J.D. of Get Rich Slowly recently posted an article on whether or not it was ethical to get a fully-employed person applied for a second job when other people might need that job more? The overwhelming sentiment (for various reasons) was that is was more than ok to apply for that job.

In the comment thread, I agreed and added:

...I could have stayed in the neighborhood I lived in where people were dealing drugs and shootings were going on all the time. I could have left my son in a crappy school district, where he would probably not receive the education he will ultimately get. I didn’t need to move into a nicer neighborhood, but I chose to for the safety and security of my family. That came with a price tag.

For many people, including myself, the decision to move their families to safer havens is a no-brainer. That being said, many people are derided for "selling out their community" by fleeing the cities and moving to the suburbs or country. Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant lacks "street cred" in many people's eyes because he grew up on the affluent Main Line of Philadelphia's suburbs instead of going to an inner city school like other NBA stars. Although I admire people that have made a conscious decision to stay in the inner-city and affect change, my family's welfare came first.  So that being said, it is ethical to move to a better neighborhood to better your personal situation at the possible expense of the overall community?

Would you take a paycut to save job cuts?

Posted by Dave W. | Friday, January 23, 2009 | ,, 0 comments |

Clark Howard recently polled his listeners on his website as to whether or not they would take a pay cut at their jobs in order to save the company from laying off employees (possibly even them)

During these economic times, it is a very real possibility as people that have not been laid off are having their wages frozen or having to take pay cuts as Donna Jean of The Weight of Money's husband experienced firsthand.  Feel free to comment and take the poll below!  

Picking Money Up Off The Floor

Posted by Dave W. | Tuesday, January 20, 2009 | , 0 comments |

Most financial experts and bloggers will say that the road to financial freedom begins with one simple formula:  make more money than you spend. And the way to do that is by either making more money or cut expenses.

But it’s not always that simple. Often times, people let money fall out of our pockets and never bend over to pick it up. And when that happens, the money blows away in the wind never to return. What do I mean? Well, while those people might skip the trip to Starbucks and save $5, there is often money sitting in front of them that they fail to see even though it is right in front of them. And money that “falls” out of their pockets due to laziness or disorganization. I’m no different in that respect. Letting that store coupon expire even though I’ve shopped there store 20 times before the coupon expired. Failing to return that library book before it was due and having to pay a fine. Not mailing the check on time, only to get hit with a late fee. Been there, done that.

That being said, here are several things I have done recently to “pick the money off the floor”:

1. Cancelled my Blockbuster Online membership. Funny thing about this one. I originally got this membership to save money. I figured if I rented a movie a week, it would pay for itself, especially since I didn’t have to use gas to drive to my local Blockbuster 4 miles away from my house. Just mail the movies back, get a new one sent. Easy, right? Too easy. Because lazy me didn’t mail back my movies for 2 months. I could have owned both movies for the same price that it cost me for the membership ($17.99/month).

2. Mailed in a rebate form. After about a year of being out of contract and replacing my phone twice with used phones, I finally broke down and got a new cell phone. Quite frankly, I could do without a cell phone but my employer that reimburses me $50/month towards my cell phone sees it differently. I refused to spend money on a phone; I was determined to wait until the price dropped. So my wife and I got 2 nice new LG VX 8550 phones for FREE, after my “new every two” discount and the $50 mail-in rebate. Why do these rebates exist anyway? Can’t companies just give you the rebate on the front end? Of course they can. So, why don’t they? Well, it’s simple. Just like coupons, rebates offer a good value and incentive for a customer to purchase a company’s product.

Of course, the company hopes you never mail in that rebate or use that coupon because that money then stays in their pockets. Companies know people lose the rebate forms, throw out the box with the required UPC code or just don’t mail them in. I wasn’t going to be one of those people, so I mailed in my form and in 6-8 weeks, I’ll get my $50 check.

3. Cancelled service on my DirecTv converter box. Saved $4.99/month on this one. The wiring outside got chewed by a rodent and I have no TV in my family room. I could get a tech out to fix it, but at $75 minimum for a service call, I’ll pass. Besides, we don’t really spend much time in the family room anyway.

4. 15 minutes saved me $12/month on my phone bill. I have the unlimited local/long distance package with Verizon and was paying $44.99/month. This is down from the $49.99/month I was originally paying before I called regarding a commercial advertising the exact plan I had for $5 less than what I was paying. Unfortunately, most of my friends and family live about an hour away so everything is a toll call and the unlimited plan is a necessity. But I figured I could use my cell phone and Skype to make these calls and just keep the basic phone line so I can connect to TiVo. So I called Verizon to downgrade my service and they lowered my rate to $32.99/month for the same exact plan. I think I might have lost 3-way calling, but I never use it anyway, so no big loss. Just like the coupons and rebates I mentioned earlier, these companies hope you don’t take advantage of these deals. But they do have them in place as a way of keeping you as a customer. Eventually, I’ll probably cut the wires and ditch my house phone. But for right now, I’m too close to my minutes and the cell phone reception is spotty in my house sometimes (although much improved with my new cell phone).     

Free Makeup Starting Tomorrow!

Posted by Dave W. | Monday, January 19, 2009 | , 0 comments |

Ok, it's not really my sort of thing, being a guy, but starting tomorrow many department stores will be giving away free cosmetics to settle a $175 million class-action lawsuit.  The lawsuit alleged that department stores and cosmetics companies conspired to sell products at the manufacturers' suggested price only - never at a discount. It also alleged that special promotions were coordinated in a way that ensured there would be no competition among stores.   Some of the retailers include Bloomingdale's, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy's and Nordstrom.  Anyone who purchased specific brands of makeup, moisturizers, and fragrance products at these stores between May 29, 1994 and July 16, 2003 is eligible to receive one of a list of products, up to $25.  For a complete list of stores and products, click here.  You do not need proof of purchase to get your freebie, but you will need to sign a sheet saying you received your free product.   

