Yaakov: ‘OK, let’s say you believe – as The Economist does and as I do – that the housing market in the US (and even more so in the UK) is a bubble ripe for bursting. Is there a way of shorting the housing market, other than selling the limited real estate one might happen to own? In other words, the capitalist’s $64,000 question: HOW DO WE MAKE MONEY OFF OF THIS?’

☞ No easy way I know of. I suppose there are some housing-related stocks one could short or buy puts on. But timing this is nigh impossible. The simplest thing might be to set aside some patient cash and wait for a chance to buy much lower, if that chance arises.


Brent Reeb: ‘Any discussion of cheap phone rates should include Lingo. This VOIP phone, comparable to Vonage, gets me unlimited calls to US, Canada and 17 countries in Europe for $20/month. You can also sign up for plans for unlimited calls to Asia for $34.95. If you don’t call that much they have a $15 plan and you can pay by the minute for out-of-plan calls –$.02/min to Hong Kong for example. Or $.12/min to the ever-popular Lesotho.’

☞ Or how about this, completely free:

Noah Stern: ‘Take a look at Skype, which allows you to use your computer as a telephone. The software is free and easy to use (though you might want a headset/mike ($8 at Fryes). It’s free to call other Skype users anywhere in the world, and it can be used to call regular telephones. Skype international rates, priced in Euros, are cheaper than many (but not all) of the rates listed by the providers you mentioned. For example, my wife pays 5.2 Euro cents a minute to call her extended family in Costa Rica. Here’s the rate list.’

☞ Most computers have speakers and microphones built in, and 12 million people use Skype. If you want Junior’s calls home to be free, just both download this software.

Doug Simpkinson: ‘While we’re on the subject of cheap telephone calls, how about a cell phone for $6.67/month? Many mobile phone companies have a ‘prepaid’ plan that is geared towards the young or credit-challenged. But it’s also perfect for someone like me, who is almost always at home or work but wants a mobile phone for driving and weekend activities. Usually you pay $20 up front to ‘charge’ your account, and each call you make deducts from that amount. After 90 days, your account expires, and you either have to pony up $20 more, or your account dies and you lose the rest of the money. If you do the math, the minimum required payment is $6.67 per 30 day month. There’s No contract, if you don’t like the service just stop paying. And as long as you buy another $20 within that 90 days, you keep any left over money you had from before. (Usually, no roaming is allowed, so you have to be sure to check the coverage map.)’


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