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COA Resources
  • Driver's License - You must make sure you change your address with your State's department of motor vehicles (DMV).
  • Magazine Address Changes - We have collected some great information on how to change your address to keep getting the magazines you love at your new home.
  • Name Change Checklist - If you have recently gotten married, divorced, or changed your name for any other reason, then this list of resources will help you make sure you notify organizations that need to know your new name.
  • Driver's License - You must make sure you change your address with your State's department of motor vehicles (DMV).
  • USPS COA Site - You can pay a small fee to change your address here OR you can use our FREE service.
  • USPS Options for Receiving Mail - This is an interesting page where you can see what your options are for receiving mail. Did you know you had any?
  • Call to Change Your Address - This is an FAQ entry on how to change your address over the telephone.
  • USPS State Abbreviations - This is a real quick table for looking up State abbreviations.

Archive for May, 2010

Top 10 Things That Break When Moving

I don’t know how many times I have laid down in total exhaustion after a long weekend of moving and said to myself that I was NEVER going to do that again! Packing and unpacking your belongings can be a strong deterent to any future moves to say the least.  Over time the memory of the move seems to fade and I find myself repeating the process.  For whatever reason no matter how careful I try to be I ALWAYS break something I care about each time I move.  Frustrated by the whole ordeal I decided to research the top 10 things that break when moving and post them here.

  1. Electronics. Televisions, LCD panels, computers and more are highly likely to break during a move and usually these are the items that people try to be most careful with.  I have now taken to keeping my critical electronics literally right next to me when I move just to keep them safe.
  2. Already slightly damaged furniture.   Okay, let’s be honest we all have a crack here or there in at least one piece of furniture be it a headboard, a chair, a bookshelf, or whatever…  These are pieces we love to hate and always treat with kid gloves but many times the move is just too much to ask of these pieces and they just don’t make it.
  3. Tables. For whatever reason it seems that dining room tables, kitchen tables, coffee tables, end tables, etc. are all just sacrifices to the gods of moving.  If you manage to make it to your new home with all the tables you started with intact you are truly fortunate.
  4. Mirrors. I’m not sure you can actually pack these things well enough to avoid breakage.  I have actually left mirrors behind just to avoid breaking them (I am fairly superstitious and have no idea what the penalty is for breaking one in the move… maybe 7 years still applies).  These are terrible when they break and frankly, just dangerous.
  5. Plates. I’m not talking about paper plates here (the normal dinner plate for me).  I’m talking about that fine china which someone decided to give you as a wedding or other gift and that makes it out of storage once, maybe twice a year for special occasions (if that).
  6. Memorabilia. Okay so most of us have a collection of something whether it is shot glasses from all 50 States, NASCAR collectibles, baseball cards, or even JFK memorabilia.  These are some of the most precious things we own so of course they often get damaged in a move.
  7. Lamps.  Why is it that lamp manufacturers just can’t make an indestructable lamp that looks decent and can survive bouncing around in the back of a moving truck amidst boxes of books and knick knacks?  Sometimes it’s just a lamp shade other times the whole lamp, but they frequently break for sure.
  8. House plants. Have you ever tried to move a dozen house plants without having to at least completely re-pot at least one of them and hope that it’s roots are strong enough to survive the transplant?  These normally get tipped over and beat up during the move for whatever reason usually only AFTER they are in the new home.
  9. Children’s toys. How is it that kids toys can survive the worst beating imaginable at the hands of the kids but completely fail to survive life in a box for a couple of days while in transport?  Of course it’s usually one of the favorite toys and not the one they never play with that breaks.
  10. Relationships. The aboslute thing that will be broken in a move are relationships just because you inevitably leave someone behind.  Regardless of the ease with which we can email, text, etc.  That lack of close proximity to people we know causes us to become more distant over time.  It’s usually casual friendships that end up broken but they are not the only one’s that you need to keep a watchful eye on.

So as you embark on your next move and/or just begin to plan it out keep these things in mind and try your best to avoid breaking the things that are the most important to you (not that you wouldn’t already do that).  I hope that the next time I go to move I have better luck and can break the unlucky streak I am on (100% of the moves resulted in breaking one or more of the above things).  In any event, as the Summer move season approaches it’s good to be reminded of the top 10 things that are broken when moving.

Mail Delivery Times and Realistic Expectations

For as long as I can remember there has been a running joke about how long it can take the USPS to deliver mail.  I think this somewhat tarnished reputation may be more due to people procrastinating and not actually putting the letter or package into the mail more than anything.  With that said, I dug more deeply into just what the USPS says the American public should expect for standard delivery times.  In addition to that I went ahead and did some research on how often they actually hit these standard delivery times as well as how the USPS rates compared to other governmental agencies in terms of public satisfaction scores.  You might be surprised by the results.

