Finding Freedom

How quickly can a fool find his money again?

I currently have a whole bunch of debt. Hmm...I wonder how much I could get for my kidneys?
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Thursday, August 31, 2006
A Callback
As those of you who read this site regularly already know, I want a career in the performing arts. My goal is not to be especially rich or famous, but just to be able to support myself and my family doing what I love to do. With that in mind, let's look at the following.

I auditioned for a professional theatre company earlier this last week, and I received a call today letting me know that they'd like me to come back in for a call back. This is very exciting because A) It makes me feel like this career is a viable option,
B) I think that this really means that I have shot at getting into this show, and
C) A local graduate school that I want to get into works in conjunction with this theatre, so, should I get in, this would be an effective foot in the door over there.

However, because it's a professional theatre, they, like normal people, have their rehearsals during the day. This will, obviously, be very difficult in conjunction with my normal day job.

I'm hoping that my boss will let me do both so long as I can get the requisite number of hours at my desk job, but I don't know if he will as the schedules will conflict dramatically.

If I could work both, that would be very beneficial for me in a finding freedom sense of the word as the theatre would be paying me comparably to what I'm making at my day job. However, the prospect of essentially two full time jobs is a bit daunting. Also, should I end up leaving my day job to pursue this, I won't have any job come January, and when you don't have any money, it becomes very difficult to pay off debt.

Obviously I'm getting a little ahead of myself because I might not even get into the show, but I'm trying to think about and weigh my options thoroughly before I have to make them. Thinking about the options really makes me appreciate the opportunity and gravity of the situation.

Any advice from any of you out there in the internet?
posted by shamedsteven @ 4:54 PM   2 comments
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Saving Money Buying Diamonds
There comes a time in just about every man's life where he has to consider taking out a loan in order to show his significant other that he cares. This is known as buying an engagement ring. Here are some of the things that I've learned as I've been looking for this very thing.

The important thing to know is that there are four "C"s to consider when you are purchasing a diamond. They are:
A) Color - How white the diamond is,
B) Carat - How big the diamond is,
C) Clarity - How many physical flaws there are to the diamond, and
D) Cut - What shape the diamond is.

I will cover the little bit that I've learned in that order.

A) You color my world. Diamond colors are grouped together, with D, E, and F being the most white, G, H, and I being a slightly yellower, and J through the rest of the alphabet getting substantially yellower. Because the first group is the clearest and most dazzlingly white, they are the most expensive. However, the differences between letter grades are very small visually, but they can have a substantial difference in price.

The moral? A G rated diamond will look just about as clear as an F diamond, but it will likely cost hundreds of dollars less. It should also be noted that the color diamond you get can depend on the color gold of the ring you get. A white gold or platinum ring will demand a more pure white diamond, while you can afford to go further down the scale with a yellow gold ring because the yellow from the ring will make the diamond look yellow anyway, and so even a beautifully clear diamond will appear yellow with that gold ring.

B) Size matters. As the size of the diamond gets bigger, the price grows exponentially. However, because a diamond is rated in the four different areas, you may be able to afford a larger diamond if you give up on some of the other areas.

Also, as is the case with two of the three other areas, if you go slightly below the size that you want, you can save money. For example, the price difference between a 0.98 carat diamond and a 1 carat diamond is, oddly enough, substantial.

C) Clarity is important. The grading scale goes Flawless, Internally Flawless, Very Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and 2), Very Slightly Included (VS1 and 2), Slightly Included (SI 1, 2, and 3), and Included. This measures how many imperfections or scratches there are on the diamond.

As was the case with the previous two, the last rung of one tier is virtually indistinguishable from the first rung of the second tier, but the price is much better.

It should be noted, however, that the Slightly Included grouping is where the imperfections may be visible to the naked eye. However, you have to be looking pretty closely to see them. Therefore, if you encourage your soon to be wife to gesticulate a lot when she's talking, no one who sees the ring will be the wiser. I am joking, of course, but seriously, Slightly Included defects are difficult to see.

