Tag: money

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The Unhappy Meal

Before June 17, 2022, I hadn’t been inside a McDonald’s since before SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, on March 11, 2020. My daughter needed a ride, and on on the way back to her residence she asked for fast food. I grumbled and pulled into McD’s.

Whoa, what happened to prices? The current $5.99 for a Quarter Pounder is about a buck less when I last bought a combo meal, which is now $10.49 for a burger, fries, and drink.

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A Good Reason to Work From Home

At one of the pricer area filling stations, located where Fourth and Washington meet in San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood, the price of gasoline approaches mountaineering heights. Grab your gear and head for the summit of cash required to fill the tank. For context, rounding to the nearest buck, customers paid $6.60 per gallon on May 27, 2022 and $4.94 on Oct. 15, 2021 at this location.

On the same day as the Featured Image, June 8, 2022, at my University Heights-located Valero, I filled up a half-tank for 30 bucks at $6.09 a gallon around Noon. Lady driving an Acura in the queue before my car paid $69 and some change. When I drove past a few hours later, posted price had jumped to $6.16.

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The More You Pay, The More You Will Pay

Funny the things you long for. On Oct. 15, 2021, I shared a photo showing the cost of gasoline as $4.94 a gallon (rounded up) at the Fourth and University Shell station in Hillcrest. Fast forward to today and you pay $6.60 per gallon (again, rounded up). That $1.66 more than the old price—high for the time—seems oh-so affordable now. By the way, cost is 33 percent more than before.

Several large hospitals surround the station, and I got to ask: Is this why medical services—like ambulance—cost so much in San Diego? Yeah, the question is facetious. That said, unless the arm is severed and shooting blood, wrap a tourniquet and drive yourself to Emergency—and hope none of the doctors and nurses treating you filled up at this Shell. Somebody has to pay, and that could be you. Yuck. Yuck.

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Fenced Out of Affordable Housing

My daughter rents storage space at one of the local facilities. From my infrequent trips to the place over the years, I have observed stark changes. For starters: An increasing number of people, many of them clearly employed, living out of a vehicle and storing their stuff. With the cost of housing so incredulously expensive in San Diego, these working nomads are not surprising to find. What shocks is how many more I see compared to 18 months ago.

Since a new report about residential renting released this week, I will focus on that topic and let be soaring home selling prices for another time. (If you can’t wait: “Pop Goes Another Housing Bubble” and “Simply Stated: San Diego Unaffordable Housing“.) According to Zumper, rents rose 31.3 percent year-over-year in April 2022. “As a result, San Diego has leapfrogged San Jose and Los Angeles to become the nation’s fifth most expensive city”. Ugh, and I know it’s a fact from watching rents relentlessly rise.

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Pop Goes Another Housing Bubble

The current housing bubble—and there absolutely is one—bears only modest resemblance to the previous catastrophe, which I warned about in a lengthy August 2005 analysis. Rising mortgage rates already are deflating the 2020’s-decade bubble, but the pop is unavoidable without fundamental changes in the actual market or the myths used to explain existing dynamics.

Since before anyone heard of SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19, which economic and societal disruption super-inflated the housing bubble, I had warned about a dangerous trend that ignores common sense observation of national demographics: Among the two largest segments, Baby Boomers are dying off and Millennials aren’t having many kids. As population growth stalls, there will be less demand for housing because there will be fewer people to buy. Meaning: All the babbling about not enough inventory has set into motion an overbuilding frenzy that is sure to deflate home values in the not-so-distant future. Before pandemic lockdowns, I had thought within 10 years. I now expect less than five—if we’re lucky.

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The Cats of University Heights: Chicken

When the Wilcoxes moved to this neighborhood in mid-October 2007, we encountered two obvious demographics: Older couples (and some singles)—many of whom lived in the same house for decades; gay couples—women more than men (who were more commonly seen in adjacent community Hillcrest). But as the real estate market bottomed out in 2011-12, a slow change blossomed into a flash flood of families with kids of age to attend Alice Birney Elementary.

But during the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 lockdowns, when many people started working from home and therefore no longer needed to live close to their jobs, University Heights began a rapid demographic flip. Ultra-high rents and landlords selling homes along with a massive influx of Googler-types has flushed out families and many of the oldsters. The professional Millennial makeover sweeps in and sweeps others out. Among those leaving: Owners of the kitty in the Featured Image.

