It’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy a little joe…
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…
Happy Easter everyone! Since I’ve got a lot of Easter eggs to hide this weekend, this edition of Black Coffee may be just a bit shorter than usual.
Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week
Canadian Finance Blog – 10 Cat Toys Under $10. At first I figured this was an April Fool’s piece, but the article was posted on April 2. No matter; this is one of my favorite posts of the year. Guest writer Alan Schram is spot-on with his suggestions too: string (“It’s a classic.”); paper bag (“Why do cats like crawling into them?”); cardboard (“Keep it in a ‘box’ shape and watch your cat crawl around in it.”). I think the only toy he missed was a rolled up ball of aluminum foil — and maybe a live stink bug.
Personal Finance by the Book - Snowing Money Reveals Character Flaws. Over $5700 in cash recently fell off an armored truck on Interstate 270 in Maryland and over 30 motorists stopped to pocket the cash. Maryland police have urged the motorists to return the money, but so far not a single penny has been turned in. Imagine that.
Money Crush - The Tree Won. Uh oh. Jackie recently drove her 1990 Mazda Miata into a tree and now she needs $8000 to fix it. If she’s a bit short I’m sure she can borrow a few bucks from one of those upstanding Maryland commuters. Then again, probably not.
Budgets Are Sexy – Bachelor Parties and Priorities. Says J Money: “I don’t do strip clubs. The idea of paying tons of money to get teased all night long is just no fun at all to me.” Heh. I know a lot of guys who say the same thing about being married.
Financial Highway – 4 Ways to Eat Organic on the Cheap. This is great advice! Well, that is, as long as I don’t have to eat any lima beans.
I make my third appearance this week on The Worst of the Free Financial Advisor‘s wacky roundtable segment, which is capably moderated by the one-and-only Average Joe, so please be sure to check it out! We had a lot of fun doing this week’s episode. Episode 3: The 5 Ways to Automate Your Money.
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From January 2010:
Your Money Horoscope – A couple years ago I thought it might be a good idea to try my hand at astrology. Unfortunately, it didn’t really work out for me.
Credits and Debits
Credit: This week the Fed signaled that a third round of quantitative easing (QE3) — otherwise known as “wholesale money printing” — was no longer in the cards.
Debit: Unfortunately for those of us here on Main Street, QE1 and QE2 severely battered the value of the US dollar here and abroad. It’s a big reason why oil prices continue to rise despite plentiful supplies.
Debit: After the Fed put the short-term kibosh on another round of hyperactive money printing, investors handed the stock market its worst daily decline in a month – and its worst week since Dec 16, 2011.
Debit: That shouldn’t be a surprise; all that extra money the Fed has been printing continues to artificially prop up the market. (You didn’t really think it was because the economy has been “booming,” did you?)
Debit: True, the unemployment rate fell to 8.2 percent in March. But, ironically, that’s only because the number of people not in the labor force — 88 million now — climbed to an all-time high. I know.
Debit: How out of control is federal spending? If the President’s budget proposal is passed, by 2019 we’ll be spending more money on interest payments to service the National Debt than on national defense. Just sayin’.
Credit: Okay; I guess it’s not all bad here in the US — auto sales remained near a four-year high.
Credit: Well, not all auto sales — those “Earth-friendly” hybrid vehicles aren’t moving at all.
Perhaps it’s because savvy consumers realize the payback periods can be ridiculously long; in some cases as long as 87 years. Whaaaat?
Credit: Of course, the pro-green New York Times suggests that’s nonsense. They say the typical payback period would only take about six years — assuming the price of gas was in the neighborhood of $8 per gallon.
Debit: Speaking of long payback periods, did you see this? The city of Reno spent $416,000 on wind turbines — using federal stimulus money, of course — that have netted the municipality … $2800 in savings.
Debit: One particular $21,000 turbine the city purchased ended up reducing Reno’s annual energy bill by only $4 — at that rate Reno can expect full payback on their “investment” in only 5250 years.
Credit: To get quicker returns, city staff are now looking to move their windmills to a windier location. Maybe they should try Chicago — or Tornado Alley.
The Question of the Week
By the Numbers
A few facts on the Easter holiday:
80 Percentage of Americans who plan on celebrating Easter.
131 Dollars the average household spent on Easter in 2011.
16 billion Number of jelly beans made for Easter.
76 Percentage of people who say a chocolate Easter bunny should be eaten ears first.
5 Percentage of folks who say chocolate Easter bunnies should be eaten feet first.
4 Percentage who prefer to eat chocolate Easter bunnies tail first.
25 The latest day in April that Easter can fall. (The next occurrence will be in 2038.)
22 The earliest day in March that Easter can fall. (The next occurrence will be in 2285.)
Source: DegreeSearch.org; Wikipedia
Other Useless News
- For what it’s worth, I eat my chocolate bunnies from the ears on down. That is all.
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Top 25 Referrers for March
It’s the first weekend of the month, which means it’s time once again to thank the top 25 referring websites to Len Penzo dot Com.
1. MSN: Smart Spending
2. The Simple Dollar
3. Money Talks News
4. Time Magazine: Moneyland
6. The Consumerist
9. Afford Anything
10. Budgets Are Sexy
11. Credit Karma
13. Budgeting in the Fun Stuff
14. The Millionaire Nurse Blog
15. Green Panda Tree House
16. Wealth Pilgrim
17. The Griper’s World
18. Money Help for Christians
19. Frugal Under 40
20. Sweating the Big Stuff
21. Girl Next Door’s Guide to Finance
22. So Over Debt
23. Credit Sesame
24. Canadian Finance Blog
Thank you to everyone who refers their readers to this little ol’ blog! It’s much appreciated.
Letters, I Get Letters
Every week I feature the most interesting question or comment – assuming I get one, that is. And folks who are lucky enough to have the only question in the mailbag get their letter highlighted here whether it’s interesting or not!
My Bizarro World twin, Oscar, took umbrage with my prediction that our current perennial low interest rates will eventually give way to higher ones:
All this banter is premised on the assumption that cycles always repeat, which is a fallacy …
I bet you were saying the same thing before the Dot Com and housing bubbles burst too.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.