Category Archives: Other

Let the Turkey Cool

One of my favorite hashtags on Twitter lately is #lettheturkeycool.  It’s all about that antiquated notion of celebrating our holidays in order.  You know, putting Christmas on hold until after Thanksgiving is over.

Every year it happens.  Halloween ends and Christmas begins.  The TV commercials start up (although I’ll take Christmas commercials over political ads any day), the radio stations start playing Christmas music 24/7, and retail stores start decking their halls with plastic reindeer and mistletoe.  I even see a few houses in my neighborhood with decorations on their lawns and twinkle lights lit up on their roofs.  People! Can’t we celebrate Thanksgiving first?

I don’t mind if you want to get a head start on gift shopping – just don’t send me anything yet. It doesn’t bother me if you start pulling out your nutcracker collection to display – as long as you keep them on the inside of your home.  I could care less if you start addressing the envelopes for the Christmas cards you plan to send out this year – just don’t send mine until Thanksgiving is over.

The bottom line is, I don’t want to see Christmas in any form until I’m pulling left-over turkey bits out of the fridge for lunch next Friday.  #lettheturkeycool.

Fourth of July Founding Father Quotes

To celebrate this past Fourth of July weekend, I thought I’d highlight some money related quotes from our founding fathers.  Benjamin Franklin in particular, had some memorable ones…

“Time is money”

This is why it often makes more sense to hire someone to do a job than to do it yourself.  Whether it’s fertilizing your lawn, repairing your air conditioning, or changing the oil in your car.  Your time is valuable and some things just aren’t worth your time.

“A penny saved is a penny earned.”

I’m not quite sure what this one means.  Didn’t I earn all the pennies I have? I guess Franklin is really trying to extol the virtues of saving. However, pennies are pretty meaningless today.  A penny in 1776 would be the equivalent of about 21 cents in 2003.  To update the quote for today’s money values maybe it should be, “a quarter saved is a quarter earned.”

“Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

Mrs. Pennypacker has long since mastered this one.  I’m hoping that some of that health, wealth and wisdom will rub off on me so I can stay up later.  I think the goal here is to get things done before everyone else.  If you can get up at 5 in the morning and start working, you’ll be two hours ahead of the person who doesn’t wake up until 7.  If you were on a farm, you’d be first to harvest and first to take your crops to market.  You’d be able to bring in top dollar.  You’d also be the first to read the newspaper, hence the wisdom.

“Never spend your money before you have earned it.”

This last one is actually by Thomas Jefferson.  It means don’t borrow money you don’t have.  Of course in Jefferson’s days, borrowing too much money had severe consequences.  I believe you went to debtors prison if you couldn’t pay back your debts.  Thankfully, today you can just declare bankruptcy and start the game all over again.

A Saturday Dash Through the Forest

Pine Trees

Early this morning, I put my trail shoes on and ran at my favorite spot.  It’s a 4-mile loop through a nearby forest.  The forest is filled with pine trees and small rolling hills.

To begin, I pop a stick of gum in my mouth and start jogging.  The air has a chill and my body feels stiff, so I take it easy at first.  My mind starts to wander a bit as I let my legs struggle to find themselves.  I see the mountains in the distance and I wonder how long it would take a bee to fly from here to the top of one of those peaks.

I round the first turn.  The wind is picking up.  It meanders at first through the pine needles, then speeds up, exhaling cool and crisp from the clouds.  The wind makes an amazing sound blowing through the trees.  It reminds me of my childhood when I spent more of my time listening to the world around me.

I hear my self breathing.  There’s a rhythm to it – like one of those old steam locomotives steadily puffing as it pushes and pulls to turn it’s wheels.  I can tell my lungs are working, but not too hard.  As I start the gentle climb towards the next turn, I feel I can push a little more.

It’s just me out here…plus a few birds…maybe some deer.  Uh, never mind.  I spot another jogger up ahead.  This other person (he appears to be an older gentleman) has captured my focus.  Am I catching up?  I seem to be.  I’ll pass him.  But, I need to be careful.  I don’t want to turn on the jets and then peter out later on, only to watch him pass me by, a la the Tortoise and the Hare.

I patiently make progress and soon I’m right behind him.  I make the pass, pausing at his pace temporarily to exchange pleasantries, then pushing ahead.

I make it around turn number three with a renewed energy.  My legs chug obediently up a small hill until I reach the highest part of the trail.  It’s mostly downhill from here.  As the trail descends, I surrender a bit and let gravity have some fun with me.  The journey speeds up and I whiz by a couple out for a hike and then their trailing dog heading in the opposite direction.

I reach the final turn and I realize there are only a few short, steep up/downs left.  I strike a deal with the trail – I’ll sprint the uphill parts, if you’ll agree to do all the work for me on the downhill portions.  So, the pace quickens and my heart beats harder.  My eyes focus on the rugged trail ahead making sure my feet have a safe place to land.  My legs and lungs have no problem with this final push as it’s short-lived.

