Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Search and Ye Shall Receive: Audit Freedom, Paperless Statements, and College Superstars

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

comic 19 - tax return

You search for it, you get it here at Punny Money with our not-too-frequent feature Search and Ye Shall Receive. Today we look at three search engine queries that brought some people seeking financial enlightenment to this humble quadrant of the internet.

Since the IRS Gave Me a Refund, Will They Not Come After Me For Deducting My Hair Extensions?

If you get your tax refund, will you not be audited? (via Google)

Oh if only it were that easy. No, my friend, when you get that delicious little refund check in your hands, your IRS worries are only just beginning. Uncle Sam has three years from the day your tax return is filed (or the April 15th deadline, whichever is later) to audit your return. If it establishes that you owe money, it has up to ten years to come after you for it. And if it determines that you filed a fraudulent return (i.e. you claimed your weekly visits to the local brothel as a “medical expense”), there’s absolutely no statute of limitations.

So always live in a state of paranoia because you will get audited and chipmunks are waiting to steal your car keys when you go to work tomorrow.

What Benefit Is There to Not Having My Account Information Sent By Pieces of Paper Anyone Can Steal?

What are the benefits of paperless statements? (via Google)

Well, I kinda gave away one of the answers to this question in the snarky headline; getting your bank and credit card account statements sent to you online is about 83 thousand times safer than having them molested by half the U.S. Postal Service before being deposited in a mailbox that’s about as easy to break into as a papier-mache ATM machine. But there are other benefits than just security to keeping stacks and stacks of statements from hitting your home:

  • It takes up less room in your trash can.
  • It saves you time spent weeding out junk mail from important account information.
  • It’s easier to store electronic statements for years than shoe boxes full of papers.

I Can Has College?

Can I go to college? (via Yahoo!)

Without knowing anything else about your situation, and basing my answer solely off your question, I would say no.

Oddly enough, someone else searched for the phrase “I can go to college” shortly after this query was received. To this person, I say congratulations and I look forward to having my Big Macs served by you in the future.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Why In Blazes Are You People Buying This Crap on

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

comic 7 - online shopping

It’s no secret that I make a few bucks off running Punny Money. Most of it comes through unobtrusive means that nobody really objects to, like advertising and stealing your bank account information. But there is one slightly evil way that many websites, including this one, line their e-pockets with iGold—affiliate marketing.

Webster’s defines affiliate marketing as “scamming silly internet people into buying all sorts of worthless garbage so that you can make a few extra pennies while helping to drive the country into the poorhouse.” It’s really simple to set up, and today I’m going to share the secrets of affiliate marketing with you:

  1. Get a website. There are websites on the internet. They are sort of like carrots in a field; you harvest one, but you add your own spices before you serve it. Unlike carrots, however, orange websites are not very popular.
  2. Sign up for an affiliate marketer thingy. There are a lot of affiliate marketing services around. We’ll talk about one in particular in a minute.
  3. Retire. Congratulations! You just made 50 million dollars with no work.

I may have left out a step and any sense of reality, but you get the picture.

The only affiliate marketing program you’ll find on Punny Money belongs to, seller of virtually anything that can be shipped in little brown packages. Amazon’s affiliate program lets you link to its products catalog, and every time someone makes a purchase from through one of your links, you’ll receive a small commission. For example, if you purchase this $400 needlepoint kit, I’ll make $16. But that $16 of mine comes at a grave price—your $400. Sure, you get a lovely needlepoint kit, but it’s really not lovely at all—it’s $400 you don’t have anymore. Now Amazon has $386, I have $16, and you have a needlepoint kit you’ll work on for a few hours and then throw in the closet.

Amazon also lets you sell its products with fancy 21st-century internet picture links like the one you see on the right for its top-selling Badonkadonk Land Cruiser Tank. If you had a website and your visitors bought just 25 of these babies, you’d have enough money to buy all sorts of stuff, like a better life for your family or a Badonkadonk Land Cruiser Tank.

