Marketplace Money and Credit Cards

March 04, 2007

Note: This post was migrated from my old blog software. It hasn't been cleaned up yet (and might not ever be). Don't be surprised if the formatting, links, images, etc... are messed up.

I really started paying attention to money when I was in college somewhere around the age of 20. Largely after I started listening to the NPR show that was then called Sounds Money (now called Marketplace Money). Incidentally, I think pretty much everyone should listen to that show. You can listen to show online and they also have podcasts. Generally, the show has a basic theme for the week which isn't always of interest. However, if the main theme isn't directly related to me, there are almost always good, down to earth discussions that are very helpful. I can largely credit this show with my first introduction to how money really works. For example, one thing they tend to talk about is how it's not in your favor to carry credit card debt. My freshman year in college I signed up for a credit card and proceeded to max it out (to I think $500) pretty quickly. Not a big deal as I could easily afford the minimum monthly payments. Of course, the interest the card was charging (if memory servers around %16) wasn't working in my favor. I kind of got this intuitively each time I paid the bill but it never really clicked. So, over the next few years I kept adding to my credit card debt. Naturally, the credit card companies helped me out in this by upping my limit each time I moved in around the max. It wasn't till I started listening to the show that the actual amount I was actually paying started to click. And more to the point, the fact that I was effectively paying way more for things than the initial purchase price because of the interest really got to me once I understood it. At that point in time, I was still in school and was pretty much self supported. I wasn't starving by any means, but I certainly wasn't raking it in. Based mostly on what I had learned on the show, I started to pay off my credit cards. I would still charge things to them occasionally, but in general I was trying to pay them down. I don't remember when I finally got them completely paid off, but once I did, I kept them that way. This is not to say that I don't still use them. I put most of my purchases on my credit card these days. The difference is that now I pay it off in full each month. I don't even know what the interest rate on my card is right now, because it doesn't really have any baring on me. I never pay interest because I always pay the card balance off in full when the bill is due. I'll be the first to say, that it was not easy to pay off the card. This came from two levels. First, I was in a college job when I first stated so there wasn't a tremendous amount of income heading my way. The second thing was the fact that as soon as I paid some down on the card I would be sorely tempted to use the newly available credit to get any number of things. This was much harder to deal with. What finally helped get me there though was reminding myself that I wanted any interest to be coming into my pocket instead of going out. Discounting Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and the other few super-duper-ultra-rich in the world, there will always be more things out there that we want than we will be able to afford. Credit cards (and the like) allow us to get some of these things when we really shouldn't, but they charge a hefty price for this. Not only do we end up paying the interest to the them that wouldn't be necessary if we made the purchase in cash (or paid off the card every month), but it also prevents us from saving money for ourselves. This is badness compounded by the fact that we also lose the growth that those savings would have otherwise provided. Your classic Double Whammy. The wild thing about this is that if you manage to tip the scales in the other way and save money so that interest and other returns are coming in, after a while you'll have a lot more money to do things with. If you don't, it's not hard to end up paying for things forever with much less to show for it. So, all this is to say, if you have a credit card and you carry debt over month to month and pay interest on it, I'd recommend really taking a look at what you are spending on and see if you can't start to swing things back in your favor.


Budget Wino

March 04, 2007

Note: This post was migrated from my old blog software. It hasn't been cleaned up yet (and might not ever be). Don't be surprised if the formatting, links, images, etc... are messed up.

I like wine. I know very little about it. I generally pick my wine based on the label when I go to the store because I've done no prep work. Enter The Budget Wino. The blogger reviews $10 bottles of wine and provides reviews of them. The reviews are nice to go check out, but the best thing about the site is the spreadsheet he provides. Armed with this, it makes the trip down your local wine isle much more fruitful and less prone to the hit and miss of the "that label looks cool" selection process. The secondary benefit is that I don't generally remember the wines that I like. With the spreadsheet, I'm hoping to fine that my tastes are in line with his so I can just piggy back off his selections. The first one I tried was the Yellowtail Reserve Shiraz. It was quite nice. Incidentally, the spreadsheet is put together with Google Apps. This is the first time I've really seen the product used. It's a great use. Make a simple spreadsheet and then share it with what I'm guessing was very little fuss or muss. That's a trend I expect to see continue.


