Category: Money

I subscribe to one of those credit score monitoring services, and apparently Christmas has not been good to my FICO score. I didn’t go overboard or max out any cards, but just my one day shopping spree seems to have lowered my score by 5 points. So if you’re shopping for a car loan, mortgage or car insurance this January, make sure you pay off all that Christmas cheer!

Baby Jesus lowered my credit score

I’ve been planning on getting a new iPod when they came out, and as Rob reminds us, that will happen next week. I bought a new iPod nano last month as a bridge from my old brick to whatever new hot thing Steve Jobs has planned for us.

The question now is, should I put my new nano on eBay now, so it will end before the new model is announced to the wider public? By the time the auction ends and I have to ship it, I’ll be able to shoot up to the Apple Store and play with the iMacs and buy a new iPod. Sounds like a plan, no?

Information arbitrage

While lamenting my rapidly dwindling bank account (it is summer, after all), I checked in with my famous financial spreadsheet and found something interesting. In 2007, I’ve spent $196.00 on gas for my car. Meanwhile, I’ve spent $232.53 this year at Dunkin Donuts (!). Now you may think I have a problem, to which I’d just have to reply “I’m a Rhode Islander.” Plus I’m pretty sure Dunkin lattes are better for my carbon footprint.

In the same vein, if you’re noticing that you’re spending more than you should, here’s a neat Greek saying about frugality I came across today: “always keep crabs in your pockets.” Can’t you just imagine those pinchy little suckers in your pockets, snapping at your fingers every time you go for your wallet?

Talk about your latte factor!

I have Apple stock, so I urge you and all your friends to go get in line now to buy an iPhone.

That said, there’s just no way I can justify getting one. I have T-Mobile, so there wasn’t much chance I’d switch to AT&T anyway, but I was thinking about it. Then I did some math and figured that even with the cheapest monthly plan, you’d be out over $2100 when your contract expires in July 2009 (2 year contract is required to even put music on the iPhone). And this is assuming that you bought the 4GB model and fought the temptation to buy any of the eventual upgrades over those two years.

Compare that to my admittedly 2001-era cell phone usage: I have 300 minutes which I never come close to using in a month, and I pay $36 per month including taxes. My phone doesn’t have a camera, but I got it for $30 on eBay. I’m long past any contract expiration date I assume I once had. So in July 2009 I’ll have paid a little more than $900 for the purpose of calling and texting. This takes into account the inevitability of me going swimming with my phone in my pocket and/or tripping over some rocks on the beach and falling directly onto my phone (not that I have any experience with these things…)

Now, I won’t be listening to music or watching movies or taking pictures or surfing the net with a beautiful specimen of industrial design. But I will have $1200 to subsidize a new digital camera and maybe a 7th gen iPod with hopefully some of those tasty iPhone features (please!). And a new iMac. And a new bike. And this book that no one bought me.

Of course, if the iPhone lives up to the hype, maybe AAPL will make me enough cash to not care and I’ll get an iPhone too.

iExpensive!

I’ve mentioned my unwieldy financial spreedsheet before, right? Well, it just told me that I’ve spent over $50 this month at Dunkin Donuts. Whatever, that’s kind of a lot, but I accept it. And as I contemplate yet another after-work latte, I see that DD has gotten $20 from me this week alone. So now I’m sad. How can I possibly justify yet another $3 cup of mostly milk and ice? (tomorrow is pay day, though…)

My brain, however, has come up with a way to trick me into having my latte and drinking it too: I can recharge my Dunkin Card online! For whatever reason, I’ve come to look down on those recurring $3-$5 purchases as evil wallet vampires, sucking away the blood of my financial life. But! My budget leaves plenty of room for one or two moderate, $20-$40, “on-a-whim” purchases each week. (for instance, I’m getting a tortilla press this week!)

So! What if I just put $20 on my Dunkin card? I get 5 or 6 guilt-free trips to the crackhouse local DD and the spreadsheet doesn’t shame me for another week or two. Excellent.

Dunkin psychology

Like a lot fresh-out-of-college kids these days, I left school looking at a distressingly deep debt hole and, despite an impressive sounding degree, few prospects for good work. After facing the obvious realization that having thousands of dollars in credit card debt isn’t any way to live, I got budgeting religion. And if you’ve ever seen the ludicrously massive spreadsheet I keep, you won’t question why I call it religion.

Anyway, I’ve since dug out of the pit and started sleeping well at night, and it occurred to me that I was pretty lucky to be in a position to not absolutely need every dollar that comes in. So last year I made a bucket in my budget for charitable giving. It’s usually about $50 a month, which really isn’t much, but like they say, every little bit.

The reason I’m telling you this is because this month I don’t have any organization in mind to contribute my paltry half-Benjamin (a fat Ulysses just doesn’t sound right, does it). The past few have gone to Save the Bay, the Warm Neighbor fund (my bill for our little apartment was $150 last month!), and the RI Food Bank. If you have a favorite cause, tell me about it and I’ll send them a check this week.

And if you don’t have any suggestions, tell me the group you’d least like to see get a donation.

Every little bit