Standard Delivery Times

One of the most important points that can’t be over-stressed is that for STANDARD mail, the USPS doesn’t make any guarantees at all (even that the letter or package will be delivered).  That does not mean they won’t try to deliver every package in a timely fashion at all it just means that the sender doesn’t have any service guarantees to work with for standard mail.

Class of MailEstimated Delivery TimeTrackableGuaranteed
Express Mail ServiceItems will make it to their destination by 3:00 PM the next day or second day if that option was chosen.YesYes
Priority Mail ServiceIn the U.S. your delivery should arrive in 2 to 3 days.NoNo
First Class MailIn the U.S. your delivery should arrive in 2 to 3 days.NoNo
Standard MailThe delivery times for standard mail vary wildly from 2 to 9 days.NoNo
PeriodicalsThese are simply not guaranteed to be delivered at all.NoNo

As with most things in life and certainly in business, the responsibility lies with the sender to understand the levels of service and to plan properly to get things delivered in a timely manner.  For instance it is not reasonable if you live in San Francisco, CA to send a birthday card to your mother in Cleveland, OH via standard mail and expect it to arrive the next day.  The smartest thing to do would be to plan to the outside window for standard mail which is 9 days and make sure you send Mom’s birthday card 9 days early.

As promised early on in the article, I did some research on how often the USPS actually meets their stated delivery times and the answer was 96% of the time for overnight express mail and no worse than 93% of the time for express mail.  In addition, according to a recent study by GfK Roper Consulting, 92% of the American public is very happy with the service provided by the USPS (92% of the respondents rated the service very good).  You can read more about this at National Association of Letter Carriers website (nalc.org).  The bottom line is that the USPS does deliver on their service promises and most people do recognize their commitment to service.  Here is a quick breakdown of public perception of the USPS versus other governmental agencies:

5 Notorious Identity Theft Cases

It may or may not surprise you to find out that identity theft cases are in fact not new at all, they are basically just evolving as criminals and the World they live in simply become more digital in some ways making identity theft easier and in other ways making it more difficult. Recently a whole new industry has sprung up around Identity theft insurance and companies like LifeLock and others are doing exceptionally well while providing varying amounts of real protection and value for the people whose identities are entrusted to them. Many such identity theft plans are simply a way for the companies to collect monthly premiums from people for a promise to do simple things like:

  • • Put people on the Do Not Call registry.
  • • Monitor your credit with the main credit reporting agencies.
  • • Make efforts to reduce people’s junk mail. A lot of identity theft occurs through other people completing credit card offers on a victim’s behalf.
  • • And mostly just agree to help them contact creditors and others in the event their identity is actually stolen.

There is definitely value in these identity theft services, but it really is important to understand that in most cases, the companies are only going to help you in the event that a criminal assumes your identity so you may be better off passing on the premiums and just paying someone for assistance if it actually happens to you. Either way, identity theft remains a real problem from people forging checks to stealing credit card and social security numbers over the Internet there are many ways you can become a victim. We thought we would illustrate some of those ways by listing 10 of the most notorious cases of identity theft.

  1. Catch Me if You Can – This movie which starred Leonardo Di Caprio is about Frank Abagnale, a true-to-life identity thief. He issued $4 million of bad checks, and more astonishingly, he posed as a pilot, doctor, professor, and an assistant attorney general. Although he was caught in the end, this story never fails to catch people’s attention. Of course he has turned his talents into a consulting company and now tries to help businesses avoid all kinds of identity fraud.
  2. Hacker Albert Gonzalez of Miami is serving 25 years in prison from pulling off the largest ID theft heist currently on record. Gonzalez (aka “Soupnazi”) stole an eye popping 135 million credit and debit card numbers from top retail chains like T.J. Maxx, Barnes & Noble, Boston Market, and the convenience store giant 7-Eleven. He basically pulled this off while he was a retired cyberthief working for the Secret Service. He planted a “sniffer” computer program on the networks of large payment processing companies using his access obtained via the Secret Service.
  3. Todd Davis, the CEO of LifeLock (a company mentioned above) embarked on a bold advertising campaign aimed at showing his confidence in the company’s services. So he plastered his social security number on billboards, on the radio, and of course all over the Internet. Well it didn’t take long for people to steal his identity using the social (457-55-5462). I think it’s just important to point out that using a service like LifeLock to protect your identity is smart, but you don’t need to tempt fate by broadcasting your personally identifiable information like that.
  4. Eldrick T. Woods – Yes the real name of the famous pro golfer, Tiger Woods. Anthony Lemar Taylor was able to steal Tiger’s identity and even obtained a real California driver’s license in Tiger’s name. He proceeded to run up credit card bills, purchase goods, and apply for loans in Tiger’s good name. Since he used Eldrick and not “Tiger” and the fact that he had both a valid California driver’s license and federal social security card he was able to pull of this scam. Mr. Taylor is now serving a 200 year prison sentence.
  5. Stealing from Himself – sounds bizarre but this is what Li Ming just did. Buried in debt, he faked his own death to escape payment (including an obituary in the local paper). Nine months after, he applied for new license, which eventually lead to his downfall and he was arrested for impersonating Ming Li along with several other charges.

