I just received my electric bill for last month and... wow. Just wow.
I'm used to seeing only $30 to $40 on it, but this time, it was $130! I think it's the AC. It doesn't seem to run too well, and even with AC on, I still have to keep a box fan on me.
This is astounding. I'm going to have to take drastic steps.
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I just received my electric bill for last month and... wow. Just wow.
Haha, I saw a funny video that I thought it'd be fun to share....
But before I do that, it did make me wonder about whether I even want to get back into the dating scene or not? Or heaven forbid, get into a relationship! Wow, just the very thought of it scares me right now.
Although I suppose for the right woman, I could probably be talked into it.... But considering that I'm still single, I guess this isn't exactly something I need to worry about right now.
Still, I wonder: How do you know for sure when somebody standing in front of you is the right person for you? How do you tell you're not just infatuated with them, or that you're just in love with the idea of being in love? What do you think?
Anyways, here's the funny video I was talking about. And here's one for you poor ladies out there.
Is a hilarious comedian who uses a lot of explicit language, so please be warned.
That said, here is his skit on Being Broke.
Like finances? Like futbol? Hate vuvuzelas?
Well, here's a fun little game for you!
When it comes to financial insights, many look back at the life and times of Benjamin Franklin. His advice is simple and timeless, advocating industry, frugality, and never squandering our most precious resource, which is time.
Here is a big list of sayings by Ben Franklin.
I ran across this picture of a license plate on the internet, and thought that it would be fun to share it.
I was amused at first, but the more I looked at it, the more I wondered if it was really frugal? I mean a Honda Insight is environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient, but it's not cheap either. Also, a vanity plate isn't exactly frugal.
To be fair though, the owner may very well be frugal. It just depends on what their overall financial picture looks like.
Anyways, my meandering around the internet also landed me on an article that I think is written by our very own Jeffrey. It appears that he has succeeded on his $1 a day food challenge and is forging ahead for more! I haven't read all the entries, but of the ones that I did, they were certainly amusing.
In a way, he's a stronger man than I am because I don't think I can pull that off. Well, unless I had absolutely no choice, because subsisting mostly on bread, vegetable, and cereal? Ouch. Earned my respect right there.
Oh, and I just came across a free minimalist e-cookbook from thestonesoup.com. This cookbook promises no more than 5 ingredients and no more than 10 minutes to make.
For those of you who are born with a spatula in hand, you may scoff at this, but if you're someone who is a bit more ah challenged in the kitchen like myself, this may be of interest to you.
The only downside is that I question the price of some of these ingredients.
Ever heard of the Motel 6 ad, where they were joking about how Motel 6 was frugal before the new frugal became chic or something like that? I wish I could find a transcript of that ad because it was pretty humorous, but those of you who have heard it should know what I'm talking about.
In any case, it got me wondering about who this Tom Bodett guy is, and how they came up with the slogan, "We'll leave the light on for you." According to his funny autobiography, he ad-libbed it on the first recording session! I guess, sometimes, brilliance is chanced upon.
Or is it chance at all? What if it simply struck a chord through simplicity and sincerity?
I must say that I love the Motel 6 ads. Understand that, unlike something like the Ritz Carlton, Motel 6 is an economy motel chain. As such, their product, as well as their marketing pitch should be and is a simple one: Clean rooms and good price. But you know what? That's all I ask for in a motel stay anyways. And these Motel 6 ads come across as very down-to-earth and sincere about such a promise. Real life experiences may vary of course.
I suppose the takeaway lesson here is that, sometimes, simple and sincere may be the best way to go, including matters of business. That and the more things change, the more some things seem to stay the same. And when it comes to certain values such as frugality, that's not really a bad thing at all.
Grim news indeed if you have anything to do with Blockbuster beyond being a customer.
First, they went through bankruptcy restructuring, clinging on to less than $40 million in capital, which may sound like a lot, but not when you're facing nearly a billion dollars in debt. To make matters worse, now there is news that they will be delisted from the NYSE.
You can read more details in the link if you want, but what I wanted to share about this story is that even the mighty can be brought to its knees if it is unable to tame the debt dragon.
One could also argue that it's about business agility, which I can agree with, but if Blockbuster didn't have so much debt, it would still have time to evolve and grow.
