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APR on my credit card is now 2,599% (Mint says)

Just received this email from Mint, the online tool I use to track my expenses. This is clearly a glitch on their part but I really find it funny in the light of all the talks about banks jacking up fees anticipating the new credit card regulations.

mint-fail

Friday roundup: news that caught my eye

There was a lot of small news this week that didn’t warrant an entire blog post but I still wanted to mention them here since not all of you are following me on Twitter or in the Buxr discussion board. Here they are in no particular order:

  1. Walmart is staging a new price war, this time in video games. Last Wednesday GameStop’s stock tumbled 8.26% on the news and caused a discussion on the topic ‘can Walmart cause deflation’ on NPR Morning Marketplace on Thursday.
  2. Do you have a Google Gmail account? You can send a free post card to your friend with this free Google sponsored service. There are several designs available but all have a Google logo hidden in them.
  3. Lenovo is running a 40-day holiday giveaway. I usually don’t take part in these (just as I never play lottery) but there is something about this particular one that attracted my attention. Maybe the fact that it takes very little time to try? :-)
  4. Disney Rewards is giving away 5 points daily in December. You need to login daily and enter the unique code they feature on this page. What a brilliant idea to bring people to the website! You can redeem the reward points towards movie DVD’s, soundtracks CD’s or theater tickets.
  5. It doesn’t come as a surprise that Amazon beats Walmart and Target in a usability test conducted by uTest among the three retailers. Target came in last in every tested category. 600 testers from more than 20 countries took part in the test, over the half of the bugs found were at Target.
  6. New York Times rounds up several smart phone apps for reading e-Books. I use Aldiko on my G1 and it is great!

Can PMS make women shop more?

If you are a guy like myself there is a chance you have not heard of PMS, or premenstrual syndrome. However unless you are a bachelor living under a rock, I bet you have felt it on yourself many times. When that time comes, some women turn to chocolate or macaroni and cheese, others are acting cranky at their husband/boyfriend. Here is how MedecineNet defines PMS:

A combination of physical and mood disturbances that occur in the last half of a woman’s menstrual cycle after ovulation and normally end with the onset of the menstrual flow. Physical features of the premenstrual syndrome (PMS) include breast tenderness and bloating. Psychological changes include anger and depression.

Those psychological changes as it seems can lead to interesting side effects. A new study finds that some women tend to resort to retail therapy as a way of dealing with the PMS related stress.

… in the ten days before their periods begin - known as the luteal phase - women are much less in control of their spending habits. Psychologists at Hertfordshire University concluded that a shopping spree could be a way of dealing with the intense emotions of pre-menstrual syndrome…

443 women ages 18 to 50 were examined. Of the 153 women who were in the luteal phase, two thirds admitted to making an impulse buy and 57% said they overspent by more than $35. So ladies, now if you have a shopping splurge, you have a perfect excuse, and to better time things, here is a handy website and a Facebook App to help you out! ;-)

Seriously though it feels more like a conspiracy involving National Retail Federation than a scientific finding. Granted, women are under stress and some are seeking relief in a shopping spree however I feel if you generally tend to indulge yourself with a shopping frenzy then PMS is as good of an excuse as anything else.

What is your take on it? Does this “science” have legs or is it full of BS? Share your opinion in the comments!

Burglar-proof your home on a cheap budget

burglarWe recently had two break-ins in our neighborhood, one of the houses is our neighbor who left the country for a month. The burglar force-opened the back door, loaded everything of value into the home owner’s car and took off. The car was later found empty and abandoned. The second case is more interesting, the owner was in the house when the break-in happened. The burglar came late in the night (around 3am) and knocked at the door to check if anyone was in. The owner didn’t open the door and went on sleeping. The thieve force-opened the basement emergency window, got into the house but quickly left after realizing the owner was home.

Last weekend we had a neighbors meeting and the police officer investigating the case was giving a speech. This blog post is in essence a summary of the tips he gave us on how we can prevent or make it less likely for the incidents like these to happen.

