Showing posts with label Money. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Money. Show all posts

InBoxDollars - A Regretfully Negative to Neutral Review

Latest update: September 15, 2022. Page URL indicates original publication date; meanwhile, times change and the updates continue.

 InBoxDollars is a website that will pay you for performing various online activities. It's a great concept, but there is a major flaw for most people.

Long story short, InBoxDollars has no respect for your time. Just my opinion. My average earnings are  less than 10 cents a day. It is just not worth it. They do seem to be an honest, legitimate, open and aboveboard site. The only problem is the time spent versus the income earned.

Some Examples:
  • The average pay to watch a video is one cent per video.
  • Many times you will spend 10 minutes qualifying for a survey, only to be told you are not qualified and end up earning nothing.
  • The average winnings for the three levels of InBoxDollars Scratchers are {1 cent, 2 cents, 1 cent (I've quit this level)}, {3 cents, 3 cents, 4 cents, (I've quit this level)}, {5 cents, 10 cents, 8 cents, 5 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 5 cents, 5 cents, 9 cents, 5 cents, 8 cents, 5 cents, 5 cents, 5 cents, 9 cents, 5 cents, 9 cents, 5 cents, 9 cents, 5 cents, 5 cents, 9 cents, 5 cents, 8 cents, 8 cents, 5 cents, 5 cents, 8 cents, 5 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 9 cents, 9 cents, 5 cents, 5 cents, 5 cents.}. And it can take a long time to qualify to play the scratchers.

The lowest cash payout threshold I could find was $15.00 to be sent to you via PayPal. InBoxDollars paid me $5.00 to sign up (I don't know if that is still going on); but accumulating the additional $10.00 to reach payout will take you a long, long time. I haven't reached payout yet. It will be interesting to see how that goes; I'll post an update if and when that happens.

In fairness, I should mention that InBoxDollars has a lot more than just surveys, videos, and scratchers. They have 1% (and more) cash back deals all over the place. They have cash back signup deals with third parties all over the place. They have shopping deals all over the place. They have printable coupon deals all over the place. They have various other offers all over the place. They will pay you to do web searches. They will pay you to take pictures of in-store receipts. They will pay you to read emails. They have free games.

My only problem with all of the above is that pesky time versus income issue. If you think you can do better than I'm doing, here's their link:  InBoxDollars.

InBoxDollars is also accredited with the Better Business Bureau. The BBB classifies InBoxDollars as belonging to the following categories: Internet Service, Online Shopping, Internet Marketing Services, E-commerce, Market Research, Entertainment, Surveys, Gift Cards, and Coupon Services.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is InboxDollars safe and legit? They have an excellent reputation as to safety and legitimacy.
  • How much does InboxDollars pay to watch videos? It used to be 1 cent a video. Wasn't worth my time. I've noticed I don't see the video option anymore. Apparently is was not worth anybody else's time either.
  • How can I earn fast money? Not at InBoxDollars.

I had planned to frequently add to this FAQ list, but I've finally lost interest. I should add that despite some of my criticisms, I was still fond of some parts of the site.

Some Random Notes and Updates

Note. This has happened to me more than once. Some of the survey collectors that InBoxDollars uses are collecting some or all of the survey answers from us that go beyond simple qualifying and then after collecting the answers will say we didn't qualify and don't pay us. I do not know if InBoxDollars is aware of this. This practice is ripping off both the InBoxDollars website and those of us taking the time to do the surveys. This has happened frequently enough that it has become a deal-breaker for me as to doing anymore surveys.

Note. There are other parts of the InBoxDollars website I still like and continue to interact with. But with the survey option being dead to me, I no longer consider InBoxDollars a viable source of any meaningful income. Despite this article's title and that the surveys part is dead to me, I have strangely become somewhat fond of this site.

Update. I received an email from InBoxDollars informing me that one of their members made over $3,000 last month. I'd kinda of like to know how they did that...

Update. I do like their "PaidEm" emails. Doesn't earn much, but some of the ads are interesting.

Update. I tried the surveys again; 3 or 4 of them; truly epic fail due to previously stated reasons; do not waste your time.

Update. I finally got bored with the PaidEm emails. The remuneration for reading the PaidEm emails and for doing searches just isn't worth it to continue. Oh well, at least the whole experience has been somewhat interesting. This is probably my last update.

Well now, we have another update. I suddenly got an email from InBoxDollars informing me that I'd earned $0.96 from a cash back. This was triggered by my recent online grocery shopping. This is either the result of the InBoxDollars "Billy Button" or I'd clicked a cash back offer I'd forgotten about on the website . The email says it's pending. We will see how that works out.

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How to Lower Winter Heating Bills and Save Money - A List and More

Latest update: January 7, 2022. Page URL indicates original publication date; meanwhile, times change and the updates continue.

Another winter is here. This one might be colder than usual. Natural gas prices are expected to be 25% to 50% higher than a year-a-go.

Lowering winter heating costs is easier than one thinks. There's nothing exotic written here, think of it as a checklist of the things I do; hopefully some of the suggestions will prove useful.

Probably the most important concept on this page is the even distribution of your gas and electricity usage so as to remain at tier one for both utilities.

And here is a noticed observation: space heaters keep your body warm; gas furnaces keep rooms warm.

The older, nichrome wire space heater next to the bed.
Not for overnight usage; dangerous and expensive.


The Basics

For starters, I just turn the gas furnace off for the night. And I turn the thing off for the rest of the day around mid-morning. And it usually stays off until I get up next morning.

