Archive for December, 2008

Really Useful Ways To Save Money

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Oh, it’s on everyone’s mind these days – how to be more frugal, how to save, ways to reduce your bills.

Fine, I’ll jump on the band-wagon. Here are the easiest ways I’ve found, with the direct dollar benefits of each. In some cases, I’m using estimates based on incomplete price tracking:

1. Cancel cable TV, sign up for Netflix. Savings: $60+/month

2. E-payment of 6 monthly bills (water, electricity, gas, trash pickup, mortgage, 1 credit card). Savings (assuming 0.03/envelope and $0.42/stamp): $2.70/month

3. Cut the thermostat back 5 degrees in winter when you go to bed (why heat the whole pile of rocks when you’re under blankets?), and forward 5 degrees in summer when you go to bed (why pay for cooling when you’re under blankets to stay warm? Use sheets or fewer blankets and a ceiling fan). Savings: $8/month averaged out over 6 months, estimated.

4. Plan your car trips to get more into one trip – fewer grocery store visits if you stop in on your way back to your pile of rocks from work. We usually do this over dinner as a family discussion so that everyone knows what’s going on the next day and rest of the week. Savings: $5/month estimated.

5. Replace soft soap in hand-washing dispensers with Dawn concentrate diluted 1 part Dawn to 10 parts water. It takes the same amount of time to mix your own as it does to fill from those economy gallon jugs, you don’t have to haul as much mass/weight around, and you don’t have to find space to store it. Savings: $2/month (direct savings – more if you use the frequest Dawn product sales and coupons that seem to happen every quarter to stock up.)

6. Weather-stripping (or replacing old, worn stripping) your windows, doors, dryer vent. This will involve an initial cost of about $20 (can of expanding foam insulation, various types of weather stripping), but it pays for itself in 4-5 months and lasts for an estimated 1-3 years. So we’ll calculate this one by averaging out the savings-per-month for the first year only, giving us a nice, conservative savings number. Savings: $3.33/month for the first year. More after that.

7. Using the crock pot to convert all our poultry carcasses and beef bones into thick soup or stew (with leftover veggies and meats from meals earlier in the week so there’s less kitchen waste) and freeze it. This nets about $5/meal eaten this way. We do this 2-3 times a month. So lets calculate conservatively 2/month (and without including the time savings and more efficient microwave use). Savings: $10/month.

8. Canceling long-distance service on our land-line, switching to calling card purchased at Sam’s Club or using cell phone plan to our advantage. If you go the calling-card route, there will be an initial cost that may lower the monthly savings. Savings: $22/month.

9. Use 1/4 cup of baking soda in place of clothes washer detergent. We get the big, economical bags from Sam’s Club. Savings: $14/month

Wow. It didn’t take long to whack $122/month from our bills. These are just the big ones I could think of off the top of my head. That’s over $1,400.00 per year we lowered our expenses – more if you put the savings in a high-interest online savings account. That’s a sizeable chunk of an IRA contribution. Or it’s a generous donation to our 6-9 months of emergency expense money. Or it’s reducing the interest on a revolving credit card debt every month (and can lead to some very interesting snowball effects on debt reduction). As a bonus, most of it also helps the environment. None of it inconvenienced us. The time freed up from cable TV addiction meant we could start a side business, take classes/certifications for job-related raises, start a garden, or fix broken stuff around the pile of rocks.

What would you do with an extra $122/month?

Ask Pookah – December 2008

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Once a month at Life of Pookah, I’ll ask her for a more detailed answer. Questions can be about anything.

So, Pookah:

What do you think of executive compensation? Are the high pay rates deserved or abusive?

Pookah speaks

Pookah speaks

Pookahs only eat what we need. We only hunt what we need. A lot of humans think we go hunting for sport. Pookahs and other cats are born hunters – if we don’t practice, we won’t be able to feed ourselves or kittens.

Humans are different. My human brings a lot of things he calls “stuff” into the nest. He doesn’t eat it, sleep on it, or wear it. Some of it he plays with when he should be petting Pookah. The stuff that he doesn’t play with is really only good for Pookahs to sleep on, or check over because Pookahs have lots of curiosity.

Pookahs find it strange that after working so hard to get stuff into the nest, humans stomp around and make loud angry noises about the stuff. This makes it hard for Pookahs to sleep. Then the humans drag the stuff back out of the nest – to make room for dragging new stuff in.

Beyond food, a clean litterbox, warm sunbeams to sleep in, and Pookahs to pet, what more do humans need?

Well, Pookah, human society is a lot more complicated than cat society.

Does it need to be?

Really, how much more to life is there than comfort, companionship, food, and home? Even dogs understand this.

So what about executives who receive a hundred or a thousand times the pay of their average employee?

Angry disdain

Angry disdain

This is me staring at you in disdain for making it too complicated.

Er… Let me try that again.

What about humans who are given enough gooshy food to feed a hundred or a thousand cats, yet keep it all for themselves and keep demanding more?

Stop being ridiculous. I’m going to sleep now.

And there you have it.

U.S. Has Been In A Recession Since 12/2007

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Did anyone else read this article from CNN and think, “It took you guys a YEAR to figure that out”?

Please observe the state of my litterbox.

Look at unemployment — not the sanitized political numbers, but instead at the number of people who are *capable* of working, but aren’t, and are receiving public financial support of some kind.

Fair trade: I purr, you pet.

Look at the price of milk, corn, bread, and meats (beef, chicken, pork, fish). Have they gone up or down overall? Isn’t this a better measure?

The fresh cooked chicken content of my diet has gone down.

