Category Archives for "Miscellaneous"

Dog Days of Summer: Ways to Cool Your House

It’s been over 100 degrees here for the past week or so; it’s supposed to be in the 80s this week (whew!). We’ve had quite the time trying to beat the heat. A couple of years ago, we put in a central A/C system. This past year we put in an attic fan. While the attic insulation looks sufficient, it might be a good idea to replace it with some higher R-value material. I’ve even put a film on the west-facing windows.

It’s all helped. A little.

Short of getting the whole house insulated (an expensive proposition for us as our house is very old and needs holes drilled from the outside in to inject the insulation, and then new paint to cover the patched holes) and installing a patio/awning on our west side, we’ve run out of ideas. Save for one (though I don’t think it will help us here since the air outside at night never cools much during a heat wave — a whole-house fan. The idea here is that you have an enormous fan installed in your ceiling, open all your windows in the evening, and have the fan suck in the cold air from outside and exhaust into your attic all the hot air from the house. Many people swear by them.

Summer Hacks: Save Money And Stay Cooler with a Whole-House Fan

Depending upon its size, a whole-house fan uses only 10% to 20% as much electricity as a central air conditioner. Also, it uses significantly less electricity than a window air conditioner, yet it keeps the entire house more comfortable, not just one room. Installing one generally provides a good payback on the investment.

So, if you’re inclined to install one, read the above article. On paper, it sounds like a great idea.

Money Problems? Life Issues? Remember This: It Gets Better

Often, we place money at the forefront of our lives. In fact, it seems as though money makes the world go ’round. I have a companion site to this one that’s entitled, Your Money Is Your Life.

Having money, and, more importantly, knowing what to do with it, makes life easier. You can afford to go on vacations or to buy safe organic food for your babies. You can buy your wife a ring to commemorate your tenth anniversary, to show her you care.

You can afford private schools. Or tutors. Or a fuel efficient, safer car than your 1986 Camry beater.

But money is not the “Be all, end all.” There are many families who make less than you who are happier and can save more. They have a retirement fund. Their children will be able to attend a good college. They plan. They have different priorities.

Life sometimes hits you right between the eyes. Your mother could be stricken with cancer. Your child may get involved with drugs. Your wife could leave you. Remember this:

“No matter what horrible thing you’re going through, when it’s all over it only takes three seconds to sum it up. Remember that.”

This comes from one of my favorite non- personal finance blogs, dooce. There is light at the end of a tunnel. And it’s not a locomotive coming your way. Think about your issue. Make a plan. Execute the plan. Reflect on it. Refine it as you learn more and make progress.

Biggest ID Theft Bust

Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff announced the biggest ID-theft bust in history last Tuesday.

Federal indictments unsealed Tuesday in Boston and San Diego against 11 individuals outlined an extraordinary global scheme that siphoned 40 million customer credit and debit card numbers out of the networks of nine major U.S. retailers and placed them – for a price – in the hands of individuals around the world, who in turn used them to make purchases or withdraw cash from ATMs.

Sounds pretty serious.

Chertoff called the indictment a “milestone” in the evolving history of cybersecurity.

“It’s an opportunity, in fact an obligation at this point, for everybody involved in this scenario to take a careful look at the security systems in place,” Chertoff said in the San Jose offices of the U.S. Secret Service, which investigated the case.

 I’d have to agree with this. The crime ring incorporated “wardriving” (finding open networks to exploit) and then created an online database to buy and sell credit card numbers, among other things. This cooperative effort was lucrative, too:

At least one of Gonzalez’s co-conspirators enriched himself to the tune of $11 million, according to the indictment. Gonzalez himself allegedly profited by at least $1.7 million and purchased a 2006 BMW, computers, a Glock handgun and a condominium in Florida where he let a co-conspirator stay for free in exchange for help in the scheme, the indictment alleges.

 It’s the same old story: Find the weakest link and break it:

The fact that the alleged hacking took place at retail outlets – and not banks, for example – suggested that the suspects were targeting weaker links in the network, Dunkelberger said. In some cases, the indictment said, the network and credit card data were unsecured; in others the suspects were able to crack the encryption. 

 I’m truly glad that DHS caught the thieves. But here’s the punchline: The ring, and its concomittant crimes, occurred beginning in 2004! Four year later, we find this out?

Tipsy Tuesday — How to Remember Stuff

One thing I’m sure to do is forget to take something when I run errands. You know, a return at Target (or the receipt), the key you need to get a copy of at Orchard Supply, the grocery list, etc.

My wife and I have established a system that consists of the following complex set of components:

  • A box
  • Dining room table (optional)

The box is on the dining room table near our front door. We place our car/house keys there and anything else we want to take with us. It’s impossible for us to go very far without our car keys, since we run almost all our errands with the car. So placing the keys in the same box as where we put all of the stuff we want to take with us helps us “remember” those things.

It’s not full-proof, of course. We could forget to put something in the box. However, we don’t run many errands and putting things in the box over the course of the week gives us time to remember those things that we really need to deal with.

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TAGGED: I’m It — One Step Personal Finance (Finding Somebody to Follow)

Prime Time Money tagged me with the challenge to “Find one step you can take to make your financial system better or more organized.”

Being the philosopher I am, I turn to Confucius,  who is rumored to have said (did I tell you I’m a skeptic, a cynic, and sarcastic?)

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

My single step was buying a little software program in the late 80s (I was still a kid! Really, I was) called Managing Your Money which led me to the inspiration and contributor to the software, Andrew Tobias. I found out that Tobias was a personal finance author (what are those? You mean there were experts before blogging?); one of his books was humorously called “The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need.”

In this book, I can truly say that I learned at least 95 percent of what I know today about personal finance, investing, banking, and saving money. I also learned 100 percent of what I know about wine (which is still very little, by the way).

Tobias is an advocate of index fund investing, buying in bulk (he provides the ROI calculations, too), yet only investing money that you can truly afford to lose.

And he’s lost a lot! He’s lost his shirt in Broadway and off-Broadway plays, futures and options, commodities of all sorts, real estate, collectibles, and limited partnerships in oil and gas. You name it, he’s invested in it, and he’s lost money in it.

He goes through the various ways he’s lost money to illustrate the idea that you just cannot win in the investing game by going for broke and paying tons of fees. The experts in commodities, for example, will always clean your clock. These speculative “investments” are zero sum games: One guy wins, you lose.

Contrast this with the stock market, where one man’s gain isn’t necessarily another man’s loss. We can all win; or, in other words, a rising sea lifts all boats. The stock market, even though it’s sucky now (financial term for “underperforming”), is your best bet for long-term growth of your money.

I still follow Andrew Tobias. Though he talks a lot of politics on his site, the focus still is on financial planning, frugality, and investing. He’s funny, witty, and smart.

So that was my first step:

Finding somebody to follow.

Many choose “gurus” like Dave Ramsey, Jim Cramer, or Ric Edelman. I found Andrew Tobias. It’s been a great find!

Now, whom shall I tag?

brip blap

Frugal Dad

How to Make 7 Million in 7 Years™

Quest For Four Pillars

Generation X Finance

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