Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Add An Extra Day to Your Week–No Time Machine Required!

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics:

sleep less, more time for butter churning

Money is time. Time is money. You just wasted three cents reading this opening, so let’s get to it!

Since my petition to add Nickday between Wednesday and Thursday was rejected by Congress, I’ve been looking for ways to help me find some extra time. I came up with the following list which can save anybody up to 24 hours every single week.

  • Ditch the TV. Most people watch at least two hours of television every day. Last time I checked, TV is not a vitamin the body needs to survive. Stop watching all TV, except for Heroes because it’s awesome. Time saved: 13 hours
  • ditch tv, more time for practicing telekinesis

  • Sleep one hour less each day, and two hours less each weekend day. Yes, it can be done. It’ll take some getting used to, but spending less time horizontally unconscious is the easiest way to add hours to your week. Time saved: 9 hours
  • Skip every other shower. If everybody did this, nobody would notice the smell! Time saved: 30 minutes
  • Omit unneeded words. Strive for efficiency of speech. Instead of “Please pass me the bread,” say, “Bread. Now.” Time saved: 30 minutes
  • Skim some time from work. Show up two minutes later, leave three minutes early. Do this five times a week. Just don’t let the boss catch you! Time saved: 25 minutes
  • pee faster, more time for tango lessons

  • Pee faster. Instead of letting it just stream out, put some force behind it and finish in half the time. Time saved: 10 minutes
  • Instead of walking, cartwheel. Cartwheeling is at least 10% faster than normal one-foot-in-front-of-the-other travel. It’s also a great way to impress the ladies. Time saved: 10 minutes
  • Skip sex once a week. Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder. Time saved: 5 minutes
  • Don’t wear underwear. Think about how often you take off or put on underwear each week. Underwear is not worth it! Time saved: 5 minutes
  • water from the tub, more time for writing love letters to janet jackson

  • Fill water glasses from the tub, not the sink. Need a glass of water? It’ll take about five seconds to fill it from the kitchen tap, but the tub spigot will do it in two. Multiply that by eight glasses a day, seven days a week, and you get… Time saved: 3 minutes
  • Add a fireman’s pole to your home. Stairs just don’t cut it in today’s fast-paced society. Time saved: 1 minute and 30 seconds
  • Rename your children. It’ll make them easier to call down for dinner. One-syllable names only, people! Mahershalalhashbaz might sound like a cool name, but George will do just fine. Time saved: 30 seconds

Now that you have an extra day every week, be sure to put it to good use. Volunteer at an orphanage. Write the Great American Novel. Read the Punny Money archives. Or fulfill your dream of becoming the first person to build a life-sized model of the Starship Enterprise out of toothpicks.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Eat Your Money’s Worth At Any All-You-Can-Eat Buffet

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , ,

punny money: the all-you-can-read buffet of money knowledge

My name is Nick, and I’m an all-you-can-eat-buffet-holic.

Thanks to an incredible metabolism, I’m able to eat 73 pounds of food in one sitting and not gain an ounce. This has spelled disaster for many area all-you-can-eat buffets whose owners break down and cry when they see me coming. I am a master of eating, and you can be too.

Okay, so maybe all-you-can-eat buffets (henceforth simply “buffets”) aren’t the best thing for your body; but a limitless food selection of questionable nutrition at a fixed price is a magical thing for people eating on a budget. One major problem has plagued buffet-eaters throughout the ages: a few plates later and you can’t eat any more. Even folks of gargantuan proportions often find themselves unable to down enough food to justify the price tag.

If things like health and being able to see your feet don’t really concern you, here are some tactics for eating your money’s worth at all-you-can-eat buffets that’ll have you striking fear in the heart of buffet restaurateurs everywhere.

