Monthly Archives: June 2012

Are You Buying A Stigmatized Home?


Hello everyone, Chris neighbors here and this is my blog post on stigmatized properties. So what is a stigmatized property? According to it is:

  • while the exact legal definition varies by state and country, typically it is construed to be where something has taken place on a property (such as the death of one of the occupants in a traumatic or notorious fashion) such that it has affected the value of the property.

This topic is something I’ve always wondered about. I can’t imagine anyone would want to buy a home where a gruesome event has occurred. I remember asking people about this topic, people that had no idea what they were talking about, and generally they told me stigmatized properties had to be disclose. As it turns out they were wrong. Every state has a different set of laws on the matter. As hard as I tried I couldn’t find a list that gives every state’s laws. Instead I found mixed information about random states. Here is what I found:

South Dakota is the only state that requires all stigmatized property issues to be disclosed.

Alaska requires this as well, but only for 12 months after the event took place.

The states that require stigmatized property information to be disclosed only when the buyer asks are: Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Oklahoma.

In California these events must be disclosed if they have happened within the last 3 years.

Tennessee and Florida don’t require any disclosure on these issues.

While it’s difficult to get a list of all the different state laws and definitions it has been made clear to me that you can’t expect sellers to hand the information over willingly. My advice for any perspective home buyer that cares about these issues is to always ask about it and do your own research. A great way to find out is to talk to the neighbors (that is how most people find out anyways). In this case just ask them before you purchase the home. In smaller towns this information should be easy to find, but larger cities will present more of a problem. In many cases ignorance might be bliss. A warning sign that the house might have has a shady past is it might be that the house is being sold really cheap with not a whole lot wrong with it. They have done studies that in large cities these properties, on average, sell for 3% less than comparable properties. In small towns, where the devastation lingers, the reduction can be a lot more significant.

I know that I would definitely want to know about any unfortunate history that took place in a house I was living in. that being said, I also believe that what you don’t know can’t hurt you (most the time). Have any of you thought about this topic before? Would you mind buying a house with a rocky past? If you were to sell one do you think you would willingly disclose?


Posted by on June 30, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Charge Your Way to an Extended Warranty

Costco: They have decent prices and products; it’s the home of Kirkland and they give out free samples. It’s a great store. It’s thanks to Costco that I have this blog post. You see, Costco used to refund everything as long as you bought the product from them. It didn’t matter what the condition of the product was or if I came back used. You could have bought it years ago and they would still refund it no questions asked. Well, awhile back they decided to change their policy. They are no longer the exchanging machine they used to be. Since I lost that buffer, I needed to come up with another way to get an extended warranty. I wasn’t going to pay for one because I always feel I’m getting ripped off when I do. If the warranty costs as much as the product I don’t see the benefit.  I did some research, and It turns out making my purchases with a credit card solves my problem.

Now there are a million different types of credit cards so I’m not going to go through specific ones. Everything I go over will be generalities that you can look for when choosing a card; However, I can give you some hints to push you in the right direction. If you want a credit card to help supply a warranty on your purchases look for ones that are considered premium cards. They will usually have names with the word gold or platinum in it. These types of cards generally have the best warranty opportunities. In some cases they will even double your warranty period.

OK, so you bought something with your platinum card and it broke. Now what do you do? Credit card companies will require you to send them an estimate, the original receipt, and your credit card statement. Once you submit this to them they should send you the money to either get the original item fixed or for you to buy a new one.

If you’re thinking “hey Chris this all sounds great, but why do they do this?” The answer is simple. They want your business. Credit card companies know that if you are buying something that requires a warranty it’s probably fairly expensive. Their hopes are that you won’t pay your card off right away. That’s why it’s so important to you do. If the credit card companies want you to do one thing you should do the other.

So go out there and find the right card for you. Just remember Pay it off every month!


Posted by on June 29, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Get Financial Aid- Tips on Filling out the FAFSA


Filling out the FAFSA is a crucial part for most students’ financial aid packet. If filled out properly it can offer you everything you need to get through school. I have put together five tips that I think are especially important to consider when filling out the FAFSA.