D) Cut makes it sparkle. There are many different shapes that you can get your diamond cut into. There is the princess cut, which is square, heart shaped, round, oval, among many others. However, what is important to know here is that part of what makes a diamond sparkle is the number of sides that it has. Round diamonds tend to sparkle the most because, due to how they are cut, they have the most sides. In fact, some stores, like Robbins Brothers, offer specially cut diamonds with extra sides that are especially brilliant due to the extra faces to reflect light off of. However, these diamonds are very, very expensive due to the fact that people like shiny things.

So, if you're like me, and you don't have a lot of money, but you want to impress and dazzle your fiance, I would suggest getting a round diamond that is G in color that is around 3/4 carat with a clarity rating of VS2 to SI1.

However, at the end of the day, you just have to decide which of these areas are most important to you. Do you just want a huge diamond? Then get a big diamond with a slightly yellower color on a yellow gold ring. Is the diamond's beauty most important to you? Splurge and go for the VVS with a D or E color, but go for a smaller diamond so that you don't break the bank.

In the end, it really is (or should be) the love that matters most, with the ring being just an expression of your commitment to that love. With that in mind, choose a good diamond, but remember, as you're pinching pennies to get there, why you're doing it in the first place.
posted by shamedsteven @ 10:08 AM   1 comments
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
It's when it's really hectic at work that I realize that what I do is, in some sick little way, important to a bunch of people. This is at once gratifying and horrifying.
posted by shamedsteven @ 2:50 PM   0 comments
Monday, August 28, 2006
The Elevator in the Parking Garage
I tend to park in a parking garage that my girlfriend and I split the payments on. Considering how much street or lot parking costs in downtown San Diego, she and I are getting quite a deal especially when you factor in the fact that the company that we work for subsidizes our parking expenses.

However, for the last couple of weeks, the garage's elevator has been acting, well, substandardly.

As I get in to work pretty close to nine, most of the lower levels are already filled up, so I have to park towards the top, which makes the elevator an appealing prospect as opposed to several flights of stairs. The elevator, perhaps emboldened by its own sense of importance, has decided to make its passengers realize their own mortality.

When the descent started this morning, the elevator was literally shaking so badly that the doors started opening and closing. I chuckled to a lady next to me in an effort to divert her attention from the gradually growing dark spot in the front of my pants.

In all seriousness, though I guess I'll have to talk to the attendants at the gate about it, although I can't believe no one has talked to them about it so far.

Oh, and maybe I'll start taking the stairs.
posted by shamedsteven @ 11:32 AM   0 comments
Friday, August 25, 2006
Deposit Check
Let me first state that I am very grateful that I had old carpet at my old apartment. Because of this, I didn't get charged for its very necessary replacement, and so I got a check in the mail for a couple of hundred bones.

I didn't receive the full deposit back, but given the fact that my roommates had burned holes in the carpet, I am very thankful and grateful to receive any at all.

I'm surprised that they can keep as much of the deposit as they do, though. It seems like they would have taken carpet cleaning out of the deposit had they had to just clean it, which seems kind of crooked. When I left the deposit, I believed that as long as I didn't destroy the place, that I would get most of it back.

I suppose that that is true, if by most you mean less than half. But, I suppose landlords have to make money too...
posted by shamedsteven @ 2:06 PM   2 comments
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Pro Bloggers
For those of you who are looking to perhaps make a bit more income by blogging, you should consider checking out the new classified section that Darren has put up over at Problogger. Potential employers are already starting to post about which blogs they would like to get someone to write for.
posted by shamedsteven @ 11:10 AM   0 comments
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Finding Freedom 101
As I was signing in this morning, I realized that yesterday I posted my 100th post.

Do I feel like I have a better grasp on all things financial than I did a couple months ago? Well, maybe not all things, but I do feel that with even just sitting and writing about ways to save money and to pay off debt has been very useful towards achieving my goals.

