The least expensive route to taking care of your teeth is routine care. If you keep your teeth clean, floss regularly, and don’t let a lot of sugar (or any!) stay on them for any length of time, decay won’t get the chance to take hold of your teeth.
As I’ve written about before, I didn’t do this. At times in my life I didn’t take care of my teeth, and now I’m paying the price. I will for the rest of my life. The problems just get more expensive, and the solutions are never as good as the teeth that God gave you.
Dental work is a luxury
This past week I finally got a new crown to replace one I broke two and a half months ago. Getting the crown replaced was expensive, both in time and money:
- A visit to my primary dentist (a 40-minute drive one way) who referred me to an endodontist because the x-rays of the area were concerning.
- A visits to an endodontist (a 75-minute drive one way), to retreat the root canal on that tooth. (My dentist’s concerns were valid.) This involved checking the tooth and putting in a paste that got rid of the infection.
- A second visit to the endodontist to complete the retreatment. This appointment and the other ate up about 10 hours, nearly a tank of gas, and $600 after insurance.
- Another visit to my primary dentist to prepare the tooth again for another crown. Since the mill they had might not get this tooth right, they put a temporary crown on and sent the impressions away to another service that would make the crown.
- A third visit to my primary dentist — five appointments total! — to fit and install the crown. Another 6 hours between these two appointments, and another $300 after insurance.
And after that last appointment, my dentist said this:
“Enjoy your new crown!”
That was the first time I’ve had a dentist tell me to enjoy my dental work. But that got me thinking about all of this work I’ve had. Yes, it’s my fault for getting to this point, but getting the dental work to fix up my mistakes is a luxury. I’m sure that there are many people that do not have the means to get this kind of work done.
So, having sophisticated dental work done isn’t fun, quick, or cheap, but once it’s done, it’s something to be thankful for. Enjoy it.
(And, of course, do what you can to minimize future work.)
The post If you have expensive dental work, be sure to do this appeared first on Mighty Bargain Hunter.
One of the surest ways to lose money in the long run is to play the lottery every week. The more you play them, the more likely you are to meet the overall probability of the game you’re playing. The odds are never in your favor.
Regardless of where the money raised from the lottery actually goes, it boils down to a tax. A tax on people who don’t understand, or who willfully ignore, statistics.
One of my teachers in high school played a pick-three game. He had a number of theories he relied on to pick his numbers. Some of them were based on whether or not the previous few days had any repeating digits. He told me about this, and I said that what the number were yesterday has no bearing on what they are today. (Even as a high school student, I got this.)
Well, to this day I’m sure he thinks I’m full of baloney. The next day, that good ol’ boy won over $400 on the pick-three game. (“See? I TOLD YA!”)
Another guy (a laundromat attendant) was absolutely convinced that people who live in New York City have a lottery advantage over the rest of the state … because more people live there. I wish I were joking.
But if you play the lottery anyway, at least do it right
But, I will concede that people should be free to spend their money as they see fit, and if you’ve calculated that buying a $1 lottery ticket gives you at least $1 worth of entertainment, there would likely be nothing I could say that would convince you otherwise.
So, here’s a tip for maximizing your moonshot. I can’t offer any advice on picking winning numbers. But I will share some advice on how to pick numbers that, if they are the winning numbers, will be more likely to net you the entire jackpot.
Don’t choose numbers in any kind of simple pattern.
You should never bet on that kind of sequence … the odds of any sequence from 000000000 through 999999999 has an equal probability. And if the prize is the same for all winners, it’s fine. But, for shared prizes, you will find that you just beat 10 million to 1 odds only to split the pot with dozens of people. To be clear, the odds are the same, no argument. But people’s bets will not be 100% random. They will bet your number as well as a pattern of 2′s or other single digits. They will bet 1234567. I can’t comment whether pi’s digits are a common pattern, but the bottom line is to avoid obvious patterns for shared prizes.
Here are a few ways to do this:
- Use a random number generator. A real one. Don’t ask your buddies at work. Random.org is a good one.
- Use numbers from a variety of sources that are significant to you. The numbers can have significance to you. (Why not? They’re as likely to win as numbers that you hate.) Just make sure they don’t paint any pretty patterns on the card when you fill them in.
- And please … PLEASE! … don’t choose the same numbers as your friend for the same lottery. Sorry. You didn’t need me to say that.
Happy picking, if that’s your thing.
The post There actually IS a good way to pick lottery numbers appeared first on Mighty Bargain Hunter.
Happy Veterans Day! I thank all of the men and women who serve, or who have served, in the United States Armed Forces — especially our veterans. I deeply appreciate your service to our country.
Jeff Rose served in the Army National Guard, and is an Iraq combat veteran. He’s now a Certified Financial Planner™ and blogger. He talks about both in the context of personal finance through his book, Soldier of Finance, a book which I enjoyed thoroughly.
Jeff put a lot of his life and being into this book. He talks about the financial struggles his family had as he was growing up. He candidly speaks about the financial mistakes he made prior to joining the military, and the lessons they taught him. And of course the book is chock-full of well-thought-out examples from his time in the military, all the way from the entrance procedures and the medical examinations, to boot camp, to the war zone in the Middle East, to the flight home on a C-130.
I’ve seen Jeff’s YouTube videos, and that guy has a sense of humor! His book is in a different style. Because I’d seen his videos, I perhaps was predisposed to expecting more humor in the book, but given the subject matter, that was a silly thing for me to expect. Military life, especially with combat in the picture, is serious business. (I’ve never been in the military, but I work with current and retired military all the time.)
The financial lessons in the book are in principle no different than the lessons from any other good personal finance book. If someone comes out and says that you can retire a millionaire by charging your credit cards to the maximum, paying only the minimum balance, and constantly spending more than you earn, then you know immediately to put that book back on the shelf. Check your credit score, get an emergency fund, pay off your debt, start investing — no secrets of the state revealed here.
What differentiates personal finance books is the manner in which this basic material is presented. I mentioned before that his military examples were well-thought-out. They were simple, and easy to understand. Without giving away too much, here are a few. You’ll need the book for the full picture, though:
- Go through your credit report in the same way you’d clear a minefield.
- Why being a P/X Ranger is like Keeping Up with the Joneses.
- Debt is an enemy that must be destroyed. What kind of ammunition do you use?
- The importance of a financial Battle Buddy, and how they keep you away from financial Blue Falcons.
Also in military style, there are checklists, acronyms, and templates throughout. The checklists boil down to yes/no questions (“Go or No Go”). Can’t get much simpler than that, but the number of Gos vs. the number of No Gos that you give when you run down the checklist paints a pretty good picture of where you are in your financial life. There are also several mnenomics in the book that distill several topics down to only the most important parts. SIT and SALUTE are two of them. A number of templates related to goal planning are provided as well.
Even without military training, I got a lot out of Soldier of Finance and recommend it highly.
Thanks, Jeff, for writing this book. But more importantly: thank you for your service.
