Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Add An Extra Day to Your Week–No Time Machine Required!

Author: Nick
Category: Money

sleep less, more time for butter churning

Money is time. Time is money. You just wasted three cents reading this opening, so let’s get to it!

Since my petition to add Nickday between Wednesday and Thursday was rejected by Congress, I’ve been looking for ways to help me find some extra time. I came up with the following list which can save anybody up to 24 hours every single week.

  • Ditch the TV. Most people watch at least two hours of television every day. Last time I checked, TV is not a vitamin the body needs to survive. Stop watching all TV, except for Heroes because it’s awesome. Time saved: 13 hours
  • ditch tv, more time for practicing telekinesis

  • Sleep one hour less each day, and two hours less each weekend day. Yes, it can be done. It’ll take some getting used to, but spending less time horizontally unconscious is the easiest way to add hours to your week. Time saved: 9 hours
  • Skip every other shower. If everybody did this, nobody would notice the smell! Time saved: 30 minutes
  • Omit unneeded words. Strive for efficiency of speech. Instead of “Please pass me the bread,” say, “Bread. Now.” Time saved: 30 minutes
  • Skim some time from work. Show up two minutes later, leave three minutes early. Do this five times a week. Just don’t let the boss catch you! Time saved: 25 minutes
  • pee faster, more time for tango lessons

  • Pee faster. Instead of letting it just stream out, put some force behind it and finish in half the time. Time saved: 10 minutes
  • Instead of walking, cartwheel. Cartwheeling is at least 10% faster than normal one-foot-in-front-of-the-other travel. It’s also a great way to impress the ladies. Time saved: 10 minutes
  • Skip sex once a week. Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder. Time saved: 5 minutes
  • Don’t wear underwear. Think about how often you take off or put on underwear each week. Underwear is not worth it! Time saved: 5 minutes
  • water from the tub, more time for writing love letters to janet jackson

  • Fill water glasses from the tub, not the sink. Need a glass of water? It’ll take about five seconds to fill it from the kitchen tap, but the tub spigot will do it in two. Multiply that by eight glasses a day, seven days a week, and you get… Time saved: 3 minutes
  • Add a fireman’s pole to your home. Stairs just don’t cut it in today’s fast-paced society. Time saved: 1 minute and 30 seconds
  • Rename your children. It’ll make them easier to call down for dinner. One-syllable names only, people! Mahershalalhashbaz might sound like a cool name, but George will do just fine. Time saved: 30 seconds

Now that you have an extra day every week, be sure to put it to good use. Volunteer at an orphanage. Write the Great American Novel. Read the Punny Money archives. Or fulfill your dream of becoming the first person to build a life-sized model of the Starship Enterprise out of toothpicks.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

bob at example dot com: A Great Way to Give Spammers Your E-mail Address

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

world wide waffle

Somewhere in the course of recent internet history, the following advice seems to have spread like wildfire:

“If your e-mail address is bob@example.com, you should never spell it out on websites or message boards as bob@example.com. Junk e-mailers have these ‘spider scripts’ which can harvest e-mail addresses from websites if they’re printed in their standard form. Instead you should say something like bob at example dot com.”

And so that’s what lots of people do on the internet…

My e-mail address is smart_dude at yahoo dot com

If you have questions about this offer, please contact sally at smartbusiness dot org

Hey d00d fr33 nak3d chiXoRz: nak3d_chiXoRz at omg-super-hot-girls dot yum

Hooray, address-harvesting spiders are defeated forever! Peace on earth, good will yadda yadda.

Guess what? Every time you say “bob at example dot com,” you have just told e-mail spammers that your address is bob@example.com.

But but but I didn’t have the funny little @ and the . is a dot so I’m safe, right? Right???

No! You’re not safe, Mr. Italics Bold! That’s because e-mail harvesting spiders can read and interpret “bob at example dot com” just as well as they can read “bob@example.com.” It’s as simple as programming the spider script to look for ” at ” in addition to “@” and ” dot ” along with “.”

