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.
I hope everyone had a terrific Thanksgiving! As usual, I ended up stuffing myself, which is only appropriate for a turkey like me.
The only surprise at this year’s family gathering occurred when I cut into a pre-ordered “apple” pie we got from the bakery and discovered that it was filled with … peaches.
I can only assume that somebody else out there who was expecting a peach pie for Thanksgiving ended up with our apple pie. I hope they enjoyed it.
No offense to my Georgia readers, but I’m not a real big fan of peach pie.
The good news is we also had a pumpkin and chocolate cream pie to enjoy. So I did!
Okay, on we go …
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From November 2009:
Evaluating My Thanksgiving Dinner Scorecard – The last time we had Thanksgiving dinner at my house was back in 2009. A quick glance at what we spent that year reminded me of just how expensive the actual traditional turkey-day meal can cost.
And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy …
Wisebread – 12 Gift Ideas for Crafters
Kiplinger – Ten Holiday Shopping Tips
Reach Financial Independence – Is It Justifiable to Spend a Lot on the Holidays?
Budget and the Beach – Shopping Deals for the Rest of the Year
The Savvy Scot – Are You Ready to be a Landlord?
Credits and Debits
Credit: My family knows that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. Of course, when I was a kid, there was nothing better than the post-Thanksgiving run-up to Christmas Day — but I don’t feel that way any more.
Debit: Now, sadly, the Christmas season has become a long hard slog, punctuated by the scourge of hyperconsumerism that typically kicks into overdrive on Black Friday — and all the ugliness than comes with it. Hey, I’m not sayin’. I’m just sayin’.
Debit: On second thought … check that. Shoppers are no longer waiting until Black Friday to take part in all of the embarrassing fights, stampedes, brawls and other mayhem — it’s now happening on Thanksgiving Day too.
Debit: Heck, even the parking lots are dangerous now. On Thanksgiving Day, two men were arrested after a stabbing over a parking space at a Walmart in Washington, DC. That’s an arguable improvement over last year, when two Florida Walmart shoppers were shot on Black Friday during a dispute over a parking space. I know.
Credit: With all that in mind, it’s probably no wonder that a recent CBS News poll found that half of those surveyed dread holiday shopping. Count me among that group too. Here’s hoping that I can get most of my holiday shopping done this year on the Internet.
Debit: In other news, the federal bailout of Detroit is in full swing. The city just received a $24 million grant that will hire up to 150 firefighters. Who thinks Detroit will be able to continue paying for those firefighters when their federal handout expires in two years? Neither do I.
Debit: Following the lead of the European Central Bank, the Fed is now considering dropping the interest rate it pays banks on excess reserves to zero. So US banks are now warning such a policy might result in them charging depositors a fee to hold their money. In other words: negative interest rates.
Credit: The truth is, our financial system is in serious trouble when the bankers are openly expressing concern about people saving too much of their hard-earned money. Huh? It’s just more proof that we are now living in a Bizzaro world where up is down and black is white.
Debit: By the way, did I mention that the Fed is, curiously, now also calling for new policies that can be used to stop future bank runs? Oh yes, they most certainly are. Coincidence? My Spidey sense tells me it’s not.
Debit: For those of you who continue to insist that the Fed has inflation under control, how do you explain that the average price of electricity in the US has hit an all-time high every month for the past ten months? Or that the average electricity price has increased 42% over the past decade?
Credit: Speaking of inflation, if you haven’t been following the biggest “investment” craze since Beanie Babies, check this out: The digital currency known as bitcoins were trading at over $1200 apiece last week. Eleven months ago they were selling for $10.
Credit: Of course, like the Beanie Baby mania, bitcoins look like a scheme that’s eventually going to end up burning a lot of naive people who are looking to make a fast buck. Or not. At least Beanie Baby owners will always have something tangible that they can actually hold in their hands.
Debit: A savvy bitcoin owner in Wales who purchased 7500 of the “coins” for mere pennies back in 2009 knows all about their virtual nature. Several months ago, he mistakenly tossed the hard drive that held them, and now he’s desperately searching a local landfill for it. I would too — those bitcoins are currently worth $6.5 million.
The Question of the Week
By the Numbers
According to Wikipedia, “Bitcoin is an open source peer-to-peer electronic money and payment network introduced in 2009″ by an anonymous software developer using the nom de plume Satoshi Nakamoto. A little more info on bitcoins:
11 million The approximate number of bitcoins currently in existence. (Well, minus the 7500 that are lost in that Wales landfill.)
21 million Total number of bitcoins that can eventually be produced via the software algorithm that controls the “mining” process.
10,000 Number of bitcoins used for the world’s first bitcoin purchase: $25 worth of pizza bought by “Laszlo” on May 22, 2010.
$12 million Approximate market value of 10,000 bitcoins today. (I hope Laszlo enjoyed his pizza.)
Last Week’s Poll Results
Will you be leaving your house to shop on Black Friday this year?
- No (80%)
- I’m not sure. (11%)
- Yes (9%)
Almost 300 people responded to this week’s question. Assuming my survey is accurate and 4 out of 5 people really did stay home, it’s amazing how the stores were still so crowded on Black Friday. Can you imagine how congested the stores and roads would have been if, say, 9 out of 10 people felt the need to stock up on things due to an unforeseen emergency?
Think about that — then make sure you’re prepared, so you don’t have to ever find out.
Other Useless News
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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! You can reach out to me at: Len@LenPenzo.com
Jenny, had a bone to pick regarding my claim that people who can’t live on less than $40,000 per year have nobody to blame but themselves:
“ Sorry pal, this doesn’t work for everyone. Maybe we should all move to where (you) live!”
Jenny, I was born, raised, and still live in Southern California. Frankly, it seems like everybody but you already has moved here.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.