Sunday, February 7, 2016

15 Places to Find the Best Deals on Stuff You Need

I'm pretty much a minimalist.  My entire closet can fit into a double-sided refrigerator/freezer (don't even get me started on how many closets the spouse needs...), I buy the best material items I can find (whether they be shoes, a cell phone, etc) and keep them until they are worn out or horribly behind the times, and I continually minimize the gear and stuff I need to carry on a regular basis (mostly because I don't want to schlep pounds and pounds of crap with me whenever I leave the house).

Occasionally, however, there are things I need to buy and being both a minimalist AND frugal, I, of course, want to get the best bang for my buck.  Here's where I find the best deals on everything I need:

  1. DealNews
  2. Slick Deals
  3. Tech Bargains
  4. Steep and Cheap
  5. Steep and Cheap Alerts
  6. Reddit Deals
  7. Fat Wallet
  8. Kinja Deals
  9. Raise
  10. Sierra Trading Post
  11. Backcountry
  12. Google Flights
  13. REI Outlet
  14. Amazon
  15. Newegg


Monday, February 1, 2016

10 Things to Do When You Retire

It's been a busy month as you can probably tell by the dearth of posts last month (one? really?  I will try not to let that happen again).  In fact, it seems like I have been busier since I retired than I was when I had three companies running at once.  Here's some things you should consider upon retirement:

  1. Move.  I've seen many elderly people continue to hold down the farm long past the time that such a thing was feasible.  I figured I would probably be one of those people but then circumstances collided and we ended up selling nearly everything we owned, traveling for a while, then ultimately settling into an area that happens to be popular with retirees (and poker players).  This worked out well in a number of ways, namely it offered a much lower cost of living, many more things to do as a retiree, and much better weather (for most of the year) than where we had previously lived.
  2. Stay active.  You can sit on your ass and play bingo all day, everyday, but that will fast track you to #1 death (due to a number of lifestyle diseases that come with a sedentary lifestyle) and #2 bankruptcy (we'll discuss that later).  Basically walk, swim, ride your bike, dance...do things to keep active and healthy.
  3. Pick up some hobbies.  You now have all the time in the world to do fun things.  Of course money comes into play here (we'll discuss later why picking a palate of hobbies that include golf, polo, world travel, and other expensive hobbies could torpedo your budget), but there are many hobbies that are both low-cost and enjoyable.
  4. Volunteer.  The thing that happens when you retire is that you suddenly have 10+ hours in your day to fill up and with no job to fill up the time, you will often end up bored silly.  Volunteering can prove an enjoyable, interesting, informative, and useful way to fill up your extra hours.  You can also reap the benefits if you pick your volunteer gigs well (like a free place to park your RV if you volunteer at a National Park, the opportunity to learn more survival skills if you volunteer with your local Search and Rescue, meeting great people when you volunteer with the USO, or watching cool shows when you volunteer at a local theater).
  5. Dedicate time to your money.  Money can be either a minor or a major part of your retirement.  Too little and you will barely eek by, too much and, well, too much would be a good thing.  Most people are somewhere in the middle and this means you do need to pay some attention to your money.  Develop a budget, live within your means, plan for a longer future than death statistics would have you believe, pay attention to your retirement funds (pension, investments, etc), and put a plan together to keep yourself fiscally sound for the rest of your life.
  6. Work.  Of course this may impact your taxes/Social Security/etc so check with your CPA first, but picking up a side job can be necessary (for extra income), enlightening (do a type of work you've never done before), fun (pick a fun job to do), and/or a grand opportunity (do work you've always wanted to do but couldn't fit into your life plan earlier).
  7. Take up a big challenge.  When you retire, as stated above, you will have a lot of time to fill up.  Many retirees take this opportunity to do something they would never have had time to do when they were working.  One friend thru-hiked the AT, another friend went on a 90-day around the world cruise, and another friend moved in with the grandkids in order to care for them while their parents work and build stronger bonds with them than would have been possible with family members scattered all over the country.
  8. Take advantage of senior only stuff.  Many universities allow seniors to partake in university courses for free or cheap.  Travel with ElderHostel, RoadScholar, Servas, etc.  Ask for senior discounts for everything from shopping and restaurants to museums and popular tourist attractions.
  9. Have a plan for your aging and death.  Sounds like a grim topic but ensuring that your kids/relatives/friends aren't stuck with probate problems, cleaning out your hoarder home, wondering if you wanted to be buried or cremated, etc. is a very gracious gift to give your loved ones.  Get your ducks (Will, Living Will, Power of Attorney, funeral planned and paid for, long term care planned, etc) in order.
  10. Build relationships.  Once you get old you realize that all of the material goods in the world aren't nearly what they are cracked up to be.  Building relationships however, with the grandkids, the neighbors, long-time friends, relatives, etc. is well worth the time and effort invested.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Identify Your Target. Please.

