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Online Deals For Pricey Entertainment

Amanda Bar
Heads up to any and all gamers out there - what with the Playstation 3 and the X-Box 360 Elite now competing with each other after both consoles dropped in price, Microsoft seems to be sweetening the deal with a special price cut in games via Best Buy online.

When shopping on their website, you can get 50%-off an X-Box game title when you purchase a full price game.  Most new X-Box 360 titles sell for $59.99, so a half-off discount is a huge chunk of savings.  And the price-cut isn't the only sweet deal: the second game can be any of your choice, whether it's a title that's brand new on the shelves (ex: Batman: Arkham Asylum) or even a pre-order (ex: Mass Effect 2) - you're not limited to older games!  The selection is huge for a sale this good, especially considering that the list of games available for pre-order encompass titles whose release dates go well into 2010. 

Note: I have no clue how long this sale is going to last, so check it out.  I wish I had come across this bargain sooner - just this Sunday I went out and bought three games, spur of the moment; I could have saved 50% (about $30!) on one of them!  And not only that, the shipping is free, too.  (Ow. I think my hindsight just kicked me in the shin...)  And even if you yourself are not a gamer, this could prove useful for some early Christmas/Hannukah shopping ideas.

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 04:04 AM on August 31, 2009 in Entertainment , Savings , Shopping | Permalink | Comments (9)

A taxing situation

Name bar Are you a late summer or fall baby? Give yourself a present: If your birthday is between now and Nov. 30 (and you live in Florida), you can save a few bucks by renewing your drivers license or vehicle registration or license plate asap.

On Sep. 1, the state is hiking the prices for these items -- to make up for the economic mess we're in that's cut income from other taxes.

You can go to your tax collector's office (find a list of them here) for registrations and titles, visit the DMV if you need to replace your license or visit GoRenew.com. (But beware. One user said GoRenew is already using the NEW prices. And when I just tried it, the site said it was temporarily unavailable for site maintenance.)

If you visit a private tag agency, they might charge more than a government location.

You can actually renew your registration for two years all at once, and pay the current prices for each year.

If you're wondering how good the savings are, one tax collector offers a comparison of the current and coming prices. Here's an example: If you have a Honda Civic, the current price of registration is $28.10. On Sept. 1, it will be $46.65.

Let me know if you manage to save some cash by renewing early!

Posted by Nirvi Shah at 12:55 PM on August 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

E-Mail Phishing & PayPal Scams

Amanda Bar
I was recently checking my e-mail when I came upon this peculiar message:


Apparently a purchase had been attempted on my PayPal account for $440!  Naturally I clicked on the "Dispute Transaction" link conveniently scattered throughout the e-mail, but when I was redirected to the PayPal website I was immediately taken to a page which required all of my account information - my full name, address, and my credit card information.  (DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! DANGER!)  Working at a police department where I handle fraud cases all the time, I recognized a scam when I saw one.  I promptly forwarded PayPal security the e-mail and changed my login password for good measure.  Before I continue it is important to note: do not use the PayPal web address listed in the e-mail!  If the e-mail is a scam the link will redirect you to a fake PayPal that looks nearly identical to the real thing; open a new window and manually type in www.paypal.com.

These phishing scams are designed to put you, the target, in fear over a supposed charge made on your account - oftentimes people become so overwhelmed at correcting this false transaction that they don't use proper sense when handing out their personal information over websites.  There are some very telling clues, however, that you can look for in order to verify whether you're the victim of a spoof e-mail; the first thing I noticed was that there was no transaction ID - all PayPal payments come with a numerical identification number.  There was also no link back to the product I had supposedly purchased - as I said, I am a frequent eBay shopper and all e-mails contain links back to the product in question.  Also, and most importantly, I checked both my PayPal and Bank of America accounts - despite the e-mails claim, no transaction was listed in regards to a $440 purchase. 