How long does it take for someone who is out of work to find a new job paying $28,000 or more?

Where is my litterbox on this timeline?

I’m no expert. And I certainly don’t have the domain knowledge necessary for any sort of certification or certainty above 80% on this.

Pookah is very certain that the litterbox needs almost as much attention as the chicken.

But why are my tax dollars paying for information that the average high-school graduate told me six months ago?

Yes. Your tax dollars would be better spent on Pookah.

How Bad Can A Herniated Disc Be?

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

Pretty bad: Here is the WebMD article

Bad as in, pain and numbness shooting from deep inside your hip all the way down to your right big toe. Bad as in, all the muscles in your buttock, thigh, calf, shin (and toe) going into spasms where half the fibers pull one way and half the other, until something tears. Bad as in hurts enough that you can’t sleep for three days.

Very bad. Pookah almost had to feed herself.

I apologize for not keeping up with the posts. It is particularly irksome as I was ramping up to add pictures and establish a nice list of posts.

You should, at this point, be seeing more posts in the history. I hope that you find them useful.

Pookah hopes that you find them useful, too. Please send fresh live fish to show appreciation.

Debt

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Debt is your enemy.

It shortens your life from stress, lack of good food, shelter, clothing, and medical care.
It sucks the joy out of your life. (Just check out these divorce figures.)
It removes your ability to deal with the emergencies that life throws at you.
It takes away your ability to support your family and friends.
It limits your ability to think.
It consumes your most precious resource: Time.
It takes away your most precious right: Freedom.

It keeps humans from petting Pookahs.

There is no such thing as good debt.

There ARE ways to use debt to your advantage. This is called gambling. You are playing the odds. If you are clever and wise, you stack the odds in your favor. When you take out that 30 year mortgage on your house, you are betting that you will be able to keep the payments up for THIRTY YEARS. You are gambling that you will stay employed, physically healthy, and mentally healthy at approximately your current state (or greater) for the next THIRTY YEARS.

Banks, credit card companies, and other lending institutions want you to stay in debt. They will tease you, entice you, and seduce you to get into debt and stay in debt. They want you to stay in debt for as long as possible. They may even break the law to do it. They are amoral. Many are unethical. They are all greedy.

When you buy something on a credit card, you are betting that you will be able to pay that loan back within the next billing period. That’s less than 30 days. THIRTY DAYS. The credit card company has all the odds stacked in its favor. They can change the duration of the billing period, the interest rate, the minimum payment, the payment schedule, add on fees — anything at all, ANY TIME THEY WANT. It is not fair. It is not equitable. It is what you agreed to.

If you are clever and wise, you can take out a mortgage for THIRTY YEARS for a house that is well within your resources to maintain and keep up the loan payments for, negotiate a no-penalty clause for early repayment of the loan, and pay off the mortgage loan before the loan comes due… and save yourself a lot of interest fees.

If you are clever and wise, you can beat the odds. But there is risk. If the lender offers you a 0% interest deal with a small fee for a limited time, and you have the wisdom to build within yourself the discipline, you can take that loaned money, pay the fee, and put it in the safest, highest-interest financial product you can find, then take it back out to pay back the loan, and pocket the interest for yourself. If you are clever, you will make sure that the interest return to you is greater than the fee you paid to the lender.

If you are clever and wise, you can build within yourself the mental fortitude to resist the urge to satisfy your wants immediately, so that you do not impulse buy.

You can become clever and wise like Pookah.

If you are clever and wise, you can save up for emergencies.

If you are clever and wise, you will still make mistakes. That is what your emergency savings are for.

You can become clever and wise by first understanding that debt is not your friend.

You can become more clever and wise by learning how to avoid debt.

Then you can start living life like Pookah.

Bailout of the Big Three – Part II

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

Well, well, well. The CEO’s of Ford and GM have volunteered to cut their pay to $1. This offer comes after all the controversy surrounding their last attempt at stealing, begging, borrowing, asking for a free handout from us.

Pookah would very much like a small tasty bird right now.

No mention of their multi-million dollar compensation packages. I wonder if the reductions on the paychecks is equal to the increase in comps.

No mention of what unproductive product lines they’re dropping.

Pookah thinks that human getting small tasty bird right now would be very productive.

On the plus side, the CEO’s are actually going to use their own company’s products: They’re going to drive to our beloved capitol to steal, beg, borrow, ask for a free handout – except for Ford (see below).

The suspense is killing me. Pet me now or your lap gets it.

Yes. Ford has somehow, miraculously, finagled the ability to not need a bailout. Will wonders never cease. Instead, they want a $9 billion line of stand-by credit that they don’t expect to have to tap.

They made their own gooshy food?

To make it more interesting, Ford:

  • Expects to reach the financial break-even point in 2011
  • Re-invest $14 billion to improve its products fuel efficiency by 14%. (How much of that improvement will be on their worst-performing vehicles?)
  • Called for producing more parts domestically for its vehicles – specifically mentioning batteries.
  • Is selling some/all of its private jets/leased airplanes.

So let’s recap: In 2 weeks, Ford:

  • Figured out a way to break even within 3 years.
  • Offered to cut executive pay – but not compensations – if they take government money.
  • Figured out a way to improve the fuel efficiency of its vehicles, but with no timeline, milestones, or other basic requirements of a project or commitment.

What do you think they could do with a whole 30 days to work with… say, all of December?

Pookah does not think it is a good idea to wait that long to make own gooshy food… or to get small tasty bird.

No deal, Ford. Your plan is still Junior Highschool. You haven’t even passed Finances 101 midterm exams. We’ll talk again after Christmas.

I still vote No Bailout.