Moving Out For The First Time – The Definite Guide through your Fears, Money, and Life Skills

Moving out for the First Time - A Definitive Guide to moving out of your parents house

I moved out for the first time when I was 16. I was eager to try the adult life and dumb enough to do it without any plan. I simply packed up my things (it was just about a bag worth of stuff) and left to live at my girlfriends’ for a couple of months.

Looking back now, I think I was an idiot.

Sure, I was independent, but as a result, I dropped out of school, and couldn’t get a job, because I didn’t know everything I later learned about getting jobs. To be clear, I still think moving out early is a very positive decision, but it must be done with enough preparation and plan, and definitely not ‘on a whim’ or out of teenage anger. Things don’t turn out as expected, so you better buckle up for a crazy ride.

I’m starting to sound like your parents. Let’s just move on.

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What Every 18 Year Old Should Know

From easiest to hardest.

  1. You’re a legal adult now. Always be respectful and don’t be stupid, but if you get arrested, refuse to talk until your court-appointed lawyer gets there. Cops are usually OK, but sometimes they fuck people. It’s not worth ruining the rest of your life.
  2. Don’t drink and drive. Seriously. Just call a fucking cab. Or call a friend or family. Had a friend derail her life for 5 years for a DWI after she drank at a graduation party and drove home.
  3. Sexuality is a spectrum. Enjoy it. But do so smartly. Always wear a condom. Always be mindful of the other person’s feelings. And if you’re using condoms, remember to only use water-based lube, like KY. Other shit might hurt or deteriorate the integrity of the condom. Oh, and stop getting embarrassed about sex things. No one knows what they’re doing at 18. Explore and make mistakes. Talk about stuff with your partners. As long as you’re respectful, this is what’s important.
  4. Relationships are fucking tough. Be open about everything once you’re with a partner in a serious relationship. Talk about what you don’t like, about what your fears are, about what you need from a relationship. Never be afraid to leave a bad situation, or one that’s not fulfilling. Or if you just want sex, say that. You’re an adult. Talk openly with trusted people.
  5. There is no perfect mate. I’m a married man, been with my lady for a decade. But there are many great women I could have ended up with, and she could’ve ended up with some great men. You need to look for a partner you can respect, one who will help you become a better person (in health, love, life, education, finances, etc.). Red flags are: insecurities that stifle communication; financial problems from drugs, gambling, shopping, etc.; abusive attitude that makes you feel like shit (or where you make them feel like shit); serious cultural differences (we’re talking, s/he wants you to convert but you don’t want to); or serious differences in goals (not/wanting children; not/wanting to stay in the same city; things that seem nonnegotiable). Even if you’re with someone really fantastic, if you think it’s not going to work out for a good reason, don’t be afraid to leave. The world is full of beautiful people. You will find one eventually. But it’s misery to be with the wrong person for you.
  6. When breaking up, don’t shit all over the other person. Keep things amicable. If it’s a serious relationship, chances are that other person had good qualities. You may want their help later. Hell, you may end up with them later.
  7. You need friends. Get to know people better than yourself–morally, financially, professionally, whatever. You hang with deadbeats, you’ll become a deadbeat. You hang with successful people, you’ll pick up their tips, tricks, and mindset.
  8. Read more. Read things that challenge you. But in all things, just get a voracious appetite for learning about what interests you. For most of us, that’s not literature. But it could be history, economics, psychology, DIY projects, programming, or carpentry or whatever else. I have yet to find something that cannot be improved with a bit of reading. And library cards are free! Actually, public libraries are pretty fucking awesome, especially in cities, as they usually organize free events, games, parties, and lectures. Universities do the same. Check that out too.
  9. If possible, start putting back 10% of your income. (A) Save enough to cover 3-6 months of living expenses (for when shit inevitably goes down). (B) Once you’ve saved your emergency fund, start to put your money into stocks or mutual funds. 10% isn’t much in your day-to-day life, but if you can start early, that money will work for you later.
  10. Sustained effort and tenacity are key to success. In anything from sports to business to art, you are going to suck at the beginning and make tons of mistakes. So you just stay humble, keep learning, keep doing the right things (perfect practice makes perfect). Then, when you get better and start to excel relative to your peers, you’re inevitably going to fuck up, get hurt, slip into depression, whatever. Get back out there. Sure, cry if you need to, take stock of your losses. But then dust yourself off and get back up. You are so much more powerful the longer you’ve been doing something, especially when training the right way. Athletically, a person who’s consistently trained for years with good nutrition will be able to go pro or train others well. Intellectually, a person who’s learned lots in a field and written on it becomes an expert. Financially, a person who’s learned a niche or a market soon knows which businesses to pass on and which investments to make. But none of this happens without momentum. None of this happens without lots of mistakes.
  11. Avoid pyramid schemes and multi-level marketing companies. The economy is choppy, and you’ll likely be applying for jobs in a rough spot some day. If the company requires you to pay lots of up-front fees and demands that you recruit others (especially without giving them a quality product), just pass. After I had advanced degrees, I had to wait tables. Sometimes you gotta pay your dues. But it’s so much better than being taken advantage of.
  12. Develop good habits in nutrition and health. This is probably my greatest regret. I was a great high school athlete but let myself go to shit in college. What I needed to realize is that I didn’t need to work out 6 days a week. I just needed to work out 3 days a week, really. What I needed to realize is that every meal didn’t need to be clean. But if I could eat a nutritious breakfast and a light dinner, it didn’t matter what lunch was most times.
  13. Everything comes with a cost. Have one or two things you’re passionate about. But also realize what that does to the rest of your life. Let’s say you’re passionate about video games and you want to go pro. Then fucking breathe that shit. Get better. Join a league. Read constantly. Invest in good gear. Start YouTubing. But also realize that you need to balance essential stuff in your life–long-term savings, friends and loved ones, health, etc. Realize that certain things that were once important to you–partying with friends, joining that soccer league, saving the extra 5% of your money–are going to be harder the more your major passion falls out of alignment with it. This doesn’t mean you should neglect essential stuff from above. It does mean that you should be honest to how a sincere and long-term interest will change the trajectory of your life. That’s okay.
  14. Meaning in life is what you make it. Explore ideas. Attend many different churches; read some good philosophy or great works in literature. If you find something that helps you to keep everything in perspective and that gives you a reply to nagging questions, go with it. But if shit seems absolutely certain, and if someone starts demanding lots of you in a gruff way, leave. You’re probably in a cult, or some dogmatic, shit religion.

You’ll find that life is ambiguous, perplexing, full of struggle, entangled. But you’ll also find things that make you unequivocally and uniquely happy. You’ll find answers to questions that, sure, might not have everything, but they have just enough for you to ask new and better questions. You’ll find goals (family, love, charity, etc.) that will help you make it through the hard times.

Best Free Internet Sites

Knowledge

MOOCs (Massively Online Open Courses)

Music

Languages

Other

E-Books

Audiobooks

Video games

Freeware:

 

Multiplayer games you might’ve never heard of (all 100% free, without microtransactions):

Freeware and F2P games recommended by other users:

Abandonware:

Older games (not in the above sites):

F2P (microtransactions)

  • Steam F2P section – Some of these are completely freeware. Most of them are multiplayer.
  • MMOBomb.com – They also have a list of F2P games.

MOBAs (other than LoL and Dota2):

Other

  • Path of Exile (in my opinion, the best and fairest F2P MMORPG) – Action RPG, similar to Diablo
  • Team Fortress 2 (in my opinion, the fairest F2P MMOFPS, and you can buy the premium account with Steam Trading Cards from 2 games)
  • Quake Live (several people have told me this isn’t free anymore.)
  • Card Hunter (for those who like board games)
  • Pokemon TCG
  • Hearthstone (for those who like collectible card games)

More Games:

  • SMITE – A MOBA with a 3rd person view (behind the character), has a lot more game modes than pretty much all MOBAs, more newb-friendly (EDIT than some other MOBAs).
  • Quake Live – Quake 3 remake, recently released on Steam (after 5 years or so). No longer free.
  • Tribes: Ascend – A pretty good Tribes game from the makers of SMITE.
  • Sauerbraten – Pretty good shooter for non-competitive uses or when I feel pissed off.
  • SNESfun Online SNES emulation.

Freeware sites

  • FileHippo – Freeware downloads
  • Ninite – Package your favorite apps in a bundle and use it to install and update apps instantly.
  • TechSupportAlert – Freeware recommendations

Other

  • Guerilla Mail – Disposable and temporary e-mail adresses. Use these to create your accounts and no more spam in your private e-mail adress.
  • PortableApps – Portable apps and PortableApps suite for USBs
  • Pixlr – Online image editor (like Photoshop, but very lite). Also includes desktop version.
  • LastPass, KeePass – 2 different password managers, LastPass works inside the browser, KeePass has its own program.

Some programs I like to use

  • 7zip – Compression utility with a somewhat minimalist interface, but plenty of features.
  • MusicBee – A well-rounded music manager with a wealth of additional features like ripping, normalizing, converting…
  • MiniLyrics – Synchronizes lyrics with the music.
  • SumatraPDF – Ultra-light and all I need for reading PDFs (Foxit or PDF-XChange are good too and have more features)
  • MPC-HC – Like VLC but more lightweight and with a similar set of features.
  • Notepad++ Source code editor and Notepad replacement. Thanks /u/FPSXpert
  • Brackets.io Source code editor by Adobe with some Illustrator integration and Live Preview in Chrome. Thanks /u/abbylangner
  • EditPadLite – Notepad with just the text editing and not coding language options like Notepad++.
  • MalwareBytes Anti-Malware – Pretty much my secondary, on-demand malware scanner alongside my primary, real-time scanner (which is currently Avast, but really any anti-virus program is good)
  • F.lux – Utility that warms the colour of your screen and makes it easier to look at (and also has brightness control).
  • LibreOffice – Open source MS Office alternative.
  • MS Office Viewers – If LibreOffice fails to open MS Office files correctly, this steps in.
  • CCleaner – Indispensible for cleaning your computer (just be wary when you delete registry files).
  • RevoUninstaller – For clean and thorough uninstalls.
  • GIMP Picture editor similar to Photoshop in functionality.

Keeping your home safe

Follow your local news and police reports vigorously. You should be able to get a feel for the types of crime happening in your area, and can figure out a game plan based on that. Personally, my area is high-crime, but it’s all smash-and-grab type thefts. While my vehicle has been robbed 3x in the past year, I have zero concern whatsoever that I will be the victim of an armed home invasion. It’s just not the style for the area.

If you have a choice, try to live in a moderately populated area, near a police station. Living at the end of an isolated cul-de-sac is going to be a lot easier for a thief to get into without being noticed, than a townhome in a 100-unit property. Be friendly with your neighbors, to the point where they will recognize any sketchy activity.

Keep your nose clean, and don’t associate yourself with sketchy characters. Crime begets crime. It’s callous for me to say, but really, 90%+ of the victims of crime that I know – had it coming. Keep receipts for anything you paid more than $250 for, and keep them in a fireproof safe. If you do end up having to file an insurance claim, they are going to fuck you over hardcore without documentation. Be aware that for high ticket items, they are required to be scheduled on your policy ahead of time. If you have a $15k home theater system, or $20k in collectible MagicTG cards, your insurance company needs to know about that ahead of time.

Keep serial numbers (and photos, if possible) of anything you care about. If your laptop gets stolen, and you see it the next day in the pawn shop down the street, it won’t mean shit unless you have that serial number already on file somewhere. Register all of your products with the manufacturer whenever possible.

You will have a hell of a time dealing with an automotive theft claim is the thief used your car keys. Keep those safe. Make copies of all your important documents, including copies of all your credit cards. It will be 100x easier to cancel all of them if a thief gets them. Shred any important documents you are throwing out. I could write endlessly about identity theft. I’ll save that for another day.Regularly backup your computer to some cloud-based service. Dropbox, Google Drive, etc. If someone steals your laptop, it shouldn’t fuck up your life. Install some sort of tracking app on your computer and phone RIGHT NOW if you haven’t already.

What to do if your house is getting robbed?

What to do when a burglar is in your house:

  • Get the fuck out. Your Playstation is not worth getting stabbed over.
  • You will most likely lose any fights you start. Don’t do that.
  • Call the cops. Don’t count on them to save you, but do it anyways. At the very least, you will most likely have to file a police report anyways for an insurance claim.
  • The chambering of a shotgun generally scares the shit out of thieves. Real thieves will get the fuck out of there if they think someone has a gun. Junkies, though, might be too fucked up to notice. Or they might have their own and not care. Still best to get the fuck out.
  • If there is no way to avoid an encounter with the robber, get naked. Not down to your underwear – I mean 100% naked. Get crazy. Yell things. This is not advised for attractive females – but for the average Redditor, it’s a viable deterrent.
  • The thief has a specific game plan in mind. They know how they’re going to get in, where they plan to go, what they plan to take, where they plan to exit, and how they plan to leave. Anything that can be done that will majorly disrupt their plan, will generally make them leave asap.
  • Mace. If you can’t legally procure mace, sporting goods stores should carry bear spray. If you can’t get that either for some reason – wasp/hornet spray. Again, I really can’t stress this enough, goal #1 is to get the fuck out. Don’t bring wasp spray to a gun fight.
  • If you have your keys on you, set off your car alarm.

How to Protect Your House from Thieves

How to Prevent Your House from Getting Robbed

  • Get a big fucking dog. Very few thieves want to deal with that. If they aren’t specifically targeting your house, then they will move on to the next one. For houses they are targeting, they will leave poisoned food outside. Keep an eye out for that.
  • Don’t use window air conditioners. This was by far the most common way to gain access by my friends. Kick in the A/C and climb on in. If nothing of value was found, the A/C could be taken in for scrap metal.
  • Motion detecting lights. They are a minor annoyance. Will scare off the brainless junkies.
  • Visible cameras. Can be fake. Though they’re so cheap, just get real ones.
  • Don’t leave your garage door open. Thieves like to drive around nice neighborhoods, looking for people who left their garage open. They love a situation where someone might be mowing their backyard. Quickly hop out of the car, run into the garage, grab as many tools as they can, and run. If they brought a truck, they’ll be grabbing bigger stuff. You probably won’t even notice or know what happened.
  • Make it a royal pain in the ass to get into your backyard. 10ft fence would be nice. No one likes breaking in through the front door or front windows. No one likes scaling 10ft fences either. This compliments the “get a big fucking dog” concept.
  • Don’t keep your car keys on a hook next to the front door. Newer cars are impossible for an average thief to hotwire. Easy as hell to kick in your front door and snatch the keys straight off the hook, though.
  • Related to the above, don’t answer the door for strangers. If thieves are casing out the neighborhood, they will pretend to be magazine salesmen / jehovahs witnesses / etc. just to take a peek of what’s inside. Especially that hook for car keys. Once again, a big fucking dog can help here.
  • Get an alarm system. If you can’t pony up for that, get the stickers & signage off eBay.
  • Don’t keep anything in your car. Especially work trucks and vans. Hell, I even know of someone who robbed a cop car. Keep your vehicles empty. Locks don’t fucking matter – the lock on the backdoor of a workvan can be popped out in under 5 seconds with a slide puller and a screw.
  • The locks on your house are fucking useless, too. If you’re really paranoid and have a good budget – steel door frame + solid steel door. I don’t have much of any other advice on that. Dont trust locks.
  • Lock your doors. Even though I don’t think much of locks, don’t leave your house unlocked either. Deadbolts on every exterior door.
  • Keep expensive stuff out of sight. Your 70″ flatscreen tv should not be visible from the street. Your Macbook Pro shouldn’t be kept right in front of your 1st floor office window.
  • Don’t invite strangers over. Hosting an open-invitation kegger is a terrible idea. If a thief shows up – they are either stealing something right then and there, or they are casing the place to come back later.
  • If you have a safe, use it. It’s utterly stupid how many people who have them, just leave them open all the time because it’s “annoying.”
  • If you have guns, try to keep that information to yourself. There are whole subsets of thieves dedicated to scouting out gun owners and robbing them when they’re not home.
  • Don’t post your entire social life publicly on social media. The people scouting out robberies aren’t always across the street in a sketchy van. They’re just following you on facebook twitter foursquare and instagram.
  • Keep anything that is really expensive in a bank security box. If your grandmother passed on a $50k diamond ring to you – don’t keep it in your jewelry box.
  • Don’t do illegal shit. The houses of drug dealers are robbed on a consistent basis, because the thieves know the cops won’t get called. (And the propensity for those victims to have expensive jewelry and electronics.) Stay on the up-and-up, and a lot of trouble will avoid you.
  • Leave the TV and lights on when you’re not home. Not only does it give the impression someone is home, it also will entertain and comfort your big fucking dog.
  • If you’re in an apartment – do whatever you can to add more locks (if possible according to your lease) , alarm system, cameras, etc. – lots of shady maintenance men and landlords out there.
  • Lock your patio door, even if you live on the 10th floor. Scaling the sides of most buildings is actually pretty fucking easy.
  • If you are prohibited from owning a big fucking dog, a little annoying yip-yapping ankle-biting dog can work.
  • Cats are fucking useless.
  • Keep the flaunting to a minimum. If you have an expensive vehicle, at least try to keep it in a garage. If you have lots of expensive tools, don’t fly a “SNAP ON” banner outside your garage. Don’t put up a “This house is protected by Smith & Wesson” sign.
  • Read up and be aware of how most popular scams work. Water meter scams, fence salesman scams, etc. Most of the time, someone will be distracting you somehow, while their accomplice sneaks in to your house. Just don’t talk to strangers and you will avoid all of them.
  • Junkies love to rob the elderly. Medications & jewelry. Your broke college ass is probably safe, but please make sure your grandmother is all set.
  • Don’t leave an extra key under your doormat / under a rock / in your mailbox / on top of the door frame / etc.

Useful Keyboard Shortcuts to Know

General Keyboard Shortcuts to Make Life Easier

  1. ALT+TAB: This is now the equivalent of knowing what the “enter” key does. You should certainly have a good handle on it if you are in front of a computer for more than 5 minutes on any given day.
  2. WIN+TAB: On Aero themes, it’s ALT+TAB on steroids
  3. ALT+ESC: Quickly move what you’re looking at to the bottom of your window stack. Great for when the boss sneaks up on you while you’re browsing gonewild or something. Bonus is that it doesn’t give the telltale “blip” on the screen of ALT+TAB that any boss worth his salt will recognize.
  4. CTRL+X, C and V: Cut, Copy, Paste…respectively.
  5. CTRL+F, or H: Find, Replace…respectively.
  6. CTRL+Z, Y: Undo, Redo
  7. CTRL+A: Select All
  8. SHIFT+Arrow Keys: Select text
  9. CTRL+Arrow Keys: Move across words in text
  10. CTRL+SHIFT+Arrow Keys: Select words/lines/paragraphs of text.
  11. CTRL+Backspace: Deletes previous word/character block
  12. CTRL+Delete: Deletes next word/character block
  13. CTRL+SHIFT+ESC: Windows Task Manager. No more ALT+CTRL+DELETE!
  14. WIN+L: Lock yo shit
  15. WIN+M or WIN+D: Minimize all the things.
  16. WIN+SHIFT+M: Undoes WIN+M/D
  17. CTRL+B: Toggle Bold formatting (works in most word processors or other text-formatting editors)
  18. CTRL+I: Toggle Italic formatting
  19. CTRL+U: Toggle Underline
  20. WIN+ R: Open “Run” Prompt

Multi-Monitor Keyboard Shortcuts

  1. WIN+Arrow keys: Shift position within current monitor
  2. WIN+SHIFT+Arrow keys: Move window to different monitor.

 

Windows Explorer Keyboard Shortcuts

Note: many of these work the same in most browsers where applicable

  1. WIN+E: Open new instance of Windows Explorer at the My Computer location
  2. ALT+D: Move cursor to the location/url bar.
  3. CTRL+W: Close tab or browser window.
  4. CTRL+N: When already in Explorer, this opens a new instance of explorer at your current location
  5. SHIFT+DELETE: Deletes a file, bypassing the recycle bin.
  6. CTRL+SHIFT+N: New folder
  7. F2: Rename file. Tab from this to continue down the row with renaming.

 

Internet Keyboard Shortcuts

  1. CTRL+L: Move the cursor to the URL bar
  2. CTRL+K: Move the cursor the the search box
  3. CTRL+W: Close current window
  4. CTRL+SHIFT+W: This is what I like to call “The Productivity Shortcut”. Closes your browser.
  5. CTRL+N: New browser window
  6. CTRL+SHIFT+N (Chrome): Incognito window. Use CTRL+SHIFT+P in Firefox.
  7. CTRL+T: New Tab
  8. CTRL+SHIFT+T: Open the most recently closed tab.
  9. CTRL+TAB: Move to the next tab.
  10. CTRL+SHIFT+TAB: Move to the previous tab.
  11. CTRL+1-9: Go to the tab at the position indicated by the number you press. E.g., press CTRL+1 takes you to the first tab.
  12. CTRL+R: Reload the tab. F5 does this too. SHIFT+F5 will do a full reload of any cached data as well, great for when you’re messing around with CSS
  13. CTRL+U: View Source
  14. CTRL+P: Print
  15. CTRL+H: View your history
  16. CTRL+B or CTRL+SHIFT+B: Bookmarks. In Chrome, the SHIFT version toggles the bookmarks bar.
  17. CTRL+D: Bookmark the current page
  18. CTRL+0: Reset zoom
  19. CTRL+Plus/Minus sign: Adjust zoom
  20. SHIFT+delete: Remove suggestion from autocomplete (credit to /u/DirkDasterLurkMaster) MS Excel
  21. CTRL+Arrow keys: Navigate around a region. For example, press CTRL+DOWN ARROW and it will take you to the first empty cell in the column you are in.
  22. CTRL+SHIFT+ARROWS: Highlights the region
  23. SHIFT+ARROWS: Highlight individual cells
  24. CTRL+SHIFT+R: Fill right.
  25. CTRL+SHIFT+D: Fill down
  26. CTRL+SHIFT+L: Activate column filtering.
  27. CTRL+SHIFT+1-6: Apply various number formats. One=Decimal, 2=Time, 3=Date, 4=Currency, 5=Percent, 6=Scientific.
  28. CTRL+SHIFT+~: Apply general numeric formatting, no decimals
  29. CTRL+SHIFT+7: Apply thin outer border around the selected region of cells
  30. CTRL+ALT+V: Paste Special Menu
  31. CTRL+SHIFT+Page Up/Down: Navigate between worksheets
  32. And a quite a few more…

Outlook Keyboard Shortcuts

  1. CTRL+N: New item, depending upon the context. i.e., if you are in the mail window, it will open a new email to compose. If you are in the calendar, a new appointment.
  2. CTRL+1-5: Switch context, 1=mail, 2=calendar, 3=contacts etc.
  3. F9: Send/Receive all
  4. CTRL+U (Mail): Mark item unread. CTRL+Q marks it read
  5. SHIFT+DELETE: Permanently delete an item
  6. CTRL+F: Forward an item
  7. CTRL+R: Reply (mail).
  8. CTRL+SHIFT+B: Address Book
  9. And more…

What is Google Project Fi

What is the Project Fi network?

The Project Fi network is a compilation of two major cellular networks, Sprint and T-mobile. With Project Fi, your phone can access the best two 4G LTE networks so you can connect to more towers and get fast speed in more places. Project Fi has partnered with Sprint and T-mobile and, who knows, at some point in the future, we may add additional partners. In addition, there are lots of Wi-Fi hotspots out there but not all of them are high-quality.

 

Using Project Fi for Cell phone Service

Project Fi automatically connects you to more than a million free, open Wi-Fi hotspots we’ve verified as fast and reliable. This technology helps keep your speed high and your data bill low—whenever you’re on Wi-Fi, you’re not charged for data usage. This is what the Project Fi network entails a partnership of two of the strongest networks and millions of WiFi hotspots.

 

Do Fi users get to take advantage of T-Mobile programs and deals?

No. Project Fi customers do not get to take advantage of T-Mobile postpaid or prepaid programs such as Binge On, Get Thanked Tuesdays, or VoLTE/HD calling. However, Project Fi customers will be able to take advantage of any coverage improvements or new roaming agreements that are available to T-Mobile customers.

Why can’t I bring my number to Fi?

Project Fi numbers are held by T-Mobile. This means that if your number’s area code and exchange aren’t in a “rate center” of T-Mobile, then your number won’t be eligible for Project Fi. This is typically why you aren’t able to bring your number in, and you receive an error upon signing up.

How much does international calling cost for the recipient?

It depends. If the person you are calling is within the US, there should be no extra costs. However, if you’re calling an international number, that user may have extra costs. They should check with their calling provider.

When traveling internationally, what kinds of SIM cards get what kind of coverage?

All Project Fi SIM cards will be able to access unthrottled speeds when traveling internationally. However, data only SIM cards will only be able to connect to T-Mobile roaming partners. Project Fi talk/text/data SIM cards can also connect to Three, a Project Fi carrier partner in Europe, for faster speeds and better coverage.

Why does it say that Project Fi isn’t available in my area?

Project Fi is working hard to allow users across America to join the #fifamily. However, at this time, since numbers are held with T-Mobile for Project Fi, customers must be within a T-Mobile rate center to activate. Some areas, such as those serviced by iWireless, or only Sprint and/or US Cellular, are not yet able to activate. The team is aware of these unfortunate limitations and is looking into ways to increase this activation area.

Can I use Project Fi with an iPhone?

No, not officially. Only Nexus and Pixel devices can activate Project Fi service. If you SIM swap to an iPhone from a Fi supported device, you won’t have access to Sprint or US Cellular towers. You also won’t have Wi-Fi calling and may have issues with other Fi services. Also, the phone that was used for activation won’t be able to be activated on any other CDMA carrier, including Verizon and Sprint, as long as the Fi account is active until another device is activated on the account.

How long does it typically take to port in a number?

It can take anywhere between a few seconds to 48 hours. If you happen to be porting a former landline number, it may take longer (up to 5 days). Most ports complete within a few minutes. Once your number is ported, it may take 24 hours for calls and texts to be successfully routed to your Project Fi devices. This is typical of number porting. If you still haven’t gotten your number within the expected time frames, there may be an issue confirming your port details. Contact Project Fi support!

What are my options for SMS apps with Project Fi?

The two supported SMS apps you can use are Hangouts and Google Messenger. Hangouts has two modes that you can use: Hangouts via Carrier SMS and Hangouts via Project Fi Integration. Hangouts via Carrier SMS and Google Messenger operate virtually the same with some minor UI tweaks. You’ll only have native support to send and receive SMS via your Fi device, but you’ll be able to send and receive anywhere you have a connection (cell or Wi-Fi), data not required. Other apps may work, but they’re not supported by Project Fi. Hangouts via Project Fi integration is a toggle you can turn on from Settings -> (Your Project Fi Email) -> Project Fi calls and SMS -> Messages. That will allow you to send and receive messages from any device with hangouts. However, your Fi device will require a data connection for Hangouts to be able to send or receive. You will, however, only receive SMS email gateway messages via your default texting app. This includes 2 factor authentication codes from Google.

Consolidating Credit Card Debt Guide

Here are the basics of Credit Card Consolidation

1) It’s generally a bad idea to convert unsecured debt to secured debt. This means don’t take out a home equity loan to pay your credit cards unless the interest rate is very attractive and you are very confident you can pay it off quickly. Quickly means within 3-5 years tops…preferably much sooner. If you are going to end up taking much more than that to pay off the debt, you might want to consider bankruptcy as a bankruptcy will fall off your credit report in 7-10 years anyway.

2) The goal is to lower your overall interest rate more than it is to end up with just one payment. A few zero interest/low fee balance transfers are often an excellent strategy.

3) There are no websites out there that you can trust as everyone’s financial situation is different. This isn’t rocket science though…all you do is borrow enough money at a fairly reasonable interest rate so that you can pay off your high rate credit cards. If you have good credit this is usually fairly simple. If you have poor credit this will be pretty damn difficult and there is no way to make it easy other than fixing your credit.

Are Prosper and LendingClub good options?

In my opinion, its a good option if you have no other options. The rates are generally higher than a good local credit union will offer, they require a minimum FICO score for you to even post a loan request, they are not available in all states, and your approval is based on the whim of the masses rather than some form of standard underwriting requirements.

Also with those sites, once you start trying to borrow larger amounts, say more than $10K, the loan funding rates start to drop and the interest rate starts to go up.

By sitting down face to face with a loan officer you can discuss your specific situation, explain how the circumstance that led to your current financial crisis have changed and, and give them your planned path forward towards recovery. You can also immediately address any concerns they may have with giving you a loan or even ask for the loan to be reconsidered if its declined.

 

Should you use Prosper or LendingClub?

With prosper and Lending club, once you post the loan there is not a lot you can do except cross your fingers. It also often takes 3 or 4 failed loan postings before you finally get a write up that is convincing enough to get your loan funded.

How do I start building credit?

One of the most commonly asked questions here is “How do I start building credit?”. Obviously, a solid, long-term history of on-time payments generally yields the best credit score. But getting your foot in the door can sometimes be troublesome without lenders willing to take a chance on you.

Below, we’ll examine the best way to get your file started up, given different scenarios. Your mileage may vary, but hopefully this post will give you the resources to assist you in getting a solid base of credit history, as well as good financial habits.

Step #0: Assess your financial situation.

Your financial health comes first. Your credit score is not everything; it is only a supplement to your financial activity. Your first priority is always going to be ensuring that you are already practicing good financial habits.

This start-up kit will contain recommendations to obtain a credit card. While there are benefits to credit cards, there are also severe dangers. I do not recommend this tutorial to anyone who:

  • Has no emergency fund.
  • Plans on living beyond his/her means.
  • Does not have an income.
  • Has spending habits that have not been dealt with.
  • Does not have a budget.

If you do not fit into any of the bullet points above, then you’re likely safe to go on to the next step.

Step #1: Pick a Card.

See the scenarios below and pick one that best fits your situation. When you are done finding a card, go to Step #2. Do not skip Step #2.

For your first credit card, a general note is to avoid cards that have an annual fee. You do not need to pay a dime in interest or fees to obtain a fantastic credit score.

I am a student or graduate who has student loans, and is looking to build credit.

Since you already have student loans, you likely already have a decent (but short) length of history on your file. In this case, I would look at what is generally referred to as a “starter card”. A couple of the most recommended in this situation are the Chase Freedom and the Discover It. There is also the CapitalOne Quicksilver (Do not confuse this with the Quicksilver One, which has an annual fee).

I would also take a look at this list for other suggestions. You may also want to look at the bank where you currently have a deposit account; you are more likely to be approved for a credit card if you’re in a position where the institution can clearly gauge your financial health.

If you are a student who cannot get approved for a “starter card”, there are still plenty of student cards that are available for your situation.

I am a student who does not have student loans, but I am looking to build credit.

This means your file is completely empty. But since you are a student, you have plenty of financial institutions willing to take a chance on you. I would take a look at possible student cards to get started.

I am not a student, but I also have no payment history. Where can I start?

You may want to look at a “starter card” first, and see if you can get approved anyway. Once again, there are suggestions on Nerdwallet. Many of the options listed above (Freedom, It, and Quicksilver) are good at taking chances on thin or new files.

Again: You may also want to look at the bank where you currently have a deposit account; you are more likely to be approved for a credit card if you’re in a position where the institution can clearly gauge your financial health.

Try for a few starter cards first. If you are having bad luck, see below:

I can’t get approved for any cards listed above. What do I do?

Since you’ve exhausted all of the above options, you can try to get approved for a secured card. This is a card where you lay down a security deposit, which becomes your credit limit.

Usually, within 6-12 months of on-time payments, you can call your bank and request to move from a secured card to an unsecured card, or do a product change to a different card entirely.

I can’t even get approved for a secured credit card. What now?

If this is the case, it’s likely something is keeping your credit file back. Do you have an account in collections? Could there be a mistake on your credit file (which happens frequently)? At this point, please check http://annualcreditreport.com to pull a report. You may or may not have to do a mail-in request to obtain your report. If you need further direction or support, you can always ask for some.

If there are any inaccurate items, and they have been disputed successfully, you may wish to go back through your denials. Call the bank and ask them to reconsider your application.

Step #2: Understand The Rules for Using your Card:

  1. Use your card only for planned expenses.
  2. Do not change your spending habits simply because you are using credit instead of cash. Rewards are nice, but spending a dollar to earn a penny is foolish.
  3. Always pay your statement balance in full by the due date. No exceptions.

Using the rules above, a typical billing cycle will look like this:

  1. You charge a planned expense, sticking to your budget and not changing your spending habits.
  2. The bank will sum up all of the activity in 1, and will send you a statement, or a summary of the information it believes to be correct.
  3. Review your statement for errors, and pay your statement in full by the due date. As long as your statement is paid in full, you will not pay interest. Any charges that you made that were not listed on the current statement will appear on the next one.
  4. Go back to 1.

If this seems confusing to you, consider an analogy to your Electric bill. Your institution monitors your charges (pun intended), and sends you your bill. As long as you pay your bill in full, there are no interest or late fees.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Does paying rent or bills help my credit score?

No, unfortunately. Bills and rent are not tradelines, or lines of credit. However, if you don’t pay, it will affect your score negatively.

Should I care about APR?

No. If you are paying your credit card statement in full every month, your effective APR is 0%.

For my first card, why should I avoid an annual fee?

Your first credit card’s history is one of the more important factors in your FICO score. Closing your first credit account has been known to be detrimental to your credit file (moreso than canceling any other card you may acquire later). This means if your first credit card has an annual fee, and you’re looking to open up a loan or mortgage, you may have your credit score held hostage by it.

There are ways out of an annual fee card that won’t affect your history, however; the most common is calling the institution for a product change to a non-fee card. You can also call yearly and request to waive the fee. These, however, exist as options for most consumers, and are not guaranteed.

Should I take out a loan to improve my credit history?

Never. You do not need to pay a dime in interest to help your credit. You should treat these “starter loans” as if they were scams.

Do I need to use a certain percentage of my credit limit a month?”

There is only one credit utilization adage that matters: the lower, the better. Some of the best scores only have utilization between 1 and 9% (rounded up).

Utilization does not have any memory, so it’s pointless to force yourself to spend above or below a certain amount to get a higher score in a month that you’re not applying for new credit. In addition to this, your credit score will not factor the amounts paid on revolving accounts; the only thing that matters from month-to-month is whether you paid on time.

Simply focus on sticking to only regular expenses, and pay off your statement in full every month.

What to do if debt is in collections?

Collection agencies exist because businesses cannot let “bad” debt linger on their books for longer than ~180 days. By letting a bill go overdue for this long, you run the risk of your creditor either assigning or selling your debt to a collection agency/debt collector. Before jumping into it, it’s important to know that there is an important difference in how debt is handled if it is assigned or sold:

Assigned Debt – Debt that is transferred to a collection agent in order for them to work on getting you to pay. Your original creditor (OC) still owns the debt and the collection agency will receive a percentage of whatever they get you to pay.

Sold Debt – This is debt that has been sold to a debt collector who now legally owns your debt. You now owe nothing to the original creditor but you are still liable for the debt under the terms of the contract you had with the OC. Debt collectors usually buy debt at a deep discount and get to keep everything they get you to pay.

So let’s say you get a letter in the mail/phone call one day from a collection agency saying you owe them money. What’s your best course of action?

  1. Call the original creditor – Maybe you let your final utility bill from your old apartment/house go unpaid, which is a relatively common occurrence for debt collectors, you need to give that utility company a call immediately. Their representative can tell you whether or not the communication you received was legitimate (if they did sell or transfer the debt) and what needs to be done in regards to paying it. In most cases, they are going to tell you to pay the debt collector whether it was sold or transferred. Don’t acknowledge the debt is yours, just say you’d like information about who holds it. It doesn’t hurt to ask if they can pull the debt back from the collector if it has been assigned. It’s always best to pay your original creditor, preventing a collection agency from touching your credit report, and keeping the debt as being reported as “charged-off”.
  2. Collection agencies that call you before any other contact is made are required by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) to send you a letter within five days of that initial phone call. The letter needs to have some basic information regarding the debt and who owns it, as well as a notice about your rights as a consumer. Assuming the debt collector has your correct address, you should receive the letter within about a week. If they do not have your correct address, and your mail isn’t being forwarded, you may never get the letter. Collection agencies can send their notice to your last known address and be alright under the FDCPA. Living at the same address for a long time and not receiving the letter is a violation and you can claim up to $1,000 for it. (More on that later)
  3. When you do receive their notice in the mail, it should have information on it regarding what needs to be done if you dispute the validity of the debt (if it is just a letter saying how much you owe and giving you options to pay, with nothing else, that’s an FDCPA violation). Within 30 days of receiving the letter, you will need to write to them requiring them to validate your debt. These are some good examples of debt validation letter templateswhich cover all of your bases. It is best if you send your letter via certified mail with a return receipt requestedfrom the receiver. This acts as proof that they got your validation letter.
  4. When they get your validation letter they must immediately stop trying to collect from you until they send you validation paperwork. This means all phone calls must stop, lawsuits must stop, letters must stop, everything must stop EXCEPT they can still update your credit report (there is a caveat here as well). Receiving a letter that was already in the mail by the time they got your validation request does not go against the FDCPA but you don’t have to respond to it. A popular misconception about debt validation is that because you have 30 days to dispute the debt, they have 30 days to respond to it. This is untrue (except in Texas where state law DOES mandate they have 30 days to validate your debt), they can take as long as they want to validate it, provided they do not attempt to collect in the meantime.
  5. Perhaps you receive a letter in the mail validating the debt, this lets them restart their attempts to collect from you. They might try calling but if you want, you can withdraw your consent for them to call at anytime. The best way to do this is to either tell them all calls are inconvenient for you when you send the debt validation letter or in a separate letter after you receive validation. Calling you (more than once) after you revoke consent puts them in violation of the FDCPA and Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)
  6. They’ve validated the debt, you know where the debt is from, you just want it to be off of your credit report. Your first option is to obtain a Pay-for-Delete agreement with the debt collector. In order for this to work, you’ll usually have to make a payment in full, possibly that day but for sure within a short amount of time. This used to be a popular option if you owed money to a collection agency since they would normally be happy to get paid and remove the information. In the past couple of years, credit reporting agencies have clamped down on the practice since it makes their reports “less accurate”. Now, if a certain company starts putting in too many requests to remove an account, they will be flagged for a review. If the credit bureau finds that they are basically agreeing to everyone who wants to pay for a delete, the bureau will stop that company from reporting to them, depriving the collection agency of a very powerful tool to help them collect. Experian and Transunion are much more strict with collection agencies than Equifax, which is why you sometimes see a collection account on only one credit report (usually Equifax). At least you know if you only see the account on one bureau’s report, there is a good chance a Pay-for-Delete agreement will work.
  7. Collection agencies will usually let you setup a payment plan to let you pay off your debt over time. After you make the last payment, you will want to get something from them which shows that you have paid what you owed. You can also negotiate how much you’re willing to pay a collection agency, though this works better if you can afford to make a lump sum payment that day. Some agencies or creditors will forgive a certain amount of debt, but if it ends up forgiving more than $600, they will likely give you a 1099-C tax form for the amount that was forgiven. This will count as income for tax purposes.
  8. For debts deemed big enough, there is a chance that the debt collector will sue you. This usually only happens either with very large debts, or if a big debt collector holds your account and you live in an area with many other account owners. You’re probably safe from a lawsuit if you owe $300 and live in an extremely rural area, but you may be at a much higher risk of a suit if you owe $5,000 and live in Los Angeles. If you get served papers, SHOW UP TO COURT, do not let them get a default judgement against you. You can often talk with the attorney to work out a payment plan, or you can attempt to fight the lawsuit. (More on this later)
  9. Having a ton of debt and few assets may make bankruptcy your best bet. This is basically the nuclear option since it can wipe out all of your dischargeable debt (not student loans) but you are going to look super-risky to lenders for the next couple of years. If there are no major purchases (house or car) in the near future, it may be worth looking into. Forgiven debt under a bankruptcy is not counted against you as income under bankruptcy. Chapter 13 bankruptcy reorganizes your debt while and lets you keep most assets while Chapter 7 lets a trustee sell non-exempt assets but wipes debt away completely.
  10. After seven years (7 years, 6 months in practice, but it depends on the state) from the date of the first delinquency, credit reporting bureaus must remove bad information about you from their reports. At the same time, if you dispute a debt with a credit bureau and they receive no response from the business listed on the account for 30 days, they must remove it from your credit report. Some states have laws that get bad marks off of your credit faster but federal law says seven years. Shady collection agencies might try to tell the credit bureaus that you “made a payment” or “acknowledged the debt”, which will restart the ~7 year waiting period. This is a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and you can collect awards from debt collectors and credit report bureaus breaking this, as well as the FDCPA and TCRA.

It’s sometimes best to wait out the statute of limitations, especially around the 5-6+ year mark if you don’t have any big purchases in the pipeline. What that isn’t feasible, after a couple of years, the impact that negative information has on your report does start to drop off by quite a bit. It’s why you won’t see your credit score rise much, if at all, by having a 7 year old collections debt fall off as opposed to getting a 6 month old collections account deleted.

When to File for Bankruptcy Chapter 7 or Chapter 13

Differences Between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcies

Before I get any further I’m going to go over the two common types of consumer bankruptcies – Chapters 7 and 13.

  • Chapter 7 – This type of bankruptcy wipes away all of your dischargable debts once it is finalized. I say dischargable debts because not every debt can be cleared in a bankruptcy. Debts you owe due to fraud, student loans and drunk driving are the three most common types of debts you might have that you can’t get rid of so easily.
  • Chapter 13 – This type of bankruptcy reorganizes your debts into a monthly payment, based on your income and stops creditors from harassing you. Debts that would usually accrue interest will stop accruing that interest and you’ll just have to pay back what the trustee says over the course of a few years.

Most people with a decent paying job will have to go for a Chapter 13 which at least gives your creditors some of their money back. Those who are unemployed or make too little money (usually under your state’s median income, or over if you pass a means test) can qualify for a Chapter 7.

Exempt Property

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, if you own a lot of property, chances are the trustee will be required to sell some of it and give the proceeds to your creditors. Even so, there are a few things which your bankruptcy trustee will not be able to touch, assuming the total value of everything is below a certain limit (Federal guidelines): * Everyday clothes, furniture, household goods, etc. – $12,625 total but no more than $600 an item. * Equipment needed for work – $2,375 * One vehicle – $3,775 * Jewelry – $1,600 * Homestead – $23,675 * Unused portion of homestead exemption/wildcard $11,850 * IRAs – $1.2 million

STATE EXEMPTIONS CAN BE VASTLY DIFFERENT – Find your state’s exemptions here

You can’t mix and match state and Federal exemptions, if your state lets you use the Federal exemptions, it’s usually a better deal.

There are about a dozen other exemptions mainly dealing with lawsuit benefits, insurance policies, etc. but for most people what you see above is what you’ll be working with. The unused homestead and wildcard exemptions can be used on anything you choose.

If you are married and filing bankruptcy jointly, you can double the dollar amount of everything.

Many states require you to use their own exemption rules, some of which are far more restrictive in dollar amounts. No matter what though, if you have very few assets, you are likely safe from losing anything.

Items you are currently paying off

Let’s say you have a car that is worth $8,000 and you still have $6,000 left on the loan. During a bankruptcy you can either choose to give the car to the lender or file a Statement of Intention detailing your plan to continue paying on your car loan.

Same thing with a house, depending on your state or Federal law, you get to exempt a certain amount of equity in your home. If you are still paying down a mortgage, you can file the same Statement of Intention to keep your home loan debt out of the bankruptcy.

Deciding Whether or Not to File and Which Chapter

The decision to file bankruptcy shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s going to hit your credit pretty hard for a least a couple of years and it will remain visible for 7 years if it’s a Chapter 13 and 10 years if it’s a Chapter 7. However, if you have creditors breathing down your neck and court cases/judgments against you, it might be a reasonable choice.

As a good rule of thumb, if you are unemployed, or not making close to 150% of your state’s poverty level, and your dischargable debts equal more than around $20,000, Chapter 7 would set you free and clear. Keep in mind this is just a generic figure, medical debt can sometimes be forgiven through a hospital’s charity program if that’s where it was incurred. If you make too much money, a Chapter 13 can still help you knock off a good portion of your debt without losing much, if any, property in the process. You’ll find out by taking a means test.

Some lawyers will do a full bankruptcy for around $1,000, others might charge a little more. If you aren’t good with paperwork, it can be worth it to hire a lawyer, since the Schedules you’ll have to file can be a major pain.

The basic bankruptcy fee is $335 for a Chapter 7 and $310 for Chapter 13, for a simple case, you can see a lawyer is going to keep double that for themselves, but it can be well worth it. If you are ok with paperwork and have the time, doing it yourself can be a lot cheaper.

Filing Your Own Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

I’m going to stick with Chapter 7 because that’s what most people here who are asking about it would be eligible for.

I would recommend filing all of these forms together since it saves you a trip to the courthouse and you know you’ve got everything submitted before any deadlines pop up.

  • Pre-bankruptcy counseling – You will need to take an online course about managing your money, you can find a list of places here . Shop around a bit for the best price, you should be able to find something $25 or less. Notice how many names on the list are ridiculous? That’s because the Justice Dept. lists them in alphabetical order and having $$$$$$AAAA1 Credit Counseling at the very top gets them more business. After you complete the ~1 hour course, you will get a certificate you’ll need to save on your computer and print out.

This page has a great rundown on exactly how to file everything DISCLAIMER: The links provided on that page are good for all states, though it was setup by a non-profit for Illinois residents Exemptions are different in Illinois, and many other states, as opposed to Federal guidelines. Use this resource to help you file but refer to state-specific guidelines for your Schedules.

Schedules A-J

These forms tell the court all about your financial life, they include:

  • Property
  • Exempt Property
  • Secured Creditors (mortgage loans, car loans, etc.)
  • Unsecured Creditors (Credit cards, medical bills, etc.)
  • Contracts and Leases (Building/home leases, vehicle leases, other contracts)
  • Co-debtors
  • Income
  • Expenses
  • Expenses of a co-filer living apart from you.

Expect this part to take at least a couple of hours to fill out. If you are single or married filing alone, it might go a little faster, especially if all of your debts are in your name only.

Summary, Declaration, Other Paperwork

Your financial summary will include information from your schedules and give the court an easy(ish) to read snapshot into your life. The declaration you file just makes it clear that everything is true to the best of your knowledge.

If you are employed, you will also need to file a copy of your pay stubs from the last 60 days, as well as a copy of your most recent tax return or transcript.

For secured creditors, filing a statement of intention lets them know what you plan on doing with the property. If you need a car and can still afford the payments, you will let the court, and the creditor, know that you want to keep it and continue paying. At this point you can redeem the property, which is essentially paying fair market value for it in cash, even if you owe more than it’s worth.

Most states also want you to file a creditor matrix which gives the name, address and relevant account number of yours so they can send them a notice of your bankruptcy.

Don’t try to hide property/cash

Bankruptcy trustees can clawback property you sell or transfer to those close to you. Giving your sibling your boat isn’t going to save it from the bankruptcy court if you don’t have enough to exempt it. Generally, anything given or sold within 1 year of filing is fair game for being clawed back.

*After Filing

When you file and pay your fee (or submit a payment schedule) a stay will be put on any court cases that are currently pending against you. In addition, creditors have to stop trying to contact you as soon as they get notice that you have filed. Usually this happens within a couple of days.

If you happen to have unexempted property, especially if it is well over the exemption limit, the trustee will effectively “own” it for the time being. It may not be taken immediately but if the trustee thinks it is worth it to sell, they have the right to take it.

Meeting of Creditors For 99% of PF users, the meeting of creditors will take a few minutes because nobody is going to show up. You are still required to be there and the trustee will be there but unless you owe someone a substantial amount of money (well into the mid-five figures or higher, excluding medical debt) it will be the quickest aspect of your bankruptcy case.

After the Creditor Meeting

If you’ve filed everything upfront, there isn’t much more you are required to do. Creditors can request to see your tax return, and you would have to give them access to it, but that’s about it. They do have 60 days to file an objection to the discharge, which only happens in very rare cases, mainly involving businesses.

Within 180 days after the creditor meeting you will receive your discharge.

After the Discharge

The majority of creditors will simply live with it and move on, a few shady debt collectors might try to collect afterwards but they are few and far between. Even so, keep an eye on your credit report:

  • AnnualCreditReport.com – Government mandated credit reports given out once a year from all three bureaus.
  • Credit Sesame – Alerts you if something new pops up on your credit, lets you see your credit report and score regularly.
  • PF Wiki credit checkers – Variety of different places to find your credit report/score

Unless you come into a LOT of money, don’t bother trying to purchase a home for at least a year and a half after the discharge. Hardly any lender is going to approve you with a recent bankruptcy.

What to do if your Identity is Stolen?

Credit Reports

You should be checking your credit every few months, preferably through AnnualCreditReport.com which is setup so the big three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Transunion, Experian) can easily comply with their Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) requirements. You only get one freebie a year normally but you are entitled to another free one if you are denied credit, file a dispute, are an ID theft victim, plan on looking for employment shortly while unemployed or if you are on public assistance. In short, even though the government only mandates one free report a year, in practice, you will probably be able to access it multiple times for free.

Credit Karma and Credit Sesame also offer all of the information in your credit report for free, along with your credit score. They also show you what kind of credit cards or loans you might qualify for depending on your credit. It’s handy to have an account at these places specifically so you can see what’s on your reports outside of your annual free report.

Immediate Actions

One of the very first things you should do when you find out that you have been a victim of identity theft is to put a freeze on your credit reports. Many people only find out they’ve had their ID stolen when they go to apply for a loan or a credit card only to have it come back as denied. If it’s totally unexpected, you’ll usually ask why and be shocked when you’re told it was from a string of payday loans 6 months ago, or a second mortgage you never took out.

A credit report freeze effectively stops anyone else from pulling your credit report. You will still be able to pull it with a special PIN that you’ll be given, but other lenders (or the person who stole your identity) will not. This should stop any more damage from being done. Here is where you need to go to place the credit freezes:

Experian Credit Freeze Center

Transunion Credit Freeze

Equifax Credit Freeze

You can also have a security alert put on your credit file. This is basically a notation that tells lenders that they need to contact you or put additional verification measures into place before issuing any lines of credit to you or someone who may have stolen your identity. These last for 90 days and are available if you think you might be the victim of identity theft. In order to keep it on past 90 days and have lenders contact you, you need to obtain a police report.

After placing a freeze on your credit reports, you should go over them to see what exactly was done. It should be pretty obvious what you did and did not open, but go ahead and print out paper copies and clearly mark what isn’t yours.

In the case of identity theft via your credit or debit card, pull your online account statements and start looking at charges you didn’t make. Just as with your credit reports, print out a copy and mark the charges that are not yours.

Once your credit is locked and you know what has been done there is a good chance you’ve prevented any new accounts from opening. That doesn’t mean more damage can’t occur, just that you’ve discovered the problem and are taking steps to fix it.

Filing a Police Report

Anything that isn’t yours on your credit reports will require a police report to take care of, while some credit/debit transactions will need one as well. Just to be safe, fill out the sworn ID theft affidavit the FTC uses as a general form to help law enforcement in their investigations. The form is long and it does take awhile to fill out but it’s important that you are thorough with it. In bigger towns, a detective will be the one handling your ID theft case and it’s likely that they will have a lot on their plate. Filling out the form completely makes their job of writing the report easier, letting them get it back to you as soon as they can. You’ll need the police report to start cleaning up your credit.

A Notice on Family Members A common theme here on r/personalfinance involves someone close to the submitter having stolen their identity or even just a parent opening up lines of credit in a child’s name. In cases like these, it is important that you know the person who opened these accounts will get in big trouble. Most of the time, it isn’t a slap on the wrist, they might be looking at prison time, probation or at the very least a criminal record that could include a possible felony. Even a misdemeanor conviction for identity theft or fraud will be enough to keep that person out of many lines of work.

Law enforcement and criminal prosecutors don’t get the chance to go after most identity thieves because they operate outside of their jurisdiction and many times, outside the country. Conviction rates are high for the people who are charged because there is usually a lot of proof that they did it. I would personally have no qualms sending a random person stealing my mail and opening lines of credit in my name to jail, but the situation would be quite a bit different if it were my mother or father who opened a cell phone bill in my name.

Creditors who are owed a lot of money will almost always require the police report in order to let you off the hook for the charges.Telling them your mother did it in your name, but you don’t want to press charges against her, will not work with them. Those companies will also usually work with law enforcement or prosecutors to make sure the person is punished.

I just added this here as a special word of warning that if it was someone close to you who did it, turning them in is going to sour your relationship with them (if it wasn’t already sour). It’s your choice whether you do it or not, just be prepared to live with the after-effects if you know your identity thief.

Disputing Accounts You Didn’t Open

With a scanned copy of your police report and affidavit in hand, you need to start disputing the accounts on your credit report that you did not open. Depending on how severe the theft was, there might be a lot of accounts to dispute. Doing it online, select the reason “Identity Theft” when it asks you why you are disputing and upload the police report and affidavit in the area for supporting documentation.

Since you’re including extra information, the credit reporting bureaus have 45 days to contact the creditors to start their investigations. For many creditors, especially if the money owed isn’t an extreme amount, the police report and affidavit will be enough for them to voluntarily close the account and remove it from your credit report. If you’re lucky, all of the accounts will be removed and will not be sold to a collection agency.

For accounts that come back as verified, you can start by calling the creditors and explaining what has happened. This is likely what you will have to do if the ID thief did something major like purchase a vehicle or open up a mortgage/HELOC. Every reputable lender will have a process you have to go through if you’re a victim of identity theft, sometimes it will take months, other companies it might only take a couple of weeks. They don’t want people who legitimately took out a 2nd mortgage for $60,000 to decide they don’t want to pay it back and cry wolf about identity theft. They may go as far as to pull security camera footage, computer logs, IP addresses, etc. to corroborate your story. In extreme cases, they may try to put a lien on your home if you are a homeowner. In these cases, you might need to talk to a lawyer because they clearly aren’t buying the fact that you are a victim of identity theft.

Going Forward

In serious or repeated cases, you may need to look into changing your social security number. The SSA doesn’t like to do this but they do realize that for some people, the cause of their identity theft problems may be someone specifically using somebody else’s social security number. If you have your ID stolen one time and the damage isn’t too severe, you likely will not be able to replace your SSN.

You aren’t responsible for the information security of retailers or others who might have your personal information, but you are responsible for your own computer, smartphone, tablet, online accounts, etc. Download a popular and proven anti-virus program, such as Avast!, to keep yourself protected and clean out any current malware that may have lead to your identity being stolen.

Extra Notes

IRS Reporting – Identity thieves might try to claim your tax return, file the IRS Identity Theft affidavit with the IRS if you believe your social security number has been compromised.

Social Security Cards – Don’t carry around your social security card, memorize it and keep it in a safe place at home. If you lose your wallet or purse you’re going to be busy enough canceling credit cards and getting a new license, you don’t want to add the much larger headache of your credit being in danger.

Craigslist Scams – Don’t send your SSN to a “real estate agent” in order to approve an application for a rental. In fact, don’t give anything to them outside of either their (clearly marked) office, or the property you want to rent. If they ask to meet at Starbucks for you to either give them money or information, report them.

Extra Resources

Identity theft wiki

Identitytheft.gov

Bank of America Fraud Page

How to Save Money on Car Insurance

Insurance price factors you can control

Comparison Shopping

Comparing auto insurance quotes is usually the best way to get the lowest rate since there are dozens of auto insurance companies on the market, each with their own formula to determine how much you’re going to pay every month. Every company will offer their own discounts for various situations (being a good student, having no accidents, etc.) making it impossible to point-blank tell somebody “Geico is always going to have the best rates” or “State Farm is going to cost you a fortune don’t go with them”.

One common misconception about doing this is that it’s going to hurt your credit. This is not correct. Unlike shopping around for rates for a loan, which may slightly hurt your credit for a few months, shopping around for auto insurance does not. Most auto insurance companies will pull your claim history (if you have any) from a third party provider similar to a credit reporting bureau. Most major insurance companies get this from the CLUE database provided by LexisNexis. Just like with your credit report, LexisNexis is required by law to give you a free report of your insurance claims every year.

Driving a Safer Vehicle

Auto insurance companies don’t like it when you drive a vehicle with a low safety rating, even if you have a clean driving record. Their concern is that if you do get into an accident (and it is a “When” not “If” – about 98% of Americans are involved in an accident at some point in their lives) and if the accident is serious, your injuries are going to be much worse than they would have been in a safer vehicle.

Minimum limits of medical insurance vary from state to state but auto insurance companies aren’t always concerned with the nominal limits. They may only be on the hook for as little as $50,000 in a bad accident that injures several people since that’s the minimum limit (also part of what’s known as Minimum Coverage) allowed in many states. What worries them is another driver hitting you and either not having insurance or not having enough insurance to cover your medical bills, while you carry uninsured/underinsured driver coverage. All of a sudden, they might be on the hook for $1 million if you or other passengers require long-term care.

This is why you’ll often see insurance premiums come out to about the same price for a new(er) vehicle and an older, less safe vehicle, even if the newer vehicle is worth five times as much as the older one. Similarly, a coupe is almost always going to have a higher premium compared to a sedan. This is mostly because people tend to drive coupes in a more reckless manner and if you need to get out of the car fast (flipped car, fire) it’s going to be much easier for those in the back to egress from a sedan.

Car Value

While I explained that driving a safer car will result in a lower rate as compared to a cheaper, less safe car, the value of a vehicle does play a part in how much you will pay. An Aston Martin is going to cost more to insure than a Cadillac specifically because of how much it would cost to replace it. Going back to the uninsured/underinsured coverage issue, your insurance provider knows that it only takes a $1000 beater to total a $100,000 vehicle. The person who is driving the cheaper car likely cannot afford to pay the difference between their property damage limit and the actual value of a car that costs 6 figures. Even if you’re a safe driver, exotic cars and anything over about $70,000 is going to receive an upcharge from your insurance provider.

Driving History

The fewer claims you submit (or are submitted against you), the better rate you’re going to receive. Speeding tickets and previous accidents will affect how much you’re going to pay in monthly premiums.

Many states have defensive driving programs you can take once every year or two to remove a speeding ticket from your driving record. Some insurance companies even encourage you to take these programs without a speeding ticket and will give you a discount on your premiums.

How accidents affect your auto insurance is dependent on where you live. Some states do not allow insurance companies to charge you more because of accidents where you are not found at-fault, while others basically let the insurance companies charge you whatever they want. In general, an accident that clearly is not your fault, as evidenced by a police report or judge, will not cause your rates to go up. A history of accidents may be frowned upon by other insurance providers if you want to change insurance companies.

You can’t avoid every accident but you can be attentive to the road and avoid accidents that are clearly your fault. At-fault accidents will cause your auto insurance rates to jump faster than just about anything else. This holds even more true if your insurance company sees a pattern emerging of multiple accidents, which points to the fact that you probably are not a safe driver. In those cases, you’ll be lucky if they just jack up your price and not dump you completely.

Keeping your claims, tickets and accidents down though should get you a better deal on insurance than those who have recorded driving issues.

