As featured in The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, and more!

April 2008


It’s time to thank other websites that sent traffic to Consumerism Commentary during the month of April. It was a great month in terms of traffic, driven mainly by articles about the economic stimulus payment. Here is a list of websites, excluding search engines, RSS readers, and social media websites, that sent the most traffic to Consumerism Commentary over the past month. I’ve also included a number to show each site’s movement on the list since March.

  1. Lifehacker 0
  2. Get Rich Slowly 0
  3. The Simple Dollar +3
  4. Blueprint for Financial Prosperity +1
  5. MoneyBlogNetwork -2
  6. AllFinancialMatters +1
  7. Consumerist -3
  8. Free Money Finance 0
  9. AllTop new
  10. No Credit Needed -1
  11. Five Cent Nickel 0
  12. Fabulous Financials -2

Here are the top 10 visited articles from the top month, based on visits to the web site. Readers who view articles in their RSS software but don’t visit the website directly are not included when calculating this list. Once again, the Economic Stimulus Tax Payment Calculator was my far the most visited page, but it’s not included below because that article was posted initially in January.

  1. 50 Tips to Help Establish Your Emergency Fund
  2. Festival of Frugality #119: Quitting My Day Job to Blug Full Time (April Fool’s Joke)
  3. The Frugal Lifestyle: Are We Missing Out on Life?
  4. Personal Balance Sheet, March 2008 ($143,174, +6.7%)
  5. If Monthly Budgets Don’t Excite You, Try This
  6. Following Your Bliss: Good Advice or Bunk?
  7. Personal Income Statement, March 2008 (Net Income: $9,257)
  8. Earn Up To $525 By Opening an Account at ING Direct
  9. 10 Steps to Break the Credit Card Habit
  10. The Recession Won’t Hit Generation Y (And Take Advantage of That) (by Penelope Trunk)

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Last updated: November 30, 2008.

Capital One® offers a number of credit cards with no balance transfer fees. For this reason, if you are looking to consolidate your credit card debt onto one cars which you don’t plan on using for purchases, you may want to take a look at these offers. Please be aware that these cards do charge interest on balance transfers, and there is no “grace period” as would usually apply to purchases. That means you’ll be charged interest starting with the day you transfer your balance.

You should only transfer a balance to a credit card if the terms, including APR and transfer fee, are better than what you’re currently being charged. Don’t consolidate just for a lower monthly payment.

Here are the Capital One® credit cards that offer no balance transfer fees.

No Hassle MilesSM Rewards – Excellent Credit
No Hassle CashSM Rewards – Good Credit
No Hassle MilesSM Rewards – Good Credit
Standard Platinum
No Hassle CashSM Rewards

Credit cards are like buzz saws. They are useful tools but dangerous if in the hands of someone who doesn’t use them properly. The rates offered on these balance transfers are not the best in the industry, but the lack of a balance transfer fee sets these cards apart. In today’s environment, many other credit card companies are charging fees of 3% and eliminating upper limits on these fees.

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How soon into a relationship should you disclose your financial condition, if at all? A wealthy woman wrote a letter to the editor of Money Magazine recently to explain that she does not want to let her new boyfriend, a relationship with the potential to get serious, that she has money. She is wondering whether it’s ethical to keep this information from her boyfriend or whether there’s a point at which she should let him know of her wealth.

The magazine’s editors did a good job of answering the question, and I agree with their conclusions. If a relationship becomes serious and marriage is a possibility, there should be no secrets. This particular woman was hurt by a former boyfriend who “used her for her money” once he discovered that it was possible to do so. That should be an immediate signal that this was not the right guy for her, but it should not scare anyone away from being truthful about money in general. You do have to make a judgment call to determine the right time for approaching the subject. It’s probably not appropriate if you’re on the first few dates, but if you’re starting to pick out rings or talk about living together, I don’t see how these decisions can be made without full financial disclosure.

wedding ringCommenters who left their opinions below the Money Magazine article are divided. Some have very strong opinions in favor of not telling the boyfriend until the last possible minute. Some think they should discuss money as soon as they decide that the relationship is “serious.” But what is “serious?”

My questions are more specific: Should financial disclosure happen only after a couple decides to get married? Would this prevent money and the attitudes about wealth from affecting relationship decisions, or would it create the possibility for unhealthy surprises later? Should financial information, particularly if that information sets you apart from the average joe or jane, remain protected for as long as possible?

My girlfriend, A., reads Consumerism Commentary, so she can find details about almost every penny I earn and spend. I do have a special account set aside which I call “The A. Fund,” included in my savings totals. In order to allow the occasional surprise, I don’t provide her with details about that money. However, if she looks at my monthly reports, she could get a good idea of what I can and cannot afford in general. Not all relationships include someone who posts their finances in public, though.

