Saturday, December 12

Grinch At The Zoo

Grinch and FriendsIt's not that I dislike Christmas. I don't dislike holidays at all. However, I do detest the commercial aspects of Christmas and I especially detest the crowds of shopping zombies infesting the mall.

Now I understand why there have been movies and video games about zombies attacking the few remaining normal people at the mall.

Life's actually like that! Well, okay, perhaps not exactly.

In any case, I was out looking for shoes and rice today. I know, I know, it's getting close to Xmas and maybe I shouldn't be buying myself anything. However, this is where the Grinch concept comes in. I really have extracted myself from the commercial aspects of the season -- so I only have to worry about trouncing gift exchanges between my wife and myself when I buy something.

My son is still too young to get worked up about it. Next year is probably when Santa will intrude on my lifestyle once again. Mr. fat and jolly is entirely too pushy about the toys and as far as I recall he doesn't have much to say about friends and family. I think he's on the take. The toy companies are padding his pockets for sure. Giving away free samples every year and getting children around the world hooked on goodies.

Have they created the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency yet? I think they should check out his practices.

Anyway, perhaps I digress just a little.

I did find a nice pair of shoes. Would you believe that dress shoes don't have to be tied up anymore? You can just slip them on like a fancy pair of leather slippers. Sure, you can still find the grandpa variety if you want, but I've got a few years to go before I have to worry about that.

I didn't find my rice. I was looking for a nice big bag of long grain brown rice, perhaps 15 lbs or so, but there was nary a one to be found. I must have moved to a more posh neighborhood. There are plenty of bags of fancy jasmine scented rice, parboiled rice, white rice, but only tiny bags of plain boring brown rice. Ah well, I guess I can just pick up more of them at once -- it's still an inexpensive convenience food.

Now that winter is here I like cooking more. There's something about making home cooked food when the weather turns cold. Let the snow fall and the wind blow. A nice pot of chili, a roast, or maybe some stew will do.

On a different note I do know that times are tough out there for a lot of people. If you are doing well then please think about donating food, warm clothing, or maybe take the time to lend a hand where it will do the most good.

Happy holidays everyone. Be sure to teach your children to care about people more than about gifts!

Friday, May 1

Your Toast Is Toast

Garlic BreadJust a quick tidbit for the blog.

If you happen to get an order of garlic toast, sometimes known as garlic bread, and you leave it lying around overnight to dry out what would you do?

Wait, don't throw it out!

As long as it still has some moisture, or if you put it back in the paper bag it often comes in and add a few drops of water, you can nuke it back to life.

Talk about saving bread...

Saturday, April 11

Blog Directory Updates

Grokodile BlogIt has been quite a while since I've mentioned Grokodile. This is the blog directory that I've been slowly working on over the last couple of years.

Anyway, since I have recently started to participate on Twitter I've found that it can be very useful for discovering useful information. For example, if you follow TechCrunch you'll be kept up to date on what is happening the tech community.

I've added a local twist to this when integrating Twitter into Grokodile.

First, you can add your Twitter ID to your Grokodile entry. People viewing your community can follow your tweets in a few simple clicks. Second, in each community that has people who have identified themselves as being local, there will be a short list of local tweople in the sidebar. For example, take a look at Toronto.

Perhaps the best example I can think of for why this is useful involves traveling. This makes it easy to find local blogs and tweople so that you can talk to real people about places to stay and things to do.

I've added a post about this to the Grokodile blog as well. Please let me know if you have any ideas how I can make the directory more useful -- as I know a plain old directory isn't that exciting anymore.

P.S. Yes, entrepreneurial pursuits are related to personal finance issues... ;)

Saturday, April 4

Frugality vs Utility

Live a little!While a lot of us would agree that frugality is good, and a lot of people need to be frugal during periods of economic risk, there are still good reasons to spend a little bit more than you absolutely have to.

I'm talking about utility. What is the value of the item that you purchase? What is it going to contribute to your lifestyle?

