Friday, November 21, 2008

Christmas Shopping Advice from The Captain

Christmas shopping season is upon us and as this is where most of us will not only spend the most amount of money in the year, but also receive the most amount in gifts, I thought it would be wise to give all of you in a public service sort of way some economic pointers to help maximize your utility when it comes to your Christmas shopping.

1. SHOP NOW! This is the last weekend before Black Friday. If you wait until the day after Thanksgiving, you are guaranteed to spend more than 3 times the amount in lines, traffic, not to mention increase your risk of a heart attack by 58%. If you go this weekend you will be able to walk in the malls, void of slow old people blocking your way or little children you constantly have to avoid tripping over or SUV driving soccer moms who decide to stop in the middle of intersections as they consult their maps/Tom Toms and then SLOOOOOOWLY turn out of that intersection. It would even be in your economic interests to take a day off from work to get your Christmas shopping done.

2. Given the economic crisis occurring and the practical guarantee we're going to go into recession, think about sentimental gifts made with your very own hands. For example, men, a poem is a incredibly rare (and incredibly cheap) gift to give to your beloved. Even your cold hearted, evil meanie captain wrote poetry in his youth. Regardless, the point is a poem goes much further than flowers, chocolates or other consumables and will give your beloved timeless warm fuzzies. Ladies, you too can partake in the frugal Christmas by giving your beloved, ahem, "gift" certificates. Gift certificates to things like being served a martini by a girl in a French maid outfit. Or perhaps being served a a French maid outfit. Heck, basically just walk around in a French maid outfit and you can barely fail.

3. Parents, LISTEN TO ME! When I am king I will make it a crime, punishable by death if you buy your children clothes for Christmas. I don't know how many billions of dollars are wasted, every Christmas when parents buy their poor kids a sweater, a shirt or something no kid in the history of Christmas ever wanted. You see, as a parent your responsibility is to clothe your kid anyway. So don't cop out on this and use Christmas as an excuse to do what you are legally obliged to do. Christmas is for Kids. And kids want toys. Now keep in mind you don't have to buy a LOT of toys. Buying just one big one is enough (like a Wii...boy a Wii sure would be great! Even adults like Wii's! Especially video game playing economists! Yep, they SUUUUUURE love Wii's!). In buying one big gift you not only probably save money over buying them multiple little ones, but also save yourself time. You can also knock out multiple kids in one shot, video game consoles are great for this as you buy one for your children, not one specific kid.

4. Cash is king. Let me point out something about older folk and how they are wise. When you get older and become a grandparent, why do you think they give the kids money? Because it never fails. See, wisdom comes with age and older folk know that instead of having to shop in the first place, just go to the bank, get a $20 or a $10, put it in an envelop and by golly, you are guaranteed to make the kid happy. I remember having my radio show and I put the question out there, what do think kids prefer to get; cash or a random gift. I bet my producer it would be cash. Sure enough we had this sweet little 5 year old girl call in (her dad called in, but put her on the phone because she had an opinion and wanted to share it) and sure as all get out she preferred cash. Cash is a beautiful gift in that it not only saves you time, but it is the most efficient gift in that 100% of it goes to what the person wants. So if you don't know what the person wants, don't spend hours trying to figure it out, you don't have time for that. Give them the gift of cash (or a gift card if you want to get all "sentimental.")

5. Jewelry. Oh yes, you didn't see that one coming did you, men? How could our Captain, our cold hearted, indifferent about women, Captain suggest such a thing? What did we do to deserve this? Well hold on there now, there's rhyme and reason. First, jewelry functionally is worthless. But if you yourself have a very capitalistic wife, she will understand that part of any well-balanced portfolio is a little bit of exposure to commodities or precious metals. Now you can't give a barrel of oil as a gift, but you can buy gold or platinum in the form of jewelry. If you have a particularly understanding wife, she will agree that the jewelry is there first and foremost as a hedge against economic collapse and should the economy collapse, the jewelry must be hocked and melted down. You don't have to buy a lot, you don't have to buy anything fancy, but instead of investing in boring ol' commodities through your brokerage, why not have it beautifully adorned on your beautiful wife's face, all the while knowing, "Yeah, I'm insured against economic Armageddon."

