Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Out with the Old and in with the New


It's new years eve and the parting is about to start. Whether its Going out to the clubs or a night at home with a few friends, remember to be safe. Good times to all and to all a good night.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Nailing a Job Interview




Most people attend a fair share of job interviews in their lifetime. Convincing your potential employer to choose you among other candidates can be a daunting task. Here are a few tips that I have picked up over the years that helped me get hired:








  • Be Punctual - There is nothing that says don't hire me like showing up late for an interview. Even if you are in a major car crash on the way to the interview, make sure you call and try to reschedule. If anything, get there early.



  • Dress the Part - Don't show up to an interview in wrinkled jeans and sandals.



  • Clammy Hands - If your hands get clammy when you are nervous, run your inner fore arms under cold water before the interview. This will contract your skin pores, constricting your blood flow, and ultimately help keep your hands from sweating.



  • Act the Part - Maintain professional mannerisms at all times, shake the hand of the interviewer upon greeting and exiting the interview. Avoid using slang or literary contractions like y'all.



  • Do Your Research - Nothing says join the club like already knowing the secret hand shake. Google the company, get to know their products and services. Have a good grasp of what the position actually entails.



  • Bring Stuff - Bring a copy of your resume, a pad of paper, a pen, and any letters of recommendation at the very least. If possible leave copies of your supporting documentation with the interviewer.



  • Go Alone - I was debating on whether to include this on the list, but you would be surprised how many people think it is ok to have their kids, or a friend, wait in lobby during an interview.



  • Sit Up - I am as guilty as anyone of not watching my posture. Make sure to sit up straight and show attentiveness.



  • Poker Tell Signs - When people are nervous they do all sorts of weird things. Don't Cross your arms, crack you knuckles, run your fingers through your hair, itch your nose, cough excessively, tap you finger, stretch or yawn.



  • Show Some Character - Talk about how your skills can help the company. Provide examples and avoid using lame non-descriptive lines, like I'm a good worker. Instead state that you regularly receive acknowledgment from you co-workers for your performance.



  • Eye Contact - Don't look around the room with wondering eyes when the interviewer is talking to you.



  • Be Assertive - Confidence sells, let the interviewer feel the passion you have to achieve.



  • Display Strengths and Divert Weakness - Try to talk about your strengths. If asked about a weakness, address the concern, and redirect back to a strength.



  • Stay Calm - Always try to remain calm and collected. Relax.



  • Listen - The interviewer doesn't want to hear your rehearsed monologue ramble on for twenty minutes. Listen to the questions think about the response, and then answer clearly and concisely.

Interviews are a sensitive situation for many. Some people are very adamant about their own rules and tips. Please feel free to comment with your suggestions of things I forgot.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Extreme Resolutions

I am a very systematic person, and love to think up hardcore rules for New Years resolutions. The New Year is a great time to make a conscious life changing decision to better yourself. The sky is the limit, and even if you fall short of your goals at least it's a step in the right direction. Sit down and make a list of achievable goals and email it to yourself so it's time stamped. Keep the subject line of your list the same for upcoming years.This will allow you search and compare your list over the years. I encourage the idea of picking stocks for the year, which was recommended to me by Money Under Thirty. Here are a few of my own personal new years resolutions for 2009:


1. Choke out Uncle Sam in a bare knuckle brawl - I plan to go toe-to-toe with my taxes this year. I have been saving my receipts, researching my new home owner rebate qualifications, tallying up my interests, and tax deductions. When I am through, Uncle Sam will wish he had his own bail out.

2. Go to the Gym or else - I plan follow a strict regiment of going to the gym at least twice a week. If I don't exercise at least twice a week, I will force myself to put $5.00 into my savings account.

3. Save First Spend Later - I will try to automatically deduct 10% of every paycheck and put it in savings, before anything else.

4. Only 2 consecutive Blog Holidays - I hope to write an article on this blog everyday with a maximum of 2 consecutive day off.

5. Beef up my AdSense earnings - I want to be able to tell friends how much I make from this blog each month without them laughing.

6. Home Improvement - I have a couple big projects that I would like to do around the house including, building a fence for the back yard, tearing out a wall in our den, installing granite tile counter tops in the kitchen, and upgrading faucets throughout the bathrooms.

7. Be able to buy a new truck - Notice how I said "be able" to buy a new truck. I will drive our old Ford Exploder until it last breath, which after 160k miles, seem eminently near.

8. Enjoy life with the Wife
- My wife and I have a tendency to both work too hard and not spend enough time doing the fun things we enjoy. I hope this New year we focus more on traveling and fun weekend excursions.

These are just a few of my resolutions. What are you planning for your New Years resolution?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Calculate a Waiters Tip Instanly


With everyone's busy schedule most people go out to dinner fairly frequently. According to Katie Bogue a registered dietitian at the University of San Diego "Americans eat out an average of 4-5 times a week." It amazes me with this frequency, people still scratch there head in puzzlement when trying to figure out how much money to leave as a tip. I might be unfairly judgmental, having spent many years as a waiter myself, but tipping your waiter can be easily calculated in your head.

In the United States it is customary to tip between 15%-20% of the total bill. I tend to tip 20% because I know what it's like to work for tips. If someone does a horrible job, I will leave them 15%, and in extreme catastrophic situations I have been known to leave even less. By using the method below you should be able to accurately calculate the waiters tip in a few seconds:

1. Round to whole dollars
If your bill is $56.13, just think of it as $56. If if your bill is $56.63, think of it as $57.

2. Find 10%
Finding 10% of any number is as simple as moving the decimal place one digit to the left. 10% of $42 is $4.20. 10% of $127 is $12.70.

3A. Double for 20%,
If 10% of your bill is $4.20 than 20% is $8.40. If your total bill is $33, than 20% would be $6.60. I try to encourage a people to tip 20% when the service is good, and because it's easy to calculate. Tips can also be rounded up to the nearest dollar if you don't want to deal with change.

3.b Add Half for 15%
If the service was bad, and 15% is more suitable. Find 10% and add an additional half. If 10% of the bill is $4.20, than add $2.10 to equal $6.30. $6.30 is equal to 15% of the bill. Here is an example to further clarify:

Example:

The bill is $122.13.
$122 x 10% = $12.20
$122 x 20% = $12.20 + $12.20 = $24.40

or

$122 x 15% = $12.20 + $6.10 = $18.30

If you want to get more complicated you can split the difference. Suppose a 20% tip is $12 and the a 15% tip is $9 you depending on the service you could leave $10 or $11 to more accurately depict their performance. Comment on how much you tend to tip or other methods you may use.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Survival Tip: Sunset Timer

When you are out in the wilderness it can be important to know how many minutes of light are left in the day. You might need to know how long you have to make a fire or shelter. The following Survival Tip can probably be accredited to many sources, but I forget where I saw it. I could have seen it on Survivor Man, Man versus Wild, or read it online.

