Personal Finance – Caffeinated

Jolting For More Jingle Jangle

Coffeecents – Unit 2 – Mapping March 23, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — coffeecents @ 1:09 pm

Last week we talked about simplicity, frugality, and basic easy steps to budgeting.  Mentioned was the “Latte Factor” and I’d thought I’d demonstrate it today by looking at my breakfast at my desk.  Yogurt from Costco (15 cents?), Bulk Oatmeal  (15 cents?) and a mug of coffee just brewed by my awesome coffee club member  (yes, in an office of 75 people, only 2 of us brew coffee rather than go to Starbucks).  If I went downstairs to buy these instead, the oatmeal would be 2 bucks, the yogurt 1.5, and the coffee 2.  Yeah, it’s 5 dollars a day.  But that’s a million when I’m 50 (I’ve had this habit since about age 22).  An additional real (inflation adjusted) million.  For very little effort.  There are many of these tweaks we can do to, with very small steps, dramatically change our future fiscal picture.  Coffeecents encourages creativity.

Tonight, we’ll be veering off, slightly, talking about money, and talking more about planning and goal-setting. There’s still plenty of money talk to be had.   There’s a few more readers now, which is nice, and I’m excited to be hosting tonight’s session.

I think the important statement of tonight is that achieving goals isn’t a passive “Secret”  (bleh).  It’s active management and maintenance.  This applies not just to say, writing a term paper or finishing a work project, but also to our money management, our future plans, etc.

Some comments about the PowerPoints : They’re designed to guide myself and Jay and Brian and the discussants on the topic, but I really try to not follow them too much.  Chalk and talk teaching is quite passe.  We want to be interactive.  You’ll still get plenty from them, but it pays to be there in person.

Unit 2 can be downloaded here


Post-Session 1 Thoughts March 17, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — coffeecents @ 2:44 pm

I’m fairly happy with our first CC with Compass Fellows last night.  I think the powerpoint notes are fairly tight and add good value by pointing to good first steps in budgeting and savings, good programs (free) and good apps.  The theme for the first session was “Simple”

One good question came from the crowd.  I’m terrible with names so I forget this young lady, but she is a sophomore and asked about when she should start budgeting.  She assumes that her income situation will change very much upon graduation and wondering just how useful starting now would be.  That’s a question I hadn’t thought of.  My response was that it was the habit of budgeting that was more important than having an awesome budget, if she was in the habit of budgeting before graduating and jobs and that stuff, it would be that much easier.  Jay from budgetsaresexy stopped by as well, and added that there’s no such thing as a “normal” month in budgeting anyways.

Hung out a bit with Jay and Brian (mynextbuck) afterwards.  One interesting observation.  Brian was a trust fund baby,  Jay came from a middle class background, and I came from lesser means, but here we all were talking about personal finance and learning from each other now.  And we’d all come to very similiar conclusions and philosophies on frugality and money management (though we each differ, the theme is the same).  It was cool hearing Brian and Jay talk about what I was discussing but bringing an entirely different perspective to a similiar point.  Having them added a good bit of value to the discussion, awesome to have them.


Coffeecents – Unit 1 – Simple March 16, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — coffeecents @ 6:20 pm

Tonight at Saxby’s CoffeeHouse in Georgetown the Coffeecents program will start up with about 15 young entrepreneurs from Georgetown University and the Compass Fellowship.  Over the next 4 weeks, a basic outline of personal finance will be drafted and discussed along what I’ve called a “SMART” Strategy.  I’m a sucker for acronyms.

You can download a read-only copy of the first unit’s powerpoint here.

I hope to be able to put up video of this event and the ensuing discussion.

Aside from personal finance bloggers, we don’t really talk about money, how we manage it, what our problems are, etc, even with very close family and friends.  I think that’s a big part of the problem plaguing personal finance education today.  The old chalk and talk system is passe.  I think an introductory system that gets folks talking about how they did this or that, and sharing ideas, will improve education of personal finance and break down the social taboo barrier of talking about money.


Unintended Consequences February 10, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — coffeecents @ 2:22 pm

It’s been snowing non-stop in DC for several days, and that has made going out very difficult.  I wonder …
How many people, now forced to cook and eat in, might choose to eat in more after we are all dug out?

How many people, now forced to walk if they want to get anywhere, might walk more after the snow melts?

Not many I suppose, but when you’re forced to do without something, you do learn how to adapt, and by adapting, you learn that there is another option.


Walking February 9, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — coffeecents @ 4:26 pm

My wife and I started developing a habit last year.  I’m calling it the walking threshold.   There’s a set distance that we just won’t drive to, we walk instead.  Over the year the distance went to about 2 miles and change, enough to get to Old Town Alexandria or Crystal City, by walking.

