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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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)



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


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


Cashew nuts, coarsely broken

½ spring onion, sliced


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

When I have a client with credit 760+ , 99% of the time we close on a Conventional loan product.
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.

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.

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 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.

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 with carfax and VIN as well as craigslist with links to same. Gotta say, the responses from 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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.


  • 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.


  • 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.

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.


  • 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.


  • 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?

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.


  • 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.


  • 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.

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.

  • 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.
  • 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 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

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 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. 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.


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.

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.

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, 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 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.

  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 on insurance

Here are a few tips on how to save.

  • 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 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 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. 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.
  • 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 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

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. and 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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 [,] 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?

InternationalUSACanadaEuropeChinaSouth America
Canada info......


Bitcoin Units

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

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!

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, 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 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 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 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

Hotspot Shield
My Expat Network
Perfect Privacy
Private Internet Access
Smart DNS Proxy
VPN Land
VPN Shield
VPN Unlimited

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.

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.


  • 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.


  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.


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.


Basmati Rice Bowl

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.


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


  • 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


  • 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

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. 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 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

Your local market most likely also has an email, usually partners[marketname] 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
  • 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.

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. 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.

Toyota Tercels are an awesome deal. I don’t know if they have them in Cali. Mazda 3s are also decent, but get rid of it if it starts giving you problems.

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:

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.

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.

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.


  • 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

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

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 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.



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 – 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: 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.

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.

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

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:

  • 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:

  • 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:

  • 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, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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. Take a look at our “I have $X, what do I do with it?” wiki.

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 expensesbefore buying.

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. 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: Privately search, chrome extension:

Disallow websites from storing cookies:

Block advertisements that track what sites you visit:

This one is really just for safety’s sake. Force webpages to use SSL/HTTPS, even if they wouldn’t usually:

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 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 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+


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 Coverage Map (with roaming)(GSM, 3G, 4G, LTE). “Good” or “Best” coverage means you should consider an AT&T-based service.


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 Coverage Map. (GSM, 3G, 4G)

If you get “Very Strong” or “Excellent” coverage, you should consider a T-Mobile based service.


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.


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.



  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • Red Pocket: 300 talk minutes, unlimited text messages. unlimited data

$40 monthly

no-contract cell phone


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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 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 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:

Also, here is the most current pricing rates as of 10/20/2014:

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: 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. 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, 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:


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 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…


  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. 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),, and

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

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


NCAA Basketball March Madness and Cordcutting streams the NCAA basketball tournament for free every year.


MLB Baseball and Cordcutting

The MLB has a service called which broadcasts all MLB games, with blackouts. costs $110/year. See

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

There is also a rather elaborate pirate hockey stream site called It streams all NHL games, as well as KHL, AHL, and other leagues in high quality (720p for NHL) with no blackouts. 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. 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. See

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. See

Watching Other Sports Live and Cordcutting


Golf is not well supported for streaming. Your best bet is OTA.


The Olympics are broadcast OTA and are also usually streamed, most recently by NBC and the BBC.


If you have access to a cable subscriber login for any of the major providers, ESPN streams a variety of sports via 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 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
  • – $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. 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 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 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.

How to Save Money in the Winter and Cheaply Winterizing Your House

What to do to properly winterize your house in the winter:

  • Watch out for humidity in cold weather.. Far better to use a heater than boil water for that reason.. Humidity will condense on cold outer walls and cause mold, which will potentially cause health problems. I would instead of using a shower to heat, I would suggest using a shower fan (which should always exhaust OUTSIDE the house, not into the attic) and also cracking open a window to provide make up air..
  • If you want ventilation year round while saving energy one of te best things you can get is called a heat recovery ventilator.. They will let you ventilate in the winter without losing a lot of heat..
  • Now when its winter and the humidity is 20% (really, really low) and the air in your house is bone dry, sure, add some humidity.. But more often than not its not that cold and dry and also people often tend to overdo things.. Some of the suggestions are a recipe for problems..
  • Exhausting a gas dryer indoors could be very dangerous of course because of oxygen depletion/carbon monoxide poisoning.. But even with an electric dryer (unless that attachment is in reality a heat exchanger.. ) sounds like bad bad advice if somebody does not heat enough.. (likely if they are extremely frugal) Because it WILL cause mold..
  • To conserve heat, I would suggest taking baths instead of showers and then letting the tub stay full as a radiator..
  • Mold can make people really, really sick. Humidity+paper coated gypsum wallboard (or even dust) as in inside walls) will grow mold.. and the more humid, the worse for your health that mold is likely to be.. there is a direct nonlinear (exponential) relationship between the two..
  • A heat recovery ventilator is good for ventilating without using too much heat… Which is essential in keeping humidity below the dew point (and the level where mold starts growing around 65% RH)

Ideas to save money in Winter Weather:

  • Wear warm clothes – socks, pj pants, a thick sweater. Anything to keep the warmth in. Sometimes either fingerless gloves when at the computer.
  • Keep the blinds open on those south facing windows starting in the morning. Close them at night. Our south-facing room gets the most sunlight and is almost always way warmer than the rest of the apartment.
  • If the air is cold and dry, you can quickly warm up a room by using a humidifier or simply boiling a pot of water. Humidity seems to hold heat better than dry air does and it makes a huge difference. I like to boil a pot of water with a splash of artificial vanilla (the kind you use in cookies) and a pinch of cinnamon to make the house smell good. In the past I’ve used apple peels after making pie or orange peels. It’s easy and smells good.
  • Candles put off a tiny bit of heat! I love candles and they are pretty cheap. Dont get the cheap cheap kind, because they don’t last long. Get the mid-to-low priced ones. They usually smell good and last a few days total. DONT LEAVE THEM UNATTENDED! Things can overheat or pets can get into them! My friend has a long hair cat that loves to rub up against the candles, he’s always getting singed!
  • Drink tea/coffee all day long! Lots of extra water is good for you and the warm drink defrosts you from the inside.
  • During a few freezing cold weeks when our landlord couldn’t seem to keep the heat working, I would bundle up in warm clothes and blankets, with a heating pad on my shoulders, my laptop on my lap and a cup of tea nearby.
  • We have blankets in every single room of the house! I’ve usually got a throw draped over me while playing games, reading, doing homework, etc. Sometimes I’ll put a blanket on my lap with a pillow on top of that to keep all of my heat on me.
  • Our electric dryer has an attachment that can be used to redirect the heat back into the apartment instead of outside. It cost a few bucks and works really well for getting some extra heat and moisture in that part of the apartment.
  • Shower! When taking a shower, we leave the bathroom door open. Once again, the steam travels into the rest of the house and spreads the humidity we need.
  • Baking/cooking at home. This one is a no brainer and can save you money in the long run.
  • I haven’t done this, but those little draft socks for the bottom of doors and windows can probably save some energy. Also, covering and/or sealing windows and doors can probably make a huge difference. This is on my to-do list.
  • We have a lot of pets, so we have to keep the whole place moderately warm, instead of heating just ourselves. If you don’t then you can keep your heat as low as 55 or 60 and keep a warm water bottle/heating/pad/blanket/scarf/think socks/mittens with you at all times.
  • Have people over! Having lots of warm bodies around gets the place super warm!

Building a Cheap Emergency Survival Kit

What should you use to build a cheap emergency survival kit? First, prepare an emergency budget! In the case you are struck by something and can’t pay to fix it, have an emergency budget planned out that will cut out as many expenses as necessary, and also have extra income options. For example, renting out an extra room in your house, picking up a part time job, etc.


Considerations when building a budget survival kit

  • Assume the water and gas are going to go out as well. They most likely won’t, but if they do and you haven’t planned for it you’ll be sorry.
  • Clean the tub and fill it up. This is your cooking and toilet flushing water. Drink it only in an emergency. Also good for wetting clothing to stay cool.
  • Fill the freezer up with gallons of water. Fill up your kitchen too. 1 per person per day AT LEAST. What do you need for a week? Get twice that amount.
  • Get a camp stove, if you can afford it.
  • Get a cooler and and ice. Keeping a small space chilly is easier than keeping your whole fridge chilly. Your fridge and freezer WILL NOT stay chilly. Unless you have a chest freezer outside in 30 degree weather, give up on your freezer.
  • Figure out where ice can be bought post-storm – if the army will be setting up in your neighborhood, if your corner store has a generator, etc.
  • Clean out the freezer and get ready to cook all your frozen meat NOW. With no power, even full of ice blocks, a normal freezer will only keep your food cold for 2 days. Say goodbye to perishable goods you can’t fit in your cooler, and say goodbye to those when the ice runs out.
  • On this tip, buy charcoal or kerosene for your grill. The first day without power is Grill All The Meat day! Do it on your front stoop and the whole neighborhood will bring their perishables too. It’s a meat spoilage block party!
  • Hurricane food doesn’t have to suck. Hard cured meats and many cheeses don’t require refrigeration. Produce will go bad in the heat – canned is better here. Smoked oysters and sardines are my favorite hurricane food. Cooked pasta and rice can live in your cooler for a few days and be mixed with canned stuff and pantry items for different cold salads. Almost all our nonperishables were on 10 for $10 sales or cheaper. What do you think you need for a week? Get twice that amount.
  • Buy food items with minimal waste/packaging. It took almost 2 weeks after Isaac for trash pickup to resume and my block STANK.
  • Get a solar charger or crank charger for your phone, or a car charger if you’ve got a car.
  • Get gas. All the stations will run out!
  • Get a weather radio. This will be your only contact with the world outside your neighborhood when you realize that your phone you planned so carefully to charge has no signal.
  • Buy or borrow some good books. Having no power in a city with no working infrastructure for a week is BORING, besides being uncomfortable. Find that deck of cards or scrabble set. Reconnect with loved ones by candlelight (watch out for the mosquitos.)
  • Don’t forget bug spray, especially for children and babies!

Other Considerations when Preparing for an Emergency on a Budget

  • Shelter – Would your home or a meet up point be of sound structure after a hurricane, tsunami, forest fire or earthquake? Having tents on hand ($20 at some stores or off season) are good if your home is a danger or if you have to travel. Even a simple $12-$20 tarp will do in a hard core emergency (but you’ll most likely need fire depending).

The trick if your home is still livable and its cold outside is to wear layers (hats and scarfs included), hole up in one room and shut all the doors in the rest of the house. Cover up drafts in doors with a towel.

The cheapo insulation trick for windows is a spray bottle a few rolls of bubble wrap. Get the glass wet and put up the wrap. If you have crappy windows, you don’t have to wait for an emergency to do this.

  • Heat/Fire – If the lights go out how will you keep yourself warm if need be or cook food or worst case scenario boil water?

Most canned food is already cooked in the can when it’s processed it so you don’t need to heat it up.

Noodles, rice and other grains (oatmeal) do not need to be cooked they can be soaked in liquid for a few hours.

So if you can stand to eat cold food, do it often so as not to waste limited resources.

Having an old tea/water kettle around is going to save you a lot of trouble in an emergency.

Look on Craigslist in Sporting Goods for people selling their camping gear off season. A camp stove new or used can cost anywhere from $20-$40. Small Coleman propane canisters are $3-$5 and last forever. If you really want to be prepped get a $39, 3 gallon propane tank. You can get the tanks at most gas stations.

Other than that at least have a charcoal grill or receptacle that you can burn books, phone books and other types of fuel in.

Have waterproof matches in an emergency kit just in case.

  • Water – Recycle and fill up water jugs or 2 liter soda bottles. You can also buy a 6 to 8 gallon BPA free water container in the camping section at most big box stores for between $10-$20. This can be invaluable if you have to leave and hopefully have access to your car. In an ideal situation each family member should have 2 liters of water a day.

The old saying goes “Never drink from the bowl!” meaning the toilet bowl. But you can drink, cook and wash up with water from the upper toilet tank.

  • Food – A guideline is that each family member should have at least 10 cans each of meat/fish, veggie and fruit.

Next time you go grocery shopping set a budget of an extra $5 to $10 and hit up the bargain bins. Look for boxed food on sale or 10 for $10 (or less) in the canned food isle.

Spend an extra 10 minutes at the store and compare prices for sale items. An example is, in my area, the basic price for Progresso soup is around $2.50 a can. My neighborhood Target recently upgraded their store with a grocery section and Progresso is $1.10!

So keep an eye out for bargains on non perishables. There doesn’t have to be an emergency to stock up on food. If you or a family member loses their job or has a medical emergency, or money gets tight you’ll have food on hand and not have to worry.

How to Survive on Very Cheap Food Budget

There’s a lot of focus on what to buy on minimal means, but I think it’s worth mentioning ways to make some extra cash quickly, so that $20 food budget for 2 weeks becomes $40 for 2 weeks, which can make a big difference. A $10 per week food budget would be very minimal. Below are some suggest recipes for ultra-low budget meal plans:


$10 a week food budget

$10 per week food budget: Buy Eggs (2 dozen x 1.99/dozen), WHOLE MILK (1.99/gallon), WHOLE GRAIN RICE (1 x 1.59/lb) Russet Potatoes (2 lbs x $0.79 / lbs), Spaghetti/Pasta (1 x 1.59/lb) = 10.50 per week + 7% for taxes brings it about $11.00 per person per week.

  • First you must look at poverty stricken world that survives “on less than one dollar a day”. How these people do it is by combining resources and sharing. It is a lot easy for 5 people to survive on $50/week than it is for 1 person to survive on $10 per week.
  • Best way to cook is to constantly make soups, stews, crock pot, etc in such dire situations. Use spices (as said before) including Salt & Pepper. Creating Soups and stews by adding water to ‘stretches’ the food you do have, extends the life of your basic staples, and can make 3-4 meals for a very inexpensive cost. Beans, Lentils, Rice, Pastas, are all very inexpensive and filling and will leave you full of energy.


$20 a week food budget

$20 per week the same as 10 per week just add a bit more variety cuts of meat (steak, chicken, ‘off cuts’ such as chicken livers and gizzards/hearts = $1.09 / lb and much more vitamins, nutrients, etc)

  • Add Cooking oils (coconut oil), butter, bread, beans, more ‘staple foods’ in a higher variety than the $10/week budget limit.
  • Increase the amount of spices and variety to keep food as a source of motivation and break up the monotony of surviving on a budget.


Tips for people in $10/$20 week dilemma

  • Find and collect any/all change in your apartment, car, couches, parents & family house, change and spare dollars add up very quickly especially if you are sustaining on $10/week for food. Use change counter at your bank which you can turn in for 100%, no service charge like CoinStar.
  • If you are in college, go to club meetings which usually serve food or pizza. Also a few of your friends have dinner meals/lunch meal tickets at the college cafeteria they may let you use.
  • Attend networking events, professional events, SALES PITCHES, everything and anything with free food.
  • Volunteer at soup kitchens/food pantries and learn the system and how the food is doled out, when the best times, etc. Ask for a free meal after each volunteer shift.
  • Start a garden. Cucumbers and Squash produce the highest amount of food in the smallest amount of space. Usually 4 week turn around from planting to producing food and can last for 6 months for the price of water. Find soil and containers through craigslist.
  • Eliminate expenses. Chances are if you are surviving on $10 a week for food, you are throwing away more money on something else. For example a single cup of Starbucks ($4.00) can cost $28 / week or $1400/year. Start tracking your expenses and eliminating as many as comfortably possible.

Other Ingredients to Buy on Small Food Budget

Things I would buy if I were in this predicament-

  • Oatmeal
  • Brown rice
  • Dry beans
  • Peanut butter
  • Whole wheat bread- or whole wheat flour and yeast if the poster is inclined to bake bread
  • Eggs
  • A box or two of pasta, preferably whole wheat.
  • Tuna fish
  • Seasonal/sale/clearance veggies and fruits as budget permits

If enough money is available, a small whole ‘fryer’ chicken to roast, make chicken sandwiches with, and turn into enough stock for a lot of soup with the noodles, some sale or canned veggies. A cup or two of cooked beans in your soup is filling and tasty.

I realize that not everyone can buy all things on the list. Some people have 30 dollars, others have ten, etc. Prices fluctuate depending on the store, sales, the region or country of the poster.

Shop your dollar store, you discount grocer (Aldi), sales, clearance cart at the grocery store, farmer’s markets, etc.

Now would be a good time to practice portion control if you don’t already. Read the serving sizes on your rice, pasta, beans, oatmeal, etc and follow them. Drink a large glass of water with every meal. In cold months, a hot beverage can be very soothing and filling.

Learn to cook- google basic recipes. If you do not know how to cook this is contributing greatly to your budget problems. Eating takeout and pre packaged foods will burn through your budget at a rapid rate. Ingredients are cheaper than a restaurant meal.


Cutting Out More Expensive Ingredients

Cutting the amount of expensive ingredients in a dish can really stretch what you have. I cut the amount of ground beef I put in chili in half, just add more beans or some TVP- no one will notice. Heck, I’ve made totally meatless chili and not had my husband notice the lack of meat until I told him.


Eating Proteins While on Budget

Eaten proteins are broken down into amino acids in the gut and enter the blood plasma (basically a salt/glucose/amino acid sauce your blood cells live in). The amino acids are then transported to where they are needed and rebuilt into proteins, to form new cell membranes and whatnot.

Rice and beans together create a complete protein, which is a protein containing enough of nine essential amino acids. Having either on their own isn’t as nutritionally sound as having both. Mixing lentils with rice is another complete protein. Peanut butter with whole wheat bread is, too.


Eating Amino Acids While on a Strict Food Budget

Some amino acids are essential. You need to get them, or you can’t build certain proteins. Most are not essential. One of the essentials is lysine, which is the amino acid found in rice and wheat and all it’s products. But not in beans, which covers all the other essentials. So, mix them together, and you have all the essential amino acids and can build every protein needed.


Drink More Water to Stay Less Hungry

Also, people must be careful to only eat when they are hungry, and not eat because they are stressed or bored. If you’re in a financial jam you have to make your loaf of bread last you all week, not two days. Drinking water between meals is a good way to stay full- if you’re still hungry 20 minutes after drinking a glass of water, then you were actually hungry.

Other Tips to Keeping a Food Budget on Low Budget

Hit up your local Asian/Indian/Philippine markets. They generally carry food at cheaper prices and in greater quantities. You may have to experiment a little bit, but generally you can get a MASSIVE quantity of rice-noodles and beans or other staples onto which you can put anything to make a meal. Buy SPICES…not sauces. Sauces are expensive. Spices can be put on anything.

If you must travel and your gas tank is almost empty, take EVERYTHING out of your car and run it until it’s nearly empty. Don’t do this permanently, as it’s bad for your engine, but only filling up for 10 bucks worth a few times shouldn’t hurt it. You’ll get better gas mileage on that tail end bit of the tank.

Cut your coffee intake to one cup per day, tops, and roll your own cigarettes. Switch to English Breakfast Tea, if you can. You can get 100 tea bags for $2-$3. Ideally, you’d quit while you’re nearly broke but some people can’t do that. You can get about five packs worth of cigarettes for between 4 and 8 dollars, if you buy the tobacco and papers by themselves.

Your local food pantries will probably all let you go once a month and the first time you go, you’ll get several weeks worth of food, so go to ALL of them. You should get enough food to last you from X to X, if you’re willing to hunt around a bit. Finding a food bank in your area can help supplement your budget with some free groceries such as bread, canned goods, and veggies. If you are uncomfortable with taking the help, you can always donate back later when you can afford it, paying it forward to help the next person in your situation. Occasionally, some food pantries even give out coupons which you can use to get fresh vegetables and fruits at local farmers’ markets.

Best Garage Sale Strategies to Save Money

Getting deals a garage sales can be tough. However, there are certain strategies what will help you get the best price for something at a garage sale. Below is a list of several garage sale strategies to try out next time you are shopping or selling at a garage sale.


Tips to Save Money at Garage Sales

Buy in bulk: You’re more likely to get a price break if you buy the entire box. Do a quick calculation of the worth of the box of things before you approach them with a deal offer. Get them to name a price first then bargain down from there.