When the sun is nearing the horizon, stretch your arm as far out in front of you as possible, with your fingers extended. Your thumb should be pointing upward. The distance between each fingers is roughly 15 minutes of time until the sun sets.

Depending on where the sun lines up with your fingers, you should be able to gauge how much daylight is left. Although I have not yet tried it, you could probably use two hands to gauge up to an hour and a half before the sun sets. Try this out, or at least file it in the back of your brain under the just in case scenario.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Fun with Safeway / Von Club cards


Have you ever wanted to be as a secret agent living under a false identity or code name. Now you can. There are many companies like Safeway/Vons that request your personal information for club card incentive programs. They do this to for demographical information to be used for marketing research. The information is just compiled in a database somewhere and doesn't really amount to anything. When you fill out the application you can put down what ever you like with little to no repercussions. Many years ago I filled out an club card application for Safeway as James bond, so every time I shop there they say "Thank you Mr. Bond." You probably get away with almost anything, I bet. All the tellers just laugh, or seriously think James Bond is my name. I try to keep a straight face during check out. It just making my shopping experience that much more fun. I considered posting my club card number in this article so everyone could be "James Bond". I would get the reward points, but I feel awkward posting my current phone number and it might come back to bite me. So go out, try it, and comment.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas


I wanted to thank all you readers for showing your support, and to wish you Merry Christmas. I hope you are celebrating the holidays with your friends and family. Best wishes to all. Here is a picture of my wife Corin and I cutting down our first Christmas tree.

-Dan Malone-

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Working on Christmas Eve


Congratulations if you showed up to work today, you are not the only one. Santa is also out and about delivering gifts to the children of the world. Thanks to Norad (North American Aerospace Defense Command) The government has been able to use their high tech global missle positioning system to track Santa's movement as he travels around the world. If you are too impatient and want to know where Santa is currently, check out:

http://www.noradsanta.org/en/home.html.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Take A Day Off

If you rarely comes to work in the first place, please disregard this article:
If you are like me, you are a reliable person and always show up for work regardless of rain, snow, earthquake, or act of God. You probably believe that your job is so important, that the whole world would come crashing down if you couldn't make it to work. Shouldering this responsibility in unfair and unnecessary. Granted, it is important to take your job seriously and always give it 110% of you efforts, but you can't hold yourself responsible for the well being of the company. The next statement took me a long time to truly understand, so read it carefully:


"If you were to get hit by a bus, your work place would get by without you."


This means that no matter how important you think you job is, I assure its not. In your absence the world will continue to turn and people will go on living. Time and time again I have internally burdened myself with the responsibilities of my work place. At the end of the day I would go home unable to sleep because I was worried that a report wouldn't get done in time. I would regularly skip lunch and stay late to finish my work. This is ridiculous! If you do your best, that is all you can do. Anything outside of your control is outside of your control, so don't stress about it. If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a day off. If you are regularly struggling with your work load, talk with your boss about reassigning you job duties or find a new job. There is no reason to torture yourself day in and day out.


Take a day off once in a while and play with your kids, spend time with your wife, or just take a day for yourself. Your life should not revolve around work. If it does, you are not living. If you can't afford to take a day off, you are living outside of your means and that is another problem entirely.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Stubborn Jar Lids


We all know how frustrating it can be to open a jar that seem to be super glued shut. Last night we were at a friends house for dinner and came across one such monster. We all tried to open it with Brut strength but were unsuccessful. Everyone has their tricks on how to open the stubborn jar, a few common ones are listed below.

1. Smack the Lid
- I usually smack the top of the jar to break the seal and use some elbow grease to get them open.

2. Hot Water
- I have heard of people running the jar under hot water to heat up the rubber gaskets hoping it will expand or contract.

3. Let in Some Air
- Many people try to pry at the lid with a bottle opener or butter knife just enough to let in a little air. I have seen it work well. I don't do it, because I am afraid of breaking the glass.

4. Mechanical device
- There are hundreds of gizmo's and gadget the claim the be best jar openers. I have never seen one that works well.

5. A Towel or Mouse pad
- This is another of my favorites, but only certain textures can grip the lid. Terry cloth is not one of them. Drawer traction mats also work great.

6. Use a Rubber Band
- The owner of the house is a pharmacist and taught us all a trick he uses to open up prescriptions. By placing a thick rubber band around the circumference of the lid, the jar opened it with a little determination.

I thought the rubber band was a very clever trick and convenient since most people have a rubber band lying around the kitchen somewhere. What are some other trick you know to open jars?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

ZZZZZZZ......

Sleep is one of the most underrated functions of life. We all want to make the most of each day, but it's easy to take on too much and become over whelmed. Forfeiting sleep is a common method for making up time spent. The lack of sleep from burning the candle at both ends, will eventually catch up to us and lead to our demise. When I was younger, I had no problem staying up partying til the early hours of the morning. I was usually a zombie at work the next day, with limited motor cortex skills. I was only able to keep my job by subconsciously training myself through repetition to complete the necessary tasks to function. This auto pilot mentality was fun for a few years and definitely made for some great stories, but it's not a way to live life.

Long Term Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Regular sleep apnea can also have long term affects as mention in the New York Times: "sleep scientists at the University of Chicago found that those who suffer from an accumulated sleep debt may develop serious health problems, including obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure." Also mentioned in the New York Times article was Dr. Van Cauter quote "We found that an accumulated sleep debt is potentially as detrimental to health as poor nutrition or a sedentary lifestyle. It may be as bad as smoking."

Short Term Effects of Sleep Deprivation
There are also severe dangers of the short term effects of sleep deprivation. The Franklin Institute published an article stating "One complete night of sleep deprivation is as impairing in simulated driving tests as a legally intoxicating blood-alcohol level."

Memory
When you are living on auto pilot, it is more difficult for your brain to retain information. It can be hard to remember sequential digits like a phone number, address, or dollar amounts. It can also be tricky to remember names, directions, or auditory commands. This state of futility will last until the deprived sleep is regained, and is cumulative in nature.

Substantial Sleep
Getting a good night sleep is an important aspect of efficient living. It will allow you to think clearly, live healthy, and maintain higher levels of energy. It is important to try to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. If you only get 7 hours one night, try going to bed the next night an hour earlier to catch up. It is amazing how much better you feel when you get 8 hours of sleep on a regular basis.

