Top 5 Deal of the Day Websites

woman daily deal websitesOne way to get a great deal on a product or a service online is to utilize Deal of the Day websites. They offer significant discounts on a range of items and services, and typically post each deal for 24 hours at a time. If you subscribe to these sites, you’ll get daily email updates advertising that day’s deals. This niche is over saturated though, so beware of less reputable websites, and keep in mind that most deals have expiration dates attached to them.

1. FatWallet
This website is set up a little differently than most Deal of the Day websites. It offers discounts and cash back rebates from over 800 retailers. And if you check out the Hot Deals section, you’ll find a whole host of lesser-known deals posted by subscribers. It’s at the top of the list because you’re not limited to just one daily deal, and you can search for the specific product you want. Plus, most deals are good nationwide.

2. Groupon
The discounts you can find at Groupon run the gamut from dog-grooming services to tanning salons to flight lessons. There are also coupons for local restaurants, and discounts run as high as 80%. Another thing I like about Groupon is that deals are usually posted for much longer than one day. Purchased deals arrive via email, usually within a few days.

3. Half Off Depot
You might think that all discounts here are fifty percent off, but some deals are discounted up to ninety percent. While most restaurant deals are in the fifty percent range, the travel section is where you’re likely to find the more aggressive discounts. It works similarly to Groupon. If you purchase a deal, it’s sent to your inbox. Deals here also typically last longer than one day. Featured deals could be local to your area or redeemable nationwide.

4. LivingSocial
LivingSocial also has a wide variety of coupons, but seems to focus on household, home improvement, and self-improvement products and services. Their deals are typically local only, but if you get three friends to purchase the deal you want, yours is free!

5. Woot!
Woot is a product-based website and does not deal in discounts for services. Each deal is released at midnight and is good for twenty-four hours or until the item sells out. Shipping tends to be on the slow side, but costs a flat $5, whether it’s for a digital camera or a flat screen TV. Also, the ordering process is streamlined and simple. Once you’ve set up an account, you can usually purchase a deal with just a few clicks.

Final Thoughts

If the number of Deal of the Day websites is overwhelming, consider using a website such as DOD Tracker, which researches the sites above and many more to bring you a compilation of each day’s best deals. And with every Deal of the Day website you use, be sure to read the fine print for exclusions and limitations. If a discount you purchased expires before you had a chance to use it, investigate your options with the site directly. Most will work with you if you’re unable to use your deal before the expiration date or have any other problems with purchases.

What are your thoughts regarding deal of the day websites?

Making Sense of Endless Photos

As technology enables us to do more we begin to feel overwhelmed with options and have the potential to end up with less. This concept is extremely relevant in the digital world of photos. Digital cameras and computers with next to infinite memory have allowed us to take photos of every moment of our lives. What can be done to enjoy and benefit from these opportunities?

Software to Stay Organized

First off, you need a way to keep all your photos organized. The top two pieces of software are from Google and Apple. Google provides slightly better photo editing and online syncing while Apple’s software will be preferred by those who want a simpler interface. With either one, you will be one step closer to better photo management.

Picasa from Google (PC and Mac)

  • Works on any computer
  • Great editing tools and face recognition
  • Organize photos Folders and Albums
  • Easy upload to numerous websites including Google’s own PicasaWeb

iPhoto from Apple (Mac)

  • Only works on Macs
  • Sleekest interface
  • Organize photos by Events and Albums
  • Decent editing tools and face recognition
  • Upload photos to sites like Facebook, Shutterfly, Flickr, and PicasaWeb (may need Mac plug-in)

Sharing Photos

Once you begin to get a grip on all your photos, begin to get real value from your photos by sharing them online and ordering books, cards, and more. For online sharing, consider the following options.

Facebook – Since everyone you know is already on the site, use the uploading tools from Picasa or iPhoto to quickly share with friends and family what is going on.

PicasaWeb – Google’s online photo sharing is an easy way to share all your albums with friends and allow them to download your photos too! You get 1 GB for free and then another 5GB for an unbelievably cheap $5 annually (most sites charge $25+ for this).

Shutterfly - The well known photo site allows you now to set up a personal webpage with access to your newest albums and pictures just like a photo blog. You get unlimited space and others can buy your photos from Shutterfly but cannot download them.