These are far from isolated cases, but they are one’s that we hear a lot about on the Internet and various publications. I thought it was interesting to bring them together into one article to stress that identity theft can happen to just about anyone whether you are famous or just an innocent person buying a slurpee at your local 7-Eleven. Identity theft of all kinds is on the rise and becoming a problem that more people need to be aware of and in general, take it a lot more seriously. Here is how the types of identity theft are broken down by percentage of thefts:

  • • 26% – Credit Card Fraud
  • • 18% – Utilities Fraud
  • • 17% – Bank Fraud
  • • 12% – Employment Fraud
  • • 9% – Government Fraud
  • • 5% – Loan Fraud
  • • 13% – Other Types of Fraud

One of the bigger types of theft as you can see is utilities fraud (18% of all ID thefts). That is one that most people may not even think about. Essentially, this results from people using a child’s clean credit to get their power, water, gas, cable, or phone services turned back on. They are desperate for these services and will go to any lengths sometimes to make sure they get them (including ID theft).

Most likely in a future article, I’ll address tips to keep your identity safe but for now the simplest rule that can be provided is to just protect your personally identifiable information to the greatest extent possible and watch your credit reports closely. Catching the problem early on is critical to minimizing the impact that ID theft can have on your life. Stay alert!

The Origin of the Ponzi Scam

Thanks to the $50 billion scam recently pulled off by Bernard Madoff, the term “Ponzi scheme” came back into pop culture. It’s one of those side effects of a digital economy that it spread like wildfire and saturated the news and online blogs and forums exposing a whole new generation to the perils of Ponzi. We thought that it would be good to take a deep dive into the origins of the term Ponzi scheme and then circle back to draw parallels to Madoff’s more recent incarnation of this type of graft.

One doesn’t have to look to far anymore to get the definition of almost any term thanks to the free online encyclopedia that we know and love as Wikipedia. They have a great article listed on Ponzi and his scheme which we will summarize and elaborate on. So lets give credit where credit is due and discuss the birth of the Ponzi scheme and it’s Father, Charles Ponzi.

Charles Ponzi immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900′s and quickly learned English as he picked up odd jobs wherever he could find them. In 1907, he moved to Montreal and became a teller for Banco Zarossi which serviced Italian immigrants. He did well for himself at the bank and eventually rose to the position of bank manager. You would think that the story might end there but this was no ordinary bank. The bank offered double the going rate in interest on bank deposits. Why? Well because the bank had several failed real estate investments and Luigi Zarossi (the bank owner) was covering up those bad real estate investments by using the money coming in from the new deposits. Eventually Zarossi fled the country and went to Mexico with a large portion of the bank’s money. He did however leave behind Ponzi and this little scheme of Zarossi would be a concept that Ponzi would eventually use in several schemes to defraud investors.

Finding himself penniless, Ponzi visited the offices of a former Banco Zarossi customer, Canadian Warehousing and when nobody was looking he stole a check from their checkbook and wrote himself a check for $423.58. He forged a signature and went on a spending spree. When the police visited him after noticing his unusual spending, he admitted what he had done and was sentenced to 3 years in prison. After being released from prison he continued getting into trouble with the law by getting involved in a scheme to smuggle Italian immigrants across the border into the U.S. He ended up serving two more years in prison for his involvement in this smuggling ring. After that, this troubled man found himself in Boston, MA where he married Rose Maria Gnecco and eventually started a business selling advertising in a large business listing/catalog that he created. The business failed as he was unsuccessful at convincing businesses to advertise with him.

Shortly thereafter, something interesting happened that would set the course for the rest of Ponzi’s life. A business in Spain sent an inquiry to him about his failed business listing/catalog and in the envelope had included an International Reply Coupon (IRC) to cover the cost of sending information back to them. At the time, these IRC’s could be bought in one country and then redeemed in another country. Ponzi inquired further and found that he could buy the IRC’s cheaply in Italy and then redeem them for U.S. stamps which could then be returned for cash. He basically found a loophole in the system that allowed him to make a profit by simply buying IRC’s, exchanging them for U.S. stamps, and cashing the stamps. He found a nice little arbitrage opportunity and set out to exploit the loophole.

So Ponzi gathered as much money as he could get his hands on and went back to Italy to buy as many IRC’s as he could so he could exchange them upon his return to the U.S. When he got back he encountered a bunch of red tape with the exchange process and in fact, his scheme actually did not work well at all. Undaunted, he decided to go out and solicit investors to invest in his IRC business and promised them great returns $750 on an investment of $1250. Several people did get a return on their investment and the word began to spread. Interestingly, most people decided to keep reinvesting their profits in the business to make even more money. However, in fact, Ponzi wasn’t buying IRC’s at all instead he was remembering his days at Banco Zarossi and simply paying a few people off from the new investment money he was bringing into his business.