Excuses
I can already hear my readers saying "it must be nice to get 8 hours of sleep a night, but I'm to busy. I can't afford to sleep that much." The truth is that you can't afford not to sleep that much. Try an experiment and get at least 8 hours of sleep every night for one week. See how much more productive you are, and I promise you will wonder how you ever survived on less.

Feel free to comment how your experiment goes and the results.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Get a Massage


As a Christmas present, my wife got me a professional massage from a local clinic. It has been years since my last professional massage. I forgot how it makes everyday stress melt away. I can now see why she goes to a chiropractor and massage therapist regularly. Here are a few reasons why you should treat yourself to a massage:



Health
According to holisticonline.com, "Massage improves circulation, which increases blood flow, bringing fresh oxygen to body tissues. This can assist the elimination of waste products, speed healing after injury, and enhance recovery from disease." It is easy to forget that your body is your most import possession, and should be treated with care.

Cost
Most of us can't afford to shell out cash for a regular massage, so check with your health insurance. My wife only pays $15.00 for each hour session, up to 45 times a year. That is almost one a week for the same price as your weekly coffee addiction.

Time
A single hour can easily fit into even the busiest of schedules, and many places schedule outside of standard work week hours.

Enjoyment
Even though, the dull pain from working out my prehistoric knots made it difficult to talk, there is really nothing better than the feeling relaxation after a nice long massage. It allows you to float through the rest of your day, impervious to life nuisances.

I really appreciate my wife's gift, and will try to go get a massage more frequently, because they really do improve the quality of life and are good for the soul.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Drive in the Snow Without Crashing



Today in Seattle we are receiving an abnormal amount of snow. We can barely drive in the heavy amount of rain we get, so when it snows — look out!

I took this picture outside my office window this morning. Even with chains, this sectional bus jack-knifed into a street light. Below is my best attempt to help all you courageous travelers from causing more accidents:

1. Drive Slow - You would think that this is plain common sense, but most people still travel much faster than they should.

2. Snow Tires/ 4 Wheel Drive - You may think your vehicle is invincible because it has snow tires or 4 wheel drive, I promise you it is not.

3. Hills - If you are about to go down a hill, and see others cars sliding sideways in front of you, it might not be the best route to continue.

4. Turn Into a Slide - If your vehicle starts to loose traction around a turn, make sure that you turn into the slide to regain traction.

5. Don't slam on the brakes - If you are trying to stop and your wheels lock up, lightly let off the brake until the wheels catch again.

After watching all the Cars, one after another, slide down the hill and crash outside my office window, I can only imagine how many millions of dollars in body damage this one day of snow will bring.

What are some tips that you have? Did you already crash today? Feel free to comment on this post.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Find Something To Look Forward To


We sometimes fall into mundane daily routines that can dampen our spirits. It is important to always find something to look forward to. It could be the package you are expecting in the mail, your plans to meet a friend for coffee, or the exciting new movie waiting for you at home. By focusing your energy on whatever you are looking forward to, there is less time to fester on the negative aspects of life.




Set up rewards ahead of time. Make plans with friends, order stuff online, get a Netflix or blockbuster membership. Take the steps necessary to plan for things. Mark on your calendar all the upcoming concerts, or festivals that you would like to go to. You don't have to attend all of them but it gives you something to look forward to. The events are just options if you feel up to it. Setting up a reward can be as simple as marinating a steak in the fridge and dreaming about it at work.


Focus on the things that you enjoy, no matter how insignificant they are. I like to check my AdSense/analytics accounts every morning to see how many readers are reading this blog, and to find out how much money the blog made from the previous day. It only takes 1 minute, but it is something to get me out of bed. Some people enjoy reading the morning newspaper over a cup of coffee. Do whatever it takes and find something you enjoy. Like opening presents on Christmas morning, you would be surprised how much easier it is to start the day when there is something to look forward to.


Share your enjoyment with others. By verbally acknowledging whatever you find enjoyable it reinforces the feeling of gratitude. "Did you see the article in today's paper?" or "Readers have really increased from last week." If you are talking about the good things in life, you can't complain about the bad.


Look forward to things in life, if you just sit around complaining all day, are you really living? What things do you enjoy? What keeps you going thoughout the day?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

DIY: Memorable and Cost Efficent Weddings

My wife and I got married a year and a half ago. We attended 9 weddings for our friends and family in the few years before our own. After experiencing many different flavors of weddings, we decided to have a memorable wedding, but didn't want to start our lives together in severe debt. Some of the weddings with the smallest budgets were the most fun. Weddings are special days for everyone, but the actual day passes very quickly considering all the preparation. Here are some tips that we recommend to have a memorable and cost efficient wedding:

1. Student or Friend Photographer- Photographers are not cheap get some one you trust to take the pictures for you. If a college in the area ofters an advanced photography class you might want to contact the teacher to try recruiting a student. Also, Try putting disposable cameras on the tables for your guest to take picture and leave on the table. Some of our favorite pictures were candid pics taken by our guests.

2. Ipod DJ- Most people have an ipod, or are capable of making a play list. there is no need to hire a cheese wedding DJ who can't even pronounce your names right.

3. Only supply Beer and Wine - cocktails can skyrocket a bill quickly, especially if your friends drink like ours. If you want a full bar, allow cocktails to be purchased in addition to the complimentary beer and wine.

4. Have a family member or friend become an ordained minister - It is surprisingly easy to become an ordained minister online. It is also more sentimental if it is someone you know can preform the ceremony.

5. Assortment of Cheese Cakes - Instead of spending tons of money on a wedding cake. We had a variety of exquisite cheese cakes and pies. Everyone can pick what kind they want.