Limits, Deductibles and Coverage

Lowering your insurance limits is one way to reduce the amount you’ll pay in monthly premiums, but it isn’t always the smartest choice. Just about any vehicle you are still paying off will need full coverage insurance, which covers at least your state’s minimum liability limits, as well as collision coverage (for damage to your vehicle in an accident) and comprehensive coverage (weather, theft, vandalism).

Even if you don’t have a loan out on your vehicle, full coverage may still be a good idea if your car is worth more than a few thousand dollars and/or you wouldn’t easily be able to pay for a replacement if your car was totaled.

Your deductible is the amount of money that your insurance will not cover if you submit a claim to them. The standard is around $500 but you can increase the deductible to $1000 or even $2000 with some insurance providers. A higher deductible will give you a lower rate, which is more than worth it if you never submit a claim. If you are insuring a vehicle worth a lot of money, you can probably get away with a higher deductible since a repair, or an event that totals your vehicle, will cost far more than your deductible.

A quick overview of the types of coverage you can get through most insurance providers would include –

  • Liability coverage (required) – This is often split into $X/$X/$X format, which stands for the bodily injury limit for one person, bodily injury limit for an entire accident, and property damage limit. EDIT As u/macmaverickkposted in the comments, your state’s minimum limits are the bare minimum requirement for driving legally. Some states (California as per his example) have very low limits that would likely expose you to lawsuits for even a relatively minor accident. Getting higher limits will cost you a little more each month, but if you get into just one serious accident in your lifetime, it will have likely more than paid for itself.
  • Collision coverage (required if you have an auto loan) – This is how much coverage you have to replace your own vehicle if you damage or destroy it in an accident where you are found at-fault.
  • Comprehensive coverage (required if you have an auto loan) – Non-driving events that cause damage to your vehicle are covered under this. Weather damage, vandalism and theft are by far the three biggest claims under this type of coverage.
  • Uninsured/Underinsured driver coverage (sometimes required if you have an auto loan) – If you have this, your insurance will pick up the tab for injuries or damage to your vehicle in cases where the other driver in an accident that isn’t your fault has no insurance or too little insurance to cover everything.
  • Gap coverage (sometimes required if you have an auto loan) – In the event your car is totaled and you owe more on your loan than what the insurance company determines the value happens to be at that point in time, this coverage pays the difference to your loan provider.

Extra types of coverage will cost a little more, but it may be worth the peace of mind if you aren’t completely financially secure.

 

Insurance price factors you can’t control

Even though you really can’t control these factors, I’m going to touch on them so you know what to expect.

  • Age – 16-24 year olds will usually see higher insurance premiums than older drivers, who presumably have more experience behind the wheel. This gap is especially prevalent with 16 and 17 year olds who will have almost no experience and likely still be in high school. Good student discounts can kick in even at this point, since insurance companies know that better grades usually points to an individual being more responsible. After about 45 years, rates start rising once you hit about 70 since your eyesight generally gets worse and your reaction time isn’t quite as fast.
  • Gender – Health insurance companies cannot factor your gender into their premium calculations but auto insurance companies absolutely can (except in Colorado and Montana ). Males are going to be charged higher premiums than females if everything else is equal. The difference may not be a lot, but there seems to be little push to change it, mainly because either the rates for men would go down or the rates for women would go up. Take a guess at which choice the insurance companies would pick.
  • Zip Code – While you can technically control where you live, it is impractical to base your housing decisions on saving a few dollars a month on auto insurance. Areas with a higher crime or accident rate will see higher premiums as opposed to areas with lower crime rates and safer streets.
  • Marital Status – Married couples and those in civil unions usually see a slight drop in insurance rates after they tie the knot. Insurance companies figure those who are single might be prone to being a tad more reckless.

Common Questions About U.S. Taxes

Should I see someone about my taxes?

Even if you’re itemizing your deductions, the majority of people that ask this question in /r/personalfinance are likely capable of filing their taxes themselves. Tax situations that may merit seeing a professional would be a small business, multiple state residencies/income, or overseas tax issues (foreign tax credit, foreign earned income exclusion). Tax preparation costs vary based on complexity and where you live, but most tax returns can be prepared by a professional for a few hundred dollars.

What tax software should I use?

TurboTax and TaxACT are the two most popular commercial suites. If your income is below $58,000 you can file your federal return for free directly with the IRS using freefile. Costs of state returns through the Turbotax and TaxACT cost $36.99 and $17.99, respectively. Both suites charge more for things like capital gains, rental income, etc.

I already filed my taxes. Can I still contribute to a Roth IRA?

Yes. Unless you’re eligible for the saver’s credit then your Roth contribution after you file your return but before the April 15 deadline will not affect your tax filing. Roth contributions are post-tax.

Why doesn’t the student loan interest deduction double for couples married filing jointly?

That’s just the way the tax code was written. The maximum you can deduct in student loan interest is $2,500 regardless of your filing status.

What’s the difference between a tax deduction and a tax credit?

Tax deductions reduce the amount of your income that is taxed, while tax credits reduce your tax burden directly. The amount your tax burden is reduced by a deduction is the amount of the deduction times your marginal tax rate. For example, a tax deduction of $1,000 for someone in the 25% tax bracket will save $250 on their overall tax burden. A tax credit of $1,000 will save $1,000 on their overall tax burden.

Can I claim so-and-so as a dependent?

Use this handy flow chart, fill out the IRS’s handy tool, or refer directly to IRS publication 501.

I screwed up a tax return for a previous tax year. What should I do?

You need to file an amended return, form 1040X. The IRS provides this guidance for filing amended returns. As the IRS notes, your state tax obligation may change based on your federal tax obligation. You may need to file an amended state return as well.

What to do if never filed Taxes?

I’ve never filed a (federal) tax return before. Do I need to file now? If so, how do I do that?

You must file a federal tax return if you owe federal income taxes, and you should file if you had taxes withheld (since you might get some or all of them refunded). How do you know if this applies to you?

If you were paid with regular paychecks (so-called W2 income) with taxes taken out, you should file, regardless of how much you made, or whether your parents claim you as a dependent. Filing will not affect their ability to claim you. You must file if your income as a single person was over $10,300. If your earned income was less than the standard deduction, then you would not be required to file. Usually it’s a first full time job out of high school or college in which you will earn more than the standard deduction. If you are a standard wage earner and you properly filled out your W-4’s where ever you worked, then you probably were due a small refund at the end of the year. If you haven’t filed in a number of years, then any refund due to you will be lost because the IRS will only allow you to go back 3 years in claiming a refund. The IRS however can come after you for any years you did not file a tax return. Failure to file is a criminal offense. You should go back and file your prior taxes even if you were due a refund and know that the IRS will not be refunding it.

If you were paid without any taxes taken out, e.g. in cash or otherwise as a so-called 1099 employee, you need to file and pay taxes if you made at least $400. These “self-employment” taxes are more complicated, so be prepared to learn how those work. Once you are in compliance with filing all of the delinquent tax returns, the tax professional can determine how much you owe, including penalty and interest and then analyze your particular situation to determine an appropriate resolution. There are 3 primary methods of resolving collection cases: Offer-in-Compromise; installment agreement and Currently not Collectible, commonly referred to as hardship. An experienced tax professional who specializes in collection matters will explore all options and be able to recommend a solution to your tax case. You can get more information from my website.

To file your taxes, you have a few options: you can pay someone to do it for you (probably $100+), you can do it yourself using the paper forms, you can use an online site, or you can download tax prep software. Some of these options can be free, especially if you have only typical income levels and “tax situations”, e.g. no dependents, and only W2 income. Take a look at the links above in the help section for some pointers for how to get started. You will want to have your W2/1099. It should take less than an hour. Good luck!

(This covers only federal taxes. If you are in one of the 43 states with a state income tax, you will also need to look into those. That’s every state except Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.)

Credit Card Tips and Tricks to Save Money

  1. Banks make money from you on interest and fees, including late fees and annual fees. You can control those; you don’t have to pay any interest or fees unless you do something you agreed to. They make money from merchants on interchange fees of 2 to 4 percent. Merchants do not usually charge more for credit transactions, though they could in some cases. Interchange fees are higher if the card is not physically present, if you are getting rewards, and on American Express transactions.
  2. Your ongoing rewards come from these interchange fees. Initial spending bonuses come from the bank as a marketing cost. You can choose different types of rewards: cash, miles, or points that turn into cash or miles. You have to decide which you want, there’s no universally best choice. (Asking someone else what is the best card for you is generally futile, since they won’t know what works best for you.) Cash is, well, cash. Miles/ points can be worth more than cash, but only if you would spend them anyway. The best initial spending bonuses will be miles / points. If you don’t mind the impact of getting additional cards and can meet the spending targets, the best rewards percentages come from collecting initial spending bonuses; these can be 10% or more of that initial spending.
  3. The very best initial spending bonuses come from cards with annual fees; you have to factor that into the equation, but you still can come out ahead in the same 10% range on initial spend, especially if fees are waived first year. You may not want to keep paying annual fees, though, so this is where a product change comes in. Before the fee comes due, you can ask to switch to a card with no annual fee, but keep the same card number, credit limit and history. You don’t get an initial spending bonus with the new product, but you would get other benefits.
  4. Ask for what you want; some things are negotiable. You can sometimes get fees like annual fees or late feeswaived as a courtesy if you are otherwise a good customer and they want to retain your busines. You can almost always get the statement billing / due dates changed to something that works better for you, just by asking.
  5. Let’s look at some other things you can get with credit cards. My Chase Sapphire Preferred card provides these, described in a 47 page booklet full of small print covering details: a) car rental collision damage waiver, as primary coverage; I can decline the car rental company “insurance” without concern; b) various types of purchase protections, including extended warranty coverage, price protection, and return protection; c) trip cancellation / interruption insurance, due to e.g. accident/sickness, severe weather, or travel company bankruptcy; d) lost luggage, trip delay and travel accident benefits. e) This card also provides no fees on transactions in foreign currencies. Credit cards provide better exchange rates than cash / ATMs.
  6. We alluded to consumer legal protections previously. The two cases that are most important to you are: 1) if a card is lost or stolen (or, the number breached in any other way, even if the card is not physically involved…), your liability is legally limited to $50, and in practice, is usually zero. You do not have to pay for charges you did not authorize. Note that in this case, you card will be cancelled and re-issued with a new number, but the same credit limit and history. 2) if a merchant charges you something you disagree with, e.g. overcharge or defective product, you have the right to contest the charge, and the amount in question will be excluded from your bill until the dispute is finalized. Debit cards do not have to offer these same protections; for example, lost debit card liability can exceed $50 if not reported in 48 hours, and banks do not need to reverse debit card charges during disputes.
  7. Balance transfers can be helpful if you transfer to a 0% promotional rate card, but watch out for fees. You may be charged one-time interest of 3% or so. Cards from banks like Citibank allow you to transfer balances from student loans and car loans, too. Don’t get carried away though, since the term of these loans is very limited, and then interest goes up substantially. Be sure to read the fine print in your credit card disclosure about how balance transfers and new charges interact in terms of how payments are applied, too.
  8. Cash advances from credit cards are never a good idea. Your credit card is not an ATM card. This also applies to so-called “convenience checks.” You are typically charged a one-time fee of a few percent, have a higher interest rate, and, most importantly, you get no grace period on these transactions. Just say no.
  9. If you have self-employment income, you can apply for a small business card. This allows you to keep business expenses distinct from personal expenses, which can be helpful at tax time. Some small business cards also do not report against consumer credit bureaus, which may be a help if you want to minimize the impact of business utilization on your personal credit score. (But you could not use this to help your consumer credit history.)
  10. Final plug for being responsible. Only use a credit card as you would use an old-school charge card, where you pay off the balance in full each month. We’ve already explained that paying the minimum only is a disaster, but then that’s exceeded if you become 60 days late on payments, which will invoke not only late fees, but also penalty interest of 30% for at least six month. This can also result in increased interest rates on cards that you are not late on!

Common 401k Questions

Once you have contributed to your 401k, you are still left with the somewhat daunting decision of how to invest within your plan. For better or for worse, 401k providers typically “help” by limiting your choices to a small number of mutual funds (after all, the only true freedom is freedom from choice, right?).

A good strategy that will serve anyone well is the 3-fund portfolio. In the 3-fund portfolio you aim to hold broadly diversified index funds in the three major asset classes: US stocks, International stocks, and Bonds. By investing in this manner you are instantly diversified across thousands of different securities, will never significantly underperform the market, and are mathematically certain to outperform most investors doing differently.

Identifying what asset class a fund belongs to can be challenging, especially if your 401k provider doesn’t break them out for you. Identifying which funds are index funds can be even more difficult, but in general index funds will have expense ratios that are much lower than the other available funds. The expense ratio is the annual fee you pay for the privilege of investing in the fund. A low expense ratio is the single best indicator of superior long-term performance. An expense ratio of 1.5% may not seem like a lot, but when compared with an index fund charging an expense ratio of 0.3%, that 1.2% difference compounded over 30 years will add up to tens of thousands of dollars in lost returns. Vanguard offers various tools to compare the costs of investing in high or low expense ratio funds.

Unfortunately not all 401k plans are created equal, and some fund selections are truly horrendous containing funds with expense ratios in excess of 1.5%. If this is the case for your 401k plan, consider campaigning for improvements. While you’re doing that, make the best of a bad situation and choose the lowest-cost funds in your plan. You could also consider funding an IRA before contributing to your 401k (since this is a post about 401ks I will not go into the details here – see the FAQ or Google “IRA”), however, if you are saving for retirement you should contribute to your tax-advantaged accounts to their limits before putting money in a taxable account with no tax advantages.

 

Some other frequently asked 401k questions

1. My employer does not match my contributions. Should I still contribute to my 401k?

If your employer does not match contributions and you are looking to save money in a tax-advantaged account, most people will be better served with an IRA. However, the IRA contribution limit is $5,500 per year for those under 50 and has income limitations. If your income is such that you do not get the full tax advantages of an IRA, it is absolutely worth contributing to your 401k in order to save for retirement.

2. My 401k is crappy. Should I still contribute to it?

If your 401k has a poor selection of high cost funds, consider contributing to an IRA first. You can open an IRA with whoever you want, thus allowing you to choose which funds you have access to. If you have already maximized your IRA contribution for the year and still have money left over you want to put towards retirement, you should contribute to your poor 401k. The effect of high expenses really only starts to bite after long periods of time, and 401ks are quite portable in that you can roll them to your IRA if you leave your current employer, or sometimes you can roll it into a new 401k with a new employer. Bad 401k plans can turn into great IRAs in a heartbeat.

3. I want to retire early. Should I contribute to my 401k and lock up my money until age 59.5?

You should take advantage of the tax structure of the 401k for at least some of your savings, assuming you are planning to live past 59.5 years of age. Early retirement requires a lot of planning – you should project your needs before and after you’re eligible to take distributions from your 401k and plan accordingly.

From /u/arichi: If you plan to retire before 59.5, but close to it – say, at 55 or so – you can use 72(t) distributions to access pre-tax money without penalty. If you do so even earlier, you can access it with a five-year delay via a Roth IRA conversion ladder, although you’ll still need the first five years’ expenses available via taxable accounts, Roth IRA contributions, and perhaps part-time work.

4. Pay off debt or contribute to my 401k?

If your employer matches any of your 401k contributions you should contribute enough to get the full match. This is free money that you should not leave on the table. After that, any high interest debt carrying interest rates beyond what you could reasonably get investing elsewhere should take priority. Remember that paying down debt offers something that only scammers can claim otherwise – guaranteed, risk free return!

5. I’m a young person and want to invest aggressively – why invest in bonds at all?

Bonds provide a source of funds to purchase potentially higher-yielding investments when they can be had at discount prices during market downturns, reduce your portfolio’s volatility, and usually offer a steady return themselves. On the technical side, there are numerous studies that show that 100% (or more) stock investors are not compensated in proportion to the extra risk they take on by doing so. While stocks have outperformed bonds over the long run to date, “past performance is not indicative of future returns.” Finally, the psychological/emotional effects of a severe bear market really cannot be appreciated until they’re felt first hand. It is one thing to say you’re OK watching half of your investment portfolio evaporate in a few weeks. It’s quite another to watch it happen for real and have the wherewithal to stay the course. Bonds offer some consolation in such a scenario.

6. What is a vesting period?

(By suggestion from /u/dgmachine) Any contributions that come out of your paycheck are always 100% yours. However, if your employer provides any matching contributions to your 401k, occasionally they become yours according to a vesting schedule. A vesting schedule is essentially a time delay between when the money your employer contributes becomes “yours,” and is used as an incentive to keep employees with a particular company. Vesting schedules can take many forms – some schedule vesting in 20% increments (20% the first year, 40% the second year, etc.), some have a set amount of time (100% vesting after 3 years), others do not have a vesting period at all and the money is yours immediately. Your company’s HR section should be able to explain the terms of your company’s vesting schedule, if you have one.

7. I’ve left my previous employer. What should I do with my old 401k/403b/retirement plan?

See the FAQ entry on Rollovers.

8. Do rollovers into my new 401k count against my annual contribution limit?

No. Rollovers do not count against annual contribution limits for your 401k. For more information on rollovers, see the FAQ page on Rollovers.

9. Do employer contributions into my 401k count against my annual contribution limit?

No – employer contributions do not count against the individual contribution limits ($18,000 in 2015 and 2016). They do, however, count against the total 401k contribution limit – currently $53,000 in 2015 and 2016.

10. My company offers an after-tax 401(k). Should I contribute?

Possibly, if you have already reached the annual max for traditional or Roth contributions. See detailed discussion here.

11. Can I contribute $18k to my 401k and $5.5k to my IRA?

Yes. The 401k and IRA contribution limits are separate and do not affect each other.

12. Can I withdraw my contributions from my Roth 401k without taxes or penalties (like my Roth IRA)?

No. Unlike a Roth IRA, you cannot choose to only withdraw contributions from a Roth 401k. Distributions will contain a proportional amount of contributions and earnings, and the earnings will be taxed and penalized.

How does a 401k work?

In plain English, a 401k is an account you put money into that receives favorable tax treatment. Each year you can elect to contribute money to your 401k plan through payroll deductions. Elective deductions are usually specified as a percentage of your income, although some plans allow you to specify a dollar amount as well. The annual contribution limit is $18,000 in 2015 and 2016 (plus an additional $6,000 in 2015/2016 if the employee is age 50 or older). Do not go over this limit (some plans will not let you, and others will simply stop accepting contributions once you reach the limit).

 

401k plans come in two flavors:

  • Traditional 401k plan contributions reduce your taxable income. This is known as tax deferral – you are not taxed on the money you contribute now, but will pay income tax on your contributions and your earnings at your marginal tax rate when you take distributions from your 401k in the future.
  • If you contribute to a Roth 401k, contributions have already been taxed at your current marginal income tax rate. In exchange, all earnings may be distributed tax free if the distribution meets certain age and eligibility requirements. Note that not all 401k plans have a Roth option.

Which one do you choose? It depends on a lot of factors, but the big ones are:

  • Income – High earners are usually better off contributing to a traditional 401k, as this allows them to avoid paying their current high marginal tax rate. Conversely, those with lower incomes usually favor the Roth option, as they can pay a low marginal tax rate now in exchange for never being taxed on that money again.
  • Your guess about your future income tax rates – Those that believe they will be in a lower income tax bracket when they retire usually favor the traditional 401k. Those that believe they will be in a higher income tax bracket when they retire usually favor the Roth option. Those that believe income tax rates will rise across the board in the future usually favor the Roth option.

Money you contribute to your 401k must then be invested in the funds your 401k provider offers you.

 

What should I do with my old 401(k)?

You usually have 3 options to choose from:

  1. Leave it where it is, managed by your old 401(k) company. (This assumes there is no periodic fee to maintain your account as a non-employee and that you have enough money in the account to meet any minimum requirements.)
  2. Roll it over into an IRA. (Note: this may not be a great idea for pre-tax 401(k) plans if you have a high income that is above the Roth IRA contribution limits and are planning to do a backdoor Roth IRA in the future.)
  3. Roll it over into your new company’s 401(k) plan. (This assumes they allow it.)

Make your decision based on which of the three options provides the best selection of investment options. “Best” is based primarily based on which has the investment options with the lowest expense ratios. Most of the time this will be option #2: an IRA with a low cost provider where you have access to index funds with expense ratios below 0.2%. However, if either your old or new 401k has a particularly good choice of low expense ratio index funds (below 0.1%) to choose from you may want to choose option #1 or #3. This is usually only the case with extremely large corporations.

Note that some 401(k) plans feature “force-out” provisions that will remove separated participants with a low-balance from the 401(k) plan. If your old employer’s 401(k) plan features a force-out provision, they may exercise it if your account balance is less than $5,000. If your account balance is below $1,000, your former employer may send you the entire balance in the form of a check; otherwise, your employer must exercise the force-out by rolling the money into an IRA on your behalf. If you have an old 401(k) and are planning on keeping your money in the plan (as per option #1), ensure that your balance is high enough that you cannot be forced out, or that your plan does not force out old participants. If you are planning a rollover (as per option #2 or #3), and your old employer’s 401(k) plan features a force-out provision, you may want to roll your balance out as soon as possible, to avoid your 401(k) balance going through the force-out process.

 

I have a bad 401k plan, can I roll it to an IRA now?

401k plans usually only allow rollovers upon separation from the employer that sponsors the plan. Some plans, however, have an “in-service rollover” provision that does allow participants to roll funds from a 401k to another qualifying retirement plan without separating from the sponsor. This is a plan-by-plan feature, so you need to check with your 401k administrator or human resources office to find out if your plan has it.

Do rollovers into my new 401k count against my annual contribution limit?

No. Rollovers do not count against annual contribution limits for your 401k or IRA.

What’s the best way to perform/initiate a rollover?

Starting in 2015 the IRS is instituting a “one rollover per year” policy regardless of how many IRAs you own. In context, this refers to a rollover when you, the account holder, receives a check and then redeposits the money into the proper account. It does not apply to trustee-to-trustee rollovers in which you never have to deal with a check and everything is handled by the gaining and losing financial institutions. Thus, do a trustee-to-trustee rollover whenever possible to avoid any potential complications with the IRS, losing the check, or accidentally taking a distribution when you don’t mean to.

What’s the best company to roll my 401k/403b/etc. to?

Vanguard, Fidelity, and Charles Schwab are generally the IRA providers with the lowest expense ratio funds to invest in.

End of Life Planning Basics

Often, it is clear that very little planning has been done and there is little to be done at that point. Rather than regretting the lost opportunity, these requests can serve as a wake up call for all of us to get our affairs in order.

There are many concerns to address at end of life, including your spiritual affairs, your personal relationships and wrapping up any unfinished business or goals. These are out of scope for a finance discussion; but being well positioned in your financial plans can permit use of remaining time for addressing these concerns.

When planning for end-of-life, make sure you’ve covered the following:

  1. Have The Conversation. Communicate your end of life wishes to people you trust.
  2. Get oriented to the checklist at the website Get your Shit Together. These include: a will, living will, life insurance, money, personal details & personal items.
  3. Review titles for assets & beneficiary designations – some assets can be passed directly to your designates without going through probate. For example, in states which permit Transfer on Death titles you can title your house, vehicle or financial accounts to pass directly to a designated person or organization without going through probate. Additionally, bank accounts, retirement and pension accounts, and securities can often be treated similarly. TOD does not change the disposition of these assets so long as you remain alive, so consider it for your assets.
  4. Having an inventory of all your assets is helpful (info on finding assets starts on p 15) At the least, catalog your financial life and write up a letter of instruction with info on which accounts you have, what your usual expenses are and where they are paid from, and how you would want things to operate if you are unavailable during, for example, a terminal illness. (see steps here.). Track down and claim assets that you may be entitled to via legitimate sources like USA.gov and NAUPA’s missing money site.
  5. Organize your financial affairs – a power of attorney document can be helpful in permitting a trusted person to manage your affairs during your life, especially at the end; but note that POAs cease upon death. POAs come in a few varieties: durable, general, financial and healthcare and combinations thereof. Know your options and set up one that is right for you. Consider who directs this and how you want your financial affairs handled if you are incapacitated. Since medical care costs can have significant impact on your financial affairs, consider also how you want your end of life care handled. Evaluate the benefits of a living will, advanced directive, and medical power of attorney. Assess details carefully, like who can access safe deposit boxes if you can’t physically get to a bank. Evaluate your survivor’s needs for replacement income if you provide support to them; life insurance can provide some financial security in the event of a financial supporter’s death. See /r/Insurance if you need more info.
  6. Funeral planning – there’s a variety of options specified by different cultural and spiritual traditions. Consider what would work for you and recognize that there’s no one right way to have a funeral. In the US the average funeral cost is between $8,000 and $10,000 but there are many other options which can either save money or make a funeral quite expensive. You have the option to provide funds and instruction to your survivors as part of your end of life planning. Be careful not to over-specify your plans, since meeting very specific criteria can increase costs. Economical options are available via military burials for qualified US service members and their spouses, body or organ donation for medical or scientific purposes, green or natural burial, and direct burial (without a service). Certain federal laws provide for consumer protection and state laws provide various additional protections. (p 25 has additional details)

Basic Credit Card Information 101

Top ten things you need to know about credit cards.

  1. You probably want one or more credit cards. Used responsibly, a credit card gives you many benefits, including consumer protections as well as improved cash flow / rewards, that are not available from other payment sources. We’ll explain “used responsibly” as we go. You do not have to pay interest to get these benefits.
  2. Your debit card is not a credit card. If your bank gave you a card just for opening your account, it’s a debit card, not a credit card even if it says “Visa” on it. You have to apply to get a credit card. Debit cards take money from your checking account immediately. Credit cards don’t.
  3. A credit card is a pre-approved loan up to your credit limit, which lenders come up with based on your application. As loans, credit cards build your credit history when you use them, and can help your credit score if you don’t borrow much and pay it back every month. This is one of the few ways to build credit for no cost.
  4. The grace period is your friend. If you are paying off your statement balance each month, you will not be charged any interest on new charges. This can be up to six weeks, thus the cash-flow benefit. But beware: if you don’t pay off the balance, your grace period is gone, and all new charges will accrue high interest, until you again pay off the statement balance. There is no difference to the card company if you pay once / month or multiple times / month, though it may reduce your credit utilization which is usually good.
  5. The 20%+ annual APR common to credit cards is NOT your friend. You want to avoid this at all costs. This means you never charge more than you can pay off each month, even if you still have credit limit left :). While the “minimum payment” may not seem that bad, if you paid off a credit card balance using only minimum payments, you would pay up to three times as much for everything as if you paid it off immediately. If you find yourself shopping for lower APR, like 15%, that’s still bad, since you shouldn’t be paying interest at all.
  6. More credit is granted to people with good credit. What if you have no credit? To get started, you should look for a card designed for people with no credit, like a secured credit card, or something from your bank or credit union. With a secured card, you are basically borrowing your own money, since you put down the money to back your credit limit. It’s like training wheels, or a learner’s permit. Once you have shown you can do this, then you can use other people’s money. Not much to start, though; initial credit limits are usually below $1000. It’s possible to get $20,000+ limits on a card if your history is good enough.
  7. More credit cards is usually better, eventually. Go slow, though; maybe 1/year to start. Getting a new card increases your available credit, and increases your number of accounts, both of which help your credit score. This at the cost of an inquiry, which will be less-than-helpful for a couple of months. Note that requesting a credit limit increase sometimes produces an inquiry as well. There is no such thing as too many credit cards from a score standpoint, but taking out a lot of credit in a short period of time makes you look like a bad credit risk. You also don’t want to have more cards than you can manage. Forgetting to make a payment is bad. Closing a credit card won’t help your credit score.
  8. Zero-percent promotional rates are good but can be risky. Once you have a credit history, you’ll eventually be offered zero-percent promotional rates. These are generally speaking good for you, especially if you would otherwise be paying interest. In some cases you can even transfer balances from other cards. Just remember you need to pay everything off, and that’s easier said than done. The card companies hope you don’t. Be aware of the difference between promotional 0% and deferred 0%, as well.
  9. Rewards are a good thing. Once you have a good credit history, you will be able to get rewards cards that rebate 1%+ of your credit card expenses you. (Merchants pay this indirectly, as a portion of the 2-3% fee taken from them when you use your card.) You want to do this. Some cards offer extra rewards for initial spending to get you to apply. If you can get the extra reward, it’s usually worth it.
  10. Reminder to be responsible. Not everybody is. If you know you have limited self-control, then credit may not be for you. People who use credit may overspend on unneeded purchases. (“Hey, I’m getting rewards!”) Credit cards are not your emergency savings. Most of the saddest stories we have here at /r/pf are people who got $10,000 or even $50,000 in debt because they spent too much. Don’t let this be you. Be careful out there!

Avoiding IRS Tax Scams

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! In recent years, thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams and fake IRS communication. This page looks at the scams affecting individuals, businesses, and tax professionals and what do if you if you spot a tax scam.  The IRS saw an approximate 400 percent surge in phishing and malware incidents in the 2016 tax season. Scam emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. These phishing schemes can ask taxpayers about a wide range of topics. Emails can seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information.

  • Scammers make unsolicited calls.  Thieves call taxpayers claiming to be IRS officials. They demand that the victim pay a bogus tax bill. They con the victim into sending cash, usually through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. They may also leave “urgent” callback requests through phone “robo-calls,” or via phishing email.
  • Callers try to scare their victims.  Many phone scams use threats to intimidate and bully a victim into paying. They may even threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the license of their victim if they don’t get the money.
  • Scams use caller ID spoofing.  Scammers often alter caller ID to make it look like the IRS or another agency is calling. The callers use IRS titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They may use the victim’s name, address and other personal information to make the call sound official.
  • Cons try new tricks all the time.  Some schemes provide an actual IRS address where they tell the victim to mail a receipt for the payment they make. Others use emails that contain a fake IRS document with a phone number or an email address for a reply. These scams often use official IRS letterhead in emails or regular mail that they send to their victims. They try these ploys to make the ruse look official.
  • Scams cost victims over $23 million.  The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, or TIGTA, has received reports of about 736,000 scam contacts since October 2013. Nearly 4,550 victims have collectively paid over $23 million as a result of the scam

 

The IRS Will Never Ask:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

Also, the IRS never ever sues you. It has no need. The IRS is an agency of the Federal government that is entitled (and required, by law) to assess your tax liability. Once it assesses your tax liability, unless you sue them in the US Tax Court within 90 days, the assessment is final and is the same as a court order.

 

How will the IRS contact me?

Taxpayers should remember their first contact with the IRS will not be a call from out of the blue, but through official correspondence sent through the mail. A big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are from the IRS and urging immediate payment.

 

What to do if called by IRS Scammer?

If you get called by a scammer, consider collecting their stated name, phone number they are calling from, and number you are directed to call and reporting it to TIGTA and/or the Federal Trade Commission (with “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes). DO NOT GIVE OUT ANY PERSONAL INFORMATION. I highly recommend that those of us with elderly parents or family members share the word. The elderly are some of the most vulnerable when it comes to online or telephone scams.

 

Tips on How To Reduce Spending

Waiting two weeks to purchase non-essential items. When I found myself wanting to purchase something new and non-essential, I forced myself to wait two weeks before committing to the purchase. Impulse spending is so easy via tools like the Internet, and a lot of times, a small purchase can seem inconsequential when it’s just a click away. I forced myself to bookmark items I wanted to purchase in my web browser and wait two weeks before committing. I’d bookmark them with the date I found them, so I knew that I was on the right track. Often, after two weeks, I’d realize I didn’t really want or need that item and that I’d forgotten all about it.

 

One in, one out rule. My biggest spending areas are clothes and beauty items. I forced myself to utilize a one in, one out rule, meaning that if I purchased an item of a certain kind, I had to get rid of an item of the same kind that I already owned. For example, say I’m looking at purchasing a new lipstick. I’d go through what I owned, see what I had that was similar, and decide if I could part with one of the similar ones in exchange for the new one. Often, I didn’t want to part with the similar items, and realizing how many items I had that were similar convinced me not to make the purchase.

 

Asking myself if there were any bills or payments that I should be spending that money on instead. I worked my way out of $5k+ in credit card debt, all from needless spending, in the last six months. One of the biggest tips that got me through it was looking at a purchase and asking myself if the money that it would cost could be better allocated elsewhere. For example, say I had already made a payment on Card A for that month, but it still carried a $500 balance, and the item I was looking at was $50. Instead of allowing myself to purchase that item, I’d remind myself that even if the money was sitting in my checking account and seemed free to spend, it really should be spent paying down my debt on Card A.

 

Leaving my credit cards at home. I got myself into a tough spot with credit cards – the payments weren’t unmanageable and I had no delinquent payments, but the debt was definitely more than I could reasonably afford to carry with me and chipping away at it in small doses wasn’t doing me any good. I had multiple credit cards, so I left the ones that I used the most or had the highest balances at home, and only left the house with my debit card and primary credit card. This way, if I ever got into a bind, I had a card to use, but by leaving the others at home, I made myself incapable of spending on them while out and about.

 

Reminding myself of the bigger picture. I found it so easy to talk myself into “small purchases” by telling myself that I was only spending $30, so it wasn’t a big deal. Reframing the way I looked at spending made a huge impact for me. $30 might not seem like a lot to spend on a frivolous item, but when you do that every day, or multiple times a week, it adds up. I had to teach myself that sure, one purchase isn’t a big deal, but how that one “inconsequential” purchase spiraled into two or three or four “inconsequential” purchases was. $30 on one item isn’t much, but $30 on one item once a week for a month is $120 – that’s a chunk of change that could be used to pay down debt, put into savings, etc.

 

Immediately transferring a portion of my paycheck to my savings. This was the easiest habit to adopt. Even if it was only $50, getting into the habit of transferring money in – and not out of – my savings each time I got paid established a savings habit that has gotten me out of $5k in debt and netted me now about $1500 in my savings account. This might seem like a small amount to some, but to me, it was $1k more than I’d ever had in my checking account at once, and seeing that number grow has encouraged me to incrementally increase the amount of money I transfer into my savings account with each paycheck.

 

Budgeting enough money for essential items that I didn’t have to fall back on credit cards to pay for them. This was one of the hardest to adhere to. I found that, because I’m in my early twenties and haven’t been financially independent before, budgeting was damn near impossible. I never knew how much to spend on groceries, gas, bills. Taking the time to sit down and analyze exactly how much I was spending, how I could cut back on that, and where I should be allocating more money for essential purchases kept me from putting those purchases on credit cards because I didn’t have the cash for them.

 

Allotting myself a certain amount of “free spend” money each check, and taking that money out in cash. It’s so easy to swipe a card and not think of what that’s doing to your bank account. I started budgeting out my “free spend” money (shopping, restaurants, entertainment) each check and then taking that amount out in cash and only letting myself spend that on frivolous purchases. If I wanted to purchase something online, I had to deposit the cash back into my account to use it. This helped me stop blindly swiping my card and really start thinking about the tangible impact spending had on my bank account.

 

Using an app like Mint to track my spending, savings, and goals. I hated Mint when I was in debt – honestly, it felt like it was constantly reminding me of my debt and my poor spending choices (as it should have done) and it made me ashamed to use it. By forcing myself to look at it daily and track my spending by categorizing purchases, I really opened my eyes to how “small” purchases every few days could easily amount to thousands of dollars each month that should have been put toward debt and bills.

Paying Medical Bills Without Health Insurance

Some advice for patients without health insurance (or for anybody wondering why the following is the case). Learn about some things can be done to reduce the costs of someone being uninsured when going to the hospital.

 

Example of Doctor Visit as Uninsured Patient

When you visit a medical practitioner or hospital, they can bill any amount they want (although some are limited by local laws). For some practitioners, the insurance company negotiates how much they’ll pay them for that service. For example, a doctor may charge $200 for a sick visit. But the insurance company negotiates that they’ll only pay $75 for a sick visit. The $200 bill sent by the doctor to the insurance company is called the pre-negotiated rate. The $75 bill in this instance is called the negotiated rate. An insured patient at an in-network practice will not need to pay more than the negotiated rate.

In short, Medicare sets its rates across the board. Providers (e.g. hospitals) have no choice but to accept them, as they are all-but-required to accept Medicare patients. Because Medicare is not required to ensure that its rates are sustainable, Medicare ends up reimbursing, on average, 7% less than the costs of providing services to its patients. (This is not accounting for salaries, overhead, etc. – just the per-patient, marginal cost of each additional service).

If hospitals didn’t make up the difference somehow, they would go bankrupt. So they have to charge other patients more. Unfortunately, most hospitals cannot, by law, charge patients different amounts depending on what their insurance status is when presenting the initial bill. So, the initial bill that they send to everyone is absurdly high. They don’t expect anyone to pay that amount. But they have to highball the initial bill to insurers (to start negotiations), and they cannot legally ask patients if they are uninsured and then present them with a smaller initial bill.

The private insurers usually look at the high bill and say “No, we’re not going to pay that much. But we will agree to pay you 200% what Medicare does for this service, for all our patients this year, if you stop sending us these bills.” This is the intended result.

 

What happens with uninsured patients?

Uninsured patients usually look at the high bill and freak out, because they think they’re expected to pay it. Hospitals could not care less if you pay it or not, which is why you can almost always negotiate it down. Tell them, “I cannot afford to pay $20,000, but I will be able to pay $1,000, and I will pay you that today if that’s what you charge me.” They will almost always take you up on this, beacuse it’s better to them to have the small bill paid than to have a bill that a patient ends up defaulting on. (Defaults affect their bad debt ratio).

 

Negotiated Rates for Insurance Companies

In the above example, having health insurance was financially an excellent move for Bob. For $11,000, he avoided paying $43,000 worth of medical bills. But most people don’t have medical bills that exceed their out-of-pocket maximum. For those individuals, health insurance provides a secondary benefit called “negotiated rates”.

When you visit a medical practitioner or hospital, they can bill any amount they want (although some are limited by local laws). For some practitioners, the insurance company negotiates how much they’ll pay them for that service. For example, a doctor may charge $200 for a sick visit. But the insurance company negotiates that they’ll only pay $75 for a sick visit. The $200 bill sent by the doctor to the insurance company is called the pre-negotiated rate. The $75 bill in this instance is called the negotiated rate. An insured patient at an in-network practice will not need to pay more than the negotiated rate.

In-network or Out-of-Network

The medical practices that have a negotiated rate with your insurance company are considered to be in-network. The medical practitioners that did not agree to the discounted rates are considered to be out-of-network. An out-of-network medical provider can charge you the pre-negotiated rate. Taking the above example, the insurance company may only pay $75 for a $200 out-of-network sick visit, leaving the patient responsible for the $125 balance.

Additionally, insurance companies also may have different deductibles, co-insurance, and out-of-pocket maximums for in-network vs out-of-network visits. For example, the deductible may be $3,000 for in-network visits and $4,000 for out-of-network visits. It is usually most efficient financially to only use in-network providers.

Lowering Healthcare Costs Tips

Healthcare expenses can be quite high, with deductibles of several thousand dollars and out-of-pocket maximums over ten thousand dollars. Luckily, the IRS allows people to sometimes lower the actual cost of healthcare expenses by paying for them pre-tax.

 

Using Healthcare Flexible Spending Account (HCFSA) to Lower Healthcare Costs

Some employers grant access to a Healthcare Flexible Spending Account (HCFSA, sometimes called FSA), where money is taken out of the employee’s paycheck pre-tax. Then, as the healthcare expenses are incurred, the employee submits the receipts to the HCFSA program, which then reimburses the expenses from the pre-tax allotment. Some HCFSA programs also supply a debit card which can be used to pay for eligible expenses.

One of the biggest issues with HCFSAs is that the money allocated for them is “use-it or lose it”, meaning that only expenses incurred during the calendar year can be reimbursed from the HCFSAs. Any money left in HCFSA cannot be used in the following calendar year. While some companies allow carrying over up to $500, you’ll need to check your companies exact policy to determine what amount, if any, can be carried over to the following year.

For example, Joe allocated $2,000 for his HCFSA. Over the course of the year, Joe incurred $1,000 of medical expenses. Joe’s company’s HCFSA does not allow carrying over any funds in his HCFSA, so Joe loses the remaining $1,000 in the HCFSA.

 

Using a Health Savings Account to Lower Healthcare costs

Another option available is called a Health Savings Account (HSA). If someone has an insurance policy classified as a High-Deductible Health Plan (HDHP), they are allowed to open and fund an HSA. An HSA can be funded with pre-tax dollars, and unlike an FSA account, the balance is not forfeited at the end of the year. Any money left in the HSA at age 65 can be withdrawn without penalty, similar to a traditional 401(k).

 

Other Tips to Lower Healthcare Cost

  • Ask About Generics
  • Ask for a Discount
  • Listen to Your Doc
  • Shop Around
  • Compare Costs for Lab Tests
  • Try Mail-Order Medications
  • Read Your Bills
  • Consider a High-Deductible Plan
  • Use a Flexible Spending Account
  • Take a Walk

Preparing for Medical Treatment

There are many stories of people being shocked with a bill for thousands of dollars. Below are the steps you can take to avoid owing (potentially) thousands of dollars.

  1. Choose an in-network practitioner. Verify that they’re in-network by calling your insurance company or checking your insurance company’s online directory. Many people have been told by a secretary that the practice is in-network and then learned otherwise. If you go out-of-network, you’ll likely have to pay the full charge for the service and will likely need to submit the bill to the insurance company yourself for reimbursement.
  2. If a referral or preauthorization is needed, make sure the paperwork is squared away. You may receive an EOB for the upcoming procedures. If you don’t receive an EOB, call your insurance company to verify that all necessary paperwork went through.
  3. After each visit, you should receive an explanation of benefits (EOB) with an itemized list of what the doctor billed for. If there is an unexpected or fraudulent item, contact the doctor’s office to clarify why that line is included on your bill. Health providers are required to provide an itemized bill. If the charge is fraudulent, contact your insurance company.
  4. If you go to an out-of-network practice, keep a copy of the statement from the doctor’s office, in case you need to submit the claim to your insurance company yourself. Even if the secretary says they’ll submit the claim to your insurance for you, they may not – and you’ll be the one who has to foot the bill.
  5. Once you determine how much is owed from a medical visit, submit the expense to your HCFSA for reimbursement.

Tips for First Time Home Buyers in Year 1

  1. Be clear about why you’re buying a home. Every large decision you have to make about home ownership should somewhat tie in to this. I can’t stress this enough. Make sure the reason makes sense to you after you and your SO (if applicable) sleep over it a few times. Don’t get in to home ownership because your friends or colleagues are telling you how much they love owning their home. It might not be the same for you. Again, be clear. I’d say literally write it down.
  2. If you’re buying a home together with your SO (I’d imagine most might), sit separately with different pieces of paper and write down what each of you wants in your home. Be realistic. Indicate what you’re ok with compromising on and what is absolutely a must have (or must not have). Don’t talk to each other while doing this. Once you’re satisfied with the list, tally what you have and combine what you want, don’t want, what’s a must have and what you can compromise on. Be realistic.
  3. Use one of the online tools to calculate “how much house can I afford”. Don’t spend more than 30-40% of your annual income on home ownership – this includes your mortgage, insurance, property tax etc. I’d say stick to 30% or less. Edit: 30% of take home pay is what my max was. I ended up buying lower than that. Your scenario may be different. The COL in your area will probably affect this number.
  4. Look at houses based on the life style you have not the life style you aspire to have. For example we looked at houses with smaller yards or yards without large lawns. Reason: Our lifestyle and gardening aren’t compatible. We’d have loved a large green lawn but realistically we’d never maintain it and probably wouldn’t spend on a gardener. That’s just one example. Don’t dream of building a home theater in the basement if you’re the outgoing type.
  5. “Buy the biggest house you can afford” is horrible horrible advice. This was given to me by most people around me. It sounded bad then and after a year in, it sounds just horrible. Buy the house that you need today with some consideration for tomorrow’s needs. Tomorrow’s needs is something along the lines of growing family NOT anticipating profits from business or promotions. The advice given on this sub holds true here too – buy below your means.
  6. Avoid borrowing money from friends or family in order to afford a bigger home. This is kind of an off shoot of the point above. Both points will just lead to additional stress that you don’t need. This is true even if they’re willingly offering you money without you asking.
  7. REALLY look in to total cost of home ownership. If you’re looking in to a fixer upper things can get very tricky. I’d recommend not going for a fixer upper for a first time home owner. I bought a relatively new home but the cost of minor fixes baffled me. I’m very very happy to not have bought a home that needed repairs. I’d have underestimated the cost even if someone would have given me quotes for the repairs. Things like regulations change. A minor change might end up with large expenses to keep up with code. I learned this the hard way when I wanted to get an additional power outlet.
  8. Drive around the neighborhoods that you’re interested in. Get a feel of the place. Chat with people who’re out for walks or something and see what they think. This might lead to interesting results. When I did this, people thought I was selling something so their immediate reaction to my “Hi” was “I’m good. thanks.”. :|
  9. A home purchase is often a process of elimination. Start with all homes that match your criteria. Filter based on cost, then filter based on neighborhood, then filter based on square footage, school districts etc. Keep going until you’re left with a few homes that you’ll go look at.
  10. Your agent facilitates the transaction. If you don’t know what you want and haven’t communicated with them very clearly, they may influence your decision. If you feel your agent is pressing you into making decisions – RUN. Better than having buyers remorse after having gotten in large debt.
  11. Feel free to use your agent to do the ground work. I gave my agent a list of questions to go figure out for the houses/neighborhood/HOAs etc that I was interested in. You’re paying your agent a good sum of money. Get your money’s worth. Don’t shy away from asking questions. (Your agent might tell you that you won’t pay him. That’s partly true. You won’t pay them directly – the seller usually accounts for this and prices the home accordingly. So in a way, you are paying him.)
  12. It’s in your best interest to not have the same agent as the seller.
  13. Don’t skimp out on the essentials – for example home inspection. It may be expensive to do but it’s better than being stuck with a flawed house. Edit: /u/SureWtever: consider getting a radon inspection (Quick google tells me there are DIY kits that are available).
  14. Protect your investment – get good insurance. Make sure you’re aware of what’s covered and what’s not. Change the locks before you move in. Change the lock on the mailbox. Invest in a home security system if your neighborhood warrants it. Consider cameras at the very least.
  15. Find out how the HOA is if it exists. I’ve heard horror stories from colleagues. A couple of them have sold their condos because of the stress it caused them.
  16. Consider your mortgage options. Depending on how long you plan to live in your home, ARM might be a good option.
  17. After you buy your home, don’t feel compelled to set it up immediately. That means it’s ok to use the current furniture you have. It’s ok to not have a proper bed. (We’re still using a box + mattress combo – no frame or headboard). It’s ok if one or more of your rooms look spartan for a year or two.

Paying Your Credit Card Bills and other Debt on Time

What can be done to make your credit better and how to stop their credit from going bad in the first place.

 

Paying Credit Card Bills on Time

The answer is almost always the same: Pay your bills on time. Specifically things like credit cards, auto loans, mortgages, etc., accounts that show up on your credit report.

Paying your electric bill 3 days late won’t hurt your credit. Paying your credit card bill 95 days late will annihilate your credit.

When you just cannot make a minimum payment for whatever reason, it helps to call your creditor before the due date and explain the situation. Most of the time, they will be able to work with you to setup something to make it easier for you to pay.

One 30 day late payment won’t shave 100 points off of your credit score but it certainly doesn’t help. Doing what you can do avoid making these late payments is critical if you want to have good credit.

I know it can be frustrating to sometimes be told “It takes time for some credit wounds to heal” but it’s the truth. It’s harder to take late payments off of your credit report than it is to take off a collection account.

About 18 months after a late payment, assuming you’ve been making all of your other payments on time, most of the effect it had on your credit will wear off.

Average age of your accounts, credit utilization, inquiries, everything like that play a role in your credit score but your payment history plays the biggest role, which can’t easily be changed.

Method to Pay Bills on Time

“Lazy Bill System” for the employed:

  1. Acquire one month’s worth of expenses, move to checking account.
  2. Set employer direct deposit to this checking account. Set everything to autopay from this checking account (edit: or a credit card if it doesn’t charge a convenience fee). (Autopay in full if it’s a credit card, unless you’re playing catch-up.)
  3. Use something like Mint or YNAB to track your expenses from your checking, credit cards, etc. so you can balance your finances automatically.
  4. You are now done.

Info about Repaying Student Loans

Once you’ve graduated or started going to school as less than a part-time student, you’ll usually have a period of time, between 6-9 months, when you don’t have to repay your student loans. This is called your “grace period” and interest can still build up on the time between graduation and repayment.

In a perfect world, we would all be able to make 10 years (or less) of payments after the grace period ends and be completely student loan free. In reality, some people can afford to put much more than their monthly payment towards their loans while others cannot come close to affording their monthly payment.

 

What are Federal Student Loan Repayment Programs?

Aside from the standard 10 year repayment plan, there are a few other options which can help with your monthly payments depending on your expenses and how much you make.

What is the Student Loan PAYE Plan?

  • PAYE Plan – Pay As You Earn – If your first federal student loan was disbursed after September 30, 2007, you can repay your loans under the PAYE plan. With this, your maximum monthly payment is capped at 10% of your discretionary income (more on that here) as long as it’s less than what you would normally repay on a standard 10 year plan. Your repayment schedule will stretch out to 20 years under this plan, but you can still have your loans forgiven under the Teaching/PSLF programs after 5/10 years.

What is the Student Loan REPAYE Plan?

  • REPAYE Plan – REvised Pay As You Earn – Unlike the PAYE plan that requires you to have a qualifying income, anybody can elect to pay under the REPAYE plan. 10% of your discretionary income would be your maximum monthly payment over a period of 20 years (unless part of the loans were used for graduate studies, then 25 years). As with the PAYE plan, you can qualify for forgiveness after 5 or 10 years if you work in certain professions.

What is the Student Loan ICR Plan?

  • ICR Plan – Income Contingent Repayment – This is the only repayment plan available for PLUS loans, though they must be consolidated first. Payment caps are 20% of your discretionary income or what you would normally pay on a 12 year schedule at a fixed rate based on your income, whichever is lower. Anyone can qualify for an ICR plan and your term will be extended to 25 years. Federal forgiveness/cancellation options are still available once you’ve made the required number of payments/worked for a certain amount of time.

What is the Student Loan IBR Plan?

  • IBR Plan – Income Based Repayment – Similar to the PAYE plan for those who receive their first loan after Sep 30, 2014, your payments are capped at 10% of discretionary income but never any more than what you’d pay under a standard repayment plan. For those who received loans before that date, it’s capped at 15% and no more than a standard repayment amount. Loan terms are 20 years for those starting after Sep 30, 2014 and 25 years for those before that date. As with other plans, you can still have loans forgiven under Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).

What are Options When You Cannot Repay?

Federal student loans do have some flexibility when it comes to being unable to make your monthly payments. Some of them only take place in a limited timeframe, other repayment options can extend indefinitely.

What is Student Loan Deferment?

  • Deferment – During a deferment, you don’t have to pay principal or interest on a student loan but the interest does keep racking up. If your loans are subsidized, the government pays the interest during a deferment. There are several reasons why you can apply for a deferment, but the ones that apply to most people are the economic hardship and inability to find employment deferments, each lasting up to 3 years.

What is Student Loan Forbearance?

  • Forbearance – Similar to a deferment, you don’t have to make payments while your loan is in forbearance, but it does still accumulate interest. You can request a forbearance if you otherwise wouldn’t qualify for a deferment, but in many cases it’s up to the lender to decide whether or not to grant it. In some cases, they are required to grant the forbearance, usually if your student loan payment would make up 20% or more of your gross income.

What is Student Loan Consolidation?

  • Consolidation – There are times when an unmanageable situation occurs that would be fixed if several loans were consolidated. This often results in a lower monthly payment and a fixed rate, but at the expense of having to repay for a longer period of time. The federal government lets you consolidate several types of public student loans into a new loan, but prohibits you from rolling private loans into your federal consolidation. It’s also possible to get a private consolidation loan that would pay off your federal loans, but you lose all the flexibility you enjoy with federal programs when you do this.

What is Student Loan Bankruptcy?

  • Bankruptcy – Discharging your student loans in a bankruptcy is possible but it doesn’t happen very often. In order to do this you typically have to show that your student loans alone would put you in an untenable financial situation for a long period of time. This means if all of your other debt were wiped out in a bankruptcy, your student loan payment would have to be so high you still wouldn’t be able to support yourself. Few people get their student loans discharged through bankruptcy, those who do are sometimes under unique financial stress.

Forgiveness and Cancellation of Student Loans

Some people may be eligible to have their federal student loans forgiven or cancelled. Though there are many reasons which can result in the loan completely disappearing, becoming a teacher or entering a public service profession are the two most common ways to receive loan forgiveness.

Perkins loans are forgiven on a graduated scale for public service professionals, sometimes resulting in 100% of the loans being forgiven. Other types of federal loans can be forgiven after 120 on-time regular payments while you are employed in the public service sector. Teachers have a special carve-out that only requires them to work 5 years in a low-income school to qualify for loan forgiveness.

What happens when you are overpaying Your Student Loans

If you think you’re going to be eligible for public service/teacher loan forgiveness programs, it’s usually in your best interest never to overpay your monthly payment. You won’t get credit for the extra money you put into the loan when it’s time to have it forgiven.

Student loan debt usually accumulates interest at a lower rate than most other types of debt. Pay off things like your credit cards first before trying to knock out student loans. Car loans and mortgages can sometimes have rates higher than your student loans, but paying your student debt faster can free up your monthly payment to go towards these other, sometimes larger loans. It can come down to a personal preference if the interest rates are close to the same.

 

Summary of Student Loan Repayment Issues

Federal loans are much better than private loans because they offer payment flexibility and forgiveness programs. Say goodbye to Perkins loans, they are leaving us next year. Fill out the FAFSA as early as you can to get a clear picture of how much you’ll need to borrow. Be smart about how you pay back your loans.

Tips for Getting Student Loans

Preparing for Student Loans – Before taking out student loans for education. It is important to become familiar with some basic information about different types of student loans

What are Federal Student Loans?

Sticking to federal loans is usually the best choice for most would-be students. It doesn’t matter if you’re 16 or 60 The very first thing you should do when you’re getting ready to start college is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid otherwise known as FAFSA. I could write another whole guide on the FAFSA but for now, what’s important about it is that you fill it out to the best of your ability. Just about every U.S. citizen who graduated high school/has their GED, signed up for the Selective Service (males), and hasn’t been convicted of selling drugs will likely qualify for some type of aid, unless you or your parents make boatloads of money.

 

What are Federal Perkins Loans?

The FAFSA will tell you if you are eligible for a Federal Perkins Loan or a Stafford Loan. Perkins loans are doled out by your school (not all schools are in the program) and have a fixed interest rate of 5%. The government is actually moving to phase out Perkins loans with the last available ones being given by September 30, 2017. Your school will apply whatever amount you get to your bill for tuition and boarding. Sometimes, there will be some extra leftover, which will come back to you in the form of a check. Since these loans are being phased out in less than a year, there isn’t much else to say about them until it comes time to repay them.

 

What are Stafford Loans?

These are the loans you may end up with if your parents’ expected financial contribution is fairly low. There are two versions of the Federal Stafford Loan

  • Subsidized Stafford Loans – Interest on a subsidized loan doesn’t kick in for you until after the 6 month grace period for repayment. Technically, it does accrue but the government subsidizes it by paying the interest for you. These are usually given to those coming from lower-income families.
  • Unsubsidized Stafford Loans – Interest starts accruing immediately but you aren’t required to pay it while you are in school. Once you graduate, all of the interest that has building up since you started school will be added onto the principal of the loan.

Interest rates on these loans can vary depending on when they were first given to you and whether you are an undergraduate or graduate student. Grad students can still get Stafford loans, but they can expect to pay a higher interest rate, usually around 5%.

What are PLUS Loans?

PLUS loans are taken out by your parents, in their name only, to help you pay for school expenses. Most of the time, they are only taken out when Stafford and Perkins loans aren’t enough to cover everything school-related. You tend to see them more with schools that have a higher cost of attendance.

Unlike those two loans however, the interest rate is 7.9% and your parents’ credit history does play a role in whether or not they qualify for a PLUS loan.

 

What are Pell Grants?

Though this isn’t a loan, your loans through your FAFSA are likely going to be based around how large of a Pell grant you receive. You don’t need to repay this grant and can get up to $5,815 for the upcoming school year. In reality, you will probably receive far less than the maximum, which is usually reserved for students who come from extremely low income families. If you receive a full ride scholarship of any kind (athletic, academic, essays, etc.) you are not eligible to receive Pell grant funds.

Those are your main federal loan options, but you might be able to find some state-specific loan options if those aren’t enough.

What are Private Student Loans?

For some students, private loans need to be taken out to cover the cost of attending college. This is usually because their parents make too much money to be awarded very much in the form of financial aid and their choice of college is relatively expensive. You might find a lot of graduate level students in this same boat, mainly because government options start drying up once you get your Bachelor’s degree.

 

Facts About Private Student Loans

Student loans from a private lender work in much the same way as a government student loan as far as paying for school goes. However, there are also some major differences.

  • Interest rates can vary widely – There are some private student loans that have interest rates well below PLUS loans. On the other hand, you could end up with a ridiculous interest rate of over 10%. It all depends on a variety of factors.
  • Your credit score is taken into account – Public lenders don’t look at your credit score, but they might look at the credit history of your co-signers. Private student loan lenders will usually take your credit score into consideration when deciding whether or not to give you a loan, and what kind of interest rate you’ll get. You can find a good baseline credit score at Credit Karma or Credit Sesame.
  • You cannot (usually) discharge them in bankruptcy – Like federal student loans, you won’t be able to get rid of private student loans just because you declare bankruptcy. There are certain conditions that will warrant a discharge, which I will talk about below.
  • There are no cancellation or forgiveness programs – Going into certain professions with federal student loans gives you the chance to have them forgiven or cancelled. This is 100% NOT the case with private student loans. At the end of the day, a private lender is out to make money, cancelling a loan because you became a social worker won’t fly for them.
  • There is no income-based repayment plan – You’re stuck with your monthly payment whether you make $28,000 a year or $228,000 a year. Private lenders generally will not adjust your payments based on your income, unlike federal loans which can fluctuate to match what you can afford.

That’s the gist of the difference between federal and private student loans. Obviously, federal loans are almost always going to be the best option since there is a lot of flexibility around who can qualify for them and repayment plans.

Useful Personal Finance Loopholes

A lot of personal finance advice is straightforward applications of math: Keep expenses less than income. Pay off highest interest rate debts first. Compound growth is your friend. Then there are obvious legal requirements and benefits: Use tax-preferred retirement / HSA accounts. Keep insurance in force. Know how self-employment taxes work.