This practice continued for a few years and Ponzi quickly found himself becoming a millionaire with several salespeople carrying out his scam and brining in as much as $250,000 per day into the business. He managed to swindle millions from American investors until a reality check was uncovered by a reporter. He calculated that there would need to be 160 million IRC’s being exchanged in order to generate the amount of money that Ponzi was bringing in and the big problem with that was there were only 27,000 IRC’s in circulation. This led to a downward sprial and eventually a return trip to prison for Ponzi and millions of dollars stolen from investors (estimates of the final dollar amount vary but some say it was as much as $15 million). Undaunted, after his release from prison Ponzi continued to carry out swindle after swindle until eventually meeting his demise again penniless.

Fast forward nearly 100 years and we meet up with prisoner Bernard Madoff who concocted and carried out the largest known Ponzi scheme in U.S. history (estimated at $50 billion). Madoff decided to use the stock market to carry out his fraud. He created an investment firm that had an advantage over others because it had the ability to execute over-the-counter orders from retail brokers. In essence, he could make you more money than you could make anywhere else due to his ability to execute these special orders as well as his ability to make bulk buys that of course an individual investor just had no way of pulling off. Turns out, neither did he. In fact, he actually didn’t execute the over-the-counter orders at all, he simply took in money from investors and made up earnings reports showing them massive returns on their investments which of course, they reinvested in order to keep making even more money. In reality Madoff was using their investments to buy mansions, yachts, jewelry and more for himself and his family. To be fair, he also donated to charities and had the outward appearance of some redeemable qualities (perhaps it was driven from the guilt he felt for his actions).

Though several years separate Charles Ponzi and Bernard Madoff they are both simple criminals that actually didn’t really work that hard to defraud investors. In both cases, their businesses did nothing more than manage cash flow (take in more money than you pay out, it’s that simple). So if someone mentions a scheme to you that sounds too good to be true and all you have to do is give them $1,000 to get back $1,500 in a couple of months, be very skeptical. Verify what they are really doing to make the money to the best of your ability otherwise you may find yourself victim to the next Ponzi scammer.

Top 10 Reasons to Use Snail Mail

Growing up I remember waiting with anticipation for birthday cards and other sentiments to arrive in my mailbox from family and friends across the country.  It was and to this day remains a great feeling to know that someone cared enough to send me a personal note via the United States Postal Service.  Nowadays with email being so fast and free some of that personal touch is gone and it really is a shame.  Given the speed of email versus the slower delivery times of USPS mail, sending a letter or card via the USPS has now commonly been referred to as sending “Snail” mail (slow to deliver).  Well for some of us it still has a special meaning so I prepared this short list of 10 reasons to still use snail mail:

  1. It’s exciting to receive a personal letter or note.  Whether it’s a love note passed in class under your desk or a carefully written letter from a loved one, reading a personal letter or note has always been exciting and feels special in direct proportion to the effort the sender went through to get it to you.
  2. You can add confetti or creative designs to your letter or card.  This again points out the time and effort that can be relayed by snail mail much more easily.  For birthdays and other special events I like to fill the envelope with stars or confetti so if you get a letter from me be prepared for a surprise inside!
  3. There’s more privacy to snail mail. Unlike with email it is much less likely that a letter or communication sent via postal mail will get intercepted and read by another party.  It’s possible but unlikely and the recipient can generally tell of the letter has been opened.
  4. Emails can get lost in junk mail filters.  While it’s possible that a letter sent via snail mail can get lost in shipping it happens far less than emails getting lost in the abyss that is the modern day junk mail filter.
  5. Emails are prone to quicker judgments and rash decisions.  It’s so easy to send an email that we can write something in haste and send it before we actually take enough time to think it through.  That is generally not the case with postal mail unless you work in a post office and have direct access.
  6. You can send more variety of items via snail mail. Sort of like my confetti trick above you can also add pictures or other personal touches to a snail mail all the way up to complete packages, boxes, etc.  So far we haven’t found a way to transport something like that through our computers.
  7. People tend to elaborate more with snail mail.  In general, people drop the abbreviations when they are handwriting a letter so instead of (LOL, ROFL, OMG, etc.) people tend to actually write out their words and thoughts.  If nothing else, sometimes it’s just good to know that you can still do that.
  8. There’s no virus attached. Generally speaking there are no viruses attached to a snail mail that you can catch on accident by previewing the snail mail before opening it.  I’m not saying that someone couldn’t send a virus via snail mail it’s just far, far less likely.
  9. It’s too easy to forward your email content to thousands of people worldwide (on accident). With a few clicks of the button, you can send it to everyone on your list, which is dangerous if the content is important.  Unfortunately there is no undo button for sending email in most cases so you are stuck with the consequences of your actions.
  10. The check is in the mail… yes it still works.  One of the most important reasons to use snail mail is for cash management purposes if you need to pay a bill but have a couple of days until you are going to get paid or have the money, then snail mail is much more effective for you that online bill payment.  You can simply call the provider/vendor and let them know “the check is in the mail”.