General Buffet Tactics

Pre-Meal Planning

    pre-buffet food of champions
  • Do NOT starve yourself ahead of time. One classic dinner buffet strategy is to skip breakfast and lunch so that you’re starving in the evening. If you try this method, you’ll usually find that your stomach can’t handle the shock of going from “help, need food” to “12 pounds of beef” just like that. Eat a normal breakfast and a light lunch earlier in the day and you’ll keep your metabolism in top form well into the night.
  • Load up on carbs beforehand. Doughnuts, toaster pastries, and anything else where ingredient #1 is carbs will help ensure that you’re hungry and able to stomach a lot by dinnertime.
  • Clear the runway. Make sure you pay a nice long visit to the bathroom not long before your visit to the buffet. You’re going to need every last square inch of those intestines.
  • Break out the fat pants. Don’t even think of showing up to the buffet in pants that actually fit you. You want two sizes above normal at a minimum. Sweat pants work great too.
  • Don’t plan to drive home. Pretend you’re going out for a night of heavy drinking. Give someone else the keys, or know the number for a cab. You don’t want the thought of any physical activity creeping into your head during your meal-a-thon.
  • Get there early. The food will be fresher if you show up ahead of the crowd. Fresher food is tastier, so you’ll enjoy eating it more.
  • Bring a book. What, you had other plans for the evening? No way, Jose. Get there ahead of the crowd and plan to stay until closing. You’ll want to take a long break or two, so bring something to keep yourself occupied while your fork is empty.

Attack That Buffet!

  • Sit close, but not too close. If you can seat yourself, don’t pick a table too far from the action. Even a little bit of walking will contribute to your fatigue levels. At the same time, don’t sit two feet from the food stations because all those smells will hit you at once and wreak havoc on your olfaction.
  • sign on mouth: steak goes here

  • First stop: meat. The ham, beef, and chicken will likely be tucked away in the far corner from where you’re seated, but that should be your first target. Soups, breads, pastas, and rice are simply road blocks intended to fill you up quickly and save the restaurant money.
  • Your beverage of choice: nothing. Drink as little as possible. Liquids take up space in your stomach that could be better used for food. If you must, pour yourself a half glass of water and take a sip after every plate–just enough to cleanse your palate for the next round.
  • Second stop: meat. Seriously, load up on meat if you want your money’s worth. At full-service carving stations, let the carver keep loading your plate until it’s full of dead animal. Don’t be tempted to shove some mashed potatoes on the side to fill the gap in that plate.
  • Third stop: meat. Or maybe seafood. Just don’t fall for those generic-looking white fish fillets you’ll sometimes see. They usually taste terrible and are cheaper than tender slices of beef.
  • Fourth stop: something else. If you’re still eating after downing a few pounds of pork and poultry, you’re probably close to breaking even. Feel free to sample some of the other wares. Bread should still be a no-no because it’s dirt cheap and will fill your tummy faster than you can say “I gotta puke.”
  • Take a break. Now is probably a good time to break out that book and pause for a bit. Avoid the temptation to down a mug of soda. The only digestive aid you should use right now is time.
  • Fifth through ??? stops: victory! Once you’ve gotten your money’s worth, it’s time to celebrate your win. Grab a brownie, smother it with ice cream, toss on every topping in sight, and top it all off with a big slice of roast beef. Mmmmm.

Recovery

  • Resist the urge to sleep. You’ve just eaten 13 pounds of the finest food $10 can buy. Along comes Mr. Sandman ready to knock you out, but you don’t want to give in to Dreamland just yet. Try to stay up for at least three hours after finishing at the buffet to allow your upper digestive system time to process your meal. This will help you get through the night without feeling like you ate a grenade.
  • water makes your stomach stop burning sometimes

  • Now is a good time for some water. You know how your body is normally 70% water? After a buffet, it probably drops to about 12% water for a bit. Drink a glass or two of water to refill your body’s liquid levels. It’ll aid digestion too.
  • Stop eating. If you need to eat anything before the next morning, you obviously left the buffet without squeezing it for every last dime. Padlock the fridge if you must–your eating is done for today.
  • Be prepared for an ungrateful stomach. You just gave it all this wonderful food, but your stomach returns the favor with aches, pains, cramps, and rumbling. Keep your favorite over-the-counter digestive medicines on hand, though you may find that a good night’s rest is all you need to put a wild food night behind you.
  • Don’t repeat for a while. You probably just shaved a few days off your normal life span, so hold off on making a return trip to the buffet for at least a month or two. Resume your normal healthy diet, get plenty of exercise, and try not to eat out too much.