How do I do that and remain comfortable? Sweatpants. T-shirt. And a sweatshirt over the T-shirt. And slippers. Totally comfortable. And a knit cap certainly helps, but I seldom bother with that.

Turning the heat completely off at night works just fine for the fall and early winter seasons. But what about when it starts getting really cold, like in the 20s and 30s? The furnace stays off, but I put a nichrome wire space heater in the bedroom with the switch reachable from the bed. When I wake up and there is just no way I'm going to face that cold, I turn on the nichrome-wire space heater. Five seconds later, it is blasting away. Perfect for getting dressed in front of the thing. And I've saved an entire night’s heating costs. I get up, get dressed, turn off that particular space heater for the day and turn on the furnace.

Sometimes it is so cold that turning the furnace completely off just isn't feasible, but at least one can set the thermostat a lot lower than previously.


The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has been expanded; more people now qualify. The link goes directly to the government website.

 

Another Tip for the Really Cold Days

Got a home office or other place where you hang out most of the time? Putting a ceramic space heater there is a lot cheaper than heating the whole house or apartment. At minimum, the furnace thermostat can be set much lower than would normally be the case.

Caveats

This only works for singles and maybe couples. If you've got kids in other bedrooms, the above method may not  be a feasible option. And another note. If you live where freezing indoor water pipes are a concern, probably also best not to do as described here. For that matter, even though when only a single or couple, the coldness may reach a point where turning the furnace completely off isn't a viable option for other reasons; however, one will still be able to set the thermostat much lower than when not using the bedside space heater morning trick.

Also, pets and space heaters do not mix. Bad things can happen with a knocked-over space heater.

More About Space Heaters

Needless to say, judicious use is best; otherwise the electric bill increase will offset the gas furnace bill decrease. Surprisingly, I was able to get away with the 750 watt setting on the ceramic space heater most of the time; one really does want to avoid the 1500 watt setting whenever possible. I also frequently turned the thing off altogether; and I certainly turned it off whenever leaving the area, even if only for a few minutes.

On a personal note, I made it a point to not plug the space heater into the same electrical circuit as the computer, peripherals, etc.; but that's just me; what with the constant 750-watt surges coming and going all the time, the tech electronics probably wouldn't appreciate that.

And, yes. Space heaters are dangerous. Definitely obey the page full of warnings included with the unit. Forgetting and leaving the thing on is also a concern; strategically placed reminder notes are a good idea, e.g., above the bedroom light switch is usually wise.

Final Notes

There's the old adage about keeping the drapes closed, but personally I want whatever sunlight there happens to be. However, it's certainly not a bad idea to keep the drapes closed in those rooms you seldom frequent.

And there's the weather sealing. Feel a cold draft or stream of air coming from somewhere? Find the source. Describe it at the hardware store. They'll be more than happy to tell you exactly what you need to fix it and will give advice on how to install it. If it's at the bottom of a seldom used door, you can at least cover it with an old towel.

Come to think of it, are there any seldom-used rooms where you can simply close the vents and possibly the door? That will cause the gas furnace to heat the remaining rooms more efficiently. Don't close too many vents; that will cause the furnace fan motor to work harder than it should. And for the same reason, there's the usual cleaning or replacing the furnace filters.

The newer space heater I put under the home office desk.
Ceramic.

Last, but not least: there's more energy-saving tips at www.energy.gov/energysaver..., includes information and advice for water heaters and lights as well.

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Save Money With Credit Unions Versus Banks - Best for Free, No Fee Checking, Saving Accounts, ATMs, etc.

Latest update: January 15, 2022. Page URL indicates original publication date; meanwhile, times change and the updates continue.

Money saved is worth more than money earned; money saved is tax free. Credit unions and certain other financial institutions are much better than national banks and credit card companies. Pay fewer, lesser, and no fees.

Forget: Chase Bank, Ally Bank, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and all the rest of them. They all may claim they have free checking and savings accounts, but there is invariably fine print in their conditions that will cause you grief.

A special mention about Bank of America. "Fees" are their middle name. Why any consumer would do business with them is beyond me.


People often ask,
  • What is the best bank in a given location?
  • What is the best bank for a specific kind of customer?
Rephrasing the question to "What is the best financial institution?" is the way to find what's best.

It is positively amazing how many people put up with all the fees many banks and other financial institutions attach to their savings, checking, and credit card accounts. Those banks and financial institutions will keep on doing this as long as the consumer keeps letting them get away with it. There is no excuse for the consumer to tolerate these kinds of bank fees when there are so many better alternatives available.

Avoid National Banks and National Credit Card Companies

National and local credit unions and local banks are the way to go.

The average consumer should never do business with a national bank or national credit card company. Check out your locally owned banks; even better, check out your local or national credit unions. National debit card companies might be OK: read the fine print.


Customers who have followed the above principles:

  • Have not paid any monthly account fees in decades.
  • Have not paid any check fees in decades.
  • Have not paid any credit or debit card transaction fees in decades.
  • Have always been paid higher interest on their savings.
  • Have always paid lower interest on their loans.
  • Have always experienced the bliss of fewer and lesser fees all-around.

What Exactly Is a Credit Union?

A credit union in the United States is technically a co-op arrangement among members. Those members with money make deposits. Those members who need money take out loans.

The spread between the interest paid to members with savings and the interest collected from members with loans is supposed to be no larger than what will cover the co-op’s expenses.

