How to save money on tickets: Max Deale dishes out advice in Sold Out... So What!

“What Women Want: To be loved, to be listened to, to be desired, to be respected, to be needed, to be trusted, and sometimes, just to be held. What Men Want: Tickets for the World Series.” – Dave Barry

Max Deale is a ticket hound. As a self-described Ticket Jedi, he knows the ins and outs of getting cheap tickets for the best seats in the house. I met Max last weekend at a friend’s summer soiree. When the conversation turned to his pending book tour and the promotional power of blogs, he jumped at the chance to give me an autographed review copy of Sold Out… So What!

As I was still savoring my first cocktail and trying to get my hands on some hors d’oeuvres, I glanced at the cover illustration and couldn’t help but peg him for a fan of Howard Stern or perhaps, Joe Francis, the guy that made the Girls Gone Wild videos. Apparently, his target audience is the twentysomething, straight dude with a love of heavy metal bands and sporting events.

I thought about giving the book back since I didn’t think it was a fit for readers over at Queercents, but then I decided to be a bit more open minded. After all, he seemed open-minded. Here he was, upon the invitation of his girlfriend, working the room at a party primarily filled with hot-looking gay men. The least I could do is try and have the same inclusive mindset.

So I took the book. And this week I read it in less time than it takes me to get through an issue of The New Yorker. Before you dismiss it as self-published schlock, hear me out about how it can save you money.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve only been to about 10 concerts in my entire life… and this includes the 3 times I saw Amy Grant & Michael W. Smith as a born-again, Christ-like teenager. Obviously, I’m not much of a concert-goer, although we splurged for Babs back in 2006 (at $200 a pop for her “final” farewell tour). Where was Max then? Sitting in the third row behind Hollywood’s A-List but in front of the D-List. I don’t think he has an affinity for Streisand, but if he did, this would have been the likely scenario.

The chapters in Sold Out… So What! are sectioned into quarters and filled with a lot of sports analogies. He refers to his tips as “plays” and uses the term “stealing bases” to describe techniques for landing in a better seat section. With regards to buying cheap tickets, I was expecting more than the “working Craigslist or eBay on the day of the show” ideas, but there are a few other plays to get sold out tickets when brokers and scalpers are grabbing up most tickets before they go on sale these days. Even the New York Times chimed in last year with the same complaint about fans losing out to the inflated prices. Most of his techniques though require you to be flexible and willing to snag a ticket on the day of or hours before the show or event.

That said, the best ideas in the book are his thoughts on getting closer once you get in. But keep in mind, that it takes a certain personality to follow his plays. I remember doing this twice with Partner #2 – once during Lilith Fair and another at a tennis event – both times we got caught and were told to leave. At the tennis event, we were with Kristy McNichol and even her 70s star power couldn’t convince security that we belonged in the VIP section.

Needless to say, I’m not one for getting closer. But Max offers some creative ways to make this happen if you’re so inclined. So if you attend a lot of concerts or sporting events, then this book will save you money. You can order it on Amazon or by visiting

In the meantime, I have one signed copy that is yours for the taking. Give me a good comment about this ticket topic over at Queercents and I’ll pick the best one so you can get your game on with Sold Out… So What!

Three reasons to play tennis instead of golf: money, money, money

“I play more tennis than golf now.” – Greg Norman, who recently married Chris Evert

Like typical lesbians, Jeanine and I enjoy the game of golf. But with each round, I’m always conscious of the cost. After all, my money personality feels tested every time we shell out $75 to $150 to tee off at a nice public course in Orange County or Palm Desert.

Over the July 4th holiday, we used a gift certificate that Jeanine received for two rounds at a nearby course. We had never played there before so I asked the guy in the pro shop how much the round would have cost us: $178 a piece! We had a fantastic time, but not 356 dollars worth of fun… especially if I had to pay for it.

No matter how you slice it, golf is expensive. Jeanine would likely play more, but I’m the one holding us back from a money perspective. Whenever she suggests that we play, my typical first reaction is, “I don’t want to spend the money.”

