Sunday, October 5

Back to the Blog

It has been so long since I posted that I doubt I have any readers left.

However, life events have circled around and now that I have children in day care I find my pile of dollars is not as high as my pile of bills. Also, I've formed some bad habits which are contributing to the situation.

It's time to dust off the blog and start loosening the financial shackles.  See you soon!

Sunday, December 19

Finding Deals at Groupon?

The latest thing being discussed at the place I work is Groupon. Apparently, until recently, they did not have deals available where I live.

The idea seems to be that they will get a price deal for a quantity purchase and then offer that quantity deal to registered Groupon subscribers. If you are planning to buy certain goods it certainly couldn't hurt to sign up and see if they offer what you want for a better price than you find elsewhere.

Is it worth giving it a try? I don't know yet. But, given that I'm not afraid of letting one more company have my email address I just signed up. Since the idea seems to be growing fast I'm guessing we'll see more companies trying this idea.

If you have experience with Groupon please leave a comment or review...

Update: I've bought my first groupon deal. For $20 I have $40 of in-store credit at a local brew at home shop.

Update: The following blurb about Groupon is from CNBC...

Groupon, a three-year-old online local advertising company, said Thursday it raised $500 million as part of an effort to generate $950 million in financing. It disclosed the funding in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The online discount coupon company, which specializes in local advertising, raised the funds after reports last month that it was in talks to sell itself to Google for up to $6 billion, in what would have been the web advertising giant's biggest ever acquisition.

Sunday, October 3

Accidental Frugality -- Good Neighbors

Not a Good Neighbor!During a recent windy storm the shed in my back yard suffered damage. A small piece of wood that held the door closed broke in half and pulled out one of its nails. My new neighbor saw this happen, ran out in the storm, and screwed the door shut. This probably saved my poor old shed from total destruction.

Yesterday afternoon when I saw my neighbor working in his own yard, finishing up before the colder weather starts to arrive, I remembered that I had a couple beer in the fridge that some visiting friends had left behind the other day. So, of course, I hauled them out and headed outside.

While my neighbor was finishing up what he was doing I picked up the piece of wood that had broken off of my shed. My neighbor hands his nail gun over the fence and ten seconds later my shed is as good as before. It's not a new shed -- so I certainly don't mind a crack line above the doors.

Good deal! Having a good neighbor, and being a good neighbor, can save a ton of time, money and effort. Most notably, looking out for each other can limit or ward off costs associated with damages -- but it's also great to lend/receive a helping hand from time to time when work comes around.

I'm not going to talk about Karma or anything like that. However, if you are a good neighbor and have good neighbors it can make your life a lot easier. I know this is not news to most but having only recently purchased my own home the truth of this has become direct and visible.

Be a good neighbor!

Monday, September 13

Fixing The Economy: Imported Oil

Throwing Away MoneyHow much oil do we import? Would you believe that we import approximately 10,000,000 barrels per day of oil? That's according to the EIA. Guess how much money that costs. At $75 per barrel this represents $750,000,000 per day. That's $273,750,000,000 per year. Perhaps we can just round it to $275 billion...

I don't know about you but I can't help wondering about how many domestic jobs that type of expenditure could support. For example, what if we stopped sending some amount of that money overseas and used it to provide incentives to promote use of domestic alternative energy sources? What if our cars were all hybrid vehicles? What if all that money was spent on domestic products, that our citizens were being paid wages to produce and service, instead of overseas to our friends?

I know. We can't simply stop using imported oil overnight. We also can't replace all of our oil usage with alternative energy supplies. I do know that. However, if we as consumers were spending much of this money on goods and services made right here there would be a lot more jobs. So, how can we at least start moving in this direction?

From time to time there are policy steps that might help. We have regulations that provide for the fuel economy of consumer vehicles. More efficient vehicles provide for more economic activity with less money being sent overseas due to imported oil. We've also provided some money for research activities. We may even subsidize the creation of ethanol.

However, I think we are leaving a lot of things off the table. Perhaps it's because our culture is geared towards all-or-nothing thinking.

Why don't we create our cities in a way that reduces the amount of transportation required on a daily basis? Doing this would involve putting a lot of effort into zoning regulations such that consumers would often be able to live closer to the places they work and play.

Why don't we provide serious alternatives to driving a car to work every day? Time and time again we hear about public transportation but nobody wants to ride on it. Make it timely and efficient. Keep it clean and safe. Then, make it difficult or expensive to find parking. Watch more people start using public transit.

Even better, give people the ability to walk, roller blade or ride bicycles. We often see a paltry bike lane or two and then deride the fact that hardly anybody uses it. If you want to seriously promote bicycle use, or other modes of exercise as transportation, you have to do much better than that. You need to provide a safe and clean place for people to change into and out of their work clothes. You have to provide a safe and secure place for people to put their gear. You have to create efficient routes that allow people to bypass traffic obstacles and dangerous traffic areas.

I can hear the skepticism. Who's going to do this? I guess that means you aren't willing to talk to your local politicians and ask them to focus on these long term issues? Perhaps we can do this via an incentive policy also. For example, states are already given incentives to set speed limits within a certain range. It would certainly be possible to offer increased payments to states or communities based on increased levels of public or human powered transportation.

Another interesting idea is the Pickens Plan. The idea here is that we replace some foreign oil use with domestic natural gas. It's not hard to replace gasoline with natural gas. It simply requires vehicles to be modified. A good place to start would be with the trucking industry. Something like this can be done with government legislation. I know, many people dislike government action in the markets -- however, if all trucking companies face the same regulations they will continue to compete with a new level playing field. For more information go read the Pickens Plans for yourself.

Big changes can come about from making things possible, convenient, or financially attractive.

For example, if you were sure you could sell excess electrical power back to the local utility, would it help you consider private wind generation? Overnight your small inexpensive wind turbine could generate and store enough electricity to provide hot water for your morning showers. Excess electricity, if any, would be sent through the grid and reduce your monthly utility bill. Of course, this doesn't seem to have much to do with imported oil... or does it? A home generator would be a great way to charge a hybrid car.

So, with good ideas this easy to generate, I have to wonder why we haven't really made much progress over the last decade or more. Is it politics? Is it lobbyists? Is it propaganda from big oil companies? Is it simple apathy? I don't know what it is but I do know we'd be a lot better off today if anybody were taking this seriously a decade ago.

Imported oil costs us $275 billion a year in direct costs. We'd better take it seriously.