How Much Do You Have Saved For Christmas Gift Spending?

I’m a huge advocate of setting money aside for bills or expenses that come due on an irregular basis.  Your cable bill is easy, you pay that every month, and it’s generally going to be the same amount for at least 6-12 months at a time.  Your electric bill might a little trickier since, even though you’ll have one payment per month, the payments will be uneven due to the varying usage that you’ll have because of air conditioning and the like.  Still, it’s manageable.

But what about expenses that come due on an irregular basis?  Like Christmas gift spending.

mb-201307giftToday is July 25th, so it’s about the closest you’ll come to ‘Christmas in July’ that I can think of.  Which, by the way, is there any basis for this phrase other than my guess, which I’d think ties to retailers trying to drum up sales during what are often excruciatingly slow summer sales months?  Well, since it’s ‘Christmas in July’ day, I thought it would be a great idea to focus on the expenses, and check to see if you’ve started saving yet, and let you know how we’re doing.

What’s The Big Deal?

The big reason for saving now is because of the sheer cost involved.  Let’s face it, Christmas and the holidays have grown in size to where many retailers count on making all of their profit for the year during the Christmas selling season.  Think about that, many places you visit on a regular basis are not making a single dime for nearly 11 months out of the year….and they’re OK with that.

But, with this comes the urge to spend more and more.  And we do.  Sales around the holidays have grown steadily for the last couple of years as the economy has improved, and this means that you’re probably spending more.  Spending around the holidays can add up to some big bucks, and it’s best to make sure you can afford your purchases, and what better way to ensure this than to have money specifically for these purchases.

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The Most Surprising Thing About Detroit’s Bankruptcy

As I think about the city of Detroit and the recent decision to file for chapter 9 bankruptcy, my thoughts return to my grandparents.

I was born in 1974.  When I was young, I spent many weekends at my grandparents house.  They lived in Detroit, in the house where they’d lived since the 1950’s.  I spent a lot of time there.  I got to hear about the decline of Detroit, and how things were getting worse, not better.

I have these memories from the early 1980s.  That was thirty years ago.

For many, those times would likely be considered good days compared to where things stand today.

1950’s – The Decline Begins

mb-201307detroitThe city of Detroit started to decline in the 1950’s if many reports are to be believed.  That’s when population started to decline, as the suburbs started to rapidly expand, and the postwar boom saw many people leave the city for the ‘new’ suburbs.

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When Other People Make It Look Easy

Fairly soon, we’ll be heading on our third camping trip of the season.  I’m a little bit nervous because we are going to the same campground where the big awning blowoff of 2012 took place, and I’m definitely a little skittish about returning to the scene of the crime.   But, it’s a great campground and I’m hoping this time is a little less adventuresome.  We’ll see.

I had to share a story about our last trip, which took place earlier this month.  We stayed at another one of our favorite campgrounds, this being our fourth visit (two before we bought the camper, and one last year).  We had a great time but what stuck out were the people on either side of me.

They both blew me away!  So much so that after the trip was done, I commented to Mrs. Beagle that I was sure glad that these people hadn’t been my neighbors on my first trip, for they made things look amazing easy!

On our left

The people to the left of us arrived a day or so after we did.  We were out so we didn’t see the setup, but we returned to our campsite to find that they were all setup, with a big camper and a boat on top of it.  As the week unfolded, I was absolutely astonished.  The campers consisted of a dad and his three young children (7,5, and 3).  I had a conversation with him and he did reference his wife, but she wasn’t there.

These kids were so well behaved you barely heard a peep out of them (the 3 year old got picked on a few times and would cry, but that was it!).

He took the kids out on the boat for the entire day multiple times, and would return to take care of dinner.  The kids would sleep in (or at least stay in the camper) until past 10 in the morning.

For us, we had two adults and we only had two kids, yet it always feels a little more frantic….and there’s no way I could have handled a boat on top of everything.  This guy made it look easy.

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Don’t Complain About Free Money

A few weeks ago, I was going through the mail, and I saw an envelope that caught my eye.  The return address was something along the lines of ‘Diamond Settlement Claim’.  I remembered that a few years back, I joined a class action lawsuit against De Beers, where the lawsuit alleged that De Beers overcharged for diamonds.  Since I had bought Mrs. Beagle’s engagement ring in 2006, I figured what the heck.

Since I joined the suit in 2008, I think something triggered a memory of once, and I looked it up.  At that time, probably around 2011, it was still being all sorted out, though they did agree to pay out money that would be distributed.

So, when I got my check for $51.55, I was pretty happy.

Why?

Because when I signed up for it, I put no expectation whatsoever about actually receiving any money.  If the suit had been thrown out or money hadn’t made it down to me, I wasn’t going to worry about it or consider it a loss.

After all, I’d purchased the ring and was fine with doing so.

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Preparing For The End? Tribute To My Cat

One of my cats is 17 and today will be the end of her journey.  It’s been a trying couple of weeks and seeing how quickly she’s gone downhill these past few days after a recent diagnosis has shown that it’s time to let her go.  She’s been an amazing and wonderful pet, and I thought I’d share some details of this time and other times along her life.

