Sunday, January 20, 2013

Have Kids and Contribute to a 529? Read this before you make your next contribution!

For those of you who have kids, you may have established a 529 College Savings Account for junior to go to college.  You probably think you're doing the right thing by saving for junior.  You're certainly not doing a bad thing.  BUT, you may not be doing what's in your best interest.  As this Forbes article from a few years ago mentions, colleges will take into account a parent's ability to contribute toward their student by including 529 account assets, but will exclude 401K/IRA (Both Roth and non-Roth).

So what to do?  Of course it depends on your situation, such as gross income, adjusted gross income, how many kids you have, if you're already maxing out your 401K/Roth IRA, your age, your children's age, etc.

What do I recommend, I'd recommend saving toward a Roth IRA and Roth 401K first, ESPECIALLY if your company offers a match to what you save up to a certain percentage.  I've heard stories where companies offer a 5% match, and people don't even contribute 5% of their salary toward their 401K.  That's like leaving 5% of your salary on the table or passing on a raise.  Pay yourself first; there are always potentially scholarships, financial aid, work-study, part-time jobs,sports scholarships, and other mechanisms to go to college and graduate school.  There are also programs such as loan forgiveness that may make it a better deal to have your kids take out loans and then later have them forgiven.

Be strategic about how you save, spend and borrow to put kids through college and you may save yourself thousands of dollars over the long run.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Save Money on Gas in Jersey

I know, you know already that gas is less expensive in Jersey compared to NY - but obviously I have a better tip than just telling you that.  Apparently, at least according to the gas station attendant at Sam's club who filled my car the other night, Sam's Club, Costco and BJ's and other similar clubs must make their gas stations in NJ only, available to all customers, irrespective of whether they're a member of the wholesale club associated with the gas station.  I couldn't track down a statute etc. to verify such a fact, but I was more than happy to get gas for $3.46 a gallon!  So the next time you're in Jersey and need to get gas, if you happen to know you're going to be passing one of these wholesale clubs with a gas station, might as well stop in and save a few cents over the already low Jersey gas prices!  I'm a big fan of and have their mobile app on my blackberry.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Shaft the MTA Out of $2.25 Without Jumping the Turnstyle

A few of my favorite tricks to beat the MTA out of an extra $2.25 includes taking advantage of the 2 hr free transfer provision:

If you take the subway one way, and want to go back to where ever you came from, take the bus instead and get a free transfer.

If you hop out of the subway in midtown and walk around for a bit, you can re-enter the subway using the 2 hr free transfer at either the 59th/Lex (4,5,6,N,Q,R) or 63rd/Lex (F) stations, because those two stations feature an out of station transfer.

Sure, you're not getting rich on either of these ideas, but every little bit helps!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thinking About Replacing My Car

So while on vacation this week, I rented a 2012 Nissan Versa sedan from Alamo Car Rental... for the trick on getting car rental pricing that I use, I checked and then also checked the prices from - I went with Alamo and paid about $182 for 10 days including all taxes and fees.... not bad for a peak time of year.  Note that Alamo doesn't ask for verification of BJ's membership if you take care of your reservation using the kiosk for checkout instead of talking to their representative...

I liked the Versa enough that I even so much considered upgrading it and trading in my clunker that I held off on trading in during the Cash for Clunker program - a 1994 Buick Park Avenue Ultra.  with 228,000 miles.  I figured that the Versa was getting me 35.5 mpg overall on the road vs. 18ish for my Buick - if you do the math, estimating that I drive 1,200 miles per month, and assuming current gas prices stay the same, how long would it take before the car pays for itself through gas savings?  The new car price would be about $15,000 even including tax, title, registration and a $500 trade in for the clunker.  Let's assume $4.00 per gallon average for gas during the total length of ownership - not entirely unreasonable given recent gas price fluctuations and perhaps conservative overall.  Let's also assume that my Versa mpg is only 30mpg, since that's the City rating, and I mostly drive in traffic, not highway.  That's a 12mpg increase overall or 67% increase in fuel efficiency.  I'd have to drive at least 170,000 miles until I break even - which at 15,000 miles per year, would take me about 11 years; factor in the time value of money from lost use of it when buying a car, and the cost of the car increases.  Assuming a 3% per year IRR, then it'd take about 312,000 miles to break even.

Bottom line, with such a long rate of return, I think I'll keep my current car until it drops and defer buying a car as long as possible.  For some people, a car matters, and sure, it matters to me, but I think I'll hold off for now.  By 2016 car makers will have to achieve an average of 35.5 mpg on its cars, so if I can wait until then, the # of cars with amazing fuel economy is bound to increase, giving buys a nice selection of cars.... fuel for thought...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Flooring from Home Depot-Getting a Deal

I decided to buy 30 boxes of Santos Mahogany flooring from Home Depot; as you might imagine, that means spending quite a few bucks.  If you're like me, you want to pay as little as possible for what you want.  But how to strike a deal on this?  I've got the solution of course.  The flooring is $3.37/sq ft, or $69.79/case.  30 cases= $2,093.70 + tax (NYC rate = 8.875% or $185.82 in tax = grand total cost of $2,279.52.

