Archive for January, 2010

Over the past few weeks we’ve been dining out or buying food at restaurants for take home because the deals are just too sweet to be cooking at home.   Chilis has dining for 2 for $20 which includes an appetizer, two entrees and dessert.   Another chain restaurant has fajitas for two with sides, chips and some extras for under $25.   I drove by a seafood restaurant and they were advertising 25 fried shrimp for $10.   Another seafood restaurant has all-you-can-eat lobster for under $20 and those are the deals at expensive restaurants!

It is ironic that more people are consuming food at home and being frugal at the grocery store when now is the perfect time to be eating out.  For lunch today, I had a 12 oz steak with salad and grilled veggies for under $11.   Although I don’t eat fast food too often, I stopped by at Jack-In-The-Box a couple of weeks ago and saw two croissants (even the supreme version) for $3 which is a pretty good deal.   I’m guessing other fast food restaurants have a variety of deals.  I’ve seen Pizza chains offer any size any toppings for $10 and Domino’s has some new deal for two pizzas for $5.99.

If you love eating out, now’s the time to be doing it before some of these chains go bankrupt!

I have an acquaintance named “Sally” that is hell bent on spending every last dime she makes on her looks.   This woman has had breast augmentation, liposuction, laser hair removal and God knows what else over the last couple of years.   In of itself, I honestly don’t care what people do with their time or money as long as it doesn’t impact me but recently my wife recounted a conversation she had with “Sally” and it went something like this:

Sally:  “Oh, I just got my ______ done a second time and it was only $2,000.”

Wife: “Wow, that sounds expensive for that procedure.”

Sally: “Oh come on, you can afford it….sign up and get it….I’ll get you the number.”

To be honest, I wasn’t paying too much attention so I don’t know what exactly cost $2,000 but I’m guessing it was some type of cosmetic procedure.   Unfortunately, “Sally” tends to live nearly paycheck to paycheck and whenever she gets a bonus or some other type of windfall, Sally seems to be stuck with the idea that every conceivable dollar that isn’t accounted for in bills must be spent on improving herself and believes this should apply to all women.

I can’t begin to tell you all the problems with “Sally” but she’s been through an ugly divorce and a few bad relationships and constantly picking the wrong man in her life because she basis her decisions on her ego rather than anything practical.   Many people do not like “Sally” because of her attitude and endless self-absorption with herself and there are many more stories but they’re not important to the point of this story.

So I don’t care what Sally does but the inevitable foreboding is there in that she will at some point become unemployed and she will come to us to request financial assistance and I can already here the argument with my wife over lending/giving this woman money.  How could I possibly bring myself to lend/give this woman any money when every single dollar of disposable income for the last two to three years has been spent on pointless cosmetic surgery and procedures?

Stay tuned, I anticipate disaster within the next 6 months.

What lessons have you learned from the financial crisis?   Did you catch the most important lesson?   It wasn’t about the dangers of leverage nor the malfeasance by banksters and fraudsters.  It wasn’t about the dangers of diversification or lack thereof in the stock market.

The main lesson I learned from the financial crisis is that at the end of the day, every single person is out there only for himself or herself.   Did you prudently save a large amount of money and only see it nearly disappear in the puff of smoke known as mortgage fraud?   Did your bank almost go down and leave you with nothing?   Is it possible that your bank  may still go down and leave you with nothing?

The financial shocks of 87, 98, 2001, 2007 seem to be getting closer and closer and greater in magnitude as time moves on and at this rate, we can expect to see another major blow up 2012 if not sooner.   Perhaps we’ve never really recovered from the 70’s crashes or perhaps the 60’s crashes or perhaps this is just the way it is but the serious demographic changes in the boomer population don’t bode well for the future of the stock market.

Based on my calculations, I expect boomers to start cashing out in droves around 2012 but perhaps this whole death tax thing may accelerate that as heirs cash out of the market.   No matter what happens, don’t expect anyone to come to your rescue as the most important lesson is that you’re on your own.

