1. Wee Little Status Update

    For those three or four folks who may be wondering what’s happened at this here money blog, well, the answer is: Not much.

    If I had any gripping tales of financial abandon to tell, I’d do it. I scan the news every couple of days to see what’s going on in the world of personal finance; certainly nothing life-changing has popped up. (Well, ObamaCare is about to kick in. That ought to be good for a few million laughs. Or tears.)

    The Federal Reserve is still doing its best to ensure that “saving” remains a four-letter word, that savers must be well and duly punished, and that stock markets cannot be allowed to drop more than a few percent at a clip. Nothing new there. This is what happens when you have an economy that “grows” only when debt expands and risk-asset prices rise. No “growth” if people/entities/governments don’t keep taking on more and more debt and risk. What could possibly go wrong?

    On the personal front, our family savings got about $20k lighter in September. That’s what getting a new roof, new siding and windows throughout, and gutter installation will do to you. Until this month, the largest check I’d ever written was for our home central A/C system back in 2007. I can tell you that the A/C payment felt like a sneeze compared to the exterior repairs. However, we had well more than enough liquid savings to cover it, and I’m mighty thankful for that. (‘Tis also nice to pull up in your driveway each day after work and NOT cringe at the outward appearance of your home. The old homestead looks pretty nice now, if I do say so myself.)

    And that’s my little roundup, for now. Back to your regularly-scheduled nap, kids!




     

     

  2. K-Cups: Best Prices Update

    Another year (plus) has passed since I last completed my survey of best prices on K-Cups. I had a little bit of free time this weekend, so I took up a bit of price-shopping and research. Scroll down a bit for the results.

    K-Cup Pricing: Some Boundaries

    When it comes to my K-Cup pricing surveys, I try to stick with retailers who are widely-known and very accessible. I don’t consider the impact of sales tax on pricing, since if you’re buying online, you ought to be paying your state’s use tax on those purchases since sales tax often isn’t collected.

    I omitted Sam’s Club from previous years’ lists because their selection has typically been very limited. This year, however, they’re in, since my local Sam’s Club had three varieties in stock when I visited. (One of which — Green Mountain’s Breakfast Blend — I happen to really enjoy. And yes, at $.50/cup, I picked up a box, as it represented a better price than the Green Mountain Cafe Express club pricing I usually get.)

    I include coupon prices for Bed Bath & Beyond because once you get on their mailing list, your mailbox will be perpetually stuffed with BBBY coupons.

    Lots of smaller online stores carry K-Cups, but of the ones I’ve seen, their per-cup prices become significantly higher than those below once shipping charges are tacked on. If one could find a free-shipping offer or two, and a desired flavor came on sale … well, who knows. Perhaps deals could be had, in that case.

    Best K-Cup Prices

    I was surprised to find that pricing hasn’t changed much, if at all, from the 2011 edition. Notably, Target’s prices for K-Cups have dropped by $1/box.

    I don’t drink Starbucks K-Cups, but I think their prices have risen. Where I could find them, Starbucks K-Cups boxes were smaller in count (16 K-Cups vs. 18 K-Cups for most others), and roughly $2 more per box ($12.98 to $14.98, depending on retailer) than other varieties.

    1. Sam’s Club $.4998/K-Cup
    2. Bed Bath & Beyond (w/Coupon for $5 Off of $15 or More) $.5272/K-Cup
    3. Bed Bath & Beyond (w/Coupon for 20% Off One Item) $.5329/K-Cup
    4. Green Mountain (w/Café Express Membership) $.5621/K-Cup
    5. Amazon.com (w/Prime and Subscribe & Save) (50ct.) $.5698/K-Cup
    6. Wal-Mart (Most Varieties / 18ct.) $.6100/K-Cup
    7. Target (Most Varieties / 18ct.) $.6106/K-Cup
    8. Amazon.com (w/Prime) (Most Varieties / 24ct.) $.6379/K-Cup
    9. Amazon.com (w/Super Saver Shipping) (Most Varieties / 24ct.) $.6379/K-Cup
    10. Bed Bath & Beyond (No Coupons) (Most Varieties / 18ct.) $.6661/K-Cup

    For the curious, the spreadsheet with the underlying data is available here.