This post is about less-obvious but still interesting existing US laws to your advantage. There’s an endless number of these, but some come into play frequently enough that it makes sense to raise awareness about them.  Here are some that you may not already know about:

Tax planning loopholes

  • If you earn less than 30K single / 60k jointly, you can use the Saver’s Credit to get a tax credit for a portion of your IRA or 401k contributions, even for Roth contributions. Full-time students are not eligible. If you contribute to a retirement account (401k or IRA) at low(ish) income levels (see the link in the OP), then a portion of your contribution, up to a limit, is applied directly against your other tax liability. For example, couple making 36K jointly (even if one income) contributes $2K to one or more 401ks (to get a match, say), and now can apply an additional $1000 against their other tax liability as well, either reducing their taxes or increasing their refund in most cases. The exact benefit depends in income and phases out quickly.
  • You pay no taxes at all on long-term capital gains if your taxable income (including those gains) is less than the top of the 15% tax bracket. That could be $95,000 gross income for a married couple filing jointly. This is better than a Roth in that you can do this at any age.
  • Sales of a personal residence often have no capital gains tax as well. Various rules apply.
  • If you rent a room in your house, part of all of your housing expenses (including insurance and utilities) can be Schedule E expense deductions against your rental income (but you need to declare the rental income).
  • Take advantage of “adjustments” like student loan interest, tuition, moving costs, etc., that don’t require itemization if you are eligible.

 

Retirement planning loopholes

  • Employer contributions to your 401k don’t count against the 18k limit.
  • If you change you mind about making an IRA contribution, e.g. your income becomes too high for it to be allowable, you can simply remove the money before the tax filing deadline without penalty.
  • For redditors with more “life experience”, you can increase your contributions to a 401k and IRA at age 50, and your HSA contributions at age 55.
  • Self-employed people have lots of options for retirement accounts. This can apply even if you have employment retirement savings.
  • Think you make too much to contribute to Roth IRA? Think again! The ever-popular Backdoor Roth IRA may work for you. [But no, I am not adding the Mega-Backdoor Roth. There are some places even I won’t go.]
  • Retirement accounts are often protected for those filing chapter 7 or chapter 13 bankruptcy. If your medical bills or finances are getting the better of you, don’t touch your retirement accounts to pay them off.

 

Health insurance loopholes

  • If you change jobs and don’t have insurance coverage for a time, you have 60 days to elect continuing (COBRA) coverage. This works retroactively; you can decide to take COBRA at day 59 and be covered for the previous 59 days. Yes, we get that COBRA is expensive. But it’s free if you wait to elect it and don’t need it, but you’re still covered because you can elect it retroactively. Any other health insurance you’d have to pay for but probably still not use.
  • You won’t pay a penalty for lack of health insurance if you have a single brief coverage gap, which is defined as “less than three months.” I.e. May 1 to July 28 is OK. May 1 to July 31 is not.
  • A very important part out of COBRA “loophole” which is yes you have 60 days to apply, and it is retroactive, but you also have 30 days from the date you apply to start making payments. On the 88th day or whatever you can just call and say you know what I changed my mind and as long as you didn’t file any claims against it can cancel it free of charge. So in this scenario you have 88 days under an umbrella of emergency coverage without paying a dime.
  • HSAs -You are able to either contribute directly out of your pay check (like a 401(k)) or deposit whenever you want from a personal account (like an IRA). If you contribute out of your paycheck, you do not need to pay FICA taxes on that amount (SS or Medicare). This gives you an extra 7.65% of what you contributed. If you contribute directly from a personal account you do not get this break, as you have already paid the FICA taxes on that money and there is no provision to get it back come tax time.

How to do Financial Background Check on Yourself

Thanks mainly to the FACTA (Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act), companies that compile personal information on you to give to others must (for the most part) give you at least one free report detailing what they have on you every 12 months.

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau maintains a list of these databases but many of them either have the same information as the major ones or don’t have as much as the big ones do.

These companies essentially control your ability to open bank accounts, rent an apartment, get a mortgage, find a job, get a credit card, etc. You deserve to know what they have on you so you can tell them to correct something if it’s wrong.

In order to keep things simple, these are the information providers you should be looking at if you suspect you may have credit, banking, employment, driving or housing issues.

 

How to check Credit Reports?

It’s what you hear about most on this sub and rightfully so since credit report impact most peoples’ daily life.

  • AnnualCreditReport.com offers your credit report from Equifax, Experian and Transunion every 12 months. You can order all 3 reports at once or spread them out 4 months a piece, etc. You’ll see loans, credit card accounts, collections, court judgments (most counties), addresses, etc.

How to Check General Background Information

Employers will usually pull one of these background files on you if they want to hire you. If you plan on going into certain fields (law enforcement, regulatory administration, anything with a security clearance) they’ll likely pull more than one type of background check on you as part of their investigation.

  • First Advantage Corporation and Verification offers information mainly concerning court cases, both criminal and civil and will report some things which might also appear on your credit reports.
  • Hire Right gives potential employers and landlords a better look into your driving records as well as things that might appear on a court docket or your credit report.
  • LexisNexis may be your most important file since they vacuum up information on nearly everything. If you’re only going to get one non-credit report disclosure, make it this one.
  • CredCo is another fairly all-encompassing database which doesn’t require that you mail in a paper copy of your request.

 

How to Check Banking Record Reports

ChexSystems is the gatekeeper at 80+% of banks, a few major banks don’t use them (Regions) but most do.

  • ChexSystems is what would likely stop you from being able to get a bank account if you’ve written bad checks or left account balances negative in the past. See what they have on you to start figuring out how you can fix it.

 

How to Check Rental History

Most landlords run some type of tenant background check to see if you have previous evictions or you owe your former landlords money. These databases hold that information:

  • SafeRent is mainly used by landlords and can be slightly more extensive than other background checks.
  • Tenant Data may have something that SafeRent might have missed and vice versa.

 

How to Check Credit Scores

Other than getting your credit score from a banker for free after a loan application, you can use these site guides to get a close approximation of your credit score.

  • Credit Sesame offers your credit score and credit report along with what aspects of your credit you need to improve.
  • Credit Karma gives you free credit reports and scores along with recommendations for credit cards and loans.
  • Discover Score Card offers your Experian score and updates it on a monthly basis.

Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken)

This looks great and I want to try it so I typed out my best guess at the recipe. Here it is for anyone else who might like to try it too. Note that I made many guesses on the quantities of things and some guesses on the method too. Please let me know what I got wrong and I will edit my post.

Thanks very much for your posts, you are doing a great job. I am also going to try your chana masala. I hope you have some more recipes to post.

Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken)

http://imgur.com/a/InlXD

 

Ingredients

Chicken and marinade:

4 boneless skinless chicken thighs

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 Tbps minced garlic

1 Tbps minced ginger

1 small dried red chilli (adjust to taste)

1 tsp rock salt

2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp coriander powder

½ tsp paprika

2 Tbsp fresh yoghurt

Sauce:

1 small onion, cut in half then finely sliced

4 Tbsp butter

2 tsp garam masala

2 tsp minced garlic

¼ tsp chilli powder

2 cardamon pods, shells removed

2 tomatoes, chopped

⅓ cup of cream

Garnish:

Cashew nuts, coarsely broken

½ spring onion, sliced

Method:

Chicken and marinade:

In a small non stick pan, dry roast the cumin and coriander seeds until they smoke. Using a mortar and pestle, crack the cumin and coriander seeds, then add the ginger, garlic, rock salt and chilli and grind to a paste.

Prick the chicken all over with a fork, then place the chicken in a bowl and coat with the lemon juice. Add the paste made earlier, and add the coriander powder, paprika, and fresh yoghurt. Mix everything well then cover with cling wrap and marinate in the fridge for at least 6 hours.

Sauce:

Fry the onions, garlic, cardamon, garam masala, and chilli powder in the butter. Add in the tomatoes and a little water. Reduce the mixture down and leave to cool a little. Pour the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the blended sauce back into your pan and keep warm.

Cook the chicken:

Cook the chicken in a tandoor oven. If you don’t happen to have a tandoor oven then a BBQ is your next best option. Grill the chicken over a high heat for a few minutes each side, slightly charring the outside. When the chicken is done, add the cream to the pan with the sauce. Add the chicken to the same pan and cover with the sauce.

When serving, garnish with the chopped spring onions and cashews.

How to Bake Cheap Bread

The Twelve Steps of Baking

Scaling – This is the measuring of all ingredients before mixing. All ingredients should be weighed when possible. This is the most accurate form of measuring in a kitchen. A cup of flour does not equal the same weight as a cup of sugar. A cup of flour on Tuesday may not even weigh the same as a cup of flour on Friday. If you plan on baking a lot at home, it will be necessary to get an accurate scale. This will help ensure a consistent product almost every time.

Mixing – Mixing is everything! This is where you control 80% of how your final product will turn out! Mixing can be done by hand or with a machine, such as a Kitchenaid style mixer (using a dough hook, of course.) There are two steps in the mixing process. The first step in mixing is incorporation. All ingredients are added into the mixing bowl in a certain order and then the mixing begins. Here’s a rundown:

  • Add water
  • Add yeast
  • Add flour
  • Add Salt
  • Add remaining ingredients
  • Start mixing (on speed one if using a machine)

This seems simple enough, but it’s necessary. The flour acts as a barrier between the yeast and any other ingredients that might have an adverse effect on the yeast, such as salt. Once the ingredients are very well incorporated, then we can start the second step, which is called development. This is where we develop gluten.

Bulk Fermentation – Now we do the first and primary fermentation. Fermentation is a biological process from the yeast. Yeast eats sugar and break it down into alcohol, carbon dioxide and various acids. The alcohol burns off in the bake, the carbon dioxide gets trapped and makes the dough rise, and the acids add flavor. The longer and slower the fermentation process, the better the flavor.

Punch and Fold – This step is kind of a part of the bulk fermentation step. Once the dough has doubled in size, then we will degas the dough, which redistributes the yeast, and then we fold the dough a few times, which helps to further develop the dough and redistributes the heat that is caused by fermentation. After punching and folding, we continue the bulk fermentation once more.

Divide – After the bulk fermentation and punching has been done, the dough is divided into its proper weight for the final dough shape. Loaves are usually divided into one to two pound loaves. This step is often more appropriate for bread professionals who are producing many loaves, requiring pounds and pounds of dough. For a lot of us at home, we’re only making one loaf of bread, so dividing won’t be necessary.

Pre-shape – Once the dough has been divided into pieces, the individual pieces are then rounded into a ball, called a pre-shape. In some cases, the pre-shape will actually be more of an oblong or football shape, as would be the case for making a long baguette. Pre-shaping helps with development and makes it easier to do a final shape.

Bench Rest – Handling the dough will toughen it up a little and cause it to be too elastic and difficult to work with, so it will be necessary to let the gluten relax and become more extensible again. A small amount of fermentation continues during the bench rest, but not a whole lot. Bench rest usually lasts from twenty minutes, up to an hour depending on the dough type.

Final Shape – Now the dough is shaped into its final shape. Common shapes are boules (rounded) or batardes (football) but there are hundreds of different shapes out there. The final shaping influences what the bread will look like when it is finished, and it helps to create surface tension, which is necessary for a good oven spring.

Final Proof – The final shape(s) need to sit in a warm spot, covered, and rise to their final poofiness. Generally, the dough will double in size. Proofing will take some practice, though. Not proofing enough will cause the dough to burst when it’s being baked. Proofing it too much might cause the dough to not rise enough, as the gluten will have stretched too much. In some cases, the bread could fall completely.

Bake – Bread baking is one of the shortest steps of the process, and often the most rewarding. Or disappointing. There are some things to know before throwing that bread into the oven, however. First of all, your oven is not a commercial one, so don’t expect commercial results. Commercial ovens are designed to keep within a certain temperature range at all times. Not so much with your oven at home. If you set your oven at 400 degrees F, expect temperatures ranging from 375 – 425 degrees F. Bread ovens are also equipped with steam capabilities. Steam helps to create better oven spring and will interact with the starches on the surface of the bread to create a sheen and enhance browning. There are things that can help adapt your oven, however. Invest in a baking stone. Sheet pans work ok, but baking stones are much better, as they help transfer heat evenly to the bread more efficiently when preheated properly. A pizza peel will also come in very handy for getting the bread in and out of the oven. I also recommend a spray bottle full of water. You can spray the sides of the oven a few times during the first five minutes of baking to simulate steam injection. Another way of to simulate steam injection is to keep a pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven. The dough will need to be “slashed” to relieve the surface tension of the dough and prevent it from bursting when it completes its final rise in the oven.

Cool – Now we cool the bread. Although tempting, a good quality bread should never really be eaten warm. The heat will actually disguise the flavorful nuances of the bread caused by the fermentation. It’s actually the same reason why bad quality bread tastes better when it’s warm. Olive Garden breadsticks, anyone?

Store/Eat – So, now you can store it or eat it. Hopefully you’ll eat it, since you worked so hard!

It can be (and has been) argued that some of these steps are so close together that they can be combined into one step. Some have learned this process as the ten steps of baking. But, this is how I learned it, and honestly it’s the same whether you call it ten or twelve.

Understanding different types of mortgages and benefits of each

Mortgage type as in ARM vs Fixed? It will be very difficult to compare ARM and fixed past the reset date…. you’d have to assume a worst and best case scenario. The ARM will have a cap, but one thing’s for sure is that “rates”, in general, aren’t going lower. So, count on the ARM rate continuing to increase in the future and at every reset thereafter.

Getting a Mortgage with an ARM

I’ve never had an ARM but I believe the whole idea is to get in on the “teaser” rate (the initial rates for ARMS are typically lower) and refinance or sell before the reset date. The horizon for that is usually 3-7 years. For example Amerisave is offering a 30yr fixed @ 3.25 w/ 3.6 pts but also a 5 year ARM @ 2% w/ 3.25 pts. Typical cap is 2% so it may be @ yr 5 your rate goes to 4%, then to 6% on yr 6, etc. The lifetime cap is 5% so your rate would top out @ 7% (or it could go lower, but I wouldn’t bet on that.

 

Will an ARM mortgage be cheaper?

The ARM will no doubt be cheaper in the first 5 years – similar pts but much lower rate – but after that, I’d say it’s very likely to cost more, and the rate can shoot up pretty quickly, erasing your savings from the first 3-7 years. This is what stuck so many people in the housing bubble – they got in on ARMS with the intention to refi or sell before the reset, then values plummeted, and no lender would touch them for a refi (typically underwater), so they were stuck when the rates shot up.

 

What are FHA mortgage loans?

FHA loans are more targeted to those with poor credit and little to no down payment.

Every borrowers scenario is truly unique and the options do change quite regularly with the introduction of new loan products, however, the more recent new loan products are conventional products directed towards making home ownership more possible to those who may not have qualified prior.

The reason you find little on Piggy backs (a 1st and 2nd) or Jumbo is due to those products being very specialized to the specific lender and falling outside of Conventional of HUD/FHA guidelines.

In respect to being a bit off the desired 20% down payment, depending on how far off, structuring the purchase with a seller’s concession towards closing costs and preapaid expenses (i.e. escrows) may get you closer to achieving that 20% down payment; but if not, there are still options, especially for those with excellent credit scores.

 

How much does a house down payment need to be?

In respect to down payments lower than 20% the two most common options are:
a) conventional loan with monthly Mortgage Insurance
b) conventional loan with Lender Paid Mortgage Insurance (LPMI)

You should weigh these two options against each other and see which works best for you. Think of down payment in terms of 5% increments (5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, etc) as pricing adjustments for both rate and Mortgage Insurance premiums are based on Loan To Value (i.e. 80%, 85%, 90%, 95%) and credit score.

In addition, for those making this comparison of loans with less than 20% down, there are wholesale conduits that provide reduced conventional MI premiums for credit 740+ so a mortgage broker may be able to direct your loan to that conduit for additional savings. (FHA loan products are a whole other option for less than 20% down and possible credit issues, but I am not touching on that here.)

Improving your life and getting Disciplined

What Discipline Is

To discipline yourself is to consciously change your patterns of thinking and behavior.

You may know what it feels like to be disciplined. You do your very best and stand up for your own values, whilst doing this outwardly, you feel a calm satisfaction on the inside. On the contrary, you may feel chaotic inside when you’re undisciplined and not doing much. Unless we can express and act on our thoughts and highest wishes, they collect inside us, we stagnate and slowly turn depressed. To grow is to live, after all.

I don’t know if I can pinpoint exactly what discipline is. It’s partly open to your own interpretation. It’s a way of going about things in life first and foremost, a way to travel, not some sort of destination. The journey of discipline can be associated with doing many things:

  • Deriving pleasure/satisfaction from doing what is ultimately good for yourself and others.
  • Living according to your values, even when it’s hard.
  • Acknowledging what is in your control and not letting yourself worry about what is not.
  • Letting your “rational, higher self” rule.
  • Living once, doing it right, and making sure that it was enough.
  • Realizing how your mind affects everything else (your thoughts > words > actions > habits > character > destiny).
  • Earning your rest and realizing how the easy pleasures of life can be appreciated more when there’s something contrasting them.
  • Harnessing, not suppressing, your emotions and impulses.
  • Overcoming fear and other challenges through courage and persistence.

In this guide, the purpose of disciplining yourself is for you to develop a great mindset, built on consistent action towards becoming your own ideal self. Essentially, how to become the greatest version of yourself through a lot of grit and conditioning.

If there is one philosophy known for valuing what’s listed above, I would say that is Stoicism (/r/stoicism). I want to avoid too many quotes in this guide, but I’ll lend it this one:

“Imagine you were now dead, or had not lived before this moment. Now view the rest of your life as a bonus and live it as nature directs.” – Marcus Aurelius

Not only does this translate into “YOLO”, it also encourages you to value the time you have alive and make the best of it that you can. Here’s where discipline comes to use, and you know this already. I’ll lend you a last quote and conclude what discipline is about; practice, not theory:

“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” – Marcus Aurelius


What Discipline Is Not

  • Easy.
  • Something you limit to one area of your life.
  • Something you learn and can expect to keep.
  • A quick fix to solve your current problems.
  • A guaranteed path to riches, fame, respect, happiness or anything really.
  • The product of someone other than yourself. (Your boss, drill instructor, mother, or friend can influence you to do their bidding, but only when you exercise your own will do you become disciplined. Doing their bidding can be your will, of course.)

Why even become disciplined?

Discipline is boring. You know that it is both hard and fairly unexciting to exhaust yourself with trying to commit yourself to new, better habits. Changing yourself drastically and on purpose is not only hard and boring, but uncommon. Around 3 % of the population might have written goals for themselves. This says more about those 3 % than it does about the rest of people. Just because someone sets goals for themselves and are actively working on improving themselves, does not necessarily mean that they are happier than a guy sitting in his mother’s basement eating cheetos and ordering anime figurines online for his collection. Someone addicted to drugs, without a second thought on their future, may feel content where they are.

That you are interested in changing yourself somehow says little about anyone else, it mostly stands as a testament to who you are. Discipline is to be respected, but it should not replace anyone’s humility. A disciplined approach to life is an adventure, but so is every approach to life. There’s a reason people can’t change others. It’s because they don’t choose discipline – discipline chooses them. As you are here, you have obviously been chosen. That’s right, you can say that “the thug life” chose you :)

Some reasons to become disciplined:

  • Progress: To grow it to be alive. If discipline is your tool to get what you want out of life and become the person you wish to be, let it be so.
  • Inner peace: The majority of human suffering comes from regret and anxiety. You have regrets about what you did in the past and anxiety about how the future will turn out. These are the two main problems preventing you from living happily in the present. How can we reduce regret and anxiety? Through discipline. We need to always approach our past mistakes with forgiveness. Not only should we forgive others, we need to forgive ourselves too. We acknowledge mistakes, move on, but always apply those lessons to what we are doing right now. Through learning and forgiving yourself for past mistakes and doing your very best to apply that to what you do right now, you reduce both anxiety for the future and any regret you may have had about your past. This is important if you want to experience a greater inner peace, a mind that is less troubled and more content.
  • Because you know what is right: In all probability, you know what you need to do, how to do it, and why you need to do it. Following this path you have laid out for yourself is logical. Not only can it be a logical decision, it will likely come from your heart too.
  • Preparation: Who feels like they want to get disciplined? Get disciplined before you NEED to get disciplined. There will come a point where you feel a stronger urge or need to change, and you will wonder why you didn’t begin earlier.

If you browse /r/getdisciplined, or a similar subreddit, and you have even read this far in a guide on how to get disciplined, you probably know 90 % of it as it is. Continue reading and let me bring up to the surface what you already know. Even if you know this already, you resonate with it and it’s like your own thoughts, do you let your disciplined thoughts stay as thoughts? Whether or not you feel like your inside thoughts match your outside actions,we are who we pretend to be. That is the reality. So, why not do it? Why not become more disciplined? You know your reason, or you have your excuse.

Tips on Being a Business Owner or Freelancer

You have to think of long term, your business, and your employees. This is one of the biggest tips for any business owner.

As a business owner, no one in your company should not be replaceable at any time, including yourself. With that in mind, you should have every thing every employee, manager, officer does written down and reviewed quarterly to add or make changes. It is so you don’t need those two weeks to find out what that person does or try to figure out what they did after they are gone. And beyond that what happens if some one gets sick? or dies? or can’t come in due to personal reasons.

Tips on Being Small Business Owner

  • Business Plan. Write it down. Read it and review it monthly. Change it if necessary.
  • Get an LLC, Inc, or what ever.
  • Get Insurance and more than enough insurance. If you have a home office most insurance only covers $5000 worth of business stuff. That’s not much when you add stuff up.
  • Write stuff down. Have a daily/weekly task list.
  • Set goals. Then create steps to achieve those goals.
  • Figure out your money makers. Nothing is worse than wasting time on some thing that will make you little money.
  • Don’t be afraid to get rid of bad clients or customers. They will end up costing your company money. Be nice but firm. Tell them things like “I’m sorry my business can’t fulfill your needs.”
  • Stick to what you are good at. Don’t over extend your services. If you are an ice cream shop, don’t try to be an upscale restaurant. If that is what you want to turn into later down the road once going, great, make a plan to do that.
  • Create a proper image for your company. Spend the money on a good web site. Business cards, etc. Nothing is worse than looking like a fly by night company.
  • Be professional. You can have your fun. And business can be very fun. Just don’t act like a tool.
  • Know your customer base and market. If you want to cater to the well off. You better have a business that acts like it and what they would expect. Opening a fancy high end computer store in a run down neighborhood is stupid.
  • Target your market and the people who you want to be your customers. But don’t be surprised if your customers turn out to be some thing else. If your customers are more computer savvy. Do things like send email newsletters, not snail mail.
  • Have a disaster plan. Nothing is worse than crap going wrong and things get messed up because there wasn’t a plan in place.
  • If you have employees, write out a job description. Review it every 3-6 months.
  • If you are looking to hire. Be picky. It is better to wait to hire some one than to spend countless hours dealing with the wrong fit.
  • Go that extra step for your customer. Even some thing as simple as helping them out the door goes a long way. But know your limits without coming off as a jerk.
  • Don’t be afraid to fire some one. If they are doing some thing bad or a bad fit. Get rid of them now. They will drag your company down. If some one gives two weeks. Get rid of them ASAP. They are leaving they don’t care about your business, they will probably not do much work in those two weeks. Why pay them.
  • Kill any sort of office drama.
  • Create a good company culture.
  • Read. And read a lot about any thing to do with your industry and business. Self help, business help, you name it. If some thing will fit into your company, make a plan to integrate it, then follow through.
  • Treat all clients equal. It doesn’t matter if some one spends $5 or $5000. You never know who your customers talk to. If you blow off the person who spends $5, you never know. They might be the one who tells the most people about your business.
  • Learn to manage time.
  • Break up projects in to small pieces. Just because some thing will take 6 hours doesn’t mean you have to do it all at once.
  • Spend at least a few hours a week improving your business. If you have trouble finding time. Schedule it.
  • Keep a schedule
  • Define your processes and tasks. Look at every process or task. Figure out the best way to do it. Write it down.
  • Don’t be afraid to contract some one for a job or project. Just because you know how to do some thing doesn’t mean you should or that it is the best use of your time.
  • Don’t be afraid of change. If you don’t change you will be left behind.
  • Train yourself and your employees well. It is often what makes or breaks your company.
  • Network your business. Go to networking meetings. Become a leader in your community. But don’t have the attitude or come off as “buy from me”. Share your knowledge and have the “How can I help/What can my company do to make your company better” attitude.
  • Charge what you are worth and make sure you are worth what you are charging.
  • Don’t be afraid to bill people. Be up front with the person. If you are rendering a service, find out how much you can legally ask for up front.
  • Be up front about freebies or bonus things you give your clients. Don’t let them expect it every time.
  • Don’t spend money you don’t have.
  • Be honest with yourself, your employees, and your customers.
  • Learn to know when to apologize. Things happen. Apologize, correct it (go beyond expected if possible), then move on.
  • Cut out dead services or products that aren’t making your money or have a low return, especially if you can replace it with some thing better.
  • Be excited that you are in business for yourself. Be excited about your business. If you aren’t why are you doing it any way?
  • Take time for yourself. Go on vacation. Go have fun. What ever. It is important .
  • Let your employees grow. You will be surprised what some are capable of. Talk with them, see what they like. Learn what they are good at doing. Just because you hired them to do xyz, doesn’t mean they always have to do xyz.
  • Listen to your customers and employees. But be smart before making changes.
  • You will hear complaints 5-10x more than you will hear praise from your customers. That doesn’t mean you are doing a bad job or have to make a change. It is a fact people complain more than they praise. And what they complain about is some times stupid. Learn to cut through the BS.
  • Praise your employees when they do a good job. Some times just saying “Thank you” or “Excellent job on…” goes much further than bringing cake or some thing like that.
  • Never complain about employees or customers to other employees. If a customer is being crappy. Deal with it, move on.
  • Know how much time you should spend on stuff. We often get caught up doing meaningless jobs or tasks the majority of the time.
  • Keep organized. Its easy to let things go. We are lazy by nature. But you will waste more time trying to figure out some thing or find some thing than taking the time to keep it organized.
  • Get rid of negative people or influences. It usually takes three negative people to disagree with your idea before you give up. Its crap. Most people don’t like to see other people succeed or take risks. Those are the people who try to crush your dreams.
  • Talk to other business owners. Find business that are similar to yours that aren’t your competition and start or master mind group where you talk about business once a month.
  • Pack up your pride. If you are struggling. Get a business coach or ask for help.
  • Get an accountant, lawyer, etc. A few bucks to ask or get a blessing on some thing, is far cheaper than being sued.
  • Create fair, honest, clear policies for both customers and employees.
  • Stay away from Dark Patterns and deceptive practices.
  • Learn to say NO. Especially to services outside of what you offer. The money will be tempting but if some thing happens, if will cost you more in the end.
  • Be picky about your clients. If you have a bad feeling about a potential client. Usually you will be right. Deny with grace.
  • Listen to your gut. If some thing feels right, it usually is. If not, it usually isn’t.
  • If you are a service business, create a contract for all clients. Get it blessed by a lawyer.
  • Know when to quit. Better to stop and move on then waste time and money.
  • Do what ever you are going to do very well. You don’t have to be the best. Just better than your most of your competition.
  • If you are launching new products or services. Prepare properly. Its exciting to get new things out there but poor execution will run any excitement and clients.
  • From time to time, take a step back and just look at what you are doing and how.

How to Sell Your Car – Trade or sell privately?

When selling a car, you have several options on how to get the best price. You can trade a car in or sell a car privately? If you sell privately – you are likely to get more for your car. If you’re deciding whether to trade in your current car or sell, it can be a tough choice. Many buyers prefer the simplicity of trading in their current vehicle at the dealership even though they may not get as much money. Others choose to do the legwork and find an appropriate buyer and get a better price. Here are some tips to help you make the decision.

Trading in a Car at a Dealer vs. Selling Privately

If you trade your car at a dealer:

  • You don’t have to deal with talking and meeting with potential buyers
  • You don’t risk being robbed
  • You don’t need to deal with paying off your loan, if you have one
  • In some states – it will reduce your tax by the trade allowance amount

 

Tips on Selling Your Car Privately

  • Take photos. 80% would not look at a posting without photos.
  • As of March 2014 – Craigslist is the best tool to sell anything privately. It is free and simple. Other sites, like Autotrader and Cars.com are geared towards dealers, who can pay extra to appear on top of searches.
  • Be very careful. You are exposing yourself to everybody. You are a target to scammers, robbers, and plain weirdos. Meet people only in public places. Ask to see ID. Bring a friend. Make sure somebody know where you are.
  • Do not accept any type of payment other than cash or a cashier’s check cut in your presence at a bank.
  • It is reasonable for a buyer to ask for VIN, and to request an inspection by an independent mechanic.

Pricing Your Car Right for a Private Sale

How to Get People to Buy Your Car

  • Priced it slightly under Kelley Blue Book value for ‘good condition’, and had a slightly lower negotiated price in mind that I would accept (10% off)
  • Cleaned it really well inside and outside (carwash for the outside, then vacuumed and spent a LOT of time with method and windex cleaners on the interior) and then took a lot of photos with a good camera and posted the best of these, including a shot of the odometer.
  • Said in the post that I was showing it on a specific Saturday and Sunday between 10AM and 5PM, and asked those who were interested to email to make and appointment. This helps control the craigslist flake factor.
  • I posted it on Cars.com with carfax and VIN as well as craigslist with links to same. Gotta say, the responses from Cars.com were much more serious and sane, I recommend using them. Craigslist turned into a bit of a waste of time, with lots of flakes, random lowball offers, and strange text messages involved.
  • I was clear that I would sell it to the first person who had the cash for it.
  • When I showed the car, it was super clean, all the personal stuff was cleaned out of it, and the gas tank was full. I had the title, bills of sale, and mechanics’ reports all ready.
  • I read all the online stuff about how to sell your car, so I had at least thought about possible scams, what to do about license plates, etc. I did sell it alone, but only would schedule meetings during daylight hours in a fairly public parking lot.

 

Issues to Remember About Selling a Car Privately

  • People calling and making an appointment to come look at the car, then not showing up after you’ve rearranged your schedule to accommodate them
  • People saying they want to buy it, then never coming back with the money/returning your calls
  • People wasting your time with ridiculous offers (hey man, you still got the car on sale for $5000? Yeah I’ma give you $2000 for it, we got a deal?)
  • People nitpicking every blemish on the car and then making a ridiculous offer (hey man, your car is 13 years old with 150k miles, but the bumper is scuffed so you need to take $500 off)
  • Potential liability issues if the car breaks down. Protect yourself with signed documents stating it’s as-is and they won’t have any legal recourse, but it’s still a major pain in the ass when they call you asking for compensation.

 

Legal Documents to Sell a Car

Is there a standard document out there to use, or do I need to write my own legal-sounding document?

Really all you have to do is have a paper with the car info, VIN and mileage, names and signatures of both parties, and a statement saying the car has no warranty expressed or implied. It can be written in crayon for what it’s worth.

You can download some pretty nice templates for this on the internet though.

 

When payment has been completed, you’ll need to:

  • Complete the bill of sale.
  • Sign over the title.
  • Fill out the Release of Liability. …
  • Provide warranty documents, if applicable.
  • Provide copies of maintenance records. …
  • Include any additional transfer paperwork your state may require.
  • Hand over the keys!

This can change state from state. Be sure to check the DMV of your particular state for any special requirements.

How to be a Successful business owner or freelancer

Perseverance. Ideas come and go. But it’s the work in the end that yields success. Keep going back to your dream that you fell in love with when you were first getting started. Keeping that dream alive will allow you to do the endless, insurmountable piles of work that stand between you and success.

How to be a Successful business owner or freelancer

Recognize that a lot of people will look at you like you’re nuts. Most of my friends went out and pursued jobs and careers straight out of college. They were taking starting salaries at $55k+ while I lived below poverty level for 2 years before getting my shit off the ground. You may have to compartmentalize or disassociate from people who do not support you. Naysayers will sap your confidence, energy and tenacity fast.

 

Always improve yourself as a business owner

Always be improving/polishing. Figure out how to do things better in a shorter period of time. Simple shifts in thinking can change the whole way you may perceive a problem (asshole middle-managers will call this a paradigm). If something works well, keep it and move onto the next problem. But never set anything in stone. Revamping functional code can drastically change performance. Changing the design of forms can dramatically change the choices your clients/customers make. Changing your policies can drastically cut down on returns, refunds and dissatisfied customers. Changing the way you communicate with vendors can give you back your life. Always Improve. Evolve Constantly. Never settle. This will keep you from going soft.

 

Get your first big success and first big failure down as quickly as possible.

If you’re just getting started. Get your first big success and first big failure down as quickly as possible. Your success will sustain you. Your failure will take off the pressure. Unless it’s an enormous fuck up of epic proportions, you’ll still be alive and able to make changes to create more successes.

But always. always. always go back to your dream. There will be times when there are nothing but obstacles. Nobody will support you. And the only thing driving you will be your dream. Keep pushing and make adjustments/improvements along the way and you’ll get there. Keep the faith when nobody else will.

 

Hard works pays off

A lot of hard effing work. As you grow, book keeping becomes a nightmare. Insurance, taxes, fees, permits, state taxes, city taxes, employee theft (much more than customer theft), workers comp insurance, payroll taxes, state sales taxes, quarterly taxes, state audits, federal audits, insurance audits. It’s not easy at all. It takes a lot of hard work. That being said, I make a good living after starting my business 8 years ago. It’s a pain but it’s worth it.

  • Anything you don’t know how to do well – outsource it! Focus your energy on what you do well and get HELP from others
  • Stay up to date on any legalities you’re faced with, be it taxes or making sure that your fire extinguishers are charged. Nothing kills a productive day like a visit from an unexpected bureaucrat with the ability to shut your operation down for even the slightest oversight.
  • Don’t hire your friends. Ever. Managing them is the worst thing ever. On the other side of that same coin, don’t settle on employees and hire competent people.
  • Be prepared to work your tail to the bone. Shit rolls uphill in a small business scenario. The buck stops with you.
  • Focus on making the best product / service that you can and DO NOT sell yourself short. Your time is valuable so do favors for people few and far between. Charge full price or do it for free. There should be no in between. It will set precedence for return customers to expect you to bend over backwards for little return.
  • Under-promise and over-deliver.

 

Running your own business gives you lots of freedom

Running your own business will not give you the freedom from the chains of work that you think it will. You’ll work more hours than you ever worked in your life. However, the quailty of your ability to chose when you work will more than make up for it. Yesterday I decided I needed to step away from my desk so I went and hit a couple buckets of golf balls with my son. I take my kids to school every day, I pick them up every day. I kiss them goodnight every night. Then, I put in the other 6 hours of work I need to get done before I hit the sack at 2AM so I can be fresh at 7AM to start it all over again. I take a nap when I need one, I eat when I am hungry. But my wife and I work constantly.

How to Combine Finances Bank Accounts After Marriage

What should you do with your finances after getting married? It’s totally up to you as to how you want to do it. The most important thing to do is to think about it and agree.

Handling Finances After Marriage

There are many small and big things that you should consider doing. Absolutely first thing is determine a monthly budget. Frankly that should have been done BEFORE the wedding. This is imperative. Do it now. Budgeting is much easier if all bills come out of one account. I recommend having at least a joint checking account for bills and a joint savings account. It is up to the two of you if you also want individual checking accounts to keep your spending money in.

How to combine marital finances?

Key to success with this method: Recognize that each person will spend money on him/herself that the other person may not benefit from. Discuss it if it becomes a problem (like one person spends an unfair/disproportionate amount on him/herself) and take steps to fix it. Communication is key, especially with this arrangement since both people will have equal access to all the funds.

 

 

Create Joint Bank Accounts After Getting Married

Joint bank account, regularly review eachothers purchases and the financial plan with eachother to stay aligned. Pay essentials first (mortgages, bills, food budget, AND TREAT SAVINGS AS ESSENTIAL). Then whatever money is left, either dedicate to a family fun budget or split between yourselves.

In my case, my wife does a lot of the shopping but doesn’t do well with paying bills or keeping track of budgets. So I basically maintain the accounts and let her know where we are in the budget. She often asks if she can buy this or that, not because she needs my permission but because I am the one who keeps track of it all.

 

Talk about finances after marriage

This does mean that I have to be careful about how much I spend on things for myself vs. her. It’s so easy for me to justify buying myself a new pair of headphones but saying no to her request for a new frying pan (boy that sounds sexist but it’s the most recent real-life example). Sometimes I have to realize that for every dollar I spend on myself, I should probably plan on spending the same amount on her.

Pros of having joint bank account after marriage:

  • We each know exactly what the other person is spending on everything and we can see how much our own spending stacks up against the other person’s spending (this could potentially be a con, depending on the people in the relationship).
  • There are fewer bank accounts to juggle/worry about.

Cons of having joint bank account after marriage:

  • If you want to buy a surprise gift for your SO or spend money on yourself, chances are they will see the purchase and amount if they monitor the account online.

There is also an argument to keep accounts separate after getting married….

 

Keeping Bank Accounts Separate After Getting Married

We keep our accounts completely separated and so far it has worked really well. I can’t say that we’ve had a single argument about money.

We divided the bills such that each of us manages certain utilities. When it comes to rent, we break it down such that we each contribute a percentage relative to the amount we bring home. So if I bring home 60% of our income, I contribute 60% toward rent. When it comes to credit cards, we each pay our own credit cards off every month.

I feel like this keeps things fair, but also gives each of us the ability to spend money without feeling trapped or at the mercy of the other person’s approval when it comes to spending. It also helps that we’re both pretty frugal in our spending. We also tend to thoroughly discuss major purchases (such as a car, laptop, etc.) weeks to months in advance of the actual purchase.

 

Strategies for Married Finances

What I think it comes down to is maturity and communication. If you communicate well with your partner and you’re mature enough to make responsible financial decisions then it doesn’t necessarily matter how you organize the money into different accounts. Separate accounts or not, if one of you can’t make good spending decisions or has a problem with impulse purchases then you’re probably going to have a bad time.

Key to success with this method: Discuss who will pay for what before problems arise and stick to it unless it cannot work for someone. Then, discuss again.

Pros of keeping bank account separate after marriage:

  • You don’t have to justify/feel guilty about your spending because it’s your money.
  • You know exactly how the money is being spent and you can adjust that spending because you have complete control.

Cons of keeping bank account separate after marriage:

  • One person’s contributions to joint causes may be greater than the other person’s contributions and may cause resentment.
  • If the people make dissimilar amounts of money, the lower-paid person may feel like even though they are married, they are not benefiting from the other person’s higher salary and that they are not truly sharing in everything.

 

Having Joint and Individual Bank Accounts While Married

The reason I have such a hard time seeing how people split it down the middle (though more power to you if you can make it work) is that so many factors go into what you have to depend on to make that work. Common issues:

  • Each partner has to make roughly the same amount of money as the other, or else the likelihood of resentment increases (either because the lesser earning spouse feels left out of the other’s spending, or the higher earning spouse feels like they are pulling most of the weight)
  • Nobody should have to compromise their career to accommodate the others, which is nearly impossible unless you’re both in the same field or both miraculously find excellent positions you both love in the same place
  • Did you know that household chores are frequent cause of resentment between spouses? With both working full time jobs, shouldn’t you split those as well? Yet many couples have a hard time finding a copasetic way to do this. And then when children come, more often than not the burden of childcare disproportionately falls upon one spouse. Is it fair that they have to do the cleaning and childcare and still work so that they can split everything?

 

Using a Joint Bank Account when Married

Key to success with this method: Decide how much (either in terms of a dollar amount or a percentage) of each person’s paycheck will go to each type of account and stick to it. If this amount does not work for one person, discuss it. If one person feels like someone is not using the joint account fairly, discuss it.

Pros:

  • We each felt like we were contributing fairly equally (percentage-wise, at least) to the joint goals of the family.
  • We each had free reign of our own accounts so we didn’t have to justify or feel guilty about any spending that came out of those accounts.

Cons:

  • If the two people make dissimilar amounts of money, one person may feel s/he should have more say in how the joint funds are used, and the other may feel helpless because s/he likely can’t control how much money they make.
  • If you don’t agree on how much (either in dollar amounts or percentages) of each paycheck will go into what account, one person may add more to his/her own piggy bank and less to the joint accounts, leading to frustration and anger on the part of the other person.

 

Financial Items to Consider After Marriage

  • Pick one healthcare provider for health insurance purposes. Cancel the other.
  • Determine monthly budget
  • Identify short term, mid-range, and long term financial goals (House, graduate education, kids, etc.)
  • Decide which credit cards we are keeping
  • Determine if life insurance is necessary at this point

Other Things to Change After Getting Married

There are also small things like change insurance policies to both names (car insurance) you will need a copy of marriage license, change name on her passports and ss card, think about a getting a will written up. We both owned home as well when we got married (2 years ago) and put each others name on the house.

One thing that is not mentioned are parents. Have you had the discussion of who would take care of either of your parents, financially and otherwise, in case something happens? This is not discussed enough and is a huge shocker sometimes to marriages.

Also, insurance needs to be altered (you can probably get cheaper rates with combined car insurance), setup beneficiaries for your IRA/401(K), and living revocable trusts need to be setup.

Having Financial Conversations with Your Partner After Getting Married

I would say that the most important way for a couple to decide what they should do is to have frequent, completely honest discussions with each other.

  • Discuss short- and long-term goals, and really focus on each person’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to spending.
  • Pay special attention to how fiscally responsible each person is and view this realistically, not idealistically, when making your decisions about the money.
  • When you have discussions, you have to be able to keep it objective and not become emotional.
  • When discussing the money going in and out of a joint account, it is incredibly important to communicate about it frequently to ensure the other person is OK with those actions and to be sure that you each know how much money is in the account so it doesn’t get overdrawn.
  • It is also important to consider each person’s personality. Someone who is laid-back may be OK with any option, but a more forceful person might want to have more control over the money situation. For example, my cousin (who is somewhat stubborn when she wants something) used to have a bit of a spending problem and also racked up a lot of student loan debt by going to a private college. She recently got married and her husband, who (on paper) is stricter about finances, has given her an “allowance” so she can still spend money but they can also reach their financial goals. This might work for some people but because of their different personalities I think they fight about how he controls the money she gets but sometimes doesn’t apply the same restraint when he wants to buy something.

 

Financial Planning for Married Couples

Each couple will come up with what works for them, but I think being open to new ideas and being willing to really decide what financial goals the couple has will ultimately determine how (and if) they divvy up their money.

How to Re-build Bad Credit and Improve Credit Score

Depending on how serious your situation is, you may or may not need to know a few important bullet points. This is not legal advice; if you are seeking legal advice, you should speak with a lawyer versed in the FCRA and FDCPA.

How to Re-build Bad Credit and Improve Credit Score

  • Bad marks, such as late (30, 60, 90 day) payments, liens, judgements, collections accounts, and chapter 13 bankruptcy will fall off your credit report at the 7.5 year mark from the Date of First Delinquency (DOFD) or the judgement date.
    • Note: Debt cannot legally be re-aged. All delinquencies must be dated from the DOFD or the judgement date.
    • If you have a Chapter 7 or Chapter 11 bankruptcy, you will need to wait until the 10-year mark for the public record to fall off of your report.
  • Creditors and collections agencies are obligated to comply with both the FCRA and the FDCPA. If you believe these laws are being violated, you should speak with an attorney.

 

Challenge Creditors to Fix Credit Score

  • The burden of proof is always on the creditor. Always ask for documentation. Period. Even if you know the debt and know you owe on the debt. When you pay off a debt in collections or under a judgement, you should always demand and keep proof of the payment.
  • Look up the statute of limitations of debt for your state. Please note that the link provided may or may not be completely up-to-date, and may or may not contain accurate information. Verify this with your state through your attorney.
    • Just because your statute of limitations is up doesn’t mean that a creditor is required to remove it from your credit report. The latter is governed by the FCRA, whereas the former is state law. It may, however, give you leverage against collections agencies and other creditors.

 

Things to do right away to rebuild credit score

  1. If you have various collections accounts or potential fraudulent accounts, pull your credit report from annualcreditreport.com. Dispute any inaccurate information. Obtain contact information regarding collections accounts that own your debt.
  2. If you have any revolving debt, reduce it to below 30% of its limit. 30% is usually the “red flag” threshold for debt. While 10-29% (rounded up) is not ideal for creditors to look at, it’s manageable and it doesn’t set off any red flags.

 

 

Handling your collections accounts to improve credit

Paying for delete of debt accounts

Negotiating with collectors can be tricky. Luckily, some of them are willing and able to negotiate a settlement offer in exchange for deleting the item from your credit reports. This exists as an option for a collections agency, and is not an obligation, so it may not always work. However, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, so it can only be beneficial to do this (assuming you do it correctly and carefully).

 

Goodwill letters for late payments

Some creditors are willing and able to remove 30, 60, and 90 day late notices from your credit report, assuming that you have been a solid customer for a long time since the derogatory mark. This can usually be done by contacting your creditor with a goodwill letter, or a request to remove the derogatory mark from your report from a consumer who has otherwise had a solid relationship with the financial institution.

Please note that This exists as an option for creditors, and is not an obligation, so it may not always work. However, persistence is key on this

 

Keep making on-time payments

Over time, bad marks and delinquent accounts (if you have any) will fall off at the 7.5 year mark from the DOFD. Bankruptcies will disappear at the 10 year mark. These two factors will also count against you less and less over time.

In addition to this, most creditors (as well as FICO) weigh your most recent 24 months of activity more heavily than the rest of your report. Your most recent two years of activity are a big enough indicator of risk (or lack thereof) for some lenders. Your mileage may vary.

 

Other Tips of Rebuilding Credit and Improving Credit Score

 

1. Time is the ultimate factor in credit building, so your response should be patience.

As was mentioned above, your age of accounts, combined with your payment history, account for 50% of your credit score. It goes without saying that letting time pass will allow both of these factors to become better established.

Over time, bad marks and delinquent accounts (if you have any) will fall off at the 7.5 year mark from the DOFD. Bankruptcies will disappear at the 10 year mark. These two factors will also count against you less and less over time.

In addition to this, most creditors (as well as FICO) weigh your most recent 24 months of activity more heavily than the rest of your report. Your most recent two years of activity are a big enough indicator of risk (or lack thereof) for some lenders. Your mileage may vary.

Don’t be discouraged with the time factor. With the exception of getting negative items removed from your report, the fastest way to build credit is at the regular speed of time, and the number one way to prove your creditworthiness is toactually be creditworthy.

 

2. Credit is not the end-all-be-all of finance.

Despite what some conventional wisdom might have you believe, your credit is not priority one. Your first priority in finance should be having enough for food and shelter for yourself and the people you provide for. Your second priority should be balancing out your cashflow with a budget, as well as paying down debt and saving for retirement. Once these are handled properly, only then do we get into credit, which really only needs to be optimized if you’re planning on a major loan in the near future.

 

3. Monitoring your credit can be important, but you should only do it for free.

There should be some emphasis placed on monitoring your identity, as well as knowing a ballpark figure for your credit score. But there should not be any circumstance where you should pay for your credit score and/or report. There are plenty of services that will give you a ballpark figure for free, and http://annualcreditreport.com is also there to provide you with an annual credit report every 12 months, as required by federal law.

Saving Money on Health Insurance Premiums

Selecting a health insurance plan can be a stressful experience. Health insurance plans and billing practices can be complicated, and selecting the right plan can significantly affect the physical, mental and financial health of you and your family. Buying too much insurance can be very costly over the long term if you buy a more expensive plan than you need.

How to Save Money on Health Insurance

Likewise, under-insuring, especially by the young and healthy that feel like they don’t need insurance, can be even more costly if an accident occurs or bad diagnosis given. Having a basic understanding of the available options will help ensure that you pick a plan that is right for you and your family.

Keep in mind that much of what is on this page are general guidelines. Individual plans vary and you should carefully read all information about the plans that are available to you.

 

Six Tips for Saving Money on Healthcare

  1. Pick the right insurance policy
  2. Shop around for medication
  3. Know what your health insurance policy covers
  4. Ask whether tests, prescriptions or procedures are really necessary
  5. Ask for prices upfront, and ask about discounts for cash payments
  6. Pick the right facility

 

Different Types of Health Insurance

  • HMO(Health Maintenance Organization): HMO insurance plans generally have cheaper premiums than the other types of plans. The drawback is that they are also usually the most restrictive when it comes to selecting health care providers.
  • EPO(Exclusive Provider Organization): EPO insurance plans, like HMO, usually will only cover non-emergency medical costs from providers that are in-network. Referrals are not usually required in order to see specialists.
  • POS(Point of Service): POS insurance plans will usually cover medical costs both in- and out-of-network, though you will typically pay less at in-network providers. Referrals from a primary care provider may be required to see specialists.
  • PPO(Preferred Provider Organization): PPO insurance plans, like POS, cover medical costs both in- and out-of-network, with cheaper costs when staying in-network. A referral is usually not required to see specialists.

 

High Deductible (with HSA) vs Low Deductible Plans

As suggested by their name, High Deductible Health Plans generally will have higher deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums than Low Deductible Plans. Lower premium costs often make high deductible plans a preferred option for people who do not expect to have many medical expenses. With the addition of HSA contributions, high deductible health plans can be right for anyone.

Low Deductible Health Plans have higher premium costs. In return you will usually get a lower deductible and out-of-pocket maximum. The higher up-front costs may be worth it for people who expect higher medical costs or who don’t expect to have enough savings to pay for a higher deductible.

 

How to Compare Health Insurance Plans

When comparing plans, the following factors should be considered:

  • Calculate the total amount you’ll pay in premiums throughout the year for both plans. Keep that difference in mind while looking at the other factors.
  • Compare deductibles. If possible, ensure you’ll have enough savings to pay at least your deductible for whichever plan you choose.
  • Compare out-of-pocket maximums. Not as important as the deductible for most people, but it’s good to know the absolute maximum you’ll have to pay.
  • Compare networks. Ensure that your preferred providers are covered by the plan that you choose.
  • Compare co-insurance for each plan.
  • Compare which services are covered by co-pays and/or not subject to the deductible.
  • Potential tax benefits or employer contributions related to an FSA or HSA.
  • Estimate the amount and type of medical expenses you will have throughout the year, keeping in mind that even healthy people can easily end up in the emergency room.

 

Making the Most Out of Your HSA

If you qualify for an HSA, you can take advantage of one of the best savings vehicles available. The following tax advantages apply to any contributions made to your Health Savings Account:

  • Tax free contributions. This even includes FICA taxes for pre-tax contributions made through your employer. Most states also offer a state tax deduction.
  • Tax free earnings.
  • Tax free distributions if used for qualified medical expenses.

 

Using HSA Funds and Tax Consequences

It’s also very important to note that once you turn 65, any funds in your HSA are no longer subject to the 20% penalty when used for non-health related costs. This means that you can treat your HSA very similar to a Traditional IRA. With that in mind, it may be advantageous to max out your HSA contributions before contributing to an IRA or 401(k) beyond employer match.

 

Common Health Insurance Terms

  • Premium: The cost of insurance coverage, usually billed per pay period.
  • Deductible: The amount that you pay out-of-pocket for medical services each year before insurance starts paying.
  • Co-insurance: The percentage of medical costs that you must pay once the deductible has been met.
  • Co-pay: A fixed amount that you pay, generally for services which are not subject to the deductible.
  • Out-of-pocket maximum: The maximum that you will pay out-of-pocket in any given year. Once this has been met, the insurance company will pay 100% of medical costs for the remainder of the year.
  • FSA(Flexible Spending Account): A tax free savings account that may be used to pay for qualified medical expenses. Any funds that are not used by the end of the year are forfeited.
  • HSA(Health Savings Account): Similar to an FSA, contributions are tax free and may be used to pay for qualified medical expenses. Unlike an FSA, unused contributions remain yours forever. Contributions may only be made if you are covered by a qualifying high deductible health insurance plan.
  • Pre-authorization: Certain tests or services must receive prior authorization from your insurance company.
  • Referral: Some plans require referrals from a primary care provider in order to see a specialist.

Promoting your side project or freelance skill

A short list of how to promote your side project.

– Find as many blogs in your niche as possible. Pitch them properly (a lot could be written on that point alone) DON’T JUST GO FOR THE BIG ONES! The smaller blogs are more likely to link to you if you’re friendly to them and develop rapport.. I run blogs with over 10,000 subscribers and I love helping people who are FRIENDLY and GENUINE.

– Use your social network.. you’ve been building one up, right? Make sure all your Twitter and Facebook followers know about what you’re doing. Lean on your Linked In contacts.

– Stumbleupon advertising (if appropriate, 5 cents a visitor). Adwords advertising (if appropriate).

– Find places where users of competing applications gather (forums, Google Groups, etc) and work your way into their attention zone.

– See if there’s a sub-Reddit that’s specifically for your niche. Find people to charm there, post ancillary links regarding your app, etc. Don’t over-do it.

– Post it on HR (as someone said above)

– Find your way in to interviews, podcasts, etc. A lot of content providers are dying for more content – you might make a great interviewee. The media is less opaque than it seems.

– Go to events! Make sure you have an elevator pitch. Get excited. Wear schwag featuring your logo, etc, if you want to. Don’t just focus on the big-wigs – get anyone who might find your service useful excited.

– Does your design rock? Get on to the “CSS design”, and “Web design” show case type sites. There are hundreds of them around. Not amazing exposure, but the more links the better and any one of your visitors might turn in to a serious contact.

– Start your own blog for your company / startup. Make it really interesting. Be candid. Show off new features. Show off stuff you’re working on. Show off your team or your technology. Build up your own tribe of followers. They will make all the difference when it comes to saving you on del.icio.us, Digg, Reddit, and so forth.

– Make sure you stay on top of your e-mail. Customers might test you with e-mails – responding quickly and completely can make the difference between sales and no sales – or life and death with a startup.

– Find ancillary reasons to get your service mentioned in blog posts and tutorials. For example, if your startup is an RSS mashup generator of some sort, you need to have tutorials out there that recommend your service. Get those tutorials and posts on to Reddit, Hacker News, Digg, etc.

– If people write about your site, write tutorials that mention you, etc, PROMOTE THAT CONTENT EVEN IF IT’S NOT YOURS! Get people reading stuff that’s about you – not by you!

– Remember that bigger sites like TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb (if applicable to your sector) love exclusives. Don’t bother mass pitching those – focus on one, whichever you can get best rapport with, and offer an exclusive. Your product needs to be AWESOME for this to work though.

– Follow a search.twitter.com search on terms related to your service (and even the name of your service) .. get in touch with people who might be interested, respond to all comments about your service.

– Write a bog standard press release and submit through the standard channels. This will not help much but at least your company name/service name will end up with a ton of results in Google – this can help you look bigger than you are. You /may/ even get some offline coverage if the press release is actually kinda good (but not too crazy). It’s cheap to do this.

– Build ancillary “fun” services that tie into your main web app. Something fun, free, perhaps something that you can relate to sites people find interesting, such as Twitter. Let’s say your main service is an online graphics editor. Perhaps you could create a separate site where people can create avatars for Twitter / Facebook from a small set of templates.. separate project but promoting the first.

– Hustle, hustle, hustle! Make sure you know as soon as someone blogs about your service. Follow Google Blog Searches, etc. Keep Googling. Get commenting on blogs (not in a spammy way – just get your name and service out there). If someone needs to do something your service offers, you need to be there!

How to Find Time to Freelance or Side Projects

I have had numerous independent projects that I start, work on for a while, loose motivation, and eventually forget about. I have yet to find the magic recipe that leads to ultimate success for personal side projects, but here are some tricks I have learned that have helped me.

 

Focus on only one side project at a time:

Having a full time job, family, and other responsibility leaves me with minimal time for personal projects. Dividing my limited free time between multiple projects results not only in less time for each project, it also decreases my focus and problem solving capabilities as I become spread too thin. If you are spending mental cycles on multiple projects it’s harder to deeply think about a particular problem you’re trying to solve.

 

Work on your personal project before anything else:

The first thing I do in the morning is work on my personal project. I don’t check Twitter. I don’t read email. I don’t browse the Internet. Besides eating breakfast the very first thing I do is work on a personal project. Because I have a regular job with normal business hours I get up as early at 5 am and put in 2 to 3 hours before I go into the office. This usually means I have to stay a little later at the office but it is worth it to me as I find I’m extremely focused when I first wake up.

 

Set aside large blocks of time:

About 75% of the work for my personal projects is completed during large extended blocks of uninterrupted time, typically on the weekends or during extended vacations. It takes me a decent amount of time to get back up to speed on a project but once I get going I really start to make large dents on projects. In Computer Science terms I would call this the context switching penalty. Try to clear out your calendar on the weekends and let everyone know, including your family, that you are busy working and should not be interrupted.

 

Ship as soon as possible:

Public scrutiny is a huge motivational force. I try to get the first version of a project, the MVP, out as soon as possible. Once it’s public your name and reputation is at stake which I find is a huge motivation to continue working on the project. A secondary benefit I get is tons of feedback which tends to either validate my idea or help me morph it into a better idea.

 

Befriend inspiring people:

Many of my friends and coworkers have cool side projects and do interesting things with their free time. I want to be like them. Friends that don’t force me to grow tend to see less and less of me. Spending time with people that have accomplished similar things to what I want to accomplish has a powerful effect on me. I also find that people love talking about their projects which serves as amazing learning opportunities.

 

You have to make sacrifices:

There simply isn’t enough time in a day to do everything I want. You have to be willing to make sacrifices in order to free up enough time to make measurable progress on your personal projects. When I’m in the middle of a project my social life suffers, I spend less time then I would like with my wife, I don’t exercise as much, I don’t watch television, and I give up my hobbies (surfing, snowboarding, mountain biking). Fortunately for me, my wife is understanding and has several hobbies and projects that keep her just as busy.

 

You have to be passionate about the project:

Everything I said means nothing if you don’t have a true passion for the project. You can’t just work on projects for the sake of it.

Understand Your Car Insurance Policy

Your auto policy is broken down into different coverage types. The types are fairly standard company to company and across different states. There is some variation in exclusions and definitions between insurance companies. In addition, different states have different minimum requirements as well as some different coverage options and requirements.

 

What is Collision Car Insurance Coverage?

  • Collision: This is what most people think of when they picture car insurance. It covers damage to your car resulting from an accident (with another car or stationary object). Collision is usually required when you have a car loan. When you don’t have a loan, collision is usually an optional coverage. If you are driving a beater it may not be worth the money to insure, especially if you have an emergency fund to cover a new car in case of an accident. Deciding whether to drop collision is a personal decision. It is recommend talking to an agent. They can break down your quote and tell you what it costs to keep collision on your vehicle. This will help you decide if it’s worth it.

 

What is Comprehensive Car Insurance Coverage?

  • Comprehensive (Comp): Comp is similar to collision but this covers damage to your car caused by an ‘act of god’ (wind, hail, falling trees, deer, cracked windshield, etc.) Everything else said for collision applies here. However, note that you can have separate deductibles for comp and collision. Many people like having a lower comp deductible to cover the less severe cosmetic damage (hail, glass).

 

What is Property Damage Liability Car Insurance?

  • Property Damage Liability or Physical Damage (PDL or PD): If you’re deemed at fault in an accident, this covers the damage to the other car(s) and / or building / property you damage. This is a required coverage with the required limits varying state to state. I’d highly recommend getting at least $25,000 limits (if not more) even if your state requirements are lower. If the damage you cause exceeds your limits you will be legally obligated to pay the difference out of pocket.

What is Bodily Injury Liability  Car Insurance?

