Monday, June 2, 2008

Having a Second Child May Be the Worst Thing You Can Do For Your First

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

comic 31 - financial time traveler

Good news for all you fans of eating food so you can live: short-term food prices are expected to finally ease following a period of soaring food prices. The bad news: food prices are expected to continue climbing faster than in past years for the foreseeable future.

Fingers continue to be pointed at various “root causes” of the skyrocketing food prices. If you put four different economic analysts in a room, you’d get a list of causes a mile long, and that list would certainly include things like currency devaluation, oil prices, food being converted to fuel, and obese Americans who like to eat anything that isn’t nailed down. And each of those economic analysts could probably provide a dozen reasons why each of those causes isn’t as important as the others.

But whether you’re an economic analyst, oil tycoon, or obese American, there’s little arguing against one important fact of life: the demand for everything is growing. The world population continues to grow, and with more people comes more demand for food, oil, gold, silver, copper, silicone, and dozens of other commodities. The last time I checked, the Earth itself is not growing proportionately to the increase in population; in fact, it isn’t growing at all! So more people end up fighting over a fixed set of resources, and you don’t need an economic analyst to remind you about the concept of supply and demand.

On a large scale, the rapidly growing world population will pose problems across the map for big countries like the United States and Russia as well as the smaller countries nobody really cares about. On a smaller scale, large families will feel the hurt much more as consumable goods become more and more expensive. Consider this example: A family of three (mom, dad, son) currently survives and thrives on just 70% of mom and dad’s income. Mom and dad do the math and decide to have a second child. Their reasoning is that, if each family member comes with a proportionate amount of expenses, another child would only take 20-25% of their current income to support—something they can clearly afford… right now. But what if the cost of living goes up much faster than the family income (say, twice as fast)? It might only take a few years before the family can no longer keep up with the same quality of life they had before. Here’s a graphic that illustrates this situation:

one- vs. two-child expense graph

In the table above, assume the family income grows by 3% per year but the cost of living jumps 6% annually. The family can raise one child to adulthood quite comfortably even with the inflation rate growing faster than the family income, but adding a second child to the mix could mean the family will hit money troubles before the second kid hits kindergarten.

Of course, this scenario makes a lot of assumptions. A hard-working family may be able to keep up with cost of living increases no matter how high prices go. And there are always cost-cutting measures families can take for those years when things get a little too pricey. But this situation is probably more common in today’s society than most people think. So what usually happens when that two-child family hits the point when their expenses exceed their income? Probably they cut costs, partially to the detriment of their firstborn. Sorry, Billy, you can’t have a book to read because your younger sister needs braces. The one-child family, in the meantime, just bought their eight-year-old a new Lexus.

I’m not going to tell you that you should only have one child. But I will tell you that you shouldn’t have two or more children. Otherwise you won’t be able to shower your firstborn with the total sum of your monetary love, so he or she will grow up to have eight children out of spite. Then food will cost $80 a pound, gas $30 a gallon, and gold $5,000 an ounce.

All just because you thought having two children wasn’t such a big deal.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Lemonade Stand Monopolies Made Easy

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

comic 12 - lemonade stand

Teaching your children proper money management skills at an early age is very important. Without being exposed to good financial habits at a young age, children can grow up to be reckless, greedy, or possibly even Federal Reserve Chairman. One of the best ways to give your children some experience with money is by helping them operate a small business. Unlike your typical kid-sized jobs like delivering newspapers or working for H&R Block, helping them run their own small business is a much better way to introduce your children to a wide variety of adult financial topics—everything from supply and demand to price gouging. It’s also a terrific method for bringing in a few extra bucks for yourself—I mean, your kids and their college funds.

One great small business that any set of kids can run almost entirely by themselves is a lemonade stand. Yes, the most cliché of all child-run money-makers is still one of the best. That’s because it’s a microcosm of the entire U.S. economy in one 2′-by-4′ wooden stand. For a startup investment of just a couple hundred dollars, your kids can experience all of the trials and tribulations of real grown-up finances—paying the bills, making ends meet, and mercilessly crushing the competition.

