Personal Finance 

Roundup: A Company Taking Care Of Its Own

This is a great story about company founders taking care of their people. When Peer Bearing Company, a Waukegan, IL., ball bearing maker, was sold to a Swedish company earlier this year, the company founders gave away bonuses to its 230 employees. Big deal right? No. They gave away $6.6 million bonuses. That’s a great story to hear about.

My friend Fred at One Project Closer is giving away two more $100 gift cards, head on over to enter. Fred is the guy I turn to when I have any questions about home improvement, so if you’re into home improvement, you definitely want to check out One Project Closer. As for what I’d do with the $100, I’m thinking about getting some shelving units for the room in the basement. The amount of stuff that’s accumulated there has really made it necessary for us to get shelves (and we can’t get rid of stuff because it’s all seasonal).

Trent announced that 365 Ways to Live Cheap, his book on frugality book is now available (announcement). It includes a compilation of the 365 best tips he has on personal finance and frugal living and comes at you for only $7.95. Don’t be cheap until after you buy the book.

FMF shares some solid tips on negotiating for the best price on electronics. There are some pretty good tips on there that apply to other things as well (though I don’t know if I trust that last tip). My favorite tip? “If you do negotiate with us, be discreet.”

Did you know that rhodium is one of the world’s most precious metals and goes for about $7500 an ounce? Only 25 tons are mined each year and it has made an appearance in such famous pieces as the Crown Jewels of the British Queen and now a new ring for President-elect Obama’s wife, Michelle. Dude’s a baller.

Finally, for those of you still shopping, SVB put together a great list of 21 websites that can help you save money shopping online. Whatever you do though, don’t buy gift cards. I think gift cards are stupid and so does Seth Godin, marketing guru.

(Oh, for those who keep track of this sort of thing, the American Express Wishlist promotion is back on again this year)

 Personal Finance 

Roundup: FICO vs. FICA, Slicing Up GM

Cap tackles a topic that I think people often get confused – the difference between FICO and FICA. In reality, I don’t think people confuse the two… they confuse FICA for FICO (as Cap explains), experts included. They are as confused as that monkey!

Matt at Steadfast Finances writes a post that I think will probably get him killed in Detroit – Should GM get chopped off like a gangrenous limb? I’m torn about it, on one hand I think we should let free markets run free and companies to fall based on their poor decisions. The financial bailout was palatable for me because their failure would impact regular Americans outside of the financial industry. The Big Three auto companies have known for years that their cars are unpopular and they should’ve been making more fuel efficient vehicles – they ignored the signs. The Prius has been out for many many years, you can’t tell me Ford didn’t have enough time.

Lazy Man asks readers how you should evaluate a gym membership. I like how his first pro was “forced workouts,” I know a lot of people with gym memberships who don’t feel that pro (ever!).

Finally, Consumerist linked to a story about how the government shut down the Liberty dollar (original story at Triple Canopy). The idea of Liberty Dollars is pretty clever though… but I suspect they’re difficult to tax. 🙂

 Personal Finance 

Riddle of Steel Roundup

Brip Blaps talks about the riddle of steel, which is a direct reference to none other than Conan the Barbarian. “Over the last couple of months we’ve all learned that some of the advice that we’ve been handed over the years will not be easy to swallow. Learning to live within your means and invest in index funds and network to maintain your job are all nice, friendly pieces of advice when the economy and the market are headed in a never-ending positive direction…. Now for my generation (Gen X) and the rest of the country it’s time to learn the riddle of steel.” Credit-fueled spending isn’t going to get you into Valhalla.

It’s important to challenge your assumptions. Here’s a simple example everyone can relate to and it involves a story I read at One Caveman’s Financial Journey. Caveman has been buying ground beef in bulk at his local warehouse store for at least four years and always picked up a 6 lb. log, what he thought was the cheapest per pound price. For years, he overlooked the larger meat logs because he thought they were sausages. Well, recently he went ot the store and saw his favorite 6 lb. meat logs were actually 5 lb. meat logs and a little more expensive, so he gave those weird sausage products another look. Turns out they were 10 lb. meat logs that were thirty five cents a pound cheaper! How many times have you made assumptions only to realize they were wrong? Fortunately this wasn’t a huge oversight, he estimates he’s spent about a hundred bucks more over the course of four years, but it’s a good example of how you should always challenge your assumptions.

