Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Would you get married by PayPerPost?

This seems pretty ridiculous to me but you know that there is somebody out there who will do it. They want to have a PayPerPost wedding in Las Vegas - I'm not entirely sure what "PayPerPost style" means but I don't think I'd enjoy it. November 18th has a different meaning up here in Columbus though - it is the day before the Michigan-OSU game so pretty much no one does anything. I'm not sure I could fly out even if I wanted to. I do love how they say they'll include the ceremony and license, and then give you $1000, which you can then spend on flowers or your wedding attire? They won't even spring for a dress!

Watch the video here: http://blog.payperpost.com/2006/10/payperpost-sponsored-wedding.html

I'm not sure about the value of all these stunts - if they want to reach a wider audience, PayPerPost might try real advertising.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

A little math cures me of the desire for a label printer

I wrote previously about how I wanted to get a Dymo printer to print Stamps.com stamps for CashDuck. I've started sending out a LOT more mail, so it began to look like a better and better idea. It occurred to me that I should check how much the Stamps.com stamps actually cost me, and did a little math.. The ones that come on the sheet? About 3 cents each. The ones that come on the roll? About 6 cents each. Eek! That's a pretty high ongoing cost, plus the $100 for the Dymo itself. I think I will simply print a bunch ahead of time so I don't have to send the sheet through over and over.. I ended up buying about 600 stamps on sheets for $20, which I think is not too high a price to pay for convenience.

What am I going to do with this money, PayPerPost version

PayPerPost is asking for our "PayPerPost story". Well, I don't know that it's much of a story since I haven't been using it very long, and don't see that many links I feel inspired about. Most of the things I have done have just been PayPerPost stories. I've been paid $22 already and expect to get about $200 in the next few weeks; most everything I get from my various online activities goes straight into the e-fund. My goal is $2000 on that, at least. Then it will be into the car fund, so if I need to buy a car I have at least some cash on hand for it. I don't think it will pay for the car though, but every little bit helps.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Things I am debating whether it is worth it to spend the money on...

First up - getting a service mark for CashDuck. This would be kind of cool, but I doubt that it would ever actually be useful. Then again who knows? In this age, having the domain name is a prerequisite to naming something, so maybe no one else will name something CashDuck and challenge me for the name. I do know that there is some kind of software package called Cashduck.. I don't think it was written by a US person though. A service mark would cost me about $300.

A Dymo label printer - This I might actually buy if I can find a good price on one. I've decided to keep my Stamps.com membership because I am mailing quite a lot of stuff and it's very useful to have the stamps' amounts automatically calculated. Plus it prints very nice labels for packages and what not. Stamps.com sells rolls of stamps which you can put in a Dymo label printer and have it print one stamp at a time. How cool is that? Plus the stamps can actually be for rather high amounts so I could conceivably use only the roll stamps for all printing. I was a little worried about sending the same sheet of stamps through the printer multiple times, but this seems to be a nice solution. Unfortunately, one of these things will run me at least $80. I am trying to find a used one and see if I can get it down to $50. This would be very useful.

New office chair - I always say I'm going to do this but then I never do. I have one of those extremely standard chairs that cost 50 bucks and only height-adjusts. I'm starting to have some problems with my wrists and elbows, mostly from how I sit at work, but I wonder if it would be poor taste to bring in my own chair there. (My coworker who left was supposed to get a new chair.. how long does it take to order a frigging chair? She never got it and it has never been mentioned again.) I think back to the nice cushy chairs that we had at the test-grading job I did last spring, with adjustable armrests, tall enough back to put your head on, etc.. Probably expensive though. Maybe I should just push for a better chair at work.

Class on financial planning - My university offers several "courses" each quarter on various topics, such as learning to shoot a gun, drywalling, sushi making, etc. I took a knitting course last quarter which was pretty fun and only $30. There's a "financial planning" course this quarter, only one class, which is $25. It might be interesting, or it might be a bunch of bull where the guy (who is himself a financial planner type person) tries simply to convince us that it's all too hard, so we should just save up all our money and let him manage it. He is also running another class, one night for $25, on portfolio management and allocation, which considering how little money I have to invest is pretty useless. I don't think I need to pay $25 for somebody to tell me to diversify and buy a percentage of bonds according to my age.

It's debatable whether this is actually a BAD thing, but...

I seem to be unable to think about getting extra money in terms of actually spending it. When I get money from surveys or whatever in my Paypal, I think "Oh boy! I can put this in my emergency fund!" When I got all the money from DealBarbie and friends, I thought "Oh boy! I can pay off my credit card!"

And now when I am thinking about this potential new job (which I was up doing last night not sleeping even though I was exhausted) I think "Oh boy! How much can I put in my 403(b)!"

I think that the crucial point I have come to is that I accept the amount of money I live on now as perfectly fine. Previously, when I had my old second job, Boyfriend and I would do things like go to Olive Garden three times in one week. (Yes, we did.) And when that job went under, and the free flowing extra income was suddenly gone, it was pretty painful to adjust to the new amounts. At first I was hardly saving anything. Then I put $100 a month in my savings account. Then I put $100 a month in my Roth. Then I put $150 a month in my savings. Then I put $50 a month in my gifts account. Then I put more towards credit cards. Then I put $125 a month in the Roth.

Now, out of a take home of about $1850 a month, I spend about $550 on bills and rent, and budget about $600 for everything else.

Where does that extra $700 go? Well, at least $200 goes towards savings, and the rest goes towards the student loan, the credit cards, the Roth, or more towards savings. I think that this represents a pretty major shift in my basic financial thinking - that saving money and paying down debt really is the major item in my budget, instead of an afterthought. I think that this has started to pay off nicely in my net worth - while I haven't done as well as I could, my net worth has gone up a little over $3,000 since I started blogging in June. This is partially because I am working in both directions - paying off debt and accumulating more assets. Starting CashDuck was a bit of a drain on the ol' net worth but I should be putting it back quite soon.

So I think it's a pretty good thing that the first thing I thought of when contemplating a new, higher salary was, "Oh boy! How much money can I save?" instead of "Oh boy! We can go back to eating at Olive Garden every week!" More money is an opportunity to save, not an opportunity to spend.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

PayPerPost video confessional.. Why did they put this person up to this??

OK, I feel really bad for this girl. She's obviously very overworked, and seems right at the edge between striving and not caring. And the comments about how "they're outside the door" sounds like she really does believe they are listening in on her.. when she's not shouting about what she wants out of the company. The more I listen, the worse I feel for her. I really have no idea why they would put this person up to this because it really doesn't put a good face on the company, that they stress out their workers this much. I know it is supposed to be a peek inside the way the company really runs, but it sounds like everyone is on the verge of collapse. And we get paid to blog about her imminent nervous breakdown.

Although on a personal finance side she sounds really stressed about money, but at least she did pay off her car!

Check it out here: http://blog.payperpost.com/2006/10/video-confessional-flaming-tamale.html


I have a job interview on Monday! For a job at the same university where I work! Exclamation point exclamation point!!

Spam that saves you money!

A great way to save money on restaurant costs is to sign up for newsletters from restaurants you want to go to. Often they will send you a coupon when you sign up, and then specials every now and then. Quizno's sends me $2 coupons every few weeks, and when I signed up for Red Lobster's email list I got a coupon for a free appetizer. Mongolian Barbecue has a $5 off coupon too. This pretty much only works for chain restaurants, but if you know you'll be heading out to one that evening, sign up in the morning and you could get a coupon in your email by evening! We don't ever go to Quizno's without a coupon anymore because I get so many.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A tip of my hat to the kindness of strangers

Many of you read about the plight of my coworker's gecko in my previous posts. I have already bought him mealworms and cricket dust to help fatten him up, and will be purchasing an under-tank heater, possibly a heat lamp, and new hiding spaces, as well as cleaning his tank out. I was not looking forward to these expenses since if I could afford a gecko I might have one myself, but felt that this little guy's health is more important than my budget. I was very surprised when Ricemutt offered to pitch in and sent me a donation to cover the costs of Sunny's new digs!!

He will be a very happy gecko now, I think. =)


So I got my first pay raise yesterday. You would think I would be more excited. Well, it's amazing the difference in mood 0.3% can make. See, I had heard that the standard pay raise was 3.5% a year. This really isn't a raise anyway, it's a cost of living increase, but at least it's something. And considering that I got above average on my annual review a couple months ago, I fully expected to get my 3.5% - given all the bull about this being a "performance increase", hadn't I performed?

Evidently not. I got my letter yesterday and it says that I am getting 3.2%, raising me less than $1000 a year. I realize that the difference between 3.2% and 3.5% is maybe a hundred dollars per year, but it really is a big deal considering that I've done better than could be expected, and the entire medical center itself is turning a profit.

I just feel very devalued. It's pretty obvious from the way that my coworkers and I are treated that we are just peons compared to the surgeons, but now I pretty much have no morale. To top it off, the letter was sent by a department head that I've never heard of, not my own HR person, and is dated October 11th.

The last paragraph: A key priority for the University and Medical Center is attracting and retaining a talented work force. To become a high performance organization and workplace of choice, we must continue to focus on achiving the compensation goals outlined in the University's Academic Plan.

I was talking with a coworker about this the other day - that while our division seems to want to get the best people, they want to still be able to treat them like they have nowhere else to go and should be glad for their job. In my job there is really no advancement, no way to take on more responsibility or heaven forbid get your name on anything, and certainly they are not going to raise your pay.