Of course, as with any business, it’s a lot easier to make more money if you’re the only lemonade stand on the block. So when the Joneses across the street read this post and decide to help their kids start their own stand to compete with yours, you’re going to have to take them down fast. Here are some tips that I stole from those brats three doors down for cornering the market in lemonade stands.

  1. Advertising is key. If you live in the dreaded cul-de-sac or some other area without a lot of vehicular or pedestrian traffic, you’re going to have to find other ways to get the word out about your fine lemonade establishment. Flyers posted on telephone poles may work, but don’t stop there! Target any place that may see lots of hot, sweaty people such as home improvement stores, gyms, and the romance section of your local bookstore.
  2. Cut down your expenses. Have you seen the price of lemons lately? Not to mention sugar, water, cups… You’ll have to be creative to earn a good profit in the lemonade business, and the best way to do that is to minimize your expenses. For example, go for paper cups over plastic. And instead of fresh lemons, use lemon cough drops.
  3. Hire attractive workers. I hate to break it to you, but your children could stand some improvement in the looks area. So while you’re stuffing away that hard-earned lemonade money to pay for their plastic surgeries, consider borrowing better-looking kids from family or friends. Adorable little girls in cute dresses covered in bows are sure to melt the hearts of anyone passing by your stand enough to score a slew of sales.
  4. Price competitively. If little Bobby and Jane next door are selling their lemonade for 20 cents a cup, your kids can sell it for 15 cents—even if it means taking a loss in the beginning. When Bobby and Jane don’t sell a single cup and run home crying to Mommy, your kids will be free to jack up their price 700 percent.
  5. Offer a rewards program. Encourage repeat customers by setting up a rewards structure for frequent buyers. Punch cards that give clients a free drink for every five or six purchases will keep them coming back every day. Just be careful of that creepy guy down the street coming back twelve times a day to your kids’ lemonade stand; he’s not there for the rewards program, that’s for sure.
  6. Don’t be afraid to play dirty. If your kids’ lemonade stand just can’t compete with the others in the area, then it’s time to pull out the big guns. After all, big guns are useful for scaring away other people’s children from their lemonade stands so your kids can sell their inferior product for twice the market price.
  7. Find a way to stand out. Anyone can run a lemonade stand, but you can help yours “stand” out by offering additional services you won’t find at your typical beverage vendor. How about a lemonade and leg-waxing stand? Or a lemonade and iPod repair stand. The possibilities are endless, and soon so will be your profits!

Following these simple tips will help your children learn just how the adult world of money really works. Just be sure to share the responsibility of managing the lemonade stand with your children so they can find out for themselves just how stressful and aggravating it can be to have to manage their own finances. They’ll either become the most financially responsible kids on the block… or they’ll be too scared to ever move out of your house.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Whoring Out Your Spouse For Fun and Profit

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

comic 8 - listen to your wife

Earlier this week, we looked at one of the many ways I make money on the side—selling snake oil to enfeebled minds. Today I’m going to reveal another secret money-making scheme of mine that has brought in tens of thousands of dollars in extra income for our family: selling my wife’s body on the street.

Now I know what you’re thinking—”Why didn’t I think of that?”—but hear me out. I’ll admit that we were a little skittish about the idea when it was first proposed to us by a disgruntled priest at a religious retreat three years ago. I mean, just the idea of sharing one’s spouse with strangers seemed utterly ridiculous. But when the prospect of making big bucks was presented to us, the idea became quite intriguing.

We decided to try it out a few days after we got back. We started small at first—selling 15-minute “romps in the sack” for $20 to stay-at-home dads in the neighborhood. (I even made a few extra bucks babysitting their kids while dad was “playing with his merchandise.”) My wife really warmed up to the job—not just for the money, but also because she realized that just about every customer she had was better in bed than me. I was a little afraid she was going to start offering her services for free because she enjoyed her work so much, but she assured me that would never happen.

