Saturday, February 28, 2009

Used Coupon Codes Whenever Buying Online

With powerful search engines like Google, it's easier than ever to find promo/discount codes to use during checkout. Taking the extra 3 minutes to Google "name of store + coupon code" is definitely worth the time. Just the other day I bought some furniture from JC Penny's online. With tax an shipping they wanted $345 for a small cabinet. I saved on shipping by sending it to my local store for pickup, and after using the coupon code I found online, it only cost me only $216. There are tons of coupons codes and discount codes for almost every store out there. Remember to use the same terminology as the website. If Amazon says "Coupon code", and Bestbuy says "Discount code," use those when searching. There also some sites like CouponCabin, and Currentcodes that can help with your search. You don't need to pay retail prices any more.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Buying an Engagement Ring in a Tough Economy

With the Economy down, making a big purchase is probably the last thing on anyone's mind. As mentioned in Go Shopping Now, If You Can, it is a great time to buy a car, home, or even a wedding ring. Retail is desperately slashing prices, to keep stores in business. You can probably haggle for the deal of the decade. So, if you believe that love can conquer the worst of times, then as a happily married man, I have some advice for you:

  • Get familiar with the 4 C's: Cut, Clarity, Color, Carat

  • Try to get hints from that special someone what cut or shape diamond they like.

  • The clarity is a big price factor, but not a noticeable characteristic. Consider, less then flawless.

  • Color is a slightly noticeable difference, that is again associated with price.

  • Carat is the most noticeable difference.

  • Buy certified diamonds, and/or get it appraised

  • Buy a loose diamond and mount it on a temporary band, allowing her to pick out exactly what she wants.

  • Buy only what you can afford, financial troubles early in a marriage will out way the nice ring.

  • Haggle, Haggle, Haggle!!

  • Keep it somewhere safe until it's time (spare tire well of your car, fishing tackle box, or tool chest)

  • Don't tell anyone, word of engagement travels at fighter jet speeds.

  • Have a shopping alibi, (lunch break, poker night, or late from work)

  • Try to get a ring from a place with free cleanings, and a warranty (Shane Co. is a good)

Good luck!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Top 5 Things to do in Vegas

I spent the last few days in Las Vegas, here are my top 5 recommendations if you are ever in the area:

1. Go see the free water works show at the Bellagio. During the day the show begins every half an hour, on the hour. At night it is every fifteen minutes until midnight.

2. Attend a Cirque du Soleil show. These dedicated acrobats risk their lives nightly for your entertainment. There are many shows, with all types of themes. Find one that suits you.

3. Order a cocktail at Harrah's Carnival Court. At night, this covered outdoor bar has some of the worlds best flair bartenders. They put on an amazing show juggling and flipping bottles as they mix your drink.

4. The Treasure Island Sirens Pirate show is another great free sight to see, but get there early because the sidewalk fills up fast.

5. With a your favorite drink in hand, Walk a ways down the Las Vegas Blvd. It's legal.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Recreational Sports Team

Last night I was talked into going to "Open Gym" to play basketball at the local high school, where my wife teaches. I met up with some other teachers and coaches, to play a few games of basketball. Although I haven't played in almost fifteen years, I had a great time and definitely got a cardio workout. There was talk of trying to have regular games, which I think is a great idea.

Regularly participating in recreational sports, is not only a great way to stay in shape, but it also is a way to meet new people. I think that people should kill their TV, and start looking towards these alternate ways of dealing with stress and being healthy.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Don't use Norton or Mcafee Anti-Virus

A major concern of home computer users is Internet security. Nobody wants a virus to slow down or crash their new laptop or PC. Exceptional marketing strategy has scared the general public into thinking that Norton and Mcafee are the only anti virus software options. In reality most computer experts don't use these programs. Norton and Mcafee are incredibly large programs that use a lot of computer resources. They slow down you computer and are very expensive to maintain.

I use a program called AVG. AVG is a free light weight program with all the necessary functions of a great anti virus software. It is highly recommended by the Editors CNET and automatically searches for new virus definitions once a day. Virus scans can be schedule at anytime, like when you are at work or while you are sleeping.

There are many complex ways to ensure Internet security, and a computer is never completely secure. For the average user the free edition of AVG is a good start, and a step in the right direction. Also using Fire Fox instead of Internet Explorer as your browser can add an additional level of security. I also recommend Spy Bot (Search and Destroy) . All of these programs are free and will give the average computer user a great foundation for Internet security.