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What is Inflation?

Everywhere you look, there are reports about rising inflation, which is presented as increases in prices of goods. As a longtime journalist with a reputation for making complex concepts simple and straightforward to understand, I must correct the glaring mistake made by the majority of news reports: Inflation and rising prices are not the same, although there is an undeniable relationship between the two.

Inflation isn’t prices going up but the value of money going down. Spending power decreases. The classic case is late-1923 Germany, when, because of hyperinflation, “a loaf of bread cost 140 billion marks. Workers were paid twice a day, and given half-hour breaks to rush to the shops with their satchels, suitcases, or wheelbarrow, to buy something, anything, before their paper money halved in value yet again” (source: “Loads of Money“, Economist).

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San Diego Affordable Housing

The place isn’t roomy, but the architectural style is quite appealing. I hear there’s a waiting list, though. But if you like, I walk past often enough and can look for that “no” to be covered up. Here’s the thing; A little birdie told me that several crows are in the queue—and they are quite aggressive about obtaining lodging, particularly when the place is furnished and the landlord provides some meals.

Advice: Adopt a community cat from the shelter and turn him loose nearby. If the beastie doesn’t catch and eat some of the animals waiting for the place, he might scare off most of them. The residence is on Maryland Street in University Heights. Address isn’t disclosed, just in case I want to submit a rental application myself.

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The Price of Gas Rose 24 Cents Overnight!

Let me be the first to (sarcastically) thank the oligarchs—whether they be the Russian ruling class or one-percent of people holding the most wealth—for rushing to grub as much money as possible from we whom they regard as chattel. The invasion of Ukraine, and the West’s (ah-hum) finger-wagging recriminating sanctions, couldn’t possibly have disrupted the flow of oil yet. But why wait, when profits are to be had and war is a convenient excuse for puffing them.

Yesterday, regular, unleaded gasoline sold for $4.46 a gallon at all three of my San Diego neighborhood’s three economy filling stations. That’s cash price; credit costs more. As you can see from the Featured Image, price is now $4.70. That shocker greeted my wife and I this morning when we stopped to top off the tank.

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The Torn One

Walking along the University Avenue bridge that crosses highway 163 in San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood, I passed two remnants of a torn up dollar bill. The shredding surprised because many homeless folks frequent the area and would regard a buck as precious commodity. So what’s the backstory? Did someone panhandle the wrong person, who responded by taking out a dollar and ripping it to pieces? I’ll never know.

I used Leica Q2 Monochrom to capture the Featured Image, feeling rushed but nevertheless taking too long. The bridge is a busy thoroughfare, and I knelt down blocking the way to get the shot. The camera balked about ambient light, which was odd. But being harried and not thinking clearly enough, I chose the smallest aperture opening as quick remedy. Using exposure compensation would have nicked the problem—or my actually paying attention to the settings. I had moved the shutter speed from auto the night before and neglected to switch back the dial.

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Inflation Disarms The Bomb

I learned something about cost-creep today that hopefully will benefit you. Don Miguel The Bomb Spicy Red Hot Beef & Bean Burrito is a favorite of mine—available in lots of 12 at my local Costco Business Center. When I first found them, some years ago, a case could be bought for $18.99 or $1.58 per 14-ounce burrito. Later, the price rose to $19.99 before quickly going up to $20.99 and finally $21.99 during the tightest SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 lockdowns. That’s $1.67, $1.75, and $1.83 per package, respectively.

After nearly exhausting a somewhat stocked supply, I returned with my wife to the warehouse store for more. My mistake: I did not closely inspect the box. Price is higher now: $22.49 for that dozen-filled case. But that 50 cents more is for less. The Bomb now is 12 ounces, a decrease of 14 percent in size for a burrito costing $1.87—15 cents per ounce versus 13 cents previously or 11 cents from what I paid about three years ago; maybe four, I don’t rightly recall.

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Simply Stated: San Diego Unaffordable Housing

Three residences all on the same block in University Heights define the scope of the housing crisis in Southern California. This is not a story about limited availability of units, as news media and political prognosticators regularly (and falsely) claim, but about rising prices driven by numerous market dynamics (such as emigrants or corporations paying cash) mixed with insanity that defies common sense.

The market bears what people are willing to pay and they seem all the more recklessly anxious to fall for fear-economics and the privilege of paying more, more, more.