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Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Redeeming United Airlines miles for VCR/DVD Player
With United Airlines and most airlines reducing their mileage expiration period to 18 months, I finally decided to redeem some of my UAL frequent flier miles. I didn’t want to redeem them again for another magazine subscription since we already have subscribed to too many magazines. Fortunately, United allowed redeeming mileage for merchandise for the elite members. I am not an elite member, however, since I had the United’s Mileage Plus credit card, I also qualified and was able to redeem 13,000 miles for a VCR-DVD Player. Shipping was free and the package arrived in about 4 weeks time.

I checked the price of the equipment at Amazon.com where it was selling for about $89 plus about $10 shipping. So it worked out to be about $0.008/mil. Typically, experts recommend that you sell/exchange miles for at least $0.02/mile. Although, I got less than what the experts would recommend, I still felt fine with the deal as we needed the player anyways and didn’t have to lose the miles which would have expired.

The link for mileage redemption is provided on the United Airlines' web site, or for direct link to redeeming UAL miles for merchandise, see:

UAL: Merchandise Rewards

For info and restrictions about United's Mileage Plus credit card, including up to 17,500 bonus UAL frequent flier miles and fee waiver for the first year, see:

United’s Mileage Plus Platinum Business credit card

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posted by Ruby @ 12:37 AM   0 comments

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Monday, July 30, 2007
Is Bottled water = Tap water + Purchase Co$t?
Pepsico recently agreed to change labeling of its Aquafina-branded bottled water. The labels until now read "Bottled At The Source P.W.S." and includes an image of snow-capped mountains and states "pure water". As per critics, such a label may have implied that the source of water was from spring even though Aquafina bottled water uses tap water. In response to pressure from various agencies, Pepsico has agreed to spell out P.W.S. as Public Water Source on its labels.

I have read too many articles about bottled water and am not sure whether they are really better and more pure than the tap water, or its just a gimmick on the part of their manufacturers. The drinking water standards in our place seems to be good, so in our house, we basically use the Brita-filter to filter the tap water. So that's what we will stick to regardless of what labels Pepsico or other bottlers use.

For related articles check out:

Corporate Accountability International: Pepsi Agrees to Reveal Source of Aquafina Bottled Water
posted by Ruby @ 8:14 AM   0 comments

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Sunday, July 29, 2007
Weekend Quote - Mind
The most expensive piece of real estate is the six inches between your right and left ear. It’s what you create in that area that determines your wealth. We are only really limited by our mind.
— Dr. Dolf de Roos
posted by Ruby @ 12:22 AM   0 comments

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Saturday, July 28, 2007
American Express Gold Delta Skymiles Card - Up to 17,500 Bonus Delta Skymiles, no fee for first year
For a limited time, American Express is offering up to 17,500 Bonus Delta Skymiles to the first time Delta Skymiles Credit Card members after first purchase on the American Express Gold Delta Skymiles Card. The $85 annual fee is waived for the first year.

For complete details, including any restrictitions, check out:

American Express Gold Delta Skymiles Card

Disclaimer: The credit cards and any reward points, statement credits, bonuses etc are offered by third-parties. Before applying for such credit card offers, be sure to read their terms, fee and restrictions as such offers are time-sensitive, subject to change without notice, and may also carry certain restrictions. You need to verify any rewards points/statement credits or bonuses from the credit card issuing companies prior to applying for such credit cards. This blog post on such offers is provided for information purposes, and we are not responsible if rewards points/statement credits, bonuses etc are not credited to you.
posted by Ruby @ 2:17 AM   0 comments

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Friday, July 27, 2007
Free Sample - Zip ’n Steam™ Bag from Walmart
Wal-Mart is offering a free sample - check out:

Walmart: Free Sample - Zip ’n Steam™ BagsSample
posted by Ruby @ 8:58 AM   0 comments

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Thursday, July 26, 2007
Millionaires in the Making - Aris and Maria Magtibay
The CNNMoney.com article discusses the finances of thirty-something couple, Aris and Maria Magtibay. With a combined salary of $115,000, they have managed to save $180,000 in 401(k), $23,000 in IRA, $14,000 in 529 plan, $81,000 in Home equity, and $3,000 in Emergency Fund.

How did they do it? By obsessively documenting even small purchases, and regular and aggressive saving. The couple is aiming to pay off their 30-year mortgage within 21 years. As per a financial planner, with some changes, the couple is on track to be millionaires by age 50, and having $100,000 a year in income to live on.

For other fields and details, check out:

CNNMoney.com: Millionaires in the Making

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Importance of dividends in outperforming stock markets
The MotleyFool article discusses the importance of dividends when investing in stocks.