Here are some examples to consider:

Purchase Alternatives

TunaNo Name: Save two or three cents per can. Pungent odor.Brand: Costs a few extra cents. Normal odor.
TableSkip It: No workspace. Continue to use coffee table. Inconvenient.Buy It: Convenient workspace. Extends budget.
TiresAll Season: Save money on winter tires. Less traction. Mediocre on snow. Risk.Snow Tires: Significant expense. Great on snow and ice. Safety.
BoozeAbstain: Save money. Deal with life au naturel.Drink Responsibly: Costs money. Relaxing. Promote enjoyable conversations.
VitaminsSkip It: Eat healty food. Save money. Miss potential benefits.Buy It: Additional nutrients and antioxidants. Potential health benefits.

If you can't unclench the wallet (thought I was going to say something else?) and appreciate some added utility from time to time then maybe you are letting frugality get the best of you. I know my frugal nature was born of hard times, but when those times pass you have to take the foot off the brakes and start to think about utility, value for money and even enjoyment of life. I've seen this problem in myself and I've seen it in some of the visitors to my blog.

I'm not advocating wastefulness, but at the same time we aren't here on the planet to spend as little as absolutely possible during our stay. Nobody is going to give you a prize at the end for being too cheap to enjoy life.

Saturday, February 21

Let Them Eat Cake

Eat Me!Well, the stimulus package has passed, hasn't it? There hasn't been a day that has gone by without all kinds of criticism from every corner.

I think the only way to stop the criticism is to declare a war on the economy. This way, whatever level of spending is attained can be justified. After all, anything goes in a time of war. We've been hearing that mantra for nearly a decade so I doubt anyone would dare refute it.

Short of that, I'm afraid we'll have to let them eat cake!

That's what I'm hearing. All those poor losers who are too stupid to look after their financial welfare should just look after themselves. If they can't afford to buy bread, well, perhaps they should eat cake. This is the brand of criticism I am seeing most.

Oh my god. Somebody who isn't irresponsible may have to bear some of the burden of someone who was. Yes, it's true.

However, the way you feel about that really speaks about how you see the rest of society. Perhaps they are the underclass, the dregs, that you look down upon and suppose they should wallow in discontent until they, too, lift themselves up. Alternately, perhaps they are hard working people who have fallen on tough times.

Both types are out there. How about we try to find ways to help people who are hard working and avoid setting up permanent programs which would, by design, reward bad behavior. I don't know about the rest of you but I see a looming economic crisis as something of a one-off event. Just like a war, it's something out of the ordinary which calls for a temporary change of rules.

Didn't we learn through previous economic collapses that the time to tighten the purse strings is during times of relative wealth? Clamping down violently on spending, during a crisis, is precisely the recipe that will make the downturn as severe as possible. I think we can tell who is relatively secure in their comfort by how loudly they proclaim that others need to suffer as much as possible.

I guess it comes down to two world views. One is that life is tough and you either look after yourself or you suffer the consequences -- which sells. The other is that we help each other in times of need -- which also sells.

Instead of the ideological posturing which amounts to saying 'Let them eat cake' let's work on not sending money towards those that truly are not deserving. This is the basic point that the right should be making -- and they should be helping to craft legislation which upholds these values. However, at the same time, the left need to understand that some of them really are bleeding heart liberals who will create entitlement programs that do provide unintended disincentives. Not everyone with a hand out is pure of heart and strong of character.

I wish we could get the government to put the discourse at the right level. That's what will create effective legislation. Instead, we get posturing for political gain, which is certainly not "country first".

These damned fools need to work together, seriously work, to guard against the views of both the callous and the weak, and forge serious progress.

P.S. I lifted the image from these fine folks... so if you are in their neighborhood and need a cake, please go check out their web site.

Sunday, February 8

Economic Middle Ground?

The news media was in a quandary last week. Is it a stimulus package or is it wasteful spending? If you listen to all the talking heads you'll end up in a panic in no time.

Look, take a step back and ask yourself some questions:

1) Is the global economy rapidly shrinking due to a collapse in the credit system?

2) Are millions of people losing their jobs?

3) Is the proposed spending designed to create permanent new government programs?

Anyhow, on a slightly different note, I just want to talk about the value of finding ways to reduce dependence on foreign oil.