  • Bodily Injury Liability (BI): This is similar to Property Damage Liability but it covers the person you injure, not the car. BI pays for medical bills, pain and suffering, wage loss, and funeral service. It is primarily used for people in the car you hit but also covers pedestrians you hit and any passengers in your car. However, note that this coverage does not cover you (the at fault driver). The limits with this coverage get a little more complex. There are two limits. Per person and per occurrence. A common example would be 50/100. This means it will cover up to $100,000 for any given accident but each person is limited to $50,000. Like Property Damage Liability, you could be held liable for additional damages if your limits are insufficient. A minimum of 100/300 is recommended.

What is Medical Expense / Medical Payments Car Insurance?

  • Medical Expense / Medical Payments (Med Pay): This covers your (and your passengers’) medical bills. It is a no fault coverage so it applies regardless of who caused the accident. This is a great coverage, especially if you have no / limited health insurance. Even if you have health insurance this is nice because there are no deductibles / copays. In some PIP states (see below) med pay is not available.

 

What is Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Car Insurance?

  • Personal Injury Protection (PIP): This varies greatly from state to state and is not offered in some states yet required in other states. Like med pay, it’s a no fault coverage. It will cover your medical bills regardless of who is at fault. However, unlike med pay, there is sometimes a threshold; you must reach a certain amount of medical bills before this coverage kicks in. Another difference is that PIP also covers additional expenses such as wage loss.

 

What is Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) Car Insurance?

  • Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM): This is an additional coverage and varies from state to state. It basically covers accidents where you’re not at fault but the other person doesn’t have any / enough insurance. You may be thinking that earlier this page mentioned under BI/PD that if you’re at fault you can be held personally liable if your insurance limits aren’t sufficient. So why would you need this coverage? If the other party is at fault either their insurance would cover it or they would pay out of pocket. But what if it’s a hit and run? Or an unemployed bum? The chances of you ever seeing a penny is slim. This coverage protects you when the liable party is unable to pay. The PD portion covers damage to your car and the BI portion reimburses you for medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages. So now you’re probably thinking well I have health insurance plus I already have med pay so why would I need this? Simple. This offers further protection. If you’re in the hospital, unable to work, after the accident this will cover your lost wages. If you require in home care, this will cover it.

 

What are other types of car insurance?

  • Other: Depending on the carrier, there may be other optional coverages such as emergency road side assistance. These are highly variable so they will not be covered here.

 

Ways to save money on car insurance

Here are a few tips on how to save on buying car insurance

 

Shop around for better car insurance.

  • Shop around. Talk to an agent. Get a quote online. There are dozens of factors that go into pricing and each company has a slightly different formula. Find the company whose formula works in your favor.

 

Pay Car Insurance Bill Upfront

  • Pay your bill upfront rather than monthly. Many companies give you a discount for paying right away rather than once a month. Additionally, if you’re able to use a rewards credit card to do this you could get additional cash back (just make sure to pay your statement in full to avoid paying interest).

 

Adjust Car Insurance Deductibles

  • Adjust your deductibles. Sometimes this makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t. It really comes down to how the company prices and how comfortable you are with risk. For example, if some cases, increasing the deductible from $500 to $1,000 would have only saved the driver $8 every 6 months or $1.33/month. In order for this to work out in that person’s favor, they would have to go 375 months without an accident. In this situation it wouldn’t be worth the extra risk and kept the lower deductible. However, if you feel you’re a safe driver and are unlikely to get in an accident, and also have an emergency fund big enough to cover a large deductible, go ahead and increase your deductible and save a few dollars.

 

Bundle Car Insurance with Other Insurance

  • Bundle. Try to get your homeowners / renters through the same company. Most places offer a large discount when you bundle. If you have children / dependents it could also be worth looking into term life as well.

Take a Defensive Driving Course to Lower Car Insurance Rates

  • See if you can get a discount for taking a defensive driving course. Just make sure the discount would offset the cost to complete the course.

Get Usage Based Car Insurance

  • Get usage based insurance (UBI), especially if you do not drive a lot. Many companies offer a discount for installing a device in your car that monitors your driving habits for a few months. On top of the discount offered for installing the device, most companies will then lower your premium further if you have safe driving results.

 

Ways not to save on car insurnace

We all try to save money, but there are some saving tips that could hurt you in the long run.

  • Do not lower your limits to save a few bucks. You can probably safely lower the collision / comprehensive if you have a large emergency fund but it is not advisable to lower any of the other coverages.
  • Make sure to check reviews before choosing a company. Going with a reputable, better rated company is worth a few extra bucks. When your car is totaled and you’re in the hospital, the last thing you want to deal with is an unresponsive insurance company.
  • Don’t lie about anything on your application (such as pre-existing damage, etc.). This is illegal can come back to hurt you.

How to Begin Camping and Hiking

  • Pull up Google Maps and find the closest patch of green area. Ideally a public area managed by city/state/national resources, or the equivalent in your country. Research that area to find trails. Often simply googling the area + “trails” will provide results. Then buy/print maps for that area. http://caltopo.com/ and http://www.hillmap.com/ are 2 great online resources for free maps. They help with planning and on-trail route finding. You can also look for National Geographic maps (for the USA) or use Google Maps/Earth tracing functionality.
  • If convenient – drive to these trails and check things out in person. You don’t even have to hike the first few times. Just get comfortable with locating a trail / trailhead. Park and look around the start area. There are normally signs or registration boxes. Walk a few minutes down the trail and see what it’s like. This will all give you information for when you are ready to take your first real day hike. It’s never a bad idea to find the local ranger or land manager. Stop in for a chat and see what local advice they have. Every area is unique and you must obey local regulations (food storage, permits, closures, etc.).
  • These first day hikes should start out easy. Pick something that’s only a few miles/kilometers long and see how difficult it is for you. Everyone hikes at different speeds and prefers different terrain. Hiking to a mountain top is the classic adventure, but down into valleys or towards waterfalls can be rewarding too. Remember that elevation gain is equally important to distance. 1000 ft of elevation gain will typically add 1 hour to a hike. The average hiking speed is 2 miles per hour, depending on conditions / terrain / fitness. Start looking for potential overnight camping spots as you do these hikes.
  • Out-and-back is the popular type of hike. This is where you start at the trailhead, where you park your vehicle, and hike to a certain location – then turn around and hike the same path back. This is ideal for beginners because you know what to expect on the 2nd half of the hike. It also allows you to turn around at any point to shorten the trip. Loop (start and end at the same place but never re-hiking the same section) and Thru/Section (start and end at different places) are other popular types of hikes.
  • Build up the miles / elevation of these day hikes. Explore more tails and learn the skills of hiking. Many day hiking skills transfer to overnight backpacking. Understanding how much water to carry, what footwear to use, time management, what gear is required in different conditions, weather forecasting, navigation, and others are critical to successful backpacking and day trips alike. This will build your confidence and prepare you for the upcoming overnight adventures.
  • Do all of these things in a variety of conditions and seasons. Get comfortable hiking in the rain, you won’t be able to avoid it forever. Hike in warm and cold temperatures to find what you prefer. The trail may be icy or muddy certain times of the year and it’s best to find this out on a short day hike compared to a longer overnight + full pack.

Car Camping

  • Camping next to your vehicle is relatively safe and easy. You can bring ‘large’ things from home including a cooler, comforter, chairs, and beer! This limits the initial investment because things you already own can be re-used for camping. This will begin to teach you skills important for backcountry travel. Things like fire building, cooking with limited resources, water management, sleeping on the ground, setting up a tent/tarp, etc. If any of these things fail (tent falls over, sleeping bag gets wet, dinner is burned, animals eat your food, etc.) – your car is right there and you can simply drive home.
  • Combine this with day hikes for more of a ‘full weekend’ experience. It will be very similar to backpacking, just with added comfort/protection.

Short overnight

  • Once you’ve become familiar with an area, try an overnight trip. Ideally on a trail you’ve already day hiked. If you keep it short (1 mile for example) – you can get away with heavy or extra equipment. This again limits the initial investment required to start backpacking. If things go badly – you are close enough to the vehicle / trailhead to simply go home. Setting yourself up for success is key. Always have backup plans for backup plans. It’s often harder than expected the first few trips.
  • Start practicing skills like water purification and fire making. Understand how to read a map (or trip reports) for finding a campsite and water. This is the time to use the skills you’ve been reading about, getting proficient where you feel comfortable relying on them

Long overnight

Long overnights will get you comfortable with spending real time outdoors.

  • Ideally you will pick another trail you’ve already day hiked. Step it up in miles / elevation and get farther from the trailhead.
  • This is still only 1 night, so there is safety built in. If you get cold or wet, you don’t have to spend a second night outdoors. If you are hungry – the end of the trip is not too far away.
  • Start to take notes on what equipment you used or didn’t use. What can be dropped? What should be added? What should be upgraded? What items are your favorite? All this will help you optimize your kit, making trips more successful and enjoyable.
  • Take this extra time on the trail and camp to continue practicing skills. Become an expert at cooking on your stove. Hang a bear bag with little effort. Pack your bag quickly.
  • After trip work is also important to note here. When you get home you should be taking care of your equipment. Unpack your bag/car and make sure things are dry. Putting away wet gear can easily ruin it. Come up with a routine that extends the life of your gear, if you plan to backpack a long time this is critical. It’s also nice to have clean and prepared gear when you begin to pack for your next adventure. This makes it more likely you’ll go on that next impromptu trip.

High Paying, Low Hour Sites for Making Money Online

I would like to compile a list of all the sites out there that pay very well but do not allow you to work many hours. I think this would be a great resource for a variety of people. Those who want to do some extra work in their down time between their normal online jobs as well as those who are just looking to find a bit more income without working for pennies.


Making Money Online with Ebates

Ebates

Ebates is a site that pays you to shop. Whenever you shop online you can follow Ebates referral link to that site and earn a percentage cash back. This is great because it can be combined with rewards credit cards and earn you quite a nice refund check every so often. It takes barely any time but rewards you with some nice returns.


 

Making Money Online with TopCashBack

TopCashBack

Another site just like Ebates. Having both is great because they offer different exclusive offers and sometimes one will have a higher percentage rebate than the other. Having both is a great way to maximize your earnings.


 

Making Money Online with SurveySavvy

SurveySavvy

This site offers a few surveys and product tests per month. It lets you know whether you are accepted or rejected within the first couple questions so you don’t waste a ton of time only to be rejected. It is a great little site that I do in my downtime and earn a little bit extra each month.


 

Making Money Online with UserTesting

UserTesting

UserTesting is a site that pays individuals to test websites on their computer as well as mobile devices. It pays $10 per 15 minute test you complete. It does require a screen capture software download. However they have been around quite some time and there are many confirmed payouts. Jobs are rare and usually go very fast. Jobs are given out on a first come first serve so its important to complete new jobs quickly before they all get taken. Just a quick comment about usertesting. I think their support team is fantastic and up until now, I have enjoyed doing usability tests and made some decent side income with the $10 rate. However, since I am on their beta email list I was recently informed that they are changing their process/pay rate. When you submit a recorded usability video now, they only pay $3 now for a shorter version of their previous format. I get emails about new jobs posted frequently, but some have very specific criteria that not everyone qualifies for. Not trying to discourage anyone, just figured I would update.

What is Bitcoin and Where to Get Bitcoins?

Bitcoin is the currency of the Internet. A distributed, worldwide, decentralized digital money. Unlike traditional currencies such as dollars, bitcoins are issued and managed without the need for any central authority whatsoever.

There is no government, company, or bank in charge of Bitcoin. As such, it is more resistant to wild inflation and corrupt banks. With Bitcoin, you can be your own bank.

 

Where can I buy bitcoins?

You can buy or sell any amount of bitcoin (from as little as $1 worth) and there are several easy methods to purchase bitcoin with cash, credit card or bank account. You can buy bitcoin from local traders or online using a bitcoin exchange. There are bitcoin exchanges all around the world, and as bitcoin grows the exchange market is fluidly growing as well, with exchanges located in many countries. You can start by checking the list on where to buy bitcoins in the FAQ.

 

How much do bitcoins cost?

Note: Bitcoins are valued at whatever market price people are willing to pay for them in balancing act of supply vs demand. Unlike traditional markets, bitcoin markets operate 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Here are a couple useful sites [bitkoin.io, preev.com] that shows how much various denominations of bi

tcoin are worth in different currencies. Alternatively you can just Google “1 bitcoin in (your local currency)”.

 

Where can I buy bitcoin online?

InternationalUSACanadaEuropeChinaSouth America
CoinsetterYYYYYY
LocalBitcoins.comYYYYYY
Coinbase.Y....
Circle.Y....
Bittylicious......
Canada info......
BitstampYY....
BTCChina....Y.
Bitfinex......
BTC-e......
Bitcoin.de...Y..
......

 

Bitcoin Units

One Bitcoin is quite large (hundreds of £/$/€) so people often deal in smaller units. The most common subunits are listed below:

UnitSymbolValueInfo
millibitcoinmBTC1,000 per bitcoinSI unit for milli i.e. millilitre (mL) or millimetre (mm)
microbitcoinμBTC1,000,000 per bitcoinSI unit for micro i.e microlitre (μL) or micrometre (μm)
bitbit1,000,000 per bitcoinColloquial “slang” term for microbitcoin
satoshisat100,000,000 per bitcoinSmallest unit in bitcoin, named after the inventor

For example, assuming an arbitrary exchange rate of $500 for one Bitcoin, a $10 meal would equal:

  • 0.02 BTC
  • 20 mBTC
  • 20,000 bits

If you want to use ‘bits’ exclusively, just remember that there are 100 satoshis in 1 bit, and 1 million bits in one bitcoin. For more information check out the Bitcoin units wiki.

 

Where can I spend bitcoins?

Here are a few places that you can spend your bitcoin, but there are more appearing all the time, so check online for the most up to date information, or tell us or add other significant ones that you find!

StoreProduct
MicrosoftXbox games, phone apps and software
Spendabit and The Bitcoin ShopSearch engines of online retailers accepting bitcoin with millions of results
Overstock andRakutenEverything under the sun
GyftGift cards for hundreds of retailers including Amazon, Target, Walmart, Starbucks, Whole Foods, CVS, Lowes, Home Depot, iTunes, Best Buy, Sears, Kohls, eBay, GameStop, etc.
NewEgg,TigerDirect andDellFor all your electronic needs
Expedia, Cheapair,Lot, Destinia,BTCTrip, Abitskyand 9flatsFor when you need to get away
BoltVM,Namecheap,Mullvad and PIAHandy web services
Foodler andTakeawayTakeout delivered to your door!
HumbleBundle,GreenmanGaming, and Coinplay.ioFor when you need to get your game on
Reddit GoldPremium membership which can be gifted to others
EcoyarnsOrganic and eco-friendly yarn and fibre

 

Can I mine bitcoin?

Mining bitcoins can be a fun learning experience, but be aware that you will most likely operate at a loss. Newcomers are often advised to stay away from mining unless they are only interested in it as a hobby similar to folding at home. If you want to learn more about mining you can read more here.

If you want to contribute to the bitcoin network by hosting the blockchain and propagating transactions you can run a full node using this setup guide. You can view the global node distribution here.

 

Securing your bitcoins

With bitcoin you can “be your own bank” and personally secure your bitcoins OR you can use established companies such as Coinbase and Circle which have secured wallets where they hold the bitcoins for you and provide insurance.

If you prefer to “be your own bank” and have direct control over your coins without having to use a trusted third party, there are many options. If you would prefer easy and secure storage without having to learn computer security best practices then a hardware wallet such as the Trezor or other hardware wallets are recommended.

BitCoin Wallet security

Now we are getting to the meat of things.

There are a number of wallets available to store your hard earned bitcoins. If you have a decent amount of coins to store, you should look into software wallets – BitcoinQT, MultiBit, Armory or Electrum. They are among the best place to store your money safely (provided your computer is secure as well). Chose one you think best suits you, install it and encrypt your wallet file with your strong password. You should take your wallet file and back it up (location of the file is different for different clients, so you have to do some research as to where to find that file). Back it up on a CD, safe USB drive or the like. Keep them safe. If you lose that file, you will lose your money.

A quick word on deterministic wallets. Electrum and Armory allow you to create wallets from a seed. If you use the same seed later, you can recreate your wallet on other machines. With deterministic wallets, you only need to keep that seed secure to have access to your money.

In comparison, in BitcoinQT’s traditional wallet, every address you use is random, meaning that after you send 50-100 outgoing transactions your backups can be obsolete. Always keep an up-to-date backup of such wallet file if possible.

Okay, sometimes you need to have your Bitcoins with you when you leave your computer. In this case, you should look into either online or mobile wallets. A staple for both of those is Blockchain.info, but there are others to chose from.

A good rule of thumb with these is to not store more money in them than you can afford to lose. They are best used as a convenient way of accessing some money, not storing your savings. Online wallets are especially vulnerable to their servers getting hacked and people’s money getting stolen.

 

What to keep in mind while using online wallets:

  • Use a secure password (the more money you have in them the stronger the password should be)
  • Always keep a backup of your wallet in case you need to recover your money
  • Whenever possible, enable two factor authentication
  • Don’t use your online wallets from unsafe computers

Cold storage for Bitcoins

Sometimes you want to store your bitcoins for a long time in a safe place. This is called “cold storage”. There are a few ways one can do this.

First of all, paper wallets. They are nice for giving people small bitcoin gifts, but also for long-term storage if properly used. What you want to do is generate and print them offline. You can save the linked page for example and run that offline. If you are really paranoid, you can put it on read-only media and access that from a different computer. For really long term storage, use archival-grade paper.

Another approach to take is using a separate computer for storing your money that is offline 99+% of the time. You could set one up easily by buying an old laptop, reformatting it, installing Linux and a Bitcoin client. Generate an address on that machine and send money to it from your main wallet. Depending on how paranoid you are you can connect that computer to the Internet afterwards to synchronize data with the Bitcoin Network and then turn it off and put it away somewhere safe until it’s needed.

How to get Started Geocaching

Welcome to Geocaching!  Geocaching is a worldwide scavenger hunt that uses a GPS or phone app with GPS. There are over 2.5 million active caches around the world so chances are you have walked right past one at some point. Geocachers are a great group of people who like to discover the world around them.

 

How to get started Geocaching

You will need a smartphone or a GPS and a free account on Geocaching.com. The sidebar has links to the two most popular apps. The Official Geocaching App which has a free and paid version, and c:geo. Both apps work great. You can also use a GPS. There are ways to input the cache information on most newer models but for now you can just punch them in by hand.

Now look at the caches around you, we suggest looking for something with a difficulty/terrain rating of 2/2 or under to start off. These ratings start at 1 and go up to 5 with 1 being the easiest, and 5 being the toughest. We also would suggest looking for a small or regular sized cache as micros are sometimes tough for new cachers.

 

Finding a Geocache

Finding that first one can be very tough. You have no idea what to look for, or how to look. Hopefully you have good accuracy (within 15ft or 5m) on your GPS. If so once you get to within 15ft or 5m start looking more at your surroundings. Look for something out of place, or an interesting feature. A small or regular will usually be hidden under a pile of sticks, in a hole, or behind something. Poke around and think about where you may hide something. This is the fun part of geocaching; you will not find every cache right away and I know that can be frustrating, but the thrill of the hunt is part of the fun. If you are having no luck see if there is a hint, read some past logs, and look at pictures. If all else fails you can send the owner a message.

Once you have found the cache add the date and your name to the logbook. If there are trade items trade even or up so the next finder also has something cool to find. Close the container properly and return it just as you found it.

 

Logging your Geocache find

Once you have found a cache and signed the physical log book it is time to log your find. It is nice to leave some feedback to the cache owner. A short 2 sentence log about your experience is something that can make another person’s day.

 

Trackables and Geocoins

Each Trackable is etched with a unique code that can be used to log its movements on Geocaching.com as it travels in the real world. Some of these items have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles thanks to geocachers who move them from cache to cache! If you find one of these remember a few simple rules:
* 1 This belongs to someone else. It is not to keep.
* 2 Look at the trackable’s goals. You may be able to help complete the mission. If not try to drop it another Geocache soon.

 

Hiding a Geocache

Most veteran cachers suggest finding around 50 Geocaches before going to place one. This lets you see what hides are good, fun, and well liked by the community, test your GPS accuracy, learn about local laws and regulations, and to make sure you are dedicated to sticking with the hobby. When you are ready to hide look over the Anatomy of a great cache hide

 

What should the Difficulty/Terrain be?

Coming soon

 

Phone vs GPS for Geocaching

Each has it’s own set of advantages and disadvantages you should consider. A lot of veteran cachers will use both to supplement the other.

Phone: You most likely already own a smartphone so that is a big advantage, and the apps use the live information which allows you to be able to see the most recent information on each and every cache. The phone is great for urban caching. However there are some issues. Accuracy is dependent on your phone GPS chip, some are great others are awful. Battery life will be drained so you will either be taking short trips or need a charger. Durability is another key concern especially when you leave the city for more rugged terrain. A GPS can survive a drop into the water much better than a phone.

GPS: There are lots of models to choose from. Older cheaper models have limited functionality. Newer models can link to the site and get full cache information. A GPS does require a little more planning ahead to download the information. However it allows you more sense of mind when traveling and doing high terrain caches. The accuracy of most units is also a huge plus for those deep woods caches. Check out the GPS Device thread for more info

A GPSr will improve your geocaching experience. They have better battery life than phones, lasting up to 36 hours on a charge or fresh alkalines. They are much more rugged, can easily survive drops and are usually water resistant if not downright waterproof. While they don’t always get a position from a cold-start as fast as a phone, and they’re sometimes less-accurate in highly built-up urban areas, they’re still an incredibly valuable addition to your geocaching toolbox.

What is the best Geocache app?

We recommend c:geo for android or Cachly for iOS. Descriptions coming soon.

 

How do I find the best Geocaches in _____?

You probably don’t need to make a post on this sub to ask. In stead, harness the power of the collective and see which caches get the most favourite points. In order to find the great caches, you can use the built-in search function to find great caches around you, or around any city you plan to visit.
1. Click on Play and then select Find a Geocache
2. Scroll down to the three preset searches. Select “Nearby Geocaches with favorite points”
3. To change the city just type in your destination in the search box and select the Add Filters below the search bar.
4. There is a box called Minimum favorite points. Set this to 10 (or greater if the area is very populous or touristy).
5. You can also use the “Limit Search By” to select an entire state/region.

Alternatively, you can refine this search by using www.project-gc.com. They have tools to find caches by favourite percentage in an area so that you won’t miss out on the new or seldom found excellent caches. You just have to link to your GC account before you can do it. Instructions coming soon.

Free VPN Services and How to Use a VPN

What is a VPN?

VPN is an acronym for Virtual Private Network.

A VPN is a network technology that creates a secure network connection over a public network such as the Internet or a private network owned by a service provider. Large corporations, educational institutions, and government agencies use VPN technology to enable remote users to securely connect to a private network.

A VPN can connect multiple sites over a large distance just like a Wide Area Network (WAN). VPNs are often used to extend intranets worldwide to disseminate information and news to a wide user base. Educational institutions use VPNs to connect campuses that can be distributed across the country or around the world.

In order to gain access to the private network, a user must be authenticated using a unique identification and a password. An authentication token is often used to gain access to a private network through a personal identification number (PIN) that a user must enter.

VPN in the way we mean and use it is not that much different to the described way. We join a virtual private network from a VPN provider and get a not public routed IP and can access the internet through NAT (like adding default gateway to the VPN one). And for securing our connection they also do not log anything (<- that’s not standard, but should be with a good provider)

 

I see a lot of “Free VPN Services” is this possible or are they just scamming me.

Many people agree “If you’re not paying for it, then you are the product.” Hosting a VPN service can be very expensive and any VPN service that offers free service has to pay their bills some how. A free VPN service is not recommended.

What does the six strike thing mean?

The Center for Copyright Information (CCI), the US organization tasked with developing a workable system for “punishing infringement of copyright” on the web, has explained how the six strikes program for US internet users will work. More Information can be found in this article

 

There are a lot of companies out there offering VPN services. What are the top 3 most trusted, user-friendly vpns? Will it run on windows, linux and mac?

Not that easy to answer, since everyone will have other personal preferences

 

What is the best balance of quality with monthly cost for VPN?

A good VPN should cost between $5-10 a month.

 

Should I always run my VPN? Even when gaming or shopping online?

For gaming, no, it will increase your latency (ping) too much, and isn’t really needed. The only times it could help would be when you log into the game with username/password, or if the game has an online/in-game store you’re buying from with a real credit card. You should verify that communications with the login screen and store are encrypted (as they should be and probably are on every major online game) before using it.

For shopping – if the shopping site uses https:// for every page, or at least the payment pages, then it is already encrypted for those pages. Anyone listening in will only be able to see what site you are shopping at, but the not the contents of your communications with it. If you want to eliminate the possibility of eavesdroppers or men-in-the-middle seeing even what store you are shopping at then you should use a VPN.

Do I need to do anything with my router?

Just for VPNing on a single computer? No.

 

List of VPN Providers

3Monkey
AceVPN
ActiVPN
AirVPN
Anonine
Anonymizer
Astrill
AzireVPN
BeeVPN
BlackVPN
Blockless
BolehVPN
Boxpn
BTGuard
Buffered
CactusVPN
ChillGlobal
Cloak
CryptoHippie
CryptoStorm
CyberGhost
DissembleVPN
DotVPN
Doublehop.me
EarthVPN
ExpressVPN
Faceless.ME
FinchVPN
Freedom-IP
Freedome
FrootVPN
FrostVPN
GoTrusted
GoVPN
Hide.me
HideIPVPN
HideMyAss
Hola!VPN
Hotspot Shield
IBVPN
In-Disguise
Insorg
Integrity.st
Internetz.me
IPinator
IPredator
IPVanish
Ironsocket
Ivacy
IVPN
Kepard
LeVPN
LibertyShield
LibertyVPN
LimeVPN
LiquidVPN
Lokun
Mullvad
My Expat Network
MyIP
MyPrivateNetwork
MyVPN.Pro
Newshosting
NEXTGenVPN
NolimitVPN
NordVPN
NVPN
OctaneVPN
OverPlay
oVPN.se
oVPN.to
Perfect Privacy
Private Internet Access
PrivatePackets.io
PrivateTunnel
PrivateVPN
Privatoria.net
Proxy.sh
ProXPN
PRQ
PureVPN
RA4W VPN
RiseupVPN
SaferVPN
SecureVPN.to
SecurityKISS
Seed4me
ShadeYou
SlickVPN
Smart DNS Proxy
Sonic.net
Steganos
StrongVPN
SwitchVPN
SumRando
SunVPN
SurfEasy
TigerVPN
Torguard
TorrentPrivacy
Trust.Zone
TunnelBear
Tunnelr
TVWhenAway
Unblock-Us
Unlocator
UnoTelly
Unspyable
VikingVPN
VPN4All
VPN Land
VPN Shield
VPN Unlimited
VPN.ac
VPN.Asia
VPN.ht
VPN.sh
VPNArea
VPNAUS
VPNBaron
VPNJack
VPNMe
VPNSecure
VPNTunnel
VyprVPN
WASEL Pro
WifiMask
WiTopia
WorldVPN
Zenmate
ZoogTV
ZPN

See here for more details.

Beware of False Reviews – VPN Marketing and Affiliate Programs

When I began alpha testing what would eventually become the technology behind my service, I had no idea what marketing on the internet was like. I only knew network security and speeds, and I strongly disliked the performance of the VPN services that I had tried out. I saw an opportunity to create a service for people like me who were fed up with slow, unreliable, and shoddy networks. Before joining up with my partners and actually starting a serious company, all I knew about internet marketing was that you paid for ads on ad networks and users clicked those ads to hopefully sign up for your service.

Now, two years later, I have a much greater understanding of how this business works. It is dirty, it is shady, and it is cutthroat. Competitors will pay black-hat parties to DDoS your website or services, they will pay script kiddies with botnets to commit massive click-fraud on your ads, they will pay individuals huge sums of money to spam websites with praise for their product, and they will pay people to praise themselves and denounce others en-masse in “review” websites.

The VPN market is not one of healthy competition, and it does not operate in the best interests of the privacy minded consumer. Unless you are talking to someone you personally know and trust, it is hard to get an honest review about any service.

The biggest evidence for this is with a little research, you can find out who is paying the most affiliate cash, and compare that to who “wins” the VPN reviews. Invariably, the ones that pay the most tend to show up at the top of the lists, and the ones that don’t pay affiliate cash either don’t even get a review, or get shoved down to the bottom of the site in obscurity.

Let me be frank. These sites are nothing more than “linkfarming” sites in disguise. They put up as many affiliate links as they can, then give the highest paying ones praise to rake in money. There is no other motivation.

 

 

Super Cheap Food and Budget Meals that Taste Good

A whole rotisserie chicken costs about $5 and can be used for many things. Combine with ramen, rice, veggies, pasta, potatoes, whatever, and add some seasonings. Use the bones to make broth. Dice the meat up and make chicken salad, or throw it in a soup. Try this:

What you need! * Rotisserie Chicken (5 bucks at Wal-Mart, best 5 bucks you’ll ever spend) * Flour * Butter * Chicken Bouillon * Rice * Whatever vegetable you want. I used canned green beans.

 

Cooking Cheap with Rotisserie Chickens

Rotisserie chickens are awesome. They’re cheap, easy, and delicious, and they provide a lot of bang for your buck. You should have flour, butter, and rice sitting around. If you don’t, go buy some. They’re cheap. Canned vegetables: also cheap. I got 8 cubes of chicken bouillon for 50 cents.

First, boil 4 cups of water. Add 2 cubes of bouillon to boiling water. Cook the rice (2 cups chicken water 1 cup rice). To make the gravy melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan. After it’s melted add 2 tablespoons of flour and whisk away. We’re making a roux. It should end up looking kinda like dough. After it looks like that slowly stir in the remaining 2 cups of chicken water. Let it sit on low heat (stirring occasionally) to thicken. I honestly don’t care what you do with your vegetables, I just hit my green beans with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Rip into that rotisserie chicken and make yourself an amazing plate with TONS of leftovers to spare. Assuming you have the butter, flour, and rice laying around you might have spent $1.20 on a couple cans of vegetables, $5.00 on a rotisserie chicken, and $0.50 on the bouillon. You’ll probably get around 4 servings from this. Enjoy.

If you have a GFS near you, a 50 pound bag of rice is about $27. If you eat A LOT of rice, go for it. It’ll last forever.

 

Cheap Breakfast Food

Cooking out Oatmeal, none of that expensive sugary cereal and milk!

You can buy rolled oats for pennies on the dollar. Here’s how to make a perfect bowl of oatmeal:

Combine 1 to 1 to 1 of rolled oats, water and milk in a saucepan and bring to a low boil, then let simmer on low for 5-10 minutes. Once it’s creamy you can add anything you want and have on hand (fruits, nuts, spices, syrup, etc.).

If you want to go cheap on milk, buy a bag of powdered milk. It’s super cheap and never goes bad and you always have milk on hand.

I’ve had steel cut oats every morning for about a year now and it has been great. On the right day, I can sometimes forget about lunch until about 3 in the afternoon. It helps to have a pressure cooker, which makes the whole process about 10 minutes from dry to done, but before I had that I just soaked the oats overnight before cooking in the morning (but change the water before you cook them!)

Here’s the actual recipe I usually follow:

  • 1/2 cup steel cut oats
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 apple or pear cut into chunks
  • handful of dried cranberries
  • handful of raisins
  • sprinkle of cinnamon

While that cooks, I cut a banana (start eating red bananas, they’re way better than yellow) into a bowl with a spoonful of peanut butter. If you use a pear, nutella tastes lovely in addition to/instead of the peanut butter. It may seem like a lot, and super fancy, but if you buy the ingredients in bulk, you’ll be eating fancy for weeks on about $10, minus the fruit which of course goes faster and costs a bit more.

 

Crock Pot Breakfast Burritos

This recipe is super simple and for those of you already on a tight budget will be a great fit. Ingredients: 1 lb. Sausage

1 can Rotel tomatoes (I went with medium)

1 can black beans (strained and washed)

1 whole green pepper or your pepper of choice depending on the heat levels you want to get from it.

8 medium sized tortillas

4-5 eggs

Add sausage, Rotel ( juices and all ), beans, green peppers in that order into crockpot. Cook slow and low for 6-8 hours overnight.

In the morning heat up your tortillas in a microwave, skillet w/e. In the meantime scramble your eggs. Using a slotted spoon add crockpot concoction to tortilla. Add eggs, shredded cheese if you like. Then roll that puppy up! Want to keep it warm while driving to work? Wrap it up in tin foil, its also great cold!

Total cost: $10. Prep time: 10 minutes. 8 servings

EDIT: dice pepper

 

Making Cheap Ramen Taste Better

Ramen: Is it cheap? Yes. Is it filling? Yes. Is it healthy? Nope. Oh well.

A (very) simple and delicious dish which is also reasonably nutritious. Sriracha and soy sauce together make the dish spicy, while cumin adds some “warmth” to it. It’s not much of a looker (see picture near the end of the comment), but then again it’s ramen, which shouldn’t give one too high expectations.

I don’t know much about U.S. prices and due to taxes my local prices are generally much, much higher – so I’ve gone by averages I could find around the Internet. Hope that’s all right.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package noodles (mine was appx. 60 g) — $0.25
  • 3 dl vegetable stock — $0.12
  • 2 spring onions (scallions, green onions, call them what you will) — $0.16
  • 1 large carrot — $0.16
  • 1 tbsp sriracha (or to taste) — $0.12
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce — $0.12
  • 1 tsp cumin, preferably ground* — $0.05
  • 1 tsp paprika — $0.05
  • 1 egg — $0.20

* whole cumin seeds don’t hurt the taste in any way, but they end up at the bottom of the pot, making the last bit of soup too cumin-y. For the best result, grind the cumin yourself!

Total: $1.23.
This was intended to be one serving, but it ended up being a big one — possibly around a serving and a half — so it’s probably possible to get it under $1/serving.

Preparation:

  1. While bringing the stock to a boil, slice the carrot as thinly as possible, and cut the spring onions into pieces 1-2 cm each.
  2. Break the “block” of noodles into two or four pieces, making everything a bit easier to handle — then add it to the boiling stock. Discard any seasoning that came along with the noodles. It’s loaded with sodium and generally not very tasty.
  3. After two or three minutes, add carrots and spring onions to pot. Then add the spices, sriracha and soy sauce. Make sure not to go overboard on the latter, as too much soy sauce can ruin any dish.
  4. Noodles should be just about done by now, so it’s time for the egg: Add it, let it sit for about a minute, then basically just toss it around in the mixture, making it break apart. At this point the water should be just barely boiling. (The dish basically came out of my ineptitude with regard to poaching an egg – oh well, it still tastes great!)

Once the egg white pieces have turned white and the yolk pieces a bright yellow, remove from heat, serve with a bit of freshly ground pepper, and enjoy.

 

Cooking Lentils is Cheap

Lentils: I’ve heard good things, but I’ve never tried them personally. Here are some interesting looking recipes for them:

I can confirm lentils are DIRT cheap. From 1 lb @ $1.30/lb I’ve gotten 5 substantial lunches with a potential for 2 more.

  • 1/4c Lentils
  • 1-2 Cubes Chicken Bullion
  • 1 Clove of Garlic
  • 2 tbls Chopped Onion
  • Plus anything else you might like
  • Cover with water

I toss this into my brand new 0.6 quart crock pot ($3 at Wallymart) before I head to bed, and pack it for lunch in the morning.

Simple, easy, filling, and very delicious.

For reference, 1 pound dried lentils = 2-1/4 cups dry

 

Cooking Indian dal with Lentils

For the dal I just sautee onions and garlic in oil, add spices (turmeric, garam masala, cumin, chili), then add water, boullion, and the lentils and boil until the lentils are nice and mushy. Flatbreads are flour (i use half white half wheat), a glug of oil, salt, then warm water slowly added until the dough is cohesive but never sticky. This is the among lowest energy to cook, most filling yet healthiest meals I know of. The only downside is the lentils make you poop a lot.

 

Cheap Rice Dishes  that Taste Good

Tuna Rice  1 large serving:

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked rice (see instructions below) – $0.15
  • 1 Can of tuna – $0.96
  • 1/4 of an Onion finely diced – $.0.20
  • Mayonnaise to taste

$1.31 per serving + mayonnaise + extras

You may also add pickle relish to your mayonnaise, but it’s too expensive where I live. Also, feel free to add other things to the tuna salad too; I kept it to the basics.

For this recipe, I focus on two flavors, tuna oil and the mayo. They go well together and make this a little jazzier than the average bowl of rice.

Start off by cooking your rice. The trick here is to decrease the amount of water you would normally use ever so slightly and add in most of the oil from the can of tuna.

When the rice is finished, take it out and mix it with the tuna, onion and mayo. And then you have a tasty rice bowl that’s perfect for any meal, IMHO.

 

Cheap Basmati Rice Bowl Recipe

1/2 cup basmati rice

1 crushed clove garlic

1/4 cup peanuts

1 stalk of broccoli

1 tsp salt . 1/2 tbs olive oil

^ Throw all that in to a good pot with 3/4 cups of water, and whatever other seasonings you like, (basmati takes less water and cook time then other rices) Bring to boil, then cover on low for about 7 min. Doing it this way is super easy and makes the peanuts somewhat tender morsels within the rice while giving slight flavor and the broccoli is always cooked to perfection.

While that’s cooking, get small frying pan and throw on an egg with cheese I usually fry with olive oil, just drop the egg in with cheese on top and cover the frying pan too, no flipping. When cheese is melted it’s done.

Take out your rice into a bowl and then drizzle hot sauce and Teriaki sauce semi lightly, and place egg on top.

Delicious, nutritious, fast, easy, and most of all very affordable meal.

 

Budget Soups and Stews:

 

Budget Chicken Soup

  • 1 Whole chicken (not using the whole thing in the soup, but I’ll digress on that later) divided into wings, Leg quarters, and breasts (more on this odd division later) (1.09 or .69 per pound *Second number denotes sale price)
  • 4 small Calavasa (the little mexican squash, here in texas they’re .99 a pound, but if you have neighbors that grow zucchini or yellow squash, you can probably get a bushel for that price around harvest time)
  • 2 medium russet potatoes (5 lb bag for 2.29)
  • 1 small can of “rotel” (doesn’t have to be the brand rotel, just has to have the cilantro, lime juice, and jalapenos .45 on sale)
  • 3 large jalapenos (.69 a pound)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato chicken bullion (latin foods aisle 1.29 for a 6oz jar)
  • 1.5 gallon stock pot (or your largest)
  • Water to fill pot

Boil chicken for 2 hours. Take chicken out, add veggies, cut them however large or small you want.. Take the meat from the leg quarters and chop fine, adding back to pot. Add bullion and any other spices you want/have wrap up breast meat for sandwiches (use SPARINGLY) Use wings and a small can of Cream of chicken (.89) for chicken and rice 3-4 days of meals from one bird.

 

Making Cheap Taco Soup

I got this recipe from a friend at school, I tend to make the Vegetarian version for myself, but my boyfriend insists on adding meat when I make it for the both of us. Either way, this is probably one of my favorite meals and its cheap and easy to make :)

Taco Soup

  • 1 15oz can Black Beans
  • 1 15oz can Dark Red Kidney Beans
  • 1 15oz can Light Red Kidney Beans
  • 1 15.5oz can White Hominy
  • 3 10oz cans Rotel
  • 3 Stalks of Celery
  • 1/2 – 1 Onion (1/2 is usually enough for me)
  • 1 cup broth (Chicken, beef, veggie – doesn’t matter which ever you prefer)
  • 1 package Taco Seasoning
  • 1 package Ranch Dressing Mix (I get the hidden valley one)
  • Optional – Add 1 pd browned ground turkey/beef.
  1. Drain black beans, kidney beans and hominy. Add to large pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add Broth, Rotel, Taco seasoning and Ranch dressing mix (and browned meat if so desired). Stir together.
  3. While that is heating up, cut up celery and onion. Sautee (I like to add a little garlic flavor to the celery and onions at this point)
  4. Add the celery and onion to the large pot and mix them in.
  5. Enjoy Delicious soup. I like to top it with shredded cheese and diced avocado. Also good with tortilla chips, or just tortillas.

A single batch will last me almost a week, eating it for lunch and dinner. It costs around $15-20 depending on if I have any of the ingredients and if I add ground turkey. Enjoy and let me know if you come up with any other variations.

How to Make Rice and Beans  Taste Good

To preface, this recipe does not require much measuring, I’ll try to approximate some of the amounts of stuff used but when I actually make it, I don’t measure anything. :) Also it makes quite a big batch, I live alone and have to freeze about half of it and half still lasts me the better part of a week.

Cookware:


  • Any large pan/pot with a lid will do.

Ingredients:


  • 1 boneless pork chop
  • 1 onion
  • 3-4 gloves garlic (Can replace with garlic powder if you want)
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can beans (I prefer pinto beans)
  • 1 small can diced green chiles
  • (Optional) 1 can sweet corn (It’s your preference, but I tried it and I like it, but it’s not necessary).
  • 3/4 cup rice
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • Cooking oil, water
  • Herbs/spices used: Salt, black pepper, paprika, red cayenne pepper, cilantro, thyme

Instructions:


  • Chop up the onion, mince the garlic, and season the pork chop. Salt/pepper/paprika is good.
  • Heat up about 3 tbsp of oil in the pan on medium heat. Then fry the pork chop/onions/garlic. Once the pork chop is seared, take it out of the pan and chop it into bite-size pieces, then set aside.
  • Cook the onions and garlic til the onions are clear, and remove them from the pan and set aside.
  • Put about 3 more tbsp of oil in the pan along with the flour. Mix it until the flour integrates with the fat. It doesn’t have to be a liquid viscosity, just form it into a paste and it will do it’s purpose, which is to thicken everything up later. Add oil if you need to. It may seem like a lot of oil at this point, but in the end it’s not.
  • Add stuff in no particular order: ~7 cups water, re-incorporate your pork/onions/garlic, tomatoes, beans, rice, chiles, corn.
  • Stir everything together
  • Add spices: A LOT of black pepper, about enough to cover the top of the liquid in the pan. About 3 large pinches salt. A lot of paprika, similar in amount to the pepper. Cayenne pepper to taste depending on how spicy you want it. The green chiles I use don’t seem to add any heat, so I’m pretty liberal with the cayenne. It gets diluted quite a bit with all the liquid.
  • Stir
  • Cover the pan and cook until the rice is almost done, but not quite done. I use extra long grain brown rice, and cook for one hour. Instant rice probably takes about 20 min.
  • Uncover and add herbs, and stir. I use cilantro/thyme but if you only use one, go with cilantro. Let it reduce for about 30 minutes uncovered. Stir every 10 minutes because the rice starts to stick to the pan.
  • Serve

Some interesting ways to serve it that I use:

  • Smother a tortilla with the rice/beans, top it with a little cheese, sour cream, and greens.
  • Replace the tortilla with tortilla chips and add more greens, makes quite a good taco salad.

 

Slow Cooker Food Safety and Cooking Times

Slow cookers, often called Crock-Pots after the original, may seem like a throwback to the 1970s but it turns out that twice as many households use one today as did just a generation ago. Given the number of today’s two-earner families and overstuffed schedules, that comes as no surprise. Perfect for soups, stews, and tough cuts of meat, slow cookers are designed to simmer food at a low temperature, generally between 170° and 280° F, for an extended period of time. The newer models feature electronic controls that let you program cooking time, usually in 30-minute intervals, and that automatically switch to warm when cooking is done. Another advantage over the 1970s is all the slow cooker recipes you can find online.

Slow Cooker or Crock Pot Food Safety

Your slow cooker should have come with instructions on how use it to safely prepare food. Below is a brief summary of information from reputable sources. How you prepare, cook, store, and reheat food can impact your health, please carefully consider any advice you receive online, and determine whether or not is based on science. Foodborne illness is not uncommon, but with the right precautions it can be prevented.

 

Before you cook with a Slow Cooker

  • As with any cooking method, start out with clean surfaces, cooking device, utensils, and always wash your hands.
  • Refrigerate all perishable ingredients until you are ready to use them.
  • If frozen, properly thaw meat or poultry before putting it in your slow cooker.
  • The safest way to defrost meat or poultry is in the refrigerator, at a temperature below 40°F (4.4 °C), so plan ahead!
  • Some varieties of dried or uncooked beans, such as kidney beans, contain a toxic protein called phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) that may not be destroyed by the low heat of a slow cooker. Undercooked beans may be more toxic than raw beans. To prepare these beans:
    • Soak in water for at least 5 hours.
    • Pour away and discard the water.
    • Boil briskly in fresh water, with occasional stirring, for at least 10 minutes.
    • Transfer to your slow cooker with other ingredients and continue cooking.
    • Note: these steps are not necessary if you are using canned beans. Canned beans can be added without any preparation.

 

Slow Cooker Food Safety

  • It is safe to cook large cuts of meat and poultry in a slow cooker, but be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure your particular slow cooker is of the proper size for the cut you are cooking.
  • Try not to peek! The lid of your slow cooker holds in the heat and makes sure the proper temperature is reached.
  • Slow cookers have different settings. Please refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for the one you have. In general, it is safe to cook on either high or low, or a combination of the two. Some recipes may call for the first hour on high, and the rest on low. Whatever method you use, food should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature as measured with a thermometer.
  • Warming mode should not be used to cook food, but may be able to keep already cooked food above 140°F (60°C). A food thermometer can be used to verify food remains at a safe temperature.
  • In the event of a power outage in the middle of cooking, immediately resume cooking at a friend or neighbor’s house, or by other means. Transfer the contents of your slow cooker to the appropriate container and use a gas stove or a grill outside. Do not use the ceramic insert of your slow cooker with direct heat unless it is designed for such use.
  • If your food had already reached the target temperature and was completely cooked, it should remain safe for up to 2 hours with the power off.

 

After you’re done cooking with Slow Cooker

  • To safely store leftovers from your slow cooker, transfer to shallow, covered containers and place the containers in the refrigerator or freezer within 2 hours. Transferring to smaller containers helps to cool the food rapidly and quickly bypass the “danger zone” (40°F to 140°F, 4.4°C to 60°C) where bacteria rapidly reproduce.
  • Do not reheat leftovers in a slow cooker. Use an appropriate container for the stove, oven, or microwave, and heat leftovers to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F (73.9°C).

Recommended Safe Cooking Times for Slow Cooker

Approximate Cook Times for Different Meats

Meat cutWeightLowHigh
Large Pork Roast16-7 lbs (2.7-3.2 Kg)9½ hrs.7½ hrs.
Pork Loin3-4 lbs. (1.4-1.8 Kg)6 hrs.5 hrs.
Poultry26 lbs (2.7 Kg)7½ hrs.6¼ hrs.
Beef Roast3-4 lbs. (1.4-1.8 Kg)8 hrs.5¾ hrs.
Stew Beef3 lbs. (1.4 Kg)6 hrs.4¾ hrs.
Fish32 lbs. (.91 Kg)3½ hrs.1½ hrs.

Note: All cook times are approximate. Appropriate cook time varies according to specific meat characteristics for fat content and connective tissue as well as other ingredients added to dish, including liquid, size of meat cubes, type of vegetable, size of vegetable dice, how high slow cooker is filled, etc. Pork and beef should reach an internal temperature between 195-205ºF.

1 – Pork butt, pork shoulder
2 – Whole chicken/Bone-in Turkey breast
3 – If fish is stirred in after slow cooker has been fully heated to stabilization/simmer point, it will cook within 15-30 minutes

 

How to Get Up in the Morning and Wake up on Time

Tips for Waking Up on Time

  1. Drink water the night before, so you have to piss really badly when you wake up. this may take a bit of adjustment (too much and you’ll wake up during the night and go, too little and you’ll be able to hold it the next morning), but it works great
  2. Make the habit of getting out of bed IMMEDIATELY when your alarm goes off. don’t event think, don’t hesitate, just jump out of bed the second you hear the alarm, and you don’t give the inner voice a chance to talk you out of it. after just a few days, it will be so automatic that you’ll be out of bed and standing up without even thinking about it, every time your alarm goes off. practice this the night before, by lying in bed pretending it’s the next morning, and jumping up when you hear (or pretend) your alarm goes off, and you’ll be amazed how easy it is to do the next day
  3. Put your alarm far away. no need to go crazy here, because if you really have to lock it in a box with a padlock chained to your bed like one guy i saw on reddit, then you have bigger issues to fix first. if it’s that hard for you to get up, you either need to get more sleep, or make significant changes to your life, because you are not motivated at all by what you’re currently doing with your life. waking up should be the best part of your day, because you get to go back to doing what you love. if you aren’t spending your life doing what you love, i suggest your realize that you only get ONE chance at life, you don’t get a re-do, you don’t get another chance, this is it, this is your one shot at ever doing anything, don’t live it as if you’ve got forever. [edit: several people have said they use the padlocked-box method because it’s the only thing that works for them, not because they aren’t enjoying their life- if this is the case for you, then don’t worry about it. as long as YOU feel that you’re living the way you want, that’s all that matters. the point is just that it CAN be a warning sign if getting up every morning feels like a horrible chore, that’s all]
  4. Always get up, no matter HOW long it takes. if you have to lie there for an hour every morning to talk yourself up, then do it. but KEEP doing it, and never let yourself get discouraged. you need persistence, because eventually, even if it takes a week, you’ll realize that you aren’t going to let yourself off the hook, so you may as well just stop fighting it and get up on time. if you know that you’re GOING to get up eventually, it’s a lot easier to realize that fighting it is only counterproductive.
  5. Sleep in multiples of 1.5 hours- for most people that means 6hrs or 7.5hrs of sleep a night (9 will cause issues, you have problems when you get too much sleep for some reason) ever wake up feeling super alert, fell asleep and woke up 15 minutes later feeling dead? that’s because you hit the cycle right at a 1.5 hour mark when you woke up, then put yourself off peak by sleeping more. this matches circaidian rhythms or some shit like that, doesn’t really matter you can look up the science and stuff if you’re interested, but the point is that you can feel more rested off of 4.5 hours of sleep waking up right on time than you can off of 8 hrs but waking up off peak. try it, and it will blow your mind. give yourself 15 minutes or so to fall asleep, and calculate your time that way.
  6. Buy a space heater and a timer. Set it so that it heats up your room before you wake up. You can use this two ways: 1) if your room is cold, you won’t want to get up out of a nice warm bed, so you can make it a lot easier by having a nice warm room instead, or 2) if you really need a drastic measure, set it so that it will be blazing hot in your room by the time you want to wake up. that way, instead of your bed being a nice warm comforting place that you want to stay, it will be a goddamn sauna of sweat and ‘oh god get me out of here right now’. basically a space heater is just a way to make what you want (being out of the bed) more desireable, and/or what you don’t want (being in bed) less desirable.
  7. Put a light on a timer to turn on about 5 minutes before you wake up. The light helps make your body realize that it’s time to get up. also, its very easy to go back to sleep in a nice dark room, but when it’s bright it’s harder to fall back asleep, plus it ‘feels’ more like you should get up when it’s bright out
  8. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day (or as often as possible). This may be inconvienient for many people, especially if don’t have a stable schedule for work or whatever, but even so, you may find that it’s worth waking up early even on days you don’t have to, simply to keep the trend going, because your body will very quickly adapt to a sleep schedule (just think of how fast you adjust to jet lag), and you’ll begin to wake up right around the time your alarm goes off every morning. also, going to sleep at the same time every night will make that easier too. our bodies LOVE schedules, and will adapt to them quite readily, which can be used to our advantage

Tips on How to Become an Uber Drive to Make Money

How do I get started with Uber?

To get started with Uber, sign up at https://www.uber.com/

 

You can drive and earn as much as you want. And, the more you drive, the more you’ll make. Plus, you’ll get paid weekly and your fares get automatically deposited.

Does it cost anything? What is the process? How long does it take? What are the requirements?

Signing up for Uber costs nothing. The process consists of submitting your personal information for a background check (criminal and driving history). This step takes anywhere from a few days, to several weeks. New drivers can be denied because they have criminal records, DUIs, poor driving records, or insufficient driving history in their licensed state – if you were issued a license in the last year.

 

What are the Uber requirements?

The requirements for being able to drive are: have a valid drivers’ license (for more than a year), have a 4-door vehicle that meets Uber’s requirements (usually 2005 or newer, depending on your market), have a vehicle insurance policy, and a valid registration/inspection if applicable in your state. Some markets may require additional inspections or licenses, but you will need to check with your local branch or inquire in this sub concerning individual markets.

 

I’m approved by Uber! How do I take my first ride?

Download and install the driver app, and hit “Go Online”. Once you get a request (a “ping”), you can hit ‘Navigate’ to be taken to the rider’s pickup location. When you’re sure you have arrived, flip back over to the Uber app and hit ‘Arrived’. The passenger (PAX) will be notified of your arrival, though it’s also nice to text them – to let them know what type of car you’re in (though they see this on their app, not everyone looks) and to confirm that they’re actually where their pin was placed. When they get in the car, hit ‘Begin Trip’. If they haven’t entered their destination, you can enter it – then hit ‘Navigate’ again and you will be routed there. At the end of the trip, hit ‘End Trip’, rate your passenger, and you’ll be placed back online ready to pick up another PAX!

 

How do passengers pay for Uber rides?

You should have watched the training videos, however: Passengers pay automatically through the app. When they open the rider app for the first time, they have to enter a credit card, this card gets billed at the end of the ride. You don’t ever have to deal with cash, unless someone tips you. You don’t need a card reader. Uber will pay you weekly, after they take out their % cut.

 

How do I receive a cancellation fee?

Two ways. If you’ve been driving for more than 6 minutes and the PAX cancels the trip, you’re automatically paid the cancellation fee. Otherwise, you must hit arrived and then wait for a minimum of 5 minutes, then choose cancel trip: reason: rider no-show. Any other cancellation option will not give you the fee. Not all markets still have cancellation fees. If you don’t receive one, make sure to contact support and request it.

 

How do I call/text the passenger? Do they have my real phone number?

Uber assigns the same phone number to all your PAX. You can view the number by hitting the info button on the partner screen once you receive a request. It is recommended to save this number in your phone as “Uber Passenger”, so you can quickly access it. You can text it once the request has been made, and you can continue to text it after the trip is over until you pick up another passenger, at which point the text will go to that passenger. Likewise with calling; once you get another rider, you can no longer call the previous PAX without contacting Uber support. Similarly, PAX receive a single number for all drivers. They do not have your number unless you give it to them personally.

 

Can passengers tip Uber Drivers?

They can tip with cash. There is no tipping within the Uber app. Most PAX are under the impression that “the tip is included”, thanks to Uber’s marketing.

 

How much can I make driving for Uber?

This completely depends on your market and the demand. Some drivers in less popular areas claim less than $10/hr profit average, others claim as high as $30/hr. Much of it will depend on the times you drive, the demand that day, the amount of surges you hit, and other factors.

 

Is there a way to see Surges without logging in?

There are some 3rd party apps that claim to do this, but there are reports of drivers being deactivated for using them. Use at your own risk. Otherwise, you can either:

  • open the passenger app and drag your pin around the area, this will show surges, although not in a “heatmap” style.
  • open m.uber.com and drag your pin around; works the same way as the pax app above.

 

I’m not getting Uber request, why?

There are several possible reasons why you haven’t received a ping. Open the passenger app (you can have both installed, and running.) and see if there are tons of other drivers nearby. Pings will go to the closest vehicle, and you may not be in a prime location. If there are no drivers nearby, it is possible that you’re simply in a bad location and nobody is requesting a ride. You may also be in an area of poor cell/data coverage, and your GPS may be reporting your location incorrectly – you should be outside if possible, rather than waiting in your house for a request.

 

What do driver/passenger ratings mean?

Drivers can be deactivated for having too low of a rating. Passengers rate drivers after each trip, though there is a (approx 48hr) window in which they have to do so. Drivers have to rate each PAX after each trip. PAX ratings mean nothing; they only serve to show drivers who may possibly be a poor rider.

 

Can I see who rated me?

Short answer, No. The best way to get an idea of who rated you what is to keep the driver-dashboard (log in to the website as a driver) open on your phone, and set to the 1-Day average. It will update after each completed trip, and if your rating drops then you have probably just been rated poorly by your last rider. However, it could have been a previous rider who just opened their email and rated you several hours after their ride, so keep this in mind. There is no guaranteed way to see who rated you what.

 

Can passengers request a specific driver?

No, unless you give them your personal cell number. Then, they could call/text you their location, and you could meet them – at which point they could request a ride, and you would automatically (hopefully) be closest.

 

How do I contact Uber? How do I call them?

Ha-ha, call them. You can’t.

You can email them at support@uber.com.

Your local market most likely also has an email, usually partners[marketname]@uber.com. Keep in mind that most first emails will result in a form-letter-reply, and you may have to email multiple times to get a ‘real’ response. Be concise, polite, and explicitly state your issue for best results.

 

Is it worth it to drive for Uber?

This is the most loaded question in this sub. Each driver feels differently about this. It boils down to: take some rides, and do your own calculations. Factor in the cost of your time, the cost of your gas, any additional maintenance or upkeep necessary, the depreciation on your vehicle, the wear-and-tear associated with having 10’s of additional passengers a night, the possibility of having a spill/mess/puke to clean up, and any other expenses you may have. The federal mileage deduction is at time of writing 57.5 cents/mile, which means you can write off ALL mileage driven for uber (from the time you turn the app on to the time you turn it off).

 

What’s the best car for Uber? / Should I buy a car for Ubering?

The best car is the one you have already, period. Otherwise, if you’re already planning on buying a car, and have done the math to determine it’s worth it for you, then your best bet for an UberX vehicle is a hybrid. Prius, Insight, Civic get the best MPG and therefore the most profit/expense ratio. If you plan on driving for one of the other platforms (Select, XL), you’ll need to compare costs and rates to determine what’s going to get you the best return.

 

What is the Safe Rider Fee I see added/removed on my statement?

The SRF, from the Uber site, is for: “Federal, state and local background checks, regular motor vehicle screenings, driver safety education, current and future development of safety features in the app, and more.” This is often a hot topic in this sub because a “$4 minimum fare” really means a $3 minimum for the driver, which Uber then takes 20% out of.

 

What’s UberX/Select/Plus/XL/Pool/Black?

These are currently the different ‘levels’ that Uber offers, and may vary by market. UberX is what the majority of drivers in this sub drive for, as they have the least strict requirements and it is also the most popular platform for requests because it offers the cheapest rates for PAX.

XL is only available to drivers with vehicles that can seat 7+ passengers.

Select/Plus is only available to drivers with cars that are on the Uber-approved “select” list. You’ll have to google for “uber select vehicle list” to see what applies in your market. Leather interior + 4dr is a minimum must-have.

Black is Uber’s ‘luxury’ service. This is only for licensed livery drivers, and only for certain vehicles. Again, google to see if you meet these requirements as a driver.

UberPool is also only available in limited markets. This is essentially a carpool service where you can pick up several passengers along a route. It is not a vehicle requirement, just a fare rate offering.

When to Bring Your Pet to a Vet

Is your pet in a life threatening situation?