The covered expenses also enable both savers and borrowers to have free checking accounts, no-annual-fee debit and credit cards, and many other free or lesser fee services. Many countries have these same co-op type institutions; they are just known by different names.

About Credit Union Membership

With banks, you are a customer. With credit unions, you are a member.

It used to be difficult to become a member of a credit union. The usual requirement being you were working for a specific employer. In fact, many times the credit union was actually named after the employer. Many of these credit unions are still in existence today.

Membership requirements these days are much more open. Every credit union has unique criteria.

 Credit unions did not come up with the idea of membership requirements. Federal regulations require members of credit unions to have something in common, usually being the mutual employer scenario.

However, other criteria can now be used; just being a member of a certain profession is a good example.

What opened the floodgates is the now current use of geographical location as to what determines eligibility. In other words, are you and the credit union in the same county? If so, congratulations; you are a member. The credit union website will clearly spell out the eligibility requirements to become a member.

f you do not qualify, it is neither their fault nor yours; federal regulations are federal regulations. The good news is your chances of success are fairly high. Worst case scenario is you merely proceed to your local bank instead.

Internet-based financial institutions are also worth checking out, but be very careful and check their reputations and fee schedules with a fine-toothed comb.

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.


About Your Local Banks and Credit Unions: The Good

Here is the normal fee structure at your good, locally owned banks and credit unions:

  • There are no membership fees. 
  • There are no annual or monthly credit card fees.
  • There are no annual or monthly debit card fees.
  • Savings accounts have no monthly or other fees. A minimum balance requirement of a couple hundred bucks or less is acceptable.
  • Checking accounts have no monthly fees and no minimum balance requirements. The requirement you have a savings or similar account with a reasonable minimum balance to qualify for the free checking account is an acceptable option. Using the direct deposit option to qualify for a free checking account is not always a good idea; getting slammed with a bunch of fees when you lose your job is not the way to go. On the other hand, qualifying based on direct deposit of your Social Security retirement check certainly isn't much of a risk.
  • No debit card point-of-sale fees of any kind.
  • No credit card point-of-sale fees of any kind.
  • Very minimal or no ATM fees on debit card transactions.
  • All other fees are less than what you are paying at your current financial institution.
And a special note about credit unions and ATMs. Basically, they've united into a single network as to ATM fees and non-fees. If one belongs to a credit union, you can use any and all other credit union ATMs, and the only fee will be the fee or non-fee that you have agreed to with your credit union. In other words, there's no secondary fee for using an ATM that is not your particular credit union's; any credit union ATM will do just fine. Personally, I have not paid an ATM fee in decades.

About Your Local Banks: The Bad

It should be noted some local banks can be even more obnoxious than your national banks. Local banks are just like any other locally owned business. Employee attitude will directly reflect the personality and attitude of the owner(s) of the bank.

Fortunately, the bank’s fee structure is very often a clear indication of the bank’s attitude towards the general public. Ridiculous and excessive fees? Go elsewhere.

About Your Local Credit Unions: The Ugly

Credit unions are well-known for being the better deal. As such, there are bankers-to-be who come out of the woodwork to take advantage of the better reputation credit unions have.

The methodology to do this is not difficult. The banker-to-be simply opens his business via and under the credit union regulations and rules. Then, as far as interest rates and fee structuring goes, they run it like a bank. There is a credit union in San Francisco that is positively famous for this. There is another credit union in Riverside County, California that I would also avoid like the plague. So just because an institution calls itself a credit union doesn't mean you are home free. Do check out their fee schedule and interest rates relative to other institutions.

The Search

Needless to say, your location will vary.


How to Find Your Local Banks and Credit Unions

Finding them is not hard to do. The usual Yellow Pages perusal and/or an internet search will turn them right up. And it should be noted there are excellent national credit unions as well.

As to finding the good ones, you will need to check their website. Find their fee schedule and you will usually know what you need to know. If they do not have a fee schedule online, then that is a possible red flag. If your choices are limited, then you may have to make a personal visit to the financial institution and check out their brochures in the lobby.

Those financial institutions having the "glass cage" setup you must navigate to enter and exit the premises should be avoided like the plague. For some reason, there seems to be a strong correlation between "glass cage" usage and the treatment of customers as peasants in general.

You can also find a local credit union, plus all sorts of other worthy credit union information, at the federally run Nation Credit Union Administration (NCUA) website.

You can find all sorts of interesting information about your local banks at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) website. They even maintain a public list of failed banks.

Next is the opening of an account. A driver’s license, Social Security card, and a pleasant attitude are all that should be required. If the bank or credit union employee, or the procedures in general, are unusually obstructive; then forget it and move on. If they require you have an account with them for at least six months before allowing you to apply for a debit card, then you definitely want nothing to do with them.


Worthy Internet Institutions

There are worthy internet-based institutions out there. Just thoroughly check their fee schedule; particularly as relates to their savings and checking accounts, and their credit and debit cards. Also, plug their name and the word "scam" into your search engine and see what pops up. If there are pages of complaints, it would probably be wise to avoid that particular institution.

I have never had a problem with PayPal. Unfortunately I recently came across this article: PayPal faces lawsuit for freezing customer accounts and funds. Apparently there is no due process whatsoever; it's probably a good idea to not keep significant sums there.


Only consider doing business with credit unions authorized to display this logo:

NCUA (has all sorts of worthy information)


Only consider doing business with local banks and internet-based financial institutions authorized to display this logo (or other equivalent government signage)


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Ways to Get and How Does an Auto Loan Work - New and Used Cars

Latest update: May 30, 2022. Page URL indicates original publication date; meanwhile, times change and the updates continue.

