Face-off: Moving Tape – Cheap vs. Premium

You get what you pay for, or so the saying goes. Well, I recently moved and certainly got what I paid for when it came to packaging tape.

At the beginning of the move, I bought the premium name brand tape, then when I ran out, I bought the cheaper (no-name) refill for the tape dispenser. Little did I know just how much more inferior the cheaper tape was, even though it was half the price.

The premium tape, I used 1-2 pieces per the bottom and top of box correspondingly – and they stayed on strong. The cheap tape, I used 4-5 pieces – and it still did not stick properly!

To the numbers:
Premium Tape: 133 ft for $5.94 @ $0.045/ft
Cheap Tape: 327 ft for $3.97 @ $0.012/ft

Comparison – assuming each piece is 1 ft:

  • At a ratio(1:4) of 1 piece premium to 4 pieces cheap
    • I paid $0.045 (premium) < $0.048 (cheap)
  • At a ratio(2:5) of 2 pieces premium to 5 pieces cheap
    • I paid $0.09 (premium) > $0.06 (cheap)

Depending of how many pieces of tape I used, the prices fluctuated as to which tape was most efficient. However, when comparing the quality and trust that I had in the premium tape versus the cheap tape, hands down the premium tape won. I had a cheap box open up and a bunch of books fell out. Next time I will be more careful, and pay a little more for less headaches.

Face-off winner: Premium Brand.

Is your emergency fund big enough?

My emergency fund is by definition an account to be used in the interim should an “emergency” arise. What constitutes an emergency is really dependent on the user of the fund – I left it to medical expenses, being laid off, and unforeseen family issues. Currently the fund is at $16,000, and that should more than cover expenses for 6-8 months in NYC.

One question I’ve been toying with for the past couple of weeks is whether or not I should stop contributing to my emergency fund and switch to other investments or saving goals. In addition, I have my student loan payments to start worrying about.

I think i’ll give the funding other savings goals a shot (i.e. my home downpayment fund). That way, I can at least rely on it as well should the emergency be even bigger than what I currently have saved. Once I feel comfortable with the size of the home downpayment fund, then I’ll lower that contribution and switch to start either paying down the loan faster or making some Roth IRA investments.

My question to you is, is your emergency fund big enough?

Negotiating a better offer

I have a story to share with you today about my experience with getting internet service. I am currently in the process of moving and in need of internet at the next place.  I looked at the first place I thought would give me the best deal, online.

I found a few packages that seemed to meet my needs, and I had a price in mind when I called to order. Finally, after about 30 minutes of bouncing around (resources are scarce due to a strike at the unmentioned company :x ) I was able to talk with someone. I knew the deal I wanted, but I didn’t act like I did. I asked many questions and acted unsure about what to get. I also asked for any discounts, and if these are the only packages available. I waffled around for about 15 minutes, when out of the blue the service rep said may i put you on hold for a minute and see what I can do?..  Ok..

5 minutes later. “Sir, I can offer you $40 dollars off the service + $5 more for having your wireless account with us. Bringing your total to $74.99 (triple play), on top of that it’s for the higher connection speed internet package” … Deal! I not only received a deal that was not posted, but I got the higher connection speed package thrown in, which was what I wanted anyway. Hooray!

Now if I can only get a firm date on installation. Due to the strike they put a tentative date of December for installation and they will call me before to schedule it.

Things I’ve learned from this experience:

  • a little questioning can make someone feel like they are loosing the battle to sell you a product
  • always be nice on the phone
  • and try to get HBO thrown in for free next time :0

What should you do?

Seth Godin is one of my favorite reads, he often hits the nail on the head on topics I’m interested in. His latest post on what you can and should be doing really struck a chord with me.

We’ve become bombarded by so many choices nowadays that we often look at the whole platter and just choose from it. Instead, we need to ask ourselves what do I truly want to do - what makes me happy?

The obvious answer is to do what makes you happy :) Circumstances certainly shape decisions, but there’s no reason to not go through the exercise and find out what makes you happy. If you find that place, even if current circumstances don’t allow it, you will always be thinking about it and finding ways to subconsciously have it become part of your life.

For me it’s user interface design (how one interacts with a website for example). I’ve always loved how things work, and when they work well I am in awe. It’s definitely not the field that I studied in college, and not what I’m currently doing, but I’ve always had this in mind and it’s led me to work on side projects for friends that allowed me to do interaction design.

That’s just my example, but hey, if you don’t know what to look for – how do you get there?

A great exercise that I used to help me get at this point is finding what I have in common with what I do in my work, with friends, with family, and with strangers. I found that just writing down something under each column sparked a connection, amazing what paper and pen can do. My commonality was that I loved to help people to find solutions to problems. This is the overall subject that I love to do, and user interaction design is a way of doing it in the “real” world that really connected with my love of drawing.

I’m not giving up on this dream, it’s always there in my mind, and someday it might become a more real part of my life.

Do you know what you should do?

Penny Stocks..

A co-worker came to me yesterday with a stock tip and what he’s been doing lately. Essentially buying low value stocks (penny stocks) and selling them in 1-2 days for a profit. He’s been doing well with this, but I question if I get into if I will get stuck in an endless wheel of losing days and earning days.

My gut tells me to just stick it out with my current retirement contributions and let my diversification play itself out.  In the finance class I took in college, there was one example of how diversification lowers the overall risk of the investment, while maintaing similar returns. A good analogy would be the proverb “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” If you drop it, you won’t lose your meal :)

Either way, I am not a financial planner so feel free to ignore my ranting on this topic, I thought I’d get my thoughts down to convince myself not to invest in these penny stocks :)

Loans, Loans, Loans… Federal Loans

Having recently completed my MBA, I am now amidst the beggining in repayment of a large sum of money.  With 6.8% interest on the Stafford loans that I received from the loan agencies, I need to make this a priority.

I’ve already started repaying a some of these loans, including the TA’ing i did during school. Regardless, it’s still a large amount and I want to get rid of it as quickly as possible. I know some view it as good debt that can be repaid of a longer period of time, but regardless it is still a debt that hangs over my head so I have to eliminate it.

This is the plan I’m following:

  1. Make sure that the emergency fund has approximately 8 months of expenses for anything that may arise.
  2. Continue funding for a home downpayment, but a smaller rate (250/paycheck).
  3. Contribute $1,000/mo toward the 6.8% loans (approx 6 years of payments to follow).
  4. Contribute the minimum to all other lower % loans.
  5. Any additional money – dump into the loan.

This means that I will have to cut back on some things during this period, but it is doable.

One step at a time :)