If your pet displays any of the following – call/take it to the vet IMMEDIATELY as it could be a life-threatening situation and waiting until the next day could mean it may not survive:

Respiratory distress
  • Open-mouthed breathing (cats)
  • Respiration rate over 40 breaths per minute while sleeping/resting
  • If you can hear/feel crackles and pops over its chest area with every breath
Collapse
Unresponsiveness
Seizures
  • Your pet may fall over, walking in the air, does not respond when its name is called, repeats the same motion over and over again, etc – can be one or more symptoms
  • Any seizure that lasts longer than one minute will cause permanent brain damage, so treat them as early as possible. If in doubt, go to the vet. Also take a video to show the vet if someone is free to do so.
White or blueish mucous membranes
Straining to urinate
  • But unable to, or producing very little urine
  • Especially if you have a male cat
Dry retching/trying to vomit
  • But unable to; has abdominal discomfort, loss of appetite, and/or general unhappy demeanor.
  • Especially if you have a large deep-chested dog breed like a German Shepherd Dog, Golden Retriever, Labrador, Great Dane, Rottweiler, Greyhound, etc.
Bloody diarrhea and/or vomit
  • Blood can be either fresh (red) or partially digested (dark, can look like coffee grounds).

 

My pet has a skin problem/mass.

Skin problem, growth, sore, injury, lump, bump, mass, growth, wound, itchy

Skin lesions are near-impossible to diagnose over the internet. Many conditions look exactly the same but can differ greatly in severity. Even in person, diagnostic tests like skin scrapings, tape preps, fine needle aspirates, blood tests, etc, often need to be performed in order to get closer to a diagnosis. The most accurate way to diagnose what the skin lesion may be is to have your vet perform a biopsy.

  • Please take your pet to a vet to have the problem looked at.

Is it time to put down my pet?

End of life, hospice, palliative care, euthanasia

Animals have no concept of their own mortality; however, they most definitely have a concept of feeling lousy without knowing why. Quality of life is more important than quantity in veterinary medicine, and you should evaluate your pet’s situation with this as your primary concern.

A good way of assessing your pet’s quality of life is the HHHHHMM Scale. You can also talk to your vet about palliative care options. In the end, the ability to end suffering painlessly is one of the great advantages veterinary medicine has over human medicine, and taking advantage of this option is often the kindest thing you can do for your pet.

  • Evaluate your pet’s quality of life using the HHHHHMM Scale, discuss palliative care options with your vet, and keep in mind that euthanasia may be the kindest option.

 

My pet has an eye problem.

Eye, injury, trauma, cut, problem, swollen, red

Eye injuries will need to be seen by your local vet or eye specialist ASAP. There are many problems that we can’t diagnose over the internet because they need to be physically examined. A lot of major injuries can’t be seen easily and will need staining to be able to see the lesion. For example, the area around the eye may be swollen and there’s a cut on the eyelid, and you may think that is the issue, but there could be an ulcer/laceration on the cornea which can be quite serious and can’t easily be seen without the proper instruments. Another common eye problem is glaucoma, which can’t be detected without a tonometer and is rather painful, so will need to be diagnosed by your vet.

  • Go to the vet ASAP.

 

Why is my pet scooting?

Dog, cat, rubbing, scooting, dragging, bum, bottom, behind, rear, ground, carpet, floor, odour, anal, glands, worms, parasites, infection

Your pet may have full anal glands, where they are unable to express them the normal way due to many different factors. Usually they are expressed when solid faeces pass through the anus, thus squeezing out the glands as they defecate. Soft faeces, diarrhoea, aging (muscles weakening), and stress are common causes of full anal glands.

They could also have a parasite infestation. Worms are very common parasites that can cause scooting.

  • Simply take your pet to the vet for an examination, diagnosis and treatment.

 

My pet has fleas/lice/mange.

Flea, lice, mange, parasite, infection, itchy, hair fur loss, losing weight, weight loss

Best to make a visit to the vet to ensure your pet does not have any underlying health issues. Your vet will then prescribe you an appropriate parasite treatment. Products that can be bought in supermarkets or some pet shops may not be very effective, and some species of animals may have severe reactions to different products, so make sure you seek veterinary advice beforehand!

  • Give your pet a topical flea treatment in accordance with your vet’s instructions
  • Hot-wash any bedding and thoroughly vacuum your whole house, then repeat this after two weeks to get the fleas that hatched from the eggs you missed the first time.
  • 80% of flea populations will live in the environment and only jump onto a pet for feeding, so only finding 1 flea on an animal is enough to warrant proper flea control.

Treating your pet is an important part of flea control, but it will not usually get rid of a flea infestation in itself.

 

My cat isn’t using his litter box.

Cat, urinating, defecating, defaecating, peeing, pooping, litter box, problem

If your cat is trying to urinate but unable to, or if he is straining to urinate but produces very little urine, take him to the vet immediately. This is often a sign of a life-threatening emergency.

If your cat suddenly started urinating and/or defecating outside the litter box, this could be a symptom of an underlying medical issue. Take your cat to the vet.

If you have multiple cats, the rule of thumb is to have one litter box per cat plus one more litter box, which should not be next to each other.

 

My pet has cataracts.

Eye, opacity, cataracts

There are many eye problems that lead to increased eye opacity that are not cataracts and need to be seen by a vet immediately. Cataracts itself is not harmless – it can lead to other eye diseases like glaucoma. Senile nuclear sclerosis is also common in the lens of dogs and looks very similar to cataracts, but won’t affect their vision.

  • Unless your pet has been diagnosed by a vet to have cataracts, do not assume that it has cataracts.
  • Do NOT diagnose eye problems yourself – doing so can cause a lot of pain and suffering for your pet.
  • Make an appointment with your vet if you notice any changes in your pet’s eyes.

 

How to Choose the Right Dog for Your Family

You’ve made up your mind. You are getting a dog. But what kind?

Well, first you need to think about your lifestyle, and what you want from a dog. Choosing a dog based on looks is always a bad idea. Sure, your Border Collie is adorable, but you’re a couch potato, there will be problems.

I’ll avoid the quiz here, and send you right over here to get that part straightened out.

But what if you don’t like the results? Choosing what kind of dog to get is just as important as making to decision whether or not to get one in the first place. If you are dead set on a dog breed that doesn’t fit your lifestyle, then you need to be ready to change your lifestyle. Don’t fool yourself. If you know you won’t have the time or motivation to take a high energy dog on a couple runs a day or don’t want to leave your lazy dog at home when you go for a walk, then choose a different dog. You will get much much more enjoyment out of a dog that is the perfect match for you.

 

But what about adopting mutts?

Mutts are the very best of dogs. Unless you are wanting a dog for a show dog, there’s no reason why a mixed breed isn’t just as good as her pure-bred friends. Knowing what breeds are mixed into your dog are a huge help. You have your eye on a Border Collie/Rottweiler/St. Bernard mix? Do some research on every single breed to make sure any traits that may come out are going to be a good fit.

 

Now You’ve chosen what breed/breeds, where will the dog come from?

As a rescuer/adopter of many animals, I will always recommend going down to your local shelter and saving a life. There is absolutely no reason not to. Shelters and rescues are overflowing with dogs, many of them pure-bred.

When you arrive at the shelter/rescue, talk to the staff. Tell them what you are looking for in a dog and if they can suggest some. If they don’t have any that fit you at that particular time, leave your info and ask them to call when one comes in. They will be happy to do this and it usually doesn’t take long.

If you are going to be buying from a breeder, for the love of all that is furry, NEVER buy from a pet store. Yes, those sad puppies need homes too, but by buying from them, you are only encouraging a bad breeder to continue breeding. Not to mention, puppy mill puppies often come with many health problems.

Do research on breeders. Find one that you are comfortable with, visit them if possible. They are going to ask you a lot of questions, and you should do the same! Here are some example question to ask the breeder:

  • Do you require that my puppy be spayed or neutered? You want them to say yes and your registration papers should be marked for limited registration. This simply means that the puppy can never be bred and have registered offspring.
  1. What is your worming schedule for your puppies?
  2. Do you vaccinate your puppies, and when do you do it? Also, ask what diseases and viruses they vaccinate for. Handling the vaccinations is very important. Ask where they purchased their vaccines. Your puppy should receive distemper, hepatitis, lept o, Parvo, Corona, influenza, and bordetella vaccinations.
  3. When do you wean your puppies? If a breeder weans too early, look elsewhere. Ask for five or six weeks of age.
  4. Along the same lines of emotional stability and health you want to ask this very important question: When does my puppy get to come home? If a breeder says 6 or 7 weeks, find another breeder. A good age is between 10 to 14 weeks of age.

How to choose the perfect puppy

Now you know where the dog is coming from, have a good idea of what it needs lifestyle-wise, and you are ready to pick one. But which one? There’s really no way to choose the perfect puppy without spending some time with them. If you are rescuing, that means going to the rescue and playing with/walking/getting to know several dogs. If you are buying from a breeder, this means you get to be mauled by puppies when you visit, and can watch them to choose your favorite. I recommend several trips to visit before you lock in on one dog. Especially at a rescue, as dogs can be very out of sorts in all the chaos of a rescue. After several visits, they will start getting to know you and should be on a more normal behavior.

If you are buying from a long distance breeder, this is when choosing the right breeder is of utter importance. It is left to the breeder to pick the perfect puppy for you based on the conversations they have had with you. A good breeder will get to know you and pick out the perfect pup just for you.

Whew! After all that research and planning and visiting and talking and deciding, you finally have a puppy! Not just any puppy though, you’re puppy. The perfect puppy.

 

What to buy before you bring a puppy home

So you’ve read all of the previous lesson and decided you really can get a dog. What do you need to buy for its debut?

It’s your best bet when bringing home a puppy or dog to assume they are not potty trained. Why? In a new environment, everybody is unsure about the rules, and you need to cover all of your bases.

The basics that a pup will need: Water and food bowl Collar (preferably snap release adjustable nylon for a puppy, buckle nylon or leather for adult dog) 4-6 foot nylon or leather leash (NOT retractable) Toys acceptable for their age (puppy specific toys, easier to take the dog with you to the store and have THEM pick their toys) Food acceptable for their age (puppy food) Bedding (lambskin or soft blanket for a crate, or an actual bed from the pet store) Name tag (you can get one at your local pet store, put your phone number on it and the dog’s name, or whatever you like) Treats (for training, soft treats are best) Grooming supplies (toothpaste, a flea comb, nail clippers and brushes that fits your breed’s coat type, puppy shampoo or adult dog shampoo depending on their age) Potty pads (just in case) Enzymatic stain cleaners (the best ones to buy are at the pet store because they eliminate the stain as well as the odor undetectable by humans)

These are the first things you need to purchase when you’re getting a pup.

Bowls: if you’re getting a very young puppy, do not get a deep bowl. Puppies can fall in and drown. Get a shallow dish that can’t be flipped over, or you’ll have water all over the floor. If you’re getting a very tall or large adult dog (mastiffs, great danes, rottweilers, etc), your water and food bowls should be placed in a stand that will raise the height of the bowls. This prevents the dog from choking on its food.

Why don’t I like retractable leashes? It allows your pup to get into a dangerous situation and you have no control over the outcome. A 4-6 foot leash will allow you to train your dog to walk closely to you and allow you greater control of the dog in case something happens.

Taking your puppy to the pet store to pick its own toys is a fun experience for everyone. You can take things off the shelf and squeak them, let the pup smell them, and chase them around the aisle. This way you are not going to waste money on toys that your dog won’t even touch (trust me, I learned that lesson long ago). Just make sure that they are age appropriate toys. If you pick a Kong, make sure it’s the puppy kong, not an adult Kong. The material gives a bit more so it feels really good for the puppy to sink its teeth into it when they are teething. DO NOT pick toys that resemble items in your home like squeaky feet or shoes. Why? When your puppy chomps down on your foot and you go EEEEEK! you’re the newest toy. And you can’t get mad when your puppy goes into your closet and chews up your favorite loafers, either. Not his fault.

If you are planning on crate training your puppy, you need to buy a crate that is appropriate for his size AT THE TIME YOU GET HIM. This does mean as he grows bigger, you’ll have to buy a bigger crate. Why not just buy the largest crate you can find? Because puppies will go potty on one side, and sleep on the other. With a crate just big enough for them to sit, stand, and turn around in, they won’t want to dirty their sleeping quarters and will alert you when it’s time to go potty elsewhere. Within that crate you will need to put something soft like a towel or a blanket or a lambskin (which is my favorite, though they are harder to find nowadays).

Okay, so that’s all for this lesson. In the next lesson, we will be covering the actual act of bringing home your new puppy and how to get the basic eating, pottying, and sleeping habits under control.

See you then!

Here are the great comments when this was a University of Reddit post: kereezy: As for the crate, it’s not a bad idea to buy an appropriately sized wire crate with a partition that can be moved/removed so that the crate grows with the puppy. Throw a blanket over the crate so the pup gets that “den” feeling, and that way you don’t have to buy 20 crates. These wire crates are collapsible too, so they travel well.

In addition to the crate, something you might want to think about is an exercise pen. It’s like having 8 wire baby gates hooked together, that you can make into any shape. If you’re crate training and want your pup to have some extra room to roam around, this might be a good idea for you. :)

Also, if you’re getting a very young pup (one that hasn’t had a full set of puppy vaccinations) you might want to wait on the fun trip to the pet store to pick out a toy- hundreds of other pets have walked there, and you don’t know what your little one might pick up. Parvo is ~80% fatal.

 

Formatted List of Puppy Supplies:

  • Water and food bowl
  • Collar (preferably snap release adjustable nylon for a puppy, buckle nylon or leather for adult dog)
  • 4-6 foot nylon or leather leash (NOT retractable)
  • Toys acceptable for their age (puppy specific toys, easier to take the dog with you to the store and have THEM pick their toys)
  • Food acceptable for their age (puppy food)
  • Bedding (lambskin or soft blanket for a crate, or an actual bed from the pet store)
  • Name tag (you can get one at your local pet store, put your phone number on it and the dog’s name, or whatever you like)
  • Treats (for training, soft treats are best)
  • Potty pads (just in case)
  • Enzymatic stain cleaners (the best ones to buy are at the pet store because they eliminate the stain as well as the odor undetectable by humans)

Puppy Grooming supplies

  • Toothpaste
  • Flea comb
  • Nail clippers
  • Brushes that fits your breed’s coat type
  • Puppy shampoo or adult dog shampoo depending on their age

Best Student Credit Card or First Credit Cards in 2016

Students generally have no income and no credit history, so they often have to apply for student cards to build up their credit. Generally these cards require credit scores of around 600, but there are instances of those who have 0 credit getting these cards. These cards all have no annual fee.

 

What is a student credit card?

A student credit card can help you earn rewards and enjoy short-term, interest-free financing. What’s more, a student card is a great first step toward establishing a good credit history, which is crucial for obtaining favorable rates on future loans, renting your own apartment and getting low insurance premiums. If you’re in college and want to start building credit, check out these student credit cards which can also help you earn valuable credit card points while in college.

As a student, it’s important to choose a credit card that you can easily manage. Furthermore, you must restrain yourself from overspending, and always pay your balances in full and on time. The best options on the market have minimal fees, yet provide student-friendly benefits, as well as excellent opportunities to build credit.

Best Student Credit Cards to Get in 2016

Chase Student Credit Cards

Chase Freedom: Not technically a student card, but offers 5% cashback on rotating cateogries of up $1500 per quarter and 1% back on everything else. Chase is lenient to students who already have a chase bank account and more likely to approve you for the freedom. Chase Ultimate Rewards points can also be combined with a premium card such as the Chase Ink or CSP to transfer to other programs making it especially valuable. (See Hybrid/Transferable Points Cards)

 

Discover It for Students

Discover It for Students: Similar to the Chase Freedom, 1% on everything but offers rotating 5% categories such as Dining, Movies, Home Improvement etc. every quarter. Also seems to be the most friendly card company, uses only U.S. customer service reps, no forex fees, waives first late payment fee etc. Proof of Student required. (schedule, tuition bill ec.)

Citi Thank You Preferred for Students

Citi Thank You Preferred for Students: Citi’s new student card. Previously called the Citi Forward card that offered 5% on movies, music, bookstores (and amazon) and restaurants. The new version of the card is significantly neutered. It now offers 2% on restaurants on entertainment with 1% back on everything else. A decent card, probably the easiest card to obtain outside of getting a card with your local bank.

 

Bank of America Student Credit Cards

Bank of America Travel Rewards for Students: Generally harder to get than the Discover It or Citi Forward. 1.5x cashback everywhere, no forex fees. Smartchip enabled Same as the regular Bank of America Travel Rewards card (see ‘Best card for no forex fees’ section)

Bank of America Americard Cash Rewards for Students: Generally harder to get than the Discover It or Citi Forward. 1% cashback on everything, 2% on grocery stores, 3% on gas. 2% and 3% are limited to $1500 spend per quarter. Similar to the Amex Blue Cash Everyday card, but gas and grocery categories are flipped (2% gas, 3% grocery) and $6000 per year instead of 1500 per quarter.

 

Sallie Mae Mastercard

Sallie Mae Mastercard: 5% on gas and groceries, limited to $250 each per month, 5% on bookstores (amazon included) up to $750 per month. Best for small spenders/people who don’t MS.

 

Capital One Journey for Students

Capital One Journey for Students: 1% cashback, plus 25% if you pay on time, so 1.25% cashback on everything. No forex fees. Not recommended as BoA Travel Rewards for Students is better.

 

Can I earn credit card points for paying bills?

Yes, it is possible to use mortgage, rent, utility, student loan, and other bill payments to earn points. In some cases the company may offer a means of paying directly with a credit card, however it is important to note whether an extra fee is charged and, if so, how much. If there is no additional fee, or if it is low enough that you are willing to pay it (for instance, if you absolutely needed to hit a minimum spending requirement) then go about it in this way.

Are there fees for using a student credit card?

If this is not possible, or is too expensive, then all hope is not lost. There are several services that exist to facilitate paying bills that can be funded either directly with a credit card or indirectly via a reloadable card purchased with a credit card. See the rest of the Wiki on Manufactured Spending, and How to Meet Minimum Spend.

 

Using a Student Credit Card

Credit cards for students are designed to help students build credit and assist in establishing good credit habits that can be used to create a foundation for a successful financial future. From travel and cash rewards to a lower interest rate, there are credit cards for students with a variety of features. Remember to now be spending beyond your means with any student credit card.

Things to Check Out in A Used Car Before Buying

If you trust a mechanic. give the seller a deposit and take the car to him. Make sure he at least takes the wheels off.

Be suspicious of good deals if you are shopping for Toyotas, Hondas, VWs, etc and other cars that retain value well. These cars retain their value well because they are generally reliable and it’s OK if they don’t disappear overnight. If someone wants to get rid of one, they have an agenda, which means there’s probably something wrong with it.

I buy cars that have had collision repairs done and major engine work because I call the seller on their BS and get a deal. I’m not afraid to deal with the consequences because I know how to fix them. Don’t risk it. There are other cars out there that will cause you less headache later down the line.

 

What to look for when buying a used car

First thing’s first. Here are some inspection points. Take it to a dealership and pay $100 or whatever . They see a lot of those cars and know everything that commonly goes wrong with them. They want you to trust them if anything does go wrong with it because they want your future business.

If you’re going to do an inspection yourself (which I’d recommend anyways), do this on a bright day. Never buy a car when it’s overcast. Park it in the middle of a lot and walk around the car from about 8-10 meters away. Does everything look straight and symmetrical? If not, you’re looking at a collision repair. Open up all the doors, trunk and hood. Any evidence of a paint job? If so, rust/collision evidence.

Look inside the wheel wells and on the inside of the wheels for oil/grease. If you can get a good look under the car, inspect for things that look wet on a dry day. Some water will drip out the passenger side near the door hinge from the air conditioning, even if the AC hasn’t been turned on lately.

Inside the driver side door opening on the chassis, there’s a sticker with vehicle info. Does it match the one on the nose of the car under the hood opening? How about the VIN plate under the windshield (driver side corner) as well.

Inspect the paint job near where panels meet and look for inconsistency. This is indication of some repair which would be a yellow flag, but if the seller seems they might be trying to cover something up, I’d walk.

Look for rust around the fuel filler neck if you think it may have been flood damaged. These cars will have never ending electrical problems. Same thing goes with cars where some idiot installed an alarm or stereo and didn’t know what they were doing; stick your head under the steering column and look up in front of the pedals to see if there’s monkey business going on. If it looks “slapped on,” walk off.

Check the lower panels just in front of the rear wheels with your hand. This is a common area for rust to destroy a car.

Engine. Does it sound smooth? Does it look filthy or freshly detail-cleaned? A common trick is to put a new 3 chamber muffler on a little car before sale to make engine sounds quieter, so this is a yellow flag. If you watch the engine idle, it shouldn’t buck or shake. It should vibrate, but it isn’t supposed to jump around. There should be a light, even ticking at idle that disappears if you rev the engine slightly. You can rev the engine from inside the hood by moving the throttle plate directly. Follow the air tube from the filter to where it goes into the engine and there will be a lever there with a cable (like a bicycle brake cable) on it. Give it a twist. Usually, the main wiring harness comes into the engine bay by the rear passenger side corner. Follow every wire around the engine bay look for evidence of shitty repair work. Any sounds that appear only once your rev the engine in neutral are red flags.

On some cars you cannot rev the engine from under the hood because of how the electronic throttle control is hooked up. In that case, remove the air cleaner (they normally have a couple clips you just unhook) and rev the engine with the driver’s window down and the hood open. Opening the air cleaner allows you to hear any engine sounds muchbetter.

Look for yellow/white whiteout looking paint. That’s evidence of used parts from a wrecker – another yellow flag. Check all the fluid levels (the owner’s manual will describe this process). Never buy a car that has been neglected.

Feel the engine oil with your fingers. If it feels greasy or gritty they have put gear oil in the engine to cover up worn bearings. If it smells rank, same thing. If your paper towel takes on a pinkish hue hear the edges of where the oil wicks out, they have used transmission fluid to clear up carbon buildup and it may be about to have bearing failure.

Hopefully you parked the car on a clean surface and when you go for your test drive, you will be able to notice drips. AC condensate drilling off the evaporator core is fine., anything from the wheel area is not. A little engine oil is fine as long as it’s coming from the pan gasket itself. Coolant is not fine.

Bounce all four corners and listen for clicking sounds that indicate worn bushings and ball joints. Check all the lights and horn for function before you test drive.

*Edit: Some hipster below has pointed out that you should avoid buying cars with burned out lights, which I totally second. A seller should have taken the time to check that.

Take it for a rip and drive it hard. Take corners hard and nail some potholes or speed bumps. If something’s broken in the suspension, now’s the time to find out. Do that first with the windows down and then with the windows up. Clicks, Clunks, and other aberrant sounds mean repairs will be in order. Driving wide open throttle will trigger an emissions system check in the computer as well.

If you’ve never driven automatics, avoid automatics. That would mean you know how to hill start and you probably don’t have an idea how an automatic is supposed to shift. Or get a tranny shop to check it out for you. Manuals are hard to find in north america.

Here’s how to test an automatic transmission. Basically, it should never seem to slip. You need to test out low throttle, part throttle, medium throttle and full throttle shifting between all gears (up and down), as well as the lockout speeds for manual gear selection. The transmission should not downshift into a lower gear if the car is going too fast and itshould allow you to bounce off the rev limiter (this is hard on the engine and transmission if you do it too much). With the brakes to the floor, put the car in both drive and reverse and rev the engine make sure nothing slips. **Don’t do this for more than a couple seconds ** The engine should rev to about 1500-2500 RPM and hold there. The exact speed is specific to each car. If RPMs start climbing gradually, let off immediately; that’s bad.

Here’s how to check a manual transmission. Get going about 20mph and hold in the clutch. Hold the clutch to the boards and engage and disengage every gear several times and feel for looseness and inconsistency. For each gear in turn, get up to the lower speed range for that gear, let out the clutch in gear. The car should begin decellerating (engine braking) apply a little pressure on the gear shifter (your thumb on the base of the stick works well) and apply just enough throttle to pop the transmission back into neutral. None should stick.

Anyway, there’s some stuff to consider. There’s a lot more you can get just by interacting with the owner. I’d suggest bringing an american friend with you if you can, since you’re new. If the seller seems like a cheapskate or appears to be nervous or hiding something, just don’t buy his car. If he’s having to make up excuse after excuse, it’s probably also not worth sticking around. Same thing goes if the guy is seems like a car salesman or mechanic. Used car dealerships sometimes sell their problem cars under the table.

What are some cheap hobbies that are fun?

  • Learn to enjoy board games and card games! We love 500, Lost Cities, Blokus, Samurai, etc and can play them over and over again. Pennies per hour of entertainment, if that. Also party games are great for larger groups–we love Cards Against Humanity and Murder in the Dark.
  • Most museums have free nights, student discounts, or failing that get passes from the library
  • The library! Books, DVDs, magazines, lectures, book discussion groups, wine tastings (no, really, my library has this) all for FREE! And Kindles get a bad rap, but if you are a dedicated reader who doesn’t stick to the bestseller list, or if you enjoy “literature,” Kindle books are CHEAP. If you have a good library in your area, it’s not worth it, but in areas like mine where the library options include the one story, mostly kids’ section public library, or the $1/day late fee school library, they’re awesome. I got the complete works of H.P. Lovecraft for free.
  • Most cities have free movies happening at libraries, in parks outside in the summer, for special events, etc.
  • There are many resources online for purchasing discounted movie tickets in advance (just do a google search; I think the Entertainment books have them too) and usually the only restriction is you can’t use them opening weekend. Many employers will sell them as a perk also.
  • Use your parks! Hike, bike, camp, walk, play frisbee, fish, etc.
  • Beaches, lakes, and public pools
  • Also, older or less popular video games don’t always suck. If you have a system sitting around, look online for some cheap games (some eBay lots for “crappy” games can go for $10 for 10-20 games!). This works for computer games, too, I assume (I haven’t had a decent computer in like 6 or 7 years, so computer games are foreign to me).
  • Disc Golf. Grab a disc or more and head to the local (most likely free) course.
  • Bicycling is not only a frugal hobby, it’s also a frugal lifestyle. Up front costs, a little higher than your average ‘frugal’ hobby. But spend a little money on a good bicycle (I spent $500), and it will last you a lifetime. Pretty good return on your investment. When buying a bike remember, cheap≠frugal.
  • Geocaching is a great hobby, and almost free! It’s easiest with a smart phone but printing out directions and clues from a local library works too. My fiance and I spend entire days hunting for caches, there are plenty of them and searching means you get to explore your local area as well. Even better if you make your own and hide it!
  • Baking days as well. For a small amount in start-up costs (for cupcake trays, loaf tins, weighing/measuring equipment etc) you can make loads of tasty treats for far cheaper than buying bread or cakes at the supermarket. I made the most amazing loaf of bread today from an add-water mix that cost less than £1, and I probably could have done it cheaper.
  • Invest in a decent antenna and cut the cable/satellite TV.
  • Cheap dates: hiking, coffee/ice cream dates are good 1st date ideas, a cheap 2nd or 3rd date is a movie night. Cook an interesting (try a new ethnicity perhaps) meal, pack a picnic, walk around downtown, go to local museums (or battlefields, monuments, whatever you find interesting), check out free concerts in your area, give each other a massage, walk around a scenic park, hiking, bike rides, movie nights at home.
  • Get a cheap/free laptop or desktop off craigslist, and put Linux on it for absolutely free! Chances are, you are reading this from a PC that you will be able to install Linux on. You can just pop in the CD, restart the computer, and something like Ubuntu will automatically split your disk so that you can keep windows and put Ubuntu on as well. You can do everything you did on Windows/Apple, and more. Virtually everything is free. You can install GIMP, basically a free Photoshop, OpenOffice, and stay productive while saving money. There are great, free games. You can learn how to program, and learn in detail how computers actually work, if you have the patience.
  • Learn to play an instrument. There is a little startup cost, but pick only one well made instrument, stick with it and master it. Don’t switch. Doesn’t matter which one, could be a guitar, banjo, piano, trumpet, harmonica, tropical pan flute. They all sound good if you know how to play well enough.
  • Programming is fun, and if you have a computer of any type already, free! Not only that, you get to practice a useful skill that can help you find a good paying job, or help you simplify the one you already have.
  • Yoga can be a very cheap and worthwhile hobby. You can invest in a cheap yoga kit (approximately twenty dollars, if you take care of it, it can last for years.) You can find instructional videos or a number of instructional videos online. Many yoga studios also offer free classes/discounted rates for beginners! it’s very spiritually and physically rewarding, as well as frugal! Try it out!
  • Golfing is a cheap hobby if you know where to get deals. (Buy clubs and gear online or used and don’t get sets… buy individual clubs.) Buy a golf pass/membership through your city. Most cities have something where for about $350 you can play unlimited golf for the whole summer… Also, most courses, even nice ones, have something called twilight golfing… if you go after 5pm. I know a course by me costs about $60 for a round of 18… but if you go after 5pm, They drop the price to $15, sometimes they even let you go for free. All courses do this.
  • Rock climbing can be quite a cheap hobby/lifestyle, much more so if you live near somewhere with outdoor climbing. The initial investment in gear is about $150 minimum, and $400-500 on the high end, assuming you don’t know anyone with gear to use. (This is for sport climbing.) Most places are free, or close to it, to go climb outdoors. Sometimes there is a park entrance fee, but those are usually paltry, and have great deals on annual passes or the like.

Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Car

Determine Your Used Car Buying Budget

First of all you need to land on a budget. Not just the car, but insurance, gas, maintenance and repairs. That determines what you can consider – new or used and what types of cars. Don’t stretch out your budget too much in monthly payments or get temped by older luxury cars that are selling for cheap (because they usually have high maintenance requirements).

Here is one way to figure out the sale price you should be considering once you’ve deducted all the other expenses of owning a car from your monthly budget:

http://www.timevalue.com/products/tcalc-financial-calculators/car-affordability-calculator.aspx

Edmunds true cost to own (TCO) can also help with that. Pick a year and model of car to get an idea of what the next 5 years will cost.

http://www.edmunds.com/tco.html

http://www.edmunds.com/used-cars/

You can look for used cars on dealer lots, or you can find them private party. Private party offers better bang for buck, but you’ll do more legwork finding a car and sorting out the duds from the gems. Make sure to have your own mechanic lined up to inspect any car – dealer or private party, before making an offer.

 

Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Car

Here’s my canned list of questions to try and weed out the good ones from the duds before spending money on a pre-purchase inspection. If the seller doesn’t answer, then consider it your sign to move on:

  • Are there any options you didn’t mention in your ad?
  • Has the car ever been in an accident?
  • Does it have a clean title?
  • Are there any mechanical issues with the car?
  • Are there any pending services I should know about – such as oil changes, tires, brake pads, timing belt, clutch, exhaust, etc?
  • Does the air conditioning work?
  • Do you have all the service records?
  • Why are you selling the car?
  • Understandably this isn’t a new car, but on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the closest to new, how would you rate;
  • The paint and body?
  • Headlights/tailights/foglights?
  • Do the windows have any scratches, fading or cracking?
  • Interior?
  • Wheels and tires?

Test Driving a Used Car and Inspecting a Used Car

When I go to see and test drive a car, I prefer to meet at the seller’s house. How does the yard look? A nice neat yard is usually a good sign. If they are reluctant to do that (and some may be), meet at a coffee shop nearest their home (often well attended).

Take your time to inspect the car carefully before the drive. Inside, underneath, trunk and engine bay. Touch each flaw to draw attention to it (helps when negotiating). Are there any leaks under the car? Check for even tire wear as this can indicate alignment or worn suspension parts.

When test driving, have the owner drive it first. See how they drive it. Especially if the car is cold. Someone who jumps on the gas when the car is cold has probably given the car a hard life. Do they fly over curbs or ease gently off them? Suspensions last longer when you’re nice to them. Do they jam on the brakes or saw at the wheel? Bushings and steering gear take a beating.

Test Driving a Used Car

When it’s your turn to drive, pay attention to everything. Does the engine respond smoothly? Transmission shift crisply but not harshly? Brakes aren’t grabby or weak? Does the steering pull either way? Any odd noises or smells? When you come back from the test drive, check again for leaks under the car.

If it all seems good, arrange a time to have your mechanic check it out. Every used car will have issues. The trick is to avoid the big ones.

 

Things to Check on Used Car Test Drive

  • Test drive on a quiet road with the windows down and the radio turned off. Tire/road noise at ~35mph is a good sign of alignment issues, or lack of tire rotations. Vibration at highway speeds may be wheel balance-related, wheel bearing-related, hub related (lack of hubcentric rings on the wheels). Vibration when braking at highway speeds means you may want to replace the brake rotors / pads due to uneven deposits (colloquially known as “warped rotors” which is usually a misnomer). Brake squeal, while annoying, can be totally normal and you may just need to grease the back of the pads.
  • This only applies once you’re already committed to a price, and ready to take delivery of the vehicle. Before this happens, give the car a very thorough inspection. Never buy a car unless you or a mechanic you trust has looked at the vehicle on a lift. Using a flashlight, inspect for rust, exhaust leaks or any evidence of rework/welding jobs, condition of O2 sensors / wires, transmission, differential, anything missing, damaged bolts, frame damage / bent frame, condition of flexible brake lines, suspension bushings, bent suspension / alignment parts, tire tread wear pattern, and anything else you or your mechanic can think of. Most original body parts/panels have the vehicle’s VIN number somewhere on them. Replacement body panels don’t

 

Other Tips When Buying a Used Car

  1. Never look at a car in the rain. If it is wet you can’t see paintwork well and if the ground is wet you can’t hear it when test driving.
  2. When test driving, roll the windows up, turn off the AC and the radio. Then drive on highway and listen.
  3. Nowadays, I take a code reader and look for anything pending.
  4. Check the labels on the glass to ensure it all matches. If it has all matching factory glass, that is an indicator that it hasn’t ever been hit too hard. If something doesn’t match, look deeper for other indicators of previous damage.
  5. Flood cars are common, so always check around seat brackets and under the dash for signs of previous water marks.
  6. Be skeptical of cars that are “over detailed”. A car that looks brand new is not one that has a shiny interior or engine bay. New cars’ interiors and engine bays DO NOT SHINE.
  7. If the price seems too good to be true, it is. There could be something the seller is not telling you. They may claim they priced it for a quick sale, but use your instincts when the price is low. It could be salvaged, have a bent frame, need an engine / transmission rebuild, whatever.
  8. Always demand a bill of sale that lays out all terms of the sale in writing (what exactly you’re buying, what is the actual mileage, is the odometer accurate, what is the method of payment, how much you are paying, and under what conditions you will take delivery of the car). Some of this may seem redundant in light of the transfer of title form, but in small claims court written documents like a bill of sale are key to protecting yourself, anything that’s not written down becomes complete hearsay and puts you in a difficult position should you find yourself in court. You don’t need to be a contracts attorney, just use common sense. Put in your contract that you will not pay for or take delivery of the vehicle until the vehicle passes inspection at your expense.
  9. Before you fully commit to buying a vehicle, it makes sense to be familiar with how the particular car drives. If you can, test drive at least one other vehicle of a comparable vintage, so you know how the car feels and sounds, in general

 

Buying a Used Card from a Car Dealership

If you buy a used car from a dealership, find everything you can that’s wrong with it in under 3 months and call your salesman immediately. 9 out of 10 times they will fix almost everything under the standard 90 day limited warranty. Check all wear items such as tires, brakes, suspension components, etc. You would be amazed what they will do for free to keep you happy.

If you’re at all interested in modifying the car you’re looking at, there are forums dedicated to your car. Google knows. Go check out the forums, read those FAQs. Those places will tell you what breaks first, when it’s most likely to break, etc.

If you’re looking for best value / highest economic utility, gravitate towards the cheaper marque of the family of brands, and upgrade your lower-marque with parts from the higher-marque. ie upgrade your vw mkiv gti using audi tt or (a/s)4 bits. Commonality between platforms across brands is more prevalent than those buying the flagship marques want to believe.

If you buy used, and you don’t have a warranty, ignore the dealership. Find a reputable independant shop (using the forums you’ve already found / subreddits). The shop will be super happy to check out your prospective purchase if you work the deal a little bit – I test-drove my car to the nearest shop from the dealer and said “Hey, I called yesterday, here’s the $50 I promised to do a good once over. Show me what you find that needs to be fixed and explain why, and you’ll be my shop.”

If the car you buy was made before 2000 (or as late as 2005 in some models) CHANGE YOUR TIMING BELT. It’ll save you a lot of unnecessary money and repairs in the future.

A great resource for finding out how much other people have spent on the car you are looking is Truecar.com

It tells you how much the same car was purchased for and will give you a dollar amount that the dealer will sell the car. It is a good benchmark and Gives you a big edge in finding a new or used car

Also you can go to clearbook.com and get a trade in value that is based on actual data and trade ins. Kbb is a made up value and is just a corporation pulling some subjective number out of their ass

 

Tips for Selling a Used Car

When selling a car though, I like to try to receive payment in the safest way and place possible. For me, that means exchanging cash (paper money) inside a bank. My local bank has often been very accommodating of these kinds of transactions, and have even offered to make copies of the bill of sale, transfer of title forms, etc. A wire transfer is also acceptable. As the seller, I only like dealing in cash (paper money) because many other methods of changing money have the potential for scamming. Paypal can freeze money or reverse transactions depending on their whim/terms and conditions/claims by the buyer. Cashier’s checks are a favorite of scammers because they look official, and many people consider them to be perfectly safe, but fake/fraudulent/stolen cashier’s checks exist. Same goes for money orders. If you deposit a fraudulent cashier’s check, your bank will not help you sort things out. They will just remove the money from your account and that will be the end of it while you go to the authorities to help track down the scammer.

What are some tips for using AirBnB?

Info for AirBNB guests:

1) Reviews are golden. See how your host has reviewed the guests, as well, to see how picky they are. Reviews can only be made after a verified trip, so they really are golden on Airbnb

2) In an emergency situation (i.e. foreign country with no way to contact the host and they are late) contact Airbnb FIRST, not AFTER Reddit. Reddit can advice, Airbnb can do.

3) Verify yourself as much as possible. Hosts do not get to see the verifications you upload, but they instill a lot of confidence if you have validated with a driving license, for example.

4) When sending a booking request, please add a reasonable amount of detail whilst not coming across as needy. You want to personalise your message to show that you have read the listing and dont ask questions that are answered in it

5) Communicate with your hosts before you go, and make sure they know when you are arriving and when you are leaving

6) Whilst Airbnb itself may be a business, do not treat rooms as hotels, but rather, as a paying guest in someone’s home. Many Airbnb hosts live in the place they list, and making sure they (and you) are comfortable is the most important thing mutually.

7) Airbnb reviews are not for the benefit of the host, they are for the benefit of their future guests! Review fairly, but honestly.

8) DO NOT EXCHANGE MONEY OFF THE AIRBNB PLATFORM. IT IS AGAINST PLATFORM RULES. ANY HOST WHO TRIES TO DO THIS, SHOULD BE REPORTED IMMEDIATELY

 

Information for AirBnb Hosts advice:

1 – Reviews are golden. Check how your guests have reviewed the places they have stayed too to see if they are fair or unfair.

2 – Assume the Airbnb host guarantee isnt worth the bytes it is written on

3 – Be wary of requests with no reviews, verifications, or detail. Even if they have their verifications and a review or two, I try to find out more. I will look them up on Linkedin, Facebook etc to get a better read. I also ask them about their plans for their visit and who they are traveling with. It might seem like overkill and could scare off a few guests but I’m focused on protecting my property.

4 – Communicate clearly to the guest, and find out when they plan to arrive and when they plan to leave

5 – Keep as much communication as possible on-platform in case Airbnb need references

6 – Try not to rely on third parties to do the hard work for you

7 – Remember guests are PAYING guests. They are allowed to have (reasonable) needs, particularly with advance notice. Hosting is not for everyone.

8 – Reviews are NOT for the guests. They are for OTHER hosts. If you have a problem with a guest, tell them, so future hosts may learn from your mistakes.

How to Make your Own TV Antenna

In the US, television signals are transmitted over the air via a system called ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee). These signals are unencrypted digital television signals. They can be picked up with an HD Antenna and fed into an ATSC Tuner (such as the one built into your TV). You are probably in range of many over-the-air broadcast channels, such as ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CW, PBS, and other smaller networks like ION or PBS. If might be an affordable option to build your own antenna.

 

What supplies do you need to make your own TV Antenna?

  • Coax cable, for your TV.
  • 6 wire hangars, preferably with some kind of plastic coating that you can remove in sections with relative ease.
  • 10 wood screws, not too long so they don’t punch through your wood.
  • 10 fender washers – about an inch in diameter and with a hole wide enough to be secured by the wood screws. Grab a handful at Home Depot for a dime a piece.
  • Wood – I used a single 2×4 about 2.5 feet long, a wider piece might work better for spacing but mine worked fine. You can find suitable wood scraps at Home Depot for free if you’re polite.
  • UHF/VHF transformer. Also called a balun, I found mine at Radioshack, labeled as a 75-ohm 300-ohm transformer for 6 bucks.
  • Drill – for the wood screws
  • Pliers – to make shaping the hangars easier
  • Basic wire cutter/stripper – to strip the hangars in appropriate sections. I just used the wire cutter region on my pliers.
  • Tape measure

http://www.antennaweb.org/aw/welcome.aspx – Check here before getting started to verify that you have some stations nearby. Make sure to note that your house has multiple stories available (whether it does or not), because if I don’t check that box then the site only shows one available station listed for my location. For reference, I am able to pick up channels at a listed blue antenna type.

 

Directions to Make Your Own TV Antenna

1) Watch this video to get a visual of what we’ll be doing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWQhlmJTMzw I think mine ended up slightly different from this guys’ but they both should work comparably well.

2) Clip the top portion of 8 of your hangars on both sides of where the hook begins.

3) Use the pliers to straighten out the hangars into long wires.

4) Take four of your long wires and cut them into eight, 14 inch pieces.

5) Use your wire strippers to strip the last inch on each end and middle 1.5 inches of each short wire.

6) Bend the short wires at their center, until each end is about 3 inches from each other. Set these short wires aside for a bit

7) Take your board and make a mark at the following lengths from the top of the board: 2”, 8”, 14”, and 20”.

8) Make two new marks at each of these lengths, about ¾ of an inch from the edge of the board. This will be where your screws/washers go in.

9) Take your two remaining long hangar wires and line them up against your dots. Using the pliers, bend one hangar wire so that it stretches from the very top left dot, to the dots on the right at 8”, straight down to the dot at the right at 14”, and finally down to the dot at the bottom left at 20”. The final shape will be __/. Do the opposite with the remaining hangar, so that it fills the top right, middle lefts, and bottom right.

10) Clip excess wire from the bottom of these long ones, then remove a generous section of insulation around each wire near each dot, making sure that they remain covered where they cross. Last, remove a section of insulation in the very middle of each wire. This is where your transformer will attach.

11) LOOSELY fasten 8 of your washers to each of your 8 dots using your wood screws. Make sure that they are loose enough to slip two wires in easily.

12) Place one of your short wires on each screw so that they stick out the sides, and line your long wires up on their respective dots.

13) Fasten down all those screws! You’re almost done!

14) Take your transformer, and fasten one metal prong to each side of the very middle portion of the long wires. You should have a male coax attachment hanging out in the middle, flaccid.

15) Hook up your TV and search for channels! Good luck.

 

How to Make Homemade Tortilla Chips

I never buy tortilla chips, I’ve always made them at home. This method is way cheaper, healthier, tastier, everything. I can’t believe I ever bought pre-made chips in the first place. But here we are.

 

How to Make Homemade Tortilla Chips

So here goes! You will need:

  • 5 whole tortillas (5 makes enough for 2 people to lightly snack on, use more if you want more, this recipe is for 5 tortillas)
  • 2-tbs of olive oil (canola and vegetable are fine too, really any oil will do, so if you’re some kind of crazy vegetable oil baron then you’re all set)
  • Whatever spices you want. Despite not having testicles, I use cayenne, chili powder, Tony Chacheros, garlic powder, cumin, and S & P of course.
  • cooking spray (optional)
  • aluminum foil (optional)
  • ziploc zipper baggie, quart size (optional)

Okay! So you got everything you need.

Directions for Making Homemade Tortilla Chips

0) Before starting, get your cookie sheet ready and line with foil. If you want, spray a little cooking spray on there.

1) Cut your stack of tortillas into triangles, whatever fucking size you want. You like big chips that hold an ungodly, yet somehow admirable, amount of guacamole? Or you like smaller little triangles that you can lightly coat with delicious salsa one after another, in rapid succession because you haven’t gotten laid in a while andoh god those chips are so good? I’m not here to fuckin judge, cut ’em how you want ’em.

2) Toss your triangles into your ziploc baggie. Obviously the more chips you’re making, the bigger the baggie needs to be, but if I’m making a little snack for myself I just need a quart size. If you opt out of the ziploc method (I guess you never bag things, excuse me your majesty), it’s cool, just toss your triangles on your cookie sheet.

3) Ziploc method: pour about 2 tbs of olive oil into the baggie along with your chips. If you didn’t get ziplocs because you’re not 8 years old anymore and don’t take a PB & J with you to school for lunch anymore, never fear! Just drizzle the olive oil over your chips, but you’ll have to hand toss them and arrange them on your cookie sheet for best results. This can get slightly messy, which is why I use the ziploc, and when was the last time you actually cleaned your kitchen, you filthy animal?

4) Ziploc method: toss in whatever spices you want. Go crazy. Go nuts. You like regular salt and pepper chips? Whatever blows your hair back, buddy. You like spicy, fire-from-the-pit-of-hell flavor? Throw whatever you got in there, just don’t try to kiss me. This is the time for you to break away from the drudgery of your soul sucking job to get creative! If you’re doing it the other way, just sprinkle your spices directly on the chips.

5) Ziploc method: shake that bag of triangles like your worst enemy’s neck until all the triangles are evenly coated. I like to hit my dog in the face with it. Goes over real well. After shaking, place the triangles on your cookie sheet and space them apart as best you can.

6) You can spray them again if you want. I like to do this because I believe that God won’t let the chips cook evenly unless I do this. Fucker.

6) Bake at 325 for about 15 minutes.

7) Enjoy!

** Note: you can forgo the olive oil altogether and just use cooking spray if you want. I’ve done this before, and they’re still tasty, just not as full flavored. Just arrange your triangles on the cookie sheet, spray liberally (thanks, Obama), and then do your spices.

***Another note: if you want to go all out fattening and greasy and terrible, you can fry these fuckers. Just heat up some canola in a deep enough pan and drop the triangles in for a few minutes each. But that’s more time consuming and messy and, therefore, stupid.

So the price breakdown is this:

1-20 count package of tortillas: $1.25

1-32 oz bottle of olive oil: ~$6 (depending on brand, I’m fine with store brand or low end, I am no barefoot contessa)

Spices-you should already have a decent stockpile of spices from which you can choose, but if you don’t you can get all the spices I listed for <$10, or just S & P for ~$2.

Cooking Spray- $1.39 (I use store brand; PAM is about $1 more)

Ziploc baggies-Ziploc is actually not the brand I use, I use store brand, and I got a box of 30 for ~$2

So to go out and buy all the ingredients (less spices, but including olive oil) it’s $10.64. What I especially love about making chips at home is they’re so easy, and you can make as much as you want when you want it, and all the “ingredients” can cross-over for other cooking needs. If you use foil & ziploc there is literally no mess to clean up, and you can go from being a sucker with no chips to being a winner with lots of tasty chips in ~15 min with only ~3 minutes of prep time.

For maximum enjoyment, you can also write the big tortilla chip conglomerate a strongly worded letter. That’ll show ’em.

Stuff to Cook in a Slow Cooker Easily

Every Sunday I throw about 5lbs of boneless, skinless chicken thighs in the crockpot ($13@costco). Here’s what I do with it.

 

Things to Cook in a Slow Cooker

I toss them in there on low for about 6 hours with half a diced onion and some garlic, -edit- and a 1/2c of water. I want them kind of bland, so they can be used for many things. I have 3 kids, most dinner meals are planned (Ideally, in a perfect world). However, I have lunches for myself and random snacks for them and oh, no! we’re late dinners and wtf should I make? dinners and shit, I forgot to take out the chops/to buy that one needed thing dinners – well, basically, no matter how organized you are – families need last minute options.

After the chicken is cooked, I shred it with two forks and spread it out on a cookie sheets to freeze. After it’s frozen, I loosely pack it in a big freezer Tupperware-style container. It’s over 4c of cooked chicken. If done correctly, you can remove desired portions as needed.

Now the fun stuff. There’s endless options for readily available shredded chicken. Here’s some of my favorites (and the most budget-friendly):


1c chicken 3.25

1 can black beans .75

1 can of corn (or cup frozen) .50

2Tbps siracha or hot sauce.

mix and heat in microwave or stovetop. Eat with spoon, tortillas, or chips. Best lunch ever. serves 2-3 ($2.25/$1.50per serving)


1c chicken 3.25

6 celery ribs 1.00

3Tbls buffalo sauce .50

1/4c blue cheese crumbles or blue cheese dressing .50

Mix and heat chicken and buffalo sauce, load mixture onto celery, top with blue cheese. Low carb, easy, and satisfying. ($.87/rib)


1/2 cup chicken 1.62

1/2 keilbasa rope, sliced thin 2.00

5 potatoes, cut and sliced (bitesize) .75

1 bell pepper, any color 1.00

I pkt of onion soup mix 1.00

1/4 olive oil .50

mix all ingredients, throw ’em in a cake or roasting pan and into a 450d oven. Turn everything in the pan at 15 minutes, ready in 25 minutes or so. I LOVE this with an over easy egg on top. (Serves 4, $1.71/per serving)


1c chicken, thawed 3.25

1 box of bowtie pasta, cooked and drained 1.00

1 9oz bag of baby spinach 2.00

2c creamy ceaser dressing 2.00

1/2c fresh grated Parmesan 1.00

Toss everything together. Serve warm or chill and serve later. Serves 8 as a side, 4 as a main ($1.15/2.31 per serving)


The frozen chicken thaws easily for anything you’d usually use chicken for: nachos, casseroles, salads, soup, wraps, sammies, etc. The frozen shredded chicken is a HUGE time saver for me. My last post here did pretty well, so I thought you’d like more of my ideas.

Credit Card Trip Reimbursement Policies

Information about Credit Card Trip Reimbursement Policies

Chase’s Trip Delay Reimbursement benefits. But it seems like I’m always running into people who’re pleasantly surprised to learn that Chase will cover up to $500 in expenses incurred by an extended flight delay. So with that in mind, I thought I’d share the basics of how you might be able to take advantage of this benefit on your next trip.

In a nut-shell: If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for unreimbursed expenses such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket.

Common Carrier will likely be an airline in most cases, but includes any company charged with the direct responsibility of transporting you (e.g., Greyhound, Amtrak, etc.).

When you’re covered by Credit Card Trip Reimbursement

  • Your trip is delayed more than 12 hours. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen too often.
  • Your trip is delayed so that it requires an overnight stay. This happens all the time. Have you ever missed your connection and been stranded in an airport overnight because your first leg was delayed? Or had inclement weather put your travel plans on indefinite hold? You’re covered.

 

What is covered by Credit Card Trip Reimbursement:

  • Up to $500 in reasonable expenses per ticket – as long as at least a portion of all tickets was charged to an eligible card and the ticket is for an immediate family member.
  • This means that if you purchase two tickets on your eligible card, one for you and one for your spouse, you are collectively eligible to file a claim for up to $1,000 in reimbursements!
  • Reasonable expenses include hotel accommodation, meals, ground transportation, necessary toiletries, and so on.

This benefit is the most useful when your airline refuses to provide meal/hotel vouchers because the cause of the delay is outside its control (i.e., inclement weather). However, it can also be useful if you just want to skip a long customer service queue or would rather stay someplace nicer downtown when your airline offers to put you up in a nightmarish airport motel.

 

How to get covered by credit card trip reimbursement:

  • Charge at least a portion of your fare to an eligible card. Eligible cards include the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire – as well as a number of other Chase-branded Visa Signature cards.
  • This means that award tickets are also covered as long as you charge the taxes and fees to your card.
  • Be traveling round-trip and not know about any delay in advance of your departure (i.e. if your airline cancels flights in advance and tells you to stay home, you should).

To file a claim with your credit card company, you’ll need:

  • An airline receipt showing that the fare was charged to your eligible card.
  • Your credit card statement specifically showing the charge made to the airline.
  • A copy of your tickets. More specifically, the ticket for your original trip as well as the ticket for your delayed trip.
  • Receipts for incurred expenses. Alcohol and gratuities are excluded.
  • A statement from your airline explaining why your trip was delayed. I recommend requesting a military excuse while you’re still at the airport.

After submitting this information electronically, all of my trip delay claims have been approved within a week, and I’ve received a check in the mail within two weeks after that.

How to Make a Big Purchase with a Credit Card and Get Points

First, you should make sure your expense can’t actually be paid with a credit card. Many companies don’t advertise a credit card payment option because they would have to pay transaction fees, but most of them do accept credit cards. If you haven’t already asked, do so now.

 

How to Make a Big Purchase with a Credit Card and Get Points

Some merchants and rental companies will accept a credit card payment but will charge you an additional fee for it, in which case it’s really up to you to decide if it’s worth it. If they want to charge you a 1.5% fee and you’ll pay with your Citi Double Cash earning 2% cashback, obviously you’re coming out ahead. If they want to charge you a 3% fee and you’re having a hard time meeting your minimum spend, maybe it might make sense to say yes for the convenience. Do the math, look at your other options and make a decision.

Some merchants will accept a credit card payment with no fees, but in that case you should ask for a cash discount. They will usually be happy to oblige as a cash payment will result in less fees for them, and depending on how significant the cash discount is it might make more sense to forego credit card rewards. Again: do the math, look at your other options and make a decision.

If the company for sure doesn’t accept credit card payments (e.g. a contractor or an individual landlord) then start looking into third parties: Plastiq, Evolve Money, ChargeSmart or RadPad(specializing in rent) are just a few examples of services that can pay almost any bills using a credit card. They will charge you a fee (varies by service, type of card used, payee… usually somewhere between 2.5% and 3%) but again it might make sense if you’re having a hard time meeting your minimum spend.

 

Earning Credit Card Rewards

If these fees are too high for you then you’re out of luck and no, you won’t be able to earn credit card rewards from your upcoming cash expense. What you’re trying to do is simply to turn credit card spend into cash and while there are ways to do this, your upcoming cash expense then becomes irrelevant because cash is fungible and you could just as well use that cash to pay off your credit card bill. You do not need to have cash expenses to do this nor do you have to limit yourself to expenses you have planned. This is called manufactured spending and is somewhat related to churning but this is out of the scope of this post.

Reasons To Never Carry a Credit Card Balance

I wanted to do something a little bit more constructive than write an article with this title, but today it looks like I’m going to reduce myself to cleaning up rumors. Yes, rumors; you know, that friendly little bit of “advice” that at least one person decides to regurgitate when someone mentions “credit score”. It usually goes something like this:

My friend told me that if you want to build credit quickly, you should leave a small balance on your credit card so you can build trust with the bank. If you pay interest, they will see that you are a trustworthy consumer, and that you can handle paying them off. Otherwise, it looks like you’re not utilizing your cards and that looks bad on your report.

Usually when I ask where people heard this, they say it was their friend who works as a teller, or maybe a friend who sells cars for a living, or someone who does collections at a hospital. News flash: not everyone who works in a hyperbolically related industry knows what they’re talking about.

Reasons to Never Carry a Credit Card Balance

Not only is the statement above false, but even if it weren’t false, it’s still horrible advice. With most credit cards nowadays running an average of 15-20% APR, you can’t afford how bad this advice is. And that’s if it weren’t a complete and utter lie.

Let me give you a small tip that might save you hundreds of dollars a year the next time someone farts out something like that: You don’t need to pay a dime in interest for a good credit score. If you do, you’re paying a premium for something that’s exactly the same as the free version. And the free version goes something like this:

Always pay your statement balance in full, every month, by the due date. This will allow you to avoid paying interest, and your credit utilization will be recorded for free.

It’s really just that simple, and it’s the only way you should be building your credit score. Paying interest doesn’t improve your score faster. It only costs you money, and it makes you look pathetic when you have to explain to your new finance girlfriend why the size of your savings account is so small.

 

What is the credit card interest charge?

All right, zonination. If you’re so smart, then why is this “rumor” false?

I’ll tell me why. It’s because the interest that you pay on a credit card is not reported to the credit bureaus.

When you receive your statement, the statement balance is the number that is provided to the bureaus. This is the grand total that appears on your monthly statement from the bank. For credit cards, the bank also reports your available credit. If you’ve ever looked at your credit report (which you should do every year), you will see that the only two numbers reported on your accounts are your statement balance and your available credit. The month after your statement, they record whether you paid on time. Wash, rinse, repeat.

It’s almost completely needless to say that the FICO algorithm uses only these three criteria when calculating your payment history and utilization. In case the gears aren’t turning in your head, this means that interest paid has no additional effect on your score. So it’s really just the same as paying your statement balance in full by the due date. Imagine that.

But my friend X is an expert who works for Y, and s/he told me to carry a balance!

Your friend is an idiot, and s/he is costing you a fortune. You’re free to believe what your friend says, but that only makes you both wrong. Just because X claims something doesn’t mean it’s true.

But if you really want to throw your hard-earned cash into an eternal abyss of broken promises on behalf of your so-called expert’s advice, I suppose I can’t stop you. It’s your money, after all, and you’re free to waste it on whatever you want.

 

How does carrying a balance affect your credit report?

But I’m nervous that paying in full might look bad on my report.

Look at what I just said above. The only things your bank’s monthly report contains are your statement balance, available credit, and whether you paid on time. Interest is not recorded and there’s nothing to get nervous about.

When your statement balance comes in, you’ve been recorded. You will already look “good” utilizing your credit as long as your statement says something other than “0”. Then your choice is whether or not to pay in full.

Really, the only thing that will make you look bad are the bankers snickering at you behind their mahogany desks, all because you believe a rumor that pulls a ton of revenue from suckers who fall for this kind of crap.

That’s just your opinion, though. I followed X’s advice, and it worked!

That’s not why it worked.

The reason it worked is because, in addition to paying interest you never needed to pay, you also built a payment history which would have happened anyway. Your credit score didn’t get “bonus points” or “extra trust” because your bank made some quick cash off of you. Your credit score got a boost because you made on-time payments that got reported to the bureaus. It would have worked exactly the same if you had paid your statement in full.

What if I took out a loan to improve my credit score instead?

What? Whoa, wait! No. Let’s back up here. Look at what I said above. You don’t need to pay a dime in interest for a good credit score. Obviously, while it’s disappointing that there is no quick way to build a score, you don’t need to take out a loan. Credit cards are a loan, and paying them off in full every month builds a good enough payment history to bolster your score without paying interest. There are tips and tricks to boosting your score that I will examine later on, but “starter loans” are only a last resort.

What I’ve been trying to say for this whole post is that paying interest when you can afford to sidestep it is stupid. The whole point of having a good credit score is to pay lower rates on loans that you need to take out. Paying interest to avoid interest is an exercise in wastefulness, and it’s completely unnecessary when you can build your score for free.