As per the article, dividends is one way companies that feel secure about their competitive advantage reward their investors. The good thing about dividends is that they are not dependent on the market's mood; rather they are dependent on a company's ability to generate money beyond that's needed to operate, sustain and grow the company. Since payment of dividends requires financial strength and discipline on the part of companies, such strong and disciplined companies often tend to outperform the market over the long run.

For complete article, see:

Fool.com: Take Part in a Billion-Dollar Payday
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Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Minimum wage increase
After almost 10 years, the federal minimum wage will be raised today from $5.15/hr to $5.85/hr , an increase of 70 cents. This limit will increase every summer by 70 cents until 2009, when it will be set at $7.25 an hour.

For related articles, check out:

USAToday.com: Minimum wage hike kicks in today

Washingtonpost.com: Minimum Wage Will Rise Today
posted by Ruby @ 8:27 AM   0 comments

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Monday, July 23, 2007
The Dhandho Investor - value investing made simple and interesting
Have started reading The Dhandho Investor: The Low - Risk Value Method to High Returns. This investment book is written by Mohnish Pabrai who had previously written Mosaic: Perspectives on Investing which is now selling for $300 and up at Amazon.com.

The Dhandho Investor is a short book, consisting of 17 chapters and 196 pages. The word "Dhandho" means "endeavors that create wealth". True to its title, the book focuses on endeavors that create wealth but do so by maximizing rewards while simultaneously minimizing risks. The books dispels the notion that you need to take greater risks to maximize rewards. Some of the tenets of the Dhandho framework are:

- Invest in existing businesses
- Invest in simple businesses
- Few bets, big bets and infrequent bets
- Margin of safety

So far, I have liked reading the book and the various stories it contains. The examples and analysis given in the book are quite interesting yet simple to understand.

What's good about the author, Mohnish Pabrai, is that he is not just an author but he also actively manages his hedge funds and is a managing partner of Pabrai Investment Funds. He considers himself to be a disciple of value investors, Warren Buffett, and Charlie Munger, and uses their techniques to manage his funds. His funds supposedly have outperformed all major indices and over 99% of the actively managed funds, returning 28% annually, after expenses! Another good thing about him is that he includes his hedge fund holdings in the 13F-HR quarterly filings with the SEC - these filings can be used as a great learning tool to find out about his holdings.

For Motley's Fools'and GuruFocus' review on The Dhandho Investor, check out:

Fool.com: Foolish Book Review: "The Dhandho Investor"

GuruFocus.com: Book review/summary: The Dhandho Investor - Mohnish Pabrai

Other links on Mohnish Pabrai:

Pabrai's Perfect Portfolio
Superinvestor Review: Mohnish Pabrai
Pabrai's foundation: Dakshana


As always, a final disclaimer: the purpose of my writings or this web site is not to give any financial advice nor make any recommendations. This site is just a blog of my activities, interests and thoughts. The links are provided for information purposes only. Trading options and stocks can be very risky, so you need to exercise your judgment and seek competent advice before investing in such instruments.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007
Weekend Quote - Dreams vs Reality
If you talk about it, it's a dream. If you envision it, it's possible. But if you schedule it, it's real.
- Anthony Robbins
posted by Ruby @ 10:19 AM   0 comments

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Friday, July 20, 2007
Lessons from an estate lawsuit
The InvestmentsNews article discusses the estate fight, involving the deceased's third wife, and his relatives and children from prior marriages.

The deceased, Mr. Johnson, had willed his estate to his third wife, Laura Johnson. However, Mr. Johnson's relatives and children from prior marriages alleged that Mr. Johnson's final will was signed under pressure by his third wife. The deceased earlier wills had included his children, however, the last/final will had not.

The court, however, found no such manipulation and awarded the estate to the deceased's third wife, in accordance with his final will.

As per the article, to avoid such situations, people should take certain steps such as the following:

- Create a videotape when signing the will to demonstrate the person was of sound mind and not under anyone's influence

- Letting your children know of your wishes while still alive, and having adult children sign a letter saying that they know of their parent's wishes, even if they don't agree with them

- Adding a clause in the will that gives some inheritence to children but removes it if children contest the will

For complete article, see:

InvestmentsNews: Third wife prevails over adult kids in estate suit

posted by Ruby @ 8:16 AM   0 comments

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Thursday, July 19, 2007
Getting high..........on bottled water
A bar in Chappaqua, New York has opened recently which will be serving - not alcohol - but over 30 different brands of water, costing from $4 to over $30 and up for less than a liter of water!

With the sales of bottled water topping $15 billion last year, and beating the sales for iPods or movie tickets, I guess, it's not surprising that entrepreneurs have come up an idea for the "water bar". What will be next? - Bottled Water Anonymous?

