$81.90 – Community and Charity 10% Monthly Blog Income Give Back # 31 – April 2014 Edition

giveaways The 10% give back giveaway fun rolls on for the month of April.

In case you missed the first 30 editions of the 10% Blog Income Give Back, after doing some thinking at the beginning of October 2011 about what direction I want this blog to grow and evolve towards in the future, I decided that any income made from this blog would have more significance to me at a personal life values level if I knew that a portion were being given back to the following places:

  • 1) The readers - Obviously, without you here to read my articles and interact with my ideas, there would be no blog in the first place (let alone blog income). As such, it is only fitting that you receive a portion of any blog income.
  • 2) Charitable organizations - If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I’m a big believer in donating a portion of my money to charity. Each year, I donate between 5-10% of my income to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society as part of the Bike for MS fundraiser that I do. Beyond the good that is done by donating your money, getting used to contributing to charity is also a good practice to emulate the actions of affluent individuals (T. Harv Eker discusses this in his book, Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, which I would definitely recommend reading if you have a few hours).

Because of these considerations, I’ve decided that each month going forward, I’m going to give away 10% of my net (after-tax) blogging income/profit to My Personal Finance Journey readers (5%) and to charity (5%). Listed below is a summary of the results we’ve achieved together thus far through this give back effort:

  • After each calendar month passes, I’ll tally up my net blog income and determine what Dollar value correlates to 10%.
  • So far, I’ve been very happy with the success of the October 2011 – March 2014 give backs. Listed below is a summary of what we’ve accomplished so far with the give back effort.
    • Current total given to charity = $2,529
    • Current total given to blog readers = $1,225

So, that’s the overall flow of things and a brief recap of what’s happened so far with the give back initiative. Now, let’s get in to the specific details for this month’s (April 2014) giveaway.

 

Details of April 2014 10% Blog Income Giveaway

  • $81.90 total blog income to give away - $40.95 to 1 My Personal Finance Journey readers and $40.95 to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (which I just donated today!).
    • $40.95 in the form of 1 prize available to 1 reader as follows -
      • 1) Grand Prize = $40.95 cash via PayPal.

 

How to Enter the Giveaway - Deadline to Enter is 11:59 PM, April 30th, 2014

Like previous months, I’ve decided to use the RaffleCopter giveaway management tool to handle sign-up facilitation for this giveaway, so simply go through the steps listed in the widget below to enter the running for the prize and accumulate entry points.

There is no limit to the amount of points you can earn. If you refer 10 subscribers – your name will have accumulated 170 entry points! Or, if you link to the giveaway more than once, you can accumulate those 10 entry points multiple times. You can also share other My Personal Finance Journey articles via social media sites once per day. In the event of a tie, I will be using a random number generator to select the grand prize and runner-up (2nd place) prize winners.

Important instructions: After you complete an entry method, make sure to click and fill out the “I Did This” or “Enter” button in the widget so that I have a record of your points.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Remember, the deadline for entries will end at 11:59 PM, April 30th, 2014 (~2.5 weeks from today – the start of the give back). Good luck to you all! Please contact me if you have any questions. After the deadline for entries passes, the grand prize and runner-up prize winners (one with the most points and second most points accumulated, respectively) will be contacted via email to receive their prizes.

***Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/tejvan/4420933678/in/

Review of 5 Popular Online Photo Storage and Printing Services

online photo storage online photo printing The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Shondell of Call Me What You Want, Even Cheap. She blogs about her recent car loan and mortgage pay off and a whole bunch more. Check out her blog right here.

The invention of the digital camera completely changed the face of photography.

Online photo storage providers have revolutionized the way photos can be stored and shared. There are several good reasons to save and store your photos on online photo storage and printing sites. Perhaps the most important is that storing photos on your computer’s hard drive is a bad idea because hard disks have the habit of crashing at the most inopportune of moments. Other reasons include zero risk of data loss, more quickly and easily accessible, and easier to organize.

There are many photo storage and printing providers with attractive offers and incentives. Here is a comparison of some of the most popular ones.

 

Snapfish:

Snapfish is a web-based photo storage and printing service owned by Hewlett-Packard. It allows members to upload photos for free and gives unlimited storage space. While most Snapfish features are free, you will be charged per-image fee if you want to download an original or high resolution copy of your own uploaded image. Membership is free of charge.

Members can share individual photos, photo albums, animated snapshows, Group Rooms and other Snapfish products via email, link URL and social media sites like Facebook and MySpace. You will need a Snapfish account to view or share photos.

The minimum rate of Snapfish is $0.09 for a standard sized (4 x 6 inches) photo.

