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.

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 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% [] 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!!!!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Free Desk Supplies

Besides office supplies, there are many free items that you can stock at your desk that will make life easier. On the rare occasion when I eat fast food, I like to grab extra napkins, salt/pepper packets, and plastic forks to keep in my desk. I frugally bring my lunch every day, and it's nice to have these things on hand for spills, or when I forget silverware from home. Sometimes I grab a roll of toilet paper from the restroom to keep at my desk, to act as my box of Kleenex for a runny noise. If I go to my dentist on my lunch hour, I'll keep the free tooth brush, and some tooth paste in my desk for those days when I have extra garlic pizza, and an afternoon meeting. When going out to dinner, I grab a hand full of toothpicks to keep at my desk as well. I even keep a small loose change jar at my desk, and for the vending machine, so I don't break a dollar.

Take the Right Amount of Pride in Your Work

It is important to take pride in all aspects of daily life. We must take pride in the way we look, the way we act, and anything we do to maintain a positive self image. Dressing up for work will not only increases your chances of excelling in the workplace, but gives you a personal feeling of higher self worth. Take pride in who you are, maintain good posture, speak with confidence, and be assertive. Correct a crooked parking job, even if it takes a couple tries. When writing an email, take the time to address the person by name, write in complete sentences, and proofread. The small amount of time it takes to do quality work, will help to avoid miscommunication, and problems later on.

We must also be careful to monitor the time and effort spent towards each task. There is a big difference between politely taking 2-3 minutes proof reading an email, and foolishly spending only 2-3 minutes proof reading a resume. Don't over exert energy into insignificant tasks, and take the time for those tasks that deserve quality. Also, taking extra time to look your best at work can be counterproductive, if it causes you to be late. Managing quality and efficeny are essential skills to maximize your qualtiy of life.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Simple Rewards

There is nothing wrong with celebrating small victories with simple rewards. It is good to try to achieve in life, but if you try to hard you will get burned out quickly. If you met your deadline at work, celebrate by having a candy bar from the vending machine. If you wake up early during the week, take time to sleep in on the weekends. If you have been saving money feverishly, feel free to go out to a nice dinner. I am a strong believer in the 80/20 rule, if you are excelling 80% of the time, you can slack off 20% of the time. Anytime you accomplish a goal take time to enjoy it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Just Say Hello

Take the time to say to hello to all the acquaintances you see on a regular basis. Whether it is the mailman, the familiar checker at the grocery store, or the person down the hall at work that you never met. By acknowledging their presence, you are showing a form of undelying respect. This may seem insignificant in the scope of life, but you would be surprised how often it will come back to help you. The mailman might unknowingly take better care handling the fragile antique clock your grandmother sent you. The grocery checker may be more likely to run after you, when you forget a bag of groceries at the check stand. The person down the hall at work could be on the review panel deciding the fate of your promotion. All of these things help to ensure your days are pleasant. If random acts of kindness like saying hi can make just one day better, isn't it worth it?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Start Living Life Again

Life begins with the start of each new day. We can shape each day into anything that our hearts desire. Take a moment to really understand this concept. At this very moment, I could quit my job, sell everything I own, move to Tibet to become a monk. I could: learn to play the guitar, buy a motorcycle, start a book club, volunteer to help others, take karate classes, organize the garage, become a crab fisherman, start a blog, open a restaurant, or back pack across the country. I can literally do anything that makes me happy, and so can you. We unconsciously tell ourselves that we’re trapped in life, because of our own self implemented limitations. In reality, the only thing stopping us is ourselves.

Leaving your current career path as a doctor, to become a juggling street performer may have some unanticipated hardships, but if that is what you want, go for it. We must live with all the choices we make in life, but that is no excuse to remain stagnant in unhappiness. Take the initiative to make your life better, try learning about things like the stock market. When the economy recovers, it could catapult you into a new tax bracket. How you decide to shape each day, is truly up to you. So go out today, take life by the horns, and start living. If choose you remain stagnant and unhappy in life, quit complaining, because it is your own fault.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Avoid Making Enemies

Whether it's at work, noisy neighbors, sibling rivalry, or complete strangers, don't make enemies unnecessarily over small potatoes. The world is full of people that you won't get along with, so choose your battles wisely. Try to be the bigger person, and let it go. Although, there are also times when you must unleash the wrath of fury to put fear in the eyes of those against you, but that is far and few (I'm a Scorpio). It is usually the small petty stuff that gets people angry.

Tips on keeping your cool to avoiding confrontation:

  • Clarify Communications - Many arguments, are due solely to a miscommunication. Cursing out a co-worker, for your mistake, is never good.

  • Let them be wrong- When someone strongly disagrees with you, there is usually nothing more that can be said to change their mind. So don't waste time arguing. Just understand that they are wrong, and if necessary establish a compromise to move on.

  • Show respect - Even in a heated argument there is no reason to sink to the low level of name calling or yelling. Show some class and be respectful.

  • Don't throw fuel on the fire - If you know something is a sensitive subject don't bring it up.

  • Be inclusive - Don't use terms like your problem, and your mistake. Try being inclusive by saying our problem, and the mistake.

  • Acknowledge the opposing view - Show that you understand their view, but respectfully disagree.

  • Walk away - When an argument becomes to heated, make an effort to politely remove yourself from the confrontation. It can always be discussed at another time.

  • Don't fight other peoples battles - If a confrontation is going on that does not involve you, keep it that way.

  • Don't raise your voice -Maintain an icy calm at all times.

  • Give others their space - Don't encroach on someones space to emphasize your point, they can hear you just fine.

  • Don't talk smack - Don't talk about people behind their back, you never know who is listening.