For details, check out:

WCBSTV.com: N.Y. Bar Serves Bottled Water For $55


Boston.com: Suburban water bar offers 33 kinds
posted by Ruby @ 12:37 AM   0 comments

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007
SunRocket fails to takeoff - gets grounded on Earth
SunRocket, one of the leading VoIP firms, which provided internet phone service ceased its operations. As per The New York Times article, the firm had 200,000 subscribers.

I must say that we had seriously considered switching to SunRocket's service. They were offering phone service for $199 for the entire year, inclusive of all taxes. The price seemed very reasonable to us and from what I had heard from my friend, the service was good too. And the fact that it included all taxes was a big plus. Right now, our phone bills are padded with so many taxes, and service/miscellaneous charges and about which we as consumers can't do much.

However, we eventually decided not to switch because we find the landline service to be more reliable. We don't have to worry about not having phone service if our internet cable service doesn't work or if there's no electricity because of bad weather.

For complete The New York Times article, see:

The New York Times: Internet Phone Company Halts Operations
posted by Ruby @ 8:30 AM   0 comments

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007
College majors that pay $$$
The CNNMoney.com article indicates increased competition for qualified graduates, with salaries generally increasing this year across all fields. Grads most in demand include:

- Chemical Engineers: average salary of $59,361
- Computer engineers: average salary of $56,201
- Mechanical Engineers: average salary of $54,128
- Electrical Engineers: average salary of $55,292
- Civil engineers: average salary of $48,509
- Computer science grads: average salary of $53,396
- Information sciences grads: average salary of $50,852
- Economics grads: average salary of $48,483
- Finance grads: average salary of $47,239
- MIS grads: average salary of $47,648
- Marketing grads: average salary of $40,161
- Accounting grads: average salary of $46,718

For salaries of other majors and complete details, check out:

CNNMoney.com: Most lucrative college degrees
posted by Ruby @ 6:46 AM   0 comments

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Sunday, July 15, 2007
Weekend Quote - Thoughts
Change your thoughts and you change your world.
- Norman Vicent Peale
posted by Ruby @ 7:56 AM   0 comments

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Saturday, July 14, 2007
Ohio Waitress wins $1 million CNBC's Stock-Picking Contest
Mary Sue Williams, a waitress from Ohio has won the $1 million CNBC's stock-picking contest. Apparently, she has never bought a stock in our her own life, yet she managed to beat the pros!

Although such contests are based on short-term returns, and may not reflect the long term ability of a stock picker, the rules were same for all contestants, so it's still remarkable of her to beat the pros!

For details, check out:

Business Week: The Million-Dollar Waitress
posted by Ruby @ 10:46 AM   0 comments

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Free subscription to PC Magazine
Mercury Magazines is offering free subscription of PC Magazine. For details, check out:

Mercury Magazines: Free PC Magazine
posted by Ruby @ 8:39 AM   0 comments

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Thursday, July 12, 2007
Millionaires in the Making - Jerry and Lynn Moser
The CNNMoney.com article profiles a couple, Jerry and Lynn Moser, on the way to becoming a millionaire. Just 14 years ago, the couple had a bad credit history, high debt and no savings. In addition, Jerry was a recovering drug and alcohol addict making just $6 an hour.

Fast forward to present and the couple now has combined salary of $106,000, with a combined net worth of over $300,000. So how did they go from a terrible financial situation to the road to being a millionaire? By working hard, contributing 15 percent of their pre-tax income into their respective 401(k) accounts, and $2,000 each into their Roth IRAs every year. In addition, the couple carries little debt, makes use of coupons and lives in a relatively inexpensive part of the country. Add the time factor before they retire and the couple feels that they will be millionaires.

For complete article, check out:

CNNMoney.com: Millionaires in the Making

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posted by Ruby @ 8:18 AM   0 comments

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Free access to Wall Street Journal's Website (Today only)
Wall Street Journal (WSJ) is providing free access to its' website today - check out:

Wall Street Journal Online
posted by Ruby @ 7:19 AM   0 comments

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Free Sample - Aquafresh Advanced Toothpaste from Walmart
Wal-Mart is offering a free sample - check out:

Walmart: Free Sample - Aquafresh Advanced Toothpaste Sample
posted by Ruby @ 7:12 AM   0 comments

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Monday, July 09, 2007
Millionaires in the Making - Amy and Jesse Dickinson
The CNNMoney.com article profiles a couple, Amy and Jesse Dickinson, on the way to becoming a millionaire. On a combined salary of $86,000, the couple has managed to save $100,000 in 401(k), $50,000 in IRA and $7,000 in emergency fund. The secret to their savings include maintaining a tight budge, prolonging the life of their belongings, and automatic contributions to the 401(k) plan.