Know that nearly everything is negotiable. Some sellers price items knowing that buyers will haggle. Remember, get them to name a price then bargain down. Either arrive early enough to scout out the best products or late enough to snatch up what didn’t sell at lower prices. If you can’t make a deal at the time leave your number with the seller so they can call you if it doesn’t sell.

Make a shopping list. You won’t find everything, but have an idea of what you need. Yard sales are great for: 1.Candles- Everyone has half burnt candles usually for 25c or less. 2.Books- very heavy when moving. 25c for paperbacks and 50c is acceptable except textbooks etc. 3.Tools- just the basics, power tools are another story. 4. Children/baby anything. Do you remember where your clothes/toys came from at age 4? I don’t have them, but kids seem expensive enough.

Go to the rich neighborhoods at the end of the day, a lot of the times they give stuff away just to be rid of it when its clear it wont be sold

Middle class neighborhoods have the best garage sales. Rich folks too often don’t know the value of things; they often price things at 75% of retail and expect people to consider that a bargain; too often they are a waste of time. I think they just never bargain shop so they don’t have a clue “I paid $1500 at Ethan Allen for that sofa just 4 years ago, so $1200 is a steal!”. Sometimes they are OK though. Whenever you see high prices as their standard; just move on. Poor folks tend to buy cheap stuff and they wear it out.

Plan first. Craigslist is the easiest way. Select the map view to see what’s close to you. I look for moving, estate, or neighborhood sales. The host of a moving sale wants stuff gone and is more likely to negotiate. Estate sales can be uncomfortable. Often someone has died or moving to assisted living. It may feel weird to haggle with the grieving, but they also want the stuff gone. Neighborhood garage sales save you the trouble of driving around.

Best types of neighborhoods for garage sales. Need baby things? Go to neighborhood garage sales in new construction neighborhoods. Don’t expect to find much else though. Want antiques or something like a boat? Go to older established neighborhoods; look for the big older trees. Upscale condos can be OK; those people are getting rid of good things because they don’t have room.

Figure 10% of retail pricing for most used items. New in the box items can be worth more, worn things less. Some things really hold their value, esp. quality name brand items. Even though I could get many of the things I buy for less if I were to haggle, I think it’s fair to pay asking price if it is reasonable. I generally only offer a lower price if I think the thing is priced too high. At the end of the day or second day of a garage sale, most people are very willing to bargain, however. Some things very often are over priced: I don’t care how well your Windows 95 PC works, it’s not worth $100. Why does everyone think their old $45 retail price shop vac is still worth $20?

Bring enough money to buy that big ticket item that you’ve been looking for. Practice self control but recognize it’s not too often that you will find that pristine $500 bicycle for $100 and the next person who walks up might buy it. Then you are stuck paying retail; your kid has been waiting long enough.

Again, don’t be afraid to negotiate at a garage sale. I was uncomfortable doing this a first, but gets easier with practice. Keep quarters and singles. If you are only buying one item just ask, “would you take X for this?” and present the money. Seldom does anyone say no or they return with a different but still lower price. If you are buying several items, offer an even dollar amount for everything. “Would you take 5 bucks for all of these?” Sellers hate making change. If you present the cash and are fairly reasonable, the seller will take it.

Be cautious of some items. 1.Furniture-huge savings, but bed bugs are a thing. 2.Electronics/Appliances- try it out. Most garages have outlets. 3.Disc media-I’ve bought video games that appear scratch free, but were still unreadable. 4. Valuables/antiques/collectibles- be familiar or just use your phone. Fakes and reproductions exist even if the seller thinks it’s legit.

When to Haggle at a Garage sale?

Gaggling is annoying, especially when the other guy refuses to name a price but just wants to ignore low prices and force you to give higher ones. However this is not always true at garage sales.

And set prices are certainly not how it works in most places. Most countries actually have deeply ingrained haggling cultures and even in the U.S. cars, furniture, cable/satellite services, and real estate are always negotiable.

You say the price you want. They say what they want. You meet somewhere in the middle. Or not. It’s just a conversation. Usually all you have to do to start is say “are you negotiable?” and that gets the ball rolling in a friendly way. You can also just say “can I have this for $x?” It doesn’t really matter what price they want. You make your offer and they can accept or not. If your price is way different than theirs, no big deal. It’s like fishing. Maybe you catch something. Maybe you don’t. The best way to catch something good is to go fishing a lot.


Getting the Best Deals at Garage Sales

Look for city-wide garage sales in your area. Allows you to hit the most amount of sales with the least amount of driving. I’ve also been known to plot a route based on Craigslist and newspaper ad postings. Get there early. In my area most people hold a garage sale on Friday and Saturday. Friday morning has the best selection; Saturday around 11:00 things start winding down and deals can be made. Strike up friendly conversations – I don’t always do this but if I’m buying a lot it helps in negotiating. If you see something you really want, get it because you might not see it again. I often find myself passing over something that is a fair deal in the hopes of finding it later at an amazing deal. Finally, I skip over sales in newer subdivisions. Not only do you end up getting lost in curvy side streets, the goods are usually subpar. Usually a lot of cheap plastic stuff for whatever reason. Your mileage will vary of course.

Cheap Ways to Stay Healthy and Keep Insurance Costs Low

There are many different ways to stay healthy and still be frugal. This is especially true when it comes to health insurance and medical care. Some health topics to consider include:

  • Dental Care
  • Insurance (including MSA’s)
  • Alternative Insurance solutions (uninsured/under insured)
  • Alternative Medicine (science based only)
  • First aid
  • Preventative Medicine (Staying healthy)

Below are some cheap ways to stay health and avoid going to the doctor:

Eat lots of vegetables and fruits. Nearly every condition, including heart disease and cancer, is benefited some way by eating vegetables and fruits, including some ability to reduce risk factors before ever developing the disease.

Get half an hour of exercise each day. Going from a huge couch potato to walking even half an hour each day has been shown to dramatically improve health. Just get up and take a daily walk, it doesn’t have to be white water kayaking or martial arts, and it doesn’t have to cost any money. Walk

Direct Sunlight. People need direct sunlight. The sun affects your mental and physical health. They recommend ~30 minutes a day depending on the season, and not through a window. Plus, it’s free!

Move around for at least half an hour each day. I know, I’m saying the same thing with different words. But “exercise” makes people think of gyms and treadmills and jogging and headbands and legwarmers and Richard Simmons. All you really need to do is walk around a bit. Walk around your office building at lunch, walk to the opposite end of the mall and back, take the stairs instead of the elevator, whatever.

Washing your hands (or any part of your body) more than several times a day probably will be beneficial in reducing exposure to pathogens however, the repeated washing of the skin with soaps or antibacterial formulations containing triclosan may in some extreme cases be detrimental to the proper barrier function of the skin. Triclosan by killing many pathogens is generally useful but it does not kill all of them, for example Pseudomonas aeruginosa – which is a very dangerous bacteria to some people, is common in hot water systems and triclosan does not kill it.

Phytonutrients – The chemicals made by plants to protect themselves.. So many of them have really amazing health benefits and reduce inflammation. I suspect that they could reduce the level of illness people endure in the US by some huge amount… This is not fringe science, they are all the subject of intense study by scientists all over the world.. Which you can see below, just click on the links to thousands of studies.. almost all of them positive..


Cheap Ways to Keep Health Insurance Costs Low

For Americans, educate yourself on the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). There’s going to be a lot of changes over the next few years that will save a lot of people money. Some of these are already in effect, such as dependent coverage until your 26th birthday. Beginning this month, all new healthcare plans must cover preventative services (like mammograms or contraception) under a co-pay.

Don’t skip doctor appointments because you can’t afford it! Long-term, these will have costly consequences. Make regular appointments a priority, and go to them. If you’re uninsured, consider an urgent care facility rather than the emergency room. They will treat you for urgent symptoms, but not charge Eroom prices.

Have a regular physical exam with a doctor that listens to you. Before you go, write down a list of things that have been bothering you. When the doctor asks if you have any questions, be sure to get them answered to the completely. Don’t leave confused. You are a customer paying for this service. If your doctor brushes you off, find another doctor.

Quit smoking, excessive drinking, eat right, and exercise (at least walking) 30mins a day. I have seen so many people cut down the number of medications they are taking and the issues that they take those medications for just by changing their lifestyle. Yes, it sucks when you are making the changes, but in the long run it is so worth it. You will have fewer trips to the doctor, and fewer prescriptions to refill, and be generally healthier.

Prescriptions – If you have any medications the doctor is writing prescriptions for, ask if a generic or over the counter version might be just as good. Keep a list of your allergies to medications and read them off to your doctor if they don’t ask you to. This will save you an extra phone call/trip to get a different prescription and potentially some money if you fill it, take it, and THEN find out it doesn’t agree with you. Also, before filling your script, call around and see if its cheaper to get it via automatic refills or mail order – many insurances will give a discount on your copay if you participate in those programs. Also, if you are given antibiotics for an infection, ALWAYS take all the antibiotics. Yes, even if you are feeling 100% better.

Check with your hospital/doctors office to see if you qualify for secondary/supplemental insurance or charity care. Always call to check on your bill before you pay it. Ask if it has been sent out to your insurer, and if they covered the claim. Then check your coverage in your policy to see if they match up. If they don’t, ask the doctor’s office to resubmit the charge and follow up with your insurer to see why it wasn’t covered. Sometimes you can even get discounts for paying in cash, and never sending it to the insurer (if you know it’s something the insurance won’t cover).

Remember that hospital bills are negotiable. If you are uninsured and end up in the emergency room with a $5,000 bill, don’t worry too much, as the bill is inflated to account for the reduced amount the insurance companies pay the hospital.

Save Money at the Pharmacy. Use a small, local pharmacy instead of a chain/big box. I was getting a script filled at CVS for years at my normal RX copay of $10. We moved into a small town and I decided to switch to the local/family-owned pharmacy.  Also, ask your doctor to prescribe generically – literally the EXACT same drug but can be 25% of the price. Generic prescribing is really being pushed by my med school because it could literally save hundreds of millions on health care costs and the only reason it isn’t done is laziness, or if you are cynical, pressure from drug reps.

Suck it up and go for a double room at a hospital. The single rooms might be nicer, sure, but it costs you a heck of a lot more, and generally isn’t worth it (according to patients) if you’re only going to be there for a short period of time.


Other ways to stay healthy without spending money

Reducing stress, meditation, improving social bonds, and reducing exposure to environmental pollutants are also important and have a notable effect on your life expectancy, but you can change how you eat and exercise today. If you do nothing else, do eat more vegetables and fruits, and take a bit for a walk everyday.

What Types of Software Development Jobs Are There?

There are so many different software development jobs out there for people with a computer science degree. There are also lots of jobs out there for people without a computer science degree who are looking to get a career in tech. There are a lot of career paths out there:


Types of Web Developer Jobs

  • Visual designer / UI designer
  • Front-end developer / JavaScript developer / UX developer. To be honest I don’t know the difference between UI and UX.
  • Backend developer / Python|PHP|Java|Rails|Perl|Node|ASP.NET|what have you developer
  • Sysadmin / DevOps
  • Jack-of-all-trades full stack web developer


Mobile developer jobs

  • iOS developer
  • Android developer


Game developer jobs

  • Engine programmer / graphics programmer / physics programmer / network programmer
  • Game designer / scripter
  • Sound designer / composer
  • Artist / 3D artist / 3D modeler
  • Writer
  • Jack-of-all-trades indie game developer


Specialized positions within larger companies

  • SDET / QA
  • Project manager / product manager


Miscellaneous Software Development Job Titles

  • Data scientist / “statistician with software development skills”
  • Computer security professional / information security professional
  • Scientific programmer
  • Quant / financial software developer
  • Embedded systems / robotics / home automation (Arduino / Raspberry Pi being popular with hobbyists)
  • Operating systems / compiler developer
  • Hardware industry / CAD? / low-level drivers


9-5 Software Development Jobs

When I graduate, I don’t want any obligations beyond a 9-to-5 workday. Is web development the right career choice for me? Is there another industry that actually has these magical 9-to-5 jobs?

9-to-5 jobs exist in every industry, it’s more that there are times in every industry for whom working 9-to-5 isn’t enough. The prevailing opinion is that it’s either an issue with culture or with management (like permanently being in “crunch time”). You’re really asking about work/life balance, which is something each company values differently. The only way to get a hold on it is to ask employees how much overtime they worked and how often they had to work overtime.

Talk to the employees of the places that you want to work at, and remember that people who talk shit about the conditions at a company on the internet are often disgruntled for other reasons.

Find a company with a lot of older people. Older people tend to have other obligations in their life rather than work all day such as kids, and you’re set! However,  a company full of older developers may not be a place where you’re going to get experience with new technologies or development approaches. Not trying to be ageist here, but we all get a little bit set in our ways as we get older, and what you need out of school is a lot of exposure to a lot of ideas so that you can find the ones that work best for you.

Also, avoid consulting jobs. Consulting firms generally charge billable hours. You don’t bill lunch, so it’s an 8-5 job. If you have a doctor’s appointment, then you make up the time by working through lunch or staying late or taking vacation time. Because of the billable hours deal, management may pressure you to work late and on weekends. The firm will charge the client for the overtime. You may or may not get paid for it.

How to Switch Careers into Computer Science and Tech

It is definitely possible to switch from many careers into computer science and tech related fields.  Not to say that it’ll be easy, of course to switch careers into a computer science or tech field. But if you’re not liking what you’re doing, absolutely forget what anybody else says! People will discourage you and look at you as if you’re going through some phase. Ignore this. Obviously, you shouldn’t leap into this new area blindly (take finances into consideration) but don’t ever let somebody (even yourself) dissuade you from pursuing what you want to do. Computer science is endlessly rewarding, and you’ll love it.


Switch Careers into Computer Science and Tech Jobs

Many people have a general plan to: (1) learn programming by completing free courses online (I’ve already started at Codecademy), (2) create a portfolio of websites/apps, and then (3) apply to jobs.

  • Is this the right way to go about switching to a CS career after college? Or is there a more effective way to do it?
  • Are there important changes/details I should add to my plan?
  • Are there any potential obstacles?
  • Has anyone else been in a similar situation? What did you do, and how did it go?


Online Courses to Switch Careers into Computer Science

I think that learning online courses is a step in the right direction, but online courses are a bit scattered/fragmented at the moment. The “good stuff” is divided amongst different books and sites and forums – the trick is finding them and tying them together. Codecademy is an amazing resource, but it focuses a tad bit more on breadth than depth, IMHO. There’s a vast difference between learning python syntax and writing an actual (useful) program or script, for example. It’s a good resource to START with. But there are certainly others that you should look into.

Codecademy is great for a beginner learning loops and stuff, but there isn’t much practical programming that will get you a job, it’s certainly not going to be enough to pass a technical interview. MOOCs are awesome for learning new things, but without some sort of documented achievement that you get from an accredited degree path your resume isn’t going to make it past HR.


Attending an Actual University May be Better

The main benefit of attending an actual university is the coherence of the curriculum – you have a set of topics that flow (more or less) into one another. But that’s all, really. After all, what is a class but access to resources and a deadline for assignments? Information and motivation is all you need. Getting this kind of coherent structure in your own study routine will be difficult since resources are fragmented and there will not be the pressure of a deadline to motivate you. THAT BEING SAID, If you are diligent and ORGANIZED with the way you proceed, I think you’ll be well on your way. Get involved with a group, though.

Focusing on one language is best in the beginning. There’s no need to obsess over syntactical differences – the same basic concepts are implemented in similar ways across the languages. This changes a bit as you get more advanced, but it’s fine to focus on one language in the beginning. (For example, each language has a way to create an array. HOW you create it is important, but certainly not as important as knowing WHAT you’re creating and how to use the array after you’ve created it.)


Tips and Resources for Switching Into Computer Science Career

  • Get Eclipse and Sublime Text 2. Eclipse is a free, massively popular IDE for Java, Scala, and other “heavy” programming languages, while ST2 is typically for the “lighter” languages, like Python and Ruby (also massively popular. I use it myself).
  • If you’re looking into web development (HTML/CSS/Javascript/PHP are mostly used in web development) then look up Jeffrey Way’s tutorials. From his tutorials alone, you can learn how to make working websites. For mobile app development, check out youtube and the official websites for Android and iOS. There is really useful “getting started” information on each site.
  • Regardless of the kind of development, everything is going to be hard without knowing the basics: basic data structures like arrays and linked lists, concepts like inheritance and polymorphism. If you want to be a “hobby programmer” on the side, then you may be able to pass and make some quick money with just codecademy and some online tutorials, but for a full-fledged understanding (which is not as intimidating as it sounds) you should invest in some books and tackle them head on.
  • Check out this site for a crap ton of free resources. If you click the “title” box under the search bar, you’ll find more results. Don’t be afraid to look beyond the first page of results for good books, I’ve found gems on the third page.
  • Check out coursera org for online courses. I’d look up the courses on data structures to get started.
  • Code org is a decent collection of resources.
  • w3schools and html net for web development stuff.
  • GOOGLE-FU. Learn how to use Google like a monster. Learn things like using “” and – to modify your search results. A sample google search for me might be something like “prevent sql injection” php -node

This will search for the exact phrase “prevent sql injection” as well as the general term “php.” It will filter out any results that contain the word “node.” (Ignore these terms for now. It was just a sample query). Point is, learn how to google. GOOGLE ALL DAY.

  • Make a stackoverflow account and read their submission guidelines.
  • SO MANY MORE. Feel free to message me at any time for more resources and I’ll send them over if I can. ASK ANY QUESTION YOU HAVE, ABSOLUTELY anything. I’ll help if I can, or direct you to somewhere where you might be able to learn more! Best of luck.


Do you need a Computer Science CS Degree to work as programmer?

The short answer? No, not necessarily, but it will be much harder to break into the industry without one. A degree gives you a rigid program for learning, a baseline of knowledge in CS concepts and programming, proof that you have the work ethic to get through a four-year program, and connections to peers and companies for recruiting. Not having a degree puts you at a disadvantage compared to others who will likely be applying for the same jobs with degrees in hand.

If you can’t or don’t want to get a degree in CS, you’ll need to dedicate yourself to some serious learning, you’ll need to build a strong portfolio, and you’ll probably need to network extensively with industry professional to have your best shot at a job.


Debt Collection Myths When Dealing with Collection Agency

There are hundreds of myths involving credit reports, scores, and collection agencies. Here are some of the most common myths we’ve run across:

Common Debt Collection Myths

“If I don’t pay the debt(s), I will go to jail
Ok, maybe if we lived over 100 years ago! This is one of the most ridiculous myths out there by far, and the worst thing about this myth? Collections Agencies  use this as a terror tactic to get debtors to pay. Now, you will hear about people in the news who have gone to jail stemming from debts owed, but if you look at the case closely, it’s not that they didn’t pay their debts that landed them in jail, it’s that they defied a judge’s order to pay said debts.

“The person I talked to said they were a lawyer and therefore wasn’t governed by the FDCPA/FCRA”
No wonder lawyers get a bad rap, they make it themselves! This is FALSE. The FDCPA states that ANY person/lawyer or firm that is hired to collect on a debt, is considered a debt collector and thus falls under the rules of the FDCPA.

“Talking to a collection agency resets the statute of limitations/collection clock”
This is incorrect. Simply talking to them does NOT reset the SOL/collection clock. However it’s what you SAY that can make a difference. If you make a partial payment, verify the debt as yours, or infer that you CAN make a partial/full payment, THAT resets the SOL/collection clock.

“The creditor charged-off the amount owed, so now I don’t owe the debt!”
A charge-off doesn’t mean the debt isn’t owed, or that it goes away, it just simply means the creditor has given up on collecting. . Any CA can purchase the debt and attempt collections. An additional ramification to this is that you may get a 1099 from the OC for the amount charged off. The IRS deems this as income, so you may owe taxes on it!