     

     

  3. Paradox of Thrift

    Don’t know how I managed to miss this treat, but I did:

    National Post: 93-Year-Old Threatens American Capitalism

    I remember reading something about Ms. Veitch and her still-chugging-along 1964 Mercury Comet recently. But whatever it was that I read, I certainly don’t remember her being presented as all that’s wrong with the American economy. Because that is, you know, the tongue-in-cheek gist of the article above.

    I feel quite confident that my beloved America is in zero danger of becoming a nation of Veitchian monsters. Holy crap, no. We love our plasma TVs, McMansions, and our lane-cramming SUVs. We thrive on $10, triple-decker, bacon-and-bleu-cheese-cheeseburgers. (Dangit. What’s for lunch, anyway?)

    And debt? Oh, we loves our debt. In fact, debt is a lot like The Force. It surrounds us, binds us. Debt is the ever-increasing glue which holds us all together. Even when we don’t have any money, we can keep spending money, because we can always get debt. Always. Well, except for 2007 and 2008 and part of 2009. Then we couldn’t get debt. And you saw how that went, didn’t you?

    Oh, but Dark Siders, like Veitch, who save money and make full use of all their assets and take advantage of the deals and guarantee presented to them — well, these people are Communists and apparently don’t believe in the almighty goodness of Debt, Debt, and More Debt.

    So our greatest economic enemy drives a ’64 Mercury Comet. Who knew?




     

     

  4. Pro Athletes Going Broke

    Well, if you were wondering just how great professional athletes are at managing their money, Sports Illustrated has the ticket:

    SI: How And Why Athletes Go Broke

    As far as the article goes, here’s your two-minute drill:

    In a less public way, other athletes from the nation’s three biggest and most profitable leagues—the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball—are suffering from a financial pandemic. Although salaries have risen steadily during the last three decades, reports from a host of sources (athletes, players’ associations, agents and financial advisers) indicate that:

    • By the time they have been retired for two years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.

    • Within five years of retirement, an estimated 60% of former NBA players are broke.

    I mean, those figures are just plain brutal. But not surprising.

    It’s a very long article, as these things go, but well worth a read if you follow pro sports and athletes (and their foibles).




     

     

  5. My First Computer Build

    It was something I’ve wanted to do for a long, long time … but never really had the guts to attempt.

    Until several weeks ago.

    After perusing Dell’s website for a while, and being not at all impressed with the price/performance ratios I saw, I determined that I was going to build my own computer. For the first time. At age forty.

    It’s now done. The computer works, even. And because of that, the build was actually quite fun. Here’s my wrapup, for those interested. (Hey, it’s related to personal finance, because if nothing else, I saved some money!)

    Our History with PCs

    Lisa and I have owned quite a few PCs over the years, starting with Acers and Compaqs (both were crap) many moons ago. Our latest desktop PC was a Dell, as was the one prior to that.

    We bought the current Dell Dimension desktop back in 2003; it’s been a solid and durable machine over the years, requiring only modest upgrades here and there. (I think I added a 256mb Nvidia video card at one time, plus a second hard drive. And maybe some RAM as well.)

    These days it languishes in our home’s “computer room.” Due to its age, the Dell is little more than a dust-collecting hub of sorts for our printer, wireless router, and our several household laptops … and it’s an occasional gateway to the interwebs for our daughter. (When she’s not able to get on a laptop because Mommy and Daddy are using them, that is.)

    Time for a New Computer: Our Goals

    Lisa and I aren’t diehard “gamerz,” but when we find games we like, we’ll play the crap out of ‘em. Such is the case with current offerings like Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Civilization V, and the various Sims concoctions. (Not to mention the upcoming Diablo III, assuming it ever actually hits the shelves.)

