The Great Recession began, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, on December 1, 2007. But it didn’t become Great until September 15, 2008. That’s the day Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and when what might have been a garden variety slowdown became an all-out panic on Wall Street.
Now that the GR seems to be abating, and on the occasion of the first anniversary of the meltdown, journalists, pundits, and even bloggers have spent a lot of time lately summarizing the lessons we have learned from the experience.
Phillip Moeller at US News & World Report gave us 6 Money Lessons of the Great Recession. The first is that "the experts are often wrong." Apparently many used to think that the term expert meant an omniscient seer of the future. Moeller also tells us that "everything is negotiable."
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From some spam I got yesterday:
Dear Amazon.com Customer,
As someone who has shown interest in books and magazines on cooking, you might like to know that you can get a $5.00 instant discount on SmartMoney this month.
I’m not entirely sure what is going on here. It’s possible that it’s just a mail-merge typo, that the text "cooking" was accidentally put in where Amazon meant to write "finance and investing." I like eating as much as the next guy, but describing me as somebody "who has shown interest in books and magazines on cooking" is quite a reach. On the other hand, I do keep buying books about finance, so flogging SmartMoney to me makes some sense.
But there is another, less likely, explanation that I would rather was true. I would rather that the algorithms at Amazon that tell them that people who bought A might like to buy B have found that personal finance and cooking/nutrition/dieting are similar topics with similar audiences.
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A few days ago there was an encouraging little post on The Wallet about how we’re spending more on life’s smaller luxuries in the face of the Great Recession. I call it encouraging because I think it is the direction most people should go in their spending, more on the small stuff, less on the big things, and I like reading positive articles about how consumers are doing this. Not that I really think this is going on.
My theory, admittedly not based on much science, is that we’re happier if we spend more on the smaller things we like than on the big things. A great big house may indeed add joy to our lives, but not as much as the equivalent in nights out on the town. (Or rounds of golf, or manicures or whatever floats your boat.)
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Last week the Baltimore Sun ran a list in picture gallery form of "Money Wasters to Avoid." It got picked up by the often amusing Consumerist, which was then noticed by the WSJ’s The Wallet, which is where my jaded mouse found it. And now I am going to write about it too.
To be fair, this particular bit of sound in the blogosphere echo chamber hasn’t much substance and likely wasn’t intended to be taken very seriously. I imagine a few summer interns brainstorming a list of things people waste money on, rounding up some stock photos, and then poof, it’s internet content.
But if I limited myself to commenting on things that truly deserve comment this blog wouldn’t be much fun to write.
The thirteen wasters of money are: the lottery, books, eating out, pets, DVD rentals, ATM fees, cigarettes, coffee breaks, bottled water, designer clothing, car washes, speeding, and bars.
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The 208th Carnival of Personal Finance is up at Money Under 30. The host did an excellent job, except that he mentioned witnessing the world’s largest lobster roll, at 60 feet long, and named this week’s edition in its honor, but did not provide a photo.
My oh-so-clever post from last week on any printed number being believable is there, way down at the bottom. Placement was not an editorial choice, it’s what I get for writing something that is best categorized as “other”.
There are a bunch of posts in the carnival worth the read. A post on the fact that Thomas Jefferson was in in debt his whole life is worth it because, apparently, this is not common knowledge. I blame public schools.
There’s a post making what I would think is a non-controversial point that you can save money by buying your dog cheaper food. It’s worth reading because the one comment it got argued it was wrong. Also, there’s a picture of a puppy.
Tough Money Love had an appropriately cynical and mildly hostile post on the government bailout and takeover of GM. I liked that. But I was disappointed by a post entitled Making love with money is my favorite kind of romance. I was hoping for something more edgy, possibly with tips on using Craigslist.