Here are the best ways to get a car loan with the lowest possible interest rate. There is a lot of information here. Take your time with it. The more one thinks about things, the more ideas that will come to mind. Year 2022 is a chaotic economic time. The auto industry has absolutely no interest in providing worthwhile deals or price breaks. This has to do with demand far outstripping supply. At least the banking industry is desperate to make auto loans, so that might at least be of some help with the interest rate.

How-to, About, and the Process of Getting the Best Car Loan

How to get the best rate for an auto loan, plus a couple important tips and tricks for buying a new or used car (including EVs).

And as for getting a car loan when you have bad credit or no credit, here is probably the most important tip of all:
  • The larger the down payment you are willing to make, the more inclined the bank or other financial institution will be to give you the loan.


Both new and used car sales continue to fluctuate, and so the demand for car loans does the same. As demand fluctuates, so do the shenanigans and other nonsense by dealership finance departments and other lenders. This page will provide you with what you need to know about getting the best possible rate on your auto loan. Failing that, it will at least keep you from getting the worst.

Auto Loan Guide - Things to Do and Not Do


Clean Up Those Credit Reports

First thing you need to do is get copies of your credit reports. You are entitled to one free report a year from each of the three major reporting agencies. The most legitimate website to get them from is www.annualcreditreport.com. They will make you work for it by subjecting you to a bunch of sales pitches for their non-free products, but this is the site most consumer groups and others recommend.

Review your reports. If you find any errors negatively impacting your credit score, you will have to jump through whatever hoops are necessary to get them fixed. Most loan officers don't even seriously bother to look at the reports; they just look at the credit score. Have the wrong credit score and you may not even be able to get an auto loan. Have an unfairly low credit score, and you will be paying hundreds and possibly even thousands more in interest over the course of your car loan, not to mention being subjected to higher monthly payments.

It is imperative your credit score be as high as possible. One doesn't have to be a rocket surgeon to know the higher your credit score, the lower the interest rate on your auto loan will be. In fact, reading this Credit Score Guide for Beginners would probably be a good idea.

Avoid Auto Dealer Financing


Epic Fail!
Don't do this!
Car dealerships and used car lots are the absolutely worst place to get an auto loan.

Seriously, you might as well go to one of those loan shark outfits you see at the mini-malls. The auto dealers will use every trick in the book against you. They make as much or more money on the financing as they do on the car sale, itself. More often than not, whatever interest rate is initially promised invariably runs into a "problem"; and they will insist they can only do the financing at the higher interest rate and higher monthly payments. It's even been reported they will sometimes pull this stunt when the car is already sitting in your driveway.

As a side note, by all means ask about their zero financing they constantly advertise. Problem is, somehow nobody every seems to qualify for it... If you do happen to be one of the lucky few, well and good. But don't count on it.

And while we're at it... When you have decided to visit a particular dealership or used car lot, it wouldn't hurt to first check them out at RipOffReport and the BBB.

Best Way to Get a Car Loan Is From Your Current Financial Institution


Do you feel lucky?
With any luck, your financial institution has already been poking you with a stick and trying to entice you to get an auto loan with them.

Your first resource should be your existing bank or credit union. Presumably you have been with them for awhile and are considered to be a good customer. What you would really like to accomplish is to get a pre-approved auto loan from them; succeed and your problem is solved.

Do not mention your pre-approved loan to the car dealer prior to closing the deal on your car purchase price. Otherwise they will raise the car price to offset the money they are not going to make from the financing.

If your financial institution seems somewhat reluctant about the pre-approval idea, don't push it. Stay lovable and don't burn that bridge just yet. Ask about and pave the way to apply for an auto loan with them after you have negotiated the price for the car.

Getting a Car Loan from Other Than Your Existing Financial Institution


The Shopping Around Process

Did your existing financial institution fail to come through? Fine; once you've got the car situation taken care of, your next project will be to find a better place to do your banking business.

Give www.bankrate.com your regards. Select "auto" from the menu at the top of the screen. Use their search feature to see what the best auto loan rates and conditions are, etc. Don't actually make an application just yet.

Check out your local banks and credit unions. Visit their websites. See what their rates, fees, and conditions are. Again, don't actually apply.

There are also some worthy, exclusively-internet, entities out there who do car loans and general purpose loans. Just be sure to research them first. You do not want to get tangled up with the wrong one.

Network! By all means ask friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. for recommendations as to where to get the best car loan. Applying for an auto loan at a place where you can use an existing good customer as a reference certainly won't hurt.

Also be attuned to what people say about auto loan places to avoid.

How to Apply for the Car Loan
This is all a pain in the neck.
But even a 1% loan rate savings can add up to a significant amount of money over time.

The Application Applying Process

Well, you've cleaned up your credit report and have done your research. Time to apply for the loan.

Pick and rank your best five candidates from your research. Work your way down the list. Make it known you are shopping for the best rate; this accomplishes three purposes:
  • You are implying you have no concerns about being accepted for the loan, your only concerns are as to terms. Appearing confident favorably affects perception.
  • You will not appear desperate or sneaky when it is noted you are making multiply inquiries.
  • Induces competition and a sense of urgency as to interest rate offered and quickness of response.
In some cases you will have the option to apply in person or via their website. Put some thought into what would work best for you in that particular situation.