Certain people have other strategies that work for them. For example, some may swear that exercise, tons of water, or even sex before the buffet helps them put away more food. You’ll have to experiment with these and other activities to see what, if anything, helps boost your eating power.

All-You-Can-Eat Case Studies

Not all buffets are created equal. Here’s a look at a few different buffets and some tips for getting your money’s worth at each.

Case Study: CiCi’s Pizza

cicis pizzaMenu: Pizza, salad, pasta, dessert, soda.
Price: $4-5.
Overview: This is about as cheap as all-you-can-eat buffets get. How can CiCi’s fill your stomach for five bucks or less and still stay in business? It’s simple–most of the food is cheap and easy to make. The pizzas are shipped frozen and heated on a conveyor belt. The salad ingredients come in bulk; same with the deserts.
Strategies for getting your money’s worth:

  • Soda no-no. Jenn at Frugal Upstate reminded me of the #1 rule for CiCi’s Pizza: don’t buy sodas. Ask for water and you’ll get a free glass for water. Soda is about $1.50 by itself, and you’d have to drink a lot of it (or eat more pizza) to make back your money.
  • Know your pizzas. Come on, how hard can it be to eat five dollars worth of pizza? When the pizzas probably cost about a buck each, very hard. The meat-topped or specialty pizzas are comparable to those frozen pizzas you can get in the grocery store for around $3 each on sale. You’ll need to down the equivalent of one-and-a-half to two pizzas to get your money’s worth here. Avoid the plain cheese pizzas, and watch out for the colorful pizzas with peppers and other ingredients that can do a quick number on your tummy.
  • Go for the sauce. You’ll notice one keep ingredient missing from most of CiCi’s pizzas: tomato sauce. That’s because it would be the most expensive ingredient, and they figure you won’t miss something that’s usually hidden under the cheese anyway. Get around this devilish plot by topping your slices with the sauce you find over by the pasta. And don’t touch the pasta.
  • Alternate strategy: load up on salad. One day, I plan to show up at CiCi’s, grab the canister of cherry tomatoes, and have at it. Some of the salad fixin’s (including the lettuce) can provide a delicious meal that’ll certainly cover your bill after just a few plates.

Case Study: Old Country Buffet

old country buffetMenu: Salad, meats, entrees, soups, desserts, various beverages.
Price: About $10 for dinner.
Overview: When America says “buffet,” Old Country Buffet is what comes to mind–dozens of food stations featuring more dishes than you’ll ever know how to make. Unfortunately most of the food is of inferior quality, but there are a few key items you can load up on to make sure you meet your quota.
Strategies for getting your money’s worth:

  • Meat for the win! Those carving stations are just begging for your mouth. Don’t hesitate to stand there while the chef cuts slice after slice and loads your plate full. Ignore the groans and grimaces of other patrons. Get. That. Meat.
  • Watch out for those tricky entrees. “Ooh, chicken casserole. It’s meat, so it’s a good deal.” Wrong! Meat may be an ingredient, but you’re probably being drawn into a food composed of cheaper ingredients like bread or veggies. You’d do best to avoid the entree table completely and compose your own dishes… made of at least 95% meat, of course.
  • If you must drink, go for the white stuff. If you’re one of those people who must follow eat bite with a beverage, only milk comes close to being a good deal. It’s the most expensive drink per volume at Old Country, and it tastes pretty good too.

Case Study: Chinese & Japanese Buffets

asian buffetsMenu: Sushi, General Tso’s Chicken, and a whole lot of other stuff I can’t pronounce.
Price: Under $10 for lunch, $12-15 for dinner.
Overview: There is some yummy food to be had at the various types of Asian buffets. You’ll find some of your favorite items from the classic Chinese carry-out menu along with some other… surprises.
Strategies for getting your money’s worth:

  • Eat what you like. It’s not too hard to get your money’s worth at these places. As always, shoot for the meat, but feel free to feast on sushi and other pricey items. Foods to avoid: spring and egg rolls, soups (except miso soup, which is too tasty to pass up), and dishes composed of mostly vegetables.
  • Don’t try new things. Buffet time, despite its limitless food supply, is not the time to experiment. You might think that big white puff ball thing is a delicious pastry, but when it takes you two hours to chew it, you might quickly lose your appetite.
  • Beware of the desserts. They look weird for a reason–because they taste weird, too! Those sheets of cake and bite-sized cookies might look appetizing, but they’re often very dry. Soft-serve ice cream is hit or miss at Asian buffets, but it’s probably your best bet for dessert.