She wins out about 5 or 6 times a year: usually because it gets tagged on as part of a weekend in Palm Springs. I’m an easy target when pool-lounging-in-the-desert is part of the package. I’m less likely to want to play when we can be doing other things that are free around Southern Cal… like riding our bikes, going for a hike or playing tennis.

Each time I pick up a club, I’m often reminded of the interview I did with Deb Price, a syndicated columnist writing about gay issues. I had read that she and her partner had paid off their mortgage and asked her how they cut back over the years to live below their means. She replied:

The “tennis lesson” is incredibly valuable. We’ve played tennis for 22 years, the length of our relationship, and now play on a gay doubles team in Washington, D.C., which throws in the priceless gift gay friends as well. We always travel with our tennis rackets, and we’ve played everywhere from the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris to the Old Cataract Hotel in Egypt that Agatha Christie fans will remember.

Tennis has brought us incredible joy, but at a teeny fraction of what golf would have cost. Our rackets are easily five years old at a combined cost of about $400, and we usually play on (free) public courts. All that saved money – added with taking lunch to work, buying gas on the cheaper side of town, abandoning “retail therapy” and rarely buying new clothes – is then freed up to have the splurge vacation, which is something we both really value.
It’s true. We can outfit ourselves and play tennis for a whole year for what it costs to play two rounds at the above mentioned golf club. Besides, Slate magazine thinks golf is horrible for America:
There are enough overweight out-of-shape people as it is, and you get guys spending five hours on the few days they have off away from their families playing golf, and then going out to eat and drink afterward. It’s horrible. There’s a Cain-and-Abel element at play here. Golf and tennis are essentially sibling rivals, both raised in white polo shirts, one wielding a 9-iron, the other a wooden racquet, who, during the leisure boom after World War II, left their stuffy country club to seek fame and fortune on a larger scale.
Health reasons aside, Hank Greenberg and Carl Icahn think golf is horrible for American business:
“I hate golf,” former AIG chairman Greenberg told the assembled crowd of investment bankers. “I play tennis. It doesn’t take long. Then I get back to work.” After his talk we asked Greenberg about the popularity of golf among corporate executive.

“A lot of people like to get away from their work,” he said. “You have to wonder about whether they like what they’re doing.”

Icahn, the legendary corporate raider turned shareholder activist, was even more dismissive of golf. For him golf players symbolized the kind of clubby, chummy corporate executive he thinks is dragging down American business.

“These guys would rather play golf, slap each other on the back,” he said. “I want a guy running a company who sits in his tub at night thinking about the challenges he faces. The guy who can’t let it go. The focused guy.”
He has a point. Who has four hours to blow? Even on a weekend. Tennis provides a great form of entertainment at a fraction of the cost. What do you think? What are your sports costing you? Please feel free to comment at original post over at Queercents.

Photo credit: stock.xchng.

Are gay men wealthier than straight men?

“Spending is quick, earning is slow.” – Russian proverb

According to a new national survey conducted online by Harris Interactive, nearly half (48%) of gay and lesbian adults report they like to keep up with the latest styles and trends. This is compared to only 38 percent of heterosexual adults.

Taking a look only at gay men in the sample:

  • More than half (53%) report they like to keep up with the latest styles and trends, compared to fewer than one-third (30%) of heterosexual men.
  • Nearly half (49%) report they tend to upgrade to the latest model or version of a product, compared to 35 percent of heterosexual men.
Apparently, the image of gay affluence lives on. But what do these spending habits reveal? Are gay men wealthier than straight men? Or do they just have the queer eye for shopping?

In a Queercents interview in 2006, Bob Witeck and Wes Combs provided an explanation:
Because only about 20 percent of gay and lesbian households have children in them, we tend to have more discretionary income. What others spend on child care related costs we often spend on ourselves (or save.) In many cases we are also dual income households, which coupled with no children gives us more money to spend than the average consumer.
But John W. Stiles at OutSmart begs to differ and gives his take on the myth:
So we get all of the harm of appearing wealthy, without any of the fun (or security) of actually having the money in our pockets and bank accounts.
Appearance can be deceiving. Consider this guest post awhile back at Queercents from an enterprising twentysomething gay guy in Houston:
I’d probably be rich (really rich, not just rich in appearance) right now if I’d learned earlier that I must live on far less than what I make, and invest the difference, if I ever want to achieve financial security.

