Friday, December 29, 2017

My Top 10 Most Popular Posts of 2017

This will be the first time I take to rounding up my most popular articles of the year.  For those of you who are new to my blog, this will be a great way to get to know what it's all about.  If you've been here all year...well thanks!...but also this will help you remember all the good advice that's been offered in case you've forgotten.
Image result for the year in review

My guest bloggers and I covered a ton of ground this year!  From crappy jobs to lack of success depression, collectible investments, fights with the water company, corrective circumcisions, gun ownership, using Sugar Daddies and Sugar Mommas to pay for college, tamale making, and much more.  This year for the first time I also stopped to jot down my yearly metrics.  I wish I'd done this at the end of 2016!  

But here are the numbers at a glance:

Total posts published in 2017: 109
Total posts published all time: 400

Total page views from the 109 published posts: 29,780.
Total page views All-Time at end of 2017: 228,650.

The Top 10 Most Popular Articles From This Blog For 2017 

Okay so here are the "top" articles published at CommonCoreMoney just based on stats from this year.  I'm listing them in order of clicks, with the one receiving the most hits coming in first:

1) What's The Best Cryptocurrency To Invest In Long Term And Why.  This was a guest post by Alex Mirzaian that has over 2800 hits already and it was only published a couple of weeks ago!  Obviously some great information on cryptocurrencies in this post.

2) 11 Ways Blacks And Latinos Can Close The Median Wealth Inequality.  I wrote this post in November as a response to reading that Blacks and Latinos will be "broke" in two decades time.  Over 1200 hits already.

3)  11 Success and Entrepreneurial Tips for Getting Out of Poverty.  Seems like the number "11" is lucky!  This one was written also in November and its at 1005 hits today.

4)  10 Ways to Get The Most Out of Your 401(k).  I wrote this one yet again  in November.  Dang, that was a pretty good month!  It's at 931 hits.

5)  Don't Be An Idiot Refinancing Your Home.  Refinancing your home seems like a no brainer when rates are low, right? Not so fast.  Read this post to make sure you do it right.  Written in March. (445 hits).

6)  How Middle-Class Entrepreneurs And Investors Lose In The End With The Republican Tax Plan.  Long title here but a popular post nonetheless.  Written this month, it already has 431 hits.

7)  8 of my Worst Financial Decisions During My 20s and 30s.  I had to share with everyone all of my epic financial fails this year.  This one, written in April, is right behind number 6 with 428 hits.

8)  Paid Lots of Mortgage Interest This Year? Too Bad.  Another real estate post.  Written way back in February, it's at 415 hits.

9)  My Son's Corrective Circumcision, A Reminder to Be Grateful for Health Insurance.  Never thought I'd be covering circumcisions on this blog, but there is a time and a place for every topic I guess.  Written in August, the post is at 407 hits.

10)  10 of My Best Financial Decisions During My 20s and 30s.  Last on the top ten list is also a great one for people in their 20s and 30s.  I share what I did right during those two decades.  Written in April, the post has 395 hits.
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There you have it!  These were my most viewed articles of the year.  My numbers far surpassed those of last year...though I can't prove it because I didn't record them!  Dummy.  This blog is 3.5 years old and it's a slow process getting peoples attention.  Don't believe anyone who tells you that you can get rich quick off a blog.  It's hard work, y'all.  But the rewards of getting great feelings from helping others is what makes it all worth it.  Thanks for reading and catching up to all my most popular posts of the year.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

12 Money Saving Monthly Challenges Better Than New Year Resolutions

The new year is only a few days away.  You probably have been spending some time thinking about your new year's resolutions for 2018.  You may even have them already written down, and you can't wait for January 1st to get started.  I was in the same situation until it dawned on me that I never stick to all of my new year's resolutions.  Last year around this time I suggested that you turn your resolutions into goals instead.  The odds are very much against you if you don't.  Well, this year I have an even better idea: 12 money saving monthly challenges!

Every month you'll have an opportunity to start a new challenge.  Now, you don't necessarily have to participate each month.  At the end of each month, prior to the 1st day of the next month, I'll be reminding every one what the next challenge is.  These will have you focusing on just one bad habit at a time, versus trying to do multiple new year's resolutions all at once.  Some challenges will be more difficult than others, depending on how bad your money spending habits are.  I'd do every challenge that will result in the most money savings for me.  Okay, so here are the 12 monthly challenges:

1.  January: No buying any cups of coffee.  If you want coffee, you must brew it at home.  Instead of spending X number of dollars every day at AMPM, 7-11, McDonald's, Starbucks, or your local Java stop, you'll only spend around $0.18 to brew your own coffee at home.  Even if you don't buy coffee daily, you may get the urge here and there to make a coffee stop.  Sorry, you can't do it in January!  Resist the temptation and save.

Image result for no eating out

2.  February: No eating out.  All of the meals you eat in February must have been cooked at home.  No buying lunch at work, during your lunch hour.  No going out to dinner.  Cook your significant other a great meal for Valentine's Day.  If your family gets upset at you, tell them you're part of a group undertaking a challenge and you can't let others down.

3.  March: No drinking at pubs, bars, or nightclubs.  St. Patrick's Day is in March.  If you celebrate with some green beer at your local pub, in order to meet this challenge, you'll have to make your green beer at home.  Alcohol is overpriced at bars and pubs.  You pay like $4-7 for a glass of beer when you're halfway to a six pack with that same amount when buying at the grocery store.