6. Location - An outdoor park, beach or at a friend house is a way to save money.

Our friends still talk about how much fun they had at our wedding, and how the casual atmosphere really allowed everyone to have a good time. What other tips would you recommend? do you have similar stories to share? Feel free to post your comments below.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Hanging Christmas Lights



There is something about celebrating the holidays that makes people feel good about themselves. At the same time the is nothing more frustrating than running into problems when decorating. Below are some tips to hanging Christmas lights:






  • Plan out where you are going to hang the lights, and walk the perimeter to see how many feet of lights you will need. If possible start from your porch light and use a socket/outlet adapter so the lights can be controlled from inside.
  • Hooks, go around with a ladder and screw in descent sized hooks inside the roof eve every 2-3 ft. These hooks can be left in year around for next time.
  • Untangle the lights before testing them. Excessive movement can jar the bulbs breaking the filament
  • Plug In the lights before you hang the strand to make sure all the bulbs work.
  • Poles or broom handles with two pencils duct taped to the end, can make it much easier to reach the hooks, depending on the height of you roof line. Remember to start at the power source and work backwards. It is much easier to add strands, then to not reach the plug.
  • Taunt Strands will look a lot cleaner than sagging wires draped over the hooks.
Good luck, be creative, and always try to out do your neighbors. Just kidding have fun and happy Holidays.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tactical Equipment for the Average Person



Deep down I think we are all tactical gadget James Bond gear nuts. There are pletty of times when most people wouldn't mind having a rotating license plate, or an Omega Seamaster laser wrist watch. Although we cannot all be secret agents, there are some simple everyday items that can be tactical and practical to keep with you:




  • Flash Light - With todays technology, you can get a small keychain flash light or pen light to carry in your work bag for a few bucks. It beats trying to use your cell phone as a light source.
  • Small Pocket Knife - A small Swiss Army knife can always come in handy, and weighs practically nothing.
  • Lighter - Even if you don't smoke, its is good to have a working lighter.
  • Refillable Water Bottle - not only is it Eco-friendly, but most people don't drink enough water.
  • Mini First Aid Kit - It is ridiculous how small and cheap first aid kits are. Just throw one in your car, bag, or purse.
  • Whistle - Whistles can be purchased for a few bucks and take up almost no space.
  • Extra Cash - Keep some extra cash in small denomination accessible, but not in your wallet.
  • Note Pad and Pens - Being able to write down important info without forgetting it, and being able to draw maps, and pictures to communicate can make things easier.
  • Super glue - If it isn't broke don't fix it. If it is broke, you'll probably need super glue.
These are just a few things that I think are important, and might be nice to have in an emergency. What would you suggest?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Exstinguish Fires Sooner than Later




In life there will always be problems that arise. You can either address the issues, or sweep it under the carpet and hope it doesn't come back to bite you. I have found that it's much better to stomp out small fires immediately, rather than sit back and hope they extinguishes themselves.





The Restaurant
Having spent many years in the restaurant industry, I know first hand how important it is to address your problems right away. If the food is taking a while in the kitchen, or you served someone the wrong dish, the last thing you want to do is avoid the table. You need to constantly refill water glasses and monitor the table to prevent anything else from going wrong. If you avoid the table and something else does go wrong the customer's anger level will increase exponentially, and they might complain to your boss in a catatonic rage.

Car Repairs
Your check engine light has been on for months now, but the car drives fine. If I leave it alone maybe it will go away. The truth is whatever caused the light to go on could have cost you only a few hundreds dollars, but now it will cost you a few thousand.

Initiative at Work
Having the mentality to not take action because its not your responsibility, is worst than causing the problem in the first place. If you see a problem, regardless of who's fault it is, take action to solve it. If you don't take action, it may turn into a wildfire, and someone will probably find out that you didn't say anything.

What lessons have you learned, by not addressing the issue?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Free Business Cards





Vistaprint.com is a good place to get business cards for cheap. They are advertised as free, but you still have to pay for shipping. I have used their services before, and had a very positive experience.



Draw Backs:
  • They only have a small selection of free templates.
  • The back of the cards have a small disclaimer that says printed at vista print .com.
  • The Text fields have predetermined fonts, color, and size.
  • The formatting is predetermined.

Benefits:

  • Endless amount of upgrades, for a nominal cost. I usually pay extra for glossy and no disclaimer on the back.
  • Pretty good quality.
  • All kinds of other promotional stuff: hats, window decals, fridge magnets.

I recommend Vistaprint.com but be careful, your free order can get expensive quick.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

How to Gamble Without Losing Your Shirt


Although I don't gamble very often, I do enjoy playing cards and going to the casinos occasionally. It is important to understand that gambling is is a form of entertainment, not a way to make money. The following tricks have worked well for me, and sometimes even allowed me to go home with more than I started:





  • Expect to Lose - The odds are never in your favor, expect to lose. Casinos stay in business by taking your money, and building a casino isn't cheap.


  • Never Play on Credit - Never gamble money you don't have. Some casinos will take credit cards, but cash advancing a credit card could get you into serious trouble. At the very least it will cost you $14.99 in transaction fees. Only gamble with money that you can pull out of a bank account, and are willing to lose.


  • One Trip to the ATM - Since we are already planning to lose, figure out how much you are willing to spend for one entertaining night of gambling. For me, that is about $100.00. If I lose it in ten minutes, then I will just have to watch my friends play for the rest of the night. If I can play cards the entire night on $100.00, even better. Either way I can only lose $100.00.


  • Know the game- Don't sit at a game until you know exactly how to play. Don't let your friends try to teach you at the table. Watch others, learn for free, and then play when you are ready.


  • Count Your Chips- People say it's bad luck to count your chips. I think this rumor was started by casinos, so people didn't know how much they where spending. You should roughly know how many chips you have at all times during the night.


  • Understand the value of chips- When repetitively betting, chips begin to subconsciously lose there value. It is easy to forget that each chip in a stack is worth $10.00. Try to visualize each chip as its actual denomination. If you have a stack of $10.00 chips, picture a stack of ten dollar bills instead.


  • Play your Winnings- You can be up $300.00 one minute, and broke the next. This the magic of gambling, and also how casinos lure people into playing. If by some miracle I make more than I started with and can continue to play solely on my winnings, I take the initial $100.00 in chips and put them in my left pocket. These chips in my left pocket will not be played for the rest of the night under any circumstances. If the rest I will still break even.


  • Winning Streak Quota- Set pre-determined gain quotas. My quota is $50.00. I continue to play until reaching my quota. The first time I lose above my quota, I will take my $50.00 gained, and leave the table or at least sit out a few hands to reassess my chips. Depending on the time of night, I will begin to put the $50.00 quotas in my left pocket with the initial $100, and not play them for the rest of the night.


  • The Pocket System - If it is still early, I will put earnings in my right pocket. These are chips that can still be played if necessary. As the night progresses, I will move increments of chips from my right to my left symbolizing that they will not be played for the rest of the evening.


  • Don't catch the fever - Time will pass by quickly when gambling. Hours will disappear in the blink of an eye. Remember to regularly sit out hands, and get up from tables frequently. Maintain a grasp of reality, and realize how much you are spending.