Let's hope that I can continue at the same pace, and, to that end, here is my new challenge to myself: I will be debt free by August 2007. As this is the time that I will hopefully be starting graduate school, I can't think of a better goal for myself than to be debt free by this time.

Will this be difficult? Oh yes it will. It will require a level of self-control rarely seen by the world from yours truly, but as I am sick and tired of having this monkey on my back, I believe that I can do it.

Is it feasible? Well, after looking at the various APR's and the balances associated therewith, I am going to have to pay off $1,596.17 a month to accomplish my goal. I take home just about $2300 a month, and my rent is $600. That leaves $103.83 for the other monetary burdens.

I'll admit that it does sound impossible; however, my Adsense revenue have really started to pick up. I am hoping to see this portion of my income continue to grow over the next several months as well, and this will add a better cushion between what I make and what I need to pay out.

Finally, even if this my dreams are too much like delusions of grandeur, if I can put any more money towards my debt than I have been putting in the past (which, sadly, includes actually adding to some of the balances on the credit cards) than I will be in a much better place a year from now than I am today.

August 2007, here I come!
posted by shamedsteven @ 9:18 AM   2 comments
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Madden 2007
While it is easy to think of a video game as a ridiculous waste of money, video games can actually pay off.

Let me tell you what I mean. Let's say that I purchase Madden 2007 for $45.

If I were trying to see how far my entertainment buck would stretch, at nine bucks a movie, I would have to play the game for ten hours to equal the amount of money and entertainment time I would have spent going to an evening movie.

If I would prefer to spend that money on drinking, it would likely take me four or five evenings of playing to equal out.

If I preferred to spend that time as quality time with my girlfriend, well, er, I guess I can't really compare that one, although I could perhaps try.

In conclusion, I will likely pick up this game as I am pretty excited about it. I just thought that I would try to justify it monetarily.

I won't even try to justify it as a good use of time... :-)
posted by shamedsteven @ 7:09 AM   1 comments
Monday, August 21, 2006
A Question About Work Issues
Over at the Dilbert Blog today, Scott Adams posted about how he finds that he gets the most work done, and the little ways that he gets distracted.

"Another 10 percent of my work day is allocated to thwarting my cat's anti-productivity crusade. She hates it when I do work, under the universal cat theory that any time spent not petting her is time wasted. As soon as I pick up a drawing implement she systematically goes around my office chewing and scratching one item after another until she finds something that will make me stop work and pet her."

This got me to thinking about how I find that I get the most work done. At my job, if I'm listening to my ipod I find that I can get a lot of the easy tasks done rather quickly. However, as the tasks become more difficult, I find that I need to either turn the volume way down or else turn off the glorified mp3 player entirely.

With most of my job being relatively easy, I find that having the headphones is a great way to drown out the various office noises that might otherwise distract me from producitivity.

How about you, gentle readers? How do you find that you work the best? Do you like it noisy, or would you prefer it to be as quiet and serene as a Catholic church?
posted by shamedsteven @ 2:35 PM   2 comments
Friday, August 18, 2006
Dual Monitors
Everybody on our floor is being given two monitors for their desktop computers. According to my boss, this should increase our productivity.

I gotta be honest. My first impression with the monitors was that they were probably a good idea, but that they were a little bit unwieldy to use. However, as I am getting more and more used to them, I am finding how useful they are.

In my job, I have to be thinking about two or three different types of data at any given time, so the capability to be able to look back and forth without having to pull up different screens and programs is invaluable.

I think that I remember Bill Gates talking about his own office, and he said that he used three monitors, and I can only imagine that that would be even better.

