Friday, March 27, 2009


Well, I just finished the GMAT about an hour ago. And I scored exactly in the range that I was hoping for, so that's a huge load off my shoulders! Not to say it wasn't difficult- it was VERY difficult, but it's so great to have beaten it!

So, who wants to take a poor man to celebrate? :)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

GMAT, cutting the cable, Dilbert

Well, the big thing on my mind right now is not actually the economy, or our place in it. Nope- it's the GMAT. The GMAT, short for Graduate Management Admission Test, is a test that business schools require you to take and get a certain score on in order to enter into the graduate school. The scoring goes between 200 and 800, with 500 being the average score that a test-taker will get. Keep in mind that the average GMAT test taker is someone who has a Bachelor's degree in Business and is interested in furthering his or her education, so average on this test ain't is not exactly the same as average on the ACT. For my business school of choice, a 500 is the minimum requirement. I've been studying now for a few months in the hopes of breezing past that 500 mark, but I've got to tell you, I don't think I have ever felt so stupid in my life as I do when studying for this thing. Complicated algebra, geometry, sentence structure, analytical reasoning, and don't even get me started on data sufficiency- it's enough to humble just about anyone. Anyway, my test is TOMORROW. So everyone, please wish me luck! I get results immediately, so I'll let you know if I passed (got at least a 500). And if I don't pass, well, if I happen to never mention the GMAT in this blog again, you'll know why.

So what's "cutting the cable" all about? I'm referring to your cable TV, or satellite TV if that is what you happen to have. As we talk about ways to save money in a bad economy, especially if your income just dropped significantly, I think everyone should consider 'cutting the cable'. Why? Well, is it just me, or do TV service providers only have 3 packages? You get your Basic package, which is barely more than what you get free over the air (OTA), and it's about $35/month. Then you get you Advanced package, which comes with a lot of bells and whistles and hundreds of channels that you're never going to watch, but the price goes up to about $70/month. And then the Premium package comes with additional channels that you actually might want to watch (HBO, Showtime, etc.), but comes in at over $100/month.

Jenny and I cut our cable a couple of months ago when our bill went up to $90 (in order to better serve us, of course), and we really haven't looked back. The vast majority of the shows that we watch are on local channels and thus available for free OTA, so long as you live within about 50 miles of the station and have a decent roof-mounted antenna. But what about the shows on channels that are not available for free (such as stuff on USA and FX)? Two options- many stations are making full shows available online, for FREE. Also, with all of that money that you're saving on not paying for TV, you can spend $10-15/month on a Netflix account and rent TV shows as part of your package. So there you go- unless you're a huge sports fan, it's actually quite easy to do without, and you save yourself a bundle of money each and every month.

Finally, I wanted to call your attention to a Dilbert strip today that I think perfectly satirizes our current economic situation. It also does a good job of summarizing my rant yesterday in just 3 frames. Check it out!


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The waiting game, assigning culpability, cutting the cable, Foxy Lady now hiring!

Hello out there. So, not to get too specific, but Jenny has now successfully completed two, umm, instances. And now we wait, and hope for the best. And I'll be honest, patience is not one of my virtues :). Of course, we're still on the lookout for other opportunities, and she is actually finding stuff out there, so the market hasn't completely dried up at least. In fact, I've noticed in the past week or so that some headlines are starting to break the mold of "We're screwed guys" and leaned toward some degree of positivity.

To whit, a lot of people are looking to assign blame in this economy, and it seems a lot of blame goes toward a) the government and b) ridiculously huge corporations. I certainly think that both are culpable to the degree to which the government could have implemented better policies/incentives and large businesses could have tried for a business model that doesn't revolve around a pyramid of debt stacked on top of more debt. But then you also have the consumers who, in our efforts to live the American dream (promised to us as our birthright by both the Government and corporate product/service advertisements) have made poor financial decisions time and again. I'm not saying "let's all blame the little guy", but as consumers we are the foundation of the economy, and if we are strong enough to resist the temptation to consistently spend more than we make, then the economy will have a strong foundation.

One other item I wanted to bring up is media culpability. As I mentioned earlier, we are finally seeing the occasional headline that is positive, but otherwise, we are drowning in a sea of negativity. And when it comes to speculation, which is what the stock market and a lot of spending habits are based on, bad makes worse. In other words, if you go around telling everyone that the economy is in the toilet and the stock markets are crashing, then people are going to stop spending, and they are going to pull their money out of the stock market. And then the economy will be in the toilet and the stock market will crash. So, hey media, for the sake of the current and future welfare of not just the US economy, but the world, how's about we try not to perpetuate so much negativity? You're only making it worse, in this writer's humble opinion.

And finally, on to the lighter side... I read an article in a newsletter that I subscribe to (Bizarre News, available through GopherCentral), entitled Strip Club Plans Job Fair. Apparently, the Foxy Lady strip club in Providence, Rhode Island has decided that the current unemployment problems warrant hosting a job fair to find new talent to serve as "dancers, managers,
DJs, bouncers and bartenders". So, if you live in the area, and you need a job... Sorry I am not able to direct link to the article, but if you go to the Bizarre news link above, it's currently posted under the main headline "The Drinks Are On Utah".

