Tuesday, April 29, 2008

31 Cent Ice Cream

For those of you who enjoy ice cream at an affordable price, check out the 31 cent ice cream night at Baskin Robbins tomorrow evening April 30th. See the Baskin Robbins link for more details.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Tax Rebate

So are you ready for that nice fat tax rebate stimulus check? If you e-filed your tax return, it should be direct deposited into your account between May 2nd and May 16th. If you filed a paper version of the federal tax return there is a different schedule from May 16th to July 11th. When you receive the rebate is determined by the last two digits of your Social Security Number. Check the IRS website to find out when you'll receive the rebate.

Now, the government's idea is for you to go spend the check to help simulate the economy. Whether this will actually measurably affect the overall economy remains to be seen. However, an even better way to affect your personal finances is to use it to pay off debt if you currently have any, use it to start or build on an emergency fund, invest it in a Roth IRA account. Even if you choose to spend a portion of the rebate, try to at least use some of this serendipitous bonus for financially healthy goals.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The $64 Tomato

The $64 Tomato by William Alexander

In this hilarious gardening memoir, we learn the perils of deer, groundhogs, grubs, weeds, and those ever present squirrels to the garden. Alexander began his gardening hobby in his late 20s when wanting some fresh produce not available to the locale off the coast of Florida where he lived at the time.

This began his lifelong obsession with gardening including all things vegetable, floral, and fruit. His Hudson Valley home in New York possessed an expansive back yard which he and his wife had visions of turning into a delightful kitchen garden. As they engage various contractors to complete the work, they learn some of the perils of the hired contractor market such as shoddy work, over pricing, and late arrivals or not arriving at all to perform work.

Eventually they have a workable garden and are able to proceed with planting large quantities of vegetables including many herbs, cucumbers, tomatoes, leeks, potatoes, corn, apple trees, and flowers among others. They quickly learn that not only does the soil produce and nurture the desired vegetables but also a vast array of weeds which require lots and lots of repeated work to remove. The vegetables provide tasty accompaniments to their meals and allow them the ability to add ingredients to recipes within minutes of coming out of the garden.

He faces other creatures who like the vegetables such as deer and groundhogs and resorts to putting up electric fencing to help keep them out. He also has some interesting adventures in his quest to remain organic and still keep out the bugs and resourceful squirrels from his apple orchard. Eventually he breaks down and begins using pepper spray as well as netting which encompasses the entire tree. One especially funny episode occurs when a groundhog he names Superchuck takes up residence and is able to get past the electric fence and munch on the tasty Brandywine tomatoes at his leisure. Alexander resorts to numerous measures to trap or prevent Superchuck from having repeated meals in his garden. Check out an excerpt of the adventures at 64dollartomato.com.

The name of the book comes from a cost analysis he performs to determine how much they've spent over the years to support the gardening habit. With Brandywine tomatoes being a favorite from the garden, he decides to itemize the cost for each tomato for a particular year and comes up with $64 per tomato.

Whether you're an enthusiastic gardener, full time farmer, or just enjoy a good humorous read, you're sure to enjoy The $64 Tomato.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Acronym of the Day


Read it, Learn it, Love it!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Amputate the ARM

In this segment, we'll explore a bit of financial surgery. Adjustable Rate Mortgages or ARMs are a particularly nefarious form of home mortgage. People commonly get these based on the lower initial interest rate. However, in 3 or 5 years, depending on the terms, the rate will adjust and almost assuredly it will be in an upward direction. These mortgages have played a big factor in the the subprime mortgage crisis. When rates adjusted upwards people hadn't budgeted for an increase in house payment and got hit hard by the increase.

At current rates, ARMs primarily benefit banks by protecting them from having to offer low rates for a longer period of time. From a historical standpoint, the fixed rates available today are nearly as low as they have ever been. The current 15 year fixed rate posted on Bankrate.com is 5.21%. This is an awesome long term rate.

Now is the time to move if you are in an Adjustable Rate Mortgage and convert it to a fixed rate hopefully no longer than 15 years. Also factor in closing costs but all things considered this is a great time to switch over to a fixed rate.

An additional benefit of a 15 year mortgage versus a 30 year is that you will save a substantial amount of money in interest payments. We'll use the previously mentioned rate of 5.21% with a 15 and 30 year fixed rate on a $120,000 mortgage. The 15 year mortgage results in total interest paid of $53,187 and a monthly payment of $659. The 30 year mortgage results in $117,485 in interest paid with a payment $962. So we can cut out 15 years of slavery to the bank and $64,298. Where I come from that's something you can hang your hat on.

Thanks to DaveRamsey.com for the mortgage calculator.

So, go ahead amputate that ARM!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Calorie King

If you are so inclined to eat healthily, are interested in getting in better shape, or would simply like to know nutritional values of different foods, check out CalorieKing.com. It provides basic nutritional information on a wide array of foods including those from restaurants. Sample information includes calories, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbs, fiber, sugar, protein, potassium, calcium. As an example the stats on a medium sized apple are:

Calories 72
Total Fat 0.2 g
Sat. Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 1 mg
Total Carbs. 19.1 g
Dietary Fiber 3.3 g
Sugars 14.3 g
Protein 0.4 g
Calcium 8.3 mg
Potassium 147.7 mg
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