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The www.FedPrimeRate.com Personal Finance Blog and Magazine

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Top 100 Student Loan Consolidators and Originators

If you're planning on applying for a new student loan, or planning on consolidating your existing loan(s), then you'll find the following news useful. The Department of Education recently released two top 100 lists: The Top 100 Student Loan Consolidation Lenders for 2006-2006, and the Top 100 Student Loan Originators for 2005-2006. These two lists are based on dollar amounts on new guarantees.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Rentometer.com

If you're still renting (as I am) it's a good to know what comparable apartments are renting for, as this knowledge will help you to negotiate the best possible deal on your rent. I recently stumbled upon http://www.rentometer.com, as site where you simply enter a few tidbits of information, and the site will show you how your situation compares to others in your area. Cool stuff.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Why Are Casinos Allowed to Advertise on TV?

I was watching TV last night, and I saw a commercial that I found disturbing. It was a commercial for a casino, and the tag line was, "It's an escape that stays with you!"

Great! It stays with you! Yes, that's fantastic news, especially for those who are addicted to gambling.

Why are these commercials allowed on TV? TV ads for casinos should be banned, just as TV ads for cigarettes are not permitted. The casinos will make a lot of money no matter what, just as the cigarette companies continue to thrive despite law suits, public outcry and limited advertising venues.

Casinos are run by nasty people. Why no clocks in casinos? So that gamblers have no idea how much time they've spent inside. That's also why casinos almost always have no windows, so that patrons can't see the sun come up.

I've never had a problem with gambling, but I watched a college friend throw his life away with gambling and drug addiction. Ugly stuff.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

FICO® Credit Score Hits 791

A nice jump for my FICO® credit score this month: up 31 to 791. How did I do it? I made a payment of $2,000 (exactly) on my Citi® credit card some weeks ago. This is cool: I'm just 9 points away from my goal of being in 800+ territory by 2008.

Just as soon as I'm done writing this blog entry, I'm going login to my Citi account and make another large payment -- $3,916.74 to be exact -- a payment that will eliminate my personal credit card debt completely! That's a significant milestone for me since I've had personal credit card debt for as long as I can remember.

A $2,000 payment caused my FICO score to leap from 760 to 791. So what will a $3,916.74 payment do for my FICO score? My guess is that my score will jump to at least 805. If you care to make a guess, please feel free to do so in the comments section below.

Will I be able to refrain from using credit for my personal needs? Yes, I'm quite confident that I will. I have some major purchases to make:

  • A new car stereo. It's not a self-indulgent upgrade! My radio went dead a month ago and I haven't been able to fix it. I may be able to spend less than $100 by simply replacing the head unit, but if I have to spend more, I will. I love to drive, and I can't stand driving without a good mix of NPR news and my favorite driving tunes.

  • A washer and dryer. An investment really, since I'm just making the owner of my local laundry center rich by washing my clothes there. Plus, I'll save time by washing my things at home.

  • Some car repairs. I've been hearing a strange and worrisome noise in my car's front end. It's been bothering me for many weeks, and it's time I got it fixed. Suspension work is often expensive, but I'm hoping the repairs won't cost more than $1,000.

But I've been saving up for the above list of expenses, so my personal credit cards won't see any action any time soon. Yup: my personal credit cards are going to experience some serious neglect from now on.

As for the status of my two business credit cards: I'll be paying the balance on my Citi business credit card down to zero later tonight, and I'm also going to make a large payment on my Bank of America business card, a payment large enough to reduce the balance by at least half.

I'm excited about all this debt reduction going on in my life, especially because it means that I'll be shelling out less money each month.

That's it for now.

I usually close with an updated chart of my FICO credit score. Don't worry: the tradition continues. I recently created a new spreadsheet with my FICO data, and from that spreadsheet I created a new chart which I hope is clearer and easier to read. So here it is: my FICO credit score from June, 2005 to the present:

Updated Chart of my FICO® Credit Score - March 6, 2007: 791

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Monday, March 05, 2007

America Used To Be A Great Place for Diesel Cars

When I was younger, I drove a Mazda RX-7 which has the Wankel rotary engine in it. Great car, with a great engine, but way too small my me now. Ever since I gave up my Mazda, I've been a big fan of the diesel engine. I drive a diesel car now, and I've owned 3 diesels since the mid-90's. Reasons for loving a diesel car:

  • Diesel engines are more efficient than their gasoline-powered counterparts. My car has plenty of pep (it's turbo charged, which helps) but it also gets 35 MPG on the highway.

  • The cost of diesel fuel is almost always cheaper than regular unleaded gasoline.

  • Diesel engines last a long time (I really like things that are built to last) and they are very reliable.

  • Diesel engines produce less greenhouse gases than comparable gasoline engines.

  • A diesel engine can be converted to run on used cooking oil, believe it or not.

I used to feel so smart driving down the highway in my diesel, saving on fuel costs, going 600+ miles on a single tank of fuel, doing my part to help save the planet and reduce America's dependence on crude oil.

Now I feel like a sucker with my diesel!

When gas prices started rising, so did the cost of diesel fuel. But then, as gas prices retreated, the cost of diesel fuel remained high. So now, the average cost for a gallon of diesel in my area is about the same or even higher than the cost of medium-grade unleaded gasoline. Lame!

Furthermore, a new diesel formulation has been rolled out across the country. The new low and ultra-low sulfur diesel is even more environment-friendly than the diesel I was pumping a few months ago, which is great for the environment, but terrible for my car. Why? Because when you take the sulfur out of the diesel, the fuel looses its lubricity (slickness), and it's the lubricity that keeps vital parts lubricated (like the fuel pump) and keeps the seals along the fuel line in good shape. As soon as I started pumping the reformulated diesel into my car, I started to notice small pools of diesel fuel underneath the engine compartment whenever I parked the car and left it for 6 hours or so. The leak was caused by unlubricated seals shrinking. So this new environment-friendly diesel was causing fuel to spill out my car, which is not a very environment-friendly thing to do. Have you ever poured diesel onto some grass? The grass will die, and nothing will grow in that spot until the soil is replaced!

I have no idea what other damage has been done to vital engine components as a result of using the new diesel.

So now, on top of having to pay more at the pump for diesel fuel, I have to use a fuel additive that contains lubricants my cars needs to function properly. I have to use the additive every time I fill my tank, which means I have to spend an extra $7 every time I refuel.

Thankfully, the additive works very well: it stops the leaks in short order, and it also increases the power of my car significantly (cetane boost.)

I hate it when a good thing blows up in my face!

My Car's TurboDiesel Engine: Poor Thing

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