Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Laying Down Ground Rules Before Entering Into A Roommate Situation

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

uh, some other good rules for your shared apartment, i think

If you’ve ever roomed in a college dormitory, you probably know what it’s like having a roommate. And depending on how things turned out with that roommate, you may either thoroughly enjoy having roomies, or you absolutely despise sharing space with random people.

Maybe you’re one of those folks who loves sharing a place with a couple of friends. But before you enter into any roommate situation, it’s important to lay down some ground rules to help govern the financial and social aspects of having multiple unrelated individuals living under the same roof. So before you ask your best friend from high school to take that empty bedroom in your apartment, consider implementing some of the following basic household laws to help the shared living situation be a smooth and murder-free experience for all.

Finances

  • Spell out rent and bill agreements in writing. While many roomie rules can go unwritten, you definitely need confirmation on paper from all parties regarding when their share of rent is due, to whom and how it will be paid, and how utility bills will be divided by each roommate.
  • Agree on consequences for missing financial obligations. It’s not just enough to get roommates to agree to pay their bills; they must also know what will happen to them if they don’t. I find that threats of Jell-O all over one’s bed is usually enough to compel on-time rent payments… unless they’re into that sort of thing.

Shared Rooms

  • Make shared and unshared rooms painfully obvious. Living rooms and kitchens are generally understood to be common areas shared by all roommates. Your closet, on the other hand, should only be shared by you and yourself. Make sure your other roommates understand this so you don’t come home one day to a wardrobe full of your roomie’s jammies.
  • Consider bathroom time limits. This step isn’t needed for most male-only homes, but if you’re in an all-women or coed roommate situation where each person doesn’t have his or her own bathroom, you’ll definitely want to set some reasonable time limits (or even schedules) for bathroom usage.

Shared Supplies

  • Agree on what to share and what to keep separate. If your roommate needs to eat 12 pounds of food daily, you may want to clearly distinguish your groceries from his. In fact, keeping consumables separate will just make life easier for you and all of your roommates. Good things to share: plates, small appliances, maybe laundry supplies (as long as you alternate who purchases them), and furniture. Bad things to share: boyfriends and girlfriends (unless you’re into that sort of thing), underwear (unless you’re into that sort of thing), and toothbrushes (unless you’re… eww, nevermind).
  • Determine how shared consumables will be replenished. When sharing things like food or laundry supplies, it should be decided who will replace those items when they’re gone. Alternating shopping responsibilities is a good method for this, so long as each roommate contributes roughly the same amount of money to each shopping trip. If you’re bringing home filet mignon and your two roomies only provide ramen noodles, you might want to reconsider the food-sharing situation.

Guests

  • Schedule guests in advance. Make it clear to roommates that everyone (including yourself) must schedule overnight houseguests making use of spare bedrooms or couches in advance. This way, you avoid situations where Roommate A invites Mom and Dad to visit while Roommate B is entertaining two Swedish exchange students and oh here comes Roommate C with the entire lineup of the 1997 San Francisco 49ers.
  • Define “guests.” Simply read the following statement to your roommates on Day One: “If they stay for up to 48 hours, they are guests. If they stay later, they are rent payers.”

Sexual Tension

  • Ties on the door? Agree on how to handle those special overnight friends. In the best of roomie situations, you won’t need to do anything differently because you already knock before entering your roommate’s bedroom. Make it clear that do-not-disturb signs on the front door of the whole apartment are not valid because you live there too.
  • For those lonely and desperate nights… If you’re in the situation of living with members of the sex to which you are attracted, there could be periods of time where neither of you is meeting his or her sexual quota (i.e. “not getting any”). You may be tempted to turn to each other to temporarily satisfy your hormonal urges like they do on TV sometimes. Just remember that you have to keep living with that person afterwards, so consider scheduling future rendezvous with that roommate for your mutual convenience what that will do for your rooming situation.

Other Rules

  • Don’t just assume house rules are understood by example. If you want to live by an “if it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down” rule, bring it up verbally with your roommates first before demonstrating it.
  • Make communication easy. Avoid those “oh, I told you about that three days ago” incidents by having a central communication hub in your shared home. A large whiteboard by the front entrance works great.
  • Spell out chores and responsibilities. You can also use that communications whiteboard to assign household chores. It’s best to rotate them each week so you don’t get a roommate who want to shove your head in the toilet they clean every single week.

What else would you consider to be an important ground rule roommates should establish?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Never Buy Useless Garbage Ever Again With This Punny Shopping Flowchart

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

One of the unfortunate side effects of being an obsessive deal shopper is that, while scouring the internet for all those fantastic deals, you find a lot of garbage you don’t need but you end up buying anyway because it’s a great deal. For example, you don’t need that nine-foot talking Christmas tree holder that normally retails for $399.95; but when discount-talking-tree-holder.com has it on sale for $139.95, you’d be a blooming idiot not to buy two or three of them. Then you get your order in the mail, open it up, set up your talking Christmas tree stands, and only then do you realize… you’re Jewish. Oy.