Do make all your applications within a 30-day time frame. Multiple loan application inquires will reduce your credit score. But if you make all your duplicate applications within a 30-day period, it is supposed to be categorized as only one inquiry by the credit reporting agencies.

Summary

The above information should work equally well as to getting the best motorcycle, truck, boat, or even airplane loan rates. However, if the boat or airplane is over a 100K, then you can probably afford to get a financial adviser involved. Preferably one with lending institution connections.

Yes, getting the best auto, truck, or SUV loan rates can be a lot of work and a pain in general. The more effort you put in to it, the more money you can save. One thing you can do is to make the project an iterative process, i.e., don't try to do it all at once. Just do one or two aspects a day. It will be done before you know it.

Just a Couple Car Buying Quick Tips
Thrown in for Good Measure


New Car Buying Tip

There are reports saying buyers can get a better price through the website than through going to the car lot. There may even be a choice of websites, i.e., manufacturer website vs. dealership website.

Every manufacturer does things their own way. As an example, the manufacturer website may simply refer you to the appropriate dealership website. Or not. Things are always changing.

It should also be noted more and more dealerships are directly owned by the manufacturer.

Used Car Buying Tip

When a dealership takes a car in trade-in, generally one of two things will happen to it.
  • If the dealership thinks it is a good car which will outlast their warranty program, they will give it a tune-up, detail it, and put it in their used car section.
  • If they don't think it's such a good car, they'll sell it off at a wholesalers' auction and it ends up in some used car lot.

What is the significance of this to the used car buyer?
  • The better cared for, more reliable cars are to be found in dealership used car sections.
  • The more tired, riskier cars are generally at places exclusively selling used cars.

EV Car Buying Tip (both new and used)

Most people know about the federal tax rebate for new EV cars, however there are several important caveats. If one is considering buying a new EV, it would be a very good idea to visit this federal website: Federal Tax Credits for New All-Electric and Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles

What is not so well known is there may also be state and local incentives. These incentives may apply for both new and used EVs. It is recommended one do searches for: "YourStateName EV rebate vouchers incentives". You may get lucky or you may not, sometimes the site may state that their pending application reservation queue is full.

If one is considering buying a used EV, it would be wise to become an EV battery expert first.

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Sales Tax Overcharges: How to Not Overpay and Report Store

Latest update: April 17, 2022. Page URL indicates original publication date; meanwhile, times change and the updates continue.

Have you been overcharged on sales tax? Here is a way on how to mentally calculate state sales taxes on the spot and stop being cheated, catch errors, and prevent fraudulent attempts.

Sales Tax - Regressive Taxation of the Poor

Business, Vendor, or Store Overcharging on State Sales Tax?

When it comes to sales taxes, fraud is not that rare of an occurrence. Many times, smaller stores do deliberately overcharge state sales tax. In fact, I’ve seen news reports where even the larger, national chain stores have been caught overcharging sales taxes. And employees in all stores have also been known to make price and thus state sales tax mistakes as well.

Mentally calculating state sales tax to prevent being overcharged is easy. It all has to do with rounding, no degree in rocket surgery required. You are simply doing a quick approximation to prevent yourself from being a victim of sales tax fraud or simply to prevent being mistakenly overcharged.

[Be advised that this page is US-centric. Canada and most European countries have sales taxes or a value added tax (VAT) far exceeding 10%. However, if the VAT tax is close to another round number, one can still make this method work.]

Here are the four main premises of this page:
  • Most combined state, country, city sales taxes do not exceed 10 percent, but most sales tax totals are reasonably close to 10 percent.
  • Most thieves are greedy and will exceed the 10 percent amount.
  • Even my dog can mentally calculate 10% of something.
  • Even my dog can mentally add 10% of something to something.

You do not need any of these...

How to Mentally Calculate State Sales Tax – Some Examples

How do I calculate sales tax from a total?

The best way for this tutorial to demonstrate mentally calculating state total sales taxes is by giving examples. In reality, you already know how to do this. You just may not know that you know yet. So let's begin. You walk up to the counter and engage in a purchase which sells for...

$49.99
  1. You round the price to $50.
  2. You calculate the 10% as $5.
  3. You add the $50 plus $5 to get $55.
  4. If the counter person wants more than $55, welcome to the world of sales tax fraud and overcharges.

Other Examples...


$29.99
  1. You round it to $30.
  2. 10% is $3.
  3. Total is $33.
  4. If the final price is over $33, welcome to the world of sales tax fraud and overcharges.
$5.99
  1. Round to $6.
  2. 10% is $.60.
  3. Total is $6.60.
  4. Anything over $6.60, welcome to the world of sales tax fraud and overcharges.
$79.98
  1. $80.
  2. $8.
  3. $88.
  4. Over $88, cheated.
It should be noted that honest mistakes do happen. You will find out soon enough if the overcharge was deliberate or accidental.

Is It Sales Tax Fraud?


What to Do When the Person at the Counter is Overcharging You on total State Sales Tax

This depends on your mood, time constraints, the amount of money involved, the store and neighborhood, etc. Below are some typical scenarios and what one can do in each situation; followed by what you can do after the fact.

You Don't Care About the Amount Involved

  1. Say nothing.
  2. Pay it.
  3. Say nothing. Or say the routine "Thanks."
  4. [Optional] Locate and take one of the business cards offered on the counter.
  5. Leave.
  6. Once outside, note the date and time.
  7. Never go back.
  8. Maybe tell everyone you know.

