Why Amazon is starting to remind me of the mob

If you recall my time on the Slow Carb Diet, you may recall that I’m a big fan of Vega protein powder. The one I use has a good amount of greens and antioxidants, a tasty flavor without sugar, and doesn’t use any animal products like whey or casein, which are not necessary for our diet.

Because I have a Vega smoothie every day now, I’m always looking for a cheap way to acquire some. Costco has been my go-to place, but on a recent trip they had taken to selling a slightly different formulation that isn’t nearly as good (and which, oddly, isn’t even listed on Vega’s site).

So, as one does these days, I went to Amazon. They sold the Costco-sized tubs there, and the price was fantastic too.

This is pretty much the best protein powder I’ve ever had. Not an affiliate, just saying.

So I was sold. I figured I’d buy two of them so I could save on shipping (the current deal is that anything eligible over $25 qualifies for free shipping, though they have changed this from time to time) and went to put them in my cart.

I couldn’t.

Instead of the “Add to Cart” button, was a “Try Prime” button. Apparently, I could not purchase this item unless I subscribed to Amazon Prime.

Are you kidding me?

Really, Amazon?

The hell with this company. I realized then that I needed to find an alternative.

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How I handled my most recent impulse purchase

Jumper cables

Once every six months or so, I drain my car’s battery.

This isn’t an intentional thing, mind you. It’s just that I leave my car’s internal dome light on, and then go about my day, sometimes a few days, before coming back to the car and finding it totally dead.

(Let’s put aside the bizarre ability for two tiny incandescent lights to take out a car with a 60 pound hybrid battery in it. And let’s not even talk about how a car that can turn on and off an engine at will while in motion is unable to toggle a dome light that’s been on too long. The whole thing just hurts my head.)

I do have roadside service, though. So recently, when this happened yet again, I called for service, and sat out in my car while I waited for the guy to arrive.

When he did, he said, “hey, I recognize you, I think we did this before, didn’t we?

Great.

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How to know when to make an impulse purchase

Ramit Sethi, the I Will Teach You To Be Rich guy, has a rule about books:

Ramit Book Rule

Yes, this is a link to an Instragram post containing a screenshot of a tweet. I Will Teach You To Be Meta?

If you’re “thinking about” buying a book, just buy it. Don’t waste 5 secs debating. Even 1 idea makes it worth it.

I may not be this cavalier about books (because one might easily end up with a big stack of books one has yet to read), but from a financial perspective, this rule is sound. No one is likely to go broke from buying books.

But impulse purchases, on the whole, are dubious. Going overboard with impulse buying can cause you to blow out your money plan, and cause you to potentially have lots of stuff you don’t want or need.

Impulses happen for a reason, though. Sometimes you see something that’s perfect for you, even if it wasn’t on your radar. Why not take up the opportunity?

So here are some tips on how to handle impulse buying.

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Here’s how I’m going to get a Tesla

Space Mountain

I’m not a “car guy”. I understand that there’s an aesthetic about “acceleration” and “handling”, and how a car “feels”, but I’ve always just wanted one to get me from A to B in relative comfort and without breaking down.

When I was a teenager, my friend told me about a new kind of car. It was half-engine, half-battery, so it was super fuel-efficient. In addition, it did this thing where when you pushed the brake, it took that energy and used it to charge the battery.

It sounded both totally awesome and also the most obvious thing in world. Why didn’t all cars do this, I asked myself? (I still do.)

The car, of course, was the Toyota Prius. And while I was not exactly pining for one, it was on my aspirational wish list from that day on.

15 years later, I bought one, and I now drive with something approaching teenage pride.

I have no plans to get rid of this car, of course. My mechanic asked me how long I intend to keep it, and I responded, effectively until it does this:

That said, with the Tesla in the news as of late, I’m starting to think about the future.

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Why I love the Rule of 72

72

WARNING: This post contains math. (But you knew this with a title like that.)

How long will it take an investment to double?

It’s a good question. And while doubling itself isn’t the most important aspect of an investment, it’s a good way to give you an intuitive sense of how well an investment is likely to grow.

For example, when I say that a fund grows at an average annual rate of 4%, you may go “Hmmm” and leave it at that. But if I say that at that rate it will take approximately 18 years for your investment to double, that means something more to you, doesn’t it?

We feel years. We don’t feel percentages. (Despite what the mortgage brokers say.)

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In defense of rounding

Orange

If you’re used to just “not worrying” about money (which can ironically make one pretty anxious) or just wanting to “let things happen”, my suggestion that you track all of your spending (all of it, every purchase, every month, forever) might seem a little daunting. All those numbers. Math! It’s too overwhelming.

But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves here. There’s a level of precision here that’s simply not required. Tracking doesn’t mean that you need to get too bogged down in the details.

Rounding can be your best friend here.

When tracking your expenses, or really anything, use rounding to make tracking easier.

Think that’s going to skew your numbers? I bet not.

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8 mistakes people make that can drastically affect their financial health

Ghosts

At almost 500 posts here on this site over the past five years, you might be forgiven for feeling like you are drinking from the fire hose.

So here is an opportunity to keep it simple. Let’s talk about 8 mistakes people make that can drastically affect their financial health. I use the word “drastically” there for emphasis: this isn’t small stuff. These can have big results.

How many of these mistakes are you making?

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Can you do a partial rollover of a retirement plan?

Buggy flip

So I made the decision to rollover my retirement account from TIAA(-CREF) to an IRA.

I had done a transfer of a Roth IRA from Scottrade recently, and the process was seamless. I had also, a few years before, converted a 401(k) I had with Vanguard into a Traditional IRA.

The decision to rollover my 403(b) to Vanguard was easy. I love Vanguard, love their simplicity and low-fees, and I have all of my self-directed retirement accounts there. It just makes sense to add to the pile.

And while I expect that a full transfer will be easy, after some consideration I decided that I didn’t want to rollover all of my account. There’s one fund that I want to leave put.

So the question remains: can I do a “partial” rollover? Read more »

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How to know when it’s time to rollover your old retirement plan

Carnegie Library

A little over a decade ago, I had a job with a university. I participated in their retirement plan, a 403(b) plan with TIAA-CREF (now TIAA).

I still have this account. As I moved to a different job, I started a retirement plan there, but my TIAA retirement account stayed put, which was intentional.

Chances are that most people who have worked in a few jobs have more than one retirement account. Considering that the average adult changes jobs every five years or less, you could very easily have quite a few retirement accounts. So this topic is relevant to everyone.

Having lots of accounts isn’t inherently a problem, but it can get needlessly complex. If all of your accounts are hosed by different organizations, do you really want to have to manage them all separately?

On the other hand, might there be a reason to hold on?

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How to calculate just how bad a deal a payday loan is

I love local newspapers. There’s just something you can learn about a place from a local newspaper that no wandering or even research will tell you.

But it’s the advertisements that often are the most interesting.

I was recently in Vancouver, Canada, and while I was there I picked up a “24 hrs” newspaper, which is one of those read-the-whole-thing-on-the-way-to-work free papers.

Inside, amidst all the local coverage, was a full page ad for a store called, with interesting and redundant flair, “CashMoney”.

I had seen these stores around town, but hadn’t known what they were. But upon reading the ad, I recognized at once that it was a payday lender.

They were advertising a deal. Shall we read the ad together? Let’s.

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