Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Punny Poll #15: Gas, Electric Corded, Battery-Powered, or Manual?

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

i have the power!

Oops, I let the videogame poll run for about sixteen years. But that’s okay! As it turns out, over 30% of you have dropped between 1K and 10K on your lifetime videogaming habits, and just under 5% have broken five figures! Roughly 20% of you haven’t spent a dime on games, and that just makes me sad. Well, not so much sad as hungry.

mower, insert grass here

On to the next poll which is inspired by the fact that I finally cut my lawn today. Yes, folks, Nick has lost his lawn-mowing virginity, and it feels so good. It felt even better to roll around the yard in my new Scotts push reel mower. It’s so much fun seeing the grass get clipped away… and weeds… and flowers… and… uh… oops, squirrel.

I’m thinking about my next lawn and garden purchases which will likely be in the weed trimmer and/or leaf blower category. I borrowed a friend’s electric corded weed trimmer today, and while it did a fabulous job, that extension cord is a pain in the grass. So I’m starting to lean toward electric cordless equipment, even if it is more expensive and less powerful. Or could I go with gas? Or maybe I should be on my hands and knees manually cutting each blade of grass to a precise height of 1.735 inches.

Help me out, Punny People!

Which type of lawn equipment do you prefer?

View Results

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Five Ways to Die This Black Friday

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , , ,

alas, poor black friday shopper! i knew him, horatio

I almost died three years ago on the day after Thanksgiving. Well, “almost died” may be a stretch. We’ll just say I feared for my life.

Was it a bad case of turkey poisoning? After-holiday blues? Nope, just a good old-fashioned case of going to Wal-Mart on a Black Friday.

If you’ve never been to Wal-Mart on a Black Friday (you know, that magical day of shopping deals right after Thanksgiving), here’s what you’ll find:

  • Incredible bargains.
  • Amazing deals.
  • Sales events of the year!
  • A mob of absolutely freakin’ insane sub-human creatures.

black friday, all hope abandon ye who enter here

I’m still too traumatized to fully recount the experience, but let’s just say I won’t be going back to Wal-Mart on a Black Friday ever again. In fact, I won’t even leave the house that day.

Of course, nothing should stop you from venturing out on Black Friday to save yourself a few bucks… except maybe your sense of self-preservation. But if you don’t mind a little trip to the afterlife to snag that bargain, here are a few ways you can make sure you don’t make it to Saturday, November 25th.

  • Check out the ads early. Black Friday advertisements are already starting to show up on the internet. The best source for scans of store flyers is Start filling your shopping list with one amazing deal after another! Electronics, clothes, furniture, toys–all at rock-bottom prices! So… many… deals… Oops, you just died of a heart attack from all that excitement.
  • Eat a good meal ahead of time. You just downed six pounds of turkey, three boxes of stuffing, and two cans of cranberry sauce, so you should have plenty of energy, right? Wrong! You’re gonna be doing a lot of running, maybe some jumping, and you might even need to throw a punch or two to secure that Tickle Me Elmo. So if your caloric intake on Thanksgiving was anything less that 20,000, then congratulations–you just died of lethargy. Or you simply passed out and hungry shoppers ate you while you slept.
  • Get in line at 2am. If you want to make sure that those Free After Rebate goodies fall into your hands, you’ll need to get up pretty early in the morning. Just keep in mind that temperatures start getting chilly in late November, especially overnight. Wait, you did forget, and now you died of hypothermia.
  • Push your way to the front. You pull onto the parking lot at 5:50am thinking you have a chance at that $100 Invisible Walking iPod, but you see 7,000 people already in line. So you drive home, right? No, that would be lame. Instead, you wait ten minutes until the doors open and charge head first into the stampeding crowd. You push and shove and bite and… wait, you didn’t just bite that 400-pound lady who’s gotta have her $100 Dell computer, did you? Sorry, you just died of angry large woman.
  • Take what you can get. You’re finally in the store, but you can’t find those darn $12 DVD players. But that’s okay, there are other deals to be had. You’ll just have to settle for the $20 weight set, $50 color television, and $99 stereo system. Unfortunately you forgot to get a cart, and you died of a herniated everything trying to carry all that stuff to the register.

And should you manage to survive the horrors you witness this Black Friday, don’t fret because the bird flu, nuclear war, or junk food will finish the job soon enough.

Monday, October 16, 2006

How Would You Like Three Months of Sick and Family Time Per Year?

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , ,

take two of these and skip work for a few months

Chances are that your employer’s policy on sick and family leave falls into one of these categories:

  • You may use up to X number of sick or personal days each year.
  • You can have as many sick or personal days as you like, but use too many and you’ll be looking for another job.
  • Hahaha, time off? That’s funny. Now get back to work!
  • No, seriously, stop reading this list and get back to work!

A bill being considered in Massachusetts (ooh, spelled that correctly on the first try!) would require all employers–even small businesses–to allow workers to take up to three months of sick or family leave every year.

Even before its ratification (if that ever happens), it’s fairly obvious how such a law would affect businesses in Massachusetts:

  • Big businesses. “Meh, we’ll just have one of our 362,000 other employees cover for you while you’re out. Then we’ll fabricate a totally different reason to fire you when you get back.”
  • Small businesses. “Okay, we have five employees at our company. If one of them is out for three months a year, that means we’re out tons of hours. How many? Um… let me see… carry the two… hold on, I better talk to Bill in accounting. Wait, what do you mean Bill’s out sick? How can I do math if Bill is out sick??? Our company is ruined!”

