Consumer Affairs http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/4809/all en-US 9 Ways You Put Your Life at Risk Every Day http://www.wisebread.com/9-ways-you-put-your-life-at-risk-every-day <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/9-ways-you-put-your-life-at-risk-every-day" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/woman-drinking-cola-151810423-small.jpg" alt="woman drinking cola" title="woman drinking cola" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>If you watch cable news, you'd think that we were all at risk of dying from Ebola, falling airliners, or terrorist attacks. But the reality is that the greatest risks to our health stem from activities we take part in nearly every day.</p> <p>Statistically, we are far more likely to get hurt or die doing relatively mundane activities than jumping from planes or getting eaten by sharks. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-5-most-dangerous-things-hiding-in-your-home-right-now?ref=seealso">The 5 Most Dangerous Things Hiding in Your Home Right Now</a>)</p> <p>Just in time for Halloween, we give you nine common things we do (or don't do enough of) that are a risk to our health. Just prepared for a little scare&hellip;</p> <h2>1. Getting in a Car</h2> <p>The <a href="http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Main/index.aspx">National Highway Traffic Safety Administration</a> reported 30,800 fatal crashes involving motor vehicles in 2012 in the United States. That's nearly 15 fatalities for every 100,000 licensed drivers. (And of course, this rate rises among people who were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.) Despite major advancements in automotive safety, accidents make up about a quarter of all accidental deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control. These numbers provide ample support for walking and taking public transit if at all possible. Generally speaking, the less you drive, the safer you'll be.</p> <h2>2. Drinking Sugary Beverages</h2> <p>Research from Harvard University <a href="http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sugary-drinks-fact-sheet/">has linked the sugar content in beverages</a> to more than 25,000 obesity-related deaths in the United States and 180,000 worldwide. A can of soda can have more than 30 milligrams of sugar, or 20% more than the World Health Organization's recommended daily intake for an <em>entire day</em>. This much sugar puts you at risk for conditions like diabetes and heart problems. You can avoid sugar in your drinks by grabbing diet versions, or switching to other drinks <a href="http://www.livestrong.com/article/252999-benefits-of-green-tea-honey/">like green tea sweetened with honey</a>. And what's so bad about plain old water?</p> <h2>3. Eating a Lot of Meat</h2> <p>Meat has its benefits, in the form of proteins and many vitamins. But there is evidence that too much red meat will put you at risk for various health problems, including heart disease. Researchers at <a href="http://healthland.time.com/2012/03/13/just-how-unhealthy-is-that-steak-the-deadly-dangers-of-eating-red-meat/">Harvard reported that a single extra serving of meat</a> each day increased mortality by 13%. And that number jumped to 20% among subjects who ate processed meats like hot dogs or bacon.</p> <p>You don't necessarily have to become a vegetarian to reduce your health risk, but it's possible to get protein from other sources, including fish, chicken, nuts, and whole grains.</p> <h2>4. Sitting!!</h2> <p>There's mounting evidence that sitting for long stretches of time is hazardous to your health. It's a major problem for anyone who works in an office setting, in particular. Numerous studies report that prolonged sitting can contribute to a wide range of maladies including heart disease, bad back, muscle degeneration and circulation problems. One report that looked at studies between 1989 and 2013 <a href="http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0080000">concluded that sitting for more than 10 hours a day</a> contributed to a 34% increase in mortality rate compared to people who sat for one hour a day. But there's a lot you can do to counteract this. Cut down on your TV watching, or watch while at the treadmill at the gym. If you work in an office, get a standing desk (or even a treadmill desk.) Bottom line: just get moving! (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-5-best-standing-desks?ref=seealso">The 5 Best Standing Desks</a>)</p> <h2>5. Not Sleeping Enough</h2> <p>The average adult needs between seven and nine hours of sleep, but gets barely more than six, according to multiple studies. The <a href="http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/howmuch.html">National Institutes of Health reports </a>that an ongoing sleep deficiency contributes to kidney problems, heart disease and stroke, and increases your risk of obesity and diabetes. Not to mention, a lack of sleep makes you more vulnerable to accidents; driver fatigue contributes to about 100,000 car accidents and 1,500 deaths each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.</p> <p>In short, it's time to catch up on your sleep. Doctors advise going to bed at the same time every night and keeping away from food, television and electronic devices near bedtime. Regular exercise also helps.</p> <h2>6. Not Getting Enough Sex</h2> <p>Simply put, having an orgasm is good for you, especially if you are a man. An article in the former British Medical Journal studied more than 900 men between 45 and 59, and found that those men who had &quot;high orgasmic frequency&quot; had a 50% lower mortality rate than those who had fewer orgasms.</p> <p>There's also some evidence that sex will improve your mood and <a href="http://www.aafp.org/afp/2004/0815/p757.html">reduce your risk of prostate cancer</a>.</p> <p>So, go and have more sex. (Safe sex, with someone you love, of course.) Your life depends on it.</p> <h2>7. Going Out in the Sun</h2> <p>When you actually take time to read about the impact of ultraviolet rays from the sun, you suddenly feel like it's better to just stay inside forever. UV rays will damage your skin, and too many sunburns will place you at risk for several types of skin cancer, including the deadly melanoma. The American Cancer Society reported that there will be an estimated 76,100 cases of melanoma in 2014, with 9,710 deaths.</p> <p>Of course, there are ways to prevent sun damage. Avoiding tanning beds at all cost is advisable. And when you do go out in the sun, avoid going out in the middle of the day and apply a broad-spectrum sunblock with an SPF of at least 30.</p> <h2>8. Entering Your House</h2> <p>To be clear, it's not so much the entering as what can happen to you once you go inside. Specifically, heavy things have the potential to fall on you and hurt you.</p> <p>The Consumer Product Safety Commission <a href="http://www.cpsc.gov//PageFiles/171154/InstabilityorTipoverReport2014Stamped.pdf">reported that between 2011 and 2013</a>, an annual average of 38,000 people went to emergency rooms after a tipover of a television, furniture, or an appliance. More than half of these incidents involved children, and the vast majority of the 430 deaths were among kids aged 10 and under. But adults still got hurt more than 16,000 times. In 2015, the CPSC will implement a $400,000 campaign to educate people about the potential for television and furniture tip-overs.</p> <h2>9. Accumulating Debt</h2> <p>Debt is not just bad for your financial wellbeing, it may also be bad for your health. A recent study from Northwestern Medicine reported that <a href="http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2013/08/high-debt-could-be-hazardous-to-your-health.html">young people with higher loads of debt</a> reported higher blood pressure and poorer mental health. A Gallup Poll in 2014 reported that 34% of young people with <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/174317/student-debt-linked-worse-health-less-wealth.aspx">no debt said they were thriving physically</a>, compared to 24% among those with more than $50,000 in debt.</p> <p>Avoid debt, if you can. If you have debt, pay it off as soon as possible.</p> <p><em>Any risks I've overlooked? Please share in comments!</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/9-ways-you-put-your-life-at-risk-every-day" class="sharethis-link" title="9 Ways You Put Your Life at Risk Every Day" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/tim-lemke">Tim Lemke</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Consumer Affairs Health risk safety Wed, 22 Oct 2014 09:00:04 +0000 Tim Lemke 1240477 at http://www.wisebread.com The 7 Dumbest Big Purchases People Make http://www.wisebread.com/the-7-dumbest-big-purchases-people-make <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/the-7-dumbest-big-purchases-people-make" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/couple-tv-shopping-177435130-small.jpg" alt="couple tv shopping" title="couple tv shopping" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Retail therapy is no myth. Psychologists have found that there's a real science behind the burst of joy we feel when we <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/mar.20404/abstract">treat ourselves with a big, exciting purchase</a> &mdash; no matter how impractical it may be.</p> <p>Unfortunately, buyer's remorse also exists. Once the newness wears off, our prized purchase sometimes <a href="http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ulterior-motives/201201/why-regret-makes-buying-experiences-better-buying-stuff">becomes just another thing</a> in the pile of stuff that occupies so much of the space in our lives. We begin to compare it to other things like it that we don't have. A faster sports car. A bigger jacuzzi. The latest cell phone upgrade. And just like that our big buy loses its luster.</p> <p>Some items are prone to invoke buyer's remorse. Typically these items are just downright absurd, yet we've convinced ourselves that they're an important, practical, or smart purchase anyway. Thanks to the mistakes of thousands of consumers before us, we've been able to identify a few of them for you. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-is-your-financial-kryptonite-and-how-to-conquer-it?ref=seealso">What Is Your Financial Kryptonite and How to Conquer It</a>)</p> <p>Read on for our list of the top seven purchases that are sure to leave you wallowing in your own tears of regret.</p> <h2>1. 3D TVs</h2> <p>The majority of <a href="http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/majority-3d-tv-owners-regret-their-purchase-1431326">3D television owners regret their purchase</a>. It's not that the technology isn't cool. The leading complaint is that there just isn't enough 3D content to make ownership of one of these futuristic devices worthwhile.</p> <p>More than half the 50 movie titles offered in 3D in 2011 were kids' flicks, while <a href="http://www.digitaltrends.com/home-theater/3d-tv-autopsy-did-it-finally-die-or-was-it-never-alive-to-begin-with/#!beO9si">most blockbuster movie titles opted out</a> of the 3D format altogether. When you're coughing up between $2,000 and $12,000 for the TV plus another couple hundred bucks a pop for the glasses, that's sort of a deal breaker.</p> <p>That leads us to another popular complaint: It can be a major annoyance to wear the glasses that make the third dimension pop. Sort of like wearing your sun shades in the house.</p> <h2>2. Whirlpool Tub</h2> <p>It's a vision of romance: Flower petals, candle light, a bottle of wine &mdash; and then you turn the thing on. Who wants to canoodle with that grumbling sound? Yeah, it's a vision alright.</p> <p>Jacuzzi-style whirlpool tubs can be a real mood killer. Not only are they noisy, they're time consuming to fill with water and prone to completely draining the hot water tank. Plus they're expensive to operate, not to mention expensive to buy and install.</p> <p>Bottom line: Most people don't use them enough to outweigh the negatives.</p> <h2>3. A College Education (No, Really&hellip;.)</h2> <p>Okay, so most people would say a college degree is a smart investment &mdash; but it can certainly be regrettable. A third of millennials say they would have been <a href="https://www.wellsfargo.com/press/2013/20130522_MorethanhalfofMillennials">better off working than going to college</a>, according to a Wells Fargo study. The reason? They're drowning in debt.</p> <p>More than half the 1,414 college grads surveyed by Wells Fargo said they afforded their education by taking out hefty student loans that have become the crux of their financial distress. Many said they think they'd have been better off with a less expensive, public education than a much more costly degree from a top-tier school.</p> <p>If given $10,000, more than half of those surveyed said the first thing they would use the money for is to pay off student loans or credit card debt.</p> <h2>4. A Timeshare</h2> <p>The cost of owning a timeshare extends well beyond the mortgage. Annual maintenance fees, property taxes, and special assessments are piled on top &mdash; and they can be quite expensive.</p> <p>Another major gripe among timeshare owners is that it's not always easy to schedule their allotted time at the unit. In fact, it can be downright maddening. Some timeshare contracts have so <a href="http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/top-ten-reasons-think-twice-before-buying-timeshare.html">severely misstated the ease in scheduling</a> that several states have passed laws to punish these misrepresentations.</p> <p>Timeshares are also difficult to unload. Few people are interested in purchasing a timeshare in the aftermarket, meaning you're very likely to lose money even if you do find a buyer.</p> <h2>5. A Car They Didn't Research</h2> <p>Nearly a third of all <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2280243/Millions-regret-buying-latest-car-Third-admit-purchasing-faulty-vehicle-say-didnt-research.html">motorists regret their most recent car purchase</a>, a consumer watchdog report found. Among the top triggers of dissatisfaction: The car is faulty, it costs more to run than they anticipated, or they simply didn't do enough research.</p> <p>A car is one of the most expensive purchases many of us will ever make. So before pulling the trigger on a flashy sport convertible or a clunker with the little engine that could, experts say it's important to weigh all your options and do your homework.</p> <p>Here are a couple good online resources to get you started: <a href="http://www.edmunds.com/car-buying/first-time-new-car-buyer-guide.html">Edmund's Guide for First-Time New Car Buyers</a> and <a href="http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/how-to/repair/how-to-buy-a-used-car-without-getting-burned?click=pp">Popular Mechanic's How to Buy a Used Car Without Getting Burned</a>.</p> <h2>6. High-End Designer Bags, Clothes, and Shoes</h2> <p>Speaking of cars, a Gucci handbag can cost more than the down payment on your vehicle. Ditto that for many designer scarves, furs, and dresses. What you're really paying for is an air of luxury and exclusivity.</p> <p>Many of the clothes and accessories we find to be swoon-worthy at the store, high-end and otherwise, end up spending nearly their entire existence in storage. That's because the average person wears only about <a href="http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324240804578415002232186418">20% of the clothes in their closet</a>, according to retail specialists.</p> <p>Among the top reasons our garments go unworn? The items no longer seem as unique or important as when first purchased, or we realize it was an impulse buy rather than a smart, practical purchase.