17 December 2014

Hump Day Haiku: Christmas Shopping

Sorry for the wait. Forgot to have one up and ready for you this morning. In the spirit of the season, I present you with today's entry.

Splash of color via Naypong/freedigitalphotos.net.
Christmas Shopping
Time to buy some gifts
Mom, siblings, other relatives;
But who wants gift cards?

12 December 2014

Back to School

Those who know me in real life have a small inkling of my love for learning. While in school and since graduation, I've taken enough classes to qualify for at least one more bachelor's degree. I have taken quite a few classes primarily because they seem interesting and fun (which they were). My book cases and Amazon wishlist are adorned with books that span a broad breadth of subject areas. In other words, I like learning. So it really shouldn't surprise anyone when I say that I'm now considering going back to school. Again.

As a boy, I spent many years with my brother (and on occasion my sister) building the Seven Wonders of the Backyard. We would construct bridges and tunnels out of mud, sticks, rocks, and other building materials to direct water to flow this way or that. Also included were elements like little boats for the visiting ants and other similar implements. At the same time, I've been fascinated with planes, ships, trains, earth moving equipment, cars, and bicycles. The latter is really the driving force behind this determination. I want to further both of those interests.

When the bikeways look like this, the choice of
driving a car or bicycle has a clear winner.
Image credit: me.
It all started coming together due to some punches from MMM. I obtained a bicycle to start commuting, but I quickly discovered that road conditions in my area are at best, not even lipstick on a pig. So I started getting involved to do something about at least putting lipstick on it and maybe even turning the pig into another type of animal. Deer, duck, maybe a dingo; I'm still not sure what we're going for yet. What I do know is that in doing so, I've become more intimately involved in the planning and design of projects than I ever even knew existed. That has led to my gathering knowledge on various treatments and their applications from various blogs and design manuals, where I quickly realized that at present, The Netherlands sports the best biking conditions. After making a visit to the country last year, I've returned with a goal of improving biking conditions here. However, I've come to the realization that if I am to truly join the fun of actually planning better bikeways, I would be able to be most
useful as a licensed engineer. For that, I must go back to school.

Ready to start designing!
Image credit: stockimages
on freedigitalphotos.net.
Now comes the fun part. In one sense, I feel like I'm graduating high school all over again. On the other hand, I was just talking with a friend the other week about planning our 10 year reunion from our actual high school graduation. Needless to say, I'm getting up into the territory of another decade, so I'd like to finish school as quickly as possible for a multitude of reasons. Not that I feel that I "must" do anything by any certain time, but I'm mostly interested in getting started into a direction that I will feel definitely interested in going.

With this resolution to return to school comes several changes. Going to school again is the most obvious one, but it's far from the only thing that'll be different. In future posts, I'll go over stuff like finding a program, paying for college a second time around, figuring out if buying the textbook is actually a good idea, and most importantly, quantifying how it impacts my financial road map. So stay tuned for updates and if you've taken a break for school or gotten a second bachelor's I'd love to hear about your experience. Leave your story in the comment section!

10 December 2014

Hump Day Haiku: Sidelines

Image: jscreationzs on
Standing in a line
Hoping for some employment

28 November 2014

Black Friday

Save money by spending!
We Americans have quite a short memory span. In addition to our Presidents continuing to pull the wool over our eyes, we sit around stuffing our faces saying how thankful we are to have that opportunity then immediately rush out to throw hard-earned cash at more Stuff. Some of the less (more?) fortunate among us don't even get the opportunity to properly follow that sequence of events because they were needed at work for Thanksgiving or for the sales that are creeping ever earlier into Turkey Day itself.

While many people are going through the ridiculous motions of trying to drive to a shop, others (like me) took to our computers, where our inboxes are brimming with email blasts from our favorite retailers with their offerings for the joyous occasion. As an added bonus, all the shopping can be done while still enjoying the football games and without getting crushed or trampled at a brick & mortar. Online retailers started early this year with promises of deals and online payment processors such as PayPal and Visa have been offering cash back for minimum spends at a select few of them.

Although some people, especially in the personal finance blogosphere, prefer to shun Black Friday, I rather enjoy the opportunity to get something or another that I was budgeting for or usually by at sometimes a substantial discount. However, I never waste my time standing in a line to get trampled to get 50% off a Tickle Me Elmo. In accordance with the way that I conduct a substantial amount of my shopping, I rely on stalwarts like Newegg, B&H, Amazon.com, and others to complete my purchases then wait for the doorbell to ring. Most stuff I buy online is pretty straight-forward anyway (e.g. memory cards), so there's no need to "showroom" items first.

As already mentioned, most online Black Friday deals start on Thursday and some companies run an entire "Black November", promising Black Friday prices all month long. Another popular day is the Monday following Black Friday, now more commonly known as Cyber Monday. This has grown in popularity for deals over the last several years, but the consensus seems to be that better deals as a whole are not being offered on Cyber Monday after all, a move that has managers worried what to do with all the extra productivity.

Finally, don't forget that this Saturday (but actually every single day), your local small business(wo)man is hoping that you stop by to actually patronize their business. Many times, we completely forget about our mom & pop shops. But those are really the lifeblood of the cities. American Express has an outstanding offer for its card holders to help inject some life into your local chamber of commerce: $10 back for a maximum of $30 total for shopping at a small business and spending at least $10 on Saturday. You just have to pre-register, so go do it now!

At the end of the day it all comes down to personal preference. Most of us don't like waiting in lines, but the prospect of snagging a "deal" often sends people out doing crazy things that they would normally avoid. What do you do to avoid getting burnt out (or trampled!) on Black Friday shopping? What amazing deals have you found? Spread the love and share in the comments!

Image: arztsamui on freedigitalphotos.net.

19 November 2014

Hump Day Haiku: Strapped

The bank of uncertainty.
Image: Simon Howden on freedigitalphotos.net.
Well, it's certainly been quite some time, hasn't it. Let's not delay any longer.

Money in the bank
Bills piling up higher still
Will it be enough?