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 Mother’s Day!
Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week
Out of Debt Again – I Wanted to Buy My Mother Some Flowers for Mothers Day. I see Mrs. Accountability had the same idea I did this week. We both heard about the $19.99 Mother’s Day special from Pro Flowers and so we went online to take advantage of that terrific “deal.” Actually, I decided to go with the $29.99 offer since their advertised prices were so unbelievable. I mean, come on, 100 blooms and a “free” vase for under $30? Who wouldn’t take that “bargain?”
As it turns out, what Mrs. Accountability and I both discovered is that Pro Flowers forgot to mention all the added fees and charges that they tack on. In my case, as you can see on the bill, my $29.99 “deal” ended up costing me $71.01 after including all the undisclosed ancillary charges.
Check these extra charges out… a standard delivery charge, a Saturday delivery charge, and something called a “rural delivery” charge, which I’m not sure why that applies, as my folks are firmly entrenched in the middle of a fairly large California city. (With a Walmart and everything!) Of course, there is also tax, and then this little nugget: “care and handling.” WTF?
Maybe it’s just me, but shouldn’t “care and handling” be included in the price as part of Pro Flowers’ everyday service? Am I being out of line here? I mean, the whole idea of a separate charge for essentially what is nothing more than doing your job as expected is just so ridiculously absurd.
I’ll betcha Boeing doesn’t sell their airplanes to the airlines with a separate line item for “care and handling.”
And another thing; why am I technically being charged twice for delivery? At least combine the two delivery charges into one line item and call it “Saturday delivery: $29.98.”
In the end, I still went with Pro Flowers because I felt the price was acceptable to me — even after all those extra fees — especially when I considered the convenience. Besides, it goes without saying that my Mom is definitely worth it.
However, as a financial blogger, I still felt compelled to bring this up, as Mrs. A obviously did too. You need to be extremely careful when expecting a deal from one of Pro Flowers advertised offers — their hidden fees make their advertising extremely deceptive in my opinion.
Bargaineering – Four Fun and Frugal Ideas for Mother’s Day. The great Miranda Marquit comes up with some additional excellent and highly creative Mother’s Day gift ideas that won’t break your budget.
Funny About Money – Financial Terrors: What’s Your Worst Fear? Check out this article to see what happened when Funny forgot to pay something called, “the Cox bill.” The Cox bill. Heh. I know I hate it when that bill doesn’t get paid in my house too. Oh yes… I’m talkin’ about “the Cox bill.”
Kiplinger – 15 Websites for Finding the Best Deals Online. Just for the record, I noticed that Pro Flowers failed to make the list.
And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy…
Super Frugalette – Using Your Non-financial Assets to Make More Money
Cool to be Frugal – How to be Frugal and Not Lose Your Social Life
Squirrelers – 5 Future Expenses We Should All Be Saving For
Money Help for Christians – 4 Things Dad Teaches Me About Life
Afford Anything – Celebrating at WTC Ground Zero when Osama Announced Dead
Budgeting In the Fun Stuff – 5 Credit Card Mistakes You Want to Avoid
Wealth Pilgrim – Mortgages for Second Homes THE EASY WAY
Ironclad Finances – Family Vacation
Investor Junkie – Stagflation in 2011?
Money Reasons – Free Cars in the Future and High Gas Prices
Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance – How I Made $500 in Ten Minutes — and You Can Too!
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From April 2009:
Gas or Charcoal BBQs: Which One Is More Cost Effective? – With barbecue season soon to be swinging into full gear, here is an analysis of mine that will come in handy for folks who are looking to buy a new grill.
Credits and Debits
Credit: The government reported that the private sector added 244,000 new jobs last month. That’s the largest increase in 11 months.
Debit: Before you get too excited, keep in mind that 62,000 of those jobs were a direct result of hiring by McDonalds.
Debit: Gallup reports that while the unemployment rate fell one-half percent to 9.4 percent in April, the underemployment figure, which takes into account unemployed and those who are only able to find part-time work, rose to 19.3 percent.
Debit: So while 244,000 new jobs sounds great — even if fully one-quarter of them require folks to ask if you’d like fries with that — the reality is the economy needs to create 300,000 new jobs per month to even make a dent in bringing the unemployment rate down.
Debit: On average, Americans spent $368 on gasoline last month; that’s more than double what Americans spent on the fuel two years ago.
Debit: Folks in Mississippi and Montana spend a bigger percentage of their income on gasoline than people in other states (14% and 13% respectively). As for those who pay the smallest percentage? Why, that would those who live in Washington, D.C. (at 2%). Click here to see how your state ranks.
Debit: Did you see this? The IRS paid out $12.1 million in fraudulent tax refund claims to 5,108 dead people over the past year. I know.
Debit: This couldn’t really be the same IRS that never seems to miss a chance to tell me that I managed to under-report my income by $10, could it?
By the Numbers
Taxes by the numbers, which unless otherwise indicated, are shamelessly taken from Time’s fabulous money blog, It’s Your Money:
74 Percentage of Americans who say a lot of their tax dollars are wasted.
101,054 Number of employees at the IRS, according to Business Insider.
15 Percentage of Americans who said they were likely to cheat on their taxes.
90 Percentage of Americans who employ babysitters and housekeepers that end up cheating on their taxes.
85 Percentage of Americans who, if you ask me, aren’t exactly being completely honest with the pollsters.
$65,934 Amount spent by one New York lawyer on prostitutes — who then tried to deduct those, um, fees from his taxes as medical “services.”
3 Years Wesley Snipes was sentenced to serve in prison for failing to file tax returns. (Maybe he should have played dead; I bet he would have got a refund.)
The Question of the Week
Top 25 Referrers for April
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 from the previous month!
1. MSN: Smart Spending
2. Frugal Dad
3. Time Magazine: It’s Your Money
4. The Simple Dollar
9. Green Panda Tree House
11. Funny About Money
14. Get Rich Slowly
15. The Millionaire Nurse Blog
16. Mighty Bargain Hunter
17. The Military Wallet
18. Everyday Tips and Thoughts
19. Sweating the Big Stuff
20. Financial Highway
21. Wealth Pilgrim
22. First Gen American
23. Money Funk
24. Cool to be Frugal
25. Out of Debt Again
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!
“None of Your Business” had a suggestion regarding my response to last week’s mailbag letter: “I think you should use that (horse’s ass) photo you sent to Jessica on your About page.“
Cute. I see you and the Honeybee have been comparing notes.
Other Useless News
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This week I had articles featured at the following carnivals:
In honor of Mother’s Day, I decided to pass on the carnivals this week… (but I did manage to take care of the Cox bill.)
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.