4.  April: No online purchases.  Buying medication online is the only exception.  If you want to buy something this month, you'll have to drive to get it.  Chances are you'll be too lazy to get in the car and you won't do it.  So resist the temptation to visit Amazon and eBay.  Say "NO" to impulse online purchases!

5.  May: No using your credit card(s).  Oh this one is going to be a real challenge for many of you.  Look, many of you are in serious debt because you can't stop using your credit card(s).  Many of you carry balances that cost you hundreds of dollars in interest each year.  So, for one month you must put away the plastic.

6.  June: No gambling or lottery.  Believe it or not, buying lottery tickets and gambling is in the top ten of money wasting habits.  So this month you're not allowed to get that quick pick at the liquor store, or buy any scratch-offs.  Like frequenting the casino?  Too bad, you're banned for all of June!

7.  July: No buying any new clothing items or shoes.  Sorry, maintaining your wardrobe will have to wait.  No living vicariously through others either, meaning, no shopping for someone else!

8.  August: No underusing your gym subscription.  It'll be the last month of summer and no you may not start to hibernate on your gym visitations.  In August, you'll have to visit your gym one more time per week than you normally do to qualify as having completed this monthly challenge.

9.  September: No spending on your hobby.  I hope I don't need any spare tubes for my bike in September!  I admit I fall victim to email marketing from my favorite cycling shops.  I won't spend a dime on my hobby in September.  And I won't cheat by buying everything I think I need for my bike in August.  You do the same with your hobby!
Image result for grocery list

10.  October: No buying groceries without a list!  Wasting money on groceries is a top ten money waster for Americans.  That's because we go into grocery store with an idea of what we need, and end up buying more.  These impulse buys kill our finances.  So in October, you may not enter a grocery store without a list of the items you need to buy, AND you must stick to that list!

11.  November: No wasting food.  Another thing Americans are known for is wasting food, especially at home.  Uneaten or expired food is a huge problem in most homes.  For November, you must attack every food item in your fridge and make something with all your leftovers.  This includes that Thanksgiving meal!

12.  December: No buying yourself a tech gadget.  You got Christmas and the end of the year all psychologically pressuring you to upgrade or buy the latest tech gadget.  As cool as it is to get the latest in tech in your hands, the reality is that you probably don't need it.

Alright, here are your 12 money saving monthly challenges. If you want to save the most money, do them all!  Or you can pick and choose.  The first monthly challenge is coming up.  Be sure to go to your grocery store and buy ground or whole bean bags of coffee to brew at home because buying coffee at stores, shops, or restaurants is a no-no in January.  Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Why Do Mexicans Make Tamales For Christmas?

Merry Christmas everyone!  By now many of you have engaged in the Christmas tradition of opening up presents.  Here's to you getting exactly what you asked Santa for!  (Gulp...imbibing eggnog).  My wife, Jessica, and I opted to stay home for Christmas this year.  Usually we travel to San Jose to reunite with my parents and siblings.  Jessica's mother is a JW (Jehovah's Witness) by the way, so there is never any arguing about where we should go and who we should spend the most time with.  However, too many unexpected expenses forced us to stay in Oceanside, and celebrate Christmas at home.  This means none of us will get to enjoy eating my mother's delicious homemade tamales.
Image result for mexican tamales

If you've never had an authentic Mexican tamal (singular), you are missing out!  There are other types of tamales of course.  I especially like Colombian ones for their colorful and tasty interiors.  But my mother's are my favorites.  I grew up eating them every December!  Every December as a child and adolescent I'd walk into the kitchen area of our apartment, and later, duplex, and see my mother going to town on all that masa (nixtamal corn dough) with her hands.  She'd put some of it on a corn husk, add some red chile pork mixture on top, close it all up perfectly, and place them to cook in a big steamer.

Indeed, on many Christmas days back in the 1980's, I'd open many more tamales then I would actual presents.  And so, when I first heard the joke, "Why do Mexicans make tamales for Christmas?... Because that's the only thing they have to unwrap," to me it made plenty of sense.  Was it racially insensitive?  Yeah.  I mean not all Mexicans are poor for one.  Two, not all Mexicans celebrate Christmas...there are plenty of JW and Jewish Mexicans all over the world.  The joke was nonetheless funny, in a cruel sort of way for those like me who didn't have many presents under their Christmas tree.

The most expensive Christmas present I ever got as an adolescent was a Nintendo Entertainment System.  The original one that came with Mario Bros and Duck Hunt.  My parents bought it on layaway at Kmart.  Prior to this epic gift, I'd gotten underwear and socks mostly as Christmas gifts, with an occasional cheap toy thrown in there.  This bit of reflection made me wonder and think about all of the kids in our country these days.

Image result for nintendo entertainment system

How many of them are not opening up toys and things that bring them joy this morning?  Because perhaps they're living in their cars with their parent(s)?  Heck, how many kids are opening up presents bought with credit cards whose balance will not be paid in full for many more months to come?  Parents are under an extreme amount of pressure these days to buy their kids things that don't fall under "necessities," like underwear and socks.

Buying Useless Things Is Not The Epitome Of The Christmas Spirit! 

According to the NCCP, 15 million children or 21% of all children, live in families with incomes below the federal poverty threshold.  Not all of these kids live in households that celebrate Christmas, obviously.  Still, that's a considerable amount of poor kids.  We can all agree that these kids having all of their Maslow hierarchical needs met is way more important than getting a slew of Christmas presents, especially toys.  After their life basics, these kids need other essentials like clothing.  Getting toys, games, electronics, or other expensive items is NOT necessary.