</p> <h2>7. A $5,000 Watch</h2> <p>So you got a big promotion at work. Why not reward yourself with a Rolex? You earned it. Plus, what's more practical than a classic timepiece?</p> <p>Ted Jenkins, who co-operates a financial advisory firm focused on generations X and Y, speaks from experience when he says: &quot;Don't do it!&quot;</p> <p>&quot;<a href="http://www.yoursmartmoneymoves.com/2014/07/08/a-5000-watch-doesnt-make-you-look-cool/">The dumbest purchase I ever made was spending $5,000 on a watch</a>,&quot; Jenkins wrote on his financial literacy blog. &quot;I wore two watches over the course of a year, one that cost $5,000 and one that cost $79. The $5,000 watch was a Panerai and the $79 was a Diesel&hellip; During that year, my compliment ratio was four to one in favor of the $79 Diesel watch. I never really cared that much about brand names and it taught me that nobody else really does as well. Now I don't even wear a watch because my phone can tell time.&quot;</p> <p><em>Have you ever made a big dumb purchase? Please share your experience in comments!</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-7-dumbest-big-purchases-people-make" class="sharethis-link" title="The 7 Dumbest Big Purchases People Make" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/brittany-lyte">Brittany Lyte</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Consumer Affairs Lifestyle Shopping big purchases buying expensive luxuries shopping Wed, 23 Jul 2014 11:00:05 +0000 Brittany Lyte 1165663 at http://www.wisebread.com Convert Your Crap Into Cash Without a Garage Sale http://www.wisebread.com/convert-your-crap-into-cash-without-a-garage-sale <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/convert-your-crap-into-cash-without-a-garage-sale" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/girl-clothes-176758449-small.jpg" alt="girl clothes" title="girl clothes" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="151" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>We all have extra stuff lying around that we'd love to pawn off for cash &mdash; in theory. But let's face it. Organizing a garage sale can be sort of like planning a dinner party without the payoff of good friends, good conversation, and a couple of refreshing gin and tonics. All that sorting and polishing and sticker-tagging and sign-making &mdash; not to mention the time you'll spend trying to shoo the neighbor who wants to take home your kid's $500 barely used air hockey table for 20 bucks &mdash; and you might not even earn enough to cover your expenses for that bottle of upholstery cleaner. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/have-your-best-garage-sale-ever-by-following-these-9-retail-secrets?ref=seealso">Have Your Best Yard Sale Ever</a>)</p> <p>Fortunately, it's true what they say: One man's trash is another man's treasure. The trick to making this maxim work for you is finding the right platform that will put your well-cared-for Coach purse before the eyes of fashionistas who deeply value the absence of scratch marks on the leather strap.</p> <p>The Internet is a brilliant resource for reaching your best-bet buyers. So is your flesh-and-blood network of family and friends. Here's our guide to getting the biggest bang for your leftovers and unwanteds using the basics of target marketing. It's all about finding your niche.</p> <h2>1. Clothing</h2> <p>The founder of <a href="http://www.threadflip.com/">ThreadFlip</a> launched the up-and-coming online marketplace for second-hand garments and accessories two years ago after taking a peek at his wife's cluttered closet. What struck him was that most of the overflow was comprised of perfectly fashionable, cared-for pieces that she never even wears. When he asked his wife and other women why they hold on to clothing they know they'll never put on, they gave him the same answer: &quot;<a href="http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/17/site-to-be-seen-threadflip-com/?_php=true&amp;_type=blogs&amp;_r=0">It's too hard to do anything else with them</a>.</p> <p>Sites like eBay and Etsy work great, too, but ThreadFlip offers the added benefit of a niche audience. This is fashionistas selling to other fashionistas, so you're bound to rake in more cash for those peach-colored stilettos than if you were to try and hawk them on a generalized resale site. (Another excellent option for pre-owned luxury clothing and accessories is <a href="http://www.portero.com/">Portero</a>).</p> <p>When you sell on ThreadFlip, the site helps you lure in buyers by marketing your items with high resolution photos. (If you're clumsy with a camera, you can fork over a higher percentage of your earnings and the company will handle the photography for you.) Once you hook a buyer, an empty box arrives at your doorstep. Simply fill it with the items you've sold and call for a pickup. ThreadFlip will ship the box directly to the buyer, and for this the site takes a 20% cut of the sale.</p> <h2>2. Furniture</h2> <p>It's not easy &mdash; nor cheap nor in any way desirable &mdash; to sell a couch by mail. Sites that facilitate resale transactions with buyers right in your local community are your best bet for larger items, like furniture, swing sets, and pinball machines, that are too cumbersome for the postal service.</p> <p>While Craigslist is well-known, <a href="https://krrb.com/">Krrb</a> (pronounced &quot;curb&quot;) is a newer hyperlocal classifieds platform that's on the rise in popularity. The 75,000-member online consignment boutique caters to the bargain hunter with sophisticated taste. High-end furniture pieces go for anywhere <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/25/bargain-furniture-websites_n_5503904.html?ir=HuffPost+Home">between $800 and $10,000</a> depending on condition and style. Recent listings include a Victorian aquarium, 19th century furnishings, and a vintage mahogany sideboard. There's also <a href="https://krrb.com/posts/76154-2-wild-goat-taxidermy?rf=everywhere">a pair of taxidermy goats</a> that's going for $1,500.</p> <p>In most cases, the buyers on sites like Craigslist and Krrb are willing to come to you. And it's on them to hire a truck to transport the antique bed and night stands. All you have to do is hold out your hand. Ahh, how good it feels to have a fistful of cold, hard cash.</p> <h2>3. Electronics</h2> <p>Here's the good news: Amazon will buy your old electronics in exchange for money to spend on Amazon. And considering the breadth and depth of the Amazon marketplace, credit for this online shopping site is nearly as good as cash.</p> <p>It works like this: Check the <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Electronics-Trade-In/b/?_encoding=UTF8&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;linkCode=ur2&amp;node=2226766011&amp;tag=wisbre03-20&amp;linkId=WVMW4DSEZF3VHV4Y">trade-in page</a> to see if your old cell phone or video game console is eligible for the gift-card program. (Books are also applicable.) Then package up your gadgets and send them off to Amazon. The company will even pay for the shipping. Once the company receives the items, your Amazon account will be credited in about two business days.</p> <p>Amazon doesn't have a monopoly on the electronics trade-in industry, although its service in this department is streamlined and immensely easy. Still, there are other options to explore. <a href="http://www.nextworth.com/">Nextworth</a> and <a href="http://www.shareasale.com/r.cfm?b=606138&amp;u=255320&amp;m=45652&amp;urllink=&amp;afftrack=">Gazelle</a> offer similar trade-in programs with an added benefit: They'll actually send you a check for your outdated iPad. On the downside, Nextworth can often take upwards of 10 days to reimburse you while Gazelle tends to lowball its offering price.</p> <h2>4. Valuables That Aren't Selling Online</h2> <p>There are certain items you won't want to part with unless you're getting what they're worth. Diamond earrings. The teak end-table. Those leather boots you bought on your honeymoon in Italy. You know they are high-value items, even if the bid amounts on your eBay auction suggest otherwise.</p> <p>Chances are that at least some of your friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors share in your taste and would love to go on a shopping spree at your house. So why not let them? Simply price the items you want to sell and invite a group of people over to browse.</p> <p>Or, take a hint from the minimalist, world-traveling duo Warren and Betsy Talbot and host a <a href="http://www.marriedwithluggage.com/how-to-host-a-reverse-birthday-party/">Reverse Birthday Party</a>. The next time your birthday comes around, examine the stuff in your house and stick price tags on all those beautiful, loved items that you could only bear to part with for a fair price. Then invite over the friends and family members you know will appreciate just as you do that antique farmhouse spinning wheel or the cutesy Christmas china set and let 'em loose. In lieu of gifts, your guests will be doing you a favor by spending that gift money &mdash; and then some, if all goes to plan &mdash; on all that exquisite stuff you need to part with in order to declutter your life.</p> <p>Take whatever's left over to a brick-and-mortar consignment shop.</p> <p><em>How have you turned your old stuff into cash without bothering with a yard sale? Please share your secrets in comments!</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/convert-your-crap-into-cash-without-a-garage-sale" class="sharethis-link" title="Convert Your Crap Into Cash Without a Garage Sale" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/brittany-lyte">Brittany Lyte</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Consumer Affairs Lifestyle Shopping consignment declutter garage sale selling used yard sale Thu, 17 Jul 2014 15:00:05 +0000 Brittany Lyte 1160270 at http://www.wisebread.com Don't Be Fooled by 2014's Most Common New Scams http://www.wisebread.com/dont-be-fooled-by-2014s-most-common-new-scams <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/dont-be-fooled-by-2014s-most-common-new-scams" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/scam-184760721-small.jpg" alt="phone scam" title="phone scam" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="146" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Scams will never go away. From medieval England to modern day America, people will always try to find ways to get money the easy way. These scammers are still relying on methods that have worked for centuries, but there are updated scams that you should always be on the lookout for. So, acquaint yourself with these current scams and cons (some will be new, while others will sound very familiar). (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-vile-craigslist-scams-to-watch-out-for?ref=seealso">8 Vile Craigslist Scams to Watch Out For</a>)</p> <h2>Vishing (AKA, The &quot;No Hang Up&quot; Scam)</h2> <p>Leading the charge in 2014 is a dastardly scam that is relatively new, but very effective if you don't have your guard up. The scammer will call pretending to be someone from the police department, or your bank, or credit card issuer. They will inform you that your card has been compromised in some way, and advise you to call the bank in question. This preys on the belief that you should always call your bank or financial institution, and not the other way around. The clever part about this scam is that the original caller stays on the line with you, in a three-way conversation, and hears everything you tell your bank. The best way to avoid this is to simply hang up the phone and start a new call. If you have been compromised, you will soon find out. If you haven't, you'll know someone was trying to con you.</p> <h2>The &quot;One Ring&quot; Cell Phone Scam</h2> <p>This is a very simple scam, and those are usually the most effective. The crooks simply <a href="http://www.myfoxdc.com/story/24909781/consumer-alert-one-ring-cell-phone-call-scam">call your number once and hang up</a>. You will check your cell phone to see that you have a missed call, and curiosity may just get the better of you. But when you call, the number will be from an area code that is not from the US (although it looks like it). Instead, it will be to a place like the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, or Grenada. It may even be to an adult sex line. Before you realize what's going on, you've been charged $19.95 to connect, and $9 per minute. A piece of software like <a href="http://www.truecaller.com/">Truecaller</a> can help you, but if in doubt don't ever call a dubious number back. They'll call you again if they really need to get hold of you.</p> <h2>Sticky ATM Keypads</h2> <p>Once again, ATMs are being targeted by thieves. In the past, <a href="http://blog.credit.com/2013/05/credit-card-skimming-scams-arent-going-anywhere/?utm_source=Yahoo&amp;utm_medium=content&amp;utm_content=IB_5&amp;utm_campaign=sneakiest_scams">skimming</a> devices were successful. Then crooks would place small blockages in the card slot that would make it appear that your card had been swallowed by the machine. Now, we have <a href="http://www.atmsecurity.com/index.php?searchword=stuck+key&amp;ordering=newest&amp;searchphrase=exact&amp;limit=100&amp;option=com_search">sticky keypads</a>, and they really are sticky. The scammers apply an adhesive to buttons like ENTER, CANCEL or CLEAR. When you press one of these buttons, the keypad sticks, and you are unable to complete the transaction. When you pop inside the bank to report the problem, the thief lying in wait simply unsticks the key with a screwdriver and completes your transaction for you. If you can, always use an ATM inside a trusted bank or building. They are much more difficult to tamper with, and you have staff at hand to help out.</p> <h2>Catfish Catphish</h2> <p>By now, you have probably heard the term &quot;catfish.&quot; It describes someone who is online claiming to be looking for love, but using a fake identity and photos. Now, this has turned into &quot;catphishing,&quot; and these people are not really looking for love at all&hellip; they want money. The catphishers will use legitimate dating sites to start the conversation, but will quickly want to talk or chat outside of the dating site &mdash; because they don't want to be tracked through it. After leading you on with photos and compliments, they will suddenly find themselves in a desperate situation that needs money to fix, and quickly. Never, ever fall for these online dating scams. If they refuse to talk over Skype or meet, be very wary.</p> <h2>The &quot;Ads On Your Car&quot; Scam</h2> <p>There are legitimate businesses out there that will pay you to put advertising on your car. There are also scammers looking to make a quick buck from unsuspecting people looking to make a little extra money.</p> <p>The scam starts with an advert placed on a local website, perhaps Craigslist, offering you up to <a href="http://www.bbb.org/blog/2012/05/putting-ads-on-your-car-scam-says-carol/">$600 per week to put adverts</a> for name brands (Coca-Cola, Heineken, etc) on your car. That should be your first clue; legitimate companies don't pay anywhere near that amount. Then, when you apply for more information, you are sent an upfront payment for even more than the amount they owe you. The idea being you cash the check, keep part of the money, and send the rest to a &quot;designer&quot; working on the project. Of course, this is just a variation on the common &quot;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/419_scams">advance fee</a>&quot; scam. Don't fall for it, and do your research.</p> <h2>The Free Vacation Scam</h2> <p>With people still on tight budgets, vacations are turning into staycations, and the idea of escaping to a sunny foreign destination seems like a pipe dream. Then, these free vacations come along &mdash; &quot;Congratulations, you've won a four-day vacation in Jamaica!