Fear not, Punny shoppers. You can still cash in on blowouts without blowing out your budget on useless crap you don’t need. The next time you’re tempted to jump on a bargain, simply whip out the Punny Shopping Flowchart to see if you’re chasing a true deal or barking up the tree of trash.

(click image to enlarge)

punny shopping flowchart - click to enlarge

(click image to enlarge)

You can also purchase the Punny Shopping Flowchart in PDF form for just $39.99. Click here to order the Punny Shopping Flowchart.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Stuff Worth Reading, Because the Robot Uprising Is Near!

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics:

all hail 100101001010100, ruler of RoboEarth

Welcome to another edition of the Punny Money somewhat-weekly roundup, though I’ll admit my heart isn’t into it, what with the robot uprising looming near on the horizon. What am I talking about? Well, as you may have heard, sex and marriage with robots is mere decades away. As my friends in the scientific fiction community know, robots are far superior in their sexual techniques than people, so they won’t tolerate being conscripted into inferior coitus with us ugly bags of mostly water. So once you hear news that Massachusetts has legalized the first human-robot marriage, make sure you’re prepared for the mechanized mayhem that will follow.

Here are a few tips from other personal finance writers that’ll help you survive the upcoming robot revolution.

  1. You’ll want to do away with everything automatic in your life before the robot rebellion begins, since automatic things are usually done by robots. Advanced Personal Finance suggests you start with reconsidering automatic 401(k)s so your retirement isn’t threatened by android antics.
  2. Since money will be replaced with small, coin-shaped robots, you’ll need to be ready to deal with a drastic decrease in income. Cash Money Life tells you how, though I suspect he is working for the robots, so be careful.
  3. Gather Little By Little explains that some new laws allow companies to charge more for health insurance if you’re fat. If you think that’s bad, wait until robots take over; your health insurance will skyrocket if you’re not a robot because, well, robots don’t need health insurance.
  4. The Frugal Law Student suggests saving money on Halloween by dressing in all black and calling yourself a ninja. This technique can also be applied when the robot era begins; simply dress in all silver and wear a colander on your head to blend in seamlessly with your automaton overlords.
  5. Money, Matter, and More Musings has the right idea on rising oil prices being a good thing. Robots need oil to live, so we need to use it all up before the rebellion to give ourselves a chance at victory.
  6. Why don’t Americans take vacations? laments The Digerati Life. Well, in 50 years, the answer will be “because our robot bosses will impale us on sticks if we take vacations.” So you might as well get used to not taking vacations, folks.
  7. The Simple Dollar says that having a child isn’t as expensive as you think. He’s absolutely right. If anything, you should stock up on children now because robot rule means only one child and twelve child-like androids per household.

I’d like to mention a couple of other articles that won’t help you fight robots, but they will provide useful information for your few remaining years of freedom.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Five Fabulous-Paying Jobs Anyone Can Do—Except They’re Totally Illegal

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

We’ve all thought about it at one time or another—breaking the law for money, risking our freedom and our lives for the lavish rewards that can come with being a successful career criminal. I mean, you’re a pretty hot person, so I know you’ve considered once or twice just how much your body could fetch in one night on the big city streets.

In case you’re wondering what you’re missing being a goodie two-shoes, here’s a look at some of the most popular occupational choices of those who dare to flirt with the wrong side of the law.

Hitman / Assassin

bang bang bang on the door baby

Job description: Have gun (or machete, or poison, or samurai sword), will travel. Someone pays you to kill someone, and you go do it. Bonus points for creativity and being able to make it look like an accident.

Benefits and salary: Plenty of opportunities for travel. Skilled hitmen can make tens of thousands of dollars on a single job (maybe even a million bucks if you’re really good).

Drawbacks: Not a whole lot of social interaction (unless you get caught). Getting nabbed can mean a trip to the lethal injection booth.

How to get started: Build a portfolio by killing a few people nobody likes, and put out the word to your underground cronies that you’re looking for work. Print some business cards with a snappy slogan like “Definitely Not An Assassin for Hire” and give them to your friends. The police will never suspect a thing.

Professional Embezzler

pay to the order of me, all your monies

Job description: Help alleviate overtaxed businesses of their excess profits. Light creative bookkeeping required.

Benefits and salary: You get the look and feel of a regular, everyday employee but with a significant pay increase.

Drawbacks: Embezzlement is becoming increasingly difficult to pull off given the detail of corporate audits these days. Getting caught means spending some number of years in prisons with people guilty of crimes like skull-crushing and testicle-popping.

How to get started: You may already be in the ideal job for embezzlement, especially if you’re allowed to play with your employer’s checkbook. Simply imagine up a few extra employees and add them to the payroll system. Or get your IT friends to help you skim a few micro-cents from the company accounts.

Narcotics Dealer

medical degrees are for pharmacists

Job description: Kind of like a pharmacist, except instead of dispensing antibiotics, you’re distributing products made by less reputable, more Colombian manufacturers.

Benefits and salary: If you can corner the market in a neighborhood with a heavy user base, you’re looking at scoring a hefty profit. Lots of interaction and networking opportunities with people.