So these aren’t the only reasons but they are some good one’s.  An honorable mention that didn’t make the list is the excuse that you can always use for a greeting being late (birthday card, graduation card, etc.).  You can say you had trouble getting to the post office or that your letter was lost in the mail, but be careful with that one though as most people are smart enough to look at the postmark date.

20 Ways to Get to Know Your Neighbors

Being the new family on the block can be hard, especially if you’re even remotely shy. It can be hard to make friends, made even harder by the fact that almost everyone in the community already has their own group of friends. Still, there are lots of ways you can connect with them and it’s worth the effort required as there are several advantages to getting to know your neighbors.  Whether it’s having someone to watch your home while you are on vacation or a helping hand when you desperately need one.  Here are some tips to help you break the ice with your new neighbors:

  1. Organize a party.  You can start with a natural housewarming party.  Generally you’ll invite existing friends and family but there’s no reason why you can’t invite your neighbors as well.  This will give them a chance to get to know you as well and at least some of them will most likely be interested in knowing more about you.
  2. Invite them to grab a drink (perhaps this will become a regular event for you).  You can start out by asking your neighbors where some good local hangouts are (sports bars, clubs, etc.).  Many times just asking about that will wind up in an invite or an opportunity for you to invite them along to help show you the ropes, etc.
  3. Start a cookout/barbeque.  Who doesn’t love a good BBQ?  You can invite your neighbors to a block party or BBQ either in your backyard or in a community park (whatever is available to you).  This is a fun and relaxed way to get to know each other without any awkwardness with being in someone else’s home.
  4. Jog in the morning. You’ll probably find some other neighbors jogging as well.  If not you can always use the excuse of needing a break to stop for a chat.
  5. Walk in the afternoon. This is a great way to get familiar with the area and to connect with people as they are getting home from work, school, and other daily activities (you can then talk about those subjects as well).
  6. Watch your neighbor’s pet. If appropriate, you can volunteer to walk your neighbor’s dog especially if you are home during the day while the neighbor works.  If that is not the case then you can volunteer to watch their pet while they are on vacation, etc.
  7. Lend a helping hand. This is a really easy way to get to know them and is usually welcome.  Offer to help unload the groceries, take out their garbage, help with yardwork, or anything else that may come up (raking leaves, etc.).
  8. Keep your house and yard clean and approachable.  It’s important to make a good impression on the neighbors to let them know that you will be doing your part to make and keep the community appealing to visitors and everyone living there.
  9. Be active. It could be by joining a community organization or a local church.  These organizations really help to break the ice and to show a common interest with your neighbors.
  10. Organize a garage sale. You could easily have over estimated what would fit into your new home and it may be a natural time to have a garage sale and you can ask your neighbors if they have anything to add to the sale.
  11. Bring some cookies or any goodies to your neighbors. If you have a special family recipe for a dessert this could be a great way to meet your neighbors in a pretty traditional fashion.  They won’t be surprised by you introducing yourself this way and will likely respond in kind.
  12. Say “Hello” to everyone. Whether it be in passing or at parties, greet the others or keep introducing yourself to them until it’s clear they remember you.  Make an effort to greet them by name as well to show them that you are interested enough to remember them.
  13. Sit outside. The front porch, yard, or drive is a great way for your neighbors to see you. This usually leads to a casual introduction, a time to chat, and even joke around some.
  14. Work in your yard. Simple chores like mowing and gardening is a great way to get outside and meet your neighbors (you can’t meet them sitting inside your house very easily).  Plus, again it shows them that you care about the appearance of your house and the neighborhood.
  15. Become the customer of a neighbor. If your neighbor owns a local restaurant, beauty salon, or even works in a local store.  You can make it a point to go to their business and greet your neighbor.
  16. A game of poker or cards. This is a fun way to spend time together. If you’ve been in the neigborhood for a long time, you could make it into a weekly get-together.
  17. Ask for help. You can ask your neighbor for help with your home or yard or even just a referral for any contractors that you may need to hire to get work done around your house.
  18. Socialize in public places. Parks, bars, and sports centers are the best places to meet your neighbors. If you have the same interests, chances are, you’ll be able to makes some friends.
  19. Arrange special activities. Do you have children? Organize a kids’ play date. This can be a great way to make sure your children have new friends as well.
  20. Control the highly annoying things your family might be doing. You should just try to always be a good neighbor by keeping the noise down and overall showing a high level of respect for the neighborhood and neighbors.