    In recent years, what games our family has played have been on our PS3 and Wii. This is fine … to a point. The PS3 is nice, but it has always been our opinion that, while game consoles have their merits, the more involved games (i.e., not button-mashers) are best played on PC. Mods and cheats … yay!

    (In our pre-kid years, Lisa and I had great fun staying up ’til 3 or 4am playing the Civilization series, and darker stuff like Nocturne, on our desktop.)

    Obviously, a 2003 Dell Dimension with a Pentium 4 and a 256mb video card isn’t gonna play Skyrim at any sort of acceptable level. Nor will it run Civ V. Nor will any of our laptops. (Well, our laptops will play Civ V okay, but that’s about as far as they’ll go.)

    And given the fact that our Dell is now making all kinds of noise while it’s running (pretty much 24/7), is useless for the sort of gaming we really want to be able to do, and is long past the end of its upgrade cycle, we decided that a new computer was in the cards.

    Now, the choice: Buy prebuilt, or build our own?

    Comparing, Contrasting, Considering

    Remember how I mentioned that I’d always kind of wanted to build my own computer, using components selected by me? Well, that’s absolutely true. But even this time, my first inclination was to shop Dell, since we’d had such good luck with their desktops in the past.

    But the more I perused Dell’s site, the more I understood that I was going to be spending around $1,400 to get a computer that would do what I wanted, gaming-wise. That seemed a bit stout. Add onto that the fact that that computer would come preloaded with lots of Dell crapware that I didn’t want, and you have the foundations for my going the self-built route.

    1) I want a computer that’s built from decent components. I want to know what’s “in the box.” I want to know that the PC maker didn’t give me a nice video card, but cut corners with a cheapo motherboard or power supply.

    2) Improved price/performance. Sure, I could find a Dell PC that games all night. But to get one comparable to what I built myself (for $1,100) would’ve cost me at least $1,400 from Dell. And even then, it would be “dirty.” That’s explained next.

    3) I don’t want a PC that’s preloaded with gigs of crapware. Experience has taught me that OEM bloatware is a royal PITA to remove. Frankly, I’m tired of dealing with it, and I’m damn sure tired of paying for it. Figuring out what can go, and what can’t, is a gargantuan task in itself, and often fraught with compu-peril. (Of course, you can always just reformat the hard drive on Day One, installing a clean MS Windows, Linux, or whatever. That’s what I’ve done with a couple of laptops. But hunting down the correct drivers wasn’t much fun.)

    4) Upgradeability. If you choose the components, you’ll know what they can handle going forward. If you build the system, you’ll know what’s involved as upgrades become necessary (new hardware, drivers, etc.). This, to me, is a big plus.

    5) Nom nom nom: Brain food. Building a computer is fun — when everything works, of course. Plus it’s just a good hands-on learning experience. For me, there’s a certain measure of pride in building something that doesn’t just look nice, but is also productive and useful in some way. Certainly that can apply to “computer building” just as it does to other things I enjoy (woodworking, software, and so on).

    Research … And Choices Made

    So those were my reasons. As I’d never built a PC before, it was a certainty that lots of research was going to have to take place. Hours of message-board reading at sites like Tom’s Hardware was a given, but I also wanted to grab a book of some sort on the topic. For this, I chose Building the Perfect PC, and read it front-to-back a couple of times on my Kindle app.

    I found Building the Perfect PC to be extremely informative, and — perhaps more importantly — quite reassuring for a newbie builder. Among other things, it gave me some idea of “good reputation” PC-component manufacturers. And if nothing else, having such a book in my Kindle archives pretty much certifies my 100% Geekitude.

    For those folks interested in such things, I’ll list out the components I chose, along with a brief bit of reasoning on each:

    CPU: Intel Core i5 2500K ($220 @ Amazon)
    As of the time of this post, the Intel i5 2500K is an overwhelming choice of gaming-PC builders. Its stability when overclocked (maybe something I’d consider later) is unsurpassed. The fact that it’s not Intel’s current Top of the Line CPU means it costs ~$100 less than an i7 … but with no real performance drop-off for the things I’ll be doing.

