Saturday, August 12, 2006

No Liquids Beyond Airport Security Checkpoints -- The Confiscated Items Should be donated

I was on a short vacation trip -- . I packed all my clothes and stuff in one carry-on luggage. I flew home Saturday morning, and was glad that I got at the airport 2.5 hours before my flight time. After I got at the airport and checked in at a kiosk, the lines at the security checkpoint were long. Very long. Luckily, I had my bagel and drink to eat while waiting.

Some people in line told me that their friends had to give up their unopened wines, as well as the common household goods: toothpaste, shaving cream, perfume, colgne, shampoos, lotions, body washes. You name it; anything liquid was not allowed on you or in your carry-on luggage after the news broke out on Thursday August 10th of several people were arrested in Britain airport carrying weapons in these household goods. Frightening, but relieved on their security. It made me think; I wonder if the US airport security firm wouldve picked it up? In any case, since i'm into savingeverything, where should all the confiscated household goods, liquids and bottle wines go? It disturbed me to see that it was placed in large dumpster bins, along with normal trash found at airports. Are they going to throw it all away? Are the TSA security people going to save the wine bottles as their own personal gift after their shifts? In my opinion, the airports should donate these goods to the local charities -- of course, after making sure it's safe. I'm sure alot of poor people who would really appreciate these items; it's a waste for all these items to go to waste! There were unopened soda and water bottles, moisturizers, shampoos, wines, and other alcohols (mainly from international flights with tax free duties.) Hmmm. I guess all the sales at the duty-free airport stores (for international flights only) will be dried up. No more buying duty-free alcohol from international flights! Darn! Sometimes you can get really good deals on the alcohols. No more. No more sales for them. Oh well, maybe that's a good thing that you cant bring alcohol liquids in your carry-ons.

Either way, I felt bad that lots of things were being thrown away. And, these large dumpster bins in the airport checkpoint were used for all the banned items on airplanes, along with regular airport waste. That's aweful. It means that all of these items, whether they were opened or unopened, will just sit wastefully at a nearby landfill. Unless, all the airport staff will go throught the stuff and take whatever they want at the end of their shifts. Do you think they will do that? Probably not. But, if they confiscated unopened alcohols (wines), maybe. It's sad. I'm sure many poor people are hoping that they can get their hands on these items. I think all of these items should be donated to local charity programs or city human services departments. All safe items should be given to the local charities; and they will greatly appreciate receiving all the shaving creams, shampoos, moisturizers, perfumes, colgnes, lotions, contact eye solutions, toothpastes, bottled waters and juices and sodas; everything--you name it. While it would frustrate us travelers, it would be a nice gesture to realize that it would help others. It is more irritating to see it go to waste and literally in the waste bins, then to see it be given to poor people.

I also took a loss at the checkpoint. I donated my remnants of my liquid stuff to some stranger on the street before I got in the car service to the airport. But, here is the rest of the stuff that the airport security took from my carry-on luggage: deodorant (it was a small size that I received as a free trial sample), the tiny toothpaste tube (which my dentist gave at my cleaning), body lotion and shampoo (which I took from the hotel), another hotel shampoo I mustv'e had in one of the pockets of my bag that i was unaware of. They asked me to throw away the bottled juice that I was almost finished with. At first I was like "You gotta be kiding me. We both can see what's in it and my receipt was in my hand with my boarding pass." But, I took a last gulp of it and threw the rest in the trash bin. I think i was the only one that probably didnt lose too much. The lady behind me lost her perfume, lipstick, deodorant, and a tiny toothpaste like mine. She was really friendly and we talked some more as we departed to our gates. I told her about how all this stuff should be donated instead of thrown away. She said that's a good idea, but was annoyed that her stuff was taken away.

OO. Another idea. Maybe I will just hang out at the airport and periodically go through the bins to take unopened items, bag it, and take it to my car. Hmm? Actually, the short-term parking rates doesnt pay to do this. But, if in the city and the airport is accessed through public transportation, then I'd make several trips with large trash bags in hopes to find wines and many expensive perfumes, colognes, and other items for my personal keeps. Would I be asked to leaev?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

AOL --Release of Search Histories; Was It a Publicity Stunt?