What would you do or what do you do? Feel free to post a comment anonymously if you’re worried your significant other may read.

Image source: prozacblues
[Money Magazine: I don’t want to tell my boyfriend I’m loaded]

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By the time I was in third grade, I knew the answer to the age-old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The question is always formed this way, with these particular words. The object of this question is to determine not the philosophy of the individual, but the type of career that is most desirable. The presence of the word “be” in the question is worth noting. From an early age, children are trained through language to associate their career with their identity. Who you are is what you do and vice versa.

The very fact that the question is asked instills the importance of a job or career.

In Across the Universe, the character Max is eating Thanksgiving dinner in the late 1960s with his family in rural Massachusetts, at which point he announces his intention to drop out of his undergraduate studies at Princeton University.

His father asks him to get serious for once: “What are you going to do with your life?” He responds rebelliously, “Why is it always what will I do? Why isn’t the issue here who I am?” His uncle chimes in, “Because what you do defines who you are.” Max responds, “Who you are defines what you do,” and asks for confirmation from his new friend Jude from Liverpool. Jude replies with a different point of view: “Surely it’s not what you do, but the way that you do it.”

I loved being involved with music. I’ve known I’ve had musical talent and an enjoyment of the art since I was in kindergarten. In third grade, as I mentioned above, I knew what I wanted to be: a teacher. It should have come as no surprise to me when in high school I decided that my purpose (my being) was to become a music teacher. When I was studying in college to be a music educator, the piece of advice that stuck with me the most was uttered by a professor most likely while I was still a freshman: “If there’s any other career that would make you happy, choose that now. Continue down this path only if teaching music is the only thing that you can or want to do.”

This advice stuck with me for several reasons. First, music wasn’t my only talent or interest. I excelled in every subject at school (when I wasn’t bored). My interests ranged from computer programming to physics to languages to mathematics. I even liked history when I was learning on my own rather than within public school curriculum. The world was open to me, but I stuck with music.

Many years later, after some bad experiences, I left teaching and the arts. My current choice of a day job happened mostly by accident. I needed a job after leaving the arts, so I started as a temp in a financial company. I moved into accounting after that because the accounting department was nearby and they needed someone, and have switched jobs at the same company a few times since then. This job, which is unfortunately becoming a career, does not define who I am. It has nothing to do with the person I am, it’s only the result of a series of circumstances defined by others.

Strawberry Fields ForeverIn the arts, I was a teacher and a leader. I earned the respect of my peers by being very good at what I did. I even taught others how to be leaders. I was a great motivator. Of course! Music is something that is exciting, invigorating, and essential for the soul. The arts are necessary for modern culture. In my current career choice, being a leader is a joke. It’s a world of middle-managers and meaningless tasks. Why should I get excited about any activity that is not directly changing the world for the better in a way that satisfies the ideals that are important to me? Sure, it’s important to someone that I make sure that one department of our company pays back another department of our company for whatever expense they happened to incur. But how is that changing the world, how is this meaningful or satisfying?

So I have Consumerism Commentary. That’s more fulfilling. I write, usually nonsense like this, and reach more people than I’ve reached in any other facet of my life. For someone who has been building communities and leading smaller groups of people for almost 20 years, that is definitely cool. But Consumerism Commentary is an accident like my current job, though it is a happy accident. I don’t believe I’m changing the world, but I’m happy if I help someone get to a piece of information faster, or on the rare occasion, make someone think about something, anything they’ve taken for granted. But I don’t even use my real name, so whatever I’m building with Consumerism Commentary doesn’t exist in the “real world.”

I don’t want to be defined by my role at my day job, and without sharing my real identity online, I can’t be defined by my blogging endeavors. If I were still teaching music or involved in the arts, I would agree that who you are defines what you do. But I’m not, at least not at the moment. So I’m resigned to agreeing with Jude for now.

Image credit: ^riza^

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How Much My San Diego Vacation Might Have Cost

by Luke Landes

Last week, I spent several days in San Diego with family and friends, including my mother and her long-time boyfriend, my brother and his girlfriend, and my girlfriend. One benefit of visiting family for vacation every April is the fact that my mother seems quite willing to spend money to ensure everyone’s enjoyment, at least ... Continue reading this article…

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What to Do With Your Economic Stimulus Payment (Or Any Found Money)

by Luke Landes

This week, the Internal Revenue Service of the United States will begin sending direct deposits to those who qualify for the economic stimulus tax payment and checks soon after. Everyone who is interested in the tax ramifications of this payment should now know that the money received as a result will not be counted as ... Continue reading this article…

