What’s worse than having to talk to a used car salesman?

Having to buy hundreds of thousands of cars that you didn’t want in the first place. Who would do such a thing? You and me baby. Today is the day GM files, or filed depending on when you read this, for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Chapter 11 bankruptcy, for those that don’t know, basically means GM still remains in control of it’s business, but is ultimately at the mercy of the courts…AkA…the government. As of today, fellow taxpayers, we took ownership of America’s largest car manufacturer. I read this little article that gives the low down on what’s going on. Here’s some excerpts…

“It didn’t have to be this painful. By the time this is over the government will have spent $100 billion of taxpayer money and to what end? Is there any guarantee of a viable or competitive company? No.

“The only winner in this that I can see is the union. The taxpayer is not a winner. Bondholder rights have been trampled. And our system is a loser because we have reconfirmed — as we did in the Chrysler bankruptcy — that this administration will rewrite the rules of bankruptcy when it sees fit.”

So, I’m thinking I’m gonna cruise on over to my local dealership, use the bathroom, write my next blog from one of the employee’s computer terminals, maybe take a Hummer or two for a joy ride. Afterall, I now own part of that toilet, I’m paying for their internet, and I own a piece of that Hummer. I’m not necessarily claiming to have an ingenious idea that can cure the economic woes of the US, but I do not think taking control of GM is in our best interest. I mean, I don’t know how to cure world hunger, but I sure as heck know that world hunger is bad.

It’s gonna be interesting to see how this whole thing pans out. Maybe I’ll eat my words a couple years down the road and all will have worked out for the better…maybe. What do you think? Oh and, who wants to join me on my afternoon joyride in an H2?

Sometimes donating is a scam.

I decided to partake in a little Memorial Day tennis activity yesterday with a good college friend. After we established a time to play, I volunteered to purchase new tennis balls (we are kinda spoiled we only play with fresh balls each time). There is a Rite Aid awkwardly close to my house, and although it wouldn’t be my preffered sporting goods store, it does the job. I have bought tennis balls there before and they usually cost around $3.50 for a can (about a dollar more than if I went to Target or Sports Chalet). I don’t mind paying the extra dollar, for the convenience of walking across the street. I rolled in to the store and headed to the sports section. And wouldn’t ya know it, they were out of normal tennis balls.

All that remained, were some awkward pink balls that were $6 a can, a 171% mark up. I was pretty bummed about the expense, but I was in desperate need of new balls (get your mind out of the gutter). I justified the expensive purchase because the cannister advertised that the balls were pink because each purchase supported the fight against breast cancer. I’m always down to help noble causes. So I purchased the balls and cruised on over to the tennis courts. I took my first swing and blop…the ball was flat. I’m not talking like just a little flat, but beat up, dead, worthless. There was no bounce left in those pink balls, they were completely useless.

I was super pissed, considering I spent a ridiculous amount of money on them, but calmed myself by remembering I supported a good cause, or so I thought. I put the balls back in their canister and walked to the garbage can to throw them away. On my excursion to the garbage, I read the sticker that disclosed what amount of the proceeds went to breast cancer research. The result, $0.15 per can. Are you freakin’ kidding me?! That’s 2.5% of the total sale. It angers me to think that a company will nearly double the price of their product, but only contribute a fraction of that mark up to the charity in which they claim to support. It’s a bunch of bullpoo if you ask me. I would have been better off purchasing the regularly priced $3.50 balls and then donating $2.50 to the fight against breast cancer. I think this company dropped the “ball” (no pun intended) when it comes to operating ethically. This incident reminded me that, donating, when you don’t necessarily know how your money is being used, is not always the smart move.

Case study #2: Many of the grocery stores here ask “Would you like to donate a dollar to “blah, blah, blah” charity today?” I use to always feel guilty and would let them add the $1 to my grocery bill. After speaking with a wiser individual, I realized that’s kind of dumb. First, because I was only donating out of guilt, not because I necessarily wanted to. The second, and more important reason, I didn’t know how that dollar I donated was being used or even which organization I was donating too. There are a lot of legitimate charities out there, but there are four times as many sketchy ones. What if I was donating to a sketchy company? What if that dollar could have served more purpose with a different organization? Needless to say, I now politely decline each donation request from the local grocers.

Moral of the story, be knowledgeable of how your donated benjamins are being spent. Check out Charity Navigator to get a little background about the companies you donate too. It basically breaks down the organization and rates it between one to four stars…four stars is legit…one star is sketchy. After all, you wouldn’t invest in a companies stock without knowing a little about them first…right?

Freakin’ California

So I live in California, the most powerful state in the country…and by powerful I mean embarassing. If you not aware, we had a special election yesterday for a bunch of different ballot measures that attempted to “help” California meet it’s budget. Essentially, nothing passed and Californians made it pretty clear they are fed up with forking out their cash. You can read more about it here.

More immediately, Mr. Schwarzenegger met with legislative leaders to begin the painful process of slashing state spending after voters rejected five ballot measures intended to balance the budget through a mix of tax increases, borrowing and the reallocation of state money.

If you didn’t know, I’m not the biggest fan of California. There is something wrong when your state’s budget starts the year 21 billion in the toilet. Especially when the only shot they have at balancing the budget is to pass a bunch of crazy ballot measures. So what is The Governators response…increase taxes! Excellent, why don’t we kick people while they’re down, or better yet, punch them in the face!? Something tells me the taxpayers wont be too pleased if, and when, those tax hikes come.

I’m embarrassed to live in a state that doesn’t know how to spend within its means. I say let us fail. Maybe it will teach us a thing or two about humility and the importance of mature spending. Likely though, laws will be forced on us, constitutions will be changed, and education and healthcare will be cut. I’m pissed.

