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Despite losses in their own investments, 65% of grandparents plan to help their grandkids pay for college, reports the College Savings Foundation. That may spell relief for parents squeezed by the economy. But handled incorrectly, such giving could hurt your child's chances for financial aid, says Joe Hurley of Here are the best ways for Grandma to give.
Whenever someone talks about frugal expenses, Netflix always seems to be the popular example held up as the sacrificial lamb to the frugal gods. I think it’s a popular target because it’s so easy to attack. Subscribers pay a flat monthly fee to watch movies, a pure discretionary entertainment expense, and so many times our lives get in the way. Movies sit on the table unwatched, unreturned, and the only cost is a flat monthly fee. It’s all too convenient and so it makes an inviting target.
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/>Before I was a convert I had no idea why people signed up for Netflix and took my fair share of shots at Netflix. So what changed my mind?

Online Streaming Video
Getting the DVDs sent to our house is only the beginning of the service and, quite frankly, the least valuable. I enjoy movies but on my list of entertainment options, movies aren’t near the top of the list. However, the online streaming video options that Netflix offers include lots of television shows that aren’t carried on sites like Hulu. If you want to watch the past seasons of popular television shows, Netflix has plenty of them available streaming to your PC or TV. If you like PBS documentaries, they have those (or History Channel, or any number of documentary-laden channels). DVRs are nice, but the show has to be broadcast before you can record it.
XBox Live Integration
The clincher for me was integration with XBox Live, which is the online service for Microsoft’s XBox 360 game console. This puts the entire library of Netflix’s online content at your disposal because the XBox is already hooked up to the TV. You don’t have to fiddle with connecting your computer to the TV and streaming the video that way, it’s all set up.
Six months ago, the process of watching shows or movies on the XBox was tedious. You had to add shows or movies to your Instant Queue before you could watch it on your XBox. Now, you can search the library from the XBox without having to add it to your queue first. You can still add things to your instant queue if you want (and we do, it’s easier than searching for it).
To take advantage of this you’ll need an XBox, XBox Live Gold membership, and a fast internet connection. So while the minimum plan is only $8.99, unless you have it set up then you’ll have to pay more for the infrastructure.
Review of Netflix Plans
Netflix has a variety of plans starting with the $4.99 a month for one DVD out at a time (limit 2 a month) and 2 hours of online content to $16.99 a month for 3 DVDs out at a time and unlimited online content. I personally don’t see the value in getting the $16.99 3-DVD plan, at most I’d get the $13.99 a month 2 DVDs out at a time because it lets you keep one while one is in transit.
Here is a review of the four plans:

DVD Limit
Online Limit

1 DVD out at-a-time
2 hrs/month

1 DVD out at-a-time

2 DVDs out at-a-time

3 DVDs out at-a-time

Was Netflix Worth It?
Qualitatively, I think so. We are on the1 DVD out at-a-time plan plus unlimited instant watching for $8.99 a month. We chose that plan because of the unlimited instant watching, which is what you’ll need to get the XBox 360 integration I talked about above.
I went back to look at Feedfliks, which will take your Netflix account usage data and calculate the cost per movie, how long it takes for you to return DVDs, and other good statistical information to tell you whether you’re maximizing your usage. For us, it’s been worth it as our Relative Cost/Movie is at 40 cents each. Our usage is heavily influenced by our instant watching (25 shows or movies in the last month, 75% of which were TV shows).
Free 2 Week Trial
Netflix offers a 2 week trial that can help you decide if you like it. It’s long enough to get a couple movies by mail, to see how long it takes to receive them, but the real value is that it lets you browse their library to see if they carry the things you like to watch. If you sign up for the trial, select a plan that gives you unlimited video so you can watch content online. If nothing else, you get two weeks of all the online content you can mash into your brain.
Do you use Netflix? Hate it? Love it? Please share your opinion in the comments!
(Photo by brymo)
Netflix Review: Is It Worth It? from personal finance blog

Nearly half of U.S. workers who left their job last year cashed out their 401(k) accounts, according to a study released Wednesday, despite ongoing efforts to dissuade Americans from doing so.
OptionsHouse is offering 100 commission free trades for new accounts with promotion code FREE100. You must deposit at least $3,000 within 45 days and the 100 free trades expire after 60 days of funding. This offer expires December 31st, 2009.