So if there’s one thing I want you to take away from this, it’s that you can build a good credit history without paying the premium rate. Repeat after me: I, [name], will always pay my statement balance in full, every month, by the due date.

Learn About Couchsurfing and Getting Started

Maybe you’ve heard of CouchSurfing before or have an account and haven’t used it yet. Have no fear since help has arrived!

There are three primary ways someone can be involved in CouchSurfing: – surfing – hosting – participate in your local CouchSurfing group (get together of fellow CSers in the area)

What I do as a host:

Handling the initial requests….

I’ve been hosting quite a bit lately to the point where I’m probably overdoing it. The first part of the process is to put information in my CS profile. Everyone fills out theirs differently with some including a bullet list of information while others talk about their interests or views on life. I definitely prefer to host someone who has at least some common interests as me or has personalized their CS request. If I receive a request and the person does not mention my name then I’m more likely to decline since that is usually a sign of a copy/pasted message. Personalized requests plus having common interests nearly guarantees a couch with me. Generally I do want to host people but I’d rather host people I feel like I’m more likely to jive with. Messages that are sent 2-3 weeks in advice are hard for me to deal with since my plans might change — of course, I’m not representive of all hosts but I’ve recently received a request that needs a couch in 2 months. I generally know if I can host in 2-3 weeks in advance but not a whole lot more than that.

Accepting a request…

If I accept a request I immediately send my phone number and address in my initial response. Also, some surfers may be arriving at an airport or bus/train station. I don’t mind picking people up and then dropping them off later although I know not all hosts would actually do that. so, you can ask them if they want a ride if you’re comfortable with that. I also try to communicate what my plans might be that day if they want to join, or that there might be other couchsurfers there at the time.

I also maintain a spreadsheet that is easier to work and better tracks the information I need to know for hosting (Name, Arrive Date, Arrival Day of week, Departure Date, Departure Day of week, Total surfers, Notes, Link to Profile).

Declining a request…

I’ll typically say something like “I am unavailable to host, sorry” or something. I don’t need to give excuses.. I just need to say ‘no’ but also say it politely.

Doing the hosting…

For most surfers they’ll be tired when they arrive. If they’re only staying one night, I probably wouldn’t necessarily expect a whole lot from them. My best experiences are when someone stays a minimum of 2-3 days since that allows there to be enough time to hang out and get comfortable with eachother. if I have personal plans I communicate that I have personal plans and try to setup a later time to hang out with the surfer (for example, I have surfers over right now but I had a date with my gf last night so I couldn’t hangout with the surfers and let them know ahead of time). good communication with the surfer and vice versa is key. I like to spend time with my surfer rather then just being a place to stay. I’d expect them to communicate to me some of their plans if they’re not going to have time to hang out with me.

If you’re a surfer:

Getting a couch…

If you’re sending a request into an area that is very popular and it is in peak season then it may be very difficult to get a couch. You might need to send 20-30 requests in that scenario. in good situations hopefully you only need to send fewer than 5 requests or in one case I only had to send one. sending 5-10 is a good start but if no one bites after a day then I send 5 more. If a host doesn’t respond to my request within 24 hours then I sort of expect that they’ll be declining.

My thoughts on the best way to get a couch are to not only send personalized messages but to send requests to people you actually find interesting. I like to have my profile filled out with relevant details such as my hobbies but I also like to describe why I find my hobbies interesting. I also describe some of what I believe and some of the plans/ideas I have for the future. when I send the message I also like to ask at the end of the message if they have ideas of any cool places I should go see.

Here is a loose template I use for my requests: “Hi <Host name>, you have some interests/ideas/hobbies that overlap with mine. you sound like an interesting person. here is a paragraph of details about my plans in your town. do you know of any cool things I should see in town if you are unable to host? cheers! <my name>”

Responding to a host who accepted:

I will include more in-depth details about my plans here, my phone number and so on.

Responding to a host who declined:

I don’t think I ever responded to a host who declined.. we just sort of part ways and move on.

Traveling to the host: I try to communicate any change of plans. some hosts might care especially if your flight is delayed so you’ll be arrving at midnight and they need to wake up early in the morning.

Arriving and leaving the host: I like to chit-chat with them. usually I’m pretty tired if I’ve been traveling all day (although it’s very possible the host is wide awake). usually I try to ‘turn on’ my stored energy. I’ve tried bringing beer/alcohol as a kind of thank you but I find that it might be better to bring something more neutral like a jug of orange juice (without pulp). other times I’ve paid for dinner or left little gifts for when I left (or wash dishes, or cook, etc.). if you want to wash the dishes don’t ask if you can wash them, just start washing them and they’ll probably say thanks.

After hosting or surfing:

I like to leave a reference within a day or two of leaving because memories and experiences are easy to forget. usually i both add them as a friend and leave a reference. if i met any cool random people through the CS host and they have profiles I might leave them a reference or only add them as friends. if they’re some crazy awesome host maybe I’d vouch for them — you are only able to vouch for someone if you already have 3 vouches yourself.

Months down the road:

I moved 1000 miles recently and sent messages to the surfers who stayed with me that I thought were awesome that I have moved and that if they’re in the area they should stop by.

I know there are other surfers/hosts on here… feel free to agree or disagree with anything I’ve said. everyone has their own way of doing things and it would be great to hear everyones perspective and experience.

22 Tips for Staying in Budget Hostels

Below are some tips that can make your and everyone’s hosteling experiences a little more enjoyable. Everything you need to know about staying in a hostel and saving money while traveling:

 

Tips for Staying in Hostels

  • (1) Always make sure you have earplugs and face-mask for sleeping when in a noisy dorm room
  • (2) Sheets are often included in most hostels these days, but it does NOT hurt to have a sleeper sheet just in case you run across the odd one that does not
  • (3) Many hostels do NOT allow alcohol. Make sure to check before you go on a beer/wine run
  • (4) Some hostels disallow you access into your room during certain times of the day for cleaning. This is not extremely common, but check first; you may only have one chance to grab everything once cleaning starts.
  • (5) Many hostels do NOT provide towels with their linens. Make sure to bring your own just in case
  • (6) Many hostels, esp. in Eastern Europe, only take cash. Do not roll out to pay during check-out when you are about to catch a train and expect that you’ll be able to pay with credit. Always have cash available at check out just in case.
  • (7) AVOID leaving your passport as a deposit. Reception will often ask this in lieu of paying at check-in, but do whatever it takes to prevent this situation.
  • (8) Keep in mind when making reservations at hostels (esp. online), that if you cancel within 24hrs of scheduled check-in, they will probably charge you for that first night stay, no matter what. That is common policy.
  • (9) You commonly find hostels without lockers. While I have not had any problems myself, if you have super valuable things, most often staff will be more than happy to hold onto these items for you while you are out and about. [also bring a pad-lock, you will often need it for lockers]
  • (10) Always wear sandals in the shower at hostels. While traveling, your feet are one of your most important assets; protect them!
  • (11) Just about all hostels have free WIFI these days, so don’t worry about staying connected with back home
  • (12) Read reviews for hostels, but do NOT go overboard with them. I have stayed in great reviewer-rated hostels and had a bad time and vice versa. Part of hosteling is what you make of it.
  • (13) When trying to locate a hostel, make SURE to read the hostels write-up for directions. DO NOT solely rely on the “push-pins” on GoogleMaps; they have often led me astray. Also, sometimes hostels are tucked away so indiscreetly, you would never find them without specific instructions.
  • (14) Get to know the hostel owner/host. Hostel owners in areas tend to know each other, so they can give you good tips on hostel choices in your next destination.
  • (15) In my experience, the best hostel is one you can walk to from the bus/train station. The last thing you want after an 8 hour train/bus ride is to have to figure out the public transit system at 11 at night in a strange city just to get to the place you want to sleep.
  • (16) Meet as many new people as you can! Everyone at a hostel has 1 thing in common; they are travellers. Get to know them. When you get back home to your apartment, you will be sad meeting people won’t be this easy anymore.
  • (17) DO NOT leave your shampoo in the shower. Shampoo is a hot commodity to the backpacker. If it is left around, it will soon most likely be gone, esp. in a busy hostel.
  • (18) If you are leaving on an early train, do not turn the lights on at 5am to pack. Back the night before. Turning the lights on while a majority of ppl in the dorm are sleeping is BAD. This means you too party groups coming back at 3am.
  • (19) Watch for bedbugs! Read hostel reviews, ask current hostel-goers upon arrival and check manually if really concerned. Being plagued with bedbugs is something I would not even wish upon my enemies!
  • (20) Make SURE not to leave your wallet in the pocket of your trousers laying next to your bed before you turn in for the night. If someone in the room DOES plan to steal from you, that would probably be the first place they look.
  • (21) Always pick a bottom bunk! They are easier to get in/out of, closer to electric outlets and easier to arrange your stuff around.
  • (22) As a hosteler, keep in mind one thing; to ensure happiness, be satisfied with the bear minimum! These are not hotels, there is no concierge, no room-service, no mint on the pillows. You are a traveller, not a tourist. Life is an adventure. Do not throw a tantrum because there is no hot water. At a hostel, it happens!
  • (23) a lot of hostels offer a buffet style breakfast. casually grab an extra bun/bread and some meats/cheeses and make yourself a sandwich for later in the day. bring a ziploc/sandwich bag to keep it in. and grab some fruit if you can. it’ll save you money for lunch. i did this basically everywhere around europe. just don’t draw too much attention, as i’m pretty sure it’s discouraged.

 

A Few Bonus Staying in Hostel Tips

You get a feeling for a hostel pretty quickly – safetywise. I’d say that personal safety and property safety line up pretty well, but not in all cases. And it only takes one dick to ruin your trip. ID and use train station lockers when you’re staying in a hostel that hasn’t provided lockers.

Pace yourself. Traveling solo lets you set your own pace – plan to have one whole day off every fortnight/three weeks. Or make allowances for chilling out at comfortable hostels when you find one.

The hostel host will know good, cheap places to eat that you wouldn’t even think about – and will recommend a menu to try. Look out for (be wary of) ‘western variations’ of local dishes. They’ve always the worst food. I’ve ordered “What he’s having” loads of times, and it is usually pretty good. Remember, especially through Asia, bones are a big part of cheap eating. You’ll have to pick them out!

Watch what change the locals use/price they pay for stuff. Especially through Asia, again, prices are not usually listed – even in big supermarkets – and you will be had. It isn’t rude for people to haggle over everything, so be aware that you’ll be asked a very high price for things. My technique is to have the correct change (based on what I’ve seen locals pay) and place it on the counter with my purchase. It avoids that awkward, spanglish, haggling when you just want a bottle of water.

Always drink bottled water until you speak with other travelers about the state of the tap water where you’re staying. Watch out when brushing your teeth!

Often Chinese (sorry this is getting country specific – and nothing to do with hostels) will set the price of beers/drinks/meals before you enter the pub for the night. Listen to what locals are paying and state firmly that that is the same rate you will be paying.

Book ahead. Even if it is only one day in advance, if you can. Turning up late to a place without a reservation add another layer of stress you don’t need.

How to Start Freelancing to Work Online

Start by aiming to attract a few side gigs. Here’s how:

  • Tell the people you already know that you’re available for freelancing opportunities. Basically take what you just wrote, clean it up a bit, and send them an email and post your social media accounts:

“Hi guys. I’m going to jump into freelancing. I’ve always been very creative and had a passion for making things. Been playing around with Photoshop and web design since I was like 12 years old. I’ve started several blogs and done a few internet marketing projects. If you know of someone who want have a need for my skills and passion, on a contract basis, and doesn’t mind being my first client then please pass along my contact information and/or let me know! Here’s my up-to-date contact information: xxx”

  • Meet with a few folks in your network over coffee that you think that be influential in referring others to you. Don’t put them on the spot by asking outright for work, but let them know you’re available and would appreciate them passing along your contact information if they run across someone you may be right for. (Basically an in-person version of the prior item).
  • Aim simply to find your first gig, not your third, fourth, etc. You are just starting. There’s only one place to start: with your first. Then parlay that into more: use that work as an example to beef up your portfolio, see if you can get a testimonial from that client, take good care of that client so you can get referrals down the road and repeat business.

 

How to Set Freelance Prices

Alright so to start you need to figure out your hourly rate. This is your absolute lowest, I can’t go any lower under any circumstances rate, times 2. Do not over think this. You can always change your pricing later and you don’t need to explain yourself. If you need to increase your rates you just need to make sure you’ve given yourself an out.

The best way to get around looking like a jerk is to put together a short “exit survey” that includes a question about your pricing and whether they think it was too low, too high, or just right. If your client liked working with you they aren’t going to have a fit about a $5 price increase anyway, so over deliver.

Next, for this project, you need to guestimate how long you think it might take you. This is based on experience and how many revisions you anticipate, how good you are at getting information from your clients and what your WordPress experience is.

If you have designed things in the past you should be able to figure a rough idea how long it takes you do design an interface. Add 2 hours.

If you’ve created a theme before you should know roughly how long it takes you to convert a base theme, or start from scratch on a new theme for html/css/javascript/php. Add 5 hours.

If that looks about right, quote is a guideline, get 1/2 up front, use a timer, and go from there.

Freelance Taxes and Keeping the Books

If you’re going to hire a CPA to do your taxes, it might cost about $1000 for the business and maybe $300 for personal. It won’t really save you money to give them access to a Quickbooks file because some CPAs charge based on how many forms need to be filled out.

Do you need an LLC to Freelance?

LLC of which I’m the only member. It’s technically referred to as a pass-through entity, since the only place for money to go is to me (or whatever expenses I deem necessary). I established it to do exactly what the name says: limit liability to me. Contracts are always between client & the LLC which, while not bulletproof, offers some protection of my personal assets (many of which are unrelated to the business).

How to Create a Budget and Stick to a Budget

Budgets. Not only do they make finance nerds happy, but it’s essential to your financial health. They allow you to keep a modicum of self-control on your spending. They will show you, clear as day, where you can start saving money. In fact, I would go as far to say that trying to make ends meet without a budget is like trying to drive a car without a brake pedal. And here’s the wildest thing about them: they only take mintues to set up; shorter than the time it takes to read this post. If you haven’t started yet, you’d be crazy not to.

 

Create a budget: List Monthly Income

1. Start with listing your Monthly Income. Budget out with four weeks of take-home pay. If you’re starting a new job and planning ahead, use an after tax paycheck calculator to get some rough numbers.

  • If you’re bi-monthly, you might want to grab your February pay stubs (or a calculator) and see what 10 workdays of pay looks like, then multiply by two. This will help you budget out the worst-case scenario.
  • If your monthly income fluctuates, list your worst-case or lower-than-average scenario. Budget out for that instead, and anything that’s left over should be allowed to float in your checking as a buffer.

First thing you want to do is budget out for four weeks of take-home (after-tax) pay. This means if you’re paid weekly, your monthly income is based on four paychecks. If you’re bi-monthly, you might want to grab your February pay stubs or a calculator and see what 10 workdays of pay looks like, then multiply by two.

You probably noticed that you’re missing a couple of checks, or at least part of your checks. In fact, you just calculated a year to be only 48 weeks long. This is a good thing. You are assuming the worst-case scenario, which will happen at least once a year: February. Only base your monthly income off of your minimum, guaranteed income.

So what does this mean? If you’re bi-monthly, you get paid a little more than you expect a month. If you’re weekly, you get four “bonus” checks spread throughout the year. Bi-weekly, you get two or three “bonus” checks per year.

Using this method—whether you’re bi-monthly, weekly, or bi-weekly—you’re earning on thirteen months, while spending on twelve. All of your “bonus” money should go toward Step 4.

 

Create a Budget: List Mandatory Spending

2. Take a look at your Mandatory Spending. This is all the spending that is related to safety and survival. This kind of spending includes:

  • Mortgage, rent, and insurance.
  • Electric, natural gas, water/sewer.
  • Groceries
  • Transportation

Not included in this list are discretionary items (which belong in Section 4):

  • Cable TV
  • Dining out, bars, and clubs
  • Shopping

A few Rules of Thumb: You should consider making a major change to your lifestyle if one of the following scenarios is happening:

  • Your monthly mortgage/rent is more than 30% of your take home pay. You might want to consider getting a roommate, or moving to some place cheaper.
  • Your monthly expenses on your car is more than 15% of your take home pay. You might want to consider carpooling to work, traveling less, or taking the bus or a bike. You may also want to consider moving closer or selling your car, if either’s an option.
  • Your groceries cost more than $300 per person. If you’re trying to cut costs, you might want to look at more frugal options for buying groceries, such as buying in bulk, going for store-brand foods, or frequenting less expensive grocery stores.

Create a Budget Review Debts, Goals, and Retirement

3. Take a look at your Debts, Goals, and Retirement. How much you put here is subjective, but the faster you take care of this, the quicker you can become financially independent.

  • You want to pay debt down fast (especially debts with high interest rates), so you pay as little interest as possible. There are tools to help you, and Mint has a paydown calculator if you chose their service. (Some investors would advise you to pay low interest debt, like debts that are only a few percentage points above inflation, more slowly. You can instead invest in retirement and get higher returns. More on this later.)
  • You want to save up for an emergency to cover 3-6 months of expenses in case something goes horribly wrong. You will need this money available to you in a separate, liquid savings account, not an investment fund. I will elaborate why in next week’s post.
  • You want to invest as early as you can into retirement, so you can take advantage of compound interest and live a wealthy lifestyle.

Your ultimate goal in this section is taking steps toward total, financial independence. This can take years or even decades, but don’t fret about the timeline. The point is that this should be your biggest financial focus, and the more you put toward this step, the more your money compounds. Your money can work harder than you do.

“Those who understand [compound interest] earn it. Those who don’t, pay it”

—Albert Einstein

 

Create a Budget: Discretionary Spending

4. Discretionary spending is anything that’s left over from your goals. Shopping, hobbies, cable, coffee, fast food, dining, and so on. Just remember: always live within your means, and try to save up for capital expenses before buying.

Dining out is more expensive than a lot of people think. It’s easy to blow $250+ in a month just eating by yourself, or going to the bar with friends. If you’re looking to cut back on this, consider making food at home, or inviting friends over for beer and homemade wings over a football game instead of going out.

 

Budget Tools and Budget Websites

Commercial Software

  • Mint is free and automates much of the process by linking up with most large financial institutions to help track your spending and other aspects of your finances.
  • Personal Capital is free and automates much of the process by linking up with most large financial institutions to help track your spending and other aspects of your finances.
  • YNAB is commonly recommended here. Here are some notes on pricing:
    • Currently a subscription service at $5/month (or $50/yr)
    • The “classic” software (version 4) has a 34 day free trial.
    • The “classic” version (version 4) costs $60.
    • Students with a .edu e-mail address may be able to obtain Classic YNAB (version 4) for free.

 

What is Dumpster Diving?

Dumpster diving is the activity of salvaging food, materials, or other items from designated garbage receptacles prior to their being disposed of by a trash collection service.

  1. Dumpster Diving is not theft or stealing. In a 1988 Supreme court ruling, California vs. Greenwood, when a person throws something out with the intention of it being garbage, the item becomes part of the public domain, having “no reasonable expectation of privacy.”
  2. The activity of Dumpster Diving can actually be very sanitary.
  3. You can and probably will find items in near perfect and working order that have been discarded by others.
  4. Dumpster Diving is not limited to the poor or desperate as some might believe.

 

Why Do People Dumpster Dive?

Each individual decides that for themselves, however here are a few reasons why people dive:

  1. Freegan: “Freeganism is a lifestyle whereby people employ alternative living strategies based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources.” (taken from subreddit)
  2. Anti-Consumption/Anti-Consumerism: “Anti-Consumption is socio-political ideology opposed to consumerism which discourages … purchasing and consumption of material possessions … concern[ed] over modern corporations or organizations that pursue … economic goals the expense of environmental, social, or ethical concerns…” (taken from Wikipedia)
  3. Food Not Bombs: “A community [of] free distribution of surplus food (Vegan or Vegetarian) that would otherwise go to waste.” (taken from subreddit)
  4. Opportunity: Others may simply be in the right place at the right time and ask or take something that someone else was going to throw that they could use or want.
  5. Profit: Let’s be honest, people throw out working consumer goods that are in perfect working order what simply may have become outdated. There are those who are willing to dive and sell.

As you can see, there are a wide variety of reasons to Dumpster Dive ranging from social, political, activist and personal use.

 

How to Remain Safe While Dumpster Diving

Safety is a priority when dumpster diving. Some of the major concerns that most divers relate are: sharp or dangerous objects in or around the dumpster, contaminates on retrieved items or in the dumpster, and possible engagements from non-divers. To stay safe as a diver you can follow a simple set of guidelines that will help protect you from unintended consequences; by staying alert to your surroundings, moving slowly, and using common sense you can enjoy this exciting and engaging activity.

 

Apparel for Dumpster Diving

Most divers agree that proper clothing is paramount especially if you enter dumpsters. Long sleeve shirts and pants are essential for protecting yourself from objects in or around the dumpster area. Some divers choose to wear old sneakers when entering the dumpster while others choose to wear boots like steel-toed or combat boots for additional protection from items in the dumpster. What you wear is likely to be determined from the type of items you dive for, how you dive for it, and whether you enter a dumpster or not. A short-sleeved shirt and shorts might be sufficient for curb-diving for example but heavy boots and thick jeans with work gloves would be best for construction debris dumpsters to protect from nails and other items. Gloves are an important consideration; some divers choose to wear disposable gloves to protect their hands from contaminates (food divers especially) while some wear leather or cloth work gloves, again mostly depending on the type of items and the condition of the dumpsters you frequent.

 

Equipment for Dumpster Diving

The flashlight is the tool of the trade more than any other. A bright, LED flashlight is the most common flashlight among divers. Head-mounted, palm-sized, or traditional-shaped are all matters of personal preference to the diver. Office supply stores or online typically have the least-expensive LED flashlights of good quality, but investing in a decent flashlight can benefit you more than any other piece of equipment. Astronomy flashlights tend to have a red-light option in addition to white because the red-light does not inhibit night vision as much as the white light which may be a consideration if you are in low-light areas or not desirous of attracting attention.
Some divers prefer to dive with an extended clamp or diving-hook (a metal hook at the end of long pole). These tools are excellent for getting things from dumpsters without entering.
Having a small pocket knife or multi-tool is also common sight among divers, especially those who dive for specialized content requiring disassembly or inspection. A knife can cut through a bag more quickly and quietly than tearing at and fumbling with a tied-off bag.
At the end of a long night diving, be sure to sanitize and clean everything you were wearing as well as yourself. You can keep a bottle of hand sanitizer available if you get into something nasty.

 

Dumpster Diving Techniques

Stay Alert. Move cautiously slow. There is a lot to pay attention to when diving:

  1. Before approaching the dumpster, inspect the surroundings for people (suspicious or otherwise).
  2. Before approaching the dumpster, check for cameras or other security systems that can identify you or make your presence known.
  3. Before approaching the dumpster, check for “No Trespassing” signage or other indications that the property owner does not want you to enter their property. Respect this always.
  4. Be alert to items around the dumpster area that present a hazard to you or those around you. If diving with others, alert them as well.
  5. Be alert to items in the dumpster that can cause you or others harm. You do not know all that is inside even when you enter.
  6. Before you leave the dumpster area, inspect the surroundings again to see if the situation around has changed.

 

Getting Caught Wile Dumpster Diving

If someone sees you, they might stare at you, but most will never engage. If police or security guards catch you in the act, remember the cover story (“I was looking for cardboard boxes because I am moving”). When engaging with police or security guards be polite and courteous; doing the opposite will arouse suspicion and make you look like a punk. Know possible laws pertaining to dumpster diving beforehand in your local area so that you can reference them if the police officers attempt to take you for a ride if your cover story doesn’t work; if you entered an area that was restricted or posted no trespassing, you might have to go downtown.

 

Best Places to Dumpster Dive

Research, patience and luck. There are many factors that contribute to finding good dumpsters, but these are the core elements that can assist you in finding good dumpsters to dive in.

  • Locate – Prior to driving around and hunting for a good spot, try go online and looking at a map satellite view of the locations your are interested in. Doing this initial research will help you identify areas that will help you find good spots faster.
  • Investigate – Also known as casing. Stake the place out, there are a couple of things you might want to look out for:
    • How late do employees stay after closing?
    • What day of the week is trash pickup on? (Note: Case the place once per day for a week. When the dumpster is empty, you know the pickup is on that day.)
    • Is there public or private security?
    • Is there a security system in place to deter/prevent unauthorized access?
    • Is there any other dumpster diver already hitting the dumpster?
  • Find – Look in the dumpster to see what you can find.
  • Track – A diving log or journal is very helpful in marking locations and making notes about what locations you hit, when you hit them, and what you found.

Set your expectations now: don’t get upset if you didn’t find what you were looking for on the first dive. You are most likely going to have to dive at a location multiple times before you find something useful or what you are looking for. The real secret to dumpster diving isn’t about finding the best location; it’s aboutcreating opportunities for finding something. If you keep diving at a location, you’re statistically creating more opportunities for finding treasures. Another pro-tip: don’t have you heart set out to find any single item (e.g. if you are hitting Verizon dumpster for the latest iPhone, you’re gonna have a bad time). Go with the intention of finding useful things.

 

Dumpster Diving Luck

Let’s be honest here; you are not going to find it unless someone throws it out. Do your research, have patience, and with a little luck what you want will get thrown out. Remember: dumpster divers are masters of opportunity.

How to get started flipping products online

A good place to start is by looking around for stuff that you already own and no longer want and selling that. This way, you can learn the selling process (which is arguably more complicated than the buying process) and you don’t have to worry about whether you’ll make a profit.

 

How to Flip Products on Amazon

Find an item that you no longer want and see what it’s being sold for on Amazon, what the Sold Listings are on eBay, and what people in your area are selling it for on Craig’s List. Do take into account the condition of the item and what kind of condition it’s in. If it’s an item with a model number, your search will be much easier.

 

Flipping Products on Amazon

  • Amazon is best for commodity type items where you have the model number. (See the Amazon wiki for more information.) This is an easy process, because in a high majority of cases, a product page is already in place for you. You simply set a price, someone buys it, you ship it. When setting a price, it should be listed for the lowest price in most cases. If an item is new, it should be the lowest price in the New condition listings.

 

Flipping Products on Craigslist

  • Craigslist is the easiest place to start, simply because you don’t need a membership or need to deal with fees or shipping but if you’re in an underpopulated area, it can be difficult to find buyers. You will, however, need to make each ad from scratch and meet strangers face-to-face to make the sale.
    • Please be safe when meeting people from Craigslist. Most are normal people, but there are some crazies out there. Meet in a public place, if possible. If they insist on meeting at their home (some do), go during the daylight. Don’t go inside. Don’t knock on the door if something seems off. Just call off the deal. Making $20 here and there isn’t worth risking your well-being.

Flipping Products on eBay

  • eBay is better for rarer, unique, or non-mass produced items. On eBay, people can bid (though you can also set specific prices), possibly bringing in a lot more money for a hard-to-find item. (See the eBay wikifor more information.) eBay also means dealing with PayPal, which is a middleman between the money you get from eBay and your actual bank account.

There are other ways to sell but those are the main ones we discuss and certainly enough to get you started.

Once you’re ready to start buying for the purpose of selling, it just becomes a matter of researching an item on those three sites and see if what it sells for is worth what it will cost you to buy it. If you think it will net you enough of a return, you buy it for as cheap as possible then turn around and sell it.

How to Acquire Items to Flip Online

Items are usually acquired at yard/estate/garage sales, discount stores, Goodwill stores, bargain bins in big box stores, and used item stores (sometimes video game stores will have deals stating “buy one game, get one free”). Take your time and research. Sometimes an item selling for $5 on eBay will be going for $30 on Amazon. Just keep your eyes open.

It is possible to find items to purchase for flipping on the sites mentioned above, but this is risky. Markets are volatile. You could buy an item for $15 on one site, and it’ll sell for $40 on another. By the time you get the item a week later, though, the price could tank to $20.

 

What to do to get started flipping stuff online

  • Learn your local laws. If you gross over a certain amount in a given year (may be calendar year, may be fiscal year), you may be required to open a small business. Call your local Trustee office for more information.
    • If you have to create a small business, you will be able to get a tax number. This allows you to purchase items free of sales tax (if where you purchase is equipped to handle it – places like Wal-Mart should have no issue with this).
    • If you sell an item online, you are only required to collected tax if sold within your state. Interstate commerce is not taxed.
  • Create a spreadsheet. This is definitely needed if you will eventually have to open a small business, but it’s good to keep track of these things, anyway. Create as many columns as you want, but these are the minimum: date, earnings, tax collected, costs, refunds, notes.

 

What is Better: Buying or Leasing a Car

One of the biggest questions a car buyer faces when shopping for new car is whether to buy or lease. Most people you ask WILL have a strong opinion on the subject, and they will defend their opinion in this debate as if the future of the nation depended on it. If you visit Craigslist Auto forum, and ask whether you should lease or buy – within 5 minutes your mental abilities will be questioned for even considering leasing, because according to the frequent posters of that forum – everybody should buy only 10 year-old cars and pay cash, the only disagreement will be whether you should buy Japanese or American, which will trigger another wave of heated discussion and name-calling. The reality is that millions of people lease cars every year, a lot of them are very smart and successful, and leasing is something you should consider when shopping for a new car, the least you can do is keep an open mind.

 

What is a car lease?

When you lease a car – you get the right to use the car for limited time, in return you pay for its depreciation, interest and fees. At the end of the lease you have the option of buying out the car for a predetermined amount or return it in a reasonable condition (or pay for excessive usage, such as body damage and high mileage). Basically, it is very similar to renting.

 

Common questions people have about car leasing

What about car lease mileage?

Yes, a car lease has restriction on miles, but it is not as bad as most people imagine. First of all, mileage matters only if you returning the car to the bank after the lease, in which case they will charge you for excess miles, between $0.10 and $0.25. If you going to buy out the car – you buy it as is, and the mileage will not matter. Also, you can trade the car in right until the end of the lease, in which case miles will affect the trade-in value just as they would if you were trading a car you own. Another misconception is that you cannot lease if you drive a lot, and you cannot get more than 15,000 miles per year. In fact – you can get as many miles as you want (within reason – up to about 35K miles per year, depending on the car), you just have to pay for it. Most auto leasing companies will even offer you to purchase more miles at a discount, if you do it before your lease is up.

 

What about excess damage on a car lease?

Same thing as miles – only matters if you were to return the car to the bank, and they will charge you the going rate for fixing the damage, so it will cost you the same as if you owned a car and wanted to trade it in, or same as what you would have to pay to fix it. Also, you can always buy insurance for the excess wear. What about insurance? In California you must have same coverage whether you finance or lease.

 

What if I need to get out of my car lease early?

Again, you can do it in the same way you would get out of a car loan: there is a payoff to the bank, which changes every month, and you need to pay it to get out of a lease. You can either sell the car privately, or sell it to a dealer. If you sell the car for the same amount as what you owe – you are free and clear. If you sell it for less – you have to come up with the difference, if you sell it for more – you make profit.

 

Is car leasing the right way to own a car?

The answer is: It depends. Here is what you have to consider:

Your history:how long do you usually keep a car? Do you get attached to a car, and a thought of replacing it brings tears to your eyes? (I actually had people cry when trading a car) Or do you drool over new cars a month after you just bought one? If you get a new car every 2-3 years – you are throwing money away, but at least with a lease – you will throw much less of it.

Your future: are you going to live where you live right now for the next 6 years? Any expected changes in your family? You might move to a city where you can’t or don’t need to have a car, or you might need a bigger/smaller vehicle in a couple of years.

Specific lease vs. purchase analysis for a specific car – some cars have better lease programs than others, and if you are on a fence – check the numbers. For example, BMW Financial Services are known to offer high residual values for their leased cars, which keeps your lease payments low, while some other manufacturers either don’t support leasing as much, or their brand doesn’t hold value as well.

Your tax situation: are you going to use the car for business purposes? If yes – you should be able to use the lease payment as a write-off.

 

How to make a car lease analysis?

Now, how do we check these numbers? How do we know if a lease is good or bad? As I mentioned earlier, when you lease – you are paying for depreciation and interest. Depreciation is determined by the residual value, or lease-end value of the car. This is a projection made by the bank as to how much this car will be worth at the time of lease expiration. If you want to have lower payments, and have no intention of keeping the car at the end – you want this number to be higher, so you will pay less depreciation. Interest is determined also by the bank, and it is called money factor. While the residual value of the car has to be disclosed, and cannot be changed by the dealer – money factor can be raised for some banks, while some (like Mazda Chase) don’t allow rate mark-up. Banks also adjust these numbers monthly to make sure that their lease programs are attractive and competitive. As residual value of a specific model goes down as it gets closer to the year-end – the bank will also lower the rate, so the lease payment will stay in the same range. And the last piece of the puzzle will be the selling price of the car, or “Cap cost”. Selling price in a lease can be negotiated in the same way as purchase price, so if the selling price is lower – you have less depreciation to pay, since depreciation is always a percentage of MSRP.

Complicated? Kind of… Does it have to be? Absolutely not. All you have to know is the total drive-off, monthly payment, and if you are planning to keep the car after the lease – the residual value. Here is an easy rule of thumb: for every $10K of MSRP you should not pay more than $150 a month with $0 down and minimal drive-off, or you can simply multiply the MSRP by 0.015.Let’s take two cars as an example: Jetta has MSRP of $20,344, and it will lease for $265 a month with minimum drive-off. According to the rule – your payment should be less than $300 for a car in this price range, so the verdict – this lease is good. Now let’s look at a base Jetta TDI with MSRP of $24,004. This car will lease for 338 a month, which is still lower than $360 (the limit according to our calculations), but it is getting close. So the first car is definitely a great lease, while the second one will be a personal judgement call.

 

Why Should You Not Lease a Car?

Now I will address the main objection to leasing: “But I want to own it!” My response is that in general ownership is overrated. Here is why: Cars are one of the worst investments ever. Why would you want to own something that will lose half its value in 3 years? And the more expensive the car is – the faster it will depreciate. One of the main reasons I recommend leasing to my clients is that I hate seeing them discovering the car they bought 2 years ago for $30,000 total out the door is worth $18,000 today. I like my clients, I don’t like seeing them in pain.

Risk: remember when gas prices doubled? Remember what it did to SUV resale value? People could not give them away. As you are reading this – car manufacturers are working on new technologies, what if in 3 years they will come up with cars that get 100 MPG, how easy do you think it will be to get out of your car?

Risk again: what if you get into an accident, and it gets recorded in your car’s history? Even after you fix the car – it will follow you everywhere, and most people who shop for used cars would not touch a car that has been in an accident – unless you will give it away. The myth of not having monthly payments – once the car warranty runs out you are vulnerable to unforseen expenses – tires, brakes, urgent repairs, timing belt – there is no way of knowing how much you will have to spend on your car, while a leased car has a fixed expense – monthly payment.

 

Car Lease Sales Tax

Sales tax: in California you pay sales tax on your monthly payment only when you lease, but you do pay the full sales tax when you purchase.

Saving Money Using Incognito Mode in Web Browser

Let’s all be honest here, incognito mode is known to be ‘porn’ mode. But there are other very useful purposes for it. A few I know off hand is if you are on a friends computer or on a Mac at the apple store, open up incognito to do your facebooking or tweeting. Also you can check your email among other sites that require a login. This way, when you close the browser, it’s as if you were never there.

Popular belief (or fact) is that airlines charge you more if they see you browsing flights before you actually book one. Open up incognito mode if you want to browse flights and you’ll be smooth sailing, …errr or flying.

Incognito is a feature for the Google Chrome Browser. Almost every (if not every) browser has this feature but it is called other names. Firefox has inPrivate Browsing, IE has Private Browsing, etc.

 

List of Uses for Incognito mode:

  • First and foremost, porn
  • Log into a second website (second login for reddit, gmail, gf’s facebook, etc.)
  • View facebook and other social media on public computers (Read the blurb at the bottom)
  • View email on public computer (Samsies as above)
  • Quick logout when you exit the browser. Useful for banks, emails, facebook, etc.
  • Check airline prices (without computer saving your cookies thus jacking up airline costs (yes this is true, there is multiple articles around reddit that talks on this subject including LPTs and AMAs to name a few))
  • Disabling Extensions on the fly for sites that don’t cooperate (News for example)
  • News sites like after you hit the article limit on NY times, the paywall on the Daily Telegraph, Hacker News has a anti-procrastination time delay
  • If you want an unbiased google search result (google tailors based on previous searches)
  • Online shopping for SO or friend that uses the computer so they can’t see what you got them
  • Double printing coupons. (Some sites monitor if you have been there)
  • Use it on a friends laptop to keep the out of your history
  • See how your facebook looks to the public
  • View LinkedIn profiles without people knowing you visited them
  • Private browsing in general

Using Incognito Mode Does Not Save You Money on Flights

Using Incognito Mode Does Not Save You Money on Flights

This is just bullshit. The price increase that you see is true but it’s not because the software is tracking your moves and try to score a higher price but mainly because when you search for a flight and continue for at least one more move it creates the PNR for you in order to save your seat from the inventory. And of course with each seat saved, the prices may or may not increase depending on your booking class (Not just economy, business but the actual class created for each price range).

These PNRs get destroyed when you don’t complete the booking but of course after a certain time which depends on the software and the choice of the airline. And when these PNRs get destroyed the prices go down as well.

Another price difference that you might notice is caused by promotions to certain customer groups. It’s not that they’re trying to sell at a higher price; it’s the opposite. For certain customer groups the seat might be cheaper. This might depend on several different parameters like where you’re searching from, what actions you take before you search (depending on your behavior you might just fit to a certain pattern and get a promotion)

There are also other factors in play as well. The sales channels of the airline are not strictly online, there are tour operators, global sales agencies and such which might have a better offer because of their agreement with the airline.

 

Better ways to search for flights rather than incognito mode

Privately search: https://disconnect.me/search Privately search, chrome extension:https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/disconnect-search/hmobfennjmjnkdbklhcnnfbhfibedgkk?hl=en

Disallow websites from storing cookies: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/disable-cookies/lkmjmficaoifggpfapbffkggecbleang?hl=en

Block advertisements that track what sites you visit: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/ublock-origin/cjpalhdlnbpafiamejdnhcphjbkeiagm?hl=en

This one is really just for safety’s sake. Force webpages to use SSL/HTTPS, even if they wouldn’t usually:https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/https-everywhere/gcbommkclmclpchllfjekcdonpmejbdp?hl=en

As far as I know, just using incognito mode doesn’t stop websites from tracking you, so if you repeatedly search for travel pricing, “the Internet” knows you are looking to purchase that. Often times, when travel sites see you begin to search for pricing they will raise the price consistently over time, independent of what the current market price for say, an airline ticket is. Using these extensions will help you avoid those scenarios.

 

Better Tips for Searching for Airfare

  • Tuesday nights are the best nights
  • Searching for 1-person airfares will show prices cheaper than searching for 2+ seats at a time.
  • Search in incognito mode
  • Use your points!

Airline tickets are ALWAYS priced based on supply and demand

IF they think that 1 month before the flight they should have 50% of tickets sold and they have only sold 40% they drop the price.

If they have sold more than they expect, they jack up the price.

That is why no-one can answer the question ‘Should I buy my airline tickets 6 months in advance or 1 week in advance?’ Both can work. The best way to get a good price is to check ticket prices all the time so you know what you should pay.

13 Tips to Save Money When Buying a New Car

Step by step guide on how to buy a car.

  1. Establish monthly budget. To establish a monthly budget you will need:
    a. Your income
  2. Get your credit score. Use free the services provided online
  3. Research APRs for auto loans online
    a. Go to a few websites from big banks and a few smaller banks and research. You will be able to see the advertised APRs for new cars and used cars. These APRs tend to be for people with great credit and your APR might be higher or lower, but it will give you a general idea of what banks are offering at the moment. If you have great (730+) credit, then they will be pretty accurate.
  4. Use online car payment calculator to calculate what price range you can afford. For the online car payment calculator, you will typically need the price of the car, down payment, tax, APR, length of the loan.
    a. Price of the car: Use the advertised MSRP, it’s a good estimate for now
    b. Down payment: You know this number
    c. Tax: you know this number
    d. APR: you can estimate very well this number because you did the research in step 2.
    e. Length of the loan: it’s up to you to decide. Usually between 36 and 72 months At this point, you have a great (nearly perfect) idea of the price of the car you can afford.
  5. Call several insurance companies and get quotes for the car models that you are considering at this point. Remember that the insurance may vary and it should be part of your monthly car budget.
  6. Apply for auto loans online, or at the bank and get approved for a loan amount that fits your budget. You can apply and get approved at several banks, as far as I know there is no penalty if you get accepted for a loan and never use it because you got a better APR somewhere else. At this point, you can go back to step 4 and get a nearly perfect idea of what car you can actually buy.
  7. Find the exact car, model and trim that fit your budget. The goal here is to figure out what car you want and not let a salesman tell you what you want. Since you have figured out your budget, the pool of cars should be small (less than 15). You test drive some cars, do online research and ask around. Keep in mind that good dealerships will let you test drive without any pressure to buy.
  8. Once you KNOW what car, trim and options you like/can afford. Email all the dealerships in your area that have the car. Let them know exactly what you are looking for and that you have financing already. Make sure you get a response in which they explicitly states the OUT THE DOOR price of the car. Ask them to include ALL fees in the price they are giving you. They will typically give you an exact number plus tag (they can’t tell you this number, but it won’t be more than 300 dollars). Note: when I did this, I emailed all the dealerships in my half of the state. Why? Because I was willing to drive if the price justified the drive and because I wanted more prices to negotiate a lower out the door price.
  9. Since you have emailed several dealerships and received written OUT THE DOOR prices. You can email them back and negotiate a better price, just pick the top three and let them know you have better offer. Continue to negotiate until they tell you that they can’t go any lower. You will notice that the top 3 prices from the top 3 dealers will be within a few hundred dollars of each other and that is how you will know they are giving you the car for the lowest price.
  10. At this point, you know exactly how much your monthly payment will be and the cost of you insurance.
  11. Now you have the out the car, the out the door price and your APR from the bank. All that is left to do is to go to the dealership, make sure they honor the out the door price the quoted via email, and sign some papers. Make sure you go in the morning because you might have to call the bank to get the check, you might have to call the insurance to get coverage and a few other things. The dealer might realize you’re very well prepared and they might try to convince you to use their finance company (This happened to me and I took their finance because it was LOWER than the one I already had)
  12. Make sure the terms of the sale are exactly as you expected in step 10. There should be no surprises and if the dealer backs out from the offer or tries to upsell you something you didn’t want, just walk away and go to the dealership with the second best price.
  13. Congratulations, you have just bought a car with minimal negotiations, minimal human contact and you have the BEST possible price!

 

Tips on How-To Negotiate With A Live Car Salesman

  1. Determine the car you want, and the car you can afford.
  2. Do figure out financing ahead of time (it’s better to not make this decision at the dealership)
  3. If you have trade-in, try to sell it on your own first. You’ll make more money for it, and it won’t add an extra variable to an already large, potentially complicated, transaction. Just remember to get your car smogged 90 days before sale (CA), and to alert the DMV immediately after selling it (get your liability off of it).
  4. If you have to trade in your car at the dealer, that’s fine, but go to Kelly Blue Book and find the value of your trade in at “fair” value. Read the fine print, your 5yr old car with only a couple polished out scratches is NOT in excellent condition. Be realistic. If you transported pets or are a smoker in your car, then instantly take 10% off the fair value price, or use the “poor” price on KBB. Get over it, would you pay “fair” price for a car someone treated as their house?
  5. Research the prices that others are paying for the car you’re now looking to buy. Admit that the average is usually around $1k off sticker, but it’s ok to push for $2K off, or more, if you’re planning on financing through the dealer (as they’ll make up their money on the interest).
  6. Come up with the realistic number you want to buy the car for. In this scenario, let’s say it’s $20K MSRP, but you are willing to pay $18.5K.
  7. Go do your test drive and sit down with the salesperson. Do not say the words “final offer” at any point in the first 30min. Instead, make a “fair” offer for negotiation purposes. My rule is to always start $2K below your final desired purchase price. So in this case, offer $16.5K.
  8. Begin negotiations using the 50% rule. They won’t take your lowball $16.5k offer, but if you keep talking with them and don’t get all “final offer!” on anyone, they won’t want to lose someone who may actually be serious about buying a car today (and not just sending emails asking for the lowest price). So, using the 50% rule—act like you’re relenting a bit, and offer $1k more (50% of the $2k difference to your final price). $17.5k
  9. They’ll be happy you “bumped” and they’ll go get another “pencil” from management. Their new compromised offer will be something stupid like including an extra 6 months of warranty. Just say thank you, but that price is what you want to discuss, not add ons–because the car is already the way you like it. They’ll eventually drop their price to $19.5K.
  10. Keep this up, for as long as it takes. Just remember to bump each time only 50% of your last bump, and only when they take cuts off their end. So your next bump would be $500 more, and you’re now at $18K.
  11. When they counter, bump $250
  12. When they counter again, bump $125
  13. When they counter again, bump $60
  14. Etc, until it’s literally stupid $10 bumps.
  15. By this point they will be convinced that you’re serious, and that they cannot get anymore money out of you. They’ll shake your hand on $18,450. Done, and under budget. You just successfully negotiated the price of your car without having to be afraid or go over budget. “Negotiation” in this case meant you kept the conversation going, showed sincere interest, and never committed to anything above your previous “bump.”
  16. Go into the finance room, turn down all add-ons. It can all be bought cheaper, and better, 3rd party.
  17. Don’t be surprised that tax, title, and license are going to add 12%. That’s not their fault, and it can’t be finnanced. You factored this into your overall budget, right?

Making Money Online with NiceTalk Tutor App

NiceTalk Tutor is an App that you can download onto your smartphone. It was developed in China with the purpose of giving Chinese students the opportunity to practice English with native English speakers. The app pays $10 usd per hour ($0.17 per minute)for time spent talking to students and tracks your time automatically. The app does use video calling so you will be able to see your student and they can see you. This is the only option so if you are really shy then this may not be for you. You need wifi connection to run the app (wouldn’t want to waste data on video calling anyways).

How doe NiceTalk Tutor work?

Nicetalk has two separate apps – one for the English tutors which you will find by searching Nicetalk tutor in the App or Google Play store – and one for the Chinese students (name is in Chinese so you probably won’t find it during your search). The Students are paying the equivalent of $0.25 per minute while the tutors make $0.17. So that $0.08 differential is how the company makes their money. Fair enough. Side note- It will ask for access to SMS text messaging, don’t let this freak you out it just has to ask this because you can message your students in the app as well. It will not use your normal text messaging.

 

How to Get Started with NiceTalk Tutor

Every Nicetalk Tutor is required to submit a 30 second application video explaining why they want to be a tutor. I would suggest saying things along the lines of how you like helping people learn & you enjoy teaching. The approval process typically takes 2 days (but I have heard it take up to 7). I was approved after two days.

 

What Do I Talk About on NiceTalk Tutor?

There is no structure that one has to follow during these calls. Almost all of my calls are just students who want to have a normal conversation with someone who speaks English. If the student wants to though the App has lesson plans with certain questions the Tutor can ask the student. These are helpful and easy to use! It takes a bit of getting used too because some students speak English nearly perfectly and some have a hard time but speak slowly and just embrace any embarrassing moments! The goal is to talk to students and then set up regular appointments with them in the future at set times. This helps get consistent hours!

Do I have to speak Chinese as well?

No. I suppose it could be helpful but is not a requirement. Students know that most of the tutors do not speak Chinese but they like this because they will be immersed in an English conversation and forced to work on their skills.

 

How Do I Get Paid from NiceTalk Tutor?

Paypal. That is the only option. When you open the App you click a button to “Go Online” you are not paid for simply being online, you are paid for the time spent talking to students who will give you calls. The App pays every Monday as long as you have accrued at least $20 if you haven’t reached the $20 payout limit then the money you have made that week will roll over until you reach $20.

How to Get More Calls

Make sure to update all the sections in the “My Profile” section so the student will pick you over other Tutors. Additionally, once you have spoken to a few students they will leave you Ratings and Reviews. Once you have some of these under your belt you get a lot more calls from students.

 

How Stable is the App?

The App occasionally has its problems with lag and connectivity but that should be expected when essentially Facetiming students in another country over Wifi. If the app happens to crash you can just load it back up.

What are the Requirements to become a Tutor on NiceTalk Tutor?

This is being taken directly out of the application Tutor Guide: -English Proficiency – Be fluent, speak clearly, no heavy accents. -Stable & High Internet Access -Must have a tablet or smartphone with IOS 7.0 or higher or Android 4.0 operating system or higher. -Quiet Environment (when on calls)

 

What Time Should I Be Online?

You can be logged on during anytime of the day but the peak hours where you can expect the most calls are from 4pm-11pm China Time Zone. This equates too: •1am – 8am Pacific Daylight Time •2am – 9am Mountain Daylight Time •3am – 10am Central Daylight Time •4am – 11am Eastern Daylight Time

This App is really cool. I work a full time job and use this app as supplemental income. I honestly don’t log very many hours per week because I just do this when I am bored. With that being said, the App releases Top 10 Tutors list every week and some people are logging 30-50 hours PER WEEK! This makes me believe these people use this as their full time job (or have a ton of spare time on their hands). So it has the potential to earn you some decent cash.

 

How Do I Create An on NiceTalk Tutor Account?

I believe you can sign up on their website but I recommend just downloading the App by searching “NiceTalk Tutor” on your app store and creating the account there. You then put in your email (the one connected to your paypal), name, and password.  You will get a $10 sign up bonus regardless if you use my ref code or not :) Do note though that they are doing a promotion until 2/29 where if you do use a ref code both of us will get $20 bonus after you have logged 100 minutes! I hope some of you guys find this useful! I will do my best to respond to questions as fast as possible.

Best Pizza Dough Recipes

Here are a collection of pizza dough recipes for standard home ovens.

 

New York Style Pizza Dough Recipe

Scott123’s Easy New York Pizza (Source)

Note: You will need a Standard Home Oven for proper baking of this dough.

IngredientBakers %GramsOuncesRecommended
Flour100%622 g21.9 ozKing Arthur Bread Flour
Water61%379 g13.4 ozWater
Yeast or Starter0.5000%3.109 g0.110 ozInstant Dry Yeast
Salt1.75%10.88 g0.38 ozSalt
Oil/Lards/Shortening3.00%18.7 g0.7 ozVegetable Oil
Sugar1.00%6.218 g0.2 ozSugar
Other0.00%0.00 g0.0 oz-No Others Needed
Totals1040 g36.68 oz
  • The above ingredients will yield 4 doughballs of 260 grams each.

Step #1. You will need a pizza stone to successfully bake this pizza in a home oven. If you don’t have one, order this. If your oven oven isn’t large enough, order this smaller baking stone.

Measure dry (no yeast). Measure wet (+ yeast). Mix to dissolve yeast. Dry into wet. Stir with a metal spoon until it’s too stiff to stir, then knead, by hand or by machine, until the dough is just about smooth (3-6 minutes). Ball and place in lightly oiled, large round disposable covered containers. Refrigerate 2 days. Remove from fridge 3 hours before baking.

Pre-heat stone for 60-80 minutes at the highest setting your oven goes to (using convection, if your oven has it). Stone should be positioned on an oven shelf that’s about 6-7″ from the broiler.

  • Dust wooden peel with flour
  • Stretch skin to 16″ and place on peel
  • Quickly dress the pizza, shaking between each topping to make sure the skin doesn’t stick
  • Launch
  • Turn pizza every couple minutes with metal peel
  • Bake until pizza top and bottom are well colored
  • Use broiler if top needs more browning
  • Retrieve, using metal peel, onto cooling rack

Allow to cool 7 minutes

 

American Style Pizza Dough Recipe

Pete-zza’s Papa John’s Clone Pizza (Source)

Note: You will need a Standard Home Oven for proper baking of this dough.

IngredientBakers %GramsOuncesRecommended
Flour100%616 g21.7 ozKing Arthur Bread Flour
Water56%345 g12.2 ozWater
Yeast or Starter0.1400%0.862 g0.030 ozInstant Dry Yeast
Salt1.75%10.78 g0.38 ozSalt
Oil/Lards/Shortening7.00%43.1 g1.5 ozVegetable Oil
Sugar4.00%24.631 g0.9 ozSugar
Other0.00%0.00 g0.0 oz-No Others Needed
Totals1040 g36.68 oz
  • The above ingredients will yield 4 doughballs of 260 grams each.

Add water (at a temperature of 55 degrees F) to the mixer bowl of an electic stand mixer. Add the salt, yeast and sugar to the water and stir to fully dissolve, about one minute. Add the oil to the mixer bowl, followed by all of the flour. Use the mixer’s flat beater attachment to combine all of the ingredients in the mixer bowl, at stir/speed 1, for about a minute, or until the dough mass pulls away from the sides of the mixer bowl and collects around the flat beater. There should be no raw flour left in the bowl. Scrape the dough off of the flat beater (it should be shaggy and on the sticky side) and switch to the C-hook attachment. Knead the dough at stir speed, for about 2 minutes, or just until the dough gathered around the dough hook in a fairly cohesive, but still somewhat wet and sticky, mass.

Mix the dough for about 5-6 minutes at speed 2. Turn the dough out onto a cutting board and form into as many round balls as you plan to make into pizzas. Lightly oil each dough ball and place it in an oiled container with a cover (e.g., a 1-quart glass Pyrex bowl with plastic lid) and place the bowl in the refrigerator. Leave the dough in the refrigerator for five days. During the first two days, there should be little noticeable expansion of the dough. The dough will be optimal for use after about five days, but it could be used at after three days and up to eight days in the refrigerator.

Upon removal from the refrigerator, let the dough warm up at room temperature (about 80 degrees F) for about an hour. Open the dough ball to about 10”. Dock the dough with a dough docker. For maximum authenticity, make a cloned version of Papa John’s Dustinator flour blend as follows: combine semolina flour, white flour, and soybean oil (a few few drops worked into the flours).

Guide to Making Money Online with Amazon mTurk

What is mTurk?

Amazon Mechanical Turk (mTurk) is a website for completing tasks for pay. The tasks vary greatly and you will find all kinds of tasks to complete, including transcription, writing, tagging, editing, content moderation, and much more. It’s a cloud based data platform designed to connect people who need work done (Requesters) with people who are willing to do it (Workers).

A person with a task (a Requester) posts their task (which is called HIT – Human Intelligence Task) with a set reward and time limit to complete it. The worker (Turker) accepts the task, completes the task, and submits their work for approval. Once the work is approved, Amazon releases the money from the Requester’s account into the Worker’s account.

You can browse around the Mechanical Turk help pages for more information.

 

Who can sign up for mTurk?

Currently the service is only available to U.S. Citizens who are older than 18. People have also reported issues with signing up if they have never before filed taxes, but this seems to vary by individual.

 

What kind of earnings can I expect from mTurk?

The amount you earn from Mechanical Turk depends on a few factors, primarily the amount of time you put in and the qualifications you acquire. For a wider scope of what people are earning through the service, a report of your weekly earnings is sent out via email every Sunday to workers and a lot of workers post these emails in the community forums.

You may see reference to an old suggestion from Amazon that workers should be paid at least $0.10 per minute in 2005. Unfortunately here we are 10 years later and they still haven’t changed that.” Keep this in mind when considering what pay you’re willing to work for. In addition, remember that your earnings are considered taxable income so you will have to pay taxes on them as well.

 

What about filing taxes for money made through mTurk?

As a Turker, you’re considered an independent contractor, and according to the IRS, you are required to report all self-made income when you file taxes. Please don’t take advice from strangers on the internet about this issue. Seek out the advice of a tax professional instead.

 

Getting started with mTurk

The first step is signing up for a Worker account at www.mturk.com. This typically takes a couple days to process during which time you should do some research and set up your browser with scripts and add-ons to improve your workflow. You may want to a folder on your bookmarks bar to save some of the links presented here and elsewhere for easy access later. If you’re having trouble understanding the abbreviations and jargon used on this subreddit and other Turk communities, the mTurk Glossary should come in handy. After your account is approved, you’ll be in a 10-day probationary period.

You’ll also need to create an account on Amazon Payments in order to get paid and access your money. Linking a bank account or compatible debit card during your 10-day period will make it easy to start transferring money after the probationary period ends. Be sure to provide accurate information otherwise you can get your account temporarily suspended. There is a $500 monthly withdrawal limit if you do not have a credit/debit card attached to the account. Once a card is attached, this limit is removed.

A lot of tasks on Mechanical Turk require finding information online and being able to follow instructions, so now is a good time to start practicing. There are some basic computer skills that can improve your efficiency with tasks on Mechanical Turk such as learning and using hotkeys, knowing how to utilize search engines, using a mouse instead of trackpad, and working with dual monitors.

You may also want to consider your daily schedule and when you plan to work. A lot of Requesters post HITs on behalf of businesses or universities so they generally post work during typical “business hours”. By evening, it gets harder to find good HITs. Weekends and holidays are also usually slow.

After your account is approved by Amazon, you are in “probation mode” for at least 10 days. During this period, you are unable to transfer any earnings you make. You’re also only able to accept a maximum of 100 HITs per day during this time. All HITs that you accept are counted toward that limit, regardless of whether you submit them, return them, or abandon them (let them expire). To get out of probation, complete a minimum of 3 HITs per day for at least 10 days. The days do not have to be consecutive. After your probation period ends, you are free to transfer your earnings and your maximum number of accepted HITs per day increases to 3,800. Mechanical Turk considers the day to start at 12:00AM Pacific Time.

 

mTurk Account suspensions and other account problems

Amazon is very strict about verifying your identity for Mechanical Turk, so the best way to prevent a possible account suspension is to provide accurate data when signing up. Amazon compares the information you provide with whatever information you used to file taxes with the IRS, so if you’ve moved, changed names, or anything of that sort, either use the information you put on your tax return or update your information with the IRS before giving it to Amazon.

If you do get suspended, don’t lose hope. Usually all it takes to get your account back in good standing is getting in contact with Amazon support and providing the information they request from you. Workers usually report that phone calls (often a few phone calls) are more effective than sending an email or using the customer service contact form.

 

How do I get paid for my work on mTurk and how long does it take?

When a HIT is approved and changes to “Paid” status, the money becomes available as “Earnings Available for Transfer”. On your Dashboard, you can then transfer this money to Amazon Payments. From there, you have the option of linking a bank account to your Amazon Payments account to receive your money. You can also transfer using debit cards that provide a routing number. Typically if you transfer before 5:00PM PST Sunday-Thursday, the money will be available in your account the next morning (this will vary, depending on the bank you use.) You can also use the money in your Amazons Payment account to make purchases on Amazon.

HITs you complete can be either Pending, Approved (Payment Pending), or Paid. The time it takes to go from Pending to Approved depends on the task. Requesters have the option of manually approving tasks as well as setting an Auto-Approval Time of up to 30 days. All HITs automatically approve after 30 days if the requester hasn’t manually approved them. There are scripts to view the Auto-Approval Time in HIT previews as well as add a timer until approval in your dashboard. Once a HIT has been approved, it usually takes a few hours for the money to become available in Earnings Available for Transfer.