&quot; This usually comes in the form of a letter or piece of junk mail, but many people fall for it.</p> <p>Sadly, there's little chance of ever escaping to a relaxing vacation.</p> <p>First, you'll be asked to join a travel club. This can cost $300. Then when you go to book the holiday, you will be greeted with tons of black out dates, regulations, and additional fees. Before you know it, you've spent a small fortune on a &quot;free&quot; vacation, and if you do manage to escape, it will be to a very sub-par vacation that cost a lot less than all the fees you paid.</p> <h2>Penny Auctions</h2> <p>It's tricky to use the word scam with this one, as it is legal. But that doesn't make it something anyone should be participating in. Penny auctions seem like a way to get a high-cost item at an insanely low price &mdash; Apple laptops for $60, HDTVs for $100. But, the actual chance of getting one of these items for that price is very slim indeed. For a start, although the price of the item may only be $60, people may have spent 10 times that amount bidding on it. That's because it can cost 60 cents to place a bid for one cent. You may well place 100 bids, or $60, and get absolutely nothing for your money. Here's a <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/upgrade-your-life/hidden-dangers-penny-auctions-163331290.html">statement from a Yahoo! writer</a> who tried a penny auction site:</p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;">I bought $60 in bids and got in on an iPad auction. I bid occasionally, trying to time it when the counter neared zero, but I quickly blew 40 bucks in bids. Someone always jumped in at the last second, usually someone using the automated bid setting. So I signed up for automated bids myself, and I was amazed. My $20-worth of remaining bids flew out in 24 seconds. And I didn't win. My 60 bucks was goners! In fact, I watched the most aggressive bidder make 30 bids a minute for 2 more hours until the auction ended. 3600 bids, at a minimum 55 cents a bid. That's $1980 for a device that costs retail $499, and that guy didn't even win!</p> <p>Bottom line: If you want to do an auction, use <a href="http://www.ebay.com/">eBay.com</a>, or another legitimate auction site. The penny auctions are designed to prey on your desire to get an amazing deal. Don't fall for it.</p> <p><em>Have you seen any of these scams or others in the wild? Please share in comments!</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dont-be-fooled-by-2014s-most-common-new-scams" class="sharethis-link" title="Don&#039;t Be Fooled by 2014&#039;s Most Common New Scams" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/paul-michael">Paul Michael</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Consumer Affairs 419 scams catphishing modern scams phone scams scams Thu, 03 Jul 2014 15:00:03 +0000 Paul Michael 1153222 at http://www.wisebread.com Too Good to Be True? How Trader Joe's Sells Affordable Goods http://www.wisebread.com/too-good-to-be-true-how-trader-joes-sells-affordable-goods <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/too-good-to-be-true-how-trader-joes-sells-affordable-goods" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/grocery-shopping-86541102-small_0.jpg" alt="grocery shopping" title="grocery shopping" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>There are many die-hard fans of Trader Joe's who will assure you that it's the best grocery store ever. And that's not just hearsay. In fact, the quirky grocery chain recently came in first in a national survey that polled people on their <a href="http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/news/article.asp?docKey=600-201405302048KRTRIB__BUSNEWS_52487_18728-1&amp;params=timestamp%7C%7C05/30/2014%208:48%20PM%20ET%7C%7Cheadline%7C%7CTrader%20Joe%27s%20captures%20top%20spot%20in%20national%20survey%20of%20shoppers%20[Dayton%20Daily%20News%2C%20Ohio%20%3A%3A%20]%7C%7CdocSource%7C%7CMcClatchy-Tribune%7C%7Cprovider%7C%7CACQUIREMEDIA%7C%7Cbridgesymbol%7C%7CUS;KR&amp;ticker=KR">favorite supermarket</a>.</p> <p>RELATED: <a href="http://www.savvysugar.com/Conventional-vs-Organic-Grocery-Prices-18342929">Organic vs. Conventional: Price Breakdown of 10 Common Groceries</a></p> <p>The great value for quality goods is what keeps customers coming back for more. But all of us have wondered from time to time how in the world Trader Joe's manages to pull that off. Although I don't ever want to ruin a good thing, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to do some digging. Here are a couple of possible reasons:</p> <h2>1. Smaller Spaces</h2> <p>&quot;Most TJ's locations have less square footage than the average mainstream grocery store, so I'm sure they save on their overhead costs that way,&quot; says Nathan Rodgers of review site <a href="http://www.whatsgoodattraderjoes.com/">What's Good at Trader Joe's</a>. &quot;And it appears they pass some of those savings on to their shoppers.&quot;</p> <h2>2. Smaller Headcount</h2> <p>To keep costs down, the chain generally has a <a href="http://www.workforce.com/articles/fostering-a-loyal-workforce-at-trader-joe-s">lower headcount in its stores</a> than its competitors, although there are exceptions. You won't find some of the traditional supermarket positions, like a butcher and a baker, at Trader Joe's, which also helps with costs. This means that customers can only buy pre-cut meats and pre-made baked goods, but that doesn't seem to deter consumers.</p> <h2>3. Less Selection</h2> <p>Trader Joe's has a smaller selection of goods, and most of its products are offered under the store-brand label, which differentiates it from other grocery chains. Fortune estimates that the <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2010/08/20/news/companies/inside_trader_joes_full_version.fortune/index.htm">typical grocery store has 50,000 items</a>, while Trader Joe's has 4,000 &mdash; 80 percent of which are store-brand goods. Its small store sizes also don't allow for a bigger selection of goods.</p> <p>This can be a negative or positive, depending on how you see the situation, because there are definitely people who do enjoy the smaller selection. Rodgers says, &quot;Honestly, I have a hard enough time making decisions as it is. A smaller selection actually helps narrow down the choices. Plus, they're constantly shuffling things around and introducing new products. The thing that bothers me most is that they discontinue really great products occasionally.&quot;</p> <p>By limiting its selection, Trader Joe's will buy larger quantities from suppliers. And it will restock at a faster rate because of the quicker turnaround &mdash; it is able to sell more of one type of product when there aren't too many choices. These two factors will drive down the costs. Although there isn't a lot of variety, customers are OK with that because they trust that the quality will be good, according to Fortune.</p> <h2>4. Not Everything Is Certified Organic</h2> <p>Some products have the label &quot;made with organic ingredients,&quot; which Mark Kastel, co-founder of organic food industry watchdog group <a href="http://www.cornucopia.org/">The Cornucopia Institute</a>, says may mean only 70 percent of the ingredients in the product are organic. For example, the label may say the pizza was made with organic wheat and vegetables, but the cheese and meat might not be organic, which means you're getting a really &quot;cheapened product.&quot;</p> <p>&quot;When you are going to Whole Foods or Trader Joe's or any store you have to be a conscious consumer because a lot of what is most profitable to them is not organic even though they really like to tout that they are organic,&quot; says Kastel. His advice is to take a careful look at the labels to make sure the whole product is certified organic.</p> <h2>5. Private About the Suppliers</h2> <p>Trader Joe's is notoriously private about its suppliers. This is also a trademark trait of its parent company, German supermarket conglomerate Aldi. &quot;Their hallmark is what we call private label or store brand. So you don't really know who is manufacturing it and where it's from or maybe the story behind the food,&quot; says Kastel. This enables Trader Joe's to use a competitive bidding system with suppliers and go with the lowest bid. Customers won't know when the manufacturer of the product changes.</p> <p>The anonymity also benefits the suppliers as they don't want customers to know that they are making a lower-cost version for the Trader Joe's label. Last year, The Huffington Post did <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/12/who-makes-trader-joes-food_n_2664899.html">a taste test</a> comparing Trader Joe's products they speculated were produced by big brands to the actual products sold under the big-brand names. The testers found that although there was a big price difference, there were no obvious differences in taste.</p> <p>However, the secrecy can brew dissatisfaction among some consumers. Vani Hari, investigative food journalist and founder of <a href="http://foodbabe.com/">FoodBabe.com</a>, says, &quot;If you shop at Trader Joe's and buy their Trader Joe's branded products, you'll never know which companies are producing your food. You could be supporting a company with shady or unethical business practices. Other major supermarket chains like Target and Kroger are also creating their own private label products that also create similar concerns with consumers. With the increased emphasis on the 'voting with your dollars' mentality and ingredient labels, consumers want to know where their food comes from.&quot;</p> <h2>6. Efficient Distribution and Supplier System</h2> <p>The company also cuts out the middleman and buys a lot of its food directly from the suppliers, which translates to lower expenses and more savings for customers. Suppliers send their food to Trader Joe's distribution centers, where it then gets sent out to the stores. Traditional supermarkets usually buy their food through a distributor, which adds on more cost.</p> <h2>7. Food Is Sourced All Over the Globe</h2> <p>Food Babe's Hari says, &quot;Trader Joe's is able to keep their produce and goods inexpensive because they source their goods from all over the globe &mdash; especially from underdeveloped countries where prices are cheaper.&quot; The danger in this strategy is the organic food industry in foreign countries may not be well regulated.</p> <p>Back in 2008, to deal with the growing concern over organic food from China, Trader Joe's announced that it planned to phase out any <a href="http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-tj12feb12-story.html">single-ingredient food item</a> from China. This is a big deal given that not a lot of supermarkets follow suit. Whole Foods did not do the same and said it was in a &quot;different position&quot; and it didn't make sense to stop the progress it has &quot;made with sourcing select high-quality products.&quot; However, although Trader Joe's phased out the single-ingredient items, it's not clear which multiple-ingredient products use organic ingredients from China and which other countries it is sourcing its single-ingredient products from.</p> <h2>8. Less Money Spent on Marketing</h2> <p>The company is known for not spending as much money on marketing and advertising as its competitors. In fact, it doesn't even have an official Facebook or Twitter page.</p> <p>Chances are, you probably heard about the grocery chain through word of mouth. The chain has such a devoted following that customers become the brand's best &quot;advertisers,&quot; promoting the stores in various ways &mdash; from uploading images of their favorite Trader Joe's snacks on Facebook to convincing friends to shop there. The bonus in this strategy is that the advertising costs won't be tacked on to Trader Joe's goods.</p> <h2>So What Does This Mean for Those Who Want Organic Food?</h2> <p>It means we have to be careful as consumers and read labels. We can also do our homework and learn how to shop smart. You can start with organizations like <a href="http://www.cornucopia.org/">The Cornucopia Institute</a>, which has several helpful reports such as one that ranks<a href="http://www.cornucopia.org/dairysurvey/index.html"> the quality of dairy of several suppliers and grocers</a>. Kastel recommends people shop at their local food co-op, which he says is the &quot;gold standard of organic retailing.&quot;</p> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-blog-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Trader Joe&#039;s fans love the store, and with good reason. But how do they manage to keep all of those great products so cheap? </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-guestpost-blurb"> <div class="field-label">Guest Post Blurb:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p style="text-align:center;"><a style="border:none;" href="http://www.savvysugar.com"><img style="height:95px; width:300px" src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/u921/POPSUGARrgb.jpg" alt="" /></a></p> <p><em>This is a guest contribution from our friends at </em><a href="http://www.savvysugar.com/"><em>POPSUGAR Smart Living</em></a><em>. Check out more useful articles from this partner:</em></p> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.savvysugar.com/How-Save-Money-Whole-Foods-11376657">Insider Info: 18 Tips to Saving Big Bucks in Whole Foods</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.savvysugar.com/What-Buy-Whole-Foods-34126215">10 Things You Should Buy at Whole Foods (and 7 to Avoid)</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.savvysugar.com/Making-Groceries-Last-Tips-16971878">12 Tricks to Make Groceries Last Longer and Save Cash</a></li> </ul> <p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/popsugar-smart-living">POPSUGAR Smart Living</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Consumer Affairs Food and Drink Shopping Wed, 18 Jun 2014 09:00:05 +0000 POPSUGAR Smart Living 1142513 at http://www.wisebread.com Are You Being Had? Learn From 5 Crazy Ponzi Schemes http://www.wisebread.com/are-you-being-had-learn-from-5-crazy-ponzi-schemes <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/are-you-being-had-learn-from-5-crazy-ponzi-schemes" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/scam-78773706-small.jpg" alt="scam" title="scam" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Whether you call them &quot;Ponzi schemes&quot; or &quot;pyramid schemes,&quot; one thing you definitely don't want to call investment scams is &quot;something I fell for.&quot;</p> <p>So take a look at a few of history's biggest and boldest schemes &mdash; each illustrates something to keep in mind when weighing your own investment opportunities. And each is a good reminder: scams like these are very real, and a wise investor must be very vigilant.</p> <h2>1. Chinese Ant Antics</h2> <p>Businessman <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/news/death-penalty-for-chinese-ant-farm-scammer/">Wang Fengyou's pyramid scheme</a> was nothing if not creative: he convinced investors (generally individual farm workers) to buy ants &mdash; yes, ants &mdash; from his company, feed them a special diet for three months, and then sell them back to his company for a profit. The insect livestock, it was said, would then be turned into pharmaceuticals.</p> <p>Amazingly, people bought it, and within a decade Wang's company had a billion dollar annual turnover, until 2007 it is, when the company collapsed after investors started demanding returns on their investment. Even more amazingly, though, is the fact that over <em>1 million</em> people invested. The takeaway here? The amount of investors in your same boat doesn't mean said ship will stay afloat &mdash; don't let the illusion of safety in numbers influence bad investment decisions.