Top 10 House Warming Gifts

Whether you are wondering what to expect from people as house warming gifts or find yourself invited to a house warming party for a friend or family member it’s always great to get good gift ideas.  Moving into a new home is a really exciting time and the right gift can really make the experience even more memorable. We wanted to put together some practical and great house warming gift ideas for you, so without further ado here is our top 10 list:

  1. Herb gardens/ bonsai trees – Plants in general make great house warming gifts as they serve as great reminders for years to come as long as the person you are giving them to doesn’t have two left thumbs.
  2. Local maps – Maps are extremely useful, especially if the recipient is new to the neighborhood.  You might also consider whether or not a GPS update is the more appropriate gift given so many people have a GPS in the their car or on their mobile phone.
  3. Glassware – glassware can be in the form of mugs, shot glass, or any other glasses. People tend to also collect glassware/stemware for extended periods of time.  For instance, I collect shot glasses from all over the World (while that hobby is not for everyone, they are easy to pickup and find something that represents the local community well).
  4. Customized doormats – You might want to customize a doormat with something as simple as Welcome to the Smiths’s Home (insert the recipient’s last name of course).  There are lots of variations and they are almost always well received.  It could be from a local elementary, junior high, high school, college, or pro sports team, here’s your chance to be creative.
  5. Gift basket – On the more traditional side you could go for a fruit gift basket, cookie gift basket, or any other variety of gift baskets available online or at your local grocery store or flower shop.
  6. Scented candles – A nice scented candle can really add to the atmosphere of a home and if you have an idea as to the scents that a person likes, this can really be a perfect gift.  If you aren’t sure, you might want to stick with a common scent like vanilla or my personal favorites any of the Yankee candle cookie scents (who doesn’t like the smell of cookies baking in the oven?).
  7. Kitchen utensils – This is actually a pretty common need when people move especially if they are moving into their first home.  They might need anything from can openers to basic silverware.  If you think that the recipient may need any utensils then this is the way to go as they are very likely to be used and appreciated (or returned to the store and replaced).
  8. Basic tool kit – Again, especially for people moving into their first home they could easily need a small tool set as they will likely encounter small problems that require simple repairs.  If they don’t have any tools then this could be a lifesaver for them the first time something goes wrong.
  9. Coffee maker – We are starting to get a little bit more on the expensive side with a good coffee maker but as popular as java is right now it’s really a great gift.  A lower cost alternative might be to grab a Starbucks gift card the next time you get a venti coffee.
  10. Gift certificate – Where would we be without gift certificates or gift cards.  If all else fails then you can get a gift card to a local restaurant, coffee shop, or any other local establishment.  These are simple and can be a great escape from a busy day of unpacking the house or running a laundry list of errands.

These are just some of our best ideas related to house warming gifts.  As with any good gift it’s really the thought that counts.  Welcoming a person into a new home is a great way to show them that you care about them and to send or deliver your best wishes for health and happiness in their new abode.

10 Tips to Minimize Junk Mail

Sometimes we end up with counters, tables, or other areas of our house just full of junk mail. Mainly because since we didn’t request these solicitations we just don’t give them our immediate attention and that leads to the big pile up. If you are also experiencing a problem with junk mail, you are not alone. Over 41.5 billion pieces of mail advertisements get sent out every year in the U.S! That’s a staggering amount of mostly junk mail! We put together these 10 useful tips to help you minimize the amount of junk mail you have to deal with on a regular basis.

Tip 1 – Contact the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and register with their mail preference service. That’s a great way to stop a lot of junk mail from the source. While the DMA doesn’t provide anyone with your contact information they do supply your mail preferences to some of the largest direct marketers. You can register with their service here. You can also contact them via mail at the following address:

Direct Marketing Association
Mail Preference Service
P.O. Box 282
Carmel, NY 10512
212-768-7277 x1500

Tip 2 – When you are filling out forms just pay really close attention to what you are agreeing to and if it is a paper form be sure to write the following phrase on it: “please do not rent, sell, or trade my name or address” One other interesting fact is that in a lot of companies will provide a warranty card with the product you purchased in general filling that out and returning it is only a marketing tactic as in very few cases does the form actually validate the warranty (usually the warranty is good regardless of the warranty card). Reading the warranty or contract to be sure is really the only prudent answer to this one.

Tip 3 – One of the best ways to combat junk mail that takes a bit of extra effort is to call the 1-800 numbers on the junk mail and tell them to take you off of their list. This is sort of a double-edged sword as you are in fact at least once giving them exactly what they wanted (you to contact them). Just be prepared, keep it short, and tell them to put you on their do not contact list. Since this takes quite a bit of effort you may want to reserve this option for only the repeat offenders or a company that you find particularly offensive.

Tip 4 – Stop getting all of those credit card solicitations by making a quick phone call to: (888) 567-8688 and have them take you off the list that is circulated to the credit card companies for them to solicit you. Another really important task is for you to contact the credit card companies and let them know that they need to put you on their “in house” list and that they shouldn’t share your contact information with any other companies.