According to various Internet sources, AOL's website had information regarding all of AOL's keyword searches history for the past 3 months. It was available online for serveral hours before AOL finally noticed and took it off, on Sunday August 6, '06. Approximately 658,000 of its users' search terms were published online. While AOL removed it and eventually released a statement of apology, that information may still be on the Internet (of course not aol anymore.) The actual user names were not posted; only a unique, random number id for each user. However, depending on what their keyword searches were, it may be possible to identify the user, or at least find out what h/she likes. That's scary! Recently, NYTimes identified one of the users, No. 4417749, and wrote up a story on Aug.9th. The person behind that number in the NYTimes said "In response, she plans to drop her AOL subscription. 'We all have a right to privacy', she said, 'Nobody should have found this all out.'" Unfortunately, all AOL can do is apologize. But, damage is done. Maybe in her case, they will offer her 6 months of free internet plus free credit monitoring just to show that they (AOL) cares for the privacy and protecting their users. Either way, I'm upset at AOL.

Actually, i think the release and timing was funny. AOL has been suffering quarter after quarter of AOL dial-up subscribers cancelling memberships. So, they recently decided that they will offer many of their premium services for free. Now you can open up an aol-dotcom webmail address. However, after the disclosure of the keyword searches intentially? or by accident? Would you use their free services? I wouldnt. But, maybe they did it purposefully so that people would go to their website to search the info.... and while the people are at AOL, they will be exposed to the ads and multi-media that AOL-TimeWarner has to offer. This drives traffic, more ad dollars, and hopefully more clicks and more exposure to aol sites, and more aol ads. And, maybe, people will buy music, videos, TimeWarner shows, or subscribe to one of TimeWarner's magazines. Or, maybe that's wishful thinking. I actually used a non-aol search engine to find information about the story. I never went to aol's or timewarner's websites. If i were the lady from the NYTimes story, I would try to get a hold of various internet privacy protection groups and push for legal protection of user information online.

Housing Foreclosures Are On The Rise

This post describes what's going on nowadays. Home foreclosures are rising throughout the US, and most experts are predicting more. Why? I thought people who bought homes and condos have fully prepared their budgets for home ownership. I also thought most people considered fixed rate mortgages, especially at a time of low interest rates... in order to lock in the rate so that when rates go up or stay the same, they'll be safe. However, it seems that there are several factors that play in becoming default of your mortgage. First, source of income. If you lose your job, then you have no income for the month or few months to pay your mortgage. Second, I've learnt that alot of people bought homes with the alternate mortgage plans: ARMS. ARM loans are tightly linked with the current interest rates; after the first fixed-rate term ends, the interest rate gets readjusted accordingly to the current mortgage interest rates. Ok, that's obvious... because back in 2003-4, interest rates were around 5-6%, and today, they are between 6.5-7%. Third, slower appreciation for homes. As interest rates have rose during the past 18 months, the cost to borrow a large sum of money for a home gets more expensive. It hinders several buyers such as myself. This causes an increase in supply of houses on the market, and eventually, the owners have been (or will be) forced to lower the price of their homes to sell it.

The lessons: alway financially plan your budgets; dont take risky loans that will fluctuate with current interest rates after a defined term; dont buy anything if you can not save some money for emergencies (and maybe just an extra 100 is not enough for saving for you liquid emergency cash fund.)

The articles that inspired me to write this post on savingeverything: Bay Area foreclosures spike, even though historically low, Houston foreclosures highest since 1989 (wasnt this the same time house prices dropped?), Massachusetts foreclosures skyrocketed, and an article that says National Foreclosures decreased in the recent quarter but are up 25% since 2005.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Credit Cards: Using the 0% Balance Transfer Offers To Get Free Money

