Home > Archive: March, 2008

Archive for March, 2008

Pick up the money already, putz

April 1st, 2008 at 05:44 am

Every so often the question comes up. Do you pick up change from the street?

And the pros and cons come up which boil down to this. Pro: the money's risk free; con: my time is precious, and by G*d, I'm not the type of person who picks up pennies from the street. In case you couldn't tell by the subject line, I'm a pro change picker upper. I know I won't convert a con change picker upper people but I do want to provide a little food for thought.

First of all, you have to be in the right position to even pick up change from the street. If you are already in the right position, you're already un-American. You can't be in a car. You have to be on a sidewalk or in a lobby, walking. You can't be on a cellphone. You shouldn't be pacing and staring off into middle distance, listening. You have to be on a sidewalk, & basically unproductive - not doing deals, not selling something, not ordering someone around. If you're just walking, so much for your time being precious; might just as well train your eye searching for little metal circles.

Second of all, do you pick up change in other aspects of your life? Change that collects in the bottom of the washer/dryer when it fell out of your pants? You pick that up. Change on the carpet of your car that you tossed in your hurry pulling out of the drive thru? You'll pick that up, sure, especially if there's a toll involved. Change that you sucked up in the vacuum bag? Nasty, but you'd rescue it. Change between the couch cushions? You'd pick that up. Matter of fact, isn't that the first place you look for pizza and laundry money?

Here's a news flash. Picking up change from any of those sources, some even nastier than the sidewalk, doesn't change your net worth one iota. Its money you already have that you've moved into your pants pocket from an alternate pocket. Sidewalk change is new money.

Lastly, there's the I-make x-dollars-per-second-its-not-worth-it argument. That only works if your pay is docked when you pick up change. Otherwise, if you find change at night or on the weekend, your pay that hour is $0. Picking up the coin means your pay is $0 plus coin. If you find the coin during lunch and you are making a salary, you pay that hour is $salary plus coin. Think of it as a tip for being alert.

I don't have any reason to convert a non-change picker upper into a change picker upper. Why make competition? Change that you pick up means change I won't. All I ask of you is this: if you see sidewalk money, point it out to me. I'll pick it up.

magazine trade

April 1st, 2008 at 04:40 am

Saving log - $4 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $7 lunch

The magazine I bought Saturday at the grocery store (yes, I still am addicted to one magazine) had 10 blurry pages in it. Not what I paid for. I knew I would walk past the grocery tonight, so I packed up the blurry magazine and the receipt. I showed the blurry pages, the receipt, and that all I wanted was a new magazine. Trade cheerfully accepted.

walked a huge amount today

March 31st, 2008 at 06:25 am

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $4 coffee, bagel, apple + $8 CD + $20 sushi lunch

I walked a huge amount today, and began to jog. I'm a terrible jogger, but dammit, since I bought warm running tights I'm going to see if I challenge myself a bit more. As if walking from 92nd to 35th and back ain't enough.

I did manage to jog about 5 blocks. I'm no runner, have no bounce in my shins, and got winded quick, but I'll see if next week I can do 10 blocks.

The worst part though was midway, because I landed in Fremont, where I bought and ate my apple, but then I flipped through the used CD store, walked through the Fremont Sunday market, found the Theo chocolate store (and they give tours of the factory, FYI). I managed to sniff and enjoy the store & amazingly, didn't sample any. However, tired and hungry, I succumbed to conveyor belt sushi, picking and enjoying the most expensive plates. Luckily the most expensive plates were $4 apiece.

It did mean that I felt that I had to walk back. And now I've go to think about my endpoint at the end of my walks - I don't want to turn them into rewards where I spend a lot of money. Big Grin

Checked my bank account online. Tomorrow is the last day of the month when we get paid, but the next paycheck was there already. Nice. I was expecting that the net $ of my check would drop due to the increased 403B withholding ... A pleasant surprise that I miscalculated - March 31 should be the last paycheck of 1st quarter 2008.

new categories

March 30th, 2008 at 08:20 am

A housekeeping item:

Because this blog's gotten a few more readers (200 daily!) and plowing through over 700 entries requires a bit of ...ahem ... commitment, I've added two more categories for your viewing pleasure.

The Neighborhood. I live in North Seattle. If I blog about a few of the sights, here they are for E-Z access.