  • Golden rule - Don't do thing to others, that you wouldn't want them to do to you.

  • Forgive - Do hold grudges against people who seek forgiveness.

Making enemies is no way to go through life. You never know when one will come back to haunt you. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but most of the time it is up to you.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Simplify Your Life with Criagslist

Craigslist, the grandmaster of online classifieds, is a familiar concept in most homes in America. It is a wonderful tool to declutter your life, and to make some extra cash. Finding the motivation to sell stuff can sometimes be the challenge. So take this opportunity right now!! Make a quick list of any possessions that you could live without, and jot-down a price next to each item on the list. Now take an additional 30% percent off each item to adjust for your high perception of what each items is actually worth, and this will establish a more realistic market value. By decluttering your life, you will be much more focused and productive with less stress. Below are also some tricks to help you sell:

  • Pictures are worth a thousand words - Your picture is basically what is going to sell your item, so take your time and get a good picture.

  • Polish up before your photo shoot - Take 2 minutes to dust off your item and make it presentable before you take the picture. A quick wipe with a damp cloth can do wonders on plastics.

  • Include Specs - If you are selling furniture give the dimensions. When you sell electronics give the model number, etc. There is nothing worst than trying to guess how big something is from the picture. The more detail and information you include the better.

  • Descriptions are our friends - Don't describe the item as an old rusted sewing machine, try vintage Model 66 singer sewing machine with light patina. If you don't describe it as desirable, nobody will want it.

  • Put your name and phone number on the post - Nobody wants to email back and fort. If someone is interested in your item, they want it now.

  • Se Habla English y Espanol - If you speak another language, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, Chinese , or whatever list it on the ad in addition to English. Some people are hesitant to call if English isn't their first language.

Consider the money an added bonus, for getting rid of all material things in life weighing you down. You won't believe how liberating it feels to simplify life by getting rid of your junk. Trust me you'll never even miss it and it only takes a moment.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Save 50% on Groceries

Groceries consume a large portion of anyones budget. Luckily for us, there are many ways to curb spending at the store. The following tricks have saved me a ton of money, especially since food is my second highest bill, before rent/Mortgage.

  • Don't shop hungry - If you go to the grocery store on an empty stomach, you will impulse buy anything, and everything that looks good.

  • Use the small carts - Many stores are offering smaller shopping carts now. Shoppers tend to buy just enough to fill their cart, and unless you are shopping for a extremely large family, most of us can get by with the small cart. This forces us to save more, by prioritizing, and buying less.

  • Weekly meal plan - This may be a stretch for some, but my wife and I like to plan out the meals for the week. We use This chart [ Feb 20 2008] to write down our meals, and only buy accordingly at the store. This works better than spending $100.00, eating one good meal, and then trying to piece together the rest of the groceries to make meals for the week.

  • No brand name loyalty - Buy store brand items, or whatever is cheapest you'll never know the difference. Safeway's Ditto is almost half the price of 7up.

  • Shop the outside loop - Supermarkets put all the healthy items and main staples around the outside isles of the store. The center isles are filled with impulse buys like chips, cookies, and candy. Avoid these areas and you will not only eat healthier, but also spend less.

  • Dressings and condiments - There are millions of different kinds of dressings, sauces, marinades, glazes, dips, rubs and other accessories to put on your food. Each one can cost as much as the food your buying. Stick to the basics to create great tasting foods with simple seasonings. Everything doesn't need to be drenched with premade glazes and marinades.
Over the last few years, I have adopted these shopping methods and they have allowed me to cut my monthly grocery bills in half. Happy shopping.

Daylight Savings: Adjust All Your Clocks

Just a quick reminder that today is Daylight Savings. Make sure you adjust all your clocks, especially the alarm clock. Don't start leaving for work at 5:00am, thinking its 6:00am, like I did.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Manage your Money Using Mint

In order to change your spending habits, and get a handle on your finances, you need to know where all your money is going.

If you haven't already heard, Mint is a free online money management software that is easy to use, and can be set up in only 5 minutes. It will chart and graph your spending habits. It will also show the current balances of all your accounts on one screen. It automatically uploads the transactions from all your accounts, so you don't have to do anything.

It is a great tool to get your finances in order, I've been using it for over a year now. Mint does ask for some sensitive financial information during the setup, but is very secure and has received many awards from reputable companies.

It graphs exactly what percentage of your income is going to predefined categories like groceries, rent, utilities, gas, and entertainment. With this information you can see exactly where you need to cut back.

You can also watch your investments, and set up mobile alerts if your account has a low balance.
I highly recommend mint, it is an powerful program, that is amazingly simple.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Network with Friends to Solve Problems

It is important to build a good social network. You never know who's help you may need.

As I mentioned in Odd Jobs Can Pay Big, I install window blinds for the my neighbors to make some extra cash on the weekends. Today, I outfitted my neighbors home with new blinds. I made some extra money, but I also established a working relationship with them.

If I need someone to feed the cat when we are out of town, that person is now an option. If my neighbor needs some help moving heavy furniture, they can now ask for my help aswell.

After finishing the blinds, I cleaned up, and started walking back to my house. I noticed my other neighbor just happened to be on his way to the local dump, perfect timing. I gave him some cash, and he let me throw my oversized blind boxes in his truck. I can't guarantee that things will work out this perfect regularly, but the more people you know, the more opportunities will present themselves.

Basically, go the extra mile to become friends with the people around you. You never know when you might need them. It doesn't take very much effort, and the return can be great. It is nice to be able to call your computer savvy friend, when your internet goes down; or if you're able to consult a contractor friend when starting a home improvement project. It is human nature to seek advice from you peers, and the broader you social network is, the better advice you will receive. Friends can make a world of a difference when solving a problem.