The Best of the Best in Money and Personal Finance #12

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Welcome to the 12th edition of The Best of the Best in Money and Personal Finance, where every featured post is an Editor’s Pick!

This carnival is being posted on Oscar Sunday, which is a great opportunity to observe wealthy out-of-touch actors lecture the rest of us ignorant little people on everything from global warming to family values!

Speaking of the Oscars, the selections for this edition of the Best of the Best were based upon the bloggers that correctly answered this trivia question:

Of the following movies, which is the only one that won an Oscar:

A. When Harry Met Sally
B. The Shining
C. Taxi Driver
D. The Shawshank Redemption
E. An Inconvenient Truth

The correct answer: E  (It’s true.  Al Gore not only invented the Internet, but he also starred in an Oscar-winning movie too!)

And now for my thank you speech: For the month of February I received 119 qualifying articles for consideration, excluding the prodigious amount of spam, and other flotsam and jetsam that I typically receive every month.

As always, it was a pleasure reading everyone’s submittals again. Thank you all for contributing and if you didn’t make it this month, please try again next month!

Here now, in no particular order, are the best of the best in money and personal finance for February 2010:

Benjamin presents Save Time and Money at the Grocery Store posted at Trees Full of Money saying, “After years of wasting valuable time and hard earned money in my local grocery store, I’ve developed a plan to shop for groceries in the most efficient way possible! “

This edition of the Best of the Best starts off with an outstanding article by Benjamin on efficient shopping.  It turns out that, like Benjamin, I too have a solid gold plan when it comes to shopping for groceries in the most efficient way possible: I send the Honeybee off to go do it.  It doesn’t get any more efficient than that, folks.  And you know what?  The Honeybee already does everything – and I mean everything – that Ben has mentioned right down to writing down the grocery list, in order, on an aisle-by-aisle basis.   Okay, okay.  She doesn’t shop with reusable grocery bags -  so I guess she doesn’t quite do everything Ben recommended after all.  (So sue me.)

CouponShoebox presents Use Your Coupons More Effectively posted at Coupon Shoebox saying, “There are many ways to stretch that dollar a bit more even if you’ve already found a coupon.”

Here’s an informative piece by one of my favorite personal finance writers, millionaire-blogger Miranda Marquit, who ironically happened to pen a piece this month on how those of us living in the real world can make the most of our coupons when we’re buying budget groceries like Top Ramen and Tuna Helper.  Great article, Girlfriend!  By the way, Miranda, I hate to be a, um, pest, but I really could use a few extra bucks – are you sure the mansion doesn’t need just a little bit of maintenance?  Hey, if your water heater ever needs repaired, let me know -  I recently learned how to fix one!  Oh, and if you are going to any of the Oscar after-parties tonight, would you be so kind and get Denzel Washington’s autograph for me?  Thanks!

Betty presents Yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip/Mum mum mum mum mum mum/Get a job posted at Control Your Cash saying, “Instead of working harder than ever to find jobs in a weak economy, people are willfully deferring life – and paying money they don’t have for the privilege.”

Quoting directly from the article: “Your kid is far better off becoming a welding technician straight out of high school than wasting four years earning a degree in gender & women’s studies and beginning the income-earning years tens of thousands of dollars in debt.” So just how much is a college degree really worth nowadays?  I agree with the article’s premise that says unless the student is studying for an engineering or medical degree (and a precious few others), it’s really not worth as much as you might think.  You know, it’s funny but still true after all these years:  The engineering graduate asks “How will it work?”  The physics grad asks “Why does it work?”  The accountant looks at it and asks “How much will it cost?”  And the liberal arts graduate asks, “Do you want fries with that?”

FIRE Finance presents Smart Refrigeration Lowers Electricity Bill posted at FIRE Finance.

