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Archive for May, 2009

May 09 net worth

May 29th, 2009 at 01:34 pm

Just updated my net worth for the month. For once, I wasn't sure where I'd end up. I spent a lot of cash on the new PC, and the market seemed kind of flat to me.

Surprisingly enough, my net worth still went up, and kind of substantially even.... I wonder if I miscalculated somewhere? Hmm, no, the numbers look right.

Ok, it looks like this month's stock trading is sort of panning out. Most of the gains is being driven by my current stake in Conoco Philips. The price of crude has been rising for the past couple of months.

While I'm at it, is anybody else paying more at the pump as well? I am, and it's getting high enough that I may have to rebudget yet again for gas....

I'm starting to slow down considerably in terms of trading. I used to trade as much as once every few days. Now, it's getting to be as long as an entire month. Hey, for a guy that can trade once every few days, that's a long time. Big Grin

Even though the stock trading is buoying this month's figure, because of the new PC purchase, things are still going to be tight for me for a while. But that doesn't mean I regret this purchase! Quite the opposite, in fact. I actually feel... kind of happy? Either that, or it's just the euphoria playing tricks on me.

Wow, I'm so sleepy and tired right now. Staying up way too late tinkering the PC. Hope everyone have a nice weekend.

Zombatar!

May 28th, 2009 at 10:31 pm

Halloween might not be here yet, but I am just loving this free avatar maker called Zombatar!

Basically, it's a freebie to promote this incredible game called Plants versus Zombies (PvZ for short). I tell you, I am ridiculously addicted to this game, it is that awesome!

You can try the game for free, but the full version is only $19.99, and it's worth every penny in my opinion. HOWEVER, why pay even the full price when you can get for half price instead?

Basically, you need to download and install Steam, a front end client for a bunch of games. Once installed and an account is created, you can buy PvZ within Steam for only $9.99!

Why is it half price in Steam? Not sure. Maybe zombies have ate the brains of the Steam guy who priced the game.

Edit: Here's an unrelated extra video on a great team.

The craziest SA thread I've seen in a while....

May 28th, 2009 at 02:13 pm

Have you guys seen this thread yet? At first, I thought it was a joke, but I think he's serious. I guess even street criminals need personal finance advice. Big Grin

Tempting as it may be, I decided not to respond. There's not too many options... well, legal ones anyway. Even fleeing would violate his parole... although he's already broken that so.... About the only legal thing he can do is turn himself in. At least, behind bars, he has a fighting chance of keeping his knee caps, but he doesn't seem to be hip to the idea. Get it? Knee caps? Hip? Ok, that was terrible.

So yeah, I didn't want to suggest anything illegal. The last thing I want to do is give him bad ideas running through his head. Sorry.

Anyways, moving right along, building that PC has put a severe dent into my budget. So, I'm revisiting every line item in my budget yet again. See if I can't find a way to shoulder the drop. Oops!

Focus! Ok, holiday budget. That's looking good so far. It's a small item on the list, so there really isn't anything I can do about that one. Besides, I need that to stay where it is as a sort of micro-emergency fund, to buffer against abnormal dips in my budgets. That's usually when I slightly over-spend on the kids or something, so I'm not using it to spend on myself or anything. You have no idea how many times that's saved my butt over the years. Argh!

Phone and internet! Actually, I've cut that back as far as I can also, especially with the phone, which averages less than $10 a month at this point. I admit the internet is the second slowest speed, not the slowest, but there's hardly any elbow room on the slowest speed....

Help, I've fallen into the pool of poorly pondered puns and I can't get out! Please slap my hands before I cut off my nose to spite my face!

PC

May 26th, 2009 at 01:33 pm

Forgive me, community, for I have sinned. I built a PC over the Memorial weekend.... It costed $1000. Yes, will someone in the back please open the window and let in some air for the lady that just fainted? Big Grin

There's a lot of reasons as to why I ended up going with such an expensive option, but I think the lengthy technical details would bore most of you. Suffice to say, I chose this route because I think it actually made the most sense in terms of total cost of ownership over the longer term. This new PC has effectively replaced three other aging hardware that I will no longer support and/or upgrade. The downside, of course, is the painful upfront cost.