Unless you are a professional card player. Gambling is for entertainment purposes only, and should never be used with hopes of making money.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Stop Running Late

Do you constantly find yourself running late to work? Every day I see the same person frantically run to catch the train. I can help but wonder why people live their life like that, day after day. The simple answer is to start leaving 5 minutes earlier each morning, but most people are not that disciplined. I have found that setting your clock fast is a simple yet effective way to encourage punctuality. If the human body is capable of adapting to different time zones across the world, it is more than capable of adapting 10-15 minutes. Here are some ways to trick your self into being being punctual:



  • Have someone you trust set your clocks forward, and not say by how much.


  • Don't set the clocks forward by rounded numbers like 5 minutes or 10 minutes. These numbers can be easily computed to actual time. Try setting the clocks forward by 13 minutes or 18 minutes.


  • Set all the clocks in you house to this new time.


  • If possible, try setting your cell phone, car, and watch forward.


  • Try to forget the clocks were set forward, by telling yourself that the time is correct.


I hope these ideas help, and enjoy time travel.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cut out the Small Stuff




Whether it's a pack of cigarettes, coffee, a soda, a cocktail, dessert or candy; there are tons of everyday items that unnecessarily add to our cost of living . By learning to forgo these small purchases you can really save A lot of money, especially if you set the money aside for a rainy day.



Examples of Cost:
Cigarettes - According to MSN Money, "the cost of a pack of cigarettes averages around $4.50 to $5, including taxes, depending on where you live. Using the lower number, a pack-a-day smoker burns through about $31.50 per week, or $1,638 per year. That's a fat house payment or a nice vacation with the family. A 40-year-old who quits smoking and puts the savings into a 401(k) earning 9% a year would have nearly $250,000 by age 70."

Coffee - According to Coffeesearch.org, "the average coffee consumption in the United States is 3.1 cups of coffee per day(NCA)." The average price of a cup of coffee is $1.38 (NCA). That means the average person spends almost $30.00 dollars a month on coffee.

Soda - If you buy a soda out of the vending machine each day for $1.oo that is $30.00 an month right there.

Alcohol - on the cheap side, a twelve pack of beer is $14.00 and you only drink 1 beer a night. That equates to $35.00 a month, and that is drinking at home. If you were to go out once a week and have three drinks for $5.00 each, that would be $60.00 a month.

Deserts - If you went out to dinner 1 a week and bought dessert for $6.95, that is almost another $30 a month right there and that isn't including the meal.

Candy - If you buy 1 candy bar a day from the office vending machine, that is instantly another $20 a month.

Just by cutting out these things you could save around $200.00 each month. That is $2400 a year, or a 7 Night Eastern Caribbean Cruise for 2. Pretty nice annual Vacation for going without that candy bar.

Monday, December 1, 2008

LFI Receives Editors Pick

Live for Improvement has received recognition from Insight Writer. The article "Never Worry About Paying Bills Again" was chosen as the "Editors Picks" in the personal finance section. We appreciate the acknowledgement and will continue to strive in creating quality articles.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Beware of a Salesman


Whether it is an extended warranty, a street vendor, or Girl Scout; People are always trying to sell you stuff. It is pretty difficult to walk around town with out being bombarded with various forms of advertising, or enter a store without a clerk trying to sell you something. Distinguishing between a good deal, and a sales pitch is an underdeveloped skill that we sometimes take for granted. I have found the following tips to work well for me, but only you can decide whether or not to buy:




  • The Decision - People can persuade and influence you, but the decision whether to buy something, is ultimately up to you. You cannot hold others accountable for your wise or poor decisions.

  • The Source - If you find out about a great new car wax from a friend who is not employed by the car wax company, odds are that is it a good product. If someone, you don't know, rings your doorbell to notify you of a great vacuum deal, it is probably a sales pitch.

  • The Intensity - Beware of a salesman who is overly excited in telling you about a limited time offer, asking you to act now. A store clerk might be telling the truth, if he calmly tells you that there are only a few items left in stock, and does not encourage the sale.

  • Your Gut - Your gut is almost always right. if you think something sound to good to be true, it probably is. If you have second thought about buying something don't.

  • Fishing - If the vendor asks for your name, where you live, and introduces themself, they may be trying to pry information out of you to help them sell their item.

  • Commission - Learn to know what stores pay their employees on commission, because they may try to sell you on things you don't necessarily need. Best buy employees are not on commission, but circuit city employees are. If you are unsure just ask. Tell the sales associate that you are "going to look around, and ask if you decide to buy should, you fine them or just any associate." If they give you a card or tell you to find them, they are on commission.

  • Popularity - take caution if you are unfamiliar with a brand name, and someone tells you that it is the equivalent of a Sony, Panasonic, or Samsung. They might just trying to make a sale.

  • Pyramid schemes - Don't listen to people who say they can make you rich. Most programs are based on open ended results. Instead of explaining how they program works, they just sell you on pipe dreams of being rich. Another clue is whether they are rich, or they are "planning" on becoming rich. Ask yourself why they are wasting their time trying to sell you on the idea, if they are already rich.

  • Extended Warranties - I believe that any third party extended warranty is a rip off. These companies would not be in business selling the warranties if the odds where in you favor. Salesmen try to get you to believe in bumper to bumper coverage, I promise no such coverage exists. Every extended warranty is riddled with exceptions, deductibles, clauses and fine print establishing reason to not pay. The base warranty for most products is usually far more comprehensible than any extended warranty anyway.

  • Stretching Your Dollar - If you don't think you can afford something, you are probably correct. A store may try to offer you some magical Financing options that may make the purchase seem plausible. These will get you into far more trouble then they are worth.


The holiday shopping season is upon us, so commence shopping but be carefull out there.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Serve Wine Like a Pro



As the holiday season approaches, family and friends are beginning to gather. If your house is anything like mine, this also means that many bottles of wine will be consumed. Being able to open a bottle of wine, and put wine in a glass is not difficult. Mastering the presentation and serving of wine is a fine art. If you want to look like a pro serving wine, and impress your guests follow these simple tips:





Cradle the Bottle
When transporting an unopened bottle wine to and from the table, it is customary to cradle it in one arm like a football with the label always facing up.

Present the Wine
If you are hosting the party, present the bottle with it still cradled in one arm. Tip the bottom of the bottle down to display the label. Point to the label and read the name aloud, and if applicable tell a brief story about the wine. What type of wine is it? What is its country of origin? How did you pick it out? Where were you the first time you tried it?

Opening the Bottle
Hold the bottle by the neck, with the label still facing the table. Never put the bottle on the table and spin it. Cut the front of the foil in a horizontal half circle, just below the tip. Then cut back of the foil completing the circle. Peel of the foil which should resemble the shape of a coin. During this process the label should always face forward. Use a cork screw to open the wine, try to remove the last part of the cork slow enough to hear the Air hiss into the bottle. Don't just yank out the cork creating a popping noise.

