Dollar bills are my enemy

Have you heard Dave Ramsey ever say people tend to spend more when they use a credit card as opposed to cash? Well I think Dave is a cotton headed ninny muggins (whatever that means). Declaring that people suddenly become irresponsible when using plastic as a medium for payment is no more ridiculous than Al Gore claiming he invented the internet. Sure some people probably spend more with plastic, but I ain’t one of those ‘people’.

I’m a total cash nazi. I just don’t like the stuff. I consider myself a pretty disciplined dude, but when it comes to dollar bills, I am anything but. It’s as if they are sitting in my wallet, taunting me, whispering from my right butt-cheek “spend me.” When I get my hands on some $1’s and $5’s, I almost always spend it on unnecessarily stupid things like Pregnant Barbies…

When I put expenses on my credit card, I’m forced to watch my spending accumulate over the 30 day billing cycle. As the balance grows, I become more and more frugal. Paying between $1,000 to $1,500 each due date, totally motivates me to minimize my spending. Seeing the damage in it’s entirety, as opposed to incrementally, influences wise spending choices. When I spend cash, it’s as if it never existed. There’s no pain involved.

If you’ve sworn off credit cards for life, more power to ya. We each have to do what works best for us according to our strengths and weaknesses. For this Ninja, cash is my kryptonite.

Is it yours? Do you prefer using cash or a card? How much cash is in your wallet right now? (I have $7…time to go buy another Barbie!!!!)

No spend challenges are for wussies

If you read other PF blogs, which I hope you do, I’m sure you’ve seen various bloggers participate in no spend challenges. These challenges come in all shapes and sizes, but the general premise is pretty simple; Don’t spend you’re money on frivolous things. No Starbucks. No dining out. No clothes, movies, or gadgets. At the end of the day, week, or month, you’re suppose to feel like a financial rock star. But I’m here to make you feel like a wussy. Yeah, a wussy, welcome back to third grade!

Why anyone would want to participate in one of these challenges is beyond me. If I said, “Hey guys, let’s not eat food for a month so we can lose weight” would you join me? Heck no you wouldn’t. So why would you join me if I said let’s not spend our hard earned money on things that bring us warm fuzzy feelings? Things like chocolate, Dr. Pepper, and Finding Nemo (a delightful combination might I add).

If you want to lose weight, you don’t stop eating, you eat healthier. If you want to stop spending like a hot mess, you don’t stop spending, you learn to spend responsibly. Why does it have to be all or nothing? Instead of no spend challenges, why can’t we have spend only $50 or spend only $150 challenges?

Personally, I think these no spend challenges are for wussies. Or at least for people who need a false sense of self-control.

But hey, who am I to judge? Oh wait, that’s right. I’m a freakin’ ninja! I’ll judo chop your face off if you join any of those silly things.

Now it’s your turn to get even No Spend lovers. Tell me why they’re so great!

Have you ever participated in a no spend challenge? Was it the most incredible thing you’ve ever been a part of? Anyone else think they are just an excuse for people to pat themselves on the back?

note: Of course I’m being a drag drama queen. I don’t really think No Spend Challenges are as evil as I make them about to be, but they are definitely not for me πŸ™‚

I’m not as sexist as I sound

The other day I made, what I thought was, a rather harmless quip about the female menstrual cycle. Apparently not everyone appreciated the analogy as a handful of female readers called me sexist and chauvinistic. If you were one of the offended parties, please accept my apology; I meant no harm.

That said, I would like to remind everyone that this blog is not really suppose to be taken seriously. Remember it is called Punch Debt In The Face, not Personal Finance For Really Boring People.

I always try and think about how my jokes will be received. Unfortunately, as PDITF grows it’s harder to predict the outcome. With over 1,300 people reading each article, I’m bound to irritate someone. I don’t do it on purpose. I don’t do it intentionally. It’s just the nature of the beast I suppose.