You are NOT a bad parent if you can't get your child the toy or item they desired.  Being disappointed on Christmas day builds character, AND what I call, "poverty resentment."  And oh is P.R. ever motivating.  All I could think of as a youth from Christmas day until school resumed was one day making enough money to buy a bunch of gifts in order to fill every void underneath my future Christmas trees.  The sitcoms on television further cemented this picture in my head.  All to say that consumerism is alive and well in 2017.

Poverty resentment should be channeled to building a life of financial independence, however, not to keep welcoming in poverty trapping habits.  So we must teach our children that Christmas is not about getting presents.  It's about celebrating Jesus, a poor man who lived a long time ago and offered many wise teachings to the world.

If a nice meal is all you can afford to provide for your children on Christmas day, then so be it.  That's not something to be ashamed about!  Not when your child has all the other essentials in his or her life.  The joke about Mexicans and the unwrapping of tamales on Christmas day because of lack of presents is over thirty years old!  Apart from being racially charged, it's also a sad statement about gift buying being a Christmas (not a Christian) priority.  America's obsession with gift purchasing for Christmas is even more sickening today.  The average American spent roughly $906 on gifts this year. 

Now it's time for you to reflect on this Christmas day.  Did you go overboard, buying your kids (or other family) presents?  If your kid could unwrap a present and instead of a tangible item, take out exactly what was missing in their life, e.g., more attention from you, more time you could spend with them, etc., wouldn't that be more significant?

I'd like to re-write that stupid joke before I go:

Why do Mexicans make tamales for Christmas?
Answer: To eat something other than the pozole, duh!

Thanks for reading! If you liked this post and want to get more like them (albeit less festive) please subscribe before you leave.  I'll throw in 3 excellent eBooks on money and wealth building for your troubles.

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Saturday, December 23, 2017

A Lesson On Tax Loss Harvesting: Case of GE

I'm not embarrassed to tell all of you when one of my investments, that I touted in an earlier post, doesn't pan out.  It's all about livin' and learnin' here at CCM.  So if you read my October 23rd post, A Lesson On Buying Stocks: Case of GE, you might be surprised to read that I have been systematically chucking the stock for some "tax-loss harvesting."  In case you don't know what it is, tax-loss harvesting is a strategy of selling stocks toward the end of the year in order to offset a capital gains tax liability.  All of my capital gains from trading stocks this year have been the short-term (held for less than a year) variety, meaning they'll be taxed as ordinary income.
Image result for tax loss harvesting

Why am I selling my shares of GE?  Well, first, as you possibly sensed from reading my earlier post, my enthusiasm for new CEO of GE, John Flannery, was perhaps a little too sanguine.  I still think he'll right the ship next year, and he certainly convinced me of that with his purchase of GE stock, but I made the mistake of thinking I could hold a loser stock more than 2 months.  I'd thought there would be a bigger bounce up in the stock from $21.  I thought at the time that $21 and change represented GE's floor.  I was wrong!  The stock fell 3 points more and now is trading in the high $17 range.  One bad trade was enough to wipe almost all of my gains this year.

Prior to GE, I had bought and sold 12 individual stocks and was up $572.  Not bad for having only $3K in cash to invest with in my Brokerage.  Thus far, I have realized a loss of $262.5 from the sale of GE shares leaving me with roughly $310 in short-term gains for 2017.  What didn't work?

1.  Buying more shares of GE as the stock made new lows, i.e., dollar cost averaging.  Eventually I ran out of cash and could not catch this falling knife any longer.

2.  Putting all of my cash in one stock.  I waited about three weeks for GE to make a substantial move to the upside, with all of my cash on it, but it did nothing.  Yes, you read me right, I had all of my money in one stock (this $3K represents my "shoot for the sky" allocation).

So to get back in the game, I had to sell half my shares.  Now, I didn't do it all at once.  Whenever you sell a loser, you want to sell on an up day (of course) and when the stock is at an intraday high.  I sold my shares in two trades, 5 days apart, at $18 and $18.02.  I still hold 71 shares of GE and am more comfortable letting these go deep into 2018.  GE is officially a member of the Dogs of the Dow and there's always positive speculation about these lumps of coal becoming future diamonds

Should I feel bad about losing almost all of my stock investment gains with two months to go in the year?  No!  This is all part of stock market investing.  Sometimes you get some calls right, and sometimes you don't.  Provided you get more calls right than wrong, you can make money.

Many times investors keep a laggard stock because of the FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out.  Is there a chance that GE will make a run up within the next 30 days?  Sure.  What you can do in cases like this, where you fear that by selling shares of one of your losers you may miss the comeback, is buy a stock performing better within the sector.  This way you retain your diversification AND you won't miss a bounce within the entire sector.  Remember, buying back shares of your sold stock within a 30 day period would violate the wash-sale rule.

Final Thoughts

Are you holding shares of GE right now and have short-term capital gains you can potentially offset by realizing a loss?  What are you waiting for?  Pull the trigger.  Use that cash to invest in an Industrial ETF for the time being to remain fully diversified.  You only have a few more days left in the year to lower your tax liability for 2017, so consider the strategy of tax-loss harvesting seriously.

Thanks for reading!  

