Monday, September 28, 2009

Got a haircut

I got a haircut the past weekend.

This time I did something a bit different with it. For years I've been in a holding pattern of getting the hair cut really short and then letting it grow out for as long as I can until it becomes too long and I have to get a big chop again.

This optimizes on cost and as part of that I would always go to low cost hair cutters like first choice and wal-mart.

But this time I did something a bit different. I went to the Head Shoppe. I went to Rockingham Ridge where I'd never been before. It was a far better experience than the discount haircutters. I walk in and there's a comfortable blue padded bench to sit on. Cool. And there was a newspaper there and they offered me a coffee.

The hairdresser seemed pretty good. She seemed to take a bit more time to do a good job and I thought it turned out ok. A challenge is that I'm not sure what I want to do with it so I couldn't give her much instruction to go on.

I was a bit surprised at the cost when it was done. It was only $25. I was expecting it to be a more, like upwards of $30+. Considering it was a much better experience than the discount places. The thing about first choice/wal mart is that their prices have edged up in the last year. It's now like $18 to go to wal mart anyway for a very fast and low quality haircut. So in a way for only $7 I can get a quality haircut since I would have had to spend the $18 anyway for a mediocre haircut. So from that standpoint it's good value for the approx. $7 marginal cost.

So that's the change I've decided to make with haircuts. I'm going to go to a classier place and get a regular stylist and go on more of a regular schedule. The stylist said most guys come in around every 5 or 6 weeks. I set another appointment for 6 weeks which seems about right to start. It's a small change of allowing expenses to increase a little bit after paying off the debts.

I haven't had a regular hairdresser since the late 90s back at fantastic sams in the clayton park mall. The stylist was someone I'd gone to high school with. She actually had to tell me we had been classmates since I didn't remember her from Halifax West. I didn't have much awareness back in high school of most of the people in my classes. I think the girls paid more attention to who was who. I looked her up on facebook but she isn't in that business now.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

American express credit card offer

I got an interesting letter in the mail this week. It was a credit card from American Express. It had a $3000 credit limit on it.

It seems to be linked to Costco. It's strange because I didn't apply for any credit card when I joined. They must have some agreement with Amex I guess. I noticed when I joined as part of the sign up they ask your approximate annual income. I guess Amex takes that stated income as close enough to truth when determining how much credit to offer.

I didn't have to accept the card since I didn't ask for it. So I had to make a decision. I thought about it for a bit and I threw out the card instead of activating it.

I already have a Visa and Mastercard. Although the credit limits are low relative to income and financial situation I imagine they'll increase on their own over time. If I wanted more I could just ask and they might increase it. But I don't want more right now. I have no balance and all the available credit card capacity I need at this time.

American Express is not what it used to be. I remember in the 70s when it was a charge card; a concept I still cannot fully grasp. Anyway back then it was prestigious to have the green American Express card. It was hard to get.

But then things changed with Amex. The charge card gave way to the common vulgar credit card. High income, sterling credit, rare default, classy clientele were largely displaced with pedestrian credit card people, the subprime sheeple.

Amex today with its credit cards is just another loser American wall street firm like MBNA. In fact they are today a "bank" who received TARP handouts from the US taxpayer to cover their losses on bad loans. I don't respect them any more. Speaking of being asked to cover for irresponsible loans they made in the past, the interest rate on the Amex card was a hefty 20%. Interesting since they borrow from the government at 0%.

So thanks but no thanks American express.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ball hockey started again

Another season of ball hockey is now started. This is the 2009 B season September to December. They had another draft and it's new teams.

As usual I was a late round draft pick. I played with the team captain last season though. He's a very good player. Like last year we lost our first game this year. Hopefully we'll get untracked and pick up some wins.

I picked up some new shoes for this season. My old sneakers were pretty beat up. Cross trainers are pretty expensive. They seem comfortably into the 3 figures. After some looking in Bayers Lake I found some Reebok at the Shoe Company for $64. They should be fine for this season and 2010A in the new year. I keep them with my gear and only use them for hockey.

One thing different about this season is I've now agreed to do the game stats and timekeeping for the games I don't play in. Usually the team captain does this but he can't make it to enough games. The league organizer who I know asked if I would do it for my team. I agreed to. So now I'll be attending both games on Mondays instead of the one. The timekeeping and score sheet is a challenge to keep up with and I hope to get better at it.

I hadn't played any sports since the 2009A ball hockey season wrapped up in the spring. I should try out some summer sport next year.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Investing again

One of the things I wanted to do after paying off the TD loan was to invest some more. At work I've now increased the RRSP deduction to 2% of pay. It used to be 1%. I started out at 1% around a year ago.

The company matches up to 3%. This is a great investment. For every dollar of my own I spend the company adds a dollar. Plus on the income tax you end up getting around half of it back due to the tax deduction. So matching RRSP is a good deal with 150% profit plus whatever returns the investments make.