I have two pre-teen kids and nothing drives me up the wall more than when they open the refrigerator doors and then stare at the contents inside for two or three minutes while they figure out what they want to eat.  Meanwhile, all the cold air I paid for escapes into the house, kicking the refrigerator’s compressor into overdrive and spinning up my electricity meter.  I remember the late great comedian George Carlin used to say that he’d always yell at his kids to stop standing around with the refrigerator doors wide open and instead take a Polaroid picture of what was inside.  Or he’d simply give them $50 to shut the refrigerator doors and go pig-out at the local Burger King because he saved more than that on the electricity alone.   Maybe that’s why I really enjoyed this article from the dynamic duo over at FIRE Finance regarding how to lower your refrigerator’s impacts on your electricity bill.   The tips come from a friend of theirs who also happens to be a real honest-to-goodness refrigeration specialist.

Jason Lankow presents Ready, Set, Action! What TV Characters Teach Us About Money posted at Mint.

Television is so detached from reality.  All one has to do is take a look at some of the most popular television shows around and look how the writers choose to portray their characters.   Perhaps the most famous instance of this could be found in the long-running sitcom Friends, where Jennifer Aniston’s character, Rachel Greene, lived in a New York City apartment that would make Donald Trump drool.  Never mind that she was a waitress earning less than $10 per hour.  Television ain’t all bad, though.  In fact, Lori Johnson came up with several credit lessons that astute television watchers should have picked up from four popular American shows.

Mr. ToughMoneyLove presents A Simple Way to Determine Retirement Readiness posted at Go To Retirement saying, “If retirement is your financial goal, assessing readiness is critical. I propose a simple method for doing that.”

How do you know if you’re financially ready to retire?  Follow this five step plan by Mr. GoTo and you’ll have an educated estimate that is, while not perfect, a bit more thorough than those quick-and-dirty retirement calculators you see all over the Internet.

Wisebread presents The 10-Step Staircase to a Comfortable Retirement posted at Wisebread.

Meanwhile, for those of you thinking that you’ll never be able to save enough money to quit working you’ll definitely need to read this article by Steve Klingaman.  Obviously, the sooner you start the easier it will be to meet your goals.  Speaking of meeting your goals as early as possible that reminds me of the time I walked up to a smiling, but toothless and very wrinkly, leather-skinned  old man rocking in a chair on his porch.  “I couldn’t help but notice how happy you look,” I said. “What’s your secret for such a long happy life?”  He told me he smoked three packs of cigarettes a day, faithfully drank a case of whiskey each week, ate lots of fatty foods, and never exercised!  Of course, I was absolutely astounded at that advice and so I just had to ask him how old he was.  “Thirty-two,” he said.

Brad Chaffee presents Are You Smarter Than The United States Government? posted at Enemy of Debt saying, “Everyday people complain about how the Government wastes money and spends excessively, without ever taking into consideration how similar their spending habits are. This is my attempt to address that issue and having some fun along the way.”

So I see Brad wants to know if I’m smarter than the United States Government?  Heh.  Isn’t everybody?

Mike Ross presents The Top 22 Money-Saving Firefox Extensions posted at The Budget Life Blog saying, “Now you can practice frugality while you browse the Internet, thanks to the many money-saving extensions you can download for Firefox. These amazing add-ons do the little things that save you some extra cash, and as we all know, those little things add up.”

I don’t think a lot of people realize that one of the great features of Firefox is that it has extensions and add-ons that will automate almost anything to help make your web surfing experience more pleasant.   In this post, Kyle Tuttle shows us 22 money-saving extensions that go off and do automatic web-wide price comparisons and other tricks just might end up saving you a ton of cash the next time you are browsing Amazon or EBay, or shopping for things like airline tickets and hotel rooms.  Be careful though when choosing what to download: I noticed that there were several complaints regarding the “Offer Assistant” extension Kyle featured.  People are claiming that it causes people’s browsers to continually crash – not sure why that is, but I can only assume it must have been developed by the United States Government.  Well, either that or Toyota.