 

Flickr:

Flickr is a web-based photo and video sharing site created by Ludicorp in 2004 and owned by Yahoo since 2005. Flickr is not just a photo sharing service, it is also an online community used by everyone including bloggers and photo researchers.

Flickr offers three types of membership: Free, Ad Free and Doublr.

  • The Free account comes with one terabyte of storage space limited to 200 MB per photo and 1 GB per video.
  • The Ad Free account comes with the same storage but free of advertisements for an annual fee.
  • The Doublr account comes with twice the storage space of the Free account but a higher annual fee than the Ad Free account. The service offers several innovative ways to upload and share photos.

 

Picassa:

Picassa is a web-based photo organizer and photo viewer with an integrated photo-sharing website where you can organize, edit and share your digital photos. Created by Lifescape in 2002, it was purchased by Google in 2004.

Picassa allows anyone with a Google account to upload and share up to 1 GB of photos for free. Allowed dimensions for the photos are 2048 x 2048 pixels for Google+ users and 800 x 800 for other users. Images exceeding these dimensions are automatically resized. The service offers several ways to import, track and organize photos, and also offers several basic photo editing functions.

 

Shutterfly:

Shutterfly is a web-based image publishing service that allows you to build perfect photo books. In 2013, 80 percent of its customers were reported to be women. It allows users to create personalized photo gifts, such as photo books, mugs, bags, stationary cards and blankets.

Shutterfly offers simple ways, called paths, to build photo books, which you can share on Facebook and and also publish them as PDF files on your website. The service charges its users $29.99 per standard photo book.

The minimum rate on Shutterfy is $0.15 for a standard sized (4 x 6 inches) photo and $29.99 for a standard photo book.

 

SmugMug:

SmugMug is a paid web-based photo sharing and image hosting service that allows its users to upload digital photos and videos. Launched in 2002, the service offers a range of tools to facilitate both amateur and professional photographers to sell their digital and printed photos.

SmugMug offers four types of accounts to its users, each having a different subset of features. Users can charge people for downloading their digital and printed photos and set the prices themselves. It also allows users to sell merchandise.

The minimum rate on SmugMug is $0.19 for a standard sized (4 x 6 inches) photo.

 

MPix:

MPix is a web-based photo sharing and printing service that allows users to create and order professional quality photos, customized cards, custom wall art and stationeries. Owned by Miller’s Professional Imaging, it is arguably the best photo sharing site there is for professional photographers as well as amateurs.

MPix provides prints in three different types of photo papers: Kodak E-Surface, True B/W and Metallic paper. For those who need, luster coating, mounting, framing, key chains, canvas mount and wall clings are also available.

The minimum rate on MPix is $0.29 for a standard size (4 x 6 inches) photo.

How about you all? What photosharing websites do you use or which is your favorite?

Share your experiences by commenting below! 

***Photo by Sam

What Are Your Options For Streaming TV Players?

streaming tv players saving money netflix frugal living cable tv This is a post by staff writer Jeff. Jeff blogs about finances and going green at http://sustainablelifeblog.com and has started a new project detailing his efforts to earn money online at onlinesideincome.com

If you’re looking for a painless way to save some money, one of the easiest ways is to lower your cable bill or get rid of cable TV entirely.

There’s a whole group of people that are “cutting the cord” now, and saving upwards of $1,000 per year doing it. Personally, I convinced my wife back in 2009 that we needed to stop paying these people a huge sum of money for the privilege of sitting in front of the TV and watching stuff we were not interested in just because inertia set in and we didn’t want to do anything else! We realized it was a huge time suck (because we didn’t want to spend all night in front of the TV after work) and a huge money suck (because it was like $150/month) so we got rid of it.

Instead of cable TV, we use streaming for all of our favorite shows. We stream through services like Hulu (free), Netflix ($7.99/month) and Crackle (free), though there are others. Since we still want the TV feel and we don’t want to invite our friends over and crowd around a tiny computer monitor, we wanted to watch on our TV. Since we wanted to do that, we needed some sort of set top box to connect to the TV.

There used to be just two of these on the market, but Amazon recently entered, so we will go over them all.

 

Google Chromecast

This is what my wife and I decided to use, as it was the cheapest option at $35. The Chromecast is a little dongle that you plug into the HDMI port on your TV (meaning you cannot use Chromecast if you have an “old” analog TV) and connect it to your wireless network. Once the Chromecast is added to your wireless network, you need to add a plugin to Google chrome browser so you can “cast” the tab to your TV. Some services (like Netflix) have built in casting, but some don’t. Total set up time is about 10 minutes.

It works with the streaming options that we have (Netflix) and it works well. We are easily able to pull up a movie on Netflix and in a matter of seconds; it’s on the TV and is loading. Unfortunately, to use the official Hulu Chromecast app, you need to have Hulu plus – which we do not have. They have recently opened the Chromecast up to developers to create apps, but here’s the current list. If you’re interested, you can buy a Chromecast on Amazon.