A Facebook friend snapped a picture from his local Walmart. The sign read “Days Until Christmas: 47.”
When I was young, I made an advent chain out of red and green construction paper. I hung it on one of the lights in my room, and tore off one link of the chain each day until Christmas. If I did my math correctly, that last link would be Christmas Day.
I’m pretty sure the earliest that I started this chain was Thanksgiving, though. We haven’t even hit Veterans’ Day and the stores are counting already. And although the picture was from Walmart, I’m positive that Walmart isn’t the only store that is trying to get its customers into the holiday shopping season as early as possible. Costco had some Christmas decorations for sale in late summer.
Pushing harder than ever
I’m continually amazed by the early line-ups for Black Friday. A quick search didn’t turn up anyone lining up now but the day after Thanksgiving is nearly three weeks away. Last year some customers started lining up in front of some stores over a week in advance.
Some retailers are pushing the envelope: Black Thursday. As in Thanksgiving Day. Best Buy is starting its “Black Friday” sale at 6 PM on Thanksgiving. Macy’s, Kohl’s, Toys ‘R’ Us, and others will be opening Thursday evening as well.
Perhaps retailers are seeing the crunch on people’s wallets, especially in light of steep increases that are likely in health insurance. The holidays come before that. Better push really hard while people still actually have a bit of disposable income.
There are always bargains
Bargains don’t suddenly appear Thanksgiving and disappear after the holidays. And I’m sure that if I tell myself that enough, eventually it will sink in! It makes good sense on paper, but everywhere we go, there’s always a reminder that there are only X shopping days until Christmas.
Bargains are always a matter of context. We’re approaching the holiday shopping season. Retailers, especially now, want you to believe that everything is a bargain. Everything isn’t a bargain. Things are bargains only when you see them as such, in your best judgment. Don’t let the person selling you something convince you that it’s a bargain. Of course it’s a bargain if they’re selling it to you!
Some questions that might help with context:
- Can I afford this Pickle-Me Lemo?
- Will I be able to get the Pickle-Me Lemo without carrying a balance on my card?
- Will it take me fighting in line for 4 hours to get a chance at a Pickle-Me Lemo?
- Will my child be shunned for life if s/he doesn’t get a Pickle-Me Lemo?
- Wait — the Pickle-Me Lemo is kind of a stupid, brain-dead toy, isn’t it?
- Are the holidays even about the Pickle-Me Lemo, or are they about something a lot bigger and more important than the gifts?
It’s past midnight where I am. Now there are only 46 days left until Christmas. But who’s counting?
I overheard a conversation at customer service at my financial institution as I was standing in line for the teller. Someone had an issue with their debit card.
The cause was a $96 hold from a gas station. The customer service rep then said that they recommend that customers choose the “credit” option rather than the “debit” option, if they’re offered it. (Apparently this person chose the “debit” option.)
From the consumer’s standpoint, it’s usually a better idea to choose the “credit” option — especially if they don’t need to use “debit” because they want cash back. Choosing “credit” doesn’t magically turn your debit card into a credit card, though. The money still comes out of your checking account fairly quickly.
- The hold amount is usually less, or just the amount of the purchase. The gas station can freeze a fairly large chunk of money with a “debit” transaction, for up to three business days. Not so with a “credit” transaction.
- As a result, there’s less chance of overdrawing your account due to a large hold. If you’re going close to the wire, it’s easier to go over even if you keep track of your charges carefully. Sometimes there’s no clear indication that the money is being held!
- “Credit” purchases are more likely to qualify for rewards. The merchant pays a heftier fee for the “credit” transactions because they’re signature transactions. This means that there’s more for the bank to share back with you (if those are the terms and conditions of your debit card, of course).
- There’s usually more protection afforded by “credit” transactions. These kinds of transactions can be “charged back” just as if they were made on a credit card. (Visa and Mastercard offer this protection.) If the “debit” option is used then it’s still possible to get your money back, but you get it only if the merchant is found to be at fault. With the “credit” option, you get the money back first while the investigation happens.
The bottom line is that you always need to know how much is in your checking account — but choosing the “credit” option tips the odds in your favor a bit by reducing the cushion that you need to plan for.
The post A $96 hold on the debit card … for one tank of gas appeared first on Mighty Bargain Hunter.
I know that my wife tolerates a lot. Even though she’ll say that I’m worlds different than when we first got married, I still occasionally work on increasing my troll level. You know — for trolling. I’m getting really close to Level 46.
Before we went to Costco for some hot and heavy unit pricing action, we went to Joann Fabrics and Crafts. (Well, my wife went there first, and my daughter and I went to get some Sweet Frog. We had a freebie coming, and she had her Sweet Frog T-Shirt on, so we got a discount on the one that wasn’t free. Then my daughter and I joined her at Joann’s.)
My wife was just about done with the shopping, and shortly after that we were in the checkout line. She had a number of coupons — paper coupons, and coupons on her phone.
She went through the purchases and strategically applied coupons to minimize the total cost — all the while peppering the cashier with questions about whether or not she could apply this coupons on that item, or whether she could stack the coupons, or whether she could apply the discount card to the whole purchase or not.
And the guy knew the answers cold. What amazed me, though, was how complicated the answers were. Flowchart-level complicated. Almost needing multi-variable calculus complicated.
Then I tried for a few more troll points: “Man, you need an engineering degree to follow these coupon rules!”
He wasn’t amused.
Coupon early, coupon often … and coupon for a limited time only
Coupons are a lure to get customers into the store, or onto a website, with credit card in hand. They might buy something with the coupon,, but they also are likely to buy things that aren’t discounted. The coupon has then done its job.
That works once. But it works often if you have coupons that are good only for a short window: three days, or one day, or even a few hours if you’re talking Black Friday deals.
Even more effective: short-fuse coupons with lots of exceptions and complicated redemption rules. Once you’ve made the trek out to the store, you may find that fine print invalidates your coupon! Now sunk cost sets in: “Well, I’m already here …”
My wife has job-related reasons for going to Joann’s. She’s fixing up some costumes. For money. Which is awesome. So the fact that she has coupons there helps the bottom line of the job, which is even more awesome.
Under non-business circumstances, though, this is something we all need to watch. The coupons are put in front of us to tempt us. (We let them come in front of us, but that’s another issue entirely.)
If we let the coupons tempt us, then we expend brain cycles on all of the wonderful things we could buy with those coupons. We plan to use them, and adjust our schedule so that we’re able to use them. It’s intoxicating, in a way.
And the more coupons we have — and the more different ways that we can use them together – the more powerful the lure is to use them.
No wonder techniques that take couponing to extreme levels is so addicting.
Just something to be aware of if you feel yourself playing with the coupon options and feel that it’s affecting you.
The post Why do coupon redemption rules require an engineering degree? appeared first on Mighty Bargain Hunter.
After blogging in the money niche for a while, I’ve read a lot of stories about people paying down debt. The utter relief — and emotion — of finally reaching the end of a long, hard journey are amazing to read about.
