A bunch of random thoughts

I’ve had a million different things I’ve wanted to discuss on my blog, none of which were worthy of their own individual blog post. Today, I plan to get all of these things out of my mind and on to Punch Debt In The Face. Hopefully you are interested in at least one of the following topics…

Favorite new website:

Living 1,200 miles from Girl Ninja is no fun. I recently purchased a vat of plane tickets from Alaska Airlines for three separate trips I’ll take to visit her. Now I don’t know about you, but every time I go to buy airfare I break out in a cold sweat. I’m terrified that I’m going to get a bad deal. What if I buy and a month later ticket prices drop? What if I don’t buy right now and tomorrow the ticket is $100 more? I literally start having panic attacks (and by literally I mean figuratively).

I recently stumbled upon an article talking about some dude who started a handful of internet companies, one of those companies was Yapta. Have you ever heard of the website? Yeah, I hadn’t either. Yapta is really simple. At its core, Yapta allows users to track flight prices and check for airline refunds. I logged in, created an account, and added the three tickets I recently purchased on Alaska Airlines. I told Yapta how much I paid for the tickets and directed them to notify me of any drops in airfare over $5. Less than 24 hours later I had two emails from Yapta, the first email telling me one of my tickets dropped $30 and the second email saying that same ticket later dropped another $40. I hopped on the phone and gave Alaska Airlines customer service a call. I told them I had recently purchased tickets at a higher price and wanted a refund for the price reduction.

BOOM! Within two minutes I had email confirmation that my credit card was being refunded $70. I am seriously in love with this site. You should check it out and see if your preferred airlines offer refund credits for ticket price fluctuations. And in case you are wondering, No, I was not paid for this review.

There’s always going to be rich and poor people:

Yesterday I read a news story about NFL football players and how some of them are seeking out extremely aggressive short-term loans with high interest rates to get them through the current lockout. Basically football players haven’t been getting paid for about 2 months. As a result, at least 16 teams have had players seek short term loans to help keep them afloat. I could care less about the article (I don’t even like football all that much), but I am fascinated by the socioeconomic inferences. Wealthy football players don’t even have enough in the bank to get them through a couple no-income months. Emergency fund anyone? It kinda reminds me of the documentary I saw about the curse of the lottery. You know, the dozen or so stories about lottery winners who blow all their cash and end up bankrupt a few years later.

Much of today’s political debate is focused on the wealth and inequality in America. While I’m not saying there isn’t a problem, I am saying there isn’t much we (or Washington) can do about it. Congress doesn’t have the ability to mandate fiscal responsibility on an individual level. If we completely leveled the playing field by redistributing wealth and gave everyone in America $1,000,000 do you really think much would change? It wouldn’t be long before some people turned their millions in to billions and others turned their millions in to pop tarts and x-boxes.

Sticking with the topic of wealth:

I’ve never really understood why the phrase “Tax breaks for the rich” exists. To me, that phrase implies rich people are getting a deal that allows them to pay less tax than their middle (or lower class) counterparts. Last time I checked the richest 10% of Americans pay 68% of all federal tax. I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds like the worst “break” ever. I really wish, instead of saying we need to stop giving tax breaks to the rich, politicians just started saying “Look, they’re rich. They can afford to pay more, so we think they should.” At least then they’d be being honest with themselves and with us.

Comments? Insight? Questions?

San Francisc-oh yeah!!

I’m super pumped right now. Girl Ninja, and I are playing grown ups and traveling to San Francisco this weekend (I don’t know why, but I still feel too young to vacation without a chaperon). We get in early Saturday morning and will have through Monday night to take in all the city has to offer.

I think I’m especially excited because I fought my urge to be Planny Mcplannerson. Shoot, I don’t even have a budget set for our weekend. How ya like them apples financial responsibility!?

My guess is we’ll spend most of our time seeing awesome places and eating at awesome restaurants. Girl Ninja will probably want to participate in some awesome shopping, and I will probably want to sleep-in until awesomely late. I could care less what we do, as long as we have an awesome time. Get it? Got it? Good!