 

Amazon FireTV

This just came out recently, and I don’t have one yet, but from looking over the specs the FireTV looks pretty good.

They have apps from Hulu plus, Netflix, ShowTime and watch ESPN (for those who love sports), and it offers easy access to Amazon’s video and TV streaming library. Access to the video and streaming library is only for prime users, which costs $99 per year (8.25/month). The Amazon FireTV unit itself costs $99. With this and Amazon Prime, you can take your cable costs down from $150 per month ($1,800 per year) to a cost of 200 for the first year, then 99 per year thereafter – that’s a savings of over $1500 per year!

It’s also got a remote that you can speak into to tell it to watch your favorite shows. Early reviews are mixed, but the device has promise, and is probably a great fit if you’ve already got Amazon Prime. If you’re interested in a FireTV, you can buy one on Amazon.

 

Roku Box

Last up is the Roku box. The Roku box was one of the first streaming boxes (along with the now dead Boxee), and has evolved quite a bit. There’s very easy streaming, and they have tons of channels available. More than the Amazon fireTV and Chromecast. You can listen through the Roku remote, as well as play shows from your phone. Right now, the most current version is the Roku 3, but you can pick up a Roku 2 off of eBay or Amazon, and that will probably still meet your needs for streaming.

You can find the list of Roku Channels here, and as I mentioned, they have a lot more availability than the two devices listed above. This unit does cost more than the Chromecast and the same as the Amazon TV (though they still sell Roku’s 1 & 2 on their website), but has a lot more availability. If you don’t have Amazon Prime (but do have Netflix) perhaps a Roku will be best for you. If you’re interested, you can buy a Roku on Amazon.

Those are the most popular streaming options (and yes, I know most don’t offer much sports coverage).

All that being said, do you think that one of these is good enough for you to finally cut the cord and get rid of cable? Maybe you can use that $1,500 per year on a fancy vacation or investing. If so, let us know what one you’re getting (or already have) in the comments!

***Image courtesy of  http://cdn.morguefile.com/imageData/public/files/b/breda/

Is Relocation Financially Worthwhile?

moving expenses job change financial planning career change career The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Melissa Batai.  Melissa is a freelance writer who covers topics ranging from personal finance to business to organics to food.  She blogs at Mom’s Plans where she shares her family’s journey to healthier living and paying down debt.

My husband and I have been scraping by on his small post-doc salary and my freelance writing income for 18 months now.  We’re deep in the trenches and figure we have another 18 months to go before my husband can finally get the university research job that we’ve both been dreaming of–so he can finally start in his career after more than 10 long years of school and post-doc work, and me, so we can finally have a salary that covers expenses for our family of 5 and offers a little bit extra.

Then, this winter we learned that my husband’s mentor might be moving 16 hours away for a better job, and he asked my husband if he would like to move with him.  The next few weeks were a flurry of discussions and calculations.  Was moving so far away worthwhile?

If you find yourself, like we did, contemplating a long distance move, there are many variables to consider.

 

1.  How much will you be making?

Will the new job give you more money or less?  Don’t automatically assume that a job where you will make less is a deal breaker.  If the cost of living in the area is less, you may do just fine with a reduction in salary.

Also be aware that some national companies pay the same rate for a certain position, no matter what area of the country you live in.  Your company might pay $50,000 for your position whether you live in Nebraska, where the cost of living is relatively low, or in San Francisco, where earning $50,000 may cause you to live close to the poverty level because the cost of living is so high.

 

2.  What is the chance of job advancement?

Sometimes, taking a lower salary is worthwhile if you have a good chance at job advancement and salary increases in the future.  Likewise, taking a job that pays more initially but offers only slight chances of advancement and income increases over the years should be considered carefully.  Upward mobility is something most employees are looking for.

 

3.  Could this be a spring board for another (better) job with a different company?

Will the new job give you skills and knowledge that will make you more attractive to other companies?  In the academic world, landing your first, tenure-track position job is often the most difficult.  Once you land one and prove yourself there, you make your chances of finding another job in a different area and institution better.  That is one reason why my husband was considering the move.

Look at your own career field and the potential job in particular.  Will relocating and taking the job help you be able to move to a different company and earn more?

 

4.  What is the cost of living comparison?

Another important consideration besides income is the cost of living.  CNN Money has a handy cost of living comparison calculator that lets you input your current city and the city you are considering moving to.  You enter what your current salary is, and the program will tell you how much you will need to earn equivalent in your new city as well as the percentage price difference in groceries, housing, utilities, transportation and health care.