Oh yeah, that and maybe karma. Late fees used to be Blockbuster's bread and butter, and as such, they didn't bend on the policy. I hated that though, and cheered Netflix when they will allow you to keep yours for as long as you want without late fees. Anyway, the late fee inflexibility may have been the double edged sword that gave Netflix a chance to break into the market.
But mostly, it's a cautionary tale about what debt can do to you if you are not careful.
Not a very interesting topic, but I just want to get this off my chest.
For years now, I still see online that people tout ETFs because of their low expense ratios relative to their equivalent mutual funds. Based on that, they therefore conclude that ETFs are better.
However, with a few exceptions, ETFs also require a trading fee. Translated into mutual fund terms, that's a front and a back load you have to pay as well!
Now, I'm not saying that in certain circumstances, ETFs can't be cheaper. I'm saying the real answer is: It Depends.
* It depends on how much you contribute. The smaller your contribution balance is, the larger in percentage your trading fees are.
* It depends on how often you contribute. If you're in a 401(k) program, where you may be automatically contributing bi-weekly, the fees are going to destroy you. However, if you're someone who is only making annual buys, say, in an IRA, then it's not so bad.
* It also depends on how many ETFs you plan on buying. A typical portfolio will consist of at least one large cap ETF, one bond ETF, and perhaps an international ETF. You may have more, and the point is, all those ETFs each require a separate trading fee from you.
* And finally, it depends on your existing balance. For example, if you're someone who is just starting out and have a fairly small amount, the difference in the expense ratio is negligible. Now, if you have a lot of money already invested, then yes, I agree expense ratios are extremely important.
Bottom line, I don't understand what the fascination with ETFs are. I mean I can articulate circumstances where even I will use them, but for the most part, I think you can do just fine with regular mutual funds.
Investing isn't always exciting, but it doesn't have to be. It just has to work.
Mint.com does it again with another fun graph, this time, showing certain items that actually cost less than they did 10 years ago... when adjust for inflation.
Here's the link.
If my month could be summed up in one catchy phrase, it would be "Easy Come, Easy Go". I might as well have a catchy slogan, because it's turned out to be the biggest beating I've ever taken in a single month.
This month alone, I've lost 6% in net worth.
What happened? Basically, this is what happens when you take lot of risks. You can make a lot of money fast, but at the same time, you can lose a lot of money fast.
I also spent a large chunk in unexpected expenses (for my son's braces), but I can't lie: Most of the damage was self-inflicted in stock trading.
Sooo, I guess it also doesn't help then that I've also gotten my qualification letter to go into options trading. Again, I aim to be super safe and tread very slowly into it, but yeah....
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go drown my sorrow in southern sweet tea.
You guys know by now that I sort of have a thing for small homes. Well, not so much the small space per se, but mostly, the creativity and inventiveness that goes into it, because the space is indeed so limited.
And although this isn't my personal preference, I found a cottage renovation that is nevertheless enchanting. It went from something like this into something like this.
And there's much more! Here's the entire slideshow to see pictures of the interior. It truly is beautiful.
Best of all, I don't think she spent a lot of money to do the renovation, stating that most were found in flea markets and yard sales.
Speaking of which, here is a popular YouTube video of an apartment with transforming rooms. World's Greenest Homes is a really cool show.
Sooo, a fellow co-worker told me about this new ponzi scheme er I mean charity organization, but with a twist. The basic idea is this:
Donate $6, separated into three $2 portions, to your fellow gifters in the organization, and in return, you are eligible to receive back as much as $28 in cash gift yourself.
Now, you can only keep $7, because the other $21 is then split into three $7 portions that you re-donate back into the program, but in return, you are eligible for an even higher sum... that you can keep only a certain portion of while you re-donate the rest back.
Sounds innocent enough. So, what's wrong with this picture?
In order for the system to work, you have to get a lot of new people to join and donate their money, and the magnitude is frightening.
For one thing, it will take up to 14 donations on the first level (hence the name 14 Eagles) just for you to complete level 1. That's roughly 4.6 people required to make the total of 14 donations needed. Let's just say 5 people.
Let me say this again. For you, one person, to make the initial profit of only $1(!), you need 5 people below you. 5 people.
