Spare Change: The “I Wear Your Grandad’s Clothes Edition


November 22, 2013 – By April Dykman

Readers, you’re about to witness me use dated vocabulary, talk about gas prices, and reveal my love of the elbow patch. You might wonder if it’s actually me, a gal who wasn’t alive for the Carter administration, and not a curmudgeonly old man. I have no explanation for how or why this theme emerged, other than that I’ve been middle-aged since I was 17.

Let’s just get to it.

Wedding costs on the rise — for guests

It’s not news that weddings are expensive affairs, averaging a $28,000 price tag. But even if you think that number is nuts, even if your own wedding started with a flight to Vegas or the justice of the peace, it’s likely that wedding costs have hit your pocketbook too. (Does anyone still say pocketbook? I digress…) MarketWatch reports that 43 percent of Americans have declined to attend a wedding for financial reasons, and costs for guests are on the rise:

“The average cost of attending a wedding — including expenses like hotel stays, bachelor and bachelorette parties, child care, and party attire — reached roughly $539 this year, up 60% from 2012, according to an American Express survey. …the pressure to attend the wedding of a close friend or family member can be so strong that guests will go into debt to be there: 36% of people say they’ve gone into debt to attend a friend’s wedding, according to the American Consumer Credit Counseling, a non-profit financial advisory in Auburndale, Mass.”

What’s more, some etiquette gurus say that even if you fend off the pressure to attend, you’re still on the hook for a gift.

The high price of rent-to-own

How does this deal sound? You can’t afford a couch, so I’ll let you rent-to-own one. At double its retail value. With an APR of 100 percent. Yeah, not so great. But that’s the deal most people sign up for when they rent-to-own. CNN Money reports:

“Since the financial crisis began, the number of rent-to-own customers has surged 50%, from 2.8 million in 2007 to 4.2 million last year, according to industry group the Association of Progressive Rental Organizations (APRO). Annual revenue among retailers in the industry spiked 35% during that time — to $7.9 billion last year. And as of last year, there were nearly 9,000 rent-to-own stores in the United States.”

It’s not a terrible option if you’re just renting the stuff for a few months; but if your plan is to rent-to-own, you’ll pay double what the item would have cost at retail. Double, people! Forget that. Save up for the couch and buy a few bean bag chairs in the meantime. Also a lava lamp and some 70s rock posters. Yeah, baby.

What’s in your wallet?

Hopefully not any of the eight following things, according to Kiplinger:

  1. Social security card

  2. A password cheat sheet

  3. Spare keys

  4. Checks

  5. Passport

  6. Multiple credit cards

  7. Birth certificate

  8. A stack of receipts

Some of these are obvious no-nos, but I’m guilty of others, like carrying a check in my wallet, just in case I need one. I also have multiple credit cards, but as the article points out, “the more cards you carry, the more you’ll have to cancel if your wallet is lost or stolen.” As for receipts, “a crafty ID thief can use the limited credit card info and merchant information on receipts to phish for your remaining numbers.” Those guys. If only they’d use their powers for good.

Gas prices drop under $3 per gallon

When an article about lower gas prices piqued my interest, I officially felt old. Combined with my affinity for elbow-patch cardigans and my 9 p.m. bedtime, I’m basically your grandpa.

At any rate…gas prices. There’s good news for motorists, via AAA:

“Today’s average price for regular unleaded gasoline — $3.19 per gallon — is the lowest since February 22, 2011. The national average price at the pump is seven cents cheaper than one week ago, 16 cents cheaper than one month ago and 25 cents less than the same date last year. Prices have dropped 41 cents since September 1 and have fallen on 64 of 71 days during this span.”

The national average is expected to continue to fall, with many places (like my home state of Tejas) seeing prices below $3 per gallon. Now let’s discuss the weather…

Homeownership kills the labor market, study finds

Could countries that enable “the dream” of homeownership be killing their own job market? That’s the finding of a study from the University of Warwick and Dartmouth College. From

“Rises in home-ownership in a US state are followed by substantial increases in the unemployment rate in the state, a fall in the mobility of its workers, a rise in commuting times, and a drop in the rate of new business formation. The authors are careful to check, and they replicate, their findings for different periods of US history. The release of their work coincides with a new European study, done independently, which draws the same conclusions.”

The researchers believe that homeownership makes people more likely to stay put and to commute longer distances, which increases traffic for everyone and leads to “not in my backyard” efforts that block new businesses.

I’m a homeowner and I never, ever, ever want to move, so I get how that could cause those issues for the labor market. My neighbors, most of whom are aged 65+, and I are all about “not in my backyard.” And we’re not fond of renters in the neighborhood, or the nearby garden homes that wrecked our drainage. Also, kids, get off my lawn! Ahem.