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 thought this week I’d feature a few posts that offered advice in fives …
Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week
Little House in the Valley – Our 5 Steps to Buying a Home. Says guest poster Erika: “I am currently 27 and live in a shack with my husband of a year-and-a-half. We hope to own a (new) home in five years.” By the way, her little shack lacks a dishwasher. It also has no heat — or even a bedroom door. Oh yeah; and while we’re at it, Erika notes that she hasn’t gone on her honeymoon yet either. On the bright side, I guess nobody can accuse her of marrying for the money.
Financial Highway – 5 Tips to Save on Baby Clothes. Erika doesn’t have any children yet, but if they do come into her life anytime soon she’ll probably want to check out this post on how to save cash when buying baby clothes.
Free Money Wisdom – 5 Ways People Waste Money on Their Cars. Tip number 5: ignoring warning lights. Speaking of warning lights, just be thankful Microsoft doesn’t build cars because if they did the oil, brake, temp, fuel, and alternator idiot lights would all be replaced by a single lamp that said “general car default.” (Yes, I know that’s a moldy oldie.)
Bucksome Boomer – Saving Money: 5 Holiday Tips. I see guest poster Lisa suggested so-called “progressive parties” where folks move from house to house, sampling different dinner courses along the way. And although Lisa didn’t say so, conservatives and libertarians enjoy that type of holiday soiree too. Moving on …
And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy…
Everyday Tips and Thoughts – 9 Financial Things to Consider Before the New Year
Monevator – Gruel Britania, But What About Her Investors?
Darwin’s Money – Income Disparity is Actually Good. Here’s Why.
Canadian Finance Blog – Four Ways to Deal with a Home that Won’t Sell
Free From Broke – Our Switch to Netflix
Afford Anything – Dare to Be Boring! How Simple Stuff Leads to Riches
Millionaire Nurse Blog – 9 Money Saving Reasons to Garden!
Budgets Are Sexy – The Googleizer – Part V
Lazy Man and Money – Burzynski Cancer Clinic Scam
Fiscal Fizzle – Living in the Moment vs. Future Goals
Financially Poor – The Best Things You Can Do for Your Life
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From December 2010:
Donate? Humbug! Why My Favorite Charity is Me. – Please spare me the nasty emails, folks; I didn’t write this — but an acquaintance of mine did. And, as a result, he’s currently seeking protection in the federal witness protection program.
Credits and Debits
Debit: Those of you who like to take advantage of high-bandwidth streaming media, beware. It looks like Internet service providers are getting serious about implementing usage-based billing.
Debit: New claims for unemployment benefits climbed back over 400,000 last week. That is the second consecutive week that unemployment claims have risen.
Credit: Even so, the unemployment rate dropped to 8.6 percent in November. That’s a 0.4 percent decline over the previous month. Hooray!
Credit: Officially, the government claims there are 435,000 fewer unemployed people in America this month. Hooray again!
Debit: The trouble is, the only way the government can make such a preposterous claim is to cook the books. Consider that the economy only created a very anemic 120,000 new jobs last month — it usually takes that many just to keep the unemployment rate from rising each month.
Debit: So where did the other 315,000 come from? Well, that’s the number of so-called “discouraged workers” who quit looking for employment after at least two years of trying — and the government doesn’t count them as part of the labor force. Add it all up and voila! A falling unemployment rate, even though more people couldn’t find jobs in November than found them. I know.
Debit: For the record, if you include the folks who have given up hope of finding a job, the official government U6 unemployment rate is currently 15.6 percent.
Debit: Did you notice that American Airlines filed for bankruptcy protection last week? Yep. High labor costs made it completely uncompetitive with the rest of the industry.
Credit: When a company files for bankruptcy protection, oftentimes it’s not all doom and gloom. American’s Chapter 11 filing allows them to continue operating and tear up burdensome union contracts so they can hopefully emerge as a leaner, more profitable company.
Debit: In other news, General Motors is offering to buy back their extremely unpopular green-technology Chevy Volt after crash tests revealed several vehicles caught fire several days to weeks after the initial impact. Yes, weeks later.
