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Archive for March, 2008

Save yourself up to $2000 a year in gas

Monday, March 31st, 2008

Saving money on gas, who doesn’t want to? For those of you who have a nice balanced budget, the rising gas costs mean more and more of your salary goes straight down into the gas tank. I’m going to put good odds on your HR department not giving you a raise just to cover the costs of your commuting, though that’d be nice and all. So what are the options you have?

1) Ride the bus
2) Bike to work
3) Carpool
4) Hybrid car

These are great options if they are available or feasible…the problem is these options are often unavailable. How many people have buses, subways, or carpools near them. These are also inflexible. Biking to work is great, if you live close enough and have the time…but many don’t. Hybrid car is a little better but they can be expensive, harder to maintain, and won’t necessarily promise great gas mileage.

I have another option, but its not for the timid. Buy a motorcycle. I know, the personal finance readers might not be the most likely to go running out and buy a motorcycle, but hear me out on this.

The average American will spend $1700 this year on gas to commute to work. At an average of 3.20/gallon that means the average American filling up an average of 531.25 gallons. With the average fuel economy being 17 miles/gallon that means we are commuting 9031.25 miles back and forth to work every year. So follow my logic here…the average motorcycle gets 35-60 miles per gallon. For this purpose lets use 49 mpg. So lets divide that those 9031 miles by 49. Instead of 531 gallons of gas, that is 184 gallons per year. Multiply that by $3.20 and that is $589. So total saved is $1111.

cm400tI have a ’79 Honda 450CMT as shown to the right. It is a smaller half cruiser and I have neglected it for the past year or so, but with gas prices rising I figured I would do a price comparison for myself to see what I save riding it around instead of driving my Z. So first lets figure my miles. Actually I know my miles because I can calculate from my Z. My commute and daily driving comes out to about 14,000 miles a year. My motorcycle also happens to get great gas milage due to its smaller engine (450 cc). I get 63 miles to the gallon. My Z gets about 17 miles per gallon. Another factor is that my Z requires premium, and when I say requires, I mean requires…it starts knocking if I put in mid grade whereas my motorcycle runs on regular unleaded. Lets do the math.

Z: 14000 / 17 = about 823 gallons of gas. Now multiply that by the cost of gas at my local station, 823* 3.37 = $2773.51

Motorcycle: 14000 / 63 = about 222 gallons of gas. Now multiply that by cost of ga, 222* 3.16 = $702.22

So $2773.51 – $702.22 = $2071.29 Savings

Ok, so obviously I live in Colorado and its not feasible to ride my motorcycle more than 4-5 months a year and some daily driving requires use of a car but its possible to have substantial savings. If you took it even a step further if you could ride a scooter to work, you could get up to 85 mpg. Motorcycles have their disadvantages, and can be very dangerous if ridden improperly or without proper training but on the other hand if you are someone who can take advantage of owning a motorcycle, I highly recommend it.

Some updates and a little bit about the current state of the stock market

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

Hosting datacenter move

My hosting company did a great job of minimizing downtime considering the massive move they undertook, thanks to them.

Earning Power update

Unfortunately there have been a few hitches in the release of Earning Power.  The main one is editing, it is massive as far as ebooks go: I believe if you are going to sell an ebook, it should be as big or bigger than a book.  So there are a few things being ironed out, but it is coming soon, I promise.

Stock Market Observations

Over the last couple months the stock market has been ridiculous. To say it has been a roller coaster ride is somewhat of an understatement, its been more like a piston. Up, down, up down. Every time it seemed things were going to sink there were some great rallies. The bad news is that this is not the end of our troubles.

One major problem is that although it is true a lot of the “worst” subprime loans have come due there are some lurking dirty secrets in the mortgage industry. A worse thing is that subprime loans were divided up and sold as “good” “kinda bad” and “bad”. So really, we have loans that are bad, really bad, super bad, “oh Lord help us” bad, and “interest on interest” bad loans.

On the other side, it is not a time for panic. At some point things will go down, but this will not be some epic unrecoverable crash. Yes you should keep investing, yes you should keep contributing to your 401k and no you shouldn’t renovate that concrete bunker from 1999.