Awkward Transition…

On another note. I passed the final physical fitness test for my dream job and will be receiving my final offer any day now. In case you are wondering, I threw up three separate times during the test, one of which consisted of crazy gross projectile vomiting. But hey, good things never come easy right?

Girl Ninja and I have done much discussing about which path we will take (dream job or dream location) and although we still aren’t sure, we’ve committed to making the decision by Monday. Ultimately we have been praying that the Lord (as in God, not the flying spaghetti monster) will give us like-mindedness and peace about our future. We literally have no clue what we are going to do, but I know that God does, and that my friends gives me hope 🙂

Although this process has been stressful, we’ve been able to learn so much more about ourselves and our relationship. This is a VERY SIGNIFICANT weekend for us. Expect an update next week.

A second awkward transition…

I just wanted to give a special shout out to my Canadian commenters. Booya for Canada….the junior varsity version of  the U.S…. just kidding… kind of.

I’d like to pretend that I’m going to respond to more comments, but the fact of the matter is I probably wont. For two reasons….

1) I’m kind of lazy.

and

2) Sometimes I get way more comments than I know what to do with. While this is a great problem to have. I’d be totally lying if I said I would be responding to all of them. Heck, I got 70-something comments on my article about cell phones this week. It would take me like three hours to lay out a detailed response to each comment made.

That said, please don’t stop commenting! It’s the only metric I have to gauge your interest in what I write about. Although I don’t always respond, I SWEAR I READ EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM.

Random fact about me….

I had a mole underneath my left nipple, that I thought looked like a third nipple. I was so embarrased by it, I asked my parents to let me have it surgically removed when I was a kid. Thankfully they obliged, I am proud to say, I’ve been third nipple free for 12+ years now 🙂

What’s a random fact about you?

Lying is the best policy

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, 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 (Yeah, I’m talking to you). Or did you make up some mumbo jumbo about “Well, my biggest weakness is that I am a guilty of being such a hard worker I sometimes don’t know when to say no.” Well buddy, I ain’t buying it. Welcome to the Liars Club, pull up a chair.

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 will you lie?

Are you a serial upgrader

So Mom Ninja rocked my socks off two days ago with a freakin’ awesome wedding present. A new TV! She had been tracking them for a while and when she saw a killer deal on a Samsung 46″ LCD TV, marked down over $400, she jumped on it like a fat kid jumps on cake. Next thing I knew, I had a TV in my possession. Go mom ninja!

The new TV was a huge upgrade for me as I went from this piece of junk…

to this glorious conglomeration of awesomness…

Needless to say, I made a serious upgrade in the television department via mom ninja’s generosity. Since this whole wedding/moving process means acquiring a ton of new stuff (i.e waffle maker, food processor, decorations) I can’t help but wonder what things Girl Ninja and/or I will upgrade on a consistent basis. As always, I made a list, and here’s what I came up with.

Cell Phones:

I swear the cell phone companies design these things to break at the two year mark. My iPhone 3G is three months shy of its second birthday, and it seems that each new day brings a slight decline in performance. My “home” button only works if you push it extremely hard, many of my apps take AGES to open, and the battery life is rapidly degrading. I’ve had a cell phone for the last 10 years now, and I don’t think I’ve ever had one for longer than it’s contract. I am a serial cell phone upgrader.

Computers:

Similar to cell phones, my computers  also seem to crap out every few years. I’ve had my Macbook now for almost three years and the CD/DVD drive is completely dead. It makes a horrible clicking sound every time I open the screen, and it’s becoming painfully slow. Computers are exponentially increasing in awesomeness and if your computer is more than a few weeks old, it is already outdated. I’m sure Girl Ninja and I will be buying a new computer every three or so years for as long as we live.

Bedding:

Girl Ninja flew to Seattle yesterday to finish off all the last minute wedding preparations. This means I’m left to fend for myself in San Diego for the next two weeks. On Sunday, we moved all of Girl Ninja’s stuff in to our new place. For now we are planning on using her Full size mattress and frame, but will eventually upgrade to a queen. I’ve slept two nights now in Girl Ninja’s bed (without her), and let me tell you… Homegirl has some incredible bedding. Her sheets are honestly the most comfortable sheets I’ve ever slept in. Now that I know what high quality bedding feels like, it will be a cold day in hell before I ever go back to those crappy 100 thread-count sheets from Big Lots.