Partly because I don’t want the monetary basis of this website to influence its content, and partly because I feel a bit guilty trying to con random internet people into buying stuff, I don’t really use that many Amazon affiliate links around here. In fact, I’ve only used them two or three times in the last year and about a dozen times total during the entire life of Punny Money. But since lots of visitors to this website arrive here through links to older articles, there are still plenty of people who end up clicking through those rare Amazon affiliate links, and occasionally someone will make a purchase. Sadly, nobody’s ponied up for a Badonkadonk Land Cruiser Tank, but I’ve referred plenty of other sales for smaller items.

The best thing about Amazon affiliate links is that, even if someone clicks through your link for a Badonkadonk Land Cruiser Tank and they end up wandering around and buying a $400 needlepoint kit instead, you still get credit. In fact, about 90% of the product sales I’ve referred have been for items to which I’ve never linked. For instance, when I linked to this Toro Electric Leaf Blower/Vac (an item I actually own and love and highly recommend), two people bought the blower/vac, but someone else bought a cordless drill instead because it was featured as a “recommended item” on the same page as the blower/vac.

Remember when I said that 90% of my sales are for items I didn’t suggest myself? No? I just said it in the last paragraph. Are you skimming articles again??? Anyway, since Amazon provides detailed reports on every single item someone purchases from my referral account, I can see just what you crazy people are buying (but don’t worry, I can’t tell who’s buying what). And I have to say, you guys are buying some weird stuff. Here’s just a sample of the wacky crap that people have bought from who visited via Punny Money over the years.

High School Musical 2 (Extended Edition) Not satisfied with the regular, unextended edition of this movie, somebody shelled out 16 bucks to see a bunch of high school kids dance around and sing about serious issues like why Disney is stomping on Walt’s grave with crappy sequel after crappy sequel. I made 96 cents!

Seventh Generation Baby Wipes Refills, Chlorine Free and Unscented, 80-Count Packs (Pack of 12) (960 Wipes) What ever happened to the old days when people would just take their babies out back and hose them down after a diaper change? At least the person who purchased this product is giving some consideration to the environment as it is made only from natural ingredients like Polysorbate 20, tocopherol acetate, and other things with totally natural-sounding names. Now baby will be clean and less toxic than the other children on the playground.

Motomco #33475 Black Rodent Station Great, now I’m an accessory to animal murder, even if it is of the creepy crawly hairy variety. At least I can rest at night knowing that the purchaser got a pretty good deal on this—and I even managed to make 46 cents in the process.

Lg Chocolate Vx8500 Chocolate, Vx9900 Env, Vx8600, Ax8600, Lx150, Vx9400, Vx8700, Ax275, Vx8550, Vx8350, Rumor, Cu575 Trax, Lx160, Lx570 Muziq, Vx5400, Vx8800 Venus, Cu515, CU720 Shine Accessory Bundle Kit- Rapid Car Charger with Ic Chip + USB Data Cable I’m not even sure what this is. From the title, it’s either cell phone accessories, candy, or a hard math problem. Strangely enough, Amazon sells all three.

25 Opera Favorites I guess I shouldn’t say anything bad about opera music or I’ll come off as an uncultured jerk. Still, five bucks would’ve made for a great down payment on a Badonkadonk Land Cruiser Tank.

Shen Min Advanced Formula for Woman, 60 Tabs Apparently this product features “vital co-factor hair growth nutrients” which is industry code for “easy money from bald people.” Sadly, if my hairline and heredity have their way, I’ll one day be joining the ranks of the shiny-domes; but I’ll be employing a much more practical measure to deal with it—traffic cones hats.

Hopefully my exposé of people’s bizarre Amazon purchases won’t discourage you from shopping there in the future. And if you’re planning to take a stroll over there anytime soon—say, to pick up a Badonkadonk Land Cruiser Tank with your massive tax refund or rebate—don’t hesitate to do so through one of the many blatant affiliate links scattered throughout this article.