Public Domain and the Internet

March 04, 2007

Note: This post was migrated from my old blog software. It hasn't been cleaned up yet (and might not ever be). Don't be surprised if the formatting, links, images, etc... are messed up.

Just found a link to LibriVox. From their front page: "LibriVox provides free audiobooks from the public domain". That's awesome. I'm a huge fan of audio books. In fact over last Christmas I was talking with my mom about the way I learn and the fact that I had a lot of "resource classes" when I was a kid. Something I didn't know, but I don't guess should have surprised me is that I am by default much more of an auditory learner. With a lot of help I basically overcame this, but I still don't read as fast as someone who processes the written word with natural ease. When I read I basically have to "hear" the words in my head so they go through the audio part of my brain. With audio books, I don't have to expend the extra effort. The catalog at LibriVox isn't that deep yet, but the first notable ones I saw include: "Aesop's Fables", "Pride and Prejudice", and the Gettysburg Address.


Public Wireless

March 02, 2007

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Was browsing thru the public library when I got a call about an error on the site. Cool thing is the library has open wireless. So, I just pulled out the laptop and jumped on. I was a little worried that I wouldn't be able to get all the way into the stuff that I need at the office, but the VPN (Virtual Private Network) worked like a champ. Sometimes open wireless won't let you use a VPN, but it wasn't a problem. It's actually wild to think that you could completely run an online business these days without having your own internet connection. In fact, if you were willing to use the library computers, you wouldn't even have to have your own. Just pay $10/month for a web account. (Of course, you could probably even set one up for free somewhere, but you get the idea.)


New quiet case

March 01, 2007

Note: This post was migrated from my old blog software. It hasn't been cleaned up yet (and might not ever be). Don't be surprised if the formatting, links, images, etc... are messed up.

I've been trying to make my computer as quite as possible for a while now. Just got a new case to help the cause. It's an Antec P180 that was designed with help from the guy who runs SilentPCReview.com. I think it's great that Antec used him as a resource. I've been reading that site for a few years now. Lots of really good tips in there. So far the case is working very nicely. Someday, I still want to build one completely out of wood and build it into the desk itself. I'm convinced that I can make one that is effectively silent.


Down time

March 01, 2007

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So, I finally got a little down time with this past Monday and Tuesday off. Of course, the only reason that happened was because I was sick. Jackass in the office last week was obviously sick but came in every day. So, starting Sat. it caught up with me. Lost the whole weekend and Monday and Tues. Jackass. Found out Wed. when I came back that three other people in the office got the bug as well. Jackass.


Prosper.com

February 04, 2007

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This is interesting: Prosper.com. Need to do a little more research on it, but it bills itself as people-to-people lending. A massive amount of loans coordiated without a bank given the thumbs up.


SpeedCasts

February 03, 2007

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Our brains can process the spoken word faster than we tend to speak. An idea for a new service based on that is to take podcasts and digitally speed them up for people. With digital audio editing it's possible to speed up clips without making them sound like the chipmonks. This means you could listen to more podcasts in a given time. A basic setup would be a web site that people would go to and simply enter the URI of the podcast they are interested in along with the amount of adjustment to make. Say, 5, 10 or 15 percent. I'm not sure what the real numbers would be and it would need some experimenting to see at what point the speed becomes too much, but you get the idea. The web site would then simply return a new podcast URI to use instead of the original one. At a given interval the site would check for new show on the original podcast and if there was one, download it, apply the speed adjustment and update the client feed to inform them of the new show. Since this is all automated, you could also drop in a short ad at the front and back of the clip. A "this podcast was speed up to save you time by fasterpodcast.com and is sponsored by Joe's bait shop." I'm not sure what the rights issues would be, but since the web site is really nothing more than a filter for content, it might be all right. Of course, I'm sure there would be lawyers invovled at some point. If someone does this and makes a ton of money, please just throw a little my way.


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