As far as two monitors go, I give it two thumbs up, or, as they say on the reruns of In Living Color that I have been watching lately, two snaps in a circle.
posted by shamedsteven @ 10:59 AM   1 comments
Thursday, August 17, 2006
What Would You Do?
Each morning, part of my trek to work includes an elevator ride. This morning, as I stepped into the carriage, I realized that the CEO of our company was standing there. He seems like a pretty nice guy, and, as if to maintain his easy-going image, the man was not wearing a tie.

For one of the first times in my life, I was star-struck; well, I was at least CEO-struck. It immediately occurred to me that I should say something. However, I could neither think of anything important enough that I would talk to him about nor anything that he would expect from me.

As the elevator got to my floor, I briskly walked off, having said nothing to the most powerful man at my company.

It occurs to me now that a simple, "Good morning!" would have been appropriate, but, for whatever reason, my mind couldn't formulate that expression this morning.

However, even if I could have come up with something, should I have said anything at all? If I should have said anything other than the above, what should that have been?

I just don't know.
posted by shamedsteven @ 11:03 AM   5 comments
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Pointing Fingers
The new apartment is great. My new roomie is a great guy, and he's even responsible enough to clean up when things are messy, which is leaps and bounds better than my previous roommates, who were firm believers in the law of entropy. Not that I'm such a clean person myself, but there are only so many times you can realize that there are maggots growing in the dirty dishes in the sink before you get fed up. That number for me is less than or equal to one.

However, as I spend time reflecting on how my roommates were good people but bad roommates, I need to be careful to get the whole picture across. When you are angry or disappointed with someone, it is often quite easy to take one of their least attractive traits and magnify it.

Is this how I would want people to look at and judge me? To look at my ugliest traits and think that I am nothing but that? A seriously in debt usually reformed gambler? Though this is generally how I present myself here, thinking about my former roommates has forced me to cast the glance inwards, and to think about myself. I had to realize that, even though some things really grate on a person, there is more to most people than the sum of their bad parts.

Here's to hoping that I will, in the future, remember the good times a little bit more readily than the bad. After all, aren't good relationships more important than a clean apartment? Not that one can't be helped by the other, mind you... :-)
posted by shamedsteven @ 9:37 AM   0 comments
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Be Careful of Extra Fees While Moving
My girlfriend just moved to a new apartment. Because she had some things that would not fit in our cars, she needed to rent a U-Haul truck.

In the process of this, I was surprised to learn that there are at least two hidden fees involved with the trucks. The first is that if you want to use the dolly that comes with the truck, it will cost you some extra bucks, and if you want to use blankets provided by U-Haul, it will cost some extra money.

I bring this up just because I would have thought that these would have been gratis in the name of good customer service, but I guess that my thoughts would have been incorrect. Be wary when moving, and even in general, because everybody is looking to make a few extra bucks.
posted by shamedsteven @ 10:08 AM   0 comments
Monday, August 14, 2006
A Hundred Buck Tip
In the latest installment over at Waiter Rant, the protagonist tells of how one meal that he served for ended with his getting a hundred dollar tip.

I'm not going to lie; that's pretty amazing.

Do you know what would be even more amazing? If I got tips for what I do: invoicing customers for their usage of a specific commodity. I would imagine the transaction would go something like this:

"I just emailed out your latest invoice, sir."

"Oh thank you Steven, how much was it?"

"It was about a hundred grand sir."

"Really. Let's see, fifteen percent of that is fifteen grand, right?"

"Yes, I believe that's correct."

"All right, we'll send you your check in the mail."

"Thank you sir."

"You're welcome. Good job."

Man, that would be sweet.
posted by shamedsteven @ 3:07 PM   0 comments
Friday, August 11, 2006
Today is records clean-up/management day here at work. What this means is that we get to spend the day cleaning our desks and throwing things away.

Mmm. A clean desk. I'm going to enjoy that.
posted by shamedsteven @ 10:00 AM   0 comments
Thursday, August 10, 2006
An Old Story
A couple of months ago, the federal government opted to cancel a 108 year old tax on long distance calling in the U.S.

