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Tuesday, April 29, 2008
CNBC.com's 2008 Million Dollar Portfolio Challenge
Registration is now open for CNBC's second Million Dollar Portfolio Challenge. Grand prize is $1 million, plus there are 10 weekly prizes. Registration is free.

The new thing about this year's challenge is that you can create five separate portfolios with $1,000,000 CNBC Bucks. In addition, you are also allowed to trade currencies in addition to stocks.

There are also 10 weekly prizes including:

- Nine holes of golf with Annika and a package at her academy
- A seat at the 2009 World Series of Poker
- A trip to Royal Plantation in Jamaica, flying privately on Blue Star Jets
- Two tickets to Super Bowl XLIII

For details, see:

CNBC.com's Million Dollar Portfolio Challenge


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Sunday, April 27, 2008
Weekend Quote - Failure
There are no failures - just experiences and your reactions to them.
- Tom Krause
posted by Ruby @ 10:15 AM   0 comments

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Friday, April 25, 2008
Received TV converter coupons
Had applied for the coupons for the TV converters a while back. A few weeks ago got two cards with a value of $40 each in the mail. We can use these discount cards to purchase TV converters. Most large chains, including Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Radio Shack do accept these cards. With the conversion to the digital TVs scheduled for Feb09, TVs receiving transmission over the antenna won't work without the use of converters. We have cable hooked up to all but one TV, so for most part, we don't have to worry about not receiving the transmission. We do, however, use antenna some times to watch movies over a local channel that we can receive via antenna, so we probably will need the converter at some point.

The cards we received are valid for 90 days from the date of their mailing, so for us, they will expire some time in May next month. While we are in no hurry to purchase the converters, if I had paid attention to the expiration policy of the discount coupons, I wouldn't have ordered so soon and would have waited until we were ready to buy the converter. Oh well - you live and learn from mistakes.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Preparing for tough times
As per Reuter's article, Sam's club has joined Costco stores in limiting the number of bags of rice customers can puchase. It's limiting the number of bags customers can purchase in a single visit to 4. Reason for this limit is because of stocking up on essential food items by consumers who are worried about the global food shortages and rising prices. However, as per some officials, there's no shortage of rice.
On Tuesday, Tim Johnson, president-CEO of California Rice Commission, which represents growers and millers of rice in the state, said: "Bottom line, there is no rice shortage in the United States. We have supplies."
Regardless whether there is shortage of rice or not, one thing is certain that most consumers are feeling the pinch in their purchasing power, thanks to the rising price of gas, healthcare, commodities and so forth. All this is occurring at the same time when the home values and equity values are declining rapidly, dollar remains weak, and the job market and economic conditions are uncertain at best. Talk about perfect storm. However, hopefully things will improve over the course of the time. In the mean time, it's always better to prepare for tough times by having sufficient emergency fund, cutting on unnecessary expenses and so forth - things that should be done even in the best of the times but are more important during the tough times.

For complete article, see:

Reuters: Wal-Mart's Sam's Club limiting rice purchases
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Monday, April 21, 2008
Unlimited international landline calls from Skype for $9.95/month
Starting today, Skype has launched a new plan to allow unlimited international calls to 34 countries for $9.95/month.

Countries covered include most of Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and Malaysia. In some countries, calls to the cell phones also are included in the plan.

We already have the Skype's plan for unlimited calls within the US and Canada to any landline or cell phone and like it quite well. As mentioned in one of my previous posts, we paid $36 for the entire year for its Skypepro plan which works out cheaper for us compared to the Vonage and internet call plans offered by most cable and phone companies.

For related articles, see:

MSNBC.com: Skype to sell unlimited international calls for $9.95/month

Townhall.com: Skype to sell unlimited international calls for $9.95/month

WashingtonPost: Skype to sell unlimited international calls for $9.95/month
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Friday, April 18, 2008
Lowe's $10 off of $25 coupon offer from Visa
Yesterday, found out on the internet regarding $10 off of $25 coupon for Lowe's from Visa. I applied and within a few seconds, got the coupon in the email (had gone to my Junk folder initially). The coupon is valid till July 30, 2008.

For more details, see:

Lowe's $10 off of $25 coupon offer from Visa
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Thursday, April 17, 2008
Saving on Passport Cost - Part II: Passport application and mailing fees
My spouse sometimes has to travel abroad and at times, we tag with him. So for us, it's kind of necessary to have a valid passport at all times. That's why, when both my kids were born, as soon as we got a chance, we applied for their passports. As mentioned in my previous post, in each case, we had their passport-pics taken at home, costing us under 20 cents for 6 passport-sized pics for each kid.

