Bitcoin: Boom or Bust?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard the term Bitcoin being talked about a lot.  A whole lot.  And, depending on who you listen to, it’s being called an impending disaster or the next greatest thing to hit the world of commerce.

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a private payment system that allows for the transfer of “bitcoins” between people through a private system of digital wallets and transactions.  It’s probably simpler to just call it a digital currency.

Currency?  Yep.  Think of it like the mighty Dollar (I’ll remove my tongue from my cheek later.)  The Dollar is the currency of the USA.  We use it every day, either by earning it in exchange for work, or by spending it in exchange for goods and services.  You can do all the same things with the Bitcoin currency.  Of course, there’s one huge difference.

What gives Bitcoin it’s Value?

With the US Dollar, the value is backed by the US government.  In essence, you and I guarantee the value of the Dollar.  It’s a bit more complicated than that, of course.  We live in a world economy, so there are other countries involved, and other country’s economies that help determine the value of the Dollar.

Bitcoin Boom or BustWhere does Bitcoin get it’s value then?  Scarcity.  It also has some inherent properties that many find alluring.  It’s not tied to a country, so it’s relatively unaffected, in theory, by any one country’s economic problems.  It’s not really regulated in any way, so there aren’t any pesky rules about how much you can transfer, or any specific reporting requirements if you transfer over a certain amount.

Of course, many of those properties also make the burgeoning currency attractive to a seedier population.  If you can make transactions that aren’t traceable by traditional methods, it’s far easier to perform certain transactions (think drugs, prostitution, illegal arms) without having law enforcement breathing down your neck.  Without any real reporting requirements, it could be a pretty handy tool for money laundering.

Bitcoin Boom?

The recent popularity of the digital currency has caused quite a few articles lauding it’s future and how it could be the currency of the future.  It’s not hard to see the appeal.  The value fluctuates enough to make some mild speculation profitable if you hit the bumps right.  The currency, should it continue to be used, with it’s scarcity, could continue to rise in value.  People are even making dedicated computers set aside to “mine” bitcoins and are alluding it to it being similar to a new gold rush.  It’s entirely possible that Bitcoin will arise as a stable currency that’s accepted worldwide as payment for goods and services.

Bitcoin Bust?

The fall of Mt. Gox, one of the leading Bitcoin exchanges (like a Bitcoin bank), after a hacking event where Mt. Gox lost a reported $400 Million worth of Bitcoins along with a couple of smaller exchanges losing 5 and 6 figure amounts to similar events has caused a bit of a destabilization of the currency.  The value dropped to nearly a third of what it was before those events, and caused a panic.  The lack of regulation, and security concerns could be the downfall of the fledgling currency.  At least one country as banned the currency, and several are looking at ways to regulate it’s use.  Should more bannings and further regulatory actions take place, many of the reasons that people are flocking to the currency now will be reduced, or removed entirely.

Bitcoin or Bitcon?

My fingers have been leaving the i out of Bitcoin the whole time I’ve been typing this article, so I can’t help but ask the question.  Bitcoin has no real value.  There isn’t anything giving it value other than fervor and scarcity.  In fact, I have a hard time calling it anything other than a collectable akin to the Beanie Babies rush in the late 90’s.  At least if you jumped on the Beanie Baby rush, you might still have a few plastic pellet filled animals to hold.  If the floor falls out from under Bitcoin, all you’re likely to have to show for it is a bruised pride and some extra software on your computer to remove.

The best case, as I see it, is that some regulation gets involved in the mix, and Bitcoin becomes something similar to Paypal, but using Bitcoins instead of your local currency.  For that to happen, the currency has to stabilize in value, or have a set value.  I don’t think there are any current plans for 1 Bitcoin to have a set value, and so long as the security issues remain and people keep jumping back into it, I don’t see the value stabilizing either.

One thing that could potentially save Bitcoin would be if several world currencies destabilized over a short period of time.  That combined with a large amount of people taking money from those currencies and dumping it into a more secure Bitcoin could act as a float to drastically improve the perceived adoption of the currency worldwide.  Of course, the problem there is that if several world currencies destabilize, we might have bigger issues on our hands.

What do you think of Bitcoin?  Is it a viable alternative to localized currency?  Will it see increasing adoption and become a legitimate currency?  Is it doomed to fail?  Does it have any value for speculative investing?

