4 birds with 1 stone

4 birds with 1 stone

Problems:

  1. Becca and I feel guilty whenever we buy things like candy, treats, or soda.
  2. We hate spending money, but love the entertainment of finding stuff to buy.
  3. We are awful at consistently holding Family Home Evening.
  4. We have a bunch of dollar coins from the US Mint.

Solution:

  1. A $1 per day allowance paid out every Monday but only at FHE.

Becca and I came up with this idea on Monday, almost by accident, to solve a problem with Becca being bored at home but not wanting to go waste money by shopping. I grabbed a few dollar coins and told her she had $1 per day to spend on absolutely anything she wanted. Want a candy bar? She could buy it. Want a taco? She could buy it. Some craft supplies? A soda? An MP3 on Amazon? Sure, whatever she wanted, as long as she stayed within her $1 per day budget.

At FHE, we talked about how the allowance worked out, and Becca said it went well. Becca bought a piece of felt for a project she was working on, so her trip to the store was productive without being expensive.

We decided to make the dollar allowance a permanent thing, with just a few rules:

  1. We each get $6 per week ($1 per day, but not Sunday because we try not to shop on Sunday).
  2. Coins are distributed on Monday at FHE. If we don’t have FHE, we don’t get paid.
  3. The allowance is only for personal use. It isn’t used for date nights, gifts for each other, major crafts that we are working on together, educational materials (like “how to” books), etc. We could easily abuse this rule, but I don’t think we will.
  4. We aren’t allowed to get advances on our allowance. If we run out, we have to wait until FHE. No exceptions.
  5. Any money we find on the street is added to our allowance. This rule was added today because Becca found a penny. :)

Is this the perfect solution for us? I don’t know. We haven’t been using it long enough to find out.

I do know, however, that we went to Michael’s yesterday and had a blast spending as little as possible while still coming away with something useful. I also know Becca is excited to have some guilt-free vending machine money to spend when she goes back to school next week. And we are both more excited about FHE than we have been in a long time.

What do you think? Do you give yourself a budget or allowance for fun purchases?

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CT passes dumb tax provision, Amazon responds

Connecticut passed a wonderful little piece of legislation that requires online retailers to charge sales tax if they have affiliates in Connecticut even if the retailer doesn’t have a physical presence in Connecticut. This is ridiculous!

As an Amazon affiliate, I am not selling anything on behalf of Amazon. I am simply pointing people towards Amazon, and getting paid a commission for my efforts. It doesn’t make sense that this would count as a physical presence.

So how does Amazon respond? They’ve terminated all their affiliate contracts for people in Connecticut, including myself. While I’m very frustrated by this, I understand why they did it and I’m more frustrated with my state’s government. They knew Amazon would leave, but they didn’t care. So now they are losing piles of tax revenue because Amazon’s affiliates are no longer making taxable income from Amazon.

The text of the email I got from Amazon:

Hello,

For well over a decade, the Amazon Associates Program has worked with thousands of Connecticut residents. Unfortunately, the budget signed by Governor Malloy contains a sales tax provision that compels us to terminate this program for Connecticut-based participants effective immediately. It specifically imposes the collection of taxes from consumers on sales by online retailers – including but not limited to those referred by Connecticut-based affiliates like you – even if those retailers have no physical presence in the state.

We opposed this new tax law because it is unconstitutional and counterproductive. It was supported by big-box retailers, most of which are based outside Connecticut, that seek to harm the affiliate advertising programs of their competitors. Similar legislation in other states has led to job and income losses, and little, if any, new tax revenue. We deeply regret that we must take this action.

As a result of the new law, contracts with all Connecticut residents participating in the Amazon Associates Program will be terminated today, June 10, 2011. Those Connecticut residents will no longer receive advertising fees for sales referred to Amazon.com, Endless.com, MYHABIT.COM or SmallParts.com. Please be assured that all qualifying advertising fees earned on or before today, June 10, 2011, will be processed and paid in full in accordance with the regular payment schedule.

You are receiving this email because our records indicate that you are a resident of Connecticut. If you are not currently a resident of Connecticut, or if you are relocating to another state in the near future, you can manage the details of your Associates account here. And if you relocate to another state after June 10, 2011, please contact us for reinstatement into the Amazon Associates Program.

To avoid confusion, we would like to clarify that this development will only impact our ability to offer the Associates Program to Connecticut residents and will not affect their ability to purchase from www.amazon.com.

We have enjoyed working with you and other Connecticut-based participants in the Amazon Associates Program and, if this situation is rectified, would very much welcome the opportunity to re-open our Associates Program to Connecticut residents.

Regards,

The Amazon Associates Team

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Awkward Turtles finally in print — and 3 copies sold!

Awkward Turtles finally in print — and 3 copies sold!

A long time ago, in a city far far away, I started writing a book codenamed The Project. My secret mission was to write a Choose Your Own Adventure-style book outlining the entire dating history of my at-the-time girlfriend (Becca) and myself.

If you aren’t familiar with Choose Your Own Adventure books, I’ll give you a brief summary. Basically every page or two you are asked to make a decision. For example, you may be getting attacked by a sharktopus and so it will say something like “If you cower like a little baby, turn to page 29. If you show that sharktopus who is boss, turn to page 83.” So you choose to attack the sharktopus, turn to page 83, and get dismembered by the sharktopus’ mighty sharktacles (sp?).

My book is a little different because every page makes you make a decision, and one decision always takes you to “The End”, and one always keeps the story going. At the end, I break off from reality and go into hopeful thinking and ask the beautiful Becca to marry me. Keep in mind she was just my girlfriend at the time.

Writing a book takes a lot of time. Keep in mind this isn’t some dinky pamphlet. This is a 208 page book. I needed Becca to know I was working on something important for her, but I didn’t want her to guess what it was, so it became The Project.