    Video Card: Sapphire Radeon HD 6970 2gb ($340 @ Amazon)
    Contemporary video cards are rather pricey, and because we wanted one that would last us for a while, the video card was always going to be the single most expensive component of the build. With lots of great reviews, the HD 6970 seemed to be a very strong graphics card. Again, it’s not top-of-the-line, but certainly strong enough to keep us in HD gaming bliss for years to come.

    Motherboard: ASUS P8Z68-V/GEN3 ($185 @ Amazon)
    Calls to a couple of professional PC builders (friends of friends) suggested to me that ASUS was one of the two or three premier mobo manufacturers today. From there, it was just a matter of finding an ASUS mobo with the correct size factor (ATX), processor setup (LGA 1155, matching Intel Core i3 / i5 / i7), and features to do the job I wanted. This one fit the bill nicely.

    RAM: Corsair 8gb (2x4gb) PC3-12800 1600mHz DDR3 ($49 @ Amazon)
    RAM seems pretty darn cheap these days, and 8gb should be quite enough to keep Windows 7 Pro, plus any games, running smoothly for a long time.

    (UPDATE: One of these two sticks of Corsair RAM bit the dust within the space of a few weeks. They’ve been replaced by 8gb of Kingston SDRAM ($40). So far, all is going well.)

    Power Supply: Corsair 550-Watt Modular Power Supply ($98 @ Amazon)
    The Corsair brand of power supplies came highly recommended, over and over again, on the PC-builder forums I read. If I ever wanted to add a second video card, I’d have to go to a larger power supply. But for now, 550 watts should do the trick. (I also read that power supplies are often the first component that mainline PC makers like Dell, HP, and so on will skimp on to keep prices down.)

    Hard Drive: Seagate 7200rpm 500gb SATA Hard Drive ($85 @ Amazon)
    Meh, it’s a hard drive, and you gotta have one. Seagate has been good to me over the years, so I went with them. As of right now, hard-drive prices are quite dear, thanks to flooding in Thailand which decimated all the HD manufacturers’ factories. Prices which would’ve gotten me a 1TB hard drive (or larger) last year are getting me only a 500gb version now. Bah.

    But, when prices come back down, this can always be upgraded pretty easily. And I’m open to adding a solid-state drive later, as well, for just the operating system and related files.

    DVD Drive: Lite-On 24X DVD+/-RW Dual-Layer Drive ($25 @ Amazon)
    Meh, it’s a DVD drive. These things are expendable. You’ll pay more for dinner out at a decent BBQ joint.

    Case: Cooler Master Storm Enforcer Mid Tower ATX Case ($89 @ Amazon)
    Lots of great reviews on Amazon helped this case catch my eye. I wanted a full-sized case, since space isn’t really an issue for us at the moment. Plus, it needed to be compatible with ATX-form motherboards like the ASUS one I chose above. The newbie-friendliness (spacious, good wiring management, durability) of the Enforcer was also a plus.

    Operating System: Windows 7 Professional
    I had a new and unopened copy of Windows 7 Pro from a previous laptop cleanup that never materialized. Already having this OS disc ready to go meant I would save at least $100 on this build. (To save money, one could always go the open-source Linux route, too. But that was never really an option for me.)

    Peripherals
    We already had an unused wireless keyboard/mouse setup in our stash, as well as a set of PC speakers. Had I wished to do so, I could’ve used the LCD monitor attached to our Dell. I went ahead and upgraded both the speakers and the monitor once the new computer was built and functioning, but those items weren’t integral to the build.

    The Final Price Tag

    And those are the components I chose. For the wallet-watchers keeping track, the tally goes like this:

    Pricing

    If a Windows 7 operating system disc had been needed, I’d have added another $100 (at least) to that total.

    Putting It All Together

    There are skads of YouTube videos showing how to build a desktop PC, step by step. And I watched a lot of them.

    All in all, the build went very smoothly. I’d estimate that it took a Very Nervous Me about half of a Saturday to piece everything together, creeping toward that “Okay, time to press the power button!” moment. I did lots of precautionary static-discharging, as well as lots of double- and triple-checking of my cables and connections.