My account had never been compromised, it turns out, but it easily could have if I had fallen for this well-made scheme.  Both the e-mail and the fake PayPal site looked legit at first glance, but it could have cost me big if I hadn't taken the time to investigate.  Take this as a warning to all of you PayPal/online shoppers!  For more information on how to spot a scam e-mail, go here.

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 02:40 PM on August 25, 2009 in Banking | Permalink | Comments (3)

Cash For Clunkers: Appliances

Amanda Bar
Speaking of the Cash For Clunkers program, it was recently announced by the U.S. Department of Energy Secretary that the government is putting into place a program that would reimburse people who trade in their old "clunker" appliances for newer, more energy-efficient models.  Dependent upon your area, you could be approved to receive special rebates on various ENERGY STAR appliances.  This specific eco-friendly brand is said to reduce energy costs by 10%-50% from your standard brands, and is one option in a long line of many government funded & supported strategies to reduce our everyday energy use.  And hey, what's good for the environment also happens to be good for your wallet.

This appliance rebate plan couldn't have come at a better time - with my master bathroom now complete, I'm not turning my attention to my next big renovation: the kitchen.  Some of the current appliances date back to when the house was first constructed (1986!) and are beyond repair, while others are salvageable if not pretty to look at; this Cash For Clunkers deal, however, affords me an opportunity to perform a facelift on the entire set of kitchen appliances.  Dependent upon the appliance, I could get $50 to $200 per machine towards a newer model.  All fifty states have signed on for the program, and so far all major retailers and manufacturers (Best Buy, Target, Kenmoore, Whirlpool, etc.) have put their support behind the plan.  Keep your eyes open, because this deal is supposed to hit the American marketplace sometime this fall!

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 08:34 PM on August 23, 2009 in Home decor , Housing , Savings , Utilities | Permalink | Comments (2)

Get Your Cash for Your Clunker, Before It's Too Late

Kevin Herald Blog For those considering the Cash for Clunkers program touted on news programs and around office coolers, make up your mind quick because the widely successful program comes to a close this Monday, August 24, at 8 pm EST.

Put in place to help stimulate the faltering auto industry and American economy in general, Cash for Clunkers allows people to trade in their old vehicle for a rebate of up to $4,500. The program also sets you up with a new car, which you pay the difference to. Two of my friends already partook in this opportunity and came out very pleased with the whole process. The best benefit for this program, besides getting money for a new car from your old, busted up one, comes from the benefit of trading in a gas-guzzling vehicle like a truck of SUV for a much more fuel-efficient passenger car.

For more information, head over to Cars.gov for Dealer Locations, contact information and more on the program. I also highly suggest getting out to your nearest location as early as possible as many people will probably be showing up on Monday morning for some last minute cash for their clunker.

Posted by Kevin Mahadeo at 02:55 AM on August 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Flying high with GameFly

Kevin Herald Blog Along with being an avid television viewer, movie watcher, comic reader, book aficionado, cartoonist, internet surfer, freelancer... grocery shopper? I'm also big on video games--those wonderful interactive simulations that allow us to experience various manners of adventure, from battling against a zombie infection in Resident Evil to fighting your way to freedom in Bioshock to saving the entire universe in Mass Effect. Playing a great video game that really pulls you into the story and features some intuitive and insanely fun gameplay brings a pleasure rarely found in the monotony of everyday life. Not that I'm, you know, obsessed or anything...


Unfortunately, being unemployed coupled with the fact that the current generation of games cost around $60, I find myself these days purchasing less and less games in fear of spending the few dollars I have left on a game whose mechanics make you feel like slipping on a helmet and running headfirst straight into the nearest wall. Thankfully, I managed to stumble my way into a situation that both satiates my ravenous appetite and costs me absolutely nothing.

My roommate shares my passion for video games, and as I've been the movie provider with my Netflix account, he decided to sign up for the video game equivalent of the internet based delivery service: GameFly. With GameFly, subscribers pay a monthly membership fee and receives games in the mail. Once finished, you return the game in the provided envelope (postage already paid) and then the company sends you the next game on your list. For one game, you pay $8.95 for the first month and then $15.95 in the subsequent months. For two games, it's $12.95 for month one and then $22.95 then on.

