

I drink a lot of Diet Coke. I start each morning with one. Another for lunch, another for dinner. Usually at least two to get me through the afternoon.

As many of these as I drink along with my obsessive-compulsive personality, it is no wonder that I am a fan of the My Coke Rewards program. Unique codes are printed inside caps and packs of cans which can be collected and redeemed through their website for various reward items. Over the last year or so, I’ve accumulated about 2600 points, of which I’ve redeemed 1875 points for 3 $25 Visa gift cards.

The codes on 20 oz. and 2-liter bottles are worth 3 points each, the codes on 12 packs are worth 10 points each. But an interesting wrinkle is that you can only entered 10 codes per day, which has created an opportunity for folks like me. There is an active community of traders over on SlickDeals who trade the 3 point codes for 10 point codes at a significant discount (usually 6 to 1). A lot of the traders offering the 3 point caps scavenge caps from college campuses, sports stadiums, and other venues where large numbers of 20 oz. bottles are sold and consumed. Since they can only enter in 10 of those codes per day, they trade for higher point value codes so they can accumulate more points.

Is it really worth my time to trade and enter codes? Probably not, but it makes for an interesting and profitable break during the day.

If you want to get started collecting points, let me know and I can refer you. Don’t want to collect the points? Send them to me! Use the email link to the right to request a referral or donate your codes.

BTW, big thanks for all the codes, Wes!

October 29, 2007 Posted by | Tips | , , , , | 3 Comments

Welcome PFBlogs.org Readers!

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

My blog is now officially listed on PFBlogs.org! PFBlogs.org readers will now see all of my money musings listed shortly after they are posted here. For those of you new to this blog, here is a sampling of my postings here:

Citi AMEX Platinum Deal: 3% min back on all purchases for 24 months + 15K bonus

Neat tip on tipping – Easily detect unauthorized tip adjustments

$200 bonus for opening a Chase Business Checking account

Buy.com and Connect3D not honoring valid rebates!

Yes, your insurance company IS trying to screw you!

Take some time to look around and enjoy the tales of my Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind.

October 28, 2007 Posted by | About | Leave a comment

Great Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Deal Through AMEX Membership Rewards

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

Here is a crazy brilliant scheme I came across this morning in the Fatwallet Finance forum. In a thread discussing the best use of AMEX Membership Rewards points, user jairocon posted the following way to use AMEX points for Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards credits. Keep in mind that you need 16 Rapid Rewards credits to get a free flight on Southwest.

There is currently a nice transfer for AMEX->southwest:

If you go directly 1.5k AMEX MR = 1 Southwest RR credit
Free Southwest flight = 16 RR credits so you need 24k AMEX MR for 1 free Southwest flight

However, if you have a few weeks time and don’t mind a phone call or two that you’d need to make – there’s a better way:

5k AMEX MR -> 5k Continental OnePass
5k Continental OnePass -> 5k Amtrak GuestRewards (5k is the transfer interval CO allows)
5k Amtrak GuestRewards -> 25k Choice (hotels) Points
25k Choice Points -> 10 Southwest RR credits

If we used 25k AMEX MR – you’d get 50 Southwest RR credits! That’s 3 free flight tickets!

Caveats:
– You can only transfer out 25k Amtrak Guest Rewards/calendar year
– Transfers might take a while
– Transfer ratios might devalue over time

You can make it even better by transferring 25,000 AMEX points prior to year-end, and then again after January 1. Why? Because another cool feature of the Southwest Rapid Rewards program is that if you earn 100 Rapid Rewards credits over any 12-month period, you are given a companion pass that is good for a year. The companion pass allows you to name a specific individual who is allowed to fly with you on any Southwest flight for a year, even if your ticket is an award ticket. So essentially you get 6 free flights plus the companion pass that can become the same as 6 more free flights.

With two little ones on the way, we probably won’t be traveling much in the coming year, but hopefully someone else out there can use this.

October 26, 2007 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Citi AMEX Platinum Deal: 3% min back on all purchases for 24 months + 15K bonus

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

Here is a deal that I found in preparation for my recent App-O-Rama. Citi is currently running a promotion for new applications for the Citi AMEX Platinum Card. The card offers 5 Thank You Points per dollar on everyday purchases (gas, grocery, and drugstores), and 3 Thank You Points per dollar on everything else. You also receive 15,000 bonus Thank You points after spending $300 in the first three months.

You can apply for the card by clicking here.

Thank You points can be redeemed for gift cards, travel, and other items. On most gift cards, 10,000 points can be redeemed for a $100 card, which means that at minimum you will get a minimum of 3% back.

There are two catches on the offer that are pretty easy to work around:

  1. The annual fee is waived for the first year only. Afterwards the annual fee is $99.
  2. The promotional reward levels are only for the first 24 months. Afterwards you get a measly 1 Thank You point per dollar.

Of course the work around is to cancel the card before the one year anniversary. Just be sure to stop using the card about a month before you close the account so you don’t forfeit any points.

October 25, 2007 Posted by | Credit Cards | , , , , | 1 Comment

2007 Pumpkin Carving Contest – Vote for Your Favorite!

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

As part of a recent family tradition, every year we carve pumpkins for Halloween. Each year the entries range from the traditional to the creative to the downright strange.