But that's not the real reason why I'm writing this. Even though I THINK I'm making a rational choice, I am nevertheless filled with a profound sense of dread and fear. Because, that's so much money that I feel like I shouldn't be spending, and it's such a huge blow to my budget too....

Although a small part of me is jumping with glee over a new PC, the truth is, I have this irrational fear that it's all a part of this weird spending karma, where it's going to eventually catch up to me and doom my future.

Does anyone understand what I am saying here? Does anyone else feel that way too? (Edit: In retrospect, my past PCs were bought using credit cards and student loans. So, perhaps it's not completely irrational. This new PC was bought without going into debt or breaking the budget.)

Granted, it didn't stop me from buying the PC, and I don't plan on returning it. But still, it's just weird because I can't seem to be fully happy if I don't buy something I want, and I can't seem to be fully happy when I do buy it. I'm a very confused and unsettled person.

For what it's worth, I also sold my Xbox and all of its games, because it's one of the hardware that the new PC replaced. The money I got back from it helped to defray the cost of the new PC.

35

May 18th, 2009 at 01:45 pm

I debated whether to make this entry or not, because I am normally very guarded and private. Still, I sense no harm in doing so....

Last weekend was my birthday. I think my mom is the only real life person that knows this. She even tried to call and left a voice message singing happy birthday. Kind of dorky I thought, but I appreciated it nonetheless. I will be sure to thank her when I get the chance.

To be frank, I find my birthdays to be depressing (though I enjoy other people's birthdays just fine). I just can't help but feel that another year has gone by, and I wonder what progress I have made with my life? I'm officially 35 now. Aren't people suppose to have gotten somewhere and done something with their lives by now?

For my own birthday, I decided not to worry about the budget for one day. So, what did I do? I still followed my budget. Big Grin Well, I suppose that's an accomplishment eh? It appears that I can't help but be a tightwad. Honestly though? I just couldn't think of anything that I wanted. I suppose that in itself is a good thing too.

My net worth has also noticeably increased over the past few years. I am happy about that, although what I am doing is still catching up on basic living requirements. Plus, I can't expect my current living arrangement to last, and my car will break down eventually....

Even if (ok, when) I do finally meet my financial savings to meet basic living requirements, will I find happiness in that? Seriously, what am I suppose to be doing with my life? What's wrong with me? I should be happy with all that I have, but it seems I'm still in the dumps for some reason.

Blasted birthdays. Big Grin

Wellll, if there's one thing I have learned, it is that no matter how blah I feel, if I don't work on it, it's still not going to get any better. And of course, misery in financial security is still better than misery in financial insecurity. Big Grin

So, my goals to hit before the big Four-O still hasn't changed: Full savings to pay for a car with cash up front. Enough savings for a condo deposit without ever having to deal with PMI and such. Ideally, it'd be great if I can save enough to buy an entire condo, cash up front.... I'm not saying that's what I plan on doing, but it sure would be nice if I have at least have the means to pull that off. It's something to shoot for.

You know, I seem to be making a lot of melancholic posts lately, so in an effort to balance out this one as well, here's yet another funny cat pic.



Edit: Found another funny one that I just had to share.

Splashmoney woes

May 17th, 2009 at 07:44 am

For those who don't already know, I track all of my personal finance on my iTouch.

The current software I am using is Splashmoney, and 99% of the time, it's a robust software that handles its job swimmingly.

However, 1% of the time, it acts funny. How so? Some charges would become deposits or checks. Other times, some transanctions that goes from one to account to another would disappear or change.

1% may not sound like much a big deal, but when your entire personal financial system depends on it, 1% is a very big deal!

And I'm not being unrealistic either. I've NEVER had a glitch or problem with Pocketmoney back when I used it on a Palm PDA.

But the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back is when at one point when I was changing a transaction on it, it kicked me out of the program completely! The software crashed on me! Unacceptable!