If you are very conscientious, very good with paying bills on time, and a responsible credit card user, then this is something to consider if you have the time, patience, and due diligence to pay on time and keep track of dates and money. The general idea: open a new credit card with 1 of those mail-in offers (or online) (of course, making sure the terms of conditions are favorable with 0% interest for 1 year, no balance transfer fees for the term of the new offer, and then do the balance transfer, transfer the balance to another credit card; then, get the money in a check from the other credit card, and put the money into your checking account, and transfer it to a high-yielding savings account or 3-,6-,9-month CD to earn the current interest rates (of ~5%+). Pay the minimum payments due each month, and maybe a few extra dollars to show willingness to payback credit debt (which may favor credit reports.) Do not use the credit card for anything else! During the last month of your 0% interest offer, move money out of savings into checking, and pay off the full balance due by the due date (or else you will be charged the current interest rate for your card, which may vary from 10-18%, not including any default rates for late payment or other.)

A good blogger on personal finance at mymoneyblog described this process in great detail with very nice examples. He does say you have to be very careful with what the offer reads; because some cards, even during promotional period may charge a balance transfer fee.

Interestingly, this is not new. Almost 10 years ago, my sister did the same thing. However, during that time, balance transfers and some convenient checks actually had grace periods similar to purchases and had no transaction fees. Only cash advances had transaction fees (which were 2% then) and no grace period. She told me that she used one of those checks and simply wrote it to herself. There were no fees or finance charges on it for several months. She invested in the stock market and money market mutual funds with the money, while maintaining the minimum payments due each month. Of course, those days there were no online, high-yielding saving accounts.... not even NetBank (which started around 1997-8). She did quite well, probably earned more than interest rates of that time.... but she stopped doing it once the terms of her credit cards changed to make balance transfers and convenience checks have no grace period, and started charging transaction fees for using balance transfers (at 2%, upto $25-50 during that time.) Unfortunately, most credit card companies charge 3% for balance transfers, with a maximum between $60-75 (MBNA cards do not state any maximums for balance transfer fees. That's scary!) Almost everything has no grace periods, with the exception of purchases, which generally now only has 20 day grace. It used to be like 28 days. Cash advances are now 3% with $10min, no max, and no grace periods.

So, if you want to learn about the details and fine prints on how to take advantage of getting some free money from zero percent balance transfer offers from your credit cards, then go over to mymoneyblog. Note of caution: I think it only works if you are responsible and good with credit cards and payments. Have a great day!

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Getting Into MBA School Is More Difficult, But Pay Is Great!

Getting a MBA degree has been on my mind recently. While I'm a bit scared to go back to school again, especially in an area where I have no prior education in, it can definitely provide more opportunities and career growth. Recently, there was an article describing how MBA programs see an increase in applications. This means it's going to be more difficult to get accepted; probably similar to the med school application process. Interestingly, there seems to be more international students applying to American MBA programs than ever before. No matter what, the admission process is going to be more competitive; which means I'll need a better GMAT score, and have good references and strong application (essays).

Why go to MBA school?
I dont know. I took micro- & macro-economics as an undergrad; but didn't do well. I took a MIS course and did okay; but, never had a sincere interest. After working for few years, I have become interested in how businesses operate. I have discussed my interest with the CFO of my company (very friendly guy who likes to joke around alot). He said having the MBA gives you more responsibility at work, and sometimes very long hours of work. Some of his duties include the quarterly and annual reports, doing taxes, producing several models and projections of the financials, assisting payroll, and signing all checks. Hmmmm. I dont know. I would like the idea of participating in business development and building business relationships. That's fun. But, the real reason: the fatt paycheck each month!

