PERSONAL FINANCE / JOHN NINFO: Thoughts After the Holidays


We took a vacation to Cape Cod. I had never really been there before, and what we did there was very relaxing including not watching CNN or FOX News, listening to NPR or reading the newspapers. Being back for almost a week, I’m happy to report that I don’t feel like I’ve really missed anything. That alone is certainly food for thought!

I thought I would share some thoughts and experiences, most of which at least have to do with personal finance.

First of all, in one of the somewhat upscale hotels we stayed at, there was a “hair wash” in the shower rather than shampoo. My first impression, of course, was to think about the marketing and cost aspects of this new product for me. Can you charge more for this beauty product if you call it hair wash rather than shampoo because some people will think it is fancier and more exclusive? On the other hand, do you charge less because some will think that it is only a diluted shampoo? I asked the people at my hair salon about this product. They have never heard of Hair Wash, but plan to ask their rep next time. I searched it on Google and couldn’t find a definition or how it could differ from shampoo, which comes in all kinds of fancy types like clarifying, purifying, moisturizing, volumizing and many more. I found a reference to Hair Cleaners, which claim to be made up of much gentler formulas than shampoos.

I have to be honest. Shampoos are pretty much all the same to me, and as you might expect, I’m pretty sure I’m not paying too much for qualities that I really don’t need.

Second, I know we’ve talked a lot in the past that cash is king, and some businesses no longer use cash, and more and more small businesses are offering a discount for cash. ‘cash, or charge a fee if you pay by credit card and have to pay a merchant fee. We all see cash back at gas stations when we travel, but one hotel in the Catskills, where we go for a fall wedding, charges a 4% fee for those paying by credit card. Likewise, a small variety store in Cape Town had a notice that if you paid by credit card they had to charge a nominal fee as they could no longer afford the fee without raising their prices. When some big ticket items come to me in the future, I will offer to pay by check and share the merchant fees that the supplier would otherwise have to pay if I paid by credit card, and let you know how I do.

Third, we have all heard that nationally we had the highest gas prices in seven years, and we certainly saw it with our own eyes while on vacation. We’re also hearing that they’re probably going to continue to rise because of the increased demand and all this OPEC thing. I have to repeat myself. Please keep checking these apps and websites to find the best gas prices reasonably near you, so you can save real money.

Fourth, I was very encouraged when I recently learned that the teenage unemployment rate was the lowest since the 1950s. We have certainly seen a lot of them working in Cape Town. So if you have a teenager in the family who is the age of the work permit, now is the perfect time for them to earn and save some money. Companies are hiring, and my understanding is that in many cases wages and available hours have increased over the past few years. That being said, now is a great time to sit down with them and work out a budget showing how much of what they earn they will spend and how much they will save, including some specific categories of spending and savings.

Fifth, as of this writing, the Biden administration is once again promoting its $ 109 billion proposal for two years of free community college.

When it comes to free community college, as recently reported in Whitney Bowers’ [email protected], according to a new survey from, 69% of Americans believe the government should provide two years of tuition for students for the first time. times who attend public community colleges, with 13% saying they should have a minimum high school GPA.

Americans also support government assistance for costs beyond tuition such as textbooks and learning materials (51%), tuition (44%), technology, such as laptops, and routers (36%), and broadband or Internet (35%) and 15% support funds to be used at the discretion of students.

As a taxpayer, and without paying for it, I could support the free community college for students: (1) who are ready for college and would not need to take remedial classes; (2) are in real need of financial assistance; (3) considered business and vocational schools as an alternative, knowing that there are good jobs for these graduates; (4) and are likely to complete the chosen program on time, including if they are in a 2 + 2 program. In addition, there are good jobs available locally, regionally or nationally for the program they will be graduating from.

By the way, Biden’s proposal also includes an additional $ 39 billion for two years of subsidized tuition for students from families earning less than $ 125,000 at a historically black four-year college, a university controlled by the tribes or an establishment serving minorities. No need to talk about it in this column.

Finally, here are some non-financial signs of a vacation that made me smile. In a well-kept lawn, there was a doghouse with a sign in front of it that said: “Watch out, the dog bites all Republicans.” In the window of a popular pie shop, the sign reads: “Well-behaved children are welcome. Children who do not behave well will be turned into pies. Finally, in the window of a clothing store, the sign reads: “Unattended children are welcome, unattended children will be turned into shark bait.”

John Ninfo is a retired bankruptcy judge and the founder of the National CARE Financial Literacy Program. Find his previous weekly columns on

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