 

How do I find good HITs on mTurk?

The best way to find good HITs is to use the mTurk search. A good rule of thumb is to sort by “creation date (newest first)” and checking “for which I qualify.” Selecting a threshold like “that pay at least 0.50” will further narrow the results. Searching for specific terms like “survey”, “transcription”, or “tag” can also be handy if you’re looking for a particular type of task to do.

Try to attain some good qualifications which will open up more work. There are standard qualifications based on your account statistics, such as the number of HITs completed and your approval rating. These are the most commonly used qualifications on HITs. Reaching >500, >1000, >2500, and >5000 approved HITs each opens up new HIT types to you. The majority of HITs have a minimum threshold of 95-98% approval rating, so stick to HITs from trusted requesters with minimal risk of rejection when you’re first starting out. A lower approval rating can severely limit your access to work.

Other qualifications are Requester or HIT specific and can be requested, administered through a qualification test, or granted based on past HIT results. Keep an eye out for “qual HITs” and try searching for HITs that say “qualification” or “qual”.

You will see a tab in your dashboard called Qualifications. There are thousands of qualifications in this list. A ton of those are outdated or private qualifications. Instead of searching through these and likely wasting your time on useless qualifications, go to the main HITs page and click on “All HITs” in the blue bar at the top. Make sure the box to the right that says “for which you are qualified” is unchecked. Browse the HITs that you can see.

 

What is the Master qualification?


From the Mechanical Turk help page:

Masters are elite groups of Workers who have demonstrated accuracy on specific types of HITs on the Mechanical Turk marketplace. Workers achieve a Masters distinction by consistently completing HITs of a certain type with a high degree of accuracy across a variety of Requesters. Masters must continue to pass our statistical monitoring to remain Mechanical Turk Masters.

Masters receive special perks including:

Exclusive access to work that requires a Master Qualification Access to a private forum available only to Masters Please note that Workers cannot apply for this status – it is a performance based distinction. The best thing a Worker can do to become a Master is to submit Assignments with accurate results across a wide variety of Requesters on the Mechanical Turk marketplace.

That’s pretty much the only answer about it you’ll get from Amazon. There are plenty of rumors and theories floating around the web but no one really knows. People with as low as a few thousand completed HITs get it while others with over 250k (or more) haven’t, so it’s hard to draw any conclusions based off account statistics alone. It’s best to just focus on the HITs available to you and make sure you’re doing quality work.

 

Which Requesters on mTurk should I watch for?


That depends on what type of HITs you’re good at. It’s also hard to say because of the high amount of turnover for Requesters. Some requesters quit mTurk after their first set of HITs. For some of the more stable Requesters, you can use a page monitoring extension that will alert you when they post.

Searching for the newest created HITs and trying things out is a better indicator of which Requesters you should be watching out for. If you have the mTurk HIT Database script, check your Requester overview every few weeks and pay attention to who you’ve been making the most money from. Start monitoring those Requesters daily and eventually you should be able to find enough decent HITs to keep you busy all day during the week (less likely during the weekends).

 

What mTurk scripts and/or extensions should I use?


Search “mturk” or “mechanical turk” on greasyfork.org to see a lot of the user scripts available.

Some Workers use lots of scripts and others don’t use many (or any). What you use is completely up to you and what you find helpful. Try some out and see what works for you. The only script you shouldn’t skip is Turkopticon. This script shows you reviews for Requesters so you can get an idea of who is trustworthy to work for and who isn’t. You can also leave you own reviews for Requesters you’ve worked for to help other Workers. If you’re unable or unwilling to install this script, you can also search for Requester reviews on the Turkopticon webpage.

How to Make Money with Constant Content Online

You can make substantial money working for Constant Content There are a few things I have learned and some best practices I thought I would share with the community. Being paid $30 per 500 word article may sound like a scam to you if you’re one of the many people duped into writing articles on sites like Fiverr, Freelancer, and Elance, but Constant Content is not a scam. Constant Content is a content providing website that allows contributing writers to set their own prices on articles they write. Authors are also able to write about anything as long as they follow the writer guidelines.

Create a Bio on Constant Content:

It seems a bit silly to me and I never did one at first. But it can go a long ways to helping you build a reputation. It’s best kept short and to the point. Potential clients don’t want to read a 2 page paper on you. So its important to highly your writing talents and any areas of expertise you may be planning on writing about. This means talking about any degrees you have, especially writing ones. Then you can talk about your experience writing and writing content. Talking about other content mills, blogs and websites you have written for is a great way to show your abilities. It can also be important to talk about any knowledge you have that you will be writing about.


Finish Completing Your Profile on Constant Content:

I know when I started I just wanted to jump into writing for clients. Maximizing your income means not wasting time with all the extra stuff. However, on Constant Content you are working freelance and basically need to sell yourself, meaning all that extra junk is really beneficial.

Take some time to enter your certifications and list your areas of expertise. Even if you don’t feel they are very relevant, it’s important to still enter them. They help show potential clients that you are a professional.

Finally, as usual with all content sites, make sure your initial writing sample to the editors is your best work. Take some time to review it and make sure it is top notch.


Requested Content:

There is always some requested content on this site, but never a ton. I sometimes check through these to see if there is any that are paying very well. $40-$50 for a 500 word article isn’t that bad. However the problem here is that you have to write up to the specifications of those who request material. Meaning sometimes there is multiple edits involved. This can be a good beginning for people but it is not where you make the majority of your money.


Writing Original Content to Sell:

This is where you have a high earning potential. However it can also be difficult to write the correct types of material that will sell. Not only does your writing need to be top notch, but you also need to write content that people will want to place on their website. Content that caters to their readers. Essentially you are trying to write quality material for a specific blog or news site, only you don’t know what site that is. I would like to share my tips with you to help you get started.


1. Write About What You Enjoy:

Nothing is more tedious than writing article after article about something you don’t care about. Many of us are working freelance because we want to enjoy our jobs and our work. So don’t pick topics you can’t stand. Not only will it make writing a huge chore, but it will also show in your work. The articles that I have written about subjects I enjoy are much better and sell much faster than those I write solely for the chance of earning some quick income.


2. Its All About the Keywords on Constant Content:

When you have some ideas in mind of what you want to write about, do yourself a favor and visit Google Trends. You want to check and see how that keyword is trending. There are a couple things you want to do here. Make sure your choice of subject is getting enough hits. Writing about cutting edge technology or home improvement is an order of magnitude better than writing about an obscure game.

After you have chosen an appropriate subject or two, you want to check for synonyms in Google trends. Find the best trending keywords and make sure you use those in your article. I usually make sure that the top keyword is in the title of my article. However, be careful not to flood your article with keywords. No one wants an article with the same keyword spammed throughout.


3. Find a Quality Length for Your Articles:

You are writing articles for blogs and news sites. Which means you aren’t just trying to churn out SEO keyword articles that no one will see. A 200-300 word article is tiny and will generally not sell well. I suggest you find a good length for your articles that will keep readers engaged but not drone on endlessly. Remember you are writing for a profit, which means the shorter you can make an article the more income you can make. I would suggest anywhere from 500 to 1000 words for the majority of your articles.


4. Find a Solid Price Point and Adjust as You Gain Reputation:

It is much better to start out selling material at too low a price than it is to try and sell at an exorbitant price. This part can get tricky, if you price your articles too high, nothing will sell. If you price them to low you will be working way to hard for too little money. After you sell your first couple articles, you can begin to play with your price point a bit. You want to find a middle point where you will sell the majority of your articles but you aren’t giving them away for free. When I began, I priced a 500 word article around $35. After I had tested my market I found this to be too low. After a few months I settled on $50-$60 per article.


5. Enjoy What You Do:

Like I said before, this is one of the most important aspects of this job. Enjoy what you do and your writing. Make sure you take breaks when things get rough. You write better when you are enjoying the material and it shows in your writing.

I suggest anyone who is looking for a potential freelance writing job to give Constant Content a chance. They have been very good to me and I have managed to do very well using their site.

Websites Where You Can Take Surveys for Money

Do you know that companies are paying top-dollar to have users like you try their products and services for free? There are some good sites and some bad sites for taking surveys online and making money. You will notice none of the online survey sites listed belo  will reject you 45 minutes into an hour long survey. This keeps me sane and prevents me from wasting time. It also ensures that you make the most money possible from taking surveys online.


Survey Savvy

This is where I start every day. I am offered around 1-5 surveys a week. On each survey it lists a time and pay. I try and only do surveys that pay at least $1 per 10 minutes. This keeps me at $6/hour and above. This site has very few surveys but most pay very well. I generally complete about 70% of the surveys offered to me here. I find myself working on this site around 2 hours a week.

Time per week/Pay

2 Hours / $12+


Pinecone Research

Pinecone Research is very straightforward. They pay $3 per survey and you are prequalified for any they send you. This means that you will be able to complete every survey they send you. The downside is that some of them are very long. I have take hour-long surveys for $3. It’s important to check out the survey before completing it. Unfortunately this program can be difficult to get an invite to. I no longer possess a referral link but you can find them every so often on reddit or other sites. This is a small percentage of my daily work and isn’t a requirement for doing daily surveys.

Time per week/Pay

2 Hours / $12+


Opinion Outpost

This is a site devoted to surveys. First of all, be warned, the sign up process takes a while. I think it took me close to 45 minutes. Luckily once you are through that you will have access to quite a few surveys. Having put in a lot of your information already you will get sent to surveys you are qualified for. 10 Points here equal $1. As usual I try and find surveys that pay 1 point per minute. Keeping my rate at $6+ per hour. I usually spend around 1 hour per day on this site.

Time per week/Pay

5 Hours / $30+


Mturk

This is where I spend a lot of time. They may not offer the best surveys but they offer a lot of them. I save this site for last because it usually is the lowest paying but it has the most work. Certain surveys are better than others.  I complete other simple tasks as well sometimes when I feel like it but I mostly stick to surveys. Like the other sites its important to look for hits that pay $0.10 /minute.

Time per week/Pay

30 Hours / $180+


Overall I feel I do pretty well for working from home. My low weeks are usually around $250 and higher ones I sometimes can push $400+. I encourage you to check out all of these sites if you interested in doing surveys full time.

Tips & Tricks

Buy a cheap 2nd monitor. It will save you hours every week. I started with just one monitor and switched to 2 a few months in. Looking back I don’t know how I survived with just 1. Having 2 lets me speed up my work as well as waste time watching videos while taking surveys.

Make a new email to sign up for these accounts. You actually want to receive all the emails they send you so you want an email specifically for these 4 sites. That way you can easily keep up to date on any surveys the first three sites send you while you work on Mturk.

Check Your Wireless Coverage

Check the largest US carriers to get a better idea of which no contract provider will work for you. Almost all NCP/MVNO’s resell service from these networks in the USA.

AT&T

AT&T Coverage Map (with roaming)(GSM, 3G, 4G, LTE). “Good” or “Best” coverage means you should consider an AT&T-based service.

Sprint

Sprint Coverage Map (CDMA, 3G, 4G, WiMax, LTE)(Virgin Mobile’s website, but Boost Mobile and other Sprint MVNO’s are identical in coverage). However, coverage may vary based on whether or not your carrier allows roaming (for example Ting roams, but Virgin and Boost DO NOT roam). Good coverage means you should consider Sprint-based coverage.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile Coverage Map. (GSM, 3G, 4G)

If you get “Very Strong” or “Excellent” coverage, you should consider a T-Mobile based service.

Verizon

Verizon Coverage Map (CDMA, 3G). Be sure to tick the “PREPAID” option for most accurate results. Verizon prepaid networks do not support 4G or newer technologies at this time.

Otherwise, coverage on this network means you should consider Verizon-based coverage.

Multiple

There exist community-run websites allowing you to check coverage on more than one network at once. Why not have a look at those, too?

What is a Hybrid Cell Phone Network and Unlimited Data

A “Hybrid Network” means a telecom service which operates partially over Wi-Fi and partially over a cellular connection. Unlike a traditional full-cell network, this allows for lower prices due to lower costs of operation to the carrier. Currently, no hybrid network offers LTE or any data technology faster than “plain” 4G.

 


Networks

  • Republic Wireless. Cell Network: SPRINT. Cell data: 3G or 4G. Two phones available: Motorola Moto G for $149/8GB or $179/16GB (3G ONLY, MMS supported) and Motorola Moto X for $299/16GB (3G or 4G, MMS supported, can purchase a customized phone with more memory through Moto Maker at an additional cost).
  • TextNow. Cell Network: SPRINT. Cell data: 3G & 4G. Two phones available: Nexus S for $79.99 and Galaxy S II for $119.99. MMS support unknown.

$5 monthly plan

$10 monthly plan

$19 monthly plans

$25 monthly plan

$27 monthly plan

  • TextNow. 1250 roll-over minutes, unlimited text and incoming calls, 1GB of data.

$40 monthly plan

What no contract plans offer unlimited data?

This is a table of plans that offer unlimited data. After the high-speed allowance is used, speed is typically reduced to 64, 128, or 256Kbps. Unless specified otherwise all plans include unlimited calling and texting. All operators hosted on T-mobile and AT&T networks support BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) while operators hosted on Sprint do not. Some Sprint-hosted operators support BYOSD (Bring Your Own Sprint Device), see the explanation below.

Multiple Carriers

(see carrier websites for more details)

Price (USD)CarrierNetworkSpeedThrottleRoamingOther features
$45Straight TalkAT&T(LTE), T-Mobile(4G), Sprint(LTE), Verizon(3G)Various3.0GBGSM Voice
$50Net10AT&T(LTE), T-Mobile(4G), Sprint(LTE), Verizon(3G)Various2.5GBGSM Voice
$60Straight TalkAT&T(LTE), T-Mobile(4G), Sprint(LTE), Verizon(3G)Various2.5GBGSM VoiceUnlimited global talk

Sprint Network Resellers No Contact Cell Phones

If you you get good or decent Sprint coverage, one of these Sprint resellers will work for you. Enjoy a no-contract cell-phone plan on the Sprint wireless network.

 

Sprint wireless network details

  • Network Type: CDMA
  • Data Technologies: 3G (slowest — for occasional data users), 4G WiMax (fast — for average data users), 4G LTE (fastest — for data hogs).

 

Spring Network Cell Phone Reseller details

  • Virgin Mobile: 3G, 4G. 4G throttled at 2.5GB of use. Roaming NOT supported! iPhone available. Bring Your Own Phone NOT supported!
  • Boost Mobile: Identical to Virgin Mobile.
  • Kajeet: Supports 3G speeds. Web access sold as an add-on: $4.99 for 50MB, $14.99 for 200MB, $9.99 for 500MB, $24.99 for 1GB. Also offers GPS phone location services for $0.99 per use, or $7.99/mo. LTE support coming soon. Roaming is NOT supported! iPhone supported! Bring Your Own Phone supported!
  • Straight Talk: This reseller operates on more than one network but only Sprint-based service is covered in this post. Device carriers are not listed on the website so you’ll have to Google around to see which ones operate on Sprint. “Ultrafast Wireless” (WiMax?) throttled after 2.5GB of access. Roaming is NOT supported! iPhone available. Bring Your Own Phone NOT supported for Sprint devices.
  • Net10: Same as Straight Talk, except only 3G data is supported and Sprint service doesn’t appear to be throttled. There is no Bring Your Own Phone program for Sprint service. Roaming is supported! iPhone supported! (AT&T and unlocked GSM iPhones only)
  • Ting: POST-PAID. Supports LTE. Roaming is supported! International texting is included free with every text package. iPhone is supported. Bring Your Own Phone is supported!
  • Republic Wireless (BETA): 3G, 4G (for an extra fee). Outsources calling & texting to WiFi whenever available. It also supports roaming! MMS is now supported on the Moto X phone. iPhone NOT supported! Bring Your Own Phone is NOT supported! Phones purchased from Republic Wireless cannot be reactivated with another company. Cellular Data is typically throttled after 5GB.
  • Voyager Mobile: Supports LTE! Roaming is NOT supported! International texting is included free with every text package. iPhone NOT supported! Bring your own phone is supported!

 

$5 monthly no-contract cell phone plans

  • Kajeet: 10 voice minutes, $0.10 per text message, $0.25 per pic message.
  • Republic Wireless: unlimited talk/text/data, but only when connected via wifi. No cellular service at the $5 tier!

$10 monthly no-contract cell phone plans

  • Republic Wireless: unlimited talk/text using both wifi and cellular connections, unlimited data only available when connected via wifi.

$15 monthly no-contract cell phone plans

  • Kajeet: 60 voice minutes, unlimited text messages, $0.25 per pic message.

$17 monthly  no-contract cell phone plans

  • Voyager Mobile. Unlimited talk minutes, no text or pic messages, no data.

$20 monthly no-contract cell phone plans

  • Kajeet: 150 talk minutes, unlimited text messaging, unlimited pic messaging.
  • Virgin Mobile: Basic Phones Only. 400 talk minutes, $0.15 per text message, $0.25 per pic message, $1.50/mb web access.
  • Voyager Mobile: Unlimited nationwide talk, unlimited international text, no data.

$25 monthly no-contract cell phone plans

  • Kajeet: 300 talk minutes, unlimited text messages, unlimited pic messages.
  • Republic Wireless: Unlimited talk/text/data over wifi and 3G cellular connections. MMS messaging supported

$30 monthly no-contract cell phone plans

  • Virgin Mobile: Basic Phones Only.1500 talk minutes, 1500 text and pic messages, 30MB web access.

$35 monthly no-contract cell phone plans

  • Virgin Mobile: 300 talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data.

$40 monthly no-contract cell phone plans

  • Virgin Mobile: Basic Phones Only. Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, 50MB of web access.
  • Voyager Mobile: Unlimited talk, unlimited international text and nationwide pic messages, and unlimited data.
  • Republic Wireless: Unlimited talk/text/data over wifi and 4G cellular connections. MMS messaging supported This plan is not available for the Moto G phone.

$45 monthly no-contract cell phone plans

  • Straight Talk: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data.
  • Virgin Mobile: 1200 talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data.
  • Boost Mobile: BlackBerry Phones Only. Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data, Unlimited BlackBerry Messenger access included.

$50 monthly no-contract cell phone plans

  • Kajeet: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text messages, unlimited pic messages. Includes unlimited uses of the GPS phone locator.
  • Boost Mobile: Basic Phones Only. Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data.

$55 monthly  no-contract cell phone plans

  • Boost Mobile: Android Phones Only. Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data.
  • Virgin Mobile: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data.

$60 monthly no-contract cell phone plans

  • Straight Talk: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data. : Unlimited nationwide and international talk minutes, unlimited nationwide text and pic messages, unlimited data.
  • Straight Talk: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data. : BlackBerry Phones Only. Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data. Unlimited BlackBerry Messenger (with Voice) access included.

“Bucket” pricing no-contract cell phone

Instead of paying for a set number of minutes, texts, and data every month, you are billed for which tier of usage you fall into for each. Your minutes tier, texts tier, data tier, and a line access fee combine to make your monthly bill. This means you are billed only for how much you use and seems to result in lower monthly fees. Ting calls this model “bucket” pricing.

Here are two carriers who offer bucket pricing:

Verizon Wireless Reseller Cell Phone Plans with No Contract

If you get good or decent Verizon coverage, you might want to check out one of these no-contract cell-phone resellers

 

About Verizon Wireless Mobile Network

  • Network Type: CDMA
  • Data Technologies: 3G and 4G LTE

 

Verizon Wireless Prepaid details

  • Verizon. 4G LTE data for basic phones and smart phones. Roaming is supported!

 

Verizon Wireless Reseller details/ No-contract Cellphones

  • PagePlus. Roaming is supported! Verizon Prepaid devices are NOT supported on PagePlus!, but Bring Your Own Phone is SUPPORTED for most Verizon 3G devices. 4G is supported ($29.99 plan minimum and Page Plus SIM required)
  • Selectel. Roaming is supported for voice and text only. This network isn’t capable of utilizing SIM cards. Selectel will allow you bring your own phone for $30… or activate a Selectel device for $15. Verizon Prepaid devices are not supported on Selectel!
  • Straight Talk. PRE-PAID. This service operates on multiple networks but only Verizon is covered in this post. Only 3G data is available on Verizon devices. Data access is unlimited but gets throttled after 2.5GB (I guess?). Roaming is NOT supported! Bring Your Own Phone works for some Verizon devices.
  • Net10. Same exact coverage as Straight Talk (they’re the same company), except there’s no throttle on the data (that I know about) and roaming IS supported! Bring Your Own Phone works for some Verizon devices.
  • Red Pocket. Verizon pre-paid network. Roaming is not supported.
  • Puppy Wireless. Verizon pre-paid network. Roaming is supported for voice and text. 4G is supported (Puppy Wireless SIM required).

Yearly plans on Verizon Wireless Resellers

Note: This plan is billed once per year… not once per month! The minutes and texts you are allotted will be provided yearly and not monthly.

  • Selectel: $75 – 2000 talk minutes, 1500 text messages, no data. Pic messaging rates unknown.
  • PagePlus: $80 (3G only) 4 cents per minute*, 5 cents per text, 10 cents per MB. see site for important details. Balance will roll over if renewed. (*e.g. 1850 minutes of talk if 0 text and data used)
  • Puppy Wireless: $80 (3G only) 4 cents per minute*, 4 cents per text, 4 cents per MB. Balance will roll over if renewed. (*e.g. 2000 minutes if 0 text and data used)

 

$12 monthly no-contract cell phone plan

  • PagePlus: 250 talk minutes, 250 text and pic messages, 10MB data.
  • Puppy Wireless: 3G: 250 talk minutes, 250 text and pic messages, 25MB data.
  • Puppy Wireless: 4G: 60 talk minutes, 60 text and pic messages, 60MB data.
  • Puppy Wireless note: there are more price points than were already here ($10, 17, 25), so to minimize clutter, see their website

$15 monthly no-contract cell phone plan

  • Verizon: Basic Phones Only. 300 combination talk/text units, unlimited data.
  • Selectel: 300 talk minutes, 300 text messages, 15MB data. Pic messaging rates unknown.
  • Puppy Wireless: 3G: 250 talk minutes, 250 text and pic messages, 200MB data.
  • Puppy Wireless: 4G: 250 talk minutes, 250 text and pic messages, 100MB data.

$20 monthly

no-contract cell phone

plans

  • Red Pocket: 300 talk minutes, unlimited text messages. 1GB data (3G)
  • Puppy Wireless: 3G: 300 talk minutes, 300 text and pic messages, 400MB data.
  • Puppy Wireless: 4G: 300 talk minutes, 300 text and pic messages, 300MB data.

$30 monthly

no-contract cell phone

plans

  • Verizon: Basic Phones Only. Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data.
  • Verizon: Smart Phones Only. Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, no data (Wi-Fi only).
  • PagePlus: 1,500 talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, 1GB data.
  • Selectel: 1,300 talk minutes, 3,000 text messages, 300MB data. Pic messaging rates unknown.
  • Puppy Wireless: 3G & 4G: 750 talk minutes, 750 text and pic messages, 1.5GMB data.
  • Puppy Wireless: 3G & 4G: 1500 talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, 1.1GB data.

$35 monthly

no-contract cell phone

plans

  • Red Pocket: 300 talk minutes, unlimited text messages. unlimited data

$40 monthly

no-contract cell phone

plans

  • PagePlus: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data (1.5GB data at 4G LTE).
  • Selectel: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text messages, 200MB data. Pic messaging rates unknown.
  • Puppy Wireless: 3G & 4G: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, 1.5GB data.

$45 monthly

no-contract cell phone

plans

  • Verizon: Smart Phones Only. Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, 2GB data.
  • StraightTalk: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text, unlimited data.

$50 monthly

no-contract cell phone

plans

  • Selectel: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text, 2GB data. Placed on top because you can bring your own Verizon smartphone — which Net10 doesn’t allow.
  • Net10: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text, unlimited data. Look for the phones on the website with the big red coverage map — those are Verizon.

$55 monthly

no-contract cell phone

plans

  • PagePlus: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data (5GB data at 4G LTE).
  • Puppy Wireless: 3G & 4G: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, 5GB data.

$60 monthly no-contract cell phone plans

  • Verizon: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, 5GB data.

AT&T or T-Mobile Resellers No Contract Cellphone

If you get AT&T or T-Mobile coverage, it might make sense to check out one of their prepaid cellphone resellers with no-contract cell phone plans. Many of these resellers operate on the AT&T and T-Mobile network. Please note that these networks are GSM only and will not work with your CDMA (such as Verizon or Sprint) phones.

 

About AT&T Mobile network and Prepaid Phones

  • Networks:
    • GSM/EDGE 850MHz and 1900MHz (phased out; to be completely shutdown by 2017)
    • UMTS/HSPA+ Band 2 (1900) and 5 (850) (marketed as 3G and 4G, depending on the generation)
    • data-only LTE Band 4 (AWS (1700/2100)), 17 (analogue TV (700), subset of Band 12), 2 (PCS (1900)), (marketed as 4G LTE)

 

About T-Mobile

network and Prepaid Phones

  • Networks:
    • GSM/EDGE 1900MHz (most of T-Mobile’s network is still 2G-only, with some areas not even having 2.75G EDGE), plus free unlimited voice roaming on 850MHz; expected to be converted to 4G LTE
    • UMTS/HSPA+ Band 4 (AWS 1700/2100) and Band 2 (PCS 1900) (marketed as 3G and 4G)
    • LTE Band 4 (AWS 1700/2100), with Band 2 (PCS 1900) planned for later 2014, and Band 12 (700MHz) planned for Q4 2014 (marketed as 4G LTE, available in select cities only)

Prepaid programs offered by AT&T and T-Mobile

  • Cricket Wireless: Subsidiary of AT&T that offers identical coverage — except that 4G LTE is throttled at 8 Mbps and 4G HSPA+ at 4Mbps. Bring Your Own Phone is supported!
  • AT&T GoPhone: LTE is supported! But the phone has to be an AT&T phone capable of LTE. Roaming is supported with “Pick Your Own Plan” ONLY! iPhone is supported! Bring Your Own Phone is supported!
  • MetroPCS: Subsidiary of T-Mobile that offers identical coverage at a lower price than T-Mobile Prepaid. Bring Your Own Phone is supported!
  • T-Mobile: We will only cover the “pre-paid” T-Mobile plans and not the recently unveiled no-contract plans, since you technically have to sign a contract to get on those. iPhone supported! Bring Your Own Phone is supported!

T-Mobile Reseller Details

  • Lycamobile. 4G SUPPORTED! Voice and data roaming are NOT supported on this network. iPhone is supported! Bring Your Own Phone is supported!
  • Simple Mobile. 4G SUPPORTED! Voice and data roaming are NOT supported on this network! You can bring your own phone to this network. Add $10 to the 40 – 60 monthly plans and get international text and data. iPhone is supported!
  • Walmart Family Mobile. 2.5GB of LTE. I know, Walmart is evil, but a deal’s a deal. Like its parent network, data roaming is NOT supported, but voice roaming is. iPhone support: (unknown). Bring Your Own Phone is supported!
  • Brightspot Mobile 4G speeds. Available at Target, receive a $25 target gift card for every 6 months of service on plans of $35 or more. Bring Your Own Phone Supported.
  • Ultra Mobile
  • PTel (PlatinumTel)

AT&T Reseller Details

Companies who resell both AT&T and T-Mobile service

  • Net10. 4G supported! Data is throttled at 2.5 gigabytes of access with T-Mobile phones. Roaming is supported! iPhone is supported! Bring Your Own Phone is supported!
  • StraightTalk. Owned by the same company as Net10, so coverage and features are nearly identical. However, Roaming is NOT supported on this network. iPhone is supported! Bring Your Own Phone is supported.

 

Pay as you go cell phone plans on AT&T and T-Mobile

  • Lycamobile: 2c/min voice. 4c/msg sms and 6c/1MB 3G data. [May no longer be valid. Site does not list Pay-as-you-go anymore]
  • Ptel: 5¢/min voice, 2¢/text, 10¢/MB, 5¢/MMS, 2¢/international SMS

 

$20 monthly no-contact plan

  • Red Pocket Mobile: 300 minutes, unlimited text messages, unlimited 2G-like speeds.
  • Ultra Mobile: unlimited minutes, unlimited text messages, 100 MB data, Unlimited Global SMS, $1.25 international calling credit, unlimited calling to certain countries
  • PTel: Unlimited talk, unlimited text messages, 150MB of data, unlimited international text, $1 international calling credit.

$25 monthly no-contact plans

  • AT&T GoPhone: 250 talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, no data (add $5 for 50MB).
  • AT&T GoPhone for Basic Phones Only: 250 talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, $0.05/5KB data (or $5 for 50MB).
  • Lycamobile: Plan is $23. Unlimited nationwide talk, unlimited nationwide text and pic messages, 100MB of data, unlimited international text.
  • PTel: Unlimited talk, unlimited text messages, unlimited data (2G), unlimited MMS, unlimited international text, $2.50 international call credit

$30 monthly no-contract plans

  • T-Mobile: 100 talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data (4G speeds for the first 5GB). No domestic (off-network) roaming.
  • H2O Wireless: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, 500MB of data (hard cap). Send 100 free and receive unlimited international txt. Includes $5 of international calling credit. Seewebsite for international details.
  • Lycamobile: Unlimited nationwide talk, unlimited nationwide text and pic messages, unlimited nationwide data (4G speeds for the first 500MB), 1000 international talk minutes, $2.50 international call and text credit
  • MetroPCS: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data (first 1GB at 4G speeds).
  • Red Pocket Mobile: Unlimited nationwide talk, “FREE” international talk (see website for details), unlimited nationwide text, 100MB data.
  • Airvoice Wireless: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, 100MB of data (hard cap).
  • Straight Talk: 1000 talk minutes, 1000 text and pic messages, 30MB data.
  • T-Mobile: 1500 talk minutes, 1500 text messages, 30MB of data (hard cap).
  • Ultra Mobile: Unlimited talk minutes, Unlimited text messages, 500MB of data, 1000 free minutes tocertain countries, $2.50 international calling credit.

$35 monthly no-contract plans

  • AT&T GoPhone for Basic Phones Only: 500 talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data.
  • Brightspot Mobile: 300 talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data (3GB at 4G speeds). Free $25 Target gift card after 6 months of payments.
  • Lycamobile: Unlimited nationwide talk, unlimited nationwide text and pic messages, unlimited nationwide data (4G speeds for the first 1GB), unlimited international text, $2.50 international call and text credit
  • PTel: Unlimited talk, unlimited text messages, unlimited MMS, unlimited data (first 500MB highspeed), unlimited international text, $5.00 international call credit

$40 monthly no-contract plans

  • Lycamobile: Unlimited nationwide talk, unlimited international text, unlimited nationwide pic messages, unlimited data (750MB at 4G speeds), unlimited calls to certain countries, $5.00 in international call and text credit.
  • Walmart Family Mobile: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, 2.5GB at 3G speed then throttled to 2G.
  • MetroPCS: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data (first 2GB at 4G speeds).
  • Simple Mobile. Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data (throttled to 3G after 500MB).
  • H2O Wireless: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, 1GB of data (hard cap). Send 100 free and receive unlimited international txt. Includes $20 of international calling credit. See websitefor international details.
  • Airvoice Wireless: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, 1GB of data (hard cap). Send 100 free and receive unlimited international txt. Includes $10 of international calling credit. Seewebsite for international details.
  • Red Pocket Mobile. Unlimited nationwide & international talk to select countries, unlimited nationwide text and international MMS, 500MB of data.
  • AT&T GoPhone: 500 talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, 200MB data (add $5 and get 100MB extra).
  • Ultra Mobile: Unlimited talk minutes, Unlimited text messages, unlimited data (first 500MB at 4G LTE speed), 1000 free minutes to certain countries, $5.00 international calling credit.
  • PTel: Unlimited talk, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited nationwide data (500MB at highspeed), unlimited international text, $5.00 international call credit

$45 monthly no-contract plans

  • Straight Talk. Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data. T-Mobile data throttled at 2.5GB. AT&T data throttled at 1.5GB.
  • Brightspot Mobile: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data (first 1GB at 4G speeds throttled to 2G after). Free $25 target gift card after shopping
  • Lycamobile: Unlimited nationwide talk, unlimited international text, unlimited nationwide pic messages, unlimited data (3GB at 4G speeds), unlimited international texts, $5.00 in international call and text credit.

$50 monthly no-contract plans

  • LycaMobile: Unlimited nationwide talk, unlimited international text, unlimited nationwide pic messages, unlimited nationwide data (1GB at 4G speeds), $10.00 in international call and text credit
  • Simple Mobile. Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data (throttled to 3G after 2.5GB).
  • MetroPCS: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data (first 4GB at 4G speeds).
  • Net10. Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data. T-Mobile data throttled at 2.5GB. AT&T data throttled at 1.5GB.
  • H2O Wireless: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited international text and nationwide pic messages, 2GB data (hard cap). Includes unlimited international calling to ~50 countries. Other than that, $40 of international calling credit. See website for international details.
  • Red Pocket Mobile. Unlimited nationwide & international talk to select countries, unlimited nationwide text and international MMS, unlimited data (throttle: 500MB).
  • T-Mobile Prepaid: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data (first 500MB at 4G speeds).
  • AT&T GoPhone: Unlmited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, no data.
  • AT&T GoPhone for Basic Phones Only: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data.
  • Ultra Mobile: Unlimited talk minutes, Unlimited text messages, unlimited data (first 1GB at 4G LTE speed), 1000 free minutes to certain countries, $10.00 international calling credit.
  • PTel: Unlimited talk, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data (2GB at highspeed), unlimited international text, $5.00 international call credit

$60 monthly no-contract plans

  • MetroPCS: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, truly unlimited 4G data (no throttle).
  • Lycamobile: Unlimited international talk, unlimited international text messages, unlimited nationwide pic messages, unlimited nationwide data (1GB at 4G speeds).
  • Red Pocket Mobile. Unlimited nationwide & international talk to select countries, unlimited nationwide text and international MMS, 3GB of data.
  • Airvoice Wireless: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, 3GB of data (hard cap). Send 100 free and receive unlimited international txt. Includes $10 of international calling credit. Seewebsite for international details.
  • AT&T GoPhone. Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, 2.5GB data.
  • Simple Mobile. Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data (throttled to 3G after 4GB).
  • Straight Talk. Unlimited international talk minutes, unlimited nationwide text and pic messages, unlimited data. T-Mobile data throttled at 2.5GB. AT&T data throttled at 1.5GB.
  • T-Mobile Prepaid. Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data (first 2.5 GB at 4G speeds).
  • H2O Wireless: Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, unlimited data (throttle point unknown). Send 100 free and receive unlimited international txt. Includes $20 of international calling credit. See website for international details.

$65 monthly no-contract plans

  • Net10. Unlimited international talk minutes to ~1000 destinations across the world, unlimited nationwide text and pic messages, unlimited data. Includes 400 talk minutes to cell phones in Mexico.
  • PTel: Unlimited talk, unlimited text, unlimited MMS, unlimited data (first 4GB highspeed), unlimited international text, unlimited global MMS, $10.00 international call credit

$70 monthly no-contract plans

  • T-Mobile Prepaid. Unlimited talk minutes, unlimited text and pic messages, truly unlimited 4G data (no throttle).

Build your own cell-phone plan

How to Feel Well Rested in Morning and Get Better Sleep

There are many ways to get better sleep and feel well rested in the morning. Check out these tips on getting better sleep!

 

Stop drinking caffeine

Stop drinking caffeine. Cut it out entirely. Take aspirin for the couple days of headaches. Then when you need it once a month, it will actually be a boost instead of “reset to not drowsy”. Even then, take it (small quantities: tea not soda) in the morning, never in the evening (it has a half life of around 5 hours).

 

Stop making up lost sleep on the weekends

Stop making up lost sleep on the weekends, by getting more sleep on the weekdays. Make a schedule and stick to it. Do you need 8 hours of sleep to function? Do you take an hour to fall asleep? Do you need to be up at 7AM? Aim to go to bed at 10PM, every single night of the week. Are you an insomniac who needs 2 hours to fall asleep but only 4 hours of actual sleep to function? Fine! Plan for six (but seriously consider meditation classes for while you’re waiting to fall asleep). You can adjust this as you go but force yourself to lie in bed at that time for a couple weeks until you’re used to it. If your schedule won’t allow this much time set aside for sleep, re-evaluate your life.

 

Stop snoozing / setting multiple alarms

Stop snoozing / setting multiple alarms. Snooze sleep is not worthy sleep. Set your alarm for the last possible time you can get up (I don’t mean like “not even time to shower” but the last possible time to do your entire morning routine with a little urgency). Then train yourself to get up as soon as it goes off.

 

Regular exercise

Regular exercise (any kind of exertion; walking a few miles a day totally counts) is really important, you’re not going to sleep well after an all-day movie/gaming marathon.

 

Light can be more powerful

Light can be more powerful (but shorter lasting) at keeping you awake than caffeine. In the morning get that awakeness you lost giving up caffeine by opening the windows and letting the sun shine in. But you also need to give yourself a sense when it’s getting dark so your body can wind down. Dimmers are cheap and easy to install. Make sure your alarm clock isn’t a beacon of light. Put sticky notes over it if you have to dim it, you shouldn’t be able to read it well in daytime. I use a projection clock because I sleep with my head facing up and I don’t have to move (or mentally wake up) much to read the time from the ceiling at night (it’s unreadable with the bedroom light on)

Oh it’s an hour before bed-time and it takes 45 to 90 minutes to play a round of a video game? NO. BAD. Even at 45 minutes that’s a lot of light in your face right before bed. Honestly you’re better off spending that last hour with some human contact (in a low light area) or (at least for me with some self control) on reddit with the enhancement suite’s dark background on.

 

Waking up in Middle of Night

When you do wake up in the middle of the night, keep it simple so you don’t “rev up” your brain to full awakeness. A bathroom nightlight is good, depending on your vision you may need to tape it darker.

 

The bed is for sleeping and sex, nothing else

The bed is for sleeping and sex, nothing else. Pull the reading light and TV out of the bedroom. For that matter, I try to get my sex done in the mornings or day time so she’s not pining for it when I’m trying to sleep. Back to the light thing, I bought blackout curtains and keep mine as dark as possible.

 

Improve Diet

Eat more non-sugary foods before bed (okay maybe not right before bed but soon enough). Capping the night with a small sugary food can be a digestive aid, but I mean like one cookie.

 

Set the right tempature

I found myself futily waking up many nights because I was too warm. I then read somewhere that your body temperature naturally goes up at a certain point in your sleep. I bought a programmable thermostat for my central A/C in the summer (apologies if you don’t have this option), and set it to go down two degrees at approximately 2.5 hours before I planned on waking up. It makes a huge difference.

 

Establish boundaries with your bed-mates

Establish boundaries with your bed-mates. If they are disruptive, you can tell pets what to do by locking them out. Humans require a little more negotiation. Let your partner know when you are getting ready for bed “I’m brushing my teeth now” and encourage them to get their pajamas out of the bedroom because you’re going to sleep soon and don’t want them to have to turn on the light. Over time if you’re consistent, your partner will probably end up in bed 5 minutes after you most nights anyway. Noisy neighbors? Get a pack of earplugs and learn how to properly insert them.

 

Don’t ever use any kind of drug to help yourself sleep

Don’t ever use any kind of drug to help yourself sleep. Count your alcoholic drinks and switch to water at the appropriate amount of time before your planned bed time. Think of it like planning to have your hangover as you’re falling asleep, and then it never comes. “Passed out” is never the same as “asleep”.

Do most of this and you’ll find yourself calmly waking up just before your alarm, consistently. It’s what works for me, I’m not trying to be demanding I just try to consider them absolute rules to myself. They switched me from a “night person” to a “morning person”.

How to Get a Pay Raise at Your Job

First tip. don’t talk about Percentage raises. Percentage raises are totally disconnected from value and are all about making small $ numbers look big (a 7% raise sounds nice but it’s only $180/paycheck after tax if you get paid semi-monthly and were on $100k)

  • Pre-Requisites
  • Be good at your job Seriously, there’s no substitute for this. This advice will only work for people who deserve a raise.
  • Make sure your request has natural timing. Don’t ask for a raise if the company is fucked if you quit. Ask for a raise AFTER you’ve saved their ass, not while you’re saving it. No-one responds well to blackmail.
  • Have skills that transfer. There is a range that your company will pay you that has an upper limit on your value and a lower limit on what they assume your value is to others. The more transferrable your skills are the closer you’ll get paid to that upper bound of what you’re worth (remember, if they pay you one penny more than you’re worth then they’re making a mistake. It happens, but it’s not our goal here. Our goal is to clarify your worth and to get paid as close to it as possible). Having skills that transfer means you de-emphasize skills that are company specific and focus on market-wide skills. Be careful what you volunteer for.While this is somewhat true, this is more about having options if you need to walk away. You’ll want to have skills that are marketable to other potential employers, but your current employer doesn’t really care about this unless they are concerned about losing you.

    In actuality, it is the value that you bring to the business that is most likely to get you that raise that you want. You need to be able to say to your boss “I do X, Y, and Z, and since I’ve started doing that we’ve been generating 8% more revenue” or “we’ve saved 10% in waste” or “I’ve managed to optimize this process that used to take 12 hours to complete and now it only takes 3 hours”. If you can outline how you are making the company more efficient or more profitable you are more likely to not only get the raise, but people will tend to think of you as someone who gets the big picture.

  • Ask for a performance review This is the formal setting to talk about your worth. Make sure that you let your manager know that your goal in your review is to review your value to the company. Don’t surprise them with your agenda. You’re not there to just listen. You want to talk about the value you add to the company. Saying this isn’t threatening them and it’s not demanding. It’s the very definition of what a performance review is for. But it clearly suggests that your motive is your remuneration with respect to your value.In many cases (especially at larger companies), by the time you have your performance review your compensation adjustment (if any) has already been set. In those cases the review is really just a chance for the manager to tell you what they think of your work and have you sign off that you had the review. You need to know when the performance review cycle begins and broach the subject with your manager before that happens.
  • Know what will make you happy and let them know what it is Make sure you’re clear about what will make you happy. It’s not a negotiation. It’s a request to be made happy and this is what will do that. Say something that communicates that you’re working hard to exceed their expectations and that this is the moment where you hope they’ll reciprocate. If they respond with negotiation then avoid it. Take the high road. “I’d like to avoid a negotiation where we all feel like we’ve not quite gotten what we hope for. I hope I’m giving you everything you hope for from me and I want this outcome to reflect that”. This is about having earned it before asking for it, but then not being shy about asking for it.
  • Win over the influencers If your manager is your buddy but you’re not sure if they control your pay then pull him/her into your plan. Ask “I want to have a conversation about my worth in order to talk about my salary and I’d like your advice on how to go about it.” You’ve just requested what feels like a small favor from them but may be an enormous favor to you. They’re becoming invested in your goal. They can’t advise you on how best to position yourself to get paid what you’re worth without also representing you in the best light to the people that might come asking their viewpoint.
  • Preparation: Have concrete data If you’re going to say you’re more productive than others, then quantify it. Do your research before your meeting. It shows you’re professionalism in the same moment that you’re claiming your professionalism. Focus on results more than effort. Results equate to value, effort only speaks to (your) cost.
  • There’s no ‘company policy’ about what you get paid If you’re worth it (ie, you’re not a commodity) then you can get paid for it. If anyone quotes company policy at you, divert them. “If it’s ok, I’d like to focus on what value I add and then come back to how you can respond to that”. If you’re getting underpaid it suits the company to make a deal quickly before all the facts in your favor are laid out. You’ve prepared for this and you need to make sure that they understand the way the world looks to you.
  • If the raise isn’t happening find out why “Do you feel that I’m over-valuing myself?” That’s a Great question to ask. It clarifies what you’re discussing. Is it my worth that we disagree on? Or is it just that you haven’t ‘got the budget’. If they say they haven’t got the budget (or something like it) then say that you understand and of course it’s possible that you’re over-estimating your worth anyway and that you’ll have to do some more research on it as this is obviously meaningful to you. The implication is that you’re about to go job hunting but you’re not threatening them. You’re encouraging them toward finding an agreed valuation of your services.

 

Tips for Getting a Raise at a Small Company

Small companies are the easiest places to get raises because there’s high visibility on your value. Everyone involved in deciding your pay knows your value. That’s ideal.

  1. Let them know that you want the review to clarify your value to the company (that’s a great scene-setting line because it communicates your focus on your value without sounding threatening)
  2. Start by asking them to tell you how they perceive your value. Ask for where exactly they feel like you’ve been valuable and as they talk about it, ask questions that make them expound. “Oh really”, you say “I hadn’t actually thought about that. What difference did that make? Would it have mattered if it hadn’t been done that way?”. Make them own their appreciation for you in vivid detail.
  3. Then it’s your turn “Well, as I was asking myself this same question, here’s what I came up with and I want to understand if my perception of where I added value is lined up with yours…”. Now you’re listing out your value and asking for their responses. But you’re not talking about money at all. Just value. But tie it back to specific company revenue numbers that you influenced if you can. do your homework before the meeting.
  4. State your goals. “Obviously, you can tell I’ve given this conversation a lot of thought. The truth is I’m looking at career advancement and that’s about adding value and getting rewarded for it. How have I done?” Past tense. Not “How am I doing?”. You’ve done it. It’s review/reward time.
  5. Summarize “My hope is that I’ve evolved my role into something more valuable than it started as” (you’re de-coupling the pay for your role from what you /should be paid).
  6. If they don’t agree then talk about it. Worst case scenario is that you come out of there with an understanding of exactly why they don’t see this the way you do. But this part of the conversation hopefully goes smoothly unless they wildly differ in how they perceive your values
  7. Ask for a big raise if you deserve it. Don’t think about % of current salary. Focus on the value you’ve adding to the company and find a narrative that turns that value into a monetary figure.

How to Leave Your Cell Phone Contract

This is the guide for people on a cellphone contract and wanting to get off. Here, you’ll find a step-by-step guide on how to switch carriers, keep your number, and maybe even keep your device! All in plain English. Isn’t that great?

Why get contractless cell phone?

  • Choice. Normally, you get 3 or 4 carriers to choose from. But the prepaid market is fiercely competitive with close to one hundred different carriers! That’s a lot to choose from!
  • Freedom. No 2-year commitments here. You can leave a prepaid carrier at any time with no termination fees!
  • Price. With a wide-open, competitive market, prepaid gets you the same service at a better price. It’s just that simple.

Please note that these steps only apply if you are out of your contract and going month-to-month. Leaving your contract before your 2 years are up will incur an early termination fee. It is usually best to avoid an early termination fee when switching cell phone companies

 

Step 1: GSM or CDMA cell phone carrier?

NOTE: You can skip to Step 2 if you don’t want to keep your phone.

If you want to keep your phone, you’ll need to determine what type of service it gets. There’s two types: GSM and CDMA. Carriers mostly use one or the other — rarely both. Here’s what the major carriers use:

Service TypeCarrier(s)
GSMT-Mobile, AT&T
CDMASprint, Verizon

You can almost always take a GSM phone to a GSM carrier. Most times you can take a CDMA phone to a CDMA carrier. However, you can never take a GSM phone to a CDMA carrier or vice versa. The technologies are not interchangeable.

Note: Never forget to research your phone’s specs. Even if a GSM phone is going to a GSM carrier, it may not operate on the necessary frequency bands. Googling the model number should give you this information.

 

Step 2: Get your account number.

Note: if you don’t want to keep your phone number, you can skip to step 3.

While you are still with your old carrier (do NOT cancel your service yet!), call the customer service line and ask for your wireless account number. Sometimes an account number may be found on your bill, but it’s not always accurate.

Write down the account number. Your new carrier will need this to keep your number.

Again, don’t cancel your service just yet! Later, it’ll be cancelled automatically when you transfer the number.

 

Step 3: Check your cell phone coverage.

If you’re happy with your current carrier’s coverage, go for a reseller of that carrier. It’s usually comparable coverage and much cheaper.

 

Step 4: Pick your carrier.

Here’s huge lists of them listed by major networks. There are a lot of smartphone options beyond the big four carriers in the US. If you’re looking to save money, these lesser-known plans might be the ticket.

  • Sprint Resellers
  • Verizon Prepaid and Resellers
  • AT&T GoPhone, T-Mobile Prepaid, and Resellers

BONUS: Feeling adventurous? Try out a “hybrid” network! (splits your cell service between wifi and cellular). These are experimental, but cheap (as low as $20 a month). It could work for you!

 

Step 5: Pick your device.

If you can keep your current phone, great! Generally, you’ll need a SIM card if it’s a GSM phone, or the IMEI number if it’s a CDMA phone.

Otherwise, you’ll notice that your devices are much more expensive up-front than on-contract. That’s because prepaid carriers don’t roll the cost of the phone into your bills — you pay in full up-front. But that’s okay, you’ll still be saving money.

If you are buying a device off Amazon or another place online, get one that has a clean ESN. This means the device is legit — not reported lost or stolen.

Phones which have been lost or stolen have bad ESNs. Their IMEI numbers have been marked as unusable in the carriers’ systems and cannot be re-activated. Obviously, avoid these.

 

Step 6: Place your order.

This is when your new carrier will ask for your account number. Provide it along with any other relevant information from your old account. Order any equipment, SIM cards, accessories you need and play the waiting game. Alternatively, you can buy these items at retail.

 

Step 7: Be free!

Once the goods arrive, activate your stuff and you’re set to go! Enjoy your freedom :3

Buying Vs Renting a Home: Renting Is Not Throwing Away Money

Does it make sense to house if you intend to move every few years? Has anyone ever told you: “Since you never see rent money again, buying a house is usually the better financial decision.”

Most people do not think about the consequences of when you’re buying a home for a short time (less than 4 years). Just like rent, there is a lot of money going out the door when you own a home that you’ll never see again.

 

Is owning a home a good investment?

Traditionally, owning a home is pitched as a good investment, because you build equity in the home by paying off the mortgage principal. True statement. But consider all the rest of the money you have to shell out along the way to do that:

  • Mortgage interest (this is usually the largest piece of the pie, especially early in the mortgage)
  • Property taxes
  • Home owner’s insurance (HOI)
  • Flood insurance
  • Mortgage insurance (if your downpayment was less than 20%)
  • Maintenance/repairs
  • Condo or HOA fees (for those types of communities)
  • Realtor/lawyer fees when selling (and sometimes buying)
  • Closing costs (buying and selling)

 

Renting versus buying a home costs

In some cases, these can total to be more than what it would cost you to rent a similar place, especially over a short time horizon (less than 4 years). The reason for this is because the interest on the mortgage is the greatest amount when the principal of the mortgage is still high (i.e., early in the mortgage).

Taking a completely arbitrary example (but using realistic numbers), let’s say you can afford a $250K home, you have $25K (10%) to put on the downpayment, with a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 4.50%. The property tax rate in your area is 2.00%.

If you put that info into a mortgage calculator, it will say your mortgage payment is $1140/month (which includes the interest on the mortgage, plus your principal payment). “Sweet!” you say, because that’s pretty affordable for a $250K home. But wait.

  • Property tax = $4500/year = $375/mo
  • HOI = $87.50/mo (Source: Zillow, $35/mo per $100K of home value)
  • Flood insurance = cost can vary from $0 to a LOT (over $100/mo)
  • Mortgage insurance = $93.75/mo (assuming 0.5% of borrowed amount of $225K)
  • Maintenance/repairs = $2500/year = $208/mo (based on 1% of home’s value to use or save toward repairs)

How much you might spend on realtors, lawyers, and condo fees is completely dependent on the situation, and I won’t swag those numbers here. Hopefully I’m able to make my point without them—just keep those costs in mind if they apply to your situation.

Now, if you total all of that up, what you get is: $1904 and change per month to own. Plus, you’re building equity in the home! All the better. But if you take a closer look at that mortgage payment of $1140, there’s something important. How much interest are you paying versus principal in that $1140?

You can’t quantify this as a set number, because it changes every month. When you make a payment, part of the principal is reduced, so the interest on the principal is less the next month. But you can average it out over set periods of time.

In this example, with your very first $1140 payment you pay $844 in interest and $296 towards equity. Over the first year, you will have made $13,680 in total mortgage payments; $10,050 of that will have been purely interest on the loan. Only $3630 will have been equity in your home. After 4 years, the numbers are $54,720 total, of which $39,170 is interest and $15,550 is equity. In that 4 year span of time, the average amount you paid in mortgage interest per month was $816 ($39,170 divided by 48 months).

So, the final analysis has to be: once I tally all the money that goes out the door when I buy, is it more or less than what I can rent (which is also money out the door)? In this example:

  • 816 (average mortgage interest over 4 years) +
  • 375 (taxes) +
  • 87.50 (HOI) +
  • 93.75 (PMI) +
  • 208 (repairs fund) +
  • Any “other” costs (lawyer, realtor, condo, flood insurance, etc.)

Total = $1580, plus “other” costs. (Yes, I acknowledge some will say $200/mo for repairs is a lot, but you have to budget for repairs somehow, and a good rule of thumb is 1% of the value of the home per year.)

If you can rent a place that fits your needs for $1580 or less, you’re doing better renting the place than you would if you bought the $250K house in this example. You can invest/save what equity you would be building, plus you don’t take on the risk of owning the home (depreciation, unforeseen costs).

Yes, you never see your rent money again, but there’s a ton of money when you own a home that you never see again either. You need to make sure the dead money when owning is less than the dead money when renting. The NYT will help you do the math.

 

Other Reasons to Buy a Home Instead of Renting

I think the issue isn’t that there’s no reason to buy, it’s that a lot of people are under the delusion that you should buy because it’s inherently better financially and renting is somehow not as financially responsible. If you’re buying a house because you want to own a house, rather than because you think you’ll have more money if you own a house, then sure, do it for your own reasons.

Some people may, on the other hand, feel like there’s more value in having a landlord or management company deal with maintenance and emergency repairs for you, having a predictable monthly rent without worrying about surprise fluctuations when you have to deal with house trouble, and the ability to move much more easily. As you said, there are pros and cons to both. But financially, they’re on the whole equivalent, just different. People shouldn’t be pushed away from renting and into buying when they don’t actually prefer to own a house, out of a mistaken belief that that’s the financially better thing to do.

Thinking of a Home as an Investment is a Bad Idea

Thinking of taking a mortgage out on a home (that you plan to live in) as an investment is a very misguided approach to investing. For example, many people buy a more expensive home than they can afford because they see it as a good investment. They can no longer afford to adequately save for retirement, but they believe that their mortgage payments on their house will make up for it. If they take out a 30 year, $250,000 mortgage at 4% APR, they end up paying $429,673 (1,193 monthly) by the maturity of the mortgage. Let’s say the house appreciates in value by 20% over that time and is now worth $300,000, the “investment” you made in your house has yielded you -1.19% annually over that 30 year period. Now let’s say that they decided to instead put those monthly payments into their retirement averaging that same 4% that the mortgage cost you. By the end of the 30 years the value in your retirement would be $828,000. That “investment” that they thought was sound is only worth $300,000 as opposed $828,000 if they would have invested their money and received a modest return.

Theoretically, an investment in a tangible object, such as a house or gold, really only protects you from inflation. Houses have been appreciating in recent years for a couple of reasons. 1.) The low interest rates as a result of the dot.com bubble and the 2008 crisis have made taking out a mortgage much more appealing, thus increasing the demand. 2.) When real estate prices, it actually raises the demand for houses in some cases. People assume that the price will continue to rise and they will be able to make a profit. This same principle works inversely as well. If housing prices are decling, people become less likely to purchase a home for fear that it will continue to decrease in value. We have seen both ways in the past 15 years.

How to Save Money on Car Insurance and Home Insurance

Renters Insurance Can Save Lots of Money

Getting a renter’s insurance policy can save you money on many different things. Renters insurance covers quite a few things, including:

  • Coverage for your personal content, even if it’s not in your home (eg: items in your car. Certain limits apply for traveling and storage).
  • Coverage if you are temporarily displaced,( eg: you need to stay at a hotel while your house is being repaired for smoke damage, money to replace lost clothes, increased food expenses because you’re eating out every day since you don’t have a stove, etc.)
  • Coverage for liability (eg: someone falls in your apartment and breaks their leg, sues you for negligence). I typically see this at 300k
  • Coverage for your defense costs (eg: lawyer fees, small allowance if you need to miss work to attend court hearings, etc.) This is included.

And how much does this coverage cost (including the numbers I used above)? Usually under $200 annually. Further  if you bundle your renters and auto, sometimes the discount on auto will cover the renters (eg:$200 savings on auto, renters cost 150, net savings: 50.) Call your auto insurance, ask if they have renters insurance as well.

 

Why should you get renters insurance?

Why should you get renters insurance? What would a worst case scenario look like? For the lazy, imagine you accidentally start a small house fire while cooking. It damages a few thousand dollars’ worth of your stuff, plus you have to live in a hotel while it’s being repaired, and your landlord is going after you for damages because he has to pay for the repairs. If you don’t have renters insurance, you’ll be paying all of that out of pocket. Oh, but if you DO have renters insurance? You’re paying the deductible (typically 250 or 500), and then letting your claims adjuster deal with everything else. Have to take time off work to go to court to prove you’re not negligent? They have you covered.

 

Higher Insurance Deductibles Will Save You More Money

General rule: Get at least $500 deductible on your auto insurance, preferably $1k. For homeowners insurance, it’s best to go with at LEAST $1k, preferably 2.5k or even 5k. Renters can get away with 250 or 500, honestly.

The difference is usually several hundred a year, and you pay the deductible before the insurance pays anything. For example, let’s say your insurance is $1,500 a year with a $1k deductible, and $900 a year with a$ 2.5k. After 4 years, with a $1k deductible, you’ve paid $6,000 to the insurance company, and then you’ll have to pay another 1k in the event of a claim. After 4 years with a $2.5k deductible, you’ve paid $3,600 to the insurance company, and put aside $2,400 that would have gone to the insurance company, so basically covered your deductible. One more year, you can use the $600 you’ve saved to cover the deductible with $500 additional savings to do whatever you’d like.

 

Insurance should only be used in an emergency/making claims will increase your rates

This is the one that gets people the most. You pay $1,500 a year for insurance, you’ve been paying the last ten years, so why shouldn’t you make a claim when you’ve already paid then $15k? Because it’s going to raise your rates.

Why do insurance rates go up if you make a claim? If you don’t make any insurance claims, the insurance actuaries put in a group, “unlikely to make a claim”. Because you’re in that group, you get more favorable rates. If you make a claim, you automatically switch to a different group, “likely to make a claim.” Because you’re in this group, you’ll get less favorable rates. On auto, it will last for 3 years; on home, five. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t made a claim in your entire life up until this point; as far as the insurance company can see if, you’ve made a claim and will be much more likely to make another.

For example: Let’s say you have a $1k deductible. Someone breaks into your car, steals your purse worth $1,500. Personal property is covered by your home/renters, so if you make a claim your home will pay out $500 (cost of loss-deductible). They now see you as riskier, so they will increase your rates. Maybe $300 a year for the next 5 years; you’ll pay $1500 over the next five years, plus you’ve already paid the $1000 deductible, so now you’ve paid $2500 for a $1500 purse. In this case, it will cost you less to just buy a new purse out of pocket.On the other hand, if you have a kitchen fire that does $30k in damage? Yeah, make a claim on that one.