Trades at OptionsHouse cost $2.95 so in theory this offer is worth $295 if you use all hundred trades (you will not receive cash compensation
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for unused trades). While this looks like a hot offer, it’s not uncommon in for a discount stock broker. E*Trade also offers 100 free trades and TradeKing is offering $50 cash to new accounts that deposit $2,500 within thirty days and make a trade within the first six months.
From a stock trade commission fee perspective, OptionsHouse is one of the cheapest with a $2.95 fee. TradeKing charges $4.95 and E*Trade will charge you as much as $12.99 a trade. They are backed by PEAK6 Investments, which is one of the largest options trading firms in the U.S. and they are one of the few that offer a $9.95 flat rate options fee (others will charge you per contract).
For my more of thoughts on OptionsHouse, take a look at my OptionsHouse review.

OptionsHouse Free Stock Trades Promotion from personal finance blog

With patent expirations on the horizon and health-care policy in flux, should investors consider a dose of Eli Lilly?
A year or so ago, I’d do weekly roundups highlighting some personal finance articles that I really enjoyed each week. Sometime within the last year, I fell behind and soon abandoned these articles because I felt like they weren’t adding much value. Well, over the last few weeks, a few new readers have told me that they discovered Bargaineering from roundups on other sites.
So, I’ve decided to bring these Weekly Roundups back in order to share with you some other websites I personally enjoy and hope that you will to. These will be once weekly and I will try not to link to
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the same sites because that really doesn’t help you find new and fun places to spend your valuable time.
And yes, that’s a Pontiac Firebird. It’s not a Phoenix, but it’s close enough!

Know Your Rights: Credit Card Minimum Purchases. This week, I was quoted by David Seaman for an article on Main Street,’s personal finance site. The article covered a practice by some stores to require a minimum purchase before you can use a credit card. The article does a good job of explaining what issuers permit when it comes to minimum purchases and what you can do if you run into a problem.
How to Save Money for Christmas in a Short Amount of Time. It’s not even Halloween and the Christmas creep has his GenXFinance! Jeremy shares some excellent tips on how to save money for the holiday spending spree starting right now.
The Pitfalls of Buying in Bulk. This is a guest post on Get Rich Slowly that covers why buying in bulk might not be the best thing in the world. I’m a fan of buying in bulk when it makes sense but Sierra makes excellent points on why you might be making a bad decision going bulk.
Bed, Bath and Beyond Coupons Never Expire! SVB at The Digerati Life shares a tip that most people don’t know… Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons never expire. They have expiration dates but they don’t mean a thing. Cat’s out of the bag!
That concludes this week’s roundup, I hope you get a chance to check out the sites. Let them know that I sent you and they’ll probably give you a yearly subscription for free!
(Photo: hugo90)
pfPicks: Like A Phoenix, Roundups Reborn! from personal finance blog

When Kimerby and Tony Simmons were married last month at a vineyard in the foothills outside Atlanta, they participated in the African-American tradition of jumping over a broom - an act symbolizing their entrance into a new phase of life together.
Yesterday, the Department of Commerce reported that the GDP (gross domestic product) for third quarter grew 3.5%. This is significant because, by definition, a recession is two straight quarters of shrinking GDP. A 3.5% increase in GDP would mean, at least technically, the recession was over. Four straight quarters of negative GDP growth, the worst of which was the first quarter of 2009 (-6.4%), has finally come to an end.
Hooray! Right?
Unfortunately, no one living in the real world cares much for technicalities. Millions of jobs have been lost, with hundreds of thousands more each
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month, and so I don’t think many people feel like the recession is over even if the bean counters say so. One positive sign is that the growth beat expectations by 0.3%, which isn’t a bad thing.
Two things worry me:

  • How much of the recovery was the result of various government programs meant to stimulate consumption? We had all the bailouts, cash for clunkers, first time home buyer credit, and several other programs that cost billions. People are still being laid off at the rate of hundreds of thousands a month, unemployment for September 2009 was 9.5% (not seasonally adjusted), and people without jobs tend to spend less (duh). Is this sustainable?

  • Check out the 2nd quarter of 2008. In the 1st quarter of 2008, we saw a negative GDP growth figure. Then we “pulled out” of a potential recession in the 2nd quarter only to fall back into the trenches for a full year.

So, while we’re technically out of the recession, does it feel like we’re out of the recession? What do you think?
(Source: CNN Money)
Your Take: Are We Out Of The Recession? from personal finance blog

Capture holiday memories with these snazzy shooters - and still have money left for the turkey.
Calling family and friends overseas is very affordable and very easy, if done correctly. In this article I am going to reveal three affordable international long distance calling options to the old expensive standby, direct dialing. I’ve been doing a lot of research in this for my own needs so I hope you find this article valuable. Each option has the potential to save you more and more money, though sometimes you have to sacrifice a bit of convenience. Naturally, it’s always easiest to pick up the phone can call directly, instead of using a phone card, but only on
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e of those two options is used by millions of people every week at a savings of up to 95% on every international phone call.
Why is this post focused on international long distance calls? Today, very few people have to pay extra for a domestic long distance call that there really is no incremental cost for a domestic long distance phone call. Cell phones charge by the minute, with no consideration of local or long distance. For that reason, we’ve ignored the domestic long distance calls.