Sorry for not writing something happier. I pretty much just want to go home and sleep and wake up having a new job.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Upcoming expenses I would rather not incur..

It has come to my attention that my lovely swooshy pants are a) a little too thin to be worn during winter, since I walk to and from work, and b) a little too short, such that they look funny when I wear shoes with socks. Now, not being a particularly fashion-conscious gal, the first distresses me more than the second. I'm still contemplating new pants though. I have decided to pay no more than $100 and see how far I can get on that - I think I can get four pairs with some creative uses of coupon codes.

Next is the expense for pet supplies. I regularly buy my guinea pigs' cage litter in giant orders from PETCO so as to save on shipping, but I am going to have to buy some supplies for another little critter.. my coworker's leopard gecko. This was her son's pet which was forced outside due to the addition of a dog to the household, and since it is now very cold out, she has brought it into the office. This poor little guy is in very sorry shape though, and his cage setup is really not conducive to health - lined with bark (which is poky and he can eat it - stick with paper towels people!), his hidey hole is a rock (COLD!), and he has no heat source, which if you know about reptiles is a Very Bad Thing (general ill health). He also really needs some mealworms to fatten him up but Coworker refuses to buy them since she is afraid of them. Really I just want to take this animal away from her if she refuses to care for it (she has admitted to leaving it without food for weeks at a time, and it is VERY undersized for its age) but I will have to settle for buying it some new cage accessories to keep it healthy (and keeping the mealworms in my office for snacks.) This will probably run me about $30, in addition to the $50 or so I usually spend on guinea pig litter.

New shoes - OK, this is an expense I do want to incur, but I won't (at least not for a while.) Check out these babies - Dansko's are very comfortable, but also very expensive, and I already have a pair bought on deep discount (even if these are way cuter.)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

"How many cards are you going to get?"

My boyfriend remarked this when I pulled yet another card out of yet another unmarked white envelope. This one is the American Express that I got for CashDuck expenses. I have indeed been getting a lot of cards lately. In my wallet I have:

Chase PerfectCard credit card
Credit union debit card

And in my old wallet in my desk I have:

Bank of America debit card
Chase Universal credit card
StockBack credit card
KeyBank debit card
Amex for CashDuck
National City debit card for CashDuck

Does that seem like a lot?

Yet Another PayPerPost Puzzle Piece

Another part of the PayPerPost blog marketing Blue Monster puzzle. Whoever finds all the pieces and puts them together in the correct order gets a $500 prize. The picture is supposed to tell you something about the Blue Monster program.. I have no idea what it is.

Hmm this piece is not very illustrative.. at least the last one had an eye.

Dear Abby is Awesome

Here's some wisdom from Dear Abby:

DEAR ABBY: I am married to a wonderful woman, but something has been bothering me since we have been together. I am not as honest as I should be in our relationship.

We have had money problems pretty much since our marriage began. I have a spending problem, and I lie to her about where the money goes. I have been doing better, but I still want to spend money we do not have.

I do not spend money on drugs, prostitutes or clothes, but rather on plastic models and other hobby-related items. How do I stop spending and lying to my wife about it? -- SICK OF THE LYING IN OKLAHOMA

DEAR SICK: You start acting like a man instead of a child with his hand in the cookie jar. You recognize that marriage is a partnership and you have been, in a sense, stealing from your partner. Then you and she agree on a budget you can responsibly allocate to your hobby, and live within your means.

I think that's a really great perspective - that when you spend money that your family doesn't have, you are stealing from your partner, because eventually that debt is going to overwhelm you and you will need your partner's help to pay it off.

I think it's also especially telling for this guy that he has been spending all his money on toys - he really is stuck in childhood! Although you have to wonder if his wife hasn't already become suspicious.. it's pretty hard to stay in the dark that much, if your husband has piles and piles of hobby toys, but claims he's only spending "a few dollars" on it. I wonder if he'll actually be a man and fess up to his wife..

Friday, October 20, 2006

PayPerPost Blue Monster puzzle piece

If you're playing the Blue Monster puzzle game, here's another piece for you. Different bloggers will be posting pieces of this image on their blog, connected by the search term payperpostbluemonster, and whoever finds all of them and puts them together in the right order first will win $500. This is run by PayPerPost, the blog marketing company. Here is the picture:

I dunno, looks like an eye? Is the Blue Monster scary?

Eight (Festivals) Is Great!

Check out the eighth Festival of Under 30 Finances over at City Girl's Financial Blog. I thought she might like the standardized patient article.. ;)

The next edition is up at A Penny Saved.. so hop on over and submit! Anyone of any age can submit as long as the topic is appropriate for the under 30!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Suze just seems to pop up everywhere...

So back in January, I had just lost a really great job where I wrote medical textbook flashcards at home. (The project basically ran out of money.) So I wanted to find something else to do at home after work, and started applying to all kinds of telecommute jobs on Craigslist in various cities. Unfortunately, there weren't any bites after literally 100 or more applications, so I got discouraged and stopped applying.

A few days ago, someone responded to an email I sent back in February asking if I was still available! I had no idea what the job was so I wrote back and asked - basically it's a once in a while thing where I copy contact information from one file into another so that it can be formatted for a mailing. Well, guess who ends up on my list. =)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I Want That And I Don't Know Why!

I did this a lot as a little kid. I loved to read catalogs and sometimes I would get fixated on some particular object - one that I remember was a ceramic bears figurine set. It was kind of like a dollhouse set, in that you could also buy furniture sets to arrange the little bears on. I have no idea why I wanted this item but it really sticks in my memory. I became really obsessed with this set of ceramic bears, but because it cost $40 it pretty much took me forever to save up for it. And of course by the time I had ten bucks I didn't want it anymore. Same thing happened with the backyard zip slider toy. And probably a heap of other toys that I never actually bought.

I'm kind of trying to train myself out of doing this now - I am particularly bad at the grocery store, because I like to have a variety of stuff to eat in my house, so I'll get something "new" because it looks like a good idea. Like last weekend, despite the fact that I am really trying not to spend too much more money this month since we blew 75% of it in the first week, I bought a $3 quart of Silk Chai Tea. It's good stuff and I will eventually drink it, but I didn't particularly need it. The difference between now and my childhood is that I always have the money to buy whatever it is that I've suddenly decided that I want.. but that doesn't mean that I actually need it any more than I needed those damn bears. It's kind of a good thing that I don't really shop too much outside of Target and the grocery store, because I would probably feel guilty about buying clothes I didn't need and would go back and return them. I don't think the grocery store takes returns of perishables though.

So that is my goal for the rest of the month - don't buy anything I don't actually need! Which is good because I only have $85 left and I really don't want to take anything out of savings just cause I spent too much in the beginning of the month.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Great trash picking today!

My coworkers and I sometimes go "trash picking" - when someone in the university doesn't want something, it gets "recycled" by putting it near the trash dumpsters of various buildings. Our new building however has the trash in the basement corridor. Since it's a medical facility, much of the stuff down there was outdated equipment (aortic balloon pump or graphing respirometer, anyone?) but there is a fair amount of furniture, chairs, etc. My supervisor's find was a 50's era manual typewriter (which we hauled back on a rolling chair) and I snagged a piece of computer equipment whose purpose was unknown. It looked something like a laptop screen without the rest of the laptop. There were plugs for "computer in" and "visual out" on the side, and it rattled like a beast.

Well, I looked it up online and it turns out that the actual function of the object is so that you can put it on an overhead projector, connect it to a computer, and it will show on the overhead whatever's on the computer screen. So, basically a low-budget projector from before projectors became less expensive - and it seems like less of a hassle too. The rattling was because ALL of the screws that hold the front to the back had been removed and placed INSIDE the case for some unknown reason. So I don't hold much hope that it actually works, but if it does, it sells on eBay for about $70 or so. I'm going to go to Radio Shack over the weekend and try to get a power cord for it, so we'll find out! Pretty good find out of the trash I must say, especially since I didn't actually have to dive into a dumpster to get it.

PayPerPost: Another Blue Monster puzzle piece

Here's another puzzle piece for those participating in PayPerPost's Blue Monster puzzle hunt:

This is part of their new blog marketing campaign - still not sure what Blue Monster itself is, but whoever actually puts together the entire puzzle first will win $500. And then I guess we find out what Blue Monster is. (code: payperpostbluemonster)

A question of competition

I've noticed an interesting phenomenon with CashDuck - I have a screen name (thecashduck) by which people can contact me with questions about the site, and so far I've gotten several people who just want to talk to me about starting up their own CashDuck-like site. (At least two of the larger sites have ShiftCode's site and lists of affiliate networks, so it's not like there's no place to start.)

I asked a couple of the site admins for advice before I started, and they told me to find new niches, sign up with NET15-paying sites, and run as many offers as possible. Well, I don't know how well I've done on the third, since I'm pretty picky, but it did give me some ideas. I don't think that new sites will directly compete with me, since most people are on several sites, and each new site will bring at least a few new people into the fold, but I hate to see yet another boring and stupid site come online and sputter along. There's been a real explosion of GPT sites, and I am certainly part of that boom, but too many of the sites have no actual direction they want to go, other than in the direction of piles of cash. Every business needs a philosophy.

So I do talk to these prospective business owners, and outline what I think helps to be successful (such as scattered time throughout the day, instead of working solidly two hours late at night) but I wonder what it is that they want to get out of the business. For my part, I desperately needed SOMETHING TO DO - as I've written before, my job is horribly dull, so I'd probably keep doing this even if I made only enough to cover my costs. It's certainly not going to induce me to leave my real job (since I'm neurotic enough to implode without a steady paycheck) but I just like organizing stuff, you know?