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Thursday, December 21, 2017

7 Routine Expenses You Can Eliminate Doing Yourself

With consumer credit card debt expected to increase some more in 2018, people looking to finally eliminate this debt will need to take drastic measures.  Budgets work and they're great at helping us not overspend each month.  They help us track our spending and if done right, may even help us save a little money each month.  But budgeting isn't enough these days.  Not when you're trying to accelerate your retirement savings, because perhaps you finally realize you are way behind.  Not when you're trying to also contribute monthly amounts to your child's 529 plan without also compromising other financial obligations.

Image result for cutting my own hair

I had a revelation three weeks ago as I stared into the mirror and noticed I needed a haircut.  What if I cut my own hair, again?  I say "again" because as a college student, I never paid for a single haircut.  I had my clippers, mirror, and attachments, and with these I was able to cut my own hair for 6 years!  (No, it didn't take me that long to includes a full 12 months of Teacher Ed).  Here I am paying the barber about $12 every three weeks to cut my hair essentially in the same style I used to give myself back at UC Santan Barbara.  Doing some math, that means I spent about $212 a year for 17 years!!  That's $3,604.  You may be thinking, but what about the convenience you got to enjoy all those years?  True.  It feels nice having someone trim you up while you relax and watch some TV.

Still, the theme of this post is on doing things we wouldn't normally consider doing ourselves, in order to save money.  Some of these do have a time tradeoff, and so you have to factor whether or not your time is more valuable (doing something else) whenever you engage in the activity.  Here we go:

1)  Mow your own lawn.  How much are you paying your gardner each month for landscaping services?  Instead of killing time watching sports on the weekends, save the money you'd otherwise give to a gardner maintaining the outside beauty of your home yourself.

2)  Men: Cut your own hair.  If you have a GQ magazine style haircut, this isn't for you.  But if you can do with short hair that only requires clippers and their attachments, then stop giving the barber your money.  You aren't skilled enough?  It's really not that hard.  And like most things, the more you do it, the better you get at it.  There are also a ton of video tutorials on YouTube.

3)  Cook all your meals daily.  The average American eats 4.2 meals per week outside their home.  This equates to about $232 per month.  Too much eating out, folks!  Stop being lazy.  Stop using the convenience excuse.  Your debt doesn't care.

4)  Change your car's oil.  I spent two hours at Walmart yesterday, getting an oil change.  It's the last time I get it done there.  I spent $30, using conventional (not synthetic) motor oil.  This is something I used to do myself right out of Grad school.  I was looking to payoff my loans as soon as possible.  But I gave it up once I was on more solid financial footing.  Again, it's not that difficult.  You'll need a jack and stands plus an oil catch pan.  You may already have the mechanic tools you need sitting in your garage.

5)  No more visits to the dry cleaners.  How often are you dropping clothes off at the local dry cleaners?  Save your money sticking to a washer, dryer, and occasional iron.

6)  Do your own manis and pedis.  Some gals really love to get their nails done frequently.  Ladies, can't this be done in-house?  At minimum, do them more often yourself and save yourself hundreds of dollars a year.

Image result for doing my nails

7)  Clean your own house!  Instead of hiring a service to come do a deep cleaning of your home once every two weeks, do a little cleaning every day yourself.  It's called, upkeep, people!

**Bonus: 8) Wash your own dang car, man!  Save $10 easy every 2 weeks.

If you're desperate to become debt free and live a life that is more financially independent, you need to cut back any way you can.  Put everything on the table and commit to doing more things yourself to get out of that hole you're in.  Thanks for reading! 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

How Middle-Class Entrepreneurs And Investors Lose In The End With The Republican Tax Plan

The GOP's tax bill is on the verge of becoming the law of the land.  It may do so as early as next week.  I suspect most people, like me, are scrambling to figure out exactly where we fit under this tax plan.  There's just so much to digest.  On the one hand, most of us are typical working Americans, employees relying on our wages to sustain our individual or family's living standards.  Still a smaller percentage of us make some or most of our "income" from passive cashflow producing investments.  The tax plan clearly affects traditional working Americans the most.

If you want an "at-a-glance" summary of the main provisions within the Republican tax plan, look here.  I'm going to try to translate what some of these provisions mean for you.

1.  Income Tax Rate:  Only 4 brackets now, 12%, 25%, 35%, and 39.6%.  It benefits most people who work for a living, i.e., if you don't invest or run a personal business.  I'm a combination employee/business owner so if my logic is correct, my marginal tax rate would start at 25% (because I'm married and gross more than $90K) and be worked down from there to a lower "effective" tax rate because of my non-personal residence real estate deductions and side-business as an author/blogger.

**Correction:  NPR reports it's back to 7 tax brackets.  This shows the latest changes prior to House approval today.

Tax Brackets Under The Proposed Plan


chart showing different tax brackets for singles


chart showing different tax brackets for married filing jointly
Source: NPR 12/15/2017

2.  Standard Deduction Nearly Doubles:  This is great for most Americans, especially if you rent instead of own a home.  Now you'll have just as much as a deduction as a homeowner.  It's a neutral move for most homeowners since you were only really able to deduct a portion of your entire mortgage interest from your personal income taxes anyways (though maybe you erroneously believed you could deduct all of it?).

3.  Mortgage Interest Deduction Limit:  This provision is "bad" for cash plush investors (wealthy folks) who were thinking of buying a multi-million dollar home for personal use or even as an investment (think an apartment-complex in New York City).  It's neutral for little guys like us.

