Archive for the 'Ripoffs' Category

Frugal Fail: Can You Put The Bags I Bought In a Free Bag?


Because we don’t measure ourselves by the quality of our trash bags

Not only are we into spending wisely and saving money, but we are also into saving the environment.  Unfortunately, I don’t see how fancy biodegradable bags do either.  For those of you that live in areas with community composting or yard/food waste pickup, you need some sort of of biodegradable bag to put your food scraps in.

You can buy 125 of these for $12.99 + tax from Costco.  This works out to about $0.11 a bag.  Or you could buy them from Amazon at about $0.15 a bag.  Either way this is a whole lot more expensive than the free brown paper bags you get at the grocery store.

Spare yourself remembering the “environmentally sustainable” canvas or recycled plastic bags (which you should wash frequently, by the way) and use the free paper bags for biodegradable compost and paper recycling.

Frugal Fail: The $2600 Bottle of “Lifestyle”


It's hard to look smart when you spend money like an idiot

We present this one without comment.

$2,600 for a bottle of water… thirsty anyone? | Bucksome Boomer


13 Ways You Waste Money on Your Car

CBS Money Watch has a fun article on 10 ways to waste money on your car.  This article has all the usual tips, for example: “Don’t buy higher octane fuel than your car needs” and “There is no need to change your oil every 3,000 miles.  Most of these tips are good and if you are new to being frugal, you should definitely check them out.  However, I personally don’t agree with all the tips.  For example:

9. Buying expensive performance tires.

For the average driver, this is probably true, but it really depends on the type of car you drive and how you drive it.  It also depends on what you mean by “performance”.  For example, many modern cars require run flat tires.  Some cars require “performance” tires to maintain stability at highway speeds and in cornering.  So, I would say this tip is fine, as long as you get tires that are at least as good as the OEM or factory recommended specifications.

The second tip I disagree with is Tip #10:

10. Paying for built-in navigation.

Yes, the average built-in navigation system will set you back and additional $1500 to $4000.  However, what the author forgets is that in many cars the “navigation options” is actually the “computer controlled everything option”.  Many cars now integrate the radio, alarm, climate control, system monitoring, Bluetooth phone support, reverse camera / sensor and much more into their “navigation system”.  So it is important that you compare apples-to-apples when following this tip.  The $200 TomTom VIA 1505TM 5-Inch Portable GPS Navigator with Lifetime Traffic & Maps will give you great navigation, but it won’t tell you what song you are listening to or if something is behind you when you are backing up.

Finally, while probably good advice, Tip #3 in the article is pretty inaccurate:

3. Failing to change your air filter. “If you have not changed your air filter by about 40,000 miles, it is probably clogged and hurting your gas mileage,” says George Sadowski. That MPG penalty could be as much as 10% to 15%, he estimates. So if your mechanic recommends a fresh filter after about 25,000 miles, say yes.

The EPA released a study back in 2009 saying that in modern cars, with computer controlled fuel injection, the air filter only benefits acceleration and has no benefit on MPG.  However, for older cars with carburetors, there is a benefit as noted:

Tests suggest that replacing a clogged air filter on an older car with a carbureted engine may improve fuel economy 2 to 6 percent under normal replacement conditions or up to 14 percent if the filter is so clogged that it significantly affects drivability.


To replace these two tips, I will give you few quick tips of my own on how to stop wasting money on your car:

  • Make sure your tire pressure is correct – This is probably one the simplest and cheapest ways to save gas and increase tire longevity.
  • Skip the vanity plate – The extra $50+ is probably better in a savings account or paying off debt.
  • Don’t over insure your vehicle – Make sure you are not paying for more insurance than you need.  If you have an emergency fund, raise your auto insurance deductible and get rid of the rental car reimbursement insurance.  These quick changes could save you a few hundred a year.