“I have a debt incurred in another state across the country. Recently I received a call from a CA, in the current state I’m in, regarding the debt I owe in the other state. They said the SOL regarding the debt “travels” with the debtor, thus I have to go by the SOL in the state I currently reside in”
This is a common ruse used by CAs. They know the majority of debtors don’t know the rules and their rights afforded them. This is false. The SOL on a debt is taken from the state the debt was incurred in. If you have a debt in OR, and moved to TX, where TX has a longer SOL on certain debts, the SOL doesn’t “travel”/”update” to the state you reside in, but stays with the state the debt was incurred in.

“If I pay a debt owed in collections, it will be removed from my credit report”
Paying a debt owed on your CR does NOT remove the negative mark. It stays on there! The only thing that will change is that the debt will be updated to say “paid in full” or something similar. The DOLA will also change to the date you paid the debt.

“If I pay a debt owed in collections, my credit score will increase”
Again, no. A paid debt in collections is no better than a debt owed simply because the damage is already done by the negative item showing on your report. The ONLY way to increase your score is to remove the negative item by doing a “pay for delete”. However if you’re going to be making a large purchase, like a house, the lending institution/bank may want to see the debt paid before they will lend monies. Thus a paid debt on your report would be beneficial. Again, the DOLA would be updated, BUT your score would not increase.

“When I applied for credit, the bank said I had a zero(0) credit score, and therefore was denied”
This is impossible. You either have a credit score or you don’t have a credit score. If you don’t have a credit score, it’s because there isn’t enough information in your credit file to determine a score. However, lending institutions may have their OWN method of calculating a credit score, or they rely on another credit scoring system(other than FICO) to generate a number for you.

“It’s been 10 years since I’ve last heard from a collection agency on a debt. Today I get a call from a different collection agency saying I owe the debt”
Nothing prohibits a collector from calling about it, nor do they have to cease attempting to collect on a debt. In most states, the amount is still owed, but the collections agency is simply not allowed to sue. Reference the FTC guidelines on time-barred debts.

“If I pay a debt owed in collections, and it has been removed from my report, I will never see/hear about the debt again.”
This is one of the most contentious myths out there that confuses a lot of people. Sure, in a perfect world, you paid a debt and it SHOULD NOT come back on your report. However a month, two months, a year or maybe even longer, you get your report and there is that damn debt again! How can this be? You paid the debt, but it’s still there! The problem is that there is NO database that CAs keep or follow that shows which debts are paid and which debts are owed. So your debt can literally be sold over and over and over, which means it will show it’s ugly face again and again and again on your report. It is than up to YOU, as the debtor, to provide the necessary documentation that the debt was paid, or that it is past the SOL. The good news is that if you can prove the debt has been paid, or past the SOL, the negative item can be quickly removed.

“I missed a payment than brought my account current for several months, than missed another payment and have not made a payment since. What is the date of first delinquency, the first time I missed a payment, or the last time a payment was made?”
The DOFD is the last time a payment was made and the account was never brought current. So if you missed Jan 1 payment, that would be the DOFD. However, if you brought the account current Feb1 and made several on-time payments but missed the May 1 payment and never made another payment, May 1 would be the new DOFD.

“I’ve disputed an error on my report and have proved the information is wrong, yet the CRA hasn’t removed the negative item. Oh well, I guess it will stay there”
Part of the FCRA is that you have a legal right to dispute incorrect information on your reports, and if the information contained in it is incorrect, you have the right to request it be removed. The FCRA also states that the CRAs are required to fix any incorrect information or face legal action. In many cases, the CRAs are understaffed and move like molasses. Hiring a lawyer may be the best option, plus if you can prove you suffered damages, you can sue.

“I requested a ‘pay for delete’ from a CA and they refused, insisting I pay the full amount. Aren’t they legally required to accept a ‘pay for delete’?”
No. A pay for delete is an option a debtor has, however the CAs are NOT REQUIRED to accept it. In fact, they may not be allowed to accept it if the debt they are collecting on is assigned debt and the OC wants the full amount. More on that in the “Pay for Delete” heading below.

“I received a call from a CA for an amount owed to the OC, but they’re adding “X” amount to the original debt as interest and fees, can they do this?”
Typically, NO. Not unless your original contract with the OC allows for this, or your state law allows for this. Otherwise, they cannot add on any interest, fees, or other charges.

Common Debt and Credit Repair Terms

Knowing credit repair terms is essential. Dealing with debt collections agencies can be very frustrating for many consumers. One of the most difficult parts of dealing with a debt collection agency including the debt collection vocabulary that they are using. Below is a list of most commonly used terms, their abbreviations and their meanings in alphabetical order of common credit repair terms.


What is Assigned Debt?

Assigned Debt This is the most typical kind of medical debt, and usually the easiest to negotiate a settlement offer. Not 100% sure as to why it’s so easy to settle, I think it’s because the hospitals just want to get anything they can. This is when a creditor “gives” or “assigns” the debt to a collection agency for them to collect. The collection agency gets a percentage of the amount collected or a set amount, by the creditor upon a successful collection. Collection Agencies take their cues from the original creditors, if the original creditor won’t allow a settlement offer less than 100% of the amount owed, the collection agency can’t offer or accept anything other than 100% of the amount owed. Simple as that.


What is Purchased Debt?

Purchased Debt This is the most common type of junk debt that collection agencies purchase. It can be literally any type of debt that a collection agency purchases to attempt collections on. Typically credit cards, etc..


What is Bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy The legal proceedings to discharge your debts owed under the various chapters 7/13 (or Chapter 20 as some call it when people do a 7 followed by a 13 a bit after). A bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years before it will fall off. Chapter 7 is a “clean slate” where almost all your debts are forgiven. Chapter 13 is a payment plan program where you make a set amount of payments for a set amount of years. Failure to abide by the payments and payment dates can toss the proceedings as well as any fraudulent activities. Many of the other credit repair terms are related to bankruptcy.


What is a Charge-Off?

Charge-Off  This is the accounting term a creditor uses when they have decided to move your debt owed off of their books to the “bad debt” ledger. You will most likely get a 1099-C form listing the debt owed as income from the IRS. Why, because the IRS deems the forgiven amount as income! Another important thing to remember is that a charge-off does NOT mean the debt is forgiven, or that it disappears! It just means the creditor has decided it is no longer worth their effort to collect and is then sold to collection agencies as junk debt.


What is a Collection Agency?

Collection Agency These are firms that specialize in buying junk debt, and pursue collection activities against debtors. Some follow the rules in collecting, but the majority do what they can to collect.


What is a Collection Clock?

Collection Clock This is in reference to the amount of time a debt can be collected on, tied with the statute of limitations listed below. This term is interchangeable with the statute of limitations term because each state is different in regards to the amount of time allocated for various debts. This also is tied with collection agencies as depending on what you say to them, it can reset the collection clock/statute of limitations on said debts owed. More on that in the examples to follow. Also tied to the Date of Last Activity.


What is a Credit Reporting Agency?

Credit Reporting Agency(CRA) These are in reference to the big 3 reporting agencies: Equifax(EQ), TransUnion(TU) and Experian(EX;) that list, and report your credit history. Make sure you understand credit reports and that your report is accurate.


Who is a Creditor?

Creditor. This is the bank/lending institution(or a personal acquaintance in bankruptcy proceedings) that a debt is owed to.


What is a Credit Report?

Credit Report Just as it states, given by the big three credit reporting agencies.


What is Certified, Return Receipt requested(CRRR/CRR)?

Certified, Return Receipt requested(CRRR/CRR) Actually two terms in one. Certified Mail, and Return Receipt requested. This involves delivering mail through the USPS. This is very important when communicating with collection agencies and the credit reporting agencies, as letters sent CRRR are physical proof of your attempt to contact/deliver correspondence and they are literally impossible to refute.

What is Date of First Delinquency(DOFD/DFD)?

Date of First Delinquency(DOFD/DFD) Just as it states, the date the credit line was FIRST delinquent. This is often confused with the Date of Last Activity(DOLA) but it is VERY important to be able to differentiate between the two. This affects the date to which the negative credit line will remain and eventually fall off your report. IT CANNOT BE CHANGED, except if a judgment has been issued against you! Many collections agencies try to change this as it affects how they can collect on delinquent accounts, but it is ILLEGAL and is known as re-aging. Debts fall off your report 7.5 years from the DOFD.


What is Date of Default (DD)

Date of Default(DD) The date the original account became 180 days past due. Debts fall off your report 7 years from the DD.

What is Date of Last Activity(DOLA)?

Date of Last Activity(DOLA) Again, just as it states. This refers to the date that any activity, whether it be a partial payment, full payment, etc. or debt validation was made on the credit line. As with the DOFD, collection agencies use this as a way of collecting, and it affects their collecting practices. This is tied with the statute of limitations/collection clock.


What is Debt Validation(DV)?

Debt Validation(DV) The process by which a collection agency MUST, BY LAW, validate the debt they are attempting to collect on. More on this below.


Who is a Debtor?

Debtor – This is the individual(for this purpose) that owes a debt to a creditor.


What is the Fair Credit Reporting Act(FCRA)?

Fair Credit Reporting Act(FCRA) In a nutshell, the law/act that controls the behavior of credit reporting agencies(CRAs) and specifically outlines what they can and cannot do, plus your rights.


What is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)?

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) This outlines what collection agencies CAN & CANNOT do to collect on a debt. This is VERY IMPORTANT and I urge everyone to read up on their rights. In a nutshell it determines WHO they can contact about a debt owed, WHAT they can and cannot say, WHEN you can be contacted, and HOW you can be contacted. Keep in mind that violations can lead to legal claims against the collection agencies. Fair, Issac & Company(FICO) Started by a mathematician and engineer in 1956, they provide analytic and decision making services, primarily credit scores, for financial lending institutions. In a nutshell, they guesstimate how much of a credit risk you are based on past credit/lending practices. Scores range from 300-850. One either HAS a credit score within the range, or THEY DON’T have a credit score. One CANNOT have a ZERO(0) credit score.


What is a Judgement?

Judgment This is closely tied to the statute of limitations, the collection clock, and the various forms of bankruptcy. When a judgment is issued against a debtor, it means a judge has listened to both parties(collection agency & debtor) and found the debtor liable for the amount asked for by the collection agency. The original debt amount may include attorneys fees, interest, filing fees, etc, anything related to suing the debtor. This AUTOMATICALLY resets the Date of First Delinquency to the date the judgement was issued, and is the ONLY thing that can change the DOFD. The new reporting time is now 7 years from the date the judgement was issued. Judgements stays ”active” for 10 years, and in some states 20 years. This means a collection agency has 10 years to garnish your wages, put liens on your property, seize bank accounts, etc. to collect the judgement owed. If they fail to do so within those ten years, most states allow a judgment to reset for another 10 years, and they allow the collection agency to continue resetting the clock indefinitely, thus literally making the debt never go away.


What is a dormant judgment?

If a judgment reaches the 10 year limit, IT DOES NOT GO AWAY, it becomes dormant. The good news is that while the judgement is dormant, it cannot be collected upon! The collection agency has to file to re-activate the judgment before they can attempt to collect on it. However any collection attempts on a dormant judgement can lead to monetary fines against the collection agency. If a person is ever summoned to appear in court, do not ignore it. This is the single most important thing you need to make sure you don’t miss! Failure to answer a summons means an automatic default judgement against you!


What is a Junk Debt Buyer?

Junk Debt Buyer These are ALL the charged-off accounts that creditors deem unworthy to collect that are bunched together and sold for pennies on the dollar to whichever collection agency will buy them. The collection agency will then turn around and attempt to collect from the debtors, often for the full amount or a settled amount.

Who is the Original Creditor?

Original Creditor The creditor to whom the original debt is owed to. This is VERY IMPORTANT when dealing with collection agencies.


What is Pay for Delete?

Pay for Delete The process where you pay an agreed upon amount with the original creditor OR a collection agency, and in return they remove the negative mark from your credit report. Note that collection agencies are NOT legally required to accept these, an in cases of assigned debt, they may not be allowed to.


What is Re-Aging?

Re-Aging  This is the process where the collection agency lists an old debt, past the collection reporting period, with a newer date on your credit report in order to try and collect on said debt. THIS IS ILLEGAL, and CANNOT be done. The collection agency can be fined if they continue to report the debt after they’ve been informed its past the reporting clock.


What is a Debt Settlement?

Settlement  The monetary agreement that a debtor and a collection agency arrive at, to satisfy a debt is a common credit repair term. This could be for the full price, half price or a fraction of the full amount.  This is the amount of time set by a state(for this purpose) that determines the amount of time legal proceedings may be brought up against a debtor to collect on a debt. In other words, the amount of time a collection agency can legally collect on a debt. This is tied with the collections clock and the statute of limitations, and CAN BE RESET if the wrong words are used when communicating with a collection agency.


What are Time-Barred Debts?

Time-Barred Debts This refers to debts that are PAST the statute of limitations and therefore CANNOT be legally pursued. This does NOT mean the debt ISN’T owed, just that a collection agency cannot legally pursue collections.

Tips for Dealing with Collection Agencies FDCPA and FCRA

What is the FDCPA/FCRA, and how does it relate to dealing with collection agencies?

In a nutshell,  the FDCPA and FCRA were laws put into effect in 1977 (about when credit cards were available to the masses) that creditors collecting on debts could not burden a debtor for life. Thus the 7.5 year reporting time and the statute of limitations were implemented. Basically stated, creditors have a set limited amount of time to report and collect on legally owed debts. This provides protection to consumers or debt because there is a defined period of time when a debt can no longer be enforced by a creditor. Read about should you default on credit card debt?

Remember, that this is your credit report you’re dealing with, and anything negative listed can/will affect your job, housing, banking, loans, education, and general overall health. Having a correct report is vital! Again, this is a viable tool afforded to you in dealing with debts, whether you think it’s moral or not. Know your rights can give you enormous leverage when dealing with debt collections agencies.


Collection Agency Laws: What is the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)?

It was also decided that to protect debtors/consumers, a set of rules and regulations were needed to protect them and to control what could and couldn’t be reported on their credit reports. There are also many collection agency laws that must be followed in the collection of debt. This came to be called the Fair Credit Reporting Act or FCRA, and was implemented in October 1970. It was also decided that collection agencies had to follow a set of rules and regulations when attempting to collect. This was called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or FDCPA.

These collection agency laws mostly apply to third party debt collectors, and not original creditors. However some states have similar consumer protection laws that mirror the FDCPA. The FDCPA covers debts by consumers, and not businesses. Every time a debtor uses credit from a lender, both debtor and the lender are subject to the rules and laws of the FDCPA and FCRA. Fair debt collection must take place or there could be significant penalties.


Tips on Dealing with Collection Agencies

Dealing with collection agencies can be very hard for most consumers. Remember, Collection agencies have one goal in mind: to get as much money from you as they can. It doesn’t matter to them how they do this, and in cases of unscrupulous Collections Agencies, it doesn’t matter what they say to achieve their goal.

Collection agencies do not care about your hardships, or that your spouse was in an accident and was the sole earner. They do not care that you got sick and missed two pay checks and thus fell behind on bills. They want the money.  Is some cases, as in assigned debt, the faster they collect from you the higher their commission. Typically, they’ll pay pennies on the dollar but will still want all of the debt owed.


Common Tips when Dealing with Collections Agencies

This is merely a guideline, and everyone has a unique situation. If you think your situation is particulary complex or confusing, make sure to reach out to a lawyer or credit counsleor who may provide lots of assistance in dealing with collection agencies. However, there are a few basic points that are common for everyone:


Send Certified Mail to Collections Agencies

All written communication should be sent Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested with the collections agency.  Sending a written dispute letter (and keeping a copy for yourself) provides you with the date the letter was accepted by the debt collection agency. This not only creates a paper trail, but also starts the clock to which a Credit Reporting Agency or a Collections Agency must abide by.

If you’re having trouble disputing a mark with Credit Reporting Agencies (or CRAs, like TransUnion, Equifax, Experian), it’s often recommended to send your dispute via Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested. This is in contrast to online dispute letters via the Reporting Agency’s website.


Fair Debt Collection Laws

Know your rights under Federal debt law This is where looking up the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) helps you. It allows you to retaliate if the Collections Agency is using abusive, unfair, or deceptive methods to collect from you. It also provides the guidelines for when and how they can contact you. Debt collections agencies must adhere to the following guidelines when contacting you:

  • They are not allowed to contact you before 8 AM, or after 9PM unless you agree to it.
  • They are not allowed to contact you at work if you have informed them, via writing or orally, that you are not allowed to get calls there.
  • You are allowed to request the Collections Agency to stop contacting you via phone, and they will be required to continue only via written communication.
  • They are not allowed to share the details of the account with anyone except the debtor.

If you wish to cease communications via phone, get their address, send them a letter via Certified Mail (Return Receipt Requested), and specifically tell them to only communicate via writing. Keep a copy of the letter for future reference, as well as the number the USPS uses to track the letter.


Possibly Record Calls with Debt Collectors

Know your state’s telephone recording laws. When you can, record the conversation. Some states require that only one person needs to know that the telephone conversation is being recorded; in that case, it would be you. This is to keep track of the Collections Agencies to ensure they are not infringing on your rights. If they do, you can pursue them for damages. There are recording apps for most smartphones that you may wish to look into.

Recording does two things: It informs the collections agency that they are being recorded (which may encourage them to cooperate), and the record becomes evidence that can be used in a court of law.

If you cannot record, due to state laws (or you just don’t have the capability to do so), keep a log book of your interactions with the collections agency. Write down the time, the date, and what was said. Write down what they requested, what you responded, and so on. A log book can be used as evidence. Let them talk. Let them go through their spiel. Write down everything if you aren’t recording: for future reference, and to check against your records (it could simply be that they have the wrong person).

Tell Debt Collectors to Stop Calling You

Request the collections agency mailing address. Repeat it back to them to confirm. If you don’t want them to contact you again via phone, inform them. Be very clear about it. Repeat it in the certified letter you send to them. You may also inform them to not contact you at your work too. Repeat that in the certified letter as well. Once they have been informed they cannot contact you at your place of business or your personal number, they can only contact you to inform you that they won’t contact you again (or if they are informing you of legal action). Any other contact contact via phone is a violation of the FDCPA.

Have Debt Collectors Mail Information

Request they send the account information via mail. This is important! You are requesting they send all the information about the delinquent account to you in writing. This is will allow you to have the documentation in your hands, where you can look at each piece versus trying to remember it in your head. It also prevents you from saying something that can hurt you legally: Admitting you owe the debt (even if you’re not sure), agreeing to make a payment, or inferring that you can make a payment. All these things may hurt you.


Fair Debt Collection Laws: Request a Debt Verification Notice

Request a Debt Verification Notice. You should clearly state something along the lines of “This is not an admission of owing the debt, but I need the information regarding said debt to verify whether or not it is indeed mine. Please send me a validation notice. Please send the information to […].” A validation notice is just that: it notifies you of the amount of the debt owed, the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed, and directions on how to proceed if you think you don’t owe the debt. The collections agency must send the validation notice to you within five days of the initial phone call. Failure to send it is a violation of the FDCPA, and if you’ve recorded the call, you can use that in court.


Debt Collector Harassment

If at any point the Collections Agency becomes aggressive, rude, or keeps repeating the question of when you can make a payment, just hang up. Simple as that. If by this point you have not requested they cease calling you, make sure you inform them the next time they call. (And they will call again!) Even if you have to talk over them, keep repeating yourself. Again, if you are recording the call, this can be used as evidence.


Debt Validation Letters

Once you receive the validation notice, even if you know you owe the debt, send a debt validation letter within 30 days of receiving the Collection Ageny’s validation notice. If you believe in good faith that the debt is in error, send them a dispute letter stating the debt is not yours. Even if you know you owe the debt, the collections agencies must prove that you owe the debt. Failure to provide these important details means the agency is not legally entitled to collect said debt. They should be able to answer the following questions:

  • Is the amount shown the actual amount owed?
  • Has there been any interest or other charges added, and are the interest and the other charges added legally?
  • Where is the original contract stating the details of the terms of the debt?