4.  Eliminates the Deduction for State and Local Income Taxes:  This one sucks balls for us in states that tax.  Now we can't deduct the taxes from our State Tax return on our Federal return.  I totally get that it's a plus for lowering our National debt (the government not needing to give us a tax credit on our state taxes) but I'm not thrilled, living in CA, a high tax state.  Nevadans and all change for you.  Also, if you are paying more than $10K on your property taxes, guess what?  Now you can't deduct more than $10K on your State return.  That's the new cap.  My property taxes are around $7,000 so I still have some wiggle room should my property appreciate more in the next few years and my Tax Assessor levy more taxes on my property.

Skipping the provisions on personal exemptions and keeping this post focused on the effects on investing and entrepreneurship, we come to...

5.  Business Taxes:  This provision is great for all "business" owners.  It's really what the Trumps of this world, and Republicans who are pro-business, were fighting for.  The Republican theme has always been: lowering taxes on corporations will spur the economy, increase our GDP, and help the middle class as a result.  They claim it will be great for job creation, and for wages since companies will repatriate more of their offshore cash and have more in their coffers to pay their employees.

Of course the Democrats say the complete opposite.  And for them, this tax bill is a total scam, will increase our national deficit, and hurt middle class folks (as well as those on the brink of poverty).  Remember, many Americans don't own a business and aren't entrepreneurial so this provision won't benefit them at all. 

My Take On the Business Taxes Provision

Okay first, if you're not an entrepreneur and own a business of any type, most of this is not relevant to you.  It is something to pay attention to if you invest in the stock market, duh!  Anyone with a brain knows this provision is written to keep the stock market's already historic bull run, going further into the future.  So wise up and stay in the market because lowering corporate taxes is a clear buy or hold signal.  Only a Black Swan event (like war) will bring this party to an end in 2018.

If you're an entrepreneur with an LLC, a partnership, sole proprietorship, or an S-corp, this provision will benefit you.  You see, your small business income is currently taxed at your individual income tax rate, and for many of you, that rate is 35%.  Now, a "pass-through" entity like yours will be taxed at 25%.  That's a significant savings for you, and you should be somewhat thankful.  See why you shouldn't be eternally thankful to the Republicans in the next paragraph.  Meanwhile, Corporations or C-corps will be taxed at 21% forever!  Trump's lovin' it!

The Jig Is Up

While most of us middle class Americans will benefit in the short term from this tax plan, the benefits are ephemeral.  You see, those slick Republicans slapped on an expiration date on our tax cuts.  By 2025, all of these middle class favorable provisions, like the 25% tax rate on pass-through business (which most of us here own), will disappear.  Ultimately, the business tax provision will only favor Big business, and everything else will revert to normal for the entrepreneur.  The perks going away in 8 years is sooooo NOT COOL, MAN!

Whoever has control of Congress in 2025 will be severely pressured to extend those tax cuts for the middle class beyond their expiration.  We better be ready to vote people in who promise to extend these cuts!  Word up, yo!  I AM OUT.

Monday, December 18, 2017

How To Make A Month's Paycheck Last 1.5 Months

Got paid last Friday, the dreaded mid-December paycheck teachers at my district get every year.  Now I'm not sure if this is a practice at other school districts in California, to pay their teachers' last monthly salary mid-month, versus on the 30th or 31st as it usually is done.  Perhaps my school district (and others who do this) want to usher in the holiday break giving their teachers more money to work with for Christmas shopping?  Or maybe they just want to close their accounting departments down and tabulate their final numbers for 2017 in preparation for 2018?  Whatever the case, it's both a blessing and a curse for many teachers.

Where does all your money go? Your paycheck explained

I don't get paid again until January 31st, which means my budgeting game has to be on point to survive the extra two weeks.  Wait, didn't I get paid two weeks ago also?  Yes, and December happens to be the hardest month to avoid getting into the red.  Extra expenses this month include:

A Christmas tree
New Christmas tree decorations
Baking supplies (cookies for the kids' holiday celebrations at school)
Christmas presents

Suffice it to say, it's always a struggle for me to make it to January 31st, especially simply relying on my monthly teaching salary.  I usually have to tap into my other accounts, passive rental income and emergency.  The good news is that January 31st will be an especially nice payday.  We're getting some retro pay!  Still, I've learned my lesson from previous years.  This time, I intend on making my monthly salary payment go down to the wire, deep into January.  In no particular order, this is how I will do it:

1)  Go dry.  Sorry no eggnog with rum or my favorite beer, Lagunitas Imperial Stout.  No holiday wines, Champagne, e.g., either!  Savings: Easily $100.

2)  No traveling.  We usually travel to San Jose to spend Christmas with my folks and siblings.  Not this time.  Staycation!  Savings in gas: $200.

3)  No presents for the adults.  My kids will get presents, but my wife and I have decided to forego on gifting each other anything this year.  Savings: $100-$150.

4)  No presents for the extended family.  Just gotta tell everyone in San Jose not to get my wife and I anything.  This way we won't feel guilty about not getting them anything in return.  Savings: $200-$300 easy.

5)  No date nights and stay home on weekend evenings.  Already spent $30 this past Friday watching, The Last Jedi.  What can I say...I'm a huge Star Wars fan.  Not my Luke!  Why?!!!!  Savings:  $100 to $150.

6)  Partial payment of credit cards.  I have $189 in credit card debt.  While I can pay off this $189 and be done with all my credit card debt, it will set me back too much.  The name of the game for January 2018 is survival.  I got that nice paycheck coming in on the 31st so I have to live to fight another day.  So, I'll pay just $50, and not use my credit card to make sure that balance goes down, not up.  Yes, I'll have some interest accrue in January, but I'll be able to kill it all once I get paid.  Savings: None.  

