WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE THE FIDELITY AMEX: Milenomics has a great post about a great card. If you know a credit card newbie, send them this link. And an interesting tidbit for those of you who are more advanced: [Read more…]
WHAT’S YOUR ANNUAL HEALTH INSURANCE COST INCREASE?: I just got my annual benefits package from my employer–I’m looking at an increase of 15% this year, though I’m not going to complain since I’m only paying $205 every two weeks, and you can do a lot worse than that. If you want to see how others are doing there’s a Fatwallet thread here where everybody’s posting their numbers, and you’re of course welcome to post your numbers in the comments below. [Read more…]
FREE STUFF FROM STAPLES: This ad is mostly self-explanatory…
I say “mostly” because the cards you get aren’t real Staples gift cards, they’re “ePromo cards” which are only good until September 22. Here’s the link to the Slickdeals thread if you want to dig a little deeper. The recommended approach there is to buy four $50 gift cards in one transaction to get the maximum of four ePromo cards.
(EDIT: Thanks to Frequent Miler for pointing out the software deal you can do for some free points and a few extra dollars. You can combine that deal with the deal above.)
Also from Slickdeals, here are this week’s Staples deals:
- 12-pack BIC Ultra Round Stic Grip Medium Ballpoint Pens (Black) Free after $2.79 Easy Rebate
- 100-pack Staples 3″x5″ Ruled Index Cards $0.01 w/ $5 Purchase
- 2-Pocket Paper Folder (Assorted Colors) $0.01 w/ $5 Purchase
- 8-pack Staples #2 Pencils $0.01 w/ $5 Purchase
- 12-pack Staples Cap Erasers $0.01 w/ $5 Purchase
- 5-Tab Avery Insertable Dividers $0.25
- Staples 8.5″x11.75″ Wide Ruled Perforated Writing Pad $0.50
- Westcott 12″ Finger-Grip Ruler $0.50
- 5-pack BIC 0.7mm Mechanical Pencils $0.50
- 125-count Staples Stickies 1/2″ Tape Flags $0.50
- 10-pack Crayola Classic Markers $0.75
- 7-pack Zebra Z-Grip Retractable Medium Ballpoint Pens $1
- Staples Steel 1-Hole Punch $1
- 5-pack Sharpie Fine Tip Permanent Markers $1
- 5-pack Sharpie Accent Tank Highlighters $1
If you really want to get hard core, somebody figured out how to turn this week’s Staples deals into a $60 money maker.
GAMING THE GAMING SYSTEM: This article is several years old, but a fun read. Apparently somebody figured out one of those ticket-paying games they have at places like Dave and Buster’s and actually made a living from it:
He decided to do the only thing at which he was exceptional: Drill-o-Matic. He’d seen it in arcades elsewhere as a ticket-awarding machine. Those arcades had prize huts with extremely valuable merchandise offered for exorbitant, almost unreachable ticket values. Robert knew how to get them. He knew how to line up the drill to get the 100 ticket payout every single time, as the top prize target was always located in the same space. Doing research that wasn’t fully explained to me, he determined every location that had this machine and, investing in a plane ticket, set out there to empty it of its tickets for as long as they would let him play. He’d redeem the tickets for the most valuable items and sell them on eBay.
In other news, you know that game where you drop the claw down into a pit filled with toys? It’s rigged.
BIG LAW IN BIG TROUBLE: Here’s a slightly less old article from The New Republic reporting on the current law school mess:
In the past decade, twelve major firms with more than 1,000 partners between them have collapsed entirely… And then there are the indignities inflicted on new lawyers, known as associates. The odds are increasingly long that a recent law-school grad will find a job. Five years ago, during a recession, American law schools produced 43,600 graduates and 75 percent had positions as lawyers within nine months. Last year, the numbers were 46,500 and 64 percent. In addition to the emotional toll unemployment exacts, it is often financially ruinous. The average law student graduates $100,000 in debt.
It’s not just the law schools and their grads that are getting squeezed. Harvard et al. may be more popular than ever, but other schools are hurting:
As Loyola University New Orleans gears up for fall classes next month, the 101-year-old Jesuit University faces a crisis: There will be 25% fewer freshmen than the school had banked on.