Monday, October 16, 2006

What does this have to do with PayPerPost exactly?

The latest stunt by PayPerPost is what they call the Postie Patrol - apparently, they pick a user at random and show up at their house (this one seems to have been prescreened by the girlfriend so they knew he would be there) and have them do silly stunts. Also, they went and bought a pumpkin, which I'm not really sure how that fits into the overall narrative. I also wasn't entirely sure what was going on in the video... Or what it had to do with PayPerPost. But watch out because they may be showing up at your apartment soon - I guess you need a girlfriend in order to set it up?

Submit your article to this Friday's Festival of Under 30 Finances!

City Girl's Financial Blog will be the host this week - click here to submit your post. Her question for this edition is:

Do you think your current job will help you establish your career? If so, how? If not, why not?

If you submit an article, please answer this question in the Remarks section. Remember, anyone of any age can submit an article to the Festival as long as it is on a topic appropriate for the under-30 (ie, articles on retirement homes are probably out.)

Look for the Festival on Friday!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Another PayPerPost puzzle contest

PayPerPost is running another puzzle contest where whoever puts all the pieces together (which are posted in different blogs) into the correct picture, they win a prize. Here's the latest piece:


Apparently it is a promotion for their new project which is codenamed Blue Monster. Not sure what it's all about but we'll find out soon.

Friday, October 13, 2006


This is what I said as I ran up the stairs with my NEW IPOD!!

I did the KeyBank promotion some time ago where you got a free iPod Nano for signing up for a bank account and doing direct deposit. However, the paperwork took a long time and since I only get paid once a month, it wasn't done in time to get a direct deposit sent at the end of August. So, it did get sent at the end of September, but I expected that's when the 6-8 week waiting period would start.

But today I got an email at about 4:30 saying that my nano was on its way, and I was quite excited! The FedEx tracking said that it was on the truck, and would be delivered soon.. and by soon I mean half an hour later.


This is the sort of toy that I would never buy for myself (currently I use Boyfriend's old 256mb mp3 player at the gym and what not) but I'm really happy to have one. For one thing, I buy stuff off iTunes now and then, and if I want to have it on the mp3 player I have to convert it, which involves burning it to CD as audio and then using a different program to rip it. So, not very convenient.

It's quite tiny but feels very sturdy. The advertisements all show black, but mine is silver, which I like better as it doesn't show fingerprints as easily. Now I have to install a new version of iTunes which can work with it, and get started!

Getting a spending high from saving money?

I admit that I love to buy stuff. Especially food - if I had a larger apartment, it would be chock full. As it is we can regularly not fit things easily in our freezer. It is like I am preparing for the worst (evidently except for a power failure in which case all that stuff would spoil.)

Lately though I have noticed that I get excited when I have extra money - like the seventy dollars I recently recovered - because I know I can send it to my savings account. My ING account is linked to Paypal, so I frequently send whatever small amounts I get for doing online surveys to savings. All my PayPerPost earnings are going to go straight into savings since they are coming to my PayPal account. I think I actually get more excited about being able to put this money into my account than I would be if someone handed me $70 in real money, because I'd just deposit it and then transfer it. If you gave me a gift certificate, unless it was to some place that I would spend money anyway (like Target or the grocery store) I would probably try to come up with a way to convert it into money.

And just not spending is not the same as getting extra money which can be saved - in some way, if I'm going to save $20 on my groceries, I'd almost rather that the clerk charged the extra $20 to my checking account and gave me the $20 so I could put it in savings. Even though it would be the same mathematically.

I'm usually very conservative about having enough on hand - see the freezer example. In middle school, I frequently failed to win a computer game we played in which you had to run a hot dog stand because I spent too much of my hot dog stand's money on supplies, just in case I ran out. So it doesn't make much logical sense that up until now I haven't been very diligent about having an emergency fund. I guess I just had faith that I would be able to go out and make some more money if I needed to - I'm a hard worker and am always looking for opportunities. I think I've gotten the savings bug now, and hopefully my savings account will soon start to look like my freezer!

Wanna sign up for PayPerPost?

Sign up for PayPerPost and make money posting articles on your blog. You can find posting topics in all sorts of categories, and in my experience post approval has been relatively easy and didn't take too long. Apparently there are people who have made thousands of dollars using PayPerPost - but that's some dedicated blogging there. You need to leave each post up for at least 30 days.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Off topic again - All about organ donation and transplantation

I work in clinical research with transplant patients (kidney, liver, and pancreas) so people are always asking me questions about transplants. So here's some of the answers I've given.

Almost everything in your body can be donated. Organs, of course, but skin, muscles, tendons, bone, even cartilage and collagen can be reused. These are washed and treated in such a way that they usually cannot be rejected from the body. People who aren't eligible for organ donation can often donate the rest of the body. Skin is usually used for burn victims - the cadaveric tissue is laid on top of the burned skin and helps it fight infections, as well as maintain moisture. Tendons and ligaments are used for reconstructive surgery - if you tear a tendon and have it surgically repaired, often it is simply replaced with a cadaveric tendon, since yours won't grow back together very well. Hearts not suitable for donation as a whole can have the valves removed and used for valve replacement surgery. Bone is ground up or cut into specific shapes - if you have a large tooth removed, your dentist may fill the hole in your jaw with bone dust, which will provide a framework for your own bone cells to grow over it.

Not everyone is a candidate for organ donation. Most people who donate organs are younger (under 65), healthy, and usually developed brain death after some sudden trauma such as a car accident. Except for a few isolated cases, everyone who is an organ donor is completely brain dead and is not expected to live more than a week, maybe just a few days. The family is asked to fill out an extensive medical and social history in order to find out if any other factors such as drug use or a history of cancer are present, which may also preclude donating. The restrictions on who can donate tissue are much stricter concerning disease and possible disease exposure, but the age range and cause of death allowable is greater. However, most people who are dying are not completely brain dead, and during the course of their illness may have contracted infections that may render their organs unusable (for instance, pneumonia would mean that the lungs could not be donated.) You may be able to donate tissue, however.

We don't force anyone to donate - but we may press the issue. A lot of people don't really think about what they want to happen to them in the case of brain death - so most areas have specialized, outside healthcare workers (who work for organ procurement organizations, or OPOs) who will meet with the families. Organ donation can be a really touchy subject within families - I've heard of cases where the husband was brain dead, and the wife and his children knew he wanted to donate his organs, but his mother and father didn't want to do it - so the donation was done secretly so as not to upset anyone. If you don't put it down on your driver's license, and your family is thoroughly against organ donation, they won't be pressed about it. But if you put on your license that you agree to be an organ donor, your family will be asked about it, and asked to reconsider if they are against it, since you have basically signed a contract with the state. If your family is really against it or says you changed your wishes, the OPO will respect your family's wishes.

Your organs are probably going to stay in your state or one of the neighboring states. You've probably seen some person on TV flying across the country with a cooler full of organs. However, what usually happens is that the organs are placed within the territory belonging to the organ procurement agency that covers the hospital in which you died. There are about 50 OPOs, but they don't correspond to state lines. There are so many people waiting for organs - especially kidneys - that the need will probably be local. Hearts and lungs are rarer (both because the need is lower and because they are often unusable), and may be sent out of the state.

Your organs may not be in good enough condition to be used anymore. If you've been in a car accident and were wearing your seatbelt, you may have sustained serious organ damage, so even if you're brain dead your organs may not be in good enough condition to be transplanted into someone else. The same goes if you have had some previous disease or which damaged your organs. Especially for your liver or kidneys, a healthy person may have damage without even knowing it, since you don't need full function of your liver or kidneys to be healthy. Those organs, which work perfectly fine in you, might not be in good enough condition to work in someone else, though.

There is a waiting list - and no, it's not ranked by your race, your income, or where you live. Those factors CAN affect how quickly you get an organ, however - certain minorities are genetically very different from Caucasians or African-Americans (who are the largest pools in America) and so may not be able to match with an organ from a person of a different ethnicity. Your income and where you live may affect with what center you are listed - some centers in some cities simply have more deaths, or their OPO covers a larger territory, or people in that area are more likely to donate. This means more organs come to certain centers than others. Until there is a national network, this is simply the way the system works. Sometimes you can be listed with two different centers, or you may receive special priority if you require a rare transplant (such as a combination heart-lung) or if you are a child.

There is no actual numbered list. You aren't ranked on a real numbered list, because each organ has special criteria that must be analyzed to determine which person would match best with it (such as the donor and recipient blood type, antibody reactions, size of the organ, type of disease in the recipient), etc etc etc. No two organs are alike, and no two organs are best for the same person. However, in general, the sicker you are, the more likely you are to receive a particular organ. If you have a rare blood type, you may wait longer - it all depends on whether someone with your blood type becomes an organ donor tomorrow or in two years. I have seen people go on the waiting list and get an organ in two days - and I have seen people who have waited for three years. Most organs have a standardized form which produces a score that ranks how sick you are, and that is what is used by the doctors to determine the priority.

Transplanted organs don't last forever. While many people may keep their transplanted organs for 15 or 20 years, for most people you are pretty lucky to go five years without a rejection episode. Rejection occurs when your body's immune system decides to fight the transplanted organ as if it were an invader - which means that the organ stops working while it is being attacked. Transplant patients stay on immunosuppressive medications for the life of their organ (and sometimes after) - but your immune system can't be completely suppressed or you would get infections every day. So a delicate balance must be struck between preventing rejection, and preventing infections. For some people, they may go the rest of their lives with the same kidney - but many have multiple transplants.