Photo Books – After uploading your photos to a site to share, be sure to order a photo book. This the easiest way to show friends and family when they stop by your home and it will make you look like a professional.

More Fun with iPhone Apps

Path – a photo sharing app that only allows you to have 50 friends and family so that you stay focused on sharing with those closest to you

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Instagram – a enjoyable photo app that lets you take photos and then apply retro filters before sharing with friends and followers

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How do you keep all your photos organized? Critique me or share your own tips in the comments below.
(photo credit: Shutterstock)

How to Protect Your Home from a Burglary

I recently experienced a home burglary and through the incident I have learned a lot. Although worse things can happen, coming home to a house that has been broken into is a traumatic experience. Losing “stuff” hurts a little, but more so are the lost memories, like photos on a computer, and the lost sense of safety a home typically provides. Here are some lessons I have learned from the experience. While not exhaustive, following these tips will leave you be better prepared if your home is ever targeted. Feel free to add your tips in the comments section.

Minimizing the Risk

First off, when a home is burglarized, it is because burglars chose it over other homes for some reason. Finding ways to prevent your home from being targeted is a great place to start. Consider the following.

  • Put up signs showing you have a security system
  • Use random timers on lights when you are out of town
  • Have a garage – though not easy to change once you own a house, it’s important to understand that houses without a garage help burglars know when no one is home
  • Get a big dog that may scare away intruders (be smart – a dangerous dog that can potentially harm your family is not worth scaring off intruders)

Additionally, you can minimize the risk of harm by forcing intruders to get off the scene quickly. Here are some ideas.

  • Let trusted neighbors know when you’re not home and what cars you drive so they can keep an eye out for suspicious vehicles
  • Use an alarm system – be sure to register it with your local police precinct to prevent getting fined for false alarms
  • Install home web cams – there are a number of webcam systems that record when they detect motion or consider a fake one as a deterrant
  • Use locks on expensive equipment like TVs and computers to make stealing them more difficult
  • Use long screws into a solid frame on dead bolt locks to make it hard to kick in doors

By combining the ideas above, you will be even more safe (e.g. if your alarm is going off and a neighbor sees a suspicious car they are more likely to call the police and write down vehicle information than if there is no alarm or the neighbor thinks it is your car).

Protect Memories

Even though your home is now a less attractive target and burglars have limited time to steal stuff, you still may want to take further precautions to protect important items in your house that are harder to replace.

  • For computer files, consider an online data backup program like Mozy or Carbonite (~$50/yr). While potentially more expensive than an external hard drive, online backup is easy to set up and can’t be stolen by intruders.
  • Scan important papers and photos onto your computer too. This helps in the event of a burglary and other events like a tornado, flood, or fire.
  • Tag your pets. In case your dog or cat gets out through a door left open, make sure it has a collar with your phone number on it and a microchip that vets can use to identify your pet in an online database.

Protect Value

In addition to preserving memories, you definitely want to make sure you have taken the right steps for preserving value. Great insurance helped us quickly replace lost items.

  • Understand whether your home or renters insurance covers the purchased value or replacement value of your items.
  • Understand the deductible on your home in the case of a burglary. The deductible amount will reduce how much money insurance gives you but also reduces your annual premium.
  • Document expensive items in your home by taking pictures and savings receipts.
  • Save serial numbers to help the police identify stolen items and to prove ownership.
  • Download some tracking software to help find computers that have been stolen. Something as simple as free backup software like Dropbox will identify the IP address of a stolen computer when it is connected to the internet. You can find the internet provider of an IP address and the police can work with them to find the physical mailing address where a stolen computer is located.
  • In the event of a burglary, file a police report as soon as possible and let them know what has been stolen to the best of your knowledge. This will make the insurance process easier.

The more you do, the better your chances are at preventing a burglary or getting through one with minimal losses. You may never be perfectly protected, but it’s always helpful to be prepared.

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

How to Log Runs Online

If you are anything like me, you are best motivated to keep exercising or running when you can see the progress that you have been making. Over the past year I have tried a few different websites and iPhone apps to track and analyze my runs. Here is a rundown of the best resources to track and log your runs online.