Most of my friends are in the same boat - actually, most of my friends are in worse shape (simply because they haven’t stopped to think about their situation.) I have several buds that earn far above the national income average, they drive Lexus and Mercedes cars, and live in trendy downtown lofts or townhouses. But, many of them owe thousands of dollars in credit card debt - just keeping up with the interest payments on those cards keeps them from getting caught up financially… I believe that gay guys are particularly prone to the “keeping up appearances” syndrome. Gay men just seem to really, deeply worry about what their peers think of them - whether it’s how they dress, their physical appearance, or their financial situation.

In the case of finances, keeping up appearances can be very dangerous. Instead of truly striving for financial security by avoiding consumer debt and paying down mortgage debt, many gay men feel compelled to “show off” their relative “wealth” by purchasing cars and clothes and homes and trips and all kinds of things they can’t afford. I’ve done it myself, and you probably know others who’ve done the same thing. You may even be doing it right now.
This tendency isn’t confined to the US. In the UK, a writer at GayFinance ponders the same:
Luxury used to be something that was exclusively for the rich. That’s not the case any more. With increasing affluence, more of us can afford the kind of things that used to be strictly for the Rockefellers. We don’t just go abroad, we go on adventure holidays to New Zealand or Africa. We don’t buy clothes, we buy designer labels…

But too many of us have a “live today, pay tomorrow” attitude. Keeping up with the Joneses can be costly and it’s all too easy to max out the credit card - especially on holiday or at Christmas. If you’re in serious debt or think you might be a “shopaholic”, you should seek help from a debt counsellor.

But even people who don’t have a problem with debt may be spending all their income without thinking about the future. Yes, you can afford the things you like now, but wouldn’t you like to be able to afford them when you’re 60 as well? All too often I meet guys in their late 30s who earn good money and enjoy an affluent lifestyle but who have no savings or investments at all. What do they think they’ll live on when they’re older?
What do you think? Why are gay men different than their straight counterparts when it comes to keeping up with the latest trends and styles? And what does this mean in regards to their wallet? Feel free to comment over at the Queercents post.

Photo Credit: iofoto

How Much Should You Spend on a Wedding Gift?

“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” – Old English Rhyme

'Tis the season for weddings… especially if you live in California and know a lot of gays and lesbians. Until the court’s decision came into effect on June 17th, I hadn’t been invited to a wedding in years. Of course, I’ve accompanied Jeanine to a few, but she’s from a sprawling Italian family and you need a chart (and there are charts!) to actually figure out how she’s related to that fourth cousin once removed.

But I haven’t been invited to a wedding of the friend-variety in years. Literally, I think it’s been a decade. I suspect it’s a product of age. I’m forty-one and most of my straight friends got married off years ago… in their late twenties or early thirties.

Point being, I’m a bit rusty with the social graces of nuptial gift giving. But with the legalization of same-sex marriage in California, it’s time to brush up… starting with how much is the right amount to spend on a wedding gift. I did some Web research and SmartMoney magazine tipped me off on the smart amount:

Some say it should reflect the estimated cost that the couple spends on your behalf for the reception meal. Of course, if you’re shipping the gift ahead of time, this can be tricky. Calling the bride and asking whether chicken Marsala or prime rib will be served can be awkward.

The Knot recommends spending between $100 and $150 for weddings in New York and other big cities, and $75 to $100 nationwide. But those are just basic guidelines. Your budget should ultimately be a personal decision, based on how close you are to the couple and how much you can afford to spend.
Hmm, that still seems too subjective. For example, what happens if I need to spend money on transportation and lodging to attend the wedding? According to Craig Smith of Gay Celebrations, the hot destination-wedding is the Four Season Biltmore in Montecito and I know those charming cottages will set you back $800 a night (not to mention, there’s a two night minimum). I’m sure the grooms will negotiate better rates for their guests, but still should I factor in this expense when it comes to how much I spend on the gift?