This post sponsored by the Badonkadonk Land Cruiser Tank: the most fun you can have driving around the desert of a foreign planet for under $20,000.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Get Paid Hundreds of Dollars Just to Interview For Jobs

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , , free donuts every Friday.

Hopefully you’re like me and are able to resist throwing yourself at all of the web startups du jour that keep popping up all over the place. A couple of years ago it was MySpace that drove all of the kiddies to hurl themselves like lemmings at a cliff. Now you’ve got websites with names like Fwurgle, Choopsey, and Hobnobble promising to do something to improve people’s lives when really all they’re doing is complicating them even further in order to make a quick buck.

So when I first heard about NotchUp a few months ago, I totally passed it off as another internet startup that would make a bang for a few days, maybe rake in a few dollars for its creators, and then make way for the next one-hit e-wonder. But then NotchUp resurfaced a couple of weeks ago, still alive, still promising to make people’s lives better, and (almost) ready to open for business.

So what is this NotchUp I keep talking about? Well, it’s a lot of things. On the surface, NotchUp is a service that connects prospective employees with businesses looking to hire. In other words, NotchUp is a headhunter—someone paid to help companies find good workers. If this were all NotchUp were, it would already be out of the picture because the world has more than enough headhunters already.

Where NotchUp distinguishes itself from your everyday headhunter is that 1) you don’t pay them a penny; the company looking to hire you does; 2) NotchUp passes on some (likely most) of the money it gets from prospective employers to you, the job candidate; and 3) you don’t even need to be hired by the company to get your money. In short, NotchUp helps you get paid to interview for jobs. And not just a few pennies per interview either. NotchUp claims that qualified candidates could demand in the neighborhood of $500 per interview.

At this point you probably just quit your sub-$30,000 a year job after doing the math that you could make your entire annual salary in a few months with just 60 job interviews at $500 apiece. If so, you may want to start interviewing for real because there’s a few things you should know about NotchUp:

  • They haven’t really started operating yet. Yes, you can sign up for a NotchUp account today, but nobody’s getting paid for interviews quite yet.
  • There’s a lot of competition. NotchUp recently hit all of the big social networking sites, so they’re probably already in the six figures for membership numbers. That said, I would expect that fully 90% of NotchUp’s current enrollment would be lucky to pass an interview for the position of 2nd Dishwasher Assistant. So if you have high-demand skills, there’s still hope for you.
  • Nobody really knows how it’ll turn out. NotchUp may or may not already be in talks with prospective employers and interviewers, but its claims of “$500+ per interview” are really just conjecture at this point. Maybe a few high-demand positions could fetch that much when NotchUp first launches, but I would expect the actual returns to fall a good bit short.
  • It’s just asking to be abused. When all you have to do to get paid is interview for the job, you’re opening up the possibility of people who become professional job interviewees—folks who sign up for interviews left and right while knowing full well they’re not really looking for a new job. If the abuse is bad enough, it could be the undoing of NotchUp.
  • Your current boss might see you. While NotchUp appears to have some rudimentary filtering techniques designed to help you hide your NotchUp profile from unwanted attention (say, from your current employer), they may be easy to get around. So unless you think your boss will buy into your explanation that you’re “just interviewing for jobs for fun and profit,” beware that potentially anyone could see your profile and assume you’re looking for new work.

Right now, NotchUp has a lot of promise but not much more than hype and resumes to show for its efforts so far. But if you’re okay with putting yourself out there on the internet, then you’ve got nothing to lose by signing up with NotchUp for free and seeing where it goes.

