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/ Finance

Home Loan/Mortgage Advertising Mail

As a homeowner, I get tons of mail related to that. The most annoying of which is the refinance offers. There is big money in the refinance market, so these outfits work particularly hard to get your business. Aside from just the fact that tons of paper and resources are wasted on these marketing efforts, there are several of their tactics that really annoy me though.

First, and perhaps foremost, is the reminder that so much of my information is of public record. When these mailers come in, they have not only my name, address, and phone information, but also my loan amount. I hate that they know this much about me and can mail to their heart’s content. They mock me and rub it in by printing that loan amount right in the letter!

Second is the fact that they are so quick to mail and so plentiful for that matter. I get tons of them, then repeats and follow-ups from the same people. I have worked for companies that have done a mass mailing, so I understand the practices and proven patterns of success with follow up mailers, but it still bugs me. I had outfits mailing me within a couple of months of my initial home purchase. If I am that hard up to refinance already, then I really botched my initial loan negotiation.

Third, and this goes for mass mailing in general, I hate knowing how much waste is taking place with such marketing attempts. As I have mentioned, I have some understanding of what goes on behind the scenes on this kind of marketing. It is a pure numbers game, and the numbers may surprise you. If they get even a 1% response rate on their mailing, that is typically considered a successful campaign. That means that 99% of the people receiving that mailer are chucking it with no interest.
Fourth, and now that I think about it definitely foremost, is the tactic to try and trick you into these interest-only loans. Interest only seemed like a good idea for a bit, but the reality has quickly sunk in for millions of now homeowners. These loans were incorrectly used to get unqualified people in way over their heads with immense loans. We have an incredible beginning to burst of sub-prime loans about to foreclose because of this situation. Our current housing market is artificially lifted to astronomical levels, and everyone now realizes we are headed for an abrupt and painful correction.

We can’t all blame the deceitful tactics of the lenders that got people in the bad situation. People should be intelligent enough to read the terms and understand the implications of that 3 or 5/1 ARM loan that is going to raise your monthly payment over time. If you had to pull trickery to qualify for your loan at the outset, there is a good likelihood it is going to come back and bite you later on. If you were counting on a fortuitous financial future (that sounded kinda cool now that I wrote it out) and extended yourself into a better home, as so many realtors and lenders encourage you to do, you have taken a risky step. Best of luck to you that everything works out as you have hoped.

I have to admit I first had an interest only loan on this new home when I bought it. I quickly saw where the market was headed and in a couple of years converted it to a fixed rate. There are reasons to use various loan types, but as an average homeowner, those reasons are not for me.

Those emails for incredible loan rates sound too good to be true…trust me, they are. I have actually seen what happens to people that respond to that kind of emails. Your contact info gets sold 4-20 times to various loan officers hungry to sell you a refinance or new loan. They pay upwards of $30-60 each to get your info too. You will be called by tons of people trying to sell you on their services, but you are no better off than simply talking to any local lender and educating yourself on what is currently available.

Don’t fall for the tricks of “get a 200,000 loan for only $500/mo payment!” There is a trick, and it is being played on you.

/ News

Questioning Back-to-School Supplies

Mary, the “mom”

It’s that time again…time for back-to-school shopping. I don’t mean the new outfits my daughters just have to have. No, I mean the school supplies. It’s not so bad in our high school, but the amount of supplies required at the middle school is blowing me away this year.

I had a supply list for my fourth grader and I figured my other daughter, as a 13-year-old, eighth-grader, could decide how she wanted to organize herself and select the appropriate materials. Which she did…and quite well, in my opinion. (One binder for her morning classes, one binder for afternoon classes and a separate small binder for French.) Then, a few days later, the letter arrives indicating the eighth grader’s homeroom assignment and a list of required supplies. It includes 8 ½ inches of binder! (That’s three – 2-inch binders, one – 1 ½ inch binder and one – 1-inch binder.) In addition, she needs a three subject notebook and a marble composition notebook. I guess she’s going to be doing a lot of writing this year! Of course, there are many other things on the list including index cards, post-its, mechanical pencils, pens, crayons! and more.

Besides the issue of expense (this stuff really adds up!), and, besides the issue of wasted paper (how many years do they come home in June with three pages used in that marble composition book?), there’s the practical issue of how does a 5’ 2 1/2” (can’t forget the 1/2″!), 90 pound girl carry around 8 ½” of binder?

Is the supply list this big in your schools? Do you always follow the list? Or, do you just say “this is crazy” and buy what makes sense?

Rach, the “teen”

I hate binders. The last time I used one was in middle school when all my teachers demanded that we have separate binders for every class (and they took off points if you didn’t have one). I think middle schoolers should be able to make their own choices about their supplies. And most middle schoolers are totally capable of doing that. But, there are those kids who stuff everything in their backpacks. The kids that don’t care about the papers or the kids who just don’t know how to organize stuff. Those kids are incredibly common in middle and high school, and it makes sense that teachers want to correct that.