Her Name and Origin

A college friend and I were both graduating in 1996, and agreed that we would get an apartment together.  Being on our own for the first time, we thought it would be ‘cool’ to have a pet.  Since dogs weren’t allowed in our complex, we decided to get a cat.  Actually, they weren’t allowed either but the people that ran the front office told us that it was ‘company policy’ for no cats, but that they were the only ones that would enforce any rules, and said that having cats was just fine.

As it so happened, my buddy lived in the country and they had cats around who were always having kittens that his parents would give away.  One had just recently had a litter, and when he and I went down to grab some of this things, we picked one of them out.  That became Zooie, which is pronounced zoo-ee.

Her official name is Kazuya, which is from a video game, Tekken 2, that we played constantly throughout senior year of college.  Kazuya was our favorite character, and even though the character was a guy and the cat was a girl, we didn’t care.  However, she became Zooie from the start.

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Why Higher Interest Rates Will Not Lead To Recession

It’s amazing all the panic I see when reading the news pertaining to higher interest rates.  Mortgage rates have gone up about 0.5% in the last few months, and stock markets have lately been hit by fears that the Fed will not only taper off Quantitative Easing, but will eventually raise the discount rate, which is pretty much the standard rate that many lending activities are based from.

The naysayers proclaim things like:

“Higher mortgage rates are going to kill the housing market recovery.”
“Higher interest rates will pop the housing bubble.”
“Higher lending costs will lead to recession.”

I’m sure you get the point.

Personally, I’m not buying it.

Demand fell.  Let’s look back to the reason that rates fell to the point where they did?  It was the economy.  Basically, companies and people stopped borrowing as the housing bubble popped, people were losing their jobs, and wealth was disappearing in the stock market crash.  All of that meant that credit was simply not in demand, which by the economic laws of supply and demand meant that rates had nowhere to go but down.

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A Simple But Effective Way To Clean Pet Stains From Carpet

I’ve been a cat owner for 17 years, and over that time you get used to cats getting sick, and when they do, it always seems to be right in the middle of the floor.  For years, I’ve tried various ways to clean up the mess, but more often than not, I’d still be left with a stain.  The worst was in my condo when I got new carpet that looked darker on the sample sheet than it was when they installed it.  Nearly white carpet simply doesn’t last too long with cats.

But our house has beige carpet.  It’s not in the best of shape, as it’s the original carpet that was put in 1999 when the house was built, but the previous owners actually took good care of it and we have tried to keep it up as well.

We’ve had it cleaned several times since we moved in, and I’ve used different carpet cleaning outfits that did an OK job, but none that really wowed me…that is until this past winter when I found a one-man operation who did an absolutely fantastic job!  His price was about half of what I was getting for full service (cleaning, ScotchGuard), and he spent twice as long in my house getting things taken care of.  As I watched him work, I noted that he worked on our carpets as if they were his very own.  My wife even observed that there were areas which had spots since we moved in which were now clean.

Since stains that go down into the padding tend to re-appear over time, I don’t expect miracles, but it was still nice to see our carpet look better than when we moved in, which is a pretty big feat since we had put five and a half years of wear, and quite a few kitty messes along the way.

As we talked about the cats and their effects on the carpet, he gave me some tips.

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Is Paula Deen’s Goose Cooked?

By now, I’m sure everybody has heard about the quick and rapid fall from grace that has taken place with Food Network star Paula Deen.  Answering questions about a lawsuit filed against her, she admitted to having used racial slurs, which set off a wave of backlash that continued to build and build, until it was basically a rogue wave, wiping out everything in its path.  Namely, her career.

Pretty much every store or brand that she’s worked with has dropped her, including the flagship Food Network, but also restaurants that had her name on them, stores that carried her product, and pretty much everything in between.  The most comparable fall from grace I’ve seen for someone in her line of work was back when Martha Stewart fell apart and ended up in jail.

What Did Paula Do Wrong?

I think Paula Deen erred in three major ways, all of which had she done them differently, would have dramatically altered the outcome of her situation

  1. Not said the slurs in the first place – Obviously, had she never said what she said, there would be nothing to talk about.  I know everybody has said things that they regret saying, and if it’s true that she said them thirty years ago, I guess I’m surprised that she even remembers them in great detail.
  2. Acted nonchalant about them – When she admitted to having used the slurs, what made it exponentially worse for her was when she basically tried to play it off as not a big deal, and was not even sure that it would have been offensive.  I think the way that she addressed it (and the fact that her publicists did not get in front of it) was a major fail.  Had she admitted that she used the bad words, made a heartfelt apology, and explained her thoughts on equality, I think she would have come much further ahead.  As it was, when she finally did those things, they rang hollow after her initial comments.
  3. Waited too long to address it – After the tide started building against her, she waited a few days before addressing it and issuing apologies.  That’s forever in this day in age.  That allowed the buzz to grow and grow.  Had she issued her public apology days sooner, or appeared on the Today show when she was originally supposed to (the week prior), she might have had a chance.  As it was, every passing hour meant that public tide could build, social media could continue to eat away at her reputation, and executives could have boardroom meetings to discuss their future.  Time was not in her favor.

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