Friday, August 31, 2007

Stuff Worth Reading, Because… You’re Pregnant! Congratulations! Oh, You Didn’t Know…

Author: Nick
Category: Money

you got a bun in your oven

Not only are you pregnant, but you’re giving birth to seven fabulous personal finance articles. (That’s what happens when you have cyber sex!)

  1. Now that you’re preggers, Advanced Personal Finance has a nice baby checklist. For now, you can check off the first item on the list: “Get knocked up real good.”
  2. A baby’s gotta eat, and nobody knows eating better than Clever Dude who will shove your spatula through your eye sockets if you ever try to cheat him out of food.
  3. Don’t be scared to invest in stocks says Money, Matter, and More Musings. You’re going to need that money to pay for your kid’s education since one year of tuition will be EIGHT TRILLION DOLLARS in 2025.
  4. Don’t let your baby overheat and explode! Take some advice from The Digerati Life on staying cool during a heat wave.
  5. It’s never too early to start shaving your baby. The Frugal Law Student shows you how to save money with the right razor and accessories.
  6. Heat wave’s over! Don’t let your baby turn into a snow cone! Check your house out before it gets cold with some guidance from We’re In Debt.
  7. My Money Blog shows you how to organize your credit cards with plastic baseball card sheets. Just be sure not to use them to organize your babies.

And from the Punny Money archives:

How much are these seven darling babies gonna cost you: nearly $2 million by the time they all turn 18 according to data about the cost of raising a child.

Aww, aren’t they adorable? And look, #2 just spit up all over the place. How precious!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Search and Ye Shall Receive: Payday Loan Jail, Property Tax Liens, and Teenage Daughters

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , , , ,

Search and Ye Shall Receive returns with more answers to questions people have recently asked search engines that brought them to Punny Money.

Jail for Unpaid Payday Loans?

payday lenders leave you out to dry but not in jail

Can I be sent to jail for not having money for payday loan? (via Google)

This person might want to consult with a real lawyer and check his or her state and local laws, but I’ll still share my view on this. I previously stated that you could go to jail for lying on a credit card application (e.g. stating you make $250,000 a year when you really make $6.50 an hour). In theory, the same could be true for payday loan applications. That said, payday lenders typically don’t collect the sort of information you would normally lie about, so the chances of incriminating yourself over a payday loan are very slim. If you’re worried about payday lenders getting you arrested for not paying your loan, you can relax. It’s illegal for payday lenders to threaten you with jail over unpaid loans. Just be sure not to write any bad checks when paying back the loan; they can still land you in legal trouble.

Do Delinquent Property Taxes Mean No Income Tax Refund?

your tax return is likely safer than your property

If you owe back property taxes, will you not get a tax refund? (via Ask)

Your Federal income tax refund is likely safe because property taxes are collected by state governments. Your state income tax refund is also probably safe, but that’s because the state has a much easier way to collect property taxes in arrears: tax lien sales. Normally once a year, counties or states will “sell” the rights to collect unpaid property taxes on a property to whomever wants to buy them. The buyer then jumps to the head of the line on most liens placed on the property (like mortgages and judgments, but not other state tax liens). When you go to sell the property, you’ll have to cough up the money to pay off those liens.

There are also tax deed sales in which your property is sold out from under you to pay off your delinquent taxes. Obviously this is far worse than just having a lien placed on your property.

So the answer to this question is no, your tax refunds will likely not be affected; but you might want to hold on to those refunds to pay for an apartment if your property goes to a tax deed sale.

How to Talk to Your Teenage Daughter?

aaaah, floating lips, nooooooooooo

How do you talk to a teenage daughter? (via Google)

Good question. When I’m talking to your teenage daughter, I usually ask these questions first:

  1. Are your parents home?
  2. You are 18, right?

Oh, you probably wanted advice on talking to your own teenage daughter. Uh, good luck with that.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Punny Poll #23: Do You Pick Up Pennies?

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

honest abe has fallen and he cant get up

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on our guest writers by answering the last Punny Poll. Nearly half of you didn’t notice that we had guest writers; I guess those “by [SOMEONE WHO IS NOT NICK]” lines at the start of the guest articles didn’t help. Another 30% didn’t really like what they read. You may continue seeing a few guest articles here and there in the future, perhaps with extremely large pictures of my face with a red X across it so you know I didn’t write it.

The other day, I picked up a penny from the ground and thought to myself, “Awesome, I’m one cent richer!” What I didn’t consider at the time was that the single penny represented 0.0000001% of my net worth and that I had probably picked up more germs than wealth. Perhaps it’s in my best interest to never pick up pennies again and stick with nickels and above, but I could miss the opportunity to score hundreds of dollars in free change. So instead I’ll turn to you for guidance, like I always do with my big important money decisions.

Do you pick up pennies you see lying around?

View Results

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Here’s A Crazy Idea: How About A Six-Month Prohibition to Cut Debt, Eliminate Alcoholism, and Save Families

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

no beer and no tv makes homer something something

Somehow a conversation at work the other day turned from the subject of women’s basketball to the 1920s alcohol Prohibition in the United States. (I think someone said, “You’d have to be drunk to enjoy women’s basketball,” and things proceeded from there.) A brief survey of all present revealed that most of us like to drink, some of us a lot. There was one member of the group, a quiet girl who usually doesn’t comment on anything more controversial than jaywalking, who admitted that she doesn’t drink and sometimes wishes everyone else couldn’t either. A few hours passed, after which we finally stopped laughing and seriously considered her proposal.

What effect would an alcohol prohibition have on the United States today?

