Friday, March 27, 2009

Never renew your magazine subscriptions

Recently my subscription to Time magazine came up for renewal and I decided to compare the renewal price to the price of a new subscription. Renewal fee: $49.80. New subscription fee: $20. I am not a marketing genius or a customer retention expert but shouldn't existing customers pay less for renewal than new customers? Certainly, I shouldn't have to pay more than double after I have been a loyal subscriber for 3 years?

I suppose I could call them and try to negotiate a better deal but I think I'll just cancel and save my $49.80. Thank you Time magazine for nothing!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

W4: What's your deduction?

If you ask an accountant for help filling out a W-4 form, the logical advice is try to claim as many exemptions so that your monthly withholding is as low as legally possible. The thinking here is that there's no use providing an interest-free loan to the govt by paying possibly more than you should in monthly withholding. Instead, pay as little as possible and send the IRS a check on April 15. This is a very logical advice but I have never followed it. For as long as I can remember, I have always put 1 on my W-4 form and I haven't changed it even after getting married.

The problem with this approach is how many of us really like the idea of cutting a big check to the govt on April 15? Most of us like to get refunds back (in fact, some people like it so much they think it's a windfall. It's not!). Apart from the illogical need to get money back, unless you've been investing that money during the year, it may be pretty hard to come up with the entire amount on April 15.

Another reason is the April 15 deadline is really only effective if you owe the govt money. If you think you are due a refund, you can file an extension and submit your taxes way after the April 15 deadline. You can still file an extension even if you owe but you are responsible for the interest accrued from the 15th.

Monday, March 23, 2009

What we've learnt from the economic collapse

  • Good things don't last forever. Bad things seem to last forever.
  • There's a lot of shady shenanigans going on on Wall street
  • CNBC is for "entertainment purposes only"
  • There's even more shady shenanigans going on in Washington
  • Living within your means isn't such a laughable concept
  • Thinking a software can predict the market for you is still a pipe dream
  • When there's a boom, better not be one of the morons that get into it late. You want to be ahead of a boom and definitely ahead of the bust.
  • If you are going to make stupid decisions, better make monumentally stupid ones that can bring down the economy. 'Cos then you are guaranteed to get federal bail out
  • Socialism isn't so bad when it's all that's standing between you and economic doom
  • Credit cards do have an APR
  • Credit cards do not like you. Not unless you don't pay your bills on time. Or you are one of the suckers that pay the "minimum payment".
  • Reverse mortgages are a really bad idea. Unless you plan to die soon and you either have no heirs or you want a last chance to stick it to them.
  • Store brand merchandise are sometimes just as good as the brand name versions.
  • "New and improved", "New shiny packaging" all mean "higher price" when it comes to grocery
  • You are more likely to be screwed by an American (on Wall street and in Washington) than by some foreigner in Nigeria.
  • All politicians, including Obama, are looking out for #1. And that sure ain't the people!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why I hate Verizon

From consumerist.com:

Call it a "you're not making us enough money" fee. If you don't make at least 12.5 minutes of long-distance calls, Verizon is assessing some home phone customers a $3.49/month "shortfall charge." If you want to get rid of the fee, you can, but you'll have to pay a one-time $5.50 fee. Verizon told KING5, "that even if a person doesn't make long-distance calls, they still have access to the phone network. The "shortfall charge" helps pay for maintenance of the network." What a crock.