When it comes to carrying all that stuff around, there is a very simple solution. Getting quality backpacks and wearing them right. Getting a real backpack (not a tote bag, or-or messenger bag), and wearing it with both straps will all of a sudden, make all that stuff you have to carry seem a lot lighter.

Here’s another hint: it’s a back-pack, not a butt-pack. Wear it on your back, not bumping around on your butt.

Brad, the “dad”

Yes, I have tried my own little rebellion against the Paper Avalanche. I’ve even contacted teachers and said, “Look, I priced this out: you’re talking $150 if I buy everything every teacher is asking for. How about this idea instead…?” And I’ve had very, very little success. Most of the teachers just look at me like I’m from Jupiter for even suggesting a change to the lesson plan. The others shrug and then have the kids do their dirty work. The poor li’l girls have both come home teary-eyed on more than one occasion, convinced they will be flunked, flunked if they don’t have EXACTLY the right three-ring two-inch double-pocket, lime-green, slip-covered binder that EVERYbody has.

And trust me, you want to have real fun, get your kid into a “project-based” school. There were times, I swear, when “project-based” seemed to mean little more than “spend another $50 on art supplies, binders, presentation boards, Styrofoam, and other stuff you thought you’d stopped buying when your kids got out of elementary-school art class.” They know me by name at Michael’s Art Supplies. I think they jack up the prices when they see me hit the parking lot.

My only line of defense: we stockpile like a son-of-a-gun. I scan the school-supply-and-stationery ads every week like a hawk hunting a bunny, and if anybody’s putting three-ring binders, notebook paper, gel-pens or pipe cleaners on sale, I am there. I’ve even been known to stop by the local stationery chain when it looms large in the windshield just to dredge through the “clearance” bin. And we’ve reserved a large chunk of closet space for inventory. We also have a standing rule: throw NO school supplies away until Dad’s had a chance to forage for re-useable (like the binder that’s broken after a week but has an inch thick of PERFECTLY USEABLE paper inside.)

Does it really save us much money, especially given the time Daddy spends harvesting staples? Probably not. But it does make me feel better – the illusion of control over one of the many leaks in the financial pipe that defines Parenting: The Teen Years.

/ Health & Wellness

The Extended Effects of Stealing We Deal With

This morning I woke up to the usual regimen… baby crying… time for the bottle! I fed my son (who is 11 1/2 weeks old) while my wife slept in. Currently, he sleeps in a bassinet and hasn’t graduated to his crib yet. That means half his crib is filled with stuffed animals from friends, family members, showers etc.

The Extended Effects of Stealing We Deal With

After he eats, I change him, kiss him, tell him daddy loves him etc and then the funny part comes… My wife bought him to wind up mobile for his crib and we lay him in there and wind it up and he LOVES it! His feet kick, he smiles (almost giggles) and his arms go wild! While he was enjoying his mobile, and also knowing that his graduation to his crib is coming this week, I felt I should go through some of the toys piled in it.

I ran across a Care Bear still in the box. When you push his tummy he giggles and says, “That tickles!” Push it again and he says, “I Love you…” very cute… I figured I better open it up and let him squeeze it.. after all, it was a gift to him! So I opened the box and the Care Bear slid out ever so swiftly… NOT. What I saw amazed me beyond belief. This little 10″ bear was wired into the box using 5 (yes FIVE) steel wires and black plastic panels… on top of that, the wires were bent over and covered with some sort of clear packaging tape.

As I stood there struggling with the “harnesses” I became a little angry at the company… then as I thought more, that anger turned toward thieves. After all, thieves are what drove the company to do this! I pictured some idiot who could afford to buy the “less than $10 bear” stuffing it into his/her shirt and then getting to their car and laughing. Next, they would throw it in their back window and run off to tell their friends… this was the reason why I was standing there struggling with security measures that would impress fort Knox! This was also why this bear most likely cost $1-$2 more for whoever purchased it…

My speed picked up as the steam starting rolling out of my ears, knowing my son was waiting for me to place the bear into his arms (not really… he was too worried about his mobile), but the thought of him waiting made me steam a bit more.. and for some reason I kind of liked it that way this morning. Just one of those days!

The Extended Effects of Stealing We Deal With

Then out of nowhere, my thoughts started changing. As I finally freed the bear from the wire cable’s clutches (I was just short of running to the garage for bolt cutters by the way) I began thinking about the other side of the coin. I thought about the people who really couldn’t afford to buy this bear for their kids. Now I am NOT condoning stealing in any way shape or form, so please don’t feel I am.

As I handed the bear to my son, I wondered how many kids were filled with joy when their parents (who stole it) handed them this very same bear… after all, is it the kid’s fault it was stolen? So instead of being angry at the thief, I (for a short while) felt happiness for the children. For that short time, I didn’t mind dealing with the cables.