Best Websites to Log Runs Online

RunKeeper
This is by far the best site I have found to log my runs. The clean and simple RunKeeper site makes it easy to add an activity with a dedicated “Post Activity” button. Once you have an account, you can log a run by clicking around a map and then entering the time it took. RunKeeper then calculates key running metrics like pace and distance. The mapping tool is easy to use with just one option of “Snap to Roads” along with a Undo and Reset button.

For those who want an extensive array of graphs showing different aspects of their running history, you can upgrade to RunKeeper Pro. This is not necessary to get most of the site’s features including the ability to share runs with friends and track performance on the same route over time.

Gmaps Pedometer and Google Docs
Before I found RunKeeper, Gmaps Pedometer was my bare bone solution to tracking my runs.  The site offers just a mapping tool similar to the one found in RunKeeper. The tool is great for those of you who want to map out a run without having to log in to a website. It offers the ability to map to roads or straight lines and can save routes for viewing later.

In order to record your history on Gmaps Pedometer, I recommend using a Spreadsheet in Google Docs. This free online software allows you to set up your own spreadsheet. Here you can enter the date of your run, the distance provided by Gmaps Pedometer, and your time. Then you’ll need to set up formulas to calculate pace. Finally you can copy in the link to your route saved at Gmaps Pedometer for future use.

MapMyRun
This website is a direct competitor of RunKeeper, but is overwhelmed with options and advertisements making it very annoying to use. One great example of this is an ad that sits in the middle of your map while you try to route making it hard to navigate around. MapMyRun does have a test version of their website you may be able to use with less and ads and a cleaner interface, but I still have trouble with bugs that make it hard for me to undo a click in the wrong spot on the map or to log in after starting a map.

The MapMyRun site does have some useful mapping tools like the ability to automatically complete a loop or go straight back to the start for an out and back run. Until they clean up their site though, it’s not worth the time or frustration that you could save at RunKeeper.

Best iPhone Apps to Log Runs

Nike+ GPS ($1.99)
While Nike does not have an online tool to route runs, the company does have the best iPhone app to use. The Nike+ app will record a map of your route using GPS and color code it based on your pace during the run. What sets it apart is its use of the accelerometer to calculate your distance and pace while running. This requires a few calibration runs where you fix the distance afterwards (use a tool like Gmap Pedometer above to get it right) and then is accurate within 0.01 miles.

Runs recorded with the Nike+ app are sent to an online Nike+ Runs site full of more features. You can set goals or enter challenges with friends for extra motivation. You can also find training schedules for different running distances. Best of all, superstars like Lance Armstrong will congratulate you after setting personal bests.

iMapMyRun (Free with ads or $4.99)
This app syncs up with the MapMyRun website mentioned above. It provides a simple option for tracking runs but only uses GPS. Because of this, there is a chance the routing will cut corners on your run and give you a shorter than actual distance. The app also features the ability to sync with heart rate monitors to provide you with useful information regarding your level of effort.

RunKeeper (Free with ads or $9.99)
This app is simple and easy to use and compares closely with the iMapMyRun app. Lately though the app has struggled with bugs that erased users’ running data, but hopefully this will improve.

Ways to Have Fun on a Budget: Kubb

With football season starting back up strong, tailgating games are back in fashion.  Some of the more popular games including Corn Hole and Ladder Ball offer a simple setup and team competition, but often lack a touch of strategy that makes another game great.  A Swedish game called Kubb is set to spread like wildfire among the lawn game crowd.

What is Kubb

Kubb is an easy to learn, yet challenging yard game for people of all ages.  Anywhere from two to twelve players can play at once making it great for any occasion.  The game is based on a simple concept of knocking over blocks with batons, but provides much excitement as the game develops to the eventual take down of the king block.

In general, this is how Kubb is played.

  1. Each team sets up 5 blocks on a goal line and a king block is placed in the middle of the field – let’s call it the 50-yd line.
  2. Teams alternate tossing 6 batons at the opposing blocks with the objective being to knock over all blocks on the opposing goal line and then the king block (think 8-ball).  If the king block is knocked over in any way before the right time, that team loses.
  3. The extra element of the game is that after each baton toss, the opposing team picks up any knocked over blocks and must toss them from their line of scrimmage to the other half of the field and attack these blocks before going after the opposing goal line.
  4. Always toss batons and knocked over blocks from the standing block closest to the 50-yd line.  Usually this is just your goal line but if the other team messes up, this could be further up field.