</p> <h2>2. 'N Scheme</h2> <p>Lou Pearlman was the larger than life producer behind 'N Sync and Backstreet Boys in the 90s. In 2006, he added another huge production to his resume: a $300 million ponzi scheme in which he persuaded banks and individuals to invest in &quot;Trans Continental Airlines,&quot; a purely fictitious company. Though Pearlman plead guilty and is currently serving a 25-year sentence, his investors are only <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/bankruptcy/2013/07/19/the-broke-and-the-beautiful-lou-pearlman-edition/">just now starting to recoup their losses</a>, and will likely only be paid out four cents on the dollar.</p> <p>Interestingly, Pearlman had been suspected of operating a pump and dump scheme decades earlier, so perhaps the takeaway here is that even though everyone is innocent until proven guilty in the eyes of the law, allegations of foul play (even unproven ones) should make you think twice about investing with someone.</p> <h2>3. The Pyramid Pastor</h2> <p>In September of 2003, longtime Scientology minister <a href="http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB101718484270953360">Reed Slatkin</a> pleaded guilty to mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering after the FBI launched an investigation uncovering $240 million he had swindled out of investors. Much of the money went to the Church itself, which eventually agreed to repay millions of ill-gotten funds. Slatkin sold himself as a financial whiz, and while of course there's nothing to say that a minister can't also be an excellent investor, the case may give you pause before investing with someone who's head isn't 100% focused on getting big return on investment.</p> <h2>4. The Minnesota Money Man</h2> <p>Talk about &quot;Minnesota nice&quot;: <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/06/us-petters-ponzi-idUSBRE9B50Q620131206">Tom Petters</a>, a St. Cloud man with deep roots in the state, raised nearly $4 billion, making the third largest Ponzi perpetrator in US history. He's currently serving 50 years in Leavenworth, but that doesn't necessarily put money back in the pocket of his victims, many of whom were senior citizens. The elderly are often seen as potentially easier prey, meaning you should:</p> <ol> <li>Be weary of investments aimed at them.</li> <li>Make sure to help your parents be equally weary!</li> </ol> <h2>5. Madoff Madness</h2> <p>You know the name, you know the scheme. But what you may not know is that former NASDAQ chairmen Bernie Madoff generally took investments from (and thus defrauded) people and organizations making very sizeable (multiple million) contributions. Meaning that being financially elite &mdash; unlike the Chinese ant-farmers or elderly folks taken for a ride in Minneapolis &mdash; is no insurance against being had. It just means you have more to lose.</p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/are-you-being-had-learn-from-5-crazy-ponzi-schemes" class="sharethis-link" title="Are You Being Had? Learn From 5 Crazy Ponzi Schemes" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/joe-epstein">Joe Epstein</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Consumer Affairs madoff ponzi pyramid scam scheme Fri, 13 Jun 2014 21:00:26 +0000 Joe Epstein 1141812 at http://www.wisebread.com How to Get Magazines for Cheap (or Free!) http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-get-magazines-for-cheap-or-free <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-get-magazines-for-cheap-or-free" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/girls-reading-78744826-small.jpg" alt="girls reading" title="girls reading" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Beautiful, glossy magazines may be your guilty pleasure, but they don't have to cost you a pretty penny. There are ways to get them at a discount or even free. Check out some of these suggestions:</p> <p>RELATED: <a href="http://www.savvysugar.com/Where-Get-Free-eBooks-Audio-Books-Books-30118371">13 Ways to Get Free Books</a></p> <h2>Your Local Library</h2> <p>There are so many <a href="http://www.savvysugar.com/Free-Services-From-Library-25766579">free goodies</a> to be had at the library, one of which includes an extensive collection of magazines. Not only do libraries have current copies, but they will usually have backdated copies as well. They might even have copies of magazines that aren't currently being published.</p> <h2>Doctors' or Dental Offices</h2> <p>In waiting rooms, you'll usually see a collection of magazines to thumb through. Ask the receptionist if you can take the old copies when they get new ones. They are usually pretty accommodating.</p> <h2>Online Forums</h2> <p><a href="http://slickdeals.net/forums/forumdisplay.php?sduid=0&amp;f=13">Slickdeals.net</a> is a cool forum that specifically features awesome free subscriptions, so it's a good source to check out once in a while. Past deals have included Every Day With Rachel Ray and Better Homes and Gardens.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Magazine Giveaway Sites</h2> <p>Some sites like <a href="http://www.rewardsgold.com">RewardsGold</a>, <a href="http://www.mercurymagazines.com/pr1/100/10000">Mecury Magazines</a>, and <a href="http://www.freebizmag.com/">FreeBizMag</a> will give you free magazines if you fill out a questionnaire and qualify for the freebies. Always read the fine print when you're signing up for these sites, and be careful when reading the emails they send out.</p> <h2>Subscriptions</h2> <p>Subscribe to your favorite magazines to enjoy huge discounts. You can either go to the official site or visit sites like Amazon and Magazines.com, which offer the same popular magazine titles at up to an 80 percent discount. You can also get a mail-in subscription signup form from the pages of the magazine.</p> <h2>Daily Deals</h2> <p>Magazine subscriptions often pop up on daily deals with phenomenal savings, so keep an eye out for them if there is a magazine you've been wanting to subscribe to.</p> <h2>Redeem Awards</h2> <p>If you have travel or credit card points that you need to use up, you can opt to redeem a magazine subscription. If the point program doesn't let you redeem the points for magazines, then there are magazine subscription services that let you exchange points for free subscriptions, such as <a href="http://magsformiles.com/index.php">magformiles</a>.</p> <h2>Hold a Magazine Swap</h2> <p>Pick a good time for your magazine swap, and invite a bunch of people to come over with magazines. Not only will you get a chance to get rid of the magazines you've already read, but you'll also be able to get new ones for free. The people you hang out with tend to share common interests, so there's a good chance that you'll be interested in the magazines they like.</p> <p>And when you're done with the magazines, don't trash them &mdash; here are some great ideas for <a href="http://www.savvysugar.com/Uses-Magazines-23289183">upcycling them</a>. You can even turn the scraps of paper into <a href="http://www.savvysugar.com/How-Make-Picture-Magnets-26848190">cute magnets</a>!</p> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-blog-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Magazines are fun to read — but buying them at the store can get crazy expensive. Learn how to get magazine fix and save. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-guestpost-blurb"> <div class="field-label">Guest Post Blurb:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p style="text-align:center;"><a href="http://www.savvysugar.com" style="border:none;"><img alt="" src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/u921/POPSUGARrgb.jpg" style="height:95px; width:300px" /></a></p> <p><em>This is a guest contribution from our friends at </em><a href="http://www.savvysugar.com/"><em>POPSUGAR Smart Living</em></a><em>. Check out more useful articles from this partner:</em></p> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.savvysugar.com/Free-Things-Get-Internet-34864942">16 Free Things on the Internet to Snag Right Now</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.savvysugar.com/How-Watch-Movies-Free-31004765">11 Ways to Watch Movies For Free</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.savvysugar.com/Free-Ways-Entertain-Yourself-Home-30926585">68 Mostly Free Ways to Entertain Yourself at Home</a></li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/popsugar-smart-living">POPSUGAR Smart Living</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Consumer Affairs Freebies Fri, 13 Jun 2014 13:00:25 +0000 POPSUGAR Smart Living 1141164 at http://www.wisebread.com Think the Housing Bubble Was Bad? Check Out These Other Crazy Investment Bubbles http://www.wisebread.com/think-the-housing-bubble-was-bad-check-out-these-other-crazy-investment-bubbles <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/think-the-housing-bubble-was-bad-check-out-these-other-crazy-investment-bubbles" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/recession-180956394-small.jpg" alt="recession" title="recession" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="149" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>A couple of months ago, an in-law gifted my five-year-old twins a five foot tall box filled entirely with beanie babies. My daughters were thrilled as they sorted through a hundred or so miniature toys. My husband grabbed a pair of scissors and started to cut the tell-tale Ty tags from beanie ears and for a moment I silently screamed &quot;No! They'll be worthless if you cut the tags!&quot;</p> <p>Of course, beanie babies today are already next to worthless, tags or not. Back in the late 1990s, though, beanie baby collectibles resold for hundreds, even thousands of dollars. There were collector manuals, trade publications, and a proliferation of specialty stores that resold the plush toys in plastic preservation boxes. Parents hoarded the toys, keeping them safe from the grimy hands of their kids. There were more than a few parents who thought their <a href="http://qz.com/114753/meet-the-family-who-lost-100000-when-the-beanie-baby-bubble-burst/">beanie collections would pay for their kids' college tuition</a>. I even owned a few, most notably Peace the Bear who, at one point, was selling for a lofty $200. Sadly, I never cashed in on the capital gain. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-create-a-speculative-bubble-and-profit?ref=seealso">How to Create a Speculative Market Bubble and Profit</a>)</p> <p>Beanie babies are far from the only unpredictable market. Collectible toys, internet stocks, and homes have all fairly recently seen unexpectedly high gains, only to dramatically crash later. Experts overwhelmingly recommend an investment strategy that focuses primarily on a broad-based investment portfolio of diversified assets because history has shown that even the most learned experts can't regularly predict market ups and downs. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-basics-you-must-know-before-you-start-investing?ref=seealso">6 Basics You Must Know Before You Start Investing</a>)</p> <p>Market crashes seem to happen when just about everyone has hopped on a bandwagon and is excited about a particular offering. Let's take a walk through history to see some of the worst timed investments of all time.</p> <h2>Tulips in 1636</h2> <p>The newly imported tulip in 16th century Holland was a popular-yet-expensive addition to many upscale home gardens. It became even more popular after a tulip virus caused the flower's petals to develop beautifully colored stripes in contrasting patterns. A second virus hit the plant, this one lethal, and tulip supply dwindled. The price of bulbs spiked, and soon after, the cost of a single bulb rose to the staggering equivalent of $1,250 (price adjusted for time and currency).</p> <p>Tulip bulb prices rose steadily from there and soon people stopped planting bulbs and started investing in them instead. At the height of the frenzy, nearly everyone &mdash; nobles, farmers, and chimney sweeps alike &mdash; were trading in bulbs. People sold off their land, jewels, and furniture to buy more flowers. A good tulip <a href="http://www.damninteresting.com/the-dutch-tulip-bubble-of-1637/">trader could once make the equivalent of $61,710</a> USD per month, just from trading bulbs. Thanks (or no thanks) to leveraging, tulip options were bought at 15%&ndash;20% of actual cost, leading many investors to buy more than they could afford to lose.</p> <h3>How the Tulip Bubble Ended</h3> <p>One day, a merchant didn't show up at market to pay for the bulbs he'd bought. The history books point to this one deal gone sour as the impetus for what became one of the greatest market crashes in history. Tulip owners rushed to sell, prices spiraled down, and widespread panic ensued. Dealers went bankrupt, and soon no one honored their buying commitments. Eventually the Dutch government stepped in and offered to bail contract holders out at 10% of contract value. Even so, prices continued to fall, and eventually everyone in the nation was affected as the market crashed and a long economic depression settled in.</p> <h2>Pretty Much Any British Stock in 1720</h2> <p>In early 18th century England, stock investing for the middle class was a new phenomenon, and many Englishmen were excited to get in the game. There were countless offerings that promised ridiculous business ventures such as trading in human hair, extracting silver from lead, or removing sunlight from a cucumber. Many investors didn't believe in the feasibility of the absurd ventures they funded. They simply thought that stock prices would rise, they'd sell their shares, and they'd profit handsomely from the sale.</p> <p>Around this time, an unknown man started a company &quot;for carrying on an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is.&quot; Stock prices were rising to great heights across the country and investors were so excited to get in on the action that when the offering opened, it took just five short hours for a thousand people to invest in the mysterious investment.</p> <p>The largest investment opportunity gone awry during this time was the <a href="http://www.investopedia.com/features/crashes/crashes3.asp">South Sea Company</a>, which was founded to conduct trade throughout the South Seas. The company's stock rose from an initial offering price of 130 to more than 1,000 pounds per share, even though none of the company's directors had any experience in South American trade.</p> <h3>How the South Sea Bubble Burst</h3> <p>The directors and officers of the South Sea Company realized that the company's share price was heavily inflated and so sold their holdings. The general investing public heard of the sale, panicked, and sold their shares at increasingly lower prices. The British public credit system almost collapsed, and as a result, it was more than 100 years before it was again legal for a company to issue public stock. Oh, and the man with that mysterious stock offering? He closed the issue at the end of that first day and promptly sailed off for America. No one ever heard from him again.</p> <h2>Internet Stocks in Early 2000</h2> <p>Personal computer growth exploded in the early 1990s, followed by multiple web browser developments, bringing the mass public online for the first time ever. Internet upstarts proliferated as companies rushed to profit off nascent Internet traffic. The only hitch was that many tech companies had yet to figure out how to make a profit in the online world.