First off, Happy New Year!  It's been a quiet weekend around here, but, as with any big city, we have already had a couple of shootings to welcome in the new year.  While most shootings in most cities are gang/drug related, and other shootings are law enforcement related, we have had a few incidents around here recently which emphasize a very important point if you are going to use a gun against another person--identify your target THEN pull the trigger.

As you can see from this incident, it's a stupid idea to shoot someone through the door.  Unless shots are coming into your home, firing at a random person who happens to be pounding on your door is really dumb (and should be really illegal).  If you can't identify your target, you should not be shooting at it.  If someone is pounding on your door in the middle of the night you have a few options.  First, look to see who it is.  If you don't know who it is or what they want, tell them to get off your property.  If they don't comply, call the police.  Obviously you will want to have your firearm at the ready because you don't know what the person's intentions are but while some drunk fool on your door step can be scary, it isn't a reason to kill someone.  Now when said fool breaches your door or window and is coming into your home and you can identify that the person is #1 unknown to you and #2 a decided threat, by all means open fire (from a position of cover, of course).

And then there was this incident where two local off duty police officers mistook their relative for an intruder and shot her.  My first thought was that #1 these people (should) have had enough tactical training to know that they need to identify their target before shooting, and that #2 they should have had enough common sense to know that if someone has access to your house that, duh, it might be someone you know coming in during the middle of the night, and that #3, again even as trained law enforcement officers it seems like they could barely hit the broad side of a barn since the person was only slightly injured.  That in itself was slightly concerning.   Anyway...

A similar incident happened to me some years back.  The spouse was out of town, the kids were at their friend's house for the weekend, and I was awoken in the middle of the night by the dog flipping out and someone creeping around the outside of my house shaking the door handles.  Now I was behind a locked bedroom door and had a couple of minutes to act so first I picked up my bedside firearm, next, I took a look out the window to see if I could tell what was happening (I couldn't see anything but could hear a couple of people trying to open the back door), then I called 911 to inform them that there was an intruder trying to get into my home.  I also informed the dispatcher that I was armed and was in my locked bedroom and for them to let me know when law enforcement arrives (I didn't want to unintentionally shoot a cop).  Then I took cover behind the bed and waited.  From what I could hear, no one had entered my home, there was no reason to leave my room as there was no one in the home to protect, and police response in the area was reasonably speedy.  If someone had breached my bedroom door, they would have ended up dead but there was no reason to go running outside to engage people in what could have been a firefight (odds of winning one of these are pretty iffy, BTW).

So I waited.  The police arrived almost immediately and they approached the people in the back yard with guns drawn.  Turns out one of my sons and his friend wanted to pick up some stuff from the house and he had forgot his key and hoped to be able to somehow get in the house without waking me up.  Needless to say it was a learning experience for all involved and the situation could have went sideways pretty quickly.  It was fortunate someone wasn't shot.

To this day, there are a number of people who have keys to my house and who routinely show up in Las Vegas and need a place to stay.  They know they are welcome to show up any time, and of course I emphasize the fact that they must call before they arrive even though they have a key and that they can call at any time.  They also know I am pretty much always armed and have the good sense not to just show up unannounced and come into my house.  Even if someone should do so, there would be no reason to break down my bedroom door so the idea of being armed and ready but not confrontational unless absolutely necessary is still one of the rules I live by.  YMMV.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas, New Years, and Beyond

With the holidays approaching, it is getting busy around here so before I forget...

  • Merry Christmas!  Here's hoping you have a loud and crazy or quiet and serene, family-filled or family-free, minimalist or gifting overload Christmas (your choice, whatever makes you happy).
  • Happy New Year!  Be safe of course and plan ahead so if you drink you won't drive.
  • Consider a new way to celebrate the holidays (in the case of my city, I just found out that the local parks service will be offering midnight hikes to celebrate the New Year which, in my opinion, will be about a hundred times better than celebrating on the Las Vegas Strip...but that's just me).
  • Set some challenging New Year's resolutions.  Yes I know that these usually fail by week two (judging by the packed gyms the first week of each new year and then crickets by the first week of February).  If you need something to really push you, pay to do something you are kind of iffy about currently (pay the $100 for that marathon, book your flights and hotel...the financial loss if you chicken out should be its own kind of motivation).
  • Resolve to take care of your money situation this year.  Double your income, develop multiple streams of income, get out of debt once and for all, set up that investment account you have been thinking about...
  • And as always, protect yourself and your family.  Be aware of your surroundings, watch out for fraud and scams, carry concealed if that is your thing, wear your seat belt.  Better to be prepared and not need it than not be prepared and suffer the consequences.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The San Bernardino Mass Shooting