And how many does it require to complete level 2? 25 people. It takes 5 Level 2 gifters, each requiring their own 5 people's worth of level 1 donations to reach level 2 in order for them to gift YOU enough level 2 donations to go to level 3. 25 people.
And how many is required to reach level 3? 125 people. And it just keeps going like that.
The funny thing is, my co-worker believes the math makes sense, because the misleading literature is only showing you the dollar amounts you have the POTENTIAL of making, but never once mentioning the number of people required below you to realize that potential.
There's something else too. Because it's a (shady) charitable organization, it's not really subject to the same regulatory standards as a regular business, even for network marketing types.
Plus, everything is literally handled through cash. Yes, they recommend that you hide the cash, wrapped in magazine pages, stuffed inside darkened envelopes. Uh huh.
Even their website, 14eagles.com, is locked down pretty tight. You can't get in without ID and password. Nothing shows up on the domain registration either. Gotta love a good charity organization with transparency oh wait.... IT DOESN'T.
All this lack of transparency also makes it easy for the program's creator to game the system and keep a substantial portion for himself without anyone knowing.
Fortunately, my co-worker is out of this program. One of the members of his church found some questionable legal details, and his entire church decided to collectively get out of it.
But anyways, here's another cautionary tale about how if something looks too easy or too good to be true, chances are, it is.
is broke? Say it ain't so! But maybe I should start from the beginning.
According to this article, Elon Musk is a rocket scientist who helped design the Falcon 9 rocket booster, helped create Solar City, a solar power company, a co-founder of PayPal, and last but not least, is also a founder of Tesla Motors.
In short, he's the suave James Bond of the geek world. Better yet, Jon Favreau supposedly modeled Tony Stark (from the movies Iron Man) after Elon. Once upon a time, he was a walking giant with as much as $200 million dollars to his name, and he isn't even 40 years old yet.
Today, he is supposedly penniless.
So, what went wrong? I'm not entirely sure, but according to his divorce records, he is living off of loans from his wealthy friends, and... get this... is still spending as much as $200,000 a month on living expenses, including a private jet that he's still flying!
So, that last part may have had something to do with it.
Fortunately for him I guess, Tesla Motors is about to go public, so it may bring in much needed money for him. Still, regardless of what the future holds, it seems like another cautionary tale of being mindful of what you keep, and not just what you make (or your stake is worth).
Up until now, I've always gone to individual websites to pay my bills online. And while that has worked in the past, I thought I'd finally give bill pay a try instead.
How many people are currently using their online bill pay from their bank or credit union? If so, have you had much problems with getting it set up? How well is it working for you so far?
I placed several of my bills on it. I think one of them is working, but the rest are still pending and iffy. One in particular, my internet bill, is strangely not working and I don't know why.
So, anyways, just wondering what your experiences are with online bill pay, and if there are any tips you can offer.
And now, they're set to become even better! According to this article, Red Box plans to rent out Blu-Rays for only $1.50!
Well, this may not mean much for those who still use DVD, but for me, it's great news! And anyway, the world will eventually transition to Blu-Ray, so it's not a bad thing for Red Box to stay ahead of the curve.
Speaking of which, I really need to catch up on my Battlestar Galactica.
When I saw this burglary kit that you can buy here, I KNEW I had to share it. Because, even those with means need the means to um obtain more means? Know what I mean?
You want to know what really made me laugh? No, not the $200 buckaroos they want for this kit, because that just made me bug-eyed. Are they crazy? $200 for a $20 kit you can put together yourself? No, but look at the picture in the first link again. The kit contains a pack of Chiclets. Chiclets! What in the world is a pack of Chiclets doing in a burglary kit? Is it so your breath doesn't smell bad when you're muffling a victim while whispering sweetly, "Quiet my little Starling"? The band-aid pack makes more sense seeing as how you're going to get bitten by the angry homeowners I'm sure.
All this just reminds me of another hilarity I once saw on YouTube. But before you click, please understand that it's crude and filled with obscene language. You've been warned.
Otherwise, listen at your own peril. That's my general advice for anyone who reads or hears anything that I have said or written.
There's kind of a story behind this. Basically, I um couldn't contain myself and told a friend about my net worth gains last month. Yeah, I wasn't going to mention it here either, but what the hay....