Despite all of these wonderful programs, people get viruses by clicking to quickly on links without thinking. Many links are made to resemble the color schemes and fonts of the site you are visiting, but are in no way affiliated. So be careful, and don't worry, the ads on my site are Virus free, so feel free to click on them.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Go Shopping Now, If You Can

I am too much of a cheapskate to buy myself new clothes regularly. Usually I wear my clothes until they resemble see through shear curtains, or until they cut off the circulation of my arms because my shirts is too small. About every 3-5 years I get tired wearing Steve Urkel high water pants and splurge on some new outfits. Well now is that time, if you can afford too.

With the economy the way it is, people are not spending money. This is causing department stores to take drastic measures and forcing them to have enormous sales on everything. Yesterday, I went clothes shopping and the majority of store were having 60%-80% discounts. I am aware that it was presidents weekend, but I have notice these sale prices for the last few months. Many of these stores are going under because the just can't make a profit.

I encourage you to take advantage of the bad economy and outfit yourself with a new wardrobe, but only if you are financially secure enough to do so. Don't use your credit card, or blow your rent money to get these deals. Also be careful, many of the stores are jacking up the prices and then discounting them, so it only appears like a good deal.
Make sure you are really getting a good price, and good luck Shopping.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentines Day

Valentines day is not about giving or receiving presents, and its not about going out to dinning because you feel obligated. It's about spending time with the ones you love, and remembering why you love them in the first place. Make an effort today to really reconnect with your significant other, because everyday life seldom has room for romance.

For those of you who are alone this Valentines day, there is an upside. Remember the glass is always half full, and today is a great day to meet someone. All the other single men and women will be out and about tonight. So grab your single friends and go out on the town. Don't sit at home on this magical day, the odds of finding Mr. or Mrs. Right are now in your favor. For the duration of this one night all of the social hot spots will be riddled with other singles looking for love.

No matter who you are , or your relationship status, Valentines Day is a day to celebrate. If you decide to take a humbug mentality, you are only hurting yourself.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Always Keep a Bag of Newspaper

Whether you're cheapskate, an artist, or want to save the planet, it's always good to have a bag of newspaper in the garage. After it serves its primary function, Newspaper has many other uses. When boxing up delicate or fragile commodities, it can serve as a layer of protection. It is essential when starting a fire in the fire place. It can be used to make Papier-mâché masks for your kid's art project. You could also make a paper pirate hat or a kite. Newspaper can be used like paper towels to soak up spills, and is actually better for cleaning your windows. A rolled up newspaper can be used to swat at flies, and can be used to bring a Halloween Frankenstein to life. Some people collect old newspapers from memorable days in time. I read that you can stuff newspaper in wet shoes to help them dry and maintain shape. I use newspaper for a drop cloth any time I am working with spray paint, but it can also be used to help ripen green tomatoes. It can be rolled up and made into a megaphone. Even my cat can appreciate a small crumpled ball of newspaper. She will bat the newspaper ball around the living room like a live mouse. Newspaper at the most should be recycled, but it you can get another use out of it first, than you are truly efficient. Try keeping a bag of old newspaper, you will be glad you did, and will be helping the environment.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How to Quote a Side Gig

In life, opportunities will arise to make a few bucks outside of your regular job. Knowing when to jump on these opportunities, and when to pass them up, is an acquired skill like playing cards. Even when you think you have the best hand, you can still lose your shirt if the numbers don't jive.

If you decide to jump on an opportunity, it is essential to at least cover the risk. There is nothing worse than putting in time and effort on a project, and coming out worse than you started. If you need to make a quote on the fly, sometimes I will estimate a price to do a job and then double it. This has worked for me a few time on various jobs, but can also come back to bite you. If you have more time, the following formula is a simple way to provide a quote for a side gig:

|Cost| + Profit = Quote

Anytime you draw up numbers for a potential deal, the very first thing is to estimate how much it is going to cost you. Cost is much more inclusive than most people realize. It is not only the materials like price of paint, brushes and masking tape, when painting a house. It is the gas to get to the job, the opportunity cost of giving up a day at work/weekend, the potential hazard of falling off a ladder, the chance of ruining your clothes, the unforeseen costly problems, and the risk that the person will actually pay you at the end of the job. When I estimate cost I usually add an extra 50% buffer to cover these things. If I think a job will cost $100, I will probably add another $50 just to be safe. (Cost= Materials + Opportunity Cost + Risk + Buffer)

Profit is a term that many people take lightly. They think just by making a large profit margin, it will absorb any over budget expenses. This type of thinking is subliminally ripping yourself off. If the job is more expensive than originally assumed, it should come out of the extra buffer money you set aside in the previous paragraph. The amount of profit should be a static number and should not diminish as the job gets more difficult, that is ridiculous. Deciding on a profit margin is as simple: If you are picking someone up at the airport then the hourly wage is low. If you are Lifting giant stones to construct a large perimeter rock wall, the wage should be high. Leverage is another factor that most people don't take into consideration. If someone is desperately trying to catch a flight and nobody else is around you can charge what ever you like. If you know that people are willing to pay more, you can charge more. Be careful though, If you charge to much, people will take their business elsewhere. In some situations you are helping out friends or doing someone a favor, in which case you may want to discount your price, or not charge them at all. (Profit = Hourly Wage + Leverage - discount)

After you figure out how much to quote for a job, ask your self is this reasonable price? Will the person be offended? What is the lowest I would go in negotiation? Is it even worth my time? If you believe that the price is good, and a deal can be made then present it.