Prior to that, it’s hard work, planning, cutting, scrimping, laboring — and perhaps a lot of wishing and wanting. Wishing that they hadn’t taken on so much debt on silly things, — or, unfortunately, wishing that the circumstances beyond their control hadn’t happened to them. Wanting the financial struggle to be over so that every single purchase doesn’t need to be a cost-benefit analysis.
One tip that a bunch of people who have been down the road, or who advise people as they go down the road, recommend to people getting out of debt is to celebrate progress once in a while. The cause for celebration might be paying off a credit card, or knocking the balance down another $1,000, or getting to throw an extra $200 at a pesky balance from a side business that finally is starting to pay off.
The celebration doesn’t need to be a big one: A round of mini golf with the family, or ordering out for pizza, or a new outfit. Actually, it shouldn’t be a big celebration, because the act of celebrating shouldn’t undo all of the progress that was the cause for the celebration!
What’s good about your debt numbers now?
We have three debts right now: our primary mortgage, our investment property mortgage, and our minivan loan. The first one is big. (My daughter was shocked when she realized that she be as old as Mommy when that one was finally paid off!) It’s on the slow side of the paydown now. It’s there but we aren’t talking a whole lot about it now.
The others, though, are getting mildly exciting to look at. The minivan loan is more than half-paid now, and we have less than a year and a half on it because we’re paying it down almost twice as fast as we need to. The investment property mortgage will be paid off in less than five years at our current pay-down rate. Next month we’ll be crossing another $10,000 milestone on the principal balance.
If you’re paying off your debts, the numbers look better each time you get a statement. Celebrating that fact is free, and you can do it every time you look at your balance.
Maybe this gets me going because I’m a numbers guy at heart. But there are all kinds of ways to see that you’re making progress:
- Your minimum payment is going down. Each time you get a bill, the credit card company will tell you your minimum payment. This is a percentage of your balance. As it goes down, your balance is going down. If the minimum payment is 2% of the outstanding balance, then every $10 reduction in that minimum payment means that you’ve knocked $500 off of your debt.
- The amount extra you’re paying goes up. If you’ve committed to making a $200/month payment on your credit card (even though your minimum payment is far less), then you’re throwing extra extra money at it each month that your minimum payment goes down.
- Your payoff date is closer. There’s usually some milestone in some units that you’re crossing right now. Somewhere in between Year 3 and Year 4, you will have only 1,000 days left to pay off your debt. After you celebrate having only 2 years left on your mortgage, 100 weeks is just around the corner! Once you get within a year, you’ll hit 10 million seconds. Then knocking another million seconds off takes less than two weeks!
- Your interest portion keeps going down. It’s a happy day when a mortgage-holder finally is paying more principal than interest. On a 30-year mortgage at 5%, this happens on payment #195 (in Year 17), assuming the minimum payment was made all along. But think about this: Every time you knock $10 off of that interest portion, that’s $10 more per month that is going toward the equity in your house. Or, each year you file taxes, your mortgage interest deduction, if you claim it, goes down. (That deduction is there only because you’re paying several times that in interest!)
- And, of course, your balances are going down. That’s the bottom line. Literally! Knocking off another $1,000 is an easy milestone to recognize. Bu t you can celebrate way more often than that. Join the “ELEET” club when you owe less than $31,337 on your mortgage. Or Pi-Tastic when you owe less than $3,141.95. Or “even” when you owe less than $2,468.10. (You may have celebrated crossing the $53,180.08 threshold if you’ve been keeping abreast of things all along!)
Give yourself every free reason under the sun to celebrate the fact that your debt numbers are better than they were last month.
The post A virtually zero-cost celebration as you pay down debt appeared first on Mighty Bargain Hunter.
After church today we went into town for a few things. We stopped in at Costco.
One of the items on our list was gummy multivitamins. (Yes, I know, these are quite a bit more expensive than tablets that get chased down with water. However, if these get people to look forward to taking their vitamins, that’s half the battle there.)
We’ve tried gummy vitamins as well as vitamins that have the crumbly consistency of a sweet tart. Our daughter much prefers the gummy vitamins. I like them all, but if given the choice, I like the gummy ones better, too. (Hence the reason we ran out so quickly; I think we all were eating those.
Since we still had almost a full package of the sweet-tart-type vitamins, I said that I would consume those, since I was the only one who liked those enough to eat them.
But then my wife pointed out that the gummy vitamins were cheaper per vitamin that the sweet-tart vitamins. The gummy vitamins were $8.99 per 250 or $3.60 per 100 count, while the sweet tart vitamins were $13.99 per 300, or $4.67 per 100 count.
Here’s the gotcha, though: dose, or more generally, serving size. I knew the dosage of each because I consumed both. The gummy vitamins were two/day, but the sweet tart vitamins were only one/day.
So, just like unit pricing coffee by the pound when the coffee is packaged in Keurig K-Cups doesn’t really give a fair comparison, unit pricing by the each when the dosage (or serving size) is different doesn’t really give a fair comparison, either. The sweet tart vitamins were quite a bit cheaper per dose: $4.67 per 100 doses for the sweet tart vitamins against $3.60 times 2 = $7.20 per 100 doses for the gummy vitamins.
The bottom line is to make sure you understand what a unit pricing comparison tells you — but also what it doesn’t tell you.
A couple of days ago, I asked my fit Facebook friends for recommendations on a starter strength training plan to complement an aerobic exercise plan. Because I’m Really Serious This Time™ about losing weight.
When I heard the story of a North Dakota woman who was to hand out “fat letters” to obese kids instead of candy this Halloween, part of me could see the value in it (even if it would alienate some of her neighbors and give her 15 minutes of fame in a way she didn’t want). It really is an awful foundation, and most of the time a fat person fights with it their entire life.
Five years ago I gave ten ways that being fat costs money. Here are ten more, all fresh and funky and just in time for the 2013 eating season:
- Sturdier everything. Sturdier chairs. Sturdier beds. Sturdier stools, toilets, floors. Because you never know when these will fail due to your extra mass.
- Bigger everything. Not just bigger clothes, but more pricey things like bigger bathtubs, shower stalls, and vehicles.
- Things that you bear your weight on will wear out faster. More weight means more stress, strain, and friction on the critical joints and moving parts. Buying sturdier things helps (see above) but I can’t think of anything that benefits from being abused more.
- Airlines can charge you for two seats. Now there’s a monster extra baggage fee. And they don’t even have to make the trip more comfortable for you! They sometimes separate your two seats, apparently just to prove to you how little they want your fat rear-end on their planes.
- Paying people to do things. Like roof work. Or going up into your attic because the weight limit on the attic ladder is 250 pounds.
- Drugs. And more drugs. To combat all of the side effects of being fat, or even just enough to get you over the hump, should you be one of the five percent that can lose a mere 10% of their body weight, and keep it off.
