Black Coffee: My Favorite Blogs, Money News & Opinions #46 (The Three-Buck Chuck Edition)

It’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy a little joe…

Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week

Welcome to another rousing edition of Black Coffee, your off-beat weekly round-up of what’s been going on in the world of money and personal finance. Here’s what caught my attention over the past week…

My Dodgers just finished winning four games in a row but they are still mired in third place, five games out from the top of the division.  Yes, I realize by putting this in print I have probably jinxed my beloved team and doomed them to return to the cellar in the near future.  Let’s get to the posts before I do any more damage:

Hope to Prosper - We kick off this edition of Black Coffee with a post from one of my favorite bloggers, Bret from Hope to Prosper, who wrote a brilliant post on Thursday entitled “How Secure Is Your Future?” where he shared four heart-wrenching real-life stories of friends and acquaintances.  He then tied each story to a life lesson.  The end result is a series of stories that help convey some very sage advice.

Sweating the Big Stuff -  Meanwhile, freelance writer Dani Parnass decided to challenge herself to see if she could go an entire business week without eating out.  I know what you’re thinking.  But, Len, a whole five days!  That’s C-R-A-Z-Y crazy! Word to your momma.  I mean, talk about going out on a limb!  Naturally I’m already looking forward to other, um, challenges by Dani like: trying to go an entire Tuesday without listening to the radio, or going an entire week without saying the word “indubitably.”  (Good luck with that one.)   Ah, you all know I’m just having fun with Dani, right?  Right?  Oh yes I am!   :-)

Green Panda Treehouse – Uh oh.  Mike’s VW Jetta took a dump this week (well, it did!) and so he had to get it fixed.  The good news is it inspired him to write this post sharing a few tips to help keep your car from being a money sink.

Out of Your Rut – Speaking of cars… What’s the difference between an economist and a used car salesman?  Answer: Only the used car salesman knows when he’s lying to you.  Which brings me to this excellent piece from another of my favorite bloggers, Kevin, who tells us why leasing a car is a bad idea (aside from having to deal with lying car salesmen, of course).

Little House in the Valley – Looking for a house that is a bit, er, unconventional?  Well, check out LH’s article that focuses on buildings like old train stations and post offices that were converted into homes.   Believe it or not I knew somebody whose father bought and lived in an old late-50s era ICBM missile silo north of Cheyenne, Wyoming.   I visited the place and let me just say it was not MY cup of tea, but he loved it.  Very cold and dank as you might imagine.  Not too conducive to entertaining – but great if you are a loner.  His living room was the old launch control room.  He did use the very large underground area where the missile used to sit (it was stored horizontally when it was operational) to house antique cars. People would pay him monthly rent in exchange for safely storing their cars. The garage door was actually a five-foot thick blast door built to withstand a nuclear explosion.

Financial Samurai - Sam recently posted his list of 10 dream jobs he would actually do for free (baby)!  As for me, my dream job is to be Mr. Catherine Zeta Jones.  (Yes, the Honeybee is completely aware of that too.)

Deliver Away Debt - I know a lot of people out there think maintaining a budget is not as important as other personal finance tasks, like paying off your credit cards in full each month.   I think having a budget – either consciously or subconsciously – is an essential good personal finance practice.  If you don’t believe me check out this article by Jeff, who put together an excellent post on why that is so.

Four Pillars – Last Friday, Mr. Cheap explained how he tracks his finances.  Mr. Cheap uses Excel.  I too have been using an Excel spreadsheet to track my finances since the late 1990s.  Although it’s not so much the case now, it used to be that most spreadsheet users were limited exclusively to engineers, accountants and other nerds.   That reminds me, do you know what most spreadsheet users and developers use for birth control?  Answer: Their personalities.   (I’m here all week, people!)

The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed

From April 2009:

Gas or Charcoal Barbecues: Which One Is More Cost Effective? -  As summer time creeps up on us once again, it’s time to consider one of the great debates of all time: should you buy a gas or charcoal barbecue?  I do the analysis for you.

Credits and Debits

Debit: Reuters reported on Thursday that the US government has now posted 19 consecutive monthly budget deficits, the longest string of shortfalls on record. The U.S. full-year deficit this year is projected at $1.5 trillion.  That’s on top of a $1.4 trillion shortfall last year.  I fear the US government is putting an unconscionable financial burden on our children that they may never be able to overcome and it is making me very angry.