Oh, one last bonus buffet tip, because I know I’ll hear about it if I don’t come out and say it:


  • Buffets are bad for you. Yeah, you probably shouldn’t follow any of the above advice if you’re looking for a healthy dining experience. Instead, listen to what this article says about eating healthy at a buffet. Or just do the exact opposite of everything I said earlier.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Insuring Art: Not Just For Millionaires Anymore

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics:

is your art collection adequately insured?

People are often surprised to learn that I’m quite the collector of art. Specifically, I love anime- and fantasy-style artwork. We spent last weekend at an anime convention complete with a live art auction, so naturally I came home with an excellent assortment of new pieces for my collection.

While you won’t be finding any six-figure paintings in my collection, it’s worth enough that I carry extra insurance to cover it. And even though the average piece ran me around $20, there are enough of them that their total combined value is something worth insuring.

You too may have a few pieces of art in your home. Maybe a few prints, a couple pieces of fine pottery, or that big landscape painting you bought at a yard sale for next to nothing. Even if you own just a single piece of art with some sort of value, you’ll want to make sure it’s adequately covered in the event of a loss.

Some Q&A About Art Insurance

remember to insure your sexy stone ladies

Q: Do I need art insurance?

A: Maybe. For smaller, casual collections, your homeowners policy may cover the entire thing in the event of damage, destruction, or theft. Some policies will place a limit on coverage, so you’ll want to obtain a rider on your main policy to cover the extra value of your collection.

Q: How much insurance do I need for my collection?

A: It depends. You’ll need to determine the value of your collection, probably by having it professionally appraised. You may also choose not to insure the entire collection; instead, you could simply cover the more valuable pieces.

Q: How much will art insurance cost?

A: Not much, relatively speaking. You can get $100 of art insurance coverage for about a dime a year. And if this seems like too much money to you, you probably shouldn’t be purchasing expensive art in the first place.

Q: What else do I need to insure my collection?

A: Several items, starting with that professional appraisal from earlier. Some other things you’ll need:

  • An inventory list. You may need a list of specific pieces you wish to insure if you are not insuring your entire collection.
  • Proof of provenance. When you acquire a piece of valuable art, you should be given some sort of certification of its origin. It may be included as part of the original invoice, which you should also keep.
  • Photographs of the artwork. Not only do you need to prove you owned the work, but you must also show the condition it was in before it was damaged or stolen. Sure you spent $1,000 on that fancy portrait, but if you’ve been using it as a TV tray for the last ten years, it’s not worth $1,000 anymore.

Q: I definitely don’t have any art valuable enough to insure.

A: Are you sure about that? Any flea market find or attic artwork could be worth more than you think. Wouldn’t you hate to find out that your beautiful painting that got damaged in a storm was worth $25,000, but your standard homeowners insurance will only cover $1,000 for art? Even a casual collection should be appraised and insured if it turns out to be more valuable than you originally thought.

For more information on insuring artwork, check out “The Fine Art of Insuring Fine Art, Valuables, and Collectibles.” And once you’re ready to get a professional appraisal, consider looking into one of the many
art appraisals organizations.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

This Make$ Me Laugh: Finances Are So Easy A 12-Year-Old Could Do It!

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , ,

you have got to be KIDding me

This morning, there were approximately 12,581 people like me–people who think their real-life experiences with money qualify them enough to give you advice about finances from their corner of the internet.

Time to bump the counter up to 12,582 for this dude.

You may have already heard of 12-year-old personal finance writer Paris Spence-Lang from John Chow dot Com. This pre-teen pencil pusher, who doesn’t need things like “experience” or “a driver’s license” to talk about money, has sparked a storm of e-gossip with astounding financial insight such as:

  • “…when you’re talking to a bank about a mortgage and you’re not sure whether or not you’re getting the best rate, ask them what they’re best rate is…”
  • How to win at Monopoly: “…remember: never not spend money.”
  • And some advice for all of us 12-year-olds: “If you can get a good cabernet for 150 dollars each, try to buy at least 100 bottles.”