Always lock doors and windows - this applies to homes and cars alike. The officer mentioned a recent arrest where a gang of teenagers was doing ‘car hopping’, the kind of crime when they move into a neighborhood and raid cars. They stole things from around 400 cars in a few weeks - none were locked.

Don’t leave mail in the mailbox - both break-ins in our neighborhood happened after the owner left mail in the mailbox. A stuffed mailbox is a sign telling the criminal that “the owners are not home”. When on vacation, have neighbors pick up your mail or stop mail delivery at the Post Office (and verify it stopped).

Secure sliding doors and windows - in one of the cases of the break-ings in our area, the burglar simply forcibly opened the sliding patio door w/o even having to break the glass. Criminals are looking for easy targets and anything that makes it difficult for them to get into the house will help. The simplest way to reinforce a sliding door is by using a strong wooden dowel or metal rod on the inside.

Make use of blinds after sunset - so many times I have walked by a house during night time and saw a family gather by a large screen TV or a guy working on a laptop computer. Without blinds, your house is a fish bowl and it is easy for the fisherman (the criminal) to pick the biggest fish without much effort.

Leave a light on when you leave - if you leave during dark hours, leave a light on in one of the rooms, alternate the room. Don’t use the kitchen countertop light for this purpose - according to the officer, too many families are doing it so it now has a different connotation. Consider purchasing a couple light switches on a timer and use them to turn on/off lights when you leave for a long period of time.

Light up your house from outside - the best way to do it by installing sensor activated lights on the outside of the house. If possible, install the lights high enough so it is hard for the burglar to just take the light bulb out. Otherwise, buy a motion sensor light bulb socket (available at Amazon for $22.86) and use with your outdoor lights.

Make a thorough inventory of your house - if inevitable happens, you want to be ready to give the insurance company complete list of what was stolen (I assume you have insurance). Get out the video camera and take a thorough tour of your home, then store the video in a safe deposit box, or make two copies and leave them at your friends/extended family.

Install visible alarm signs on the outside - even if you don’t plan to install a security system, a “Protected by” sign can be a strong enough deterrent to avoid the burglary. The criminals are looking for an easy target and anything that can make them think twice about breaking into your home is a help.

Get yourself a dog - this is probably the most effective way to burglar proof your home but at the same time it is a very subjective tip. You should never get a dog just because you want to keep your home safe. To me a dog is a family friend, but if you think of getting one - consider the side effect of protecting your home as a bonus.

Have you had crimes in your neighborhood lately? How do you burglar proof your house?

Photo credit to Johnny Grim @ Flickr

Community owned deal site. Nonsense?

firefox-open-standardsThis is just a crazy idea I had the other day and which I decided to write down before my mind wonders somewhere else and I forget about it. What if there was a website for bargain hunters that runs in a similar fashion as say Wikipedia or CraigsList? No ads, no affiliate links, completely community operated and based on open source platform. Would it make any sense at all?

I understand there are probably some bulletin board based bargain forums that do it but the phpBB is a stone age technology and has never really been meant to be used for shopping. What I mean is to have a fully functional social site with all the bells and whistles that come with a perfect deal site but completely owned and operated by the community.

Why would this make sense?

If the idea is novel the media will pick it up and it will spread virally offering free advertising (at least at the beginning). The members that join will make the most devoted bargain community that ever existed since they know the place is theirs and there is no owners behind the scene that set their rules and make profits off of the deals. Devoted members means more growth for the website because of all the free publicity and referrals they bring in.

I know from my own experience running Buxr that the web platform could be written in such a way that the community can properly format & categorize the deals, verify them, and also update them over time. To keep things sane, new members could have limited privileges but as they gain the tenure they turn into “power users” who can do more around the site, and eventually suggest themselves to become moderators. The community would vote (say once a year) to pick a number of moderators who then run the site for the next year.

The platform would be based on an open source code written by web developers volunteers who devote themselves to this idea. The only monetary expense is web hosting but it can be easily offset with donations since web hosting is dirt cheap these days.

So what do you think? Is this something even worth discussing? Does social shopping & bargain hunting have the scale to become a foundation of an open community like this? Do people even care about who owns the content they create and how it is used? Am I out of my mind even thinking about this idea?




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