Validating a Debt with a Collections Agency

It is your lawful right to request that the Collections Agency validate a debt they are trying to collect on. Once you have requested a debt validation, by law, the Collections Agency must stop collection attempts. If they continue to do so, the debtor can sue. A debtor can dispute all (or a portion) of said debt, and it all begins with a collection notice.

Once a collection notice has been received, the debtor has 30 days to respond. Failure to respond verifies said debt automatically. If a notice to verify said debt is sent within 30 days of the initial collection attempt, than the Agency must stop collection attempts until the required information verifying the debt is provided.


Debt Collector Harassment

There is no time requirement within which a Collections Agency needs to validate the debt. They could take a week, a month, a year, or longer; but during that time period, collections must cease.

The first step a CA has to take when attempting to collect on a debt is to verify that you indeed do owe said debt(s). Unfortunately, there are only two things that a CA needs to provide:

  • The name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed to.
  • The amount of the debt owed.

Collection Agency Harassment

One should always request a Collections Agency to verify the debt, as well as request the address to the Original Creditor to whom the debt is owed to. Once again, all communications should be in writing, sent Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested via the USPS.

Please note that there are certain instances when verifying a debt could cause more damage than intended. For instance, it makes no sense to request a verification on a debt that is at or near the Statute of Limitation or that is at or near the reporting clock. Doing so only increases the chance that Collections takes legal action while they still can.


What Happens if a Collections Agency Sues you?

DON’T PANIC! You MUST answer the lawsuit! Failure to do so (failure to show) results in an automatic default judgment against you! This judgement wrecks your score and it can literally take years for it to go away. See “Judgment” in the terms listed below for additional information. I would highly suggest you retain the services of a competent lawyer at this point.

When do debt collectors sue a debtor?

Typically one gets sued over a very high amount debt, and as a last resort when the SOL is nearing on said debt. I liken it to the “Hail Mary” play in football. The CAs know that time is running out and there’s just enough time left to get one last play in. What is the “Hail Mary”? It’s a trick play. Just like it is in football, so it is in collecting. I typically find that the CAs DON’T have the required documentation to prove the debt belongs to the debtor. So much so that before entering the court room, the CAs attempt to get the debtor to pay something to “avoid the unpleasantries of a court battle.” However when asked for proof of the original contract, or to provide the debtors signature, etc. they’re all thumbs! It’s their last scare tactic.

Negotiating a promotion/raise from the lens of a Manager

I think there are three big points that sometimes people miss when they haven’t been managers themselves. Part of your manager’s job is to keep you employed at the minimum salary that it will take to keep you employed. This is the biggest factor that all managers will consider when negotiating raises with their employees.


Negotiating a Raise with a Manger

This is just reality. Companies overall are driven by profit, and for a lot of companies it’s their operating costs that can really drive that profit. Not being able to keep salaries in check can become a huge problem in industries that are constrained in their revenue making ability. As a manager, you are expected to represent the interests of the company, and for better or worse, the interest of most companies is to generate profit for either their owners or shareholders/investors, not to share all profit with the workforce.

This is important to keep in mind because it can help you clear up the dynamic between where you, your boss and the company stand. While your boss may like you, appreciate you as an employee, and want to keep you around, he/she will know that there is a limit as to what they can do to keep you, because there is an expectation that they are putting the company’s interests above theirs.

Salary Raise Negotiations

The only way to be able to put legitimate pressure on an employer is by being willing to take a better offer, and that starts with having one. When I say “offer in your back pocket”, I mean that you and only you knows that you have that offer. The goal is to be able to walk into a negotiation with a clear idea in your head of what it will take to keep you (say, 10% raise), and to be willing and able to walk away if you don’t get that. The only way to be able to walk away on the spot, and as a result to negotiate with the appropriate level of conviction, is to have an existing offer to literally walk away.


How Much Should Employees Get Paid?

And part of that philosophy is valid, i.e., you should be doing more than just giving more money to your employees, and some of your ability to retain them should hinge on that. Put a different way: if, as a manager, the only way you can retain people is by paying them more money, you are probably a really bad person to work for. For most people with good managers, one of the big negatives of taking another job is knowing that there is a chance that your next manager won’t be any good.

Managers have to invest a good amount of time, goodwill and political capital to get an employee a raise. Unless you are the CEO, arguing for an employee to get a raise or promotion (especially off-schedule ones) takes valuable resources for a manager. It’s not like you can go into your boss’ office and just get one done on the spot. Most companies are going to require multiple layers of red tape to get there, and in general, will require you spending some of your probably limited “goodwill” budget on it. Thinking of it a different way, for every raise that you are able to secure for one of your direct reports, there’s another one that you won’t be able to get.


When do Managers Give Raises?

Because of that, managers will tend to a) stick to doing promotions and raises during performance evaluation periods when possible, b) only push above and beyond what HR/upper management wants to do if they feel they need to in order to keep some of their top performers around.

That means that if you are someone who wants a 3% raise off-schedule, it’s not going to happen. Not because you aren’t worth the 3%, and not because 3% is a lot of money to the company, but because the level of effort required to get you that 3% raise is not proportional to the probability that you will leave if you do not get a 3% raise.


How to Increase Your Chance of a Bigger Raise?

If you want to increase your chances of getting those bigger raises, the best thing you can do (other than kicking ass at your job), is to figure out a way to plant the idea in your boss’ head that you do expect a significant raise/promotion when the time comes. How you do it depends on you, your industry, your boss, etc., but there is normally a way to bring up the fact that you are doing a great job, and you want to understand what is the plan for compensating that.

Since they require great performance, end of big projects, intermediate performance reviews, and any conversation where you doing your job well is the topic of conversation are great places to bring this up.

It may sound like “I’m glad to hear that you appreciate my work. I wanted you to know that I put a lot of time and dedication into my work to ensure that I give you the best possible results. With that in mind, I wanted to know what I need to do to make sure that I am in position to get promoted”

You want to bring this up as something that you put on yourself (“what can I do?”), but really use it as an opening for your boss to either tell you “I think you’re doing a great job and this is when I think we can talk promotion” or “I don’t think you’re ready yet and this is why”.

The answer really doesn’t matter as much as the seed that you have planted. The seed that you have planted tells your boss “hey, this person is concerned about their compensation”. The reason it is important is because it gives your manager time to plan out their strategy for doing whatever it is they need to do to give you a raise IF they think you deserve on AND if they think you are a risk to leave if you don’t get one. And that gives you the best possible odds.

How to get a raise if you are underpaid?

To those asking “I am underpaid, have been for a while; how do I get a raise?” Sadly, there is a very decent chance that your only way to get a raise is to leave. Organizations that underpay, tend to do so knowingly. If you challenge that, you will most likely get a spiel about how lucky you should consider yourself to work here, or get a carrot dangled in your face.

As I mentioned earlier, your best bet is to go get another offer for two reasons: Firstly, you need an exit plan. Secondly, you need to know what your market value is. Once you have that, it’s a lot easier to make that decision.

I think that a lot of people stick to a job because they take on the mentality of “how do I get my current employer to pay me what I’m worth?”, which sometimes is a losing proposition. What you should be asking instead is “how do I maximize my long term income?”, and that will be a combination of taking the right short term moves and positioning yourself for bigger long term moves.


Mangers Know that they are Underpaying

Often times, a manager knows they are underpaying someone they want to keep, but have no recourse to keep them. When you become a manager, you will one day run into an employee who you know you cannot keep. Period. They are just too good, rising too fast and have too marketable of a skillset for your company to be able to handle them correctly. In part because most companies are just not willing to promote people faster than a certain cadence (normally 1.5-2 years), but more importantly because people that rise too fast will always be seen through the lens of “is that sustainable? Can I believe that small of a sample set?”

If you have an employee that is able to make strides in his first 3 months at the job and is taking care of things that even people who have been there for 3 years can’t do, would you promote him after 3 months?

Probably not. You’d probably wait and see if he can keep it up for at least a year. Let’s say this person is a true rockstar; at the end of that year, this person has now exceeded expectations again, and though they were ready for a promotion to Senior X in month 3, maybe they are now halfway to being qualified for being Manager. Even if you are well ahead of the curve and promote them after a year, you have now found yourself behind the growth curve of that employee. And at that point, it’s impossible to recover, because that employee will likely continue to grow faster than you promote him.

So what happens? Sooner or later, another company comes along which has a) an opening, b) the budget, c) enough desperation that they are willing to hire someone slightly above their fighting weight just because they see potential. And then you find yourself as a manager trying to counteroffer a 35% raise and a two-level promotion. And you know at that point that a) you can’t do anything about it now, b) you probably never stood a chance, c) even if you do fight this one off, you will have to fight it again soon enough.


What to do if you are not getting promoted?

If you are one of those employees, the ones that rise faster than they are promoted, I have three pieces of advice for you:

  1. Don’t take it personally You are not getting promoted because you’re breaking some of the unspoken rules of HR and you just don’t fit their mold. Odds are your manager wants to keep you, but they know they can’t, and that will probably come across as not trying. Rest assured that if you are that good, they know, you know, the company knows, but they also know that they have a very limited number of options that won’t create political nuclear war from developing inside the organization.
  2. Move often. If you are truly one of these people, you will suffer if you stay at a job more than a couple of years. The only key is that you can’t just chase money – you have to chase better titles, situations and companies. No one will judge you for leaving a company after two years if your move was warranted by a big promotion, or moving to a bigger player in the industry, or just landing in a better group with a better reputation. People will judge your resume if they see you take parallel jobs every other year, because they will know that you are just chasing money.
  3. Avoid under all circumstances to burn bridges. The same person that thought you were so good they couldn’t keep you around may be the first person to come calling when they think they have an opportunity that does match your resume, especially when red tape is not as much of an issue because you are being hired from the outside. Leave on good terms, be polite, try to help on your way out. Every good impression you make while leaving could become the difference maker in your ability to reconnect with an important “in” for a future job opportunity.

Should you ever default on credit card debt?

What happens if you default on your debt to credit card companies?

Default on credit card debt consequences can vary dramatically. In case you’re unclear on what defaulting on a credit card means, let me explain what this means. After you’ve failed to make a payment on your credit card for 180 days, your credit card issuer assumes you’re probably never going to pay them. At this point, the credit card issuer will close your credit card, write off what you owe as bad debt and sell your account to a collections agency. Read some more about what it means to default on a credit card.

The banks will go nuts for the first 180 days. When they call, tell them that they have the wrong number. Or change your number if possible. You can also screen your calls and then call the company’s general number and complain that they’re leaving messages for someone who had the number before you. Collections are aggressive, but they’re not the sharpest knives in the drawer. Don’t feel bad about lying to them because they will lie to you. If they get really nasty, take them to small claims under the FDCPA. You can win up to $1,500 if they violate the FDCPA.


Will banks sue you for defaulting on credit cards?

No, you won’t be sued. And even if they do, I’ll tell you how to handle it later. They rarely sue because that involves a few thousand to a lawyer and there’s an old saying in the biz, “don’t throw good money after bad.” Getting a judgment is easy. Collecting a judgment is an expensive pain in the balls. Anyone they send after you to collect judgment will probably want 50% and, after the lawyer’s costs and everything, they usually end up further in the hole. Which is why they rarely sue.


What happens after you default on credit card debt?

OK, you’ve defaulted. Do not worry about your credit score. Yes, it will go down, but that can be fixed. I’ll get to that later. You don’t need it unless you’re buying a house or car or something big. You don’t want to open another credit card, that’s for sure, so it’s not a big deal if it takes a hit.

After 180 days, GAAP requires banks to take bad debt off the books. This is a charge off. Statistically, when debt is over 180 days, the recovery rates are somewhere below 1%. It’s dead, and then your debt gets shuffled off to collection agencies. Bad debt gets traded around in portfolios. People buy it for pennies on the dollar (it’s worth less the older it gets) and the person who buys your $6k debt might only have $200 or $300 into it. If they can’t collect, they then sell it to someone else.


Default on credit card debt consequences

This is where you can cut a deal. I’ve seen some go as low as 10% to pay off a debt. Usually, you’re looking at 40%-50% or so. This is where your savings come in. Go to whoever holds your $6k card and offer them $2k to settle it. If they only have a few hundred into buying it, that’s a good deal for them. That’s a profit and they know they’re not going to get the whole thing. They’re used to these deals and 95% of the stuff they’re chasing has no money in it at all.


What happens to credit card debt when you settle with bank after defaulting on credit card debt?

When you settle, you can also include a provision requiring them to remove all negative credit information. Most will agree because it costs them nothing, means nothing to them, and – hey – they get paid if they agree.

What you want is Nolo’s book on bankruptcy and credit repair. Nolo is good and they will have all the correct letters and forms for you. Use it and be sure to follow up with the credit reporting agencies.

Do this and you’ll get out of debt in 12-18 months and have a perfect credit score. It’ll cost you $3k-$5k total. You will then have to begin the long process of rebuilding your credit score and coming back from defaulting on credit card debt.


Should you feel morally bad if you default on credit card debt?

Morally? Look, you guys have paid so much interest that you’ve already paid the bank back. Get your statements and add it up. You’ve probably repaid the debt already, so don’t worry too much about their bottom line. Further, even if they take a loss, who cares? Banks don’t pay any taxes and get to borrow at 0% from the fed, so they’re making huge profits at taxpayer expense. Do not feel bad for the banks. They get every possible advantage while holding your face down in the mud. Default is legal and this is what happens when you default. Default might be your best option.

What happens if a bank sues you after you default on credit card debt?

Oh, forgot to cover what happens if they sue. Like I said, this probably won’t happen. But if they sue and win, the judgment rate will be lower than your usual rate! Most courts have a low interest rate for judgments, often 5% to 10%, simple interest. The freakin’ court will give you a better interest rate than the banks do! So the absolute worst case scenario is that you will end up paying less than you are today!

Also, courts everywhere are backed up like crazy. If they do file suit, file a reply and the trial date will probably be 12-36 months out. Yeah, really. So that would be 12-36 months where you could save up and make offers to settle. They will settle. Further, the court will have some kind of mediation system where you can go in and bargain. So, really, do not worry about being sued. Even if that happens, you will be better off than you are today.

Seriously, default is a no-lose scenario. No matter what happens, you’ll be better off. More people should do this.

Best Cash Back Credit Cards for 2016

What are Points Credit Cards?

“Points” Cards: These cards have points worth a “set” amount. For the majority of banks and most of the time, that means that 1 point = 1 cent, though there are exceptions. So for example, the Chase Freedom offers a 10,000 point bonus if you meet the minimum spend requirements. This is equal to 100 dollars in rewards points. In general, a credit card issuer will offer statement credit, gift cards or travel redemption that are worth 1 point/cent, however certain redemption such as products they sell may have a point value less than one point. There are some credit card points programs that don’t even use points, such as the Discover It, which instead calculates your earnings in real dollars.Because of the many benefits they offer, we’ve been writing about rewards credit cards for years now. However, the fact that there are so many new cards entering and leaving the marketplace means there’s a lot to keep tabs on

What are Cash Back Credit Cards?

“Pure Cashback” Cards: This is a very rare category of cards, where instead of allowing many different types of redemptions like most fixed value credit cards, you can only redeem for cash, which is deposited directly into your bank account. An example is the Capital One Quicksilver, 1.5% cashback card, which can deposit your cashback either annually or once you hit a set amount. The Fidelity 2% Amex credit card requires you to have an open fidelity account, but has no account minimum. The only downside is foreign transaction fees (FX) and being an Amex credit card, it isn’t accepted everywhere. Another example is the Spark Cash Business credit card, earning 2% on every purchase.


What are “Miles” Credit Cards?

“Miles” credit cards: These are essentially the same as “points” cards because they have a set value, so for this purpose they are not considered a separate category. For example, the Capital One Venture and Barclay Arrival both offer “miles” as their reward, but make no mistake, this is a marketing trick. These miles are the same as a fixed value card in that the miles are worth a set amount, namely 1 cent/point. These are not the same as Frequent Flyer miles. The downside to both these cards is that they can only be used to redeem for travel (buses, subways, flights, rental cars etc.) without significant value loss. If you try to redeem them for other products, they become worth only 0.5 cents. Getting a Miles credit card could be a good idea if you think you will want to use travel reward redemption in the future.


How to Value Credit Card Miles and Value Credit Card Points?

First lets compare the cards. Both give 2% back, AF waived for first year. C1 is $59/yr after that and Arrival is $89/yr. Arrival also offers 10% rebate on any points redeemed. They both limit redemptions to “travel” purchases. The 10% rebate effectively makes the Arrival a 2.2% earning card. The arrival has a few nice features. It is a chip and pin, which is crucial for overseas travel, and also comes with a free FICO score and Tripit Pro (normally $49), but let’s ignore that for a few minutes.


Calculate the Value of Credit Card Points Equation

So we need to figure out at what annual spending level is the $30 difference in fees made up for with the extra 0.2% in earnings on the Arrival. It’s basic Algebra (your HS math teacher was right, algebra IS important!). If X is your annual spending, then we want to find out when the points earned on X is equal to or greater than $30. The equation would be:

X*(reward % difference)=Annual Fee difference.

Solving for X the basic equation becomes:

X=(annual Fee difference)/(reward % difference).

For this example, it would be X(0.2%)=$30. We can solve for X to get X=$30/0.2%=$15,000 (don’t forget to put the percent into the calculator since % means “/100”).

So if you are planning on spending more than $15000 on one of these cards, then the Arrival is the better card to use. You can do the same example for the Fidelity Amex 2% Card with no fee. X=$89/0.2% or X=$44,500 . However, the Fidelity Amex card becomes more difficult since you are comparing an Amex with Forex fees to a MC with no Forex fees, and chip and pin tech which is important for international travel.

Let’s look at the Quicksilver Visa card. It is 1.5% back on all purchases (redeemable for cash, though) with no annual fee. X=$89/0.7%=$12,714.29

So, if you are going to spend less than $12,715, the no fee quicksilver card may be better for you. If you spend between $12,715-$15000, then go with the Venture Card. If you spend over $15000, then go with the Arrival card.

Per request, let’s do the math on the BofA Travel Visa rewards card. This has a few more features than the Cap1 Quicksilver. It offers 1.5% back on purchases that can be redeemable to cover the cost of travel purchases. This card, though offers you a 10% points bonus if you have a checking account (which can be a pain to avoid fees), which makes the card actually a 1.65% card. It also has no AF, no foreign transaction fees, and is a chip and signature card, so it should function better overseas compared to the Cap1 card. So let’s do the math based on the 1.65% rate and compare it to the Arrival cards 2.2% and $89 annual fee.


So to compare the BofA card to the Arrival, if you are going to spend less than $16,182, then go with the BofA card. Over $16,182, then go with the Arrival Card.


Best Fixed Value Credit Card in 2016

Currently, the best fixed value card is now the Citi Double Cash. 2% with no annual fee, this makes it better than the Fidelity Amex as Mastercard is accepted in more places than American Express. Also it does not require you to deposit your earnings into a Fidelity account. Both these cards still incur foreign transaction fees while traveling abroad, for that reason, a secondary card that does not carry forex fees such as BoA Travel Rewards or Barclay Arrival may be better.


Cash Back or Points Card or Frequent Flyer Card

Pros of Cash Back Credit Cards:

Any seat, any time: The biggest upside of fixed value cards is that there are no blackout dates compared to using frequent flyer miles or some hotel programs. This is again because your points have a “set value”, so the bank is essentially buying your airline seat with your points. E.g. $100 flight = 10,000 points. This is a big pro for people who want to fly on specific days, don’t like hassle or have families where multiple seats are needed

Earns FF/Hotel Points: Because the bank is using your points to buy the seat, you’re still eligible to earn FF/hotel points on miles flown or revenue spent.


