When did that happen?

Sometimes I think to myself “I can’t believe I’m a grown up!”. I don’t feel old. I don’t look old, and I sure as h-e-double-hockey-sticks don’t act old. I use to think “old” was an age, but I’m quickly learning it’s a lifestyle.

I remember being bored to death when my parents would watch political news. It didn’t make any sense to me. Why was watching some old guy talk about two other old guys interesting? If it wasn’t on MTV, I didn’t watch it. (Still love me some 16 and pregnant…I know…embarrassing).

Same goes for finances. Although I have always enjoyed numbers (self proclaimed math nerd), I hated dealing with money. Did you know I didn’t learn how to write my own checks until I was 21 years old. Twenty-freakin-one. Pathetic right? I also didn’t know how to log in to my checking and savings accounts until after I graduated college. I had to have Mom Ninja sit me down and show me how online banking worked.

As much as I don’t want to accept it, I guess I’ve kind of become a legitimate grown up. I’m married, I manage my own money, and heck, I even cook my own dinner sometimes! I find myself becoming more and more interested in “old guy” stuff like politics and finances. I can’t help but laugh when I reflect on how much I hated the shows my parents watched when I was a kid, to now find myself watching the same darn things.

I sit here wondering “What other things will become interesting to me as I age?” Maybe I will take up quilting, lawn bowling, or listening to AM radio.

Wait, what am I saying… in an attempt to enjoy my young spirit, I think I’m going to go buy a pair of Jnco jeans (please tell me someone remembers these), a hacky sack, a set of pogs, and I’m gonna go watch Boy Meets World and Full House (TGIF for the win!!!!).

Have you found yourself enjoying things you once hated (art, coffee, reading for pleasure, history channel, etc)? What “childish” things do you still enjoy (cartoons, video games, Macaroni and Cheese)? At what age does one go from young to old?

 

Have you heard?

I love learning random things. If I had to describe my intelligence I would use the phrase “an inch deep and a mile wide,” meaning I know a little bit, about a lot of stuff. I’m obviously not the smartest PF blogger out there, but as long as I know enough, hopefully I can trick you people in to coming back (and maybe even subscribing too).

I thought I’d mix things up a bit today and post up a handful of random “Did you know facts” that relate to personal finance (along with some that don’t). Most of you probably already know these things, but hopefully at least one of these facts will be new to you…

Did you know… That you can withdraw your contributions to your Roth IRA at any point, tax/penalty free. If you want to take out any gains, you can also do so tax/penalty free if the money is used for education or your first home (some limitations apply).

Did you know… As of 2010 it costs the U.S. Mint 1.79 cents to make a penny. Time to get rid of the penny?

Did you know… I have a fear of falling asleep in public.

Did you know… That if you take out a 401K loan and are fired or laid-off you HAVE to pay the loan back really quick (usually in less than 60 days), otherwise you will suffer some major tax and penalty issues. Think twice before borrowing that money for a new kitchen.

Did you know… The stock market has always given the best return on investment over a long time horizon.

Did you know… I’m still not convinced dinosaurs ever existed. Conspiracy theory?

Did you know… Every time you use your debit or credit card, the merchant has to pay a fee (usually 1% to 3%) to Visa, MasterCard, etc. If you donate on your credit card that means the charity is in effect getting 3% less than what you intended to give (this adds up over time).

Did you know… That the national personal savings rate hovers between 0 and 5 percent each year. That’s pathetic.

Did you know… If you make minimum payments on a $5,000 credit card bill (at 19% interest) it will take you over 30 years to pay the card off, and cost you more than $14,000 in interest.

Did you know… I use to have a pet iguana I named Ziggy after a character in my favorite show, Quantum Leap.

Did you know… If you make over $20,000/year you are in the top 12% of income earners in the world. Perspective?

Did you know… That on top of your down payment you need to be prepared to pay up to another 3% of the home’s value on closing costs. If you put 20% down on a $300,000 and have to pay closing costs, you need $69,000 in the bank.

Did you know… That I played in a flag football tournament this weekend and our team-name was “The Frolicking Flamingos.” And in case you are wondering, we won!

Alright, that’s where I’ll end my “Did you know facts” but hopefully you will add a few more to the list. What are some of your favorite “financial facts”? Was there anything on the list you didn’t know about?

That lady needed a dollar

I was out and about in Seattle yesterday when lunch time came. I decided to treat myself to Dick’s Drive In (the Seattle equivalent of In-N-Out). In true mom-and-pop fashion, Dick’s is a cash only joint.

As I was waiting in line to order my standard Deluxe cheeseburger, fry, and strawberry shake, I overheard the old lady in front of me ask the cashier if she was able purchase two Deluxe burgers for $6.