Don't be afraid to negotiate, there is nothing wrong with making money, but there is something wrong with shorting yourself.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Counting Groceries

My wife and I have been trying a new trick at the supermarket I call counting groceries. It is actually a lot easier than it sounds and has been working quite well for us. Before, we would show up at the check stand with an overflowing cart, crossing our fingers and hoping for the best. Now we simply count/add up the items as we go, and can tell the checker the total before they ring us up. I know it sounds difficult but if you can count to 100 than you'll be able to do this. The trick it to round to the nearest dollar or keep an even fifty cents.

Start with an empty cart, you add your first item a gallon of milk for $2.49. I say out loud to my wife $2.50. Next we get 3 tomatoes for $1.00 each. I say out loud $5.50. Next we get ketchup for $2.79. I say $8.50 because it is just easier to round $2.79 to $3.00. next we pick up three bananas for $0.45 each. I round each banana to $0.50, and say $10.00. Next we get a bottle of Ketchup for $2.19 round it down to $2.00 and say $12.00, Next we pick up a whole chicken for $2.77, I say $15.00......Ect. We continue on like this throughout our shopping, keeping track of the last number, before each new item. If you shop like us you will get to the check stand with a number like $92.00. simply ball park the tax and wait to see how accurate you are. Our tax rate here is around 9%, so I would estimate the total bill including tax to be around $100.00. The cashiers will look at you in astonishment, if you can regularly tell them the total before they even ring it up.

The benefit of this method is that there are no surprises during checkout, and you will actually start evaluating each item before putting it in the cart. Is this $4.00 bag of Cheetos really worth raising your total from $56.00 to $60.00? Try out this method once to see if you can do it. It makes shopping more enjoyable trying see how accurate you can be. If you don't want people in the store to look at you funny, you can also keep the totals to yourself, instead of saying them out loud. For me it just helps me remember the last number.

Let me know if it works as good for you as it does for us.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Dress in Layers

I just got back from Wintergeddon, which is an Extreme Survival Cold Weather Camping Trip. A group of us spent 3 days camping in temperatures that dipped below 26 degrees Fahrenheit (thermometer is frosted over). The land was heavily wooded private property scheduled for clearing. This allowed us to cut down trees, for fire wood, and building shelters, without harming the environment. I slept in my Tarp tent, which actually kept me very warm. My body heat stayed in the tent because it does not ventilate like standard mesh tents.

It was a perfect opportunity to demonstrate how important it is to dress in layers. You can't tell from the picture above, but I am wearing a vest under my coat, a sweat shirt under the vest, a long sleeve sweater under the sweatshirt, and a t-shirt under the long sleeve. I am not wearing gloves, because we were taking pictures.

While working, I was able to subtract layers as needed. This enabled me to cut down trees without overheating. Sweating can be detrimental in this type of environment. If your clothing is drenched in sweat, it increases the cold exponentially when you stop working.

Dressing in layers is not just for this type of environment, it can be very comforting in milder temperatures as well. Next time you go out for a night on the town, you might consider dressing in layers instead of just bringing a jacket.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Excercise Rewards and Happiness

Nobody likes exercising, but it plays a vital role in our happiness. People who work out regularly are generally happier. According to fitness author Debbie Mandel, "Two primary chemicals involved in making exercise feel good are cortisol and endorphins. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the body under stress, such as anger, anxiety or fear, and it ultimately inflames and damages our organs. Exercise burns cortisol, and thereby makes us healthier and happier."

The major problem with exercise is motivation. I always make excuses to avoid exercising. As a result I can't do many of the things I used to. A simple way to overcome this hurdle, is by rewarding yourself for exercising:

Last night the weather was so nice, my wife and I went on a hike. The hike seemed more like a test of endurance, since the trail was steeply inclined up the side of a mountain for what seemed like eternity. My wife, who has been exercising regularly, was not phased by the journey. I on the other hand considered lying down next to a tree to die. Eventually we made it to the top, and having been a track star in my younger years, I was embarrassed of my exhaustion, and lack of physical conditioning. I made a decision to motivate myself into exercising more. When we got back to the house, we had margaritas to reward our accomplishment.