Essence of baselle. These are a few of my entries that I think show a little something extra - they can be funny, devious, informative, poignant, opinionated. If you like what you read in this category, please wade through the other 725+ entries. If you don't like them, well, they were my best shot and I've saved you some time. Big Grin

over $160 in extra spending

March 30th, 2008 at 03:19 am

Friday, March 28th
Saving log - $1 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $8 lunch + $77 groceries

Saturday, March 29th
Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $15 brunch + $84 GI Joes

Last night the local Safeway had their grand re-opening from their renovation. Armed with a 10% off coupon, I have to say I splurged. Lately we've been eating out of our freezer. Last night I bought a number of things that I don't ordinarily buy at Safeway - salmon and cod, stilton cheese - and items that I do buy - peanut butter, pot roast, produce, ham, box of salad. I could have done a bit better, but I went for the treats. I was careful and bought on sale with the coupon, so I saved $35 dollars. I didn't regret the purchases, but I did regret going overboard a bit when I had to lug four plastic bags home, by hand, up the hill.

This week I noticed that my gym shoes huff a bit when I walk - they are about 2.5 yrs old, and I've used 3-4x/week. They're still okay for kicking around in as long as it's not raining, but its definitely time for a new pair. I'm lucky that they lasted so long. So today I bought new gym shoes, a pair of running tights, and a new fanny pack. I've enjoyed the 60-70 block mega weekend walks these last couple of months so I treated myself with the tights and the fanny pack. I broke the shoes, the tights and the pack this afternoon. Breaking in shoes is problematic for me - its always my heels that take the worst of it.

Paid DH for my share of the rent. This month, rent's going up by $30/month. It hadn't gone up for 5 years - sign of the times.

social and weather reports

March 28th, 2008 at 04:10 am

Saving log - $4 tip box + $35 Drp + $40 Drp
Spending log - $5 coffees + $10 lunch

We nearly got snow last night. Snow in late March is apparently rare, but not unheard of. Sister, in Milwaukee, told me last week (one snowstorm ago) that this winter she's gotten nearly 96 inches - they're coming close to the 1880's record, 117 inches.

The rest was social butterfly day - DH had heard about drip coffees made with Clover machines, so we had Clover coffee together before work. Then lunch with lawyer friend. He came back with good news - his baby brother's leukemia is in remission.

watch your bank

March 26th, 2008 at 04:29 am

Saving log - $2 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $8 lunch + $.50 apple

(Yippie - finally a decent apple price - $1.19/lb.)

Speaking of the devil in "What a recession can teach you about money...". The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is watching your bank too, and they are making plans so that they don't get caught short.

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To better watch the FDIC. If your bank fails they're not shy about announcing it and who has bought your bank out.

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Check out the quality of your bank.
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tax coda 2007

March 25th, 2008 at 04:11 am

Saving log - $4 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $8 lunch

Delivered the CPA coupon that I got Friday night to DJ friend. If he uses it, he gets 20$ off and I get $20 back.

I sent my tax check out last week - the US cashed it Friday night. I just paid for about 1/1000 of a second of federal spending. Some people will wait until Apr 14 to pay, which is wise because they still get a little bit of interest, but I prefer to pay it and get on with the rest of my year. I just don't like playing chicken with my bills...guess wrong and you're late, or rather, these days you give the bank, credit card or business the ability to charge you the late fee.

Finished voting my proxy online; the next day all the paper materials showed up. Just as well, its a lot easier for me to calculate valuations from a paper annual report than it is online.

sound of snoring

March 24th, 2008 at 04:11 am

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $3.30 coffee, bagel + $13 groceries

No financial decisions or shallow financial philosophy today.

Spent a mostly nice quiet day at home; I just went out to have my Sunday coffee and bagel, read the Sunday paper, picked up some blue cheese, almonds, a box of salad. Came back, did my laundry, cleaned a bit of the house and made a non-traditional Easter meal of homemade beef stew which should last me for a few days.

Need a career change?

March 23rd, 2008 at 01:31 am

Laugh all you want, gaming's probably recession proof.

And spring has sprung in the Fred Meyer parking lot...

Attn: Troll

March 22nd, 2008 at 03:53 am

Savings log - $2 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $12 lunch

Very quiet day at work - several people were out sick or on PTO. Not only that, it was restful - the phone didn't ring once today. I attribute it to both: the non-pious concentrating on "March madness", and the pious concentrating on Good Friday.

DJ friend was looking for someone to do his taxes, his normal guy got sick. I gave him a recommendation for the place I used two weeks ago. However, I tossed my coupons. (I saved them for a few days, trying to figure out who I could give them to but in the end my hatred of crap lying around the house won out). I stopped by the CPA on the way home and the office gave me new ones, so perhaps I get $20 off.

My subject line doesn't refer to anyone here, or anyone I interact with online. DJ friend is wrestling with a guy from another Internet radio station stealing the content of his radio stream. For a monthly fee, DJ friend had a lawyer write the guy. The guy has no name (not a surprise) but calls himself troll. So the letter is addressed Attn: Troll, and the salutation is Dear Troll. Its a serious letter, but the "Attn: Troll" made me smile.

currency CD

March 20th, 2008 at 02:46 am

Saving log - $3 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $8 lunch

Put in this month's collection from the tip box into savings - $46 worth.