So, now, I am downloading several other alternative softwares to see what can take its place, especially Pocketmoney for the iTouch. Hopefully, this version will perform as admirably as its older brethren.

I'm going to burn for this

May 15th, 2009 at 07:41 pm

Yeah, I know. I write a lot of non-pf stuff here, particularly complaining about my ex. I understand it's not particularly endearing to see someone who is willing to turn their blog into a toxic dumping ground of negativity.

I guess I do it because this is the online place I feel most comfortable with disclosing personal details. Plus, I'd rather vent here than have it affect my real life somehow....

I also hope that people will understand that I don't hold women in general to the same light as my ex. You see, my ex is a um special case in that she suffers from clinical-level anxiety disorders, where it's bad enough to induce regular intervals of panic attacks.

Panic attacks are pretty serious stuff, as anyone who has experienced one can tell you. For those who don't understand this, the best way I can explain it is that it's like having your own personal waterboarding... where in the brief moments of sheer terror, you experience the sensation that you are going to die. Your heart is racing out of control, your vision is blurring out, and you can't breathe. The result is powerful enough to pretty much freeze you in your tracks, even though it looks like there's absolutely nothing wrong on the outside.

Now, imagine that happening to you on a bi-monthly to bi-weekly basis, and in between the attacks, you're living in dread not knowing when the next one will strike.

It's bad enough that, in the entire time we were married, she has to take two medications every night to subdue those symptoms. The first is to ease the anxiety that leads to the panic attacks. Unfortunately, there are severe side effects that includes sluggishness, loss of libido, weight gain, and depression severe enough to lead some to suicide. So, a second SSRI is taken to at least ease the depression/suicidal aspect. Not much can be done about the other symptoms though....

Now, mind you, I've never held that against her. (That's also why I've never brought it up before.) Nobody is perfect right? What matters is that, when you love someone, you accept them as a whole package deal, and do what you can to help take care of them. And besides, she already sought treatment and medication.

So, why am I bringing this up now? For one thing, I am tired of being blamed as the sole cause of our marriage's failure. While I confess I am flawed and have done things I am not proud of, I don't think I am the kind of monster that my ex has told our co-workers, friends, and family that I am. Instead, I believe that my flawed are amplified and skewed because of her anxiety.... (And for that matter, whatever happened to those days when I have been good? Why are they conveniently forgotten?)

But the main reason I am bringing this up now is because I heard a disturbing rumor that an employee from her company did not get on an airplane because this person had a panic attack. Consequently, only their luggage made it, and that luggage had to be flown back.... Coincidence?

Come to think of it, the last couple of times I've interacted with her, she did seem thinner and unusually hyper.... Being off medication would also explain why my ex is acting so squirrely on me, such as telling me one thing, and then changing it without telling me.

So, why would she suddenly stop taking her medicine? Very simply, it's because she's in her 40s now, but her boyfriend is about 12 years younger. Perhaps she's worried about her libido and weight, and if so, the only answer that I know of is to stop taking medication....

If so, she's hurting herself by risking more panic attacks, and not only that, but it could also negatively impact the way she raises our children, which is what truly concerns me.

If she has indeed stopped taking her medication, I hope that someone will catch that (perhaps even by reading this blog entry) and coax her back on again.

Having a problem doesn't make one less of a person. Worrying about your relationship is perfectly normal. However, not taking the proper medication is not the solution, and in the long run, will only make things worse, not just for herself, but also for everyone around her.

Well, if you've managed this far, I thank you for listening, and here's another cat pic for your troubles.

What makes us happy?

May 14th, 2009 at 12:58 pm

A brilliant triumph in longitudinal study... and one of the best internet news article that I've read in a while.

LINK

The best personal financial advice

May 13th, 2009 at 03:45 pm

according to Patrick Munro of Expert Village.

It's a video Q&A, but to summarize, his "best personal financial advice" is a simple two-parter:

1. Keep your expenses low.
2. Avoid risk.

Simple, straightforward, and yet, profound, thought-provoking, perhaps even controversial.