If you’re a little confused check out the official World Championship Kubb Rule Book. I have yet to find a person who has tried Kubb and not loved it, so find a way to try today.

Where to Get Kubb

The great thing about Kubb is that you can make it yourself in 15 minutes. Based on the advice of a good friend, I recommend going up to your local home improvement store (e.g. Home Depot) to purchase the following.  Most stores will provide the cuts for free or at a low cost.

  • An 8 foot 4×4 fence post with some type of styled top.  Cut 10 blocks that are 8in in length starting at the bottom.  This will leave you with a 16in piece with the styled top which can be the king block.
  • 2 round dowels (wooden poles) each a yard in length. Cut the 2 dowels into 1 foot batons so that you have 6 batons. I recommend using 1.25in diameter oak wood dowels to keep these as heavy as possible so they can knock over the blocks.
  • You can also consider purchasing 4 stakes to mark the boundaries of your field.

Altogether, this should cost $20-25.  Alternatively, you can purchase Kubb online for $60-80.

Activity C.L.U.B. Ratings

Community
10 – With room for 12, this game allows any group to enjoy a nice day outside.
Low Cost
8 – Although the game can get unreasonably expensive when buying online, ten minutes in a home improvement store makes the cost of this game a great deal.
Underrated
9 – It’s one of those games you have to see to believe so most people are skeptical before trying. Everyone ends up loving the game, so I won’t be surprised to see this on ESPN2 before long.
Beneficial
7 – Throwing sticks may not be the most physically challenging sport but at least it gets you outside.

For more great lawn games, check out the Wikipedia Lawn Games page.

(photo Johan Larsson)

Why and How to Buy Time

Outsourcing unnecessary tasks in your life is one strategy I believe will free you up to what you are designed to do best.  With that said, it can be hard to justify paying someone to do a task you could do pretty easily.  I’d like to present an idea on why paying for outsourced tasks is worthwhile.

Opportunity Cost and Time

Opportunity cost is a concept that generally urges someone to consider what opportunity they are giving up when doing something new. If the lost opportunity (a cost) is greater than the new opportunity (a gain), then the status quo should remain intact.

When evaluating what you are willing to pay for an outsourced task, you shouldn’t think about the difficulty of the task. Instead, you should consider what opportunity you are giving up when you do that task.

If you can be investing in skills or a hobby that could benefit you by adding a hundred dollars to your salary or giving you new income, then it may make sense to pay someone $10-$20 per hour of time saved. Even if that task is mowing your lawn and you are willing to do it yourself, the incremental value of that hour may justify finding someone else to cut the grass.

What to Outsource

When I discuss outsourcing, I’m not referring to shipping all your duties overseas (though that is a possibility). Most of the time these tasks can and will require you to invest in your local community. There are some tasks, though, that may best be served by someone around the world. Either way, you are creating jobs for others while improving your ability to contribute to and benefit from others.

Here are some simple examples tasks that anyone can outsource. Consider which ones may best help you and come up with your own that best fit your situation.

  • Home Cleaning – it may seem like something you’re supposed to do, but if that time is worth more to you then consider giving it up.
  • Lawn Care – people who live in apartments already outsource this. Consider giving it up if you don’t love getting outside every week to keep things green.
  • Personal Secretary – it’s not just for corporate managers anymore. Some people have found it worthwhile to outsource time consuming tasks like email to personal agents in India. Check out the 4-Hour Work Week blog for more crazy ideas.

Finally, don’t just weigh the amount of time a task takes you. There are always those tasks that provide us with a break from everything else in life or a chance to do something just for fun without worrying about money. Until you find the career that provides you with this enjoyment, don’t give these hobbies up.

Next week I’ll lay out some ways to use your free time as an investment in your future.  For now, I’m considering giving up home cleaning or lawn care to have more time to invest in my skills and revenue generating hobbies. What could you consider giving up?

Why and How to Buy Time is featured in the Festival of Frugality at My Personal Finance Journey.