Either way, if this law passes in Massachusetts and at least three of the seven other states weighing similar legislation, then you could be out on sick or family leave all 12 months of the year! And still get paid for it! Or something like that.

Edit: Minor spelling correction.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

PlayStation 3 Sells For $1,000,000

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

insert 500 dollars to continue

The housing market bubble is so early 2005. The new bubble on the horizon comes to us courtesy of Sony. That’s right, I’m talkin’ ’bout the PlayStation 3.

In case that rock you’ve been living under doesn’t have electrical outlets, the PlayStation 3 (PS3)–due out sometime in some year maybe this one or the next one yeah I dunno–is Sony’s third incarnation of its videogame-playing machine. Here are the stats on the hardware specifications of the PS3:

  • 10 billion terrajoules
  • 4,700,000,000,003 polygons
  • Double-quad triple bypass single-filter dual something
  • Made from moon dust and holy water
  • MSRP: $572,198.12 plus taxes, title, license, fees, shipping, handling, and yo mama

Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? It’s no wonder that pre-orders–essentially $50 pieces of paper promising a person might possibly get the honor of paying another $450 for a PS3 one of these days–sold out nationwide today in roughly 74 seconds. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Come on, the darn thing has 10 billion terrajoules! Ten. Billion.

So when someone offers to sell his pre-order receipt on eBay for the low low price of just $1 million, it’s totally worth it to those fools who blinked and missed the pre-order process.

Well, apparently, it really is…

omg free shipping buy it now omg omg

A little math lesson. Let’s say that a high-class hooker runs about $1,000. Since this PlayStation 3 sold for 1,000 times that, then the PS3 must be as great as 1,000 high-class hookers. I hope that Sony will adopt “as great as 1,000 high-class hookers” as its official marketing slogan.

While I doubt Mr. Vinnycthatwhoibe will ever see his million dollars, there are still reports that PS3 pre-orders are fetching over $1,000–twice the retail price–in legitimate transactions.

Of course, when your little devil spawn doesn’t have a PlayStation 3 for Christmas, you’re going to want to blame somebody. It looks like you should direct at least 25% of your rage at the employees of Gamestop and EB Games who snatched up as much as one-quarter of the pre-orders for themselves.

Monday, October 9, 2006

Crazy Mortgage Loan Products Coming Soon

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

A time bomb is about to explode. Hit the deck!

mortgage time bomb goes off

time to break the bank

Fortunately we’re not talking literal explosions here. But the mortgage time bomb is a very real problem facing millions of American families whose adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) are about to move from relatively low rates to potentially outrageous ones.

You might feel sorry for all those folks being taken to the cleaners on their new mortgage payments. Yeah, there will be people whose housing costs balloon from $1,200 a month to $2,500 or so overnight. But maybe we’re forgetting the real victims in all of this…

Mortgage lenders.

Yes, that’s right. As more and more real estate loans go into default, rates on new loans will skyrocket, and it’ll become harder for new homebuyers to afford a loan in the first place. That means lenders will see their business slowly evaporating.

But if there’s one thing of which the banking industry still has plenty, it’s ingenuity. While the days may be numbered for your run-of-the-mill interest-only ARM, I have little doubt that new, fiendishly clever mortgage products will pop up and allow a whole new generation of people to buy over-priced houses with little more than a dollar and a dream.

Coming Soon to a Mortgage Lender Near You:

  • No payments, no interest until 20XX. I’m sure anybody can afford a mortgage payment of $0 a month, right? How’d you like to pay just that much to move into a fabulous new home of your choice? Oh by the way, your payment starting with month 13 will be roughly 80% of your monthly gross income. But you don’t need to eat or pay taxes, do you?
  • 130-year fixed. Hey, it’s a fixed-rate loan, so you can’t lose! And neither can your children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren. In fact, you’ll find it very hard to lose those housing payments because you’ll only be paying about 23 cents on the principal every month.
  • Lottery loans. Everyone who applies for a loan each week gets put into a drawing, and the winner gets a fantastic rate on their loan. Everyone else, they get slightly less than fantastic rates. The perfect loan for people who think the only way to become rich is to win the lottery!
  • Pre-scheduled foreclosures. The bank recognizes that they’re selling you a loan you won’t be able to afford in a few years, but they work with you before closing to determine the exact date when your savings account will run dry and you’ll be forced out on the street.
  • “Magical happy-change loans.” Adjustable-rate mortgage sounds so menacing, doesn’t it? Under this new title, these loans will sound much more appealing to potential borrowers. Instead of interest-only, they’ll call it a “delightful temporary discount.” And it’s not a foreclosure anymore… now it’s just “home ownership switcheroo.”
  • Indentured servitude option. Can’t afford your newly-adjusted mortgage payment? That’s okay, because the bank is looking for some extra help on nights and weekends. If you can handle a mop or a broom, you can work off your payments in a few (25 or so) short (long) years (never).

But unless these new products catch on, the future for many mortgage lenders looks a bit grim. So please, take some time out to drive down to your local financial institution, have a seat with a loan officer–any loan officer–and tell them, “I’m very, very sorry.” While you’re at it, you might want to bring them some canned goods or warm blankets… or maybe an ARM to refinance.