I do kind of wish that he would elaborate on the risk part. Clearly, he is very conservative. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but to me, the point isn't to avoid risk at all, but rather, to find the most approriate risk that still offers optimal gains. That and being too conservative also introduces a certain types of risks as well, such as inflation risk.

But anyways, while the advice simple enough, I don't think its depth and importance should be underestimated.

So, what do you guys think of his "best personal financial advice"? Also, he has several other video clips that may be of interest to you.

Masters weekend

May 12th, 2009 at 10:04 pm

Not a good title, but easier to find for future reference.

Last weekend, my ex-wife had her masters graduation ceremony, and I couldn't be happier for her. Naturally, she wanted the kids there, but it was my weekend with them.

So, she called me earlier and asked if our oldest son (almost 19 years old) could drive the kids to the ceremony. I told her that it's much easier if I were to drive them there. There's no need to coordinate two cars, waste gas, and anyway, it's close to where I live and I certainly don't mind helping out. She was reluctant at first, but eventually agreed and said that she would email me the address when she finds out exactly where.

Fast forward to last weekend when I went to pick up the kids. The email never came by the way, so I thought maybe she left the printed instructions with my son. When I got there, my son insisted that he drive his car so he can drive the kids to her graduation ceremony. I was perplexed as to why, and after some prodding, he finally told me that he didn't trust me, and was afraid that we would end up arguing again.

Two things. First, I am really hurt that my son doesn't trust me and feels that he has to insulate two grown adults from ever having any contact with each other. I can't even imagine why I would want to get into a fight with ex over something like this. It's her day, and I'm just playing chauffeur. I thought I was being nice and helpful. Besides, even if we somehow end up arguing, is that really a bad thing? Sometimes, they are inevitable if it means to resolve issues between people.

However, I admit that I AM quite upset about something: My ex lied to me. She said she would provide driving instructions, but nothing was ever provided. Instead, the plan got switched without me knowing until the last minute.

See, this is why my ex drives me nuts. She may seem like a reasonable and communicative person at first, but when it's all said and done, it HAS to be her way or the highway. And if that isn't bad enough, it's often made out to be MY fault somehow! I have been lied to, but the plan was switched because I am somehow untrustworthy? Do you see what I mean?

It really hurts. How do you raise a proper family if we can't even manage something as simple as a 15 minute car ride?

In the past, I would have let stuff like this slide. After all, it's only a car ride right? No big deal, there are bigger things to worry about. Just take a deep breath and move on. Tomorrow will be a better day.

But you know what? That's exactly what went wrong with my marriage. I let too many little things slide, without ever addressing the potentially serious underlying issues, and enabled my ex to simply do whatever she pleased, all the while taking the blame for it.

Admittedly, I am not entirely innocent either. I didn't communicate well, and my bottled-up frustration would sometimes spill over in anger and frustration... which she uses those moments of poor reaction as the reason why I am such an unfit husband and father....

Well, not anymore. Since then, I've learned that it's not healthy to bottle up even little things inside, and that it's better to vent them in healthy manners. Like blogging for example, if you readers don't mind.... I'm also trying to communicate and work issues out as much as possible, even if they can be difficult.

The perfect irony though, is that they think I've only become angrier and more bitter as time has gone by, when in fact, it's actually quite the opposite.

I think it also helps to chronicle it, because in the past, I have a tendency of forgetting little things like this, and if it ever pops up again where I am being blamed for it, I typically don't remember enough details to defend myself.

I'm so glad that I don't drink. It wouldn't be pretty.

Monday morning slowies

May 11th, 2009 at 03:29 pm

There is no such thing as quickies for me on a Monday morning. Big Grin

* The stock market is pulling back today. I'm not be surprised considering the run we've had last week, but I didn't sell.

* Just realized that one of my low beam headlights have gone out. Great, another $50 down the tubes. (Update: Only costed $12! Oh yeah!) However, it's going to be an easy fix that I can do on my own, so I should be glad that it won't cost even more....

* I splurged and went to see Star Trek last night. I don't do this often because I think theater prices are insane.