I finished the text of the book, but still had a lot of editing to do and I needed to design a cover. I already had the engagement ring and my impatience finally got the best of me so I just showed it to her on the computer, read some of it to her, skipped to the end, and got engaged.

Finally, more than 2 years later, I’ve finished the editing and the cover and published my book, Awkward Turtles. It is available on Amazon for $10.95. I’m working on a Kindle version, but Choose Your Own Adventure books don’t translate well to the Kindle, so it’ll take a while.

I’m pretty excited to get it published! Yes, it is awkward and somewhat embarrassing. And yes, it cost a lot of money to publish (I bought my own ISBN number, I had to buy multiple proofs, and registering a copyright isn’t free). But how cool is it to be a (self) published author? And I’m sure our little baby girl (due in May!) will love to read this someday. Maybe it’ll even become the bedtime story book for her.

Anyways, I’ve sold 3 copies so far (probably to family members) for a whopping $2.73 profit. Woot! I’m rich! I can retire off my royalties! Well, maybe someday… maybe…

Update 3/30/11: Now available on the Kindle!

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Bank Robbery Stats

I’ve been watching The Kill Point on Netflix. This is a short series about a bunch of military guys that take hostages in a bank.

I’ve seen a bunch of these types of shows recently, and have started to wonder how often banks actually get robbed. I don’t get the news, and I never see anything about it in my feed reader, so it seems like it is an incredibly rare thing.

To find out for sure, I turned to my good friend Mr. Google and found a neat FBI Bank Crime Statistics page with 2010 Q3 stats (July, August, September):

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Netflix: Complain and Get an Account Credit

I watch a lot of TV and movies. According to FeedFliks, I watch about 75 titles per week on Netflix, and I probably watch another 5-10 titles on Hulu every week.

Watching so much Netflix has given me the opportunity to experience all the pros and cons of a Netflix membership. Overall I’d say my $7.99 per month is well spent: I get access to thousands of titles and I don’t have to watch commercials. However, there are a few things that drive me crazy.

First, Netflix doesn’t work on Linux. Some may say this is because of platform that Netflix uses to serve its videos, but in reality it is a anti-consumer choice meant to prevent Linux “hackers” from cracking their DRM. If they can get videos playing on:

  1. Windows
  2. Mac
  3. PlayStation 3
  4. Wii
  5. Xbox 360
  6. Apple TV
  7. Google TV
  8. Roku
  9. Seagate FreeAgent Theater
  10. Sony Dash
  11. WD TV
  12. A pile of Blu-ray players
  13. A pile of TVs (with no special attached hardware)
  14. TiVo
  15. iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad

…then they could get it working on desktop Linux without much trouble. They choose not to, and I’d appreciate it if they’d stop pretending it is an insurmountable software limitation.

So instead of running it natively, I have to run Linux, which runs VirtualBox, which runs Windows XP, which plays my Netflix videos. Frustrating.

Second, Netflix frequently crashes. On my desktop (Linux) and laptop (Windows 7), Netflix dies part way through shows all the time. It happens even more frequently when I pause a show. To make it worse, when the page is refreshed to bring it back to life, it often forgets where I was at in my show.

So I complained. It didn’t solve any of the problems, but it felt good to vent to the company and maybe hopefully raise a tiny bit of awareness that Linux people are frustrated at the lack of support, and that I’m annoyed that my videos crash all the time.

A few days later, I got an email apologizing for my troubles watching instantly. The interesting part of the email was a link that provided a 3% statement credit on my next bill. While I appreciate the gesture, I can’t help but thinking to myself: Really? 3%? As I said, I watch a lot of TV, so I suppose it makes sense that my patronage is only worth 25 cents to them, but a credit of 25 cents just seems.. well.. tacky? rude? pointless? a backhanded apology?

Anyways, if you have a problem with Netflix, maybe it is worth 10 minutes of your time to call and complain. Who knows, you might get a 3% credit, too!

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Saving Money on Prescriptions

Saving Money on Prescriptions

My family has health insurance, but we opted out of prescription coverage because a) it is expensive, and b) we don’t have any prescriptions that we take daily. We figured we’d come out ahead by paying the full price for prescriptions when we rarely need them.

So far this has worked out fine, but I’ve had two prescriptions I’ve needed filled in the past couple months. Being without prescription coverage for the first time in my life, I decided to give one of those prescription discount cards a try. I looked around and chose YourRxCard. It is free, you can print it instantly without filling out a form, and it is accepted by all the major pharmacies (Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, etc.). But the big question is: does it actually save you any money?

I quickly printed out the card (took maybe 30 seconds) and took it and the prescription to Walgreens. I felt very awkward handing it to the pharmacist, but she took it and entered the details into the computer without giving me any hassle. There was a line so I didn’t want to bother the pharmacist to ask how much the card was saving me, so when I got home I called another Walgreens to check the price of the prescription without insurance. The results? $0.00 savings. Bummer.

Today I got a different prescription filled. It cost around $138 at Costco without insurance, but only $60.49 at Walgreens (always shop around for pricing when buying anything expensive!). I verified my discount card was still in the system. When I picked up my prescription, I was happy to find out I was only being charged $45.79 — a savings of over 24%! The prescription paperwork even said “Your Insurance Saved You: $14.70”, confirming that I did in fact get a discount just for printing a piece of paper off of the internet.

Bottom line: Is it worth the hassle to print a discount card if you don’t have prescription coverage? Absolutely! Check it out at YourRxCard.com.

Disclosure: This is not a paid posting. I was not compensated for posting this, and I don’t receive any money, discounts, or other benefits if you use YourRxCard. I just liked it and wanted to share.

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