</p> <p>This technicality didn't matter to investors, though, who regularly overlooked traditional metrics and invested at staggering price-to-earnings ratios on the assumption that technological advances would far outpace the growth of a company's stock price. One such profit-less company, TheGlobe.com, ended a five-day IPO at <a href="http://news.cnet.com/2100-1023-217913.html">a 249% gain over its initial target price</a>.</p> <p>Excitement heightened as established companies and upstarts alike rushed to cash in on the tech boom. Some created new and exciting online businesses while others did little more than change their corporate name by adding a .com suffix or an e- prefix. Internet giants Amazon.com, eBay, and Google were founded during this time, but so were the now defunct and long-forgotten Pets.com, e-Stamp.com, e1040.com (notice the tell-tale prefixes and suffixes). The NASDAQ rose by more than 700% on a cumulative basis in the 10 year decade before the bubble eventually burst. (Note: the NASDAQ has yet to return to its year 2000 peak.)</p> <h3>How the Internet Boom Ended</h3> <p>By the end of the decade, there was a new IPO issued almost every day, and day trading seemingly became a new national pastime. Tech companies were unable to keep up with market expectations and some, like <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/22/us/worldcom-s-collapse-the-overview-worldcom-files-for-bankruptcy-largest-us-case.html">WorldCom</a>, were later found to be cooking their books in an effort to keep the party going. A majority of tech companies didn't survive the crash, but even those that did saw significant drops in stock price (e.g., Amazon saw its stock price fall from $107 to $7 per share). In the end, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dot-com_bubble%20">over $5 trillion in market value was lost</a> in the crash between 2000&ndash;2002. The following years from 2000&ndash;2009 became known as &quot;the lost decade&quot; as stock market returns were unprecedentedly low.</p> <h2>U.S. Real Estate in 2007</h2> <p>Housing prices skyrocketed in the early part of this century and it seemed that prices would never level off. Around this time I had a marketing professor ask his class of graduate students to raise their hands if they owned a home. &quot;If your hand isn't raised,&quot; he told us, &quot;you'll never own one. Prices are going up too quickly and they aren't coming down.&quot; This was pretty much what everyone thought about homeownership at the time.</p> <p>The overinflation of the housing market became even more evident in 2005 when then-Fed chairman Alan Greenspan said that &quot;at a minimum, there's a little 'froth' (in the U.S. housing market)&hellip; it's hard not to see that there are a lot of local bubbles.&quot;</p> <h3>How the Housing Boom Ended</h3> <p>Housing prices peaked in 2006 before a dramatic drop in the market left many homeowners owning homes that were worth far more than they had paid. In 2008, the Case-Shiller home price index reported its <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Real_estate_bubble%20">largest price drop in history</a>. Many experts believe the burst housing bubble was the primary cause of the 2007&ndash;2009 U.S. recession. By the end of 2010, 23.1% of all U.S. homeowners held negative equity in their homes. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/six-options-if-youre-underwater-on-your-mortgage?ref=seealso">6 Options if You're Underwater On Your Mortgage</a>)</p> <h2>Avoiding the Bubble</h2> <p>It might be tempting to try to cash-in on an inflating bubble, but it's impossible to predict how any one investment will perform over time. Those who try inevitably lose. Don't risk losing all your assets in the next best thing. Take the advice of the overwhelming majority of wealth managers and create a diversified portfolio strategy, and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-basics-of-asset-allocation">rebalance your mix of stocks and bonds often</a>. Check out <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-basics-of-asset-allocation">The Basics of Asset Allocation</a> for a primer.</p> <p><em>Have you ever lost money on tech stocks, beanie babies, your home, or another market bubble? How did that loss affect your investment strategy? Tell us about it in the comments below.</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/think-the-housing-bubble-was-bad-check-out-these-other-crazy-investment-bubbles" class="sharethis-link" title="Think the Housing Bubble Was Bad? Check Out These Other Crazy Investment Bubbles" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/alaina-tweddale">Alaina Tweddale</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Consumer Affairs Investment Economy investing money real estate Wed, 11 Jun 2014 21:06:39 +0000 Alaina Tweddale 1142403 at http://www.wisebread.com You Can Guarantee a Win and 9 Other Bizarre Facts About the Lottery http://www.wisebread.com/you-can-guarantee-a-win-and-9-other-bizarre-facts-about-the-lottery <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/you-can-guarantee-a-win-and-9-other-bizarre-facts-about-the-lottery" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/money-100264577-small.jpg" alt="woman with money" title="woman with money" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>It's something many of us dream about, but few will ever experience: Winning the lottery. The idea of buying a ticket for a few bucks and turning it into hundreds of millions of dollars overnight is tempting to say the least. We all know it's not very likely to happen. Still, that doesn't stop millions of us playing it every week. And you'd be amazed by some of the stories and facts that the lottery produces. Here are the top 10 bizarre facts about lotteries, in no particular order. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/playing-the-lottery-is-a-bad-gamble?ref=seealso">Playing the Lottery Is a Bad Gamble</a>)</p> <h2>1. Non-Winning Tickets Can Be Used Again</h2> <p>Don't just trash your losing tickets. Whether scratch cards, quick picks, or personal numbers, those tickets can be used again to enter second-chance drawings. This is something done by the different lotteries to help with customer loyalty and ease those feelings of loss. However, you probably never heard about this because they rarely advertise the fact. Some states require you to mail in your ticket, others want you to register the serial number. But it's a free entry, so why not? Check your state's second-chance lottery after every draw, and you might get lucky.</p> <h2>2. Good Manners Cost One Powerball Player $590 million</h2> <p>When <a href="http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/05/18777885-good-manners-results-in-fortune-for-florida-powerball-winner">Mindy Crandell</a> went to buy her ticket from the local Publix supermarket, she let an 84-year old woman step ahead of her in line. It was a nice, polite thing to do. And it cost Mindy a fortune. That old woman who went ahead of her purchased a Quick Pick ticket, the one Mindy was supposed to get. Gloria C. Mackenzie, the Florida retiree, collected over $370 million before taxes, the lump sum option. Mindy got nothing, except perhaps the chance to reevaluate her politeness.</p> <h2>3. You're More Likely to Be Killed By a Vending Machine Than Win a Lottery</h2> <p>Sad, but true. Most lotteries have insurmountable odds. The Mega Millions lottery, for instance, has odds of 176 million to 1. That means you have a greater chance of being killed by a vending machine (112 million to 1), becoming president (10 million to 1), dying from being left-handed (4.4 million to 1), or dying in the bathtub (840,000 to 1). In fact, if you decide to leave the house now to buy a lottery ticket, the odds favor you <a href="http://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/11131/are-the-chances-of-dying-on-the-way-to-get-lottery-tickets-larger-than-the-chanc">dying</a> before you ever buy the ticket than actually winning the jackpot.</p> <h2>4. You Can Guarantee a Lottery Win, but It's a Logistical Nightmare</h2> <p>Usually, buying up almost every combination of lottery tickets is self-defeating. For a jackpot of only $20 million dollars, you'd have to spend many times more to put the odds in your favor. However, when the jackpot becomes huge, over $400 million, then the math starts to make sense. However, organizing such an endeavor would take a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1992/02/25/us/group-invests-5-million-to-hedge-bets-in-lottery.html">syndicate</a> of massive proportions. <a href="http://www.cnbc.com/id/49981575">The venture has all kinds of problems</a>, including severe trust issues, and the settlement of the winnings would take a small firm of accountants. The other option would be for a single multi-millionaire to corner the market, but anyone with such funding behind them would have far better ways to guarantee a return.</p> <h2>5. Many Lottery Winners Blow Their Fortunes Quickly</h2> <p>The problem with coming into a lot of money very quickly is that it took no discipline to get it. It's free money, and because of that, it's not always shown the respect of earned money. Another problem is a lack of knowledge of basic financial principles by the winners. $15 million seems like an unspendable amount of money, but these days it's not. It should last a lifetime with careful investment, but start buying houses, cars, yachts, and party nights, and you could see that fortune crumble in just a few years. <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Carroll_(lottery_winner)">Michael Carroll</a>, a garbage man in the UK, did just that. He won around $15 million at the tender age of 19, and eight years later he'd blown it all and was back on the garbage truck again. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/people-who-became-millionaires-overnight-and-what-they-did-with-the-money?ref=seealso">People Who Became Millionaires Overnight and What They Did With the Money</a>)</p> <h2>6. Fortune Cookies Can Predict Winners</h2> <p>Well, of course they can. The random selection of numbers printed in fortune cookies have the same chance of winning as any other random set of numbers. And that's just what happened in 2005. A random group of 110 people played the same fortune cookie numbers and each one thought they had won the whole $19.4 million jackpot. Instead, 89 winners received $100,000, and 21 got $500,000 as they had opted for the Power Play. It's not a bad haul, but it's not the fortune they were expecting. There was even a fraud investigation looking into the strange result.</p> <h2>7. The &quot;1,2,3,4,5,6&quot; Combo Is as Likely as Any, but You Should Never Play It</h2> <p>Statistically, that selection of numbers is not ridiculous to play. If you replace the numbers with symbols, it's easier to see why. However, there are several reasons not to play that sequence.</p> <p>First, there are thousands of people who play it, because they believe the same thing. Hey, it has to happen some time. So if it ever does come up, you'll be sharing the jackpot with a lot of people.</p> <p>Second, despite the odds being the same, the sequence has never yet been chosen, suggesting that although the numbers alone have the same chances, the combination may not. I'm no mathematician, <a href="http://saliu.com/bbs/messages/961.html">but this person has done some extensive research on it</a>. It seems you're better off with a bunch of random numbers.</p> <h2>8. Some Lives Are Ruined by Winning the Lottery</h2> <p>Be careful what you wish for. What we think we need to be happy is not always what will actually bring us happiness. And money, well, that's the biggest red herring of them all. While it's true that a lack of money can make you unhappy for obvious reasons, drowning in it will only bring short-term pleasure. From <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/people-who-became-millionaires-overnight-and-what-they-did-with-the-money?ref=seealso">breaking up families and friendships</a> to death threats and prison time, the lottery has been an ironic windfall for many people over the years.</p> <h2>9. You Better Know Where You Bought That Ticket</h2> <p>When the million-dollar jackpot comes up, lottery officials don't just hand over the cash if you have the winning ticket. They do checks to make sure you were the one who bought it, and where you purchased it. A case in 2010 puzzled Iowa lottery officials when no one came forward to claim the $14.3 million prize. Then, one year later, two hours before the deadline, a New York man named <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/02/murder-blackmail-investigators-check-why-14-3m-jackpot-was-abandoned/">Crawford Shaw presented the ticket</a> via two attorneys. The story from Crawford is suspect, evidence is sketchy, and as of December 2013, the mystery has still not been solved. And as such, the money has never been handed over.</p> <h2>10. Scammers Use the Names of Lottery Winners</h2> <p>Perhaps the most famous case of philanthropy from lottery winnings, in recent years at least, was the story of Violet and Allen Large. The elderly Canadian couple won over $11 million in July 2010. They gave over 98% of it away, saying that they were comfortable and had each other, which was the most important part of life. That was an open invitation to scammers though. They used the names of Violet and Allen in an email scam, claiming to be giving away millions. It works like any Nigerian email scam, so if you ever get one from them, <a href="http://www.scamdex.com/ScamBlog/2013/05/violet-and-allen-large-lottery-windfall-scam/">know that it's completely bogus</a>.</p> <p><em>What would you do with your lottery winnings? Please share in comments! [Buy a Zeppelin and travel the world in it. &mdash; Ed.]</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/you-can-guarantee-a-win-and-9-other-bizarre-facts-about-the-lottery" class="sharethis-link" title="You Can Guarantee a Win and 9 Other Bizarre Facts About the Lottery" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/paul-michael">Paul Michael</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Consumer Affairs gambling instant riches lottery windfall Mon, 09 Jun 2014 09:00:42 +0000 Paul Michael 1141977 at http://www.wisebread.com 5 Workouts (Besides CrossFit) That May Actually Be Hurting You http://www.wisebread.com/5-workouts-besides-crossfit-that-may-actually-be-hurting-you <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5-workouts-besides-crossfit-that-may-actually-be-hurting-you" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/exercise-tired-464771501-small.jpg" alt="exercise" title="exercise" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="161" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>It's hard to look sexy in a hospital gown. So you need to make sure that all that effort you're putting in at the gym is ultimately building your body up, not breaking it down.</p> <p>Just ask the trainer behind <a href="http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/why-i-dont-do-crossfit/">this brand new post about the potential dangerous of CrossFit</a>, which has been shared half a million times on Facebook this week, and ignited debates among all sorts of athletes and fitness fans.</p> <p>Crossfit, though, isn't the only popular workout regimen that has some critics questioning safety. And while nearly any workout can be ineffective or even dangerous if performed incorrectly, the X below have been cited as particularly worth keeping an eye on:</p> <h2>1. P90X</h2> <p>Like CrossFit, <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Health/p90x-high-intensity-workouts-carry-risks-rewards/story?id=19896015">critics of this super high-intensity workout routine</a> can lead to tendon strain, and more damaging, a condition called rhabdomyolsis, in which toxins from the breakdown of muscle tissues release into the bloodstream and damage the kidneys. Unlike CrossFit though, which is generally performed in a gym alongside instructors (or at least other participants), P90X is largely centered on a DVD series, meaning it's often done in isolation at home. This means, of course, that there's even more responsibility on the part of the exerciser to be careful.