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 BFAds.net. 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, September 18, 2006

Punny Poll #14: Your Lifetime Videogame Expenditures?

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , ,

remember your roots... and how much those roots cost

Lucky poll #13 asked readers to share their holiday gift-purchasing schedules. The vote was split almost evenly four ways between pre-November, early- to mid-November, post-Thanksgiving, and last-minute shoppers. Seriously, I’m hoping to get all my Christmas shopping done before the end of this month. Maybe I’ll just get everyone the greatest gift ever–a Nintendo Wii.

Speaking of videogames, there’s been a lot of talk lately about all the next-generation videogame consoles. Microsoft hit the market early with the Xbox 360, and the Nintendo Wii and Sony PlayStation 3 are both expected to show up in stores in the next few months. I imagine there are a few game-playing readers out there, and those of you who do dabble in videogaming know that it can be a very expensive hobby. With systems costing $250 or more and games as high as $60, a regular player can spend a fortune putting together a good-sized game library.

That brings us to this week’s poll question which asks you to estimate your total lifetime videogaming bill. Consoles, portables, games, controllers, memory cards–all of it. And for you older kids out there, don’t forget to include all those quarters you pumped into Ms. Pac-Man.
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Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Punny Poll #13: Christmas in September

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , , ,

I don’t understand how you all manage to get up every morning! According to last week’s Punny Poll, 58% of you do not like your jobs. And if you consider that my readers are likely happier than your typical bunch of folks, then the real percentage of Americans unhappy with their 9-to-5 is probably more like 97%, possibly much higher.

Summer is almost over, and you know what that means: Christmas is right around the corner! Okay, so it’s still nearly four months until the holidays, but that won’t stop advertisers from hammering you with yuletide glee from now until then. Fortunately you’re all smart shoppers and will keep your eyes out for great gift deals whether they come along on January 1st or December 24th. Or are you?
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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Grand Financial Experiment #2: Can My Banks Keep Me From Being Naked?

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , ,

Despite the suggestive title, I assure you that this video starring yours truly is very much safe for work.

So now you know I’m a man on a mission–a mission to strut around in an HSBC hoodie and Bank of America boxers. Sadly I doubt that most banks have filled the position of “Person Who Watches Nick’s Every Move,” so I may need to try a more direct approach if I want to talk my teller into tossing me a T-shirt. To that end, I have prepared a letter which I will send to all the banks with which I do business.


Dear <Insert Name of Financial Institution>,

I am writing to you today to express my astonishment. Normally that astonishment would be the result of your outstanding customer service or perhaps your superb financial products, but my present state of astonishment can be credited to something which your bank has failed to do. You see, the fine folks over at Emigrant Direct have recently seen fit to bestow upon me their legendary logo-emblazened baseball cap. While it may appear at first to be of nominal value, I assure you that it is Emigrant Direct’s thought that has counted the most in the check register of my heart.

After happily donning my new cap, a thought entered my head: “Why has only Emigrant Direct seen fit to grant me a wearable token of their appreciation for my business?” After pondering this dilemma for some time, I realized that perhaps the only reason I have not received a similar gift of garment from your institution is that you doubt that I would actually wear it. Why would you waste your time and money to give me something which I may not appreciate for its true value?

But I can assure you that any such courtesy which you extend to me would not go unobliged. And should you decide to deem me worthy of receiving the gift of an article of clothing bearing the logo of your fine bank, I would prove my appreciation by proudly wearing the item in public and documenting this display of gratitude on video for all to see at my personal finance website, Punny Money (http://www.punny.org).

I wholeheartedly thank you in advance for your generosity and dedication to me, your loyal customer. I look forward to continuing our banking relationship for years to come.

Sincerely,
Nick


If this doesn’t get me into a pair of that fabled Citibank thong underwear, then I don’t know what will.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Giving A Great Wedding Gift From the Couple’s Perspective

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

i hope it has a receipt

Tegan and I will have been married nine months tomorrow, so while the day of our wedding is still fresh in our head, I thought it’d be nice to share our thoughts on how to give a really terrific wedding gift from the perspective of a couple who received some outstanding gifts… and some less-than-stellar ones, too.

First and foremost, do whatever it takes to get ahold of the couple’s gift registries as soon as possible. You can ask the couple directly, but it’s a little more proper to find out from someone else. The sooner you get their registries, the more of a selection there will be left from which to choose. Don’t wait until the last minute or you may be forced to buy something expensive, something you don’t want to give, or something from outside the registries.

Once you know where the couples are registered, try to view their registries on the stores’ websites. Most chain stores with registries provide this option, and it’s a great way to save you from making trips to several stores.

Next, whether you got the registries online or from the store, use those registries to find the gift you would like to give. Order the gift online or in store and either have it shipped to the bride’s residence or hang on to it until the wedding day.

Sounds simple enough, right? And it is! If you follow these steps exactly, you’ll make the bride and groom very happy and grateful for your wonderful gift.

But what if you waited too long and the registry withered down to a few items you don’t want to give the couple? Or what if they didn’t have a registry in the first place? From our own experiences and tastes, as well as those of other couples we’ve talked to, here are your best options for buying gifts not on the couple’s registries. They’re listed in order of preference starting with the highest.

  1. Cash. The only gift guaranteed to be appreciated just as well as any gift on the couple’s registry.
  2. Gift cards. If you decide to give a gift card, try to buy it for a place from which you know the couple will soon be making purchases. Home improvement stores work nice if the couple just bought a house, while grocery stores and big chains like Target work well for any couple. Also be sure that for whatever store you give a gift card that the couple has a location near them.
  3. Wedding/honeymoon fund. Helping out financially with the wedding is probably best left for closer relatives, but you could offer to help purchase flowers or another small component of the wedding. Another alternative would be to get together with others and chip in to provide the couple with a honeymoon, especially if the wedding will leave the couple low on funds and unable to honeymoon on their own budget.
  4. Something you know for certain the couple needs. While most couples will load their registries full of the things they need, there’s a chance they could use some other items as well that weren’t available as a registry item. Talk to friends and family of the couple to see if there’s something they know the couple could really use. Just be sure you’re not duplicating a registry item!
  5. Anything with a receipt. Failing all of the above, try to make sure that whatever you give the couple has a receipt. This way, you know that you’re either giving something the couple can use or something the couple can exchange for cash or something they can use.

Most importantly, don’t break your own bank when shopping for a wedding gift. Especially if you can stick to their registry, the couple will appreciate even a small gift. And if you’re encountering particularly rough financial times, don’t feel terrible if you must show up to the wedding without a gift. A good couple will understand your situation and be happy that you were able to attend their wedding.