What does this mean for us? The government said that it would be refunding approximately fifteen billion bucks to taxpayers.

I suspect that this refund will be something that we'll all have to be proactive about, so be sure to check out who is eligible for this refund come tax time. It's always nice to get money back that you didn't know that you spent.
posted by shamedsteven @ 10:43 AM   0 comments
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Starbucks to Promote Albom's New Book
It is being reported that Starbucks is signed up to promote Mitch Albom's new book, titled For One More Day, which will be released in October. In addition, Starbucks will be selling copies of the novel at its stores.

I can't help but wonder whether or not this type of cross-promotion is a good thing.

I guess this article really struck me due to the fact that I was on a message board the other day, and Albom was listed by one member as a particularly bad author because he wasn't necessarily writing for the love of it, but he was writing to make money. With this being the opinion of the person on that board, I would imagine that this revelation would be the final nail in the coffin for Albom.

A similar conception exists for Thomas Kinkade, the contemporary painter. While his paintings, are indeed beautiful, a lot of people think that he's just a no-talent hack looking to make a few bucks.

On the other hand, what is wrong with making money in the arts? A lot of people have this kooky impression that one must be a starving artist in order for the art that they produce to be authentic, and therefore worthwhile. Why can't someone who is good at something, like Albom or Kinkade, make a good living at it? Why should we be more okay with players of professional sports making millions of dollars through endorsement deals than we are with artists doing the same thing?

As I am looking towards a career in the arts, I have, and continue to, give this topic a lot of thought, but I have yet to come to any sort of conclusions as I can see both sides of the argument.

What do all of you think?
posted by shamedsteven @ 12:10 PM   0 comments
Monday, August 07, 2006
Gas Link
Here is a link from that goes over some tips for finding and getting the cheapest possible gas that you can.

Here are a couple that I hadn't thought of:

"Keep cash handy Some of the cheapest stations accept only cash or ATM or debit cards. (The stations save by not having to pay transaction fees to credit card companies.)

Be careful about using an ATM or debit card at an unfamiliar station, however. Fraud experts consider gas stations one of the riskier places to use these cards, because employee turnover is high and it's pretty easy for a dishonest worker to steal customers' bank-account information. When in doubt, use cash," and

"Check for local price wars These can break out anywhere, but may be more common in areas where independent stations are struggling to survive.

Also check stations around the wholesale clubs and discount retailers that offer gas; you may find you're paying only a couple cents more per gallon while avoiding the lines."
posted by shamedsteven @ 1:58 PM   0 comments
Why What You Do Is Important
When I was particulary down on my luck last year, I worked briefly as a telemarketer, which, and I'm sure you'd all agree with me, has to be in a close race with manure salesman and guy who gets paid to get kicked in the junk all day as worst jobs.

I started that job with the best of intentions. The pay was a base rate (read, minimum wage) plus bonuses for however many people I could get to come to timeshare presentations. If I could get twenty people a week to go, I would get a thousand dollar bonus. However, the company did not like to give too many of these bonuses out, and so they would only let us work, at most, twenty hours a week.

Now, while convincing twenty people in twenty hours might seem reasonable (it's just one an hour, right?), in reality, even if you could get somebody to acquiesce over the phone, the odds of that person really driving out and listening to a presentation were miniscule. You stood a better chance of getting hit by lightning and an asteroid at the same time than getting better than five percent of the people who agreed to go to actually go.

So, at five percent, I would need to get 400 people a week to agree to go just to have a glimmer of hope at that bonus. That works out to twenty an hour, or one every three minutes. When you take into consideration that it takes about ten minutes to read through the spiel and get the information that you need, getting 400 is an impossible task.

When I realized how poorly people were actually showing up, it distressed me greatly, and I realized just how crummy of a job that was.

While this next bit shows my character, at least in this situation, to be not very good, for the last couple of days that I worked there, instead of calling people, I would dial nine of the ten numbers necessary to get a call to go through, and I would then sit there, pretending to wait for someone to pick up so that it would look like I was working.