Oh okay. So I’ll just come up with something more clever, like “bob -is at- example -period- com.” I am so smart!

No! You are so lame, Mr. Italics Bold! Spammers can just program their script to start with the “com” and work backworks, trying any number of combinations. It might pick up “example@period.com” and “is@example.com” as e-mail addresses, but it’ll also catch “bob@example.com.” And sending a single junk e-mail is virtually free, so spammers can still come out ahead even if only one out of thousands of e-mails they send actually hits a valid user!

I’m scared of the internet now! Time to go live in a cave! Call me when they fix this.

Sorry, Mr. Italics Bold, but this problem won’t be going away anytime soon. But there are some things you can do to protect yourself and your e-mail address from unwanted solicitations:

  • Protect your e-mail address like you would your home address or phone number. If I put a form on this website asking you for your home phone number, would you fill it out? Heck no! You don’t want me calling you up at three in the morning. You might need to give out your e-mail address to more places than you do your phone number, but you should think long and hard each time you do it.
  • Never post any part of your e-mail address in text form in a public location on the internet. As described earlier, it’s easy as spam pie to harvest those addresses, even if you obfuscate it with seemingly invalid syntax. Really, if you wanted to make “bob at example dot com” tricky enough to hide from spider scripts, it’d probably be too hard for people to understand it, too.
  • Use alternate means of communication in public areas. If you need to post a method of contact in a public location, your personal e-mail address is not the way to do it. On message boards, instruct users to send you a private message (or “PM”) through the boards’ own messaging system. In other places, post a single-use or temporary e-mail address like those you can get at Mailinator. For more permanent setups like website contact pages, consider a form-based solution with a captcha and spam blockers to filter unwanted messages.

If you’d like more information on this subject, please input your e-mail address in the following form.

Your e-mail:

Hey, hey, hey! What’d I just finish saying? Don’t give out your e-mail address just because someone asks you for it!

But in all seriousness, go ahead and fill it out if you’d like more information.

Your e-mail:

What’re ya doin’??? Stop filling out random forms and go do something useful.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Spammers Waste My Time, Pay Me Over $90 an Hour

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , , ,

junk e-mail, bane of my existence

I’ve preached before about how much I value my time. I even calculated the hard dollar figure of my time’s worth to be $90/hour. Of course, I don’t even make that much at my day job, and I wouldn’t charge a friend or family that much to lend them a helping hand.

But if someone wastes my time, they owe me $90 for every hour they waste.

So far, I’ve only been successful in collecting that fee from a single person… rather, a single company. A few years ago, I experimented with a new law on the books in Maryland which provided for monetary damages to recipients of unsolicited commercial e-mails, a.k.a. spam. I had plenty of such e-mails come into my inbox each day, so I targeted some of the worst offenders, did some research to find their source, and filed suit in Maryland Small Claims Court.

In each complaint, I asked for the statutory damages automatically provided by Maryland’s anti-spam law, an amount which was set at $500 per spam e-mail. And while I easily could have turned my spam mail folder into a money-making operation, the dream wasn’t as long-lived as I would have liked it to be.

Unfortunately, the law was eventually ruled unconstitutional because it tried to control interstate commerce–something an individual state can’t do with its own laws. And while the terms of the settlement agreements I reached with some of these spammers prohibits me from disclosing details, I can say that I was successful in collecting well over my $90/hour fee from one of them.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Punny Poll #9: Do You Value Time or Money More?

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

is time worth more than money to you

In last week’s poll, I asked you to identify what sort of articles you enjoy reading the most on Punny Money. Nearly half of you suggested I stick with regular finance news while adding the trademark Punny humor to it, though another third seemed fairly fond of the crazy financial experiments I’ve been performing. A few others preferred my more controversial topics. And I think everyone associated “informative and educational” with “dull and boring,” so that choice received zero votes. So I’ll definitely keep up with the crazy finance experiments (hopefully I’ll have a new one ready for release later this week), but I’ll have to start throwing in my thoughts on financial news, too. Thanks for the advice, everyone!