The Salary of MBA's:
MBA's starting salaries impressed me: from surveys by the GMAC, it says graduates who completed a MBA in 2006 and accepted job offers are expected to earn an average $92,300 (up 4.2% from 2005). But, the article also notes: less than 3yrs experience: $68,399 +$10,700 bonus; 3-6years experience earn $81,700 with signing $16,000; 6+ years, earn $100k+ and signing $17,500 (averages). The industry you are in also plays a factor: healthcare/pharmaceuticals $85.4k; Energy/utilities $79.2k; Manufacturing $82k; High tech $87.6k; Finance/accounting $78.3k; Products/services $77.1k; Nonprofit/government $63.2k. Graduates with a BA in business management administration earn on average $41,976 (based on surveys for 2006). Other times, I ask, do I need be an entrepeneur? I hope not, because I dont think I have that ability. I'll have to consider all this. Another report, based on Carnegie Mellon's graduates' survey, says that the average starting salary of MBA is $94,900. The average student loan debt for MBA is $59,340. University of Pittsburgh has preliminary data of graduates starting earning at $71,000 (September they will know what it is.) One article I read said that while 2/3 respondents earn more than $75,000, they work 4 hours more than other individuals in professional field. At UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School, MBA graduates heading into financial services earned on average $92,000 in 2005 (from only $78,600 in 2004). Hearsay told me that a Harvard MBA graduate will earn about $100k, but in debt for a 9-month term of $66,000 (mutliplied by 2.3 since for the full 2-year program.) According to Forbes' M.B.A. reality check, real estate and development MBAs make $112.9k; consultant MBA $108.9k; financial services $94.4k (all with average signing bonus of $10,000.)

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Nobel Laureate Tonegawa at MIT Stirred Up Controversy

Trying to get a job? Dr. Alla Karpova seriously wanted to start her career and research program at MIT. However, Dr. Susumu Tonegawa, Nobel-famed and Biology Professor who studies the molecular, cellular, and neuronal mechanisms of hippocampus-dependent (brain) memory, has been described as a strong leader who has shown fierce competition in the science world, which others say may be harmful to the university in advancing science and recruiting the best, young talent, and women. The major accusation: He sabotaged Karpova's appointment at MIT. She got an offer from MIT's McGovern Institute for Brain Research as an assistant professor position. But, he sent emails to her and colleagues about so-called problems she would face if she came to MIT, and problems about the uneasy atmosphere between the interdisciplinary institutes at MIT (McGovern, Biology, and Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, which Tonegawa heads.) Furthermore, Karpova wanted Tonegawa to serve as mentor and collaborator in research--something that MIT tries to support in their efforts to expand interdisciplinary and collaborative research. Tonegawa declined. So, Karpova took a job in Virginia at a new Howard Hughs Medical Institute. And, MIT is now investigating their recruiting process.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Work as a Price Checker of Goods and Services for the Labor Department

PhotoThe monthly consumer price index (CPI) reported by the Department of Labor is computed by determining the average of prices of specified set of goods and services purchased by thos who earn wages in urban areas. The CPI is used as an economic indicator, especially for the Federal Reserve in deciding about interest rates. I found a recent article on price checkers assemble the inflation report. This means that the prices of the monthly CPI are determined by old-fashioned techniques of people going to stores and finding all sorts of products, and recording their prices. It sounds like a fun job; maybe a bit tedious and stressful, since you have to cover many merchants and products within your region within a specific time every month. Plus, you have to carry a computer system for entering information. I actually saw one at my local grocery store on the 14th in the evening. She was professionally dressed; maybe she had another job/career during the day. She quickly scanned various products; it looked as if she was randomnly selecting anything she can get a her hands on. But, maybe it's because the products were on her list, and she's been doing it for a while. I was gonna stop her and talk about her job since it looks easy and probably pays decently. However, she quickly moved away onto another aisle. At one point, she was reading the labels of a product, made some notation on her computer, scanned the product, and left to another section of the store.

Another story from July2006 where the job as "economic assistant" is decribed in more detail: Mrs. Murphey's morning activity to check prices as "inflation detective". During busy times, all of the ~450 Bureau of Statistics (Department of Labor) employees throughout the US visit about 45 stores in a 10-day period to get prices on 150 items. And I'm sure they have more. Every month they do this; travel same stores, obtain prices on the same products; and send the data to their employer. I wonder if the job requires a business or math/statistics degree. I also wonder if there is more data crunching that must be done at home prior to reporting the info to the Dept of Labor? In any case, from the 2 articles, this type of job is part-time job.