    The rest of my build day was taken up with installing the OS, updating drivers, getting acquainted with BIOS options, and loading some basic software (virus protection, Adobe Reader, Flash, etc.) on the machine. And let me tell you: Heaven is firing up your brand new, self-built PC, and finding a Windows desktop with nothing on it other than Recycle Bin. Glory, glory, hallelujah, and so on.

    The ASUS motherboard fit perfectly in the Cooler Master case; I didn’t have to flex or bend the board a bit for it to line up with the mounting screw-holes. I did have to remove one of the two drive cages in order for the Radeon video card to fit, as it’s pretty darn large. No biggie, though, as I’m not interested in throwing an additional five or six drives (DVD, hard disc, or otherwise) into this machine.

    I am extremely happy with the Cooler Master case. It is sturdy as heck, and looks great. Front USB and audio jacks are at the top of the case, so they’re super-convenient to access. (Contrast this to our current Dell, where the front USB ports are at the bottom, angled down, and covered by a door that obscures them from view, even when open. You can’t see which way to plug in a USB device unless you’re laying on the floor, OR unless you keep the PC on your desk, at eye level. Nice design, huh?)

    Internally, the Cooler Master’s nooks/crannies for running SATA and all the other cables are plentiful. Air flow (via the case’s two fans) seems great. The DVD and hard drives were ridiculously easy to install.

    Summary

    Pretty much as I’d figured, building a computer was fun. This stands to reason, as I am, obviously, a total geek.

    The computer’s been running and gaming for a couple of weeks now. I still get giddy whenever it fires up and I have that spotless, crapware-free Windows desktop shining up at me. (Please — no comments about how Windows itself is crapware. Its drawbacks, certainly, are many.)

    Yes, I had a blast putting together a machine that actually works and does something. Sure, this one’s mostly for gaming and ‘net surfing. But if you’re a guy like me, who remembers so vividly that glorious moment in 1980 when you first placed your fourth-grade hands on a computer (a Radio Shack TRS-80, in my case) and watched, astounded, as its green screen responded, text-adventure-style, to your typed commands … well, the fact that you JUST BUILT ONE OF THOSE THINGS AND IT ACTUALLY FREAKIN’ WORKS is a mighty, mighty achievement indeed.

    How far things have come. How wonderfully, amazingly far.




     

     

  6. Scaling Back on Christmas Giving?

    According to a recent poll published by Consumer Reports, more than a few of us plan on cutting back the spending this holiday season:

    Not surprising, consumers tell us they plan to watch their dollars carefully, continuing a trend that began in 2008. Planned spending may be down slightly this year, according to the poll; one in three consumers say they’re cutting back on purchases, while more insist they’ll commit to a budget this year (52 percent vs. 47 percent in 2010). And, once again, the bargain hunters will be out in force: 44 percent of respondents feel that getting a good deal is more important now than it was in 2010.

    Yeah … about “bargain hunters.” If you believe that a “good deal” means camping out in a Best Buy parking lot for multiple weeks in advance of Black Friday, well, more power to you, I guess. I just can’t relate.

    But back to Consumer Reports:

    But take some of those numbers with a grain of salt. However noble their intentions, shoppers tend to underestimate their spending. Leading up to last year’s holidays, for instance, respondents anticipated spending an average of $457 on gifts, but in actuality ended up spending $556 — 22 percent more. Moreover, 45 percent of those who made a budget last year exceeded it. Five percent went over budget by a lot.

    …Unfortunately, too many consumers still carry too much debt for too long. As of this month, 6 percent of Americans – around 14 million people – were still paying off their credit-card purchases from the 2010 holidays.

    Obviously, those Six Percenters haven’t heeded my annual admonitions to save up for Christmas throughout the year via some sort of Freedom Account concept. Tsk tsk.

    Because if they had, then Christmas 2010 would be just a (hopefully) nice memory, instead of a monthly Citibank bill with accruing interest!