And then there’s the topic of the gift registry! I won’t ramble off on that tangent, but instead point you to this most excellent post with some ideas about how the marrying types can make sure guests feel like they are more than ATMs.

So how about your thoughts? What’s the right price to spend on a wedding gift? Feel free to comment over at Queercents. No gift-wrap required.

Bank Failures: Is your money safe? The skinny on FDIC insurance limits.

“The most serious financial crisis of our lifetime…” – George Soros on the US banking crisis

The New York Times recently noted this anecdote in relation to the economy, the current administration and the most recent bank closure:

This week a passing motorist shouted at a crowd waiting outside a branch of IndyMac, the failed bank, “Bush economics didn’t work! They are right-wing Republican thieves!” The crowd cheered.
Regardless of your political views, Elizabeth’s weekly roundup directs readers to the Consumerist where they offer these telling side-by-side photos of then & now and asks the question: What Does A Bank Run Look Like In 2008? A Lot Like 1912. Indeed… history repeats itself.

Is anyone worried there could be more incidents ahead? FDIC insurance is supposed to offer peace of mind. Well, at least up to $100,000 per depositor per insured bank. The rules are listed here in detail.

The FDIC also provides separate insurance coverage for deposit accounts held in different categories of ownership such as joint accounts and revocable trust accounts. Make sure you’re clear on the regulations. For example: coverage for a revocable trust account is based on an owner’s trust relationship with each qualifying beneficiary. In queerspeak, domestic partners don’t qualify as a possible beneficiary. Spouse is defined as a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife… thanks to the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Revocable trusts can be a complicated topic so it’s always best to consult your financial advisor for guidance on this one.

But for the simplicity of this post, let’s focus on individuals. Specifically, those individuals that want to have more than $100,000 sitting in a bank instead of other investments. Are you supposed to run all over town opening up accounts in different banks to make sure your money is insured? Well, there’s an easier solution. The Gay Financial Network ( has an excellent article about CDARS (the Certificate of Deposit Account Registry Service) and how to get FDIC insurance coverage for the full amount:

Although some 2,000 U.S. banks participate in CDARS it doesn’t seem to get much press… Here’s how it works: without having to place your money yourself in lots of different banks, with CDARS you sign one agreement with a participating local bank or other financial institution of your choice, earn one interest rate, and receive one regular statement. Your local bank divides the money among banks in the network, making sure no accounts exceed FDIC insurance limits. There is no fee, and all of the money is FDIC insured.
Of course, there are rules, so check out the CDARS website. But good to know there’s a solution.

Now for a few reader questions: How is the recent news about IndyMac affecting your confidence in the economy? Is the government’s bail-out of mortgage giants: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac making you panic? Where are you putting your money these days? And does it feel safe? Please feel free to respond over at the Queercents version of this post.

How do you handle errors on restaurant bill?

“When you make a mistake, admit it. If you don’t, you only make matters worse.” – Ward Cleaver

Last night, Jeanine and I ran a quick errand at South Coast Plaza and as we were leaving we stumbled upon the new Charlie Palmer restaurant. We sat at the bar and ordered two glasses of wine, the cheese plate and a salad. The couple on our left and the woman on our right even offered a taste off their dishes… how friendly is that for Southern California? It turned into a little food fest on a Tuesday night.

Eventually though, I had enough of the impromptu party and placed my credit card where the bartender would notice I was ready to cash out. He took the card and returned with the bill for my signature. I was still talking to the woman who had shared her SHRIMP KABOBS A LA PLANCHA TAMARIND CHIVE GLAZE, CAPONATA SALAD (fantastic, by the way!), so Jeanine opened the bill presenter. After reviewing the line items she said in a soft voice, “He charged you for the $40 Cabernet… what do you want to do?”

“Umm… I’m going to tell him that I didn’t order the $40 glass of Cabernet.”

I’m sure Jeanine thought it would turn into an awkward scene, but there was no way I was going to pay forty bucks for a glass of wine. Earlier, I had even vacillated about the $15 option. Most of their reds were in the $12 range and typically, I’m hesitant to select from the higher priced tier… but it was a Tuesday night and I was only going to have one glass of wine so what’s $3 in the big scheme of things? I ordered it by name. It was something, something, Conn. I assume as in Conn Valley, but regardless I remember saying, “I want the Conn Cab.” This was my way to make sure he knew I wasn’t ordering the $40 option.

