Friday, November 30, 2007

Stuff Worth Reading, Because I Sure Didn’t Write Much This Week

Author: Nick
Category: Money

here is a potato, for your viewing pleasure

Holy cow, there were only two Punny Money articles this week. What an abomination? I should hara-kiri myself right now for failing to provide the world with insightful financial information and humorous bulleted lists.

I have no excuse that can adequately justify my failure to write more this week, though in my defense I will say that it’s been a crazy week for me. On top of looming deadlines at work and a 30-page paper due for a class, I’ve also been asked to help the U.S. government balance the Federal budget, reign in rampant inflation, stave off a recession, and reallocate Social Security money to pay for a new air hockey table for the White House break room. While I’ve been busy saving the world from financial destruction and unprecedented boredom, these folks have been churning out delicious morsels of fiduciary fun for children of all ages:

  1. A Penny Closer made $5 by killing a defenseless lobster with his bare hands.
  2. Advanced Personal Finance was a contestant on America’s fastest-growing quiz sensation, Goodwill, eBay, or Trash?
  3. I’ve Paid For This Twice Already‘s spouse is getting tested, possibly for lice. Good luck!
  4. A badly programmed supercomputer is plotting to murder Lazy Man and Money.
  5. Money, Matter, and More Musings went to New Orleans and drank in the streets and ate breakfast all day long.
  6. My Two Dollars is giving everyone a new car for Christmas! Yay!
  7. No Credit Needed is living in a trailer in his yard. Poor guy.
  8. The Digerati Life interviews a princess who has a magical heart-shaped lollipop.
  9. The Frugal Law Student is the hottest person in Walgreens.
  10. The Simple Dollar pays a team of undocumented workers $120 an hour to wash Ziploc bags for reuse. I don’t know about you, but I think those jobs should go to American bag-washers!

Yeah, I didn’t exactly read any of those articles, so I may have totally made up these descriptions based off a cursory glance at their titles or pictures. Forgive me if they’re somewhat horribly inaccurate. But that shouldn’t stop you from reading them!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Idiots Who Cause Car Accidents and Block Traffic Cost You $18 Million A Year

Author: Nick
Category: Money

okay, so in this case, you might not be able to move your car out of traffic

On the ride to work the other day, I was treated to an all-too-familiar sight around these parts: the aftermath of an automobile accident. This time it was sedan vs. sedan. Not too much damage to either car, and certainly not enough to disable the vehicles. But for some inexplicable reason, both drivers decided that the proper thing to do immediately following the accident was to leave their cars in the middle of busy travel lanes.

Okay, perhaps it’s not so inexplicable. It seems that many drivers have been taught by their parents, driving schools, and insurance companies not to move their vehicles following an accident until police arrive. That’s because the folks from CSI: Miami are going to show up at the scene of your accident and use fancy chemicals and green lasers to determine exactly who is at fault. And if you move your vehicle after the accident—even an inch!—then David Caruso is going to put on his sunglasses in a dramatic fashion and say something like, “There’s nothing more we can do here, Detective.”

I’m here to tell you that keeping your car in the middle of traffic following an accident is wrong, dangerous, and possibly illegal. If you don’t believe me, perhaps you’ll believe these intimidating bullet points:

  • It’s wrong. Assuming the police even bother to investigate your accident, they can normally determine all of the information they need from two things: the damage to the vehicles, and the testimony of the drivers and passengers. Even if one party of a two-car collision completely lies to the investigating officers, they’re usually keen enough to weed out the lies and piece together what really happened. Another reason leaving your car in the middle of traffic is wrong: all you’re doing is inconveniencing hundreds, possibly thousands of other drivers. Even if you’re not the one at fault, that’s just a jackass kind of thing to do.
  • It’s dangerous. When you block travel lanes with your accident-involved vehicle, you disrupt the normal flow of traffic. And when you disrupt the normal flow of traffic for commuters who are used to the same driving pattern each day, you’re dramatically increasing the probability of more accidents, possibly one that’ll turn you into a pancake while you’re busy yelling at the other driver.
  • It’s possibly illegal. At any other time, stopping your car in the middle of travel lanes would be illegal. Any police officer in his or her right mind would ticket you, tow you, or just plain old arrest you. Does being involved in an accident make it any more legal to park in the center lane of your local expressway if you can help it? I don’t think so. Unfortunately law enforcement doesn’t seem to punish this sort of behavior, possibly because it’s been ingrained in them as well.