As part of my grand coupon experiment, I’ve been picking up a copy of the Sunday paper every week. My family used to get the newspaper every Sunday when I was young, though the only parts I’d ever read (and still the only parts I read) are the comics and PARADE Magazine. Being the child genius that I was, I absolutely loved the column by the equally genius Marilyn vos Savant. Marilyn’s column last Sunday had this question from a reader:

Please settle an argument. My friend believes that if you take a single vitamin, you will be just a little healthier than if you never had taken one. Or if you park your car inside a garage only two or three times, its body will be in better condition than if you hadn’t, even if the difference is so small you can’t see it. His reasoning is that something is always better than nothing. I disagree. What do you think?

Marilyn sided with the author of that letter, claiming that anyone who pursues “lots of goals just a little” is probably spending more time and money on the effort than the tiny benefit is worth. This reminded me of one of my favorite posts, Putting a Hard Dollar Figure on Your Time, where I explained exactly how much I value my time. But as closely linked as time and money are, sometimes we have to choose between one or the other. Do we spend time clipping coupons to save money? Should we pay extra for early admission to a theme park?

This week’s poll has just two choices and asks a seemingly simple question:
[Read more…]

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Putting a Hard Dollar Figure on Your Time

Author: Nick
Category: Money

tick tock

You may recall that one of my main complaints about clipping coupons to save money at the grocery store is that it takes time. I noted that I wasn’t prepared to give up 30 minutes a week to cutting out coupons unless it was worth my time… but I didn’t really comment on how much my time is worth.

So let’s put a dollar amount on an hour of my time.

Rather, let’s figure out how to put a dollar amount on anybody’s time so you’ll be able to determine if pursuing a money-saving option is truly worth your time. But how should we start on this sort of vague calculation? I guess the best place would be with your job’s pay rate.

Assuming you work a single job for a consistent wage or salary, you should be able to determine your equivalent hourly pay rate pretty easily. Of course, you may be in a situation where you work uncompensated overtime, or your pay rate depends on what shift you work, or you may just have a position where your income varies from hour to hour. Still, you should be able to come up with a dollar amount that, if you were paid it hourly instead of whatever your current pay rate is, you would be making as much money as you make right now. You may also wish to consider the value of benefits you receive such as vacation, medical/dental/vision, and employee discounts. For my calculations, I’ve included these extra benefits and have given myself an estimated hourly compensation rate of $60.

Next, take into consideration that your time is your time. It doesn’t belong to your job or to the government or to anyone else… except maybe your spouse or children, but you’re not about to charge them for it, are you? Since this is time beyond what you normally spend working each week, let’s call it overtime. As such, you should multiply that hourly compensation rate by 1.5 or an even higher multiple if you wish. I’ll stick with 1.5, so my final figure becomes $90.

So if you want an hour of my free time, you’re going to need to make it worth $90, right? Maybe, but then I probably wouldn’t have many friends. At this point, you discount your hourly “fee” depending on how your time will be spent. Here are some examples taken from my life of discounts I’d offer:

  • Time spent writing to educate y’all about the wonders of personal finance: 50% off, or $45/hour (maybe one day…)
  • Tutoring a neighbor’s granddaughter in math: 83% off, or $15/hour
  • Helping our friends mulch: 95% off, payable in those delicious brownies they make (ideally)
  • Time spent with family: 110% off, or -$9/hour (for the gas to drive to see them)

If you’re going to discount your time so much for just about anything, then for what would you charge the full rate? For me, if it were legally possible, I would charge $90 an hour to anyone who wastes my time. This would include idiot drivers who cause traffic backups, people who enter supermarket express lanes ahead of me with 50 items in their baskets, and the makers of jarred foods that take forever to get open.

It would also include senders of unsolicited e-mails (spammers). Oddly enough, I once managed to successfully collect my equivalent hourly rate from such a person, but that’s a story for another time.