29 September 2008

Ask the Loan Shark: How Much To Borrow?

Part Two in an informational series on payday/short-term loans

Q: I need to take out a short-term loan, and I qualified for $400. I really only need $300, but that extra $100 would be nice for some spending cash. What should I borrow?

A: The absolute bare minimum. If you don't really need that extra $100, why borrow it? In fact, before you even go to the loan business, sit down and figure out everything you need to borrow for. Make sure you're not adding in unnecessary items, services or expenses. Call the company ahead of time and ask what their interest rates are so you know what the payoff will be on your due date. Make sure you can afford to pay it back before you even take it out. That extra $100 could end up costing you anywhere between $17 and $20 more come your due date. Can you really afford that?

Also, ask questions. Sometimes the company you borrow from won't clearly explain the terms of the loan, leaving you high and dry when it comes time to pay off. Know if you have extension days, if you can renew or refinance the loan (and how many times if so), your full payoff amount, and your due date. Don't leave without knowing exactly what you're getting into, and if you have questions after the fact, call the company before you are due to pay off. Don't get stuck in a situation you can't get out of because you didn't get all the information ahead of time.

26 September 2008

He's looking at me. Oh god, now's he's pointing at me.

Richard Simmons talks to you in his videos. I don't mean little pep talks, either. I mean, he will tell you that he is looking at you. Then if he's pointing, he will tell you that he is pointing at you.

23 September 2008

Little coincidences

Strange. I just called to check the balance on a prepaid gift card I received, and I have $31.01 left on the card.

I just entered a debit card purchase into my checkbook register.

I have $31.01 in my checking account.

Strange to know that all the money I have right now is $62.02.

16 September 2008

This shouldn't be as funny as it is (Joker/Boner)

Being a fan of many things Batman, I recently picked up a copy of The Joker: The Greatest Stories Ever Told. As the title might lead you to believe, it's a trade paperback collection of Batman comix featuring The Joker.

One story in particular, "Joker's Comedy of Errors," features the gross overusage of the word 'boner,' in this case meaning 'error' or 'blunder.' However, in this day and age, the word 'boner' implies something a little more. . .well. You should know.

Anyways, here are some of the best lines of dialogue from this tale. Read them and try not to weep with laughter:

Gotham Bulletin headline: "Joker Pulls Boner of the Year!!"

"So! They laugh at my boner, will they?! I'll show them! I'll show them how many boners the Joker can make!"

"This emphasis on boners has given me an idea for a new adventure in crime! Gotham City will rue the day it mentioned the word boner!"

Gotham Gazette headline: "Stung By His Boner, Joker Lashes Back!"

"Soon, Batman will make the boner of the year!"

"What does he mean, Bruce? How can he force you into a boner?"

"And I'm worried about the boner he's readying for you!"

"It is well that I am ready to trick him into his boner!"

"You were so busy forcing me into a boner, you forgot you were committing one yourself!"

Rick Roll Timeline

I have created the Rick Roll Timeline, but since the picture I post here will be tiny, I'll just give the outline:

--First rick-roll; people think it's funny
--Rick-rolling goes apeshit; unknown links are rendered virtually unclickable
--Rick-roll gets mention in major newspapers
--Rick-rolling declared "uncool" by Internet community
--Rick-rolling becomes media darling, earning time on VH1s Viral Video Countdown
--Rick-rolling makes comeback in ironic form
--Resurgence of rick-rolling causes mass riots and looting; end of world.

10 September 2008

Ask the Loan Shark, part one

I work in the payday loan business, and I often am asked about the mechanics of payday and short-term loans. Here is part one in a series of informational entries on these types of loans:

Q: When I take out a payday loan, what can I expect to pay back?

A: Since these loans are designed to be strictly and specifically short-term loans, the interest rate is staggeringly high. Typically, a payday loan's interest rate is around 15-20%, meaning that for every one hundred dollars you borrow, you can expect to pay back anywhere from $15 to $20. For fourteen to thirty days, that may not seem like a lot, but when you look at the APY (annual percentage yield), that number can be anywhere from 400-500%. You read that right. Upwards of five hundred percent interest. As a point of comparison, most credit cards carry an APY of about 20%.

Some payday loan companies offer refinance options per loan. When you refinance, you pay down a small percentage of the amount you borrowed (the principal), plus your finance charge (the interest). For instance, in Missouri you are required to pay down 5% of the principal along with the finance charge, and this allows you to extend the loan to your next pay date. Many places allow you to refinance two or three times before you have to pay off the loan. While this doesn't sound like a bad option, it can end up costing you much more than when you simply pay off the loan in full on the maturity date.

For example, let's say you borrow $100 at 18% interest in Missouri, making your full payoff on the maturity date $118. Not bad, but let's say you don't have the full $118 on your due date. You opt to refinance at this time, paying $5 plus the $18 finance charge - $23 total. This reduces your principal to $95, but remember, there is still interest between now and your next maturity date. Add this interest, and your new payoff amount is $112.10 ($95 plus 18% interest, which would be $17.10). Let's say your next maturity date comes around, and you still don't have the full amount of $112.10, so you opt to use another refinance. This time, you pay $5 towards your principal plus $17.10 - $22.10 total. Your new payoff is now $106.20 ($90 plus 18% interest, which is $16.20). Now, your next maturity date comes around, and you're still strapped for that $106.20. You decide to use your last refinance, paying out another $5 plus $16.20, so $21.20 total. Your final payoff will be $100.30.