Speaking of credit card debt...

It's been predicted that credit card debt in America will rise for a 5th consecutive year.  It's hard for me to imagine having over $15K in credit card debt alone.  But according to, the average household that has credit card debt owes this much and is paying hundreds of dollars in interest every year.  41% of respondents of the survey said the main factor driving their credit card woes is spending on things they don't need!  Making unnecessary purchases is a manifestation of a deep-seated disease in America, don't you think?

I can understand needing to use your credit card to pay for medical emergencies (17% of respondents).  Even using your credit card to pay for necessities during a period of unemployment (23% of respondents) makes logical sense.  But you have only to blame yourself for your massive credit card debt if you're using your credit cards constantly on unnecessary purchases.  Ask yourself: What void am I trying to fill by buying X, Y, Z item?  Will the emptiness go away permanently if I buy X, Y, Z item?  I'm implying here that you're in great need of lassoing your emotions if you're to finally stop your impulse buying habit.  Back to my list...

7) Make more side-hustle money.  With the free time I'll have from my winter vacation, I'll have to step up my side-hustle activity.  I'll be looking out for writing gigs on, promoting my book some more, and approving more sponsored posts for this blog.

What would it take for you to make one month's salary last 1.5 months?  What sort of things can you do without and if you had to make extra cash, how would you do it?  A teacher friend says she just pretends the early paycheck isn't in her account.  We get direct deposit so I don't know how she can pretend the added cash isn't there?  Maybe she doesn't look at her account for two weeks?

Thanks for reading!  Until next time.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Month Into Sling TV, Here's My Review

In August, I wrote about cutting the cord as a necessary additional money saving response after getting a huge water bill from the City of Oceanside.  I'm happy to report that my water bill has been consistently between $230 and $250 since the city sent out a crew to check my meter.  Of course they reported that nothing was wrong with the meter, yet my bill went miraculously back down with me not changing any of my water consumption habits.  This post isn't about water bills though, so I'll stop my griping.  It's about my experience with Sling TV.

We (my family) spent the months of August, September, and part of November with a Netflix subscription, YouTube, and an Android TV box for our viewing entertainment.  The Netflix subscription actually belongs to my father-in-law who lives with us, so we don't pay a dime for it.  My kids watch a lot of cartoons on Netflix.  We also watch music and dance videos on YouTube right after dinner to help us digest our food on these early dark winter nights.  Whenever we streamed shows or movies on our Android box via Kodi, we'd encounter some annoying freezing.  With the help of my more tech savvy brother-in-law, we diagnosed the problem: slow Internet speed.

As an AT & T Direct-TV customer, I didn't have to worry too much about an Internet outage.  Once I cut my Direct-TV subscription, everyone in the house upped their network wireless usage, meaning more people using bandwidth at the same time.  Slow ass Internet got old fast.  So I called AT & T and increased my speed from 12 to 18 Mbps.  I'm now being charged an additional $10/month on my Internet bill (now at $57 plus $7 for equipment fees).  But that's okay because I'm still ahead after shedding $77 per month on Direct-TV satellite.

The NBA basketball season got underway in November and I just couldn't cope.  I tried y'all!  So I looked to add an additional streaming service to get my sports fix.  Enter Sling TV.  Loading Sling TV for a one week free trial on my Roku TV in my upstairs bedroom was a snap.  The end of the free week trial doesn't cancel your subscription on its own.  You have to take care of canceling on your own time or be charged the full $20.  After entering my name and billing information, I had to then decide on a "Sling Service" and whether or not I wanted "Extras."

Despite branding itself as an "A La Carte" streaming service, Sling TV is no restaurant.  The freedom to choose exactly the channel line-up you want just isn't possible.  You can choose "Sling Orange," "Sling Blue," or both.  There's only a five dollar difference between these two options ($20 for Orange, $25 for Blue) but they are two very different services.

For my taste, Orange has the better channel line-up: All 3 ESPN channels!  I also get History (Vikings!!!) and AMC (The Walking Dead, yo!).  Plus I get NBA games weekly on TNT.  Unfortunately, Orange doesn't offer NBC or Fox local so NFL football on Sundays was out.  I'm not a huge fan of the NFL so this was fine with me.  Monday Night Football on ESPN is still on, however.  Sling Orange has its limitations.  One, only one person can be watching any channel at a time.  And, two, no DVR option.  

Sling Blue eliminates ESPN.  I was not happy.  Here I thought It'd be all of Orange's line-up plus added channels.  It wasn't.  Big letdown.  You get like 15 more channels or so with Sling Blue, but no ESPN or Disney.  Sling Blue is better for people who like sitcoms and comedy shows on NBC and Fox.  I'll pass!  Another perk to getting Blue is that you can have multiple streams at once.  I have not purposely installed the Sling TV app on my kids' tablets because I don't need them watching Disney when I'm trying to watch my Golden State Warriors on national TV.

Going with both Sling Orange AND Blue defeats the purpose of cord cutting.  It gets you too close to a standard cable subscription.  Similarly, getting the Orange service and a bunch of Extras will quickly escalate your monthly dues.  I'm happy paying $20/month for my Sling Orange.  I get exactly what I want.