So, the next time you go shopping and see someone carrying a BlueTooth, Palm or small computer, and with a scanner, you'll now know that they're probably working for the government.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Ways To Save Money and Save Electricity During The Summer

With the summer heat, higher energy demands, and higher costs for electricity, it would be nice to save as much electricity as you possibly can. The reward, of course, is saving money, saving electricity, and saving resources. Here are some useful, some common sense, tips for saving energy and money: :)

  • Use ENERGY STAR air conditioners, since they are the most energy efficient models on the market [of course, all ENERGY STAR appliances are more expensive than one without; but, it may be well worth the initial cost compared to the added energy savings!]
  • For central air conditioning systems, the more energy efficient the system is, the more cooling you get for your dollar. All central AC units with a SEER value (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) of 13 or better are considered ENERGY STAR compliant. I helped my parents get a SEER 14 unit last year; and they do notice the house gets cooler much faster than their old system. They also got a new heating unit; but my parents say the bill was about the same as the year before (primarily because electric companies rose their rates!)
  • For wall/window air conditioner units, the higher the EER value is, the more savings. Again, ENERGY STAR and higher EER units cost more at the store; but the energy savings may be well worth it! Most units are between 8.0-11.5. (Note: BTU has nothing to do with efficiency; it is the British Thermal Unit, which is the amount of heat the AC can remove from a room. A small room of ~150 sqft would be sufficient with a 5,000 BTU unit. A 400-450 sqft room would need 10,000 BTU/hr. Matching Btu requirements to room size is important.)
  • Note about ENERGY STAR appliances: Check with your electric company for special rebate offers. They periodically have special offers for mail-in rebates on new purchases of ENERGY STAR products.
  • If you have central AC, keep the thermostat at 78 degrees. It is estimated you can save an additional 5-7% off your cooling costs for each degree above 78. However, I think this is uncomfortable. When home, I prefer around 74-76. When not home, I would increase it to 79-80... so that I dont cool the house when no one is there to use it.
  • Close all windows, curtains, blinds, shades, covers (especially windows facing the south and west). Limit as much of daylight sun as possible, since this causes rooms to be warmer. (At nights, you may want to open the windows to allow the summer cool breezes enter the room. If you have allergies, then this is not an option. You can use the fan setting at night when the air outside is cool.)
  • Consider installing a whole house fan, or ceiling fan to create a cool breeze and keep the air circulating.
  • Check the AC filter at least 2x's furing the warm season, and clean it.
  • If AC has a timer, set it to turn on no more than 20 minutes before you expect to return home. Or, just wait 'till you get home to turn on the fan and AC.
  • When you are not home, it is best to either set the temperature high enough to keep the AC off, or just have the AC unit off. It's wasteful to have the AC continuously on when no one is using it. Even at night, you dont need the AC on full-blast at a cold temperature.
  • Using portable fans are much cheaper than using your AC.
  • On humid days, if your refrigerator has a switch for "power saver", use it. When the switch is on, small heaters keep the outside from condensation. On other days, turn this off. For efficient energy saving tip, make sure the fan vent is clean and the coils in the back are clear from dust. Dusty coils make the compressor harder to work and uses more electricity.
  • Try to postpone doing laundry and dishwashing until nighttime to avoid generating the extra heat they give off. Better yet, after the wash and rinse cycles, take your dishes out and allow them to air dry. This will save energy to dry off your dishes, and prevent the hot air and steam that would enter the kitchen. For laundry, if it's possible, do not use the dryer. Air dry your clothes on a clothes line or drying rack-- put the drying rack in a room that is the warmest, or put it on an enclosed porch or somewhere outside (backyard).
  • Use your microwave or countertop appliances for cooking instead of the oven or stove. Better yet, try to limit all indoor cooking. A grill is a great investment for the spring, summer, fall, and sometimes winter cooking. Plus, grilling and eating outside will lessen your need to have the AC on in the house!
  • If possible, keep your air conditioner out of the sun; but do not block the vents!
  • Turn your water heater down to 115-120 degrees will save you money. It's comfortable!

