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Bring On The Future

Kevin Herald Blog

As mentioned before, with my unemployment running out, I've gone on the hunt for a regular job around the area in which I live. With career opportunities few and far between--especially in the journalism front--I figured I could find a position as a cashier or customer service representative at the local restaurant or Best Buy. Well, let me tell you, my friends, the only thing more depressing than not being able to find a full-time, career-oriented job is not being able to find a regular old part-time gig.

It seems that even the minimum wage industry is also suffering big time from this unemployment bonanza as places like Barnes & Noble, Best Buy and even Regal Cinemas aren't hiring. And companies like Blockbuster find themselves in a double whammy as the economic downtime and rise of Netflix cause them to close over 20% of their stores. However, the future does seem somewhat bright. As the holidays approach, many retail outlets are going to be hiring for seasonal positions. Unfortunately, that's still at least a month away and I'm sure the competition will be rather steep.

And let's face it, when it comes to regular old customer service jobs, my degree won't exactly give me a better chance that Billy, off of school for winter break. And while a part-time gig would provide me with some income, what is the minimum wage these days? I remember working at Blockbuster and it was around $6.25, which is really nothing to survive on. Well, we'll see where things go. I most recently applied to Best Buy, and with my love electronics, it's my most ideal place to work behind Barnes & Noble. Well, as ideal as a minimum wage job can go anyway.

Posted by Kevin Mahadeo at 12:28 AM on September 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

The Return Of E-Mail Phishing!

Amanda Bar

Having recently been a target for an e-mail phishing scam, I hardly suspected to find yet another attempt at account fraud in my inbox.  This time, however, they targeted something rather unusual: my World of Warcraft account.

It has come to our attention that you are trying to sell/trade your personal World of Warcraft account(s).
As you may or may not be aware of, this conflicts with the EULA and Terms of Agreement.
If this proves to be true, your account can and will be disabled. It will be ongoing for further investigation by Blizzard Entertainment's employees.
If you wish to not get your account suspended you should immediately verify your account ownership. If the information is deemed accurate, the investigation will be dropped.
This is easiest done by confirming your personal information along with concealed information about your account.
You can confirm that you are the original owner of the account by replying to this email...
If you ignore this mail your account can and will be closed permanently.

[Quick set-up for those of you unawares, World of Warcraft is an online roleplaying game that is played by millions of people across the world (for a small, monthly subscription fee).] 

Now obviously these scammers don't do enough homework on their ends because my WoW account has been closed for almost a year (of my own free will, thank you very much), but I can imagine what the threat of disabling your account could do to a current Warcraft player.  According to some articles I was able to dig up online, apparently this sort of phishing ploy has been on the rise since early 2009.  Unlike the PayPal scam I experienced, however, I'm not quite sure what the intended goal was for the scammers in question.  I suppose with the information given they could attempt to sell the account themselves on eBay, but that scheme seems rather dubious considering Blizzard's strict watch over such activities (not to mention eBay's cooperation in restricting these kind of sales).  Who knows what they could have been thinking?  Perhaps they simply wanted to hijack an account for their own amusement.

Like with my previous e-mail phishing experience, I was able to spot this as a scan through 1) complete lack of links back to the Warcraft account homepage, 2) request for personal account information via e-mail, and 3) dubious sentence structure.  That last point may seem silly to you, but when most of these form e-mails are written up by lawyers & reviewed by upper-management you wouldn't expect odd word placement and fragmented sentences.  And as always: when in doubt, Google!  Through one search query I came across numerous other people who were questioning the validity of similar (if not identical) e-mails.

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 08:37 PM on September 27, 2009 in Entertainment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Early Money for First-time Homeowners

Amanda Bar

I just received in the mail yesterday prepared 1040X & 5405 tax forms in reference to amending my previously filed taxes.  This is exciting because, as a first-time homeowner, I’ll be able to receive the much talked about $8000 tax “gift” from the government’s Housing Stimulus Bill even earlier than expected – according to friends, this process can take as little as two weeks once I send in the updated form.  If you are also a first-time homeowner with some home renovations in mind, like myself, and you really don't want to wait until filing next years taxes, you might also want to consider amending your taxes.  I used my father’s accountant to expedite the process, and all that was required was a copied Proof of Purchase for my home (basically, the first few pages of my homebuyer’s contract).  Keep in mind that the stimulus deal is good for anyone who has purchased a home after January 1, 2009, and the cut-off date is December 1, 2009.