Tasting
It is customary for the host of the party to taste the first sip of wine before it is served to ensure it is drinkable. I will either pour a small amount for myself, or for my wife to taste. Sip the wine to make sure the bottle has not spoiled. You will know if the bottle has gone bad because it will taste balsamic vinegar or smelly pond water.

Pouring the Wine
Now turn the label so it is facing you, and put your thumb in the bottom (or bunt) of the bottle to pour. When you tilt the bottle to pour the label should be facing upward. After tasting the wine, serve the all women first, and then come back to serve the men. With a clean napkin, wipe any drips from the neck of the bottle.

Setting the wine
After the wine has been poured, set the bottle on the table so that the label is facing everyone, and enjoy.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Check for Unclaimed Property


If you are owed money, a business is obligated to send it to you. If you have recently moved, or have an incorrect address on file, the business must file it with your state as unclaimed property. You are probably thinking so what? What are the odds of that happening to me? That is what I thought, but decided to check with my state anyway. It turns out that I over paid an old medical bill, and the hospital sent me a check for $90.00. I had to verify my identity, and the check took a couple of months to arrive, but I got paid.



How Do I check?
Since it varies from state to state here is a pretty good link that I found: NAUPA. Basically all the states are going to ask for your first and last name to search. I've seen some people’s names with thousands of dollars by it. It can't hurt to check. If you are owed money, great. If not, well you only spent a few minutes checking.

There is Money Owed to Me!
If you are owed money, the next step is to contact the business. The search engine will usually provide some contact info for the business. In my case I was faxed a form, and had to fill out some information like my previous addresses. After the business verified that it was me, they sent me a check to my new address.


Please comment if you have received unclaimed property, or if you found money owed to you because of this article.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pumping Her Gas

Chivalry is like a cancer patient fighting for life. It's not quite dead yet, but still doesn't look very good for us men. I try to do nice things for my wife, but it's easy to fall into a routine, and forget to show my appreciation. When they cross my mind, I try to open doors, buy her flowers, and other stereotypical random acts of kindness; but sometimes you just need a little reminder.

The Gas Station
I tend to do the majority of the driving because I feel in control, and my wife appreciates not having to drive. She happened to be driving, the other day, when we stopped for gas. My wife is more than capable of pumping her own gas, so I nonchalantly sat in the passenger seat, while she got out to get gas. Another car, containing a couple of similar age, pulled up to the opposite pump. The women in that car was also driving. The man got out, and proceeded to pump the gas for her. As I sat there watching them, I felt like jerk. My wife was completely oblivious to what was going on, but I knew, and felt awful. I decided from that point on I would make an effort to pump her gas.

The Little Things
It's the little things in life that make others happy. I am not saying that you have to pump your wife's gas. I am merely using this example to show that people appreciate simple acts of kindness, and they are contagious. If you truly care for someone let them know. Maybe if we all start doing our part, we can save chivalry.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

National Thaw out Your Turkey Day

If you haven't already pulled your Thanksgiving turkey out of the freezer, than today is the day. According to USDA the following time is necessary to thaw a turkey:






Fact Sheets

Poultry Preparation

Let's Talk Turkey—A Consumer Guide to Safely Roasting a Turkey
Fresh or Frozen?

Fresh Turkeys
  • Allow 1 pound of turkey per person.
  • Buy your turkey only 1 to 2 days before you plan to cook it.
  • Keep it stored in the refrigerator until you're ready to cook it. Place it on a tray or in a pan to catch any juices that may leak.
  • Do not buy fresh pre-stuffed turkeys. If not handled properly, any harmful bacteria that may be in the stuffing can multiply very quickly.

Frozen Turkeys
  • Allow 1 pound of turkey per person.
  • Keep frozen until you're ready to thaw it.
  • Turkeys can be kept frozen in the freezer indefinitely; however, cook within 1 year for best quality.
  • See "Thawing Your Turkey" for thawing instructions.

Frozen Pre-Stuffed Turkeys

USDA recommends only buying frozen pre-stuffed turkeys that display the USDA or State mark of inspection on the packaging. These turkeys are safe because they have been processed under controlled conditions.

Image of seal of inspection for poultry DO NOT THAW before cooking. Cook from the frozen state. Follow package directions for proper handling and cooking.

Allow 1¼ pounds of turkey per person.
Thawing Your Turkey

There are three ways to thaw your turkey safely — in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave oven.

In the Refrigerator (40 °F or below)
Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds
4 to 12 pounds 1 to 3 days
12 to 16 pounds 3 to 4 days
16 to 20 pounds 4 to 5 days
20 to 24 pounds 5 to 6 days

Keep the turkey in its original wrapper. Place it on a tray or in a pan to catch any juices that may leak. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. If necessary, a turkey that has been properly thawed in the refrigerator may be refrozen.

In Cold Water
Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound
4 to 12 pounds 2 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds 6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 pounds 8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pounds 10 to 12 hours

Wrap your turkey securely, making sure the water is not able to leak through the wrapping. Submerge your wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed. Do not refreeze.

In the Microwave Oven
  • Check your owner's manual for the size turkey that will fit in your microwave oven, the minutes per pound, and power level to use for thawing.
  • Remove all outside wrapping.
  • Place on a microwave-safe dish to catch any juices that may leak.
  • Cook your turkey immediately. Do not refreeze or refrigerate your turkey after thawing in the microwave oven.

REMINDER: Remove the giblets from the turkey cavities after thawing. Cook separately.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Give Back to the Community


If you are looking for something to do, and you don't want to spend a ton of cash, don't over look the events in your community. My wife is a high school science teacher, and we enjoy going to the plays, and football games at her high school. Last night we went to see her students perform Shakespeare in Hollywood. They put a lot of time an effort in to the production and the play was a hit. The local colleges in the area also seem to have concerts and other performing arts on a regular basis. By attending these shindigs, not only are you saving money, but you are giving back to your community as well. That's a win-win situation for everyone, and most people never even think to give these events a chance. So next time you are bored, check the websites for schools in your area, you never know what you may find.

Friday, November 21, 2008

His and Her Money $$$




The main reason most couples fight is over money problems. If you are open with each other and encourage financial communication, the money problems will go away, making life a lot easier. My wife and I can be classified as D.i.n.k's (double-income-no-kids). We both make about the same amount of money, and contribute equally to the bills. I am not saying our method is right or wrong, but I do know it works well for us.