This is part of how I learned that what you do is important. At least for me, if I don't feel like I'm making some kind of difference in my own life or in the lives of others, I can't stand to work somewhere. Even at my current job, as nice and well paying as it might be, I question the difference that I'm making by issuing invoices. Sure, it has to be done, but what difference does it make?

I justify it by knowing that soon enough, I'll be debt free, and I can then work on whatever the heck that I want.

That day can't come fast enough.
posted by shamedsteven @ 10:41 AM   2 comments
Friday, August 04, 2006
Pay Day
I love pay day. It is the one day out of every other week that I feel like I'm gradually getting a hold on my finances. Of course, as I pay off my debt, my bank account feels slim again, but I know that in the long run, I'm helping myself out.

I can only imagine how wonderful it must feel to get paid, and to not have to feel like you have to run to your computer and make your payments.

One day I'll get there. One day.
posted by shamedsteven @ 2:24 PM   0 comments
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Is There Money to Be Made in Baseball Cards?
I, like many other little boys, collected baseball cards. As a little boy, I was lured into collecting with the mindset that I could collect things that would one day be worth millions of dollars. I collected pretty seriously for a couple years, but the player's strike in the early nineties was atrocious and reprehensible in my pre-pubescent eyes, and so I gave collecting up. The greedy players wouldn't get any more of my money. So, I stuck all my cards in boxes, and I waited for them to increase in value, as the baseball cards of every generation before mine had done.

Unfortunately for me, the time that I started being interested in baseball cards was the same time that the card companies decided to exponentially expand the number of cards produced.
With the huge supply of cards, the demand for these cards has left me with those same boxes full of memories in the form of just about worthless pieces of card board.

However, today, many of the card companies that were spitting out cards as quickly as a fat kid spits out seeds at a watermelon eating contest have now gone out of business. With this being the case, the total supply of cards is starting to be much less than the demand, which may indicate that cards now will perhaps start to be worth the money that the old rookie cards are worth.

However, I suspect that once there is money to be made in the card industry again, those same printers who have gone out of business will re-open their doors to drive down the market price again.

However, for right now at least, I think that there may be some money to be made for the serious collector in baseball cards. Obviously, there are more solid investments, but I think these are certainly a little bit more fun.

What do you think?
posted by shamedsteven @ 11:38 AM   2 comments
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
The Power of a Deposit
For those of you who are still living with roommates, let me encourage you to do something.

If you are like me, if one roommate moves out, you will oftentimes just look for a new roommate because it's easier to get someone new to move in as opposed to having to move all of your own stuff.

However, when you do have the new person move in, work out a system whereby the new person has to pay some of the deposit. Whether the new roommate pays you or works something out with the landlord is inconsequential; the important things is that he or she pays money for a deposit to live there.

I did not do this. Because I did not make them pay, neither of my roommates cleaned a dang thing as they were gathering and taking their belongings elsewhere.

Believe me, you don't want to be scrubbing the floor with the smell of Pine-Sol in burning your nose hairs at two o'clock in the morning when you have to be at work that very day, wishing that you had some recourse against your roommates who were either sleeping elsewhere or SLEEPING AT THE SAME APARTMENT YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY STAYING UP LATE TO CLEAN.

Ahem. I apologize for that. I'm just a little ticked, mostly at my own stupidity, although I am slightly ticked at what passes for being a reasonable, responsible person nowadays.

Oh well. At least I've got my health, right? And maybe some deposit money? :-)
posted by shamedsteven @ 11:49 AM   2 comments
About Me
Name: Steven shamedsteven
Home: San Diego
About Me: Well, boys and girls, I, like a whole bunch of other people, made a series of "conscious, deliberate mistakes" and have ended up with a buttload of debt. What is chronicled here are some musings about the journey out.
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