Another day, another mass shooting.  There isn't a whole lot of clear information on today's mass shooting in California, but here are some things to consider:

I'm sure there will be more info coming out about the shooting in the next few days.  At this point there is no comment on the race of the shooters--to derail premature speculation no doubt--but one shooter who was killed was a woman (quite unusual).  The initial cause is still being debated (workplace violence? terrorism? who knows) and the news is still going, since early this morning, pre-empting any other TV shows.  The real story remains to be seen but for now, stay safe and stay aware out there.

Friday, November 27, 2015

A 100-Item To Do List for December

Most of which are on my own "to do" list...

Christmas

  1. Do not spend more than you can afford on gifts and/or other Christmas stuff.
  2. Do consider giving "experience" gifts such as taking a person hunting with you, taking the nieces and nephews ice skating, etc.
  3. Go out and cut your own Christmas tree.  It's a good experience for all.
  4. Be sure any Christmas decor (lights on the house, decorations on the tree, etc) won't burn your house down, make the dog sick, etc.
  5. If you will have guests for the holidays (especially kids) consider locking up your firearms, prescription meds, etc.
  6. Save money on your Christmas decor, wrapping paper, etc. by hitting up the $1 Store, the Goodwill, and other thrift stores.
  7. Make the holiday more of a series of events (watching 'It's a Wonderful Life', going ice skating, etc) instead of a free for all day of gifts.
  8. Donate to those in need.
  9. Be aware of drunk drivers on the road (and obviously be aware of your guests drinking at your own holiday events) as the number of intoxicated people on the roadways tend to spike this month.
  10. Ratchet back on the news and social media.  The news is usually all negative and social media can make you feel left out/alone/poor compared to the sparkling photos and posts by others.  Removing these negative sources in your life can make your holidays happier.

Your Home

  1. All the boxes from the new TV/XBox/computers you bought on Black Friday?  Be sure to get rid of them covertly instead of leaving them out on the curb for garbage pick up.  You don't want to make your home look attractive to burglars.
  2. Consider having any online shopping deliveries sent to your office, the local FedEx office, etc. instead of leaving the items on your porch where just anyone can grab them.
  3. Be sure to have fully charged fire extinguishers around the house.
  4. Consider baking your holiday turkey instead of deep frying it (it's safer).
  5. Do any necessary winter clean up which can make your home safer, cleaner, and more efficient (ie: clean out gutters, keep leaves and debris off the walk ways, etc).
  6. Keep your pets away from Christmas ornaments and decor, chocolate, and small children who can annoy them.
  7. Winterize your home if necessary and make notes of larger projects that should be done (it's easiest to tell where winter winds are coming into your home when it is both winter and windy).
  8. Be ultra aware of the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning which is very common during the winter.
  9. Consider getting a generator if necessary (obviously when they go on sale, not the day of the major power outage).
  10. Consider using/donating a majority of your food stockpile and replenishing it.  This is a good way to get rid of older food, en mass, and make way for new food purchases for your stockpile.

Your Vehicle

  1. Winterize your vehicle (change the oil to winter weight, flush the cooling system and add anti freeze, change your wiper blades, etc).
  2. Know how to put chains on your tires even if you usually pay someone to do it; it's a good skill to know.
  3. Restock the emergency supplies in your vehicle for winter (heavier blankets, different food, etc) and change out the batteries in your vehicle's flashlights, emergency radio, etc.
  4. Put an AC/DC inverter in your vehicle (it's a great way to charge your cell phone and other small electronics charged if the power goes out in your home).
  5. Practice winter driving skills (like driving on snow or ice) in a safe area (like a large, empty parking lot).
  6. Leave ample time to defrost your vehicle/de ice the windows before heading off to work or school.
  7. Drive according to conditions (if I had a dollar for every SUV that ends up in the ditch after it first snows...).
  8. Avoid driving in inclement weather if possible (this goes double for for teenaged or new drivers).
  9. Invest in items that make your vehicle/your driving safer (such as snow tires if you live in an area with lots of snow, an engine block heater, etc).
  10. Don't forget that vehicle crime as well as crime near your vehicle like when exiting a mall, tend to increase during the holidays so always be aware of what is going on around you.