Separate but Equal
Since my wife and I have our own separate incomes, we also have our own separate bank accounts. After openly communicating about our finances, we determined our monthly cost of living by adding up all of our monthly bills: Mortgage, car payment, utilities, cell phone, gym membership,...etc. and established a total dollar amount. For security, we also decided to add an additional $200 hundred dollar buffer each month, to come to our total monthly cost of living. We each contribute half of the total monthly cost of living into a joint checking account. All of our bills are automatically deducted from our joint checking account as described in Never Pay Bills Again.


What's Mine is Mine
The left over money in each of our bank accounts is ours to save or spend as we see fit. If my wife wants to buy 10 pairs of shoes she can; and if I want to buy new power tools, I can. We take turns buying groceries and picking up the bill when we go out to dinner.


Less Stress Brings Us Closer
Before you start to say my marriage sounds like a business agreement, understand that without the stress of money looming over our heads, we are happy to spend money on each other, and do so frequently. I like taking her out for nice dinners, and she will surprise me with new clothes. Having a financial game plan may not sound like the most romantic thing, but it actually allows you to start being romantic. Not having a game plan will only lead to arguing.


Feeling Independent
It's nice to have control over your own money. I take pride in knowing that my extra hours of work, won't be consumed by my wife’s shopping, and vice-versus. We can also show our generosity and love for each other without jeopardizing each others bank account.


Manly Man
There is a strong male instinct to want to be the provider, and pay for everything. If you can do this on your own, great; but in today’s society it is tough. By having separate accounts, I can volunteer additionally to pay for things according to what I can afford, and still feel like the support stone of the family.


Again this is only what works for us, you may have your own methods. Tell me what works for you, or what ideas you like.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Glass is Always Half Full




There are two types of people in the world: Those who see the glass half full, and those that see it half empty.

By acknowledging the glass as half full, life becomes meaningful. Happiness, prosperity, and all the benefits that life has to offer will appear before you. Doors that you thought were tightly sealed shut, will magically and effortlessly open for you.





How Do I See the Glass as Half full
Seeing the glass as half full is as simple as understanding that there are others in the world who would give anything to be in your current situation, which you deem as unfortunate. You hate your job, and are forced to work long hours, for little pay. It can't get any worst right? Wrong! The man you pass on the way to work, who is huddled under the dirty blanket, laying on the sidewalk, begging for change would give anything to have your life. He doesn't get time off, has no job, and scrounges to eat. Can't get any worst right? Wrong! In third world countries some people are plague with disease, forced watch their friends/family starve to death, hiding from rival warlords wielding machetes. They would give anything to be homeless in the U.S. It is all relative. I don't tell you this to dampen you spirits, only to show that no matter how bad you think you have it, there is always someone who has it worse. By understanding that, you will realize how good you have it and the glass will become half full.


Everyone Else Says It's Half Empty
There will always be people trying to tell you the glass is half empty. Never listen to them; you are in control of your own life. If they want to live there life in despair, let them. Just don't get sucked into how they think. As corny as it sounds, you can do anything in life, as mentioned in Start Living Life Again. By listening to others you will only become stagnant.


Who Cares About the Glass
It is important to try to see the positive side of life. It is true that there will be good times, and bad times, but your attitude will determine the overall theme. If you constantly focus on the negatives, than that is all you will see. If you focus on the positives than you will notice all the good things that happen and you will shrug off the bad. By living a positive life you will be happier, healthier, and good things will happen. From this point forward, try to always see the positive and see what happens.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Have a Top Secret Ninja Backup Plan

As we all know, things don't always go as planned. Suppose your favorite band is in town. You and your friends decide last minute to drive 45 minutes across town to try to buy tickets at the door. Knowing that it could be sold out, you might want to have a backup destination planned, instead of standing in front of the closed venue asking "what now?"

Anytime there could be resistance in performing an action, ask yourself what if? Your car is in the shop, and the repair should be done in time to catch your flight on Saturday. Even though you are expecting to have the car back, what are you going to do if its not ready? If the part doesn't arrive in time, how are you going to get to the Airport? You might want to consider asking a friend to be on standby, or look into possible bus routes.

Simple steps like putting extra cash in you wallet for "cash only transactions," or keeping a spare key outside your house are great backup up plans. Always have a backup plan, you never know when you'll need it.

  • Even if the odds are unlikely, ask yourself what if?
  • It is better to have a plan, and not use it; than to not have a plan, and need it.
  • Nobody has to know that you have a backup plan, but they will sure appreciate it when you do.
  • Murphy's Law: If it can go wrong, it will.
  • Having a backup plan allows you to reach your goals, despite small obstacles.

A backup plan can be as small as hearing your boss asking people to come in on Saturday, and thinking up an excuse, in case he asks you. It can also be as elaborate as secretly applying for another job with the competitor, when there is talk of layoffs. Either way, having a plan is always better, then not having a plan.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Always, Always, Always Review Your Work


I can't stress how important it is to review, and re-review your work. I am the first to admit, this has always been a big problem for me. The satisfaction of completing a task detours me from taking the extra time to really review my work. Unfortunately the little things are what stand out. No matter how brilliant your dissertation, the findings will be ridiculed with a typo in the title. Make a conscious decision to review your work more, from now on.





  • Walk away and come back - After repetitively looking at something, it may look correct, but if you leave and come back later, you may see things differently.

  • Second pair of eyes - Aquire help from someone else. A fresh pair of eyes will instantly lock-on to mistakes.

  • Check Functionality - Whenever possible, run tests before the submitting the final. Click the attachment on an email before you send it. Is the right file attached?

  • Cut n' Paste for spell/grammar check - When working in a programs that can't spell check, take the extra step to cut and paste text into Word. You may think you can spell, but more than likely you can't.
  • Check the Math - If you submit numerical data, make sure it is a true statement 1+1 =2
In today’s busy times, people always want things yesterday, and by triple checking your work, you can avoid many heart aches later. I am doing my best to proof read this article, but I am sure people will point out the things I missed. At least I’m trying.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Generous Holiday Gifts without Breaking the Bank





With the economy down, everyone is looking for a way to save a buck this holiday season. There is a big difference between being generous, and spending money. Buy nice things for loved ones as long as you can afford it. Anyone that you care enough to buy presents for, should hopefully care enough back to not want you to commit financial suicide via credit card to show your appreciation. Here are a few ways to be overly generous this season with out breaking the bank:






  • Crafts - Many crafts can be made for cheap, and can be something original that people will appreciate. Try making your grandpa a wooden bird house, or your mom a scrap book of family photos. Make your brother or sister a Compilation CD of featuring their favorite music. Small Crafts can be a great stocking stuffer, that can be mass produced in an afternoon. They can be sent in addition to gifts to all your friends and family.