You can donate a kidney or a lobe of your liver to someone. Many studies have shown that you can live quite nicely on one kidney alone - after all, that's what people with transplanted kidneys do! It's an extremely safe procedure to donate a kidney to someone - you have to be of the same blood type, and you have to be healthy, but other than that, most people can donate without problems. For livers, it depends on the amount of disease damage whether the person will need a whole liver or can accept a single lobe. Your liver has three lobes, and if you donate one lobe, it will grow back in about five to ten years, with no ill effects to you in the meantime. (Although you should probably not drink or do drugs.) This is also a very safe procedure.

They don't take out the kidney through the back (or leave you in a tub of ice.) A transplanted kidney is placed in the front near the belly button - a healthy kidney is smaller than a deck of cards, so it doesn't take up much room. Depending on the situation, the surgeons may leave both of the diseased kidneys in place. Livers and other organs have to be placed in the correct position, however. Kidney transplants leave about an 8-inch scar; other organs may be slightly larger, but except for heart and lung transplants you don't get slit up the front and opened like for open-heart surgery. Much of the surgery is done by touch.

Medicare covers most organ transplants. Organ transplants are generally considered life-saving procedures and they are covered. Kidney transplants are considered life-enhancing (because you can still live on dialysis) but they are covered because no matter the cost of immunosuppressant medications ($800-$1000 for the rest of your life) it's still less than the cost of dialysis ($1000 per visit, 3 times a week for the rest of your life.) My center is one of about twenty in the country pursuing islet transplants (islets of Langerhans are the portions of your pancreas which produce insulin, which diabetics lack) and Medicare is supportive of this as well.

There are a lot more people on the waiting list than there are organs for them. This is a really sad fact of working in transplant - many of the people who are waiting for a cadaveric organ will never get any. It's a cruel catch-22 that the longer you are on the list, the better your chances are of getting an organ, but if you get too sick you may no longer be cleared to undergo surgery and you can't get an organ anymore. So a lot of people kind of "fall off" the list because they get SO sick that it isn't safe to put them under general anesthesia and perform surgery anymore. A lot of people die while waiting for a transplant.

The one message I really try to bring to people who are curious about transplant is this: If you donate an organ, you WILL save a life. Probably MULTIPLE lives. You have one heart, two lungs, two kidneys, one liver, and one pancreas, not counting all the tissue in your body. You have seven donatable organs. Most likely not all of them will be in condition to donate, but most healthy people who have brain damage and are brain dead can donate at least four. This means when you donate the organs of a loved one, at least four people's lives will be changed forever - they will be able to go back to work, to get out of bed, to live their lives again, and extend their lifespan by years and years. Transplant patients are truly the nicest people I have ever worked with, and they are forever grateful for the sacrifice made for them - because they know that someone had to go through something terrible in order for them to live their lives again.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Off topic but very important

I just had a really depressing encounter here at work and I wanted to say something to all of you dear readers who I care about even though I don't know you. As you may know, I work in transplant research, so part of my job is to present clinical studies to people who are getting or have already gotten a kidney, liver, or pancreas transplant. Sometimes when I tell people what I do, they joke, "Oh, so if I need a kidney, I can just come to you right?" Somehow people never made that joke when I worked on a leukemia project.

Here's the important part: Don't ever come see me at work. I hope the day never comes when I have to see a person that I know as a patient. All of my pre-transplant patients are extremely sick, and even post-transplant many of them die of their preexisting disease. I just enrolled an elderly woman onto a drug study, and she was very nervous but was beginning to believe that everything would be fine, until two seconds after I walked out of her room and one of the fellows told me that the cadaveric donor had a viral infection and none of the organs could be used. So this woman has to go home without her kidney, and it's entirely possible that she will die there before she comes back to see me and participate in my study. For most elderly patients, they are getting a kidney because they are running out of good veins for dialysis, and they will soon start to slowly die of their kidney disease. More people die on the waiting list than get an organ off it. So I guess my message is this: Please don't get sick. Please stay healthy. Please don't need a kidney from me. I don't ever want to see you at work.

Jealous credit cards!

Recently, when I thought I might be using a 0% balance transfer check to buy a car (since it looks pretty unlikely I'm getting that job as they haven't called me back though they said they would and I emailed them last week and can you tell I'm pissed?) I called up MBNA and asked for a credit limit raise to $17,000. I had asked for one not two weeks prior in order to do a balance transfer, to $9200, so they only could raise it to $12,000.

Yesterday I got a letter in the mail stating that my credit limit had been raised to $17,000 so I wondered briefly if MBNA had changed their minds - until I noticed that the limit increase was on one of my Chase cards! I guess between transferring the money off one of my Chase cards, and the limit raise on the MBNA card, suddenly Chase thinks I look like a much better customer. Very interesting...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

OK, so this was me in middle/high school...

I am a big dork and used to play on MUDs (Multi User Dungeons) all the time. Basically you run around killing things to earn experience points, so you can train up your spells and skills and get bigger so you can kill bigger things. It's actually quite complex but I digress. This nostalgic moment brought to you by Iron Realms, a new game which is like the one I played on except huge and professionally designed and well thought out, and is probably still full of 14 year olds but there's not much one can do about that. They do seem to have a lot of the features that I liked most about my old game, and they're still kickin it old school with the text. That shit is how I learned to read faster than anyone can think possible. This game is a lot more all-encompassing - on mine, you could be in a clan but no one would think much of it, whereas this one has political strife, just like the real world! Hey wait...

Ha Ha Ha.

I've deleted it, but I got an anonymous comment on one of my CashDuck blog posts that said this:

Hi, i was looking over your blog and didn't
quite find what I was looking for. I'm looking for
different ways to earn money... I did find this though...
a place where you can make some nice extra cash secret shopping.
I made over $900 last month having fun!

And then has a link to a PAID SURVEY SITE. What is CashDuck? Pretty much the same thing, except not a scam like these ones are. (A general rule of thumb: Anyone who wants YOU to pay THEM so that THEY can pay YOU.. is not going to pay you.) Ugh. Once one of my friends got an email about the survey sites where you can supposedly make $10-125 per survey, and signed up for it very excitedly as we were all poor students at the time and she was looking to make extra money any way possible. She felt pretty down after she found out that the proof wasn't in the pudding. CashDuck doesn't pay that much per survey, but it is REAL money and not pretend money that never materializes.

A girl can wish

I'm not very girly but I do like shiny things. Take a look at the green stone purse on the landing page of this site: Designer Handbags

Now that is very shiny indeed, sir. That's the sort of thing that would make me walk into a wall.

Bogleheads Project continues!

Check out today's post at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity - I am only getting to read it now because for some reason the software on the servers at work has decided that his site is pornography and I can't look at it. ?

Puzzle pieces

PayPerPost has a new contest where everyone is supposed to post different images (at least I hope they're all different) which are each portions of a larger picture, and whoever reassembles them into the actual picture gets a prize. Not the usual blog advertising. Here's one picture:

And the linking phrase: payperpostbignews

I have a sneaking suspicion it's a scan of their mission statement, or the first page of their business plan, or something like that. None of those words are at all exciting.

Doing my bloggerly duty

I feel that it is my duty to spread the word of responsible financial planning to anyone who will listen. So I was very pleased that Boyfriend and I got a chance last night to pump Boyfriend's brother full of useful financial information. He's a sophomore in college and took out his first loan - at 10%!!! We had gone out for dinner and as we were walking back to the car, we were talking about my blog and the Under 30 Honor Roll, and as we pulled out of the garage Boyfriend's brother asked if the cost of the meal was going to go in my blog. I said probably not, but if I had thought about it I would have brought along the debit card connected to the checking account which I stash money in for gifts and special occasions, and used that to pay for the food. That's how we got started on the whole topic of money and budgeting and credit cards, etc. So we talked to him about getting a credit card to start establishing a credit history, but not using the card more than is necessary to keep it active. We also talked about the credit report, cosigning, and even a bit on budgeting. He seemed to really welcome this information so I hope it does him good, and gets him a lower interest rate on his next loan!

Monday, October 09, 2006

In under the wire!

I totally spaced on sending back the Carleton Sheets kit that I wrote about earlier - luckily it has a very generous return policy, so after calling for the return authorization number several weeks ago, I had until October 15th to send it back. I wonder if that is a ploy to get more people to forget (just like me!) about it and then get charged. It will only cost me $7.40 to send back since I have the original box, though. (Shameless plug: You can earn $40 for ordering the kit on CashDuck - cost to you is $9.95.)

Anyhow, I didn't have the address, so I called up their returns department where a nice young man spelled "Crossroads" for me, and then helpfully added, "You know, where you drive on the road." Too bad the next word in the address was Parkway, to which that descriptor also applies.

And don't forget, the sixth installment of the Bogleheads Project is up at Caustic Musings today.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

And now a word about my electric bill...

My electric bill is fixed at $75 per month, on a budget plan that doesn't fluctuate through the year. Last year it was at $85 and I built up about $120 of credit - so they dropped me to $75 per month, I skipped a month of payment, and all was well. I seem to have blown through that extra $25 though, considering that this summer was pretty hot here and we had the (not very efficient) air conditioning going all the time. (We did get better results after the landlord came out for the umpteenth time, and found the actual culprit - a water-soaked filter that had fallen down and was basically completely blocking an intake.) I wonder how much electricity we spent when the AC was on constantly because of that little bugger?