Direct Dialing
Direct dialing is the simplest of the options but the most expensive. It’s as simple as picking up a phone (landline or mobile) and dialing an international phone number to which you want to be connected. It’s easy right? No cards to deal with, nothing to hook up, just dial the numbers and go. However, this level of convenience comes with a very heavy cost.
Traditional long distance providers and most mobile service providers simply cannot compete on international rates because they have huge fixed-costs and a bevy of related per-call-costs. You can expect international calling rates in excess of $1.00/min (USD) when you direct dial. Of course, rates do vary and you should check rates offered by your provider before making an international phone call.
Cheaper International Long Distance Calling Options
For many, the majority of international phone calls are made via:

  1. By Computer

  2. By Mobile Phone

  3. With a Calling Card

1. By Computer
Connecting with family and friends overseas by computer is convenient for many people and can be as easy as directly dialing, if you don’t mind being tethered to your computer. Making a phone call from a computer is ideal for people who regularly work from a newer computer with a high-speed (broadband) Internet connection and want decent international rates. Skype is probably the most well-known of the computer to phone calling options available and the rates cited in the table below are Skype Out rates.

Tip: If computer-to-phone dialing is appealing, consider purchasing a computer-to-phone calling plan with international rate accessibility. This will allow you to call landlines and mobile phones from your computer and will give you access to lower international rates. You will need a good microphone and speakers or headset to make a computer-to-phone call.

2. Mobile Phone
Connecting with family and friends overseas is very convenient and is as easy as directly dialing the phone number for the person you want to call. And, being free from a fixed wire/line gives you the additional convenience of being able to make international phone calls from virtually anywhere your mobile service is available.

Tip: If using a mobile phone to make international calls is appealing, consider purchasing an international calling plan from your mobile service provider for an additional monthly fee + lower international rates, or a prepaid calling card to enjoy even lower rates.

3. Calling Card
Calling cards have been popular for decades as the most affordable way to make an international phone call. While it’s the least convenient of the other options, if you don’t mind being attached to a computer, you are rewarded with much cheaper rates (as the table below will attest to). With a calling card, you dial an access phone number, enter in your PIN number, and then the phone number. You can now use most calling cards with virtually any phone. Calling cards are ideal for those wanting the very best rates, allowing them to save up to 95%.

Tip: If you want a calling card, consider purchasing one offering convenience features, like PINless dialing (no need to dial a PIN number), Rechargeable (add more minutes to your card) or Speed Dial (store phone numbers you call to the most). It is also very important to look for a company that offers a calling card guarantee because many don’t.

Now that you know three alternative ways to make international calls to expensive direct dialing, let’s take a look at the typical rates. These rates do differ significantly, so be sure to consider the convenience of each option against the rates to decide which is the best for you.
International Long Distance Rates
The Rate Comparison Chart (below) assumes that your international call will be dialed from the Continental USA and rates are per minute.

Calling Card*
Computer to Phone**
Mobile Phone***























 Hong Kong



































 South Korea














* Based on calling cards. Rates effective 10/16/09.
** Based on Skype Out (Skype to Phone). Rates effective 10/16/09.
*** Based on Verizon Wireless International Long Distance Value Plan ($3.99 per month + per minute rate). Rates effective 10/16/09.
I truly hope that this article has given you the knowledge you need to go online and select an international calling option that can help you to save up to 95% on your international calling costs. Regardless of which international calling method you choose, it is imperative to choose a provider that guarantees the rates they advertise and will be in business the day you need them the most.
If you have any questions, comments, or want to voice your opinions on anything written in this article, please leave a comment below.
Stay frugal!
This is a guest post writte by Eric I., a Bargaineering reader who I had the chance to meet out in San Diego on a recent business trip. Eric’s a sharp guy who never got into blogging but I convinced him to give it a try. Since he’s been looking at a lot of long distance options to call home and I thought that would make a great money saving post. Be kind to him, he’s a 3rd degree blue belt under the Carlos Gracie Jr. (Gracie Barra) Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu system.
(Photo: bitchbuzz)
How to Save Money on International Long Distance Phone Calls from personal finance blog

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