Well, that's it for now. I realize that I got pretty opinionated on this one, and that I didn't go into much depth regarding our personal life, but I'm just winging it here. If you want to hear more personal stuff, let me know, and if you want to hear more opinion, let me know that too! Thanks!

Monday, March 23, 2009

The difference between hard times and hopelessness, The power of e-Prayer?, and deals websites

Well, to start with, i had mentioned my wife having "possibilities on the horizon". That would be today, and tomorrow. So, hopefully this morning went well, and please keep us in your thoughts tomorrow!

So, the difference between hard times and hopelessness. What does that mean? Well, that's what we have been finding out lately. I've pretty much taken the hard line that "we're poor now", "we're broke", "it's hopeless" etc. But I'm beginning to see that in order to be truly hopeless, it's not just a lack of money, but also a lack of people who care about you. Our family and friends have been very compassionate and helpful since Jenny lost her job. It's a great feeling to know how much you are cared for, and that even in the darkest situations, other people will so readily serve as a beacon of light and hope. Well, there's your mushiness for the day. What about e-prayers?

My favorite tech news web site ( posted a link to an article about a company that is selling e-prayers. Essentially, you type your prayer in, and a computer will use text-to-speech to recite your prayers for you. After they get your credit card payment, of course. You know, in case you're too busy to pray for yourself each day. Now I'm probably not the best person to give an opinion on this, because my relationship with God does not include long daily prayers or anything, but seriously? I think there is a word for something like this, and I think the word is sloth. Also, not to be presumptuous or anything, but I just can't see God putting too much thought into prayers introduced by HAL 9000.
So, how is this relevent? There seems to be a lot of prayer going around lately, and a lot of "we'll pray for you", due to the economic times. So, yeah, there you go.

And finally, I have used a few "deals" web sites for a few years now to get great prices on stuff, and I've really saved a lot of money, so i figured I'd throw them out there for other people in need of bargains. I know this sounds like an ad pitch, but I promise you I'm not getting paid to say this (and boy do I wish I was!) So, if you're interested in good deals, check out the following web sites, or just google something to the effect of good deals web site.,,

Well, that's all I've got. I see I've got a few people reading these now, so thanks for showing up, and I hope you enjoy.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Rays of hope, AIG benefits tax rate

Hello again. Is anybody out there? Without being able to track views, I pretty much feel like I'm talking to myself here, but oh well.

My wife has a couple of possibilities on the horizon. I don't want to mention specifics, but face-to-face interviews are good, so we're very excited about this. Let's just hope that something great comes of it! As a result, for the first time since the lay off last week, we actually have hope. It really goes a long way in brightening your day, I'll tell you that much.

Otherwise, we're still doing everything we can to save money. We found out how much she is going to get for unemployment, and we're not sure if the amount is pretax or post-tax, but it's actually not terrible at all. It's literally a fraction of what she had been earning, but it's at least a fraction where the numerator isn't too far off from the denominator. Depending on how much money we can save by simply NOT SPENDING, we may not have to dip very far into savings while she's diligently searching for a new job.

I wanted to post a link to an article that I got a good laugh out of. I guess technically it's an article about the 'misfortunes' of certain people, but the people in question are, from what I understand, very well-off, and the misfortunes involve a significant (how's 90% sound?) tax on bonus earned by executives at AIG. I am very proud of our Government at this moment- while they did not (maybe could not, I don't know) prevent AIG from giving promised bonuses of hundreds of thousands of dollars to executives (the executives who made the decisions that drove the company into the ground), they swiftly implemented a 90% tax on these bonuses. I think that is just fantastic. Here's the article. In all fairness, I also heard that some of the executives had already voluntarily given their bonuses back. To those executives- good for you!

Well, that's all for now. if you're reading, I'd love it if you'd post a comment, just so I know that I'm not talking to any empty room!


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Craigslist, St. Patrick's Day, car problems, oh my

I figured this might be a good opportunity to provide links to economic information that I find online that may be able to help others. Or really anything else that I find interesting. So, let's start with that...

First off, here's an interesting article on CNN regarding the unemployed turning to Craigslist for help. I found this one to be particularly interesting, especially the fact that people are finding help.

Next off, Yahoo! Finance has an article for those of you still employed, and looking to keep your jobs.

And finally, in the spirit of St. Patrick's day (I am 1/4 Irish, after all), MSNBC has an article entitled The History of St. Patrick's Day.

Now, on to more personal business. I mentioned the Check Engine light on my car in yesterday's post in somewhat of a joking manner. I just wish that I could laugh about it. I'm not really one of those "God is out to get me!!!" types of people. Well, maybe somewhat, but I'm not too bad about it. But when my wife loses her job, and a couple of days later my car's Check Engine light turns on...well, I've gotta wonder if I spent a previous lifetime killing bunny rabbits or something. In all seriousness, it seems that at least for me, I go through periods in my life where bad news tends to pile up on top of itself until I feel like I'm drowning. This is definitely one of those times. I find myself wondering, rather fearfully, just what other bad things are going to happen right now. For example, how safe is my job?!?