Outdoor Survival Skills

  1. Go on a winter day hike or overnight camping trip.
  2. Try winter hunting, fishing, or trapping.
  3. Start a new Christmas tradition by "burning a Yule log", or just having a bon fire and roasting marshmallows, etc.
  4. Go cross country skiing or snowshoeing (these are excellent forms of exercise and good survival training as well).
  5. Practice skills needed for winter survival (layering outdoor clothing, staying hydrated which active outdoors, staying warm, building an emergency shelter, etc).
  6. When the snow falls, build an igloo for the kids to play in.
  7. Try foraging for winter edibles.
  8. Turn your winter vacation into something truly memorable (like this).
  9. Go shooting at the range (this can be quite different than shooting in summer).
  10. Repack your BOB/daypack/backpack for winter.

The Kids

  1. Teach your older kids how to drive safely in inclement weather.
  2. Teach your kids age-appropriate winter safety skills (how to prevent CO2 poisoning, how to safely cross the street in ice and snow, how to safely start and manage a fire in the fireplace or wood stove, etc).
  3. Keep your kids well occupied and well supervised during the holiday break from school.
  4. Engage your kids in the traditions of the holidays (everything from decorating the tree and the house to baking and cooking the holiday meal).
  5. Be aware of things that could be dangerous to children due to the holidays (such as keep a visiting grandpa's meds out of the reach of toddlers, putting poisonous decorations such as mistletoe out of the reach of little kids, and keeping the gifts of liquor-filled chocolates away from the kids).
  6. Make sure the kids take all appropriate safety measures when doing winter sports (wearing a helmet while skiing, knowing when the ice is too thin for skating on the local pond, etc).
  7. Teach the kids about the significance and spirit of the holidays instead of focusing overly much on gifts.
  8. Teach your kids a variety of outdoor skills (everything from how to camp in the snow to how to trap animals in the winter, etc).
  9. Be aware of the gifts that the kids receive for Christmas.  Some can be recall items, others could be age-inappropriate, and others may be contrary to your beliefs (I'm all for giving guns to kids as gifts, apparently a large part of the population isn't) so they may need to be re-gifted or otherwise edited from your kids toy chest.
  10. Teach your kids what to do in the event that they run into common scenarios such as getting separated from you at the mall or store, if their school closes early due to the weather, etc.

Your Money

  1. Strive to become debt free by the end of the year.
  2. Pay annual bills at the end of December if possible (HOA fees, insurance payments, etc).
  3. Check your credit card/debit card accounts every few days (scams are rampant over the holidays, make sure there are no extra expenditures you didn't make).
  4. Be wary of carrying (and especially flashing) cash while out and about (it will make you a target for robbery).
  5. Don't fall into the Black Friday/Cyber Monday holiday sales hype.  There are good sales year round.
  6. If you want to send money as gifts over the holidays consider buying discount gift cards instead.
  7. Spend wisely over the holidays by using sales sites such as Deal News or Kinja to get a heads up on great sales to make your money stretch further.
  8. Look for ways to save money at this time of year--everything from baking your own cookies instead of buying them to stocking up on food staples during holiday sales.
  9. Pull you free annual credit report to ensure all information is correct.
  10. Pay yourself first.  Even though it seems like money is flying out of your account as soon as it lands there this time of year, always take the first cut from any income you receive and stash it away in a savings account. 

End of the Year Stuff

  1. Consult your tax accountant about any end of the year financial moves you should make (such as fully funding your IRA, paying your kid's tuition, etc).
  2. Use up any annual medical/dental benefits by the end of the year.
  3. Do an annual review of your life and look for areas to improve upon.
  4. Clean up and organize your files (both hard files and computer files) and archive anything you don't need.
  5. Clean your house from top to bottom and donate anything you don't need (don't forget to get a receipt for your taxes).
  6. Review your important documents (Will and Power of Attorney, medical insurance plan, etc) and make any necessary changes.
  7. Review all of your income sources and expenses.  Look for ways to increase the former and decrease the latter.
  8. Change all of your important passwords and pin numbers. 
  9. Use up anything that will expire soon (like old gift cards, coupons, etc).
  10. Take advantage of slow season discounts (like have your AC serviced now, book a cruise for February, etc).

