Tag Archives: Budget

We capitulated: We’re back on the TV grid

The Great No-Cable Experiment has ended.

We dumped Dish Network in January when the company that leaves no money-making stone unturned demanded a monthly rental fee for the equipment that had been in our house for nearly four years; we had wanted to suspend service for three months while we were RVing it down south and restart when we returned. My Beloved told them they could keep their expletive equipment, and we left for Texas. We saved $75 a month, added a few DVDs to our Netflix queue and happily enjoyed less celebrity news and pace-quickening weather reports.

When we returned in March, the only thing we missed from network TV was baseball. OK, I was the only one missing baseball. So I subscribed to mlb.com for $25 a month — still a deal.

But then the millionaires  in charge at the NFL decided to kiss and make up, and the NFL doesn’t offer games via the internet. My Beloved started hyperventilating when he realized he couldn’t see his Bears every weekend unless he made a sojourn to the neighbor’s garage.

And Netflix, taking a page from Dish Network’s handbook on “How To Squeeze Every Last Cent from Your Consumers,” raised its rates and co-mingled … or merged … or morphed with Quickster. Buh-bye, whatever you’re calling yourself.

So now we’ve gotten into bed with DirecTV, which has yet to betray us (it’s probably coming, I know). Yesterday, DirecTV installed their equipment, and now my Beloved gets NFL Sunday Ticket — which includes all the NFL games — for “free.” We got a smokin’ deal, thanks to a referral from my brother-in-law, so at $40 a month, we’re still paying less than we did to Dish Network. My husband asked why he has to put up with commercials on television for which he’s paying. Why? This is America and Americans are capitalists, that’s why!

Alas, after a nine-month hiatus, we discovered last night that even with 240 channels, there’s still nothing on TV.

Good to the last penny

While it might be considered a bad habit by some, it’s a habit few self-respecting Minnesota Lutherans would ever give up.

“Putting the coffee on” signals it’s time: Time for the sun to rise, breakfast, coffee break, visiting, lunch and dinner.

Of course, not everyone (even every Minnesotan) likes coffee. If you don’t avoid coffee because you don’t like the taste or because of the health effects of caffeine or the way it stains your teeth, you might avoid it because it’s, gasp, not grown in America. The land of the free, home of the brave doesn’t have enough steep mountain sides and low-wage laborers to harvest it. I read an amusing commentary in the Chicago Tribune recently urging the American-made crowd to give up their coffee.

If you reject such heresy and you’re looking for a more affordable way to satisfy your addiction, try http://www.coffeeam.com.

We had 15 pounds of aromatic beans delivered to our door today for just $8.19 a pound, including shipping. Our choices included Sumatra Black Satin, Tanzania Peaberry and Costa Rica Reserve beans. Yum. Who needs to look forward to going to bed when you can look forward to waking up to that!

Compare that to the low-price leader: Standard (but palatable) Dunkin’ Donuts coffee beans are available online from Wal-Mart for the equivalent of $10.37 a pound (free shipping).

Check that out: Java and jing!

Do you know where your tax money goes?

It’s that time of year.

When we curse politicians and how they’re spending our money.

Tax time.

Americans pay 10% to 35% of their income to Washington, D.C. — the more you earn, the more you pay. The average American household income is $50,000 (2008 U.S. Census); that income level pays 15% in federal taxes or the equivalent of $7,500 a year.

That’s a lot of money, and I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t prefer to pay less. We should be interested in how that money is being spent, but I saw a CNN report yesterday that shows we’re woefully uninformed.

Quick, what is the biggest expense in the federal budget?

No, not pork. It’s Medicare (health care for old people) and Medicaid (health care for low-income families and children) at 20.1% of the federal budget. Social Security is a separate expense at 20%.

Third biggest expense? No, not Obamacare. It’s national defense at 19.3%.

That means 60 cents of every dollar you pay in federal taxes is going to hospitals, doctors and drug companies to care for old people and poor people; defense contractors and soldiers.

When Tea Partiers talk about limiting the federal government, I hear them harping on international aid (actually 1.7% of the federal budget), food stamps (2.8%)  and support for National Public Radio and public television (less than 0.1%).

If we cut those miniscule programs to zero, it was save the average American household about $345 a year.

Interested in how Washington is spending your tax money? There’s a great visual at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget — click on “Explore the Budget.”

And while we’re talking politics, let’s look at the opportunities to earn that income. Wouldn’t you rather be employed and paying taxes than unemployed?

The unemployment rate went down to 8.8% in December, down from just over 10% in late 2009.The highest rate during my working career? Nearly 11% of workers were unemployed in 1983 under President Ronald Reagan. Lowest? Less than 4% in 2000 under President Bill Clinton.

While I’m not thrilled to be paying drug companies for all that ridiculous advertising or defense contractors to build better tanks, I am grateful to be employed and grateful that unemployment is dropping so more people can join me in complaining at tax time.

Hollywood at my pace

Maybe television viewership of the Academy Awards was down this year because it’s too damn expensive to go out and see movies in theaters.

Of the 10 films nominated for Best Picture this year, I had watched one: “Inception.” I saw that one on Netflix.

Oscar ratings were down 10 percent from last year. Thanks to a nonexistent cable connection, I was among non-viewers. But honestly, it was hard to get excited without having seen most of the movies. I couldn’t even tell you the latest Hollywood projects for hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco.

Maybe I’m out of the loop. Or maybe other people are choosing to re-prioritize their entertainment dollars.

My Beloved and I went out to the movies tonight for the first time in ages. We enjoyed Best Picture nominee “The Fighter” with Best Actor Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg. (Who, really, was the fighter in this movie?) The boxing movie was about family ties. “Blood is thicker than water,” Tyler summarized. (We enjoyed it.)

We took in the 6:50 p.m. showing, so we paid full price: $10.50 per adult. And no movie is complete without shared popcorn, Diet Cokes and Peanut M&Ms for the appalling total of $21. Ouch. That’s $42 for a night out, plus the gas to get us there: About $5 at the going rate in the gas-guzzling Durango.

With Netflix, we can exercise a little patience and spend about $3.33 to $3.99 per movie (depending on how many we end up seeing a month). And Tyler makes a lot better popcorn than that styrofoam stuff with Golden Flavor they provide at the theatre.

Sure, if I had waited to see “The Fighter” until it was available on Netflix, I still wouldn’t know why Bale referenced Dicky Ecklund in his Oscar acceptance speech, but … (pause for emphasis) … I didn’t see Bale’s speech anyway.

While I’d still like to see “The King’s Speech” and “The Social Network,” I’m going to wait until I can see them in the comfort of my home on my own “big screen” with a glass of Riesling and real butter on my popcorn.