I Got Water In My Heart

I was enjoying the Boulder Creek Fest yesterday with my girlfriend and some friends and there was a demo being put on of Hobie Kayaks. My heart instantly was brought back to Quinsigamond Lake in Worcester, MA where I spend summer after summer of my teenage years learning to sail, racing and eventually teaching kids how to sail. I’ve always ranked a sailboat as one of my most wanted, high-ticket purchases.

Talk about motivation!


Desperate for Ad Revenue, Not Readers

The rant begins…

I write this in desperate frustration over the formatting of two of my favorite blogs, Triple Pundit and GreenBiz.com. I know entirely too well that the state of publishing good journalism is getting more and more difficult because of the failing economy and an even more abysmal printing industry, but these websites have some of the poorest layouts I have ever seen.

How do they expect their readers to chose to visit their pages instead of just reading from an RSS Reader when you click through to the original article and you have to sit and think for a minute which part of the page is actually the story you want to read. I’ve complained about this in public forums before, but if these websites actually want people to visit each article’s original page and possibly click on some links, they need to tone down the over-advertisement and use more focused techniques rather than screwing up the entire aesthetic of the page.

I’d say GreenBiz.com has a much worse layout than Triple Pundit, but either way, neither of them are good. They need to do their content justice and make it stand out more on the page. The articles are usually brilliant and cutting edge, so if they can target their advertising in relation to the topic of the article, I’d bet they’d make even more money than they do from splashing small ads all over the place.

Okay, my rant is done.

Budgets All Around

I told you all I wasn’t going to get too heavy into this resolution stuff in the new year because I don’t want to take focus on my day to day operations that are already getting me somewhere. If I need to stop and re-assess, I shall do so as needed, not on January 1st ever year.

Well, I may be breaking my promise a little too early. I’m doing a budget. I’ve lived on budgets before and they’ve gotten me out of credit card debt and allowed me to live in Boston on $10.00 an hour as a temp (worst/best days of my life). Since getting and maintaining a full time job for the past 2 years or so, I’ve stopped budgeting myself and spending/saving off the cuff.

My improv financial life hasn’t worked well. I spend too much and save way too little. I have some automatic accounts that collect money each paycheck, but I don’t count my 401k as a true reflection of how smart I am financially at age 24.

I want to buy a house or a condo this year. I actually am planning on doing so by the end of the summer barring any life altering events. So, in order to prepare myself and make this happen, I am going to do a budget for myself like I did when I was below the poverty line. We’ll see how this works. It may completely warp my view of what kind of life I am leading and how I should live and spend. It may convince me not to buy a home (I sure hope not). But, no matter what happens and what my conclusions are, I need to be honest with myself in 2009 and moving forward. I let the comfort of a steady paycheck make me lazy and sloppy.

Does anyone have any advice for budgeting? I’m going to try and sit down and do it for a couple hours tonight.

Gifting Like An Educated Pauper

So, I’ve decided to modify the scope of my gift giving this year. I’ve been focusing more on individuals and their potential likes and dislikes, rather than setting a dollar amount on how much I should spend. Seriously, who expects the world of others around this time of year when the country is in a recession and everyone is trying their damnedest to get through it. Considering that I don’t know many people who are literally hard up for dough, I’m feeling less like pity giving and more like giving them something that will better them and not cost a lot. Books, cooking utensils and useful electronics are along the lines of what I’m contemplating.

I have been thinking so much lately, not just about gifting, but about saving, investing and buying a home. I feel like even though we’re in a recession, there are even more reasons to live agressively, especially for a person at my age and of my circumstances.

I feel like if I play it safe, I lose. How are you feeling in the recession right now? Are you thinking big, or just thinking how to survive?

Wrapping Up The Week

I may not blog for the rest of the week as I’ll be all over New England getting down with my family. So, I’ll drop by and give a few updates now just in case:

1) I got accepted to Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Graduate Program of Management in the Marketing Innovative Technology program. Not an MBA, this program offers all of the classes, resources and perspectives I could ever want for a marketing and technology based degree.

2) Although I am accepted, my status as a non-matriculated (not full time) student has left me in-eligible for financial aid of any kind. I cannot secure a federal loan and a private loan is my only option to pay for the classes. Anyone who knows me is aware of what I think of private loans, so I won’t elaborate. In short: I can’t pay for my classes and as of now, I will not be starting them in January.

3) I’m going to take the GRE and/or GMAT’s and enroll in the fall and try to get a full fledged financial aide package. Whatever I’ve got to do to get through this red tape is what I’m going to do. Grad school and starting my own business are my next steps.

4) I’m still looking and saving for a condo. This priority fluctuates up and down my list. I’ve looked at my situation from many angles and realize that I need to do a few things before buying a condo is actually beneficial to my financial situation. It is not out of reach though. Not by any means.

Another Green Website To Shop From Online

The Green Loop

So I’ve come upon another website that has his and her goodies for people who like to shop with their conscience. The goods are nice looking and have high quality, but are a little pricey. There is a 15% first buyers discount if you sign up for the mailing list, so if you’re interested in shopping there, be sure to sign up for a deal!

I’m dreading Christmas this year. Money is so tight and I always feel obligated to spend more than I have. It’s like I have all these allocated savings funds for a house, my start-up, travel, etc and I don’t have anything set aside for buying gifts. I REALLY do not want to tap into my savings at all. That may be selfish, but seriously, we’re in a damn recession and I’ve got plans for this money!

Can I opt out this year? How about I make everyone home made cards with Elmer’s glue and glitter like in the old days?

Okay, never mind. I’ll get back to my eco-shopping.