Basically, my net worth has grown a little over 12% last month, due largely to my stock trading. Yep. Best financial month ever.
In fact, I've also crossed an unique milestone last month. It's the first time in my life where my money has made more money than I have working. And not just by a little bit either. Nope, it completely crushed my paycheck!
Of course, it still doesn't translate to anything practical in everyday life, as it only affects my retirement some day.
Surprisingly enough, the gains seems to have captured this friend's imagination? He spent a lot of time asking questions about stock trading. I seriously think he wants to start trading stocks as well. I wasn't expecting that.
I've tried to stress the risks involved of course, but I think he thinks that I can somehow help him avoid the pitfalls, which honestly, I can not. When it's all said and done, I also take on a lot of risks, and could have easily lost just as much....
Also, there is a small problem of capital. My friend doesn't have any. I've tried to stress that I've spent years saving money to have any investing capital at all. But what I found disturbing was when he replied, "Yeah, I don't know why you're going into this tangent, because what I really want to know is the trading part."
It's dangerous when you focus only on the gains and none of the risks. The simple reason why saving is such a big deal is because I don't trade on margin or with any kind of borrowed capital. I absolutely refuse to. In fact, I don't leverage either. I only work with what I have, but doing it my way means saving money.
While I'm at it, I kind of apologize for talking about stock trading here all the time. I know this isn't the place for it, but it's all I'm doing right now. Not that I mind it personally, since I really do like stock trading, but if you do decide to read about it, I only ask to please take what stock advice I say with a grain of salt.
I don't know if anyone remember this, but I been dabbling with BP stocks a little while back. And with it, I think I've also learned where my true risk tolerance is, and it's about where BP is right now.
How did I know that BP was my limit? Although I didn't lose sleep over it, it was also the last thing I thought of when I went to bed, and the first thing I thought of when I woke up. I even had to resist checking the pre-market trading and the news updates before brushing my teeth. Suffice to say, I was a little anxious. And that's when I realized that, no matter WHAT the trading strategy is, it's still Not Worth It!
Considering that it also ended in a loss, I'm obviously not happy with my BP trades. Fortunately, the loss is minimal to the overall portfolio, but it's still an expensive learning lesson.
A friend of mine just called me up with an odd question. He asked me if there is something I've always wanted to do but haven't been able to do so yet.
I told him I wanted to win a million dollars. He said, "Uh ok, now is there something else you wanted to do that's a lot more obtainable than that?"
I chuckled and said, "Well, realistically, I wouldn't mind taking a vacation to this particular place. What about you?"
"I want to be able to retire comfortably some day." he says.
I said that I understood and agree with it, but then I asked, "So what brought this up? Want to tell me what this is about?"
"Nope!" he says.
You have to understand, this is a guy who we've always been open to each other about everything, and the simple fact that he would not tell me what this is about really surprised me! I don't know what to make of this.
I will say that, in the end, we both want the same thing out of life. Come to think of it, I think we all basically want similar things out of life, eh? The only difference, really, is whether we have the resources to make it happen. Be it a vacation or a comfortable retirement, it all takes money....
But that's not saying anything new to you guys. What's got me really wondering is why this friend of mine is suddenly being so dodgy? Anybody have any ideas?
I just got an email from PerkStreet to do a survey for them for $10. Call me crazy, but I actually had fun doing that survey! It really got me thinking more about my own personal finances, and where I stand right now.
I also spoke to a PerkStreet rep to cancel a recurring money transfer even though the online website showed that it's been canceled. In other words, it was still running even though it shouldn't be.
I wish there was a single account where it pays rewards for spending as well as interest for saving a balance there. That would just be awesome. I don't know if that's possible because I guess banks have to make their money somehow. Still, for the moment, I have to spread out my money between several accounts.
Oh, before I forget, I cashed out my very first gift card from them. It's kind of neat. They mail it to you in this green, Christmas-like card envelope. The card was immediately usable, and because it's a Visa card, I had no trouble using it just about anywhere. The only thing I had to do was to create a new budget line for the card, so I can keep track of the balance. No big deal at all for a freebie like this.
I don't know if I should be blogging this, but I picked up a small stake of BP today. The price drop just seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up.
