1. And Now For An Important Message

    No, not really. I got nuthin’.



  2. 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.



  3. 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?



  4. No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

    Wow. This story struck me harder than probably any other (of the personal-interest variety) within the last several months:

    WFAA (Dallas): Dallas Keeps $2k Found by Honest Teen

    Seems that 15-year-old lass Ashley Donaldson stumbled upon two thousand dollars in a Dallas parking lot last February. With a level of honesty that I imagine many folks don’t possess, Ms. Donaldson turned the money in to a local bank, “lost and found” style. From the article:

    The 15-year-old Shepton High School student spotted the money on the ground and took it to a nearby Chase Bank.

    Over the last three months, the bank and Dallas police have tried to find the owner, but have had no luck.

    On Tuesday, police said under a new city policy, the unclaimed money will go into Dallas’ general fund — not back to the person who found it, as in years past.

    Ummm … excuse me? To the city’s general fund? What what?

    “We appreciate your honesty,” said Dallas police spokesman Senior Cpl. Kevin Janse. “We’re going to put the money to good use. It’s not going to be wasted, but put to good use for the City of Dallas.”

    A fine kick in the pants that is. Well, at least we can state that Ms. Donaldson learned a fine lesson from this: Never trust the government.

    An expensive lesson, to be sure, but one best learned at age 15, I guess.

    Story Update (One I Really Like)

    I can freely admit that I was fairly ticked off after reading the story above. But it turns out my peeved-ness didn’t last long:

    WFAA (Dallas): Anonymous Donor Helps Honest Teen

    While it isn’t exactly the ending I would’ve chosen, this one will do:

    In February, Ashley found $2,000 in the parking lot at the Pavillion Center in North Dallas. Instead of keeping it, she turned it in, thinking she would get the money back if it was not claimed.

    Three months later, under a new policy, the City of Dallas told her the unclaimed money will go into a general fund and not back to the finder.

    But an anonymous donor from Fort Worth has stepped in a check for $4,000 to reward Ashley’s honesty — and to help her family.

    It’s worth noting that the Donaldson family — four siblings and two parents — were living in a one-bedroom apartment at the time that Ashley found the two thousand dollars. My admiration for her (and her parents’) honesty is about as stout as it could be.

    At school on Wednesday, Ashley said her teacher turned on a TV news report about her discovery. “It just really made me think of how many people would’ve done the opposite thing, and it made me feel even more proud of myself,” she said, adding this:

    “Stand for what you believe is right, no matter what anyone says, no matter what they might think, it really doesn’t matter. You have to know that you did the good thing.”

    And also that right after you’ve done your “good thing,” the government will be along in about five minutes:

    “We’re from the government, and we’re here to help.”



  5. Tip for Takeout?

    Ah, yes, the age-old question: Do you tip for take-out orders?

    I’d be interested to hear readers’ opinions on this. Sure, I could go cruise Google, and I’d undoubtedly find lots of back-and-forth blog banter on the subject. But there are some regular commenters here whose opinions I’d like to get.

    I bring this up only because a couple of days ago, on a quick take-out visit to my local Domino’s, I noticed the “TIP: _____” line on the card receipt, and it occurred to me that this topic was one I hadn’t breached at Money Musings.

    Did I add a tip, you ask? No, in this instance, I certainly did not. For one thing, I had to verbally request our 2-liter of Coke, plus some cheese and red pepper packets, from the Domino’s employee … even though those things had been noted in my internet order. For another thing, it’s take-out pepperoni-and-pineapple pizza, for crying out loud. Take-out pizza ain’t some gargantuan culinary undertaking which requires exemplary levels of service to pull off and/or deliver. (I typically do tip for delivered pizza, though, unless the delivery took longer than expected.)

    Next question: Do I normally tip for take-out? I don’t have a hard ‘n’ fast rule on this, but I would say that I usually do not, unless I’m picking up a pretty sizeable order — say, for five or more people. Or something equally “complicated.”