Take for example this excerpt from my extended warranties blog post… “Unlimited warranties are harder to find than a sober person at ASU.” When I make a joke like that do you really think I believe every person that went to ASU was an alcoholic? Of course I don’t! So why would you think I seriously believe all grumpy women are on their period? Answer: You shouldn’t. It was my lame attempt at humor that registered without about 98% of you, and ticked off 2%.

Transition to today’s post…

Okay, now that we got that out of the way, it’s probably time to anger a few more of you by sharing the most recent development in the Ninja household, Girl Ninja is getting an allowance! (Uh oh, I can smell the burning bras now).

Hold on just a minute, it’s not what you think. We’re not talking a “take out the trash and I’ll give you $5” kind of allowance, but more a “Girl Ninja can spend $75/month on whatever the heck she wants and I can’t stop her” kind of thing.

At first, we thought we could just spend freely without worry. Turns out I am way too much of a micromanager for that system to work. Every time GN would return home from the store, I’d immediately ask her how much she spent. Not because I didn’t trust her to spend wisely, but because I ALWAYS wanted to know exactly how much money was coming and going.Β  Needless to say, Girl Ninja totally felt uncomfortable and hated each time I asked “How much did that cost?”.

It didn’t take long for us to realize the “free spending” system wasn’t working out. After some much needed dialogue, we decided she should just get $100/month to spend on whatever the heck she wants. No questions asked.

Before, if Girl Ninja wanted a pair of Hunter rain boots (which she does), I would have screamed, kicked, and begged her not to get them. But now that she takes $75 out of our checking account each month, she can use it to buy anything her little heart desires, Hunter rain boots included. What she doesn’t spend, she gets to keep and add to next months allowance. She likes the system way more, and I do to!

And now the double standard…. I DON’T have an allowance.

Not because I get to operate outside of the household rules, but because I am so freakin’ frugal I literally spend less than $20/month on myself. When the time comes that I feel like droppin’ some major coin, I’ll definitely have to clear it with the wifey first. There’s no inequality here! Just two different people making our finances work the best we can πŸ™‚ Booya for teamwork!

Reader Questions:

By a show of hands (or in this case comments), how many of you have I seriously offended? Do any of you actually get my humor? Am I the awkward guy that thinks I’m funny, but really I’m just being booed off stage?

On another note, How does “frivolous” spending work in your household? Anyone else use an allowance system like we do?

Goodbye free cell phone

Friends, I have very sad news for you all today. A tragedy is unfolding right before our very eyes. I’m afraid my days of free cell phone service are numbered. My parents, and Girl Ninja’s parents, have formulated an evil scheme to ruin my financial future. They are kicking us off each of our families cell phone plans. The horror!

Unfortunately the majority of cell phone companies only allow five people on a family plan. There are five in my family, and six in Girl Ninja’s. That means there is no room for either of us to join on one of the exisiting family plans. Major bummer.

I know, many of you probably hate that I have leached off of my parents and enjoyed the benefits of a free cell phone. But hey, you’d probably do it to if your parents offered.

I’ve been out of my ATT iPhone contract since October. Girl Ninja’s Verizon contract is up in February. That means next month we will be starting our own plan. I love my iPhone, but just don’t know if I love it enough to pay for it myself. The thing is sexy as heck, but it’s also freakin’ expensive. It’s SEXpensive!

I’m pretty sure Girl Ninja’s phone is from the 1950’s as there is no touch screen, internet connectivity, or QWERTY keyboard. She’s stylin’ and profilin’ with an old school Motorola brick phone. Not only are our phone preferences completely different, but we are on different carriers. There are some serious decisions to be made. Let the arguing negotiating begin!

Do we go with modern technology and get iPhones (or Droids)? Or should we kick it old school and get a phone that is really designed to do one thing…make phone calls?

It’s looking like we’d be facing about $190/month if we hopped on an iPhone plan (that is unless Verizon has crazy low prices for their recently announced iPhone). I bet, though, if we just got super basic phones, with unlimited texting (but not data or other services) we’d probably be able to get our bill down to about $100/month.

That makes the iPhone an extra $1,080 a year (really $2,160 since you have to sign a two year contract).

