Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Are you still shopping for credit card?

Remember how I mentioned that I’d found a new way to learn about your credit score? Well, just recently I was alerted to another cool online tool, this one allowing you to compare quality credit cards, based on APR rates, rewards, annual fees, etc. Check it out: Compare Best Credit Card Deals.

No, I still haven’t gotten my own, beyond the credit/debit Visa with my bank account and the GAP card I’ve had since college. I think I’m still smarting from the Dave Ramsey book I read a few months ago, and, honestly, I do not need a credit card. Getting one just in the name of improving my credit score seems silly. Getting one for the rewards would make more sense, but I do get great rewards already with my bank account. So I am still sitting on the fence.

If I were to get one, these are the things I’d definitely be looking for:

1) Great rewards, probably via cash back or money at stores I frequent

2) No annual fees

*(3) I’d also recommend getting one with a low APR, but that seems to imply that you should carry a balance, which, for the record, I do NOT think is a good idea.

Anyway, if you are in the market or just want a great source for information, check out the link above. And let me know what you think!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Job Hunting? Dating? Both stink!

Last week, I had a guy tell me, as he walked me out after dinner on our first date, “You’ll have to let me know if you want to do this again sometime.”

He leaned in as if to go for a hug/kiss, right there in front of the restaurant, and I turned away a little bit, still smiling and thanking him for the meal. Completely confused not just by his last statement but by the entire night, I had, literally, no idea if he was actually interested or not. I hadn’t felt any bells or fireworks through the evening, but that’s not really necessary to me on the first date; I had fun, but I didn’t know what I thought yet. My plan? Wait to see his next move.

It’s kind of like when you go for a job interview. The HR rep or manager asks you a lot of questions and you answer and gather more information, not really sure what you’re thinking about the company yet. You are still interested, willing to hear what they offer, but you’re not desperate for it or anything. It’s not your dream job, it seems so far, but you’re still deciding if has potential.

I’ve been on so many job interviews. More than dates, in fact. I’ve interviewed for entry-level positions I didn’t have half an interest in, just for the sake of interviewing and learning what was out there. And the result? I’ve gotten really good at interviewing. Like, really good. If I can get you to give me the interview, nine times out of ten, I can get you to give me the job.

Dating, on the other hand, I don’t have down yet. I’m still gathering info, you know? I’m still going on these dates and learning what to expect from guys, who, it seems, routinely don’t call you back or, on the flip side, pursue the heck out of you, or, like my Ex, don’t talk to you for a year and then say he wants to get back together. Oh and funny, I read this article on Wikihow - totally not so helpful.

Some people get really lucky. They marry their high school sweethearts. They land a killer job out of college. But, for most of us, it’s not that simple.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

So I Have This Friend (or, on mooching)

What do you do when, say, a friend comes to visit and suggests you go to THAT restaurant with the amazing food and the great atmosphere, the one that makes delicious food but hits your wallet big-time? Then, say, this friend orders an entree and drinks and more drinks and a side of this and a bit of that, laughing it up and saying how good it all is, only to say, when the bill comes, that she can’t cover it?

You only ordered something small, because, well, you’re on a budget after all. And your friend says something about how she doesn’t make much money and it’s hard to find good work and you know? Maybe you can help her out?

This happens to me sometimes. Not frequently, and not with a lot of people. But with some people very frequently, in fact with one particular person all the time. I’ll know I can spend $10, so I’ll order something small; Friend knows she has $10 in her wallet but orders something big, knowing I can help her, if it comes to that.

I don’t mind giving to my friends; in fact, I believe in it. But maybe there’s some kind of line we can cross with giving. Maybe at some point, giving becomes excusing? Maybe at some point, my “sure, here’s another $10″ becomes “you don’t have to be responsible for what you do”?

This same friend has been looking for a better job, on and off, for almost a year. She makes $8 now, so, yeah, she doesn’t have much money. So what do I do? I offer to help her with her resume, thinking that this could help her get a better job, help her make better money. I spend three hours one Friday night beefing it up and reorganizing and formatting, etc. I send it to her and say, voila! like she’ll fall over herself gushing with praise. She doesn’t respond. She never says if she’ll use it.

