Carnival of Wealth, Post-Epiphany Edition

See you in December, sweet things


It’s the least wonderful time of the year. The time when the 12 days of Christmas are officially over, and all that remains is frigidity. Those of us who use Coffee-mate now have to suffer through vanilla and unflavored varieties until the limited-release period returns. Why are there no mass protests outside Nestlé headquarters?

Enough venting. On with the carnival. If you’re new here, every Monday we showcase the most gripping personal finance blog posts of the previous week. If you want to submit, and you have an established blog (or even a nascent one), read the directions here. Otherwise, just read. No further ado:

Daniel at Sweating The Big Stuff said something nice about us last week, so he gets the coveted top spot. He avails us of something we never knew about, but think is a fantastic idea. Fee-free ATMs. (Or for the redundant among you, fee-free ATM machines.) How do the purveyors of these machines do it? The same way TV broadcasters, radio broadcasters, and this very website do.

We entered Financial Uproar’s stock-picking contest, and while that site’s Nelson is laughing too hard at our choice of Netflix to bother submitting to the CoW, another entrant did submit. Teacher Man at My University Money chose a temp agency, a quasi-mutual fund, an oil-and-gas driller, and the most overpublicized company on Earth.

(By the way, Netflix has moved from $71.40 to $86.49 in the week since the contest started. Yes, we’re the idiots.)

Back in August, Neo at Net Worth Protect wrote about how to manage your investment fund expenses. No one read it back then, so he gussied his post up with colorful charts and graphs and tried again. Neo argues that not knowing the difference between a passive mutual fund and a managed one can cost you dearly.

Ken Faulkenberry at AAAMP Blog (it stands for Arbor Asset Allocation Model Portfolio) is back with a piece on gold as a suitable investment for 2012. This is NOT your standard piece on gold. Are you looking for returns, or are you looking to preserve? Answer before buying.

Hank at Money Q&A has 8 tips for how to save money on car repairs. 7 of them are pretty self-evident, but tip #5 is worth the price of admission all by itself. Buy a code reader. They’re easy to use, and with one you’ll never be at the mercy of an unscrupulous technician again. Thanks to Hank for popularizing that, and thanks to the beefy gal at the AutoZone in Douglas, Wyoming for selling us a cheap one last summer and helping us fix that evaporation leak.

Some of you are still carrying consumer debt, not really sure why. It’s like smoking. You can’t say you can “quit anytime (you) want” and expect people to take you seriously. Quit now. Your Finances Simplified gives a 6-point plan for doing to your debt what West Virginia did to Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

The phonetically frivolous A Blinkin at Funancials answers the fundamental question about Facebook that we’ve had for some time: Why do people willingly hand over the details of their lives?

Actually, he didn’t ask that. He asked how Facebook makes money, which is equally ponderous. Yes, the company receives fat checks from Zynga, but is that enough? If you’ve logged in recently you might have noticed a feature box above the news feed. A’s curiosity prompted him to click the box, and he ended up face-to-face with an Indian girl who introduced him to Facebook Ads.

Every now and then the founder of the Carnival of Wealth, Shailesh Kumar, likes to check in and make sure we haven’t completely ruined his brainchild. He resurfaced last week and is back again this week, guesting at Business Insider. Shailesh explains how big institutional investors on Wall Street aren’t necessarily at an advantage. In fact, their size can work against them. Institutional investors operate under constraints that create inefficiencies a smart small investor can exploit. You just need to learn where to look for these pockets of profits.

We welcome LaToya Jackson to the carnival this week. She’s writing under the pseudonym Amanda L. Grossman at Frugal Confessions. Here’s an excerpt:

I always believe that you should shoot for the heavens because when you miss you will still fall among the stars—and the stars are a beautiful place to be.

Man, that’s deep. LaToya started 2011 with the goal of saving half of her take-home pay. In this post, we find out if she pulled it off or not.

We welcome Shaun at Young Adult Finances this week. He comes over (temporarily, we think) from Smart Family Finance with an actionable post on how to time rental income for your taxes if you happen to be a landlord. Shaun points out that deferring income is a lot easier than accelerating it. Still, that doesn’t damper our enthusiasm for this line:

Congratulations! Congress has just passed legislation raising your tax rates for next year. You now have incentive to earn as much money as you can in the current year…

Aloysa at My Broken Coin details her accomplishments and failures of 2011. Like most people, she spent too much and didn’t save enough. Unlike most people, she’s candid enough to admit it.

