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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Good news! I just saved a bunch of money on my car rental!

Well, not really. But I want to share what I learnt when I rented a car for 5 days in Canada over Christmas. Assuming you have your exact dates and the type of car you want, here are some tips :

- Start your search by looking through all the major travel booking sites (Orbitz, Travelocity, etc...) so you have an idea of the current prices.

- Be sure to check out rentalcodes.com to see if there are any discount codes that are applicable.

- Book early and then check back often. Booking a rental car does NOT bind you to that rate. You can cancel free of charge (please double check and read any fine print) most of the time. Therefore, since rates change often, keep on checking for a better rate as your trip nears.

- Use any "best value guarantees" to your advantage. For example, thrifty.com has a "best rate guarantee" where they match and then take off an extra 10% off.

As for my trip, I ended up booking on cheapseats.com at first for 41 CAD/Day. A couple of weeks later, I found out that cheapseats had dropped their rate to 26.46 CAD/Day while thrifty had the same booking for 27.85 CAD/Day. After writing thrifty to match the cheapseats.com rate, I ended up with a final rate of 23.81 CAD/Day.

I hope that helps. As always, leave a comment if you have any questions, have any other tips, or don't agree with something I wrote. Thanks!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Carnival of Personal Finance #28

The 28th Carnival of Personal Finance is up at mightbargainhunter.com! Be sure to head over to check it out! Lots of great posts again this week.

I especially liked MillionDollarGoal's list of 2005 personal finance changes. In that article he highlights some of the more important personal finance news of the year.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas! I hope everyone has gotten their Christmas shopping done. Sorry for the lack of updates as I am currently out of the country on vacation. Enjoy the holidays!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Eat out often?

Restaurant.com is a good way to save money if you eat out often. You can purchase a $25 gift certificate to participating restaurants nearby for around $5 (depends what current discount codes are available). Simply type in your zip code and search for restaurants nearby.

The current 50% off discount code is "15215" and expires on 12/18.

Most restaurants accept the gift certificates without problem, but if you want to be extra safe, you could call the restaurant and ask before purchasing the gift certificate. The one time where a restaurant refused to accept my gift certificate, I emailed restaurant.com and got a refund within days.

On top of the discount code, fatwallet offers a 7% cash back if you enter the restaurant.com website through their link (sign up for a fatwallet account if you haven't already, it's worth it. You can earn cash back on online purchases!). I hope that helps.

EDIT: The code "69132" is for 60% off and lasts til 12/25!

EDIT 12/27/05: Here's another code since the last one expired. "36059" is for 60% off and expires 12/31!

Final edit: I am now posting the most recent code in the right hand column.

HSBC online savings is now 4.25%

Title says it all. HSBC direct just raised their rate from 4% to 4.25%, matching the fed rate increase on tuesday.

If you haven't started saving and putting money away into an emergency fund (enough to cover a few months of expenses), opening an account with HSBC is a great way to start.

In fact, there's a $25 opening bonus from a few weeks back that may still be active.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Carnival of Personal Finance 26

Check out other articles from other finance blogs at this week's carnival, hosted by Wealth Junkie.

One article that caught my eye was an article about increasing S&P 500 Dividends at The Real Returns. Increasing absolute dividends comes as no shock to me; as the overall market rises (which it has done historically), the amount of dividends paid out to maintain a certain yield must also increase.

Before you go rushing out and investing in the S&P 500 for dividend payouts, know that the current dividend yield (for the past 12 months) is only 1.77%. The average yield growth rate of 6.24% actually has nothing to do with what the actual return you would get.

EDIT: A poster commented that "Dividend Growth + Current Dividend Yield usually ends up being the total return. So, 6.25% + 1.75% = 8.00% should be a long term expected return for the S&P 500. Better than bonds."

However this is not true. A 6.25% dividend yield growth based off of a 1.75% current divided yield means that the dividend will grow to 1.75 * 1.0625 = 1.859%. No where near 8%.

For example, Pfizer this week raised its quarterly dividend from 19 cents a share to 24 cents a share. That increase of 26% is dividend yield growth. Its current annual dividend yield is 3.70% (from Yahoo Finance).

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.

Friday, December 09, 2005

How would you split a taxi fare?

Suppose you had to split a taxi with your friends, with each of you getting off at a different point in the route. How would you split the fare evenly?

By questioning various economists, The Numbers Guy in the WSJ tries to tackle the problem in this article.

The resulting answers vary of course. My favorite one being the simplest and most practical, where all passengers evenly split any leg of the journey that they partake in. (This is the answer the author proposes before talking to any economists.) I mean, who really has the time to engage in Nash bargaining strategies before they flag down a cab?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

End of Year Money Management

As I, along with most of my friends, am a new college grad and have just started working this year, there are multiple strategies and methods we can use to save money and reduce our tax obligations this year. Working for only a portion of the year allows us to be eligible for tax deductions that are otherwise meant for people who earn less.

Here are a few so far that I have come up with:

-Put money in retirement accounts to take advantage of the Saver's Credit. Edit: not eligible if you have been a full time student for 5 months or more.

-Deduct moving expenses (only if related to new job, and if move is over 50 miles). This applies to me since I moved to the location of my new/first job. Here is the IRS page on the details.

-If you are over 25, you can try to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit. This one will probably be tough to qualify for.

-Education Tax Credits This does not apply to me so I haven't really looked into it, but could for those of you who paid for your own higher education expenses.

-Reconsolidating your student loans. Here is a fatwallet thread that describes how to get the best rates by consolidating your student loans through UHEAA (Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority).

Those are some of the things I have come up with so far. If you have any other ideas, please leave a comment! In the meantime, I'm comparing brokers/institutions to determine where I am going to open a roth IRA. Hope this helps.