As part of one of my goals for the year, I started the Atkins diet at the beginning of the year and I’m currently going through carb withdrawal.   I’m not nor have I been hungry for most of the day but I do have a craving for carbs: any carbs!  I keep thinking about snacking on some chips, a slice of bread, some crackers, or baked goodies but those are definitely not on the diet.

For the most part, I’ve been eating eggs for breakfast, beef/shrimp/chicken for lunch and fish for dinner.   I plan on buying some lobsters this week too!    The Atkins diet is the only diet that has ever really worked for me….at least temporarily.   I’ve been on the diet before and within the first month or two I’ll easily lose 30 pounds then another 10 to 15 pounds until I get sick of eating the protein stuffs.

This year I plan on doing something different, I will be on high protein, low carb diet for 6 to 8 weeks (the induction phase) and then I’ll take two weeks off and restart the induction phase again after the two weeks.    I don’t plan on pigging out during my two weeks off, I will eat low fat food probably Subway veggie and <6 grams of fat sandwiches during that period and then return to induction.

I am hoping that the two weeks off will provide enough variety so that I don’t get burned out of the Atkins diet.   I plan on sticking to the program for all of 2010 and the only thing that may derail me is a great deal of business travel that is anticipated for the year but I’m going to give it my best.

My two year old MacBook Pro went to sleep and never woke up and I could not boot it up again so I took it to the Apple Genius guys over at the Apple shop at the mall.  I was shocked to see how dead the mall was for a Saturday, this place was jam packed the week before Christmas and now it was totally dead except for the Apple store.   The Apple store seemed to have quite brisk business but I was worried so many people were there to see the “Genius” guys to repair defective equipment.  I overheard quite a few conversations and most seemed to be centered around defective hardware or malfunctioning software.

I was prepared to have the Genius guy tell me that my Mac Book was dead but he said there was a known problem with my model of Macbook and they would repair it for free despite the fact that it is out of warranty.   I am pleasantly surprised that they will honor the repair since I really didn’t want to have to buy a new laptop.

Since the holiday shopping season is over, I am extremely concerned that we are heading back into the abyss.  I just couldn’t fathom that the mall would be so dead on a Saturday during peak time!

My wife happened to arrive at Wal-mart on the 31st to pick up some last minute items for a party (New Years) and she reported to me that it was a total mad house.  She was waiting in line getting a bit frustrated when another cashier opened another check out line and signaled her to come over.   My wife asked why it was so busy that day and inquired if it was due to the fact that it was New Years eve and people were buying stuff and the cashier said no that it was always like that on the 15th or 31st (or 1st) of the month because that’s either when people got paid or when the state released funds to the public on public assistance.

“Don’t ever come here on the 15th or 31st if you don’t have to” is what the cashier’s advice was for a more enjoyable store visit.   The story sounded eeriely similar to my own experience of many years ago so I searched my archives and lo and behold!  As soon as my wife told me this story I wondered if they’ve finally taken my advice from TWO YEARS AGO!

Well here is a brief list of my goals for 2010.

1. Lose weight – goal is to lose 70 pounds.

2. Take kids to see Total Eclipse (options include Tahiti, Solomon Islands, or Cruise).

3. Move My Money – Depending on what happens the 1st quarter of 2010, I may move all of my money out of big banks and into credit unions and community banks.

4. Have at least two cool family vacations: one international to Europe or South America, one domestic.

5. Go somewhere by myself exotic and crazy that I’ve never been to before (South Korea, Thailand, etc).

6. Continue this blog – yeah, it’s becoming a goal to keep this blog running with my work, school and family load.

7. Pay off all debt  – depending on how the economy recovers (or not) the 1st quarter of 2010, I may opt to pay off all debts which currently include my mortgage and one car note which is nearly paid off.

There are many other goals that I have but these are the ones that I will share with the public.   I’m still reconsidering the whole MBA thing and a few decision trees are based off of that so I can’t summarize them here briefly.