Patrick presents How Much Should You Leave Your Children’s Guardians in Your Will posted at Cash Money Life saying, “My wife and I recently created our estate plan and faced the difficult question of how much money we should leave the guardians of our children should something happen to us.”

Estate planning is an important matter that we all should tend too as soon as possible – and this is especially important if you have children.  In this post, Ryan shares his recent personal experience with the estate planning process along with some lessons learned in retrospect.

Craig Ford presents 101 Ways To Improve Your Marriage Money Relationship posted at Money Help For Christians saying, “A big fat list with at least one tip to help every couple improve their marriage and money relationship.”

That’s a really great list, Craig, but my regular readers already know that I can boil your excellent list down to the only one that really matters:  The husband must always remember that what’s hers is hers and what’s yours is hers.  Master that, Grasshoppa, and it’s all gravy from there!  Okay.  Well, at least it is for the wife.  I know the Honeybee is smiling.

Financial Samurai presents How to Get Your Super-Motivated Boyfriend to Marry You posted at Financial Samurai.

Meanwhile, for the ladies out there who are still looking to snag that special man, I present to you this month’s controversial post brought to you by my friend, Sam.   I know what you are thinking: WTF is a “super-motivated boyfriend?”   Let’s just say it’s a guy who is very success- and career-oriented with a higher-than-average earning potential.  That, as opposed to being commitment-oriented – and therein lies the rub.  Lucky for you, Sam has several tips to get you over the hump.  Just remember, ladies, if you do manage to get your super-motivated boyfriend to agree to marry you, don’t throw away all your hard work by signing a prenup.

LeanLifeCoach presents Combat The Closing Techniques – The Puppy Dog Close posted at Eliminate The Muda! saying, “Salespeople spend their careers learning how to separate you from your money. It is about time you make some effort to educate yourself how to fight back.”

Continuing with the Japanese-themed blogs, this month we feature an article from Coach at Eliminate the Muda! who writes that salesmen use the “puppy dog close” against us all the time.  Can you blame us?  Who doesn’t love a puppy dog?  However, if we prepare ourselves ahead of time, we can avoid the pitfalls of succumbing to that strategy.  Even better, Coach shows us how we can actually turn the tables and use that same power to our advantage when it comes to finding a new job, for instance, or buying a new car.   On another note, all this talk about “muda” and dogs has reminded me to go pick up my dog’s “muda” right after I am finished putting this carnival together.

Tom presents 10 Tips For Going Green And Saving Money posted at Canadian Finance Blog saying, “One of the great advantages about thinking of ways to preserve and protect our environment is that it often puts money back in our pocket.”

Finally, it was none other than ex-Chrysler CEO Lee Iococca who famously observed that, “We’ve got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?”  Fo’ shizzle.  I’m with you, Lee.  I mean, really.  I think clean air is wayyyyy over-rated anyway.  For me, looking at the same old blue skies day after day after day gets really boring.  What’s wrong with a little brown in the air?  Why are earth-tones so maligned anyways?  I realize there are others who will disagree with guys like Lee and me though.  In this guest post, Erik from Money Crashers shares with us ten ways you can save money by being environmentally conscious.   For example, he recommends using programmable thermostats for efficient home heating & cooling, and drinking from a stainless steel water bottle to reduce the amount of plastic waste.   But my favorite suggestion actually came from one of the article’s commenters who noted he saved money by simply tucking in his shirt to avoid drafts.  Brilliant!  Hopefully he also keeps his fly zipped too.

And on that note, the February edition of the Best of the Best in Money and Personal Finance is over…

Please send your entries for the March 2010 edition of the Best of the Best in Money and Personal Finance using our carnival submission form. For more information, check out our carnival index page.

As a friendly reminder, please please please stick to the carnival guidelines. I receive several excellent articles every month that have to be disqualified because they were posted in the wrong month.

Submissions for the next carnival should include only posts written during the month of March 2010.

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