The cashier gave her devastating news and informed her that the after-tax the total would be $6.60.

Gramma was about to be denied double deluxes. 

This made me very sad for her.

I mean how cute that a 70-year-old woman was out for lunch by herself and wanted to indulge in two of the best burgers in town. How depressing that $0.60 was keeping her from living her Monday afternoon dream.

Ninja to the rescue. 

As she was looking at the menu trying to contemplate a new order, I intervened and gave her a light tap on the shoulder and said,

“Ma’am, I would love help you along on your burger journey by giving you this dollar.” 

Homegirl must have really wanted those two burgers ’cause she didn’t even bat an eye as she gladly accepted my donation. She gave me the $0.40 change that was tendered, thanked me, and went on her merry little way.

I like to think that I am responsible for two things in this situation…

1) A random act of kindness.

2) Helping raise her cholesterol level to dangerous amounts.

 Moral of the story: You don’t have to be wealthy to lend a helping hand. All it took in this situation was a $0.60 to help brighten someone’s day.

Have you brightened someone’s day lately, or had your day brightened by someone?

Time to fess up

A few years ago, I decided to make a blog post that mimicked a very popular website, PostSecret.com. If you aren’t familiar, PostSecret is website in which random people like you, mail in post cards containing deeply personal confessions. My first post like this, “Share your secret”, remains one of my most popular articles. Since it’s been a while since we’ve done this, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to run this little social experiment again as my readership is always changing.

Here are some PostSecret confessions that caught my eye…

You can’t help but be interested right? There is something about being vulnerable that just feels good. So, I’m hoping you will, once again, participate in Post Secret PDITF style.

The rules are simple. Drop a comment in the section below with one secret related to finances, money, family, life, etc that you haven’t shared with anyone. I recommend you comment anonymously or under an alias, but it’s really up to you how you want to be identified.

Here are some of the secrets shared by my readers last time I did this…

  • I’m contemplating losing one of my part-time jobs so I can be eligible for welfare
  • I think people who complain about money are too lazy and stupid to make more.
  • I resent my mom because she abused my child support money and doesn’t pay for any of my expenses now, leaving it all up to my dad.
  • I never told my parents that I was so in over my head during my first few years of college I donated plasma just to eat. I had too much pride to accept help from anyone, so I sold plasma to put a few bucks of gas in the car for a weekend trip home and used the rest to eat out of vending machines for a week. Until the next week, when I’d do it all over again.
  • I secretly loath stay-at-home moms. Nothing about being cooped up in a house all day with kids sounds appealing to me. Problem: my husband expects me to do that when we have kids.

This really is a great opportunity to not only share your secrets, but to understand that you are not alone. Who’s willing to get a little vulnerable and answer the question…

What’s your secret?

(you can comment anonymously if you prefer)

First time on a red carpet.

Spent the weekend with Girl Ninja and my family at the Veronica Mars movie premier in Austin, Texas this weekend. It was a quick trip, 36 hours in total, and a ton of fun. Here’s a pic of Girl Ninja and I on the red carpet….

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Three years ago I wrote a post titled “The easiest money I’ve ever made” in which I shared about my 15 minutes of fame. Okay, who am I kidding, it wasn’t 15 minutes, more like 1.5 seconds of fame.

Literally.

As you may already know, Girl Ninja and I used to live in San Diego, which just so happened to be the same city the TV show Veronica Mars filmed in. My mom, and sister, were die-hard fans of Veronica Mars and begged me to try to get on as a background extra. Thus immortalizing me forever when the show went to DVD.

So I applied to the background casting company and after a few months of silence, I got my first gig as a background extra (FBI agent) for the Veronica Mars season four pilot.

This was my chance at becoming famous.

I mean, check out my big break (I’m the dude that walks out of the elevator at 7:08, haha).

I nailed that elevator walk out didn’t I!? (I’ll be signing autographs later).

It was awesome. I made $1,200 for about 12 hours of work. Which was especially cool considering “work” meant walking across a set, pretending to look at paperwork, and listening to a fake lecture in an auditorium.

Another interesting thing happened that night, however. Kristen Bell and I became friends. 

There is a ton of down time between each take, and since we had that scene above together, we were pretty much forced to talk to avoid that awkward elevator silence we all know so well. We ended up hanging out a few different times together in San Diego and L.A and, according to my photo archives, we apparently enjoyed taking really stupid pictures of ourselves.

Here we are between takes on filming day (this was the pic I texted to my mom when she didn’t believe that I had met KB)

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Here we are taking “shaky face” pictures (look at that extension on my lips!)

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And here she is throwing up the deuces behind a dude we found fast asleep inside of a Ross.