/ Business

There’s No “We” In Team

I know what you are saying, you have that wrong! But really, I do have a point, at least I think so. This one goes back to my line up of sports fan rants, but it actually doesn’t bother me that much, just makes me laugh. In fact, I have caught myself doing this at times. If you do this, hopefully now after reading this you can laugh at yourself every time you do it.

Do you, or do you have friends that always say “we” or “us” when referring to their favorite sports team? I find this most often when people are talking about the team from the college they attended. Talking about the recent game you hear “Yeah we really played some great defense in that third quarter.” Or, for an upcoming game, “If we can just move the ball on first down, we have a good chance of winning that bowl game.”

So, did I miss that part of the game when you were on the field? Do have a place on the sideline next to the coach you haven’t been telling me about? I didn’t know they let 40 years old out of shape guys on the field these days. Wow, I’m really impressed now. Lines such as these are always a great laugh at the expense of the armchair quarterback.

Hey, being a loyal alum is a great thing, and I am glad you are right there into the game each week. It just cracks me up that you use words like you are actually part of the team. Schools definitely don’t mind, though, as long as you keep sending in your booster dues, they will get you as close as possible to the team and staff. Those booster parties that bring in team members and coaches for you to rub shoulders with…they know exactly what they are doing. You know too, you just enjoy it so much that you are willing to part with the dollars to be there. So, everyone is happy.

It’s big business, no doubt about it. Whether college or professional, sports is a not just big business, it’s huge. Just think of all those talk radios, pre-game, post-game and all week following shows that debate everything down to the lineman’s hand position when he sets up for the play. These avid fans eat up every bit of it. Hey, if we want to win the next game, we have to do the research and know what we are talking about.

Whether you are living in the land of “usetacould” or, more than likely, the land of “never was,” you have your rights. Hey, if that’s what floats your boat, be happy, I’m all for it. Just don’t get mad when I am happy making jokes at your expense. Go, team.

/ Automotive

Driving Through Plumes of Exhaust

During the summer I enjoy driving my little convertible, for the sun, the air, etc. If I have to get in the car and drive, having the top down makes it so much more enjoyable. That is until I get behind a vehicle that is out of tune and belching out a big black cloud of exhaust.

Vehicles, in general, are ruining our air, so I will not argue that point. Cars with combustible engines are a great convenience and a necessary evil in our current way of life, so I am not saying we should all ditch them and walk. We should minimize our driving as much as possible. What I am ranting about today is the car so far out of tune or burning oil that the noxious fumes are stepped up to a level that is obvious to everyone around.

Driving Through Plumes of Exhaust

You’ve all seen it, right? Looking up ahead you see a cloud of smoke that is so think you think a car must be on fire up ahead. Inevitably you catch up to this vehicle as it’s top speed hovers around 35 mph in the current state of disrepair, only to see that smoke is billowing out of the exhaust and perhaps even under the car. Not a car on fire, but one that should be.

I am sensitive to those that may be at financial wit’s end, so car repairs are not exactly up on the priority list. But, when a car gets to this state, it is a hazard to the point that you either need to do something about it or park it.

Driving Through Plumes of Exhaust

The worst seems to be when the diesel trucks get out of tune. When those bad boys stomp on the gas at an intersection you’d think you had teleported to a monster truck rally with the smoke and noise coming out of that thing.

I am grateful my state requires annual safety and emission inspections. It may be a pain to get done, but at least I know that the majority of cars on the road have had to pass at least a minimum level of safety and output level to be on the road. Those cars that are so obnoxiously over polluting (if that is a word) will either be forced off the road or be fixed unless they drive without a license. In any case, it will catch up with them soon.

/ Shopping and Product Reviews

Natural Remedies For Soft, Pink Lips

Getting soft, pink lips is an indication that you have good health, especially if your shade is one which is natural. With that said, there are a lot of ways in order for you to be able to achieve this. One of these is to get LipSense lipstick’s pink shades, as they have reviewed on lipcarespot. While indeed, their lipsticks can help you to achieve that nice, pink, healthy glow that we want on our lips, it also matters that we take care of our lips when we are not wearing any lipstick. What are some of these natural remedies that we can make use of at home with some natural ingredients? Let’s find out below.

Pomegranate Seeds

To help fight discoloration and pigmentation, crush these pomegranate seeds with some cold milk cream, or malai. Form these into a paste, apply it on the lips, and then leave on for 10 minutes. Afterwards, wash it off with some warm water. It is advised that this would be done for 2 to 3 times a week. This is effective due to a natural component of pomegranate, which is punicalagins, which will help reduce production of melanin, which is the culprit behind dark lips.

Cocoa and Chocolate

This can be yummy, and indeed a fun way to keep your lips looking lovely! All that you need is a teaspoon of cocoa butter, 2 squares of dark chocolate that’s unsweetened, and a Vitamin E Capsule. All you have to do is melt the chocolate, mix the Vitamin E after putting it out of the capsule, and mix all of it up and then leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes. Afterwards, rinse it off with lukewarm water. This works because of the antioxidants that can be found in chocolates that are known to help delay aging.