We submitted the applications at the local post office. The postman told us that we can get the passport quickly by using the expedited processing service and also by using Express Mail. Additional cost for the expedited processing service? $60! For me, $60 is a steep price to pay for something when it could easily be avoided. The whole reason we applied for passport quickly was so that even if took long time to process, we would still receive it in time before our next travel. So we simply used the normal processing service and paid about $87 for the new passports for each of my kids (the fees may have gone up now), while the renewal passport fee was $75. We also submitted the application via regular mail and it cost about $0.58 for the postage stamp, versus over $10 it would have cost us for using Express Mail. (Of course, we also ignored the usual spiel of postman to buy teddy bears, postcards, etc.)

We had applied for the passport for my first child at the time when the passport agency was inundated with applications from people going to Canada who now had to show passports to go there. However, despite the agency's heavy workload, we received the passport within 3 months which is what the post office had mentioned.

In short, we were able to save on our passport-related costs by:

- taking passport pics at home ourselves instead of going to Costco or other stores.
- submitting the passport applications in a timely manner so that we don't have to pay extra for the rush fee.

For Part I of this post, see:

Saving on Passport Cost - Part I: Passport photos on the cheap


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Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Saving on Passport Cost - Part I: Passport photos on the cheap
Recently, renewed my passport as well as got a new one made for my kid. As always, had to submit two passport-sized photos with my application. In the past, we used to get photos done at places like Cosco, CVS and even the US Postal Service office, and would end up spending $8-$20 for two to four passport-sized photos (US Post Office charges $15). This time, however, for my new born as well as myself, we took the photos at home with our digital camera and then uploaded the snaps to a free website called ePassportPhoto.

The process was very simple - I just had to upload one of our photos and then the site converted it into a passport-sized photo. For each photo I uploaded, it created a 4 x 6 photo consisting of six 2 x 2 passport-sized photos. The only thing I had to do after that was to download the jpg photo file. The entire process took less than 5minutes. I then uploaded the 4 x 6 photo file at the online photo center at Wal-Mart and picked up the photo at their local store on the next trip. Total cost for the six passport-sized photos? About 17 cents each inclusive of sales tax! So we paid about 34 cents for the six 2 x 2 for myself and for kid instead of $16+ we used to pay in the past. So it was a really good deal - not only I got two photos that I need to submit with my application but now I also have four additional pics for future use.

The photo site, by the way, does allow you to upload the pics to Snapfish or other online shops from the links on that site but we go to Wal-Mart frequently and didn't mind waiting to pick up the photo until our next trip there. Another good thing about the site is that it allows you to create passport-sized photos by allowing you to choose from various countries, including Thailand, Malaysia, South Africa etc. In addition, it gives you the option to specify whether the photos should be sized for passports, visa or greencard.

If takings pictures at home for passport, it is better to take pics with a bright, preferably white, background as otherwise the passport agency (US Department of State) may reject the photo. We took the photos during broad daylight against a semi-white plain wall. When I went to the local post office to drop the passport application, I found that the lady in front of me had her pics rejected by the passport agency. Seemed that the background of her pics was quite dark which is why the agency asked her to resubmit her application. She was at the post office to get her pics taken there. Fortunately, we had no problems with either my kid's or my own photo. It took about 2-3 months for my kid's passport to come in the mail as we had submitted the application at the peak time last year, but my new, renewal passport came back within 15 days. However, in each case, I submitted our applications slightly earlier just in case there was any problem with our photos and I needed to resubmit them. Fortunately, in each case, the process went smoothly.

To visit the passport pic site as well as for more info on passport requirements, see:

ePassportPhoto

US Department of State: Passport Applications

US Department of State: Get or Renew Passport

US Department of State: Checking the Status of Your Application

US Department of State: Guidelines for Producing High Quality Photographs for U.S. Travel Documents

US Postal Service: Passport Application Information

For Part II of this post, see:

Saving on Passport Cost - Part II: Passport application and mailing fees


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Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Free 15 4x6 Prints at Walgreens (Expires: April 15, 2008)
Walgreens is giving a reason to smile on tax day. For April 15, 2008 only, it's offering 15 free 4x6 prints. Use coupon code: TAXDAY.

For more details, see:

Walgreens: 15 Free 4x6 Prints
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Monday, April 14, 2008
Filing for tax extension
As generally happens with us in most years, we again ended up filing for a tax extension. The process was very simple - to file for federal tax extension, just had to file Form 4868. It required us to fill out our estimated tax liability along with the total tax payments (withholdings). Since we had entered most of our information in TaxAct, we had good idea of how much total taxes we had to pay. All our withholding info was also entered in TaxAct, so just pulled those numbers from the software.