     

     

  7. K-Cups: Best Prices Update

    It’s been over a year since I updated my list of “best price retailers” for my beloved K-Cups. Back then (May, 2010), Amazon’s “Subscribe & Save” service had everyone else beat. But they’ve since discontinued that service, leaving the field open for other retailers to claim the spot at the top of my lowest-price list.

    Like most everything else, prices of K-Cups have increased in the 17+ months since my last compilation of K-Cup prices. In most places around here, a box of standard K-Cups will run you $12 for 18 K-Cups. Special varieties like hot chocolate, apple cider, and café mocha, some teas, as well as the coffee K-Cups from Wolfgang Puck, tend to cost a dollar more per box.

    In any case, as of last week, my list of best-price K-Cup retailers worked out like this:

    1. Bed Bath & Beyond (w/Coupon for $5 Off of $15 or More) $.5272/K-Cup
    2. Bed Bath & Beyond (w/Coupon for 20% Off One Item) $.5329/K-Cup
    3. Green Mountain (w/Café Express Membership) $.5621/K-Cup
    4. Wal-Mart (Folgers K-Cups) $.6267/K-Cup
    5. Amazon.com (w/Prime Membership) $.6500/K-Cup
    6. Amazon.com (w/Super Saver Shipping) $.6583/K-Cup
    7. Wal-Mart (non-Folgers flavors) $.6600/K-Cup
    8. Target $.6661/K-Cup
    9. Bed Bath & Beyond (No Coupons) $.6661/K-Cup
    10. Amazon.com (non-Prime) $.9000/K-Cup

    Inclusions & Omissions

    I omit Sam’s Club from the above list because their supply of K-Cups is extremely limited (usually only Caribou K-Cups are available, and I’m not a fan of any Caribou flavors I’ve tried). Costco doesn’t appear here because, sadly, there isn’t one in my area.

    I list Bed Bath & Beyond coupon prices because there’s rarely a time when we’re without one of their two coupons in our stash. (Once you get on their mailing list, BBY will practically stuff your mailbox with those things.)

    My list includes Wal-Mart’s Folgers-specific pricing because while I don’t care for this “gourmet” coffee, it is cheaper than other K-Cups and is very widely available.

    Online-Only K-Cup Retailers

    I have yet to find any smaller online-only retailers who can match or beat the prices above. It’s not like there aren’t a host of other K-Cup sellers out there, but all the ones I’ve visited miss out on price due to either (1) excessive shipping charges, or (2) stout “subscription” fees in order to get the “best” prices available, which still are more expensive than those offered by, say, Green Mountain Coffee themselves.

    For those who’d like to see my Excel spreadsheet (.xlsx) with the prices and quantities listed, it’s available here.




     

     

  8. Side Project: 1967 Mustang Restoration

    Way back when my wife and I were newly married, we occasionally talked about how neat it would be to fix up her ’67 Mustang — her first car, and the car she owned when we first met.

    While we’ve bought a handful of (far more reliable) vehicles since then, Lisa never would sell the Mustang. It’s kept its place in our garage, mostly just sitting there, withering away. I found it pretty shameful, really, because the Mustang’s previous owners really had taken pretty good care of it earlier in its life. It deserved something better than just rusting away, a minute at a time, year after year, in our garage, its hood and trunk a last-ditch storage place for boxed-up holiday knick-knacks and baby clothes.

    Time to Spend Money; Time to Spend Time

    Over the years, I managed to do a little bit of work here and there on the car — but these were primarily repairs to keep it road-worthy and drivable whenever opportunity presented and/or the urge struck. (We’re talking two or three times a year, tops.)