For those interested in investing in GameFly I do have some advice. First, I definitely recommend going for the one game option as opposed to the two game one. While it saves money, I really see no point in getting two games at once. I'm the type that enjoys playing one game all the way through before moving onto the next. So, unless you suffer from a case of video gaming ADD, getting two games at once really provides no benefit. Secondly, for those looking to get the latest games immediately, be warned that recent releases often get "sold out" rather fast. That is, even though a new release is No. 1 on your list, you may not get it because they've already sent out all their copies. Sure you can just play another game on your list in the meantime, but if you want the newest games now, you might run into some problems.

Overall, I rate the whole GameFly thing pretty highly--mostly because it costs me nothing. So, if you want a quick fix for video games or want to test out a game before making a purchase, try it out.

Or just find a friend and convince them to do so.

Posted by Kevin Mahadeo at 06:55 AM on August 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Bathroom Construction Comes to A Close (Day 16)

Amanda Bar
The final project to be taken care of in my new master bathroom has finally gone up yesterday - the vanity!  Last time I updated I posted a picture of the tile-work they had done on the vanity wall, and with that secure and in place they were able to attach the floating countertop w/ sink, the mirror, and a floating side cabinet (the side of which is somewhat visible to the right if you expand the picture below).


Still apparent in the picture are some little details that need to be fixed before we can officially label this project as complete, but it's my understanding that all of that (putting up light fixtures, attaching towel racks, etc.) was completed early this morning.  One problem that has sprung up, however, that I'll have to deal with on my own is this: as you can see in the picture, one of the water pipes is visible from beneath the vanity.  We were hoping that the vanity would be sitting low enough that it would conceal this piece of PVC, but unfortunately you don't even have to bend over to see it - it's rather clearly visible.  My father and I are going to have to come up with a solution to conceal this unattractive element - one that hopefully can be accomplished easily & cheaply.  At the very least (and to minimize cost) we can get a larger PVC pipe, paint it, and slip it over the existing one.

Pictures of the completed shower shall be forthcoming! 

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 04:53 PM on August 19, 2009 in Home decor , Housing | Permalink | Comments (3)

Boys' Night Out

Kevin Herald Blog Last week, my friends Sean and Erin finally decided to tie the knot, which meant only one thing. BACHELOR PARTY!

Limo Party

Obviously going in I knew a Bachelor Party would run me more than just a few dollars. Between food, drinks, cover charges and dances referring to particular parts of the body, the total ran me well over $250. Not bad for a guy without a job though. Here's some advice if you're planning a Last Night Out any time soon.

First, I highly suggest renting a limo. This can cost quite a bit; the most expensive part of the night actually. Depending on how long you're out, what size of limo and tip for the driver, expect to pay over $300 there alone. Thankfully in our case my wealthier, employed roommate took care of the entire limo expense. But a limo benefits for a number of reasons. First, no designated driver. This allows everyone to really cut loose and enjoy themselves without the worry of who drives home afterward. Also, if you're unfamiliar with the area, a good limo driver knows all the great spots to hit and plans out a fantastic evening. Finally, with a limo, the party really never stops. Even when heading from one destination to the next, we all enjoyed some tasty beverages and rocked out to my Get Pumped Mix.

Next, without question the more the merrier, but also the more the cheaper. I'm not saying get every random person to join you all on your night out, but a good sized group definitely drops the price a bit. The food got split between us all (sans Bachelor, of course), paying for shots rotated amongst the group, and we all purchased those aforementioned dances for each other rather than buy them for ourselves.

Finally, be sure the exploit the fact that it's a Bachelor Party wherever you go. We got a private room at the sports bar, complete with our own pool table. The Bachelor got in free to the clubs. And, as long as its not for the entire group, the bartender gives a few shots on the house.