</p> <h2>2. Kettlebells</h2> <p>There's something undeniably fun &mdash; Viking-esque, even &mdash; about swinging around these heavy, anvil-looking things. But according to <a href="http://www.mensfitness.com/training/pro-tips/10-dangerous-kettlebell-mistakes">Mens Health</a>, improper use of the bells could lead to serious injuries to joints all over the body. The fun of swinging, actually, may be what makes the exercise notably risky: each movement needs to be practiced and controlled, and &quot;getting too fancy&quot; or &quot;muscling the bell&quot; can be particularly dangerous.</p> <h2>3. Hot Yoga</h2> <p>If holding stressful poses in a room heated to 105 degrees gives you some pause, you're not the only one. <a href="http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2014/02/dangers-of-hot-yoga/index.htm">Consumer Reports</a> recently quoted a physiologist at the American College of Sports Medicine saying &quot;there is very little research about hot yoga&hellip; and most of what's available has been done poorly.&quot; Suspected risks, though, include heat stroke and infection, given that the conditions for a hot yoga studio also provide an ideal breeding place for germs.</p> <h2>4. Box Jumps</h2> <p>Actually part of some CrossFit routines, this specific workout &mdash; which consists, fittingly enough, of jumping onto a box &mdash; <a href="http://www.tabatatimes.com/box-jumps-step-down-if-you-like-your-achilles/">may put you at risk for Achilles tears</a>. While experts suggest that stepping down (as opposed to jumping down) may significantly reduce the risk to your Achilles, a Google search of &quot;box jumps torn Achilles&quot; may be enough to keep you thinking outside the box for good.</p> <h2>5. Marathon Training for Weight Loss</h2> <p>Conquering 26 miles is a worthy goal and a huge accomplishment, but some experts suggest that trying to <a href="http://www.menshealth.com/deltafit/americas-scariest-fitness-trends">run a marathon as a means to the end of losing weight is a bad idea</a>. Unprepared and out of shape bodies can be left with serious injuries in their lower joints not ready for the stress. Better, some trainers contend, to lose weight and <em>then</em> train for a marathon, not to do the latter as a means to the former.</p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-workouts-besides-crossfit-that-may-actually-be-hurting-you" class="sharethis-link" title="5 Workouts (Besides CrossFit) That May Actually Be Hurting You" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/joe-epstein">Joe Epstein</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Consumer Affairs General Tips Health and Beauty exercise unhealthy workout Mon, 02 Jun 2014 12:00:17 +0000 Joe Epstein 1141282 at http://www.wisebread.com Billions of Dollars Go Unclaimed Every Year: Is Some of It Yours? http://www.wisebread.com/billions-of-dollars-go-unclaimed-every-year-is-some-of-it-yours <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/billions-of-dollars-go-unclaimed-every-year-is-some-of-it-yours" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/giving-money-458931821-small.jpg" alt="giving money" title="giving money" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>A <a href="http://sco.ca.gov/eo_photos_12196.html">$500,000 sack of diamonds and 20 pounds of gold bars</a> sit unclaimed in California. A New Orleans woman found out she had <a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/id/12028200/ns/dateline_nbc-you_might_be_rich/#.U3PGMvldWHM">inherited $237,000</a> &mdash; 17 years after her benefactor died. The Internal Revenue Service is sitting on <a href="http://www.irs.gov/uac/Does-the-IRS-Have-Money-Waiting-For-You%3F">millions of dollars of undistributed tax refunds</a>, and state unclaimed money programs are <a href="http://www.unclaimed.org/what/">holding onto more than $40 billion</a>.</p> <p>You may have heard public service announcements about databases for unclaimed money &mdash; or ads for for-profit money-finding services &mdash; and wondered, how could anyone not know they have cash or property coming to them? (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/unclaimed-assests-is-the-government-holding-your-money?ref=seealso">Unclaimed Assets: Is the Government Holding Your Money?</a>)</p> <p>The fact is, there are numerous circumstances that could lead to you not realizing what you are owed. Let's look at the most common reasons you might be owed money, and how to find out.</p> <h2>Lost Inheritance</h2> <p>Executors are supposed to contact heirs to inform them of what they inherit. But if the executor failed to locate you, or a relative died intestate, your inheritance could be sitting unclaimed. Another way that this happens is if the executor overlooked an account held by the deceased and therefore failed to include it your inheritance. California lists estates as one of the most common forms of unclaimed property it holds.</p> <h3>How to Find the Money</h3> <p>If the death happened recently, your first step is to contact the executor or visit the probate court to view the will. If probate has closed or the death happened in the more distant past, try the unclaimed property database for the state where the deceased lived.</p> <p>Search for your own name using the resources at <a href="http://www.missingmoney.com/">MissingMoney.com</a> and the <a href="http://www.unclaimed.org/default.asp">National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators</a> (don't confuse the organization's website, <em>www.unclaimed.org</em>, with <em>www.unclaimed.com</em>, which is a for-profit company.) If you suspect that a family member who died had property the executor did not know about, you can search their name in the same databases. Each state will have its own procedure for legitimate heirs to come forth and claim the property.</p> <h3>What to Watch Out For</h3> <p>For-profit heir hunters who can pressure heirs to sign away up to 50% of the inheritance as a fee.</p> <h2>Unclaimed Bank Balance</h2> <p>You forgot you had an account or safe deposit box and, after a period of inactivity, the bank sent it to the state unclaimed property authorities. Or, a credit union failed and liquidated its assets, and it was supposed to pay a share to each member, but failed to locate you.</p> <h3>How to Find the Money</h3> <p>Check the state missing property databases. In the case of a failed credit union, visit the <a href="http://www.ncua.gov/Resources/AM/Pages/UnclaimedDeposits.aspx">National Credit Union Administration</a>. For bank failures, check with the <a href="http://www2.fdic.gov/funds/index.asp">FDIC</a>.</p> <h2>Unclaimed Insurance Policies</h2> <p>Your policy matured, but the company couldn't find you because you had moved, or you were the beneficiary of someone who died and the company failed to locate you. Consumer Reports estimates that there are $1 billion in unclaimed insurance policies out there!</p> <h3>How to Find the Money</h3> <p>In addition to searching the unclaimed property databases above, contact the insurer directly. If you're not sure how to find the insurer, contact your state insurance department. If you're not sure if the deceased had a life insurance policy, check with their former employer or union and watch their mail for policy statements. If all else fails, you can <a href="http://www.mib.com/lost_life_insurance.html">pay for a policy search report</a> from MIB Group, <a href="http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052970204058404577110731280527826?mg=reno64-wsj&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052970204058404577110731280527826.html">an anti-fraud insurance membership corporation</a>.</p> <h3>What to Watch Out For</h3> <p>There are companies who will offer to find your lost policies for a fee, and they might even have names that make them sound like insurance companies. If you get a solicitation that sounds like it came from an insurance company, don't call the number on the letter &mdash; look up the insurance company's number and contact them directly.</p> <h2>Surplus Funds From Auctioned Property</h2> <p>If you lost your home to foreclosure and it was auctioned to the highest bidder, the bank may be required to pay you the money it receives in excess of paying off your mortgage and any liens on the property, depending on where you live. In 2010, Cook County, Illinois, was sitting on hundreds of <a href="http://www.bankrate.com/finance/mortgages/foreclosure-you-may-receive-cash.aspx">thousands of dollars in unclaimed funds</a> from these auctions. But unbelievably, not all mortgage holders are required to <a href="http://www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases07/pr20070301a.html">notify foreclosure victims</a> if surplus funds exist.</p> <p>If your property in a storage unit was auctioned off due to unpaid fees, you may be entitled to &quot;<a href="http://www.insideselfstorage.com/blogs/speak/2011/12/excess-proceeds-what-happens-when-a-selfstorage-auction-brings-in-extra-money.aspx">excess proceeds</a>,&quot; that is, the amount of money the auction raised after deducting the fees you owed.</p> <h3>How to Find the Money</h3> <p>First of all, if you have to move due to a foreclosure, update your address with the court and with the bank so they can reach you. You can learn about your state's foreclosure laws and possibly get help contacting the bank from the <a href="http://www.nclc.org/issues/foreclosures-and-mortgages.html">National Consumer Law Center</a>. With storage units, start by contacting the facility directly. If it has been awhile, you guessed it: Search those unclaimed property databases.</p> <h3>What to Watch Out For</h3> <p>Like seemingly every situation, there is a scam artist that specializes in these cases, known as a &quot;<a href="http://www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases07/pr20070301a.html">surplus funds scammer</a>.&quot;</p> <p>In one such scam, &quot;the con artist <a href="http://www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases07/pr20070301a.html">offers to accept the property deed</a> and, in exchange, pay the homeowner a minimal amount of money, typically no more than a few thousand dollars. By transferring the deed, the homeowner signs away ownership of his or her house and any equity that has built up.&quot; Another approach is, like with other forms of unclaimed property, to charge a fee to search for unclaimed mortgages, even though they are listed on freely searchable databases.</p> <p>With storage auctions, make sure the storage unit owner legally had the right to sell your stuff. Check local laws about required notifications; there have been cases of storage owners who make themselves unavailable to receive payment because they'd rather auction off the goods.</p> <h2>Compensation From Companies That Wronged You</h2> <p>Your airline lost your bags or bumped you. Your credit card overcharged you. Or one of the many companies whose services you use every day wronged you in a small or large way.</p> <h3>How to Find the Money</h3> <p>This is a tough nut to crack on your own. But there is a whole industry of class-action attorneys out there fighting in court for consumer settlements. Watch your mail for notices of class action payoffs for which you may qualify; sometimes you are required to send in documentation in order to claim your share. Or check <a href="http://www.consumer-action.org/lawsuits/">Consumer Action's class action database</a>.</p> <p>If you think you might qualify for a class-action suit related to stocks you have owned, check <a href="http://securities.stanford.edu/">Stanford Law School's Securities Class Action Clearinghouse</a>.</p> <p>For airlines, there is a service called <a href="http://www.getairhelp.com/">AirHelp</a> that will actually search through your email to find past flights for which you deserve compensation, and help you file for it.</p> <h3>What to Watch Out For</h3> <p>Phishing emails that purport to notify you that you are part of a class action suit. Don't click the links; class action suits usually use the real mail, not email, to notify potential class members. If you think the email might be about a legitimate suit, check the databases above and then contact suit filers directly, not through an email link.</p> <h2>Lost Pensions</h2> <p>You probably know whether you're owed a pension from the company you retire from at the end of your career. But you may have forgotten about benefits owed you by earlier employers, and it may be hard to track down who is responsible if companies have changed hands over the years.</p> <h3>How to Find the Money</h3> <p>Search the <a href="http://search.pbgc.gov/mp/mp.aspx">Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation</a> by your name, employer, or by state. The PBGC, a government agency, <a href="http://www.pbgc.gov/documents/finding-a-lost-pension.pdf">provides a booklet</a> that walks searchers through the process of digging deeper for old pensions.</p> <h3>What to Watch Out For</h3> <p>Beware of so-called advisers who offer to help you with your pension in any way. They may be <a href="https://www.allclearid.com/blog/pension-scam-preys-on-veterans">scammers</a> angling to get a hold of personal information for identity theft purposes, or they may be trying to sell you unneeded services. The PBGC booklet mentioned above lists reputable local pension counselors.</p> <p>For more information on how to search, or for scenarios not covered by this post, check out the many resources at <a href="http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Government-Unclaimed-Money.shtml">USA.gov's unclaimed money page</a>.</p> <p><em>Have you ever recovered lost or unclaimed funds? Tell us about it in comments!</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/billions-of-dollars-go-unclaimed-every-year-is-some-of-it-yours" class="sharethis-link" title="Billions of Dollars Go Unclaimed Every Year: Is Some of It Yours?" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/carrie-kirby">Carrie Kirby</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Consumer Affairs lost property settlements unclaimed property Mon, 02 Jun 2014 08:00:44 +0000 Carrie Kirby 1141207 at http://www.wisebread.com 7 Secrets to Scoring the Best Price When Buying on eBay http://www.wisebread.com/7-secrets-to-scoring-the-best-price-when-buying-on-ebay <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/7-secrets-to-scoring-the-best-price-when-buying-on-ebay" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/shopping-466231609-small%20copy.jpg" alt="shopping" title="shopping" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Everybody loves a good online bargain, and eBay is one of those places where you can find great deals...or you could be totally ripped off. Here are the secrets to getting the best price on eBay. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-things-you-can-resell-on-ebay-that-make-the-most-money?ref=seealso">5 Things You Can Resell on eBay That Still Make Money</a>)</p> <h2>1. Search for Misspelled Items</h2> <p>You know what you want: a Tiffany's silver bracelet. Like everybody else you're going to type &quot;tiffany silver bracelet&quot; in the search box and start browsing sellers. The problem with this approach is that you may get in bidding wars with other people because you're looking where everybody is looking.</p> <p>Instead, start your search with misspelled variations from your desired item. For example, &quot;tifany silver bracelet,&quot; &quot;tifanny silver bracelet,&quot; or &quot;tiffanny silver bracelet.