Sunday, August 26, 2007

Why I Use a Credit Monitoring Tool

I am not exactly sure if credit monitoring services are worth the money, but with nearly 10 million cases of identity theft annually I think there is some evidence to support a certain degree of paranoia. I have chosen a middle of the road approach to credit monitoring. I pay for an annual service that pulls my TransUnion report weekly and looks for changes. It is's Identity Theft Security Deluxe. It costs about $50 per year.

There are more expensive services that pull from all three agencies weekly, but at $100+ per year I just think they cost too much. My rationale is simply this: should someone open a new account in my name, it will likely show up at all three agencies. I want to comfort of a weekly check-up, but I don't want to pay a fortune. Identity Theft Security Deluxe seems to provide a nice balance.

The super low-budget approach to credit monitoring is to go to once per year and pull a FREE credit report from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion the three credit agencies. Just look them over and make sure all the accounts on there are actually yours. I do this once a year to make sure that nothing unusual has shown up at Experian or Equifax and not at TransUnion. The problem with doing only this is that if identity theft occurs the month after you check, eleven months might go by before you know that there is a problem.

I view a credit monitoring service as a necessary evil. I don't really want to pay $50 per year, but I figure it is worth the insurance policy because it will ultimately save me a lot of time and money if I catch fraudulent account activity after one week or month instead of after one year.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Online Bill Pay: 5 Reasons You Should Use It

I am a huge fan of online bill pay. I get it free as part of my Wells Fargo PMA account. However, the vast majority of online bank accounts offer free online bill pay.

Here are my 5 favorite reasons for using online bill pay:

  1. It is a huge time saver. It actually takes me less time to enter a new payee than to write a single check. For payees I already have entered I can pay a bill in about 5 seconds.
  2. It keeps me organized. I can get many of my bills directly through billpay. That keeps me from having stacks of paper around the house. Furthermore, I can look up my prior payments without having to find a check book.
  3. It is a green activity. How many trees are lost to paper bills each month?
  4. It is more secure than you would think. I have been paying bills online for about 6 years now without a single security problem.
  5. It is a modest money saver. I send probably 10 bills per month. With postage at 41 cents that's $4.10 a month I am saving in postage.

If you have been holding off on online bill pay do yourself a favor and sign up today! If I left out any of your favorite reasons for using online bill pay be sure to leave them in the comments.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Time for a New Kitchen! How Much of the Cost Should I Recoup?

After a couple of years of delaying, my wife and I are finally having our kitchen remodelled. We also plan to add an additional bathroom to our upstairs (which will bring our total to 2.5 baths a much more family-friendly number than 1.5). Part of how we decided on these remodels is that we think we will get most of the money we put into them back out when we sell the house. Just how much we'll get back is subject to a bit of debate. According to Remodeling Online we should get about 75%-85% of the cost of the projects back when we sell our house. Meanwhile suggests that a minor kitchen/bath update can actually return 147% of your investment, though it looks like they just mean slapping on a coat of paint and doing some caulking which I would consider standard maintenance. HGTV suggests that minor bathroom and kitchen remodels recoup almost 100% of their cost. I'm not exactly sure which source is right, but I think we win regardless because we plan to live in our house for several more years and actually enjoy the upgrades.