Debit: How unpopular is the Chevy Volt? GM has sold barely 6,000 of the “green” vehicles. Even though virtually nobody wants the car, GM’s government-appointed CEO is inexplicably ramping up production to 60,000 units next year. Why?
Debit: This is what happens when the government meddles in the private sector — and now you know why GM stock continues to fall like a rock. It’s currently languishing at $21 per share.
Debit: Meanwhile, the taxpayers who spent $50 billion to “bail out GM” — and who own half a billion shares of GM stock — need the price to get to $51 per share just to break even. Good luck with that.
Debit: Now I know what you’re thinking: if GM was protected under Chapter 11 bankruptcy laws, why did they need a $50 billion taxpayer bailout too? They didn’t. But that money enabled GM to preserve the uncompetitive union wages that helped get them in trouble the first time around. At least temporarily. In essence, that money was a union bailout. I’m not sayin’. I’m just sayin’.
Debit: Finally, the US Department of Commerce awarded $930,000 in stimulus money for the production of an online soap opera called “Diary of a Single Mom” co-starring Billy Dee Williams. I know. Apparently, $230,000 of that went to the show’s producer/director.
Credit: No; Billy Dee Williams didn’t play Apollo Creed in Rocky. That was Carl Weathers.
Credit: But he did play Lando Calrissian in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
Credit: And in case you’re wondering if any stimulus money ended up in Billy Dee Williams’ pocket, don’t fret — I’ve been told in lieu of cash he settled for a year’s supply of Colt 45. Hey, it works every time.
By the Numbers
74 Age of Billy Dee Williams. (born: April 6, 1937)
1945 Year Billy first appeared on Broadway. (In The Firebrand of Florence.)
45 Motion pictures Billy has appeared in during his long career.
0 Oscar awards won.
0 Oscar nominations.
1 Music albums recorded. (A jazz album recorded in 1961 entitled Let’s Misbehave.)
0 Grammy awards won.
0 Grammy nominations.
54 Total number of television appearances.
1 Emmy awards won. (Outstanding Performance for Actor in Leading Role for Brian’s Song)
6 The alcohol content (percentage by volume) of Colt 45 malt liquor. (That packs a kick that’s 50% more powerful than a Miller Lite.)
Other Useless News: The 10 Fattest US States
I probably shouldn’t put this under useless news, but my friend Joel has a new website you might be interested in checking out called WeightTraining.com. Check it out if you get chance. Last week, he featured a story highlighting the 10 fattest states in America. Here are nine of them, in reverse order:
5. Kentucky (fried chicken)
4. South Carolina
3. West Virginia
Now, is it just me, or do most of those states have something pretty obvious in common? That’s what I thought. Anyway, if you want to find out what the “fattest” state is, you’ll have to check out Joel’s article. I just hope it’s not yours.
Hey, and if you happen to enjoy what you’re reading — or not — please don’t forget to:
1. Click on that “Like” button in the sidebar to your right and become a fan of Len Penzo dot Com on Facebook!
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Top 25 Referrers for November
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.
1. MSN: Smart Spending
2. The Globe and Mail
3. Money Talks News
4. The Simple Dollar
7. Oblivious Investor
8. Budgets Are Sexy
10. The Kirk Report
11. CTV Television Network
12. Afford Anything
13. Lazy Man and Money
14. Credit Karma
15. (tie) Control Your Cash
15. (tie) The Wealth Vault
17. Green Panda Tree House
18. Canadian Finance Blog
19. Business Insider
20. Frugal Under 40
21. Time Magazine: Moneyland
22. Money Beagle
23. Wealth Pilgrim
24. The Millionaire Nurse
Thank you to everyone who refers their readers to this little ol’ blog! It’s much appreciated.
The Question of the Week
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!
Ryan Reynolds took a few moments to tell me I was a no-good cheapskate because I usually leave a 10% tip for poor restaurant service:
I’m a server… If you aren’t going to leave a good tip, then why don’t you just stay home? Scumbag.
Because even if I did stay home, you’d still expect a tip from me anyway — assuming you could get away with it. Give my best to Scarlett Johansson for me.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.