Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Links

Wrong type of Link...
Kind of terrific tattoo though.

In celebration of it being Friday, here are some links to articles that I've enjoyed over the past week or so.

Annabelle at Shopping Detox expanded on her plan to get rid of her overdraft protection (and also posted some pretty amazing-looking panda sushi [clarification: it is not made from real panda meat]).

The new staff writer at Get Rich Slowly wrote a very thoughtful piece about humiliation in financial situations

I wrote an guest piece over at Budgets Are Sexy about my (very) part-time side hustle over at Fiverr.

Kelly at Cordelia Calls It Quits featured a fine essay on how you need to break in order to grow.  And all this time I've been thinking that I needed to check myself BEFORE I wrecked myself.  Good to know.

Miss T. at Prairie Eco Thrifter listed some ways in which you can give to charity without spending money.

Finally, over at Credit Karma, there was a list describing how nice guys should haggle.  This would have been awesome to have read a couple of weeks ago when I was negotiating on the cost of framing a couple of things (a signed playbill and some Disney artwork).  When I didn't get my price, I burned the place down.  That wasn't very nice.

Photo by MattGrommes

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Money Traps: Nostalgia

This is the first in a series of posts I'm working on that describes ways in which we fool ourselves into parting with our cash.

I sure didn't think it was the truth.  I had just gotten out of football practice, and my dad smiled at me as I was slowly but sorely getting into the car.*  He looked at me and said, "You'd better enjoy this, because you're going to miss it." 

I just shook my head because, I mean, what do you say to that?  Why exactly would I miss bodily pain?

As a high school student, I didn't have the perspective.  I enjoyed playing football well enough, but more than that, I really loved acting.  In addition to that, I was really good at, and really enjoyed, school (I'd eventually graduate valedictorian of my high school class).  Football was for the body, and I was eager to get to college and start a more intensive life of the mind.  Who likes running laps and doing bear crawls anyways?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Cost of a Good Deal

I haunt your dreams, sucka!
I'm like Freddy Krueger up in this piece!
 Back in 2004, I taught an English literature class to a group of home-schoolers.  For my class, I needed to distribute some paperwork via mail, so I went to Staples to buy some envelopes.

Now, I could have chosen a small box of 25 or 50 envelopes that would have more than sufficed for my purposes (I only had 9 students).  However, I noticed that the store was also selling a box of 1,000 envelopes for approximately five bucks.  How, my brain reasoned, could I turn down such a deal?  I'd have so many envelopes!  Perhaps I could get into the secondary envelope resale market!

The picture above shows you how many envelopes I still have, seven years later.  While it is true that I will not have to buy envelopes for the foreseeable future, I've also had to cart this box around with me every time I've moved in those seven years (three times).  Additionally, as our condo is pretty small, I don't really have a place just for envelopes, so they just end up sitting in a closet, or, as they are now, on a stack of papers near my computer tower.

While I might have received a good deal, I've been stuck with these things for a long time, and I'll be stuck with them for even longer still.

Have you ever bought something like my envelopes, that seemed like a good deal, but ended up just taking up space?  Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Frugal Disdain from The Palm Restaurant

Two nights ago, my wife and I decided to take advantage of the fabulous Restaurant Week here in San Diego.  If you are unfamiliar with Restaurant Week, the basic idea is that a bunch of restaurants offer two or three course meals for a somewhat discounted price, the advantage to the restaurant being that new people will come in, try the food, and maybe become regulars.  After deliberating through our options, we decided on The Palm restaurant (mostly because of the 9 oz. filet mignon).

While the food was delicious, I can't really say I plan on going back.

The reason?  Our waiter made us feel like we were about five inches tall.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

3 Personal Finance Lessons NOT to Learn from Storage Wars

I am a man of guilty pleasures; this I freely admit.  While I'm not a huge fan of reality tv in general, Storage Wars on A&E is a guilty pleasure of mine.  I am frequently in awe of the money that can be made from the abandoned units, especially from units that are apparently full of trash.

This is what came up in a search for trash. 
I am uncomfortable making any jokes about it.
For those of you unfamiliar with the show, each episode features auctions for unpaid/abandoned storage units.  There are four or five main characters who are primarily trying to make a profit from buying what is in the units for a cheap price, and then selling those same items at a higher price.  The catch to the auctions is that the bidders are not allowed to walk into the storage units; they have to base their bids only on what they can see.

One of the things about the series that draws me in is that I think the show describes a fun and interesting way to make money.  I also admire the series's regulars in their commitment and tenacity to making a living through arbitrage.  Plus, it is honestly exciting to see something rare and valuable found in a unit that was bought for relative pennies.