When I brought it to the bartender’s attention, he seemed surprised and indicated it was his mistake. He immediately swapped it out for the $15 item and re-presented the bill. No scene. But I suspect there are some people that might feel timid about addressing an error on their dining bill.

Unlike other transactions, diners are in a unique social setting putting them at a disadvantage to examine the bill. Do you think this bartender knew this and took advantage of the situation? After all, I was busy talking and never even saw the bill before handing him my credit card. If Jeanine hadn’t scrutinized the bill for me, I would have likely signed and walked away, saying that was a fun night, but kind of expensive. Hello? A forty dollar glass of wine… was he trying to pull a fast one on me or was it an honest mistake? I still tipped him just shy of 20 percent, but I wonder what Mike over at Queercents would say about the tipping etiquette in this situation.

Anyway, this “error on the restaurant bill” topic over a year ago over at Queercents, but in light of my recent experience, it seems worth repeating Paula
s questions here:
  • Do you review your dining check in detail?
  • Would you bring it to the server’s attention if there were an error (especially if that error was in your favor)?
  • Would the type of dining establishment, amount of the error, or personality of the server influence your actions?
  • Would your actions change if the restaurant was gay owned and operated?
I’d love to hear your thoughts over at the Queercents post.

Same-Sex Marriage: Five things to consider about your partner’s FICO score.

“When a man is in love or in debt, someone else has the advantage.” – Bill Balance

With all of the coverage about same-sex marriage in California, there have been fewer stories this past month about what happens after the wedding: when couples begin to merge finances, take on debt, etc. So last week, I connected with Julie Wooding at Fair Isaac (the people behind about the implications of California’s marriage ruling on FICO scores and other related issues for the newly wedded. Here are her answers to my questions…

1. Since California is a community property state, both spouses become responsible for each other’s debts taken on during a marriage. How will this play into one’s FICO score?

What can or may affect a FICO score is limited to the information that is on a consumer’s credit report. First of all, it’s important to remember that each individual consumer will have their own individual credit report. That is, if two spouses open a joint account together, the subsequent record of that account will most likely be reported by the credit bureaus on each individual’s credit report. If the laws of a state govern what debt a spouse may or may not be responsible for, and if this information is not reflected on a consumer’s credit bureau report, it cannot be included in their FICO score.

2. Is it the same if couples just decide to remain domestic partners vs. obtaining a legal marriage?

Absolutely true. The FICO score for an individual consumer, whether they be married or single, will reflect the credit information reported by their own lenders on their credit bureau consumer report.

3. Why should gays and lesbians consider their potential spouse’s FICO credit score and financial history before approaching the altar?

The truth is that this is a wise move for anyone approaching the altar! There are several reasons why this is crucial. Let’s say that Jane and Joan are considering marriage, and they plan to buy a home together and co-sign the mortgage loan. The loan terms that any mortgage lender will offer to Jane and Joan will be influenced by their individual credit ratings or scores. If Joan has paid her credit obligations in a slow and sloppy manner, and has numerous delinquencies on her credit report, her FICO score will likely be lower than Jane’s. The mortgage lender may see Joan’s file as representing greater risk, and therefore may not offer the two the most preferred interest rate or other loan terms.
This is something that Jane would likely want to be aware of before tying the knot, I would think. In addition, given Joan’s past tendency to pay her credit obligations in a sloppy manner, it’s possible that she may not pay on time a credit obligation on which they are both joint accountholders. Any delinquency reported on such an account would then be reported on both of their individual credit reports, and it may impact the FICO score for each of them.

4. Are there benefits in married gay couples being “authorized users” of their spouses’ credit card? What are the drawbacks?

Traditionally, the authorized user approach was used by women who didn’t have credit in their own names, and therefore were added as authorized users on their husband’s credit cards. This has also been done for young adults who were added as an authorized user on their parent’s credit cards. These situations generally occur less often these days, when more consumers than ever are obtaining and maintaining credit in their own name. The best way for an individual to improve their credit is to follow several simple rules: Always pay your bills on time; if you’re behind, get current and stay current. Keep credit card balances low, compared to credit limits. Take on new credit only when you really need it.

