Check Writing Tips

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While there’s currently a lot of concern about identity theft, the hijacking of electronic accounts, and other forms of modern day fraud, not as much attention is being paid to good, old-fashioned, low-tech fraud. So… As a followup to my previous post on being careful about who you pay with a check, I thought I’d post a few tips that I recently ran across on how to avoid the alteration of your checks once you’ve made a payment, or at least how to stave off mistakes on the part of the bank. Most (all?) of these are common sense, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure that you’re doing all that you can to protect yourself… (more…)


State Sales Tax Holidays

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Eleven different states (plus the District of Columbia) will be offering sales tax holidays in the coming weeks as shoppers stock up on back-to-school items. Note that the tax-exemption applies mainly to things like non-luxury clothing, books, school supplies, and sometimes computers. This is a great deal for those of you who can take advantage of it! Read on for the full list of states and dates, as well as details about what’s included in each locale… (more…)


Recent Slowdown

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Just a quick note to explain the recent slowdown in activity here at FiveCentNickel. First off, I was out of town much of last week and didn’t have internet access. Second, my primary computer (a PowerBook G4) has been in for service, thereby making it difficult for me to work on the site in my spare moments. It’s been at the AppleCare service depot since July 19th, and is on seemingly eternal hold awaiting a backordered logic board. I’m hoping that this will get sorted out soon.


Appeal Your Health Insurance Denials

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Over the past few years, I’ve received a few denials of coverage from health insurance companies, and each time I’ve appealed the decision. Doing so doesn’t take much effort, and the payoff can be substantial. In one case, I had just started a new job and didn’t yet have an insurance card despite the fact that my coverage was already in place. Thus, we had to pay out-of-pocket for an appointment at my son’s pediatrician, and then submit the claim ourselves. Despite the fact that this provider was clearly a member of their network, they denied it as being out-of-network — sleazy insurance bastards! Sometimes I get the feeling that their default response it to reject any claim that isn’t submitted directly by the provider (and maybe some of those that are). Anyway, I digress… (more…)


Yes, Virginia, There is a Two Dollar Bill

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A funny thing happened at lunch the other day… While waiting at the counter for the cashier to take my order, I overheard an interesting exchange between the guy next to me and the cashier that was helping him. He ordered his sandwich and then went to pay with a couple of two dollar bills. The cashier, a young woman of about twenty, was incredulous… (more…)


$4.60 Worth of Laziness

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A bunch of overdue library books just cost me $4.60 in fines. Fortunately it’s only a dime per book per day, or it could’ve really hurt. While it’s cheaper than buying all those books, and it ultimately supports a worthy cause, I still find it a bit irksome. Maybe I need to create a new category in Quicken. Oh well, at least I’m paid up so I don’t have to worry about those late fees finding their way onto my credit report.


Free Access to Consumer Reports (and More)

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I never make a major purchase decision without doing a bit of background research. Thus, I was pleased to learn awhile back that I could get free online access to ConsumerReports.org (as well as a large number of other publications) through my local library’s web site. As it turns out, many other public libraries do the same thing. In my case, I simply go to the library website, select “Online Resources, ” login with my name and library card number, and then click to select the EBSCO MasterFILE (there are a number of other online reference databases available, as well). The only limitation is a 90-day embargo on content — in other words, the three most recent issues are unavailable. While it may take a bit of poking around to figure out how to do this in your area, it’s definitely worth checking out.


Google Currency Converter

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Maybe this is old news to some of you, but I just ran across yet another cool Google function… Currency conversion! Simply enter the conversion of interest (e.g., 1 USD in Euros) in the Google search box and out pops your answer. Google lists a few examples of acceptable query formats, including:

3.5 USD in GBP
currency of Brazil in Malaysian money
5 British pounds in South Korean money
2.2 USD per gallon in INR per litre


Washing Machine Repair, Part Deux

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Well, it turns out that I was wrong about our washing machine… The motor was shot, and the repair estimate was $270! Actually, we had already incurred $70 of that for the visit plus the repairman’s time diagnosing the problem. This left us in a bit of a quandary — lay out an additional $200 to get the motor replaced, or cut our losses and buy a new machine? This decision was made all the more difficult by the fact that our washer was barely three years old when it died. Thus, it’s not like we’d be patching up an old, decrepit piece of junk. Of course, another possibility would be to repair it myself. However, the motor alone runs around $150 and, as I mentioned before, I’m facing a bit of a time crunch right now. What to do? (more…)


Washing Machine Repair

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When I got home from work last night, my wife informed me that our washing machine is broken. It seems to go all the way through to the spin cycle, but then it won’t spin. You can hear the motor whir, but it’s accompanied by a grinding sound and the tub just sits there. My first guess was that the belt had come off. That’s a pretty easy fix, so I decided to investigate. Unfortunately, after getting the front service panel off and looking around a bit, I soon discovered that the belt was just fine — still on, and plenty tight… So what’s wrong? (more…)