Even so, every episode has some combination of bad personal finance/business practices that SHOULDN'T be learned.  Here they are.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Opportunites Can Be Made Indirectly

Tonight, I have an audition with a local theatre company that I've been trying to get my foot in the door with for years.  They do excellent work, and pay their non-union actors (read: me) pretty well.

However, I didn't get this opportunity directly through any thing I did.  When I responded to the listing via email (as they requested), I didn't get a response from them.  I figured they had a lot of other people respond, so I didn't take it personally.

So how did I end up with an audition tonight?

Several years ago, I made friends with another actor.  He and I have worked together on at least one other play since then, and we think well of each other.  About a week ago, this actor was having a conversation with the stage manager for the theatre in question, and she stated that she was looking for more character actors to audition for the show.  My buddy recommended me, and the next day, she called me to set up an audition time.

Remember, I didn't get a call when I submitted my headshot and resume online; I got a call when a friend put in a good word for me.

Now, obviously, just getting an audition does not an acting job make, but the more opportunities that I have to be seen, the more opportunities I have to get jobs, and the closer I can get to, perhaps, working in the theatre on a more full-time basis.

I might get a foot in the door over there yet.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Links and a Bucket List

Do you like to hang out with people you like?  You do?  Square Pennies has some ideas on ways to save money while doing so.

The F-bombs are a-flying over at Yes I Am Cheap.  Bank of America is to blame.

Passive Family Income has some tips on selling books online.  I have really wanted to do this ever since this Slate article made doing so look so glamorous (read: hard and unfulfilling - but at least you get to work for yourself).

KNS Financial writes about how a crummy son basically got his 101-year-old mother evicted from her house because he refused to pay the property taxes.

Financial Samurai has a post a Yakezie asking how much money it would take to get you to leave your job.

Finally, J. Money at Budgets are Sexy is helping to give away some cash, and I want to win the $500 Budgets are Sexy giveaway, sponsored by Life Insurance Finder.  Now all I have to do is share my bucket list.

Here goes:

1)  Getting another play that I've written professionally produced.
2)  Owning a theatre with my wife so I can produce whatever plays I want, sucka!
3)  Becoming a parent to a little girl (or little boy, but we don't get a lot of girls in my family for some reason).
4)  Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with my dad and bros.
5)  Seeing the Chargers win the Super Bowl (this is not so much a personal goal as much as ... COME ON CHARGERS!  GET WITH THE PROGRAM!).
6)  Keeping all bucket lists parallel in terms of construction (gerunds, anyone?).

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Frugal Guilt

I have a confession to make: sometimes, when I figure out how to do something a cheaper way, I start to feel a little, well, guilty.  For example, back in the late 90s and early aughts (aka when dinosaurs ruled the earth), there was a litte music-sharing program called Napster.  I'll admit, I dabbled in downloading free songs, but it didn't sit well with me.  Because of that uneasiness, I estimate that I've probably stolen, er, pirated, er, "music-shared" fewer than thirty songs in my entire life.

In my mind, my basic thinking on the issue is that since I've always wanted a career in the arts, to take other people's intellectual property without compensating them for it is unethical.

I bring this up because because recently, the New York Times has recently decided that it's going to start "trying" to charge people for accessing its stories online, and that also didn't sit well with me.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Chase, or How I Love Technology

A couple of weeks ago, I complained about how Chase made it difficult to make payments towards my credit card.  While I still think that that is a lousy policy on their part, there is another aspect to their banking that I really enjoy.

When I got my iPhone, one of the first handful of apps that I downloaded were banking apps, and, for those who don't know, the Chase Bank app does something pretty nifty.  It lets me take pictures of my checks and it automatically deposits them.  I don't have to go into my branch anymore.  While I don't receive a whole lot of checks in general (my paycheck is directly deposited across three accounts), when I do receive the odd check, being able to use my phone to deposit it is terrifically convenient.

What can I say?  I, like Kip, love technology.

As far as downsides, probably the main one is that if you don't take a very clear picture of the check, the app won't accept it.  This can be maddening after a couple of tries.  However, and maybe I'm just getting better at it, but the last few times I've deposited checks, the first picture that I've taken has worked.

The only other downside is that I, irrationally, feel like I need to hold onto the physical checks after I've deposited them (in case Chase runs an audit or something).  I'll have to recheck Chase's terms, but holding onto these is probably a bad plan, as it will be difficult in the future to remember which checks I have and have not deposited.  I'd hate to get charged a fee by trying to deposit an already cashed check.

How about you?  What technological methods do you use to make your financial life easier?  Let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Are Football Games Worth the Ticket Price?

Be warned: this post is lo-ong, circuitous, and more theoretical than practical.  Enter at your own peril.

Last week, I bought tickets to the Chargers game that was played on 9/11.  I purchased the tickets a few days prior to the game, and so I expected that the seller would expedite the tickets to insure that they would get to me on time.  Although I received the tickets prior to the game, the envelope just had a stamp on it, which means that the seller hadn't shipped them specially.  Although I (happily) got the tickets in time to see the game, I was slightly astounded that the seller hadn't taken more care.