Some of my older, deader readers may recall what the 1920s were like without alcohol: nothing but sunshine, good times, flowers, and bicycles. Well, at least for the first six months. After that, Al Capone became everyone’s best friend, and drinking became more prevalent than it ever was before Prohibition. I suppose the main reason Prohibition failed is that people fond of alcohol really can’t go that long without it, and even casual or light drinkers really don’t want to give up the juice forever.

But maybe there’s a way to achieve all the benefits of an alcohol prohibition while avoiding another speakeasy society. That’s why I propose that the United States institute a six-month prohibition against alcohol.

Okay Nick, What Are You Smoking This Time?

Hear me out! As I mentioned earlier, the early months of Prohibition yielded some success in meeting the goals of eliminating alcohol consumption.

  • Alcohol consumption decreased. It may be true that alcohol consumption eventually rose to its pre-Prohibition levels, but the beginning of the Prohibition era was marked by a general decrease in alcohol use.
  • Alcohol abuse and disease dropped. Livers everywhere breathed a sigh of relief as many alcoholic but otherwise law-abiding citizens gave up their drinks.
  • Many crime levels dropped sharply. The Prohibition era is often popularized as a time of gangsters, shootings at every street corner, and a general sense of mayhem and debauchery. In fact, assault, domestic violence, vagrancy, prostitution, and many other crime levels were cut in half during the 1920s. Even Chicago, the speakeasy capital of the country, saw overall crime levels come down.
  • People saved money and worked harder. By some accounts, savings account balances tripled in the early and mid-1920s, work attendance rose, and many people who had previously let alcohol rule their lives took back control.

Even six months of prohibition could see the start of these benefits in American society. And while the end of that period would likely see some reversal, six alcohol-free months might be enough to break some people out of the vicious cycle of alcoholism that causes deep debt and shattered marriages.

The Return of the Revenge of the Son of Al Capone

But what about all of the negative aspects of prohibition? How would six dry months avoid the same calamities encountered during 13 years of Prohibition? Put simply, the short duration would be enough to spark all of the benefits above while largely avoiding all of the negatives.

  • Gangster crime and speakeasies. As “organized” as organized crime is, it still takes time to start a black market for alcohol. By the time alternative sources of alcohol could be established, the six-month prohibition would end. Thus, it wouldn’t be profitable for organized crime or speakeasies to violate the prohibition.
  • Alcohol industry effects. Thirteen dry years devastated the U.S. beer and wine industries. The best breweries and vineyards packed up and headed overseas, and the quality of American alcohol has never recovered. Today, the alcohol economy is global, so cutting off the tap for six months to 300 million people wouldn’t have such a detrimental effect on alcohol makers as it did in the early 20th century.
  • Government revenue cuts. Tax revenue from alcohol sales would evaporate during those six months. I guess they’ll have to end the War in Iraq a few hours early to make up for the couple billion tax dollars the government would lose.

So what do you think? I hope you’ll respond to this proposal with your answers to the following questions:

  • Would you support a six-month alcohol prohibition?
  • What affect do you think a short-term prohibition would have on you?
  • Could the positive effects of prohibition be realized in such a short time?
  • Would the negative effects of prohibition be realized in such a short time?
  • What other considerations, if any, are missing from this idea?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Your Choice: Frugal Friends or Big Spender Buddies?

Author: Nick
Category: Money

what kind of company do you keep?

For those of us struggling to stay frugal in the relatively expensive and lavish society we call America, common sense dictates that we try to kindle relationships with like-minded individuals–people who budget, watch every penny, and do their best to stay out of debt. The thinking is that having frugal friends will help us maintain our own thrifty traits. Indeed, having frugal friends comes with many benefits:

  • No pressure to spend. Your penny-pinching pals rarely splurge on high-cost items or events, so you don’t feel compelled to keep up with the Joneses.
  • Opportunities to share. Close friends on a budget save money by readily sharing high-ticket items like power tools, golf clubs, and Lexuses Kia Rios.
  • Fairly split checks. Your meal was $12 and theirs was $20. While your friends might not mind splitting the check down the middle in this case, they won’t because they don’t want to be on the wrong end of check-splitting next time. Frugal friends more fairly share expenses.
  • Cheap company. Your budgeting buddies won’t be as opposed to board game nights over $100 baseball games and video store rentals over $12 movie tickets.
  • Looking out for each other. Frugal friends can exchange tips on saving money, cutting costs, and getting great local deals.

Now while your wallet may appreciate you limiting your friends to tightwads and scrooges, there’s only so much “spice of life” that can be found in a weekly game of Scrabble. So while I usually like to hang out with folks sharing my sense of money, I do keep a few big spender buddies around for times when trips to the dollar store won’t cut it for a Friday night. There are plenty of benefits to holding on to less budget-conscious friends:

  • You’ll have lots of fun. Yes, it’s painfully true that money can buy a good time–often even a better time than you can get for free or cheap.
  • They’ll spend money on you. Spendy friends won’t feel as compelled to share the cost of certain items; they’ll pick up the tab far more often than your frugal friends.
  • They throw more parties. We’re friends with a couple who has a party at their house at least once a month. We try not to go every time though because we don’t want to get addicted to an extravagant way of life.
  • They have boats, pools, and giant TVs. Yeah, most of your stuff is crap compared to theirs. Just don’t try to keep up with these friends or your pocket book won’t forgive you.

Of course, despite all the perks of socializing with spendthrifts, you may also have to deal with the negatives: splitting checks down the middle when all you had was a salad, shelling out for expensive event tickets, and maybe even temporarily ignoring your budget during a night out on the town. Just be sure to space out your high-roller hijinks so you’re not tempted to discard your parsimonious lifestyle for good.