&quot; If you are stumped for misspelling ideas, use an <a href="http://fatfingers.com">eBay typo search generator</a>. Focusing on misspelled items is like hiding your item at a store before the sale &mdash; there will be fewer people finding it or entering bids on it.</p> <h2>2. Search for Items at Night</h2> <p>Another way to minimize your competition is to do your shopping at night. eBay is a site available around the world, so while it may still be a couple of hours before bedtime for you, others may be sound asleep.</p> <p>Take advantage of your time zone and filter those items by &quot;ending soonest.&quot; You may be able to get away with closing on bids while the competition is sleeping. A variation of this technique is to do searches during business hours. Just don't let the boss catch you.</p> <h2>3. Buy From Sellers With 20-49 Ratings</h2> <p>The more stars a seller has, the better. However, even those amazing sellers had to start somewhere. As an eBay seller with over 210 ratings, I can tell you that eBay does a good job at continuously motivating us to get to 50 stars. Any seller that has between <a href="http://pages.ebay.com/help/feedback/scores-reputation.html">10 to 49 stars</a> has a yellow star. Once a seller reaches 50 ratings, the star changes to blue.</p> <p>While this may sound trivial, it is a big deal for a seller. &quot;Going blue&quot; is a big boost for position of items on search results and a major way to provide confidence to buyers. Sellers with 20 to 49 ratings work harder for buyer business and are more willing to accommodate your requests, such as asking for a discount or negotiating shipping charges. Just make sure to be polite when contacting them. Nobody likes a rude customer.</p> <p>The longer that you stick with an eBay seller on the journey to the 50 ratings marks, the more perks the seller may provide you.</p> <h2>4. Check Price at Amazon</h2> <p>It is not unusual for eBay sellers to either sell at Amazon or keep a close eye of similar items at Amazon. If you are able to find the exact same item on Amazon, contact the buyer, provide the URL, and ask if the seller would be willing to match the price. Just make sure that you are comparing &quot;apples to apples,&quot; and that the total price, including shipping, is indeed lower.</p> <p>This strategy is a good one because you are showing the seller that you're ready to buy. Few sellers can resist closing on a sale. After all, a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. Even if the seller cannot match the price, they may be able to knock off a couple dollars off.</p> <h2>5. Negotiate Shipping</h2> <p>Lowering shipping charges is easier than actual price. There are two main ways to do it. First, when planning to buy several items from a buyer, ask about discounted shipping for multiple items. This is a surefire way to bring costs down.</p> <p>Second, if you are willing to wait longer, then ask for cheaper shipping alternatives. For example, when buying books, CDs, VHS tapes, DVDs, or other forms of media accepted by USPS, the buyer could use USPS Media Mail. When buying big, yet very light items, a seller could use Parcel Select Lightweight.</p> <p>Unless you have dealt with the seller in the past, it is not recommended that you accept shipping without tracking. While you could potentially save even more without it, the lack of tracking could cause headaches for both parties if things don't go as planned.</p> <h2>6. Don't Forget About Your Coupon Codes</h2> <p>You'd be surprised at the number of buyers that forget to use their <a href="http://pages.ebay.com/help/buy/ebay-bucks.html">eBay Bucks</a>. Because the eBay Bucks coupon codes are issued every quarter, people often forget about them. On top of that, sometimes the codes are not automatically applied to purchases.</p> <p>Before completing a purchase, check if you have an available code from the eBay Bucks section of &quot;My eBay,&quot; copy it, and enter it in the &quot;Coupons, gift cards or certificates&quot; promotional box at the bottom of your checkout page.</p> <p>Another place to check for additional promo codes are the &quot;From eBay&quot; message inbox and the drop down menu labeled &quot;My eBay&quot; at the upper right corner when viewing the site on your desktop.</p> <h2>7. Read Return Policies</h2> <p>You pay for what you get. So, don't pay for a headache! Some sellers might be willing to negotiate with you when dealing with used items, but they may be quick to say &quot;no returns, no exceptions.&quot; Sometimes they may not say anything at all and assume that you have read their policies listed on the product page.</p> <p>Before clicking on the pay button, read the seller's policies in detail. If you're not comfortable with what you just read (e.g. &quot;buyer pays for shipping in case of return or exchange,&quot; &quot;there is a 20% restocking fee,&quot; &quot;all sales final&quot;), then it may not be worth your time to deal with this seller at all. Remember that the hidden cost of any transaction is the opportunity cost, and in the case of an eBay purchase it is the cost of return, exchange, or refund. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-psychology-of-money-how-a-t-shirt-equals-a-taco?ref=seealso">How a T-Shirt Equals a Taco</a>)</p> <p><em>What are other ways to get the best price on eBay?</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-secrets-to-scoring-the-best-price-when-buying-on-ebay" class="sharethis-link" title="7 Secrets to Scoring the Best Price When Buying on eBay" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/damian-davila">Damian Davila</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Consumer Affairs Shopping deals discounts eBay negotiating shopping Thu, 29 May 2014 08:12:17 +0000 Damian Davila 1140876 at http://www.wisebread.com The Cheapest Way to Get Fit and Strong in 30 Days or Less http://www.wisebread.com/the-cheapest-way-to-get-fit-and-strong-in-30-days-or-less <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/the-cheapest-way-to-get-fit-and-strong-in-30-days-or-less" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/exercise-177741688.jpg" alt="gym" title="gym" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Whether you're looking to get fit or just need a change of pace, scoping out gyms can be fun. And if you plan carefully, you could get up to a month (or more!) of gym memberships for free. Below is a list of nationwide gyms that offer low-cost (or even free!) passes up to 30 days in length. Simply start at one club and work your way around the rest to maximize your sweat sessions &mdash; and your savings. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-legit-ways-to-use-the-gym-for-free?ref=seealso">Legit Ways to Use the Gym for Free</a>)</p> <p>If all the gyms on this list are in your area, take full advantage! Just be sure to chat with staff about any terms or conditions that might be site specific. If you live somewhere off the beaten path, don't miss our last tip about sussing out free options in your hometown.</p> <h2>Snap Fitness</h2> <p>Though it's not free, the 24-hour club <a href="https://www.snapfitness.com/30-day-trial">Snap Fitness</a> offer is too good to pass on. They offer a month (30-day) pass for a small $8.95 admin charge, earning you a &quot;smart card&quot; with access to over 1,500 gyms worldwide. That's just 30 cents a day.</p> <h2>Gold's Gym</h2> <p>A solid week of zero dollars training? Sign me up! <a href="http://goldsgym.regsignup.com/fl3/lp3/default.aspx?partnerID=38">Gold's Gym</a> offers a totally free seven-day VIP membership at many of its locations across the country. Terms vary by gym, so be sure to call your local spot before you go.</p> <h2>24-Hour Fitness</h2> <p>No hassle! Sign up online to download a free pass to try <a href="https://www.24hourfitness.com/membership/free-pass/?pass=CLUBPASS#step/1">24-Hour Fitness</a>. With 400 locations across the country, you'll likely find one near you.</p> <h2>Bally's Total Fitness</h2> <p>&quot;It only takes seven days to fall in love&quot; with <a href="http://www.ballyfitness.com/get-started/guest-pass/free-guest-pass.aspx">Bally's Total Fitness</a>, or so professes the club's website. Regardless, that's a free week of access for you &mdash; complete with exercise instructors, state-of-the-art equipment, and lots of fun classes to try.</p> <h2>LA Fitness</h2> <p>If you'd rather not go it alone, take advantage of <a href="https://www.lafitness.com/Pages/freepass.aspx?clubid=546">LA Fitness</a> and its free three-day pass for you and a buddy. You can even check out this <a href="https://www.lafitness.com/VirtualTourPlayer.aspx">virtual tour</a> of a typical facility before you go.</p> <h2>Anytime Fitness</h2> <p>With 1,981 clubs in North America and 516 across the globe, there's a good chance there's an Anytime Fitness club near you. Best of all: There's &quot;absolutely no obligation&quot; to join if you take advantage of the <a href="http://www.anytimefitness.com/membership/gym-pass">free seven-day gym pass</a>.</p> <h2>YMCA</h2> <p>I've been a member of several Ys throughout my region, as their fitness centers feature competitive rates and pool access. And membership to one club gains access to them all. Though passes vary from location to location (for example, Boston offers a <a href="http://www.ymcaboston.org/form/free-3-day-ymca-pass">free three-day pass</a> and Los Angeles offers a <a href="https://www.ymcala.org/metro/pages/free-pass">free seven-day pass</a>), it's worth calling your local Y to see what's available in your area.</p> <h2>Your Local Gym</h2> <p>Don't see your gym on this list? Your local options may very well offer you a chance to try their facility for free. All you need to do is ask. Either stop in for a tour or just call ahead to negotiate your perks &mdash; just be sure to watch for any hidden fees or strings attached. I once earned a whole week of workouts this way.</p> <p><em>Have you taken advantage of the local gym's free trial offer to get in a workout &mdash; or seven?</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-cheapest-way-to-get-fit-and-strong-in-30-days-or-less" class="sharethis-link" title="The Cheapest Way to Get Fit and Strong in 30 Days or Less" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/ashley-marcin">Ashley Marcin</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Consumer Affairs Health and Beauty fitness freebies gyms workout Fri, 23 May 2014 08:48:28 +0000 Ashley Marcin 1140170 at http://www.wisebread.com How to Turn Unwanted Gift Cards Into Cash http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-turn-unwanted-gift-cards-into-cash <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-turn-unwanted-gift-cards-into-cash" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/card-457778771.jpg" alt="gift card" title="gift card" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Got gift cards to stores or restaurants you'd never dream of patronizing? Wouldn't it be great if you could turn them into cash? Well, it turns out that there are several ways to do exactly that. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-use-up-remaining-balances-on-prepaid-gift-cards?ref=seealso">How to Use Up Small Balances on Gift Cards</a>)</p> <p>Expect to get anywhere from half to about 90% of the card's face value or remaining balance. Not surprisingly, gift cards from retailers with a wide range of merchandise, like Walmart, or for a product that almost everyone buys, like gas, have the best resale values. Lesser-known, specialist retailers and regional stores sell for steeper discounts, sometimes up to 50%.</p> <p>Here are ways to cash out your gift cards</p> <h2>Websites That Buy Your Gift Cards</h2> <p>Many websites are willing to buy your gift cards. To find the highest bidder, first visit <a href="http://www.giftcardgranny.com/">Gift Card Granny</a>. Go to &quot;Sell Gift Cards,&quot; click on the retailer on the drop-down menu, then click on the company offering the best price.</p> <p>Some companies may offer you Amazon gift cards in trade for other cards, which may be a better deal for you, presuming you want to buy something through Amazon.</p> <p>Top gift card purchasers and sellers include <a href="http://www.abcgiftcards.com/">ABCGiftCards</a>, <a href="https://www.cardcash.com/">CardCash</a>, <a href="http://www.cardpool.com/">Cardpool</a>, <a href="http://www.giftcardrescue.com/">GiftCardRescue</a>, and <a href="http://www.junkcard.com/">JunkCard</a>. Interestingly, Cardpool sells <a href="http://www.cardpool.com/the-ultimate-gift-card">its own gift card</a> (for no discount) that can be used to buy gift cards on its site.</p> <p><a href="https://www.plasticjungle.com/">PlasticJungle.com</a>, once a major card exchange site, has essentially left the niche and now only trades gift cards for CVS gift cards or United MileagePlus award miles.</p> <h3>What to Expect</h3> <p>Generally, you enter your information online, mail the card, and get paid after the company validates the card.</p> <p>Some websites will, depending on the card, let you enter the card's number online instead of mailing it. Some offer prepaid mail labels. Some tout their purchase guarantee programs. Some companies can send payments by check, direct deposit, or PayPal. Others are less flexible, preferring PayPal.</p> <p>Some companies accept both merchandise credit and store credit.</p> <p>Expect companies to scrutinize you the first time you sell a gift card, especially one with a large balance. For instance, they might request a credit card or copy of a driver's license for ID verification.</p> <p>Although Gift Card Granny says it vets companies, if you're cautious it wouldn't hurt to check online reviews, BBB ratings, and user policies with an eye for guarantees or consumer protections.</p> <h2>Where You Can Sell to Other Consumers</h2> <p>If you prefer to set your own asking price for your gift card, you can visit <a href="https://www.raise.com/">Raise</a>. The site posts the average discounts to help sellers set their price, and sellers can change their asking price. Keep in mind that the steeper the discount, the faster cards sell.</p> <p>The company takes a 15% commission from the selling price after the card has sold and a shipping fee for physical cards of 1% or $1, whichever is larger.</p> <p>You can sell unwanted cards directly to others by using eBay, but the online auction place warns sellers to learn about <a href="http://www.ebay.com/gds/Listing-and-Selling-Gift-Cards-within-eBay-Guidelines-/10000000001677562/g.html">its restrictions</a>. A gift card cannot exceed $500, only one card can be listed in a seven-day period, you must have the card in your possession, and only one card per listing is permitted. Some types of cards are restricted or prohibited.</p> <p>Sellers not following the rules may find their listing removed, their buying selling privileges restricted, or even their account suspended. Plus, some card sellers may consider eBay's <a href="http://pages.ebay.com/help/sell/fees.html">selling fees</a> to be a disadvantage.</p> <h2>Kiosks That Accept Gift Cards</h2> <p>For those who don't want to go online, Coinstar, known for its kiosks that exchange loose cash for bills or gift certificates, has introduced kiosks that trade gift cards for cash. How much cash you get depends on the current market demand for the card, and could be anywhere from <a href="http://www.ahwatukee.com/money/article_878e12bc-accf-11e3-b494-001a4bcf887a.html">75% to 25% of the card's face value</a>.</p> <p>Unfortunately, the kiosks are not yet plentiful. For instance, a search on its <a href="https://www.coinstar.com/Kioskfinder?coinstarexchangesearch=true">kiosk locator tool</a> showed only four in California, all in or around Fresno.