Pumpkins

As a new twist, we are posting pictures of the pumpkins here and allowing the world to vote for their favorite. Take a look, pick your favorite, and vote for your favorite by posting in the comments below. Voting will close at midnight October 31. Each of us will give you a description of our pumpkin and why you should vote for us in 100 words or less. I won’t tell you which is mine to avoid any bias.

Update 10/23/07: We have a few late entrants from the family back in Louisiana. No descriptions or names were provided, so the pumpkins will have to speak for themselves.

Here goes:


Entry #1: H. R. Puffinstuff

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Yeah, that’s right I’ve got a muffin top. I’m just husky and about to have a growthspurt. If you squint your eyes, I resemble a certain person from Ghost Busters. Please vote for me and I need the prize money for FIG.


Entry #2: B. D. Eyes

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You might recognize me from a scene in “The Sorcerer’s Stone” or perhaps my cameo in “Hocus Pocus”. I have a classically carved face with wonderfully shaped eyebrows. How can you help but fall in love with my charming smile and cunningly sharp teeth! Hollywood was good, but getting your vote will be better! Vote for me!


Entry #3: Cyclops

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CYcloPs!! VOTE FOR STEVEN COLBERT!!!!! CYCloPs!!!!


Entry #4: Scary Mamma Jamma

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My pumpkin is pretty awesome without a description and is obviously the best one, so vote for me.


Entry #5: Double Trouble

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The inspiration for this carving was our twins who are due any day now. The main face represents the mother and the two smaller faces are our little boy and little girl. I wanted the faces of the kids to look a bit more mischievious, but it is kind of difficult to get that detail on such a small cut. Vote for me!


Entry #6: Jack

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Star of his own Halloween classic movie, Nightmare Before Christmas.


Entry #7: LSU Eyes

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We have another evil genius in the family, trying to pander to the audience. GEAUX TIGERS!


Entry #8: Puss-in-Boots

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Who can resist those pleading eyes? Who wants to?

Editor’s note: Cool, yes. But I smell a stencil!


Entry #9: Stitch

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An original design, a good example of cosmetic surgery gone bad.


Vote for your favorite now!

October 20, 2007 Posted by | Off Topic | , , , | 38 Comments

Data Breach: Louisiana Office of Student Financial Aid

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

Here is a big heads-up for anyone who attended college in Louisiana or was a Louisiana resident when they completed the FAFSA. The Louisiana Office of Student Financial Aid has disclosed that their data storage contractor (Iron Mountain) had lost backup data media in mid-September which included names and social security numbers. According to LOSFA, the following persons could be affected:

  • Anyone who has a Louisiana College Savings account (START Saving Program).
  • Any resident of the state of Louisiana who has completed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
  • Anyone who has completed a FAFSA and included a Louisiana postsecondary institution as an institution to which FAFSA data should be sent.
  • Anyone who has applied for or received a Tuition Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) Scholarship.
  • Anyone who has applied for or who has received student financial aid in the State of Louisiana.

For more information on the breach, the official notice from LOFSA can be found here.

To search the database to determine if your information was included, check here.

October 16, 2007 Posted by | News/Trends | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Off-topic: LSU loses to Kentucky

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

This was a very sad weekend for me. As I have mentioned before, I am originally from Louisiana and also a graduate of LSU. I’ve been a Tiger fan for years, and in the good years and the bad there has always been one certainty – LSU will always beat Kentucky in football. Even during the darkness of the Mike Archer and Curly Hallman years, Kentucky was almost always an automatic win for us. So who would have thought that an LSU team ranked number 1 in the country would lose to a Kentucky Wildcat team, regardless of what their ranking happens to be this year? This is the same team we beat last year 49-0, after all!

Well, those of you who follow college football know what happened Saturday. LSU lost to Kentucky in 3OT, dropping the Tigers out of the number 1 spot. While I am sad about the loss, I have to admit that Kentucky played one heck of a ballgame and totally deserved to win. There may be some debate as to talent levels between the two teams, but Kentucky definitely wanted it more and played harder, and the final score reflects that. I had my doubts about our ability to go through the entire SEC schedule undefeated, but I was shocked it was Kentucky that ended up being the bump in the road.

The way this season is going, we might not be out of it, but this certainly doesn’t help the cause. But I do look at the top teams in the polls being Ohio State, South Florida and Boston College and can’t help but think it is completely absurd. With the possible exception of South Florida playing Auburn, none of these teams have played anyone worthwhile. How are any of them worthy of a top five ranking, even if they are undefeated? Put any of these teams against a one or two loss team from the SEC and I’ll guarantee you the SEC team would win 9 of 10.

There was a great column on Yahoo sports this morning about this, which you can read here. Perhaps the columnist is right that all we need is a national championship game with South Florida or Boston College to have fans across the country screaming for a playoff in college football. I’m sorry, but it takes more than just putting together a cupcake schedule for me to consider you worthy of playing for the national championship. I can guarantee you this would be the lowest rated championship game ever televised, and ratings equals money, which is what controls the whole scheme anyway.

October 14, 2007 Posted by | Off Topic | , , , , | 2 Comments