Everyone should own a paper shredder. SomeGal and I get all kinds of paper, mostly through the US Postal service, that contains potentially valuable and/or sensitive information. Items of particular concern include mobile phone bills, which contain our cell phone numbers, call history, and account numbers. Another group of sensitive items are financial paperwork: bank statements, retirement account statements, and credit card bills and offers. We regularly receive “ready to use checks” from our credit cards, which are essentially cash out instruments (read: high rates) that we never use.
We religiously use our shredder on all the items listed above, plus anything else that might be sensitive.
I’ve noticed that Netflix DVD by mail seems to be taking longer each time. It seems like it takes about one more day to process DVDs that we’ve returned and that it takes about one more day for us to receive the next one.
Since Netflix’s DVD by mail service is fixed price, one way they could easily increase their bottom line is by slowing down their service. Making service 20% slower would probably cut their costs by a similar percentage.
Given the recent mistakes they’ve made (splitting the streaming and DVD by mail services, raising prices, reducing streaming catalog, etc.), this seems like a bad idea. Has anyone else noticed this slowdown?
SomeGal and I often use 0% APR purchase cards when booking travel in advance since many places require partial or complete payment up front. In the old days, a lot of cards offered 0% APR AND $0/0% balance transfer fees. Most cards these days have 3% balance transfer fees. However, this Chase Slate card has 0% APR for 15 billing cycles and 0% balance transfer fees. If you have any kind of interest charging balance, you should consider taking advantage of this offer. As always, make sure you look closely at the terms. You can apply here.
We already have a Citi Card with 18-months at 0% APR on purchases and intend to pay that at the end of the free period so we don’t need the Slate.
I’m sure everyone has seen some kind of hype about “rainforest” shower heads. In my opinion, these things are genius on the part of marketers and ignorance or lack of experience on the part of consumers.
They are marketing genius because they’re yet another way to make consumers feel like something they already have is outdated or not good enough. Do a quick search on Amazon.com for “rainforest shower head” and the first item (below) returned is nearly $200!
Marketing Hype - Rainforest showerhead
Besides being expensive, I find them less comfortable and useful than regular shower heads. First, as a tall guy, it’s easier to hit my head on one. Also, having a big column of water coming down directly vertically (versus at an angle like normal showers) feels a little bit like what I imagine waterboarding to be like. Finally, it’s tougher to take care of the primary business of showering — getting clean. It’s harder to get good water flow to areas like underarms and even rinsing one’s hair is tougher with the lower speed/pressure rainforest type heads.
So am I wrong? Does anyone truly love their rainforest style head?
CNN.com has an interesting article about the merging of work and personal identities. It points out that one of the most common questions newly-acquainted folks ask each other is “what do you do for a living”. It also points out that many answers to that question automatically categorize the answerer. Lawyer means lots of money, fancy cars, and happiness. McDonald’s means poor and unmotivated and thus unhappy.
These assumptions bother me from a factual and a more general standpoint. From a factual standpoint, many lawyers live like students because when they were students they lived like lawyers (i.e., beyond their means). Also, I know folks who own a number of McDonald’s or other fast-food chain franchises and are worth millions. From a general standpoint, the assumptions annoy me even more. Perhaps someone works in a lower-paying job because it gives them something else he or she wants. It could be fewer or more regular hours, or the job itself could be more rewarding.
All things being equal, I do think more money means more happiness. But, all things never are equal. The real trick is finding the right balance, a balance that is different for each individual. To that end, I like the article’s suggestion to substitute “what was the last thing that took your breath away” for “what do you do”.
The maximum contribution an individual can make to a 401(k) plan has been increased to $17,000 for 2012. In 2011 it is 16,500. Those of us who are self-employed and have an Individual (aka Solo) 401(k) follow the same limits as those in employer-sponsored plans, plus can contribute a percentage of net income. I will cover Individual 401(k)s in more detail in another post soon.
A small, local granite and marble dealer gave me a great money-saving tip some years ago. Instead of buying and using expensive and “specialized” granite countertop cleaners, make your own inexpensive solution using rubbing alcohol. I have found that a 50-50 mix with water and ~95% isopropyl alcohol is sufficient. I spent about $10 on a high-quality spray bottle from Home Depot because the cheapo ones that drip and don’t atomize the spray properly drive me crazy. Bottles of alcohol are just over a buck locally. I think this do-it-yourself solution actually cleans better than any of the specialized cleaners. The alcohol evaporates quickly, avoiding streaks and drips, and it also should sanitize nicely.
Any time I see a consumer (and often business) purchase called an investment, it raises a red flag. I love it when a consumer calls buying a new luxury car or a vendor calls the purchase of a some new system or software an investment. I realize there are exceptions to every rule. For example, I’m sure there are a few folks out there for whom a high-line automobile truely and directly makes them money. For the vast majority of us, though, having an Acura TL versus a Honda Accord has no real impact on income.
This post isn’t supposed to be a debate on the precise definition of invest or investment — you can get that here. Suffice it to say that, by most definitions, the items above aren’t an investment. A stock, bond or mutual fund is. Money spent on education could also be. The easiest litmus test I can think of is that an investment is something on which money is spent with the primary goal of making more than was originally spent. Another way to think about it is that something you want almost surely isn’t an investment while something you need may be.
Finally, the tablet market is getting interesting and competition is heating up. The iPad and iPad 2 have pretty much dominated the market and I think the Amazon Kindle Fire, due in November, is going to change that.
The Fire will have a smaller screen (7″ vs. 10″) than the iPad and it won’t initially have a 3G/4G data connection option. It will weigh a little less than the iPad and have slightly less battery life. However, the big news, as everyone doubtless knows, is that the Fire will cost $200 versus $600+ for the iPad.
I think this will open up a whole new realm of potential buyers who can’t or won’t shell out so much for an iPad. Personally speaking, carrying a $200 device everywhere causes me a lot less worry and hassle than a $600+ device. More generally speaking, I think a $200 tablet may open some doors in the business world as well for the same reason.
SomeGal and I have been patiently waiting to get our first tablet or tablets although she ended up pre-ordering and is set to receive one of the first Fires. I am going to wait a little longer because I think/hope Apple will announce version 3 of its iPad with the Retina display. It will also give me a chance to check out the Fire and see how livable a 7″ display is.