5. What does marriage mean for mortgage and other loan applications for any newly-married gay or lesbian couples considering big purchases such as a new home?

Newly married individuals seeking a loan to make a significant purchase should make sure to review and understand each individual’s credit history and FICO score. If one individual in the marriage has a long history of meeting credit obligations, but the other individual has been inconsistent or frequently late with payments, it may have a negative impact on the couple’s ability to get a loan. Lenders are reviewing and evaluating each individual’s history and will not simply act solely based on information from the individual with the higher FICO score.


If you’re newly married, considering marriage or just thinking about living with the love of your life, then there is no time like the present to have the money conversation. Jeanine and I did this in the first few months of dating. And yes, revealing our FICO scores was part of that conversation! Communication is key. In five and a half years, we’ve only had one big money fight. Not a bad track record considering the complexities of love and money!

So have your money conversation today. Literally. For a limited time, myFICO is offering Queercents readers a 20% discount on the FICO Credit Complete (all 3 FICO scores and reports) from July 13th through July 31st, 2008. Visit this link at and enter the promo code BLOG20 at checkout.

More about Julie Wooding
Julie Wooding is a Senior Consultant and has been with Fair Isaac since 1993. Working in Fair Isaac’s Scoring Client Services Unit, Julie provides expert consulting to clients in the deployment and strategic use of Fair Isaac scoring solutions. These include the FICO® Credit Risk scores and other Fair Isaac risk, bankruptcy, and marketing scoring tools.
She has experience in behavior and risk score development, and previously managed a team of analysts that developed both Classic and NextGen scores for U.S. and Canadian credit bureaus. In her 15 years at Fair Isaac, Julie also served as a strategy consultant, a role in which she worked with clients to develop, evaluate, and continuously improve their account management strategies. Julie holds a B.S. in Finance and an M.B.A. degree.

Ten Money Questions for Craig Smith

Craig Smith is co-founder of Gay Celebrations, an events planning company that produces high-quality and memorable events tailored to the needs of the LGBT community. As a former studio entertainment special events executive, Craig knows how to deliver distinctive and fiscally-responsible events for gay communities nationwide.

Since June 17th, the monumental “marriage” date in the State of California, Craig has been busy helping gay and lesbian couples plan their big day. He talks about budgets, the best man and the only good reason to take on wedding debt.

Mosey on over to Queercents to read more or catch other interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.

Long commute causes buyer’s remorse: how gas prices are affecting life in the exurbs.

“Remorse goes to sleep during a prosperous period and wakes up in adversity.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Awhile back, a journalist was looking for stories from our readers experiencing buyer’s remorse in the wake of higher gas prices. He wanted to know if anyone bought a house in the exurbs when gas was 3 bucks a gallon and found themselves rethinking their decision now that the price is closer to $5.00.

When his colleague beat him to the punch with this article: Fuel Prices Shift Math for Life in Far Suburbs, I decided to print a story from one of our readers here instead. This comes from Addie Compton:

I bought my modest rowhouse in Baltimore in 2005 at the exact height of the real estate boom here. My home is in southwestern Baltimore city and I work in a DC suburb in Prince George’s County. It’s an hour commute, when traffic is moving well. And it is all highway commuting. My girlfriend works in DC proper - I drop her off at the subway before going in to work myself. There is a subway stop near where I work. However it is a 2 hour train ride with several transfers (from commuter rail to two different subway lines). I’m not willing to do that.

I would have loved to live closer. I looked in DC and the Maryland suburbs. However, there was literally nothing in my price range when I started looking. I bought my 3 bedroom, 1 bath house for $150,000. (I won’t live in Virginia.) Everything was $200,000 and above - usually much, much above. And this includes marginal neighborhoods with bad schools and significant crime problems. (Prices have not dropped much here. There is still very little available for $150,000 or below.)

So I started looking in Baltimore city. I had lived in the city 10 years before and loved it. I still really enjoy Baltimore. My choices three years ago were buy in Baltimore or not buy at all and continue renting.

