It’s A Wonderful Life (Financially?)

When the holiday standard It’s A Wonderful Life was first released it was pretty much panned as being too treakly sweet, and having no substance. The movie languished for many years, but thanks to a disinterest by its distributor, it started being played by local TV stations at Christmas time, and thanks to that it is now the Holiday Standard that it is today.

Amazon

If you wish to purchase this classic from Amazon Click Here


Now the main reason the movie became popular was due to its distributor not charging TV stations to air it, and thus the Local TV had free content to play during Christmas (and thus they made good coin off it with their own advertisements). The rest is history (right Uncle Willy?). There is a great deal to learn about banking in the USA in this movie if you look closely, but that is not the point of this piece. My favorite quote is from Nick talking to

“Hey look, mister. We serve hard drinks in here for men who want to get drunk fast, and we don’t need any characters around to give the joint “atmosphere”. Is that clear, or do I have to slip you my left for a convincer?”

What does this have to do with Personal Finance and Investing? Indulge me this one is another one of my “Hail Mary” stretches of thematic premise.

Strangely Index Funds have been around for many decades (in one form or another), but it is only in the past 10 years or so (maybe less) that they have suddenly come into vogue.

If you are to believe the media Index Funds started with John Bogle and the Vanguard Group, in fact:

Bogle started the First Index Investment Trust on December 31, 1975

So almost 40 years ago Index Fund investing began. The beginnings were inauspicious, but as with “It’s a Wonderful Life” after many “experts” scoffing at the idea, Index Fund investing (or Couch Potato Investing, or one of its many other names) is mainstream and beloved by investors all over the world (OK, now I am pouring it on a bit thick).

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Give Ca$h not a Gift Card for Christmas

There does seem to be a backlash going on against the Gift Card industry this Christmas season, and I ( for one ), like it. Preet B. wrote about it yesterday in the Globe and Mail, however, I have said this all along. Why is there a stigma about giving cash and no stigma giving a gift card?

I asked my Christmas Gifting expert, Mrs. C8j and she said the big thing about cash is it seems like a Lazy Present (i.e. you didn’t feel like spending some time to find a nice present).  While I understand the sentiment about cash, I again say why are Gift Cards being viewed as “just fine” then?

Gift Card, Cash which is more appropriate

This is more personal than Cash? It’s at a Loblaws!

I can buy a gift card at my Loblaws for pretty much any store, in fact, I can do that at most Gas Stations now, why is that more personal than Ca$h?

Cash on the other hand, you usually have to go to a Bank to get. Banks are very exclusive, yes they may be open 7 days a week, but they close a lot more than most stores (and certainly more than most Gas Stations).

If you give Cash, you know it will get used, if you give a Gift Card, do you know how many gift cards never get completely used? I have no idea, but I am sure it is a huge number. Cash is friendly, fits in your wallet just like a gift card, and it has a picture of the Queen on it (or other important Canadians).

Give Ca$h this year, for Christmas.

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Advent, McAfee, Chanukah and #OldieButGoodie Tweets for a Sunday

Advent continues on merrily, hopefully you are having fun with it. If you have been reading my twitter feed, you have seen that I have resurrected my Financial Advent Calendar (from many years ago) in the land of 144 characters or less! It was fun when I did it a few years ago, hopefully it is still topical.

Happy Chanukah!

John McAfee may make some OK anti-virus, and may have made a lot of money from it, but his life currently is tabloid fodder. He has been accused of murder, he has been on the run and he eventually got found because a photographer posted a photo of Mr. McAfee, which had GPS co-ordinates in the meta-data. The Meta-data in any picture you post on the web should be wiped (if we learn anything from this interesting story). Hopefully Mr. Norton is leading a quieter life?

For those claiming there is a war on Christmas, lighten up, wish folks Merry Christmas and move on with your life. If there is a war on Christmas, Christmas is winning!

Happy Chanukah to my Jewish friends as well, I couldn’t find a video of Adam Sandler singing either Chunukah song.

Twitter Land

In my version of the Twit-o-sphere there were some quite interesting oldies that I found along with some retweets of some of my favorite writers:

Advent Calendar

Video

One of my biggest issues with my co-workers is the same problem that most women have with the men in their lives, they don’t listen, they try to solve problems too damn quickly! Don’t believe me? Watch this interesting video from our friends at Ted.Com

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Some More Christmas Ideas

Before I get a bevy of “right thinkers” complaining about how I am being insensitive talking about Christmas, tough! If you go into work on that day, you can complain, otherwise, lump it (sorry, I am sick and tired of this whole Holiday instead of Christmas right think that has consumed right thinking folks). I have no issue with Kwanzaa, Chanukah, or not celebrating it, just don’t get bent out of shape when I talk about Christmas.