The name of Paris’s blog might also ring a bell to long-time Punny Money readers. That’s right, it’s the same name of my original personal finance website. Except mine has an extra space in it. Apparently spaces between words aren’t “in” with kids these days.

By now I’m sure you’re ready to fire your grown-up financial advisor and hand your portfolio over to Mr. Spence-Lang. But before you do that, don’t forget that I’m 24 years old which means my advice must be exactly twice as good as his!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Domain Registrars Wage War in My Inbox

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

registerfly vs enom - the internet battle of the century!!!111

I’ve received countless junk e-mails from unscrupulous domain registrars before seeking to draw me and my .coms and .orgs to their portfolio. But never before have I received any like the following messages that showed up today from eNom and RegisterFly in which each registrar bad-mouths the other and insists I cannot rest until I move my domains to their service.

First we hear from eNom:

Dear Nick:

This is a formal notice to owners of domains which have been registered through eNom via its reseller, RegisterFly.com.

YOU MUST TAKE ACTION NOW TO RETAIN FULL MANAGEMENT RIGHTS TO YOUR DOMAIN NAME.

Although you purchased your name at RegisterFly, eNom is the actual registrar of record for your domains. As we are severing our relationship with RegisterFly, we are aware that this may have an impact on you as the domain owner. Therefore we would like to offer this opportunity to assist you in securing control of your domain name directly with eNom.

Over the last year, eNom has become aware of an increasing number of complaints from dissatisfied RegisterFly customers.

As an eNom reseller, RegisterFly is contractually bound to adhere to certain standards of customer service in a speedy and diligent manner. Therefore, effective immediately, we have terminated RegisterFly as a reseller of domain names through eNom.

Our records indicate that you are the registrant contact for 1 domains.

HOW TO SECURE CONTROL OF YOUR DOMAIN NAMES

Create a free account at eNom using the link below. Your domain names will automatically be moved to the eNom control panel where you will immediately have the ability to manage your domain(s). In addition, these domains will receive a discounted renewal rate.

***LINK REMOVED***

There is no charge for this service, as eNom is already the registrar of record for your domains. Please reference our list of frequently asked questions page http://www.enom.com/migrate/faq.asp for additional information. We look forward to helping you feel more secure about your domain management.

eNom, Inc.

http://www.eNom.com

former registrar for RegisterFly.com

P.S.: IMPORTANT! If no action is taken, you may no longer be able to renew your domain name or manage it in 30 days. The domain name will remain registered in your name at eNom until it expires. Please take action immediately. Thank you.

Oh man, I’m scared! What should I do? Well, let’s see what RegisterFly had to say in its own defense.

Discontinuation of using reseller services with enom.com

We are aware that enom may have sent a notice in regards to the relationship between enom/registerfly.

As of February 2006 RegisterFly.com become an ICANN Accredited registrar. We formerly used to resell domain services under enom.com but stopped accepting registrations for them on February of 2006 (1 year ago). Since we are ICANN Accredited we have no need to process new registrations/transfers under enom anymore and spent the past year moving large numbers of names away from enom.com to RegisterFly.com. The amount of names remaining at enom.com is relatively small. Any registrations/transfers after February 1st 2006 are directly under RegisterFly.com, inc. which would not be affected by this.

Our top priority is ensuring our customers are not impacted in anyway during this transition. If you are a registerFly.com customer, rest assured we value your business and strive to offer the lowest possible pricing with the best online tools. For a limited time you can renew/transfer your name away from enom.com for only $5.99 per domain name. One year will be added upon completion of the transfer. If you decide to stay with enom as the registrar you will pay considerably higher to renew than the special $5.99 rate we are offering. You can contact our customer care center at 305-674-0165 (8AM to 9PM) or via email at customercare@registerfly.com on specifics on how to move your domain name(s) over and take advantage of these special savings today.

If you call within the next 48 hours and take advantage of this offer you will be eligible to receive an additional $7.99 account credit towards next years renewal.

Wowie zowie, what an offer! Too bad I just moved my last domain to GoDaddy. Maybe eNom and RegisterFly should’ve spent a few million on a sexy Super Bowl commercial instead of flinging e-mud at each other.