Oh, and while anyone can sign up for NotchUp, if you get referred by an existing member, you don’t have to wait for your application to be reviewed and possibly rejected. So if you want an invite, send me an e-mail. Note that I do get a 10% bonus for interviews completed by people I refer, so I especially encourage top-level astronaut baseball players who will fetch $50,000 per interview to ask me for an invite.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Absolute Best, Must See Financial Web Pages Ever

Author: Nick
Category: Money

For a long time, I’ve been wanting to put together sort of a Master List of really excellent personal finance website links and post it here. The problem is that every single personal finance writer on the internet has already done this, and I try to avoid doing The Same Old Thing as everyone else here.

So I figured I’d try something new and put together a small collection of the best single pages of the internet that are just so full of amazing financial information that you should print out every single one of them and carry them around in your pocket all of the time. Putting this collection together was no easy feat; it took at least ten solid minutes of using Google and digging through my bookmarks to come up with this list.

Again, the criteria for this list are as follows:

  1. Only single web pages. Sure, the entire site as a whole might be nice, but I’m looking for one page or document that’s just bursting with personal finance flavor in every bite.
  2. Must be awesome. Lack of awesomeness is an immediate disqualification.
  3. Must be useful. A web page with lots of pretty numbers that aren’t of any real use is not going to help anybody. Users of this page should leave it having accomplished or learned something.

I considered having some little award statuettes made for this, but I figured just the honor of being selected would be recognition enough.

Best Financial Calculator

dinkytown calculatorDinkyTown’s Benefits of Spending Less Calculator

It’s almost a given that has the best financial calculators for virtually every situation involving money, but selecting just one was no easy task. The Benefits of Spending Less Calculator struck me as the most awesome and useful of the roughly four billion calculators on that website because absolutely anybody can use it to see what would happen if you cut out, for instance, your weekly visit to the local brothel. (Now I can retire at 50!)

Best Cheat Sheet

ivrThe IVR Cheat Sheet

When Paul English put together his list of phone numbers and dialing sequences that will get you a real human when calling a mega-corporation, it was all you heard about on the internet for about three weeks. The IVR (interactive voice response) cheat sheet has since been replaced by the gethuman website; but unless you carry an internet-talkie device in your pocket all of the time, you’ll have much better luck on the road and away from home with this printable version of the original cheat sheet that contains some of the more frequent companies you may find yourself calling. Now you can call a live person at the Department of Homeland Security from anywhere!

Best Beginner-Level Investing Guide

sec financial statements guideBeginners’ Guide to Financial Statements

If you ever decide to ramp up your personal investment activities and you’re looking for companies to invest in, you’ll need to do your homework to make sure you don’t inadvertently throw your cash into a business with hidden financial troubles. This guide from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission will teach you the basics of understanding a company’s financial statements—from footnotes to shareholder equity—so you can judge for yourself if that business is a smart investment or another Enron waiting to happen.

Best Resource for Maximizing Student Financial Aid

princeton federal student aid tax guideA Step-by-Step Guide to the Federal Income Tax Form

Once you’re filling out your FAFSA form to apply for Federal student financial aid, it’s probably too late to find any significant moves that will increase your aid allotment. The best time to do this is when you’re filling out your tax forms (well, really before you fill out the forms) because reducing your amount of taxable income will help to increase your financial aid eligibility. This guide from the folks at The Princeton Review highlights the parts of the 1040 you’ll want to pay particular attention to in order to help maximize your student aid prospects.

Best Guide to Saving Money on Energy Costs energy guideHow to Save on Your Energy Bill

I’ve seen parts of a list like this on more than a dozen different web pages, but this is the first time I’ve seen practically every energy-saving tip imaginable in one place. You’ll find a lot of great How-Tos on, a community-driven knowledge repository not unlike Wikipedia, but this is definitely one of my favorite guides in their growing Finance section.

Best Resource for People Who Always Lose Stuff

wheresmycellphone.comWhere’s My Cell Phone?.com

You swear you just had your cell phone in your hand, but now you don’t. After digging around in your desk for a while and trying to call your cell phone from a different phone to locate it, you’re about to give up and spend $200 on a new one. But wait! Simply enter your phone number into this website and it will keep your cell phone ringing until you find it and hang up (or until the battery dies). What’s that? You left your cell phone in your mistress’s pants which your wife found under your bed because it kept ringing until she came home? Hooray! Another owner reunited with their cell phone thanks to Where’s My Cell Phone?.com.