Escape Financial Worries with Margin

One great solution that has helped to keep me from obsessing over my finances is the idea of margin. Surprisingly, I learned this at my church and my pastor used a great phrase to sum up the impact of margin. He said something to the extent of, “Relationships are made in the margin.” The idea at the time being all the great things we love about life – friends, hobbies, adventures, solving problems – are only possible when there is room for the unexpected.

What is Margin?

To some people, margin is the extra profit they make on a deal, but for now, think of margin as the extra room we leave ourselves for the unexpected. Here are some examples on how you can create margin financially.

  • Make sure your checking account has more money than you plan to spend each month.
  • Have a budget item called “margin” that goes towards unexpected causes.
  • Create an emergency fund (3-6 months expenses) in case you lose a job or have an emergency expense.
  • Don’t buy a big purchase on credit/debt.

How Does Margin Help?

No matter how you do it, leaving room for unexpected opportunities allows you to experience the best of life. Here are some examples on how financial margin can benefit you.

  • With a well funded checking account you no longer have to worry about over-drafting.
  • A “margin” line item in your budget frees you up for spontaneous activities like treating a friend who is in town or supporting a sudden crisis.
  • An emergency fund is like insurance for down times.
  • Avoiding debt gives you the ability to take on unexpected opportunities to invest in yourself or others.

How have you incorporated margin into your finances? Have you experience any unexpected opportunities that make you wish you had more margin?

(photo evilerin)

Avoid Scamming Auction Sites At All Costs

As the internet becomes a ubiquitous information tool around the world, we all benefit with the ability to find what we want and the way we want it.

The internet has also created many services that make it easier for companies to easily bring products to market at prices we like, but this low cost of entry and information overload also makes it easy for companies to find ways to scam us.  More specifically, a number of scamming auction sites have popped up with offers too good to be true.

How to Spot a Scam

If you are viewing a financial article or maybe researching your next big purchase, you may see an ad for something amazing like an iPad for $25 or a new car for $500.  Obviously the ad is trying to catch your attention and suck you in, but remember this first rule to not get caught.

Now, if you are just really curious and you want to see how someone could even consider offering the iPad for $25 and you click the ad, you will still see some scam indicators.  At the scam site memphisgazette.com (warning scam site), you will notice a few things that may seem odd.

First, all the buttons at the top are not actual links, the “Breaking News” is a saving trick (not something a little more breaking like a massive hurricane, a world war, or asteroid colliding with Earth), and my personal favorite, all the comments are extremely positive.  Any news site will have more negative comments than positive ones.

  • A fake news site may have fake links, overly positive comments, or a dramatized headline.
  • This does not give a product credibility.

But even if the news site is fake, it may be a legit ad. So you click a link and head over to swipebids.com.  This site along with some other scamming auction sites try real hard to take your money, but again, just resist it.

Why? First, depending on the links you clicked to get there, you may see some interesting reasons why they can offer these products at such a low price. For example, they may say a warehouse is overstocked and they don’t know what to do. Also, you will eventually find out that you have to sign up to really get anywhere and signing up requires a credit card. Since the site is a scam, they hide in fine print that you get charged $150 for signing up. Sure you can try and sue them for your money back, but that will take a lot of time and more money just to get them in trouble. Just say no.

  • There is no way to justify a $25 (or even $125) iPad unless it’s a scam.
  • Don’t give your credit card to a site if you are concerned it’s a scam.
  • Better yet, ask someone you trust if they have used the site or send me a question when you’re not sure.

How Scamming Auction Sites Work

Now, truth be told, the auction sites do have some deals on them and there’s a slight chance you get one. Understanding how they work, though, should convince you it’s not worth the effort.

For these “auctions”, each person buys a set of bids (e.g. 100 bids for $50) and places those bids on the product. Each time a set of 100 bids is placed, the winning price increases by a few cents, and after a set amount of time, the auction ends. So for a $25 iPad, there may have been 2000 bid sets placed.  Each one cost $50 for a total of $100,000. The winner (in a lucky scenario) put down $50 and then pays $25 for the ipad – a great deal, but everyone else lost out big.

What should this remind you of? This is very similar to the lottery or other forms of gambling. In this example, the average person pays $50 for a 1/2000 chance at winning a $500 iPad.  These are odds you should always avoid.