- Trying one thing after another to lose weight. People trying to lose weight will try just about anything. One after another. Without realizing that the common thread — the whole secret — to all of them working is burning more energy than you freakin’ take in.
- Low self-esteem. No solid evidence for this one, but I can’t imagine that having a lower opinion of yourself will make you a stronger bargainer or a more savvy shopper. You’ll be doubting and second-guessing yourself a little — or a lot — more than a fit person.
- Really no kidding priced out of health insurance. Being fat was bad for your health insurance premiums now. But now it’s downright ugly. Insurance companies may have to take you now, but they sure as shootin’ don’t have to offer it at a price that any mortal human being can pay.
- Even your blasted coffin costs more. The final insult to injury. Heck, your heirs might even be charged more for a cremation! When we had our dog euthanized, we saw the cremation charges. They were based on weight. I guess that makes sense. Just like it takes longer to cook a bigger Thanksgiving turkey, it takes longer to get a bigger human entirely up to combustion temperature.
Now enjoy all of that leftover Halloween candy.
In the middle of last month, a maintenance power outage caused the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system to go down in 17 states. One side effect of this was the disappearance of spending limits on the cards at checkout.
Xerox, the company in charge of those servers and for providing EBT services to state governments, had a phone-in service in place that merchants could use, which would indicate whether individual transactions were approved or not. Many merchants just refused the cards during the outage.
At two Walmart stores in Louisiana, though, the decision was made to allow EBT cardholders to purchase during the outage.
Here’s the kicker. These two Walmarts saw no spending limits reported, so they took that at face value: no spending limits. These customers were being allowed to purchase without a spending limit.
And, oh boy, some of them spent like gangbusters. Word spread, and surprisingly quickly there were enough “opportunity seekers” to overrun the stores completely. Some left with hundreds of dollars worth. Others had eight to ten shopping carts full of merchandise. Each.
After the glitch was fixed, and the announcement was made over the store loudspeaker, people abandoned their carts as-is, where-is. Freezer items and all, left to spoil. The store shelves were picked. Absolutely. Clean.
“Bank Error in Your Favor” is reserved for pretend Monopoly money. A real bank error in your favor won’t remain so for long. The bank will find it, and if you haven’t already given your filthy lucre back to the bank, they will come to get it. If you refuse, you could be fined, or sent to jail. For theft.
I’m not saying that Walmart’s decision to “keep the cash registers ringing” didn’t contribute to what happened. It must have. If the people hadn’t been allowed to use their EBT cards during the outage, or if the Walmarts had called the number on the back of the card to verify for sufficient balance, there wouldn’t have been any perceived window of opportunity.
A good part of the coverage on this story discussed which company was going to take the hit for the shopping sprees: Walmart or Xerox. There was detail about what the shoppers did — cleared shelves, shopping frenzy, loaded carts, etc. — but not a whole lot of discussion as to what would happen to them. You’d think (hope?) that there would be action taken against these shoppers. It was clear that the shoppers knew what they were doing, and that they only had a short time to do it in. What’s more, it would be trivial to determine whom. The state had their number — literally.
Plain and simple!
Well, the Louisiana state government is calling the shoppers’ behavior what it is: abuse, theft, and fraud. The sanctions are nothing to sneeze at: 12 months’ suspension for the first offense, 24 months for the second, and permanent disqualification for the third. “You’re OUT!”
Good. If someone hands you a signed blank check from someone else’s checkbook, it’s still wrong if you buy stuff with it. The shoppers who tried to game this showed an impressive lack of class and morals. Yet they’ll squawk loudly if adverse action is taken against them.
It’s good to see them called to the mat. There are too many people working too hard who can’t qualify for EBT — or who won’t accept it – to make this kind of abuse tolerable.
There is opportunity, and there is theft. This is the latter.
This might seem to be a bit of an odd post on a personal finance and bargain website. But it’s one of the more important choices that people make in a lifetime. The choice of your spouse (or the choice not to marry) will change your finances for the rest of your life.
I was reminded of this after reading a brief story of a man who allegedly tossed half a million dollars worth of gold coins into a landfill as part of a divorce dispute. If he did do it, it’s actually not a bad way to dispose of the money. The coins are small and individually heavy, so they’d get quickly buried in a pile of loose refuse. Even the total weight isn’t that much: maybe 25 to 30 pounds. Among hundreds or thousands of tons of trash, they’re gone.
Divorce is expensive, especially if it’s a bitter divorce
I’ve read some stories of divorces that went smoothly, amicably, quickly, and cheaply. Great if you can get out cheaply, but the average divorce costs somewhere in the $15,000 to $20,000 range. (That’s more than our wedding cost.) And that’s just to separate the assets and make both people single again. There may (likely will?) be ongoing costs from one ex to the other.
These are typical expenses, but the figures don’t consider revenge wealth depletion like someone tossing $500,000 into the landfill. The article calls this behavior crazy, but in a way it’s human nature. People — men, usually — see half of their assets walking out the door. So, instead of looking at the half they still have, they work to make the half walking out the door as small as possible. Of course, that usually means destroying their half in the process.
It’s envy-driven, not reason-driven. The goal is to make the other person lose. Period. At all costs. Even personal cost.
So, choose wisely.
Given that nearly half of all first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, this is easier said than done. And just about any married couple will admit that marriage isn’t always easy — that even though you love the person you’re married to, you don’t always like them.
Choose wisely. Marriage is a big decision. In a Christian marriage, it’s a covenant: an agreement between the two parties and God.
After choosing wisely, work things out in the open. Talk. Communicate. You may have chosen wisely, but getting to know one another, what makes the other person tick — or ticked off, what motivates them, and what they’re afraid of takes a lifetime to learn. Not knowing where the other person is coming from causes friction and miscommunication.
If you’ve chosen wisely, and work things out, then cut the other person, and yourself, some slack. Overlooking little offenses goes a long way. Likely the other person isn’t out to get you (if you’ve chosen wisely). Talk things out, but let things go if it won’t matter tomorrow.
Again: Choose wisely. Not doing so can result in a large lifelong expensive. It’s called divorce.
Even though our $80 Keurig machine isn’t ending up to be much of a bargain, we do still buy K-cups for the thing. They’re convenient and decent in a pinch, and cost less than buying coffee out.
Costco regularly has good deals on K-cups. They end up being about half the price of what we’d pay in a grocery store.
Costco sells several brands. We looked at the unit pricing, and almost bought one kind based on the favorable unit pricing. But the unit prices didn’t quite tell us what we needed to know.
Unit pricing usually helps, but sometimes hinders
Just in case you’re not familiar with unit pricing, here’s a brief explanation. Consider two sizes of cans of tomato paste: an 8-ounce can, and a gallon can. The 8-ounce can is priced at $0.47, and the gallon can (128 ounces) is priced at $7.79.
Which is the better deal? We can guess that the bigger size is the better deal. It usually is.
