Why Personal Finance is Like Cross Dressing

This is a very special post dedicated to my friend JT McGee at Money Mamba, who is not a cross dresser (as far as I know). Please visit his site, where he will be linking to this post, very reluctantly I’m sure, in every post roundup for the foreseeable future. (Bwahahahaha!) He also blogs about cool stuff like economics, money, and politics.

Disclaimer: I am not in any way trashing transgendered people or those who cross dress. I’m a psychotherapist and member of PFLAG, not a hater. If you are offended, I truly apologize.

I’ll be honest - this post started out as a joke about earning Klout and driving traffic to my site. But the more I thought about it, I realized that personal finance can be compared to just about anything. Other bloggers have compared personal finance to potty training, fantasy baseball, religious evangelism, and even puberty, so I thought, Why not cross dressing? If blogging has done nothing else for me, it’s given me confidence that I can write about the weirdest, most random crap ever and someone will read it. (They may not enjoy it, but they’ll read it.) In order to prove that point, I will provide you with five safe-for-work reasons why personal finance is like cross dressing.

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I Have Too Much Stuff - Do You?

Last night I decided to take control of the laundry disaster going on in my house. With all the drama at work lately, everything else in my life has kind of been on pause. I admit I haven’t been doing as much housework as I should any housework. And it shows. I brought up SIX laundry baskets full of clean clothes to fold and put away, did three more loads, and my hampers are still overflowing. It’s a hot mess around here and I can’t take any more.

Anyway, as I was searching all my closets for more hangers, it occurred to me that I’m always saying I have nothing to wear, yet the huge metal rod in my 8-foot closet is bending under the weight of all my clothes. And there are lots more clothes that need to be washed. And my dresser drawers are full. And I have an entire closet just to hold all my shoes.

I had a horrible thought at that moment - Do I have too much stuff?

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Online Surveys: Opinion Outpost Review

Disclosure: I have not received any type of compensation for this review. However, all links in this post are affiliate links, meaning I get $1 if you use the link to sign up to take surveys on Opinion Outpost. So if you’re the least bit interested, I hope you’ll use my affiliate link. I love free dollars!

A few years ago I got on a huge online survey kick. I wanted to share my opinions and make money doing it! I wanted to know about new products before other people! Problem was, there were SO many sites to choose from, and many of them required a ton of effort for very little reward. I got frustrated early on and gave up on making money by completing surveys.

In 2009, a coworker told me about Opinion Outpost. She swore she was actually making money taking surveys and didn’t have to buy, join, or sign up for anything to do it. So I checked it out (on my work computer, as I recall - oops!) and decided to sign up.

The process of signing up is very simple. You fill in your basic info, fill out profiles about banking, shopping, education, etc., and confirm your email address. After a week or so, you’ll start getting emails inviting you to take surveys. Sometimes you just answer questions; other times you’re shown a movie trailer or commercial and asked to give your opinion of it. When you qualify and complete a survey, you are rewarded with Opinion Points, which translate into money (10 pts = $1). I have actually received money for completing these surveys. I promise this is not a scam.

Proof of actual money received, though I’ve cashed it all out (note that it has taken me two years to get that much money):

Pros of Opinion Outpost

  • You get lots of survey invitations. LOTS. I don’t even have time to complete them all.
  • You have several choices for cashing out your Opinion Points. You can get an Amazon gift card code, a paper check, a Citi gift card, a Restaurants.com gift card, or a gift ID for Alawar games (whatever the heck that is - it’s a new option). You can also donate your winnings to the American Red Cross.
  • I actually qualify for many of the surveys I’m invited to take. Other sites make it seem impossible to qualify!
  • If you don’t qualify for a survey, you can enter a sweepstakes OR donate 10 cents to the Red Cross.
  • No spam emails - I only receive survey invitations.
  • Customer service is extremely responsive - one time I was randomly missing like 100 Opinion Points, and they promptly figured out the problem and credited them back to my account.

Cons of Opinion Outpost

  • Sometimes you spend several minutes answering questions, only to find that they were screener questions and you don’t qualify. It’s aggravating.
  • Most surveys only pay $1-$2. Every now and then you’ll get an invite for a $6+ survey, but those are usually looking for people in very specific occupations.
  • I’ve never requested a paper check, but I’ve heard they take awhile to show up. So I always do Amazon gift cards, which makes me spend money instead of doing something useful with it.
  • The website is cheesy and desperately needs a facelift.
  • Sometimes if you don’t qualify for a survey, it will remain on your list for weeks as “Started.”

So that’s the quick version. If the above info sounds okay to you and you want to make some money completing surveys, check out Opinion Outpost. It really is a fun way to earn extra money! Just don’t expect to get rich.

Saying Goodbye to Credit Card Debt

Guess who no longer has credit card debt - THIS GIRL!!!!!

Last night I was in bed using the Mint.com app on my phone, and I noticed that my direct deposit hit early. I earned exactly enough from my second job ($305) to pay off my Dell card. So I jumped out of bed, ran to the computer, and scheduled the payment.

I got the Dell card in 2003. I remember thinking I would never max it out because the limit was $3500, and who spends that much on electronics? Well, apparently I do. Over the 4 years that I used the card, I bought a laptop, a desktop, a Dell Axim PDA (anyone remember those things?), a camcorder, two flat screen TVs…. Yeah, I maxed it out. Sadly, I don’t even own any of those things anymore.

At one point, Dell thought I was trying to steal my own identity (long story) and locked me out of my account. I couldn’t make payments or even talk to customer service. Finally, I found email addresses for some important people at Dell on Consumerist, which I used to plead my case and get the missed payments removed from my credit report.

Looking back over my payment history, it cost me around $6200 to pay off that $3500 in debt over 8 years. That’s ridiculous, especially since I don’t even have anything to show for it. My slight obsession with shiny new techy things did nothing but cause me throw money down the toilet. And while I still love gadgets (like my iPad), I save up for them now instead of relying on credit. And it feels awesome to get something new and know that it’s paid for.

So now I have to figure out what to do with the $130 a month I’m no longer sending to Merrick, Orchard, Dell, or Target (or some combination thereof). For now, I’m going to save the money as backup for starting my new job. After that, though, I’m thinking I need to put it toward my car payment. I’d be making a $500 car payment instead of the minimum $300 (I pay $360 now), so my car would be paid off in September 2013, 18 months ahead of schedule. That money could then be rolled onto my student loans, paying them off before I hit my 40s, which is definitely the goal.

For right now, though, I’m just going to take some time to be excited!