Eventually we expanded the business, branching out to other neighborhoods, sometimes visiting downtown D.C. With the demand for top-quality working girls at an all-time high, my wife was quickly able to raise her going rate to $250 an hour. She became a favorite of foreign diplomats along Embassy Row where we frequently set up shop—and not to give out geography lessons, if-you-know-what-I-mean.

Sadly, most of her best clients were recently impeached, removed from office, deported, or assassinated, so business has dried up quite a bit. We were thinking of relocating to a different area with a lower client-to-call-girl ratio, such as Vatican City, but my wife decided to give up the business and focus on her education instead. Something about using her “academic” talents, whatever that means.

Since we’re out of the industry now, I figure there’s no harm in sharing some of the secrets behind our sexual fiscal success, just in case you and your spouse are thinking about giving this money-making opportunity a test drive.

  1. Share the responsibilities. One of you should be committed full-time to doing the hard work—taking care of the finances. All that money you’ll be making will require someone with a strong background in mathematics who can at least count from 1 to 100. And while your partner won’t need lots of arithmetic to service clients, your spouse should still be able to count up to 69 or so.
  2. Incorporate your business. I don’t know very much about proper business law, but one of the hookers my wife used to share a street corner with says that her pimp organized himself under an LLC—a limited liability call-house—which protects his business assets and employees in the event that they’re busted by the cops. Be sure to look up the laws in your own state as you may be better off organizing yourself as an S-corp, which is short for “strumpet corporation.”
  3. Set your price high—but not too high. Don’t think you’re gonna make $4,000 an hour right away like a certain gubernatorial call girl who’s been in the news lately. At the same time, don’t sell yourself short. You might not be able to demand much right away, but once word of your spouse’s talents spreads, you can easily make $1,000 or more a night.
  4. Get the word out. One of the trickier parts about being a harlot is connecting with potential clients. After all, you can’t just take out an ad in the Yellow Pages or slap a bumper sticker with your phone number and measurements on your car. Instead, you’ll have to advertise primarily through word of mouth and maybe Craigslist.
  5. Offer a rewards plan for repeat customers. Specials like “buy 4, get 1 free” are sure to attract the attention of customers who want a concubine that’s easy on the eyes and on the budget.
  6. Take care of your spouse’s body. Just like a professional bowler takes good care of his hands, so too should both of you work on keeping your spouse in top physical condition. Sure, it means lots of trips to the gym, nutrition centers, and lollipop stores, but that’s what it’s going to take to keep your spouse a viable product in today’s market.
  7. Don’t forget to do your taxes. Some streetwalkers prefer pocketing their cash and stiffing the government, but we’re a wholesome and ethical couple, so we’re always sure to declare our sex money on Schedule C of our Federal tax returns. After all, you don’t want the IRS pounding on the door at the same time the police are breaking it down.
  8. Make time for the two of you. Remember, just because your spouse is sleeping with every Tom, Dick, and Harry on the block doesn’t mean you two aren’t still married—for better or for worse. Set aside one evening each week for a little alone time. For us, we’d spend every Tuesday night in bed for hours counting all of the money we were bringing in.

Notice how I’ve been rather gender-neutral during this discussion? That’s because it doesn’t have to be just the woman in your relationship who’s doing the deeds. And while the demand for male whores isn’t quite as high, an attractive man who can go the distance can still fetch quite a price in the right places (like flower shows and PTA meetings). I’ll admit we tried selling some “Nick sandwiches” at one point, but there just wasn’t that much demand outside of the gay community.

I almost forgot one very important bit of advice: don’t forget the all-important over limit fee for clients who weigh more than twice your spouse does. You’ll need that extra money to pay for chiropractic and psychotherapeutic sessions down the road.

