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Monday, April 24, 2006

Just who is an active blogger?

This is an uncharacteristic post. I normally try to keep my posts longer and more substantial, and bring light to things that my readers may not usually think about or analyse. However, apparently in some people's minds, that means I am not an active blogger and therefore, I am not deserving of hosting the Carnival of Personal Finance.

While I understand why Flexo would propose and enforce a rule of two posts per week - some upcoming hosts are clearly not "active", in any definition of the word, the reality is that not every blogger has the time to post like he does (He has FIVE posts for today, April 24th). Furthermore, not everyone WANTS to adopt a posting schedule like he has. I honestly don't think anyone cares if I posted two sentences about how I received my tax refund today.

Should a blogger who updates regularly and consistently (whether that be weekly, bi weekly) be considered inactive? And should carnival hosts be prevented from hosting just because they have different posting schedules? Any thoughts?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Every time I spend, I get 5% cash back.

Well not every time I spend, but pretty close. Most of my expenses tend to be in the groceries, drugstore, and dining out categories. And through the clever use of certain credit cards, I get 5% back!

The two main credit cards I use are the Citi Dividend Platinum Select and the Citi MTVu. Both of these cards give 5% back in certain categories. Granted my spending habits are going to be vastly different from yours, applying for these cards should still be a good move (especially since gas prices are high).

The Citi Dividend Platinum Select gives 5% cash back on "Everyday purchases." These are purchases at:
  • Gas stations
  • Supermarkets
  • Drugstores
The MTVu card gives 5% rewards (in the form of Thankyou points redeemable for gift certs, etc.) at these locations:
  • Restaurants (including fast food)
  • Book stores
  • Record stores
  • Movie theatres
  • Movie rental stores
One caveat, the MTVu card is for students only. However, I graduated and applied and still got approved.

I hope this helps! One more card that I noticed, but don't have, is the Hilton HHonors Platinum Amex card. It gives 5% back on restaurants, everyday purchases, the USPS, and cell phone bills. Too bad it is in the form of HHonor points. One more thing, be sure to apply for these cards through cardoffers.com. You can get some extra money if you go through them.

Credit goes to fatwallet for some of the info.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Dining with Ninjas, no seriously.

Ninja New York is a restaurant in lower Manhattan that serves modern Japanese cuisine in a traditional ninjitsu mountain village setting. Sound interesting? Read on.

In addition to the interesting decor and ambiance, all the waiters are dressed as ninjas, blending in and out of the dark as your food is served. Every group has their own private dining area, whether it be a Japanese house or a cave in the mountain. Apparently, the ninjas also perform magic tricks throughout the night :
Because there's a touch of theme park in all aspects of the dining experience, expect the unexpected. Think Orlando carnival, not Big Apple boîte. So, when your waiter arrives to take your order and opens his "wallet," steel yourself for a display of fireworks, as stupefying flames ignite seemingly from nowhere. We don't want to give away too many secrets about the magic that awaits you, because surprise is part of the experience and fun. But, know that your meal will be peppered not merely with condiments and savory flavors, but with entertainment and ecstatic giggles, as well. (And, these are tax-free!)
The rest of the article goes on to talk about the food and the cost ($100+ per person). Now that it's clear this is a unique restaurant, offering a special experience obtained no where else (well, except for Japan where it has a sister restaurant), would you be willing to spend the money?

I personally would. While pricey, it definately sounds like fun. There really isn't a price that can be put on unique, once in a lifetime experiences. I'll probably go try this place out sometime later this year.

Are you willing to spend more to go to unique or top rated restaurants?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Taking the CFA - less than 2 months to go!

I promised myself a couple of months back that come April, I would start studying my ass off for my CFA test in June. Well it's been April for a week now and I still haven't really started. Hmm. That's not good.

The test is on June 4th this year, and while I have been going to a weekly class every Wednesday after work, the material just doesn't seem to stick until you start doing practice problems. Hopefully I'll be able to get some studying time in this weekend.

For those that aren't sure what I'm talking about, the CFA stands for Chartered Financial Analyst and is awarded by the CFA Institute to those who pass three examinations covering economics, financial accounting, portfolio management, quantitative analysis, security analysis, and ethics. The designation meant for those in the investment management business, although a lot of people in broader finance also study for it.

Here's a link to the CFA program brochure and here's a link for prospective candidates.

If there are any of you who have questions, feel free to email me. I know some of us financial bloggers are going to be taking this test too, best of luck!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

London felt expensive, but is it really?

I just got back from a trip to London and everything there, from the food to the shopping, seemed pretty pricey. For the first time, I actually felt that living in Manhattan was cheap.

According to Mercer's 2005 worldwide cost of living survey, London scores a 120.3 compared to New York's 100. This means that the cost of living in London is 20.3% more expensive than living in New York. Since we don't know what they are actually comparing, the number 20.3% means absolutely nothing. However, this is what they had to say:
Mercer'’s survey covers 144 cities across six continents and measures the comparative cost of over 200 items in each location, including housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment.
Two hundred items is a lot, but what exactly are they? The webpage doesn't say, so I have no clue.

So instead, I will list some prices in London and compare them with New York prices. This is from personal observation and is completely unscientific. The exchange rate during my stay was approximately 1.75 (factoring in transaction costs). Hopefully someone will find this interesting.

London prices are bolded.

Single tube fare from Heathrow into the city: £4 ($7)
JFK to midtown : $7
Single bus ride : £1.50 ($2.63)
Single bus ride : $2

Single tube fare (1-2 zones) : £3 ($5)

Single subway fare : $2
One Day bus pass : £3.50 ($6.13)
One Day tube pass : £4.90 ($8.76)

One Day bus + subway pass : $7

500ml bottle of Evian : 75p ($1.31)
Haribo 225g candy : £1.89 ($3.31)
Random sandwich at Pret a Manger : £2.50 ($4.38)

Same sandwich at Pret here in NYC : $5.50 (approx.)
Random lunch specials at a restaurant : £5-7 ($8.75-12.25)
Random lunch specials at a restaurant here in NYC : $6-10
Mcdonalds value meal : approx. £3.50 ($6.13)

I'll add some more later as I have time. One major point is that in London, the tax of 17.5% is INCLUDED in the price of goods and food, whereas here in New York, we would still have to add 8.xx%. Service charge of 10% seems to be customary in London also, instead of the 15% here. That would narrow the price gap between many items.

If you would like to add to the list, feel free to email me or leave a comment. It would be interesting to hear from some other cities in the world also.