Here's what I did to save money off my purchase:

1) Bought through web site, where a 2% savings is rendered on web site purchases.
2) Used my Upromise Bank of America Mastercard, where another 3% savings is awarded when buying through the link through the web site mentioned above.
3) When I went to pick up the flooring at home depot store (I did pick up at store delivery from home depot web site), I gave them a 10% off Lowes coupon for Home Depot to match.  The sales clerk couldn't just adjust the price, and I didn't want to lose my discount from shopping online, so I had her instead return the purchase without a receipt to a store credit; then rebuy it using the coupon; saved $218 roughly in the form of a store credit.
4) Bought the flooring again online, this time with a ship to Newark, NJ store, where sales tax is 3.5%, and then returned the flooring, without dragging the merchandise, a savings of 5.375%.

Not a bad bag of tricks, right?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Saving money on produce @ the supermarket

So I'm at the supermarket the other day and see someone tearing off the stems from their bananas and cherries.  I asked them why they were doing that - they replied back, "why would I pay them for parts of the fruit that I don't need?"  I looked a bit bewildered at them, thinking "that's how it comes, so you have to buy it that way".  But then I quickly replied, "well, why not just take the entire banana out of its peel and put it into the plastic bag that way and not pay for the peel at all?"  Of course I was joking, sort of.  I mean, heck, if you're going to eat the banana on the way home, do you really need the peel anyway?  I'm thinking I'll look for savings somewhere else in my life than to succumb to what that lady was doing - like filling up my gas tank in Jersey instead of New York or buying nearly anything else in Jersey where seemingly everything has lower sales tax than NY!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Best Places to Buy Electronics & Some 6th Avenue Electronics Deals

Where does one go to buy electronics?  With so many choices there who do you trust to get the best deals?

Here's a few "go to" places that I count on regularly when searching for the best deals. 

6th Avenue Electronics - one of my personal favorite electronics stores out there - bought some flat screens there for my office some time ago.

Here's some coupons for them as well.

  • Kodak EasyShare M590 14MP Digital Camera - Silver.  Now $83 with coupon: AFLKOD83
  • Harman Kardon AVR7550HD 7.2 Channel Audio/Video.  Now Only $888 with coupon code: AFLHAR888
  • Pioneer GM-D7500M Class-D Mono Amplifier.  Now Only $128 with coupon: AFLPIO128
  • KEF T105 5.1-Channel Ultra Thin Home Theater Speaker System.  Now Only $1096 with coupon AFLKEF1096
  • KEF T205 5.1 T-Series 5.1-Channel Speaker System. Now Only $1396 with coupon: AFLKEF1396
  • Mirage Nanosat 5.1 Small High-Performance 5.1 Speaker System.  Now $444 with coupon: AFLMRG444
  • Mirage Unitheater Premium LCR Flat-Panel Speaker (EA).  Now Only $596 with coupon: AFLMRG596
  • Sennheiser HD280PRO Professional Headphones.  Now Only $79 with coupon: AFLSNN79
  • Sennheiser PMX680 Sport Earbuds with Volume Control. Now Only $49 with coupon: AFLSNN49
  • Sennheiser RS170 Wireless Headphones.  Now Only $232 with coupon AFLSNN232
  • Dyson DC24 Ball All-Floors Upright Vacuum Cleaner.  Now Only $310 with coupon: AFLDYS310
  • Shure SRH440 Professional Studio Headphone. Now Only $66 with coupon code: AFLSHU66
  • LG Electronics 47LX6500 47" Class 3D  1080p 240Hz.  Now Only $1188 with coupon: AFLLGE1188
  • Viewsonic G-Tablet with 10" Multi-Touch LCD Screen, Android OS 2.2.  Now $299 with coupon: AFLVIE299
  • Pioneer DEH-3200UB Car CD Receiver.  Now Only $88 with coupon: AFLPIO88  
Another electronics store that I find that regularly has excellent deals is Electronics Expo  The catch is that they only are located in Jersey - but if you're buying $500+ worth of stuff it may be worth the drive between lower sales tax and less expensive gasoline...they also match prices.

Sears,,,,,, Staples/ (especially with coupons), B and H camera on 34th street in NY or their web site, are some of the other sites that I have used for great deals as of late.  As you may or may not know depending who's reading this, I do IT procurement for a living, so I'm constantly searching for the best deals out there for a variety of IT goods.

One of the most amazing deals I scored recently was from Staples... a laser printer that was originally $300, that I paid $25 for - they had a $200 mail in rebate, plus a $50 off when you trade in a used printer, and a $25 off $75 coupon.

Some of the sites that I use to search for excellent deals, particularly when looking for a specific type of item are as follow, in addition to vendor specific sites:
Google's Shopping Tool

Bottom line: some leg work and looking at the right stores and using online shopping tools can yield some really good deals.