Archive for January, 2009

Sometimes I Love The Web

January 31, 2009

Zara has one of the coolest site landing pages I’ve seen in a long time.

Also, did you know that Zara is a vertically integrated firm?

I’ve always loved them, and now I love them MORE.

Your Credit – Common Misconceptions & How To Improve

January 31, 2009

The business of credit can be complicated. It’s taken me a long time to sort out how credit reporting works and, for the most part, I’ve been able to use the rules and guidelines to my advantage. Following are some common misconceptions, and how you might raise (or lower) your credit score.

MISCONCEPTIONS

Closing Credit Accounts Will Improve Your Credit

It seems logical. You pay off a card, and close it so you will no longer be tempted to use it. And, having less open credit cards could only make lenders look at you as more responsible, right?

Wrong. Lenders don’t care how much credit you have available, they care how much you’re using. Your debt-to-credit ratio is one of the common measures used by the credit reporting agencies, and closing accounts will increase this ratio – this is not a good thing.

For example, say you have 10 open cards with a total credit line of $50K, $10K of which you’ve utilized. Your DTC ratio in this case is 1:5. If you were to close 2 of those accounts, reducing your total credit line to $30, your DTC ratio would then be 1:3, meaning you’re using one-third (33%) of your available credit, instead of one-fifth (20%).

If you feel you must close some accounts, focus on those with lower credit limits, such as store cards. However, I would not recommend it in this current credit climate because lenders are closing unused accounts left and right. In fact, some experts have recommended that people start using their cards once or twice a month (and paying them off monthly, obviously) to ensure those lines of credit remain open.

All Credit Reporting Agencies Are The Same

Again, seems logical. However, the three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax and Transunion) are private/public (read: non-government) companies and competitors. They use different models for calculating credit scores. If you would like to check your credit through all three reporting agencies, you may do so for free once a year through Annual Credit Report Dot Com.

Credit Scores Aren’t That Big Of A Deal

Sorry, but they are. Everyone should take their credit scores seriously, as they are not only used by lenders, but landlords, insurers and, increasingly, potential employers. Some people swear off credit cards, but the plain fact is that they’re useful for establishing credit and should be used, responsibly. Not establishing your credit is a big mistake.

Making Minimum Payments Is Better Than Nothing

Sure, better than nothing, but not by much. You might maintain somewhat decent credit, but you’ll spin your wheels. Paying even 10% above your minimum can do wonders in decreasing you debt owed, which will decrease your debt-to-credit ratio. Whenever possible, pay above the minimum due.

Paying A Bit Late Is Not That Big Of A Deal

You must pay at least 30 days late for a delinquency to show up on your credit report (the are noted as 30/60/90/120+ days late). However, paying late has other ramifications. You will be charged a fee by your lender and your interest rates will shoot up, meaning you will pay more in finance charges, increasing your DTC ratio.

HOW YOU CAN LOWER YOUR SCORE

“Shopping” For Credit Excessively

Missing Payments

Ignoring Medical Or Utility Bills

Overusing Your Available Credit & Maxing Out Your Credit Cards

Failing To Report Changes In Address To Lenders

HOW YOU CAN RAISE YOU SCORE

Establish Yourself As An On-Time Payer

Keep High Credit Limit Cards Open

Use Cards Often If You Can Pay Balances Every Month

Plastic Style – Paris Blues

January 31, 2009

James Perse Contrast Panel Shirt

Hat Attack Solid Wool Beret

Forever 21 Bonnie Plaid Scarf

A.P.C. Stripe Tee-Shirt

Sigerson Morrison Cut-Out Flats

Miu Miu Clutch

Old Navy Jersey Scarf

Christian Louboutin Booties

Vanessa Bruno Athé Dress

Street Style Photograph: Garance Doré

Programming Note

January 31, 2009

I will be mucking around with the blog today, I am trying to find a theme that will accommodate my images better than the one I am currently using.  You may see rotating themes or other adjustments…..

xo

No Thank You PETA, I Don’t Want To Fuck Bok Choy

January 31, 2009

I’ve never liked PETA.  Their tactics are stupid, they focus on the wrong issues, I just find them abhorrent.  So, it was no big surprise when I started reading about their rejected “Sex With Vegetables” ad that had been developed to run during the Superbowl.

Ignoring the irony that an organization attempting to stop people from eating meat are treating women like…..mignons, let’s just say, it’s a poorly executed, cheesy, stupid ad.  The music is straight out of an 80’s beer commercial, the “fuck me” faces learned from a “How To Succeed In Porn: 101” manual and, worst of all, a woman was licking – licking – my favorite vegetable without, you know, eating it.

Not only is this commercial offensive to this woman, but it’s entirely condescending to the men they were targeting.  I get it, men who like football like, wink wink nudge nudge, boobs.  But, come on, people, the top earning Superbowl commercials have always used humor, not sex.  The fact that the commercial was developed for a Superbowl spot is no excuse.

Plastic Decorating – Treat Greeting Cards As Art

January 30, 2009

At work yesterday I scored a huge stack of cards, including a bunch New Yorker cover cards.  I am planning on creating a cluster of framed cards on a wall somewhere in the house, because I LOVE New Yorker cover art.

If you find yourself with bare walls, framing cards is a great way to get some art onto a surface without spending much money.  You can create a cluster of frames, mix some smaller frames with larger framed art, or fill a small horizontal or vertical space.