Debit: Last week, Investors Business Daily reported that Moody’s Investor Service is predicting the US may see a debt shock as soon as 2013.  According to Investors, “The key data point in Moody’s view is the size of federal interest payments on the public debt as a percentage of tax revenue.  For the U.S., debt service of 18%-20% of federal revenue is the outer limit of AAA-territory.  Under the Obama budget, interest would top 18% of revenue in 2018 and 20% in 2020, CBO projects.” Unfortunately, the CBO tends to underestimate the impacts of future debt.  Lucky for us Moody’s analyzed more adverse scenarios than the CBO considered, including higher interest rates, and found that the debt service could actually hit 22.4% of revenue as early as 2013.

Credit: It’s really bad out there folks.  The US government isn’t the only one making currency out of thin air.  Police in Lee County, Florida are investigating the case of an 8-year-old boy who brought a counterfeit dollar bill to his school in an effort to buy a Mother’s Day gift for his mom.   I don’t know what’s crazier: the school calling the cops on an eight-year-old boy with a fake one-dollar bill, or the fact that the cops actually answered the call and are now “investigating” the case.  Talk about a waste of tax-dollars.  Are things really that slow for the cops in Lee County?

Debit: In October of last year I warned in one of my most, um, popular posts ever that it was pure folly to extend unemployment benefits to 99 weeks.   Last month the usual free-spending suspects in Congress sent a bill to President Obama that did exactly that.  The president signed it, of course.

Debit: The main point of my article, which I provocatively titled “It’s Time Unemployed People Start Working for Free,” was that providing jobless benefits for nearly two solid years reduces the incentive for many people to go out and find work.  So I wasn’t surprised when The Detroit News reported this week that “In a state with the nation’s highest jobless rate, landscaping companies are finding some job applicants are rejecting work offers so they can continue collecting unemployment.”

Credit: Meanwhile, the latest Rasmussen poll finds that 63% of Americans are smart enough to recognize that Obamacare will increase our ballooning deficits, even though the Democrats in Congress and President Obama have the audacity to argue that it will actually reduce the deficit by $138 billion over the first ten years.   Of course, that claim is completely delusional.

Credit: Finally, the Food and Drug Administration is urging consumers not to swallow Benadryl Extra-Strength Itch-Stopping Gel after receiving reports of people gulping down the lotion that’s meant to be used only on the skin.  I know.  Apparently 121 morons confused the lotion with other over-the-counter Benadryl products that are actually intended to be swallowed.  As a precaution, the FDA told Len Penzo dot Com that they are now also urging consumers not to drink these liquids either:  sea water, lye, hydrocholoric acid, ammonia, raw sewage, any and all well-drinks from the rotating rooftop bar at the Westin Bonaventure in downtown Los Angeles, and Three-buck Chuck.

By the Numbers

Speaking of Three-buck Chuck (remember when it was Two-buck Chuck?), here are some wine numbers

4 The position of the US among the world’s biggest wine producing countries.  The three largest are, in order, Italy, France and Spain.

90 The percentage of all wines that do not get better with age and are meant to be consumed within one year.

100 The number of calories in a 5-ounce glass of wine.  In contrast, a typical 12-ounce beer has 150 calories.

3,400,000 Pounds of California grapes grown annually and crushed to make wine. California is by far the biggest wine producing state. Washington, New York, and Oregon are the next three.

$50,000,000 Total sales of “celebrity wines” in 2008.  Famous celebrity vintners include race car driver Jeff Gordon, musician Bob Dylan, and ice skater Peggy Flemming.

Letters, I Get Letters

This week I got one lonely letter from Vernon Williams who wrote:

“Len, after visiting your web site, I congratulate you on your incredibly successful blog…”

“Incredibly successful?”  Heh.  Thanks, Vernon, but I think you have me confused with J.D. Roth over at Get Rich Slowly.

If you have a question you’d like to ask, or a comment you’d like to make regarding some of my irritating opinions, please feel free to drop me an e-mail at:

I’ll feature the most interesting question or comment I get each week here on Black Coffee – assuming I get one, that is.

If you’re lucky enough to be the only question in the mail bag I’ll highlight your letter, whether it’s interesting or not.  Hey, it worked for Vernon.  ;-)

Other Useless News

Here are the Top 10 Referring Blogs to Len Penzo dot Com (excluding aggregators) so far during the month of May.

1. MSN Everyday Money
2. Frugal Dad
3. Newmark’s Door
4. Wisebread
5. Enemy of Debt
6. MSN Smart Spending Blog
7. Time Magazine: It’s Your Money
8. Joe Taxpayer
9. Monevator
10. My Dollar Plan

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to refer their readers to my little ol’ blog!  :-)

As a reminder, if you happen to enjoy what you’re reading – or not – please feel free to follow me on Twitter. And don’t forget to subscribe to my RSS feed too! :-)

Carnival News

This week I had articles featured at the following carnivals:

- Carnival of Personal Finance at My Dollar Plan

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