Cons of Cash Back Credit Cards:

Terrible for expensive hotels/premium international travel: Since there is a set value, seats that are very expensive such as business/first class are worth astronomically more points. E.g. $5000 business class ticket would be worth 500,000 points. At an accrual rate of 2.2% with even the best card, the Barclay’s Arrival, this would require almost $275,000 in spend! Similarly, this applies to expensive hotel properties that can go often times for $1000/night. For this reason, FF miles or hotel points can be used to create better value. I like to refer to this as “points arbitrage”, more on that next

Building a Basic and Cheap Men’s Wardrobe Online

Building a base men’s wardrobe on a budget can be a very hard task. There are basic principles to follow that will hold fast even as styles change, and many are in past guides. You should look to find your own personal interests in style, and build upon them. You will never feel comfortable wearing clothes that don’t appeal to you. Thus, this guide is aimed at taking you through the basic principles, giving you some recommendations on what to look at (and what not to look at), and some potential ideas for you to consider. Check out the following recommendations for building an excellent men’s closet on a budget.


Good Fitting Men’s Clothes

Good fitting men’s clothes is the most important thing out there when building a cheap men’s wardrobe.  Ill-fitting items will always look bad, regardless of how interesting or good-looking the garment is. If it doesn’t fit you well, don’t buy it! Take your time to understand good fit, and you’re half way there. There are a number of principles you can follow – simple things like having the shoulder seam of clothing hitting the end of your shoulder, and having items that follow the form of your body, rather than be too restrictive or baggy. Finding an item you really like the fit of and taking its measurements will certainly be a useful tool.

Keeping it Simple When Shopping for Men’s Clothes

Don’t try to get too complicated with what you are wearing.  This will lead to your clothes not matching, which can make any outfit jarring regardless of the fit, or buying busy items that are difficult to work with. Often, the simplest items combine together to make the best outfits. Focusing on simple items first, will make everything fit together better in the future.

When starting out, you want to play on the idea of subtlety and learning how to match basic things. You can pair navy, earthy greens and solid tans much more easily than you can stark reds and bright blues and yellows. That’s not to say bright colors can’t work, but again, it is worth really understanding matching before utilizing statement pieces. Similarly, using dark colors in a range of color tones – black-grey-white being a classic example – are also easy to pull together into an outfit, whilst maintaining this idea of contrast that you want to create.

As a general rule of thumb for beginners, it is useful to create a nice contrast between top and bottom. Darker trousers with a lighter shirt allows for a simple contrast that works well. This is a principle you can also look to for layering – slightly different tones of colour for tee and jacket make for a nice combination. Similar contrasts can be created with different textures as well – smooth cotton denim with a wool jacket for example, is a classic way of creating a subtle contrast even if the colors aren’t very different. Once understood, you can look into other colour palettes – greyscale monochrome looks are quite popular without being overly taxing to create


Building a Cheap and Basic Men’s Wadrobe

The next section seeks to demonstrate some basic men’s fashion. It splits the essentials of building a cheap men’s wardrobe into several sections.


Cheap Shirts for Men

Warm Weather Men’s Tops or Shirts

  • When the the sun is out and it is hot outside, you want a good selection of light options.  For example, you could get some solid plain crewneck tees in white, grey and natural colors. These items are a staple for layering and general wear. If you can find some with slight a slight texture of visual interestAV08Mx6, that’s also a bonus, but notice that it is still a simple item. The same holds true for polo shits. For example,  simple, well-fitting polos can work very well under a light jacket, and with a range of bottoms.
  • You might want to grab a henley for something a little different to the standard tee. Henleys are great items for layering, especially under light jackets.
  • For shirts, you can’t go wrong in warm weather with some casual oxford cloth button down shirts (OCBDs). Neutral co lours are perfect for pairing with anything from jeans to shorts. However, it’s worth looking at other options as well. Linen shirts offer a bit more visual interest, and are particularly good in high icRjjz4temperatures. These patterned items also work well as short sleeved shirts (though be aware that the fit of short-sleeve shirts needs to be spot on for it to work well). Notice that the patterns recommended are still subtle, and thus offer good versatility.

Cool Weather Men’s Tops or Shirts

  • As it gets colder you will need to be wearing more cloth. This makes it easier to experiment with different textures. For shirts, try out flanPebToTsgnels – soft and warm, these are inherently casual. They do come in solid colors, though are mostly seen in plaid patterns. These work best in casual settings.
  • If you want something a little warmer, look for an overshirt. These tend to be thicker and made of heavy flannel or wool. The can be a alternative to a thick sweatshirt or jacket.
  • For an extra layer, you simply can’t go wrong with a heather grey sweatshirt or zip-up hoody. Simple but extremely versatile, and will go with practically anything for when it’s blustery or a bit cooler in the evening.  Just keep in mind the principles of contrast when starting out.
  • For something more substantial, grab a thicker wool crew neck jumper. Also available in a variety of colors. Natural tones generally work well in cooler times (olives, browns, naturals, greys). These offer some interesting visual texture as well as extra warmth, but don’t overpower a simple fit.


Warm Weather Men’s Jackets

  • There are plenty of good warm-weather jacket options. One of the best looks which pops up a lot are bomber jackets. These offer a classic silhouette that can be chucked on top of most things. These look fantastic in black and work very well in monochromatic outfits, but also look good in other cotiQ9SSPlors.
  • Similarly, a denim jacket is a solid choice. Now as a beginner, it can be easy to get this wrong – when starting out, getting a trucker style jacket that fits well, but is a different tone to your bottom half (contrasting). It may also help to avoid jeans when wearing one to begin with.

Cool Weather Jackets

  • You will need a cold-weather jacket. One of the best casual options is a parka, which is a slightly long, hooded rain jacket, often with insulation. Earthy tones are you’re best choice for versatility. You can also grab thinner ones for the warmer months.
  • I think another great and versatile option is a dark overcoat, which has the potential to look great. This item works well for a beginner because it can be very easily dressed up and down, offers interesting visual texture, and will introduce you to a slightly different silhouette to which you might not be used to.


Affordable Men’s Bottoms and Pants

  • With the bottom half (pants) , there are a few staples that you really do have to have, especially when starting out. First are jeans. You should look for a dark indigo pair with no distressing, as it looks clean. Focus on fit. Your preference for fit is up to you. The best thing to do is try a bunch of different Levi’s cuts and find the one you find most flattering.
  • After solid blue jeans, you might want to look into a black pair. They’ll be virtually just as versatile, and can allow lighter items such as white shoes or shirts an opportunity to contrast. Great and versatile set of clothing.
  • Chinos – you’ll never go wrong with a couple of pairs of chinos, which are flat-fronted, cotton twill trousers. Navy and tan pairs work well in many situations.. These items will always come in handy casually, and are easy to dress up when the time comes.
  • If you want to look into some more interesting items, lighter, stonewashed jeans can be really useful in providing contrast against a darke11055758_633418373456831_1684422522_nr top half, and look great in the summer. However, a word of caution – fit and colour of these has to be considered carefully in order to avoid poorly distressed jeans. You want to look for a light pair with fairly uniform distressing all over.
  • When the temperature skyrockets, you’ll want some shorts. Buy these like you’d buy your chinos – simple, flat-fronted and versatile colours. Generally, pairs that strike above the knee look far more flattering than those that sit at or below. Look for shorts with a 9” inseam or less, but make sure you try them on!
  • Once you’ve nailed these, you can then start looking into options beyond a basic wardrobe, such as wool trousers, or slim-fitting cargo pants. Once you are ready, you’ll understand better what direction you want to go in.

Affordable and Stylish Men’s Shoes

  • What’s on your feet is a very crucial part of your outfit. Get it wrong and it can really kill your look. It’s important to understand that with shoes, the idea of simplicity is of paramount importance. Overly busy shoes tend to look messy unless you know what you’re doing with them.
  • Sneakers – It will become very apparent that a simple, clean white shoe is very easy to work into any outfit – it provides an attractive contrast on the bottom half. Grab some Vans, Converse, PF Flyers, Adidas Stan Smiths, or whatever takes your fancy – they’ll be really useful. Alternatively, another good choice are grey sneakers. Similarly easy to utilize in almost any outfit.
  • Regarding leather shoes, again, it is very subjective. However, you can’t go wrong with a simple brown leather/suede derby. These literally go with anything, including shorts. You can find decent cheaper options from J. Crew and Bass, as well as many other fashion retailers.


Cheap Men’s Suits and Cheap Formal Clothes

Often, beginners come looking for advice on suiting for interviews etc. Suiting is a different and very complex world that requires a lot of knowjJvOyfKledge to get very right. As a result, I’m going to keep this very short, as it is investigated in far better detail elsewhere.

The main principle you should understand when grabbing your first suit and wanting to look good is (as always) simplicity. Fit is imperative, and far more important than the quality of the patterns you utilize.

If you are looking to make a great impression, grab a dark navy or dark grey/charcoal suit. Wear a solid white or light blue dress shirt. Pair it with a simple patterned tie in a dark color, like a navy or forest green. Wear some simple black or dark brown cap toe oxfords..


Where to Buy Cheap Men’s Clothes?


  • Uniqlo
  • Muji
  • Target (specifically Merona stuff)
  • Next (more UK-based)
  • H&M
  • Zara
  • Asos
  • HE by Mango (UK)
  • Gap
  • Levi’s (if in the US/Canada)
  • Urban Outfitters
  • LL Bean (good for winter)
  • Cos

(you get the idea…)

A little more

  • Banana Republic
  • J. Crew
  • Club Monaco
  • Bonobos
  • All Saints

And for when you start getting more interested in what you buy and what you like, you can ogle the options at

  • End
  • Need Supply
  • Unionmade
  • East Dane
  • The Bureau Belfast
  • Kafka
  • Cultizm
  • Mr. Porter
  • Haven
  • Many many other high-end retailers.

Summer and Winter Home Energy Saving Tips


Whether it’s staying cool in the summer, or toasty in the winter; being frugal about our energy usage is a necessity. Saving on energy is something that renters and home owners can both easily do to save money. Oftentimes, many of these energy savings tips will just require you to make small changes to your behavior.


Ways to Conserve Energy at Home

Below are several tips on things you can improve around your house to save money on your utility bills by using less electricity and gas. Many of these home energy saving tips will hold true in the summer and the winter.


Blackout Curtains Saving Energy

Blackout curtains can trap heat in during the winter and keep light and heat out during the summer. 10-25% of thermal energy loss goes out the windows. Blackout curtains can curtail this loss by a 25%, reducing your utility bills and greenhouse gases. High-end blackout curtains can be expensive, somewhere in the $100+ area. However, you can find blackout curtains for less than twenty dollars at many different stores.. You can buy blackout curtains at almost any major retailer. For example, Walmart sells the Eclipse brand that was mentioned earlier. Some companies make their blackout curtains with vinyl, a material that has health risks associated with it. There are plenty of non-vinyl curtains to choose from, so be sure to avoid PVC in your blackout curtains.


Clean Your Air Conditioner

Dirty air conditioners could be wasting lots of energy. Cleaning your air conditioner is one easy way to save some electricity in the summer. First, put a nozzle on your water hose and spray it into the vents that are on the side of the outside unit. Dirt builds up and lowers the efficiency significantly of the air conditioner. You might be shocked at how much dirt and dead grass washed out of it. Be careful though while washing your air conditioner to save energy costs – those vents are radiator fins, and you don’t want them to bend. The unit could fry itself or crack if more than 50% of the fins are bent out of place.

There are plug insulators, for the electrical sockets in your house too. Sometimes a breeze can come through them. It iss basically foam that goes around it to seal it in. I would seal up the windows as much as possible too.


Using a Pressure Cooker Saves Energy

Using a pressure cooker to cook meals saves lots of energy considering how efficient they are at cooking. A pressure cooker cooks food in 70% less time than non-pressurized methods which translated to 70% less energy used. Countries with spotty power systems have a long history of using pressure cookers because of their energy efficiency.

Modern versions are so efficient that they lose very little liquid through steam. This means you don’t have to have to add a ton of water before cooking. That means you don’t end up with soggy, water logged foods. It also means your water soluble vitamins are retained more.

You can use a pressure cooker to make all sorts of food that requires a moist cooking environment. Soups, stews, pot roast, corned beef, potatoes, steamed vegetables etc. It is also perfect for egg dishes that need a water bath to insulate them. This means cheesecake, custards like creme brulee are perfect in the pressure cooker.


Canning Foods is an Energy Saving Tip

It is nice to have shelf stable foods without having to store them in a freezer or worry about defrosting. I know many freezers are very energy efficient, but you always run the risk of losing all your food due to power outage. You also have to worry about defrosting your food. It’s not hard of course but requires deciding ahead of time what you want to eat. You then have to remember to put the food in the fridge the night before. Otherwise you are using energy to store the food and to defrost it and to cook it.


Water Heater Blanket

Energy_HierarchyGet a water heater blanket. These are basically a big blanket of insulation (usually fiberglass and mylar IIRC?) you wrap around a water heater’s tank to increase the insulation value. They are under $20 (you’ll probably need the dimensions of your water heater) at major home improvements stores. A water heater blanket takes 10 minutes to install, and will save up to 10% on your water heating costs. Also insulate the hot water pipes if they are not already insulated within your residence.

Heating water is about 20% of most homes energy usage. A $20 R-8 blanket, some new pipe insulation, and turning the water heater thermostat from 140 to 120 might save about $30 on a monthly gas bill. If your heater is electric, you can also insulate the top and bottom to improve the efficiency (don’t do this on a gas heater, huge fire hazard), but it will still be less efficient than a gas water heater.

While you’re dialing back the temperature a bit on the hot water tank, the effective water temperature at the shower could stay the same (or even be hotter than before) due to less heat loss while going through the pipes. Dialing back the hot water temp a few degrees: less heating to try and keep the volume of water in the tank at a higher temp.


Instead of a Refrigerator, Use a Freezer…

Instead of a refrigerator, use a chest freezer with a Johnson Controls freezer temperature controller, which overrides the internal thermostat and allows me to keep it at refrigerator temperatures. Freezers are much better insulated, and it also helps that they open from the top. In some circumstances, a chest fridge uses about 0.25 kwh/day in winter, and about 0.45 in summer. To keep stuff organized, make sure you get one with a lot of baskets!

Plant Shade Trees

Planting large deciduous shade trees around the south & west sides of the house could keep some heat off your home during a hot summer day. In the summer they have leaves, so keep the area cooler. In winter they shed their leaves so more sun can get through to keep things warmer. Trees can also be used in colder climates as a wind-break.

You can make this part of a strategy for shade trees. Quick growers tend to be short-lived, but they can provide a stop-gap for slower-growing, longer lived trees you plant around the same time. By the time the quick-growers are ready to come down, the long-lasters are reaching sufficient size to take over shading duties. Evergreen trees to the north and west can help block chilling winter winds, too.


Big Energy Saving Tips: Set Your Thermostat Correctly to Save Money

An easy way to save money on your power bill is setting your thermostat correctly. You might even want to use a smart thermostat such as a Nest. Your local utility company should have recommendations on energy-saving settings. Using a programmable thermostat to raise the cooling set point when you’re out of the house and lowering it when you’re home also helps a lot.

Also, do not set the temperature really low when you’re hot. I see so many people set the temperature in frustration to 60 when they’re hot. Truth is, this will cost you a lot more money in the long run and will not cool any faster. It will just have to work a lot longer before it can maintain. Beyond that, absolutely check for leaks, especially around windows, recessed can lights, doors, crown molding, etc. Check your attic and/or crawlspace for insulation. If there are any significant gaps (more than 1% of the surface area of the insulated ceiling or floor) then you might as well not have insulation.

Use Rechargeable Batteries When Possible

Rechargeable batteries can save you a deal of money and they’re better environment. They may cost 4x more, but they can be recharged ~1500 times. For anyone interested in rechargeable batteries, the Sanyo Eneloop batteries with the Sony Cycle Energy BCG34HRE4KN recharger are recommended. Most rechargeable batteries are notorious for slow drain even when they aren’t being used. These Eneloop batteries hold charge very well as time goes on. The charger is at a good price/performance point. It doesn’t stress the batteries with a quick charge, and it has a refresh function which can bring old life back into the batteries. There are nicer chargers out there, but they can get pretty pricey.

Use a Wooden Fireplace to Save Money

If you are lucky enough to have a wooden fireplace. Use it! Light up when you get home from work, dry socks and underwear next to it instead of tumble drying them. I know that for those rural folk amongst us it isn’t hard to get hold of a trailer load of wood from the local farmer or landowner. Many would be glad to get rid of some of their excess. Instead of a family sitting in separate rooms. Sit together in a room instead of heating lots of other rooms.


Unplug Electronics You are Not Using

Unplug everything you don’t use. Use switches for your TV cabinet and everything within it. Under certain circumstances, you might find that some appliances using 10 Watts when ‘off’ (not even standby). Also, find your switchboard and look for the circuit breakers that are for your fridge/freezer/alarm and mark them. Next time you go out of the house for a somewhat longer period, just switch off all the rest.

Lights off all power off when you leave (your router, computer, et cetera completely off and/or unplugged). Only use the electricity at off peak hours?


Solar Thermal Water Heating

Solar Thermal Water Heating. If you know how to work copper tubing, this is easy enough… black ABS in a clear enclosure on the roof (like solar panels, kinda), run a pipe w/ a bypass valve to the hot water heater. BAM. Free hot water. Only works well during the summer, unless you’re crafty enough to program an Arduino or something to open and close a valve based on outdoor air temp…

Best Airline Credit Cards for Free Flights in 2016


When you sign up for a card, some banks give you points (which can be used on purchases or transferred out), some banks give you airline miles (which transfer directly to airline frequent flyer programs). With the right credit card, not only can frequent fliers accumulate miles and points they can redeem for travel, they can also enjoy perks such as free checked bags, priority boarding and sign-up bonuses.


Airline credit cards are one of the best ways to earn free travel

Airline credit cards are one of the best ways to earn free travel. As mentioned above, not only do airlines give you frequent flyer miles, they also give out other airline perks. Below is an introduction to earning airline miles with credit card promotions.


Credit Cards Linked to Airline Reward Programs

Affiliated credit cards are ones that reward you with points or miles that are tied to a specific loyalty program. Examples of this are cards connected to the Delta SkyMiles, US Airways or American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flyer programs. On the other hand are the unaffiliated cards like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card which pay you with miles that are usable as statement credit


Earning Airline Frequent Flyer Miles with Credit Cards

When you have an airline credit card, these miles earned are the true Frequent Flyer miles with the airlines programs.  Originally, you would earn a mile for every mile you flew on an airline. Each airline has their own Frequent Flyer (FF) program, where you can accumulate miles. Some examples of these are Delta Skymiles, Southwest Rapid Rewards, Lufthansa Miles&More, American AAdvantage Miles, and United MileagePlus Miles. The best airline credit cards help you earn free flights, seat upgrades, and more. And if you travel often enough, the right airline card can be one of the most important cards in your wallet. If you travel on a variety of airlines, it might not be worth it. It is often the best idea to pick an airline credit card where you can focus your future travel on in order to maximize the amounts of points you earn and the airline status.


Connecting Credit Card to Frequent Flyer Account

To earn these miles, you must have a Frequent Flyer account with the airline you are using. Fox example, if you have a Citi AA card, the AA miles you earn from it will be deposited in your AA frequent flyer account. If your card earns you one mile per dollar spent, this usually means after each statement close, the bank will deposit 1000 miles to your American Airlines frequent flyer account if you spent $1000 that month.

Once your mile is deposited in your Frequent Fluter account, it is no longer connected to your credit card. You can close your credit card, and the miles would still be in your frequent fluer account. Since the miles are in specific frequent flyer plans associated with an airline, you usually cannot join the miles together for an award. If you are 1000 miles short in AA for a ticket, 1k miles in Delta can’t help you at all.