First, it’s important to remember that the FAFSA is free. There are many sites out there that will try to charge to fill it out. Some will even offer help in exchange for help filling it out. None of those sites are necessary. To fill the FAFSA out for free go to the website  FAFSA.ED.GOV.

Tip number two for filling out the FAFSA is to do it in a timely manner. You are able to start filling it out on January 1st of every year. If you wait until you and your parents get your tax returns back you will be making a huge mistake. Generally they give funds on a first come first serve basis. When you first fill it out you can enter estimates into the form. Once you get your tax return back you can go back to the website and make it accurate. An important thing to mention is to keep you and your parent’s pin numbers. You will need these numbers every year. I personally write mine down in multiple places so I won’t lose it. If you do lose it you’ll just be wasting time waiting to get a new one. Also, make sure it is complete and accurate. If it’s accurate, most information can carry over for the next year which means it’s easier to fill out.

Tip number three is not to mention any retirement assets or home equity on your form. They don’t care about this money. If you count it as income they will offer you less financial aid. They will ask you about second homes and real estate investments which you have to disclose. Also, make sure you don’t mention any household possessions as assets because that will shirk the amount of aid you receive.

The last tip for filling out the FAFSA is to make sure you choose wisely when deciding which parent’s tax information you use. In the ideal situation it would be the parent that makes the least amount of money. That being said, you are supposed to put down the parent that you live with the most throughout the year. You must enter your parent’s tax information until you are 24 years old (and that is by January 1st of the year in question) even if your parents don’t give you any aid. The exceptions to this rule are: if you are married, if you have a child, or if your parents are deceased.

If you receive a lot of financial aid most schools will do an audit on your taxes. That is why it’s important to give them everything they require while not offering up any extras.

For a recap here are the 4 tips:

1)    Make sure it’s free

2)    Fill it out ASAP

3)    Don’t disclose things you consider assets but they don’t

4)    Choose the right parent


Posted by on June 28, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Tips to Save Money on Meals While Traveling

Hello Everyone, Chris neighbors here and I just got back from a wonderful vacation in Ireland. Ireland was great, but the trip really made me realize how expensive food is when you aren’t at home. Generally I’ve always been the type of person that eats out a lot when I’m on vacation. I didn’t take me long to realize that food is a HUGE travel expense, and that I needed to come up with ways to keep that expense to a minimum. Here is a list of 3 tactics I chose to use to save money on food while traveling:

The first on is easy enough. I packed a lunch. I’ve always viewed eating out while on vacation as a form of entertainment. I never wanted to cook because that wasn’t fun. There always seemed to be something exciting about trying a new restaurant, but in order to save money I needed to change my mindset. There is nothing wrong with a packed lunch. While we were in Ireland we bought a couple of hot teas in a café one day, and while we were there we decided that we might as well eat our packed lunch. Shortly after starting, we noticed a table of older women staring at us. They then began to chit chat about how embarrassing it must be to bring your own lunch somewhere.  We kind of thought it was funny, but I still don’t understand why bringing a lunch is something to be ashamed of. I know that if you don’t have a refrigerator or ice chest it can be difficult to pack lunches. My suggestion would be to either buy a cheap Styrofoam ice chest, use an ice bucket from the hotel room, or don’t buy food that needs to be kept cold (peanut butter and jelly sandwiches)!

My second tip for saving money on food while traveling is to use a hotel with a free breakfast. A free meal is huge bonus! The few times we had to eat out in Ireland I felt like I lost a piece of myself knowing we spent around 40-50 Euros per meal (4 people). The best part about a hotel that provides a breakfast is that you can take extra stuff for a free lunch! I know a lot of people might think this looks tacky, but I personally don’t see a problem with it. Those breakfast buffets usually offer bread, cheese, and meat. Why not make a sandwich for latter. Heck, maybe you can even grab some fruit or yogurt. Then you would only have to worry about dinner!