So if you’re a driver involved in an automobile accident, what should you do to prevent yourself from doing something wrong, dangerous, and possibly illegal? Simple: move your freaking car out of traffic if you can. The only reasons you shouldn’t move your car out of traffic following an accident is (a) your car won’t move, or (b) someone in, near, or under your car is seriously injured.

Got it? Good. Time for a pop quiz!

Question: You were just gently rear ended at a traffic light, and now your car is sitting across three travel lanes. The other vehicle shows no significant damage and has pulled out of traffic. You’re not bleeding or dying or anything, and your vehicle is still operational. What should you do?

  • A. Keep your vehicle in the middle of three busy traffic lanes until the police arrive which they’re not going to since nobody is injured and neither car needs towing, get out of your car, dodge traffic, yell at the other driver for 10 or 20 minutes, exchange insurance information, walk back into traffic, take 79 pictures of the damage to your vehicle with your digital camera, call your spouse from your cell phone and complain for another 15 minutes, and then continue driving to work.
  • B. Get the hell out of traffic you dumbass. I don’t care about what you do after that.

If you answered A, then congratulations on disproving the theory of human evolution.

You might be wondering where I got the “idiots blocking traffic costs you $18 million a year” figure, so allow me to explain. Back in college, I had an internship with the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT). When I wasn’t busy designing sky highways for flying cars, I was fortunate enough to be invited on tours of interesting facilities like the area below the Baltimore Inner Harbor Tunnel, the place where they make street signs, and the top-secret facility where MDOT can view 30 bajillion cameras placed on highways around the state.

That last tour was the most interesting because the guide explained that the state and local police asked for permission a while back to monitor these video feeds MDOT had installed all over the place. MDOT said sure, but only if the police promised to work harder to move accident-involved vehicles from travel lanes. The police agreed, and now one of their top priorities when showing up at the scene of an accident is getting cars out of traffic and then investigating what happened.

Why did MDOT want those vehicles out of the way so badly? As the tour guide explained, cars that stop in travel lanes following minor accidents cause commuters to lose hundreds of millions of hours of productivity each year. That costs the state of Maryland a lot of tax money, and that tax money is how MDOT is funded.

At the end of the tour, I asked just how much these stupid drivers are costing me each year.

The tour guide responded, “If it weren’t for idiots stopping in traffic after every fender bender, you’d be making $18 million more each year.”

I gasped, “$18 million a year? Can you prove that?”

He replied, “Sure! Just as soon as everyone stops blocking half the road every time they get side-swiped, your salary will jump to $18 million a year.”

I laughed and said, “But that’s never going to happen.”

“Then I guess I can never be proven wrong,” he said with a smile.

So the next time you see a stupid driver stopped in the middle of traffic after getting tapped on the bumper, send them a bill for $18 million. Or just flip them off, which can be just as satisfying.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Punny Poll #27: When Did You Start Becoming Financially Responsible?

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

not the best time to wait to become financially responsible

Phooey on the more than 80% of you who said they haven’t tried online grocery shopping and don’t plan on it. I thought I would convince quite a few of you that internet grocery shopping with home delivery would save you time, money, and frustration while increasing the quality of your food. But that’s okay, you can just eat your expensive garbage you stood in line for two hours to purchase while the 3% of us who do all of our grocery shopping online have grapes fed to us by gorgeous delivery people. Grapes made of gold.

For the next poll, I thought I’d throw out a simple question with no right or wrong answers. (Well, there’s a bad answer, but I’m sure nobody reading Punny Money will select it.) Some people ask me how old I was when I started becoming “financially responsible.” For me, I was barely in my teens when I realized that I would need to assume the financial reigns of my household at a young age. I never went through the typical teenager phase of spending every penny as I made it, though that I meant I missed out on a lot of the fun things adolescents do.

[Read more…]

Friday, November 23, 2007

Stuff Worth Reading, Because The Best Black Friday Deals Are In My Bed

Author: Nick
Category: Money

no shopping allowed

Nine uninterrupted hours of sleep in a soft, comfy bed for the low price of zero dollars? I’d say that’s the best bargain you’ll find this Black Friday. As for the rest of you freaks who decided to risk pneumonia to stand in line at 2am in order to save 10% on electronics you don’t need and cashmere sweaters you’ll just rip a hole in anyway, here are some highlights from other personal finance writers to help bring the feeling back to your extremities.

  1. writes a heart-warming story about paying utility bills with credit cards. I was interviewed for this article where I revealed that I like to keep warm during the winter by layering myself in dozens of pairs of women’s underwear. Silky and toasty!
  2. I’ve Paid For This Twice Already uses those leftover turkey remains to their full extent. Frugal and delicious! That said, using the bones to trick your kids into thinking you live on an ancient Native American burial ground is just mean. Unless you videotape it. Then it’s funny.
  3. Do you need to make more money so you can waste it on Black Friday impulse buys? Of course you do, and The Digerati Life tells you how!