Note that these are miles you either flown or earned through the credit card, and not how many miles you get to fly for free. There are many different award charts for each airline. Some airlines have very favorable award ticket policies, while others do not.


Airline Credit Card Signup Bonuses

The best airline credit cards compete with one another by offering unique card membership features. Listed below is a collection of standout features taken from all of the airline credit cards on the market:

  • Big signup bonuses
  • 2X miles or more for airline purchases
  • Yearly companion fares
  • Many travel perks
  • High flight availability or several travel partners
  • Opportunities to earn additional rewards

Some of the travel perks on airline credit cards involve free checked bags. Each airline credit is different and it is best to read the credit card holder agreement to see exactly the perks you are getting.


Redeeming Airline Frequent Flyer Miles and Free Trips on Points

If you want to redeem your frequent flyer miles for free travel, your first step is to lookup the Award Chart for the airline in question. The airline award chart will tell you how many miles you need to get a free ticket to travel somewhere. Choosing a airline with the most competitive award chart along with high quality partner airlines is one of the best ways to maximize airline miles. Some questions to ask yourself before you transfer your points are 1) do you want free stopovers or one-ways, and where? 2) do you want to fly on a specific airline or premium cabin? Choosing the right airline program to transfer points into can help you book the award you want with free stopovers, avoid paying high fuel surcharges, and use a competitive award chart to save miles.

Airlines also have partner airlines, and you can often use your frequent flyer miles to fly on a partner airline. For example, since British Airways partner with AA, if you had BA miles (Called Avios), you can book flights on AA using Avios. You usually CANNOT transfer miles between partners. About the only exception being BA Avios and Iberia Avios. If you travel one airline all the time, it makes sense to strategically use airline miles and travel credit cards this year, because the cost of an average domestic flight is still relatively high. After all, the right airline credit card can help you earn airline miles that can help you save hundreds or thousands of dollars on both international and domestic flights.


Earning Frequent Flyer Miles by Flying

Generally, the farther the distance flown, the more amount of miles required. Other airlines use a distance based chart, where the distance is calculated between the departing/arriving cities, which corresponds to additional “fuel surcharges” fees such as British Airways on top of miles needed. These airlines are ideal for short-haul trips, which may actually cost less miles than using a traditional award zone program such as American Airlines, but are terrible for long-haul trips, where fuel surcharges can add heavy fees.

Blackout Dates: Many of these awards are subject to blackout dates, meaning the most popular times to travel such as holidays or summer vacations there may not be awards available, meaning you need to flexible with when you can fly. Families that need multiple seats for children also suffer from this because there may not be 4-5 seats award seats open on a single flight.


Most Popular Airline Credit Cards in 2016

  • Bank of America Alaska Airlines
  • Barclays Hawaiian Air Card
  • Barclays Miles and More
  • Barclays Frontier
  • Chase BA Card
  • Chase United Cards
  • Chase Southwest Cards
  • Citi AA Cards
  • Delta Gold Amex
  • Delta Platinum Amex
  • Amex Bluesky
  • Virgin Atlantic Bank of America
  • Virgin American Bank of America


Airline Frequent Flier Programs




Airline Specific Credit Car Points

S airlinecardfrequentflerome airlines use a point system rather than miles. This is basically the same as miles, just a different name.  Two such examples of an airline point system instead of miles are Southwest and JetBlue. In these programs, you earn points instead of miles on your Credit Card spend, similar to other FF programs. However, they don’t use award charts.

These programs usually prices their award ticket based on the selling price of the ticket. If a flight would cost $150 for the ticket, the award ticket can cost 10,000 points. If the cost of the ticket goes up to $300, then the points cost goes up to 20,000 points. In effect, the airline has set a fixed exchange rate for each point to the cost of the ticket. Note that each airline does their valuation differently, and some also have bands of pricing rather than direct conversion, further altering the valuation.

Some of the cards that fit in this category are:

  • Chase Southwest Cards
  • AmEx Jetblue Cards


How much are airline miles and points worth?

Frequent flier miles are a lot harder to value than other types of credit card rewards such as 1% or 2% cash back. The number of miles required for a trip depends upon how many rewards seats the airline makes available and their pricing structure. If you are able to plan ahead, you can get incredibly good deals with your miles that regularly beat any cash back rate. And it can get even more lucrative when you look at the bonus offers on mile credit cards. If you do not think you can hunt out the best redemption opportunities, a cash back card is probably your best bet. Getting 2% of every purchase deposited into your checking account each month is incredibly easy.

Understand FICO Credit Scores for Equifax and TransUnion


Your FICO credit score is the accumulation of all your credit data on your credit report. The most common credit score is known as FICO.  This credit score can be very important when apply for new lines of credit (credit cards, mortgages, and auto loans). In general, a score of at least a FICO credit score of 700 will be decent enough to apply for most credit cards that offer good reward programs.


Why do you need to understand your FICO Credit Score Range?

Premium reward credit cards (often with annual fees and much better rewards) will require slightly higher FICO credit scores. Your score contains both positive and negative aspects of your credit report such as if you always pay on time or if you have late payments. In sum, many factors are in the FICO credit score.


Applying for Credit Cards and FICO Credit Score

When you apply for credit – such as a credit card, auto loan or mortgage – the company from which you are seeking credit checks your credit report from one or more of the three major consumer reporting agencies. In addition to your credit report, they will most likely use a credit score such as the FICO® Score in their evaluation of risk before lending their money to you. There is more than one type of credit score, but the score used 90% of the time in lending decisions is the FICO credit score.


What is the difference between Experian, Equifax and Transunion?

There are three different credit reporting bureaus in the United States, Experian, Equifax and Transunion. All of these credit reporting bureaus calculate credit scores different and use the FICO factors.  Depending on your place of residence along with the credit card company when you apply for a credit card, different card companies will place different hard inquiries on one of the credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and Transunion). Always check your credit score for discrepancies and report any errors to Experian, Equifax and Transunion. Some credit card companies will place credit inquiries on all 3 bureaus such as Capital One. Some lenders are conservative, meaning they only want to lend to the least risky consumers. These companies will be cautious and look closely at a FICO score.

Other lenders are happy to work with consumers who have less-than-ideal credit histories. It is important to read about the type of card you are applying for before submitting an application to make sure your credit score is adequate for approval. Based on this information, a lender will decide whether to approve or decline your credit application. If they approve it, they will set your credit terms, such as interest rate, credit limit and down payment requirement.


When do credit cards pull from Experian, Equifax and Transunion?

BankCardBureauScore Type
AmExPlatinum, PRG, SPGExperianFICO 8
BarclaysAviator, SallieMae, Arrial+TransUnionFICO
Capital OneQickSilverTransUnionFAKO VantageScore 3.0
CitiAA Platinum, Dividend, DoubleCashEquifaxFICO 08 Enhanced Bankcard
Credit KarmaN/ATransUnion + EquifaxFAKO
Credit SesameN/ATransUnionFAKO
First National Bank of OmahaFirstBank CardExperianFICO Bankcard 8
PenfedEquifaxFICO 08 Enhanced Bankcard
QuizzleN/AEquifaxFAKO VantageScore 3.0
TD BankN/ATransUnion


What are the factors in a FICO credit score?

Every U.S. consumer typically has three reports – one at each of the three major U.S. consumer reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian). Often, lenders report details of your credit history to more than one consumer reporting agency. These specific details of your credit history affect your FICO score, which in turn, affect how likely you are to receive credit (or new credit cards)

Your FICO Credit Score takes into consideration five main categories of information in a credit report. The chart below shows the relative importance of each category to your FICO Credit Score. Below is a break down of factors in your FICO credit score:


Payment History and FICO Score

Approximately 35% of your FICO Score is based on this information, which includes: Payment information on many types of accounts: o Credit cards – such as Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover. Retail accounts – credit from stores where you do business, such as department store credit cards. Installment loans – loans where you make regular payment amounts, such as car loans and mortgage loans.

Payment history is pretty self-explanatory, this how often you pay on time. If you have several late payments of even things like medical bills in collection, this will hurt your score a lot. It is essential to pay all credit cards on time to increase your credit

Amount Owed and FICO Score (Credit Utilization)

Approximately 30% of your FICO Credit Score is based on information which evaluates your indebtedness. In this category, your FICO Score takes into account:

  • The amount owed on all accounts.
  • The amount owed on different types of accounts.
  • Whether you are showing a balance on certain types of accounts.
  • The number of accounts where you carry a balance.
  • How much of the total credit line is being used on credit cards and other revolving credit accounts.
  • How much is still owed on installment loan accounts, compared with the original loan amounts.

This is also known as your credit utilization amount or otherwise known as your credit utilization ratio or how much of your credit line you use. There are many different theories on what a good credit utilization amount is. General guideline suggest that it is a good idea to never go over 30% of your credit limit, both on a single card, as well as across all your credit cards. This is why “maxing out your credit cards” can be detrimental to your overall FICO credit score. You will be seen as a much higher risk borrower.

Applying for many credit cards could actually raise your credit score because their utilization ratio will decrease. In the same manner, closing credits cards can hurt your credit score because you lose a credit line and then might have higher credit utilization. Before you apply for new credit cards, you should pay off large balances to reduce your utilization ratio, and then wait for the statements to close so the lower credit utilization is reported to the credit bureaus. Paying balances off will have no immediate effect as they haven’t had time to be reported as paid off. By having a lower credit utilization, you may increase your chances of getting a new credit card as you are seen as a more trustworthy borrower.

Remember, that having credit accounts with an outstanding balance does not necessarily mean you are a high-risk borrower with a low FICO Score. A long history of demonstrating consistent payments on credit accounts is a good way to show lenders you can responsibly manage additional credit.


Length of Credit History (Average Age of Accounts) and FICO Score

Approximately 15% of your FICO Score is based on this information. In general, a longer credit history will increase your FICO Score, all else being equal. However, even people who have not been using credit long can get a good FICO Credit Score, depending on what their credit report says about their payment history and amounts owed

Your oldest and newest cred cards will all be averaged together for purposes of credit score age. Too young of an average credit history will hurt their score. Closed credit accounts stay on your report for 10 years and will continue to age, which is the reason closing cards do not immediately impact your FICO score as even young cards will continue to age and bring up your average age of credit. It is recommended to keep as many no annual fee cards as possible just to lengthen/soften the blow when you open new cards with 0 months of history.


New Credit and FICO Score

Approximately 10% of your FICO Score is based on this information. FICO’s research shows that opening several credit accounts in a short period of time represents greater risk – especially for people who do not have a long credit history.

Basically, this is the amount that Hard credit pulls/hard credit inquiries you have on  your FICO score. Hard credit inquiries lessen after 3 months, stop factoring into your score after 1 year and completely fall off your report within 2 years. Too many hard inquiries will make it much harder for someone to apply for new credit cards. This is why if you are applying for an auto loan/mortage etc. in the future, it is recommended to avoid applying for many new credit cards. While your credit score is impacted by the number of inquiries, bank also count how many new accounts you have opened. Chase is now rejecting application to certain cards if you have opened more than 5 credit cards over the past two years. So while inquiries are important, banks do look at other factors.


 Types of Credit and FICO

imagesApproximately 10% of your FICO Score is based on this information. Your FICO Score considers your mix of credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, finance company accounts and mortgage loans. It is not necessary to have one of each, and it is not a good idea to open a credit account you don’t intend to use. The more different types of credit you have, the better. Though this is not to say you should open up an auto loan when you don’t need one. It’s only a small part of your score and other scores make a much bigger difference.


Authorized Users and FICO Scores

Another note is the use of authorized users. An authorized user on a credit card is when you are added as secondary user to someone else’s credit card account. Adding an authorized user may improve your credit score if the person who issued you the card has a good credit history and FICO

Be warned that any damage to the person who issued you the card will ALSO damage your score. If you’re trying to help a family member build credit, you can make them an Authorized User on your card, but under no circumstances should they make you an Authorized User on their card. Also any debt that is accumulated is still your responsibility, so only make Authorized User people whom you trust.


FICO Credit Score and Likelihood of Getting Credit Card

Your credit score is only one way of calculating if you will get a credit card. There are so many other factors that banks are using these days to issue credit cards. Other factors that may factor into a credit card application include your rent payment and income. Credit card company computers are designed to take your income and subtract your rent/mortgage payment and then use your score as a basis for how trustworthy you are. An income of 20-25k is sufficient enough to get even premium cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, but as your credit limit grows higher when compared to your income it will be progressively harder to get more cards as well as if you have too many inquiries. This can be mitigated by asking the bank to split credit lines (4k each on 2 cards, vs. 8k on 1 card) but may not work in all circumstances.


Sites to Estimate FICO Score

There are several websites that perform an estimate of your credit score. These can be seen as alternatives and give you a general look of what your credit score should do in different circumstnaces. They usually are a little higher than what your credit score actually is.

These sites are considered safe and do not use your credit score other than to show you affiliate offers for credit cards on their homepage. CreditKarma shows the most information, while the others show less, namely just the score and not any detailed information.


What else is in your Credit Report?

The credit records at a credit bureau regarding a given individual. The file may include: the person’s name, address, Social Security Number, credit history, inquiries, collection records, and public records such as bankruptcy filings and tax liens.


All credit reports contain basically the same types of information:

  • Your basic personal Information Your name, address, Social Security number, date of birth and employment information. This does not factor into score and is used to indentify you.
  • Most lenders report information about each account you have established with them. They report the type of account, the date you opened the account, your credit limit or loan amount, the account balance, and your payment history.
  • Requests for Credit When you apply for a loan, you authorize your lender to ask for a copy of your credit report. This is how inquiries appear on your report. Your credit report lists inquiries that lenders have made for your credit report within the last two years.
  • Public Record and Collection Items Consumer reporting agencies also collect information on overdue debt from collection agencies and public record information such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, tax liens, garnishment, legal suits and judgments from state and county courthouses. In general, these items remain on your credit report for 7 to 10 years.

Learn about Personal Finance Videos from Khan Academy

In a very easy to understand format, the Khan Academy provides several dozen finance tutorials, ranging from three to 15 minutes in length. All of these personal finance videos are available on YouTube for the public to view for free. In an easy-to-understand format, these personal finance YouTube videos explain the basics behind several personal finance topics, such as inflation, taxes, and compound interest. It might make sense to increase the speed in which these videos are played in order to be able to watch all the videos quicker. Most of these personal finance videos are U.S. centric, however some of them discuss topics that are appropriate for people in all countries.


The personal finance video series consists of:

  • Part 1: Institutional Roles in Issuing and Processing Credit Cards – Learn about the institutions involved in processing your credit credit and how they relate to each other. After watching this video, you should understand how credit cards work when buy stuff at the store.
  • Part 2: Roth IRAs – An Introduction to Roth IRAs and tips on how to save for retirement. There is another video that discusses how to use different IRA accounts to maximize retirement savings.
  • Part 3: 401ks – Learn About 401ks and how to save for retirement through a workplace retirement plan. You will also learn about the differences between a 401k and IRA in this video.
  • Part 4: Basics of the U.S. Income Tax Rate – What is it and how does it affect the taxes you pay? Learn exactly what you are paying to Uncle Sam and how to file your taxes.
  • Part 5: Inflation Overview – A tutorial on how the cost of goods and services change over time. Inflation is a very important concept to understand.
  • Part 6: Mortgage Interest Rates – Learn how interest rates are tied to specific types of mortgages. Also learn about that the important aspects of getting a mortgage are in order so you pay less when you purchase a home.
  • Part 7: Time Value of Money – Why the value of money isn’t just about what you have today. This ties into interest rates.
  • Part 8: Term and Whole Life Insurance – A tutorial on the most common types of life insurance. Learn about which type of insurance is best for your family.
  • Part 9: Open-Ended Mutual Funds – An overview on investing in mutual funds. Mutual funds are one of the easiest ways to build a diversified investment portfolio.
  • Part 10: Estate Tax – How items are taxed after a person passes away. In most cases, most families in the United States will not owe estate tax.
  • Part 11: Unemployment Rate Primer – An explanation of how the rate is calculated and more. The unemployment rate can affect financial markets and the economy.
  • Part 12: Traditional IRAs – What they are and how they differ from other IRAs. Traditional IRAs are another special type of account that can be used to save for retirement.
  • Part 13: What It Means to Buy a Company’s Stock – What does it mean to buy stock in a company? Learn about investing in the stock market with this personal finance video.
  • Part 14: Relationship Between Bond Prices and Interest Rates – Why bond prices move inversely to changes in interest rates. This video explains essential concepts related to investing in bonds.
  • Part 15: Introduction to Bonds -Find out what it means to buy a bond. Learn about bonds investing.
  • Part 16: Introduction to Compound Interest – What compound interest is and how it impacts your savings. Compound interest is vital to anyone’s savings account.
  • Part 17: The Rule of 72 for Compound Interest – Learn how long it will take for your money to double. This is also related to compound interest.
  • Part 18: Annual Percentage Rate (APR) and Effective APR – An overview on the rates affecting your debts and loans. Learn really what you are paying your credit card or loan company.
  • Part 19: What is Bankruptcy? – What it is, how it originated, types of bankruptcy and more. Bankruptcy is not always a bad thing if handled properly.
  • Part 20: Introduction to Mortgage Loans – Find out more about the loans you take out to buy a home.

More Personal Finance Videos

Khan academy has some amazing stuff no matter what you’re trying to find! These personal finance videos will be sure to increase your knowledge of many of these topics.  The videos — and other resources throughout this site — are all meant to help you manage your money, not be managed by it. Most of the information you need is already at your fingertips. Post other personal finance videos you find online in the comments! Getting a grip on your finances is easier than you think.


Links to Other Personal Finance Videos

In addition to the YouTube links above, the Khan Academy has over 300 more finance videos on our website here (not to mention a ton of content in other subjects!):

Tricks Car Salesmen Use to Take Your Money When Buying a Car


Purchasing a new or used card from a dealership is often an anxiety inducing experience. Dealing with car salesman tactics and car salesman pressure is tough. Car dealers and their employees are often very familiar with what tricks work get people to buy cars. Unfortunately, for buyers, auto salesmen do this hundreds of times a year and most people only do it a few times in their lifetime. The following tips are designed to prevent you from being pushed around by the salesman and to ease your mind of worries in regards to overpaying.


Tricks Car Salesmen Use to Take Your Money Buying Car

Know your market and Know the Car

Know your market. There are many companies like and that have accurate pricing other than internal dealer incentives and pricing. These car pricing websites tell you what your average consumer is paying, not that the car salesman wants you to pay. Your ultimate goal should be to aim for below invoice on any new car purchase. Your walk away price should always be invoice. If you can’t get close, walk away and call the next dealer. You can get enough car dealers working against each other that they’ll undercut each other.  This will avoid many car salesman tricks they may be trying to use to get you to pay more for a car.

When you finally find the car you like, you need to ask the dealer what their best price is, and then you tell them that was more than you budgeted and make a counter offer. You go back and forth a few times until you either buy the car or say no thank you and leave. If you leave the care dealer will often call you later that day or sometime in the next few days to ask you to reconsider, or to offer a better deal.


Know the Car Invoice Price: Avoid Car Dealer Tricks

Know the invoice price of the (which is what the car dealer “paid” before all kick-backs and incentives given by the car manufactured), and the market prices based on what others actually pay. Again, this is a good time to reference internet site in the car buying process. There are sites like will give you an idea if you are already getting the best offers, or if you should wait them out a little longer (or contact more dealers in your area before proceeding). At the very least this will give you confidence that your number is fair and not leave you wondering if the price you paid was “too much”.


Don’t tell the car dealer you are paying in cash

Don’t tell the car dealer you are paying in cash! Refuse additional services from the dealer! A dealer might cut the price closer to break even if they have the hope that you will finance with them or buy a warranty, etc. I wouldn’t engage about those other things, but give them some hope: “I just want to see where I can find the best price before I look into financing, send me your best price for this configuration out the door and we can talk about the other stuff if you’ve got the best deal.” This might not be the most stress free option and you might have to “fight” to get that price once you turn down the other services though.