My third tip for saving money on food while traveling is to consider getting a hotel room with a kitchen. It is generally more expensive, but the money you save on food could outweigh the costs. Some things to consider are: How many people are with you and will you actually cook. It might be more beneficial for 4 or 5 mouths to have a kitchen rather than one, and if you won’t actually use it then it’s a waste of money.

My last tip for saving money on food while traveling is to bring snacks with you. If you don’t get a free breakfast from your hotel (or if you aren’t staying in a hotel) bring some packets of oatmeal. Most places will have hot water available to prepare them. You should also bring things like power bars. They will keep you full and could easily substitute a meal if you get the right kind. Not to mention all these things a relatively small so they should be easy to travel with. I know that the snacks we brought to Ireland saved me money many times.

The main thing to keep in mind with all these tips is that you have to be willing to sacrifice the joy some of us might get from eating out to save money. If you’re willing to make that choice your bank account will stay that much fuller.


Posted by on June 23, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Colleges Have It All Wrong – Three Years To A Bachelor’s Degree

It’s about time; colleges are starting to realize their attendance rates will drop if they keep sending their students into the world with huge amounts of debt. Now that they are acknowledging this, what’s their plan of action? An article I read from says that colleges are starting to introduce the three year bachelor degree program to save on loans. On the surface this sounds like a logical idea. If students spend a shorter amount of time in college it should save them money. I personally think this is misguided.

Does a three year bachelor degree require the same amount of classes as a four year degree? I’m assuming the answer is yes otherwise everyone would want a three year degree. If that’s the case then they’re basically just giving their students a busier work load (please follow my logic):

1-Instead of 4 classes a semester they will take 5 or 6 (which isn’t anything new for devoted students).

2-Now we need to look at tuition. Every college has a ton of fees, but the most expensive fee is the cost of classes. If students still have to take the same amount of classes they really won’t be saving that much money.

3-Lastly we need to consider why people take out student loans. Generally it’s because they don’t have money for college. In order to save up money many students work and go to school. If their workload increases they will no longer have time to work. That in turn will lead to needing more loans. What this all comes down to is that we will have really busy students that may end up taking out even more student loans because they don’t have time to work. Not to mention the students being tired and stressed out all the time which could cost more money as lack of sleep causes poor financial decisions (nights out, fast food, etc.).

I know we all want a way for students to be able to go to college and not acquire a mountain of debt. That would be great, but the debt isn’t the problem. The lack of “good” jobs for college graduates is. If most graduates could find a decent job, paying down their student loans wouldn’t be as big of a deal. Schools need to address this issue by better preparing their students for what comes next. College shouldn’t be about grades, but about what their students actually learn. Maybe they received an A on their test, but can they actually apply it in real life a month from now? If we expect the companies to completely train all their employees why would they pay more to hire a college graduate? I’ve always been told that a college degree mostly shows that the graduate can actually stick with something and follow it through, and that they aren’t afraid of working hard. If that’s true then I want to know why it costs students so much to prove that to an employer! Isn’t that what probation periods are for? By focusing on student loans colleges aren’t actually fixing the main problem.

As a side note, if we want our students to take out less loans we need to do a better job explaining to them the responsibility of having them. Right now we tell our kids that student loans are OK as long as they finish school, but I can’t help but feel that that attitude is wrong. We should explain them in a way that shows that they are just like any other kind of debt. I think that this should be done in the beginning of high school. If it’s done freshman year they will have time to save money for college if they decided they don’t want to use student loans. I know that most high school students won’t take it seriously, but the sooner they are confronted with the issue the longer it will have to sink in as being important. When I started to take out loans it never seemed like I would actually have to pay them back. I mean I knew I would have to, but it seemed like so far away that it didn’t matter. I know an early introduction, combined with the attitude that student loans weren’t a good thing, would have helped me out a lot.

As college becomes an expectation for more and more people, student loans will continue to rise. Some colleges are taking action to try and “lower” costs by offering a three year bachelor degree. I personally think this is going to be as helpful as a jacket in 100 degree heat. I’m curious to know how all of you feel about this issue. Is a three year degree a good thing, or is it a tool colleges want to use to make themselves look better? Are we all ignoring the real issues (which are the job market and college curriculum)?