Pens:

Anyone that does a lot of writing for work will be able to vouch for me on this one. There is nothing worse than writing with a  spotty pen. I love a pen that bleeds a little as I write. For Christmas, a few years back, Sister Ninja got me a Kross pen. For those that are unfamiliar, Kross is like the Lamborghini of pens. It gracefully glides across my piece of paper with every movement of my hand. A nice pen goes a long way in making my work day more enjoyable.

Sure, there are plenty of other things I will consistently upgrade throughout my life, but these four things are my priority. I can tell you there are definitely some things I plan to rarely upgrade (i.e car, clothes, iPods, sound systems, video game systems, etc).

So, reader, what are some things in your life you “serially” upgrade? On the flippy floppy, what are some things you keep forever?

Professional athletes are overpaid

I was riding in the car with a friend a while back when they said something along the lines of “Professional athletes are overpaid.” While I don’t necessarily disagree with that statement (Alex Rodriguez), I can’t share the same sentiment. Yes, they may make more money in one game, than some Americans will make in their entire lives, but can ya really blame ’em?

The odds for Joe Blow becoming a professional athelete are slim…. 22,000 to 1 to be exact. That works out to about a 0.0045% chance. Did you know you have better odds at getting two hole in ones and bowling a perfect 300? You also have a better chance at marrying a millionaire, being murdered (let’s hope that doesn’t happen), being audited by the IRS, or developing hemorrhoids. Basically, becoming  a professional athlete is tough.

I thought this conversation was about athletes salaries, not about how difficult it is to become one?

Oh don’t you worry, it is about salaries. Professional athletes are the best of the best. Can you think of a position where the “best in the business” don’t make a boat load of money? Look at the creators of the fortune 500 largest companies….guess what? All of them are millionaires. As a matter of fact, they make a whole bunch more than even the highest paid athletes. Should we say actors salaries should be capped? How about scientists, computer developers, and real estate developers too?

People get all pissy when they hear Kobe is making $17 million a year, but no one seemed to care when three 20-something guys created YouTube, to later sell it to Google for $1.65 billion. Does Kobe make a lot of money? Heck yea, he does, but what right to I have to restrict his pay?

Ya see, professional athletes get paid what they’re worth. If they make a big salary, they are probably drawing in a large fan base. In virtually all private sector positions, the higher your skill level the higher your pay will also be. Instead of being bitter that A-Rod signed a $250 million contract, go fine tune your skills and move yourself up the corporate ladder.

What do you think peeps? Are professional athletes overpaid? Should there be pay-caps? I totally think limiting players salary, would be anti-capitilism. Do you disagree?

A little extra cash flow never hurts.

I’m stealing this idea from My Pretty Pennies, so I better give her credit. You rock my face off girl!

Screen shot 2009-12-16 at Dec 16, 2009, 12.21.23 AMI’m addicted to making money. There is something about being productive that is rewarding, especially when you get paid for it. When I’m not working, I’m figuring out ways I can do something I enjoy and get paid for it. I’ve been tracking my “extra” income over the course of the last year and thought I would share it with you all.

I have a couple different sources of extra income…

1) Yes, this is still embarrassing, but sometimes Momma Ninja hooks her baby boy up with some cash so he can pay down his student loan. I guess this can’t really be counted as income, since I didn’t do anything to earn it, so we will call this “gift” money instead. This article explains why I am comfortable accepting donations from the bank of Mom and Dad (no people this is not an actual bank). Wanna know how much Mom Ninja has thrown my way? $2,000!!! Holy guacamole. I don’t think I realized I got this much help. I’m totally taking Mom Ninja out for ice cream when I visit over Xmas time. That’s right mom, anything you’d like….as long as it’s less than $5 🙂

2) Interest income. Year to date, I have banked $78 from my online savings account. I pretty much forget this money exists cause it just get’s totaled in with my savings balance. I really wish I was getting a 5% APY, like a couple years ago.