Avoid Car Payments When Negotiating: Old Car Salesman Trick

Car salesmen are taught to negotiate the payment with a car buyer instead of the final purchase price of the vehicle. Making the car buyer think about car payments has two benefits for them.

1) Making an affordable payment is relatable and gets your mind off of the actual car price. Car buyers end up paying more this way. Dealers know this and tend to exploit this psychological tendency.

2) The interest rate and the length of the loan can quickly fall into the background with this payment focused presentation. The payments method works because we are more likely to digest the affordability of a a monthly payments versus the 5 figure sticker price. Over six years, a $100 dollar increase is not that much, but by doing the math it will add on $6K to the total price. This is the car dealer trick used to get you to pay for more car than you want.


To avoid getting sucked into a higher monthly payments and higher overall car price be firm. Tell the salesman up front “I am not interested in going over payments right now, let’s stick to the price of the car out the door.” You must be proactive here and make sure the car salesman is listening. You want to know the individual price of the car and that is what you want to negotiate. You have now indirectly saved yourself hundreds if not thousands of dollars by directing the negotiations down this road. Also, the out the door price is the price of the car plus all of the fees that the dealer adds on.


Keep Negotiating with the Car Dealer For A Long Time!

When buying a new or used card, hold the negotiations open for awhile with the car salesperson. A month would even be reasonable. Remember that Car dealers have sales quotas and that they need to attain to get certain kickbacks from the automakers. If one of the dealerships is under “quota” near their deadline during the negotiations period, you might just get a screaming deal in order to bump their numbers over the line.


Consider Buying a Car Online

Internet sales is the big thing these days with almost all car dealers. Internet car sales can be good for the car buyer. The dealer already knows what each car must sell for to make money on them, so its much easier to haggle down to the lowest price doing it through email/internet/phone.

In addition, when buying a car online, the dealers already assume you’ve done at least the pricing end of your homework. A good idea might be to send out a blanket email saying “I’m asking every dealership in the area, I want to buy car X for Y amount of money, who can help me out?”


Practicing Negotiating a Car Sale

Go negotiate to buy a car you really don’t want, so you get comfortable with the process. When it comes time to decide, say that it’s not your decision, you have to ask your wife/boss/accountant etc. Ask for a printout of the financing.

Again, always negotiate on price, not payments. Stick to interest rates you’ve already been quoted. After you’ve been there long enough, they will bring up the extended warranty. This is where they make most of their profits in my estimation. Use this to your advantage! Ask if you can get a lower total purchase price if you get the extended warranty. This has worked for me 5 times.


Watch out of Emotion Manipulation

Car salesman use many subliminal tactics to get customers interested in vehicles that they are selling. One of the best ones is emotional manipulation. The reason salesmen often insist on test driving is to get you to create a sense of ownership in your mind. You are unknowingly getting excited and your mind is taking mental ownership of this nice new vehicle.

As the car buyer excitement builds, the emotional part of our brains begins to take over. When this happens, we are much more likely to make a choice based on emotions. The budget we set and the price we wanted are now more likely to be negotiable.

Be mindful of your emotions when buying a new car. Simply being aware of this tactic beforehand and how our mind/bodies will respond is a half of the battle in not making a poor emotional based decision. Never make a large purchase the same day. Be smart, go home, sleep, and revisit it the next day when your mind has had a chance to tend to other matters.


Emotional Car Negotiating Tactics to Used by Dealers

Offering a trial period where the buyer can unwind the deal without penalty is a common successful tactic used. “Why not take it home and talk it over with the wife?” – if the salesperson succeeds here, not only does he transfer ownership, but he also gets you to defend your decision to your SO, effectively making YOU the salesperson. It’s also important to note that there often isn’t a no strings attached policy, and if you do choose to return it, you’ll be paying to unwind the deal.

“Don’t waste my time” – This is less a sales tactic and more a method to make you go away, but surprisingly, it actually also works as a sales tactic. Customers hate to be dismissed. And some will insist on purchasing just to prove it. It’s also a lead in for more aggressive tactics outlined below.

“Who wears the pants?” – This is literally a dare to buy. Commonly directed at men, since we tend to get our panties in a bunch when our manhood is questioned. Don’t think you’re immune to this if you’re a woman – salespeople love to play on the inferiority that women often feel in these engagements, and can get women to buy by being dismissive about their abilities/knowledge.


Always Get Pre-approved Credit for a Car Loan

Always go in with a preapproval from a bank or credit union and negotiate from there. Car dealers will always come back with a rate better than your preapproval as they make money on the loan so they’ll want to push you to their lender. Having your preapproval in hand will make sure you get the best possible rate. Because if they don’t get you a better rate you will just use the check you have in hand. All of the money you save negotiating a car purchase can be washed away in the finance office. Customers let their guard down when a price has been reached with the salesman. Don’t let this happen to you. Being aware of yourself and the situation is half the battle.

If you walk on the lot with a loan ready to go. It’s the same as walking in with a suitcase full of cash. You can pretty much dictate terms (within reason). The best part is, the terms are ONLY the total value of the car. Get a rate quote before going into the dealership. That way you know what to expect on interest rates and can see through their b.s. You can even get a pre-approval and bring your own financing. Generally I’ve learned that they can’t do any better.

If you are feeling generous, let them put forward a financing plan. You can compare to what you already have. Most likely a bank will do much better than whatever they have. Credit Unions are the best. So if you have CU, call them first and see if they can give you a loan. Best part is, CU’s have a special clause, and if they check your credit score it doesn’t count as a point against you on your credit report


Call Your Insurance Provider for Gap Insurance

Call your insurance provider if you want Gap insurance. The dealership wanted $1,800 for gap insurance. I went into his office knowing that my auto insurance provider could add it to my policy for $3 a month. Also, if you bank at a big bank, please please please dont get your auto loan through one. Your local credit union will have way better rates.


Cancel Extended Warranties

Once the deal has really closed – usually when the bank sends you a statement – go down to the dealership and cancel the warranty. This will piss them off big time. Anyway, stick to your guns and do it. One of two things happens: a) the money comes out of the principle but it doesn’t affect your monthly payment, just the number of them or b) your number of payments will stay the same but will go down each month.

The Looming Consumer Debt Crisis: Can You Avoid Drowning?


Economist John Maynard Keynes caused a bit of a revolution in economic principles back in the 1930s, when he noted that a robust economy is built not so much upon the actions of investors, but rather upon the actions of consumers – in short, that the health of an economy is based upon consumers having enough money to actually purchase things. This is reflected by the economies of many countries. Consumers and consumer debt are a driving force of their economies.  He felt that government intervention in a free market was essential if extreme cycles of prosperity and depression were to be avoided. His theories are once again being discussed among economists who align themselves either with the free market or the call for a more tightly regulated economy.


Debt and the 2008 Economic Crisis

Following the most recent economic crisis, consumer spending is rising sharply, but in a way that should point to an essential element of Keynes’ principles: that consumption needs to be primarily funded by disposable income rather than debt. Consumer debt in the UK is a perennial cause for concern amongst economists, policymakers and debt charities alike, as well as being a growing problem in millions of UK households. As consumer debt continues to rise dramatically, we are left to ask ourselves, is the British economy being kept afloat by consumer debt, or being drowned by it?

Many observers lean towards the latter view, and consumers who are struggling with their own debt crises are searching frantically for a lifeboat. However, if you’re having a hard time keeping up with multiple credit card payments, debt consolidation may be a strategy worth considering. Different credit counseling agencies may offer some debt relief. Their debt consolidation programs, called debt management plans, can help you get back on track — but they can also be unnecessary and even detrimental when done through a poorly run organization or for the wrong reasons.


Red flags: Consumption outweighs productivity

In a healthy economy, consumer spending rises in reasonably similar proportion to manufacturing output. In the UK, however, manufacturing output is falling, even as consumer consumption fueled by debt is increasing to the point where it represents an average 145% of income. While much of this debt is in the form of mortgages, the portion represented by credit card debt continues to rise as people use credit cards not only to fund purchases but to pay for recurring expenses such as bills and even groceries.
In a March 2015 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, it was projected that total non-mortgage debt in the UK, which includes personal loans, credit cards, and overdrafts, would rise to £10,000 per household by the end of 2016. Given the above-projected increase in credit card debt in particular since that report was published, £10,000 would seem to actually be an overly conservative figure.

It’s a straightforward and time-proven equation: When borrowing costs more, people borrow less. Yet the reality is more complicated. Crank up rates too fast and overstretched borrowers could struggle with the higher loan payments that go along with increased rates.


Expected increases in interest rates will compound the problem

The American Fed has announced that it is raising interest rates, albeit by only one quarter of a percent, but that it expects to implement modest incremental increases in the not-too-distant future. The general assumption is that the UK will follow suit with similar modest increases in order to try to normalise the economy here. Just to give an idea of what even modest increases will entail, a 30-year fixed mortgage on a £100,000 house would increase by roughly £42, should the interest rate increase from 4.5% to 5%.

Given the fact that interest rates charged on credit card accounts are significantly higher than those charged on mortgage loans, the percentage of increase on those non-mortgage debts would obviously be even more significant. Most consumers are not getting too concerned at this point. That said, Peer-to-peer (P2P) lender Zopa reported in early 2015 that the number of Brits consolidating credit card debts using long-term loans through Zopa had increased by 57 per cent year on year, an indication that there is some pressure being felt by consumers. Their concern is likely to be elevated significantly as the larger monthly bills, driven by increases in interest rates, start rolling in. In short, changes in interest rates could have profound effects for families who mortgages and other consumer debt.


Debt Consolidation Tools

While these debt consolidation loans can be helpful in working toward reducing your indebtedness, as well as reducing the total amount of your monthly payments, you need to both do your homework in determining whether debt consolidation will benefit you, and strengthen your resolve, so that you don’t eliminate your monthly savings by going even deeper into debt with the ensuing surplus in your budget. It could well make the difference between staying afloat or trying to swim with an anchor chained to your leg.


Consolidating Credit Card Debt

Consolidating your credit card debt can mean a few different things to consumers with debt. Most of the time it essentially means combining all of your debt into a single loan or paying your creditors through a single monthly payment. There are many different debt consolidation services that will set this up. It is important to read about different methods, because there are many different ways and terms to consolidate debt.

For example. you can consolidate credit  card s by taking out a consolidation loan or using a debt consolidation or management company. Debt consolidation is a form of debt refinancing that entails taking out one loan to pay off many others. The way you get out of debt is by changing your habits. You need to commit to getting on a written game plan and sticking to it. Get an extra job and start paying off the debt. Live on less than you make. It is not rocket science, but it is emotional


Important Facts About Debt Consolidation

Remember, that by consolidating all of your debt, at the end of the say you are still paying 100 percent of your debt obligations to creditors. This is quite a bit different from discharging them in a bankruptcy or settling the debt.When you file bankruptcy or settle with creditors, you are often paying a much reduced amount.

In addition, after a debt consolidation, your credit report can take a negative hit if your monthly payments are less than what you would normally pay. Also, while consolidation is not factored into a credit score, some creditors notate that you’re paying through a third party, which can be a red flag to a lender or anyone else looking at the report.

5 Must-Read Tips for a Successful Blog

Tips for a successful Blog

Have you considered starting a blog, but don’t know where to start? Are you already running a blog, but it didn’t break through yet? Or maybe you’re just interested in things you can improve. You’re in the right place, since we gathered some important tips to make your blog better and ideas for starting making money with it.


Tips for a Successful Blog

There many different ways to make your blog successful, attract readers to your blog, and make money with your blog. What host websites do you recommend? Layout? How to get publicity? etc.


Pick a Topic You Are Passionate About

Pick a topic you’re passionate about, otherwise It’s not going to last long. Second of all, choose a blog platform that’s easy to use. WordPress is the number one for a reason. It’s a safe bet. Make sure your content is socially relevant, keep your opinions non-biased, add links to similar blogs/sites that will increase traffic to your blog, advertise…there are quite a few free options online, choose colors that don’t strain the eyes…dark if possible, get into a habit of posting as often as you can…many people might lose interest if they see that you haven’t been active for a while.


Blog Homepage should tell your story

The design of your homepage is vital for connecting with your visitors. Visitors are likely to ignore a poorly designed homepage and will not make your blog any money. You need to include some unique content, motto or visuals that would engage readers and make them stay. A good navigation system through the blog ensures connection between articles, so make sure to tease the readers and redirect them to what they should read next.
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Pet Ownership in your First Place: Things to Consider


Whether you are striking out on your own or with a new family in tow, a pet can be a great way to complete your family and make that apartment feel more like a home. From dogs to cats to rabbited, there are many different things to consider when getting a pet at home. However, the realities and responsibilities of owning a pet can be a source of friction, depending on your lease, your level of personal responsibility, and how many people are living with you. There are a few questions you need to ask yourself before you run out and adopt that furry, feathery, or scaly friend and bring it back to chez vous. Think about these questions before getting a pet and bringing a pet into your family home.


Question 1: Are you allowed to have a pet?

dog-catWhile most of us agree that animals are pretty fantastic companions, some rental properties do not allow pets of any kind. Others may allow only certain kinds of pets, such as no dogs or cats, but fish, small mammals, and birds are okay. You will have to get permission from your landlord most likely to have a pet when renting an apartment. Even if dogs and cats are allowed, there may be restrictions based on size and breed, especially for dogs. This information should be in your lease agreement, along with any special costs that may come along with bringing a pet into your new home. A typical pet fee for an apartment might be between $50-100 a month.


Additional Pet Costs in Apartments

These costs include a pet deposit, to take care of any extra cleaning that needs to be done when you move out (like fur-balls that you couldn’t get up with your pet hair vacuum); and extra rent per month for your pet. Whatever you do, don’t violate your lease by getting a pet that isn’t allowed. You’ll end up with a choice between your new family member and an eviction notice, and that’s never something you want to face. Make sure you can have a pet in your apartment by checking with your landlord first on any pet restrictions in your lease. The main thing is that you have to be allowed to have a cat by your apartment complex. Nothing is riskier than to try to hide an illegal cat–sooner or later someone will pay the price
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College Dorm Must Have Item – The Mini Fridge


Mini Fridge with Lock

When I was in college, the most important item I owned was a mini fridge that had a lock. Gone are the days when a mini bar fridge is only found on motel and hotel rooms. Nowadays, many people have this into their home. Due to the versatile sizes of the mini fridge, the idea fits perfectly within places like sleeping quarters, study, lounge room or somewhere else at home when a conventional refrigerator is too large. Also, they are available in different styles, shapes and colors so they can match to the decor of your home.

Even during summer or hot seasons, this mini fridge proves to be handy when you want to get close to your favorite cold drinks while watching the television or having some conversation with friends and family. There are several different things to remember when shopping for a mini-fridge.  Although mini fridges are smaller and usually much cheaper than regular refrigerators, they both do the exact same thing;  keep food cold or frozen. Mini-fridges are perfect substitutes for refrigerators in college dorm rooms or RVs, or when you are running out of room in a main refrigerator.


Freezer Compartment in a Mini-Fridge

If the mini fridge has a freezer compartment, you can even have ice cream or ice blocks anytime you want without going to the kitchen. A mini bar is also useful during special events like game nights, dinner parties or cocktail parties. There is no need for you to rummage the full main fridge because you can use the mini bar and get the drinks you want in there.

But most people prefer using mini bar fridges or display cooler in their bedroom since they are completely silent compared to conventional refrigerator. Such units are also frost free so it is perfectly fine for you to store perishable goods at the right temperature without the freezer burn. It is important to check how big the freezer is in the mini-fridge. Different mini-fridges can vary quite a bit in the size of their freezers. If you find yourself needing more storage space in the freezer, it may be worthwhile to also get a separate mini-freeze to go along with your mini-fridge.


Reliability of a Mini-Fridge

Another great reason why it is good to have this in your home or even your office is these fridges are durable and reliable when it comes to maintenance. If you choose the type which has freezer feature, you will have to defrost every six months or so and there are no other additional hassles that come with the maintenance of this mini fridge. Defrost the mini-fridge freezer ensures that there is not too much ice building up and that the fridge remains clean.

Most of these mini units feature innovative insulation and lock technology which is very helpful in keeping even temperature throughout and in keeping warm air out and cold air in effectively. This means that it can consume less electricity helping you keep the power bill down. Today’s mini-fridges have very efficient energy costs. For a family that does not use much storage space in their main refrigerator, it may make sense to use a smaller mini-fridge to keep energy costs low.

A lot of modern homes today make mini bar fridges a great accessory. They are versatile, small in size and very convenient. You can use it during dinner parties or when you need to have convenient drink close. When it comes to the price, you will be more fascinated because they are not overly priced. They can be found on most appliance stores but they are also available on the internet where you can choose from a wide range of these units in terms of color, design and style. The one downside of buying a mini-fridge on the internet is that shipping costs could be high. Mini-fridges are pretty heavy to ship. This is when it might be easier to head to a store to pick it up in person.


Mini-Fridge Size and Mini-Fridge Capacity

Portable fridges comes in so many different sizes, and the available storage space varies widely from 6 cubic feet to less than 1 cubic foot. It is absoultely essential that you find out how big a mini-fridge you would need before buying on.  Choose a mini-fridge with the right capacity for what you intend to put in it and no bigger. If you simply want to keep a few beverage cans cold, then a small countertop fridge will do. If you will be using the fridge to store food, in addition to drinks, than you will want one that is much bigger and might feature a freezer.

The smallest mini fridges (sometimes called cube fridges), are good for keeping beverages cool and little else. Most of these models are about 17 to 21 inches square in size — small enough to fit beneath a desk — inexpensive and usually made of cheap components that make them inefficient and unreliable. Midsize mini refrigerators cost slightly more than cubes, but they perform better with roughly the same footprint. The larger models are about 24 to 28 inches tall and have a capacity of 2.5 to 2.8 cubic feet.

Getting even larger, there are two door mini fridges that have a larger freezer component. Tese models have a separate freezer space, similar to a full-sized top-freezer. Their thermostats are located in the freezer, so temperature performance is much better in that section than in the refrigerator. This would be recommended if you intend to keep lots of different frozen foods.


Availability of Mini Bar Fridges

When on the lookout for a mini bar fridge, you can search around so many websites to find and compare the best and most affordable deals. Many stores online offer discount rates on their display cooler and you will be surprised at the amazing prices they can offer you. There are many bits of information offered on the internet such as review sites that can help you choose the perfect fridge for your home or office.

Compact refrigerators are a great way to store leftovers and other essentials without putting too much of a dent in your wallet. Depending on your living space and daily demands, you may opt for a larger unit with a better cooling capacity for storing larger quantities of food or a much smaller and simpler fridge for beverages. Certain features, such as guaranteed quiet operation or a designated beverage holder, might prompt you to choose one unit over the next.


Other College Dorm Room Essentials

  • You have to have a mattress topper. Those dorm beds are the most uncomfortable things ever.
  • A good pair of headphones. You will live in a tiny room with another person. Wearing headphones can make you feel like you are by yourself.
  • Everyone always forgets things that are only used weekly instead of daily, like nail clippers and laundry detergent. Don’t forget those.
  • A brita water pitcher (Dorm water for whatever reason always seems nasty)
  • A mini fridge
  • Toliet Paper – Just something people forget when moving into a new place for the first time and the thing you will immediately hate not having.
  • A really good chair, something you can sit in for 8 hrs if needed.
  • A Costco sized bottle of Aleve/Ibuprofen. After night of drinking, BEFORE you go to bed, take one along with drinking a full glass of water = zero hang over. NO TYLENOL with drinking
  • A Costco sized bottle of imodium (come on you’re going to eat cheap ramen noodles and crap your stomach isn’t always going to be great)
  • Laundry transportation, Bags preferably.
  • A good foam pad –
  • Pots and pans. Or at least a pot. Mac and cheese/ramen work much better this way.
  • Silverware. Also at least one plate, bowl, cup…but preferably more. coordinate with your roommates
  • Bathrobe. Unless you and your new roomies are uh super friendly right away.
  • If your parents are taking you dorm shopping stock up on stupid stuff you don’t want to spend your money on. (Shampoo, razors, deoderant, etc)
  • Shower shoes. Dorm showers are (typically) not the cleanest places. Get yourself those, a shower caddy, and a nice robe to wear from the dorm to your showers and back.
  • A plunger, if you have non-communal bathrooms. My freshman year my room was the only one on the hall with a plunger and we had people knocking on our door a few times a week to borrow it.
  • Don’t worry if you over pack too much you’ll figure out what you need.