However, I heard that this movie was so good, it needs to be seen on the big screen. So... ok, off I went.

And yes, the movie really is phenomenal. Ten minutes into the movie, I was already tearing up. I think even non-trekkies would like this, though those familiar with the original series will likely enjoy it the most.

* Hulu is expanding their line-up, with Disney and I think ABC jumping onboard! Sweet, I love Hulu. I still have a lot of shows to catch up on....

All-in-all, my life is really quiet right now. Maybe too quiet? Nah! It's certainly better than having drama. I really do need to step up my financial progress though, especially on a sluggish Monday morning.

Caveman finance

May 8th, 2009 at 02:13 pm

There seems to be quite a bit of talk about money and attraction/love recently, so I'm going to spout a crazy little thing here. A completely unsupported, personal pet theory about the evolution of human beings as a social organism, on the matter of gender and money. Yes, it's only a hypothesis, but then, this isn't an academic study (thank goodness). It's just a guy, on a blog, with maybe a bit too much time on his hands. Big Grin

To start, I too believe that men's eligibility and attractiveness was originally based on their physical abilities. This isn't too hard for me to believe because, although the name escapes me, I remember seeing documentaries on TV about indigenous tribes that still exists today where men's attractiveness are indeed based on their physical abilities as a hunter. Naturally, a good hunter is better able to feed his family. Heck, I'm a guy and the idea of another guy able to bring me food seems rather desirable to me too. I'm look at you Mr. Papa John pizza delivery man. Big Grin

But seriously though, much of the world has modernized from our hunting/gathering days, and though physical prowess remains an attractive quality on a primal level, I believe it is the ability to generate income that has rationally displaced physical hunting skills as the characteristic of choice in mate selection. Sure, swiping a credit card is not as sexy as shooting a dangerous beast and dragging it home for a meal, but the result is the same: Bring home the meat. Feed the family.

And ladies, please don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that women are shallow or anything. There always seems to be such a stigma about the attraction of money, but seriously, when have you women ever been attracted to a guy who is just down-right lazy and won't work to help pay the bills? Contrast that with a man who is driven and passionate about something, and is able to help keep the electricity on and food on the table? Am I right?

Plus, I don't think money is the only factor. While I'm sure money plays a part, I also believe looks play a part, as well as social skills. However, I think the biggest factor is how much you care about a woman (or just people in general). I really do. I believe an average guy who makes average salary but cares very deeply about a woman is going to win out more consistently than a good looking man with a large salary who cares very little about the same woman. However, that still goes back to my original point of being able to care for the family (with or without the presence of children). Because, basically, to care is to provide....

Another layer of "complication" in our modern society is that a lot of women are also "hunters" now, in that they too are professional money-makers, and therefore, do not need to rely on men as much for financial support. However, I don't think that eliminates the attractiveness of a man who can make his own money, does it? If anything, it's simply lower in terms of priority next to other qualities that a woman would find attractive.

In the end, I don't think the fundamental principles of attraction has changed at all. Human beings still strive to find in one another the "fittest" for them in terms of mate selection. The only thing that's changed is the qualifications of fitness, such as displacing hunting skills with financial skills....

Uh, this is kind of an awkward entry for me to make because I don't want to pretend that I've got women all figured out or anything. I have a failed marriage, and now I'm thinking of being single for the rest of my life anyways. Again, please keep in mind that it's just a guy with a blog and too much time on his hands. Big Grin

Oh but one last thing for us guys: Please don't fake any of this stuff! Don't bother trying to look like you have money, that you work out, and you give a crap about somebody if you don't. Unfortunately, some Players are good at these deceptions (for a short while), but in the end, nobody likes to be deceived.

Blah

May 5th, 2009 at 01:07 pm

I've been in a blah mood lately. Neither excited nor depressed about anything in particular. Just... here.

In my book, no news is indeed good news, but blahness is a bland gruel that makes one yearn for some zest in their palette. And oh, and what dangerous yearning it can be if I am not careful.