  • Replace all incandescent bulbs with fluorescent bulbs (Energy Star bulbs too). "For each bulb you replace, you can save from $10 or more on your electric costs over the life of the bulb." That's what my electric company says. Plus, the bulbs' life expectancy is 10,000 hours, compared to ~750-950 hours for standard bulbs. 75W is replaced with 20W. 100W is replaced with 26 or 27W. 150W replaced with 30W.
  • Turn off appliances when not in use, such as the TV, DVD/VCR, computer, printer. Better yet, if they're connected to a powerstrip, turn off the power strip when not in use.
  • T
  • ake showers instead of baths to reduce hot water. It's better to take lukewarm showers than hot showers.
  • Planting trees or shrubs (especially ones with leaves that fall during the winter) provide an extra shade to the house and windows, depending on where they are located. You want to block the strong daylight sun during the summer. (In winter, the leaves have fallen off, and will provide sunlight to enter for heat.)
  • Double pane windows are better (energy efficient windows are good!)
  • Weatherize, caulk and weatherstip. Prevent air leaks, drafts from doors and windows.
  • Add insulation around the AC ducts when they are located in non-cooling spaces like the garage, attics.
  • The fireplace damper should be tightly closed, if available.

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The 70,000 Beer Cans In An Ogden Townhouse

This blog is all about savingeverything. So, in the photos below, I show the extreme to savingeverything. While this is old news, I thought I had to show something that represents the central theme of this blog: to save everything. Ok, maybe not everything. I recycle all of my used cans once a month.

70,000 beer cans in an apartment-townhouse in Ogden, UT were discovered in 2005. Plus, just trash... as you can see there's papertowels and cups throughout the piles of cans. After removing all of the cans from the townhouse (including bottles; there's a Pepsi bottle in 1 picture), the landlord recovered $800. Accordingly, the man living in the apartment was good with paying rent on time and vacating himself out of the apartment. The landlord probably also sold the furniture at a garage sale or something? Yuk. Do you think the tenant (a man) (and maybe some of his friends) rinsed out all of the cans and bottles after drinking?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Music Downloads and the RIAA

It's amazing how times have changes over the few years. During the Internet boom of 1999, I thought downloading music for free will be cherished and would hurt the music industry. The way most people downloaded music was by sharing music on to computer networks and using early 1st generation peer-to-peer (p2p) networks. They required software, such as Aimster, Madster, old-defunct Napster, Morpheus, Kazaa, and the like. Well, the music industry definitely felt greedy and started a revenge to sue against its listeners. The RIAA started filing lawsuits against those who uploaded music to such networks; the RIAA even got on these networks and got usernames of those wanting RIAA-label music. Then, they headed to media and the courts; it made news that "downloading music is illegal". Or, did they really mean, uploading music on shared network is illegal. I think the recording industry are a bunch of greedy businessmen and lawyers. Various surveys suggest that the music downloading is here to stay; and whether the music is free, 50c, 85c, 99c, people need to hear the music free before plunging the bucks for the albums. I know some music artists, who would never enlist themselves with the greed and contracts of the labels associated with the RIAA. There's stories where artists get screwd with their contracts; and some want to get out. So, I hail to the independent labels (indies) and their music. Heck, most of the music on radio stations (such as those owned by Clear Channel) are all just RIAA music; they give radio stations music for free to promote music and eventually sales. RIAA has pushed all online music stores to place restrictions on how many copies, rips, etc. on the downloaded music. It was ridiculous; you cant put music on a second computer, blah blah. However, in 2008, various outlets have now began selling music without those DRM (digital right management-which placed restrictions on the music files). This is a drastic change by the music industry, and cheer them on (finally!) Of course, there's the Apple iPods and then there's.... the rest (Zen? Zune? ??) No matter what, since I save everything, I will still listen to music for free; I refuse to buy any music or artist that is associated with a RIAA-label. There's a website that can tell you if an artist is RIAA-label; or you could just look at the list of all labels at the riaa's website. So, most of music taste has changed because of the John Doe lawsuits the RIAA has pursued in 2004 and beyond. My music is mostly independent labels, where artists provide their music for free. Why for free? Because I like some of their music, and when I hear they're touring near my area, I will be happy to pay to go see them. That's where the artists get some income; in addition to album sales. Plus, most indie labels sell their music at various music download stores, like emusic.

