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 hope you’ll excuse, but I’m kind of short for time this week. You see, I’m in the middle of a “really great” game of Parcheesi and I’ve got the family waiting downstairs. I told them I had to use the little boy’s room, if you know what I mean, so I need to get this article out pronto before they suspect anything.
I figure if they shout upstairs to ask why I’m taking so long I can hold them off for a few minutes by screaming that I didn’t get enough roughage this week — but that little excuse is obviously only going to take me so far.
Lucky for me I think I can type about 256 words per minute. Okay, here we go. Let’s see how fast I can punch this out.
Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week
Control Your Cash – So Much Stupidity. How does Nick Martin manage to inherit $10 million, only to still have to work to make ends meet a decade later? According to Nick, “We spent too much.” Heh. Thanks for that pearl of wisdom, Captain Obvious. What a waste.
Girl With the Red Balloon – Addicted to Decluterring. Do you ever watch that show Hoarders on A&E? These folks are pack rats on steroids. Like Red, I’m the exact opposite. I like to toss things when I am quite certain I won’t ever be using them over the next six months or so, but that can sometimes be a problem too. For example, I wish I still had that book of 101 decluttering jokes I got for my birthday a few years ago. I know I could have really used it right now. Oh well. Live and learn, I guess.
Spruce Up Your Finances – 7 Things I Usually Do Before I Travel Abroad. I notice that number seven on Ken’s list is this little nugget: create a decoy wallet. As someone who has lived through two armed robberies, I have to say this idea is absolutely brilliant. While such a ruse might not save my life in a future robbery, it will definitely save me a few bucks the next time the Honeybee decides to pilfer a couple twenties from my wallet. I can see it now. “Sorry, Honeybee, but wouldn’t ya know I’m clean out of cash. Again. Yes, yes, for the 106th consecutive week.”
And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy…
Budgets Are Sexy – I Just Got Fired
Yes, I Am Cheap – Dealing With My Tenant From Hell
Money Reasons – Christmas Experiences During the Great Depression
Oblivious Investor – Stock Market Mountain Charts
Wealth Pilgrim – How to Pick IRA Custodians
Do Not Wait – Do Not Wait for Your Employer’s Pension Plan
Sustainable Life Blog – Most Expensive Month (Evar).
Financial Samurai – Unemployment Checks Are the Best Form of Stimulus
Invest It Wisely – 5 Responsible Ways to Use Credit Cards
Monevator – How to Find Exchange Traded Funds
Ironclad Finances – Planning Your Budget for 2011
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From November 2009:
The Easiest Money You’ll Ever Make – Short of finding money on the street, it doesn’t get any easier. You don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home.
Credits and Debits
Debit: On Wednesday, Senate Democrats introduced a $1.1 trillion spending bill for 2011 that is laden with earmarks. The bill is in direct contrast to the earmark-free bill House Republicans introduced earlier.
Debit: Looks like Senate leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) didn’t get the primary message emanating from the November elections. I’m not buying the “they’re just tone deaf” argument any more. The level of arrogance displayed by these politicians — not to mention the total disregard of the will of a majority of Americans — is absolutely astounding.
Debit: The bill is almost 2000 pages long. That’s almost a half-billion dollars per page.
Debit: I wonder how many of the Senators in favor of the bill actually read that pork-laden monstrosity. I know Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) didn’t. In fact, after a motion was made to have Senate clerks read the bill in its entirety — a process that promised to take over 50 hours — Kerry took the Senate floor and asked, “Why would we have to read (it)?” *sigh*
Debit: Didn’t we hear this very same argument earlier in the year about another controversial 2000-page bill? Just sayin’.
Credit: Luckily, sanity prevailed — at least temporarily — as the pork bill was abandoned on Thursday after several Republican Senators pulled back their support.
Debit: Speaking of pork, grocery prices rose nationally 1.7 percent this year. Expect commodity prices for wheat and corn to continue to rise as the dollar continues to weaken in the face of the Fed’s loose monetary policy. An agricultural economist for Wells Fargo expects food prices to rise four percent in 2011, the highest rate of inflation since a 5.5 percent rise in 2008.
Credit: Meanwhile, food prices aren’t the only thing showing an uptick. Holiday sales had such a good showing in November that the National Retail Federation now expects combined sales in November and December to increase 3.3 percent this year, a full percent higher from its original forecast. If the forecast holds true, this will represent a significant improvement over last year, when holiday sales rose a very Scrooge-like 0.4 percent.
Credit: Finally, an Illinois bus driver resigned after his transit agency employer saw an online video of the driver running over a snowman built in the middle of a street. Police refused to prosecute the bus driver for third-degree malicious mischief because it was actually four degrees at the time of the incident. I know. Just keep on reading and we’ll both pretend I never wrote that awful attempt at humor.
By the Numbers
The Mathematics of Christmas, from ABC News…
40 million Total number of Christmas trees sold last year; 12 million of them were fake.
110 The height of the largest Christmas tree (in feet) in the United States; it’s in Anthem, Arizona.
50,000 The number of lights used to decorate the Anthem Christmas tree.
11,000 The number of letters that arrive addressed to Santa Claus at the Santa Claus, Indiana post office.
364 The total number of gifts given out in the 12 Days of Christmas.
$96,824 The cost to buy all 364 items this year. That’s up 10.8 percent over last year. (And I thought my kitchen remodel was expensive.)
Other Useless News
Hey, I’m almost finished. I still can’t believe the word Parcheesi is actually in my spell checker! Little wonders.
In other news, here are the Top 10 countries whose citizens checked out the most pages per visit over the past 30 days (minimum of 50 visits):
1. South Africa (2.43 pages per visit)
2. Mexico (2.20)
3. Israel (2.06)
4. New Zealand (2.05)
5. Ireland (2.03)
6. China (2.02)
7. Germany (1.97)
8. Australia (1.94)
9. Netherlands (1.92)
10. Singapore (1.89)
Two points here: 1) The US came in at number 14 (with 1.75 pages per visit); and 2) I see New Zealand made the list, which begs the question: where the heck is Old Zealand?
There were no page views at all from North Korea or Cuba. Then again, maybe that’s a good thing.
Here’s a friendly reminder for ya: if you happen to enjoy what you’re reading – or not – please make sure you follow me on Twitter. And, if you’ll be so kind, don’t forget to subscribe to my RSS feed too! ðŸ™‚
Letters, I Get Letters
Giovanni wrote in to say:
“I think your blog deserves a lot more attention than it’s gotten.”
Really? I bet you say that to all the girls.
Crystal at Budgeting In the Fun Stuff sent me this note:
“I was wondering what you thought about a national lottery to help cut down our deficit?”
A national lottery won’t control the government’s over-spending problem. Besides, did you see the details regarding the proposed $100 million payout? The winners will get a dollar per year for the next 100 million years. Talk about a tax on the stupid. ðŸ˜‰
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: Len@LenPenzo.com
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 mailbag I’ll highlight your letter, whether it’s interesting or not. ðŸ˜‰
This week I had articles featured at the following carnivals:
Carnival of Personal Finance @ Mighty Bargain Hunter
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.