Tip 5 – Start using the “RETURN TO SENDER” more. If a company has sent any mail item to current resident, resident, or current occupant and it also contains one of these phrases: return service requested, address service requested, forward service requested, or change service requested then just mark it “RETURN TO SENDER” and send it straight back. If you get unsolicited email from a charity then you can simply do the same.

Tip 6 – Catalogs are frequently stuffed in our mailboxes and this is one of the easiest types of junk mail to get rid of. You can and should first contact the catalog company and ask to unsubscribe to their catalog list. In addition to that you can try out a free service which we are in no way affiliated with called catalog choice. This service is one of several that will help you get rid of the steady stream of catalogs in your mailbox.

Tip 7 – Reach out to smaller direct marketing firms and request to suppress their mail and to be taken off of any of their distribution lists. Here are some examples:

R.L. Polk & Company
Name Deletions, List Compilation Dept.
6400 Monroe Blvd
Taylor, MI 48180-1814
1-800-873-7655

Valpak
1 Valpak Ave. N.
St. Petersburg, FL 33716
1-727-399-3000
Mail Suppression Form

InfoUSA
Attn: Consumer Requests
1020 E. 1st St.
Papillion, NE 68046
1-888-633-4402

Tip 8 – Contact companies that produce phone books by calling them up and just asked to be removed from their phone book. Here are some contact numbers:

DEX: 1-877-243-8339
Yellow Book: 1-800-929-3556 — renew every two years
Verizon: 1-888-266-5765

Tip 9 – Believe it or not, there are several companies out there that will do all the dirty work for you. They refer to themselves as junk mail removal services basically taking the trash out of your mailbox. One example organization is 41pounds.org. We are not affiliated with any of the services that offer junk mail removal but it is highly likely that they are using some of these very same tips.

Tip 10 – Contact your State representatives as well as your congressional representatives and let them know that you want them to do something about all of the junk mail you are receiving. There are usually bills out there floating around, but given everything else going on in our government (State or national) they never seem to get around to addressing junk mail.

Top 20 Moving Cost Calculators

Moving is an incredibly expensive life event that can be daunting if you don’t have any idea whether or not the prices that you are being quoted related to your move are reasonable. Whether you are interested in a full service moving company or you feel like you need to go with a complete do-it-yourself move, there are several things you will need to get quotes on before the big day.  It is our goal to provide you with some useful online calculators to help you make informed decisions about what to get bids on and eventually help you to analyze the bids prior to choosing any of the service providers.  There are a lot of great companies out there that can help make your move go smoothly, but there are also people looking to take advantage of you as you go through this difficult and chaotic process.  Make sure you are as informed as you can be going into the process by checking out some of tools listed below.

Moving Company Calculators

This is the most common move related expense that people like to estimate and take bids on. Of course, we believe that you should get multiple moving quotes as the prices can vary wildly. You should go into the experience with a good ballpark estimate and you can get one using one of the following calculators:

  • House Moving Relocation Calculator – This is a really simple to use calculator that doesn’t ask very many questions at all but it will give you a quick estimate as to what to expect in total moving costs. You do need to keep in mind that it is only intended to be a ballpark estimate and will not include moving any unusual items (boats, vehicles, etc.).
  • Weight and Volume Calculator – This is pretty detailed and the main objective of the calculator is to help you know how big of a truck you are going to need to move your belongings.
  • Moving Cost Calculator – This is a quick calculator that will help you know whether or not a van line is in your budget. We noticed some JavaScript issues on this one, so make sure you are using a current browser.
  • Moving Calculator – It’s always good to try out multiple calculators and this is another fairly detailed one to give you an estimate that feels more complete.
  • Moving Estimate – This is a lead form disguised cleverly as a calculator, but is useful none-the-less. Since you are providing email and phone number, expect calls when you fill this one out.

Cost of Living Calculators

It’s also very good to consider the cost of living in your current city versus where you are planning to move. This varies a lot by region but should be considered regardless of the distance you are moving (if you are moving to a new city).

  • CNN Money – This is a really quick cost of living calculator provided by the kind folks at CNN. They offer a lot of other services and articles that may also be applicable to your move.
  • Cost of Living Comaprison – This is a super easy and very informative cost of living calculator. It gives you a lot of useful information on the destination city as well.
  • PayScale – This is a great site in general for salary information, but it also includes a great cost of living calculator that is quick and informative.
  • Cost of Living Report – You can use your salary and the new/old zipcodes to create a cost of living report to print and review
  • Cost of Living Wizard – This is another great tool that you can use to validate some of the other calculations. It’s important to check multiple calculators for consistency before taking any decisions.