    Also, I note that in the case of “tipping when dining in,” by the time the tip gets disbursed, you’ve likely eaten your meal (or whatever) and experienced the prompt or excellent service that the tip was supposed to ensure. With take-out, you probably have no idea what’s in those styrofoam or cardboard boxes, or whether it’s even edible at all, until you get home!



  6. Mom Sues McDonalds: Who’s the Child Here?

    I know this story has been everywhere the last day or so, but I just cannot let it go by without a few words:

    KABC-TV: Calif. Mom to Sue McDonalds Over Happy Meal Toys

    Yes, a California mom has filed a lawsuit against McDonalds, hoping to require the fast-food megachain to either (1) churn out healthy meals for kids, or else (2) yank toys out of their Happy Meals. Why? Because she’s tired of being “pestered” by her kids (a six-year-old and a two-year-old) to go to Mickie D’s.

    In a press release, we get to hear Ms. Parham describe her parental angst:

    I am concerned about the health of my children and feel that McDonald’s should be a very limited part of their diet and their childhood experience. But as other busy, working moms and dads know, we have to say ‘no’ to our young children so many times, and McDonald’s makes that so much harder to do. I object to the fact that McDonald’s is getting into my kids’ heads without my permission and actually changing what my kids want to eat.

    Getting into your kids’ heads without your permission? You mean like EVERY OTHER COMPANY that markets to kids in any way / shape / form? Ms. Parham, I’d suggest you sue Mattel, Disney, Scholastic Publishing, and American Girl, while you’re at it. As well as General Mills, Kraft Foods, Procter & Gamble, and Kelloggs. (Actually, whomever boxes up those god-forsaken Corn Pops really should be sued. Those things are disgusting.)

    More from Ms. Parham:

    What kids see as a fun toy, I now realize is a sophisticated, high-tech marketing scheme that’s designed to put McDonald’s between me and my daughters. For the sake of other parents and their children, I want McDonald’s to stop interfering with my family.

    Glad to see you’re paying attention, Mom. Now maybe you’d like to take the next step, and TRY TO BE AN ACTUAL PARENT to your kids. They’re two and six, for goodness’ sake. Who runs the show at your house, anyway? It damn sure isn’t you.

    Hey, Wait! I Have a Kid, Too!

    As the parent of an eight-year-old girl, I would like to state clearly, here and now, that I am truly amazed at the masterful job which McDonalds has done in getting kids to want their food. In the world of advertising, the Happy Meal campaign has to go down as one of the Greatest Ever.

    Do they sell crappy food? Yes.

    Do they blatantly target kids? Yes.

    Have they absolutely mastered these tactics? Holy hell, yes.

    And yet somehow, SOME WAY, my wife and I have managed to say no to our daughter’s frequent requests for McDonalds food. Does our kid whine? Yup. Does she moan? Yup. Does it matter? Not so much.

    Am I going to sue McDonalds for bringing out the “I wants” in my kid? Um, no, because Lisa and I are The Parents. Unlike Ms. Parham, apparently, we aim to be In Control. We prefer to raise our child to understand the difference between good choices and poor choices — and also that Mom and Dad not only make the rules, but can also remove every single belonging from your room while you’re at school, lock it all up in storage, and allow you to earn it back, if we so choose. (Which, at one point this year, we did.)

    Of course Ms. Parham has an agenda working, and I seriously doubt that the “It’s for the kids!” angle covers her motivations entirely.

    But watching people like her try to litigate their way through life (and teach her children to do the same) causes great pain in me. Ms. Parham’s primary responsibility should be to be a good parent to her children; nowhere in there does the word “easy” come into play. Dealing with whiny kids ain’t easy.

    And, as Ms. Parham so clearly shows us, dealing with whiny parents is often far worse.



  7. $10 Million Goes Poof

    Here we have a delightful story which, if nothing else, enforces my theory that $14 $10 million just doesn’t go as far as it used to:

    NY Times: Family’s Fall From Affluence Is Swift and Hard

    What’s new here? Probably not much, if you’re familiar with what happens when people who suck with money actually get some. In this particular train wreck, the Martin family came into big money; they spent big money; they trusted what money they didn’t spend to “bankers and brokers;” they ended up broke and miserable.