I don’t exactly have buyer’s remorse. I do have carbon guilt for all the carbon my five days a week, two hours a day driving. Otherwise, I live in a small house in a city, eat local as much as possible, recycle and so on. My impact, barring driving, is less than the average American. And while the high gas prices are brutal, we make enough that they are not a crushing burden.

However, my girlfriend and I cannot move until we have a significant down payment. Much of that down payment will come from the sale of our current home. And while I did not overpay for my home, it is not appreciating quickly anymore. We could sell it right now for $150,000 or slightly more ($155,000 or so). (During the craziness, rated it as worth over $200,000 which I knew was inflated.) I need my home to be worth $180,000 or more in order to have enough for a down payment to move into the DC metro market.

I don’t regret buying the house but I’m not happy about my carbon footprint. And I’m stuck.
Apparently, homeowners don’t have the lock on regret. Our own Jennifer indicated she has renter’s remorse after they chose to rent in Silver Spring (a suburb of DC), though she works in the District. With gas costs, she notes commuting has become a major expense.

What’s next? Christopher B. Leinberger at The Atlantic Monthly declares the suburbs could become The Next Slum by suggesting that:
The subprime crisis is just the tip of the iceberg. Fundamental changes in American life may turn today’s McMansions into tomorrow’s tenements.

So what do you think? At one time, did the longer commute seem a worthwhile trade off and now it’s killing your monthly budget? Are you changing your lifestyle to accommodate this added expense? Please feel free to share your experience over at Queercents.

In Search of Gay Money: 5 smart tips to manage money with your honey

As gays and lesbians writing about money, we’ve grown weary of reading all the personal finance content that’s written from the perspective of straight marriages. So at Queercents, we’ve turned the tables on money and relationship advice by asking: What if all of our favorite money columnists were gay? Would their advice be more relevant to our lives?

We think the answer is yes! And as such, this is our weekly series called In Search of Gay Money where we reprint their advice by swapping out pronouns and a few other words to make it seem like everyone is queer!

Click over to Queercents to read 5 smart tips to manage money with your honey by Jean Chatzky and Queercents.

Are you shopping online to save time, money and gas?

“Time is money.” – Benjamin Franklin recently reported that visits to online shopping sites are increasing. You would think people would be buying less these days. But wait – it makes sense that consumers are searching progressively more online instead of driving around, looking for deals and ultimately wasting time, money and gasoline.

In the column, Bill Tancer, an online search expert at Hitwise, points out:

When I draw a chart, I start with a hypothesis. In studying online shopping’s relationship to our shaky economy – from high oil prices to the housing crisis and talks of recession – I expected that a chart of visits to online retailers would show a precipitous decline. According to the latest Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Index, consumer confidence has reached the lowest level in 28 years. Yet the facts show that my hypothesis is completely wrong: Visits to online shopping sites are up compared to the previous year.
What are you buying online these days that you didn’t buy online a year or two ago?

1. Home-delivered entertainment items like DVD’s (e.g. have you made the switch to Netflix, instead of driving to Blockbuster?), CD’s, books, etc.

2. Computers and electronics

3. Clothing and accessories

4. Health items like vitamins and prescription drugs

5. Groceries (if you live in Seattle, now there’s AmazonFresh, otherwise, I’m not sure what healthy, organic options you have.)

6. Any item that can be bought used.

The article continues:

Online comparison shopping engines such as Shopzilla, and Pricegrabber, have, as a category, increased at a rate of 59.9% over the previous year… The online classifieds website is up 93.4% comparing the week ending May 31, 2008 to the same time period in 2007.
It appears more people are shopping online looking for deals and buying second-hand items too. But PC Magazine suggests that you can even find the best gas prices on the Web:
A site like or lets you search by ZIP code or city and state to find the cheapest per-gallon price in your neck of the woods. If you’re already on the road you can access from your phone’s browser, or send a text message or e-mail with your city, state, and ZIP to and you’ll get a reply quoting the five lowest-cost locations in that area.
Or instead of the cheapest, why not pre-pay at today’s prices… kind of like the USPS “Forever Stamp” version of gas. Mashable reports: is a new web site offering you the ability to pre-pay for gas at today’s prices, under the assumption that prices will continue to rise. For example, if you buy 20 gallons at today’s price of $4.10 on MyGallons and the price is up to $4.50 next time you fill up, using your MyGallons card would save you $8.
But be careful. MyGallons received some recent bad press. Although they’ve announced a new payment network because of it… still, proceed cautiously if you decide to sign up.