College Graduates Are Being Ignored and We Hate It

I calculated what I’d need to make for a yearly income to healthily afford my student debt. It’s about 15 thousand more than what I’m making now. WTF? This calculator doesn’t need to tell me that I have a hell of a time making ends meet every month, but seriously, I’ve never thought that you need so much money just to afford an education.

I’ve said before, my student debt burden equals that of a small house or condo. Why do people in my situation get ignored when it comes to cutting privately loaned interest rates? Congress and Senate bills are being pushed through that will lower interest on mortgage loans to 3% and allow people to stay in their homes even if they default.

I’m working, paying my loans back (barely) and I haven’t heard anything about these people coming to help me out. Working in public service roles for 10 years and having federal loans forgiven is a nice thought, but public service jobs are either ridiculously low paying or bureaucratically stifling creativity killers.

My generation graduated into a shit (excuse my language) economy. I had a terrible time finding a job. I know previous generations (not the past two though) had it tougher and made it through. I’m making it work and constantly scheming how to do better, but there’s got to be a better way out there, no?

I feel a literary piece coming out of this.

What do my readers think? I’ll listen to those of you who have student debt, whether little or small and even to those of you who didn’t have to borrow for college. I just want to know that I’m not crazy for being bitter about getting fleeced each month.

New Savings Funds

To all my personal finance blogging peeps, I set up two separate accounts with ING. One is a house fund for the down payment I will surely need for any decent mortgage when it comes to buy a house or condo. The second account is a Europe vacation fund. I feel like I’m becoming one of those workers who will never take a vacation unless I am either forced or unless I make it a point. So I’ve decided to save a bit of money so I can go back to Europe sometime in the next few years and see the things I missed while studying abroad. I’m pretty good about saving money when I put my mind to it. With my expenses dropping considerably at my new apartment I feel that money saved will go to good use in these savings accounts.

I also invested a little money in the stock market as well. That may be a less wise move, but I really have faith in this stock. I still think there is money to be made in the market, even when it’s down! Keep and eye on Evergreen Solar (stock symbol: ESLR). It’s a local solar panel manufacturer and if they’re plans flesh out as they’re planning, they’re going to be huge. I’ve also got a couple financials on deck for investment that have performed well for me as well. They didn’t buy that poison bad mortgage paper like banks like Lehman and insurers like AIG. I believe in their fundamentals. They’re names are ING Group (ING) and Anally Mortgage (NLY).

Tyler Durden’s take on the Paulson Bernanke Bailout

Brad Pitt’s character, Tyler Durden

One of my favorite contemporary books is Fight Club. The book was made into a pretty successful movie with Ed Norton and Brad Pitt in the 90’s which is how I originally discovered the book.

Essentially Ed Norton’s character is a miserable middle management slob with severe insomnia. The insomnia is so bad that he develops a split personality (Tyler Durden, Pitt’s character). Tyler Durden is the main character’s savior and worst enemy. He takes over the main character’s body when he sleeps and establishes an intricate worldwide network of “fight clubs” where equally disillusioned individuals come together to beat the pulp out of each other and bond over the blood and bruises resulting.

The fighting acts only as a ritual to strengthen the network as the final purpose of the fight club is to undermine the United State’s credit system by evacuating and demolishing the major credit card company’s buildings. This aspect of the group is called “Project Mayhem.”

One of Tyler’s more eloquent mantras is “Only after disaster can we be resurrected.” I feel a sense of comfort and excitement in that sentiment applied to the impending financial disaster. I’d rather not bail out these companies and see a true leveling of the playing field on Wall Street and the rest of the United States’ economy. People will suffer from a collapse, but they will suffer too from being taxed to death. My concern lies not with supporting those who benefited off this disaster and shall continue to benefit from a bailout. No, screw them. Mr. Durden would agree, don’t you think?

If the free market economy is the ultimate ideal, then let the companies that have screwed themselves fall to pieces and the market will eventually correct itself. Let the greedy suffer.

No amount of scrubbing will make this nasty stain go away.

Chuck Palahniuk and Myself at a booksigning in Brookline a couple years ago

Chuck Palahniuk, the author of Fight Club is known for writing with a bit of nihilistic style that translates seamlessly into punk rock personas in his books.

Worcester’s Yo-Yo

This weekend I shall move back to Worcester for the 2nd time since I have turned 18. I’ve managed to run screaming away from that city so often, yet still maintain a strange nostalgia about it my entire life. My family lives there and it’s cost of living is considerably less than Boston. This time around should be better than the last time I moved back. I’ll be staying in an apartment that my grandfather owns with my younger cousin. The commute sucks pretty bad, but the rent and utilities will save me hundreds of dollars a month which is what I need right now. I’ve been scraping and biting for so long trying to make ends meet in Boston, all the while making an okay salary in several fields I have no interest in pursuing as a long-term career. So, it’s time to get my life and priorities in order. Money and cost of living need to be addressed, and next my career path will need to be addressed. More on that later.

As of now, my plans are to:

1) Live in the apartment for at least the rest of 2008.
2) Save the difference in money of what I’m paying now and allocate some of that savings toward lingering bills
3) Localize my freelance work and try to get some more writing gigs in the Worcester area
4) Weigh my options of relocation versus buying a condominium. Either of those will hopefully happen by next summer.

I do hope to start re-visiting some of my old haunts. Particularly the Java Hut and Coney Island hot dogs. I think the Java Hut may be closed due to poor management, but it usually gets bought and re-opened so I’ll hold out hope. As far as my occasional junk food treat, who wants to meet up for a hot dog or cup of joe? I need re-integration.