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Archive for February, 2012

Living life for free (or close to it)

February 22nd, 2012 at 03:40 am

Living life for no expense would be great, but sure, its just fantasy, at least for most people. Still, in the past week I've gotten freebees of all types. (A non-coordinated list follows - you've been warned!)

I think it started last week when I was going to pick up some almond milk at BJ's. I waited in the dark parking lot for 5 minutes while I listened to the end of a "Marketplace" daily show. No one came or went the whole time. Then I went out to get a cart, and there I found a lonely (and big!) bag of munster cheese. Obviously no one was coming for it (after 5 minutes no one had shown up), so I added it to my almond milk purchase for the trip home.

Then this weekend with my girlfriend visiting, she got the urge to keep searching the "Free" listings on Craigslist (I don't usually bother), and she found one about 4 miles away that was a "stop by and take anything" listing. Normally I wouldn't bother, but I knew she would enjoy the trip, so away we went. Arriving we found that someone was remodeling a house, and the stuff they were pulling out was really junk. .... Oh, wait a minute, there is some tupperware, including a few peices she was looking for. Then I spotted an old dirty Barbie doll case. Then a matching original 1961 doll box with fabulous graphics. Then a rusty lunch box I knew was worth good money when in decent shape - hmmm... would it sell for anything? After we arrived home we found inside the doll case: 2 original dolls, over a dozen original clothes, and some accessories. She had a blast cleaning the dolls up, and we listed them Monday. Hard to say how much they'll go for, but the total minimum bids are over $50, and we tried to price them low so they should sell. Oh, and the lunch box has multiple bids already.

My girlfriend had been talking about buying flowering bulbs for the house where she lives, so I told her not to spend money on that, she can take them from my yard (as I have some I don't want). I provided perfect plant containers for them (they were left from the prior owner), and we spent some time out on a warm day digging up ones I didn't want. She loved them, and they're now waiting to be planted at her house.

Now tonight I was able to get free furnace filters on Freecycle. They match my furnace's size, and are much better than the ones I have (these are HEPA type filters). After stopping to get the filters I decided to go to a store that had soda on sale (last day!). (BTW - yes, I only bought diet soda.) On the way out to my car there is a new bottle of vegtable oil on the road in front of the store that cars are going around and no one wants to pick up. No sense in having a (vegetable) oil slick, so I take it. I find its perfect and brand name too.

Even buying things in stores has been good. We went to pick up my latest glasses purchase (used free gift cards and will be reimbursed from my flexible spending account). Afterwards we decided to go to the mall next door (though we didn't plan on spending any money). There I found the 2012 art calendar I usually buy every year (but didn't find at all this year). It normally goes for $15, here I find it for $1. Super score.

On the way home we stop at Aldi's one or two things. What do you know - they have large spiral sliced hams for $5 (jackpot). We ended up getting two, one for each of us, each one over 10 lbs. We cooked mine, and now I have meat to last me for weeks. Not free, but a dang good price.

Oh, and lastly I stopped over at M&T bank and made my initial deposit so I can get a free $100.

Yep, free is nice - I hope I can keep this streak up.

Sharebuilder rates a big "FAIL"

February 4th, 2012 at 12:20 am

After my very good and professional dealings with Scottrade I figured other stock trading companies would have similar (if not same) abilities and professional web sites. So when I went to setup a brokerage account, I decided to "play the field" and check out other companies, as it wouldn't make a big difference, right? Sheesh, have I found out wrong.

** Rant follows **

It all started a month ago when I signed up with Sharebuilder to take advantage of their sign up bonus. That worked like a charm, money went in, the web site showed the funds, and then showed the bonus money. Then I found out their "$4 trades" (originally a big selling point with me) are ... ummm... like what one poster said... "like a weekly blue light special available for a short time". Otherwise you pay more for your trade than you do with brokers that have manned offices. Not very impressive.

Next I find out they have bonus codes for free trades (of the cheapo variety). OK, I can live with that. I put in the codes, and sure enough, I get emails stating all of these free trades my account has accumulated (about a dozen). So what to do? Lets make a trade or two...

Or so I thought. I go onto the site, log in, and no where are the free trades listed. So thinking they show up automatically when you order, I go to setup a trade. When I get to the point where the final cost is listed, there is nothing about free trades, just their $10 charge. Here I cancel the order, and do some research. I look about the site more, and find absolutely nothing.

OK, well lets see... ok, there is a big help FAQ section. OK, nothing related to my issue (big shock there), but there is a place to write with your questions. So I write there, asking where I can determine my free trade balance, and... for good measure I copy along one of the emails from them indicating my account number along with the free trades I should have.

Today I get a email with a canned message cheerily directing me to the place to find this information listed. I was pretty sure I checked there, but I go again. Yep, they didn't bother to check, and there is still nothing showing right where they said it would show.

OK, so now I need to decide....

Either I go with company that has a web site that misses things, they only have canned help, and the trades are expensive

-- OR --

Start over with a company that has a site that has worked great with my Roth IRAs for years that shows up to the second balances, they have people (locally!) I can talk to for help (only happened twice), and less expensive trades.

I don't know... this could be a hard decision. (OK, maybe not :P) BTW, I should be able to get the money out no problem, so I'm not sweating this, but they have pretty much lost a customer with this fiasco.