This got to thinking: even though the implicit understanding in the eBay sale was that I would get to use the tickets for the game, all that was explicitly described was that I would receive tickets.  In short, whether the tickets got to me in time for the game was irrelevant; I had simply paid for two, physical pieces of paper. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 Tribute

Five years ago, on another blog, I participated in a tribute project wherein close to 3,000 bloggers each wrote about a separate person who had died in the 9/11 attacks.

In honor and memory of the day, I wanted to link to that page here.

We must never forget.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Review: Biodegradable Discover More Card

Discover Bio Card!Once one is able to get his or her spending in check, the studious use of a credit card can be very beneficial.  After all, it has been said that while the lower and middle classes work for their money, the rich get their money to work for them.  While this statement is generally used to encourage people to invest, the careful use of a rewards credit is another way to get your money to work for you.

As far as rewards credit cards go, the Discover More card is a good option.  You can get 5% back on specific categories of purchases (after you sign up for that feature).  You automatically get 0.25% on the first $3,000 worth of purchases in a year, and if you spend more than that, the percentage automatically bumps up to 1%.  So long as you pay off your balance prior to the due date each month, Discover is basically paying you to take a short term loan from them.

Another positive item about this card is that there is no annual fee for its use.  However, all purchases are charged between 11.99% and 20.99% if payment is not received by the due date.  The Discover More credit card is also offering a 0% introductory APR for the first six months of your account's life.

One other cool item about the card is that it is allegedly biodegradable.  The Discover website claims that the card will biodegrade in five years in normal landfill conditions (though I would be interested in how long it takes other credit cards to biodegrade as a comparison).

Bottom line: the Discover More credit card offers a good cash back rewards program with no annual fee, and it provides an interest rate that is competitive.  If you are in the market for a rewards credit card, this is not a bad choice.

(Disclaimer: this article was posted as of the date of the post, and the terms for the Discover More card were current as of that date.  Please make sure to check the terms if you sign up to ensure that they are still comparable.)

Friday, September 9, 2011

San Diego Power Outage Thoughts

Yesterday, according to some early reports, a worker in Arizona flipped the wrong switch while working on a power line, which caused around 1.4 million people in the San Diego area to lose power.  I live in San Diego, but I wasn't put out too much by the outage (my power was turned back on around 10 pm).  In fact, the outage gave my wife and I an opportunity to have dinner (thank you gas barbecue grill!) with some neighbors who we've been meaning to get to know a little better.  Most of the area now has the power back on, but there others who are still in the dark.*

During the blackout, I noticed or heard about two things last night that had to do with money, and I thought I'd share.  One of these is admirable, the other, not so much.

First, the admirable: I mentioned above that I grilled last night.  What I didn't mention is that I had to go to Lowe's to refill my propane tank.  While at Lowe's, I noticed a guy was loading a generator with a price tag of $1,000 into the trunk of a pizza delivery car.  I think this is admirable because it shows initiative; if this pizza company is the only restaurant that can deliver in the area, they stood to make a lot of money.  Also, this company was helping with something vital: they were hoping to continue to deliver food to the hungry. 

Next, the less than admirable: during a blackout, one issue that people are concerned about is keeping food from spoiling.  As such, there was a major run on ice last night.  I live around the block from a 7-11, and that store had a line out the door for hours last night with people wanting ice or cold drinks.  With the demand for ice at a high, I heard on the radio that one local liquor store decided to jack up its prices for a bag of ice from $2 to $5.  While the liquor store certainly *can* price its goods at whatever it thinks is fair, I think it's deplorable for them to do so in the middle of a blackout where people aren't thinking as clearly as maybe they should (the first reports we heard said that we probably wouldn't be back on until late last night, or possible even into today).

Way to stay classy, San Diego.

The major difference that I see between the admirable and the un-admirable is that the first person was taking some initiative to not only help his business, but also to provide food to people who may not have food stored for unforeseeable events.  The second example, the liquor store, I feel like was just taking advantage of the situation.  While I understand that this is how a capitalist economy works, it just makes me a little sad-face.

What are your thoughts?  Do you think the liquor store was justified?  Or, do you think the pizza place was as big of a crook as the liquor store?  Let me know in the comments.