Anyway, the entire night definitely costs everyone quite a bit, but when it comes to things like this, money doesn't matter too much. This kind of fun builds so many great memories with so many great friends that paying a bit more is not only worth it, but is almost a deal.

Posted by Kevin Mahadeo at 08:23 PM on August 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

The Notebook (with more Tech and sadly less Rachel McAdams)

Kevin Herald Blog Last Sunday, tragedy struck: my laptop--the sole source of my computer-y goodness, holder of my iTunes library, countless digital pictures and...other things--freaked the heck out. After I went through a considerable amount of shock (re: me screaming, "No, no. Dear god my other things, no!") it was time to diagnose. And with this guy unavailable, it was up to me.

Basically, the LCD screen on my computer went out. The computer turned on, but nothing came up on the screen. In order to further inspect I hooked my laptop up to my roommate's monitor, and the start up screen showed up there, showing the CPU more or less still functioned. However, whenever I tried to start Windows normally, the computer gave me a blue screen and did a physical memory dump. In other words, my computer had some serious issues with its sight (the LCD screen) and possibly its brain (the hard drive).

The next day, I took the computer to Best Buy's Geek Squad. Amanda warned me they tend to charge and arm and a leg (which apparently costs around $200) to check out your computer. But at this point, I had no choice. I needed it fixed. After all, I currently make my living freelancing, which involving writing stories and e-mailing them to editors. Well, no worries, I didn't have to pay $200 to get the computer fixed. I paid $700 for a new computer!

The guys at Best Buy said my laptop was too far gone to fix, so I needed to get a new one ASAP. I looked around Best Buy and although laptop prices ranged from $400 to over $1000, I found one both reasonably priced and equipped with my technological bare necessities. It's a little smaller physically, but contains a lot of power....

Annnnyway, Best Buy sells a lot of different computer brands, but if you're looking for a new laptop, I suggest Toshiba. They're a great brand that experiences very little problems. Also, the reason I ended up paying $700 was because I wanted a laptop with a really good graphics card, as I play online games every now and then. If you don't play or know what WoW or LotR Online means, don't cough up the extra dough for something you really won't use. Those laptops that you see around $1200 are usually that expensive because they contain a high-end graphics card, massive hard drive space and insane memory.

If you're the average consumer looking for a laptop, I recommend going for a Toshiba (or not if you have a die hard sense of brand loyalty) with a processor speed of around 2 GHz, 4 GB of memory and around 250 GB of hard drive space. The hard drive space is really flexible depending on how much you save onto your computer. I got a 500 GB hard drive because I tend to upload a lot of pictures from my digital camera and save a lot of other things (you know, television shows, downloading programs, music). For a basic model like that, expect to pay around $500, which is pretty good for what you're getting.

Posted by Kevin Mahadeo at 10:53 PM on August 14, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Constructing the Ultimate Bathroom (Day 13)

Amanda Bar
We're now at day 13 of my master bathroom construction, and thankfully in over a week no surprise additions to the original price of the labor & parts has reared it's costly head.  With the assistance of my father and stepmother, my portion of this renovation should end up costing me $2200.  This week, the tile wall behind my vanity (which has yet to be installed) has gone up:
Vanity wall
A ribbon of the glass bubble tile that I'm using in my shower has been placed as a really neat accent detail, as you can see - it was a pricey addition ($36 a sq. ft. for the glass) but the finished product looks fabulous.  The floor tile has also been set in place (also viewable in the above picture), but it still needs to be grouted.  While seeing my bathroom completely gutted was a cool sight on it's own, getting the chance to watch my dream bathroom take shape, one day at a time, is a really interesting experience.  I would love to be able to get started on more projects like this in the near and/or distant future (my new home certainly could use a few more aesthetic nips & tucks), but for now my budget can only extend to this one major room re-do.

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 04:57 PM on August 13, 2009 in Home decor , Housing | Permalink | Comments (0)

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