The only thing is, oil is a dirty business. Dirty in the sense that they are not surrounded by a lot of warm and fuzzy vibes. A lot of people are upset with "big oil" for the high gas prices, and now, what is shaping up to be one of the biggest ecological disasters in oil history.
And although I am no fan of greedy corporate fat cats, I'm not sure that's really the case here. I mean, it's not like BP wanted an accident like this to happen. No one does. And although I did not like the CEO's first reaction (blaming it on Transocean for mishandling the rig), at least they did come out and vow to pay for the clean up.
Bottom line, as much as I can understand about the anger over BP, I also believe the market is unfairly punishing it right now. It's still a quality stock with a huge dividend, and now, it's selling at a substantial discount. So, I bought a small stake.
I have a limit sell in place, but I may sell earlier pending any legislative changes regarding offshore drilling in the gulf. But mostly, I'm just going to sit on it and collect the 7% (at the time) dividend.
I just updated my net worth, and I'm up by 6.6% this month. 6.6%. My first reaction wasn't anything positive. Quite the contrary, I was alarmed and concerned. I say that because I am pretty certain I didn't do anything that stellar to warrant such an increase.
So, I started digging through my records for the past 2 months to see what could have caused it. True, some were due to savings, some because I actually got some tax return money (that finally posted), and some was from just the market creeping up and my meager stock trading gains.
Much to my pleasant surprise and relief, it turns out that it was because the dividends from my dividend stocks finally came in. More importantly, it seems that I had some stocks that were doing poorly earlier, and JUST recovered into the positive territory. So, that's why this month's percentage seems so big even though the overall balance hasn't changed as much so.
Oh well, at least it's gone up. w00t.
My mom was telling me yesterday about an aunt of mine who owns a rental house. The trash compactor, a toilet, and now the AC are all broken and needs to be fixed. It's not clear how they were broken, so they're in the middle of a small dispute with the tenant about who is paying how much for what repairs.
I don't know the exact details. I just want to pose the question of, "Why?" Why is my family so dead set on physical real estate for income? Why not mutual funds or REITs instead? It would be a lot more liquid and it would take out the headache of having to deal with tenants. There's also no property tax, insurance fees, and Homeowners' Association to deal with either.
Now, I'm not saying that physical property can't be an investment. I think it makes sense for some people in some situations. I just don't think it's for everybody.
I did gently ask my mom if my aunt really wanted to go into real estate, and her response was, "Of course! She's getting older and needs to secure an income stream to retire on. She just had bad luck, that's all."
While I have very much enjoyed my credit union and their high APYs, I am at the same time finding their 12 transactions per month requirements kind of irksome. There are some months when I run short of this quota and I feel like I have to buy something just to maintain the interest rate.
The tipping point was last month, when I didn't receive my normal interest rate because I was literally 1 transaction short! Actually, I did make a 12th transaction (with Red Box) but it wasn't soon enough to register on that month.
To add insult to injury, my CU recently pared down the interest rate some more, from 3.01% to 2.25%.
I ran some quick numbers, and if I were to go with a simple, maintenance-free savings account that had a slightly lower interest rate, I could lose as much as $50 per year in interest difference. Certainly, even $50 has been a big enough difference that I've kept up with it so far, but after the frustration of missing my interest payment last month, I think I'm ready to move on.
I just don't like the feeling of having to constantly monitor an account, and when I am short, I do not want to feel like I must find something to buy or else I'm going to lose that interest rate.
Anyways, just my yammering for the day.
It's Apple's latest gizmo. It's like an ultraportable laptop, minus the physical keyboard.
Why am I considering one?
They have a 3G model coming out that you can subscribe to AT&T's 3G internet. The cost is $15 a month for up to 200 mbs of download, or $30 a month for unlimited download.
How is that financially-beneficial?
I'm currently paying $50 a month for broadband, and it's only available at home. The 3G gives me internet access anywhere, on a portable device, all the while saving me as much as $35 a month on my internet bill.
Of course, to make it financially worthwhile means that I would have to cut off my regular broadband internet, and yes, that's what I'm considering.
* I've already cut off my cable TV in favor of Redbox and the internet.
* I've already cut off landline phone in favor of a cheap cellphone.