Admittedly, my spending activity has spiked recently, but it's over stuff that I've been putting off for literally years. I think now is a good time to finish taking advantage of "recession sales" before they dry up. Have you noticed that they're going away or is it just me? I know Men's Wearhouse has ended their buy one get one suit deal. I'm glad I got what I wanted out of there before then. Bed Bath & Beyond no longer honors expired coupons....

But by and large, I'm focused on saving, and it's not exactly all that great for the case of the blahs.

There is something that I've always wanted to do though: Buy a house. Been looking into that. If I really, really buckle down and eat my bowls of blahs three meals a day, I can buy a house as early as six years from now. Ten years if I want something reasonable that doesn't involve mouse traps and returning fire from rival gangs that think their bland oatmeals are better than my bland gruel. Gruel up, oats down, Special K.

So, you may be thinking, "What the heck is he talking about six to ten years?" My own safehouse, holmes. In cash! We're gonna cap The Man, Mr. Mortgage in the knees and send him face down in a bowl of blahs, South side style yo. But doing that is gonna get me six to ten in the joint. Know what I'm sayin'? You dig? You gettin' down jiggie-shizzle wit' it?


Ok, I don't know how in the world I ended up trying to talk gangsta'. I'll stop now.

Seriously though, don't worry. I'm haven't forgotten to have fun, but yeah... I dream of a house some day... in cash. I wonder if that's even possible? I wonder where I'll be, job-wise, in six to ten years from now? But I do know it's also going to require a lot of blah days like this one....

Oh, and last entry I said I'd try to be extra frugal this time. Well, I ate a can of soup last night that's been sitting in my pantry for quite some time. Next time, I'll actually try to make sense. Peace!

I R txtin'

May 5th, 2009 at 03:51 am

Soooo I am actually writing this entry on my iTouch while lying in bed in Snoopy pajama pants. Why am I doing this you ask?

The weather has been heating up, and in an effort to stay cool while keeping the electric bill down, I thought I'd give this a try....

Yeah, I admit having an iTouch in the first place is anything but frugal. It seemed like a good idea at the time since this is how I manage all of my personal finance as well as essential data that I carry with me.

But the cool part (pun intended) is that I don't have to turn on my heat-producing monitor, old PC, and if desired, my speakers just to post this entry. In fact, start up is pretty fast!

The only thing that is not very fast is my thumb typing. On a regular keyboard, I type about quick enough to think freely if that makes any sense. Here, I stumble slightly while thoughts are briefly placed on hold. So, this isn't ideal for long entries such as this one.

What is also limiting is the fact that my "viewing window" if you will is quite small and does take some getting used to.

I suppose all this isn't too bad that for light use, but I would trade a kidney if Apple came up with a larger version with higher resolution. I actually wrote to Stebe Jobs once for that. For an "iTouch HD" with a full-blown browser so I won't have to constantly zoom in and out, and rumor has it a similar "iPad" is in the works but rumor are Anything but reliable....

Ok.I am rambling, thumbtyping on an expensive gadget while making an entry that has nothing to do with frugality. Yep. I am a bad boy. Big Grin I'll try to he extra frugal in my next entry....

The giant pool of money

May 4th, 2009 at 09:11 pm

Ever heard of This American Life by Ira Glass?

The giant pool of money is an hour-long radio documentary on the subprime mortgage and CDOs.

You can listen to it online for free with the "full episode" link. Alternatively, you can also download a PDF transcript if you prefer to read it.

May minutes

May 2nd, 2009 at 06:11 am

I may have mentioned this already, but I also track my cellphone minutes. Because it is pre-pay, I am interested in finding out just how much per month do I actually use.

I've only started tracking a couple of months ago. In the first month, I used 120 minutes, but last month, I only used 30 minutes!

At $0.09 per minute, last month's phone bill comes out to be only $2.70!

Of course, whenever my friends call, I don't try to hurry them off the phone or anything. That's what the minutes are there for, so we always talk for as long as they like.

Still, last month's phone bill total was a very nice, small figure! I really am liking the way my pre-pay phone is working out.