The budget plan was removed in July (so I only was supposed to pay $27 that month even though we had a $148 bill, because of the $120 credit I built up, but by the time I got the bill I had sent $85 anyway) and put back in August (when I only paid $17.49 after all the credits, despite a $166 bill).

Then in September I paid $75, on a $167 bill, and this month, $75 on a $130 bill.. after they receive my $75 this month I will still be in hock $237. Hopefully things will even out over the winter.

Overpaid the gas.. by a lot.. again...

My gas bill comes on the 8th of each month. This is a problem because I like to pay all of the bills as soon as I get paid, on the 30th or 31st of each month. So usually I just send them some money, whatever I think it's going to be, and then when I get the bill, it shows the money I sent credited and I can pay the rest if need be.

Well, in an attempt to be less psycho about bill-paying, I set everything up for automatic debit from the Key account. So my electric and gas are set up to automatically pay $75 and $30, respectively, on the 1st of each month. The electric is a budget plan at $75 per month, so that's fine, but the gas is not budget. I know it'll go up in the winter, but I plan to pay the remainder out of my regular checking account (all of this comes out of the bills account at Key.)

So I paid my $30 on the 29th of September, when I got paid, and then set up the $30 recurring payment. Several days later, I get my bill:

Previous amount due on 9/20/2006: Negative $28.75 (ie I overpaid last month too)
Payments received: $30
Balance on 10/4/06: Negative $58.75
Charges for gas service this period: $15.83

Current balance: Negative $42.92

I guess that -$42 will be offsetting a higher gas bill sometime later this winter because now that I have this all set up I don't want to touch it! We just haven't used much gas, probably partially due to our landlord putting out the furnace pilot light during the summer. For July, August, September, and October, we have used either 9 or 8 ccf's of gas, with a bill of about $15, but I kept sending them $20-25 anyway. However the bill bill go up pretty quickly soon - looking at last year, we used between 40 and 80 ccf's a month (other than January, where we used about 100, but that was because we once left the oven on at 450 all night. Oops.)

Looks like right now we are paying about $1.97 per ccf - so I estimate we'll pay between $75 and $150 a month for gas. It gets warmer again here pretty quickly, and if our neighbors keep their heat on we often don't have to, so that pretty much only applies December through March.

Auto refinancing

Sometimes if you're really in need of a car, but have bad credit, it's a good idea to get whatever terms you can get at that time and then refinance a year or so later. (Of course, for this plan to work, you need to make all your payments for everything else on time and generally baby your credit report so that you will actually qualify for a better loan later.) Then you can get an auto refinance and see if you can get a lower interest rate. Usually they will refinance the loan for the same number of months, so it's not stretching it out artificially, but you can also shorten the loan to lower the interest rate if you have the money.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Finally, my damn seventy dollars!

At the end of July I completed a casino offer to make money on DealBarbie which said that you would get $70 back after completing this offer. I successfully completed it, got credit, and didn't get the $70. I have by now sent in 9 support tickets asking where my cashback was.. and now I finally got it. I am happy about getting the money but somehow it is less exciting knowing that I should have got it two months ago! Anyway, it's going into savings - I am now determined to get my emergency fund up to $3000 before I do anything else.

Reliability is priority 1

One thing that did give me pause when signing up with ShiftCode is that since they host everything, I have no idea whether the hosting is any good. So far things have panned out very nicely but it did make me a little nervous at first. If you have a hosted site, you could use www.realmetrics.com to keep tabs on the speed of your site and how reliable it is - a very important service in a business where if you are down for the 2 seconds that a prospective user goes to your URL, they assume you went out of business like the 49282 other web business that do so every day, and they never come back.

OK, now I feel dumb..

I was getting all stressed because a user on CashDuck is submitting requests for credit for offers she completed, and I kept reloading the stats page over and over and they weren't showing up and I was very annoyed.. until I realized that it was just past midnight and I was reloading the page which showed stats from the 1st through the 6th. Most of these companies are in New York so they are EST.. I loaded the stats for the 7th and there they all were. Phew.

Pay per click providers

Although CashDuck is not targeted towards pay per click, there's a lot of other GPT sites that are. An area that also seems to be growing is paid search, since you get a highly targeted audience, instead of people just madly clicking away. This is one area that I may expand CashDuck advertising into, since there's a lot of other, bigger sites than me and I need to stand out.

Bogleheads Catch-Up: Today at MBH

Mighty Bargain Hunter has a great post up about Chapter 5, inflation-protected bonds. I thought the chapter did a great job explaining it since I really don't know much about bonds, and it seems like I should.

Hey, maybe this is where they get it..

I've noticed that a LOT of the CashDuck affiliate networks have exactly the same software setup.. Maybe this is where they get it. You can buy an off the shelf affiliate management program which basically lets you get up and running, promoting offers to people like me. I run all CPA (cost per action) or CPL (cost per lead) offers. You can do most anything on the net these days with off the shelf software, which is why people like me start websites.

National City, why won't you love me?

First, I opened up a business checking account and they didn't order me a debit card. What are you supposed to do without a debit card? Oh, and you can't set up online banking without one. Then, it doesn't show up, presumably it was stolen out of my mailbox. (not their fault, just annoying.) Then I call and get a new one sent to me and I can't register for online banking with it - apparently the information is not correct (although it was.) Very frustrating...

Friday, October 06, 2006

I'm a terrible poker player...

I posted before about how all the online casinos are pulling out of the US market (I'm still getting the emails) because of the US legislation change, but I'm pretty confident that they'll come back (and be legal) because we do love our gambling. Here's a new Online Poker site where you can learn all the tips and tricks of the trade and become a great player, so that when they do come back you can beat the pants off everyone else. They also have reviews of the various sites, so hopefully not all of them are down and you can get some discounts and freebies. I am a terrible poker player (or perhaps the greatest of all time?) because I invariably giggle through the whole game because I don't know what I'm doing and all the serious bidding strikes me as hilarious.

What have I gained from having a do-nothing job?

I was thinking about this earlier, about how I really think my life has changed for the better because my job is so freaking boring and I never have anything to do. Not that the job itself has changed my life, but because I never had anything to do and had so much free time to browse the Internet. That's how I got into reading finance blogs and eventually starting my own - I started out looking for information about my 403(b), since I had never heard of one of these beasts, and ended up becoming involved with the blogging community and really taking control of my own finances. Who knows where I might be otherwise?

Also, I started CashDuck - I don't do this at work, other than answer emails, but since my job isn't demanding and I don't have to take anything home or work late, I have plenty of time to keep up with it at home. In fact, I feel more motivated about going to work now because at least I have something to think about there. (I used to have a transcriptionist job which paid really well but was terrifically boring - but was a lot more tolerable during the school year, when I had classes and information pouring into my head, and things to think about, than during the summer when I didn't.)

I wonder where I might be otherwise...

Everybody gets really up in arms about it...

A new opportunity on PayPerPost came up tonight which kind of took me aback.. they had links to this guy's blog who basically believes that PayPerPost is destroying the world of blogs and that they are going to eat your babies. Or something. They basically think that putting PayPerPost blog advertising up on your blog is destroying the integrity of all bloggers. Well, I hate to be cynical (although I often am in the real world) but exactly why do you need integrity to be a blogger? We aren't reporting on national news stories, we are reporting on our own lives. I could be a complete slimeball in real life, eating people's babies, and it wouldn't matter as long as I write interesting stuff that people want to read. You might as well say that the Weekly World News is destroying the integrity of actual newspapers. People will read what they want to read.

Banging my head on the wall

This has been a very frustrating week at work, made more so by the fact that the job I interviewed for three weeks ago has not contacted me at ALL. I did not get a response to the email I sent on Monday, nor any other calls.. I wish they would at least let me know that they are still interviewing people or something. It's a pretty small operation so it's not like they are going to interview 40 people for this position. This combined with an extremely frustrating experience with two of our studies this week, entirely due to the fact that our institutional review board is made up of people who don't actually know what they're doing and ask us to change random things that aren't important or that we can't change (like the TITLE of a multi center NIH-funded study) and just generally hold everything up for no good reason. I really hate it when people don't read things, because then we have to be super polite and point out where they can find the information they asked us to insert without basically calling them knuckleheads for not seeing the information in the TWO PARAGRAPHS that they asked us to insert it between! See, if I had the new job, I would be dealing with an institutional review board, but it would be a professional, for-profit board whose members are thoroughly trained and have worked other boards in the past. So they never ask us for anything dumb and they are always very good with turnaround. Sigh.. the job board for my workplace updates at midnight, maybe there will be something good this week...

Coupons everywhere!

I love online coupons - as I wrote previously, I do pretty much all my shopping online so I try to get a coupon code for pretty much any store I shop at. These days it's very common so you can often find some great deals when you combine sales and coupons, just like in the real world!

Online Coupon Codes are a pretty simple way to save on this and that. On this particular site you can search by item, not just by store.

I tend to buy a lot of basics so price drops are also a useful feature - ie I only buy my Old Navy shirts when they are as low as possible, and then buy 8298293. You know what I mean. Stocking up isn't just for the Depression-era grandparents anymore! Yay coupons!

Festival of Under 30 Finances!