You Do Care About the Amount Involved (Option One)

  1. Don't pay it.
  2. Say nothing.
  3. [Optional] Locate and take one of the business cards offered on the counter.
  4. Leave. Be advised however, the counter person (probably the owner) will immediately know that you know he was trying to cheat you. And you took one of his cards... And state sales tax fraud is a very serious offense...
  5. Once outside, note the date and time.
  6. Never go back.
  7. Maybe tell everyone you know.

You Do Care About the Amount Involved (Option Two)

  • Politely point out the total is incorrect and explain why you think so.
  • If the counter person reviews and corrects the error:
  1. Pay it.
  2. Call it a day.
  3. Maybe or maybe not give the place another chance in the future.
  • If the counter person denies, disputes, or otherwise argues with your statement...
  1. Don't pay it.
  2. [Optional] Locate and take one of the business cards offered on the counter.
  3. Leave.
  4. Once outside, note the date and time.
  5. Never go back.
  6. Tell everyone you know.

Reward for Reporting State Sales Tax Fraud?


How to Report Stores and Other Businesses Who Overcharge State Sales Taxes

Not only are you doing a good deed for society, you might even make some money in the process.
  1. Find your state's website dealing with all things sales tax.
  2. Find where to report what you experienced. As an example, in California the California State Board of Equalization would be where to go. California does not pay a reward the last time I checked. However, reporting the fraud is still a good idea; wouldn't you like the thief (employee or owner) removed, so you can have an honest, local place to shop? Reports can be made anonymously and will still be investigated.
  3. For other states, determine if you might get a reward. Tell them your experience in detail, including date and time. Give them all the information on the business card. If you don't have the store's business card, that is ok; just be sure the store name and address you are reporting is correct. And don't worry; they're not going to just take your word for it. They will probably send the equivalent of a few "mystery shoppers" to the store to confirm. When they have absolutely verified and proven it is not an isolated incident; only then will the hammer fall on the deserving thief.
More than likely the store location is leased. With any luck, the thieving employee or owner will soon be gone; hopefully replaced with a new, honest employee or business.

A separate note as to state sales tax billing errors by business vendors. There it is in writing; it's a pretty good bet that this is an honest mistake and a simple phone call will fix it. While you're at it, you might want to review the previous invoices from this vendor.

A July 2020 Update
If you do online shopping, you will want to read this site: Dark Patterns.

April 2021 Update
Depending on your state, retailers can be subjected to both criminal and civil penalties for frequent overcharging of sales tax. There can even be class action suits against the larger retailers.

October 2021 Update
Another holiday shopping season approaches, chaos expected to be even worse than last year. Here is a very worthwhile .gov page about sales taxes for Californians: California Buyer’s Guide to Tax.

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Consumer Rant About Contracts Businesses Make Us Sign

Latest update: August 10, 2022. Page URL indicates original publication date; meanwhile, times change and the updates continue.

Businesses Know Consumers Blindly Sign Anything


The former title for this article was Beware Unfair, Fraudulent, Scam Consumer Contracts - Just Say No. This page is a cautionary note. Unethical consumer contracts are the ultimate definition of SWAG (Stolen Without a Gun).

Consumer contracts are not your friend.

Contracts and the Law and You and the Judge


"But, your honor!?!" I said to the judge...

Judge, “You signed a contract.”

Me, “You mean that paragraph at the bottom of the application form?”

Judge, “Yes.”

Me, “But every bank in the country has that clause.”

Judge, “What clause?”

Me, “The sentence that says I’ve read and agreed to their charter; that I’ve read and agreed to all their bylaws; that I’ve read and agreed to all their rules and regulations. All of that stuff would be a stack of paper from the floor to the ceiling; and they wouldn’t even have copies at the branch for me to read anyway.”

Judge, “I know. But anything you sign is a contract.” (He is right of course.)

Me, “But every financial institution in the country has that clause.”

Judge, “I know.”

Me, “But if we don’t sign, we can’t get a checking account, savings account, credit card account or loan anywhere!”

Judge, “Sucks, doesn’t it?”

Me, “What do I owe?”

Judge, “Well, let’s see what they made up... Yep, that’s what you owe.”


The above story is fictional, but versions of it happen in real life thousands of times every month. That is why I never do business with national banks or credit card companies. Finding a local credit union is the only way to go; they have versions of the same clause, but most of them are not thieves (see referenced article).

Needless to say, unethical consumer contracts don't just apply to national banks. In fact, there are credit card companies out there that are 10 times worse than any bank. Cable companies are another example, which is one reason why customers are leaving them in droves. Some cellphone carriers are also less than scrupulous, their contracts sometime include a clause stating you have to pay them even when they don't provide the agreed upon services. And then there is the worst of the worst, otherwise known as private sector contracts having to do with anything medical.

Warnings and Alerts About Consumer Contracts

  • You have no civil rights when you blindly give them away by signing a multi-page, fine print contract without reading it. This happens all the time. The days of trusting an entity just because they are a large corporation or an established business are long gone. This is especially applicable as to credit card companies, medical entities, financial institutions, auto repair entities, and pretty much any and all other service-related entities. Corporate greed is the rule, not the exception.
  • Read the contract. If it’s too long for you to read and understand at the time, don’t sign it. If any of the print is too small for you to read, don’t sign it. If there is anything in it you don’t like or understand, don’t sign it. If it's incomplete, don't sign it. If you don't know what you are doing, don't sign it.
  • By definition anything you sign is a contract; whether it be just a single word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, or a hundred page document. Whenever someone tries to get you to sign something, it is for their benefit, not yours.
  • Reading a contract will give you an education; not reading a contract will give you an “adventure”.
  • Unethical contracts and incompetent/unethical civil laws victimize more people than all legally defined criminal activity combined. It is the ultimate definition of SWAG (Stolen without a Gun).