We quoted the late Artie Lange in our awesome book, Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense, the only personal finance volume you’ll ever need (and available on Kindle!) He mocked the absurdity of gift cards: “Instead of cash, which is good everywhere, I’m going to give you a special kind of cash that’s only good at one store.” Kevin McKee at Thousandaire shares a similar belief in his latest post, in which he hacks and leverages his way to something worthwhile out of unwanted gift cards.

(Dang. The streak is over. An unreadable submission with zero content and a bunch of platitudes. Normally we’d goof on something like that, but instead we’ll just delete it. This week we’re going to try to stay positive. We’d say “this year”, but who are we kidding? Enjoy our new leaf before it turns brown and falls off the tree.)

This week, Passive Income To Retire doesn’t offer a post so much as a solicitation for posts. He plans to retire in 2-3 years. If you’ve already done it, he wants to know how. Not surprisingly, passive income is almost certainly going to be part of it.

Corey at 20s Finances explains what to do if you fall behind in paying off your debts. His answer? Buy lots of lottery tickets! Alright, that’s not his answer. You’ll have to read his post.

If all of you were like Paula Pant at Afford-Anything, the Carnival of Wealth would be the greatest and most popular blog carnival in the universe instead of a collection of occasional insight punctuated by one-liners. Then again, if all of you were like Paula Pant, there’d be no need for a weekly roundup of personal finance strategies. You’d be too busy buying assets, selling liabilities, and enjoying life. This week, Mademoiselle Pant explains how she’s investing, ahem, 100% of her 2012 income. Read it to believe it. And hopefully, emulate it.

You’re not going to believe this, but there’s a blog written by a woman who fell into credit card debt. And who gained unwanted weight. And who wants to communicate better with her husband. And who started a fad diet. And who wants to have a baby. And who hits an average of 3 roadblocks a year while trying and failing to lose weight. And who loves to write authoritatively about marriage, despite being married for barely a year. And who “coupons”. (And who uses “coupon” as a verb.) The blog is called Newlyweds on a Budget, it’s hosted by Erika, and sweet Lord is it groundbreaking. Real uncharted territory. Erika doesn’t know it, but you can access her Twitter feed here.

These steps are easy and self-evident, but millions of people refuse to put them into action. Check your credit report, prioritize your debts if you were dumb enough to incur them in the first place, sell your unnecessary stuff etc. Philip Taylor at PT Money arranges them in handy list form. (Our inclusion of a post that advocates Dave Ramsey’s retarded snowball method doesn’t mean we endorse said method.)

Another post about cutting your expenses? Yes. The reduction of expenses is to personal finance blogs what trimming one’s tummy is to the front pages of those women’s magazines at the supermarket. Bob at Christian PF suggests that you brown-bag, clip coupons, drink water instead of liquids that cost money, and perform similar acts that you never would have thought of in a billion years had he not suggested them.

Ready for something useful and insightful? Because we sure are. Dan at ETF Base lists the top exchange-traded funds of 2011, both leveraged and non-. Most of them stressed conservatism: we’ll see if the same mindset still applies in 2012.

John at Buy Stocks Online Info is going to get rich off dividend stocks or die trying. His progress is slow, but he’s got time on his side. And a knack for details.

Darwin’s Money is here as always, with a post that needs no exposition beyond its headline: “The Most Expensive Coffee on Earth – From an Animal’s Butt. Curious How it Tastes?”

Another debutante is Nick at Step Away From the Mall, who encourages you to forgo the clear coat polish on your next car wash. Do that, save 19¢ by going with the regular-size fast food meal instead of the large one, and by Nick’s calculations you’ll be on your way to millionairehood.

One more rookie, and we’ll have reached our quota. Adam at Tax On Tax Off enters the arena, with a post on how to reduce your student loan obligations. He doesn’t recommend that you just avoid the collection letters or petition your elected representatives. Rather, Adam avails us of the IRS’s student loan interest deduction. It’s contingent on how much money you make, but it’s also a chance to reduce your tax bite if you’re paying attention.

Finally, Boomer of Boomer & Echo has a plan for you Canadians who want to want to turn your Registered Retirement Savings Plan savings into something that looks like an actual pension: a life annuity. It’s the perfect investment vehicle for those of you who’d rather have the certainty of fixed income than the potential of growth.

Wow, that more than makes up for last week’s brief carnival. Thanks for making it to the end of another one, and we’ll see you next week. And every Wednesday and Friday. And on Adaptu. And Investopedia. And ProBlogger. runs on the Genesis Framework

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