Best Place to Find Top CD Rates

fatwallet cd rates CD Rates Thread

The CD Rates Thread over at is the first place you should look if you’ve got a few K burning a hole in your pocket and you’re looking to stash it away in a safe place for some number of months. The rates in the Quick Summary area are constantly updated by real people to include the latest CD rate deals available both online and off. Rates are conveniently organized by rate term and include summaries of when the rate was spotted and the minimum amount of money that must be invested in the CD at opening, if any.

Best Money Resources for Kids

federal reserve comicsFree Comic Books from the Federal Reserve

Visit this page to order your free copies of money-related comic books for your kids to enjoy. Topics covered include banking, saving, the economy, monetary policy, and more. You can preview one of the comics, Wishes and Rainbows (PDF), online. Unfortunately the rest of the comics only come in tree murderer-friendly format.

This is a work in progress, and new resources will be added to this page as they are found. If you have a suggestion for a one-page resource you’d like to see added to this page, please send it to Nick with the subject line “Another Absolute Best Financial Web Page.”

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Biggest Punny Articles of 2007, And Thanks to the Year’s Top Traffic Referrers!

Author: Nick
Category: Money

vote punny money for president, the least sucky choice and you know it

This past year was a phenomenal year for Punny Money. Despite the fact that I only wrote three articles with any useful information in them, Punny Money received over 180 billion unique visitors in 2007 and is now read daily in more than 8,000 countries. [Editor’s Note: It turns out I accidentally added six zeros too many to those figures. It was really only 180,000 visitors, and Punny Money is read in 0.008 countries. My apologies.]

I’d like to thank all of you who read Punny Money daily or whenever I got off my butt to actually write an article, and I promise everyone that there will be a lot more financial news you couldn’t possibly use in 2008. I’d also like to thank those fellow personal finance writers out there who linked to various articles on Punny Money, especially those who sent massive numbers of internet people this way. Here are the biggest Punny Money referrers of 2007*, in order of visitor-sendingosity:

*Excludes sites with a bounce rate of 80% or more, indicating stoned teenagers searching the internet for shiny objects.

  1. Grad Money Matters – Back in August, Grad Money Matters wrote an article entitled What I Do to Live Frugally that got picked up by virtually every social bookmarking website on the internet. It pointed to my buffet article, so I ended up getting lots of visitors too. Sadly, the author of Grad Money Matters hasn’t written anything in over a month. Come back and link to me again soon, ya hear?
  2. My Money Blog – If you aren’t reading My Money Blog, then you should probably start. You’ll find more genuinely useful and practical information there than on any other personal finance blog on the internet. A lot of personal finance writers like to write about ponies and rainbows, but My Money Blog gives you the coupon codes to save 10% off your next purchase at
  3. Clever Dude – Back in the day, Clever Dude wrote many a useful personal finance article. Now he writes about his new favorite topics: videogames and liquor. Perhaps that’s why you all read him more than me. But that’s fine, as long as he keeps sending me a few of you guys.
  4. Get Rich Slowly – Other than The Simple Dollar, Get Rich Slowly is the biggest personal finance blog there is. But unlike The Simple Dollar, who writes mostly book reviews and philosophical thoughts about money, Get Rich Slowly writes more practical stuff like advice for buying your first home and interesting tricks you can do with gift cards.
  5. Stop Buying Crap – I’m sad to see that Stop Buying Crap seems to have stopped writing crap lately too. If there’s one website out there that inspired me to start writing Punny Money, it’s this one. Come back, Cap!
  6. Money, Matter, and More Musings – Golbguru started writing about personal finance at the exact same time I did. Money, Matter, and More Musings has 8 jillion readers. Punny Money has 900 or so. Perhaps it’s because Money, Matter, and More Musings is alphabetically before Punny Money. Yeah, we’ll just assume it’s that.
  7. Five Cent Nickel – Nickel and the next two guys are the big members of the Money Blog Network. Together, they write 80 thousand posts a year. For once, I am not making up that number; I am making an educated guess. Go read their stuff, then come back here since they obviously link to me quite a lot.
  8. Free Money Finance – By far the most prolific personal finance writer in the world. In June, he finished writing about the very last topic in personal finance, so he started again from the beginning. Amazing. Free Money Finance gives all of his website’s revenue to charity. I use my revenue to eat at buffets. Seriously, I think I’ll stop writing now and just redirect all of my visitors to Free Money Finance.
  9. Blueprint for Financial Prosperity – I have a lot in common with jim from Blueprint. We both live in Maryland. We both own a home. And we’re both Asian, except he’s Asian by birth, and I just watched so much Japanese anime that I became one somehow. Go visit him now and tease him because his website name doesn’t match his domain name.
  10. Bank Deals – I read no other personal finance blog more religiously than I do Bank Deals. Thanks to Bank Deals, my money in savings is making more money than I do. Yes, lazy paper money has a higher salary than a real person. If you are looking for the best savings account or CD rate for your money, you go here. No, you don’t go somewhere else. You go to Bank Deals. Hey! What did I just say? WHAT DID I JUST SAY??? Go to Bank Deals.