I used to read Dan Melson’s Searchlight Crusade all the time when I was buying a home. I stopped reading it as much the last few years because I wasn’t planning on buying a home and didn’t really need his expertise. The other day I had a reason to stop by his site and was once again reminded how well informed he is (it’s partly his job) and how well he explains certain topics. In fact, a post this week tackles the very problem that David of My Two Dollars was facinghow to qualify for a loan with irregular, 1099-MISC income (it talks about more than that). If you’re going to buy a house in the next year or two, read Dan’s stuff. (Oh, also check out his Consumer Focused Carnival of Real Estate)

Lazy Man always asks himself five question before he buys something, it’s a good process to go through sometimes our brains run on autopilot. We buy something because it looks good or was pitched well, but we never ask ourselves the five questions Lazy Man does.

Finally, I leave you with this thought – Is the Baby Boom Generation the Shallowest Generation?

 Personal Finance 

Roundup: Happy Birthday Jeremy!

Yay, social tools! Are you on Facebook? Check out the Blueprint for Financial Prosperity Blog Network, started by one of the site’s readers. If you’re on Twitter, you can also follow me if you want to hear my 140 character musings. Now, onto the roundup!

Happy Birthday to Generation X Finance, Jeremy has reached the two year mark of blogging and celebrates with a vacation and a 40 minute chat on the radio. The radio interview on Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow on KUAR FM 89 (Little Rock) involves three individuals representing three different perspectives (based on age) and is very interesting. It’s 40 minutes but well worth it.

Another story I wanted to highlight was that of my good friend Cap of Stop Buying Crap. He tells the tale of his runaway credit card debt, his “ah ha” moment, followed by a ho-hum repayment of $10,000 in credit card debt. I’ve actually talked to him in the past about his experience because it represents the bulk of debt repayers. A lot of “debt bloggers” get praise for paying down their debt, but far more either were never in debt or paid off their debt without much fanfare. It’s like foreclosures, while they do grab headlines, the vast majority of homeowners are not in foreclosure. There are plenty of underwater homeowners who are still paying their debts like the responsible adults they are. They’re the ones who need the kudos.

Lazy Man is going through his entire retirement planning process, starting with a Step 0. As of this writing there are 6 parts (0 – 5) and they give a good look at how he’s been planning his retirement. Step 0 is important because it establishing his mindset and general feeling about retirement, which has played a big role in their decision making. It’s a good series and gives you a great look at how he’s doing things.

Finally, Paid Twice talks about how actions define priorities and how she buys clothes at Goodwill. For far too long we had it all. You didn’t have to decide between buying a house and buying clothes, you could do both and finance it with debt. With the economy weakening, we’ll have to start making decisions and actions speak louder than words.

 Personal Finance 

Roundup: Homelessness, Saving, and Recession

With all the negative financial news lately, I thought it might be important to highlight a story I read about famous people who had once been homeless. Many of them are in the entertainment business and the story, which is a list of famous people and their homelessness experience, underscores how perseverance and hard work can take you from the depths of financial difficulty to the heights of fame and fortune. Where you start doesn’t dictate where you end up (much like where you end up may not actually be the end).

QueerCents is starting a new series, Turning Spenders into Savers, which is a task I think each one of us should try to undertake. With the economy in the state it’s in, saving money and being frugal is the easiest and best thing you can do right now. Trying to time the market and trying to gamble to recover some of your investment losses is a fool’s errand, saving money is what will pay dividends.

JLP had a chat with a friend about his rapidly dwindling 401(k) and made two excellent points. The first was that his friend should do nothing, stay the course, and stop checking his 401(k). The second was accurately addressing the perception his friend had about “losing $6,000.” It’s a good post to read if you’re feeling panicky.

Finally, Dough Roller talks about how to survive a recession. Keep saving, hedge your bets, and try to reduce your expenses.

 Personal Finance 

Roundup: Nixing 401(k) Tax Deduction, Free Tools & More!