Only three articles this week since pretty much everyone else just wrote Happy Thanksgiving posts and linked to pictures of turkeys and cranberry sauce.

I just received an e-mail from a reader who misconstrued the title of this article to mean that I was offering sexual favors at a reduced rate. Not only is this wrong, but it is especially frightening since I haven’t even published this article yet. Go back to your Black Friday shopping, crazy stalker.

Until next week, this is Nick, returning to his turkey-induced slumber.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ten Ways to Save Time and Money on Thanksgiving Travel

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , ,

stay home this thanksgiving and avoid pumpkin pie rain and crashing world war 2 airplanes

Over the next 72 hours, Americans will travel the equivalent of 16 light years around the country to visit relatives, exchange family gossip, and pass out from turkey overload while watching football. If the thought of squeezing the spouse and kids into the car for a four-hour drive to grandma’s has you down, consider these options for making that Turkey Day commute a little less painful.

  1. Stay home. Make no excuses. Just tell everyone you’re staying home. “No, gas isn’t too expensive. No, we don’t hate you. No, we’re not converting to the Cult of Turkey Protectors. We’re just staying home and having a small, inexpensive Thanksgiving celebration on our own. Just us, our children… and the Nintendo Wii which is the real reason we can’t afford to drive to see you all this year.”
  2. Meet them halfway. You live in Boston, they live in Atlanta. Both of you could travel half the distance and enjoy the holiday where you meet. So what’s a good halfway point for Boston and Atlanta? Pancake, West Virginia, of course!
  3. Celebrate with closer relatives and friends. There’s no need to drive seven hours to visit your parents back home when you’ve got perfectly good cousins 90 minutes away that you haven’t seen in years… maybe even never! For that extra Thanksgiving surprise, don’t tell them you’re coming and waltz right through the front door. Just be sure to bring a copy of the family tree to prove you’re entitled to half their turkey.
  4. Host family at your place. Bring your travel costs down to zero by guilting everyone into coming to your home for Thanksgiving this year. Don’t let relatives crying “But Grandma’s hosted it every year for 25 years, and she’s in a wheelchair so she can’t drive down here, and this could be her last Thanksgiving” deter you. You’re hosting Thanksgiving… and you’re giving away free DVD players to the first five relatives to arrive!
  5. Go shopping instead. Kmart is open on Thanksgiving and has some great deals on GPS navigators and… oh wait, that’s not really going to save you any money. It’ll save gas money, maybe.
  6. Set up a Thanksgiving videoconference. That fancy video communications equipment they have where you work is just begging to be borrowed to help bring together distant families this Thanksgiving. Now you don’t have to worry about Great Uncle Fred eating all of the sweet potatoes, but you still get to hear his amusing yet slightly insulting stories about all the dames and broads he’s known in his 80-some years.
  7. Purposely book the worst flight possible. Check which airline in your area is notorious for delays, bumping passengers, and causing extreme frustration in its customers during Thanksgiving week. Then book your plane tickets on them, show up late, and pray that they bump you to a flight that doesn’t leave until Christmas Eve.
  8. Cause a family feud. You’ve got less than 24 hours to do it, but you could get the ball rolling by telling Aunt Kelly that you overhead Aunt Sally say she was getting fat. Eventually long-repressed opinions will spread like wildfire, and your family won’t want to be near each other until at least Easter 2012.
  9. Disown family that lives more than 100 miles away. It’s not your fault they decided to stay in their inexpensive country farm home on 50 acres of gorgeous meadow while you and your family decided to take up residence in a ridiculously overpriced 600-square-foot apartment in the middle of downtown. You can have an amazing Thanksgiving feast at home… well, except you don’t have an oven to cook it in… or a refrigerator… or a dining room table. But nothing says Thanksgiving like an Arby’s roast beef sandwich!
  10. Convince yourself it isn’t Thanksgiving. Several of my co-workers and friends were confused by the extra Thursday this month; they were thinking that Thanksgiving was always the last Thursday in November when it’s really the fourth Thursday. Play dumb and make this “mistake” yourself. Then enjoy the James Bond marathon on Spike TV with Pussy Galore and all her friends.

As for me, since my family is only 60 miles away, we’ll be spending the day there tomorrow with relatives, friends, and the biggest turkey you’ve ever seen (wait, I forgot Uncle Fred isn’t coming this year because he has to work).