Now this may look like a lot of numbers and symbols, but let's break it down in the most simple terms possible. You borrow $100. You refinance that $100 three times. By doing so, you've paid back a total of $166.30! It's a far cry from that $118 you could have paid back in total on your first maturity date, isn't it? When you refinance, most payday loan companies only require that you pay down that tiny fraction of your principal balance.

The two simple solutions are this: One, pay off your loan in full on the first maturity date. Don't refinance at all. The other solution: If you must refinance, put as much extra on the principal as possible. Don't settle for the bare minimum. Even if you can add an extra five to ten dollars, it will make a difference. The same goes for any kind of high-interest loan, including credit cards. If you simply pay the minimum, you won't create any real dent in your debt. Always pay extra when you can't pay it off.

03 September 2008

Thoughts on the Saw franchise, thus far

I'm not normally one for film series, especially if they go for more than three entries. To me, it becomes tedious, like a trial, to have to sit through story after story after story. Just finish the damn thing already. Now, I know no one forces me to watch these movies, but I'm the type of person who, once I start something, I tend to want to finish it, even if it kills me.

No genre is better at milking a franchise for all it is worth than the horror genre. To date there are eleven Friday the 13th movies, eight Nightmare on Elm Street movies, and eight Halloween moves (counting the third installment, which broke from the Michael Myers canon, and not counting the apparent relaunch of the series by Rob Zombie). There are also more than enough in the Hellraiser cycle. Admittedly, these are series that I don't feel obligated to finish. The first and eighth Jason movies, the first and seventh Freddy movies, and the first two Michael Myers movies were good enough for me. Those series just keep finding ways to not kill off the bad guys, and it becomes very tiresome after a while.

On the flip side, though, the Saw franchise has found a way to break the mold of constantly reviving the same antagonist, by eventually replacing the antagonist with a new character. This leads to the logical conclusion that the Saw series MAY NEVER END. Good lord.

The first installment in the Saw series was a decent and somewhat innovative take on the crime thriller genre. Despite what people say after the fact, the twist ending is something that was quite surprising. I certainly did not expect Jigsaw to be the guy who was "dead" on the bathroom floor. Saw II had an equally interesting twist; it also continued the temporal manipulation concept from the first film. In the first film, some of what we think are flashbacks are actually events that occur concurrently with the bathroom scenes. Similarly, in Saw II, what we think are two plots happening at the same time are actually not.

The third installment is a let down, especially after how good the second one is. I had zero emotional attachment to the characters, particularly the main protagonist. I simply did not care, and only thought of it as a way to get to the fourth film. Saw IV shows marked improvement over the previous entry, but doesn't compare to the first two. Apparently there are two more installments slated, with Saw V being released this year. Part of me hopes that the fifth entry is at least as good as the fourth, and that by the sixth the story is wrapped up.

However, if by the time I die, we're on Saw XLV, I wouldn't be surprised. I would just be bored.

02 September 2008

Katy Perry: The New T.A.T.U.?

I know that a commentary on someone who's first big single has been out for quite a while is sort of old news. However, I can't help thinking that this is really just long overdue.

Katy Perry's first single off her new album, One of the Boys, is an admittedly catchy pop tune called "I Kissed A Girl." Imagine my disappointment when I found that it wasn't a cover of Jill Sobule's cheeky 1995 track. No, this isn't a song about two women who realize that their relationships with men are going nowhere, and that they find a mutual attraction in each other. This new "I Kissed A Girl" is basically about a girl who just wants to experiment with another female after a night of drinking.

Okay, so there might not be anything really wrong with that, but doesn't it just kind of play into the typical male fantasy of two hot chicks at the bar making out for attention? That's not love. That's a slap in the face of lesbians everywhere. I don't mean to discount the fact that Perry's song gets heavy rotation in gay clubs across the nation, but there has to be people who are at least a little offended by this song. I'm not completely put off, but it just smacks of some drunk chick trying to get her boyfriend all hot and bothered by making out with another girl. There's even a line about her not being in love, but it's just an "experimental game." No, no, no, Katy. The word "game" here is what bothers me most. In the context of this song, you're playing a game with someone. There's nothing right or funny or cute about that. The video for the song is almost as offensive; women writhing around in lingerie, as if that's all lesbians ever do.

This all kind of reminds me of T.A.T.U. a few years ago. Remember them? They were a pair of Russian pixies who sang "All The Things She Said," a song about wanting to run away clandestinely with a lesbian lover. Nothing wrong with that, or with the sexually charged video featuring lots of kissing between the two girls. However, they were presented to the world as lesbian lovers, only to be revealed later as straight. This, to me, makes a mockery of lesbians everywhere, and it just goes back to that male fantasy of hot girls kissing.

This isn't to say that lesbians don't want to see hot girls kissing, but I would think if I were a lesbian I would want someone to give me enough respect to present me with music that wasn't about people playing at being a lesbian. Just be a lesbian and be proud of it. Don't be coy or an attention-seeker. Just be out with it.