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  • Archive for November, 2010

    My Thanksgiving Goodies & Observations

    Posted by Frugal on 28th November 2010

    I “participated” in the Black Friday frenzy again this year, just to survey how retail sales were going. There were many pre-Black Friday sales going on, and I thought the sale this year was going to be soft. Many stores opened very early too, and Walmart even opened 24 hours. Based on my experience at Walmart which had a 3-phase sales (midnight to 5am, 5am to 11am for electronics, etc.), I think Walmart stole quite a lot of sales this year. The 3-phase worked really good, because I found that almost ALL stores couldn’t make more sales, simply because of the capacity of the cashiers, parking lot space, and moving space within the stores. Oh yeah, almost all the retail stores that I went to were that PACKED with people & cars. The 3-phase sales at Walmart spread out different types of crowd somewhat, and many people really liked being able to get their 1st part of buying done (since no other major retail stores were opened at midnight).

    Regardless, I also found that most shoppers were extremely price-conscious. I didn’t notice that, until I went to Target and found my $36 Shark Steam Mop from Walmart, priced at $45 at Target, piled up and not moved at all. Looked like everyone has done their comparison already. Yeah, and all those items that were not on sale were not touched mostly. I went to the LEGO aisle that my kids loved most. Almost all legos didn’t get sold, except very few ones that were on sale.

    And I’m sorry to report to all the Apple lovers that I don’t see IPads selling. They are well-stocked in all stores, and not moving. In fact, most electronics were not selling a lot. This includes TV, blu-ray players, and even game consoles. In fact, there were so many Wifi-ready players with just an ethernet port, trying to trick buyers to buy them. No, these units won’t stream Netflix wirelessly, and will need a $80 to $130 ethernet-to-wifi adapter, after you pay some $100+ for the blu-ray players.

    The only exceptions to electronics are probably mobile phones and low-priced NetBooks. Yeah, I really wanted the $150 NetBook black Friday sale at BestBuy, but it’s all gone probably within minutes when the store opened. With NetBook selling at $150 with 160GB hard drive and SD card slots, it makes triply hard to buy the most basic IPad priced at $500. Oh, I forgot, Apple is not about price, but fashion, as long as our generations stay away from the new frugal reality. Actually, I should use $400 for comparison, because TJMaxx seemed to have this item in extremely limited supply for $400 on Black Friday (if you could bust the door in time).

    Anyway, I managed to get the following items this week:
    1. A 3-night stay at 4-star Planet Hollywood for $56 per night after tax at Las Vegas, plus 1 free buffet pass. This was just before Thanksgiving, when you can get really good prices without much traffics. During Thanksgiving and Xmas, there are no ways to enjoy yourself, because the lines for buffet are usually 3-hours long, converting your lunch meal to early dinner literally.

    2. $89.99 1TB MyPassport portable hard drive, free shipping, bought with $100 BestBuy gift card from Albertson, which gave me a $20 coupon for free grocery, and charged on my ChaseFreedom credit card for 5% cashback (or $5). So I paid about $65 before tax, when the price has gone back up to $150 now. However you can still get this item at Costco for $99.99, but you won’t get any gift card/credit card bonuses.

    3. Super-Mario Wii game at Target, regularly priced at $49.99, but got a $10 gift card when bought during Thanksgiving, and I got $5 off coupon, plus 5% off charged on their RedCard (Target’s credit card). So that was like $35, not counting taxes. You could get those $5 off coupon or 10% off coupons at the checkout if you bought anything at Target, just before Thanksgiving.

    4. Slave I LEGO construction set, regularly priced at $79.99 everywhere. My son asked this for Christmas, and the only reason that he wants this is that it’s got a special mini-figure Hans Solo frozen in stone. I paid about $57 before tax, because Target had it temporarily on sale for $69.99, plus there is a $10 Target coupon just for LEGO sets, and I charged it on RedCard again for 5% off.

    5. $60 Brother Color Inject MFC-J410W Wireless All-in-One at OfficeMax. This one is not a deal, since you can get most wireless printers easily for less than $100 these days. And I’m buying Brother, not HP nor Canon, because the ink cartridges are cheaply available on Amazon or Ebay at less than $1 per cartridge, without me going an extra mile to find out how to refill my own cartridges. Since I won’t print a lot, per page cost matters less to me than per cartridge cost. In the past, usually I spent like $8 to $30 on a cartridge, just to print less than 30 pages, and just to find out that my $30 investment on the cartridge is totally gone and dried up after many idle months. So I think Brother should work for me better.