*p.s. I’m surprised Adam didn’t win  American Idol last night…aren’t you!?*

Uh-oh…I bought something from Wal-Mart.

I try to avoid Wal-Mart whenever possible. I have read to many sketchy things about the way they treat their employees to shop there on a regular basis, not to mention it’s always crowded and I feel like I need to take a cold shower when I leave. Also, I’m a fan of supporting the “little guy” and try to shop at local businesses when possible.

That said, I took the plunge and headed to “The Wal” yesterday to make a purchase. My girlfriend’s birthday is right around the corner, so I wanted to surprise her with a b-day beach cruiser. She is not an avid bike rider, but enjoys the occassional cruise sesh while I longboard (skateboard) next to her. It’s undeniable that Wallies has some incredible deals and there bicycle prices are super reasonable. I walked out the door with a $94 bike…much better than the $350 cruisers at the local shops. I brought the bike home and surprised her with it today- note: I bought the bike knowing I was probably going to pick the wrong color or style and would be returning or exchanging it so I kept the receipt like a good frugal boy.

Sure enough, after surprising her, we agreed the color was probably not the best for her personality (I knew I should have gone with light blue). I told her it was no problem at all and I only bought this bike as a physical representation of the gift I wanted to give her and not necessarily because this bike screamed her name. We went to target today and looked at a couple other beach cruisers and decided we will be returning the one I got her. Well, I came home and read the The Wal’s return policy and all appears good (90 days baby). But then the skeptic in me comes out and thinks “I wonder what others experiences have been returning bikes to Wal-Mart?” The verdict….not so good.

Apparently a bunch of people have been screwed and Wallies has not accepted their bikes. Now I sit here fearful that I’m gonna be stuck with a bike my girlfriend doesn’t particularly like. I am flying to seattle tomorrow so I wont be able to try and return it until next week. I’m sure some of you PFers have made a return to Wal-mart at some point. What were your experiences? Good, bad, ugly? Should I be ready to take it up the…nose? (get your mind out of the gutter). I’ll be sure to let you all know what goes down when I go in for the return. If they don’t take the bike, I’m going to punch the Wal-Mart manager in the face.

Thanks (for nothing) Upromise!

Looks like this debt puncher is going back to college. That’s right, I’m gonna get me a PhDizzle and I owe it all to Upromise. I signed up with them after I graduated college, about two years ago. I have my account linked to my credit card, which I use for EVERY purchase I make (I would pay my rent on my credit card if I could). I got an email from Mr. Upromise today with my current statement. Here it is….

Thats right suckas, I’m rich! I got a whopping $0.84 to use towards further education if I so choose. I broke it down and crunched some numbers. If I went to my alma mater and got my masters degree, this 84¢ would pay for exactly 0.003% of that degree. It’s pretty close to a full ride. Seriously Upromise? You can keep your 84 cents if you promise to stop emailing me!

* p.s. if you look at the date of my last visit to Upromise, you can tell I check my balance religiously  🙂 *

How do you help the helpless?

“I’ve always been lazy, I can’t change. This was a quote from one of the kids that I tutor, oh wait, tutored. That’s right I was forced to resign on Monday by the young chaps’ parents…and honestly I can’t blame them. I’ll give ya a little background on this kid.

His parents are ridonkulously wealthy and are very good people. They got my information from one of their family friends (whose kid I also tutor) to try and help their son apply himself in his math class more. He’s in 10th grade and in Algebra Two. After tutoring him for my first time, six months ago, it was obvious this kid did NOT need a math tutor. In all honesty he was probably smarter than I am (shhh…don’t tell him that though). His problem wasn’t with comprehending the material he was presented, it was that he was freakin’ lazy! I’m talking like goes-out-of-his-way-to-avoid-homework-at-all-costs lazy. Within our first few tutoring sessions we set up a game plan and made a calendar of all of his upcoming projects/tests/quizzes/etc and a timetable of when he needed to start studying and preparing.

I thought for sure with a little motivation from yours truly, I could get him to bring his math grade up to where it should be. Fast forward six months...Mission Accomplished! His math grade is faaaaar better than it was when I first started tutoring, but….(can you guess where this story is going)… he essentially stopped doing all of his other homework. Literally, he didn’t turn in one history assignment this semester and has only completed about half of his chemistry assignments. So this last Monday night I sat down with him and his parents and we had a little conference. We discussed why we think he is lazy only to have him interrupt with “I’ve always been, I can’t change.” So I responded “That’s a bunch of bullpoo, you don’t want to change!” We talked for a little longer and after an hour or so of conversation I left.

I will no longer be tutoring him and I’m pissed off. Even with my best efforts he remained unchanged. I’m not mad because I’m out $40 a week, I’m frustrated because I couldn’t motivate this kid to apply himself academically. Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? Ever tried convincing someone that has no problem being in debt to avoid using their credit card? It’s super difficult, if not impossible.

I guess at the end of the day lazy people are too dang lazy to change.


California is expensive

How much would you pay for the sunshine? Is it worth a 10% income tax? How ’bout a housing market few can afford? I personally think California is overrated. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and after living in California for 6 years I have realized it’s just not worth the cost. Not only is California overpriced, but I’m not a big fan of the lifestyle. It’s too fast paced for this small town kid. I’m getting itchy to make the move back to the PNW so I can establish myself there and settle down.
Kinda weird, I’m 23, but ready for the life of a 70 year old.

P.S. California I’m pissed at you cause I pay a lot of money for that sunshine and the forecast shows a chance of rain tomorrow!