We again used TaxAct's website to file for the extension. Since we had already filled out the info on Form 4868, I just went online, opened an account, and using one of their menu options (under Filing, there's File Federal extension), filled out Form 4868 and e-filed the request for free. Since we owed payments to the IRS, I also provided our bank info for automatic debit. We had delayed filing for the extension as we thought that IRS will withdraw the money right away from our bank account, but the software automatically inserted the date of debit as Apr 15, indicating that the date was based on IRS guidelines. Of course, we are in no hurry for the IRS to withdraw the money, so the Apr 15 day worked out just well for us.

For the state taxes, our state automatically grants extension if we file for federal tax extension. However, being a worry wart, I filed for the extension for state anyways. Again, the process was simple - in this case, I just went to our state's tax site and filed for the extension. The entire process of filing for federal and state tax extensions online took under 10 minutes, so it was a pretty quick process.

While the extension buys us time till Oct 15, 2008 which is the last day to file the 2007 taxes, one disadvantage is that it will also delay the stimulas checks that are supposed to go in May since one of the requirement to get the these checks is that a person must file the taxes. Hopefully, we will be able to file the taxes much before Oct 15th, so won't have to wait till that time to get the stimulas checks.
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Saturday, April 12, 2008
Weekend Quote - Anger
You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger.
- Buddha
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Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Free Starbucks' coffee - Apr 8 (12:00 - 12:30 PM EST)
Starbucks' will be providing free 8-ounce (227 gram) sample of coffee to its customers nationwide on Apr 8, starting at 12 PM EST for 30 minutes. The event is designed to promote its new blend, Pike Place Roast.

For more details, check out the link below:

SeattlePi: Free Starbucks' Coffee

Yahoo News: Starbucks launching everyday coffee in U.S.
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Monday, April 07, 2008
BEAT the STREET stock trading competition
TheStreet.com is holding a trading competition for a chance to win $5,000 weekly.

For complete details, see:

BEAT the STREET game

Related article:

How to Win Beat the Street
posted by Ruby @ 7:47 AM   0 comments

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Sunday, April 06, 2008
Free subscription to the Newsweek magazine
For a limited time, RewardsGold is offering free subscription to the Newsweek magazine.

For details, see:

RewardsGold: Newsweek magazine


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posted by Ruby @ 7:43 AM   0 comments

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Weekend Quote - Failure
Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.
- Henry Ford
posted by Ruby @ 7:11 AM   0 comments

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Thursday, April 03, 2008
Free virtual trading, real prizes
UpDown.com is offering a chance to hone your stock picking skills virtually while giving you a chance to earn real money. Dubbing itself as an online social network of investors, the site allows you to practice investing for free by offering you a $1,000,000 virtual portfolio, and a chance to earn cash by beating the market or writing powerful stock analysis. The site pays cash to members whose portfolios outperform the S&P 500 over the entrie month, or who submit insightful stock analysis. The site also offers money on referrals if the referral earns real money. The money is paid via paypal. The site is expected to use the recommended trading data for potential investments in its hedge fund.

The site also allows you to create or join a group to collaborate with friends and colleagues. In addition, the site is currently running a stock contest for students through May 31st, 2008. You can enroll at any time for a chance to compete for more than $10,000 in prizes for the highest portfolio returns and the most powerful stock analysis.

For details, see:

UpDown.com

UpDown.com: Spring08 Student Contest

To view the winners of the Fall 2007 contest, see:

UpDown.com: Fall07 Contest Winners
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Tuesday, April 01, 2008
AFCE Scholarship for Accounting/Criminal Justice students (deadline: Apr 18, 2008)
The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) Foundation is offering $1,000 in scholarships to qualified students along with one-year ACFE Student Associate membership. Scholarships will be paid directly to the student’s college and will be awarded in August 2008 for the 2008-2009 academic year and will be

Eligibility criteria is as follows:

- Applicant must be an undergraduate or graduate student
- Currently enrolled full-time (12 semester hours undergraduate; 9 semester hours post-graduate, or equivalent per term) at an accredited four-year college or university (or equivalent) with a declared major or minor in accounting or criminal justice.

Deadline for application is April 18, 2008. Along with the completed application, applicants need to provide:

- a copy of official transcript(s), showing all completed college or university courses
- 3 letters of recommendation including at least one from a Certified Fraud Examiner or a local ACFE Chapter (required for U.S. and Canadian citizens only).
- 250-500 word essay explaining why the applicant deserves the scholarship and how fraud awareness will affect his or her professional career development

For application and complete details, see

AFCE: Ritchie Jennings Memorial Scholarship

Scholarship Application

Other Scholarship-Related Posts:

Scholarship-Related Posts


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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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