Question of the Day Marathon for Aug4th

Blogger Ricemutt at Experiments in Finance had Day #4 Question: How many credit card do you have, and what's their combined credit limits? Kind of neat to see what the average # of cards and limits readers and other pfbloggers have (it depends of course if they are including husband-n-wife, business credit cards; and their ages... since a 19yr old will probably have less than a 30 yr old.)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

No Sales Tax HoliDays in some states

It's that time of the year! School season is approaching soon. Several states have decided to offer a "sales tax holiday" for certain shopping days in August. These are great since you will pay no sales tax during the period. Here's a list of the ceilings placed by the states where sales tax is exempt (sales tax free) upto these prices per item (for 2006):

AL: Aug4-6 clothing 100; computers 750; school stuff 50; books 30
CT: Aug 20-26 clothing $300
D.C.: Aug 5-14 clothing
FL: July 22-30 clothing 50, school stuff 10; May21-June1 hurricane stuff; Oct5-11,energy-efficient appliances
GA: Aug 3-6 clothing 100; school stuff 20; computers $1000; energy-efficient stuff $1500
IA: Aug 4-5 clothing 100
MD: Aug 23-27 clothing 100
MA: Aug 12-13 all retail items 2500
MO: Aug 4-6 clothing 100, school stuff 50, computers 3500
NM: Aug 4-6 clothing 100, school stuff 15, computers 1000
NC: Aug 4-6 clothing 100, computers 3500;
SC: Aug 4-6 clothing, school stuff, computers, check
TN: Aug 4-6 clothing 100, school stuff 100, computers 1500
TX: Aug4-6 clothing 100
VA: Aug 4-6 clothing 100, school stuff 20
NY: the first state to institute the "no-sales-tax holiday" in 1997-thru 2005; This year, none!
(NY had temporary sales and use tax exemption of clothing, footwear, and items used to make or repair exempt clothing that cost less than $110 per item or pair the week of Jan 30-Feb 5, 2006)

AL, DE, NH : year-round, no sales tax
NJ, PA: no sales tax on clothing (there are other states that have this too.)

It's best to check with your own state's government websites or Department of Taxation/Finance for more details about state sales tax for purchases or services.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Numbers for mortgages at different rates

House: 1-BR condo, 1st level of 3-story multi-dwelling condo, ~630-730 sq ft., has central air!
Buy: 162,500 Down: 32,500 Loan: 130,000 Type: 1-BR condo, ~630 or 730 sq ft
Monthly Tax: 125 Condo Fee: 175 (utilities not included; water included in condo fee)

As of August 1, 2006:
based on Loan of 130k, 30 yr loan, the mortgage payments are estimated to be the following:
130,000 7.25%,30y, 886.82
130,000 7.00%,30y, 864.89
130,000 6.875%,30y, 854.00
130,000 6.75%,30y, 843.17
ING @4.35%; GMACbank & Emigrant @5.15%; HSBCdirect @5.05%

In March 2006:
130,000 6.50%,30y, 821.68
130,000 6.25%,30y, 800.43
130,000 6.00%,30y, 779.41
130,000 5.75%,30y, 758.64
ING @4.00%, Emigrant @4.50%, HSBCdirect @4.80%
-of course, prices from Summer 2005 to March2006 has dropped a little for condos
-ie. Late 2005, similar condos in this building were being sold at 170k and 180.5k; now, 162.5k
-ie. A 2-br, new condo unit in a 40-unit complex in pbd, was asking $250-255-260k in Nov '05 (mortgage rates were ~6.0-6.5%); in March, price dropped only by 5k; BUT, as of August 1, 2006, the price has dropped 15-20k!

The Federal Reserve meets August 8, 2006 Tuesday to decide about interest rates: a hike, or not? A week earlier, inflation-adjusted consumer spending rose 0.2% in June06, and consumer prices are up 2.4% year over year; and a big increase in Institute for Supply Managment's manufacturing index to 54.7; crude oil at $74.91 per barrel!

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