The real story here is temper your expecations. Things have been up and down and they will probably go down some, but don’t get too excited either way. A rally does not mean all is well, the market can rally on bizzare things. For example Elliot Spitzer caused a lot of wall streeters to dance with joy and break out scotch and cigars a few weeks ago but in the long run it means nothing about our economic conditions. A drop doesn’t mean the end is near. Remember, let the day traders worry about the short term, while you and I worry about being rich long term.

Celebrity Apprentice winner shows us what celebrity apprentice teaches us about business

Friday, March 28th, 2008

celebrity apprenticeThe Celebrity Apprentice finished up and and the celebrity apprentice winner was announced. One more season is down in the books. Admittedly, I like the apprentice to a degree…its fun seeing terrible candidates or B list celebrities getting whats coming to them after having tried to rat on team members and in laughing at the depths of humiliation people will go to to try and win.

The main problem with the apprentice, and even more with celebrity apprentice is that people take it much to seriously as some sort of reflection of the business world and careers. I was at a bachelor party last night and one of the guys their was talking about the apprentice and he said I quote “I think its a good inside look at the business world with Donald Trump.”

There were episodes with people running around trying to sell tickets to something, or fruit to people on the street. Its a completely ridiculous game: except that it is supposed to be a serious test of business skill. Its more a test of who can run their mouth the best, as the winner of celebrity apprentice Piers Morgan is proof of.

Its not that business isn’t stressful or competitive or that you don’t ever have to sell anything, but even the most cut throat business are a mixture of competition and co operation….vs the apprentices focus on greed, backstabbing, accusing, and blaming. Thats no way to build a career.

Remember folks, for entertainment, watch the apprentice (and read this blog) and for career information read some good books (and this blog). Oh and the answer to the question:

What did the celebrity apprentice teach us about business?

A whole lot of nothin 😉

Changed theme, impending downtime, and some great links for the week

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

First and foremost as you can tell, I added a column, a special thanks to Chuck from The Financial Journey who helped me out a bunch for no good reason, other than he is a BA.  If you don’t read his blog, you should.

Next on the agenda, my hosting service is moving datacenters to a nice new awesome place so there will be some downtime this weekend.  Do not panick, I have not abandoned all of you if the site is down for a bit, I promise.  Hopefully the downtime will only be from midnight-6 am tomorrow night but we will see.

Next some of my favorite articles from the week:

Delayed Tax return from blogging away debt

A bunch of stuff from Suns Financial Diary but it includes a comic about one of my touchiest political subjects, Social security, arrrrgh.

Next up an article on pet costs from my money blog.  Honestly I never used to read MMB, but I noticed an unGodly amount of referrals coming from him so I started reading, turns out, now one of my favorite blogs, no joke.  Anyway we just got our puppy spayed so pet related finances fits well for the week.  Im not sure why but Ive gotten a couple emails wanting more puppy pictures after I posted the CC cutup video….maybe I need to rename this blog from “The Penny Saved” to “Pictures of our fluffy white dog”

Mrs Micah talks about her missing W2.  Lost mine once, unfun.

Patrick talks about Job searching while employed.  I love career stuff so check that out.  Something else about Cash Money Life: the man is insane about reader interaction.  It makes it one of the most fun blogs to post on, if you want to be sure about getting a response to a question, and you are sick of my witty humor, go here.  Everyone loves Patrick (and Im not exception).

Honest Dollar: “Dude wheres my refund”  Sweet!

PT Money, who is my girlfriends favorite blog,  has a funny thing on 5 crazy tax write offs people have claimed.

Ramit is back from vacation so you can continue reading his stuff now.  Included because he’s my favorite blog.

Ive been busting on Trent because of google giving him bizzare ads, so heres an obligatory link to a good article on his career change to full time blogging.

Mighty Bargain hunter talking about the dollar coin, which btw we should have gone to YEARS ago exclusively, but Im not biased or anything.

Lazy man can tell the future, no joke.  Oh yeah, its about p2p lending.

JD at Get Rich Slowly asks how you manage your finances.