The truth is, she never asked me to look at her resume. It was my idea, my plan to help her get in a better financial situation. In other words, it’s what I’d want someone to do for me. Just like I’d want someone to help me if I needed money, though, to be honest, I’d never, ever, not-in-a-million-years order something I knew I didn’t have the money for. I wish someone had helped me make a resume when I was frustrated, desperate for a job. I wish someone had given me advice and guidance to getting the right position. I wish someone would help me when I feel like I need it.

But do I wish that only because I’m looking back? I mean, if I hadn’t done anything, would that have meant I needed help that no one gave or that I didn’t want it (the jobs/resumes/whatever) enough?

What do you think? Can you give too much to your friends? Is there a way to know if you can? And how do you train yourself to stop helping people who don’t want you to? How do you love them enough to say, You can do it yourself? How do you love them enough to say, Sure, I’ll pay for it again?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Difference A Day

It’s amazing to me how different life can be from day to day, and, along those lines, how absolutely impossible it is to measure the happiness of one’s life (or even the peacefulness or the conflict-free-ness of it) by one morning.

Take this week, for example:

Yesterday, because of a smallish mistake a restaurant made on my order, I and my co-workers ate lunch for free (!). This, I’ll just tell you, was enough to make me grin from ear to ear, while exclaiming how nice this restaurant is! such good customer service! what a wonderful manager! I even wrote a letter to the company’s headquarters, just because I was feeling so positively pleased.

But that was yesterday. Today, a colleague I have come to greatly dislike wrote me a nasty letter, which to me came out of nowhere and was based on presumptions. Trying to take the higher road, I apologized for what he accused me of, saying that wasn’t what I’d meant. I also mentioned, at the end, that using expletives when referring to people I work with (or me) probably wasn’t appropriate. The whole event got me in such a down mood, feeling so frustrated and irritated and wanting to get away from him, the office, anyone who reminds me of the incident in question.

And then, just as I’m high as a kite in my self-pity, I think of that really kind manager yesterday, who bent over backwards to help me and make me happy, at no real reward to himself really. And I remember how on-top-of-the-world everything was afterwards and feel a little embarrassed at how bottom-of-the-barrel I’ve become because of one (mean maybe) person.

What does this all have to do with personal finance? Well, aside from the not-paying-for-a-meal thing yesterday and the hey-I-still-have-a-job thing today, not a lot. Except to say that just because your stock portfolio or your career path or your 401K seem down today doesn’t mean they will tomorrow. And vice versa, I suppose.

I guess what I mean is: most everything’s temporary. And when you see things that way, there’s not a lot to worry about.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Random Thoughts on a Friday Evening

My stock portfolio, like probably everybody else’s, is at a new low. Let’s not talk about it. I promise I believe things will work out, and it’s not like I’m checking my numbers every day; it’s just Mint.com likes to e-mail me status updates at the end of each week. So I’m just saying.

The bailout, which, up until now, I have been incorrectly hyphenating as bail-out—let’s not talk about that either—is actually boring me now. Will they? Won’t they? What did they change? What are they promising now? I’m just so disillusioned with the whole political process. Do you know I already give 25% of my paychecks to the government, as a combination of federal, state, social security and medicare taxes? 25%!! And I’m not in a high income bracket. The consolation is that I’ll get a large part of it back in a refund… or is that even a consolation? And now, as if all the taxes the government is already bringing in aren’t enough, the massively indebted USA is taking out further funds. Don’t even try to tell me it won’t affect my wallet. I don’t want to hear it.

And, since we’re talking about it, why in the world aren’t condo prices dropping drastically around here? I mean, if “no one is able to get a loan” as someone told me this week and “real estate is terrible” as I’m always hearing, why the heck aren’t the sellers lowering their prices? You’d think, to help compensate for my lowered portfolio, home values would follow suit, but no, not in Chicagoland. Not in the places I’d want to live in.

So. I have nothing else to say but that I’m happy to have a job and I’m happy to be healthy and I’m happy I’m not a politician or related to one, since, apparently, you’re either a media darling or a media scapegoat and either one is annoying.

I’m just an ordinary American, tired, suspicious and trying to make sense of things.