Financial Friday: Groupon

>> Friday, February 26, 2010

Groupon: A great deal for the DC area and other cities in the USA
by Janinne Gardner

I am writing today to tell you of this wonderful website I have discovered. Actually I found it on Facebook which is rather amazing since those who know me know that I am rarely on Facebook. This great money saving website is called Groupon. The premise is that a company will give a great discount on an item or service if a certain number of people buy it. Usually the number of people who are required to buy (50, 75 or 100) is accomplished even before I open the email but occasionally I have to wait. So once the “group” has purchased the minimum number of “coupons,” “The deal is on!” When you sign up you request a city. Of course I have requested the DC area however I feel as though if I were going out of town I would check the groupon for where I am going for a while before I leave. Who knows where I may find a great deal. I also check cities where I have family and friends because you can purchase the groupon as a gift!

Some of the deals I have either seen or bought are three hours of game time plus snacks ($5) at the Ultimate Gaming Zone in Gaithersburg, MD for $12 a person. I checked out the website and this seemed like a great deal. Another was for $15 you get $30 of food at a Korean restaurant in DC. This one included tip and tax! Unfortunately I missed out on this one because it was sold out by 11:30 am. One day the deal was $185 for Three Laser Hair Removal Sessions at Medical Cosmetic Enhancements ($600 Value). Another was a stay at a resort in Pennsylvania during January. Some I delete after seeing others I buy. One I bought was Top Golf in Alexandria, VA. $18 for six games (bucket of balls) this is an electronic golf driving range. You hit the ball and if it goes in the hole you get points. It’s a lot of fun!

Today’s deal is $25 for $50 Worth of Fondue and Drinks at The Melting Pot in DuPont Circle, yum! So how do you get this? Click here Groupon and register. Every morning you are sent an email with the Groupon of the day. The email mail tells you the deal, time left to buy, the fine print and the details and where the company is located and often a web page. The email gives you plenty of information as to what is included. If you still have questions the answer can usually be found on the upper right hand side of the screen, this is the “discuss the deal” icon. By entering here and reading the questions already asked I usually get an answer to my question. If no one has started a question, start one yourself. Pay attention to the fine print, some are not available to use for several days or are only good for certain days.

I have had people voice concerns that this is one of those “great deals” that are found on the web, you sign up and find yourself in a circle filling out surveys and being required to buy something. I have been a victim of those ads too. Groupon is legit! I haven’t noticed an increase in spam and I have never had a problem redeeming one. To redeem a restaurant Groupon just mention it to your waiter and give it to her when you ask for the check. Everything else works like any other coupon; just give it to the counter person. When you buy a Groupon that is redeemed on the internet you may be directed to the tab on the web page for the “Groupon” and asked to put the Groupon code in somewhere during check out.
I hope you enjoy the savings as much as I do. Remember to be careful to buy only what you will use; this can get rather addicting.

Additional note from The Financial Nanny:
Make sure to check out other cities you maybe visiting. I found a great deal the other day for San Francisco for a 3 area tour package for $25 vs the normal $50.  This could come in handy if you are going to the INA conference in May and staying longer to visit.


2010 INA Nanny Salary & Benefits Survey

>> Saturday, February 20, 2010


Financial Friday: Credit Card Act

>> Friday, February 19, 2010

Credit Card Act
by Alice Shaffer

I am going to share with you all how I made an unfortunate mistake back in October/early November with my credit card. I had somehow not paid it on time and was 3 days late. This is very important because this card has a 4.99% life of loan APR on it. I had did a balance transfer on it a while ago and have been paying my debt off with great success. I had spoken to the agent on the phone when I paid and they said my  APR would not be affected because my payment was two days late.  Well in fact it was drastically afffected.

I was to have gotten a letter within 45 days of that missed payment saying that my credit card company was giving me two options:

1. Keep the 4.99% APR and close the account and continue paying as normal
2. Go to the default APR of 27.9% for 12 months before they would reexamine it.

I never received the letter for some reason. I spoke last week the credit card company when my Mint alert came through saying there was an APR change.   I immediately went online and could see I was dinged with an almost $300 interest payment. I was freaking out to say the least.   I called the company and spoke with a supervisor.  She and I worked together over a course of the week figuring out what happened.   I got super super lucky. My interest rate was returned to 4.99% and I didn't have to close my account. To be honest, I would have closed it in a heartbeart to keep that interest rate.