    I’m not sure how many money rules they broke, but it was a bunch.

    From the article:

    That luxurious world was fueled by a check Mr. Martin received in 1998 for $14 million, his share of the $600 million sale of Martin Media, an outdoor advertising business begun by his father in California in the 1950s. After taxes, he kept about $10 million.

    But as so often happens to those lucky enough to realize the American dream of sudden riches, the money slipped through the Martins’ fingers faster than they ever imagined.

    Read the article, and tell me if you think this gentleman has learned much of anything from his trip to rich and back.

    And he [Mr. Martin] recites a quotation he holds dear: “The measure of a man is not whether he falls down, but whether he gets up again.” Still, Mr. Martin is prone to ruminate over the loss of so much money. He is furious at the banks and the bankers, who he thinks gave him bad advice, and he still sounds angry at his brother and others who decided to sell the company and who he says gave him little voice. Some of them got more than $100 million each, he said, while he got $14 million, as did his father and his sister Ann, because they were all minority shareholders.

    Because I don’t get the impression that he has.



  8. Open Thanksgiving Day

    Am I the only person left who admires companies which have the backbone and/or courage to STAY CLOSED on major holidays? (And Sundays, too, for that matter?)

    Everywhere I look, retailers, restaurants, and just about every other entity looking to pad its balance sheet are now keeping open store hours on what used to be lights-off-and-doors-locked holidays. A glance through my local Sears store’s Sunday circular shows the bold print of…

    (where permitted by law)

    … and it occurs to me this practice really seems to be getting more and more pervasive.

    For a retailer like Sears, I suppose it’s understandable. I feel a bit sorry for the employees, though I imagine they’re getting “holiday pay” or overtime or whatever for dragging themselves out of the house and slogging in to work on Turkey Day. What boggles me is that there are that many consumers who’ll shop on Thanksgiving, given the way we’ve stamped the day after Thanksgiving as, effectively, a Festival of Consumption. When folks are willing to camp out for prime shopping spots nine days ahead of time … well, it’s pathetic.

    What About Sundays?

    In my neck of the woods, there are still several businesses who won’t open up on Sundays, though their profits would almost assuredly rise if they did so. While I’m not the religious sort, I truly admire these guys. By marking Sundays as no-work days, companes like Chick-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby are telling me that yes, there IS something they hold more valuable than additional revenue. I, for one, am wholeheartedly glad to see it.

    If you’re in dire need of a Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwich, but it’s Sunday afternoon … well, tough s*$t. Odds are good they’ll be open Monday. And they’ll still be happy to make you a sammich and waffle fries then.



  9. Happy Voting Day!

    Not that you probably need any motivation from me, but GET OUT THERE AND VOTE TODAY!

    (Even if you have to leave some ballot fields blank, as I generally do. Voting for the “lesser of two evils” just doesn’t do it for me any longer. It’s sad, but true, that often, the people who we’d actually WANT and trust to hold public office are the same people who would never, ever do it.)



  10. Note to ‘My Yahoo’ Subscribers

    Those of you who follow Money Musings via My Yahoo should know that, for whatever reason, Yahoo hasn’t retrieved this blog’s feed in several weeks. (As of this writing, it still shows my latest post to have been on October 19.)

    I don’t know if Yahoo’s feed API is broken, or what. I’m a My Yahoo user myself, and clicking REFRESH under Money Musings’ feed OPTIONS does nothing. I do most of my feed-reading in Google Reader, though, and it’s updating just fine.

    I would kindly request that readers please check your feed-reader URL for Money Musings and, if it doesn’t already do so, please make it point to my current feed URL. I should add that you’ll certainly want to do this if the feed URL you’re following has “feedburner.com” in the domain, as I’m going to nix that feed shortly.

    And users of My Yahoo might wish to do what I did quite a while back — which is to find a better and more stable feed-reading service! (As mentioned above, I’m a Google Reader fan.)