But is it? The unit price (price per ounce) of the 8-ounce can is $0.47 / 8 oz, or 5.9 cents per ounce. The unit price of the gallon can is $7.79 / 128 oz, or 6.1 cents per ounce! So, the smaller can is actually the better deal, and the unit price told us so.
Many grocery stores post the unit price alongside the price of the item. Sometimes it’s required. In general, most of the time, it’s quite useful.
But not always! Here are a few situations that lead to confusion:
- Incorrect unit prices. Someone fat-fingered the numbers on the calculator, and missed. The math isn’t right, and the wrong item appears cheaper per ounce.
- Inconsistent units. Apples need to be compared to apples. If you do unit pricing on one brand of chocolates by the ounce, and another by the “each” or by the chocolate, the unit price comparison is meaningless.
- Sale pricing isn’t reflected in the unit pricing. This doesn’t happen too often, but a change in the price tag happens without a change in the unit pricing. The unit pricing on the sale item ends up being higher than it should be.
My wife and I discovered another more subtle unit pricing misdirection when looking at the Costco deals on K-Cups. It’s not really purposeful misdirection, devious, or anything like that — just something to be aware of.
- Unit prices are correct and consistent, but the unit doesn’t reflect the use of the item. The issue here was that Costco did unit pricing for K-Cups based on net weight. It is indeed a unit comparison, but that’s not how people use the products. They use a cup at a time, regardless of the net weight of the coffee inside the cup.
I wrote down information on three of the boxes to illustrate how this can be confusing. The K-Cups were unit-priced by the pound on the price signs in the store. I also calculated the price per cup, which would be more typical with how the cups are used. The best deal was different in each case:
|Brand||Number of cups||Net weight (pounds)||Price||Unit price per cup||Unit price per pound|
Brand A was the best deal priced per cup, but Brand C was the best deal priced per pound.
Despite how confusing this is, it did bring to light a couple of interesting facts about the K-Cups in general — maybe unintentionally!
- Not all K-Cups are created equal. If all K-Cups used the same amount of coffee in each cup, it wouldn’t matter at all whether the cups were unit-priced by the cup, or by the pound. But some K-Cups have more coffee in them. Brand C had 25% more ground coffee per cup than Brands A and B.
- Not surprisingly, coffee by the K-Cup is expensive. The coffee was between $17 and nearly $24 per pound. That’s very, very expensive. Whole bean coffee is about half that per pound. And ground coffee in a can is half again as much per pound. Unit-pricing the K-Cups per pound really exposed how expensive the coffee is! Since the K-Cups were located far from the other coffee in Costco, some people might not notice the huge difference. But a lot will.
So, be careful with unit pricing. It’s usually helpful, but if something doesn’t sound right, check it out. If there is a mistake, see what the mistake tells you.
My wife enjoys Starbucks. Following the pinch of furloughs and the like, though, she has held back on Starbucks — especially after they discontinued offering free soy with her gold membership. (Apparently a lot of people took advantage of it. Duh!)
With MyPoints, though, I’ve been able to get a $25 Starbucks card once every few months or so, through a combination of clicking on a few e-mail links to visit websites, and cashing in on good point deals for magazine subscription renewals that make them almost free after the points.
Along with the e-mails, they offer online surveys to earn points toward gift cards. Since the surveys take more time than simply clicking on a link in an e-mail, they’re worth more points. Clicking on an e-mail link, when points are offered for the link, is almost always 5 points. (It takes around 4,000 points to get a $25 gift card.) Surveys, though, are usually worth 50 to 75 points if you qualify.
Qualifying for surveys is pretty tough
Notice that the surveys are worth 50 to 75 points if you qualify. When companies conduct a survey, they’re usually looking to sample a very specific population. It might be that the company wants to sample people of a particular gender, income, state of residence, occupation, number of children … or all of the above. Or with even more specific characteristics than this.
So, they structure the survey to first ask some “weed-out” questions — questions that will determine whether you, the survey taker, are in the population that they want to sample. If you answer these questions, and you don’t meet what characteristics they’re looking for, the scripting of the survey will (usually) politely thank you for your time, say that you didn’t qualify, and end the survey there. They won’t pay MyPoints or whomever is administering the full survey for data that doesn’t serve their needs. (They may get demographic information on everyone who started the survey, though. I don’t know for sure.)
In my experience, I rarely qualify for the surveys that are offered on MyPoints. Or, if I don’t qualify, then they’ve already gotten all of the respondents of my type (whatever that is!) and they don’t need any more.
Not qualifying for a survey is pretty easy … and there is a reward for that
The good news is that MyPoints does give you 10 points if you start a survey, but do not qualify for it. This makes business sense all-around:
- The survey-takers get something for their time, and directly related to the time they put into the survey (more if they complete the survey, less if they’re kicked out early).
- MyPoints keeps the survey-taking activity high. If word got out that qualifying was so difficult, and that there was no reward if you didn’t qualify, then participation would drop.
- The companies offering the surveys get a fresher pool of survey-takers.
Your mileage may vary. You might have the right “make-up” for surveys such that you qualify all the time, and they love to survey you.
I just know that I’m not that kind of person. And frankly, that’s all right! I’d rather take a quick 10 points for not qualifying anyway. They’re getting my answers to the weed-out questions in any case.
If you’re the same kind of person I am — one that is likely not to qualify for a survey — then I have a trick that seems to help make that happen a little faster, without lying about anything. (No survey administrator likes you poisoning their results, and they’ll put a stop to it if they suspect you are.)
My trick, given that I rarely qualify for surveys anyway, is that I will “prefer not to answer” any question that allows me to do so. Most of these kinds of questions usually deal with race, gender, income, or age. Not every survey will give questions with a “weasel choice” like this, but a good number do. The less the survey can pigeonhole me, the less likely that I will be identified as being in the population that they want to sample, and the more likely they will pass on giving me the rest of the survey.
But, regardless, I always answer honestly. If they’re “paying” me for my time, I should at least give them what they’re looking for. That way, no one is cheated out of anything. If I get shown the door on the survey quickly, great. If not? Well, then I found the one survey in 40 or 50 that I was a good match for!
There’s plenty of ways to make money that are honest. Taking surveys is one of them if you answer honestly.
The post Effectively (and ethically) participating in online surveys for fun and profit appeared first on Mighty Bargain Hunter.
I was a high-school salutatorian. More often than I’d care to admit, I translate that word as “first loser.” (I married a high-school valedictorian.)
Most people don’t like to fail. They especially don’t like to fail in front of people. Plainly: it’s embarrassing. Your check was in the mail. You were called bluffing a two-seven offsuit.
Actually, it goes beyond dislike and embarrassment. Many people are downright scared of failing — and it costs them a lot in lost opportunities.
Speaking eloquently in front of others is not my strength
So, if failure makes people scared, then failure at speaking in public must make people … I don’t know … scared to the fifth power?
Our local Toastmasters club participates in speech contests twice a year, as many of the clubs do. The fall contests are the Table Topics contest — impromptu speeches — and the Humorous Speech contest.