    But earlier this year, with our Emergency Fund fully funded (and then some), no debt other than the mortgage, and some other cash savings available, we agreed to start in on the restoration of our Pony. Since April, we’ve spent what is, to us, a hefty pile of cash bringing her “first baby” back to respectability. Those of you who wish to follow our trials and tribulations, or just look over my shoulder at some pics, can do so right here:

    New Blog: Our ’67 Mustang

    Yeah, it’s true: I’ll write about pretty much anything. A “car guy” I am not, by any stretch of imagination, but I will admit that’s it been a rewarding task so far. I’ve learned a lot, and had some fun doing what I can to bring the Mustang to life. As of right now, we’ve spent $6,595 on restoration and repairs so far this year, and there’s more waiting in the pipeline. (Which, as my dad so often warns me, is always the case with classic cars. Once you get started down Restoration Road, it never really ends. You can blow precisely as much money as you want … and new wants are always just a broken window regulator away.)

    But hey, with fresh paint and revamped interior, the car now gets looks on the road, and nice comments at the gas station. Neither of which is bad.

    And now, when I come home from work each day and see it there in the garage, I’m no longer ashamed. That, I think, is the best part of it all.




     

     

  9. Name Your Wallet Style

    When it comes to wallets, I am a bi-fold guy.

    When I was a kid, I was a zippered-wallet guy. (As I recall, my first wallet came from Six Flags Over Texas, and had an embossed outline of the state of Texas on the front.) As a teenager, I owned several Velcro’d sports wallets. Then I got older — college, maybe? — and I became a tri-fold wallet guy.

    Basically, it seems, as I got older, my wallets got bigger.

    But a few years ago I took a step in wallet “de-evolution.” After a bit of in-depth research in a local J.C. Penney store, I reversed course. I sock-drawered my tri-fold wallet, and joined the bi-fold crowd.

    The Wallet I Thought Would Never Work

    I never figured bi-fold wallets would work for me, mostly because I tend to carry a sizable assorment of cards — debit cards, credit cards, insurance cards, and various cards for work.

    However, my current bi-fold wallet has space for ten cards, plus the usual slot for a slide-out picture license, and some side slots for whatever else. The wallet’s money fold has a separator, which is essential and means I can keep my cash separate from my receipts. That’s a necessity when you follow the “Cash Flow in a Box” method of household expense management, as we do.

    So why is it “bi-fold for the win” with me? Well, the bi-fold is far thinner than its tri-fold predecessor, which means it’s a lot more comfortable (read: unnoticeable when I sit down) in my pockets. The reduced size is what I was aiming for when I went bi-fold, and it worked out. I am pretty sure I’ll be a bi-fold guy from here on out.

    So let’s hear it, gentlemen. What’s your chosen wallet style, and why?




     

     

  10. Travel On the Edge

    As a guy who believes in keeping at least $50 in cash on me (plus the usual credit and debit cards) whenever I’m out and about, I simply do NOT understand why anyone would GO TRAVELLING WITH ABSOLUTELY NO CASH ON HAND.

    And yet, in the auto-service business, I see people doing this fairly often. Typically it involves someone’s vehicle breaking down, leaving them stranded — at least for a while — somewhere far from home. When this occurs, what are they carrying in their wallet or purse?

    A driver’s license, a debit card, some photos … and that’s it.

    Seriously?

    Can people just NOT think ahead at all? Does anyone play “What if?” before heading out across the state?

    What if you’re 500 miles from home, and, for who knows what reason, your debit card doesn’t work? With no credit cards in your wallet, and no cash, what will you do then?

    As I’ve said for years, debit cards are often NOT your best friend. I love my debit cards, but they’re certainly NOT a foolproof payment method when travelling.

    (And no, I don’t care what Dave Ramsey says about “All you ever need is a debit card.” I, for one, try not to live my life at the mercy of my bank’s change-on-a-whim debit-card policies.)

    Big Tip: Always Have More Than One Way To Pay

    As I mentioned in a 2007 post, I consider it vital that we ALWAYS have more than one way to pay. Whether “Plan B” is cash, credit card, or debit card, I don’t much care. I just make sure that there always IS a Plan B. And that goes for quick trips to the corner store as well as cross-country jaunts.

    So much that happens in life is out of your direct control. Doesn’t it make sense to exhibit some control where you can, and always have a backup method of payment?

    It sure does to me!