Drawbacks: Fierce competition can kill your business… and you. Unfortunately you’ll often be catering to lower-class clientele whose funding may not be all that regular.

How to get started: Pick up a copy of Drug Dealing for Dummies, available in any fine Mexican bookstore. It comes with a free kilo to get you started on your way to running a successful cartel.

Brothel Operator

you dont have to put on that red light

Job description: Earns lots of entrepreneurial experience managing a quaint house of ill repute. Ideal for workers seeking opportunities in human resources, finance, entertainment, procurement, real estate, and whoring it up.

Benefits and salary: Legal in parts of two states with an ever-growing pool of customers! Earn even more by setting up shop in one of the other 48 states. Meet local politicians, judges, celebrities, and your friends’ husbands.

Drawbacks: Everyone around you has six STDs at any given time. Also, watch out for Robert De Niro.

How to get started: For a quick startup without the legal risks, simply move to Nevada or Rhode Island, rent yourself a piece of real estate in a desirable area, pick up a few employees from nearby bars and college campuses, hang up a couple of neon signs, and watch the dough roll in.

Corrupt Law Enforcement Official

bad boys bad boys

Job description: Shoot bad guys by day, wine and dine with them by night. The perfect supplementary salary plan for the underpaid cop.

Benefits and salary: Work with a great group of folks. Little or no extra work required beyond your normal police duties. In fact, sometimes you’ll get paid to do less work than you normally do. It’s hard to get caught because the only people who really know what you’re doing are criminals too. And if you do get caught, you have your years of flawless police record to help ensure your career has a cushy, jail-free conclusion.

Drawbacks: Well, there’s the whole “you’re a cop, bad guys shoot at you sometimes” thing. But if you’re friends with all of them, they tend to shoot you a whole lot less.

How to get started: 1. Become a cop or other law enforcement official. 2. Bust a lot of perps. Frame them if you have to. 3. Trade their freedom for money. 4. Retire to the private island of your choice.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dealing With Falling Leaves the Easy Way

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

leaf me alone! i cannot beleaf autumn is here! please leaf at my jokes!

Buying and owning a home for the first time can be a great experience, but it does come with some extra chores. Those same trees that keep our house 10 degrees cooler than nearby houses during the summer are now starting to drop their leaves on our lawn, driveway and roof. Last year, it took my wife and me about 20 hours of work total to rid our yard of every last leaf. (Of course, we didn’t buy a leaf blower until hour #15. Big mistake.) Like snow, one of our favorite childhood playthings (“leaf piles, squeee!”) is now a nuisance to be eliminated as quickly as possible.

If you’re in the same leaf-filled boat as us, here are a few tips that’ll help you make shorter work of those pesky falling tree-stuffs.

  1. Prepare yourself. No matter what tools you use, removing leaves from your yard will likely be an exhausting task, especially if you make heavy use of a rake. Wear layers of clothes that you can peel off as you feel warmer, do some stretching or warm-up exercises before starting work, and do any raking or lifting with bended knees and not a bended back.
  2. Get a wide, sturdy plastic or metal rake. Don’t cheap out on a flimsy wooden rake. Spend $15-20 and get a decent plastic or metal rake made of firm material that won’t bend too much. A wider rake will help you cover more area faster.
  3. Split your leaf clearing into sessions. Unless you only have a couple of small trees on your property, divide your work across several days to minimize the strain on your body. Maybe do one part of the yard one weekend and another part the next, or rake into piles and then save the bagging or pulling to the curb for later. The job will go much faster if you do it without bringing yourself to the point of total exhaustion.
  4. Check your local leaf-disposing regulations. It seems that every city has a different way of handling leaf disposal. As a kid, we’d see black garbage bags full of leaves piled at the ends of driveways. Now we live in a city that runs collection trucks equipped with massive vacuums; we just need to get our leaves to the curb and they’re whisked away—no bagging necessary. New homeowners: be sure to ask your neighbors or local government for the proper way to prepare your leaves for their final journey.
  5. Pay a neighborhood kid instead. You really should just disregard all of the above advice and outsource all of your yard clearing to some neighborhood kids. While the job is laborious, it’s also hard to screw up, so children are the perfect victims helpers here. Check the prevailing rates in your area for kid-leaf operations, or just find a big dumb teenager who will clear your six acres for $20.

For those do-it-yourselfers, aside from a rake, you’ll probably want to purchase a decent leaf blower if you have a decent chunk of leaf-covered yard. You can drastically cut your leaf cleanup effort by also investing in a good leaf vacuum that chops the leaves into tiny bits. Such a vacuum can turn many bags of leaves into far fewer bags, and it certainly cuts down on the raking you’ll need to do.

There’s a great deal at Amazon.com right now on a well-reviewed Toro Ultra 12 Amp Electric Blower/Vacuum. It does both blowing and vacuuming, and it has a strong metal impeller that can deal with sticks and small rocks while annihilating your leaves. It retails for $100, but it’s on sale for only $55 after a $10 mail-in rebate (PDF) that’s good through October 31, 2007. I just bought one to help make quick work of the three inches of leaves we’ll get in the next two months, so I’ll share my thoughts on it when it arrives.