So give it a shot, and let us know how it goes by leaving a comment below. Oh, and while my wife may have officially retired from the business, if any ladies out there are looking for a “financial manager,” feel free to give me a buzz.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

10 Ways to Make It Look a Lot More Like Christmas For Just $12 Total

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

maybe if you had more than one ornament, it would feel more like christmas

You know the song It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas made famous by Johnny Mathis, Bing Crosby, and other people who we only listen to in December? If you haven’t been reciting the tune yourself this year, you’re certainly not alone. Despite Christmas being less than a week away, I’m having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit. Sure, my gift shopping is done and the Christmas Chia Pet has been decorated, but it simply doesn’t feel like Christmas for some reason.

Now, I’m sure I could make it feel like Christmas in a flash with the help of a few thousand dollars, a couple trips to my local electronics superstore, and a lap dance from a stripper in a Santa outfit. But this is Punny Money, so I have to find the cheapest way possible to do absolutely everything. So please join me on my tightwadded journey as I attempt to make it feel like Christmas for under $20 in 10 easy steps.

  1. Drive around looking at lights. I know some people are so obsessed with decorating their homes with Christmas light displays that they’ll actually say you’re “stealing” from them by not decorating your own house. Considering how much time and money it takes to actually decorate a house with lights, I’ll let everyone else do it while I grinch myself some free scenery. Cost: $2 for gas.
  2. Various cheap and free Christmas events. Most large cities have plenty of free Christmas events going on this time of year, including concerts, lighting displays, and waterskiing Santas. In the D.C. area, check out The D.C. Traveler’s holiday guide for some free holiday fun. Cost: zero, though some premium events charge a fee.
  3. Go to church. Even you non-God-fearing people may enjoy the music and pageantry of religious services around the holidays. Some churches also have free choir concerts this time of year. Warning: you may feel guilted into donating and/or repenting your sins. Cost: zero assuming you hide in the confessional when the collection baskets appear.
  4. Classic holiday movie marathon. Make a quick trip to the local video store (or just turn on the TV) for favorites like White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Cost: under $5.
  5. Other people’s Christmas parties. You could throw your own holiday party for somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000 worth of food and decorations. Or you could be socially savvy and get yourself invited to lots of other parties. The bigger the party, the easier it will be for you to get lost in the “too cheap to bring the host a gift” group. Cost: zero for scrooges or maybe $10-20 if you’re nice instead of naughty.
  6. Volunteer your time for the needy. Like I said, you’re not the only one having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit. There are lots of homeless, hungry people out there who don’t even have a calendar to tell them Christmas is coming. Consider donating a few hours at a local charitable organization to make the holidays a little brighter for those less fortunate than yourself. Cost: nothing but your time.
  7. Make cookies. As a child, me and my family would make no less than 500 cookies each Christmas. I think not doing this anymore is the main reason it hasn’t felt like Christmas for years. You don’t need to crank out so many of them, but taking the Christmas cookie cutters to a wad of dough is cheap and tasty fun for the whole family. Cost: $10 for ingredients, plus $5 for postage because you’re going to send me some, right? Please?
  8. Write letters to family. No, not e-mails. Letters. You know, those things all of the sitcom families seem to write each other every year that get them into trouble for approximately 24 minutes. Tell of your personal and family accomplishments over the last year, reach out to rarely-seen relatives, or just brag about how you’re so much better with finances than the rest of your family because you read Punny Money. Cost: about $5 should cover the costs for letters to a dozen family members and friends.
  9. Sing Christmas carols to your neighbors. But only if you can carry a tune. Just make sure you stay away from Hairy Mel’s house at the end of the street because he’ll probably throw beer bottles at you and call you “Christmas queers.” Cost: zero, assuming you know the words.
  10. Lots of Christmas sex. It’s free, it’s fun, it keeps you warm during the winter, and it better be with your lawfully wedded spouse or Jesus is going to come flying out of Mary and kick your butt on December 25th. Cost: -$10 for utility savings.