Posted by on June 22, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Do Cash Back Websites Work?

Sometimes it amazes me the ways we can save money. Sometimes it’s a lot of work (like couponing) and other times it’s really easy. I was turned on to a website called, and they make it easy for us all to save a little money. Most offers are around a 10% savings (they do vary). This site is especially good for people that travel, and it’s also good for people that like to shop online. I’ll have to admit that I was a little skeptical at first. You always hear about ways to save money that end up being a scam, and I try to avoid those at all costs. Sometimes I might even miss a good deal because I’m worried about being tricked. A trustworthy source of mine has used the TopCashBack services, and they had no problems (I’ll be using it soon).

Here’s how it works. You go to and register. You look through the stores they have deals with (there are over 2,000), and you click on their website. Once you buy something it will recognize how you got to their website. The store gives TopCashBack a fee for the referral. In turn they give that fee back to you. They are able to do this because they make all their profits from advertising. In the end it works out really well. Also, not all the stores are crappy online stores. They services places like Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, and hotel chains. Have any of you used a cash back site like this before, or do you know of a better one?

If you would like to get there easily to check it out Click Here.

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Posted by on June 16, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Keep Money in Your Travel Budget by Saving at the Airport

Most of us set a budget before we head out on vacation. We plan for a place to stay, food, plane tickets, and entertainment. What many of us forget to budget for is airport expenses. When you have a quick flight with no layover this might not be an issue, but if you’re flying far away your bound to get stuck in hustle and bustle of airport life. I think the endless boredom is what makes people want to spend money. Either that or you have security issues and they make you throw away “prohibited items”. Here are a few tips that will help you out in the airport.

1)   Bring empty water bottles- If you’re spending all day traveling, you’re bound to get thirsty. It’s tempting to hit up Starbucks or any other miscellaneous shop that will meet your needs. However, if you didn’t budget for that expense, you should save your money for your destination. If you have empty water bottles you can get them through security and fill them up on the other side. I’d say that on this trip (did I mention I’m on vacation?) it has easily saved us $30 (because we’ve had such long layovers).

2) Bring snacks with you- Just like being thirsty, you’re probably going to get hungry at the airport. Once they have you trapped in the terminal, the food prices go up tremendously! There are few rules against taking snack into the airport (Here is a list of prohibited items). On our trip we have easily saved money (probably $40) by eating these snacks for meals.

3) Put your toiletries in a 1 quart zip lock bag- This is a basic rule that most frequent fliers know by heart, but if you’re not a frequent flier, it can be easily forgotten. These items are three times more expensive at the airport then they would be at a normal store! I did forget the bag, and I had to buy all new stuff when I landed. Even if you remember your zip lock you could bring extras incase whomever you’re traveling with forgets!

If you do these three things it will definitely help your travel budget. You’ll still be bored, but saving money always feels good. Do you know of any other airport tricks to help save money?


Posted by on June 11, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Helpful Chart for Out-of-Season Shopping

Buying anything out of season is a trick budget friendly people have been using forever. I’ll have to admit that I’m terrible at doing this. It’s one of those things that always sounds good to do, but ends up being forgotten about. Then, once the item is needed, I remember I should have bought it 6 months ago. Luckily I needed a water resistant jacket for my upcoming trip to Ireland (yes it’s supposed to rain the whole time we are there) which enabled me to see other great deals on jackets. We are talking +80% off kind of deals, or the clearance on top of clearance items. I kept thinking, “If only there was a way for me to remember when the best time is to buy certain things so I can get these types of bargains all the time.”

I searched the internet, and I found They compiled charts that list which months are best to buy different items. For example, they say that January is the best time to buy sporting goods, furniture, linens, carpeting, and digital cameras. Now I’m sure it’s different everywhere, but it can give you an idea of when to really search hard for that item you want to buy. I know that I’m going to go through my shopping list and set a reminder on my phone. That way I’ll remember next January that I need to buy a new tent! Does anyone have any other advice for out of season shopping?


