Sunday, July 13, 2014

Trickle Down Consumption

Trickle Down Consumption
I was driving to a kickball game the other day, when I heard a cool story on Marketplace about those little white oval stickers with two big letters that people sometimes put on their bumpers. You know, "GB" for Great Britain, or "F" for France, stating the places the driver has visited, or where he's from. The stickers were created by the UN back in the 1940s, in Europe. There were so many drivers from other parts of the world that the United Nations created the stickers as an easy way to identify the country the driver was from. The reporter notes that, "in the US, they became a status symbol: EH for East Hampton, or AK for Nantucket. Secret codes that said the driver of this car lives or vacations in America's most elite resorts." These days, the stickers are a way to brag about the cool places you've been, or a flag you can send up as a beacon, hoping others from your home town might be living in this new place with you.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Penny Saved is More Than a Penny Earned

I like debating false dichotomies. Black and white is more interesting than fifty shades of grey, right? So I really enjoy reading posts on whether we should devote our energy towards earning more or reducing our expenses. Yes, of course, the right answer is "both," but that's boring. Plus, we only have a finite number of hours and an equally finite amount of willpower to aim at behavior change. As anyone who creates a laundry list of new goals in January can tell you, spreading yourself too thin just results in broad failure. Like Joe Saul Sehy says, narrowing your focus to a small set of financial goals is the (only) way to success. So, if you have to choose between earning more and saving more, which way do you go?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Betting on Yourself

Betting on Yourself
Like so many others, I am a secret fan of "American Ninja Warrior". This is not television that you admit liking to coworkers around the water cooler. As with romantic comedies, the catalog of Katy Perry, and anything from KFC, American Ninja Warrior ought to be enjoyed in private, behind closed doors with the curtains drawn, and then should never be spoken of again. Like a lot of television, the show is a copy of a copy: the original program is from Japan, but NBC has kept the general format. Fit people from across the US try to complete an impossible series of obstacle courses, failing spectacularly as they careen into padded walls and then splash awkwardly into the water below. Competitors hurl themselves across chasms to grab comically small hand-holds mid-flight, propel themselves over water via trampolines, and, no joke, must run up a curved fourteen foot high wall just to complete the qualifying round. In the show's history, no American has even made it to the fourth and final course, let alone completed it. I find it strangely motivating to watch. It is the only show that gets me off the couch to do push-ups and ab workouts during the commercials. With all these athletes attempting the impossible, I mysteriously get off my tuchus and onto the living room floor.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Hotel Soaps and Externalities

Hotel Soaps and Externalities
When we're on vacation, we steal hotel shampoo. And conditioner. And, fine, yeah, we steal the free lotion and soaps and razors, too. Like, every day when housekeeping brings a new bottle containing any sort of liquid, it goes directly into Mrs. Done by Forty's bag. So after eight nights in hotels down in South America last month, we had a pretty sizable stash. It got to the point that we were a bit concerned about the weight of her suitcase when checking in at the airport. Still, it begs the question: is it wrong to check out with a few pounds of "free" hotel swag?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Vaca's Over...Back to Reality

Vaca's Over...Back to RealityThe good times had to end sometime. Our vacation is over, so I am back at home and back to work. I wrote this post on Sunday from the Mexico City airport, thanks to a handy table in the food court with electricity outlets and an especially nice retail employee who shared a wifi password. It's amazing how quickly an eight hour layover passes when you have Netflix at your fingertips. At the touch of my mouse, I have all the episodes of Parks and Rec and Archer that a man could ever ask for. We are truly a lucky people.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Anchoring in Montevideo

Anchoring in Montevideo
We are here in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, which apparently is not pronounced "Mon-tee-VID-ee-o" as I originally had thought. We live, we learn. Once again we were able to score a room upgrade with the hotel when we let the good people at the front desk know that we were celebrating our three year anniversary, and they were so nice that they gave us a suite. After going out for dinner, we came home to find a chocolate cake and a card waiting for us. (And maybe even more importantly, free wifi.) I can't say enough good things about the good people at the Four Points here -- everyone on the staff is so dang nice.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Cash in Buenos Aires

Hi there, blogging buddies. I'm writing from the comfy confines of our hotel in Buenos Aires, while my beautiful wife sleeps in. The hotel is nicer than the digs we'd normally stay in, but Holly from Club Thrifty introduced us to our very first hotel travel hack about a year ago, and we're using our Starwood points to get eight free hotel nights here and in Montevideo. And because we paid with points, I think the guy at the front desk mistook us for globetrotters who stay in Sheratons all the time, as he upgraded our room, gave us free wifi (normally $10 a day here) and, best of all, gave us access to this "Sheraton Club", which may be my favorite thing at any hotel, ever. They give you free breakfast (a really decent one, with eggs, bacon, fancy espresso drinks and everything) and free snacks throughout the day. Like, whenever you want. Feeling peckish at 10 pm? Go up and grab some little appetizer sandwiches and desserts. Want to grab some fruit or a Coke midday before heading out on a walk? No problem. It's been only two days and the staff up front already know me by name. I am totally abusing this system for free food. As always, I feel no shame.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Investment Properties, Indexing, and Use Value

Investment Properties, Indexing, and Use Value
Before diving into the post, I need to apologize for not writing more often and for not reading the posts that you all have written. I swore I wouldn't be the type of blogger who would start out posts that way, but here I am. I've been in a funk the past couple months with Mrs. Done by Forty still abroad (off and on since September), and it is finally catching up to me. I'm a bit depressed. It is impacting a lot: work, health, and writing, of course. Trying to just snap myself out of it has proved to not be effective. Despite my best efforts, I have turned into a sad little monkey. Still, I'm trying to find ways to improve my mood, and that will hopefully improve my writing frequency, too. Thanks for your understanding!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Preaching to the Choir

Preaching to the Choir
When I see who is commenting on the blog, sometimes I have to ask myself why I write about personal finance at all. I mean, most of you who read and comment here have your own personal finance blogs, and, let's face it, you know at least as much about this stuff as I do. We may differ on the varying approaches of debt repayment or investing strategies. But if you read the blog and leave a comment here, my guess is that out of the hundreds or thousands of people in your network of friends, family, and coworkers, you are the person who least needs to read a blog about personal finance. You already have your stuff together. You know how this money thing works. Heck, you know enough about cost cutting, budgeting, investing, tax efficiency, and financial independence to actually write about it three times a week.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Wait Till I Get My Money Right...

Wait Till I Get My Money Right...I had a dream I could buy my way to heaven.
When I awoke, I spent that on a necklace.
I told God I'd be back in a second.
Man, it's so hard not to act reckless....

I feel the pressure, under more scrutiny.
And what do I do? Act more stupidly.
Bought more jewelry, more Louis V.
My momma couldn't get through to me....

I'm just saying how I feel man.
I ain't one of the Cosby's -- I ain't go to Hillman.
I guess the money should've changed him.
I guess I should've forgot where I came from.
-Kanye West