Beware Consumer Contracts

About Class Action Lawsuits

A class action lawsuit can result when a significant number of consumers have been victimized. Sometimes the company made an honest mistake, a defective product for example. Many times, however, class action lawsuits can result from SWAG consumer contracts or other behavior so egregious that it can't be covered up anymore. Personally, I think some of these cases should be in criminal court as opposed to civil court. If you happen to notice a class action lawsuit you are eligible to join as a member, you might as well sign up for it. You may not get much in the way of compensation, but at least you will get something.

Side note: I am not an attorney. Any attorney, legal firm, or government agency who specializes in defending/protecting/helping consumers and patients are welcome to post links to their websites in the comments section below. Any attorney or legal firm doing consumer-related or patient-related class action lawsuits are also welcome to post relevant links.

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How to Save Money on Food and Other Grocery Shopping Bills - A List and More

Latest update: January 5, 2022. Page URL indicates original publication date; meanwhile, times change and the updates continue.

Saving Money on Food Is Easier Than One Thinks - Reduce Those Shopping Bills


And a note about government food benefits during hard times. And also a math note for parents and our education system and kids.


Inflation! Inflation! Inflation!

  • Inflation is here to stay. To the extent one is able, it is definitely a good idea to start buying ahead and stockpiling non-perishable items we know we will always eventually use anyway. Paper products, cleaning products, and hygiene products are excellent examples. Pretty much all canned goods have a worthwhile shelf life of a few years; check those expiration dates. Even frozen foods can be bought up to 6 months ahead or longer; again, check the expiration dates.

Coupons and Websites

  • Yes, do use those coupons; the Sunday paper and your junk mail will give you all you need. Also drop by your main grocery store’s website and see what they have to say for themselves; more often than not, they will have additional digital coupons you can use where you simply enter your phone number at the checkout register to collect.

Generic Brands

  • Yes, do buy the generic store brands. It is common knowledge they cost less. What isn’t so well known is that more often than not they are made by the same manufacturer as the nationally labeled brands that cost up to twice as much.

Product Shelf Positioning

  • Make it a point to look at the top and bottom shelves. The middle shelves are where the high markup items are.

Unit Pricing

  • Do make it a habit to routinely check the unit pricing. No rocket surgeon degree required; the unit price is right below or beside the sale price. There will be at least one occasion every trip where it will affect your decision as to what to buy. Does your store not conveniently display the unit pricing? If so, then find another store. Also, you may be surprised to learn the larger sizes do not always represent the best unit pricing. Stores are sneaky that way, knowing that consumers automatically assume the larger size is the better deal.

Product Store Positioning and Impulse Buying

  • Never buy anything displayed at the register and checkout line. Those are what is known as spontaneous purchases and impulse items and always have the highest markup. Always bring a shopping list. It will cut down on your spontaneous impulse buying immensely. And while we are at it, never shop hungry.
  • The freshest items and those with the longest expiration dates are at the back of the shelf. This applies to produce, dairy, bottled and canned goods, and actually pretty much everything.

Don't Pay for Unneeded Labor

  • Never buy pre-made sandwiches or other items requiring extra preparation in the deli section. The prices are highway robbery and are for people who are taking their lunch break from work, etc. If the sandwich looks delicious, then just buy the same filling from that same deli instead. This assumes you are willing enough to take the contents from the container and put between two slices of bread yourself. Chicken salad and egg salad are good examples. Doing this will usually save you between $2 to $3 per sandwich. And save the containers, they can repeatedly be used for freezing and storing leftovers.

Stock Up on Non-Perishable Sale Items

  • Prices can vary by as much as 50% from week to week. Tissues are an excellent example of this. Canned goods are another excellent example. Some juices also have long expiration dates.

Check Your Receipt for Double Billing

  • It happens a lot more often than you think. It usually happens because either the cashier doesn’t like you or the scanner sensor is dirty. And checking the receipt really is easier than you think; even a long receipt takes less than a minute to quickly glance through. At minimum, at least check the higher priced items. When you find something (and you inevitably will), simply return to the same register and tell them. They will refund your money on the spot.

Never Set Your Wallet on the Counter at the Checkout

  • Sooner or later, you will inevitably forget and leave it there when you walk out of the store. It won't always still be there when you go back for it.

Fewer Trips

  • Every trip you make to the store probably costs you between $2 to $4 in gas. Try to organize to make fewer trips.


Government Food Benefits

BTW, Food Stamps aka Cal Fresh aka SNAP benefits are used by millions of Americans. If your financial situation is truly grim, it is worth investigating.

Government Websites to Get Started

https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/apply
https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap
https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/eligibility


And last, but not least...

Parents: Teach Your Kids About Unit Pricing and Basic Math - A True Story

I actually saw this happen several years ago.

A parent and teenager are in a store. The store is having a candy sale. There are two different-sized boxes of chocolate cream candies on display. There is the 12-oz. box for $4.95. There is the 1-lb, 2-oz. box for $12.95. There is some dialogue. Then the teenager selects the one-pound-plus box saying something to the effect that, "The larger box is the better buy."