No, that is not the topic for the day, but I figured I’d throw that out in case someone wants to complain to me about that, I’d take a pre-emptive strike on it.

Gifts you shouldn’t give your kids (ever) was a helpful post from a while back, and I have also spoken on this topic about asking the question Is re-gifting gauche, but here are some more really helpful tips for those who read financial blogs to find out great Christmas Gifts for their loved ones, and have no idea what to get for Christmas:

  • Fake your own death

    Apologies to my Druid Friends

    , given how much is spent on Christmas, this might not be that bad an idea. Disappear, and reappear in March claiming you have amnesia and pocket all of the money you would have spent on Christmas. A better idea, is take your Christmas money, and hide out somewhere warm and nice, but remember not to come back with a nice tan (that might be a dead giveaway). No this isn’t a new idea, I borrowed it from General Hospital (or Days of our Lives), I like to think of it as the Soap Opera Option.

  • I am too busy for Christmas, just never go and meet up with anyone who you might exchange gifts with until July of next year. You’d think this wouldn’t work but Michael James and I did this and we had Christmas in August this year (it works nicely). Claim you have a lot of work, or are on a business trip, or whatever.
  • Re-gifting, I still maintain this is the best thing to do for Christmas. You have to be careful that you have kept track of who gave you the gift originally, and once you start doing this, you can’t complain if you catch someone re-gifting to you (unless it is a gift you gave them), but it is the easiest money-saving Christmas gift idea.
  • Religious flip-flopping, can work if you do a little research first. Claiming you are now a Buddhist or a Druid can work for you, but you really must sell it hard or folks will resent you for it. On the Druid side of things, you can get out of impromptu Christmas things if there is a tree, and you can complain that adorning the tree is an insult to your religious beliefs, and leave in a huff.

Hopefully these helpful hints will aid you in saving a few bucks this Christmas Season. If you must give gifts, remember that Christianity is not based on the following tenet:

Love is measured by the price of the gift given

 

 

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How Many Days ’til Christmas?

Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat, however, how many of us have completed our Christmas Financial Carnage (aka Christmas Shopping) and how many of us have an Advent Budget to follow either? My opinion is not that many of us are that well organized to have done either, but I am willing to hear comments to the contrary.

Christmas is only about 1 month and 8 days away, and for some of us it is coming like the Polar Express. This is a normal reaction to the unknown or worse the unplanned, but does tend to detract from the festive feel to this time of year. I do tend to admire (and loath at the same time) those that have their entire holiday planned and have all of their shopping done, because I don’t think I will ever reach that level of Zen, in terms of planning, in my life.

As my wife does point out there are many aspects to planning for the holidays:

  • Deciding on a budget, and then figuring out how much you will end up ignoring it. What is interesting is that no matter how big a slush fund you think you have for over spending, it is never big enough (I think this is actually more of a wedding thing, but it works for Christmas too).
  • Who will you be buying presents for, and what you will do when you find out that they had bought you something? Do you have a few emergency gifts, for just in case issues?
  • For those husbands reading, please don’t fall for the, “… you don’t have to buy me anything this year…” trick by your wife, you will pay for it in so many ways later. Yes, I fell for that.
  • Who will do the shopping? If one spouse does all the shopping, it can create some tension in the family. The spouse who didn’t do any shopping who then asks, “What did we buy <so and so> for Christmas?” is doomed (and I do mean doomed).
  • Are you having a party? Remember to budget for that (unless you make it a BYOB, then invite friends with similar tastes, so at least you have good left overs). Remember the person that brought liverwurst to your party last year, do you want left over liverwurst dip?
  • Are you decorating? That can get expensive, especially if you want an inflatable, lit Santa riding a Helicopter, you may run up a big electric bill as well.
  • Are you travelling? That can cause no end of expenses, and fun. Trust me, doing a triangular journey from one set of Grandparents to the other, to home can take a lot of fun out of the holiday and money out of your wallet.

Any other festive fun that will bleed you financially (and emotionally) dry that I might have missed?

Oh and enjoy your festive merry holiday preparations (ho, ho, ho).

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