Check it out at Debt Has Made Me Its Bitch. I don't even know what edition this is.. I think that means we've been on for a while! Here's her question for this week:

What method have you found works best when changing jobs and negotiating a higher salary and/or benefits? What are the deal makers or breakers for you?

Since we're just starting out in our careers, this is really important - a high salary sets a bar, and negotiating gives you a spine. =)

Remember, anyone can contribute to the Festival, and everyone should answer each week's question!

Ten thousand!

Yes, with the addition of this month's contribution, my total retirement account money is up to $10,041 just in lifetime contributions - with the latest run-up in stock prices, the actual amount including earnings is $10,690! My Roth IRA has $1200 in contributions and has a worth of $1261, not too shabby either since it is in fairly volatile funds so who knows where it could go.

I'll be 23 in two months and two days.. with $65,000 left to go!

Interesting side job: Standardized Patient

Any medical school will have a Standardized Patient program, and you can probably sign up with it. What is a Standardized Patient? Well, it's basically a person from the community (ie not another medical student) who has been specially trained to act like a person who's come in for help. You get a dossier about 'yourself', where this patient lives, works, eats, who they live with, how they got the injury, any symptoms they're experiencing, etc. This is to help train medical students on how to interact with patients. Sometimes they may be practicing how to take a physical exam on someone who has a cracked rib, or telling you that you have an inoperable brain tumor. I think this is a really valuable program, and apparently so do some other people since it's now part of the USMLE (the US Medical Licensing Examination, which all new doctors have to pass.) They must complete approximately 12 patient encounters and are evaluated on each one.

Part of the value in this exercise is that after the exercise is over, you can give the students really valuable feedback about how their approach worked, and what they might do differently. Practicing on you means that they'll have a lot better idea how to actually tell someone they have an inoperable brain tumor if the time ever comes.

The big medical school in my town pays $10 an hour to train and $12 an hour to work with the students. You'll need to play the same part over and over again, so it can get a little tiresome, or on the flip side, you could get really into playing a sprained wrist! I think it's also a valuable service to the doctors of the near future. Any adult can do it - in fact, they need a great diversity of people since youwill be matched with pre-written cases that take into account your gender, ethnicity, weight, own previous health history (ie you can't play an appendicitis case if you have an appendectomy scar) and other factors. Whether or not you know anything about medicine is also a moot point, since the people who come into a hospital usually don't know either.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Tax class update

I must say, itemized deductions are really boring. I got 3 points off on my quiz because I mistakenly lumped moving expenses in with job expenses (moving expenses are on the front of the 1040 and are taken off your income to arrive at your AGI, while job hunting expenses are on your Schedule A and must meet the miscellaneous items 2% of income test.) I feel like I am getting everything, but usually right after the appropriate time to show that I know it - ie I have to get it wrong before I actually learn it. So that's tiresome. Although I am pretty sure that I am a lot more comfortable with the material than a lot of the others in the class. There's a CPA who can't get any jobs because she doesn't have tax experience, which makes me wonder what they DID teach her, wherever she went to school. But apparently you can take this class and it counts for some tax class at the city college in their CPA class, so I guess it's just as comprehensive.

I often make silly mistakes like mixing up the amounts for exemptions and deductions (part of the reason I got that question wrong) and that's why I've started to do my problems in pencil instead of pen. I also get annoyed when I make a mistake that I know I wouldn't have made if I were using a computer instead of a paper form. I know I'll never have to do a paper 1040 again, most likely, so that buoys my hope.

The Bogleheads' Guide to Investing, Day 4: Know What You're Buying Part 2

The fourth chapter is all about mutual funds, funds of funds, annuities, and ETFs. It's a pretty comprehensive overview, and gets into detail about what factors influence (or don't influence) the performance of a mutual fund. Basically, you come away from this chapter feeling like a pretty smart cookie for having bought mutual funds! They also touch on what a "fund of funds" is all about - either lifecycle funds, which are matched to your retirement age, or asset allocation funds, which have a specific investing style (growth, conservative, aggressive, etc) that matches your risk tolerance. I'm a big fan of lifecycle funds myself.

They go into easy-to-understand detail about annuities - fixed, variable, and immediate. As always, the number one thing is to understand what you're being sold. A great quote from this chapter is "It's safe to say that msot annuities are sold and not bought." The distinction is important, because somebody who wants to sell you something is often coming out of the bargain richer than you will. The authors are very dismissive of fixed annuities, because of the illogical way interest rates are presented for the purpose of fooling you, and of variable annuities, because of the high likelihood that your money is drowning in fees. Immediate annuities, though, can be a useful tool in retirement planning, so their main caveat is to make sure you're putting your money with a reputable company.

The last section is on ETFs - Exchange Traded Funds - is mostly an explanation of what they are (mutual funds that can be bought and sold just like stocks) and an explanation of why you shouldn't buy them if you're really interested in the Boglehead vision. Basically, ETFs are for people who give a crap about the price of the share - and if you're a buy and hold investor, particularly one investing for retirement, you should just keep plugging your money in no matter what the price looks like. The authors say that "being able to trade ETFs during the day is of no benefit to Boglehead investors ... if you're interested in day-trading funds, you're reading the wrong book." Which I think is a pretty apt statement. The only thing that I think ETFs are good at are replicating very small sectors of the market where it evidently wasn't worth it to bring in a mutual fund structure - or you can't find a mutual fund that tracks what you want it to. So in that instance, I'd still recommend investing lump sums to avoid trading fees, but they could be useful.

Check out the book, I read it in two sittings so you can tell it's good! (because I'm squirrelly!)

Tomorrow's reviewer is Mighty Bargain Hunter, so if you're lazy and didn't read this until after Thursday, you can click on over. =)

I am the master of stuff nobody needs to know

Today at work, I amazed my coworker because I knew what Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is (it's a genetic condition which affects the collagen protein, so causes problems with tendons at joints, skin fragility, etc). But I just soak up stuff nobody needs to know.

This site is chock full of that kind of stuff. I read a couple of the articles and it's all about neat stuff that you don't really think about in normal life, but now I will think about every time somebody coughs. ;) Amaze your friends and family with all the stuff that you know, and they don't, so neener neener. Trivia is also very useful for amusing small children.

I also know how to grow botulism and how to euthanize a fish.

Tax class update

Well, I didn't go to class on Tuesday as I wasn't feeling well, but I'm not particularly looking forward to tomorrow's class. We're doing itemized deductions this week and let me tell you it is NOT EXCITING. I realize that it saves people money, but really how many people are going to come into the H&R Block with the receipts for their trade publications, or know how much it cost to wash their work clothes all year? I know they have commercials about how they can help you find things to deduct but that sounds like a long painful slog through the mud. If the customers were that organized, they'd probably do the taxes themselves. I've also heard a lot about newbies getting yelled at for "swiping" customers - since you get a small commission for each return you do, if you do most of a return and then they need to go home and get something, and someone else helps them finish the return when they come back, then that person gets the bonus and not you. So I imagine some preparers are reluctant to send people home to get receipts for this and that.

We also have a quiz. OH JOY. In some ways this is much like high school - I'm sure the teacher is going to ask me if I made up the last class at another session, and where my slip is.

PayPerPost takes on Adsense

Heh, the title of this opportunity is "The Death of Adsense". Obviously PayPerPost has high projections for its effect on Adsense - hence the $3 million, I guess. I think personally that PayPerPost and Adsense can exist quite nicely together, although with PayPerPost you can control whether you make any money, and with Adsense all you can do is increase traffic. However, the argument really depends on whether you are a small blogger or a large blogger. I don't think PayPerPost adequately compensates extremely large blogs for the HUGE amount of traffic they get - the same advertising, if they bought a sidebar ad or something, would cost hundreds of dollars and yet they get $5 or something. So PayPerPost is really only appealing to the small bloggers just trying to
make money off their blogs in whatever way they can. Unfortunately, that's kind of shooting themselves in the foot - if you really want eyeballs, you are going to have to pay a LOT more for it - and Adsense does. I wouldn't be surprised if at some point PayPerPost put in some kind of staggered payment system depending on the volume of your traffic; that would really make a lot more sense.

Online gambling gone from the US?

I started getting emails today from the various affiliate networks I'm with for CashDuck about taking down their casino offers. After the third, I got a little suspicious, as these were well-known and well-established casinos not owned by the same company. A little googling (no, I have no idea why it's in the Learning English section):

04 October, 2006 - Published 10:31 GMT

Online gambling

Shares in online gambling companies have lost more than half of their value on the London Stock Exchange today, following a move by the United States Congress aimed at banning Internet betting. This report from Matthew Davies:

Listen to the story
While there have been moves to clamp down on Internet gambling in the United States for some time, this latest action by Congress was a little unexpected. The legislation was actually tacked onto an unrelated bill regarding security at American ports. All the bill needs to come into effect is the signature of President George Bush - and that's likely to happen within the next two weeks.

As a result, shares in some of the big companies involved in this sector have taken a significant battering, losing more than half of their value. The world's largest online casino, 888, has already suspended its operations in the US - and another company, PartyGaming says it'll follow suit once the bill is signed into law.

It's a huge blow for these companies - this is a six billion dollar a year market - PartyGaming generates as much as 78 percent of its revenues from the United States. For 888, the figure is around 50 percent. However, while the immediate future of these firms looks bleak, many experts say that the desire on the part of punters to gamble means that, in time, ways around these new laws will probably be found.