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 04:18 PM on September 26, 2009 in Housing | Permalink | Comments (0)

They're For Sneaking

Kevin Herald Blog

During my surprise visit home, I decided to try and hit all the shoe stores around the area to find myself a new pair of sneakers. See, the ones I currently have fell apart on me. The laces are all ripped up and the front seam on the right sneaker opened up to where my sock-clad toe pops out every now and then like an albino gopher looking for its shadow in order to let me know if there's still time before I need to buy a new pair of bleeding sneakers. The sad part is that I purchased this pair of sneakers less than a year ago. I actually like these sneakers, too. As much as one can like a pair of sneakers in the aesthetic and comfortability sense.

Looking back, I'm honestly not surprised at the somewhat cheap quality of these feet cushions (what? I just said sneakers 6 times in the previous paragraph. I wanted something different). I bought them from Payless for about $25. At the time, I thought, "Cheap, snazzy and comfortable? Deal!" But surprise, surprise: you pay for what you get. Looking around the stores now though I realize how expensive a good, reliable pair of sneakers can get. Pairs of Nike and Adidas sold for anywhere between $40-$80, which is practically a fortune for the unemployed. Not only that, but I also discovered how picky I am when it comes to these things. Beyond being comfortable, I found myself inspecting color, how they look, if they stood out too much from what I normally wear. I checked out a pair of Converse (something I feel might look good with a pair of regular jeans and even a suit if handled properly), but couldn't decide if I they ended up making me look like an older guy still trying to dress like a teenager.

Anyway, I ended up not getting anything as even the pairs I did like weren't available in my size. Anyone have any advice on where to find a reliable and affordable pair? Any advice on styles and brands you think look good?

Posted by Kevin Mahadeo at 04:04 PM on September 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Calling all coupon-cutting cutups

Name bar

Is coupon-clipping something you might describe as a sport? Do you squeal with delight when you see the savings totaled at the bottom of your grocery store receipt? Do you shudder with excitement when you discover that at BJ's Wholesale Club you can actually use five coupons for toothpaste if you're buying a pack of five tubes?

And perhaps you've also envisioned a Survivor-style show where you can exhibit your shopping prowess, ringing up savings, brandishing your pair of scissors...

Reality TV has a show for you. A coupon website is working with a Los Angeles-based television production company on just this kind of program.

You can find all the details here.

(If you make it, be sure to let me and the others here at the No Spend Zone know all about it!)

Posted by Nirvi Shah at 11:34 AM on September 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Flying Free (Or Rather Insanely Cheap)

Kevin Herald Blog

While looking for flights home to South Florida for October, I noticed the Travel Deals section of the Spirit Airlines homepage. There I saw something I couldn't believe. Flights from Myrtle Beach to Fort Lauderdale for only $9 each way. You read that correctly. That means a round trip flight for only $18.

After sitting there completely stupefied for a moment, I remembered my mother once telling me about this. The Spirit Airlines $9 Club. Basically, you sign up as a yearly member with Spirit and every now and then you get these amazing flight deals for super cheap fares. Not just from Myrtle Beach to Fort Lauderdale. No, no, my friends. Pretty much anywhere in the US where Spirit flies, which includes all the major cities: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and apparently Myrtle Beach, SC, because this place is so booming. Anyway, I immediately signed up for the super cheap $39.95 yearly membership fee and quickly booked my ticket home. Since then, I received e-mails about when the sales occur.

Here's the "catch," if you can really call it that. The deals are usually very limited and sometimes last only an hour, but they are absolutely worth it. I even made a surprise trip home recently because it again only cost me $9 each way. But this is all happens through checking that Web site very periodically. Also, the sales are usually never far in advance. That is, as is September, most of the sales apply for days in October and early November. The latest calender dates I saw was a short sale for the first two weeks of December. So, it's hard to plan advance vacations around these sales. But honestly, how much time do you really need to plan? A month seems like more than enough. Finally, and probably most importantly, Spirit isn't exactly the best airline. They're often delayed and charge for food and drinks when flying. Also, if you're checking in bags, you have to pay--$15 in advance online and $25 at the gate.