Credit withdrawl touching another subject that really pisses me off – bailing everyone out.

Pretty sweet, 5 cent nickel got an interview with one of the authors of Middle Class Millionaires

No credit Needed is on a diet – financially and literally.

Hank is giving away sweet stuff, go get it!

Being Frugal, I love tightwad tuesdays.  Though I don’t follow the tips usually (too much mess for me to mess with personally) I love reading them, and if you’re motivated, give it a go

Heres a first, watch me piss off people at Digerati Life in the comments thread, guess Blip Blap wont be adding me to his blogroll anytime soon…but the personal trainer in me makes me cant resist linking to his site, since he lost 100 lbs and completely turned his life around…plus he writes a pretty damn good blog.

Guess Ive probably siphoned enough of what little google pagerank I have for the day, happy Thursday everybody!

If your name isn’t John Chow, Dont tell your friends your salary

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

When you’re in college, you are either:

1) Broke
2) Living off your parents
3) Old and living off money you saved
4) 1 and 2, 1 and 3

Ah but now you’ve graduated and gone on to the real world, and so have all of your friends. Its a party, and you’re rolling in your newfound money, and the world is all you imagined it to be. Ok, so that may or may not be true, but one thing that IS true is that now is the time when all of your friends that chose different majors are starting to figure out exactly what their college degree is worth.

Its also the time when everyone gets curious what everyone else is pulling in. Dont give in.

There are a lot of reasons why you shouldn’t tell your friends how much you make, especially if you work in similar fields. All we have to do is look at the various situations to see that the outcome is almost never good.

You make about the same for the same kind of work

This is the only time that ends well but this is the minority of all cases.

You make more than them

1) They get envious of you and resent you. They may be jealous or discouraged, either way its not good.

2) They will expect you to pay more. Its true not all friends will, but the temptation will be there. “Oh John can pick up the bigger tip, he makes X”

3) They might try to borrow money. Lending to friends is pretty much a terrible idea.

4) You’ll have to justify not spending big. The words “come on, I know you can afford it.”

5) They use your salary as leverage to get themselves a raise. This is especially a problem if you work together. If Bob knows you make X and he does a similar job but makes y, he might pull the “Bob makes..” card when his salary review time comes. Just imagine how uncomfortable that will make things for you.

They make more than you

1) Superiority complex. If they make more than you, they might figure they are worth more than you, or are harder workers than you, or more intelligent than you.

2) YOU get envious and resentful. You don’t want to be resenting your friends, do you?

3) They pity you. This is the worst probably, no one wants to be pitied. If you like being pitied, you have a serious character flaw.

4) You are tempted to use it against them or the company. This could ruin friendships, and careers.

Yes I know its not like this with all friends but the truth is, why risk it?

This is pretty apalling

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

I happened to overhear a conversation the other day between two 30-something guys talking about their jobs.  One of them said to the other “I don’t waste money in my companies retirement crap.”  A few years ago I wouldn’t have thought twice about it and I would have just gone along on my merry way, thinking about the weather.  Unfortunately now, comments like that make my ears bleed.  Its a good thing that one of them didnt say “yeah, we’ll live on social security” or else I would probably have created a scene, and no one wants a scene.

Here is the problem in my opinion.  Everyone in Gen x, y, z that is of working age has put basically zero thought into what retirement will actually mean.  I think instead most of the retirement thinking going on revolves around thinking about laying by a pool in Mexico drinking a pacifico and munching on chips and queso while their yacht is parked nearby.  Some might contribute a bit to their 401k, but most dont max company contribution out (only 1 in 7 Gen yers!).  Most don’t realize that unless they get on it early the closest they will come to that vision is cleaning that pool, and having a log on the beach to float around on.

If you haven’t maxed out your companie’s 401k match, go do it right now.

retirement

Case Shiller Index – Case Shiller Index shows state of housing market

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

The Case Shiller Index released its monthly/yearly review:

WASHINGTON (Thomson Financial) – The collapse of US home prices was spread across the whole country according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indexes released today, while the price index compiled by federal housing regulators showed a much less dramatic decline.