Basically, the law is designed to keep banks and credit card companies from doing any business with online casinos. Despite the fact that all of these casinos are actually located in other countries. I'm not sure how this will affect services like NETeller or eGold, which aren't really banks, and don't operate out of the US. (NETeller is in the Isle of Man.) And already many banks and credit card companies tread very lightly about working with online casinos - PayPal won't do it at all. So all this may mean is that I won't get any casino assignments for a while.. but I think it'll simmer down.

Now if only Congress would take so much action about fiscal issues that are actually IMPORTANT.. or let us have online gambling here so they can take the taxes from it, instead of letting it bleed off overseas.

PayPerPost goes in for another round of venture capital

The new story on PayPerPost is that they're getting $3 million in new financing, and they're already bringing in some revenue. I think that PayPerPost isn't necessarily going to kill all other forms of blog advertising, but it's true that most bloggers are looking for ways to monetize their sites (who doesn't like money?) and it's just riding that particular wave. I've actually thought about using it to promote CashDuck since at $5 or whatever a pop, I'd be getting more eyeballs than 50 cents per Adsense click. It seems like they have a pretty good business model, since if you don't count salaries it's basically impossible for them to pay out more than they take in. (advertiser money - blogger money = profit!) I try to be pretty picky about the opportunities that I take, and some of them are kind of weird, but I think that as PayPerPost gets more advertisers into it, you'll be able to select posts that fit a lot more in line with your blog's theme and people won't notice as much.

New way: $28 and 2 hours. Old way: $3 and 5 minutes.

I recently bought a used laser printer and had the bright idea to try to set it up on our wireless network using a Linksys WGA11B device - it's supposed to be used to network things like XBOXes, but some people on Amazon in their reviews wrote that it could be used for pretty much anything. Anything, apparently, except my damn printer. It wouldn't set up, wouldn't connect, etc etc. Finally I gave up and ordered a 10 foot parallel printer cable from Amazon (still on my Prime trial so shipping was free) for $3.50. I'll just have to plug one end into the printer and the other end into my computer and it will actually work.

For the curious, we finally got it to print so my boyfriend could print the thing he needed by setting up my seven-year-old laptop to act basically as a very expensive version of the thingy I bought. It connected and networked just fine. I don't think I'll be using it for that purpose very often though...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

VOIP Madness

All the cool bloggers know that VOIP is the cheap way to go for home phone service. I had Lingo for a while and, though I didn't use it much, was very pleased with the quality of the service. I think VOIP is pretty cool, and it's probably going to become the new standard for the big telco companies to compete with (assuming, that is, that they aren't trying to sell it to you along with your cable and internet.)

VOIP is all over the place now with Skype, Lingo, Vonage, etc making big splashes. It's definitely a big savings for people who talk internationally a lot - and as more areas around the world get high-speed internet access, I think you'll see a big boom in people worldwide using the service. Also, given how many features most VOIP plans have, it's good for small businesses who don't want to pay for a custom solution from the telcos. Not too shabby.

Upromise will pay off your student loan! .... Someday!

You have probably heard of uPromise, the program where you register your grocery frequent shopper cards and get 1-3% back on the price of certain items. This is supposed to add up and help you pay for college by depositing the money into a 529 - all the ads have cute (and YOUNG) kids in them. Well, I don't know about my kids, but I already paid for it for myself! uPromise also has a feature where you can send that money to your student loans.

Unfortunately, you have to accrue $50 in rewards before they will transfer it the first time, and then $25 after that, and they only pay once a quarter. You know how much I've earned total in uPromise rewards, despite having my parents and two friends' cards on my account? About $73, and I signed up four years ago. (I did withdraw about $49 by check two years ago, which you can do by sending them a written request.) So I only have $27 available and $3 pending. It might be a while before they actually send any money to my student loan. I appreciate that they realized that not everybody has wee ones to save for.

I think uPromise is a nice idea but it might take a while to get going - somehow it seems like they expected a lot more merchants to sign up! It IS kind of an incentive for me to purchase one brand over another if they are the same price, and that advantage would presumably be lost if both brands had enrolled. (Many grocery stores have uPromise stickers on the shelves next to items that qualify.)

-- The stickers look like this.

Yay for companies trying to do a good thing! I do hope they get more merchants on - they have an ancillary eBates-like system where you can buy things and get a percentage back into your account, but often it isn't competitive with eBates itself, or they don't have the right kind of merchant.
Anyway, if you're interested, here's a signup link. It seems like somebody who bought a lot more groceries than me would probably get more benefit out of it, but every little bit helps! I do like the idea of getting an extra ten or twenty cents out of my grocery bill, especially since there's no work for me.

Fixed expenses, or, how my checking account makes me un-crazy

So I'm up to three checking accounts now - one is my credit union account which has rent and general spending, one is my KeyBank account out of which all the bills are paid, and one is my Bank of America account which is pretty much just for presents and other infrequent items.

I've nudged down my fixed expenses a little - here's what I had before:

Netflix - $13
Phone bill - $57
Newspaper - $5
Lingo - $10
Student loan - $150
Credit card - $250
Electric bill - $75
Gas - $15
Roth IRA - $125
Total: $700

Here's what I have now:

Netflix - $11 (changed from 2 at a time, 4 per month to 1 at a time unlimited)
Phone bill - $57
Newspaper - $0 (paid $30 plus $15 tip for delivery through March 2007)
Lingo - $0 (cancelled Lingo)
Student loan - $150
Credit card - $250
Electric bill - $75
Gas - $35 (figured I should raise this allocation due to winter)
Roth IRA - $125
Total: $703
Amount actually deposited by employer: $715

Having set all this up so beautifully, though, I feel the need to tinker with it. My $1000 emergency fund makes me a little nervous, so I think for a while I'm going to pay the minimum on the (0%) credit card and send the extra money to savings. I don't want to change my direct deposit allocations yet AGAIN so I will transfer the money some other way. I have an extra $50 in there now (account opening minumum) and I'll have an extra $10 or so every month in case there are small overages.

Now I'm trying to convince myself that it will all be OK if I set things to automatically pay. Because every month, though I actually enjoy paying bills, I worry that I'll forget something. So I'm going to do it properly and set everything up automatic and all that. It will be splendid.

But this system has already paid off for me. Though I only had $950 deposited into my spending account this month, and immediately sent $695 off for rent, I felt calm and collected doing so, because I knew that all the bills would be taken care of out of the money in the other account - no fuss.

How to make money with rhododendron leaves!

This post at Get Rich Slowly reminded me of my own entrepreneurial spirit as a kid. I don't remember this myself, but my mother says that when I was about four, I plucked some leaves from a neighbor's rhododendron and drew faces on them with a Sharpie. Then, I peddled my creations round the neighborhood for five cents each. That's a lot of money for a four year old! I probably sold pretty well since I was so cute. *wink* When I got a little older, I made paper accessories like hats and purses, decorated with Steelers stickers from my grandfather, for a toy rabbit that I had, and sold them to my neighbors for ten cents. Why I thought my neighbors would like to buy a paper purse for a rabbit they didn't own, I have no idea. But they did buy them anyway.

One of my most memorable experiences in selling was when I decided that I would sell some of the chives from my humongous chive plant in my part of the garden. (The garden was divided into four small plots - theoretically one for each member of the family, but my father and I each had one and my mother and sister's were taken over by sunflowers.) I put up a sign on a streetlight post that advertised one ounce of chives for 25 cents. I thought that was pretty good, and I would get several customers from my chive plant. Unfortunately, I didn't actually check how much an ounce is - and you may know that chive stems are hollow. So for my first customer, I pretty much decimated the plant getting up to an ounce on the kitchen scale. Oops. You could chalk that up as a lesson in accurate pricing.

I also ran a lemonade stand frequently, and one time I got really lucky - the people across the street were selling their house (which was GORGEOUS) and had an open house. Over 100 people showed up on that one day, and of course most of them bought lemonade from me as I was conveniently situated right across a one-lane street. Although the lemonade sold for ten cents, most of the adults gave me a quarter and some even gave me a dollar and told me to "keep the change." WOW!! That's a big ROI if I ever saw one. (Of course, my parents bought the lemonade mix, but who's counting.) That was definitely the most exciting day of my lemonade-selling enterprise. When I was older, I drew up plans for a wooden, folding lemonade stand with a sign and counter and everything - it would have involved a lot of hinges and probably would have weighed 100lbs. I settled for using house paint to make a "Lemonade 25 cents" sign on scrap wood which my father later hung in the living room as pop art.

When I wanted money to buy something, my parents tried to give me options for earning it, instead of simply handing it over. Once I held my own little yard sale (mostly of my parents' old things - I think I sold some records) in order to raise $20 to buy a Troll doll. (Gimme a break, I was probably seven or eight!) I also came up with my own chore chart of chores outside of my normal routine, for which I negotiated a quarter. The chart was quite specific about how many times a month I could do the chore (such as washing the dog once a month) and whether my sister could also do the chore. I don't think my sister was terribly excited, but in a few weeks I had done a couple dollars worth of (extra) chores and my parents put a halt on that, lest I come up with new and exciting chores like reroofing the house.

People love being in on something...

I'm sure you've heard about the PayPerPost people showing up at the Today Show.. all I can say is that the Today Show people seemed pretty accomodating considering that it could have devolved into a giant hullaballoo. But the audience members who helped out seemed to enjoy being in the middle of something unusual happening. PayPerPost refers to it as Guerilla Marketing, but unless they jumped those people and forced promotional items over their heads, I'd have to say it's more like "winning hearts and minds". ;) Let's just hope that not every new company tries to take this new route or we'll never be able to watch anything but reruns..