There we go! I just put the “ho ho ho” back into my ho-ho-holidays, and I still have plenty of cash left over to buy every one of my readers a Nintendo Wii! Oh wait, the stores are still out of stock. Nevermind then. I guess you’ll just have to do with a hearty Merry Christmas from me to you! (Cost: absolutely nothing.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ten Ways to Save Time and Money on Thanksgiving Travel

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , ,

stay home this thanksgiving and avoid pumpkin pie rain and crashing world war 2 airplanes

Over the next 72 hours, Americans will travel the equivalent of 16 light years around the country to visit relatives, exchange family gossip, and pass out from turkey overload while watching football. If the thought of squeezing the spouse and kids into the car for a four-hour drive to grandma’s has you down, consider these options for making that Turkey Day commute a little less painful.

  1. Stay home. Make no excuses. Just tell everyone you’re staying home. “No, gas isn’t too expensive. No, we don’t hate you. No, we’re not converting to the Cult of Turkey Protectors. We’re just staying home and having a small, inexpensive Thanksgiving celebration on our own. Just us, our children… and the Nintendo Wii which is the real reason we can’t afford to drive to see you all this year.”
  2. Meet them halfway. You live in Boston, they live in Atlanta. Both of you could travel half the distance and enjoy the holiday where you meet. So what’s a good halfway point for Boston and Atlanta? Pancake, West Virginia, of course!
  3. Celebrate with closer relatives and friends. There’s no need to drive seven hours to visit your parents back home when you’ve got perfectly good cousins 90 minutes away that you haven’t seen in years… maybe even never! For that extra Thanksgiving surprise, don’t tell them you’re coming and waltz right through the front door. Just be sure to bring a copy of the family tree to prove you’re entitled to half their turkey.
  4. Host family at your place. Bring your travel costs down to zero by guilting everyone into coming to your home for Thanksgiving this year. Don’t let relatives crying “But Grandma’s hosted it every year for 25 years, and she’s in a wheelchair so she can’t drive down here, and this could be her last Thanksgiving” deter you. You’re hosting Thanksgiving… and you’re giving away free DVD players to the first five relatives to arrive!
  5. Go shopping instead. Kmart is open on Thanksgiving and has some great deals on GPS navigators and… oh wait, that’s not really going to save you any money. It’ll save gas money, maybe.
  6. Set up a Thanksgiving videoconference. That fancy video communications equipment they have where you work is just begging to be borrowed to help bring together distant families this Thanksgiving. Now you don’t have to worry about Great Uncle Fred eating all of the sweet potatoes, but you still get to hear his amusing yet slightly insulting stories about all the dames and broads he’s known in his 80-some years.
  7. Purposely book the worst flight possible. Check which airline in your area is notorious for delays, bumping passengers, and causing extreme frustration in its customers during Thanksgiving week. Then book your plane tickets on them, show up late, and pray that they bump you to a flight that doesn’t leave until Christmas Eve.
  8. Cause a family feud. You’ve got less than 24 hours to do it, but you could get the ball rolling by telling Aunt Kelly that you overhead Aunt Sally say she was getting fat. Eventually long-repressed opinions will spread like wildfire, and your family won’t want to be near each other until at least Easter 2012.
  9. Disown family that lives more than 100 miles away. It’s not your fault they decided to stay in their inexpensive country farm home on 50 acres of gorgeous meadow while you and your family decided to take up residence in a ridiculously overpriced 600-square-foot apartment in the middle of downtown. You can have an amazing Thanksgiving feast at home… well, except you don’t have an oven to cook it in… or a refrigerator… or a dining room table. But nothing says Thanksgiving like an Arby’s roast beef sandwich!
  10. Convince yourself it isn’t Thanksgiving. Several of my co-workers and friends were confused by the extra Thursday this month; they were thinking that Thanksgiving was always the last Thursday in November when it’s really the fourth Thursday. Play dumb and make this “mistake” yourself. Then enjoy the James Bond marathon on Spike TV with Pussy Galore and all her friends.

As for me, since my family is only 60 miles away, we’ll be spending the day there tomorrow with relatives, friends, and the biggest turkey you’ve ever seen (wait, I forgot Uncle Fred isn’t coming this year because he has to work).