Finally, whatever you’re buying, just make sure you’re a happy online shopper… as it’s been reported that sad shoppers spend 4 times as much money.

So what are you buying these days online? And are you saving money and gas because of it? Please feel free to comment over at Queercents.

Would you risk your life to get out of debt?

“True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Sometimes a year makes all the difference in someone’s life. Remember Nick Sloan? I posted about him last year on July 4th. He was writing a blog as a soldier in Iraq… except his theme was different from most military journals penned from the Green Zone: Nick wrote a personal finance blog called Journey to Financial Freedom.

You see, money was the reason he was serving in Iraq. Nick, a captain in the Air Force, signed up for this tour as a way to earn extra money and minimize his living expenses. Why? He had over $70,000 in debt and this was a major part of his plan to pay it off and get his finances back on track.

Eventually, Nick’s story got around the blogosphere and The New York Times even ran a lengthy profile about his money story. Soon after, he retreated from the public forum of blogging. I suspect the publicity brought quite a bit of traffic to his site and image a lot of those readers weren’t the supportive types you find in the personal finance blogging community. Most people have an opinion about the war and I suspect it made Nick an easy target for the crazies trolling the net.

Regardless of why, Nick took his site down and stopped blogging, but I saved his email address and was able to get in touch with him for this anniversary post. He replied and it sounds like he’s a happy man:

I am safely back from Iraq now, and I am slowly adjusting back to normal life. I did succeed in my financial goals, for the most part. I am completely debt free, other than my mortgage, and I am in the process of paying cash for a late model used car. I am definitely following the personal finance rules that you advocate on your site.
Debt free was the destination. The journey is what will keep him there. Nick, we wish you and your family a very happy Fourth of July. Live long and prosper!

Photo credit: The New York Times

Make your money work harder: Dollar Bill Origami

“The safest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it in your pocket.” – Kin Hubbard

It’s likely to be a slow day at the office for most people since we’re on the cusp of a three day holiday weekend. If there are still 8 hours of cubicle nation between you and the start of your Fourth of July festivities, then here’s something to do with your pocket full of money:

Master the art of dollar bill origami

There are plenty of web sites with step-by-step instructions… This month’s issue of Southwest’s in-flight magazine explains how to morph your money with a few easy folds and make it work harder for you… or at least make it work at entertaining your coworkers during your third Frappuccino run today.

Awhile back, Phil at Queercents explained that he learned to make a T-shirt with a dollar-bill as a kid. Apparently he used this newfound skill in bars and quite possibly as part of drinking games, but recommends that you don’t give the bartender a tip out of dollar-bill origami. He tried this once and writes, “That seemed to annoy him.” I suspect that Phil didn’t go home with the bartender that night.

But that doesn’t mean your nephew won’t appreciate the twenty bucks folded up as a spider and presented to commemorate his eight grade graduation. One of the best lists of folding diagrams is found here.

So after today, if you’re hooked on money folds and want more… Join the Moneyfolders interest group at Yahoo... there’s actually been activity on its message board in the last seven days. Who knew people spent time doing this?

Fold away… the Fourth is just around the corner!

In Search of Gay Money: Schedule a Money Date

As gays and lesbians writing about money, we’ve grown weary of reading all the personal finance content that’s written from the perspective of straight marriages. So at Queercents, we’ve turned the tables on money and relationship advice by asking: What if all of our favorite money columnists were gay? Would their advice be more relevant to our lives?

We think the answer is yes! And as such, this is our weekly series called In Search of Gay Money where we reprint their advice by swapping out pronouns and a few other words to make it seem like everyone is queer!

Click over to Queercents to read Schedule a Money Date by Kimberly Lankford and Queercents.