3) Blogging. Boo to the Ya. I wasn’t really planning on monetizing my blog, or at least I wasn’t actively pursuing making blog money. In the 8 months I’ve been around, I’ve managed to bring in $800. That averages out to $100/month. That means you all are totally paying for my gas/water/electricity each month. I need you to keep stopping by so I don’t have to take cold showers and sit in the dark. That would not be fun.

4) Tutoring. I took a huge hit in tutoring income this year. Most of my ‘my kids’ have reached their senior year of high school and are no longer required to take a math class. In 2008, I was tutoring about 8-10 hours a week. I brought home $11,000 in extra income from tutoring last year. 2009 was not so bueno. I definitely can’t complain though because any money is good, and I’m definitely not worth the $40 an hour I charge for Algebra and Geometry. This year I made $5,000 tutoring. It’s the easiest and most fun way to make a quick buck.

All totaled, I supplemented my base salary with about $6,000 of earned income and $2,000 in gift money. 2009 has been good to me and I’m hoping 2010 will be even better. As my tutoring kids get older, I’m beginning to think of new ways to make money. What are some means you all have used to bring home some extra bacon? Do you know how much supplemental income you made in 2009? What’s the easiest way to make some moolah (that doesn’t involve anything illegal)?

A week with some high schoolers

I am incredibly excited. Tomorrow morning I will be waking up at 6:30 am to meet up with some of the most incredible people I have ever met. In previous blog posts, and twitter updates, I have mentioned I am a volunteer Young Life (YL) leader. Young Life is a non-profit christian high school outreach program. It is unlike any other youth group I have experienced. Young Life’s mission statement is simple: Every adolescent will have the opportunity to meet Jesus Christ and follow Him (I understand some Punch Debt readers may not share the same beliefs that I hold and that is fine, to each their own). This week, myself and five other young adults will be taking a bus of 50 rambunctious high school kids to Lost Canyon Young Life camp in Williams, AZ.

I have been heavily involved in YL for eight years now. I started as a participant my junior year of high school and have volunteer lead for both high school and middle school groups ever since. When outsiders think of San Diego, they often envision beaches, fast cars, and big houses. In reality, only a small percentage of San Diego residents live this life style. I lead YL at a high school in which over half the student body is bussed in from all across the county (basiclly meaning 50% of the student body should be attending a different high school). Why are they bussed in? Because the high school near these kids’ homes are too dangerous for them to attend. These kids literally wake up every morning at 5 am to take a one hour bus ride across the city so they can get a decent education. I have been leading at this school for two years now and have gotten to know the kids pretty well.

Spending time with high schoolers serves as a humble reminder how good we (meaning most people reading this) really have it. We may worry about our overwhelming debt, or how we are going to make the next mortgage payment, but few have dealt with the issues these high school kids face every day.

One of my favorite students, Yonis (pronounced Yo-niss), has one of the most incredible stories ever. He was born and raised in Africa. As most know, Africa is not the best place to be right now. Tribal warfare and child abduction is rampant. At 8 years old, Yonis witnessed the murder of his parents and siblings. I need not go in to further detail, but understand, Yonis has faced something none of us probably will. He now resides with his aunt, uncle and 8 cousins, in a small three bedroom house. Yonis is coming to camp with us. Yonis is going to have the best week of his life.

This week at camp 50 kids have the opportunity to take a vacation from their broken families and abusive parents. They will experience seven days of love, excitement, and good ole fashion crazy fun. I am excited to spend the next week of my life with some of the most inspiring individuals I will ever meet. Does this article have anything to do with personal finance? No, but I hope it reminds us to be thankful for what we have (no matter how crappy things may seem) as well as our responsibility to help those in need.

I encourage you to check out the clip below. It is a short video about the camp resort these high schoolers will be attending this week.


*p.s. What’s really cool is these kids would not be able to afford the camp costs, but we had someone donate $30,000 for camp this summer to fill up a bus of kids. It’s stories like this that make me want to be wealthy.*