10 Ways You Waste Money on Your Car | CBS Money Watch


Photo Credit: Stig Nygaard

Read the Fine Print: Lesson in Saving Becomes Lesson in Getting Shafted

A few weeks back, we posted about Youth Savings Accounts, which can be a great way to get above market rates for relatively small amounts of money.  Personally, I have set up one for my son and it allows him to earn 6.17% on $500, which is much better than the national average savings account rate.  Of course, leave it to Bank of America to find a way to screw people and their kids.  This case over at The Consumerist caught my eye:

In 2007, a mother of three thought she would introduce her kids to the world of banking by having them each open up passbook savings accounts at the local Bank of America branch. But rather than learning how savings earn interest over the years, the kids found themselves schooled in the finer points of bank fees and the need to check your statement.

The big issue was that the account started out as a “free” youth account, but quietly turned into an “anything-but-free” account in 2008.

The mom tells San Francisco’s KGO-TV that when she opened the accounts for the children, she had believed there wouldn’t be any fees associated with them because they were all tied to her existing BofA account. Alas, starting in 2008, each account was hit with a monthly fee of $3. In 2009, that fee went up to $5 per month.

Banks change terms and conditions all the time.  These changes are often buried within pages and pages of fine print.  As far as I know, all the recent laws such as the CARD Act only apply to credit cards and not deposit accounts.  Additional, the new overdraft protection rules only apply to overdraft fees.  This means banks can continue to add fees to savings, checking and other such accounts with little notice.  If you are going to take advantage of Youth Savings Accounts, be sure to read the fine print and be on the look out changes to the terms including:

  • Monthly Fees
  • Changes to minimum balance requirements
  • Changes to maximum balance that earns bonus interest rate
  • Changes to interest rates (this is a big on, because savings rates can change without notice)

I  do not bank with Bank of America.  Here are just a few reasons why:

Why anyone would bank at Bank of America is beyond me.  Jump over to The Consumerist to watch a video and to read more.

Mom Tries To Teach Kids Value Of Saving, Kids Learn Lesson About Bank Fees Instead | The Consumerist

Frugal Fail: Renting your cable modem is harmful to your wallet


Don't rent a cable or DSL modem

Last month, I replaced my cable modem with a new Motorola SURFBoard 6120 (the same one that I would have rented from Comcast).  I did this because I wanted to take advantage of the new speeds offered in my area and my old DOCSIS 2.0 modem could not handle them.  This and a note from my sister-in-law, reminded of how great of a deal it was to own your own modem instead of rent one.

The following table shows how much money I saved by buying my cable modem 6 years ago.  When I first decided to buy my modem, the rental rate was approximately $3 plus tax.  I purchased my modem online, used it for 6 years and then was able to re-sell it on Craig’s List for $25.  Over that time, Comcast raised the rental rates twice.

Cable Modem rental vs. buy

If I use the same projections, and even assume the monthly rate will never rise (unlikely), I can see that I can expect to save even more money over the next 5 to 6 years after upgrading:

Cable Modem rent vs. buy projections


The main reasons Comcast and others say you should rent from them are as follows:

  • If it breaks, we will replace it
  • You are future proofed, as you get free upgrades as the technology improves

Both of these reasons are ridiculous, but let’s address them one by one.

First, “if it breaks, we will replace it”.  This is simply another way of paying overpriced insurance you don’t need.  Cable modems have no moving parts, this means that their failure rate overtime is very low and that most failures are electrical and will happen within the first year.  New modems typically include a 1 to 3 year warranty and as such, paying hundreds of dollars to “insure” your cable modem is simply a huge waste of money.  Regardless, at approximately $7 to $10 a month in rental fees, even if you have to buy a new modem every year, it is still cheaper to buy than rent one from Comcast.

Second, “you are future proofed and get free upgrades”.  Obviously, since you are paying hundreds more for the privilege of “free” upgrades, the upgrades are anything but “free”.  More importantly, it is critical to know that the standards that cable modems follow known as DOCSIS are only updated every 4 to 6 years.  Once new standards are released, it takes cable operators another 1 to 4 years to fully adopt them and phase out the old standard.  This means that if you buy a modern DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem today, you can expect that this standard will be supported for at least another 5 to 10 years.  To add to this, the current DOCSIS 3.0 standard actually supports speeds many times faster than what the average home internet plan offers, this means that it may take even longer for DOCSIS 4.0 to come out and be adapted than previous versions.