As much as I love this little computer/lifeline/iPhone thingy, I just don’t know if the cost is worth it. Should be interesting to see how the next month pans out πŸ™‚

What kind of cell phone do you have (smart phone or unsmart phone)?

How much do you pay for your cell phone plan (include # of people on plan)?

Anyone else receiving any type of parental hook ups, like Girl Ninja and I were with free cell phones?

Chase Sucks

I opened my first checking account with Washington Mutual when I was 16 years old . I loved the bank and loved having a debit card in high school (it made me feel cool, even though I really wasn’t). Fast forward, eight years later. WaMu goes under, gets bought out by Chase, and the whole world comes to an end… almost.

I recently received a letter from Chase indicating they would be making some changes to my checking account. I usually get letters like this every few months, but the changes are almost always minor things I don’t care about. This letter was different…

As of February 8th, 2011 those who have a Chase Checking account will be charged a $10.00 monthly service fee.

Hold the phone?! Let me get this right. You are going to charge me $120 a year to access my own money? Heck No Techno! That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.

If you want to avoid paying the monthly fee, you have to meet one of the following criteria…

– have at least one direct deposit of $500.00 (or more)
– or keep a balance of $1,500.00 (or more) in your checking account
– or keep an average balance of $5,000.00 or more across multiple chase accounts (checking, savings, investments, etc).
– or pay at least $25.00/month β€œin other qualifying account fees (not including the $10 monthly service fee).”

Could I meet Chase’s demands and avoid the $10/month checking account fee? Of course. But I’m a man of principle (and stubbornness) and I refuse to negotiate with financial terrorists. That’s right….terrorists!

My solution to the problem is quite simple. Change banks. Girl Ninja and I are now proud customers of Wells Fargo. It’s probably the second best decision I’ve made (the first best was starting this blog, the third best was marrying Girl Ninja…kidding…kind of).

I’m a firm believer of voting with my dollar, and in this case, I’m taking my dollars to another bank. Have any of you seen any changes to your financial accounts recently? Did anyone else get this letter from Chase? Let’s pretend your bank gave you the same letter Chase gave me. Would you just suck it up and make sure you meet one of their demands, or would you say “Screw you Chase” and move on to another bank that doesn’t have requirements for free checking?

Prolonging the journey

I’ve been in the personal finance game for a little over two years now and it’s been a ton of fun. Many of my goals, during this time, have ebbed and flowed (much like my mother’s love for me), but home ownership has always been an urgent necessity. It would validate my significance and success in how I managed my money. At least, that’s what I thought.

Does home ownership really indicate one’s financial stability? For my wife’s parents it does. They own their home outright and it has significantly increased in value over the 20 years they’ve owned it. For the thousands of Americans facing foreclosure’s and short sales, not so much. “The American Dream” should not be owning a home, but owning a home when you can actually afford to own one. Novel concept right?

Renting seemed like the stupidest thing in the world to me. Why would I throw away $1,500/month, when I could own a home instead? Well, it turns out renting has quite a few perks of it’s own.

It allows me to put more in the savings vehicle of my choice. Taking on a mortgage forces you to save a sizable part of your income in your home, and as we all know, the real estate market is not always stable. I would rather throw $1,000/month away in rent and put $1,500/month in to my savings account, than just have a $2,500 mortgage.

It allows me total flexibility. If I get fired tomorrow, I am not limited to a 50 mile radius when hunting for my next job. Not only can I move wherever and whenever, but I can also determine how much I want to pay. If I ever feel like my rent is too high, I can always ask the landlord to reduce rent. How many homeowners can call their banks and say “Please lower my mortgage for no reason besides I’d like you to.”? And if my landlord says tough luck, I can pack my bags and begin looking for a new place.

But the real reason I most likely wont own a home in the next five years is this. It wont be a good time to buy one. If someone gave me $150,000 right now I’d sign a mortgage tomorrow. Unfortunately I don’t think that is going to happen. This means that I will keep on saving and saving and saving. Who knows where interest rates and home prices will be a few years from now, but if either are at crazy highs (to counteract the current crazy low) I don’t think I’ll be buying.