At the club level (the first level) I ended up placing first for the Table Topics contest, and second for the Humorous Speech contest. (Each competition had three contestants.)
You, sir, have brought a knife to a gunfight …
At the area level (the next level up) I was able to participate in both contests because the winner of the Humorous Speech contest didn’t make the contest. Again, each competition had three contestants.
Man, was I completely outgunned. My competitors were polished speakers. I later found out that the second-place finisher in each contest (who, like myself, competed in both contests) had been speaking publicly as a big part of his job for the better part of twenty years. Both contests consisted of two all-stars and a benchwarmer (me).
I came in last not once, but twice in the same event. And it was completely obvious to everyone there who was who. Pretty horrible, huh?
… but the guns shoot flowers out of their muzzles, so it’s all good.
This failure was one of the better things that’s happened to me this year. Here’s why:
- The worst happened, and I survived. The sun didn’t come crashing down through the top of my car after putting in this performance. I won’t be scared of it any more. (Related: It’s for this reason that I’m half-hoping that my daughter, who’s eight, gets disqualified at one of her swim meets. She hasn’t yet, and she’s scared of it. Getting one under her belt will help her to be more aggressive.)
- I got to see where I really am with regard to public speaking at a competitive level. I’m a competitor at the club level, but not really at the area level, yet. (Well, I did compete, but my opponents were leaps and bounds more experienced than myself.)
- I got to see what the next level — and beyond — looks like. I learned a ton watching my opponents speak. One of the contest masters competed at the international level, so of course he was great. If you are the best person in the room, it’s hard to learn much new about what you’re doing. That’s an advantage of being the worst person in the room: Everything one of your opponents does is a pointer.
- I got lots of feedback and encouragement. The encouraging atmosphere might be a Toastmasters thing but I can’t imagine that it’s totally lacking in other competitive interests. Except at perhaps the very highest levels of any competition, people are doing the competitions primarily to improve their skills. (And Toastmasters is cheap to boot!) So not only did I get to see places where I could improve, but also I got the benefit of others sharing their experience and tips with me. All for being an also-ran. Yet another reason why Toastmasters is a bargain.
- I’ll be more likely to fail — and grow — in the future. The more things one tries, the more chances of finding something that will either have a big return or a huge impact. Having failed here, I’ll be less likely to be scared of failing at other things.
Now, I’m not meaning to justify high-stakes recklessness. Sometimes there are great consequences to failure — like getting fired for some kind of misconduct, for example. But controlled failure, or putting yourself out there when you’re learning something new, has way more upside than downside.
The experience of failure itself is a bargain in self-development, but only if it’s viewed as a positive experience.
No sooner than the furloughs from sequestration were over, many government employees were facing another one — this time due to a government shutdown.
That part looks to be over for the time being, but could reappear at the beginning of calendar year 2014 as the stopgap funding bill expires. For government employees, what was smooth sailing now has a persistent choppiness.
It’s just business
Jump back to the turn of the century for a minute, and picture Alice, who has a small but growing widget company.
Bob, a guy with an associate’s degree and certificates in various forms of shop work, approaches Alice about a job offer he found as he was searching Excite.com. After a brief interview, each realized that this has the potential of being a good arrangement.
Alice says: “I’ll pay you $18/hour for making widgets until one of us stops the arrangement by giving two weeks’ notice.” Bob confirmed his understanding: “I’ll make widgets for you for $18/hour until one of us stops the arrangement by giving the other two weeks’ notice.”
(“We’ll exchange your time for my money until we stop.” It’s usually more complicated than this, of course, but it doesn’t really have to be.)
Bob faithfully makes widgets for Alice for 14 years. Bob is now pulling in $26/hour. Alice has been happy to pay this, because Bob’s labor translates to $80 in profit per hour. The arrangement has been modified several times along the way, but it’s going well.
Alice finally has the capital to hire Charity, a mechanical engineer, to design a machine that will make the widgets faster and better. Bob continues to make widgets as he has been. It’s a good arrangement for him.
A year later, Charity get the machine done! The machine now makes 12 widgets an hour — twice what Bob can make in an hour, even now — and the operation is so easy that Alice can hire Daryl, a high school graduate, at $12/hour to run the machine.
Alice then calls Bob into her office.
Alice: “Bob, please know that this is not an easy decision, but I need to let you go. Our arrangement is terminated two weeks from today.”
Bob: “What?! I don’t understand.”
Alice: “The machine that Charity designed makes the widgets twice as fast as you can, and the tolerances are higher. That, and I can hire someone at less than half your hourly rate to run it. It just doesn’t make good business sense to keep you here, if all you’re doing is making widgets for me.”
Bob: “But … but … I’ve worked for you for fifteen years! I’ve been a loyal employee all that time.”
Alice: “I know you have. Like I said, this isn’t an easy decision. Though our agreement only calls for three weeks’ severance pay, I’m going to give you six.”
Bob: “The job market is awful now. Things were going fine here; I didn’t expect them to end so abruptly.”
Alice: “Two weeks’ notice was our agreement, right? I planned for the possibility that I’d need to train someone to do what you do, and deal with the fact that they’re not as good at what you do as you are — on two weeks’ notice from you.”
Bob: “But … no! Why would I do that to you?”
Alice: “Any number of reasons. Maybe you would find a better job. Maybe you would start your own business, now that you’ve had the opportunity to see how one works yourself. You had that option the whole time, too.”
One statement that’s often made about my generation (I was born in the early 1970s) and those that followed is that we don’t expect to have a single career for our entire working life. Whatever expectation of employer-employee loyalty that might have been there was no longer there.
Whether this is a true statement or not — whether employers and employees are more or less loyal to each other now than they were fifty years ago — isn’t the point. More to the point is that any perception of loyalty is trumped by the details of the employment contract. This was true in the 1960s, and it’s true now.
Do you have a tacit expectation of loyalty from your employer that drives your loyalty to them? Do you think — just like Bob did — that your boss wouldn’t let you go, and therefore you don’t think of leaving yourself?
If you do, check your employment contract for a “job for life” clause.
Oh? You can’t find one? There’s something similar to a bidirectional two weeks’ notice clause in there?
Any perceived loyalty is just that: a perception. Which can easily be mistaken for a delusion.
The fix for this is to get options open before you need to have them. Invest in yourself. Start a blog. Anything that will either (a) increase your chances of finding another job should your current one dry up, or (b) give you more time to find another job because you have extra money coming in the door.
Reduce your dependence on your employer before they forcibly make you independent of them.
The post Plowing through a furlough: Reducing dependence on one employer appeared first on Mighty Bargain Hunter.
Rebate sites are an extremely easy way to save money on online purchases. You can keep a bit more of your money in your pocket as you shop online simply by clicking through these sites instead of visiting the store directly!
Just like no grocery store always has the best prices, no rebate site always has the highest rebate for a particular store. It pays to shop around!