For example, if you are considering moving from Omaha, Nebraska to San Francisco, CA and you are currently making $50,000, you would need to make $93,118 in San Francisco to experience a similar financial lifestyle because the cost of living is so much higher.  (The big shocker–housing is 274% more expensive in San Francisco than Omaha.)

 

5.  Is public transportation available?

We live in the suburbs of Chicago, currently, which enables us to remain a one car family.  I have the car all day for running errands and driving the kids to extracurricular activities.  My husband takes public transportation.  That saves us a great deal of money because we don’t have to have a second car and the loan payments, repairs, maintenance, insurance, gas, and plate registration.  We also don’t have to pay for parking downtown, which is expensive.

The town we were considering also has a good public transportation system, so we won’t have to spend more money there.  If we were instead considering a town without a good public transportation system, we would have to calculate how much more per month we would have to pay for the luxury of owning two vehicles.

 

6.  How many free things are there to do in the area?

As a family, we like to have fun on the weekends.  If we live somewhere with plenty of free and low cost activities, we save a significant amount of money.  The town my husband was considering moving to is close to a university, so there are many free and low cost activities.

While this might not initially seem like an important consideration, if you’re looking at living in the new location for several years, you’ll want to be active and engaged in the community.  If you have to fork over large amounts of money to do so, your budget will take a hit.

 

7.  How much will it cost to go home?

If you’re close to your immediate and extended family, will the move you’re contemplating take you closer or farther from home?  Right now we’re only 3 hours away from extended family and friends, which is a fairly easy car drive, considering traffic.  If we move, we’ll be a 17 hour drive away.  Since we’re a family of 5, hopping a plane once or twice a year is likely not an option since it will cost too much.  How often do we want to make the 17 hour car drive, and how often will friends and family come down to visit us?

If you’re not close to family and friends at home, this isn’t an issue, but if you are, don’t discount the real power of homesickness.  Many people take jobs far away and incur expenses such as paying for a long-distance move and selling their homes only to want to return to the area they left in a year or two.

 

8.  How much will the move cost?

Some employers will pay for your move or at least a portion of your move.  Others don’t.

While it might seem silly to include the cost of moving in your calculations, it is important.  If you’re considering a long distance move as we were, your expenses for moving an entire household can really add up.  Using online tools, I estimated our 1,000 mile move would cost us at least $6,000, and that’s after some serious decluttering and selling of worn out furniture that we wouldn’t take along.

If you’re moving a large household, you could easily pay four figures (or more, sometimes) to move your items.  Is this something you can pay for?  Can you sell everything and furnish your new place with new or used items?

Deciding to make a long distance move is never easy.  There are many variables to consider, and some may be in conflict with others.  As for my husband and me, we’re still up in the air with our decision, though we’re leaning toward staying put for now.

How about you all? Have you made a long distance move for work?  What other variables did you consider?  Was your move better for you financially or career-wise?

Share your experiences by commenting below! 

***Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/86435488@N00/33495908/in/

How To Find An Insurance Agent

The following is a guest post. Enjoy! 

When searching for auto insurance, the actual insurance agent you will be dealing with may be more important than the name of the company holding the policy. This agent will be the person you deal with on a regular basis. If you have a question about your policy or are trying to make a claim, the agent assigned to your account is the one with whom you will be in contact with. That is why it is important to find a good agent that has expert knowledge and years of experience in the insurance industry.

Finding an Agent

One of the best ways to find an agent is to ask the people you know. Your friends and family can give you the referrals that they have had good experiences with. They can also give you a heads up on which insurance companies and agents to avoid. Another option is to do a quick search online for local agents and read the reviews posted by pervious and current clients. A good agent will need to be trustworthy and someone with who you feel comfortable talking and interacting with. To know if you feel comfortable with a particular agent simply talk to them for a few minutes. He or she will be learning some very private information about yourself so being comfortable and trusting them should be a huge factor in your decision.

The vice president of Navion Insurance Associates, Chad Bitterlich, says that consumers looking for an agent should seek out those who have experience outside of the sales portion of the auto insurance industry, such as claims or underwriting. Mr. Bitterlich also warns consumers to beware of agents who merely want to give you a cheap price quote since the agent should be more concerned about the amount of coverage needed over the actual price of the coverage.

Remember to always check with your state’s insurance department to make sure the agent has a valid license with good standing. And always keep copies of all proposals, applications, quotes and other documents you receive from the agent.

Captive Vs Independent Agents

Captive agents are those who only work with one carrier while independent agents can represent multiple carriers and offer a wide selection of quotes and coverage that a captive agent cannot offer. If you are interesting in shopping around at different insurance carriers, an independent agent is the way to go. They can provide you with multiple quotes from various insurance carriers to help ensure you are getting the best coverage available for a great price.