Looking into getting a currency CD from, because the interest rates look and because I'm assuming that the dollar will get weaker before its gets stronger. Anyone else out there looking into owning one?

anarchist with a black pen

March 18th, 2008 at 03:49 am

Saving log - $1 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $12 lunch

Don't know whether all my blog contest entries are pearls of wisdom, but I've made it easier for the reader to find out - I've moved them all to a Category called "Contest Entries".

Its stock proxy season. If you own stocks in your name, you get a little something in the mail to vote on - Board of Directors, stock options/compensation, ratifying the accounting firm, etc. Lately I've been seeing themes - shareholders are proposing votes on compensation and on making boards more independent. I usually provide for the loyal minority - I vote against any compensation plan and for any shareholder proposal unless its terrible (and they can be). Despite the fact that I know my 40-90 shares is just a drop in the bucket of shareholder opinion, voting like a wild communist (how dare the CEO get any compensation - haha!) gives me great satisfaction. You asked me what I thought, why are you cranky at me when I tell you?

What a recession can teach you about money

March 16th, 2008 at 07:07 am

The last official recession was in ‘01 or so, blink and you missed it, but there have been more severe ones – ’91-’92, the ’83 one, and the ’81 one, not to mention the ’79 one and Whip Inflation Now one during the 70s. Of course when I was a teenager in the 70s, the whole decade was a recession – my parents wouldn’t buy me anything. As a public service here are a few pointers for all you recession newbies.

Cash is king. Have some saved. By cash, I mean the paper stuff or its variant, a government savings bond or t-bill. And some of your own – unemployment only goes so far. Even if you hold gold (admirable), you still need cash – at $1,000/ounce your grocer isn’t able make change. Have a HELOC or credit card, which two years ago was touted by financial writers as being your safety net? Ha ha. Not if the line or your card is being shut down because your lender is undergoing a credit crisis. Cash: accept no substitutes.

If your culture is a shopping culture, you’re going to be in a world of hurt. Especially if you’ve missed pointer one. The malls will sport plenty of sales at first as businesses try to burn off their old inventory, but everyone will be buying cautiously, including inventory buyers – they buy fewer items for the store during a recession to take a “wait and see” attitude. Advertising gets more pointed - not many commercials in the aspirational or the arty style. No “buy this and be cool”, its “buy this or we go under”. Be especially careful who you buy things from. Frauds and scams are rampant during a recession.

Don’t be afraid to be frugal – this is your moment. “Saving” is fashionable in a recession. Spending isn’t. You’re not spending money and your friends aren’t either. I put savings in quotes because “saving” is not really saving, it’s spending less. Not that spending less is bad, but it’s not saving. Saving is when you take some of the paper stuff skating out of your wallet and belting goalies, to put it in the penalty box, otherwise known as a savings account. Don’t be afraid to do that too.

Watch your bank. Bank deposits are insured by the FDIC for 100K, credit union deposits are insured by the NCUA for 100K. In any recession, the weakest businesses fail. If your financial institution fails, it usually gets bought by another or by the FDIC to prevent a “run”. In a recession, it never hurts to have your emergency cash in a couple of places, including a small amount in the Bank of Seely (money at home in the mattress), and to check bank ratings often. I bank with WaMu. Believe me, I’m watching that one.

There’s more to life than money. During boom times it seems that the only important relationships are the ones where money changes hands. During a recession people relationships become more important than money relationships. The finest qualities in people are the cheapest – friendship, generosity (when appropriate), creativity, humility, optimism. Of those, show humility the most. Not wise to let a desperate brother-in-law know about your savings; best to be sympathetic and share only your fiscal troubles.

You’ll find out what your friends are made of. Normally hang out with Joneses’ and the shopping culture and run into tough times? Good luck with them during a recession. It’s a rare spendthrift who can be generous – if he is just keeping up appearances during the boom, how will he do during the bust?

You’ll find out what your friends think of you. A business has one asset that it will hold onto upon the pain of bankruptcy – its good name. Its ability to borrow is directly dependent on its fiscal reputation. So it is with people. In a recession, the reaction frugal friends will give you should you ask for a loan will tell you what they think of your fiscal skills. Would they think: an opportunity to help, or money down a rathole?

Recessions create frugal people. Recessions – the proverbial “rainy day” – are a wake up call. They remind us that the economy runs in cycles, sometimes up, sometimes down. Not everyone takes the wake up call to heart during a recession, but the sharper ones do to be better prepared for the next one. Take the history of a frugal person and you will find many learned their fiscal ways because they or a close relative experienced that rainy day firsthand.

Recessions are nothing to be afraid of for the prepared. Are you prepared?