 

Most vehicles don’t need full insurance coverage

Unless A) Your vehicle is financed, then it’s required by your financing company, or B) Your vehicle is less than 10 years old, then your vehicle will pay out more.

 

Why don’t you need full insurance coverage?

  • Full coverage isn’t an industry regulated term. Professionally, it means nothing. It usually includes collision and comprehensive coverage; some companies will also throw in towing, glass, and rental. If you ask for full coverage, you could be getting anything.
  • Your policy will typically only pay out collision if you’re at fault. If the other driver is at fault, their insurance will pay out. Comprehensive does cover more, so you can get away with having comprehensive (vandalism, theft, tree falls, hit deer) but no collision (you hit object)
  • We will only pay out what the vehicle is worth. Not what it costs to get a new vehicle of this type, not what it costs to get a used vehicle of this type. Doesn’t matter if you paid $35k for the vehicle 10 years ago, doesn’t matter if it costs $15k ro replace it today, we’re only going to pay out the Actual Cash Value, and it typically isn’t 15/35k on a 10 year old vehicle (Much more common is less than 5k)
  • You actually end up paying the company more than it would pay you in the event of a claim, because “full coverage” costs more than liability only.

 

Example of Getting Less Than Full Coverage on Auto Insurance

Let’s say you have a buy a vehicle in 2001 for $20k. ACV is 3k. Your insurance is 1000 liability only, 1500 with collision and comprehensive, with a 1k deductible. Over the course of 4 years here’s what your insurance totals will look like:

 

Liability only coverageFull insurance coverage
1$1,000$1,500 ($500 extra)
2$2,000$3,000 ($1k extra)
3$3,000$4,500 ($1.5k extra)
4$4,000$7,000 ($2k extra).

 

Liability is what you have to pay anyways, so unfortunately there’s not a lot you can do to get around that. For the collision and comp, you’ve paid out 2k extra over the years. If you have an accident right now, the ACV is 3k, minus deductible (in this case 1k). So the most they’ll pay out is 2k, which is the amount you’ve paid them, so you break even. Ever year after that that you don’t have an accident, you’re paying them money that you will never get.

The exact amounts vary, which is why I have the general rules A and B above. If you’re not entirely sure, find out the rough value of what your vehicle is worth. Price liability only coverage (that’s coverage if you hit someone), and liability+ collision and comprehensive coverage (coverage if you hit someone, and also for your own vehicle). Take the rough value of your vehicle, subtract your deductible, this is X. Then take (the price of your quote with collision and comprehensive) and subtract (the price of your quote with liability only). This is Y. X divided by Y is how long it will take you to “break even” if you were to have an accident (although this is obviously not the goal).

How to Make Money Flipping Products Online

How much does it cost to start flipping stuff online or in person?

The initial costs of flipping stuff online will heavily depend on how deep you want to go from the start. Most people start out spending nothing and building your bankroll slowly as you acquire sales and additional products.  Nothing special is required to start flipping stuff. Below will describe some more basic things that you may want to consider.

 

What are the benefits of reselling online?

For starters, you can make a good living reselling stuff online. That’s pretty obvious though. The freedom to work your own schedule and limited hours are the biggest benefit in my opinion. I also love travelling so I can go anywhere at the drop of a dime without worry of getting fired or using up PTO. You can also get health insurance through eBay. Lastly, because you are always finding deals and know how to buy low, you can usually get things you need for next to nothing!

 

There are two sides to every story. What are the cons of reselling online?

There aren’t a lot of cons, but with everything, there are always a few. For starters, you really need to motivate yourself. With no boss looking over you, there’s nothing stopping you from skipping work for a day…..or 20. I found that out the hard way when I only made $500 last November. Too much traveling and not enough working! Another downside goes along with your health insurance. It can take a few months to get health coverage through eBay, so you’ll be insurance free until then. Lastly, you can’t prove your income until you file taxes. Don’t plan on getting any loans or leases or renting a new home until you get that tax statement next year!

 

What should I sell online and what should I be flipping?

What you sell is up to you. This is not something that anyone in particular can tell you. Most people usually stick to what they know until they get a bit more knowledgeable and slowly branch out from there. The easiest to start out with is things from around your house that you may not need anymore. This keeps startup costs low.

 

What equipment do I need to start reselling online?

  • A computer or smartphone for listing and researching.
  • A decent camera.
  • Printer (laserjet preferred, ink jet will work as well, or if you’re really not ready to invest, the local library’s printer)
  • Shipping supplies
  • Products
  • Most importantly – TIME.
  • What smartphone apps are best to use?
  • Amazon Seller App – Great for telling item sales rank and average profit per item.
  • Ebay App – Great for quick listing \ research.
  • A more complete guide can be seen here

 

Where should I sell my items that I want to flip online?

Depends on the items. Most people flip their items through Amazon if they are new and have tags. Amazon also restricts certain categories and these items would be best to move through Ebay. Used items are also sold mostly on Ebay. Large items that would be too cumbersome to ship are best through Craigslist. Some items can be sold as well through sites such as Etsy, Bonanza, and Kiiji.

What makes an item profitable to flip or resell online?

An item is profitable if you make $0.01 over what you paid for it. For many flippers, we refuse to sell for more than a certain percentage over what we pay for an item. When figuring profitability, you have to factor in the cost of the item, listing fees, final value fees, shipping costs, paypal fees (if applicable). This is all taken out of your final sale price to determine profitability.

 

Example of Profit Flipping Online

Item sells for $9.99 – $0.50 (cost of item) – $1.00 (ebay final value fee) – $0.59 (Paypal Fee) – $2.25 (shipping) = $5.65 profit.

Some flippers go even deeper than this. They factor in mileage on their vehicle, gas costs, shipping supplies costs, and most importantly, time. These factors are up to you and are an optional part of flipping for some.

You can sell just about anything if you get it at the right price. I don’t want to tell you any specific items, because this changes daily, but try to look for things that are in high demand. Search craigslist for things like video game systems and hot electronics. Find the people that need cash NOW and lowball the hell out of them. They get cash now and you get a profit later. You can also find people moving, trying to unload a ton of furniture. Buy it for one price and sell it later at higher prices. If you find a discontinued item that people love, buy it and wait until later. People were paying over $100 for a box of twinkies a month after stores were sold out!

 

Where can I get stuff to flip online?

You can get things pretty much anywhere you go:

Thrift Stores – Great places to pick up items. Looking on Yelp is a good way to find local thrift stores.

Retail Stores – Lots of stores have items that can be sold for more online. These items can be harder to find though and require some diligence.

Yard Sales, Garage Sales, Rummage Sales, Etc… – Great places to get amazing deals. Able to haggle on pricing at times. Check the Garage Sale section of Craigslist or visit EstateSales.net to find what’s happening nearby.

Outlet Stores – New retail items sold at sometimes very high discounts to clear out inventory.

Craigslist \ Ebay \ Amazon – Yes, you can even buy items online and flip them in other places for more. This is a bit more risky though.

Local Auctions – Arrive early to look over everything and get an idea of what you want to go for. Head to AuctionZip to find auctions near you or look up local auction companies.

Dumpsters – Yes, you can even source items in neighborhood dumpsters. Many people throw away perfectly good items that could be sold to others.

 

How to Find Good Stuff to Flip?

Depends. Thrift store inventory can vary wildly, but I doubt that this is the case. If you took ten flippers and asked them to shop your local store, eight will walk out with a different item and two may walk out with nothing. We each have our own knowledge and specialties and even then, not every trip will come out with something.

I suggest something called the “touch everything” rule. Make sure you touch two to five items throughout the store in EVERY department. If your store has ten different departments and you check the value of five items in each and still walk out with nothing, you still learned about 50 items that will not sell. Sourcing is about learning constantly and continuously requires you to step out of your own comfort zone.

Another way to make sure you’re aware of what you’re looking at is to say aloud each item you see. If you’re not used to buying to sell, it’s incredible what you’ll gloss over.

 

So where can I find merchandise to flip?

There are all kinds of places to find merchandise! Soon, you’ll find yourself pricing every item you see in your head!

I find most of my merchandise in the following places:

  • Craigslist
  • yard sales
  • Flea markets
  • Goodwill / thrift stores
  • Clearance items at stores like Target / Walmart
  • Salvage stores like Big Lots
  • eBay
  • Return business

 

I am selling on Amazon, do I list as Merchant Fulfilled or Fulfillment By Amazon?

Depends on your preference. FBA is easier because Amazon will take care of all the shipping and care of your items, but this does come at an additional fee per sale. To counteract this, FBA usually commands a higher price than Merchant Fulfilled. If you list as Merchant Fulfilled, you will be responsible for shipping once the item sells.

 

I am listing on Ebay, what do all the options mean?

When you list on Ebay, you have many options available on how your listing will look. The most important options are these:

Auction \ Fixed Price Listing – Auctions give sellers the ability to have people bid on the item and POSSIBLY run the price up. This option gives the buyers the control over the pricing. It could get a lot of bids and sell for higher than you hoped, but it could also sell for what you start it at. For this option, it is best to set the item auction to start at what you want the item to sell for. For Fixed Price Listings, the seller has the most control over pricing. The price is set and that is what the buyer will pay. You have the option to allow the buyer to submit an offer that is lower than your set price.

Reserved Price Listings – Most people will tell you that this option is NOT a very good option for listing. Many people overlook reserve auctions because the bidder could still lose the item if it wasn’t bid high enough.

Duration – How long the auction is up for.

eBay’s own Guide to Selling on eBay

I am selling on Amazon, What are my options for reselling items?

Merchant Fulfiiled – Means that you list the item on Amazon and others will purchase it. You have to package and ship the items yourself. This method usually does not yield higher prices than FBA.

Fulfillment By Amazon – Otherwise known as FBA. This method allows you to send all your items to Amazon and they will warehouse it and store it and sell it for you. This does yield a higher selling price on average, but comes with slightly higher fees as well.

 

Is it more profitable to list this item on Etsy, Craigslist, Kiiji, etc…

It all depends on the item. Craigslist is good for items that are too heavy to ship profitably. Other marketplaces are decent for specific niches.

 

My item just sold! What do I do now?

You box it up and ship it. Doesn’t sound too tough but there is more involved than that.

 

Should I ship using UPS, FedEx, or USPS after I resell something?

These options are all great. Most standard items work well with USPS. When an item with a large weight or international comes along, UPS and FedEx can be a better option price wise. If shipping internationally, it is best to ask the customer what option they prefer. International shipping involves customs and duty fees that can cost a nice amount for the buyer.

What is the difference between Priority, First Class and media mail rates?

Priority is the fastest option but also the most costly option as well. Priority mail is for any item that weighs over 13oz AFTER packaging. This type of shipping comes with $50 insurance and free tracking. Usually a 1-2 day ship.

First class is for items up to 13oz AFTER packaging. Much cheaper option, but does not come with free tracking and insurance. These can be added though. Average shipping time 3-5 business days.

Media Mail is for almost all forms of media and is the cheapest rate. This method is mostly for books, cds, and such.  Average shipping time is 5 to 14 business days. Items are also able to be opened and inspected for compliance to media mail rules.

If you need more information about USPS, here is a nice handy guide to shipping with USPS:

http://pe.usps.com/cpim/ftp/manuals/dmm100/dmm100.pdf

Also, here is the most current pricing rates as of 10/20/2014:

http://pe.usps.com/cpim/ftp/manuals/dmm300/Notice123.pdf

Please be aware that postal rates change constantly.

Where do I get my packing materials You can order them online (USPS will send you free Priority Mail boxes if you plan to ship using that service), buy them at office supply stores, or even dumpster dive. Boxes are usually in their own separate dumpster and flattened out. Furniture stores often have a dumpster full of bubble wrap or you can even go inside the store and ask if they have any lying around.

Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft

So you just found out that your identity has been compromised. Perhaps you have had your purse or wallet stolen and your ID and social security card was in there, or you found out someone opened a credit card in your name. Whatever the case may be, you need to take control of the situation promptly.

What to do immediately if your identity is stolen

Do these steps right now, in order, and do not wait if you even suspect that someone has stolen your identity.

 

Immediately report any stolen credit cards

Imediately report any stolen credit cards or missing checks to their respective banks or issuers. Make sure you account for each card and check, and contact every lender. Prompt reporting will limit your liability in the event of fraudulent usage.

 

Place security freezes if identity is stolen

Place security freezes with each of the following Credit Reporting Agencies:

You must file a separate report with each agency. Once you freeze your credit reports, no bank or lender will be able to pull your credit reports. This will prevent identity thieves from opening lines of credit, credit cards, or other loans in your name. This will also prevent you from taking out your own loans or credit lines, unless you either temporarily thaw your credit, or permanently unfreeze them. You will be mailed a confirmation letter with a PIN code, and you must use that PIN code to initiate any temporary or permanent unfreezing. Keep these PIN codes filed in a safe and secure place!

Depending on your state, placing a freeze may be free for everyone, or it may only be free for identity theft victims. If it’s free in your state, or if you don’t mind paying for immediate peace of mind, then place the freezes online and skip to the next step. If you can’t afford to pay, but your state makes it free for identity theft victims, first place a free fraud alert online (and unlike a freeze you only have to do it with one agency, they will report the alert to the others), then file an identity theft affidavit and police report (more info below) and then come back and file your free security freezes. You will need to mail in the requests with copies of your documentation.

 

ChexSystem Security Freeze

Place a security freeze with ChexSystems:

Eighty percent of banks and credit unions use ChexSystems to screen new customers. This step will make it harder for thieves to open a bank account, at most banks, in your name. This works the same as the above credit reporting agencies, and it is free for everyone. This is not foolproof, as some smaller banks may not use ChexSystems, but this will limit a common scam (a thief will open a new account, make a large cash ATM withdrawal to send the account negative, and then leave your credit damaged when the account gets charged off).

 

Identity theft affidavit and file a police report

4. Create an identity theft affidavit and file a police report.

  • You can file your identity theft affidavit online with the FTC. When you are finished, save your complaint reference number, and click “Click here to get your completed FTC Identity Theft Affidavit”. Make sure to save a copy and print it.
  • Then, file your police report. Bring along your filled out affidavit, a form of government issued ID, proof of address, and a copy of the FTC memo to law enforcement.
  • If you haven’t signed the affidavit yet, bring it to a notary public to have notarized. Many banks offer notary services for free. DO NOT sign the affidavit until instructed to do so by the notary public! They must witness your signature! Now you will have a notarized identity theft affidavit along with the police report. Together these two documents make up your “Identity Theft Report”, and will be the basis for any future disputes.

Identity Theft Government Resources:
FTC.gov Identity Theft Affidavit (.pdf)
If you don’t want to file online with the FTC, you can print this blank affidavit and fill it out.
FTC.gov Identity Theft Guide (.pdf)
There are sample documents at the end of the identity theft guide, including a blank identity theft affidavit, and also sample dispute letters.

Secure Your Online Presence

Make sure your online presence is secure.

  • Install anti-virus on your computer, check for malware, and remove any malware that is discovered. Use a well-regarded program such as Avira, Bitdefender, Avast, ESET, or Microsoft Security Essentials.
  • If your computer was infected, immediately change your passwords for any financial accounts, social media, and email (especially any accounts related to the ID theft). (There is more on this below.)

 

What to do within the first few days after Identity Theft

These steps are not as urgent, but are still important to do in a timely fashion.

Credit Report After Identity Theft

Pull a copy of your credit report to look for newly opened accounts. Remember to pull all three bureaus. You will need to dispute fraudulent accounts with both the credit reporting agency, and with the fraud department of the bank or lender where the accounts were opened. You should also look for recent credit inquiries that you didn’t initiate (signs of attempted fraud), and check to make sure that the only addresses being reported on your credit report are your actual address (thieves will open accounts using addresses they control, or try and change the address for your existing accounts to one they control). Dispute any fraudulent inquiries or addresses. You can get copies of your reports for free via www.annualcreditreport.com, or through a credit monitoring service (read below).

1a. (Optional) You should consider signing up for a credit monitoring service, preferably one that will let you have daily credit report pulls, and keep it signed up for at least 90 days (preferably a year).

  • If you were impacted by a large data breach such as the Anthem Health breach, the Office Of Personnel Management breach, or one of the many other breaches that have been in the news, you can typically get free credit monitoring for 2 to 3 years. Find the official web site regarding the breach and sign up (it should be linked from the company’s main web site or you can find it via Google).
  • If you can’t afford a paid service, consider signing up for Credit Karma (uses TransUnion and Equifax).
  • Since you have already frozen your credit reports, if nothing comes up in the first couple of months, itprobably never will. That being said, you may want to sign up for a paid credit monitoring service, ideally a service with “3 bureau” monitoring. American Express customers may want to consider CreditSecure Unlimited and USAA members may want to consider USAA CreditCheck Monitoring. Otherwise, compare the paid “3 bureau” credit monitoring options from Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, and MyFICO (you shouldn’t need to pay more than $15 per month).

 

Monitor Credit Accounts Online

Keep an eye on your accounts. Check your recent transactions frequently. Set up text (SMS) alerts with your bank and credit cards for things like “address changes”, “failed log-in attempts”, and/or “suspicious activity” so that you can be notified immediately. Immediately dispute fraudulent activity as soon as you learn of it. Dispute debt collection notices within 30 days (to protect your rights under FDCPA), and send all disputes via certified mail, return receipt requested. You can read more about dealing with collection agencies here: /r/personalfinance/wiki/collections

 

Notify the IRS About Recent Identity Theft

Notify the IRS if your tax information was stolen, or believe that someone has already filed (or may try to file) a fraudulent tax return in your name. File a Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit with the IRS. Read it, fill it out, sign and mail it. Then continue to file and pay your taxes like usual. You can contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490 if you need further assistance. More information is available here: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p5027.pdf

 

Things you should do to protect your information in the future

1. Change your important passwords, and use two-factor authentication (2FA) for any accounts that support it. Especially consider two-factor authentication for your Email and Banking services. Gmail, Bank of America, Yahoo!, Facebook, Twitter, and many other services support two factor authentication. You can find a whole list at twofactorauth.org. Make sure to print out backup codes (if applicable), and keep the backup codes in a safe location such as a fireproof safe. Two factor authentication will keep anyone who gets your password from being able to log in, but if you don’t have your backup codes and you lose your phone or device,you’ll be locked out too! You can also use a password manager such as 1Password or LastPass to securely store passwords that are too long to remember.

2. Protect your physical information carefully. Keep important identification and sensitive documents on your person at all times when they are not in a secure place (a locked car is not a secure place, anyone can bust open a window and grab your stuff). If you don’t have a safe deposit box you should invest in a safe (preferably a fire resistant, RSC-rated safe, but any cheap locking fire safe is better than nothing) to store your documents in at home, and if possible bolt it down or keep it hidden. Only take documents out for as little time as is absolutely necessary. And don’t carry your social security card in your purse or wallet.

3. Shred documents containing personal information before disposing of them. Utilize a cross-cut or micro-cut shredder. Although it may not be likely that someone will dig through your trash, items in an unlocked garbage container are generally considered public property, so legally anyone could.

 

Things you should consider doing, to protect yourself

1. Opt-out of pre-screened credit offers from coming to you in the mail: OptOutPrescreen. This will reduce your junk mail, and reduce your risk in the event of mail theft. This is free to do, and you can opt out for five years or permanently.

2. Put all of your phone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry if they aren’t already. You can verify online if you aren’t sure. This will reduce unwanted telemarketing calls.

3. If you want to reduce the amount of personal information about you available online, use a service likeSafeShepherd to opt-out of common public data brokers. You can cancel after a few months, because once they’ve done the heavy lifting of opting you out of databases, you probably don’t need them anymore. Or if you are paranoid, you can keep your subscription. You can also opt-out individually (list) but it is more time consuming.

4. Turn on encryption on your computer (on Windows, use BitLocker, on Macs, use FileVault).

 

Important things to remember about Identity Theft

1. Stay calm. Don’t get discouraged. Take things step by step, and deal with problems as they arise.

2. Send all mail USPS Certified Mail, Return Reciept Requested, and make a note to yourself of what you sent along with the certified mailing number. It is important to have a paper trail for documents, and certified mail is the gold standard for sending legal correspondence. Send copies of original documents if possible, but if you need to send original documents you should keep copies of them for yourself. Write brief notes like the Certified Mail #’s on your copies, or on a cover sheet, so you don’t lose that information. When you get back the green signature receipt cards, attach them to your copies of what you sent as proof of receipt.

3. Keep good records of the steps you took, when you took them, who you sent things to. Take notes, record phone conversations if possible (but check the laws in your state first). If you ever have legal troubles resulting from identity theft, good documentation will make your life a lot easier.

Basic Information About Buying a House and Mortgages

What are Fixed rate mortgages?

With a fixed rate mortgage the interest rate, and therefore the monthly payments (principal + interest), remain the same. Common fixed rate mortgage terms are 15, 20, and 30 years.

Longer terms equate to higher interest rates. While a shorter term means a lower rate, the monthly payments are higher to compensate. One strategy is to take out a 30-year mortgage at a higher interest rate, but to make extra payments to reduce the total amount of interest paid over the life of the mortgage.

What are Adjustable rate mortgages?

Adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) usually have a low initial fixed rate for a short time period before the rate is adjusted each year after the fixed period is over. For example, a 5/1 ARM is a mortgage that has a 5 year fixed rate period, and then adjusts annually.

ARMs offer significant risk, as the jump in monthly payments can be extreme depending on what the interest rate is tied to. ARMs may come with a wide range of options depending on the lender. Some have limits on how much the interest rate can increase during a given adjustment, some adjust with a different frequency than every year, and some offer longer fixed rate periods before adjusting.

ARMs can be particularly advantageous if a homebuyer plans to sell the property before the end of the fixed rate period.

 

What are Interest-only mortgages?

With an interest-only mortgage a borrower only pays the interest due for a certain period of time, before starting principal + interest payments.

The obvious disadvantage of an interest-only mortgage is the borrower builds no equity in their property for the period they are only paying interest. When the interest-only period ends, monthly payments are necessarily higher than they otherwise would be because the borrower hasn’t been paying down the principal. Finally, most interest-only mortgages have an adjustable rate component to them.

 

What are Piggyback mortgages?

In a piggyback mortgage a lender extends a traditional mortgage as well as what’s effectively an advance home equity line of credit – a second loan against the value of the property that the borrower also has to pay back.

This “piggyback” loan is usually at HELOC rates (higher than a normal mortgage) and has to be paid back concurrently with the traditional mortgage. The purpose of the piggyback loan is to reduce the cash required for a down payment on a property.

 

Frequently asked questions on Housing

Isn’t renting just throwing away money every month? Or, What are the real costs of owning?

  • The main advantage to renting is that it requires much less capital and offers much greater flexibility if you want to change your housing situation. If the math works out in favor of owning (and it doesn’t always work out that way), these are the two features you’re paying for with your rent.
  • There are many factors to consider when evaluating whether owning might be more expensive than renting:
  1. Property Tax – if you itemize, this is deductible, but you’ll never see the money again. This is already factored into rent.
  2. Mortgage Interest – if you itemize, this is deductible, but you’ll never see the money again.
  3. Mortgage Principle/Home Equity – this is money that you are saving in your house instead of investing in the market. Home values have a different risk/return curve than equities, but not necessarily a better one.
  4. Utilities – Even if utilities aren’t included in rent, most people buy a larger home if they own than if they rent, so utilities can be higher. They are also higher per square foot for free-standing houses than for apartment buildings. Some apartment complexes also have reduced Cable and Internet prices, or better service. Renters also may not pay specifically for water, sewer, trash removal, and snow/lawn services.
  5. HOA fees may apply to owners.
  6. Maintenance – If you own, you pay to fix things instead of the landlord paying.
  • Obviously, home-ownership has many subjective benefits, and is not a purely financial decision.

What do mortgage lenders look for when getting a mortgage?

Potential lenders look at your housing expense-to-income ratio. Your mortgage payment as a percentage of your gross monthly income should generally be under 28%. Potential lenders also look at your total monthly payments relative to your gross monthly income. That calculation will factor in your other debts and must generally be under 36%. Finally, how much home you can afford will be largely based on the size of your down payment. Most lenders require at least 20% of the appraised value as a down payment to avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI) that adds to your monthly expense.

Personal Finance Resources, Books, and Videos

What are some good books on personal finance?

There are lots of books that teach everything from the basics of budgeting to how to invest like a pro. I’ve listed a few of my favorites geared for every stage in life. To help narrow down the choices and find the best advice, we reached out to personal finance experts and authors to find out which foundational books everyone should read

  • Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin, especially if you want to change your emotional relationship with money.
  • The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley, especially if you have high expenses.
  • The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke by Suze Orman.
  • I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi.
  • The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing and/or The Bogleheads’ Guide to Retirement Planning, both by Larimore et al, which covers the investing philosophy espoused by most of /r/personalfinance.
  • A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel, especially if you aren’t convinced that index-investing is right for you.
  • The Four Pillars of Investing by William Bernstein
  • Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, especially if you are in more debt than you want to be.
  • The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason, for timeless advice.
  • Additional Authors to Consider: John Bogle, Larry Swedroe, David Swensen and Rick Ferri

 

What are some good videos about personal finance?

 

Are there any free e-books about personal finance?

 

What are some good blogs about personal finance?

(Please don’t ask to be added to this list, sorry.)

 

What are some good books on investing?

  • A Mathematician Plays The Stock Market by John Allen Paulos, for a good overview of various investment terms in the context of the author’s unfortunate dabbling in WorldCom stock.
  • Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes by Gary Belsky & Thomas Gilovich, for an accessible overview of how psychological biases affect your investments & finances.

 

What are some good books for more specific topics?

  • Stock options and stock grants:
  • Windfalls and inheritances:
    • Sudden Money: Managing a Financial Windfall by Susan Bradley and Mary Martin
    • The Windfall Club: What to do When Life Deals You a Good Hand by Janne Ashton
    • Sudden Wealth: Blessing or Burden? by David Rust
    • Windfall: Managing Unexpected Money So It Doesn’t Manage You by Maria Brill

What are some other resources for investing advice?

Essential Items for Your Kitchen That Will Last a Lifetime

There are several items that should buy for any kitchen that will last a lifetime. A big criteria used in picking these products is that products must be durable & practical. This is not a place for untested products or newest gadgets. The emphasis here is on items that have been tested and proven in the field.

 

The Kitchen:

Devices that require power:

  1. Coffee Maker – The general consensus seems just to buy a French Press, grinder, and kettle. For espresso, get a moka pot. If you want something electric, try a Bunn. If you have a Bunn, please look online to see if a recall has been announced for your model. Some models of Bunns constantly keep a heating element on in order to keep the water in them hot and ready to brew.
  2. Toaster – Buying a toaster oven seems to be the route one should take. You can cook plenty more things using a toaster oven than a conventional toaster. That said, toasters peaked in design decades ago so getting an old toaster at a thrift store. Outside of reliable ovens, Dualit toasters feature a minimum of wear since you effectively lift the toast up.
  3. Popcorn popper – Good news, if you go stovetop there is no need for anything other than a normal cooking pot.
  4. Crock pot/slow cooker – Seems like you want to go for the “Crock Pot” brand slow cookers. Allows you to get things cooking while you’re at work or school, etc, without worrying about burning your residence down. Buy a CROCK POT. A slow cooker is not a crock pot, crock pot is a name brand and they make excellent cookers. The other brands aren’t bad but don’t have the endurance and quality as true crock pots do.Buy one with a knob. The digital interfaces are just flair waiting to break, you need warm low and high, that’s it.Ideally buy used. Go to goodwill or yardsales and look for crockpots (name brand again) from the 60’s or 70’s. Look for old. They were made really well back in the days and still work. Not to say new isn’t just as good, they just did a better job making anything back in the day.
  5. Juicer – The Champion Juicer and most seem to agree.

 

Things that go in a drawer:

  1. Can opener -Rhe Swing-A-Way can opener which is currently made in China.
  2. Cheese Grater –  This by OXO seems to be the highest rated alternative.
  3. Kitchen Knives – A lot of the decision comes down to your preferred style. Some people prefer the thick and heavy German knives, and the more expensive lines coming out of Henckels and Wusthof are well-made and will last a lifetime if treated well, as will lesser-known German brands like Messermeister and Franz Gude.Another option, if you are willing to care for knives that will rust if not kept dry, are carbon steel Sabatiers from France. They have a different geometry than German knives – less belly, which I prefer, but you may not prefer if you like to “rock chop.” There is a lot of variation in Sabatier quality and I would only buy the vintage models with the elephant logo.My personal preference is for handmade Japanese kitchen knives. Japanese knives are thinner than Germans, have a profile like the Sabatiers, and are made of harder steel which can hold a more acute edge without folding. There is some variation in steel and fit & finish, but they will all last a lifetime if properly maintained. If cost were no object I would love to own a bunch of Hattori KD knives, but even if I won the lottery I probably wouldn’t spend more than my other dream knives, Nenox S1, which are also quite expensive (I own one of these, which I bought used from a line cook). Hattori, who makes the S1 for Nenox, also has a cheaper line sold online called Hattori FH which is excellent. Masamoto and Aritsugu dominate the professional market in Japan, and are very well-made but a little lacking in fit and finish. Other brands of note include (but not limited to) Sugimoto (particularly famous for their Chinese cleavers), Misono, Takeda, Ryusen, Suisin, Ikkanshi Tadatsuna, and Konosuke. Cheaper but still terrific brands include MAC and Tojiro.Also, I would not go out looking for a “set” – start with a chef’s knife and a paring knife, maybe a bread knife, and if you find yourself doing a lot of a specialized tasks that would benefit from a specialized knife, get that knife later. For instance, if I were starting over and had a lot of money to spend, I would get a 270mm Nenox S1 gyuto (chef’s knife), a 3.5 mm (edit: 3.5 inch not mm) Shun paring knife (the Japanese makers tend not to make paring knives), and a Franz Gude 320 mm bread knife. If I were on a budget, a Tojiro Gyuto, the same paring knife, and skip the bread knife.Whatever you choose, it is worthwhile to learn how to sharpen your knives yourself – that is a subject for another thread.
  4. Bottle Opener – The Pulltap’s “waiter’s friend” like this one is the way to go. The two key features are the teflon-coated worm, which can be replaced when the teflon coating wears out, and the two-step “foot” the you use for leverage to pull the cork. It requires only marginally more effort than the Rabbit style and all of its various copies thanks to the double action. I’ve been in the wine business for more than 5 years and this is what virtually everyone in the field uses every day.The Rabbits have several moving parts that tend to wear out and break after awhile. Rabbits also don’t work very well with synthetic corks- they have a nasty habit of punching them into the bottle. The winged style and and its ilk usually have very thick worms which can shred the cork and cause it to crumble in to the bottle. This is particularly a problem with corks on older bottles which tend to be more delicate. It probably goes without saying, but those battery powered and gas-pressured openers are complete gimmicks and not worth the hassle or the money..
  5. Pizza Cutter – Its probably not the cutter – most people either cut on those steel pans or a pizza stone. This can/will/does ruin a pizza cutter in just a few uses.The next time you buy one, invest a nice, large, polythylene/plastic cutting board to cut your pizzas on. This will give the cutter somthing a bit soft to bite into instead of wearing down the blade on a steel/stone surface. Even wood would be good, but the plastic ones are preferred.

Things that you cook with:

  1. Cast Iron Pans – Once a piece of cast iron cookware is properly cleaned and seasoned, flavor absorption isn’t that much of a problem, plus it creates more of a non-stick surface.
  2. Bakewear – Glass and stoneware can shatter or crack, and anecdotally, this seems to be more common than one would hope. Most metal bakeware is steel coated with nonstick coating, and we all know how durable nonstick is. (And then the steel rusts.) Aluminum seems like it might be perfect for the task. Is that really the only kind that can be expected to last?
  3. Baking sheets – If they get grungy, like yours, you can scour them with a steel scouring pad, that will get anything off.The come in Full (18×26), Half (18×13), and Quarter (9×13) sizes. Full Size is too big for most consumer ovens, but Half is perfect.
  4. Pots and Such – It doesn’t make any sense to buy a set of a single type of cookware, be it cast iron, steel-clad aluminum, steel-lined copper, or whatever. Different materials have different thermal properties which may be advantageous or disadvantageous for any given application, or may just be overkill. Cast iron is great for searing but terrible for a traditional French sauce or a custard.Cast iron will last a lifetime, but so will well-maintained Staub, Le Creuset, Bourgeat, Mauviel, Falk Culinair, Demeyere, All-Clad…

Misc:

  1. Cutting Board – The longevity of end-grain butcher blocks is well-known, and these are the best-made butcher blocks that I have been able to find. They’re made by a guy that does nothing but make cutting boards. He will make you one in any size, not just those listed on the site. Compared to other end-grain boards, he uses larger pieces of wood, which minimizes the amount of glue needed to hold the boards together.Compared to edge-grain, end-grain is easier on knife edges. Mr. Smith uses soft woods, which also helps. It is also forgiving in that small scratches fade with time as the fibers reexpand and fill the gaps. Larger defects can be sanded out if necessary.Regular oiling is a must to maintain butcher blocks, but fancy oils aren’t necessary – I get mineral oil from the laxative aisle at Target for $1.50.
  2. Glass preserving jars are insanely useful for storing leftover pasta sauce, coffee, soups, beans… just about anything that can be poured. Small footprint, lots of volume. I use them all the time.
  3. Widemouth pint mason jars. Durable, cheap, microwave safe, cheap replaceable lids, totally 100% leakproof. I have mason jars that are 20 years old and still used regularly. The lids have been standardized for 100 years. What more do you want?

 

A few thoughts on kitchen gadgets and such:

  • Nearly every community thrift shop has readily available kitchen pots, pans, and doohickies from our grandparents time.
  • Yet, nearly every community has outlets selling newer, more modern, “improved” kitchen doohickies and gadgets. The question then becomes sorting out the tried, true and tested from the marketing crappola, with a full understanding that marketing dubious kitchen gadgets predates us all.
  • In just 100 years we’ve gone from wood cook-stoves and enameled iron pots to microwaves and stainless steel blends in everything from knives to pots and pans.
  • In just 20-30 years we’ve gone from stainless knives being low quality and not recommended to stainless knives completely dominating both residential and commercial kitchens.
  • Quite a good many of the kitchen gadgets people inquire about are electric appliances that simply weren’t in common use 50-100 years ago. Will they still be popular in another 50-100 years? Who knows!
  • But, what we do know is what winds up for sale for pennies on the dollar in every thrift, antique and junk shop, and that’s extraneous kitchen gadgets. You can learn a lot by what’snot present in most second hand kitchen departments and by what’s priced quite high in those shops. Notice how vintage cast iron is priced, and notice the general absence of high end knives, larger stainless steel stock pots, stainless steel pressure cookers. People tend to hang onto items they find to be of particular value. But then, notice how many electric coffee makers, grills, blenders, toasters, fondue pots, waffle irons and chafing dishes are present and how relatively cheap they are.

What are hidden costs of buying a house?

Essentially, how much does it cost to buy a house and get settled. Below are some common hidden costs of buying a house:

 

The Purchase

  • Down Payment: Ideally 20%, but not required to be this high (NOT FROM YOUR EMERGENCY FUND!!!)
  • Closing Costs: Varies with bank, could be flat rate but most commonly 2-5%
  • Home Inspection: Varies with property. Basic is $500 +/- $200. Extensive can be in the $1000-1500 range
  • PMI: If down payment < 20%
  • Real estate attorney
  • Escrow (Any estimates from people? Percentage? Flat rate?)
  • Origination fee on a loan: 0.5 – 2.0%

Financial Changes

  • Increasing your emergency fund: If your monthly expenses are increasing
  • Property Taxes
  • Home Insurance
  • Flood Insurance (If located in a flood plain)
  • 1-3% annual maintenance
  • HOA Fees
  • Utilities: Paying for utilities that were previously covered by a landlord. Differences in heating/cooling a larger space
  • Utility hookup fees (if applicable)
  • Trash service

Cash due at closing is a function of three things:

1) Down Payment 2) 3rd Party Costs (appraisal fee, title work, state/county fees, Life of Loan tax, Flood Determination Fee, etc) 3) Prepaid taxes and insurance for ESCROW (1 year HOI and possibly 6-8 months of taxes based on your area and the time of year you purchase).

No lender/bank has control of the 3rd party fees or Prepaids. Obviously, the down payment is up to the borrower.

The only difference between banks/lenders is price of discount points for your rate and origination. All lenders are going to be within 1/8 to a 1/4 percent difference on discount points and most will work with you on Origination charges if you show them a loan estimate from a competitor.

The Expenses

  • Moving costs: Truck rental, boxes, pizza and beer for the people you suckered into helping you move, etc.
  • Furnishing the home: Varies with size of house and current furniture
  • Appliances (May or may not need to buy)
  • Yard equipment: Mower, shovels, rakes, etc.
  • Landscaping (Varies wildly)
  • Immediate renovations/upgrades: Painting supplies AND paint if you are painting
  • The little things everybody forgets: Toilet plungers, trash cans, cleaning supplies, etc.
  • Tools (If applicable, varies from person to person)
  • Lightbulbs
  • Take-out budget: Some spare cash for eating out before you unpack your kitchenware
  • Broken things: Spare cash to replace items that are damaged in the move. Accidents happen.
  • Replacing locks: $40/door
  • Utilities : water, gas, electric, phone, cable, etc.”

 

Other Items Requiring an Initial Investment

Initial investments into things you may not consider until you move in. I figured I’d list these, since most of the major, more common ones are listed.

  • Lawn Mower, Snow Blower, Snow Shovel, Salt, Fertilizer, Rakes, Shovels, Gardening Tools, Tools.
  • Furnace filters
  • Trash Service
  • Anything currently covered by your rent (internet/tv/power/heat/repairs), since a house will be bigger and doesn’t share walls, AC and Heat bills will go up
  • Furniture
  • Longer driving distances since you are moving out of town.
  • Major repairs, the WILL be needed, such as heater, ac, washer/dryer, fridge, oven, microwave, garbage disposal etc. etc.
  • Silly, minor things, they will add up! A plunger here, a garden hose there and a bottle drain-o somewhere else. That right there alone might add up to $25 – 50, there will be tons of this kind of stuff.

 

What do home inspections tell you?

Inspections do not tell you about behind-the-wall problems. When I went to have something small fixed about a gas appliance install, it quickly ballooned into $2500 or so when the gas lines failed the pressure test abysmally and every joint in the house had to be tightened. The inspection also didn’t tell me the sump pumps were sending water into the sanitary sewer (illegal) instead of into the back yard. That was, at least, a cheap fix thanks to my father in law having apprenticed as a plumber before switching to electrician (and he said he wouldn’t follow his father into the trades!).

42 Things to Consider Before Renting an Apartment List

There are many different things to consider when renting an apartment. If you want to leave the nest on strong footing, there are some important things to consider. Keep in mind that moving out of the house means learning to pay bills on time, and the rent bill should be your highest priority when it comes to spending your money.

What to Consider before renting an Apartment

  1. Check for cell reception.
  2. Inspect tops of cabinets, behind stove/fridge, for poop. If there are red/brown stains in the corners where the ceiling meets the walls, it’s bed bugs. If there is a line of white powder along the baseboards, it can mean roaches, but more likely bedbug treatment has been performed. White powder behind fridge, stove, etc. is usually boric acid or diatomaceous earth used to treat roaches. Brown or tan kernel sized paste is also used against roaches. Check the Bed Bug Registry online and ask if the building has a history of any pest problems.
  3. Inspect drawer under the oven and kitchen drawers.
  4. Check the water pressure on cold, on hot, on both, and how long it takes to get warm.
  5. Bring a socket tester and test all outlets. Also make sure there are enough outlets in each room, and enough 3-prong ones.
  6. Ask the neighbors what the worst part of the building, street, neighborhood is.
  7. Request to see the exact unit you will be moving into, NOT a showcase apartment. If they refuse to at least show you an actual unit, be suspicious.
  8. Check to see if you have a designated parking spot (and assure its cost, if any, is satisfactory). How many visitors can you have at a time & is that enough for you? On a Fri/Sat night, or any other evening/night, are there even any available spots? What happens if someone takes your spot?
  9. Drive through the area during rush hour if commuting via car.
  10. What’s in close walking distance? (food, bars, stores, etc)
  11. If touring multiple units, take pictures of each for later comparison. When you decide on one, time-stamp photograph any damage and make sure landlord is notified of it in writing prior to move-in so you aren’t blamed for it later.
  12. Research state tenant’s rights laws.
  13. Make sure you’re completely clear on all terms of the lease and know what utilities you’ll be paying and what payment method you’ll need to use.
  14. When driving around, take note of what kinds of cars are parked around, and if they’re substantially different from yours, your potential new neighbors lifestyle may differ from your own.
  15. Call a pizza place and see if they deliver there after dark. If not, the place may have a history as being unsafe.
  16. Make sure there’s an Internet provider suitable to your preferences.
  17. An experienced landlord is usually better to deal with than an inexperienced one.
  18. Get an idea of the general price range of utilities such as heat and AC for the unit. Ask neighbors in similar units the general price range for heating/cooling.
  19. Google your potential new landlord. Look up online property records in the county you are in. Slumlords will generally have lots of liens against them and/or have multiple properties in foreclosure.
  20. Assure the windows are double-paned/double-glazed and in good repair if the area is cold to avoid high heating bills. See if the windows open and close easily.
  21. Look up crime statistics for the area and ask the police how often they have been called to the street/complex in the last 6 months.
  22. An apartment with laundry facilities will save you money. If they don’t have them, check the prices/quality of the nearest ones.
  23. www.apartmentratings.com may be a useful resource.
  24. Drive through the area at 10pm one day, 2am the next, and see what kind of activity is occurring, especially on Fri/Sat nights. Walk through the complex around 8pm.
  25. Be wary of any musty smells that could indicate water damage. Too many air fresheners may be an attempt to hide this.
  26. Fill all sinks/tubs. Drain simultaneously and flush each toilet during.
  27. Ask if they accept section 8 or convicted felons, if you care about those things.
  28. Find out who does the maintenance (some handyman, a legit company, the landlord?). What are their policies on work orders? Can they be submitted online? What is their response time guarantee for after hours emergencies? If it’s just a single landlord and not a property management company, do they have someone you can call when they go on vacation and the hot water heater breaks?
  29. Make sure the building managers or owners are local.
  30. When scoping out potential neighborhoods, check out the local grocery stores to get a good sense of the type of people that live in that neighborhood. Also check the closest gas station late at night.
  31. Check your responsibilities as a tenant. After moving in many landlords require you to pay the cost of a stopped up toilet, pest infestations, and require you to shovel snow from sidewalk/mow the grass on areas around the house, or clean gutters. They may also require you to pay the cost to fix supplied appliances.
  32. Dress well, and ask for a discount.
  33. If surrounding places have belongings left sitting on the porches (toys, stoves, seating, decorations), it’s a good sign for little/no theft and a kid-friendly environment.
  34. If the leasing agent or landlord promises to do something before you move in, it needs to be written into the lease or it may not happen.
  35. Assure the unit has adequate storage space for your needs.
  36. 1st floor apartments are most convenient for thieves, and the most frequently broken into.
  37. It’s usually best to avoid living in the same building as your landlord, unless the other tenants vouch for them.
  38. If there’s a homeowner’s association, find out its rules.
  39. Find out the policy on smoking, pets, noise, and visitors.
  40. If you must break the lease, what are the consequences/options?
  41. What’s the average rental time for apartments in the building? If people aren’t staying long, it’s a bad sign.
  42. Try to get a look at as many different options in the area as possible so you can see if what they’re offering is competitively priced for the size/type of unit you’re seeking.

When hunting for an apartment, many renters fall into the same ugly trap: They get swept away with visions of painting the walls deep purple and having cocktail parties every night, while completely ignoring the particulars like landlord rules and fees that come back to seriously bite. So before you sign your lease, WAIT. Take time to ask yourself and your roommates a series of very important questions, because they will make or break your apartment renting experience… and potentially your bank account.

Cordcutting Guide to Watching Sports

Here is a guide to streaming sports I’ve been working on to cut down on the number of FAQs in here. I’d appreciate any changes/additions you might have. If you like to watch a lot of sports it can be challenging to be a cord cutter. While some major games are available OTA, many are not. The major sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NHL) have streaming sites which allow you to stream games for a fee, but unfortunately they black out your local games in a effort to stop cord cutting. If you want to stream your local team’s games you will be forced to delve into some questionably legal territory, either working around black out restrictions or using pirate streams.

Streaming sites created by the leagues themselves are reliable and show high quality feeds for roughly $100-$250 per year, depending on the league. Were it not for the blackout restrictions, these would be the ideal solution for the cord cutter. Fortunately getting around the blackouts with technical means is not too hard. You can use a VPN service which will route your traffic through a 3rd party to make it appear to the league that you are located in a different location. The down side to doing this is that decent VPN services cost money (usually around $10/mo), and routing traffic through a 3rd party often slows it down. Typically users report that they can start watching a game via the VPN, then turn off the VPN once the initial blackout location check has been done, thus getting full bandwidth for the remainder of the game. An alternate to using a VPN service is using a DNS service. These are sites which use a DNS trick to confuse the streaming site into thinking you are coming from a different location. This is faster than using VPN and often cheaper too, but doesn’t always work with all services. Some popular DNS services are Stealthy (a browser plugin), unblock-us.com, and unotelly.com.

Cordcutting and Watching NFL American Football

Compared to other sports, Football is better covered by OTA broadcasts. The NFL also has a service called NFL Game Pass which streams all of their games in HD to people outside the USA. NFL Game Pass costs $250/year, however some posters say that if you set your VPN to the Netherlands you can get it for free (YMMV). See http://www.nfl.com/watch-nfl-live

NBC has also been streaming Sunday Night football and NBC/CBS has been streaming the Super Bowl in recent years. These are available free to anyone.

 

NBA Basketball and Cordcutting

The NBA has a service called NBA League Pass which broadcasts all NBA games, with blackouts. NBA League Pass costs $100/year. See http://www.nba.com/leaguepass/index.html

 

NCAA Basketball March Madness and Cordcutting

CBSsports.com streams the NCAA basketball tournament for free every year.

 

MLB Baseball and Cordcutting

The MLB has a service called MLB.tv which broadcasts all MLB games, with blackouts. MLB.tv costs $110/year. Seehttp://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/subscriptions/index.jsp

NHL Hockey and Cordcutting

The NHL has a service called NHL Game Center Live which broadcasts all NHL games, with blackouts. NHL Game Center Live costs $160/year. People report success using VPN and DNS services to avoid blackouts on Game Center Live. See https://gamecenter.nhl.com/nhlgc/help.htm

There is also a rather elaborate pirate hockey stream site called hockeystreams.com. It streams all NHL games, as well as KHL, AHL, and other leagues in high quality (720p for NHL) with no blackouts. Hockeystreams.com users have complained about buffering and other reliability issues in the past, and the admins claim they have strengthened their infrastructure for the 2012-13 season. YMMV. Hockeystreams.com costs $100/year, and you can purchases for shorter amounts of time if you want to try them out.

 

Soccer and Cordcutting

The MLS has a service called MLS Live which broadcasts all MLS games, with blackouts. Seehttp://live.mlssoccer.com/mlsmdl/

Dish offers beIN Sport and some lesser known sport channels for $10 a month. No satellite dish needed. No contract. beIN Sport shows La Liga, Serie A, and Ligue 1 soccer. It’s available on Roku, Android, Mac, and PC. Seehttp://www.dishworld.com/sports.

Watching Other Sports Live and Cordcutting

Golf

Golf is not well supported for streaming. Your best bet is OTA.

Olympics

The Olympics are broadcast OTA and are also usually streamed, most recently by NBC and the BBC.

Miscellaneous

If you have access to a cable subscriber login for any of the major providers, ESPN streams a variety of sports via http://espn.go.com/watchespn/index from NCAA basketball to international soccer. Local games are subject to blackout rules. Even without a cable subscriber login, ESPN3 streaming may be available to you depending on your ISP.

Best Set Top Box for Cordcutters

Cordcutting will require some hardware. Below are some of the most popular set top boxes that people using when cordcutting. Whether this is your first time being a cord-cutter or have been doing this for a long time, the following list should provide a good idea of what kind of cordcutting hardware you will need to buy.

 

Android Boxes and Android Stocks for Cordcutting

There are a variety of Android Boxes and Android Sticks that are available from an ever increasing number of manufacturers. If you are well versed in using an Android Phone then you will catch on very quickly on how to setup and use these devices. When shopping for a device you should look for one with the latest version of Android and it should include Google Play. Some devices offer Amazon as an Android Store but you will never be able to install Google Play unless the Manufacturer installs it which will limit you in many ways. Networking can be by WiFi (especially for sticks) or for better HD Streaming choose Wired. Once you hook it to your TV you will be able to stream content from standard Android Apps including: Hulu, YouTube, Netflix or Kodi.tv which can also play content from a local server or a directly connected hard drive. You can also watch content from a SiliconDust or other Shared TV Tuner. Some of the best unsaid features include the ability to use a standard keyboard and mouse to turn your TV into a basic gaming device, run office applications or browse the web(a cheap computer for the kids). The best part about Android Devices is that you are not locked into a propitiatory device. Adding Features or Streaming Providers is as easy as downloading an App from the Play Store. Entry devices can start at $25 for an Android Stick, $50 for a basic Android Box or up to about $100 for an Android box with advanced features such as multiple USB3.0 Ports, Android 5.1(at time of writing), Faster Processors and GPUs, More Ram and Storage which makes things run faster. Some models include webcams for teleconferencing and VOIP Phone Services. Picking an exact device requires research of Reviews and selecting a Retailer you can Trust to accept a return if there is a problem.

 

Amazon Fire TV for Cordcutters

The Amazon Fire TV is the new kid on the block. Its claims to fame are powerful hardware, voice search (currently working with Amazon content, Vevo, and Hulu Plus), quick play of shows once they are selected (called ASAP, works with Amazon content), and select Android games. It also is a great choice for an XBMC box. Its downsides are lack of content channels (mostly relative to Roku, it is already superior to Apple TV), and an additional $40 expense if you would like to game on the system (although other controllers with USB or bluetooth connections work). The general consensus seems to be that the device will get better in time with software updates. A solid choice for Prime users, casual gamers who don’t already own a gaming system, and people whose content needs aren’t robust enough to require a Roku or HTPC.

 

Apple TV for cord cutting

The Apple TV, long considered a niche device, has taken to the forefront. If you’re very invested in the Apple ecosystem, it’s a great choice. You have access to many streaming options like Netflix and Hulu, as well as the ability to purchase episodes and movies for streaming. The problem here is the walled garden: if you live within the Apple ecosystem, it’s a great choice, but you’re going to have to buy your episodes if your stuff isn’t available via streaming services

 

Roku for Cordcutters

The Roku is kind of the grandaddy of the streaming boxes. It has a very simplistic interface and a channel store with wide network adoption. Netflix, Hulu Plus, Crackle, Amazon (On Demand / Prime) are all available, as well as some paid specialty channels. Plex also has a client that runs solidly well, using the Roku UI Experience. This device is easy to setup, uses very little power, cheap ($50-$100) and simple for use. Easily the Honda Civic of the bunch – the cheap little car that works for almost everyone. Also, Roku has a PLEX plugin, see below.

 

Cordcutting with Boxee Box

The first Boxee Box was amazing, the new one not so much. Boxee is an interesting concept with a subpar function. The older Boxee Box functioned a lot like the WD Live Hub – ability to stream as well as play external content. The premise is simple: OTA channels and a cloud PVR feature, as well as streaming services. The Cloud PVR service costs an extra $9.99 per month. However, the newer Boxee TV (according to recent reviews as of 12/2012) leaves a lot to be desired – reviewers claim it is buggy, unfinished and won’t even recommend buying it. If you’re feeling like a challenge, be my guest – but I would probably stay away if I were you.

 

Game Consoles can help cordcut

Consoles are extremely common for streaming and often have the basic services on board (Netflix, Hulu, various other streaming services). The downsides: high cost to entry (a new Xbox 360 is around $200, so around this price point), may require a separate subscription (Xbox Live Gold @ $59 per year) and high power usage. However, you are still able to use Plex via the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, as the Media Server software will still stream content to the console without having to use the Plex Client. This is a good choice if you’re going to have a console (with a subscription to Xbox Live, if on Xbox) already and just need to yank the plug – and don’t mind that you’re not getting the same bells and whistles.

Last generation consoles (i.e. Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3) are typically a safer bet at this point since their app libraries are more robust than current generation devices (i.e. Xbox One and PlayStation 4).

 

Google TV and Cordcutters

The cool thing about Google TV/Android TV boxes is that they come in varying shapes, sizes, colors, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. A good example of one of these boxes is the Vizio CoStar: you will have access to many Android apps, such as Netflix and Amazon, as well as the GoogleTV versions of Plex. However, your mileage may vary. HBO Go and Hulu Plus seem to not currently work with the CoStar, but you may have luck with other Android boxes with these apps – I would recommend this for the tech oriented folk, rather than a mainstream consumer.

Cordcutting Starter Guide: How to Become a Cordcutter

Cord cutting, cutting the cord, and cord shaving refers to people cutting their  subscription television services, dropping expensive pay television channels or reducing the number of hours of subscription TV viewed in response to competition from rival media.

There are many different ways to cord cut. This cordcutters starter guide will show you some ways to save money and stop paying for expensive cable or satellite TV subscriptions.  A revolution has begun. Fed up with high prices, endless fees and taxes, and programming packages with 40 channels you don’t want for every one that you do, cable and satellite customers across the U.S. are kicking service providers to the curb by cutting the cord and sourcing their TV programming elsewhere.

 

Picking an Over the Air Antenna When Cordcutting

In the US, television signals are transmitted over the air via a system called ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee). These signals are unencrypted digital television signals. They can be picked up with an HD Antenna and fed into an ATSC Tuner (such as the one built into your TV). You are probably in range of many over-the-air broadcast channels, such as ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CW, PBS, and other smaller networks like ION or PBS. You can get most local sports games (depending on your market), local news, and some more popular shows like American Idol, Family Guy, Parks and Rec, and Saturday Night Live. Antennas are often quite affordable and the picture quality – since you’re getting an unprocessed signal, rather than one processed over a cable box – tends to be pristine.

Enter your address on TVFool and see what’s in range. If the channels you want are “green” – congratulations! You can buy almost any antenna and it will work. If you don’t have “green” rated channels, you will have to delve deeper into understanding and implementing an antenna solution (e.g. roof installation, costing more than $70).

While TV Fool gives a very thorough analysis of what OTA reception one can receive from one’s location, sometimes it’s too technical for beginners, especially when it comes to differentiating between UHF and VHF channels. Try the FCC’s website for digital TV transmission maps. Also try Antenna Web – everything you wanted to know about OTA antennas.

 

Should you get a Personal Video Recorders (PVR)?

Personal Video Recorders can be used, assuming you get good antenna reception, to record (PVR) OTA television. Here are the most popular ones:

  • ChannelMaster DVR+ – no monthly subscription, 2 tuners, requires additional hardware (storage like an HDD)
  • HomeWorx HW-150PVR – no monthly subscription (programming schedule doesn’t extend far into the future), 1 tuner
  • Simple.tv – $5/month or $150/lifetime, 2 tuners, requires additional hardware (an STB like a Roku and storage like an HDD)
  • TabloTV – $5/month, $50/year or $150/lifetime, 2 OR 4 tuners, requires additional hardware (an STB like a Roku and storage like an HDD)
  • Tivo Roamio – $15/month or $500/lifetime, 4 tuners

As an aside, the reason most PVR solutions cost a monthly subscription is because they require electronic program guide (EPG) data, which is constantly getting sent to the set top box. This data allows you to schedule recording for upcoming shows in a series automatically.

 

What Hardware do Cordcutters Need to Stream TV?

Streaming is the act of sending video/audio content over the internet to your TV. This requires some form hardware box, unless you have a “Smart” TV which has built in streaming applications. For a list of different hardware options, go to the Which Set Top Box (STB) Should I Get? section below. Set top boxes vary in what streaming services they offer, so be sure to check out each before buying. For example, the Tivo Roamio can ONLY access Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video, so if you like Amazon Prime Video, don’t purchase a Tivo Roamio. Services

 

Look at the guide for the best set top boxes for cordcutting

 

Best Cordcutting TV Streaming Services in 2016

Streaming content to a TV requires services. A few free ones:

A few pay ones:

Not all streaming services offer the same content, so be aware of what shows you like, research which streaming services offer them, and subscribe accordingly. It is generally well accepted that Netflix has the largest content library, but is stronger in movies, while Hulu has a small library but is the strongest in television. Interestingly, Amazon Prime videos has a large library as well, with unique shows that neither Netflix or Hulu have. AndroidPolice.com did a comparison of the most popular streaming services that is worth a read.

 

Best Online Television Providers in 2016

There are a few internet services that provide television without an antenna:

NimbleTV

  • NimbleTV limits access to traditional broadcast channels to people with a New York City address (all other channels are available to anyone in the U.S. or India)
  • The basic $30/month plan offers 51 channels with 20 hrs of PVR storage with unlimited tuners
  • Other plans are available, but the costs rise dramatically

Sling TV

  • SlingTV doesn’t offers traditional broadcast channels, but does offer cable channels
  • The basic $20/month plan offers 15 channels (ESPN is the big draw) with no PVR
  • The $25/month plan provides 24 channels (the 9 additional are all sports related)

USTVNow

  • USTVNow provides traditional broadcast channel programming from central Pennsylvania
  • The free plan provides 6 low-resolution channels that can be viewed on a PC or Mac
  • The $29/month plan provides 28 high-resolution channels that can be viewed on a device with a browser (PC, tablet, or smartphone) or Roku
  • The $39/month plan provides everything that the above plan offers, but with “unlimited” PVR storage and tuners that removes recordings after 4 weeks

Playstation Vue

  • Playstation Vue offers traditional broadcast channels in a handful of markets (Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Philadelphia and San Francisco, specifically), and cable channels nationwide
  • The basic Access Slim plan is $30 a month and includes 55 channels. The Core Slim plan is $35 per month for 70 channels, and the Elite Slim plan is $45 for 100+ channels. Some additional channels are available as add-ons. A full list of available channels by plan can be found here
  • The non-Slim plans, which include local channels in the aforementioned markets, are $10 more per month. Note that, at present, if you live in a market that has local channels available, you can not opt for a Slim plan. You will have to pay the increased cost for the plan that includes local channels
  • All plans can be viewed on Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Amazon Fire TV devices, iPhone, and iPad
  • All plans include “unlimited” PVR storage and tuners, but remove recordings after 30 days
  • All plans include access to the various “TV Anywhere” websites and apps run by most of the networks. You can activate this by selecting Playstation Vue as your “cable operator” when accessing the app.

Before pulling the trigger, compare the price of the proposed service against what television services your ISP can provide bundled. Many cordcutters are happy with these services because of the transparent pricing and how easy it is to cancel compared to traditional pay television providers.