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All of that happened seven years ago, when I still lived in San Diego. I hadn’t seen KB since.

She, of course, was at the premier of her movie on Saturday night and when we crossed paths she remembered who I was. She then punched me (I still don’t know why), met Girl Ninja, met our future son too (if you count rubbing Girl Ninja’s tummy as a meeting), and gave us some solid parenting advice. We snapped a quick pic and then she went on her merry little way getting bombarded by hundreds of fans.

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 The premier was a ton of fun and, although Girl Ninja and I are totally exhausted from the quick travel turn around, feel like there wasn’t a more fun way we could have spent the weekend. Especially considering Baby Ninja is making HIS PREMIERE mid June, which will obviously hinder our future travel flexibility.

If there is a financial lesson to be learned in all of this, it is two-fold.

1. Go be an extra on TV shows. Minimal work for potentially epic pay.

2. Let Kristen be an example, that even if you are an uber-famous celebrity/multi-millionaire, you can still appreciate a solid Ross Dress For Less shopping trip, but more importantly not let all your perceived importance go to your head.

If you watched Veronica Mars when it was on TV all I can say is go watch the movie, you wont be disappointed.

Liar, liar, pants on fire.

Let’s face it. We are all liars. We sometimes say things we don’t mean for the sake of saving face. I was always told honesty is the best policy, but I’m afraid that simply isn’t true. Sometimes ya gotta lie. And here are a few situations where I have..

Babies:

Am I the only person in the world that thinks 95% of newborns are gross looking? I mean a squished head, splotchy skin, awkward hair, and random fat deposits don’t come to mind when I think of the word “cute”. But for some reason, we are forced to pretend like our friends babies are. Don’t get me wrong. I have a friend (who reads this blog) whose daughter is legitimately a beautiful baby, but I also have a friend (who doesn’t read this blog) whose child is….how should I put this nicely…weird looking. Would I ever tell them that? Heck no. I may think “Good lord what is that thing”, but out my mouth comes “Ah, she’s so precious.”

People that make dumb choices:

This is a tough one to communicate without sounding like a judgmental jerk face, but I’m gonna do my best. I’m talking about the person that just bought a new car, but two weeks earlier was complaining about how broke they were. Or the person that has $100K in undergrad loans, but decides to get a masters in some random field, only because they don’t want to work, not because they actually want to use their graduate education. These people frustrate me, but I am rarely in a position where I can call them out on their stupidity. This old blog post is a perfect example of how I felt obligated to pretend I was excited for a friend that bought a new car, when really I thought she was crazy!

Job Interviews:

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I walk in to an interview and just make up random skills and life experiences, but I’m not saying I don’t 😉 Seriously though, a job interview is your one chance to sell yourself to your future employer. Is a little withholding of the truth so bad? What about embellishing a tad to make yourself look better than you actually are? Don’t act like you haven’t done it before. I guarantee you have. Take for example the infamous interview question “What’s your biggest weakness?” Did you really tell them it’s that you are quasi-lazy and surf the internet and read PF blogs during the day (kinda like what YOU are doing right now). Or did you make up some mumbo jumbo saying, “Well, my biggest weakness is that I work really hard and sometimes this affects my personal life.” Yeah, your clever response isn’t fooling anyone.

I’m hoping some of you will humble yourselves and share a few areas of your life where you feel like telling a fib every now and again is actually the RIGHT thing to do. Under what circumstances do you lie?

$100 for Happiness

What items, for less than $100, can you buy that will greatly increase your quality of life? Here’s what I’ve come up with…

1. A great pair of sandals. I put my first pair of Rainbows 9 years ago and have never looked back. Totally worth the $60ish bucks.

2. Foam mattress topper. If you keep your eyes peeled, you can find some screaming deals on memory foam mattress toppers. Girl Ninja and I took advantage of one such Costco bargain and have never slept better. Even the worst mattresses feel like heaven when a three-inch memory foam pad is on top.

3. Mach 3 Razors. These freaking things are expensive. I’ve been trying the dollar shave razors for the last couple months, and although they are dirt cheap, they suck infinitely more than the Mach 3. In fact, the Mach 3 razors are so good, GN has stolen mine a time or two when she shaves her legs.

4. Nice pens. I’m a G2 Pilot kind of guy (anyone else know what I’m talking about?). It has the perfect amount of bleed to gel ratio. It rolls across the paper ever so gently and improves the readability of my handwriting a million fold.

5. Curved shower curtain bar. Nothing is grosser than having the wet shower curtain lining graze against my naked butt-cheeks as I bend down to clean the dirt between my toes. I’m not suppose to feel dirtier by showering, but a standard shower bar makes me feel just that.

So reader: What items, for less than $100, greatly increase your quality of life?