The Internet And Streaming Netflix, Hulu, And Other Cable Television Alternatives

Image result for Net neutrality

Streaming service providers, e.g., Dish who owns Sling TV, Netflix, AT & T who provides DirectTV Now, and soon to be Disney (Hulu and Disneyflix), all are able to make slow Internet speed like mine, sitting at 18 Mbps, not a big problem.  I marvel at how reliable Netflix and Sling TV streaming is on both my TV with Android box, and my Roku TV.  I don't know how these companies do it, sending so much data without any major hiccups.  Doing so at such an affordable price makes one wonder why some people still pay for Dish, DirectTV, AT & T Uverse and other traditional cable.

While Netflix has increased its monthly subscription price, Sling TV has not.  At least not yet.  I read at The Motley Fool that Dish's economics don't add up.  Too many of their satellite subscribers are canceling their Dish service and opting for the lower cost Sling TV.  Dish is collecting less and less revenue, therefore, from their higher premium Dish service.  While AT & T has other core businesses, Internet, and wireless phone, e.g., Dish does not.  Will this trend force Dish to eventually increase its price on Slign TV Orange and Blue?  Perhaps.

Making things even more interesting, the FCC this week put an end to Net Neutrality.  Don't be surprised if Internet providers, like AT & T, soon figure out a way of charging us little guys, more for streaming so we can get back on their more expensive Uverse or DirectTV satellite service.  Once again, companies win and consumers lose.

Thanks fore reading.           

Thursday, December 14, 2017

What's The Best Cryptocurrency To Invest In Long Term And Why?

What's up everyone!  Today's awesome post is from a fellow blogger who covers the continuously changing landscape of cryptocurrencies.  One word should suffice to get a rise out of most investors: Bitcoin.  Yeah, like if you don't own any of it (like me) you feel like an ass, you're jealous of those that do, and are secretly hoping the whole damn market implodes to make yourself feel better.  Or, if you do own some coins, even fractions of one coin, you're feeling like an investing rockstar and want the massive gains to keep coming.  Whatever your situation around cryptocurrency may be, I've got the scoops coming to you via the latest person to join the My Homies Club, Alex Mirzaian.  This is the first of several posts on the topic he'll be sharing with us:

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Bitcoin, Ethereum and the remaining top six cryptocurrencies minus Bitcoin forks are known as a promising coins for a long-term investment. Bitcoin especially is considered a very valuable long-term asset as it was the first cryptocurrency and remains the most widely accepted cryptocurrency around the world. Being around the longest, at this point it has the best branding. When people think of cryptocurrencies in general, they always refer to it as Bitcoin. But, it is not without issues of its own. The most prominent one of these issues can be explained in one acronym; ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuits). These are specially designed hardware just for the purpose of mining on the bitcoin network. Due to the purpose specific design and engineering, and high cost, the original function of Bitcoin--to let individual users help secure the network--has taken a backseat and now big Bitcoin mining cartels are ruling the mining industry.

In order to break the heavy influence of these coins, different alternative approaches are being promoted. Ethereum most famously is moving away from the Proof-of-work system altogether and joining the Proof-of-Stake process instead. A proof-of-work is a resource intensive process while the Proof-of-stake depends on the amount you have in your staking wallet and the longer it has been sitting there as it depends on chance.

Proof-of-Work is considered a better system despite the resource intensive nature. It ensures steady awards to people working remotely based on the actual grinding work they have to do rather than lay a staking claim every now and then. Now we see some cryptocurrencies using an alternative approach that limits the functional capabilities of ASICs while mining. Bitcoin Gold was also started as a measure to control the ASICs and their hold over POW mining. Vertcoin is also a promising coin that will be beneficial for the long-term due to its ASICs resistant POW mining.

It is evident that no matter what you do, there are always going to be designable ASICs on a POW system. Then how do we solve this problem? Vertcoin is a very innovative platform that is built to counter the effects of the ASICs. It basically changes the hashing algorithm and hard forks itself to preserve the level playing field. For example, before it was being mined on Scrypt-Adaptive-N algorithm but later on when an ASIC was produced to make the process more profitable, the platform introduced a new hashing algorithm called Lyra2REv2 and forked to it. Vertcoin is doing all this to encourage GPU mining rather than CPU mining to stop PC bots from ruining the game all the time.

What makes Vertcoin a good long-term investment?

Vertcoin is only just starting to see an increase and an influx of investors. It’s market cap has recently went from below $100 million to almost $500 million with a total of 84million coins. It also offers a lot more for the future. Next to Bitcoin, Vertcoin is much faster and cheaper as far as transaction fees go. If Bitcoin is the new gold, Litecoin is the silver to that and Vertcoin is the Bronze of it all. Vertcoin is something that will have a more daily value to use as an everyday coin.

Vertcoins block creation is at just 2.5 minutes rather than 10 minutes for Bitcoin. Just like Litecoin, its total circulation of coins is set at 84 million coin but due to its resistance to ASICs. The average transaction fee of Vertcoin is also much less, averaging half a penny. Vertcoin also went through their halving on December 11, 2017. This means that the block reward is being decreased to 25 Vertcoins per block. In the long term, this will cut down how many coins come into the circulation which can increase the price of per coin in the long run. Vertcoin is definitely a great coin to invest for the long-term. It will only get better and better.

