Picking up Nickels

Friday, April 27, 2007

Update: Fighting disease with your computer

I just found out this morning that the distributed computing project that I blogged about in November has decided to close up shop:

With seven years and five projects under its belt, Grid.org has successfully completed its mission: To evangelize the benefits (and demonstrate the viability and security) of large-scale Internet-based grid computing. Therefore, it is with great pride for all the accomplishments of this pioneering resource, and above all with the utmost gratitude to each of our members around the globe, that we announce Grid.org will be retiring on Friday, April 27, 2007.

We’ll be making a public announcement on the site later this week, but we felt it was important to give you, our loyal member base, an early heads-up out of respect for the years of support you’ve given to Grid.org. This way you’ll have time to gather final statistics, exchange contact info, and prepare for the official shutdown.

I have donated my computer's idle CPU time to grid.org's non-profit scientific research projects for the past five years. I am saddened to hear that this project is ending, but fortunately there are many other ways to contribute to your fellow man out there.

I have decided to donate my idle CPU time to Stanford University's Folding@Home distributed computing effort, which is currently working on projects for Alzheimer's Disease, Cancer, Huntington's Disease, Osteogenesis Imperfecta, Parkinson's Disease, and Ribosome & antibiotics.

I encourage everyone to help make a difference by participating in a distributed computing project (disease, climate, search for extraterrestrial intelligence, etc.) that is meaningful to you. Check out the resources here for more information.


Friday, April 20, 2007

HSBC Direct 6% APY promotion ends next week

Unfortunately, HSBC's 6% promotional rate ends on 4/30. Based on an email I received from HSBC, it looks like they will be falling back to their standard rate of 5.05% APY on 5/1. I've had my new cash parked at HSBC for about three months now, and it's time to think about where to park my cash after HSBC lowers its rate.

One option is the 5.3% APY GMAC Bank Money Market account, as reported by Bank Deals last week. Interesting timing, but I will be keeping my eye on the T-Bill auctions this week.

According to the new and improved T-Bill tax equivalent yield spreadsheet (courtesy of the FatWallet discussion on Treasury Bills), California residents could have had a tax-equivalent yield of at least 5.5% APY for T-Bills bought at auction last week. If that trend holds up next week, I think the U.S. Treasury will have the pleasure of borrowing my money.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

April 2007 Series I Savings Bond update

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released the March 2007 Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) inflation data this morning, which increased by 0.91% since last month.

As I have mentioned before, now (along with the release of the September CPI-U) is one of the best times to consider purchasing I Bonds. The reason for this is that we now know what the rate of return for April 2007 I Bonds will be for both the first and second six month periods, which is important since I Bonds must be held for 12 months before they can be redeemed.

Using the CPI-U data from September 2006 (202.9) and March 2007 (205.352) (courtesy of inflationdata.com), we can calculate the variable rate for the second 6 month period for April 2007 issue I Bonds:

That would mean these bonds would earn a rate of 4.52% (using 1.40% fixed & 3.10 variable) for the first 6 months and 3.85% (using 1.40% fixed & 2.42% variable) for the second 6 months. Once again, I Bonds are not an attractive investment at this rate considering that several online savings accounts are currently earning 5%.

I will reassess I Bonds in October 2007 once the September 2007 CPI-U numbers are out. With the rising fuel and food prices we've been seeing lately, the I Bond inflation component could get a large bump later this year.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

CVS Drugstore Advisor Panel: get ExtraBucks for taking surveys

I've been a CVS Advisor for about a year now, and during that time I have received about $25 in ExtraBucks for taking a few online surveys.

The details of the program are as follows:

The purpose of the CVS Advisor Panel is to solicit your input about CVS stores, products and services, and to obtain your suggestions for how we can improve CVS. Your guidance is especially valuable as we strive to make your shopping experiences at CVS the best they can be.

Throughout the year, we will send you invitations to participate in online surveys about CVS products and services. If you choose to participate in our surveys, we thank you for your time by crediting your ExtraCare account with $5, $10 or $15 in ExtraBucks. Becoming a member of ExtraCare and the CVS Advisor Panel is FREE.

I participated in a short survey earlier this week regarding changes that CVS will be making to their web site, and received a $5 ExtraBucks credit in return. So far, I've found this program to be an easy way to take a few bucks off of my drugstore spending.

To sign up to be a CVS advisor, head over to cvsadvisor.com and click on the NOT A MEMBER YET? CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP TODAY! link.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

April 2007 Financial Asset Roundup

Here are my current financial assets as of the market close on April 9th, 2007:

Asset Mar 2007 Apr 2007 Change
Checking 293 489 196
Money Market 36,015 36,321 306
Savings Bonds 4,493 4,509 16
Treasury Bills 0 0 0
CDs 57,133 57,515 382
Brokerage 87,064 91,275 4,211
401k 95,398 98,431 3,033
Roth IRA 31,740 32,613 873
SEP IRA 158,595 162,629 4,034
529 Savings 32,266 33,419 1153
Total Assets $502,997 $517,201 +$14,204 (2.8%)

I had nice increase in the last month, since the stock market has produced a nice gain in the that time (S&P 500 index was up more than 2%):

(chart courtesy of msn.com)

I did have an increase in money outflows this month due to my snowblower purchase, a furniture purchase by Mrs. Frugalson, and the payments due with my state and federal income tax returns. I was able to minimize that somewhat by taking a distribution from my S Corp, but I will also be looking at the cost of replacing our 10 year old builder grade bathroom vanity and Formica counter top this month with a larger vanity and granite counter top. I will be able to do the labor myself, but I am still looking at about a $1,300 cost for materials.


Monday, April 09, 2007

CVS Pharmacy: $4 off $20 online coupon

CVS is offering a coupon to save $4 on any in-store or online purchase of $20 or more for new or existing members of their ExtraCare rewards program.

To claim your coupon, head over to cvs.com/email and sign up with a valid email address.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

$25 signup bonus for Fidelity 529 1.5% rewards American Express Card

FIA Card Services (the Bank of America MBNA card servicer) is offering a $25 statement credit for cardmembers that sign up for and use their 1.5% Fidelity 529 plan rewards American Express card.

To qualify for the $25 credit, call 866-836-6471 and mention priority code FAAWPV to apply for this card (this priority code does not appear to work for the online application at newcardonline.com). To obtain the $25 credit, you must apply for the card before July 31st, 2007 and make a purchase by October 31st, 2007.

While the 1.5% rewards bonus of this card is a step backward from the 2% rewards Mastercard that it replaced, it is still a nice compliment to cards offering 5% rewards on certain items like gasoline and grocery purchases.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Honda car owners: get a free 40-point inspection in April

April is National Car Care Month, and Honda dealers are offering a free 40-point inspection during Honda Car Care Days, April 1 - April 30, 2007.

According to the Honda Owner Link web site:

Since April is National Car Care Month, you might check your tires, oil and coolant level. But how do you examine tie rod ends or a CV-joint boot? Haven’t a clue? Don’t worry. It’s not a mystery for the shrewd investigators at your Honda dealer when they give you a free, 40-point inspection. After a professional examination of your engine, brakes, drivetrain, suspension and steering components, you’ll get the whole story with a detailed report of your Honda’s condition.

While Honda is obviously trying to drum up some service business here, this can be a good way to get a free assessment of condition of your Honda vehicle. If a problem is found, then it may even be something that you could repair yourself to save a few bucks (like my leaking oil pressure switch).

Even better, why not take advantage of this offer now and follow up in October with the cheap (or free) inspections offered in October during AAA Car Care Month.