Issue #170: Here's what I'm thankful for this year

plus dog side-eye + beautiful Jell-O
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Money
November 23, 2022 • Issue #170
Dollar Scholar
Hi y’all —

Happy almost Thanksgiving! I’m writing this from my mom’s house in Florida, where we’re preparing a smorgasbord that includes mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls, dressing and smoked turkey. Oh, and apple pie. Also maybe an ~autumnal sangria~. Plus a cranberry cocktail or two.

The meal will certainly be delicious, but we’re all aware eating isn’t really the point of the holiday. At some point during dinner, my family will get down to business: We’ll go around the table and say what we’re thankful for.

I figured that could be a good Thanksgiving exercise for Dollar Scholar, too. So here’s a quick list of things I’m thankful for this year:

  • my high-yield savings account

Online banks are typically able to offer higher-than-normal interest rates because they don’t have to pay the overhead costs brick-and-mortar institutions do. (They also use their rates as a way to attract customers, which is a lot harder without physical branches and brand awareness.) 

But as I learned in Issue #145, the premium over traditional banks is even bigger than usual right now: The Federal Reserve is ratcheting up interest rates in an attempt to cool inflation, which is having a ripple effect on APYs. My Ally rate has gone from 0.5% in May to a whopping 2.75% earlier this month. That’s an incredible increase, and one that’s helping me make a lot of progress fast on my savings goals. 

  • caffeine

Iced coffee, black tea and Coke Zero make all things possible. For me, at least.

  • the Fair Credit Billing Act of 1974

I buy a lot of dumb stuff online (see: my “Damn, I Love Frogs” shirt, Glisten Cosmetics eyeliners, a signed version of Louis Tomlinson’s new CD). The Fair Credit Billing Act enables these reckless fun online shopping habits. As I mentioned in Issue #142, this law not only protects against unauthorized charges made on my card but also allows me to dispute credit card transactions where I feel I did not receive the goods or services promised... and get refunded.

  • the fact that Nick Jonas is letting his hair grow long again

After years, trouble with the Most Recognizable Heads of Hair ranking and the unfortunate Buzz Cut Phase of the Mid-2010s, the curls are BACK, baby. Bless.

  • chip cards

Signing credit card receipts is so 2000-late. According to Issue #157, payments these days are all about EMV, which has to do with chip and PIN cards. EMV is a lot safer than relying on the magnetic stripes of old because, as a Mastercard news release put it, “for every transaction, the chip creates a unique transaction code, which is validated by the issuing bank to ensure that the genuine card is used” and “increases the security of a cardholder’s data.”

In short: Chip cards are much better at preventing fraud, even though that whole put-it-in-put-it-in-NOW-TAKE-IT-OUT dance I have to do every single time at checkout is super annoying.

  • the guy on TikTok who uses Dungeons and Dragons dice to choose his ingredients for his sandwich and then eats it no matter what (even if it’s gross)

If I’m honest, sometimes I prefer binge-watching @AdventuresInAardia’s Roll for Sandwich series to actual TV shows.

  • the Opalhouse Cozy Nights candle

Is it dumb to say that I’m thankful for a candle? Whatever. This is the GOAT.

  • my retirement accounts

My 401(k) is the epitome of “set it and forget it.” All I have to do is tell HR the percentage I want to save, and a contribution automatically comes out of every paycheck. Unless I go hunting on my pay stubs, I don’t even see the money, which means I don’t miss it. It’s painless and low-maintenance, especially since I found out in Issue #149 that I should only be checking it once per quarter so as not to make unnecessary changes.

This year, I also set up a Roth individual retirement account, which experts advised me to do in Issue #137 as one of the financial tasks I should complete in my 30s. Though it’s more hands-on than my 401(k), my Roth IRA rocks because it provides tax-free growth and withdrawals after five years. That gives me important flexibility.

  • cash

As a psychologist taught me in Issue #143, my brain interprets cash spending differently than it does credit card spending. (In short: It’s more painful and finite when I can watch the actual number of dollar bills dwindling in my wallet.) Though it’s not a total cure for irresponsible habits, relying more on cash can help curb my impulse spending.

  • Numlock News

It’s one of my favorite newsletters — and an amazing way to start my morning. Walt Hickey is a genius.

  • Omeprazole

I have wicked chronic heartburn that kicks in whenever I eat pretty much anything. Popping Tums can only do so much; the only thing that makes a real difference is having enough foresight to take Omeprazole beforehand. Those pink pills are tiny lifesavers for my esophagus, which grants them a spot on this vaunted list.

  • the special free credit report rule

Usually, Americans are guaranteed access to one free online credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus each year. But because of the pandemic, AnnualCreditReport.com — which is run by those agencies — has been letting people pull free online credit reports every week.

It wasn’t just a 2020 trend, either. The policy has been extended through Dec. 31 of next year, meaning that it’s easier than ever for me to monitor my credit. Though these reports don’t display a score, they do list open lines of credit, account history and personal information — all of which it’s important to stay on top of.

  • you!

I can’t tell you enough how grateful I am for each and every Dollar Scholar subscriber. I work hard on this newsletter, and it means a lot that you choose to read, respond and share your pet photos. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

RECEIPT OF THE WEEK
check out this wild celebrity purchase
Fat Joe
 
VIA INSTAGRAM
Inflation has been hitting Americans’ wallets hard lately, and rapper Fat Joe is no exception. In a recent Yahoo interview, he railed against the economy by saying, “Everybody's doing terrible out here.” Fat Joe then offered up an anecdote: “You know, my wife came home from the supermarket. She had one bag. She was like: ‘It was $350... one bag.’ It's crazy.” I bet when he saw the receipt he had to… lean back… in shock.

 

INTERNET GOLD
five things I'm loving online right now
1 I loved this New York Times story about Roku City, the beloved utopian screensaver that comes up whenever you let the TV remote fall idle. “The design of it is so enticing. There are these silhouettes and all these shadows. And you think, ‘I wonder what else is there,’” said one Roku exec. “You to want to know more. Like, ‘What’s rent like in Roku City?’”
2 Dogs giving side eye.
3 Highly recommend reading this Guardian piece about a group of volunteers who made cinematic art by climbing some of England’s highest peaks with lanterns in tow, moving in sync to illuminate the night sky. Then see the video here.
4 Just sitting here thinking about this beautiful Jell-O.
5 Congratulations to Jeune Montagne, a French cheese factory that made a cheese so stretchy it reached 6 meters (about 19.6 feet) in a recent cheese-stretching competition. A fantastic fromage.
 

 

401(K)ITTY CONTRIBUTION
send me cute pictures of your pets, please
Laila
 
VIA Scholar Ashley
Meet Laila, a kitty who is grateful for catnip and pawsonal finance tips from Dollar Scholar.

 

See you next week.Julia
 
P.S. What are you making for Thanksgiving? Would you move to Roku City? How in the world do you think Fat Joe’s wife spent $350 on a single bag of groceries? Send theories to julia@money.com.
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