At last, I reach the top of the last hill and my journey is complete.  I take a moment to catch my breath.  The thought of doing a second lap tries to creep into my mind, but I quickly reject the idea.  I’ll head home and perhaps do this all over again next weekend.

Super Paper Shredding Day Is Slowly Dying

It is tradition in my house to do a mass paper shred every year on Super Bowl Sunday.  I just stick a trashcan, a shredder, and a stack of financial papers in front of the TV and start shredding!   It’s so much fun watching football while turning all that space-eating paper into fine bits of confetti!  And once it’s done, I feel a sense of accomplishment.  My finances are now de-cluttered and organized.

The victims of Super Paper Shredding Day consist of various financial documents including old billing statements, bank statements, pay stubs, receipts, and tax documents.  Of course, I don’t shred every financial document.  So, how do I know what to shred and what to keep?  I generally follow the same set of rules outlined in this Consumer Reports article.

Sadly (or thankfully, depending on how much you love shredding), the amount of physical papers we have to keep has been on a steady decline as more of these documents become available online and paperless billing becomes the norm.  If I need to find an old credit card transaction to use for this years taxes, I can just log into my account on the American Express website and look it up.  If I want to compare this month’s electric bill to the same month last year, I just hop onto the electric company’s website and dig up last year’s bills.  Even receipts are becoming paperless.  The last time I went to home depot I was asked if I wanted my receipt emailed to me.  Pretty soon, there won’t be any more papers to shred and Super Paper Shredding Day will be dead.  I’ll end up having to auction off my shredder on EBay.  I’ll list it as an antique and hope I can get some wealthy historical artifact collectors into a bidding war.

New Year’s Resolutions

Okay, New Year’s Resolutions.  I’ve got two this year and both seem quite achievable.

1. Read More.  Mrs. Pennypacker says this is a little vague, but I think it’s just fine.  I haven’t been reading a whole lot lately as I’ve been keeping busy with work and watching TV.  I do read the paper everyday and various news articles on the internet, but I haven’t had the urge to start a book until last week when two things happened.  First, Mrs. Pennypacker bought me a Nexus 7 for Christmas.  Believe it or not, it’s much easier to read on a tablet than my old method of downloading books on my laptop and lugging it around the house.   Second, our satellite receiver/DVR broke.  Every twenty minutes, the picture would freeze and we would have to reboot the box.  What a hassle!  So Mrs. Pennypacker and I just turned off the TV and started reading.  I’m back on the reading train!  Side note: Mrs. Pennypacker was always on the reading train.

2. Pay our mortgage down from 58% to 50% loan-to-value by June.  After pulling the trigger and buying a car sooner than we planned, we want to make sure we double-down and refocus on our savings goals.  With the new car out of the way, the next big thing is the mortgage.  And if we can get the mortgage down to half of what we think our home is valued, it would be a pretty big milestone.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions?

The Lottery, Do You Play and What Would You do With the Money?

Today’s Mega Millions jackpot is up to $636 million – right near an all-time record for a U.S. lottery.  I’m sure one of these days the jackpot will approach $1 billion dollars.  That’s a ton of money, even after taxes.  Did you buy a ticket or are you going to buy a ticket?

Mrs. Pennypacker and I don’t play.  The 259 million to 1 odds are just too much for our brains to tell our legs to get in the car and drive to the liquor store for a ticket.  But, we do like to daydream about what we would do with that kind of windfall.

We’d start with securing our own financial future.  We already have our financial priorities figured out, so it would just be a matter of checking things off of our list.  First, we would write a check to the bank and pay off our mortgage.  Next, we would set aside enough to live on in retirement.  Finally, since we have no debts other than our mortgage and no kids to send to college, we’d probably take some money and go on a vacation we’ve always wanted to go on – Australia, maybe Europe.

After taking care of ourselves we would move on to our families.  We’d give each set of parents enough to pay off their mortgages.  We’d also give our siblings each enough to buy a house for themselves.  We might also help out other relatives or close friends that were trying dig themselves out of hard times.

Once our families were “fully funded” we would give the rest of the money away to charities.  That’s it.  Pretty simple.

What would you do if you suddenly fell into millions of dollars?  Would you instantly race out and buy a mansion, a fancy car, pricy electronic gadgets, or travel around the world?  Maybe a private jet, a shopping spree in Paris, or front row seats at the Super Bowl?  I wouldn’t blame you if you did.  What you do with your money is a personal thing.  Everyone has their own plans and priorities in life.

Would you still keep track of your money and stick to a budget?  Mrs. Pennypacker and I would.  Just because you have millions doesn’t mean it can’t run out.  Look at how many high-paid movie stars and athletes make the news because they’ve gone bankrupt.

Would you quit your job?  For Mrs. Pennypacker and I the answer is no.  We like our jobs and wouldn’t really know what to do with ourselves if we quit.  Of course, if things changed and our jobs lost their luster, having a couple mil in our back pockets would give us the financial freedom to pursue other interests.