Every single dollar spent on foreign oil is a dollar that is extracted from the local economy and sent overseas. Is that clear? Hundreds of billions of dollars are being sent from our economy into the economy of another country. The people over there buy things with that money, pay employees with that money, and fund the development of their infrastructure.

What do we get with that money? We get the ability to drive to work and back. We are not putting enough into our economy for the price.

If you spend hundreds of billions of dollars, locally, to develop alternative energy resources, you will create jobs locally. People earning that income will buy things with their income, pay taxes, and otherwise contribute to the economy. As well, when consumers buy those alternative energy resources they will contribute to the local economy too. Considering that this would be ongoing it almost sounds like an investment!

Obviously, I don't have numbers, but I don't hear this kind of language when I get all the talking points from the talking heads on the news. Why not?

We need a real analysis of situations instead of an ideological analysis of these situations. The media does us a disservice by only presenting antagonistic views instead of doing the digging and giving us what we need to know to make decisions ourselves.

These decisions aren't supposed to be taking place in a coliseum. It isn't about who yells loudest, who comes up with the most memorable slogan, or who can best present an ideology. It's about looking at the issue from all sides and then making a wise decision.

It's so disappointing to watch.

Wednesday, February 4

Earnings Review: Infolinks

Infolinks: Thumbs UpSearching for ways to earn a little income from your blog? Well, I believe I've found a way to earn revenues without violating your editorial standards. For example, I don't know about you, but I've decided I won't do any type of paid posting or paid review junk.

The search for respectable revenue hasn't been easy. For example, here is what happened when I tried AdBrite.

Are you wondering why I'm not using Adsense? I have. However, to be honest, keywords related to frugality don't seem to earn much revenue. So, ever the search for income. I even went so far as to add a tip jar to accept donations in the event that anyone felt they had received something worthwhile.

Guess what, readers interested in frugality are cheap! I guess that should be no surprise. Would you believe I have never once received a single tip or donation? It makes sense. People often find me when they need to figure out how to live in their car or come up with extremely frugal meal plans. I just have to try not to take it personally.

Sometimes I'll write about affiliate programs. My last post about UPromise is an affiliate program post -- as noted at the end. It's a lot cleaner than a paid for review as I can say anything I want. Generally, I choose something that has caught my eye and seems like it might genuinely be interesting to my readers. This type of post has netted me maybe $5-10 here and there. Pitiful -- and I have to worry about driving away my visitors.

What works? Infolinks seems to. They are the folks that are doing the annoying in-line text links on my posts. As of January 31st I've earned enough to receive my first payout. I think they work better than Adsense, for me, because they can pick and choose which terms to highlight.

The down side? Their system often doesn't have any useful inventory and they show the same ridiculous worthless ads over and over again. You know, the ones that say "find the best sites about topic here." Yeah, I'm sure clever readers everwhere are just itching to be sent to a third rate pay per click search engine. Keep up the good work folks.

Oh, yes, the other down side is that with the economy tanking fast, I don't know if they'll have any advertising inventory at all soon. Maybe I'll have to start writing about things like credit cards, low interest rates, mortgages and divorce lawyers?

P.S. The rotating Amazon books item on the sidebar has been a complete waste of time as well. Maybe I should throw in some Harry Potter titles? It's likely I'll have taken it down by the time you read this.

Saturday, January 17

College Costs

College Is Expensive!This post is a bit of a departure from my normal fare. It's not really a review, as I don't even know anyone using this service, and it is a commercial program.

To make a long story short, I'm intrigued about the Upromise* program. From reading their web site it looks like they encourage students to enroll in their program, for free, to earn money for college by using a points style card when spending.

Earned money goes into their Upromise account and can be used to "a) invest in a 529 college savings plan b) pay down student loans or c) receive a check for college expenses."

Additionally, family members can also enroll in the program and the money they earn will also accrue to the student.

It seems that this savings program might be fairly effortless. This is especially true if the greater family gets together to help a student with college costs. If you are a student go check it out -- you have nothing to lose.


* The link above is an affiliate link, feel free to go to Upromise.com directly if you aren't in favor of affiliate programs.