Black Coffee: Why Image Isn't All It's Cracked Up to Be

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…

I just got back from a week long vacation to California’s central coast and San Francisco. I had a great time! I got to attend the wedding of my cousin Mark (who you may know from my taste test challenges) and his bride Courtney. The City was awesome too, as always.

I want to thank Nelson (Financial Uproar), Jana (Daily Money Shot), and Lauren (L Bee and the Money Tree) for filling in for me while I was away. You were all absolutely terrific!

Okay, let’s get this show on the road.

Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week

Vanessa’s Money - How Much Does It Cost to Look Fake? From the time I wake up in the morning until I pull out of my garage to go to work takes me all of 12 minutes. That includes the obligatory potty break, showering, brushing my teeth, and getting dressed. According to Vanessa, women need upwards of 30 minutes a day just to paint on their eyebrows. (I know. Why do some women pluck them all out just to paint them back on again?) It gets worse, but I’ll let Vanessa give you the amazing breakdown of time and money that the vainest ladies typically expend on a monthly basis trying to look beautiful.

DollarVersity - Worry About Money, Not Your Image. Speaking of the price required to maintain an image, says Eric: “If the image you are trying to put out is bankrupting you, it might be time for a new one.” Precisely. I may look old, ugly and haggard, but at least I have money in the bank.

MoneyMasterMom - The Value of a Private Bathroom. One person who definitely isn’t worried about her image is Mandy. Call me naive but, after reading her very honest and graphic behind-the-scenes look at what goes on in the ladies’ room, I was definitely taken aback. Of course, I found the bathroom humor to be hilarious. Then again, I think Will Farrell movies are a riot too.

You Have More Than You Think - How to Kick the Shit Out of Your Finances. Sticking with the scatological theme, Shawanda shares with us the simple formula required to keep your finances in fighting trim. And if you know what’s good for you, I strongly suggest you do exactly what she says; Shawanda sounds like a gal you wouldn’t want to mess with.

And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy

Free Money FinanceThoughts on Two Personal Finance Truths

Free Money Wisdom - 6 Reasons Why Living in 270 Square Feet Rocks

Free from BrokeWould You Sell Yourself to Pay for College (or Anything Else)?

Free Financial Advisor - Trading Money for Time

Free at 33 - Personal Story: How I Nearly Drowned

My Personal Finance JourneyThe Third Weekend: An Odd Budgeting Phenomenon

The Amateur Financier - The Importance of Business Insurance

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

From July 2009:

Evaluating the Cost of Extreme Frugality – Sometimes, the frugality craze can be taken way too far. Especially if you’re one of those hyper-frugal knuckleheads known as the Freegans.

Credits and Debits

Credit: The US Constitution’s 10th Amendment states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Credit: The US Constitution protects its citizens from tyranny by placing a yoke on federal government power. Simply put: If a power isn’t explicitly authorized by the Constitution, the federal government can’t do it.

Debit: Even so, over the years that hasn’t stopped the federal government from creating massive entitlements, bureaucracies and regulations on things like education, agriculture, labor, energy, the environment and, now, national healthcare.

Debit: That insistence on overstepping its bounds is the main reason the US National Debt is currently $16.2 trillion and increasing daily — a figure that now exceeds the GDP, and represents $52,000 for every man woman and child.

Debit: Federal government spending is completely out of control. Did you know the US Department of Agriculture currently pays farmers $2.1 billion annually not to farm their land? They do.

Debit: Here’s another example of government waste and inefficiency: Believe it or not, in 2011 America spent enough on federal welfare to send every household in poverty a check for $60,000. I know.

Debit: In fact, at $1.028 trillion, welfare was the government’s biggest single budgetary expense last year.

Debit: It wasn’t always this way. In 1962, only 31% of the federal budget went towards entitlements while 49% went to defense. Today, entitlements consume 62% of the federal budget. Meanwhile, national defense accounts for less than 19%.

Credit: By the way, national defense is one of the few enumerated responsibilities that the US Constitution actually allocates to the federal government. Just sayin’.

Debit: Another Constitutional responsibility of the federal government is delivering the mail. Unfortunately, the woefully inefficient US Postal Service reached its $15 billion borrowing limit last month.

Credit: You know, if the USPS was a private company it would have gone out of business years ago.

Debit: Of course, the $840 billion stimulus is another contributor to the National Debt. I’m betting you won’t be too surprised to learn that there are currently more than 1900 investigations underway regarding funding misappropriations.

Credit: Remember all this the next time a politician says we need a “balanced approach” of reduced spending and tax hikes. Bull! The government took in $2.3 trillion in 2011 — that’s plenty of revenue. Government simply needs to live within its means.

Credit: Did anybody hear about this? A 20-year-old Brazilian student recently auctioned off her virginity. The winning bid: $772,000. Well … I suppose that gives new meaning to saving yourself for the right guy.

Credit: Not to be outdone, a 21-year-old Sydney man then sold his virginity for the relatively paltry sum of just $3000, which can only mean one thing: the pendulum on the gender wage gap has now swung too far in the opposite direction.

Credit: Finally … Two weeks after his girlfriend dumped him, a hard-working 22-year-old Massachusetts man who was holding down two jobs to make ends meet won a $30.5 million lottery jackpot.

Credit: Hey, it might not be all bad for the ex-girlfriend. She may still be a virgin.

By the Numbers

Here’s a little more info on the US Postal Service:

151 million Number of homes, businesses and post office boxes the US Postal Service delivers mail to.

40 Percent of the world’s mail volume handled by the USPS.

35 Rank in the Fortune 500, if the USPS was a private company.

31,509 Offices managed by the Postal Service.

546,000 USPS employees.

10,150 Feet above sea level of the nation’s highest post office in Leadville, Colorado. The lowest post office is in Mecca, California (180 feet below sea level).

213,881 Vehicles owned by the USPS — the largest civilian fleet in the world.

168 Billions of mail pieces handled by the USPS in 2011. In 2006 the volume was 213 billion pieces.

20.3 Billions of stamps that were printed in 2011.

8.4 Millions of jobs attributed to the entire mailing industry.

Source: The US Postal Service

The Question of the Week

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Other Useless News

Here are the top 5 articles viewed by my 3185 RSS feed and weekly email subscribers over the past 30 days (excluding Black Coffee posts):

  1. 100 Words On: A Hidden Home Storage Space Most People Overlook
  2. 18 Spooky Facts You Didn’t Know About the National Debt
  3. Great Ways to Save on Your Home Loan
  4. 100 Words On: How to Avoid Burning Out
  5. No Soup for You: The Trouble with Some Dinnerware ‘Deals’

Each month I post some of the more curious search terms visitors entered into Google’s search engine (according to Google Analytics) that led them, somehow, some way, to Len Penzo dot Com:

  • how would i get caught using my parents credit card?
  • what is the real meaning of halloween and why do we say trick or treat instead of trade or treat?
  • my worming syrup is 6 months out of date can I still use it?
  • how much will someone’s insurance go up if they get a ticket for speeding 41 mph over the speed limit?
  • i’m so undisciplined. how do i get committed? [sic]

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And last, but not least…

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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!

Stefano wasn’t buying any of my reasons for why a 30-year loan is better option than a 15-year mortgage. At least I think he wasn’t.

I must say, I can’t concur with you 100%. … It’s merely my own opinion, which indeed could possibly be wrong. I don’t know.

Maybe it’s just me, Stefano, but I’m betting you hate it when people ask you to recommend a good restaurant.  

I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.

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