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…
This just in: higher octane gasoline has now passed $4 a gallon at many stations here in Southern California. It’s times like these that I’m really glad I drive a car that averages 35 miles per gallon.
Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week
Wisebread – Disguise Your Stuff to Prevent Car Break-ins. Kentin writes that he was the recent victim of a pickup truck break-in, so he decided to outfox the criminals. Says Kentin: “I decided to embrace the ‘fishbowl effect’ by creating a secret hiding place in plain sight.” What a brilliant idea! Too bad he didn’t stop there, because he then went on to show the thieves exactly how he has disguised his valuables; Kentin was even kind enough to include a few pictures. I just hope he has a Plan B.
Car Negotiation Coach – How to Buy a Car. I thought more than a few of you might be interested in checking out this clever application that Geoff has put together that produces personalized car buying strategy guides. I entered answers to five simple questions including whether I wanted to buy a new or used car, my approximate credit score, and how I intended to pay. Unfortunately when I tried it out, after crunching the data, the application only admonished me for being a big fat cheapskate and then wished me good luck.
Control Your Cash – The Best Hotel Values In America, Part II. Greg and Betty have stayed in a lot of hotels while on their 2011 World Tour promoting what I think is the absolute best personal finance book ever written, Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense. So this post comparing five national chains is based on hard-won experience. My question is this: why is it that, more often than not, it’s the budget hotels that offer free Internet service, while the fancy ones always charge an arm and a leg for it? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
Brip Blap – Does Voice Recognition Software Work? After reading Steve’s article I decided to try out my neighbor’s software and give it a test run just for this little paragraph. You know what, I love it! All the neighbor kids are here too watching and they are as fascinated by it as I am! At least, as you can see, it doesn’t seem to make any mistakes; it’s properly recording everything I say into the microphone. See that kids? Pretty cool, huh? Let’s see if it can spell pneumonia. Hey, look at that! Antidisestablishmentarianism. Wow! In fact, I can see how this voice recognition software honey please stop picking your nose. Now what are you going to do with that? Oh jeez. Please don’t put it there, sweetheart. Honeybee! Can I get a Kleenex over here! Okay, let’s go. Everybody out of the house! I’ve got work to do. Will greatly increase my productivity here.
And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy…
Free Money Finance – Secrets of a Former Credit Card Thief
Darwin’s Money – Yield Curve Explained
Millionaire Nurse Blog – Buffett Speaks. Are You Listening?
Lazy Man and Money – 6 Comcast Secrets — Some of them Dirty
Ironclad Finances – $4 a Gallon Savings Club.
Green Panda Treehouse – The Best Solutions to Credit Card Debt
Canadian Finance Blog – Home Computing on a Budget
Wellness on Less – What Does It Take to Get a Decent Mortgage Today?
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From February 2009:
Why Shopping for Low Gasoline Prices Is A Losing Proposition – I know people who will drive five miles out of their way just to save a nickel per gallon. Here’s a simple analysis I did that proves exactly why that usually ain’t a very smart idea. (Yes, grammar police, I used “ain’t” in a sentence.)
I’ve Got More Tax Preparation Software to Give Away!
Congratulations to Sandy and Cassandra for winning complementary copies of H&R Block’s online tax preparation software, H&R Block At Home!
If you entered last week but didn’t win, the good news is I have three more promotional codes to give away this weekend! The codes are valued at $55 which should also cover any sales tax. Keep in mind that this covers your federal tax filing; any state filings would cost an additional $34.95. If you’d like a copy, simply drop me an email by the end of the day on Monday, March 7th, 2011 at Len@LenPenzo.com and let me know you’re interested in trying it out. I’ll then randomly draw three more names from all the entries on Tuesday.
Credits and Debits
Debit: The most recent Gallup poll shows the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate rose 0.5 percent to 10.3 percent in February. According to Gallup that is essentially the same rate that existed at the end of last February, when it sat at 10.4 percent.
Debit: Meanwhile, Gallup reports that the more-telling underemployment rate — which combines part-time workers wanting full-time work with those who are unemployed — jumped 0.5 percent in February to an incredible 19.9 percent. Last February it was 0.2 percent lower.
Credit: Then again, according to the government, everything is practically sunshine and lollipops. Their figures show the unemployment and underemployment rates both dropped, to 8.9 percent and 15.9 percent, respectively.
Debit: I don’t know about where you live, but everywhere I look I see the private sector continuing to contract — not expand. Investor’s Business Daily agrees, reporting that, “Job openings remain 30% below their level when the downturn hit in December 2007.”
Debit: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the reason the government’s numbers are now dropping is because the Labor Department is simply recategorizing people who have given up looking for work as not officially in the labor force — which causes the true unemployment rate to artificially drop. Gallup doesn’t play those games.
Debit: I am certain the status quo isn’t going to change until large and small employers begin to see more business- and consumer-friendly policies coming out of Washington. Until then, any large-scale economic recovery will be a pipe dream.
Credit: One of the first tasks needs to be reining in the Environmental Protection Agency. One of their more recent — and wackiest — moves was to declare carbon dioxide a pollutant. Never mind that carbon dioxide is the stuff we exhale everyday, and that all plants depend on to live.
Debit: Finally, did you see this? The Connecticut State Board of Labor ruled that the town of Orange must not only reinstate “Dress Down Fridays” for the city’s union employees, but it must also provide them with free coffee and milk too. And now you know why we still need unions.
Credit: Seriously though, that’s your tax dollars at work, Connecticut! I wonder if the union is going to mount a protest because the ruling failed to include free donuts. Just sayin.
By the Numbers
Speaking of taxpayer-provided java, here’s a little coffee by the numbers, Hawaiian style:
$25 According to Hawaii Business, “the approximate online price for a pound of 100% Kona coffee, which ranks among the world’s most sought-after specialty coffees.”
93 Starbucks locations in Hawaii.
$27.8 million Hawaii coffee-farm sales in the latest production year.
0 States other than Hawaii that produce coffee.
4 Where coffee ranks among Hawaii’s four most valuable crops. Seed crops, sugar cane and macadamia nuts are more valuable.
1 Number of times I did a double take after I saw that pineapple was not among Hawaii’s top four most valuable crops.
Other Useless News
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. The Simple Dollar
5. Time Magazine: It’s Your Money
8. Green Panda Tree House
9. Get Rich Slowly
10. The Millionaire Nurse Blog
11. Family Balance Sheet
12. Mighty Bargain Hunter
13. Budgeting In the Fun Stuff
14. Money Help for Christians
15. Wealth Pilgrim
16. Financial Samurai
17. Funny About Money
18. Control Your Cash
19. Lazy Man and Money
21. Sweating the Big Stuff
22. Brip Blap
23. Everyday Tips and Thoughts
Thank you to everyone who refers their readers to this little ol’ blog! It’s much appreciated. ðŸ™‚
Here’s another 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
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 @ Saving to Invest
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.