</p> <h2>A Booming Business</h2> <p>People will probably be selling more unwanted gift cards as they become even more popular among gift givers. A National Retail Federation survey just before the Christmas shopping season last year found that <a href="https://www.internetretailer.com/2013/11/13/gift-buyers-will-spend-4-more-gift-cards-year">shoppers planned to spend</a> an average of $163.16 on gift cards, up about 4% from $156.86 the previous year.</p> <p>Gift cards to coffee shops are especially popular among gift givers. Almost one in five, or 19%, planned to give a coffee shop gift card, up from 13% in 2009. Perhaps they should consider buying an unwanted second-hand card. Meanwhile, gift cards for Starbucks were being sold online at a 58% discount.</p> <p><em>Have you ever sold a gift card? Please share your experience in comments!</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-turn-unwanted-gift-cards-into-cash" class="sharethis-link" title="How to Turn Unwanted Gift Cards Into Cash" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/michael-kling">Michael Kling</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Consumer Affairs Shopping gift cards gifts re-gifting selling gift cards Thu, 22 May 2014 08:36:25 +0000 Michael Kling 1140106 at http://www.wisebread.com Buy or Subscribe: How to Pay the Least for the Media You Love the Most http://www.wisebread.com/buy-or-subscribe-how-to-pay-the-least-for-the-media-you-love-the-most <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/buy-or-subscribe-how-to-pay-the-least-for-the-media-you-love-the-most" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/tv-watching-5109484-small.jpg" alt="watching TV" title="watching TV" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>To buy a subscription or to pay per download: That is the question.</p> <p>Monthly subscriptions provide you unlimited access to a service for a flat fee, but is it truly the right deal for you? For example, you may sign up for an unlimited DVD-only Netflix plan, only to find your DVD sitting untouched and gathering dust for a whole month on the counter.</p> <p>Here is the ultimate guide to determining whether a subscription or a pay-per-use plan is the best for you.</p> <h2>Music</h2> <p>When deciding whether to subscribe to a music streaming service or pay per download, here are the two main criteria to use.</p> <h3>Frequency of Use</h3> <p>Take a look at iTunes: $1.29 seems cheap for one song, until you start doing the math.</p> <p>Let's say you're a big fan of The Strokes, and you are happy to buy every single record that they release. That's a total of 118 songs on iTunes ranging from $0.99 to $1.29. For simplicity let's say that each song costs $1. That's $118 for getting your daily fix of The Strokes.</p> <p>If you have more bands that you like so much as to buy every single one of their records, then you can see how a music subscription service, such as Spotify or Pandora, will save you money. For example, a Spotify Unlimited subscription costs $4.99 per month, a total of $59.88 per year, and lets you listen to every record from The Strokes and every other band that you like on your desktop. You don't listen to just one band, do you?</p> <p>On the other hand, if you barely listen to music, then you are better off using the free version of a service and just paying per song. For example, you could subscribe to the free version of <a href="https://www.spotify.com/">Spotify</a>, <a href="http://www.pandora.com/">Pandora</a>, <a href="http://www.iheart.com/">iHeartRadio</a>, or <a href="http://en.us.rdio.com/">Rdio</a> to discover music, and just pay to download songs that you really like.</p> <p>Keep in mind that the free versions often have plenty of ads. Users of the free version of Spotify report to hearing ads as often as <a href="https://community.spotify.com/t5/Newcomers-and-Contribution/Too-Many-Ads/td-p/235916/page/2">every three of four songs</a>. The only way to get rid of ads is to upgrade to the paid version (e.g. switching from the free to paid version costs you $4.99 per month for Pandora and $9.99 per month for Google All Access) or pay per download.</p> <h3>Available Catalogue</h3> <p>Some services have bigger catalogues than others. While iTunes has a catalogue of <a href="http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2013/02/06iTunes-Store-Sets-New-Record-with-25-Billion-Songs-Sold.html">over 26 million songs</a> and Google All Access has <a href="https://play.google.com/about/music/">&quot;millions,&quot;</a>&nbsp;Pandora has <a href="http://www.quora.com/How-many-songs-are-in-Pandoras-database">over 900,000 songs</a>, slim in comparison. This means that even if you are saving by using the free version of Pandora, you might end up listening to the same songs over and over.</p> <p>While some services boast impressive catalogues, they may still not be the right fit for you. For example, if Garth Brooks, Tool, and Def Leppard are your favorite musicians, then iTunes is not a good place to shop because none of them sell their music there.</p> <p>If you are a hardcore fan of Thom Yorke and like to keep up on his newest releases, then a Spotify subscription is no good. He has been very vocal on his <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/oct/07/spotify-thom-yorke-dying-corpse">criticism of Spotify</a>, so you cannot find there any of the material from his band Atoms for Peace.</p> <h3>How to Choose</h3> <p>When it is a better deal to pay per song download:</p> <ul> <li> <p>You don't listen to music that often and you put a premium on getting exactly the songs that you want.</p> </li> <li> <p>If you prefer getting the most bang for your buck and are fine with not having the latest music. For example, on Google Play Music, you can buy entire albums starting at $3.99, but they may not be from this decade.</p> </li> <li> <p>When you are OK with a smaller library of songs, but that you really, really enjoy.</p> </li> </ul> <p>Savings tip: Buying a whole album often provides savings, for example buying individual tracks from Carlos Santana's Corazón (Deluxe Version) costs $1.29 on iTunes, but getting the entire 15 tracks costs only $11.99.</p> <p>When it is a better deal to get a paid subscription:</p> <ul> <li> <p>You listen to a lot of music throughout the day and want to have access to a vast catalogue, you are better off with a monthly subscription for unlimited listening to Spotify or Google All Access.</p> </li> <li> <p>You prefer to have music available on any computer or mobile phone, since subscription services offer more flexibility than pay-per-download ones.</p> </li> <li> <p>When you cannot stand having ads on top of your music, but still want access to a large library of music.</p> </li> <li> <p>To do an apples to apples comparison of music subscription services, make sure to read the fine print. While a Pandora $4.99 monthly subscription is cheaper than a $9.99 Spotify Premium one, Pandora limits you to six skips per hour.</p> </li> </ul> <p>Savings tip: A paid subscription allows you to know exactly how much you are spending in music. For example, a Rdio monthly subscription costs $9.99, so you can already budget in advance an annual expense of $119.88.</p> <h2>Movies</h2> <p>When selecting pay-per-download or streaming, frequency of use and available catalogue are also important criteria to consider. But you also need to consider convenience of use.</p> <h3>Frequency of Use</h3> <p>Let's imagine that you watch a movie per week at home &mdash; four movies a month &mdash; and run some numbers.</p> <ul> <li> <p>At $1.25 per DVD on Redbox, you would spend $5 per month.</p> </li> <li> <p>On Amazon Prime, you would pay $99 per year,or $8.25 per month.</p> </li> <li> <p>On Amazon Instant Video, it depends on whether you buy or rent, and whether you want HD or SD. On the low end, renting four SD movies per month is about $11.96. On the high end, buying four HD movies is about $55.96.</p> </li> <li> <p>On Netflix, you would spend $7.99 per month for online streaming only, and an additional $7.99 for DVD-by-mail service. Not including the additional $2/month for Blu-ray discs. That's a potential $17.98 per month!</p> </li> <li> <p>iTunes works similarly to Amazon Instant Video. You can rent or buy in HD or SD, but prices are higher. Renting four SD movies starts at $15.96 and buying four HD movies can be as high as $79.96.</p> </li> </ul> <p>This means that when you pay per download you have to be really careful because your movie watching can become really expensive really fast, especially when buying HD movies.</p> <h3>Available Catalogue</h3> <p>Make sure to check the available catalogue from the service that you choose before you commit to subscribe to it. At $99 per year, Amazon Prime seems like a great deal, until you realize that you have less than half of the movies that you can watch or Netflix or iTunes.</p> <p>If you can clock over 20 movies per week, then you need a big catalogue and a Netflix subscription might be the better option. While Amazon offers plenty of great classics, such as &quot;The Graduate&quot; and &quot;Breakfast at Tiffany's,&quot; it is very thin on recent titles.</p> <p>Why would you pay for a streaming service that has nothing for you to watch?</p> <h3>Convenience of Use</h3> <p>From a pure economical point of view, $5 per month on Redbox is the better deal for four movies. However, this doesn't take into consideration several factors, such as driving distance to the nearest kiosk, wait time in line, and deadline to return DVDs. With purely streaming services, you don't have to worry about any of those factors.</p> <p>On the other hand, something that iTunes, Netflix, and Amazon clearly lack are promo codes. If you subscribe to the SMS or email alerts from Redbox, you will often receive promo codes that can take from $0.25 to $1.25 per movie rental. If you are a bargain hunter, you might prefer to rent a movie only when you can get it for free. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/never-pay-for-a-redbox-dvd-rental-again?ref=seealso">Never Pay for a Redbox Rental Again</a>)</p> <h3>How to Choose</h3> <p>Pay per movie:</p> <ul> <li> <p>If you prefer to own movies to watch over and over, then paying per movie is the only choice.</p> </li> <li> <p>When you can find promo codes and rent very few movies, paying per movie can provide substantial savings.</p> </li> </ul> <p>Savings tip: Choose HD movies only when truly necessary. The higher resolution of the HD version of &quot;Avatar&quot; may go unnoticed by your toddler or older auntie.</p> <p>Get a paid subscription:</p> <ul> <li> <p>Frequent movie watchers should only go with subscription services.</p> </li> <li> <p>If you want to watch as many HD movies as possible, then a subscription service for unlimited viewing is more economical.</p> </li> </ul> <p>Savings tip: Working parents that have very little time and have children at home are better off with a subscription service. The convenience of not having to do anything extra to get their kids a movie is priceless.</p> <h2>TV Shows and Series</h2> <p>When it comes to paying per TV show or paying for a subscription, available catalogue, and equipment and service are the main criteria for comparison.</p> <h3>Available Catalogue</h3> <p>A very detailed <a href="http://lifehacker.com/tv-streaming-head-to-head-netflix-vs-hulu-vs-amazon-pr-1536006625">TV show library comparison</a> shows that you can slice the pie in any way that you want. If you take a look at the 250 most popular TV shows according to IMDB on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus, Google and iTunes, you'll learn that:</p> <ul> <li> <p>Amazon Prime has less than half the streaming selection of Netflix.</p> </li> <li> <p>Amazon and Netflix show more TV episodes than than Hulu Plus, but Hulu Plus offers more current episodes.</p> </li> <li> <p>Netflix is the king of exclusive TV shows.</p> </li> <li> <p>iTunes and Amazon Instant Video offer the most TV shows for purchase.</p> </li> </ul> <p>Make sure to check the available catalogue from the service that you choose before you commit to using it. Strategic alliances, such as <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-new-best-reason-to-sign-up-for-amazon-prime-hbo-shows">HBO choosing Amazon over Netlfix</a> for streaming HBO shows, could affect your decision in choosing one service over another. If you want to stream the last season of Entourage, you are limited to Amazon, Vudu and iTunes.</p> <p>Something that should be clear is that paying per TV show is an expensive proposition. Unlike watching a movie, you need several episodes to truly enjoy a TV show. My suggestion is to pick your top 10 TV shows and evaluate all the services based on how many of those shows they offer.</p> <h3>Available Equipment and Service</h3> <p>You shouldn't pay for what you already have.</p> <p>If you already have a cable subscription, you may already have a box that allows to watch TV shows on demand or record them at no additional price. Make sure to check if you have already have access to those shows before paying extra at Amazon, Netflix, iTunes, or Hulu. Also, already having cable with HBO gives you access to shows that you cannot find anywhere else (e.g. current season of &quot;Game of Thrones&quot;).</p> <p>On the other hand, also evaluate if it makes sense to keep your cable subscription. The typical cost for cable plus HBO is about $100 per month. In order to for it to be worth it, you'll need to be watching 6-8 shows a week. If you only follow one TV series per month, you could get an entire season in HD for less than $40 on Amazon Instant Video (e.g. 10 episodes of Game of Thrones Season 1). While there is a waiting period for the season to become available, from a purely economical perspective, cable doesn't make sense then anymore. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-everyone-can-cut-cable-and-still-watch-what-they-love-even-sportsfans?ref=seealso">How Everyone Can Cut Cable and Still Watch the Shows They Love</a>)</p> <p>Still, even at a single season for a TV show, a monthly streaming subscription is still cheaper than paying per episode.</p> <h2>How to Decide Between PPV and Subscription?</h2> <p>The key to determining which one is the better deal is to be more aware of your habits.</p> <p>Specifically, you need to:</p> <ol> <li> <p>Determine your entertainment needs. Remember to consider frequency of use, available catalogue, convenience of use, and available equipment and service, as needed.</p> </li> <li> <p>Find the service that best matches those needs at the lower cost possible. Before fully committing to a subscription service, give it a test run with a free trial when available.</p> </li> <li> <p>Frequently check for available discounts and promo codes.</p> </li> <li> <p>Reevaluate every few months to ensure that your choice is still the better deal. If not, then evaluate all available options and find the superior one. This is a competitive market at the moment. Catalogues are always changing, as are pricing models and promotions.</p> </li> </ol> <p>By following these steps, you will find out what type of service is the better deal for you.</p> <p><em>Do you prefer subscription or pay per use services, and what are your favorites?</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/buy-or-subscribe-how-to-pay-the-least-for-the-media-you-love-the-most" class="sharethis-link" title="Buy or Subscribe: How to Pay the Least for the Media You Love the Most" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/damian-davila">Damian Davila</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Frugal Living Consumer Affairs pay per view streaming movies streaming music subscription Fri, 09 May 2014 08:36:21 +0000 Damian Davila 1138513 at http://www.wisebread.com