Super SwagBucks Bonus

I haven’t written about Swagbucks in quite some time.  But, this is one that you’re probably gonna want to hear about.  Every once in a while, there’s a promotion that they put on that is well worth the effort, and this just happens to be one such promotion.

So what it is, you ask?

If you sign up through this link before April 5th, and then earn 1500 Swagbucks, you’ll be credited with 500 additional bonus Swagbucks.  If you’ve read any of my previous posts about Swagbucks, you’ll know that the reason I like it so much is that with a measly 500 or so Swagbucks, you can get a $5 gift card to Amazon.  Depending on how active I am, I get one every quarter or so.

Swagbucks 500 Bonus

Rules.  There’s always rules.

You’ve got to be a new user.  You’ve got to sign up through my referral link.  (I’ll get referral bucks for anyone that does that equal 10% of your Swagbucks earnings.  They’re not subtracted from yours, just bonused to me.  After you sign up, you can refer anyone you like and do the same!)  You’ve got to earn 1500 Swagbucks before April 19th.

Getting 1500 Swagbucks before April 19th is going to be a bit difficult, which is likely why they’re running the promotion the way they are.  However, it’s totally doable.  The only thing that won’t count towards your 1500 are any Swagcodes, but those are few and far between anyways. And, if you do it, you’ll have the original 1500, plus the bonus 500, and be able to cash them in for $20 in gift cards.  Well worth the effort.  Especially if you spend as much money on Amazon as I do. :)

You have until April 5th to sign up through this link.  The longer you wait, the harder it’s going to be to get those 1500 by April 19th, though, so just go do it. :)

Stretching Your Produce Budget Further

Anyone who has made a simple budget has struggled with making their food budget fit with the rest of the budget.  If you attempt to eat healthy, one of the biggest components to a food budget is the produce.  Stretching your produce budget can be somewhat difficult.  Growing seasons are short, and the cost of produce keeps going up.  But, there are a few things we can do to stretch that produce budget, and make it a bit easier on your overall budget.

  1. Stretching your produce budgetStock Up on Sale: buying your produce on sale allows for you to stock up when the item is cheaper, then store it until you need it.   Canned produce is really easy to store.  Frozen only requires a freezer.  And if it’s the fresh stuff, there’s a few things you can do to store a surplus when you do pick it up in season and on sale.
  2. Canning for stockpiling: When you’ve got a surplus of produce, one of the best things you can do is can it to preserve it for another day’s use.  Canning only requires a few pieces of equipment, and a little time learning the process, then you can be off to the races filling your pantry shelves with preserved fresh produce to use later in the year when produce is much more expensive.
  3. Freeze it: Every year, around the end of summer, corn pops up in the backs of pickup trucks and in the farmers markets.  Compared to the rest of the year, it’s really cheap, and it tastes so good!  Unless we want to eat nothing but fresh corn, though, the season is fleeting, and we’re left with no other corn but the commercially canned or frozen corn you can get at the supermarket.  It’s just not the same.  Last year, we bought a whole bunch of corn (4-5 dozen), shucked them all, then cut the kernels off and combined them in a huge stockpot with some butter, a little bit of salt, and a little bit of water, and then cooked it for a little while.  Once it was done, we let it cool off, and then filled quart size freezer bags with the corn and froze it.  Now, if we want a little taste of that sweet summer corn, we just grab a bag, heat it backup and eat.  We did similar things with pumpkin, squash, zucchini, and a whole bunch of other summer fruits and veggies.  All it takes is a little bit of prep time and the freezer room to enjoy the flavor of fresh produce all year round.
  4. Grow it: If you already grow a garden every year, this might seem like a no-brainer of a tip.  But, growing your own garden can be an excellent way to stretch your produce budget out.  Last year, we enjoyed an abundance of tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, onions, jalepenos, cucumbers, and even an eggplant or two from our tiny container garden.  This year, we’re planning on consolidating down to a smaller selection in hopes that we’ll have some extras that we can can as well.
  5. Find a Farmer’s Market: Buying your produce from a local farmer can often be just as cheap as buying at the supermarket.  In some cases, if you order ahead, you can get a deal on bulk orders of produce which is great if you are planning on canning any of it.  It’s also fresher since it only had to make the trip from the farm down the road instead of the farm across the country.  It’s not always a great way to stretch the produce budget, but if you want high-quality produce that will last longer before spoiling, it’s a good place to check out.

Extending your produce budget is important, not just when there are droughts, but as a way to provide healthy options for you and your family to eat year round.

What do you do to stretch your produce budget?