Which is why I’m proud to unleash my cash back comparison tool for you to use. With it you can compare rebates offered from the following rebate sites (more to come):
Using the tool is easy:
- Start typing in the name of a store you’re looking to shop at.
- After you get a few characters in, select the store from the list that drops in below where you’re typing.
- In a couple of seconds, available rebates will appear, with the highest rebates on top.
- Click through to the rebate site, and you’re on your way to spending less on that purchase!
Once you get to the rebate site, it’s almost as easy:
- Sign up for the rebate site if you haven’t. (They have to know who you are to pay you!)
- Sign in to the site after you’ve signed up. (They have to know that you’re the one doing the clicking through to pay you!)
- Follow their rules to make sure that you get the credit you’re due for the purchase. Though there are a lot of variations, it usually boils down to this: if they don’t get paid, you don’t get paid. The stores send them a commission after your purchase, and they share part of that commission with you. If there’s no commission, there’s no sharing for them to do.
Here’s a summary of good rebating practices that will get you 90% of the way there without reading all of their instructions in detail:
- Make sure you’re signed in. The rebate site will probably warn you that you won’t get any cash back if you’re not signed in, but why take any chance at all?
- If they offer coupons, use theirs with your purchase. Some of the sites reserve the right to not pay out rebates if you use off-site coupons.
- Click through their links to the store. This is the place that the rebate site tells the store that they’re referring your purchase, so they can get paid for your purchase. You want to make sure that they get paid, because that’s how you get paid.
- Look for a visual indication that they’re tracking your purchase. This is usually prominent. If you’re not sure, then learn how the site does this. Seeing nothing may mean that they’re not tracking you, which means they won’t get paid. Which means you won’t get paid.
- Surf as little as possible until you pay for your stuff at the store. If you visit other sites in between, you may reset who sent you to that store: the rebate site. If they don’t get paid, you don’t get paid.
- Shop reasonably quickly. Not “leave the engine running” quickly, but within an hour or so. I wouldn’t start your purchase one day and finish it the next, because the tracking session could expire. If they don’t get paid …
- Look for the rebates in your account. There’s usually a waiting period before you can cash out. Further, it may take weeks for the rebate to post. If it goes beyond the time that they advertise, ask them what’s happening.
- Make sure that your payment information is accurate and up-to-date. I’ve missed some checks because I forgot to update my address after I moved. (Yeah, really.) If they don’t know where to send your payment, you won’t get it.
And finally, one more list with a few notes and points of clarification:
- The rebate sites are the ones that pay you. Mighty Bargain Hunter is not a rebate site. The tool on this site will help you to find which rebate site has the best rebate, but they are the ones that will pay you. (Having said that, if you have questions about how to use these sites, let me know and I’ll try to help.)
- The links to the rebate sites may be affiliate links, which means I may earn commissions if you sign up through the links on this site. Doing this will not affect the rebates you earn. You’d earn exactly the same percentages if you signed up on the rebate sites directly. (Having said that, I do hope that you use the links on my site if you find the tool useful. Think of it as a way to say “thank you” that doesn’t cost you a dime.)
- If your favorite rebate site isn’t in the tool, please let me know. I’ve developed relationships with the site owners of the ones in the tool, and these take time. (As all things worthwhile do.) Please let me know of sites that you want to see in the tool, and I’ll pursue getting them in.
- I welcome any feedback you have about the tool. Please let me know how it’s working for you, what you’d like to see in it, and especially if you see something that isn’t working. I want the tool to be useful to you!
The post The Mighty Bargain Hunter Cash Back Comparison Tool appeared first on Mighty Bargain Hunter.
A friend from college shared a funny picture from his calendar. The content of the sign:
Funerals 50% Off
He asked what a half-off funeral might be. I said: “One foot in the grave.”
Then he asked me if the Mighty Bargain Hunter approves. I gave that comment a like.
As long as the bottom doesn’t fall out before the casket is lowered
Jack Nicholson’s character, Warren Schmidt, in About Schmidt, did very well financially. He was a career employee of an insurance company. At one point in the movie, he goes through the emotional wringer as he has to make decisions on burial arrangements for a loved one.
Following the funeral, a family member criticized him:
Family member: “Why did you get such a cheap casket?”
Warren Schmidt: “What?!”
Family member: “I could tell you got the cheapest casket. Everybody could.”
Warren Schmidt: “Oh that is not true. That is not true. I specifically did not choose, as you say, the cheapest casket. There was one less expensive which they showed me. I refused it.”
Family member: “You mean … a pine box?”
Warren Schmidt: “I don’t remember what it was.”
I remember really being ticked at the family member as I watched that scene. I also remember cheering for Schmidt. Good for him. He didn’t let the funeral home use guilt against him to extract more money from him in his time of grief.
Being caught flat-footed when loved ones are toe-tagged
I don’t fault funeral directors for offering their services, and I’m not up for restricting how they offer them. They can only bury the person once, so they’d better capitalize on it as best as they can.
(Whether they’re right or not in closing the burial market by regulation is another matter. The lobbying for the funeral industry is strong in my state. There are restrictions on who can sell me a casket in-state.)
As with any reasonably expensive purchase — that’s part of what a funeral is, right? — it’s up to us to purchase wisely. It’s not wise to wait until the time of need to think through the mechanics of the funeral. It’s unlikely that sound financial choices will be made amidst all of the intense emotion.
Death isn’t pleasant to think about. Giving the funeral arrangements some thought while your mind is still clear, though, is wise. If your burial wishes are known, then the funeral becomes mechanical and fewer choices need to be made by loved ones immediately after you die.
A couple of other times that you’ll want to plan ahead a bit so as not to be fleeced with guilt:
- Weddings. Yes, I know it’s easier for men on the whole to think objectively about wedding expenses. This is another one-time deal for everyone involved. (At least that’s the intention; whether it ends up being a one-time deal is a coin toss statistically.)
- Veterinarians. Sadly, we had to put down an old friend a couple of weeks ago. The vet told my wife that she had made a wise decision. Other vets, though, will not say this. They will dig in their heels about euthanizing a pet if there are ways to prolong the pet’s life either through treatments or surgery. One might interpret it as “having a heart for animals” but it’s also hard to argue that it’s not a conflict of interest. Deciding to put an animal down is hard, and it doesn’t help if the vet makes it harder.
Guilt is expensive if you let people manipulate it. Don’t.
I didn’t know that there was a term for “buying a piece of clothing with the intent of returning it after wearing it for one evening.” It’s called wardrobing and it apparently cost stores nearly $9 billion last year, according to the National Retail Federation.
Bloomingdale’s is taking matters into its own hands to combat this practice. The idea is simple: large, conspicuous tags front and center on commonly-returned items that must remain attached if the item is to be returned. The tags are attached to the item after it’s bought. The tags are difficult to re-attach, if not completely impractical. The line of thinking is that if the dress is worn out on the town, the tags will be removed. Otherwise, the wearer would look really silly.
How can people think this is all right?