Ack! FSA!

I need to go spend about $100, fast... ;)

Well, I can probably spend another $50 on prescriptions, and maybe I'll get the proper receipts for my doctor appointments which is another $30.. and maybe I have a dentist appointment soon that I'm going to miss if I don't find that little card.. I might end up with a few boxes of sinus medication on December 29th anyway.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Saving money on my pet supplies

By far the biggest expense with the guinea pigs is the litter. I use CareFresh litter (basically recycled newspaper fluff) which is really The Stuff, because it's very absorbent, doesn't smell, and the pigs love to snuggle in it. =) I use about half a bag for each litter change, and I change them once a week, so at $22 a bag in the PetCo or PETSmart store, that adds up. What I do is go through a little loophole in the online ordering systems at those stores - you have to pay special shipping fees on cat litter but NOT small animal litter, so I wait until there's a good sale or free shipping and then buy five or six at one time. I'm waiting until the end of October (to free up space in the house, more than anything) because Petco is having a sale until then for the litter at $10.99 a bag. (The best sale price I can usually find is $13.49, so that's pretty good.) Plus, if the sale is on the site and not by coupon, I can use another coupon and get even more off. Schweet.

Wow, I actually transferred some money!

My retirement portfolio is about 75% invested in this one fund. Granted, it is a very broad fund, but it's up quite a lot now and I wanted to put some of the money into another sector. I don't mess around with my allocations too much anymore, although I used to, so I felt very brave transferring $1000 from my Equity Index (basically an S&P 500 fund) to a Growth fund. The Equity Index fund is currently pretty high and the Growth fund is priced pretty low, so I felt like I was getting some bang for my buck there. Also, I just don't like to see my entire portfolio's value tagged to whether that one fund gained 25 cents today or not. It's not true diversification as these are still pretty much all large-cap US stocks, but I'm somewhat limited in what types of things I can invest in, as TIAA-CREF only has about nine options. Still, I feel very brave for having actually moved some of that money.

Here's a non-financial topic I get riled up about...

Diamonds that come from God knows where. Diamonds have the unfortunate values of being very tiny, very valuable, and generally being mined in places that aren't terribly politically stable. Thus, your average diamond was probably mined by somebody who was not paid to do it, and used to purchase firearms or as part of a drug trade. Terrific, no? So I'm all behind the movement to purchase diamonds that you actually can track their original whereabouts, or even fake diamonds such as moissanite, that actually have a higher refractive index than diamonds. (Sparkly!) But if you're interested in a conflict-free diamond, this store BrilliantEarth has a nice selection. I think that selecting a diamond (especially one that will be worn for hopefully the rest of your life) should carry as much weight as you give to selecting an SRI or what not.

Not really getting the point...

My coworker told me that she thinks we should make more use of the kitchen (we have a fridge, microwave, and toaster in one room), noting that I do make a lot of use of it (I eat lunch out of my desk or the freezer about 4 days out of 5) and she wanted to do that too. So I was pretty happy for her since she and my other coworker mention a lot of times how money is tight, yet they buy lunch almost every day. Even chili and fries adds up! She's also mentioned in the past how she was going to try and bring her lunch too because it seemed like a good idea.

However, after her comment about wanting to use the kitchen more, she said she wanted to bring in yogurt and frozen fruit and have a smoothies day. Which I don't think is really the best use of the kitchen.. besides for how much frozen fruit costs it might be more cost-effective to get a smoothie from the place in the cafeteria, which sells them for $5 for a giant 32-oz cup. Boyfriend and I make smoothies now and then but they are cut with ice and a 2-gallon container of apple juice, not yogurt.

I also told another coworker that "I'm cheap, but I'm not that cheap" because I had to go by a Powerade - not because I actually wanted some Powerade, but because I use the bottle to make Crystal Light packets, and I should really replace the bottle more often. So I think I will make it a rule to get a new bottle once a week or so - cause I've kept the bottle in the past so long it started to smell funny, and I'm just not cheap enough to take it home and wash it. The Crystal Light is only about 30 cents a bottle, so I'm already saving money over Powerade ($1 from the machine in the basement) there, plus I drink more water and it's not as sugary.

Monday, October 02, 2006

I'll be 25 by then!

I just checked my Sallie Mae "borrower benefits" - and the only thing my loans are eligible for is a 1% interest rate reduction after I have made 36 on-time payments. However, I've got 27 more payments to go. Sigh.. I'll be practically OLD by then. (kidding! kidding!) That's a nice break though seeing as how my interest rate is fixed at 3.8% anyway, so that's more than a quarter of the interest rate. Then my loan will be paid down even faster, which is pretty cool.

Festival of Under 30 Finances, and the Bogleheads Project! How much more exciting does a week get!

Anyone can contribute to this Friday's Festival of Under 30 Finances, hosted by Debt Has Made Me Its Bitch - click here to put in your two cents. She asks a great question: What method have you found works best when changing jobs and negotiating a higher salary and/or benefits? What are the deal makers or breakers for you? For most of us, our job is our primary source of income, so maximizing it can have long-term effects on our net worth.

Up at AllFinancialMatters is the first day of the Bogleheads Project, a group blogging project wherein a whopping 23 bloggers (including me and several other members of the Honor Roll) will give their honest opinion about the new book, The Bogleheads' Guide to Investing. There's a wide range of investing advice in this book and a wide range of opinions on it. Keep an eye on this one.

After nearly four months of blogging, how are my finances doing?

I've been blogging since early June, and I've written a lot about various plans that I have made up for my future financial goals. So how am I doing, really? Well, not as well as I'd hoped - but not as badly as I could have done either.

Credit card debt - I'm in basically the same amount of debt as I was at the start (about $7,900) partially due to a temporary cash crunch. But, all of this is at 0% on the same card, whereas before some of it was at 10% and some was at 3.9%. I need to focus on paying this down, but at 0% it's not my biggest worry. Since I'm really focused on retirement savings, the only reason I'm worried at all about it is because I would like to buy a house eventually. I should actually be MORE worried about this, but again, 0%...

Retirement savings - Big increases here, but this isn't actually my doing since my retirement plan at work forces me to involuntarily contribute $225 a month, and my work contributes about $300. So this number goes up without my doing anything really. However, my Roth IRA now has $1100 in it, which I think I opened in March. Total retirement savings in June? $7900. Total in about 3 days, when this month's contribution hits: About $10,200. I think the big shift here has been in how I think about retirement. It's really become my big priority and I sometimes have difficulty convincing myself that I should pay down my debt when I haven't even come close to maxing out the Roth. I've also set a goal for myself to have $75,000 in retirement-only money by the time I'm 30, and that's really important to me. I just feel a lot more secure about the future knowing that I've got at least something stashed away.

Spending patterns - WAY better since I started reading blogs, probably not much change since I actually started blogging. When I got my job, I also had another side job which was pretty lucrative, so Boyfriend and I spent money like there was no tomorrow. We burned through about $7,000 of saved money and credit in the first four or five months - above and beyond what I brought home. Part of this was due to the fact that Boyfriend didn't get paid till October, but most of it was due to things like going to Olive Garden three times in one week (yes, we did.) Being stressed from a move and new job is NOT an excuse to spend money you don't have. I still feel aghast when I think about how much I wasted the money from that second job - that alone could have maxed out my Roth last year, and I didn't even HAVE one. *shudder* I'm much more responsible with the money that I have now, and examine my own habits much more closely.

For instance, I recently set up new checking accounts so that all the money for bills other than rent is direct deposited into not only a separate account, but one at a separate BANK. This is because I would think to myself, Okay self, we're going to leave $600 in the account this month for general stuff after bills. Then I would pay the bills and the rent and get the check from Boyfriend and then maybe we would go to the grocery store cause we're low on food and maybe we'll go to Whole Foods and buy $100 of meat and maybe we'll go out to eat cause hey I have all this money and maybe I'll buy more pet stuff cause I don't want to run low on supplies.. and suddenly everything would clear my account and I'd have $250 and be baffled. I went from having over $1500 in my bank account to $250, where did it all go? And while all the bills were clearing and we were spending all this money, I'd be paranoid that one of the bills was going to bounce if we got a little too happy at the grocery store. So now, I don't have to worry about the bills clearing since I know the money is there, I know how much is in my spending account, and the savings money has already been deposited. Much better.

I also set up a THIRD checking account which gets about $50 a month which is stashed for Christmas money and an expensive anniversary dinner for Boyfriend and I. I don't have a lot of recurring expenses so this is my version of the Freedom account that Beachgirl wrote about. I'm going to be cutting back a little on presents this year (last year was over $1000 because I thought, hey I'm a real adult with a real job and real money!) but it will be nice to know that I already have some money squirrelled away, and since it's in a checking account I can just take the card with me shopping, and not even use my real bank account.

General savings - I still only have $56 in my house fund, but it's a start! I finally got up to $1000 in my emergency fund, but I want it at $2000 before I start funnelling money into the house fund. At this point, given the outlook on actually buying a house, I might just not bother too much with the actual house fund and just work on reducing my debt and increasing the emergency fund. If I'm going to stay in this city for five more years, I think I can wait an extra six months to buy the house.

I think the biggest change for me after four months of blogging has really been my financial mindset. I know I've started a few posts by saying I'm a "bad blogger" because I now have an ideal in my mind of what I should be doing as a "good blogger" - saving my money, not buying stupid crap, and thinking of the future more than I think of today. That part, I've got down pat.