March 31, 2015

What Will Gasoline Prices Do In The Future?

A few months ago gasoline cost about $3.80 a gallon.   Then it dropped considerably over several months to hit a low price around $2.10.    Now gas has gone up again and peaked around $3 to then turn around and drop a bit.     It doesn't take much research to see that these price changes are a direct reflection in the cost of oil.   Oil has gone down a lot in the past 12 months.    But will oil go up or down in the next 12 months?   What about the next 5 years?  

yes, no, maybe.

We don't know what oil will do in the next year or ten years.   You can really only take guesses at this kind of thing.    But we might get a reasonable expectation for the cost of oil and hence the retail cost of gasoline by looking at the history of gasoline and oil prices. has data on inflation adjusted gasoline prices.   I've charged the numbers from 1972 to 2013 here :

If you look at the first 30 year period in that chart from 1972 to 2002 the cost of oil started around $1.50 and ended around $1.50 (both in 2013 dollars).   I would conclude then that over the longer term in that 30 year period oil basically rose at the price of inflation.    Of course there is a 10 year period there in the 80's when oil shot up and then dropped.   Now in the more recent decade from 2002 to 2013 we see oil has again shot up in prices.   That more recent increase in price would seem a direct result of major conflicts in the middle east.  

Gasoline prices are volatile. 

In the past 40 years gasoline prices have risen over the long term at least as fast as the cost of inflation.    In the most recent decade gas has risen at a rate about 8% faster than inflation.   In individual years gas has risen or dropped as much as 25% above inflation.   In a 5 year period gas has gone up as much as 80% over inflation.

Generally I'd conclude that gasoline will go up at least as fast as inflation in the long term.  In shorter periods we could see gas go up or down 25% a year and even double in cost within a decade.

March 27, 2015

Best of Blogs for Week of March 27th

Every Friday afternoon I share some of the more interesting or notable posts that I have seen in the personal finance blogs and other sources for the past week

Moneybox says The Job Market for Academics Is Still Terrifying

The Simple Dollar has an article on Affordable Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs in 2015
I think this is a good one to share since its not got a lot of solid public schools rather than for profits.

The Case Against Roth 401(k) is made at The Finance Buff
This is an older one but I thought it was worth a share.

DoughRoller has 5 Reasons Never to Pay Off a Mortgage Early (and 1 Reason You Must)


March 24, 2015

Free Vegas Stuff by Playing MyVegas Slots app

For a while now I've played the game MyVegas Slots on FaceAndroid app for MyVegas Slots is on Google Play.  Its just a simple time killing slot machine game.   Every time I play slots I end up losing all my money in varying speeds, so I prefer to play it on a free game like a Facebook or Android app.    An extra reason to play MyVegas Slots is that you can earn Loyalty points that can be redeemed for actual Vegas services or goods.    I just had a run of good luck this afternoon and piled up around 2500 Loyalty points and got over the 10k point threshold which gets me into the territory of some rewards that are actually meaningful.

It has taken me a while of playing the game to hit the point that my loyalty points are actually worth some more meaningful rewards.   But if you've got some time to kill and like playing slots games then why not?     You can get some meaningful rewards once you hit the 5000 to 10,000 point level but free rooms seem to start around 15k points.   With the free rooms they don't list all the terms an I suspect that you have to pay taxes and fees which can be substantial.

Here are some example rewards you can earn with loyalty points :

1500 points = companion ticket for Cirque Du Soleil Zarkana show= $80
4500 points = 2 for 1 breakfast buffet at Excalibur = $17.99
5000 points = $15 credit at The Mirage Pantry Noon-6AM = $15

6000  points = Las Vegas Monorail 1 day pass = $12 (sold out)
11000 points =  Las Vegas Monorail 2 day pass = $22
11,500 points = Lunch at Mandalay Bay Bayside Buffet = $21.99
15,000 points = midweek room comp at Excalibur = $28-78 (taxes/ fees probably extra)
21,000 points = lunch or breakfast for 2 people at Feast Buffet at Palace Station = $13.98
21,500 points =  Las Vegas Monorail 5 day pass = $43
52,500 points = midweek room at The Mirage = $68-$324  (lots of black out dates and you might owe $29 resort fee)

I should point out that the value of some of the rewards may be a little dubious.   For example there are a lot of 2-for-1 deals or companion ticket deals in the cheaper rewards.   Its not hard to find coupons or discounts for 2-for-1 type discounts in Vegas so cashing out loyalty points for that might not really be a great deal if you can just get the same discount for free elsewhere.   