Jeremy at GenXFinance wrote about one of the most horrible proposals I’ve heard in a very long while, House Democrats are contemplating abolishing 401(k) tax deductions. Yep, House Democrats are actually thinking about removing one of the last incentives people have to save money. Oh, and to make matters more exciting, workers would instead get a $600 subsidy, be required to contribute 5%, and, get this, it would be administered by the Social Security administration.

My buddy Fred at One Project Closer has been giving away tools on his site. This month, he’s giving away a ceiling fan from Home Depot (it’s really a $175 gift card from Home Depot) and all it takes to enter is a comment. You can get more entries by subscribing to his Feedburner email distribution or writing about it, like I’ve done here. If you’re a home improvement junkie, just a few posts will get you hooked (just ask my friend Dave, who clicked over once from BFP and has been hooked every since!). If I won the gift card I think I’d get myself some tiling supplies for one of our bedrooms or a fancy power tool. One second though, I’d definitely get a power tool.

I don’t normally toot my own horn in these roundups but I recently had reason to revisit a post I wrote last August (2007), about how you should be comparing salaries. It was written back before the bulk of the financial turmoil and when some of the financial talk was on salaries of college graduates. I still think, over a year later, it’s a healthy way to approach the idea of looking at salaries and I still feel the same way about it. I’m curious to hear what you all have to say on the subject though.

Seems like the bottled water known as Sam’s Choice of Wal-Mart and Acadia of Giant Food didn’t quite meet the standards of California. They tested more than those two brands and in that larger group, they found “Coliform bacteria, caffeine, the pain reliever acetaminophen, fertilizer, solvents, plastic-making chemicals and the radioactive element strontium.” Those two brands had quality so poor that the study had to release their names. Not all bottled water is created equal!

This is the best “F U I Quit” letter ever, written by a hedge fund manager who raked in huge profits betting that subprime would blow up.

Finally, there are six reasons why the current economic turmoil can be good for you. I totally agree, stop freaking out and look for some sales! Stimulate my economy! 🙂

 Personal Finance 

Roundup: Explaining Financial News in Pokemon Cards

Jason Kottke shares a great explanation of the financial crisis using Pokemon cards. What’s also missing is the part about how the bank then took the card and used that as collateral for “insurance” (a CDS, which doesn’t have the same capital requirements as true “insurance”)… now you have a more accurate picture of the financial disaster. (Oh yeah, and people aren’t lending anymore because no one trusts anyone anymore)

EcoModder points out a nice little perk/pork that was added to the bailout package that recently passed: Bailout Plan Gives Tax Break to Bicycle Commuters. I bike from my bedroom to my office, I wonder if I qualify.

Nickel writes about how looking at the stock market indices can be deceptive – if you continue investing through down periods, you end up ahead even before indices recover because of how dollar cost averaging works out. Flexo shares his experience with buying dips in the market.

Want another money comparison between John McCain and Barack Obama? SVB offers up a comparison.

 Personal Finance 

Stop Watching Market News, Start Watching LOLCATS

I know this is a personal finance blog and I typically talk about money related subjects like investing (ugh), frugality, budgeting, etc. But let’s be honest, the financial news has been bleak. Bleaker than bleak. The stock market is hurting bad, retail is down with talk of a horrible retail holiday season, the commercial paper market is all but seized, international stock markets are crashing, and pretty much everything related to money sucks. I’ll continue to contribute towards my retirement funds, I won’t pull everything out in a panic, but what that means is that there’s nothing I can or should do in reaction to the turmoil.

So, what should you do instead? If you have to be online, visit some fun websites: and I Can Has Cheezburger are both wonderful sites. Failblog is a look at the epic fails of the internet and I Can Has Cheezburger is a photoblog collection of lolcats (my 404 page has a picture of a lolcat, how cuuuuute). If you have no idea what those are, visit the sites and enjoy the fun!

Another great site is Funny or Die, a funny video website started by a few guys you might know. 🙂 Here’s a hilarious video involving Will Farrell and his “landlord:”

Or, if humor isn’t for you, just want some television. Hulu, a partnership between NBC and News Corporation, is a great place to watch full episodes online. That’s how I watched Arrested Development, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Office, and other wonderful television programs that made me laugh.

If you can’t or shouldn’t do anything about your investments, don’t bother fretting over it. For decades the stock market worked perfectly fine with regular people just checking stock prices in the morning paper. Go check out those lolcats. 🙂

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