  • Avoid SwipeBids (scam!) and QuiBids (scam!) at all costs!

Have any experiences with scam auction sites? Let others know in the comments or check out these links for actual bad experiences.
http://www.sitejabber.com/reviews/www.swipebids.com
http://bloggerboon.com/2010/06/23/how-swipe-bids-scam-works/

This post is featured in the Carnival of Personal Finance at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff.

(photo from bloggerboon.com)

Hear Malcolm Gladwell and Steve Jobs for Free at TED

It’s always fun and beneficial to go to conferences where subject matter experts let you in on some of their secrets and how to advance in whatever you love doing. The downside of course is that conferences can cost hundreds of dollars and require days of your time. Although they still may be worth it, what if there was a place to go to get this content instantly and free?

Well, believe it or not, one website should be considered the YouTube channel of great speeches. This site, TED.com, offers hundreds of great speeches that cover everything from Money and Happiness to the Axis of Evil Middle East Comedy Tour.

TED.com Ideas Worth Spreading

TED started out as a conference aimed to spread ideas on technology, education, and design in 1984. They still hold annual conferences around the world, but the online site has given access to everyone for free. Additionally, all conference profits are dedicated to a TED Prize with the intention of seeking “goals of global impact.” For more information on TED and the why the group is trying to spread great ideas check out this page.

Best of TED

Advice is easy to find online, but it’s not always what you need to hear. Here are some talks, though, that may change the way you see life and the goals you choose to pursue.

Malcolm Gladwell – On Spaghetti Sauce

  • Gladwell is the well known author of The Tipping Point and Outliers. In this speech, he makes the case that there are no universal absolute desires (e.g. no universally perfect spaghetti sauce), but that each person seeks different things.  Companies and people should embrace this to appropriately find ways to make people happy.

Steve Jobs – How to Live Before You Die

  • Steve Jobs created a following of “Apple Fanboys” with his company’s iPod, iPhone, and Mac computers. This great speech at a Stanford graduation makes the argument that making the most of each opportunity, doing what we love, and counting our days is the best path to success. It also provides viewers an inside look at Steve’s life and what led him to making Apple what it is today.

Daniel Kahneman – The Riddle of Experience vs Memory

  • Kahneman is one of the best known researchers on behavioral economics. In this talk, he analyzes how people’s memories impact their happiness. Let me know what you think about his research on pain in surgery.

Jeff Bezos – Gifts vs Choices

  • Bezos created Amazon.com. In this address to a graduating class at Princeton, Jeff discusses how our lives are more based on the choices we make than on the talents we are born with.

What is your favorite? Have any speeches you want to recommend? Let everyone know in the comments.

Ten Great Time, Money, and Fun Facts

Life is full of interesting facts, tricks, and shortcuts. Here are 10 of the greatest regarding time, money, and fun.

Time

Money

  • If you can get someone to agree to the following pay scheme you will have $10 million in a month. Just ask them for a penny on day 1, two cents on day two, four on day three, and so on.
  • In a Ponzi scheme like Social Security, the rate of return is equal to the growth rate of members. With the US population growth rate and Social Security returns around 1% (before considering SS money is spent for other things), you could make significantly more money investing your Social Security tax in basic mutual funds or savings accounts.
  • Assuming you are the average American, your national debt burden is greater than $43K.
  • Income mobility is better than most people think. Between 1999 and 2007, people moved up from the bottom quintile of income earners 60% of the time and down from the top quintile 40% of the time. This is partly due to the fact that the top quintile pays nearly 80% of our taxes and the bottom quintile pays roughly 1%.

Fun

  • If you have just 23 people in a room, there is more than a 50% chance that two will have the same birthday.  With just 50 people, there is a 97% chance. This is known as the birthday paradox.
  • You can count to 31 using just one hand and to 1023 using two hands. Check it out on YouTube.
  • Despite being the best selling movie of all time, Avatar doesn’t even break the top 10 when revenue is adjusted for the times. Top three are Gone with the Wind, Star Wars, and The Sound of Music.

Know any cool facts or stats that didn’t make my top 10? Let us know in the comments.

(photo sam_churchill)

Find Time. Save Money. Have Fun.

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