  • Sentimental Items - You can symbolically give something that is meaningful in your life to a loved one. If you have your first boyscout knife, or an antique compass, or a family heirloom that someone else can appreciate, that can be the most memorable gift of all.


  • Coupons - Take an afternoon to make some coupons that really show you care. If you have friends with young kids make a coupon for a night of babysitting. Make one to wash a friend's car, or my favorite a volunteer sober driver ticket. This is a great opportunity to get creative. Volunteer your time to do an oil change, paint someone's house, or host a fancy dinner party for some friends at your house and set a date in the card.


  • Baked Goods - Like crafts these can be made fairly cheap, and can be divided among many people. Nothing says Happy Holidays like bringing in a plate of home-made cookies to the office.


  • A Treasure Map - If the kids are old enough to roam the neighborhood, it can be fun to make a treasure map with clues and let them discover little gifts leading to a buried treasure. In order for this to work, find a park or some secret location to bury whatever treasure. Work backwards, leave a clue with a small trinket in another location, maybe duct taped under a bench describing where to find the treasure. Then at another new location, like under a flower pot, leave another clue with a small trinket describing where to find the last clue. Make a handful of consecutive clues. After all the clues are in place leading to the treasure. Draw a treasure map to the first clue, and some dotted line trails. Do not put any additional clues on the map except the first one. Make each clue necessary to find the treasure. This will keep them occupied for a while and they'll never forget it.

Without sounding like a total cheapskate, these are just some ideas to help save money when applicable. I also plan on buying gifts for my friends, and family. You can only give out so many cookies (just kidding). Happy Holidays.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Go Verticle with Storage

Keeping your home organized and clean, will eliminated a form of subconscious stress. It is important to think outside the box to maximize spacial organization. I built a loft to take advantage of the vertical space in our garage. All of the old boxes of junk sitting on the floor can now be stored up there, and for the first time we can actually park our car in the garage. My wife also complained about all my tools laying out everywhere, so I ran peg board to the ceiling and constructed a rolling library ladder to get the hard to reach tools. Now I just have to put all my tools on the pegboard.

The Loft
The loft was a lot like framing out a sub floor. 2 x 8s were fastened to the wall studs with large hex lag bolts around the perimeter of the space. 2 more 2 x 8s where feathered to span the garage and bolted together to act as one large header. Using joist hangers, 2 x 4s where attached for support every 16 inches on center. Additional center support was created by fastening a 2 x 4 to the ceiling, and running 2 x 4's down to tie in to the header. Finally plywood was cut to fit and screwed to the frame. The whole thing cost about $150.00 to make.

The Library ladder
The library ladder slide was made from fastening three 3/4 inch pipes perpendicularly to the wall studs with face plates. Next holes were drilled in an oversize metal chain link fence post to match up with the three 3/4 inch pipes. I hammered a 2 x 2 inside the fence post, so it was no longer hollow. The wood was drilled out through the holes in the fence post, and mounted to the three 3/4 inch pipes with screws. The ladder it self was constructed out of 2 12ft 2 x 4s with steps channeled out. The steps were made out of slightly beveled 2 x 6's. every thing was screwed and glue together. A base plate was attached and industrial non-turning casters were bolted on. Cost about $55.00.

The Peg board
Peg board comes in 4 x 8 sheets, and easily fastens to the wall with a 2 x 4 spacers bolted to the wall studs just like the loft construction. Next I put some decorative trim around the peg board to clean up the edges. Total cost about $75.00.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Make a To Do List

There is nothing worse than working all week, and having the weekend fly-by, without accomplishing anything. On Fridays, I like to write a to do list for the upcoming weekend. I like write my to do list in my best handwriting, tricking myself into believing it's more official. I try to write down as many things as possible, including the easily crossed off items. I number each item, and then furiously try to cross them off throughout the weekend. If they don’t get done, they carry over to the next weekend. I carry my to do list in my back pocket, opposite my wallet, so it is with me at all times. It is rejuvenating to look back at all the things I accomplished, and the more I get done, the better I feel. This is also a great way to be productive, and to get the most out of your weekend.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Find Long Lost Friends


A few weeks back the sim card to my cell phone died. I've been with AT&T (was Cingular, and Pac Bell) for the last 10 years, and lost over 250 accumulated phone numbers. For many people it was my only form of contact, including my own parents. Fortunately I was able to track down many of the important numbers through Zabasearch.com

Zabasearch.com is a great search engine for finding long lost friends. It is surprisingly simple to use, and amazingly accurate. Another search engine I use is Whitepages. If you have lost contact with someone over the years, try using it. If you only keep your friends contact info in your cell phone, learn from my mistake and backup their numbers. Friends are an important part of life, and sometimes reaching out to a long lost friend can really brighten someones day. If you lose that number, you lose that opportunity.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Credit Cards are Useless

The Difference Between Credit Cards and Savings
Most people don’t understand the importance of having a savings account, instead of using a credit card. Credit cards are usually the root of financial hardships, and having a savings plan is the key to success. A common excuse why people don't save is because of the false sense of security provided by credit card safety nets. If an emergency were to arise, credit cards are commonly used instead of emergency funds, because they are easy to acquire, and can provide large spending limits if needed. Unfortunately a credit card is not really a form of payment; it is only used to prolong the due date, for an aditional nominal fee. Using your credit card regularly is like pouring gasoline on a financial fire, and does more harm than good.
Rewards Cards
It can be argued that using a credit card with rewards like frequent flyer miles and cash back bonuses are beneficial. In reality, most rewards only pay 1% for every dollar spent, and only the 40% [bankrate.com] of people that pay off their credit card every month will benefit. If there was a slot Machine in Vegas that only accepted hundred dollar bills, and 60% of the people lost, and the other 40% won $1.00, most people wouldn’t play.

Building Credit
Another argument is that credit cards are necessary to establish credit when buying a car or house. If you are unable to manage your credit cards, you shouldn’t be buying a car or house anyway.

I can't afford to save
People always say that they have too many bills to save any money. By establishing an emergency fund, you are actually able to pay for the problems when they occur, instead of just putting them off and hoping to have more money later. If you are not able to set aside some money each month, than you are living outside of your means, and more prone to problems anyway. By not saving you are just continuing to dig yourself a deeper grave.

Just Say No
Basically the only way to get a handle on your finances is to save, and the only thing credit cards are good for is scraping frost off of windshields. Stop Using Your credit Card Now!!!!