Alex M. has been active in the cryptocurrency space for the last 3 years, soaking in everything there is to know.  He shares his latest news and updates in cryptocurrencies at  To learn about him and his work, go here

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

When Your Son Tears Up A Washington, He May Just Be A Counterfeiter

For all of you who have children, no doubt your kids have gone through a phase where they were in awe of money.  Perhaps they take your spare change and play with it.  Maybe they go around asking other family members for money.  They may keep a piggy bank in their rooms and guard it like a mamma bear guards her cubs.  The point is that it's all perfectly healthy, and this money obsession in kids leads to excellent teachable moments.  Case in point:

Yesterday, while at the gym after work, I got a FB notification email that my wife had "tagged" me in a post.  I took a break from bench pressing 350 pounds, and got on FB to see the post.  (I was kidding about the bench pressing people!).  See her post below:

My wife is a stay-at-home mom, bless her heart and all the hearts of other stay-at-home moms out there, and each Monday she has both our kids to herself.  Long story short, my daughter's Charter elementary school doesn't hold classes on Monday.  Lately, we've been having some difficulty parenting our 4.5 year-old son.  He gets extremely defiant whenever we correct him, and exhibits these behaviors:

1) Get even-ness.  The "I'll show you" typical of a teenager, but without any time delay.

2) I'm gonna do something crazy.  He says things like: "I'm gonna get in the car and drive away."  One time he literally took my car keys, went outside the house, got in my car, stood up on the seat with his hands on the steering wheel and started to mess with my car's stick shift.  He locked the door so I couldn't get in and snatch him.  Thankfully he didn't know how to operate the parking brake.

3) Gets violent.  He'll charge us and start throwing right crosses and jabs to our legs.  

4)  He'll walk away and go isolate himself in his room or upstairs, walking away in a defeated posture.

We've had tremendous patience with him as responsible parents should.  When he calms down I talk with him and go over what was wrong about his behavior.  We do positive reinforcement with all of his helpful behavior.  We forgive and forget and make sure he hears us say that we are no longer "grumpy" with him.  Nonetheless, he has trouble with some lessons.  One in particular: Throwing away perfectly good food.  Now this is a huge trigger for my wife.  We talked to our daughter (when she was my son's age) about daddy going to work to make money so we can afford food and everything we need.  She got it fast.  My son...he marches to his own beat.

Enough context, back to yesterday...

When I got home, my wife was visibly upset.  I asked, "where are the kids?"  She says, "I sent them upstairs to take a bath."  She proceeds to show me the ripped up dollar bill, sprinkling the pieces on the island countertop, and says, "If my looks could kill, he would've been dead on the spot.  It took all of me to not grab him and spank him."  I didn't want to march upstairs and hammer my son verbally as he took his bath.  This is no way to interact with your children, upon first sight after work.  Besides, we were going to his first Christmas performance at school so I wanted him calm as he got dressed.  When my son and I were alone downstairs, I brought up the dollar incident.

Me:  Mijo, porque rompiste el dolar?  (I speak Spanish to them as often as possible)

My son: Because, because I wanted to make more money.

Well, of course!  It made perfect sense to him to cut up the dollar bill neatly into five pieces.  He wanted more of it!  LOL!!  He'd actually asked me over the weekend for more money.  I told him he already had a dollar (he carried it all of last Sunday in his shirt pocket), and this was just his way of getting what he wanted.  Jessica had made cookies for the Christmas performance.  I took one and with his undivided attention, for he was hungry, I showed him that even though I broke the cookie in half, when you put the two pieces back together it's still one cookie.  Not sure how much of this lesson he got, fixating on the cookie with a predator's stare.

The Best Parenting Tips (On Teaching Kids About Money) We Got From The FB Post:

Jessica's Friend 1:  there should maybe be an organic consequence.  Like: dang, that was your ____________money. Now we can't _________. 🤷🏻‍♀️
Not a punishment but more

My Youngest Sister:  Tell him if he keeps ripping up money like that he won't get any toys for Christmas or his birthday lol
Or you could scare him and say that if he keeps doing that he's going to live with the bum in a box on the side of the road and point the bum out to him lol

Jessica's Friend 2:  Seems to me he already knows what a dollar is worth Lol! But seriously... take him to the store and when he ask for something say "Aaaw we could've got that but you for up the money. Now we have to wait till I work some more before we can buy anything."  

Jessica's Friend 3: If he did this at 14 that might be concerning, but not 4. Ask him to help u tape it bk up together. He starts to learn the value of $$ while getting some attention.

My Co-worker:  My son did that when he was little. I took him to the Dollar Tree to pick out a toy and brought him to the register to pay with his torn up dollar. When the cashier (whom I had play along from the beginning) told him that she couldn't take his money because it was ripped up he was upset. We got to the car and he asked if he could borrow a dollar from me to go back inside to buy some tape to tape his dollar back together so that he could buy the toy he wanted. Lesson learned and pretty innovative and creative too and he was only 4. 

I liked the last suggestion the best.  The best way to learn a lesson is through actual practicum.  It's just great teaching to get your kids in a real life scenario.  So I think I'll take him to the Dollar Store today with his ripped up dollar bill and ask him to hand it to the person at the cash register.  He'll learn real quick that ripped up cash is no good!

But the main lesson here is that with your kids, you never know.  You have to always ask why they do the things they do.  Sometimes their responses will be stupid for their age level.  Teenagers have some of the best reasons for their mistakes...said no one ever!  And yet, sometimes their responses will be age appropriate, albeit requiring extra understanding.  I'm positive we'll get out of this phase with our son soon, but it will take a whole lot of patience and understanding from ourselves.  

Are you going through some parenting difficulties of your own?  How would you have approached this situation with your son?  How would you have taught your son that money is not to be purposely damaged?  Thanks for reading!  If you liked this post and want more like them in your inbox, please subscribe before you leave.  I'll throw in 3 excellent money-matters eBooks for your troubles.