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Back From California and Blog Roundup

by Luke Landes

I spent this past week visiting family in California. My girlfriend (A.) and I joined my family’s west coast contingent for a few days in San Diego, staying at the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay. Among other things, A. and I visited the San Diego Zoo, where I exercised my new Canon Digital Rebel XTi camera ... Continue reading this article…

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Tax-Deductible Weddings, Part 2

by Sasha

We’ve talked about tax deductions related to your reception site, but there are a few other nice opportunities for wedding-related deductions that shouldn’t be missed, both for during and after your wedding. The I Do Foundation has a number of creative ways to incorporate giving into the wedding itself, which you can do through them ... Continue reading this article…

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Why I Still Have No Money

by Smithee

I recently explained my history of having no money and as promised, will now come clean with the mistakes I’m still making: I’m driving the wrong car I’ve never owned a car long enough to get it inspected. The first Jeep Cherokee was a lease, and I foolishly let them talk me into not converting ... Continue reading this article…

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Tax-Deductible Weddings, Part 1

by Sasha

We’re entering the peak wedding season, it seems. Ever since I got engaged earlier this year, I’ve been bombarded by sales pitches from every angle. They’re certainly tricky. They come disguised in several colors of tulle, bearing elegantly inscribed messages to remind me that I only live once and want my special day to be ... Continue reading this article…

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Why I Have No Money

by Smithee

Near the end of my college career there was a sort of “Psychic Fair” on campus. As I recall, nobody charged us anything, so I got a reading from a Numerologist. She basically had me fill out a form with some information about myself. I remember “full name” and “birthdate”, for example. Multiple calculations later, ... Continue reading this article…

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Fortune Magazine’s Best Stocks for 2008: Last December’s Prediction

by Luke Landes

This should prove to be a good study of professional prognostication. Last December, Fortune Magazine predicted the best stocks to hold in 2008, directing investors to ten specific stocks the magazine thinks will perform well this year. How are these stocks holding up so far, compared to the indexes? The S&P 500 Index is down ... Continue reading this article…

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Ethical Consumerism, An Introduction

by Sasha

As I shared with you a few weeks ago, I choose to pay more for my electricity. And in 2007, 71 percent of my total grocery budget went to support local agriculture and small businesses. Each year, I buy a harvest share at a local community supported agriculture farm. I promise to start waxing poetic ... Continue reading this article…

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Complaining Can Save You Money

by Guest Author

About the author: This article was written by Emily Starbuck Gerson whose personal mission is to help people learn about credit and debt. She writes for the blog, Taking Charge (read her posts here). I love cookies. They’re one of my favorite things to eat, and everyone who knows me knows this. I avoid fried ... Continue reading this article…

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Going to California and Blog Roundup

by Luke Landes

Tomorrow morning, my girlfriend and I will be on a Virgin America flight to California. We plan on visiting my family and enjoying a week-long vacation away from our day-time jobs. Posting on Consumerism Commentary will be light during the week. Meanwhile, take a look at these picks from the MoneyBlogNetwork. The Same Actions Will ... Continue reading this article…

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Following Your Bliss: Good Advice or Bunk?

by Luke Landes

One of my favorite musical “acts” is Blue Man Group. The Blue Man Group explores, with primitively modern musical instruments, society, detachment, and collectivism. You may remember them from Intel’s old Pentium commercials. You may also remember them from the television show Arrested Development, in which the character Tobias, played by David Cross, auditioned for ... Continue reading this article…

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Unconfirmed: Emigrant Direct Drops Cash Back MasterCard

by Luke Landes

Jim submitted this news today, but I’ve been unable to find a confirmation online. Perhaps holders of the Emigrant Direct MasterCard have received this announcement. The party is over on the Emigrant Direct Savings account and Mastercard program. As the Fed has cut interest rates, so too has Emigrant Direct (2.75 percent as of 4/19.2008). What ... Continue reading this article…

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Lies Annuity Salesmen Tell: A Dateline Undercover Investigation

by Luke Landes

Last year, a reader wrote into Consumerism Commentary with a story about how her elderly father was convinced to buy a variable annuity, locking away his money until after his likely passing. He had wanted to talk to a financial adviser, but found his way to Banc of America Investment Services. Recently, Dateline took a ... Continue reading this article…

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Unintended Consequences and Money

by Luke Landes

Ethanol: a study of unintended consequences As recently as two years ago, ethanol was considered by many to be the solution for this country’s reliance on imported oil. Ethanol can be produced domestically, and it costs no more to make a car that runs on ethanol than it does to make a car that runs ... Continue reading this article…

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Question for Tax Day: How Would YOU Reform the Tax Code?

by Luke Landes

If you were given the responsibility of changing laws, and the government and people of the United States had no choice but to uphold your laws (other than being thrown in jail), how would you reform the tax code? Do you think that either the “flat tax” or the “fair tax” would be appropriate for ... Continue reading this article…

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