If you are concerned that buying and installing your own cable modem will be hard, don’t be.  The steps are very simple:

  • Buy your new cable modem, I recommend going with the Motorola SURFBoard 6120, as it is pretty much the standard by which others are measured.
  • Un-box it, and plugin 3 wires:
    • Power
    • Cable line
    • Ethernet line to your computer or router
  • Call Comcast or your cable company and tell them you have a new cable modem you just bought.  They will ask you for some numbers on the box and then they will configure it remotely.
  • Return your old modem to Comcast or your cable provider and start saving money.

I looked around online and the best price I could find from a non-fly-by-night company, including tax and shipping was, which has it for $88.24 with free shipping and no sales tax in most states.

You can also get it from here ($89.99, no tax + free shiping):

MOTOROLA SB6120 DOCSIS 3.0 SURFboard eXtreme Cable Modem

Or you can buy it from Amazon here:

For another related frugal fail, consider the somewhat dated story of the widow that paid thousands to rent a rotary phone.  However, before you start to laugh, remember if you are currently renting your cable or DSL modem, you are in the same boat.

Beware of Work-At-Home Scams

One way to make living below your means easier is to increase your means (aka make more money).  Unfortunately, far too many people believe there is an easy way to do this and are all too willing to fork over cash for the “privilege” to do so.

While looking through a bunch of cool Info Graphics, I stumbled upon this one.  It is a pretty cool graphic explaining the pitfalls of the various “work at home” scams out there on the Internet.  The basic tips for these things always apply:

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it is
  • If you have to pay up front or pay to work, it’s probably a scam
  • Starting a business and making money is hard work, don’t think otherwise
  • If you see a pop-up ad, or a sign on the side of the road that is basically saying “you can make more money than you are now, for less effort” its a scam.  If these deals were so great, nobody would be telling you about them and they certainly wouldn’t need to spend their money advertising how great they are.




Frugal Fail: You put that on your face?

It seems to be a pretty common Internet myth that inkjet printer toner is “the most expensive liquid known to man” or very close to it.  While it is indeed expensive, with HP Black # selling for $20.48 per 19ML or $1.05 per ML, there are definitely more expensive liquids out there.  This site, for example, has a great list of liquids ranging from almost free to incredibly expensive.

Fortunately, it would seem that things we need to sustain life are relatively inexpensive when compared to things we want for enjoyment and vanity.  Liquids that can save and prolong our lives range widely from very affordable (Penicillin) to amazingly expensive (Interferon).  This aligns nicely with the basic laws of supply and demand.  It also sometimes correlates well to the amount of effort, cost and energy it takes to produce the items.

However, if we take the Interferon and scorpion venom off the list, perfume and skin/eye/face creams are at the top, costing significantly more than things like blood, medicine, milk, oil and pretty much every other liquid you might buy on a daily basis.

We here at BYM don’t pretend to understand the qualities of such fragrances and creams.  What we do know is that they cost a heck of a lot and unless these creams are actually made from the virgin tears of baby pandas and clinically are proven to actually make you younger, we can’t see spending $1000 for 1.7oz or $20 per ML of magic elixir.  In defense of this cream, it does have the words “platinum” and “rare” in its name… so that does imply it has a great deal of value.  We would also like to call out that during our research we found that if the product has the word “serum” in it, it costs even more.  This gem alone is $21.50 per ML. 

The simple fact of the matter is that time stops for nobody and these creams and fragrances will not let you live another day longer.  Our recommendation is to stop caring how good you smell or how wrinkly you look and save your money.  Better yet, if you are rich enough to truly afford a $1000 an ounce of cream, perhaps you should consider giving a little more to charity or perhaps spend your money and the time you have left on unbelievable once in a lifetime experiences.   Even if you aren’t ultra-wealthy, if you want to live below your means, be very careful of “aspirational purchases.”  Sure you can pay for the $120 cream or perfume, but can you afford it? And if you can, do you want to?  Maybe you should get the $18 cream and put the $100 or so you save into memorable experiences or savings. 

Here is a more detailed chart of expensive liquids:

Just for fun, if you actually want to buy some pure scorpion venom you can go here and get it for $3500 for 100/mg.  For more information on the scorpion venom dosage I used, go here.