Archive for the ‘Finance’ Category

DIY A Favor, Pay Someone Else To Do It

August 31, 2009 Leave a comment

ToolsHave you ever started out a project thinking you can do it cheap and better if you did it yourself instead of buying the manufactured product or paying someone else to do it?  The attraction of DIY is that it seems like your spending less money because instead of a single large outlay of cash at one time, your buying smaller parts separately.  The siren of the DIY project is “I’ll be able to do so much more if I do myself.”  That rarely turns to be reality.  Without going into how much your time is worth, lets look at the simple truth of the first time you do something, your going to suck at it.  But when you DIY, it’s usally the first and only time your going to do it.  I’m purposely leaving out the nature of the DIY project because I’m talking more about the mental outlook of the person doing the project than the project itself.

Of course a “professional” can foul up a project just as good as DIYer but if you’ve done your home work with regards to finding the right person and thinking through what you really want to accomplish the chances are better that you’ll be happier in the long with the goal you are trying to achieve rather than a basement full parts or a partially working widget that your too emotionally and fiscally indebted to, to quit.

Too often we break down goals into the steps necessary to accomplish a single task without regards to the larger picture.  I try to approach new projects with the following goals in mind:

  • Can I do it for free? Using only tools and material I already own, can I complete this project or get it to a useful stage?
  • Is it worth the effort? 1 week, 6 months, 2 years from now will I care?  When you have an idea in your head it can feel like it is the most important task ahead of you only to fall by the wayside very quickly when new things come up.  Based on the amount of work and effort this project will take, will you care about in a week, a month or a year from now?
  • Can I accomplish this goal another way? I may not the have the right products to finish the project completely, but can I use what I already have to get an idea of how useful the finished project will be?  There might be some product out there that you think you need to buy for this project, but can you really do the job, albeit less efficiently or less visually appealing with items you already paid for?
  • Am I thinking about what I can do, or what I will do? When an idea first pops into our head we can make all these grand leaps of how great the finished project will be.  Try to think of what you will have when your done with the project, not what you think you will have after 2-3 more DIY projects you think you could build off of this one.
  • What if I bought it or paid someone to do it? Buying ready made items or paying professionals to do certain tasks can actually end up being more of a learning experience than trying to do it yourself.

Not all of these questions can be answered but they can lead you closer to your goal.  Think about the things you have bought but no longer care about.  They seemed like they would be really useful when you bought them, but now your wondering why you ever spent the money.  By definition, everything we buy, we thought had a value.  But who amongst us can say they have nothing in there garage, basement, or attic that they can leave with out?  That’s what I think, leave a comment with your ideas on the subject.


New York City Subway EasyPay Xpress Metrocard

August 22, 2009 2 comments
EasyPay Xpress MetroCard

EasyPay Xpress MetroCard

The MTA has a new option for paying your fare on subway and buses in New York City.  The EasyPay Xpress MetroCard refills its fare from your credit card, automatically.  When the dollar amount on the card reaches $20, the MTA charges your credit card to bring the balance back to $45.  You still get the 15% bonus so when your credit card is charged $45 you get $51.75 worth of fare on your card.  The card never runs out of money so you don’t have to worry about refilling your MetroCard.  In fact, the MTA warns you not to try to add money to your card manual as that would damage the card.

The other option that doesn’t require you to refill your card is the monthly pass.  The 30 day metrocard is currently $89.  If you purchased $89 worth of fare you would get  $102.35 credit on your metrocard which equates to approximately 45 rides so if you take less than 45 subway rides a month, the EasyPay Xpress Metrocard may be right for you.

You can get more info at the MTA site at

Update:  According to a commentor at Gothamist the EasyPay Xpress card will not work at PATH stations.

Bill Drawer

August 21, 2009 Leave a comment

I have online bill pay set up with at least half a dozen companies and most companies force you go to online only bills when you switch to online bill pay.  That’s fine, less mail, less chance of your information being stolen, but what happens to your historical bill then?  If you suddenly start getting charged a little more every month by your provider you don’t really notice it since you never get the bill.  You can always look up previous bills online, but how many of us do that after the first few months if a new provider.

What I need is the online equivalent of the bill drawer that I used to store all my paper bills when they came in the mail.  That way I had a record of everything I was charged for and payed as far back as I have paper records.  I want a secure site that will collect, catalog and monitor my bills so that I can be notified if there are month to month changes it was should be a stable bill.  You can’t really do that with all your online bills since every provider uses a different system.  You could monitor that amount going out of your checking account to each provider each month but that provides no information except the amount.

Ideally there would be a secure way to log all your bills for future references and even to perform some metrics on them.  My solutions would be two fold.  First, for providers that have PDFs of your bill available online  you can just post that PDF onto a site and the site will analyze the bill and properly catalog it.  This would require manually getting the PDF unless you gave the site your login in and it somehow got the information itself.  The other solution is a pseudo-print driver that you would use to print your bills that would automatically post them to site.

You could have a custom email address  When you get notification of a new bill you forward that bill to the email address and it gets properly cataloged.  Or, how about if you gave that email address to the site that would go grab the bill then send you the details you wanted only.

What I really want is an independent copy of all my bills that I can look up when I want to without have to have access to the original providers site.

Where do you keep your bill archives?  Leave a comment below.

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