6. And finally, what says I love more than a book about the housing crash? Sure you could get your beloved jewelry or diamonds. Sure you could get your father a tie. And sure, you could get your little ones toys. But will their lives really be complete without knowing fully what happened to the housing and financial markets? Do you think the kids will REALLY enjoy playing Wii when in the back of their minds at night they ask themselves "how did house price to rents ratios get so high?" And while your wife will be reading the poem you wrote her as you adorn her with the new necklace you bought her, can you both really enjoy the moment as deep down inside both of you are yearning to understand the relationship between monthly housing starts and unemployment? Make your Christmas complete (and avoid lines). Order "Behind the Housing Crash."


Hot Sam said...

There once was a girl from St. Cloud

Whose McMansion made her so proud.

Hubby bought her a horse

Before the divorce

then she fled with a guy more endowed.

Merry Christmas Cappie!

Hot Sam said...

The trouble with buying jewelry as an asset for bad times is the unwillingness to "sell the family jewels" when times necessitate it. Don't underestimate the power of sentimentality.

Opponents of Latin American privatization called it "selling the family jewels."

Selling a house in order to pay medical or living expenses has been described by a Congressman as "selling the family jewels."

My wife would sell a kidney before she ever sold her jewelry kidney.

Alfred T. Mahan said...

The funny thing about "selling the family jewels" is that it sometimes really is the asset of last resort, and sentimentality is trumped by the need for cash as soon as possible.

Admittedly, the times need to be pretty darned drastic, and I don't think we've reached the point of the Fench nobility grabbing their portable wealth and fleeing across the Channel two steps ahead of the chopping block just yet.

Anonymous said...

"like a Wii...boy a Wii sure would be great! Even adults like Wii's! Especially video game playing economists! Yep, they SUUUUUURE love Wii's!"

Hmmmm . . . are your readers that loyal they'll buy you a Wii? Or is this a hint to friend and family members who read your blog?

Either way, I hope you get your Wii. :)

I don't have a Wii myself, but I've played on one a few times with a friend. My one gripe is it shoots about two inches low on a Resident Evil game; I finally had to play that left-handed because it was too difficult rewiring my brain to always shoot high right-handed. Hopefully yours doesn't have that problem.

Anonymous said...

Just don't buy diamonds. Those are crap.

Anonymous said...

The first time I played with a Wii it was a lot of fun, but my right arm was sore for a week from Repetitive Motion Syndrome. The controller is too light.

I have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from years of typing and, likely, from lots of video gaming.

This past week I flew on Virgin America for the first time. They had video games available at your seat. I played Doom for several hours on each trip. I kept kicking the people next to me every time a monster surprised me. :) It was fun and passed the time, but my wrists are sore.

Word to the wise: game in moderation.

Hot Sam said...

Alf, I certainly agree with what you're saying. I was jesting about my wife's preference for jewelry and the denial of crisis when faced with the need to sell prized assets.

The preponderence of radio and television ads to buy gold raises a red flag in my mind. It's the same red flag I got about real estate and option ARMs five years ago. I think the first-movers are trying to create a gold bubble for their own gain.

Here's an article that explains that gold is a hedge against crisis, but not inflation:

The article discusses how gold prices were manipulated over the years by government.

In a crisis of that proportion, however, the most valuable asset would be firearms and ammunition.

A friend of mine had 18 cooler-sized bottles of water and I asked him why he kept so much. He said that if there was ever an earthquake, he'd have water and no one else would. I asked him if he had a firearm and he said "No." I then said, "Thanks for storing my water for me." :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Captain, I have a question for you.

I'm looking to start learning basic Economics and potentially taking up a major in College in Finance and Economics. I'd like to get an early start by reading up on some basic economics so that I can have an idea of what is in store for me.

Are there any book recommendations you have for teaching basic economics?


Captain Capitalism said...

George Gilder

Adam Smith

Ayn Rand.

That alone will keep you occupied for along time.

Anonymous said...

Charles, I recommend Frederic Bastiat; my favorite economist. He wrote the "Petition of the Candlestick Makers", a satirical plea to make the sun illegal so candlestick makers would have more business. He shows the absurdity of protectionism quite well. -

He also wrote "What is Seen and What is Not Seen" explaining some of the most basic principles of economics that people seem to forget. -

By the way, Alan Greenspan wrote an article called "Gold and Economic Freedom" back before he sold his soul for power at the Fed, which is really worth reading. -

Good luck in school.