This may sound like the ravings of a mad and/or depressed person, and while madness is never completely off the table, I think I tend to have a fairly reasonable outlook on life. In any event, if I am depressed now, rest assured that this too shall pass. It's just difficult to rise above the turmoil when you're neck-deep in it. I can imagine that most people, when they look back on their lives, wish that they hadn't made such a big deal out of so many little things. I sure wish I could be better about that. And I sure hope that when I look back on my life, this period does in fact turn out to be "no big deal".

I'll leave you with a song verse from one of my favorite bands. Unfortunately, it aptly describes my mood today:
She dances in a photograph
When it was good to joke and have a laugh
But that was yesterday, if only today

The verse is from Flogging Molly's song Factory Girls. If you haven't heard of them, and you don't mind music that can get heavy/fast, check them out. They have quite a few videos on Youtube. Since the sound is very Irish, today's the perfect chance to discover them!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Blog the First

The purpose of this blog is to chronicle the experiences of my wife and I as we do our best to survive the current economic recession. That I am even writing such a blog is surprising to me, as just one week ago, I was actually feeling a little bit guilty that the recession had not yet effected us in any way.

Well, that's not true- there were positive effects in the sense that retailers have lowered prices and provided great discounts to entice consumers to still shop at their stores (or at their restaurants, as the case more often was for us). And there were negative effects in that our Roth IRA accounts were coming in with net losses, meaning that if we contributed, say, $1000 over the course of a year to an account with $2000 in it already, the total amount in the account by the end of the year was somewhere below the hoped-for $3000+. Also, our Direct Deposit savings account took a hit, going from a 4.5% return to about 1.5% now. We have considered ourselves lucky that most of our money is in the savings account, not the IRA's. You see, we're 29, so even with a 25% decline in value for our IRA's, it didn't hurt TOO much.

So, what happened? Well, my wife lost her job last Friday (March 13. Yes, Friday the 13th. No, I don't believe the date is particularly unlucky. This was just an unhappy coincidence in my mind.) Anyway, my wife's salary was a bit higher than mine, so now our total income is less than half of the previous amount, whatever we get from unemployment notwithstanding. And despite the fact that we have always lived with the motto of careful consumption, a 50%+ cut to our income hurts. A lot. Don't get me wrong, I make OK money, and we're not going to be going to the poor house just yet. But we have already implemented a series of what we consider to be big lifestyle changes, and we still will most likely be a ways from breaking even.

What kind of lifestyle changes? Well, that's a tricky one. Remember I mentioned the "Careful Consumption" part? If you do a Google search for "ways to save money", and look at the lists provided, the odds are, we already were practicing most of the items on the list. So, there's not a lot to cut back on. Here's where we are going to cut:

1. Food. Our average weekly food expenditures probably come up to about $140. That's groceries, one nice meal per week, and eating out for lunch a few days a week. New amount? $50. We will make it for this week (grocery bill was total $40, and no eating out for any meals at all). And we hope to keep to that number until my wife finds a new job. Let's hear it for fresh fruits and vegetables, butcher shop meat prices, noodles (including Ramen), and inexpensive large dishes that provide for multiple leftovers.

2. Entertainment. No more movies, bars, concerts, really anything that costs any money at all. We're going to hold onto our $14/month Netflix subscription and subsist on that and free entertainment options. Speaking of $14 monthly movie costs- we don't even have basic cable, so you can't cut that. We're close enough to downtown St. Louis that a $30 outdoor antenna gives us 90% of the TV shows that we would watch anyway for free.

3. Any item that is not a necessity. No clothes, furniture, accessories, toys (tech), no big purchases, nothing. In fact, as soon as I find some black masking tape, the "Service Engine Soon" light that just popped up on my car today will be just a memory. At least until the car breaks down on the side of the road.

4. Savings payments and big purchases. That's $1000/month right there, but only about 1/3 of my wife's previous monthly take-home. We've been paying $800/month into our savings account ever since we paid off our cars. And we have a $200/month revolving "big purchase" line of cash. That may sound like a lot, but think of it this way- if you want a new $800 TV, and you have the cash, do you buy it? If it's me, the only way I'll buy it is if the $200/month revolving line of cash is available. If I'm still paying off that new computer that I bought 4 months ago, the TV is going to have to wait, cash in hand or not.

Well, that's all I've got on cuts right now- other ideas, please let me know.

One last thing; pursuant of the capitalist nature of our society (you know, that imperfect system that, at best, didn't prevent this recession from occurring), I have opted to tie my PayPal account into this blog. So, if you're reading this, and you happen to be feeling sorry for me, and/or you just want to get rid of some of that "survivor's guilt", please feel free to donate. If you're in a similar situation to me, well, I hope you enjoy the blog anyway, and take care of yourself, not me.