At first, of course, when it wasn’t a habit, it felt more like a chore.  Sticking with it, it just became a part of our daily routine.  And it’s a good part.  We drive around less (and are less frustrated with traffic).  It’s better for our health.  It’s a chance to spend time with each other, time that we don’t have much for.

This again, is one of those lessons that CoffeeCents wants to espouse.  Automate (or habit-formulate) activities that help you to get to where you want to be.  Even more boinus is when one activity serves two purposes (or in our case, three).

Take time to think about what you could do.  Often times a very good idea is quite counter-intuitive.


A Response to BudgetsAreSexy February 1, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — coffeecents @ 6:01 pm

At Budgets are Sexy, J’s tagline reads that his mortgage difference versus his rent difference for the year was 24000.  And numerically, this is correct.  However, to really do the right analysis, we need to make sure that we’re comparing apples to apples.  J treats mortgage as equal to rent, which it actually isn’t, because some proportion of that payment is principle.  And principle, unlike rent, gets recovered when the property is sold.

So what J should do, with this comparison, is subtract out his principle payment (discounted for time) so that we can take away the forced savings effect of a mortgage.  Then the comparison works better (and yes, owning is still more expensive than renting, but then add in the tax effects and other bonuses and they SHOULD cancel out.  If they don’t the market is unbalanced.

Now, of course, perhaps that extra principle could be better invested elsewhere.  That’s certainly a point.  But, I think the comparison isn’t quite right and would suggest that fix


Your analysis is incomplete.  Your principle payment stays with you as forced savings, so you would want to deduct that from your mortgage side for a better comparison.


A Haggler’s Reply January 31, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — coffeecents @ 5:52 pm

So I’m featured in the Washington Post today.  Cool.

The comments left by web denizens are interesting.  I’d want to reply to a few representative comments:

tslats wrote:

That’s it, keep looking over the items in stores, trying them on, using sales persons’ time and threatening their commissions ..

–Tslats, what you’re talking about isn’t haggling.  If you’re going to haggle, it’s important to know what you want and what price you’d buy it for.  And it is an absolute sin of haggling to “waste” time (time value of money and all that).  Haggling should be very direct and non-obtuse, ie “I want X there but I want to Pay Y.  I will buy it right now for Y.”  And that’s it.  No time wasted.

90172 wrote:

Remember. “Always shop at stores with bare concrete floors.”

Haggling is too “Middle East” for me. We’re corrupt already. We don’t need to adopt actions that can lead to more corruption.


We’re turning into Old Mexico.
thoughts wrote:
This is wonderful. Bartering is an early indicator that third world culture is coming on strong. What great multicultural progress!
–I’d say your racism is appalling.  Too Mexican, Too Middle-Eastern.  Since when did haggling become racial?
mosullivan wrote:
Wow. Just…wow. I’m very happy that most of us, at least, understand how commission and tips work. For those of you out there who DO perform this horrible wheeling-and-dealing, I REALLY hope you taste your own medicine. When you try to con from salespeople and waiters by whining, and when you try to trick people into giving you a product for free or for an unwarranted discount, you are not chipping into the company’s profits. You are stealing yes, STEALING–from that salesperson or waiter.
–Now, this is a really typical comment.  And one I have a big problem with.  By asking for a lower price, that somehow steals money away.  I must ask the question: Exactly how is that stealing?  It’s a person’s responsibility to look after their own wallet.  For my family, I’m going to get to the best deal I can.  Just because someone has X in salary doesn’t mean that they stop living a fiscally fit lifestyle.  Stealing means that you take something that already belonged to someone else.  Seeing as the target of a haggle (the product) isn’t sold, its not anyones?  I suppose whenever we buy a car we’re stealing from the car salesman since most car buying  involves haggling
eklektra wrote:
It’s not that people don’t feel comfortable haggling. Its that they are only comfortable haggling on certain items and the list of those items has not expanded yet. There’s no outpouring of sympathy when we knock 10% off a car price, but 10% off a pair of shoes is gauche?
— Both really good points.
And Finally, from a small business owner
jwardjr000 wrote:
I think it is great! From a retailers perspective that is. We have spent the money to get you in the door, we have knowledgeable sales staff ready to do the deal. Now, at that moment I’m going to let him walk out the door? No way! If I have bought the product right, on a level playing field, which I have most of the time. Then it is easy, give up a couple points, I get a sale and the Customer gets a deal. That is how it is. I own and Ace Hardware store with a large weber grill department, all of the grills are sold online, but then you once in a while get a person to comes into the store and works the “Lets make a deal” I truly have fun with it. Because I know I bought them right, and I can give them a deal better then anywhere else!
–That’s a guy who gets it.