Being a habitual returner gets people on the bad side of stores. Returns cost the store money — reversing transactions, repackaging, restocking, and more. I don’t like returning things. Returning items often isn’t a bargain — especially because stores track how much you return.
It’s a waste of time. What’s more, a customer becomes less and less valuable in the eyes of the store the more they return.
These are consequences of returning items in perfectly salable condition. Unopened items. Unworn items.
But deliberately using an item and then expecting to return it for a refund takes a lot of nerve. I mean … seriously?
Wardrobing isn’t frugal. It’s not even cheap. It’s fraudulent. This goes beyond eating out and not leaving a decent tip. This is like dining and dashing.
I’m glad Bloomingdale’s is making it really tough for people to return worn clothing. I can only hope that other stores start to do this, and that their managers have the backbone not to give in if the customer goes ballistic. As big as the problem might be, it’s likely only a small fraction of a store’s customers expect to practice wardrobing. Those customers should be fired.
Keeping honest people honest
Back when I was in college — over twenty years ago (yikes!) — our fraternity’s president had a issue with people pilfering various liquid supplies. So he locked them down.
The way he put it was that locking the stuff down “kept honest people honest.” He used the word honest twice: once to describe the behavior, and again to describe the people. He didn’t mention the dishonest people at all, but locking the stuff down eliminated the problem of dishonest people taking stuff without paying for it.
Bloomingdale’s’ new policy doesn’t really affect honest people. Those who pay for an article of clothing with no intent whatsoever to practice wardrobing aren’t inconvenienced. The tag isn’t hard to remove. The dishonest ones will go elsewhere, though.
Wardrobing raises the cost for everyone. Cutting off the practice at the knees will help to stabilize the cost for honest customers.
Gift cards are not as liquid as cash. Gift cards are good for most purchases at a particular store — or a particular set of stores — but nowhere else. This is why there’s a secondary market for unwanted gift cards:
- People sell their unwanted gift cards for a discount to face value.
- They might sell to the buyer directly on eBay. The buyer gets the card at a discount to face value.
- They might sell the card to a site like Raise.com or Cardpool.com. These sites buy cards at a (typically) steeper discount, sell them to buyers at a lesser discount, and pocket the difference.
The discount amount that the market will bear varies widely by the merchant. Overall, the less the demand for gift cards from a particular merchant, the steeper the discount. If a merchant’s cards are in high demand, they don’t go for much of a discount at all.
Why are some particular gift cards in such high demand?
The fact that some gift cards go for a razor-thin discount begs the question: Why?
It boils down to utility. There are three factors that I see as increasing the utility of a particular store:
- Price. You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t like to buy things for less. Stores that already sell for low prices have an advantage here. This makes gift cards for stores like Walmart, Target, Costco, and Amazon.com go for only a few percent discount. Heck, 5.5% is a huge discount for a Walmart card. A card at that discount gets snapped up in a minute!
- Variety. A store that specializes in one particular type of merchandise has less overall utility than a store that spans the gamut. This contributes to small discounts for gift cards at department stores like (again) Amazon.com and Walmart, as well as Target, Kohl’s, and Sears.
- Necessity. When you gotta, you gotta. Businesses like gas stations and grocery stores sell necessities. If you’re going to spend the money anyway, then why not spend less? Gift cards for gas stations regularly sell for only a few percent discount — if you can find them!
So, not only do these kinds of gift cards make for a good opportunity to save a few bucks, they also make pretty good … gifts! You’re pretty sure that they’ll be used, and not resold.
The post Gift cards at these stores are just about as good as cash appeared first on Mighty Bargain Hunter.
Odds are good that you’ve heard of NBC’s Million Second Quiz, which is about half over now. If you haven’t, the premise is simple:
- The quiz is a million seconds long.
- You earn money by sitting in the Money Chair. You get into the Money Chair by beating the person in the Money Chair at a multiple-choice trivia quiz. You stay in the Money Chair by continuing to win.
- The amount you earn by sitting in the Money Chair is $10 per second.
- (@cassidyrobinson): “If I could just sit in the money chair for five minutes, I’d be set…” – my husband while watching #MSQ.
- (@mbhunter): @cassidyrobinson Five minutes in the #MSQ Money Chair is (A) $3,000 (B) $10,000 (C) $30,000 (D) $100,000. You’ve got five seconds …
- (@cassidyrobinson): @mbhunter a) 3,000! Haha
- (@mbhunter): “And 2 Points to @cassidyrobinson …”
She was a good sport about answering my question. I wouldn’t be too surprised if her husband thought that five minutes in the Money Chair was worth a bit more than $3,000. Nonetheless, $3,000 for five minutes worth of work is exceptional. That’s a $36,000 hourly rate. If that were a 40 hour/week job, 50 weeks a year, it would be a $72 million annual salary.
But what if $3,000 were just an annual salary? Where would that place us in the grand scheme of things?
In the US, $3,000 is a little more than one-quarter of the single-member household poverty threshold. In other words, almost in the bottom quartile — of the impoverished. Or, if you were one of the guys that was picked last in gym class, everyone else *in that group* was picked before you.
But that’s just us. (I’m American, so when I say “we,” “us,” or “here,” I’m referring to Americans and the US.) To put that into global perspective, I visited the Global Rich List. A $3,000 annual salary is above average on a world scale! If the world consisted of just ten people, a person earning $3,000 per year would have the third-highest salary.
But that’s not just poverty level here. It’s deep poverty here.
Americans are indeed filthy rich
If a very poor person here can be the third-richest guy in a room of ten people from the world at large, that says something profound. We have an absolute abundance of riches, yet many of us still feel that we’re falling behind. A six-figure salary here would make that person “the 1%” on a world scale, yet this isn’t enough. It would nip at the heels of the top 20% in the US for household income, yet few in this position would claim that they don’t worry about money.
If we’re this filthy stinking rich, you wouldn’t know it by the way we act or talk.
Why is this? Why is this not enough?
It’s partially because we’re also huge spenders. We buy vehicles that cost four to five figures, and then pour three to four figures per month to keep them going. We buy houses in the five to six figure range that cost thousands of dollars, or more, to run each year. We have schools that educate our students to the tune of $100,000 or more, each.
We have subscriptions. Oh, boy, do we have subscriptions: cable TV, gym membership, cell phone, internet, pest control, garbage pickup, grocery delivery, satellite radio, security, and — of course — magazines and newspapers.
It really makes me wonder what it would take to say: “I have $3,000 and I’m set.” I fully admit that it’s out of my comprehension. Maybe someone can say that, and mean it. Certainly lots of people — billions — earn far less than this in a year; can they say it and mean it? Or do they just have to make do with what they earn?
One thing’s for sure: They don’t spend as much as we do. They can’t.
That’s something we’ve done to ourselves, and it’s why you wouldn’t know that we’re rich.
The post Americans are filthy rich, but you wouldn’t know it appeared first on Mighty Bargain Hunter.