Tips to Save Energy for Renters


Whether you’re finally escaping the parents’ abode or moving into your third rental home, you’re undoubtedly keen to find some ways to reduce the hefty load of daily living expenses. Your energy usage in your apartment is a natural place to start. But it isn’t so easy to reduce those energy bills if you can’t make any structural changes to your home. Renters face unique circumstances when trying to save energy when renting a home or renting an apartment. Its not easy to make energy efficient changes when you do not own the place! Below are some energy saving tips for apartments for people who rent them.


Learn Apartment Energy Savings Tips

While added insulation and solar panels are an obvious way to go to reduce the costs of your energy usage, it’s not the only way, by any means. There are plenty of energy saving tips renters can work on to reduce their bills. It’s all about changing your habits rather than your house. This is what renters need to focus on when trying to save energy costs since they often cannot physically change where they are living.

Here are some hassle-free ways to cull your energy usage when renting – and in the process, see a happy decline in those quarterly utilities bills that you are also paying as a renter.


Compare energy suppliers before you commit

Today we couldn’t fathom living without electricity or gas. But in many parts of the world at least, there are a huge range of gas and electricity suppliers to choose from. So it’s natural you might not be getting the best deal you could have. It can be tiresome toiling through every single energy supplier in your area to work out their plans and decide on the best one for your needs. But it can also be well worth it. Having options to pick who supplies your energy as a renter can be a sure way to make sure that you are getting the lowest rates.

Thankfully, there are useful tools online that compile all the relevant companies into one place so you don’t need to do the hard work. Whether you’re just curious or ready for a switch, you need only type in your postcode to see the full range of plans and options out there for you – and to learn what you may have been missing out on in the meantime. However, this is not available in all markets. In many cities, there is one big utility company who controls the market and you will have to buy electricity or gas through them.

It makes sense to shop around for an energy provider. Depending on where you live, you may be able to get a cheap/free energy audit through your utility company at your apartment/house. It is definitely worthwhile to check out the gas, electric, and water companies’ web sites to see if this benefit is available in your area. As an added bonus, very often, the energy company auditors will give you things like free CFL light bulbs, weather-stripping, efficient shower heads or faucet aerators, etc. as part of the energy audit.

In addition, they may pass out some coupons after the energy audit. You may also have access to discounts on things like light bulbs. For example, coupons for a bunch of LED and CFL bulbs and lamps through my utility’s deal with an online retailer.


Obliterate vampire power

It sounds so easy, so why so few people switch their appliances off at the wall eludes me. All the time your devices – the TV, your state-of-the-art stereo system, that second-hand microwave – are plugged in and on standby, they’re draining power. In fact, they could be draining power to the amount of more than $100 each year.

To eliminate appliances/items sucking power, it might be helpful to connect certain devices to a power strip and turn it off every day before you leave for work. Some devices are known as “vampires” because they’re continually sucking power even when turned off. TVs are an example. Though they are off, they are constantly scanning for a signal from the remote. Computers also continually suck power, even when turned off. When you leave for the day, turn your thermostat down into the 60°F range. Of course, if you have pets or other humans that stay at home, that may not be possible

Using a power board is a simple way to turn off all your devices in one go, ensuring you’ll conserve energy and power. If you have access to your electrical meter, turn off all of the circuits in the apartment using the breaker/fuse panel, then verify that the meter is no longer registering any electricity usage. It’s not uncommon for apartments to be miswired such that your neighbor may be using some of your electrical power.

Mobile technology is another energy vampire, only charging your laptops, mobile phones, tablets etc. when the batteries are nearly flat and then taking them off charge when they are done, rather than leaving them on not only increase the battery life but also saves a lot of energy. Really anything with a LED screen or clock that does not need to be on all of the time can be switched off when not in use, it is amazing how quickly you notice it on your energy bills when you start doing it.

In short, to save energy costs as a renter, plug all of your phone chargers, TVs, satellite/cable TV boxes, and other electronic items into a power strip that has an on/off switch. Turn it off when you’re not home and save energy in your apartment!


Big Apartment Energy Saving Tips: Change your lights

You might not be able to touch your light fittings as a renter, but you can at least swap over the light bulbs to more energy efficient alternatives. These alternatives are typically LED or CFL globes. This alone is the most important thing in my opinion. It reduces the energy usage of the bulbs by a very large percentage. I would recommend LED. They can get more expensive, but they WILL pay for themselves. Any place you are concerned about heat (as a safety issue) or need directional lighting they are likely better than CFLs. They will likely not save you money

Once you’ve made the switch, you could further reduce your bills by turning off those lights in unoccupied rooms so your building isn’t lit up like a Los Vegas strip.


Layer up before you crank the thermostat

Some of those older inner-city rental homes can be nastily cool, especially in the depths of winter. So we understand the temptation to crank the heat and transform your refrigerator into an oven (who doesn’t love the heat?). Heating and cooling because these are the biggest energy suckers. If you have a really old and inefficient system you might qualify for rebate or tax breaks through your electric company or government.

Your heating and A/C are going to use most of the energy so do what you can to retain heat or keep it out (when appropriate). If you’re not going to open the windows for a few months apply some silicon around the edges. It peels off pretty easily for when you need to open them. You can also get some rubber seals to put around the door that aren’t too expensive. Getting a bit crazier you also lose heat around outlets and light switches. There’s special backing to put behind those but that’s not as cost effective. You can just put some regular glue around the edges though. Otherwise try to heat/cool only the rooms that you’re in by using space heaters or fans. Check your blower unit as well for proper sealing

But the next time you go to spin the dial, think about the impact it could have on your next bill. The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that heating and cooling systems contribute to more than 40% of your home’s annual energy usage.

We’re used to the convenience of heating and cooling, but there are other ways to control your internal temperature. You can put on a few extra layers of clothing, brew yourself a warm drink, and throw over a rug before you settle into the couch in winter. When you do go to raise the thermostat, keeping it at a lower temperature can add up quickly.

And in summer, if you’re lucky enough to have air con in your rental home, consider first closing the blinds or curtains over the window so your house doesn’t heat up as quickly before you turn on that blessed system.


Find out about off-peak pricing

If you’re a student or a natural late-night owl, you’ll be used to staying up late and sleeping in. This could work to your benefit if you want to reduce your energy costs, thanks to many electricity supplier’s cheaper rates in off-peak periods.

A lot of energy retailers have off-peak pricing, offering a cheaper rate during quieter hours (typically between 10pm and 7am). Keep that excessive study on your laptop or procrastinate with your Xbox and sound system between these hours and you could enjoy greater energy savings on your bills.

Find out if your energy company provides this service – or which ones do if you’re interested in changing suppliers – and keep those activities requiring high energy consumption (washing your clothes and dishes, for example) to off-peak times to make the most of these energy savings in an apartment. This can be one of the biggest apartment energy savings tips for renters because it is within their control if they are paying the electric bill.


Buy energy efficient appliances

When you’re moving to your new rental home, you’re naturally going to think about buying or upgrading your appliances. These days, most appliances come with an Energy Rating label that shows how energy efficient the appliance is. The more stars your appliance rating has, the less energy your appliance needs to run.

Appliances with a higher energy efficiency rating (typically about 4 stars or more) will probably cost more at the outset, but over time they should prove their worth as you find them cheaper to run than their less efficient alternatives. If there are any appliances in your apartment that need replacing (washer, dishwasher, fridge), encourage your landlord to purchase Energy Star products as replacements – sometimes there is even a rebate available to the purchaser, which may be an incentive for your landlord.

I could go on, but don’t want to overwhelm you. You’ll find plenty of useful resources online to help you reduce your energy usage and lower your electricity and gas bills. But reducing your energy bills ultimately comes down to you and your proactive, mindful approach to your own energy usage.


Double Check Windows, Heating, and A/C to Save Money

Your heating and A/C are going to use most of the energy so do what you can to retain heat or keep it out (when appropriate). If you’re not going to open the windows for a few months apply some silicon around the edges. It peels off pretty easily for when you need to open them. You can also get some rubber seals to put around the door that aren’t too expensive. Getting a bit crazier you also lose heat around outlets and light switches. There’s special backing to put behind those but that’s not as cost effective. You can just put some regular glue around the edges though. Otherwise try to heat/cool only the rooms that you’re in by using space heaters or fans. Check your blower unit as well for proper sealing. My unit in my old apartment had so much air leaking it was amazing I could even feel it coming from the vents.

How to Save Money on Your Next Tattoo

How to Save Money on your Next Tattoo

Tattoos, especially terrific ones, are pricey (depending on how complicated the tattoo is). If you don’t have the financial muscle to have some terrific ink, don’t worry. There are prudent ways to save money on your next tattoo other than haggling with the artist over their prices. Remember, saving money on a tattoo does not need to involve haggling.

The price of a tattoo can be very different and depends on so many factors. For example, factors that affect tattoo price include the size, design, and placement of a tattoo all play a role in the final number. Most tattoo parlors can give you a tattoo price estimate based on what you’re looking for. You can plan, research cheaper artists around your area, and save up for some high quality work. Or you can get a tattoo for what you pay for.

For many, tattoos are art. If they’re done well, then they’re probably worth the cost to the wearer — just like any fine art, cost correlates with the quality and size of the piece, and also the expertise and renown of the artist. The cheaper you go with a tattoo, riskier to your health and uglier your tattoo gets. And why would you want something that will be with you always to be ugly, or to give you rashes and diseases? To save 80 bucks? Your probably better off just waiting and saving the money for something better. Otherwise you’ll end up spending more either with potential health stuff, or at best just getting it covered up with another tattoo later.


Try Tattoo Coupons to be Saving Money on a Tattoo

You can save a buck or two on your next tattoo by looking out for tattoo coupons. Coupons for tattoos can save you a few dollars. However, it will depend on if your local tattoo parlor has any specials. You can simply do a Google search of “tattoo coupons” plus the name of your city to find out. That way, you may, fortunately, get some specials. You never know.


Master the Art of Timing When Getting a Tattoo to Save Money

Sadly, with a tattoo coupon you cannot choose a size of the tattoo you want or the artist you like. Why? Coupons are held to whatever the parameters of the deal are. Mastering the art of timing can save you money, too. Scores of people are unaware that there is always a slow season for tattoo artists. Winter months are the said “slow seasons” for them.

Take full advantage while the season lasts. This is the perfect time to get some serious ink that you’ve always wanted. See that tattoo artist who offers high-priced services down the block, strike a bargain with them. Or better yet, scout about on Facebook some of the best tattoo artists and add them as your friend and watch out for offers during the said slow seasons. Get some ideas on what kind of tattoo you want online before heading to a tattoo parlor.


Adjust Your Schedule to The Tattoo Artists Schedule

Some artists will lower their hourly rate if you schedule longer individual sessions. ie: The hourly rate for an 8 hour session is normally cheaper than a 4 hour session with a lot of artists. Also, if you can commit to multiple visits some artists will lower their hourly rate even more. This could be one way to saving money on a tattoo.

Trading Always Works

If you don’t have the patience to wait until winter to save on some ink, why not trade a service with your tattooist. You know… barter yourself into a relatively affordable tattoo. Sounds like a good idea, right? It is. For this to work, find out first if the tattooist is in need of a service that you can offer such as web design, mechanic work, etc. Such an arrangement is feasible.

In fact, it is less rude an arrangement than plainly asking for a discount. Out of desperation, you may be tempted to push the issue. Don’t. It’s rude as well. If the tattooist agrees to trade, make sure to have an agreement written down and signed to guarantee you’re both protected if things do not work out.


Quid Pro Quo (Something for Something)

Why pay for a tattoo a tattoo artist is offering a huge discount for someone who can offer a large piece of their flesh for some creative art they’ve been yearning to do? Take the chance. It may be worth it for all you know. Give them a large piece of your body for them to put their skills to the test and in turn get a massive discount. It’s a win-win situation. Something for something!


Remember, Getting a Tattoo is Art

Any good artist is going to charge $80-120 per hour. The reason even a tiny tattoo is still expensive ($50-100) is that you’re taking up an hour of their time. That is part of their schedule that could be working on a 10 hour piece. Besides that, you’re not just walking into a tattoo shop to be out the door again in 20 minutes. All of the setup and cleanup makes a 15 minute tattoo take at least an hour. No good shop is “overcharging.” You’re paying for art. On your skin. Even more so, you’re paying for human labor and human creativity to put art on your skin. These things are a premium.


What is the Price of a Tattoo?

What drives the price of a tattoo is not size, but how long it takes to apply. Even if actually applying the tattoo takes 15 minutes because it’s tiny, you have half an hour of setup and cleanup time involved, as well as shop overhead. You’re going to get charged an hour minimum no matter what tattoo you get. Larger tattoos cost more not because they use more ink, but because they require several hours and multiple visits. The difference between a 4×4 tattoo and an entire backpiece is going to be dramatic, but not so much between something that’s only 1 inch square versus 4 inches.



Be Ready! Save Money on Tattoo

It’s crazy how many people go to the tattoo shop and stare at a wall in order to “pick” their next tattoo. This can be perceived by the artist or shop owner as someone who’s not sure what they want and will take more time than others to get the job done. Do yourself a favor next time and look for tattoo ideas for men or tattoo ideas for women before you go to the shop. You will have much better bargaining power when you know exactly what you want and can work with the artist to utilize his time in the most economical way possible, so he can continue to run his shop and pick up more business while servicing your needs.

Is it the Right Time to Move out of Your Parents House?


We all love our parents, but we cannot afford to stay with them all our lives. At one point in life, moving out of parent’s house becomes a necessity. We need privacy as we grow up, and you realize that you cannot get that while living in your parent’s house. If you’re over 25 years old and still sleeping in a twin size bed wondering what you’re doing with your life, this is the time when ideas of moving out on your own for the first start lingering in your head.
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First Mortgage Planning and Things you Need to Know


Buying a house is probably the greatest venture the vast majority will make in their lives. Getting a house and mortgage is often one of the biggest purchases that most people will ever make.  The procedure of discovering, purchasing, and paying for a home can seem mountainous for first time home buyer. Getting a first mortgage is also a big undertaking.  It’s hard to know where to begin – what does a home loan involve? What are the best mortgage options? What are your choices? What preparatory steps are required? This article explains some of the major aspects of getting a mortgage for your first home purchase .

Our friends at American Capital Mortgage Group have assembled an infographic that is a “Home Loan 101” for first time homebuyers. It addresses usual questions and concerns you may have when starting out on purchasing a new home and getting a first mortgage. First mortgage planning does not need to be difficult and can make buying your first home a success.


First Mortgage Financial Plan

Before you start, you’ll want to verify you’re fiscally prepared to purchase a home. What amount of would you be able to afford on a monthly basis. How long you plan to stay in this home, etc. These are great things to ask yourself when considering your new home purchase. Many people suggest that you do not spend more than 3X your annual income on home payments. This is just a guideline and it may be more reasonable to spend more or less on a first home in different cities.

It’s key to have good credit on the off chance that you need to be sanction for a home advance, so keep paying your bills on time in everything if conceivable. Moreover, you’ll have to have enough to put down a starting initial installment (this expense is ordinarily somewhere around 5 and 20% of the deal cost; if under 20%, you have to pay contract protection).

In the event that you need assistance scouting out the ideal home for yourself, it’s advised that you utilize a dependable real estate agent. As you can see in the home loan infographic, 88% of purchasers buy their home through a realtor agent.

Most importantly with your first mortgage planning, figure out your budget, what you can afford each month. Find out the property tax rate in your are a (from the tax assessor a website, do not believe what you read on Zillow or any other site like that. As they are almost always wrong). Figure out mortgage insurance, homeowners insurance, etc. consider all this when budgeting. This is how you decide how much you can afford, not the bank


Types of Home Loans: First Mortgage Planning

One of the toughest jobs in getting home load is choosing between all of the products available. Different mortgage types have many different advantages and benefits depending on your situation; so, you will want to consult a lender to figure out a plan of action. You will want to find the best fit for your needs based on credit, income, the price of the house, if you are military, etc.

Purchasing your first house can be an intimidating experience; however, it really doesn’t have to be. Do your research and break things into smaller, more manageable steps and you will be able to worry less about the process and focus on enjoying your new home!


Prepay Home Loan

Your payments on a fixed-rate loan are fixed at a given monthly amount. The percentage of any payment going to interest is determined by the amount of principal at the time, so if you prepay principal via additional payments over the required monthly amount, the interest due is thereby smaller and each payment can have a higher proportion of principal payment. The effect will be small initially but if you make significant prepayments as you describe here, your payments will soon be almost all principal and you will pay off the loan quickly and pay less interest as a result.

If you get a 15 year loan vs. a 30 year loan, you should get a lower interest rate. You can prepay either loan on the same schedule, but you will pay less interest if the rate is lower. If you intended to pay over 30 years, given interest rates right now it would be a horrible idea to get into a 5/1. But given you want to pay off in 5 or less, even if something comes up and it takes you a bit more than 5, you should still come out far ahead of a traditional fixed rate loan.


First Mortgage Planning Meeting with Bank

If you’re already educated about personal finance the “initial meeting to discuss affordability” is kind of BS (in my opinion). They will ask you how much you earn, what your debts are, are there bad marks on your credit. One of the banks I went to asked scripted questions like “why is now the right time to buy a house” and “where do you see yourself in five years” that I found really condescending and none of their business. I think the idea is that some people are just not in a financial position to buy a house and this meeting allows the bank employee to tactfully tell the person that. It’s totally informational and has no bearing on whether you’ll get pre-approved for the mortgage.

All banks in my area allow you to skip the meeting and just apply online for a pre approval. Also, they all have websites that tell what interest rate they offer and give a breakdown of what they charge for closing costs.


Infographic from American Capital Mortgage Group on getting a First Mortgage
Your First Mortgage, What You Need To Know


Other Tips for Planning for a First Mortgage

You want to know about all of the costs associated with the loan, including which closing agent and service companies the mortgage originator recommends. You can sometimes get better prices on mandatory services if you shop around.

In terms of the mortgage itself, you want to know when the rate would be locked, so you know they are not doing a teaser rate that somehow disappears when you need it most. You also want to be sure you understand whether any signing fees (aka points) are associated with a given interest rate, to allow a fair comparison.

Don’t be afraid to shop around. Getting quotes from a few different mortgage lenders is essential for first time mortgage planning and will allow you to compare the interest rates and costs/fees that each lender is offering. Good luck in your home search! Buying a home is a very exciting process.

Moving Out of Parents House – Are You Ready?


Moving out of parents house is not as easy as it seems as there are many factors to consider. Many have made the decision of if they are ready to move out of their parents’ house just because they want to live independently with no one telling them what to do and what not to do only to find out that they aren’t ready yet. If you are moving out on your own for first time, it will be best to read on and see if you are actually ready.
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7 Signs That You Need To Move Out Of Your Parents House


Staying at home may seem like the perfect solution for a rent free, easy approach to get a start on life. However, there are signs that show it is time to move on. You will see apparent signs that let you know that it is time to change where you live. Considering certain signs with moving out of parents’ house allows you to make the first steps to setting your own house rules while enjoying a new setting and lifestyle. Following are 7 signs that let you know it is time to move out of your parents house.
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