For complete article, check out:

CNNMoney.com: Millionaires in the Making

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posted by Ruby @ 7:32 AM   0 comments

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Sunday, July 08, 2007
Weekend Quote - Self Control
He who reigns within himself and rules his passions, desires, and fears is more than a king
— John Milton
posted by Ruby @ 7:37 AM   0 comments

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Free Sample - Dove Cool Moisture Shampoo and Conditioner
Wal-Mart is again offering a free sample; check out:

Walmart: Free Sample - Dove Cool Moisture Shampoo and Conditioner Sample

posted by Ruby @ 7:26 AM   0 comments

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Free online book - Serious Money, Straight Talk about Investing for Retirement
The online version of Serious Money, Straight Talk about Investing for Retirement by Richard A. Ferri is available for free as an ebook at the link below:

Free ebook: Serious Money, Straight Talk about Investing for Retirement by Richard A. Ferri

For the book reviews of the hardcover edition that's been sold at Amazon.com, check out:

Amazon.com: Serious Money, Straight Talk About Investing for Retirement
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Monday, July 02, 2007
My Favorite Cash/Reward Points Paying Survey Sites
I am not an expert of survey sites nor do I spend too much time on them. However, there are few free survey firms I like and try to fill out their surveys, when ever I have time.

The number one on my survey list is:

Pinecone Research - This is number one on my list because the firm sends out surveys only if I am already pre-qualified. I do not have to spend 10-15 minutes in answering questions, only to find that I am not qualified or their quota has been met, as happens with many other survey firms. The company, however, does send general, prequalifying emails every now and then asking about household questions. There is no payment for such pre-qualifying emails which take about 5 minutes to fill, and the emails clearly mention that it is only asking some household questions. However, if a person is selected and receives the actual survey, the company pays $5 per survey via Paypal; the payment typically occurs within 1-5 days.

Apart from Pinecone, I do like the following sites as they provide reward points for taking the survey or answering emails.

e-rewards - I believe this is an invitation-only site; you have to have received an email from this survey company or its partners to be accepted. However, I have noticed that many of the airlines list e-rewards as its partners and send invitation emails frequently (you may also be able to find a link through the websites of airlines such as Northwest etc). The reason I like this site is that it credits the account with some money even if you are not qualified. The balance cannot be redeemed for cash but the firm offers a good variety of redemption options, including magazine subscriptions, movie rentals from Blockbuster and frequent flier or hotel mileage credit to a variety of partners, including Northwest Airlines, America Airlines, and Hilton Hotel. I have redeemed my balances for frequent flier miles and hopefully, this activity renews my frequent flier balances since many airlines these days expire balances after 18 months of non-activity.

MyPoints.com - This site allows you to earn points by reading the ads and visiting the sites that are listed in the emails. You generally get 5 points for visiting the advertisers' web sites, although you can also earn more points in some cases if you subscribe to the offers. The emails also sometimes contain surveys which allow you to earn points. I have used my accumulated points to get gift cards from companies like Wal-Mart, Target etc and I like the program. However, the thing with it is that you can get quite a few emails in your inbox, so I use a different email address for it rather than using a regular, personal email address.

e-miles - this is a relatively new site which I have started liking. The site offers frequent flier miles (you can choose from a variety of different frequent flier programs) for reading ads; the payout is typically 5 miles per advertisement. The site sends an email when any ads are available on its site, and you can then go to that site and fill out a short form after clicking on an ad. The form generally has 3-5 questions and takes a few seconds to fill out. At present, the firm credits the selected frequent flier account only after you have accumulated at least 500 miles, and only during certain number of times per period (I believe, it’s once per quarter).

PhoneHog.com - this is an OK site. The company doesn’t send out any surveys. Instead it sends out emails from its advertisers where you get phone credit for agreeing to trial offers, or subscribing to emails etc. In the past, we had used my phone credits for making calls but recently, I noticed that I can also use phone credits for gift cards from various firms, as well as buy other stuff by including PhoneHog points at Points.com program. Note, however, that this company may send quite a few emails, so it’s better to use a separate email address so as to avoid email overload and junk emails.

Apart from the above, there are many other free, survey programs but I haven't tried them yet. Some of them include:

LightSpeed Consumer Panel - pays out points that can be redeemed for cash, Amazon.com gift certificate, and other rewards. May also offer chance to enter sweepstakes

Memolink - pays out points that can be traded in for gift cards and other rewards

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Sunday, July 01, 2007
Weekend Quote - Watching Sports
I'm not interested in watching sports. I don't expect athletes to watch me when I work, so why would I watch them whey they work?
- Marten Mickos, CEO, MySQL AB
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Favorite Quote
"If you look at what you have in life, you will always have more. If you look at what you do not have in life, you will never have enough".
                - Author Unknown
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