They pulled the recordings from my phone call (Apparently they really do tape those) and discovered that Yes in fact when I asked about my credit APR I was told it wouldn't be affected. Nor did the representive mention I would get a letter in 45 days letting me know what my options would be.

In telling you this it leads to my post today: Card Act becoming official on Monday February 22, 2010.

I would like to share with you two links to articles that explain this Card Act to you in easy to understand terms.  The bottom line is though, folks make sure you pay cards in plenty of time.  They will not be giving you a grace period or your awesome credit APR back.   I was very lucky in the fact I got mine back. It was from October when things were still in the process of getting training materials and representives up to speed.

The first article is from WalletPop Blog  called What you still might not know about the card act

The second article is from CardRatings called:   Credit CARD Act Guide Part 2: Understanding Rate, Fee, and Clarity Changes


Financial Friday: How Much Does Debt Cost You Daily?

>> Thursday, February 11, 2010

How Much Does Debt Cost You Daily?
by Alice Shaffer

As I have been reducing my debts and purchases for 2010 to become more financially healthy, I have subscribed to several other financial blogs. I found one while reading the Budgets are Sexy blog. J. Money posted something on Tuesday about debt motivation. This got me thinking -what kind of motivation do I need to further paying off my debt? Not only does debt cost us interest monthly and does affect us daily even if we don't calculate it that way.

J. Money's good blogging friend Matt Jabs has a blog titled Debt Free Adventure, and he came up with an excellent spreadsheet that is simple and easy to show us how much our debt is costing us every day! Yes that is correct.....every day debt costs us money but do you know how much it is costing you? By going to Debt Free Adventure you can open and save Matt's How Much Debt Costs Spreadsheet. You can download it in Excel or an open document format and save it after you punch in your numbers.

Click on the photo and it will take you directly to the spreadsheet. What you need to do is gather your statements for January and February.

1. First thing to do is change the numbers in January's columns to zero so you can start fresh.

2. What you will do is fill in on the left the names of your "debts" I replaced the credit card 1-3 with the names of my credit cards. Some of these will not apply. I just left them blank and had zeros there.

3. Tab over to the Payment amount. Enter the amount you paid

4. Tab over to the Interest and put down how much interest was on that month's statement.

5. I then went back to the Principal column and subtracted the Interest from the Payment. This gives you the amount of your payment that actually goes to paying off your debt.

You will notice on the right side in the upper box that your numbers are calculated for you. This gives you a monthly total of your payments, principals and interest paid.

6. To find out how much you paid that much in interest divide your interest by the number of days (31, 30 or 28).

This number gives me pause to think when I am shopping and what to buy something from my "want" list and not from my "need" list. That purchase price could be going to paying my daily debt. You can print out a copy of your spreadsheet and have it in your wallet to remind you on your "daily debt" you are paying. Print it out and post it on the bathroom wall so you can see.

How does your daily interest debt look?


Financial Friday: Medical Deductions for 2009 Taxes

>> Thursday, February 4, 2010

Medical Deductions for 2009 Taxes by Alice Shaffer

In 2009, I had the privilege I suppose you could say of having to have several medical issues dealt with and paid for.

I had several cavities filled and an inlay done. These along with my regular appointments was close to $1800. I was also tested for Sleep Apnea. I was diagnosed with a mild Sleep Apnea. This required two sleep studies. I also had to purchase the machine and CPAP mask via my health insurance. This was close to $1000. Those two medical groups had $2800 worth of medical deductions for my 2009 taxes.

I have always heard you could deduct medical stuff on your taxes by it had to be 7.5% of your AGI (Adjusted Gross Income). I never had anything major that was close to the 7.5%. Somehow 2009 was the lucky year for me because along with those Dental and Medical Expenses above and some others I have somehow hit the 7.5% number.

To find out what qualifies as Medical and Dental Expenses you can visit the IRS website and find Publication 502: Medical and Dental Expenses. It was a very easy read. It goes through the many different items that are and are not covered. I am happy to read that my new glasses I had to get last January are covered as they are medically necessary.

Take a look this weekend while you are potentially snowed in (at least here in the DC area) and find your receipts for this year's Medical and Dental Expenses to see if you qualify.

Now you might wander what to do with the extra money you get from these deductions. Open up an ING account or even a SmartyPig account and put the money in there for a medical savings account for 2010.



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