Renting isn’t a bad gig and one I won’t mind doing for a while longer. One day I’ll join the ranks of you homeowners, but I hope to do so at a time where I am financially able and at a point in my life where I am ready to commit 10+years of my life to one area.

Anyone else care to chime in with their two cents on renting vs owning? Do you think renting is “throwing” money away? For you homeowners, what lead you to the decision to quit renting and begin owning?

I think we can all agree that both renting and owning are stupid when compared to the third option…. living at home with the parents. You hear that Mom Ninja, the wife and I are moving in!!!! Muwahahahaha!!!!!

Pickin’ up the tab

I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post a while back titled “Wife = Asset or Liability.” I asked the question as bachelor Ninja, but now that I’ve been married just shy of a month, I’m pretty much an expert on the topic (haha, yeah right). So, to answer my own question, “Is Wife Ninja an asset or a liability” I’ve come up with a few areas of my life where she has added (or subtracted) value…

Stuff (liability):

I can not process the amount of stuff Wife Ninja has. The number of purses, shoes, candles (lots and lots of candles), picture frames, etc she brought in to this marriage are staggering. Her clothes alone have exploded, out of her closet and in to baskets under the bed, baskets in the linen closet, and of course in to my closet space. I always heard women come with a lot of baggage, but I didn’tΒ  know it literally meant women come with A LOT OF BAGGAGE!!!!

Food (Asset):

Seriously one of my favorite things about living with a girl is my meals. When I was living alone I typically ate, spaghetti, PB&J, and chicken. Since Wife Ninja is all in to being healthy and stuff, we make sure to whip up some well rounded meals. We have a salad with dinner just about every night as well as one or two other sides. She is the primary grocery shopper and meal planner, but when it comes to the preparation we make sure to implement some teamwork. Cooking with her has been some of my favorite times together.

Insurance (Liability):

Wife Ninja is a substitute teacher (but we are keeping our fingers crossed for a teaching contract) which means she gets absolutely NO benefits. Since she is under 25, she was able to stay on her parents plan. That is until we got married. The torch has been passed and she is now on my insurance policies. Across health, dental, and car I think the insurance expenses have increased about $250/month. Which means my take home pay is smaller. Not super excited about that.

Dual Income (Asset):

Today is the first day of the school year and Wife Ninja is already at a school subbing. We are hoping, of the 20+ school days in a month, she will get called to work at least 15 of them (So keep your fingers crossed a lot of teacher get sick, just kidding). If she could work at least 15 days she’d bring in about $1,500 to $2,000 each month, which I would then use to buy ridiculous man toys like a jet ski or a tiger.

Hair/Bobby Pins (LIABILITY!!!):

You have got to be kidding me women. I mean I can’t believe all the random places your hair and your bobby pins end up. No joke, somehow a hair from Wife Ninja managed to embed itself in my belly button. When I discovered it, I almost threw up. I don’t know how she isn’t bald, because I find globs of her hair in the most random places all the time.

And why is it, she can’t seem to keep bobby pins in her hair? I’ve found them on the floor, in the shower, on the couch, and even in the refrigerator. IN THE REFRIGERATOR!!!! I’ve decided I’m going to start collecting these stray bobby pins, and then at the end of the month, I will sell them back to her.

Great Smells (Asset):

Alright, I have to give credit when credit is due, and Wife Ninja always smells phenomenal. Even when we return from a 4 mile run (where I smell like hot garbage and death), she still manages to smell of roses and angel food cake. While this wonderful smell comes with a price, the cost of the various lotions, cremes, and products, it is well worth it in my opinion. I seriously am addicted to her perfume, in fact, I think I’m going to go take a hit of it right now πŸ™‚

So, without all the scientific mumbo jumbo, I think I’ve pretty much proven that Wife Ninja is both as asset and a liability to my life. I, however, am probably just a straight liability. I’d love to hear what “assets/liabilities” your significant other brings to the relationship.