For me, none of these drawbacks matter. I mean, for a $9 flight, I could care less about a delay. I saved myself hundreds on this ticket. Take your time. As for the food on board thing, I'll eat beforehand and after we land. I don't really need food while flying. Also, the most important pro to signing up for this deal? $9 FLIGHTS! Heck, looking at the site right now, I could book a flight to Chicago for next week! Seriously, hop on this thing and fly, fly like you've never flown before.

Posted by Kevin Mahadeo at 01:46 AM on September 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Home Renovation Misfires

Amanda Bar

One month ago I was happily reporting on the completion of my master bathroom remodeling.  Flip the page to just last weekend, where I'm showing off the renovation to fellow No-Spend-Zone blogger Kevin (visiting from South Carolina).  I start up the water to demonstrate the fancy showerhead when all of a sudden I notice that the water is steadily pooling along the floor of the shower - something is clogging the drain, apparently.  This being the first time I've started up the shower since the remodeling was completed, I place a call to Mr. Blue (the man responsible for the construction) inquiring on what I should do.  He suggests that the clog is possibly due to sediment caused during the construction, and he advises me to remove the drain and attempt to dislodge the obstruction with a broom handle.  After having completed this task and still finding that the water is not draining, Mr. Blue then suggested that I call RotoRooter.  Naturally I am somewhat miffed at this response, since I'm assuming that whatever is clogging the drain is Mr. Blue's doing - not to mention the fact that he is, in not so many words, refusing to come out to my house and take a look at the problem for himself.

A RotoRooter technician reported to my residence the very next day and almost immediately confirmed that the clog was not only Mr. Blue's doing (the clog being a massive collection of grout that he allowed to enter the drain pipes), but that it was so severe that the pipe (aka "the trap") was going to have to be replaced.  The cost for this?  $650.  The method needed to reach the pipe in question?  Punching a massive hole in my downstairs bedroom wall!  Infuriated that I was left between a rock and a hard place, I contacted Mr. Blue again who advised that he would do the repairs himself for only $200.  Gee, what a deal considering that he was entirely responsible!


This is the view of my downstairs bedroom one day later.  Yes, there are two holes in my wall; not because two holes were necessary, but because Mr. Blue couldn't find the drain pipe on his first attempt.  Luckily the caveman-approach seemed to work out, and the clog was able to be dislodged just by having him bang on the pipe for awhile with a hammer.  After that he patched the holes back up and charged me $250 for the entire procedure - a quote $50 more than he originally stated, even though he didn't even have to replace the pipe.  And why, readers, did I let him get away with this?  Because I'm a first time homeowner, folks, and I went on the stupid good faith of my parents and hired Mr. Blue with NO CONTRACT.  He's basically a talented Mr. Fix-It with no real company backing him, and because he did such a great job with my parent's bathrooms in the past I put my trust in his skills and professionalism.  Hindsight, unfortunately,  will reveal that this was a bad idea.

Sadly it took me $250 to learn my lesson, but you can guarantee that for every other renovation that takes place in my house is going to be in writing with a reputable company.

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 07:08 PM on September 20, 2009 in Housing | Permalink | Comments (1)

Preparing for the Worst

Kevin Herald BlogFirst I must warn all of you on the somberness of this post. So, be prepared for less pluckiness and a little more seriousness this time around. That being said, onward to the meat and potatoes of this post.

Last week, my sister got into a rather terrible car accident. She was driving home from college--on her birthday no less--when she encountered Florida's notoriously torrential rainstorms. Although she drove at a slow speed, she hit a length of water and started hydroplaning. Normally, she knows what to do in this situation, however, as she put it, in the freight of the situation she did exactly what you are NOT supposed to do: she hit the brakes. This caused her to lose control of the car, spin out across the highway and slam into the guard rail. Thankfully, she walked away alright. She currently experiences back and neck pains and she hit her head pretty hard on the window, but she suffered no broken bones nor any serious lacerations.