The January S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city price index was down 10.7 pct from the year before, in line with expectations of a 10.5 pct decline. The January-to-December decline was 2.4 pct.

Case Shiller index? What the hell is that?
The Case Shiller index is an index based on 20 cities that follows the residential real estate market in 20 large cities in the US.  Case Shiller uses repeat sales pricing to evaluate the housing market.  It was developed by Karl Case, Robert Shiller and Allan Weiss.  Weiss obviously got the short end of the naming stick.

Why is Case Shiller Index not even close to the Fed index?
The reason it is a far cry from the fed numbers released earlier this week is that the fed OFHEO stats are adjusted based on the season and the Case Shiller Index is not.

What does the Case Shiller Index release mean for me?
Probably nothing – we already knew prices would go down as foreclosures add up.  The long short of it is, if you are looking to buy, its going to be a good time.  If you are looking to sell, you are going to be selling a good amount lower than you would have in the past few years.

xm sirius merger – xm sirius merger approved and Stock implications

Monday, March 24th, 2008

XM Sirius merger from CNN:XM Satellite Radio

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — The U.S. Justice Department approved the merger between satellite radio companies Sirius and XM Monday, more than a year after the two companies first announced their deal.

But for fans of Howard Stern, Opie & Anthony and other Sirius and XM on-air personalities, there are still many questions about how much a combined Sirius-XM service will cost and what programs they’ll be able to hear. Plus, Sirius and XM face one more regulatory hurdle before the deal can officially be completed.

What does the XM Sirius Merger mean for the consumer?

Its hard to say what the merger means for the consumer because the FCC still hasn’t approved the merger. The current price for XM and Sirius is $12.95 each for base packages. Supposedly they will offer a price plan where consumers can pick their favorite sirius stations as well as their favorite XM stations for a varied price…but less than what the combined service would currently cost.

Sirius satellite radioWhat does the XM Sirius Merger mean for stock holders?

Shares of both jumped somewhat today with the DOJ announcement. XM (XMSR) went up 15.5% while Sirius (SIRI) went up to 8.6%. If the deal is approved by the FCC chances are good that both XM and Sirius will jump up again. On the flip side, if it is declined by the FCC I suspect there is going to be a nasty drop. The overall picture though is that if the deal goes through, long term both sets of stockholders will profit long term…especially if they give the combined, ala cart programming. I personally have considered satellite radio for a while but I didn’t want a standard package and the channels I wanted were scattered too much over the two different providers. I would imagine there are a fair amount of people in the same boat as I am. The whole SHOULD be greater than the sum of the parts.

Why I don’t give a damn about the environment

Monday, March 24th, 2008

I am writing this in response to this article entitled “Why Dont more Americans give a damn about the environment.”  Actually I should have titled this article “Why I dont give a damn about people telling me to give more of a damn about the environment” but then, thats not nearly as hooky is it?

Now, the truth is I love The Dough Roller, so before anyone gets too upset Ill preface with that….but now it is time to be a hardass devil’s advocate.

I hate to interrupt the touchy feely America hating, green loving fest but I have some news, America is headed in the right direction, and most of the world is not.  Many American businesses are voluntarily doing things to help …I remember when working at HP the amount of time and money that went into computer recycling.

Whoa wait, America consumes <numbers about what we consume> and pollutes <numbers about polluting>! but the truth is Americans as a whole are actually becoming greener and greener.

In 2006, total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions were 7,201.9 Tg CO2 Eq. Overall, total U.S. emissions have risen by 14.1 percent from 1990 to 2006, while the U.S. gross domestic product has increased by 59 percent over the same period (BEA 2007). Emissions fell from 2005 to 2006, decreasing by 1.5 percent (111.8 Tg CO2 Eq.).  All of this while global warming is suddenly in question again because it is now cooling, and the polar ice caps that had melted regrew this year.