Now here’s a look at the most visited articles of 2007 on Punny Money, in case you missed any of them the first time around. If you memorize them all word for word, I’ll give you a shiny penny.

  1. Fight Thieving Restaurant Servers With Checksum Tips I never thought this article would take off like it did, but it accounted for fully one out of every 10 viewers Punny Money had in 2007.
  2. Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Dry Loop DSL This was a follow-up to the next article in this list, partly due to the success of that article.
  3. Verizon Lies About Dry Loop DSL Availability I wrote this article back in 2006 and it still pulled ’em in last year.
  4. Eat Your Money’s Worth At Any All-You-Can-Eat Buffet And here I was thinking that nobody else would be interested in my strategies for packing away the calories at buffets. Some trivia about this article: It was the sole inspiration for Clever Dude’s wife to start her own nutrition and healthy stuff blog because she wanted to help all the poor people I was leading to an early grave.
  5. Ten Ways Anyone Can Go to College With Zero Student Loans This is another older article that keeps pulling in the visitors—poor college kids who don’t want to get buried in an avalanche of debt that will take 20+ years to pay back.
  6. How to Get Paid to Go to College It wasn’t enough for people to go to college without having to borrow money. Now they want to get paid for it. I happily obliged with this article based on my own personal experiences.
  7. No Fax Machine? Send Faxes Online Cheap or Free! Yet another older article that still brings in the cheapskates. Hmm… I’m seeing a trend here.
  8. Borders Bookstore 30% Off Coupon, Expires November 5th Yes, the coupon expired on November 5th… of 2006! I should either update this article, sell books from it, or just kill it altogether. That is, unless someone out there has a hobby collecting expired internet coupon codes.
  9. Five Fabulous-Paying Jobs Anyone Can Do—Except They’re Totally Illegal I get it. I get it. You want the six-figure salary, and you don’t care who you have to kill to get it. *sniff* I’m so proud of you guys.
  10. The 9-Volt Battery Conspiracy Rounding out the list is my exposé of the battery conglomerate’s attempts to extort millions of dollars out of you with smoke detectors that only take super-expensive 9-volt batteries.

Oh, and I’m taking requests for topics people want me to write about in 2008. Do you want to see more investing talk here? Or perhaps you’d like some insight into the housing market. Or maybe you just want me to write about hookers every article. Feel free to comment and let me know what you think. Thanks again for a wonderful year, everyone!