Things like straight cash credits, monorail tickets, room comps and free buffet meals have more direct value.    Free buffet meals seem like good deals to me.   But even there you have to check the value, it seems that the 2 person buffet deal at Palace Station is only worth about $14 but costs 21,000 loyalty points but you can get a Mandalay Buffet for just 11,500 points that normally costs $22.   So spend 23,000 loyalty points on two of those and you get two buffets that are valued at $44.  

Note:  I am not getting any commissions or compensation for this article and there aren't any referral links here. 


March 22, 2015

Cheapskate Computer Project

I occasionally see deals on computer parts like deep discounts or even free-after-rebate (FAR) promotions.   I figured if I was patient and collected parts one at a time via these deals that I might be able to build a computer for a deep discount.

Sample parts with prices from Newegg:

CPU - Intel Celeron G1820 Haswell = $46 +2
Motherboard - MSI H81M-P33 micro ATX = $40 +3
Chassis -   APEX PC-375 w/ 300W PSU = $40 +6
Memory - 4GB Crucial Ballistix DDR3 1600 = $30
Drive - Seagate 120GB SATA ST3120026AS = $20
OS - Windows 7 or 8 = $100
TOTAL = $287

That does not include a monitor.    Also note that I'm going with a dirt cheap 120GB drive there to cut cost and thats not much storage.  I could spend $30 more and get a 1TB drive though.
I'm not listing a CD/DVD drive here because you don't generally NEED them nowadays.   It would be handy to have one but its not a requirement, but installing software can be tricky without them.   I do have a USB portable unit at home I can use though. 

Dell basic desktops start at about $199 on sale.   So it would not make sense to build my own basic spec. system when I can just buy a Dell unit for less money.

I rarely if ever see deep discount or FAR sales on processor or the operating system.   Once I saw a sale for a processor & motherboard combo for $30 so there are deals out there but they are rare and I'd have to be patient and diligent to catch them.    The Windows operating system though doesn't seem to go on deep discounts or promotions.   Newegg happens to have Windows 7 on sale for ~$80 right now but thats about the best deal I recall seeing.     I see people selling versions of Windows 7 on eBay for about $50-70 range.     I'd be suspicious that those aren't legitimate copies of Windows but the ones I looked at didn't have any signs of being pirated.  (at least as far as I can tell).

I figure if I do it well and catch some good deals and FAR promotions I might get all the parts for something around $100 excluding the OS.    I could then use a free OS like Linux to build the system rather than Windows.   Or I could go up to about $150 and get one of those cheap Windows discs off of eBay.    Still thats only about $50 less than a fully equipped prebuilt system from Dell if I go for Windows which is hardly worth the effort.

How well this might succeed though all depends on what kind of discounts I might find.  If I can find a bunch of great FAR discounts on the parts then I might be able to build a PC for almost nothing in out of pocket cash.    Thats pretty unlikely since most parts don't get FAR deals.   But I should at least be able to do something pretty cheap.

This is mostly just an experiment for fun and we already have a good computer at home I built a bit ago.   I don't know what I'll do with the computer I will build with this project.  I might just donate it or I could probably sell it. 

So anyway... here's the plan :    I'll shop around and keep my eyes open for good deals on discounts and rebates on computer parts.   I'll then buy the parts as cheap as I can find them one at a time.   In the end I'll build a cheap computer.    I am not sure what OS I'll use on the computer at this point.


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