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Spring: Lawn Services and Convenience Checks March 25, 2008

Posted by pf in Credit Card, Expenses and Savings.
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Ah, spring is finally starting to push itself to the forefront and help us leave behind one of the most dreary winters I can remember behind. Of course, like the changing seasons comes a new barrage of advertisements with catchy phrases that work the word spring into it. More specifically, there are two that I notice which are particularly annoying:

1) Lawn Services – Whether it be flyers or richly colored advertisements from the bigger services, they try to convince you that your lawn will be so much more beautiful is you use their services. Also, of course, is the convenience factor (they take care of everything). Personally, I have bought into this before. When we first moved into our house, I really wanted our lawn and trees to start off nicely and paid for the pleasure to the tune of $35 /month. As far as I can tell, it was a good price. However:

  • You can achieve the same if not better results yourself
  • It definitely takes some time to do, but for most of us, we could use the sunshine and exercise anyway
  • Also, for most of us, $35 / month (and often quite a bit more) is real money saved…particularly when in debt. Even if you subtract the costs for purchasing the materials for yourself.

In general, I think lawn services are just another way to spend your precious funds on something you don’t really need and be had for less if you are willing to do it yourself.

2) Credit Card Convenience Checks – I have written about convenience checks before.  Aside from the fact that I feel they are putting me at some risk by mailing these live checks, I also think they are a huge waste of money:

  • Almost all (I actually think it’s 100%, but I can’t be sure) of them have a “fee” of 3% or so with a minimum of $10 or a maximum for as much as $90 for the pleasure of using them.  Right off the bat, you’ve already given away money for the pleasure.
  • It’s just an extension of your credit card.  If you’re going to continue to use credit, then why bother with convenience checks?  You can take up one of those 0% offers or just use the one you’ve already got.
  •  For those of you in debt, it just another way to perpetuate the horrible cycle you already find yourselves in.

Under certain circumstances, I could imagine one of these convenience checks may serve a purpose.  For example, if they offered a promotional fixed rate on the balance which was better than anything you already had.  Of course, you still have to spend money, but if you were going to anyway, then why not?

For myself, I take about 10 seconds to discern whether or not they might be giving me a deal of a lifetime (they aren’t) and then proceed to shred them.

Net Worth Disappointment March 2, 2008

Posted by pf in Credit Card, Expenses and Savings, Net Worth Update.
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Over the next couple of months, I should get a healthy “shot in the arm” to my net worth as a result of tax refunds, work bonus, stimulus package, etc. This should be thrilling. However, as I write this, I am a bit disappointed.

However, my dissatisfaction comes not from these wonderful things, but rather from what seems to be an increasingly larger and larger credit card bill. The size of the credit card bill is not so much the issue (we run large credit card debt when we are doing arbitrage), but rather some of its content and frequency.


Pursuit of Happyness November 10, 2007

Posted by pf in Credit Card, Expenses and Savings, Frugality, Goals, Uncategorized.
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Last night, my wife and I watched the movie of the same title of this post led by actor Will Smith and his son Jaden.  I think the movie has been out for awhile, but it’s just now showing up on cable tv (don’t go to the movies as often with all the kiddies), so a great time to watch.

I had already read some articles about the film and so was pretty familiar with the plot line and how the story would end.  Nonetheless, I was moved (as I’m sure were most who watched this movie). 

 However, my focus tended to be mostly on the struggles he endured and the agony of what he must have been going through as he tried to provide his son with food and shelter, etc.  For me, this speaks to some of my deepest fears in life…the inability to properly provide for my family. Granted, both my wife and I are college-educated, have a strong network of family and friends, and sufficient funds to weather a financial storm.  Yet, it’s still there…lingering.