Of course the first thing on both my and my parents' minds was the well being of my sister, but afterward we began to access the financial damage. First, the car was totaled. Although that saved us money in regards to fixing the car up, it ends up causing more financial damage as my sister now needs a new car. Since she goes to college at UF and my family lives in Pembroke Pines, she needs one when traveling home on vacation and for driving around Gainesville in general for grocery shopping and such things. A reliable car can run anywhere from $10,000 to $26,000 depending on what you're getting. And with the current economic crisis, my parents don't exactly have money to spare. Second comes medical fees. My sister doesn't have health insurance herself, but she does fall under my parents' coverage. If that was me, however, we'd be in trouble as I have no health insurance. Just getting a doctor to check you out, especially after an accident, can run you a fortune. There's the actual cost of the visit, which can hit around $100. Then there's the test they run, which can range from X-Rays to MRI to CT scan. Those sometimes hit the $1000 area. And finally, some doctor charge their own fee for reading the results of the aforementioned tests. Beyond the financial damage, there is of course the emotional damage. My sister is still very shaken by the whole thing and will probably have serious trouble driving in the rain after a near death experience. Despite all this, my family all feels the same way. We'll gladly pay whatever money we have to because we're just happy she's alive.

Part of the point of this blog is to give readers advice and tips to help save them money. But the one thing you can never prepare for is the unpredictability of life. These things do happen and they can run you a fortune. But as I said early, better to pay for a financial loss than experience a devastating emotional one.

Posted by Kevin Mahadeo at 11:56 PM on September 17, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Party Decor On The Cheap

Amanda Bar
This Saturday fellow Herald blogger Bridget and I held an 80's theme party.  We didn't want to spend too much money (aside from the booze, of course), but we still wanted to make our place appropriately decked circa the 1980's.  For the price of a couple pieces of printer paper & the ink to use on it, I Google searched various movie posters from the 80's (The Breakfast Club, Labyrinth, Scarface, etc) and used the printed out images to decorate my kitchen cabinet doors.


I also searched for random magazine ads advertising ye olde computers and such (you too can own a 16k computer system for the low-low price of $899!), and taped them all over my refrigerator.  The pièce de résistance, though, had to be when I found the actual "Save The Clocktower" flyer used in the movie Back to the Future.  I printed that out, along with a "Vote for Reagan" image, and added that to the decor.  I ended up with a house pretty nicely (and cheaply!) decorated and ready for an awesome 80's party.  And trust me, I am a huge fan of theme parties - this was the cheapest party I have ever thrown.  The real cost came down to a few pieces I needed for my costume - I purchased a cute black jacket at JC Penney's for $45.57, but I plan on using it again.

All in all, it turned out to be a successfully cost-effective bash.

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 08:14 PM on September 14, 2009 in Entertainment , Home decor , Savings | Permalink | Comments (0)

A buck and gazelle...

Name bar Don't worry: I'm not about to tell you how they walked into a bar with some other wild creature.

I was cleaning out my house, which has way, way too much stuff, and hoping to make some moolah on at least some of my old junk.

The problem is, most of my stuff is, uh, junk. I have an antique printer, enough ugly T-shirts to clothe the entire Duggar family and a collection of worn-out shoes.

And a set of cell phones worthy of the Smithsonian for their variety in age and style.

I remembered reading somewhere about groups that will buy these old things -- or at least find a way to recycle the parts to keep them out of a landfill.

One of them, Gazelle, was willing to pay the shipping on my four old phones and send me $1 (1 buck!) on top of that.

It's not much, but the only thing I had to do was find an empty box and rid my old phones of any personal information. (Admittedly, one of the phones I had was so old I didn't even remember owning it and certainly didn't have the charger, so any phone numbers stored in there are now in the possession of Gazelle.)

If you have newer stuff, that's old to you, Gazelle might pay you more. Or, they might accept your items, but you have to pick up the shipping costs. If you have an obscure item, they might even add it to the types of gadgets they accept -- just ask.

And consider other services that are similar, and might command a different price than Gazelle. They were the only service I could find willing to take all of my old equipment. The extra buck was just plain nice.

Posted by Nirvi Shah at 03:26 PM on September 10, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

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