* And now, I'm thinking maybe I can cut off normal broadband internet as well, in favor of mobile broadband for as little as $15 a month.
Is there a better deal out there?
Not that I am aware of. Even if I cut down my regular internet speed, it's still hard to compete with $15 a month for 3G.
Dial-ups may be only $10 a month dial-up connection, it requires that I have a landline, which would be an extra $28 a month. That's basically the same price as the 3G I am considering now, except it's portable and with a faster speed.
What about other 3G services? Most of them are for smartphones (for now), and not only do they require signing a contract, but the same 3G service costs $50 to $60 a month, and that's not including another $30 a month for the voice plan that I don't need.
Any downside risks to this plan?
Yes. First and foremost, the upfront cost for this thing is $600, but it's really more like $800 if you throw in the needed accessories and software to make this a primary computing machine. That's not exactly cheap....
Also, the iPad isn't a full-blown PC, and its functionality would be limited. I've considered that, but given my everyday computing habits, I don't think this is going to be a huge problem. Also, I will still have access to a desktop PC. It just won't have internet access.
Also, the 3G rate plan may change somewhere down the road. On the other hand, the price may lower even more, or it may not change at all. I don't know. I would think that as 4G/WiMax services start to displace the current 3G network, it should get cheaper and cheaper, but only time will tell for sure.
Last but not least, the 3G signal could become slow and unreliable at times. However, I think reception is typically a local issue, and the people I know around me who has iPhones and AT&T 3G don't seem to have too many problems with their reception. Admittedly, that's still no guarantee that I would not have reception problems.
So, that's what I'm thinking of doing right now. Do you see any flaws in the plan, or do you think this is a viable option?
So, remember me mentioning the local Boglehead gathering, and the local university professor? He just sent our mailing group a link to someone who cited one of the papers that he and a grad student did recently.
DFA vs. Vanguard - Which is better?
Kind of high brow stuff. DFA is well-regarded and often-mentioned in the Boglehead forums, although I never learned the details of it. Essentially though, this just shows how index funds in general are still quite competitive out there. Best of all, you don't have to be an Economics professor to invest as well as they do.
My fellow co-workers are talking about the lottery again. I think one of them plays it on a regular basis, like maybe $30 a month. But the part that got me kind of worried is that he was trying to talk another co-worker into playing the lottery.
I wanted to say, "No, that's a bad idea. Save your money instead." But, since they're all good friends, and since I'm on good terms with all of them, I decided to just keep my mouth shut.
The funny part is they then joked that I should be playing the lottery instead of trading stocks. Trade my favored poison for another? Nah. But they're right in a way. I too gamble in my own way. Even though my way still retains some semblance of equity and most pay dividend, whereas the lottery is typically just a straight loss.
The biggest difference though, is I emphasize the risk involved in stock trading, whereas they emphasize the benefits involved in playing the lottery. Still, in the end, I guess we're all gamblers of sorts.
No, I didn't win the lottery. I can't because I don't play the lottery. However, I did watch a show called "Lottery changed my life" on TLC about lottery winners.
The episode I watched showed a variety of winners. Some went hog wild, while others only upgraded their life somewhat. Some sped up their lives with business investments, while others slowed down and traveled. Some lost it all, ending only with misery and memories, while others continued on with happier lives and some even with a greater sense of purpose.
Between the shows were a bunch of factoids. The one that really stuck out to me was that only 33% lost all of their winnings after five years! I thought it was much, much higher than that. But the factoid was in a vaccuum though. Perhaps more lost earlier? Or perhaps these were all post-recession winners, and were less willing to squander it? I don't know.
Another thing that stuck out in my mind was how they only talked about how they spent the winnings, and how the money has impacted their lives. I was hoping they would also talk about how they MANAGED that money. Surely, they didn't all just stick it in their local checking account.
Oh well, I guess that's not something every viewer is interested in knowing? So, does anybody know? I have to get going right now, but I'd love to look more into this later. Not that this is anything I'll have to worry about anytime soon, but it's still morbid curiosity.
So, fellow readers. Let's say you just won the lottery. Say, $20 million dollar jackpot (after taxes). Whatever. What would you spend it on? More importantly, how would you manage that amount?
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