The RRSP scheme is set up with manulife. They have a well designed web site with a login section specific to my company. It was easy to navigate around and see what I have there. Due to good luck my investments have done OK so far. As it happens I joined around the time of the TARP crisis last year when SPX was around 700, NASDAQ around 1400, DOW 6000 etc. Since then they have recovered a fair bit so that was timely for me.

I did change my investments though. Before it was a 'balanced' scheme based on allocation funds. I decided to change the percentages going forward to a more conservative approach. There's still some allocation, i.e. stock market, funds. But I've added more bond and fixed income.

Since I'm getting 150% profit anyway on money spent it's valuable to preserve those wins. Plus it would be nice to actually retire some day. So it would be unfortunate to have the account wiped out. Not that I'm anywhere near retirement. The other thing is I see the RRSP part of investing as safer and more conservative.

I'm also interested in making more speculative, unconventional, self directed 'investments' outside of RRSP. So I might be more willing to take risks outside of the RRSP and play it safer inside the RRSP. That kind of makes sense to me.

Hopefully this 2% deduction will go well. I'll plan to reevaluate in around 6 months or so and aim to set it to the max 3% deduction.

Monday, September 21, 2009

WWE in Halifax

I caught the WWE RAW show in Halifax over the weekend. It was a very good show. Lots of well known wrestlers competed. The action was very good.

I went with my older son. We had pretty good lower bowl seats. It was a good view. There was a good crowd there. Nearly full I would say. Around 8000+ if I had to estimate. It was strange though the concessions weren't all open. We wanted to get the nachos but they weren't even open. They lost money by not being there for the event.

I got a DX shirt for my son. He picked it out. We were a bit lucky to get one of the final ones in his size.

I don't often watch RAW. I prefer Friday Night SmackDown. Still I knew who most of the competitors were. I didn't realize how many John Cena fans there are. The place went crazy when he came out for the main event. It was an exciting match and he beat Randy Orton to keep the WWE title. Cena is entertaining.

WWE hadn't been in Halifax in around 6 years. I hope they come back again sooner. It was a good time seeing it live.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Time to rethink Canada in Afghanistan

More bad news this week. Yet more tragic losses of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.

The truth is that it's time for a frank discussion on the future of Canada's involvement in that country.

This has gone on long enough, much longer than world war two! What have we really accomplished for all of the human and financial losses in that country? The taliban remain a force [and growing rapidly!] and there remains no effective civilian government there.

It's time to cut our losses and move on. We did what we could. We fought honourably and courageously. This nation made sacrifices trying to help the Afghan people. But Canada and the rest of NATO have failed. For reasons unfathomable to us in the west the taliban and their mentality is still largely supported throughout Afghanistan. Burn down a school where girls were taught? Cut off a barber's head for shaving someone's beard? Local cleric orders firing squad execution on two young people for violating "morality laws" and regular townspeople carry out the execution? yes, yes and yes, sounds like a good plan. wtf?? but what can we do.

What's the worst that can happen if NATO just leaves Afghanistan? I suppose Omar and Bin Laden return triumphant to Kabul each riding a white horse in an Austria/1937 scene. Good for them.

We don't have to fight them with troops on the ground on their turf. We can and must fight in our own land both the war on the ground against would be terrorists; as well as the war of ideas against their militant ideology.

We've fought and won this type of war before against a formidable opponent. It was the cold war against the powerful communist propaganda machine and armies. We didn't invade and occupy those countries. They eventually collapsed on their own from within when the great majority of ordinary people wouldn't take it any more. Eventually the same thing may happen in Afghanistan and similar nations. But like eastern Europe, it has to come from the people of Afghanistan. We cannot impose it from the outside if they don't want it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

borrow today, sorrow tomorrow

I'd never heard that saying before but it is so true and relevant. Sadly the advice is too little too late for many; not that they would have heeded it anyway.

Here's some other mementos of the discarded past on the occasion of the elimination of the debt.

So long doughboy

Goodbye Edmund Andrews.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Joined Costco

I recently joined the Price Club. It's actually Costco now but I still think of it as price club and a lot of people still call it that. I'd been a member in the past in the late 90s and early 2000s but I hadn't been there in over 5 years when I rejoined.

I'd been thinking of joining for a while so I just went ahead and did it. I got the regular membership which is $55 a year. I could have got the executive membership for $100 a year. The executive membership has 2% cashback. So if you buy enough stuff there - around $3000 a year or more then the difference in membership price is worth it. I don't really expect to spend that much a year there so I'll start out with the regular membership.

There was some stuff I was getting low on that I was looking for. Laundry detergent, bounce dryer sheets, sensodyne tootpaste, ziploc freezer bags and sandwich bags. I was a bit disappointed with my shopping experience though. I got some laundry detergent, but the bounce was some blue country fresh and they didn't have plain original, the sensodyne was a four pack of different types and 2 of them I wasn't interested in, the ziploc sizes were like a 3-5 year supply if I'd bought them.

They have an automotive there and I might give that a try for oil changes or tires. I had other stuff to do when I was there so I didn't really get to look around. I'll see how it goes with it for this year.