Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wedding Spending Orgy

Only one week until the spending orgy of the year, the wedding cake, tux, hotel rooms, reception, limo, flowers, rehearsal dinner, and on and on. If I ever become dictator for life, my first dictate:

  1. Church/temple/other – one priest
  2. Like the NFL – a salary cap (and a hard cap) would be instituted. $1,000 or one month take-home pay – the smaller.

Once it is over, back to saving!!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

$3 per gallon gasoline – in 2008?

This morning, I paid less than $4 per gallon for fuel for the week. Will we get to $3 per gallon before 2008 is over?

ATT – Faster DSL for the same price

After I threatened to turn off my phone line and go with DSL, SBC (now ATT) offered to double my DSL speed for free. While I don't need a landline, I will enjoy having faster download speeds.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Smartcar is a Dumbcar

Carpooling with my fiancé in our Toyota Corolla, we spotted a "Smartcar" at a stoplight. Although interesting to look at, the idea behind it is idiotic:

  1. It only gets 33mpg in the city. While not awful, we get similar mileage from the much larger Corolla.
  2. It has room for two people and almost no cargo. In comparison, the Corolla is large enough for 4 people for short trips. Indeed, we feel comfortable planning a 3,000 mile trip (with a lot of luggage) later this year.
  3. It is simply too small. In a crash, size matters and the SmartCar has no room for error.
  4. Cost – For the price of a SmartCar, one can easily purchase a very well made Honda Fit or Toyota Yaris with money to spare. Both are larger, more practical and can match it in mileage. For just a little more, you can get a nicely appointed Civic or Corolla.

Bottom Line: The SmartCar is a vanity purchase for most people and almost always a bad idea.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pricing Errors – Do you fix them?

A few days ago, I bought a GPS unit for my fiancé at BJ's Wholesale club. Today, Quicken picked up the charge; however, it was $150 less than it should have been. Should I go to the store to correct the error?

If I notice the mistake and I am still in a store, I always do my best to correct the error. Honesty is important to me. In this case, I am torn. Going back to the original store would be impossible (I bought it out of state) and working with the local store to fix it would be a huge hassle. My time is valuable and wasting an hour in the store to correct their mistake seems excessive.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Not smart enough to live!

When I got home today, Quizo's sub was running an add touting the amount of meat in their sandwich for the amount charged. As part of the ad, they show a guy trying to eat a roll of coins. For some reason, they feel the need to inform watchers not to try it at home. IMHO – anyone who would try to eat a roll of coins is not smart enough to live.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Prius Mania

Driving down the highway, I saw a convoy of SIX Toyota Priuses cutting in and out of traffic. They do seem to be everywhere. Indeed, one of my friends is waiting to take delivery of a new Prius. My dream car, an Accord sized hatchback with hybrid technology – 40+mpg. Very different from my – I want a Mustang days.

Thought on Oil Prices – Long Term

Thankfully, it looks like the days of massive increases in oil prices are over (for the short term). With consumers cutting back, the demand curve has shifted to the left enough to stabilize prices. Nevertheless, long term supply increases are unlikely (even at the high prices) and consumers need to make "savings" permanent:

  1. No more SUV's.
  2. Don't buy houses 50 miles from your job.
  3. Carpooling is your friend.
  4. If not carpooling, ride mass transit.
  5. Small houses are cool. McMansions are not.
  6. Insulate, Insulate, Insulate.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

20 cents per gallon of Gas?

At the pump today, I realized my Amex Blue Cash card was saving me over 20 cents per gallon. Unless the gas stations have a larger markup than I think, this cannot last long.

Biggest Winners- Cash and Energy

Biggest Winners in 2008:
ARLP – Coal is king with an 18% appreciation. A relatively large position, kept the portfolio on track.

HAL – Oil Services – paid off with a 19% positive move;

Cash – Dividends and Interest consisted of almost 40% of my semi-annual earnings.

Do not forget dividends and income. In a down market, they can provide a nice cushion during tough times. For the first 6 months of 2008, dividends and interest received has kept my losses to reasonable levels. Furthermore, they provide a source of cash for opportunistic purchases as discounted prices.

Mid-Year Biggest Loser Stock Report

Six months into 2008, my biggest losers are:

AIG – minus 38%

CIT - minus 60% (luckily, I sold off most of my holdings for a profit on the trade. Unfortunately, I didn't sell it all)

My employer – down almost 40% for the year, it is also my largest loss in total dollars.

Learnings: Diversification works. Despite these losses, my portfolio is off a total of 3% in a down market. I