Exercising does not always have to be a life a death situation, it can be as simple as taking the stairs up to you office, or going for a brisk walk around the block after dinner. Consider investing in a pedometer, and creating rewards for every so many cumulative miles. Maybe after 5 miles you can zero out the pedometer for a candy bar, or after 15 miles you could treat yourself to dinner out. Make higher goal oriented rewards, like after 50 miles get a massage. Each time you cash in your miles you must start from zero again. Making fun games like this will improve your longevity and quality of life. It only requires a little creativity, and the motivation to take the first step.

What are some of your exercise rewards?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Installing Privacy Film

At home we have a nice big window in our master bathroom. Unfortunately, the blinds were always closed for privacy. We decided to install a privacy film to let in the light, and still obscure the view of onlookers. The privacy film can be picked up at any Home depot, or Lowe's for pretty cheap. It was surprisingly easy install, and here is how:

1. The window was cleaned with some Windex, to provide a good surface for the film to stick.

2. The film was cut to size, a inch larger than the actual glass pane on all sides.

3. The window was sprayed with a mixture of water and a few drops of dishwasher soap.

4. The paper backing was removed from the film.

5. The film was carefully applied to the glass starting at the top and working downward.

6. Once the film was in place, The air bubbles where squeegeed out starting from the center of the film and working toward the edges.

7. With all of the air bubbles gone, a razor blade was used a long the edge of the glass to make a perfect fit.

The privacy film, has definitely brightened up our bathroom, and can be easily removed if we ever decide to sell the house. If you have a similar problem, I recommend this simple solution.

Dumpster Diving for Moving Boxes

I helped a friend move the other day. Nobody likes moving, but it's just a part of life. People especially dislike moving because cardboard boxes are quite expensive to buy. To solve this problem I drive around the back of smaller sized stores, and collect the cardboard boxes out of dumpsters. Most places separate out their cardboard for recycling purposes. The boxes are usually broken down to fit in a dumpster, but are perfectly good once taped back together. Avoid Larger stores that might have trash compactors and use compressed card board bails. It might also be a good idea to avoid restaurants, or produce markets, unless you want your stuff smelling like food. I don't know the legal ramifications, but figure it is helping the world recycle, so it can be all bad.

Monday, February 2, 2009

DIY: Emergency Tarp Tent

I am getting ready for an Extreme Cold Weather Survival Camping trip called Wintergeddon. A group of us are going camping in the cold Washington winter conditions. I plan to survive using methods similar to the stuff you see on Man Vs. Wild. In preparation, I am learning how to construct a temporary shelter out of a 8' X 11' tarp. Here is what I have come up with so far:

A standard sheet of paper was used to brainstorm ideas. The key objectives was simplicity, and space maximization. After folding the paper in many different ways. The following design seemed the most practical.

In this design, the tent floor consists of two flaps that can be lifted up to expose the ground beneath. This allows fire heated rocks to be easily buried in the ground under the tent to ensure additional warmth when sleeping.

A 8-1/2 X 11-1/2 tarp will be use during this trip. To stake down the tent I am using 8" long over sized nail spikes. The spikes will be driven into the ground using the backside of my hatchet. The ceiling of the tent can be supported by a single tree branch, stick or painters pole, as seen it the picture above. The support can also be generated by tying the apex of the tent to a nearby tree, or overhead branch.

Hopefully this will suffice as home for a few days during my upcoming trip. Wish me luck!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

DIY Super Bowl Pool (Download)

It's Superbowl Sunday, and people everywhere are trying to predict the outcome of today's game. Although I am not the biggest sports fan, but I do enjoy watching the Super Bowl.... Especially if there is something at stake. My old roommate Pearse makes the best Football Pool Templates around. The nice thing about his templates is that you don't need to know anything about football to participate. Feel free to download this Super Bowl Pool Template, and I will explain how it works.

  1. The people at the party can put their initials randomly in a square at the cost of $1.00, per square. Every initial in a square is a chance to win.
  2. After all the squares are filled with peoples initials, the numbers 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,0 are randomly fill in on the dashes above and to the left of the grid. These number represent the last digit in the score at the end of each quarter.
  3. The total money received from the initials can be divided into a individual prize amounts for each quarter. Since there are a hundred squares you should have $100 dollars. The $100 could be distributed as follows: $15 for Quarters 1-3, and $55 for the final Score.
  4. Now begin watching the game. If at the end of the first quarter the score is 7 - 7, then the person with 7,7 square wins $15.00. If at the end of the 2nd quarter the score is 14-10, then the person with the 4,0 square wins $15.00. You get the idea!

If you are at a small party, and don't want to bet a lot of money, try making the squares only worth $0.25 a piece. Have fun and go Cardinals!