China on the other hand is rapidly increasing its CO2 emissions as well as other pollutants.  India is doing the same.  I have been a couple hands worth of European countries and guess what: a lot of them are a lot less concerned about doing environmentally sound things than we are here, the difference is often overlooked:

America is a big space with less people and we have the ability to spend more resources than anywhere else in the world.  It boils down to that.  A lot of individuals in places in Europe, if they could drive SUVs and live in 5000 SQ foot houses, would.  For trucks to bring food to Colorado from the coasts, they have to drive a LONG way.

The truth of it is, many Americans are trying very hard to be green but still enjoy a nice standard of living.

Its true there are problems.  I do believe the oil industry has stifled alternative technologies for many years now and I do believe many people are much too wasteful. My family owned a solar business and my dad went out of business due to oil companies lobbying against the solar industry.  I have no love for them, nor our dependence on oil, nor our production of CO2 or pollution.

On the other hand, all of the talk about Americans being the least caring, etc…  Much of it has been used to advance political agendas from George Bush hopping on the bandwagon to Al Gore who, despite his famous movie and prize he got lives in two properties: a 10,000-square-foot, 20-room, eight-bathroom home in Nashville, and a 4,000-square-foot home in Arlington, Va. (He also has a third home in Carthage, Tenn.) while flying around in a private jet. AND according to public records, there is no evidence that Gore has signed up to use green energy in either of his large residences.

Here is what it boils down to: I have faith in all of you that you are being green, while remaining economically sound.  Do not do things that will put your finances in jeopardy if you cannot afford it.  While putting up solar panels would be great, if it will damage you financially, wait until you can afford it.

For those who are steaming angry right now, I have some bad news if you are wanting to flame me about my selfish environment killing self: I live in 1400 sq foot house, and my water is heated by two large water drainback solar collectors (designed by my father who owned a solar business).  My bulbs are all CFLs, I ride a 60 mpg motorcycle in the summer, and my yard is filled with four 75 foot trees, as well as 3 pines, 1 crab apple, 2 maples, 1 green apple and a bunch of bushes and I recycle.  I will even include a google maps picture below:

jesses house

What should I do if I lose my wallet or purse – I lost my wallet and I’ll tell you

Monday, March 24th, 2008

I have a serious problem with being forgetful. I think that my girlfriend will, in fact, kill me someday due to me forgetting something big. If I didn’t have a routine about where I put things down, I would be completely lost in the world. But I digress: The other day I had just gotten done working out at the gym so I stopped at a gas station on the way home to pick up some of that wonderful almost-$4-Gallon goodness. I always swipe my card, put it in my wallet, and put my wallet back in my pocket. You know, pretty much what everyone does every time they buy something. Well, this time I didn’t have pockets because of my shorts. So I pumped gas, hopped in my car, and off I went, wallet still on top.

I didn’t realize my wallet was gone until the next day. If you have ever lost your wallet and been late for work, Im sure you can envision the next hour or so.

We’ve all heard nasty stories about fraud thats committed in your name using your credit cards, or SSN. My Aunt had her identity stolen from losing her purse and it was an absolute nightmare and included her being (wrongly) arrested on the highway and laying face down in cuffs in front of her daughter for quite a while….not to mention she is still trying to sort out all the financial ramifications. It reminds me of those commercials, well, they are funny, Ill just post one.

What should you do if you lose your Wallet or Purse?

The absolute first thing to do if you think you have lost it in a public place is to make a quick call to the businesses to see if it has been found. If not, immediately call your credit card/debit card companies and cancel your cards. If it has been stolen, every second counts because thieves will do as much damage as possible as fast as possible. Its good to have the toll free numbers available.

Next, check all bank account balances and credit card records for unauthorized purchases. If there is activity file a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where it was stolen…this is mostly to show credit card companies you did your due diligence which will be important in getting reimbursed. Next call the three nation credit reporting organizations to place a fraud alert on your name and social security number. This is good because it means the banks will call you before any accounts or credit cards can be put under your name.

So what happened to my Wallet?

I was lucky, and someone turned it in later that day with everything intact. Its an inconvenience to have all of my usual methods of paying for things canceled, but its a small price to pay considering what could have happened if it had been found by someone less honest.

On a side note, I never realized until now just how FEW places take checks anymore…

If you liked this you might also like Identity Theft Repair Kit from Spend on Life.