Circuit City Closing, Who's Next?

Posted by Dave W. | Saturday, January 17, 2009 | ,, 0 comments |

Yesterday came the announcement that surprised few:  after being unable to find a buyer, Circuit City asked a bankruptcy judge to allow them to close their remaining 567 stores.  They had already closed 155 stores in the past 2 months while attempting to find a buyer.  Below is a partial list of stores that are closing or in the process of closing (thanks to Terri Potratz of Now Public for the list):

  • Ann Taylor (117)
  • Movie Gallery (378)
  • Sprint/Nextel (125)
  • Ethan Allen (12)
  • Dell (140)
  • Friedmans (120)
  • Pier 1 (25)
  • Sigrid Olsen (54)
  • Talbots Kids/Mens (78)
  • Home Depot (15)
  • Eddie Bauer (29) 
  • GAP (85) 
  • Footlocker (140)
  • Bombay (all 384 stores) 
  • Disney (98)
  • Macy's (11)
  • Sharper Image (184)
  • Wilson Leather (160)
  • Pep Boys (31)
  • Pacific Sunwear / PacSun (154 Demo stores)
  • Zales (105)
  • Cache (20) 
  • Lane Bryant (40) 
  • KB Toys (356) 
  • Dillards (26) 
  • Fashion Bug (100)
  • CompUSA (all stores)
  • Linens 'N Things (all 371 stores)
  • Mervyn's (all 149 stores)
  • Club Libby Lu (Saks owned) (all 78 stores)
  • Steve & Barry's (all 173 stores)
  • Sergio Rossi (all standalone US stores)
  • Office Depot (126 stores)
  • Rite Aid (181 stores)
Many other companies like Lowe's, JC Penney and WalMart had already announced plans to scale back plans for expansion.  There are some pros and cons to these closings:

  • Great bargains to be had for consumers as retailers are trying to liquidate and others are trying to compete.
  • A "thinning of the herd" so to speak, as the strongest retailers survive and the weakest go under.  It could be argued that there are too many retailers out there now.  Find a corner where there isn't a Starbucks, strip mall or a big box store.  
  • A return to superior customer service as the retailers that remain realize that they must woo their customers in order to keep them (ok, maybe this is wishful thinking...)


  • Many retail employees are being laid-off, which not only gives them less money to spend, it shrinks the number of available jobs.
  • Once the retailers close, there will be less competition, which could lead to higher prices.
  • Because of all the bargains to be had, customers will be less likely to pay full price, instead opting to wait for extreme deals, further squeezing retailers' profits and increasing the likelihood that some retailers could go under.   This was evidenced during the last Christmas season, where many waited until bargains were at absolute rock-bottom prices before splurging.
For me, personally, I only buy when I need stuff anyway, so there is little effect on me.  I am curious though, what effect these closings will have on other buyers.  

Free Food as Fast Food Competition Heats Up

Posted by Dave W. | Friday, January 16, 2009 | ,, 0 comments |

As people are spending less and less during this "recession", competition amongst QSR's (quick service restaurants) and convenience stores is just beginning to heat up.  Many of the chains have resorted to giving away free food and drink to customers in order to keep them coming in.  At Philadelphia-area convenience store chain Wawa, they are giving away a free coffee (any size) with a breakfast sandwich purchase.  McDonald's, taking direct aim at c-stores like Wawa and 7-Eleven, is offering Free Coffee Mondays in select markets.  Although not free, 7-Eleven has countered with a promotion featuring 2 Supreme Omelet Taquitos and a Coffee for $1.99.  The taquitos are regularly priced at $1.39 each, so this is a pretty good deal as well.  In other areas, already-struggling Starbucks is their target, as they are giving away lattes as part of their "Free Latte Fridays" promotion.   

Near me, there are two Chick-Fil-A locations that offer free breakfast on Tuesdays during January (Edited to add: This promotion is now extended through February 24th and is taking place in ALL participating Chick-Fil-A locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware).  They generally offer these deals different times/days throughout the year.  The one Chick-Fil-A also has had a promotion all during football season that if you come in wearing a football jersey on Saturdays, you get a free entree.  In addition, Chick-Fil-A is always giving out coupons for free food (some require an additional purchase, some do not).   Although they give out some free stuff, the two Chick-Fil-A locations near me are constantly packed and have more than their share of paying customers.  


Many Dollars Later the Water is Fixed

Posted by Dave W. | Wednesday, January 14, 2009 | ,, 0 comments |

Finally, I was able to take a shower this morning as my water is now fixed. The problem: a broken well water pump. The house is 15 years old and it hasn't been replaced, so we were due. It was nice not having to pay a water bill for the last 8 years, but I made up for it in one shot: $2482 total to replace the pump! Couple this with my $161 speeding ticket, this pretty much wiped out my savings account.

On the positive side, I had the cash to foot the bill and did not have to worry about putting it on a credit card. This is where having an emergency fund comes very much in handy. Now it's back to the drawing board as far as savings goes. Fortunately, my quarterly bonus should come in about 2 weeks followed by (hopefully) my annual bonus. Last year, there was no annual bonus, so we'll see. In addition, I should have a pretty good refund as we still have a tax credit from adopting my son from Guatemala 2 years ago. All in all, it sucks, but I feel optimistic for the future!