Posted by on June 7, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Will Complaining Save You Money?

From a consumer’s standpoint I think that companies have some customer service practices backwards. We all like to save money, and I think that by being a loyal customer we should get a price break. Unfortunately, I see the opposite occurring all the time. People that are unhappy with a company’s performance/product get a special deal while their customers that are loyal get nothing. From a business’s point-of-view it makes sense. You want to keep your customers so why not give the angry ones a price break to help the odds that they’ll do business with you again. Before I go into how I think the system should work I’ll give you a few examples of the backwardness I’ve seen:

 1) I wrote about them a few months ago, and I mentioned that it really isn’t free at all! When I called to cancel my subscription the automated response offered me 6 months at 50% off (or something close to that). So if you never tried to cancel your account you wouldn’t know about the money you could save.

2) Xo Chai chocolates- I went on a tour of their factory not too long ago. The product they sell “healthy chocolate” was great. The thing I didn’t understand is I was told that if a customer tries to cancel their order they are offered a better deal. If you were setup to receive one box of chocolate a month they would offer you three boxes for the price of two. A decent discount, but one only a complaining customer would receive.

What I’m getting from all of this is that I should be a cranky, complainer in the hopes getting a better deal (and I hate that). I worked in the restaurant business for 10 years, and there is nothing worse than having to deal with an upset customer. The way these companies are doing business rewards unfavorable behavior. I could say, “In order to save money complain to every business you use and see what happens.” Honestly, you probably would see dramatic savings (and some people definitely do this). Instead I think companies should rewards people through the use a loyalty program in which repeat business leads to lower prices. Many companies have set up their organization to run like this, but we need all of them to. Consumers will always expect freebees when they feel like they were wronged, but let’s help loyal customers save money too. Have any of you saved money by complaining, and do you think it’s OK that companies only give discounts to complainers?


Posted by on June 6, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Student/Military/Government Discount Lists- Help Your Budget


I’m getting ready to go on vacation next week (Ireland here I come). This means that I’m looking for ways I can save money. After looking online, I’ve found some helpful websites that list locations that give great student, military, and civilian government employee discounts. It’s important to note that most of these places don’t advertise these discounts, but if you ask for them you’ll be getting a fair reduction in price.

Student discounts:

I love getting student discounts. I’ve always used my student ID to get a free drink at Qdoba Mexican Grill and a reduced rate at the movie theater. Once I started to do more research I realized most places give student discounts. I never asked, so they never gave them to me. If you visit  you’ll find 81 places that offer price reductions for students. They have everything from software and insurance to food and retail.

Military Discounts:

Military members definitely get the best discounts. A co-worker of mine didn’t have to pay taxes on anything while her husband was deployed. The best part about military discounts is you don’t have to be an active member to get most of these. They are open to family members and retirees. If you visit you’ll find a list of over 100 different military discounts. This list, like the student discount, has a variety of industries/stores.

Civilian Government Employee Discounts:

A lot of government employees were military personal at one point or another. These people get all the military discounts, but what about people like me that work for the government but were never part of anything like that? Well don’t worry; there are some discounts for us too. I will say that I couldn’t find a huge list like the ones above, but the discounts are out there. If you go to you’ll find some companies that offer discounts to civilian government employees. If you aren’t sure if you can get one or not just ask (like I mentioned above they aren’t going to advertise it). I do know that a lot of hotels offer “discounts”, but it’s important to make sure you’re actually getting a better rate. I would recommend finding out what the normal rate is before asking about the discount. You don’t want a situation where it would have been $100/night, but with the special government discount it’s now $150/night.

Senior Discounts:

I seems like everywhere gives a senior discount! Enough said…

Hopefully some of you can use these lists to help your budget. I know I plan on using them (not the senior discount)! I don’t think I need to mention that to get most of these discounts you need a valid ID card. Do you know of any other ID cards that can get us a great discount?


Posted by on June 1, 2012 in Uncategorized


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