    Posted in Frugal Ways | 7 Comments »

    MW comments on bearish articles on Gold

    Posted by Frugal on 16th November 2010

    I’m always interested in finding out exactly how big is the public participation on the precious metal investment. Here is just some status check:

    1. A few months ago, my relative who laughed at me before about buying the “barbaric” metals asked me how high can the gold goes, because he/she is thinking of buying it.

    2. A few months ago, my friend seriously considered buying metals.

    3. Another relative finally bought metals, but sold again recently.

    4. A trip to Home Depot last week turns out to be an education. While I was selecting repair parts, a person behind me was explaining to his friend that QE2 by Federal Reserve will create inflation, and one needs to buy precious metals, because the more hot money out there, the higher price gold will go. (Yeah, I thought that was quite obvious, but his friend was quite illiterate about financial matters.)

    5. I’ve spent hours reading through the comments on the recent bearish article “Why gold is a bad investment” at Marketwatch.com. The comments were almost totally one-sided, blasting the author, and any other gold bears who decide to comment. I don’t know whether the readers of MarketWatch.com are much more financially-savvy. But definitely a very significant public participation is going on in this gold market, based on all the comments.

    To wrap this up, here is what I had to say to another fellow at MarketWatch.com:

    To AmericanPatriot,
    Because I added you as a friend in the past, for your benefit, I hope you are not shorting gold or gold-related investment. I don’t want to elaborate my reasons, but a bubble by definition NEEDs to be parabolic. The parabolic rise won’t come until closer to the very end, when it’s visually obvious. However, the abrupt end to the parabolic rise is usually anytime, and anybody’s guess.

    The intermediate correction in gold will come later. I think we have a short-term correction right now. Don’t fight the tape. Some of the people who shorted into dot-com bubble lost all of their savings. I was shorting too in early 2000. Knowing that it was an imminently bursting bubble didn’t make me any money. I learned my hard lesson about how the irrational exuberance can last longer than one’s insolvency.

    Best luck.

    By the way, do yourself a favor. DO NOT listen to Jon Nadler at Kitco. He is a double-talking double agent possibly “planted” by the investment banking world. You would think that at Kitco, you want somebody who is a perma-bull like Lawrence Yu in National Real Estate. For some reason, he is always the first guy who pours cold water on gold.

    In any case, always remember that if you try to get rich overnight, you can also lose double of the amount in less time. Nothing goes straight up. Likewise, nothing goes straight down too (but sometimes, it does happen too in a black-swan dive).

    Posted in Gold/Silver | 4 Comments »

    Waiting for QE2

    Posted by Frugal on 1st November 2010

    On Wednesday, Fed will announce an update to QE2. Quantization easing is just a term to confuse laymen. To use the simpler terms, QE is simply money printing by computer entries. It is the left hand of US government Federal Reserve buying bonds from the right hand of US treasury, diluting everyone else’s US dollars. I’m expecting that it would be a little less than $500 billion in about 6 months, which could disappoint the stock market for a minor pullback. Both the forex and stock market may have already factored in this amount. So don’t expect $US to fall off a cliff after that.

    The whiff of inflation is definitely in the air. This is only the first phase of money printing, with majority of the liquidity going into emerging markets, and create massive inflation in emerging economies. Sooner or later (probably 6 years from now), there will be a sudden and unexpected phase shift, with a gap down in $US currency value, destroying the savings of the middle class, and all the foreign real estate investors. The current foreign buyers of the real estate think that they’re getting a hefty discount on the real estate which might be inflated up. They probably don’t see that there is another discount factor that may come in after a $US devaluation. You may think that foreign buyers with big pockets are smart money, but investment history states otherwise. Foreign money usually participates in the last phase of the bubble. In this case for real estate, it’s still there even post-bubble.

    We’re living in interesting times. The volatility of all financial instruments will continue to expand with even more hot money sloshing around the globe. Some will make a fortune, either because they’re lucky, or they see it coming. Most will lose their savings unfortunately. Are you ready?

    Frugal at 1stMillionAt33.com

    Posted in Investing | 7 Comments »