*For what it's worth, the woman in the picture of the link is a coworker of mine.  She is also a part-owner of a local restaurant, and I guess a patron got out of hand last night and attacked her.  Scary stuff.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

5 Ways to Save on Theatre Tickets

Live theatre is generally a pricy enterprise for those who want to see it.  Happily, one of the perks of getting a master's degree in drama is that I can go to the theatre and justify the cost to myself under the auspices of "professional development." Still, if there's a way for me to save money when going to see a play or a musical, it's always a good idea.  To try to mitigate the costs, here are a couple of ways that I've used to save money on ticket prices.*

1)  Usher - Do you own a white, collared shirt and black slacks? Congratulations! You're qualified to be an usher! Many theatres offer free admission to people who own the above clothes and are willing to volunteer their time by arriving 30-45 minutes prior to showtime in order to help audience members find their seats. Go to just about any theatre's website for more information on how to get involved in this way.

2)  Friends - Are you friends with somebody who's in a play?  If so, that person likely has some "comps" (complimentary tickets).  If you ask your buddy real sweet and nice-like, he or she just might hook you up to let you see the show for free.

3)  Local Discount Ticket Brokers - In New York, you can buy cheaper tickets the day of the show (or sometimes a few days ahead) from the TKTS booth in Times Square (or one of the other two booths they operate).  The catch is that you need to go in person and wait in line for the tickets.  The logic behind selling half-price tickets is one of simple economics:  it's better for the theatre to make some money (by selling at a discount the day of the performance) as opposed to no money (empty, unsold seats equal lost earnings).  Here in San Diego, there's a local organization called Arts Tix which sells discounted tickets as well.  I'm pretty sure that there are others in other cities as well, I'm just not familiar with them by name.  Readers, do you know of any local discount ticket purveyors?

4)  Online Discount Sites - immediately springs to mind.  You are able to purchase discounted tickets here online, and it sells tickets to events in multiple cities (Atlanta, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and others).  I have also seen tickets sold on Groupon, but these deals are much more sporadic, and therefore, harder to plan.

5)  Take Advantage of Available Discounts - One of my favorite discounts that I've been getting lately is due to my age.  Theatre is often seen as being kind of old-fashioned, and so theatres are desperate to get young people in the audience.  As such, one of the major theatres in San Diego, The Old Globe, offers $20 tickets to people who are under 30 years old.**  Other discount opportunities include cheaper tickets for students, seniors, and groups.

Anybody else take advantage of other theatre discounts?  Let me know in the comments.

*This comment is not meant to imply that I don't think theatres are worthy places to pay full-price. Particularly in a bad economy, arts organizations, such as theatres, struggle to pay their bills. Personally, I think that if you *can* afford to pay full-price to go to the theatre (especially for newer/smaller/more adventurous theatres), it's not a bad investment.
**As I'm currently 29, I'm going to ride this discount for all it's worth until I turn 30 in May.

Edit 09/19/2011:  This post was featured in the 327th Carnival of Personal Finance at Mrs. Nespy's World

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I'm in for the Yakezie Challenge

I have decided to accept the Yakezie Challenge.

I solemnly affirm that I will post 2-4 times a week, and take great efforts to link to other amazing writing about money, life, and the intersection of money and life.  I will do so for the next 6 months (at least!), and, in the end, I plan to grow as a personal finance writer, and, dare I say, a human being.

It's kind of a no-brainer, actually.  I already post about that much, and I enjoy linking to other personal finance bloggers whom I enjoy.  Now I'll just be doing a whole lot more of it.  I look forward to joining this community.

Proud Member of the Yakezie Challenge

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Links

Here are a couple of articles that stuck out to me over the past few days.

Over at Wisebread, there's an article about the worst investments you can make.  Curiously, trying to buy and sell modern-age comics through Craigslist isn't on there. 

MSN reported on a woman who purchased an iPad from the trunk of a car for $180.  The iPad turned out to be a painted piece of wood with the icons taped on.  The moral of the story?  Only tamales should be purchased directly from trunks of cars.

Mr. Money Mustache wrote about how he came up with his pseudonym.  Hint: he, unlike my wife, does not think mustaches denote pederasty.

Annabelle at Shopping Detox announced that there will be more than a year of Shopping Detox.  I don't have anything funny to add here; I just like her writing.

And Andrea over at So Over Debt describes in vivid, spectacularly pungent detail what caused her to throw up in her mouth a little.  Curiously, this article was posted only a few days from when I introduced myself to her.  Coincidence?  I don't think so.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Netflix - Bandwagoning It!

You know how sometimes you just really want to break up with somebody?  After all, you don't really like to hang out with them as much as you used to.  You work yourself up, and you're ready to pull the plug, but then you can't help but look back on how much history the two of you have, and how much the other person already knows so many of your idiosyncrasies, not to mention your likes (pretentious documentaries) and dislikes (Something Borrowed [if this movie were a baby, I would strongly consider punching it in the face (which is really saying something as I have no prior history of baby-punching)])*, and you realize you can't bear to cut ties just yet.

Now imagine that person you want to break up with is not an actual person, but a website called Netflix.

Boom.  That sound you just heard was your mind being blown.