The parent says something to the effect, “I am really worried about your math skills.”

I kid you not, I really saw this happen. And one can tell by the prices that it was indeed many years ago.

Here are what I believe their respective thought processes were:

The parent: “Hmm, $5 for 12 ounces is equal to $10 for 24 ounces. The $10 for 24 ounces is better than the $13 for 18 ounces.” Parent chooses two of the smaller boxes.

The teenager: “The larger box will have the better per-unit price.” Teenager doesn’t consider doing any calculations. Teenager chooses the larger box. The equivalent of this is probably still happening thousands of times a day nationwide. The retail stores are fully aware that our education system isn't what it used to be.

And while we are at it and on a separate note, there are also some small store owners who are equally aware of this lack-of-education fact when is comes to charging sales tax.

Grocery Store Food Discrimination - A Commentary

Grocery store and supermarket chains discriminate against single people, divorced people, senior citizens, and anyone else who happens to live alone. Unless we are buying groceries for a family, the national chain grocery stores apparently don't want to bother with us. Or if they do, it looks like they want to charge us extra for the privilege.

Having to buy four or five units of the same food item in order to get the discount sale price really does discriminate against singles, senior citizens, and other people who live alone. Only families can benefit from the use of this particular sales and marketing practice.

I’ve noticed this sales tactic is becoming more and more prevalent lately. I figured it was time to say something about it.

There really are very few people living alone who can make use of four boxes of crackers, five bottles of soda, four cans of tuna, and so forth.

And this buy-4-items and buy-5-items requirement to get various discounts is spreading to staple items. It is no longer limited to the more “frivolous” purchases.

In all fairness, it should be noted the grocery stores and supermarket chains doing this are not doing it to deliberately discriminate against singles, senior citizens, etc. They are doing this for the same reason they do all their other sales tactics; the purpose being to increase sales and maximize profits. Nothing wrong with that; that is capitalism.

The resulting discrimination against certain classes of people is simply the unintended consequence. Basically, it's called collateral damage. [Update. This discrimination commentary was written long before the pandemic situation. Due to the hoarding, plant closures, and distribution infrastructure problems; though the sales tactic is still present, it is not as prevalent these days.]

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An article from NPR: Inflation Is Surging and People Are Hopping Mad

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Best Consumer Information Website List and More - Includes Dot Com Boom & Bust Era

Latest update: January 22, 2022. Page URL indicates original publication date; meanwhile, times change and the updates continue.

This is a rather unique list. In addition to the useful, current resources; there are also a lot of companies and resources from the infamous boom & bust dot com era. It is interesting what some of those companies are up to these days. I do my best to keep this page current; if a broken link does show up, please let me know via the comments section below. Also a note, if "https" is not available, it would be wise to not go there.


Resource Description - Worthy Consumer Resources
JDpower Consumer product information.
Consumers Review Consumers Review listings and reviews.
ConsumerReports Consumer product information. Free and fee based service.
BBB Better Business Bureau.
RipOffReport Consumer complaints about specific entities.
cnet Consumer tech product information.
HotDog Get rid of cable TV. Do internet video streaming. Save a fortune.
WiseBread Living large on a small budget.
SlickDeals Deals info.


Resource Description
gifts Intelligent directory of products.
LetsTalk Compare cell-phone plans.
Defunct ---
AuctionGuild Industry watchdog. Useful info.
PayPal Reputable online payment service.
CraigsList Online classified ads. Be careful here.


Resource Description - Worthy Consumer Resources
Credit Union Nat'l Association Locate a credit union near you.
DoNotCall Federal telemarketer Do-Not-Call list.
AnnualCreditReport Legit free credit reports site.
SmartMoney All sorts of useful info.
DealMine Discount aggregator and cross-reference site.
GetHuman Dealing with Corporate America by phone.
iHateDebt Dealing with debt problems. Information, free and fee.
hotels Compare hotel prices.
CreditUnionsOnline Locate a local credit union.
Life Ant Life insurance quotes.
Insurance Panda Auto insurance quotes.
BankRate Interest rates comparison.
HSH Associates Mortgage rate information, more.
Insure.com News, company fin'l info, more.
Consumer World Information.
ConsumerProAssoc Information and many links.
epinions Information and many links.
FTC Federal Trade Commission.
C.I.C. Federal Consumer Information Catalog.
FDIC Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Books/Mags Description
amazon All.
barnesandnoble All.
half All. Owned by eBay.
abebooks All.
magazinepricesearch Price comparisons.
studentbookworld New text books.
campusbooks Text books. Connects buyers/sellers, new/used, more.
collegebooksdirect Text books. Buy/sell used.
textbookrevolution.org Student run. Free educational materials.
librarything Organizational resource.

Resource Description
Junk Busters Stop telephone solicitors, junk mail, more.
Scam Busters Information.
spamlinks .net Spam track & trace.
C.A.U.C.E. Anti-spam site.
Q
Q
N.F.I.C. The National Fraud Information Center.
ic3 Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Nolo Legal self help, more.
lawyers Legal info, more.

Resource All Things Real Estate....
Fannie Mae Foreclosed homes, much more....
Freddie Mac HomeSteps. Foreclosed homes, much more....
MoveUp Research home value.
HomeAdvisor Houses, Apts, Neighborhood research.
HomeShark Info on buying a home, more.
APBnews Crime info by zip code, more.
IRED Directory of real estate websites, more.
AllApartments All things apartment related.
SpringStreet All things apartment related.

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