Monday, December 15, 2008

DIY Christmas Gift on a Budget

I made my parents and my wife each a different poster-sized collage for Christmas. It's one of the favorite gifts that I've ever given. It's a cool idea, so you should rip it off.

I used Picasa 3 (free) to make the collage (size it to 4x6 so that it matched the 20x30 aspect ratio of the Costco print). This version of Picasa makes much better collages than previous versions. Then I printed off a 20"x30" print at ($10+shipping). Then I framed it using this frame ($12+shipping). For $22 + shipping, it's a pretty cool gift.

If nothing else, I found out a pretty cool way of making a framed, poster-sized print for cheap. If I ever pick up my camera seriously again, it would be fun to line my house with huge photos.

One word of caution: for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to print a border around my picture when I sent it to Costco so that the frame wouldn't chop off my picture. It turned out to be a bad idea; the costco border chopped off way more of my picture than I wanted it to. If you end up doing this, don't print the white border when you send it to Also, be sure to upload the full resolution picture to, or it will look horrible when you blow it up.

Here's the image that I used for my parents.

Christmas with the Baughs

Thursday, December 4, 2008

2% Cash Back Credit Card Offer

I love credit cards. They're great; rather than paying with cash, I pay for every purchase with credit. I make 2% cash back with my current credit card. Of course I have the cash before buying the product (or else I wouldn't have bought it in the first place), but credit cards allow me to defer payment until my statement comes around. Since we put our money in high interest savings accounts (currently at 4%), we're making interest on this money in the 6 weeks it takes for us to be billed. So the real benefit to us of using credit cards is 2% of every purchase + the interest accrued during the 6 week billing cycle. This amounts to several hundred dollars a year.

If you exercise self restraint with credit (i.e. spend with them as you would with cash), I recommend buying everything imaginable with credit. You're also helping your credit score at the same time. Along those lines, I will open up a credit account for each of my children when they turn 16 or so. Length of credit history is a HUGE portion of your credit score, so setting up a credit card for a 16 year old will significantly help your son/daughter when it comes time for them to get a mortgage/student loan. Parents who teach children that credit is evil are setting their children up for failure when they go to apply for a mortgage or student loan. Responsible use of credit is a valuable skill.

If you want a 2% cash back credit card, they're hard to come by. Mine is no longer offered. Here's a new one that I found out about today:

Have fun exploiting credit card companies (at the expense of stupid consumers who pay interest)! Can you imagine a world where nobody paid credit companies interest? Credit card companies would all fail.