Other Moving-Related Calculators

There are other useful calculators that you may want to take a look at associated with a move (box calculators, fuel calculators, and more). Here are a few of the best:

  • Rent Versus Buy Calculator – If you want to get an idea as to whether you should rent or buy regardless as to whether or not you are moving, this is a handy calculator.
  • Insurance Coverage Calculator – If you aren’t sure how much insurance you need to get for your home, this will help you figure out what you should have for total liability coverage and deductibles. You can then take that information and call your insurance company to get a quote.
  • Home Affordability – If you are curious as to how much home you can afford then this calculator will help to give you a starting point.
  • Home Value Estimator – Now that you have a great home, what is the future value of your home going to be? Find out by using this caluclator.
  • Packing Calculator – This one is really great! You can get an idea as to how many boxes you are going to need to move. Love it!
  • Another Box Calculator – For one reason or another box calculators seem to be addictive. It’s very interesting to see how many boxes the different sites think you need to pack up your stuff.
  • Rental Truck Fuel Calculator – This is really handy if you are driving your own rental truck as you can figure out how much fuel you will need and the amount of money you need to budget for gas.
  • Loan Qualification Calculator – If you need to get a loan to purchase a home then this calculator is for you, but if you are moving chances are slim this one is going to help you immediately.
  • Another Box Calculator – This is actually more of a box sales page than a true calculator, but you can use it that way (just don’t buy the package unless you like it).
  • Truck Size Advisor – This is a multi-form calculator that will help you determine the size of truck you need and coming from a site called MoveIdiot, you gotta love that!

Top 20 U.S. Direct Mail Marketers

Even though the United States Postal Service is reporting a significant decline in the volume of mail we all know from the contents in our mailboxes that we still seem to get plenty. It’s clear that direct mail marketing budgets have been slashed in many cases, but of course as some companies pull back from sending mail others see that as an opportunity to send more. We decided to research which profit and non-profit organizations are currently sending the most mail.

Top 10 For-Profit Mailers

56% of all the top 50 mailers in the U.S. are for-profit ogranizations. Several of these are large publishing companies athat sending publications, renewal notices, and other offers to the public.

  • -Publishers Clearing House – This household name in the sweepstakes industry makes over $620 million dollars a year through publishing and distributing millions of magazines and other publications. They are the overall largets user of direct mail in the U.S.
  • -The Economist Group – With revenues north of $516 million this is another publishing giant. They publish under the brands of The Economist newspaper, The Economist online, Edonomist Intelligence Unit, and a few more.
  • -Conde Naste – You may not be familiar with this massive publisher with revenues of $454 million per year. They own some of the most subscribed to magazines in the World (GQ, Vogue, The New Yorker, etc.).
  • -Direct Brands – Like Conde Naste, you may say Direct Brands, Inc. who? Well they have revenues of $402 million per year with services you will recognize (Columbia House, Book-of-the-Month Club, etc.).
  • -Consumers Union – This company has revenues in excess of $249 million per year on sending direct mail, you may be more familiar with Consumer Reports.
  • -Omaha Steaks – With revenues of $200 million per year this company has made a bundle off of selling mail order mouth watering meats. Now that’s mail with some sizzle to it!
  • -Rodale – Has revenues of approximately $136 million per year and publishes magazines like Men’s Health, Runner’s World, and Prevention.
  • -Hachette Filipacchi Media – Another massive magazine publisher with revenues reported at $123 million from magazines like ELLE, Woman’s Day, Car and Driver, Road & Track, and more).
  • -International Masters Publishers – This publisher is well known for Recipes & Cooking, Wildlife & Nature, Home & Leisure, and similar categories of publications. They have annual revenues of $230 million.
  • -Boardroom – This is another publisher for a list that is most well-known for their Bottom Line newsletters in the subject areas of Personal, Health, Retirement, Natural Healing, and Wealth. Their revenues could not be reliably collected.

Top 10 Non-Profit Mailers

44% of all the top 50 mailers in the U.S. are non-profit ogranizations that are either soliciting for donations or attempting to collect on pledges via mailers.

  • -Smithsonian Institute – They generate donations/revenue of $532 million per year.
  • -U.S. Fund for UNICEF – They generate donations/revenue of $454 million per year.
  • -Habitat for Humanity – They generate donations/revenue of $356 million per year.
  • -The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society – They generate donations/revenue of $269 million per year.
  • -March of Dimes – They generate donations/revenue of $248 million per year.
  • -World Wildlife fund – They generate donations/revenue of $180 million per year.
  • -Paralyzed Veterens of America – They generate donations/revenue of $109 million per year.
  • -Humane Society of the U.S. – They generate donations/revenue of $102 million per year.
  • -Alzheimers Association – They generate donations/revenue of $95 million per year.
  • -National Wildlife Federation – They generate donations/revenue of $83 million per year.

It’s always interesting to see who is using the mail more frequently as a means of communicating with the American public. The biggest surprise is that in this list of the 20 top mailers, that are no banks or credit card companies. Judging by the mail I get every day, that’s a surprise.