…School officials were stunned this year by the low fall turnout, and the vice president for enrollment management resigned abruptly in June. Moody’s Investors Service said this month a downgrade is likely in the school’s credit if “the university is unable to improve operations in a relatively short time frame.”
Loyola officials believe a catalyst for the decline was a reduction in financial aid it offered to the incoming class off its $35,504 tuition, from an average discount of 58% last year to about 55% this fall.
AS LONG AS I’M CLEANING OUT OLD ARTICLES: This post from 2007 is the most popular post of all time at The Simple Dollar: Homemade Bread: Cheap, Delicious, Healthy, and Easier Than You Think. The title’s self-explanatory, and I’ll second the sentiment: homemade bread truly is easy, cheap, and delicious. I have my doubts about the healthy part, so I like to use einkorn flour as that seems to have a less detrimental effect on one’s blood sugar. Of course, just about any homemade bread will still probably be healthier than store-bought. If you’ve never baked bread before, I highly recommend giving it a try after you get home from Staples.
$25 OFF $250 AT BEST BUY WITH AMEX: The latest and greatest Amex Sync promotion gets you a one-time $25 statement credit on a $250 purchase at Best Buy. The T&Cs say, “Limit 1 statement credit per American Express Card across all American Express offer channels,” as opposed to one statement credit per customer, so register all your Amex cards if you’re so inclined.
And before you even ask, the answer to your question is: a $200 Visa prepaid debit card and a $50 Kindle gift card. (H/T: HustlerMoneyBlog)
THE INK GAME AT STAPLES: Saverocity has a great primer on how to work the ink reward system at Staples. It’s very much worth your time if you’re into that sort of thing.
WHY CAN’T STUDENTS ACT LIKE DETROIT?: Salon touches on a pet peeve of mine, namely the nondischargeability of student loan debt. Author Tim Donovan of The Suffolk Resolves has some interesting history I wasn’t too familiar with:
First, in 1976, Congress instituted a fairly reasonable reform to bankruptcy laws: To prevent unscrupulous students from amassing a number of expensive post-graduate degrees (only to immediately declare bankruptcy and simply wait out the seven years without credit), a five-year delay on bankruptcy protection was implemented for student loan debt. In 1990, that waiting period was extended to seven years. Hypothetically, by forcing students to delay dischargement, they would be given the necessary time to build equity, earn a good credit score, and acquire some wealth, which would in turn provide a key disincentive to the “moral hazard” that immediate bankruptcy might present to younger, less stable graduates.
And yet, for the banks, this wasn’t enough: In 1998, the law was changed again, this time ensuring that federally backed student loans would be made completely and permanently nondischargeable through bankruptcy. But for the banks, even this wasn’t enough: In this system, private loans could still be discharged — albeit after a seven-year waiting period and the self-inflicted destruction of one’s credit and assets. Still, the banks continued the push to deregulate: In 2005, the law was changed a final time, shielding private student debt from bankruptcy just like their federally backed kin.
Since the article mentioned the phrase “moral hazard”, let’s print Wikipedia’s definition so that everybody’s clear on what we’re talking about:
In economic theory, a moral hazard is a situation where a party will have a tendency to take risks because the costs that could incur will not be felt by the party taking the risk. In other words, it is a tendency to be more willing to take a risk, knowing that the potential costs or burdens of taking such risk will be borne, in whole or in part, by others.
I understand the moral hazard issue, and it’s certainly reasonable and just to treat student debt differently because of it. You want to have a delay on bankruptcy protection to prevent youngsters with nothing to lose from charging off their student loans? I’m fine with that.
But there is a countervailing moral hazard at play here: student lenders, since they are shielded from the threat of bankruptcy, will have a tendency to take risks–that is, make loans that they really shouldn’t be making–because they won’t incur the costs. Somebody else will.
It’s the same sort of moral hazard that helped bring about the credit crisis of 2008: people acting foolishly with money because they think somebody else is picking up the tab.
I’m all in favor of financial responsibility, paying back your loans, truth, justice, the American way, all that stuff. I’ve certainly paid back my share of student loans. But financial responsibility is a two-way street, and lenders have a duty not to make silly loans, even if somebody else is going to pay for it. On student loans, the balance has swung too far in favor of the lenders, and order needs to be restored.