In our bathroom, I hung two framed 7 x 7 inch silk screened cards by Tall Cow, one of my favorite card companies.  I bought some frames at IKEA and mounted the cards on top of the mat.  All together it probably cost me 20 bucks.

2009 Coachella Lineup Announced

January 30, 2009

I don’t know, I am not that excited about the lineup this year.  You?

I’d like to see Felix, Thievery, The Kills and McCartney.  I don’t really see any headliners that jump out – I’m still fucking PISSED I missed Portishead last year.  I will be traveling up to Portland that weekend but I will check SF to see if any of the artists will be sticking around CA for some additional shows.

Budgeting Methods – Which Is Best?

January 30, 2009

Everyone has their preferred methods for budgeting, be it software like Quicken, Excel, a piece of paper or their partner (the easiest, so I’ve heard).  I received an email from a reader this morning inquiring about how I budget my money, and I thought it would be an ideal time to share this information with my readers, and also do some research on free on-line solutions.  I’d also be interested in hearing how all of you manage your budgets.

The first step in setting up a budget is to determine your goals.  Would you like to track your spending?  Get an overview of your finances?  Perhaps become more organized overall?  Each person’s goals are different, and a budget can, and should, be tailored to meet those goals.

If you would like to get a global view of your finances and spending, on-line websites such as Mint and BudgetPulse could work well for your needs.  Each site allows you to upload all of your accounts (checking, savings, credit cards, etc.), keep and eye on trends in your spending and track budget-to-actual numbers.

Geezeo is a another site I’ve just discovered and I must say, I like it MUCH better than Mint.  Accounts are updated faster, the tools are more useful, and it’s interface is just as nice.  The only negative I have discovered is that they are not yet linked to ING.

Quicken Online is now free, and I would suggest this above all other money management web-sites.  I have not yet signed up for it so I cannot offer a review, but I imagine it’s a great resource.  The downside is that you might have to input some of your information.

Other Money Management Sites

DimeTracker

PearBudget

Finicity

Expense Register

Clear Check Book

Wesabe

I highly recommend checking out My Money Dot Gov for information around the basics of financial planning.

Budgeting, The Old Fashioned Way

If, like me, you find software and on-line resources too much (or not enough), I recommend Excel for managing your budget.

Excel is an incredibly useful program that I hope you all are familiar with.  Playing around in Excel totally satisfies my obsessive-compulsive need for precision and neatness.  You see, when it comes to money, I tend to fall into the following trap: EVERYTHING must be correct down to the penny.  If I balance my checkbook and it’s off 43 cents, I will either spend hours trying to figure out the mistake or say “fuck it” and end up overdrawing my account because I choose to ignore it all-together.  I’m very odd in this way.

I’ve managed my budget in Excel for about 4 years now.  So, obviously, a budget will not keep you out of debt or financially responsible.

At the end of each year I set up a workbook, laying out every pay period in the far left column (I am paid bi-weekly).  I then plug in my pre-tax deductions (health care and 401K) and taxes.  I do this because it makes it easier to make changes if I have to take unpaid time off, and I have two “extra” paychecks a year from which my health care expenses are exempt.  In the bottom row each category is totaled.

Budget: Net & Gross Income

Budget: Income Totals

I then dive into my fixed expenses like rent and my car insurance.  I also note when each is due and how it’s paid.  Every expense is deducted monthly, which is why I lay out every pay period instead of combining into monthly sums.  It is easier for me to split out which expenses are deducted from which pay period.  As it happens, rent usually comes out of the first pay period of the month and all other fixed expenses are deducted from the second.

Budget: Fixed Expenses

Next comes my variable expenses and my disposable income.  I leave this for last as I can make adjustments easily given how my fixed expenses may impact my available cash, so I can muck around with these payments and keep an eye on my disposable income and how it increases/decreases.  I try to leave myself around $200 per pay period, sometimes it’s less, sometimes more.  I also have a column for notes.

Budget: Variable Expenses

Excel Formulas

Excel can get rather complicated but I use very simple SUM formulas in my budget.  You can learn how to do this here.

Debt Rally, 1.30.09

January 30, 2009

Current Balances

Lending Club – $14,000

Bank of America = $0

Citibank =$1,470.00

J Crew = $0

American Express = $3,345.77

Washington Mutual = $0

1.22.09 Total = $21,044.52

Current Total = $18,815.77

– $2,228.75

I’m finally under $20K!


Songs To Consider – Canadian Release

January 30, 2009

Peaches, for me (key word, folks), is the ultimate Feminist.  That said, I tend to find myself attracted to hyper sex-positive women.  She questions everything through the lens of sexuality, power and gender.  She spews it out in a wonderful melody of words and music.  I appreciate anyone who can blur the lines between the sexes enough to foster some kind of empathy and want.  And she really, really likes her crotch.  Which I find endearing.

And I like her synthesizer.

Feist seems as though she might be the complete opposite, but she’s not.  In fact, she and Peaches are old friends.  Her song “One Evening” sticks with me.  It’s like Steely Dan for the millennial set, I fucking love it.  She also did an amazing cover of Peaches’ “Lovertits.”

My favorite song from Peaches new album, Impeach My Bush (NSFW):

One Evening:

FYI, this video is just a sample, I can’t find the full video that isn’t disabled for embedding.  You can see the full video here.