Activities

  1. Look for free activities to do during the holidays (Christmas caroling at nursing homes, kid's school plays, etc).
  2. Give back during the holidays by volunteering at a food kitchen, volunteering with community organizations (like Toys for Tots), or even volunteering to babysit for a single parent while they do their holiday shopping.
  3. Spend time in nature.  It may be freezing cold outside but nature has a way of clearing your mind and helping you to realign your priorities.
  4. Participate in seasonal activities such as sledding, ice skating, skiing, etc.
  5. Participate in community activities such as holiday fun runs, visiting Santa with the kids, etc.
  6. Learn a new skill (the down time during the holidays is a good time to learn something new).
  7. Teach a new skill.  Many clubs and organizations (like Boy Scouts, specialized clubs, etc) would love to have someone come in and teach a related skill that their members can benefit from.
  8. Check out your options for local clubs to join (shooting club, HAM radio club, astronomy club, etc).
  9. Challenge the family to go an entire weekend with no electronics at all.  No TV, no radio, no Netflix or internet, no cell phones, no computers, no video games or social media.
  10. If you are spending time with all of the relatives this year, endeavor to write down as much of your family history as possible.  Once old people are gone, so are their stories and memories.

Your Health

  1. Step up your exercise program (this helps to burn off all of the holiday treats).
  2. Try fasting or going vegan for a day or a week (it's a good reset for your body after eating so much crap ever the holidays).
  3. Join a group (walking group, bowling league, etc) that will get you exercising into the new year.
  4. Make sure all of your vaccines are up to date.
  5. Take care of any annoying problems (dental pain, etc) so you can start your new year on a happier note.
  6. Many people suffer from depression, especially during the holidays.  Pay particular attention to mental health problems in yourself and your loved ones, and seek help if needed.
  7. Make sure your first aid kit/sick kit are complete and fully stocked (the flu season hasn't fully hit yet but it probably will.  Soon.).
  8. Take an honest health inventory and fix any problems you find (if you are overweight, get your weight down and it will help not only your blood pressure and blood sugar levels but also your mental health.  If you have been putting off going to the doc for that annoying cough, make an appointment now).
  9. Consider options for de-stressing.  Take a long walk, get a pet, take up yoga, etc.
  10. Do an annual review of your medical-related things (glasses, hearing aids, medications, etc) and make any necessary changes.

Preppin for 2016

  1. Set annual goals for yourself, your work, and your family.
  2. Get a calendar and map out your upcoming year.
  3. Plan next spring and summer's garden.
  4. Plan your next year's vacation around something useful (a vacation heavy on physical activity, a vacation that focuses on health, an outdoor survival course, etc).
  5. Determine how best to improve your survival-ability during the upcoming year (this may mean taking an EMT course, buying better gear, etc).
  6. Challenge yourself to improve your existing exercise routine for the coming year (if you are an occasional runner, sign up for a marathon in six months and gear your training towards that goal).
  7. Decide what you won't do during the coming year.  Most people keep adding and adding goals to accomplish but they don't stop and subtract the things from their lives that aren't working.
  8. Consider doing the 52 week money challenge.
  9. Prepare for tax time so you aren't scrambling in a couple of months.
  10. Count your blessings and always be appreciative of what you have.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

10 Random Comments on the News

Well the news has been much the same lately.  If it bleeds it leads and the more afraid and divisive we can make the populace the better apparently.  Here's some random comments...

  1. Mizzou Students.  You are annoying. Get a life.  You have access to all of the things that students of every other color have so make use of it instead of acting like whiny Millennials.
  2. BLM.  Ditto.  Whatever support you hoped to inspire has evaporated due to your annoying, insulting, and racist tactics.
  3. Dartmouth and Mizzou administration.  Grow a pair.  You are in the business of educating students to the best of your ability not kowtowing to the most disruptive students.  Also, hiring professors by color as students are demanding is asinine.
  4. Syrian refugees.  Most are good people and well vetted before being allowed into the country.  Yes some bad ones will slip in but that happens whether they immigrate here or are born here. 
  5. The presidential contenders.  Our choices are abysmal this election season.  Very sad.
  6. Thanksgiving.  Spend time eating and enjoying time with friends and/or family.  Barring that, volunteer to serve those less fortunate.  Skip the maniacal Black Friday shopping because really, how much crap do you need?  There are good sales year round.
  7. $15 minimum wage. No. Just no.  If you have actual job skills that can earn you $15 per hour that's great.  If you can do the same job that a trained monkey can do, you don't deserve $15 per hour.
  8. On a happy note, the Seahawks are playing today.  Go Hawks!
  9. On another happy note, it's been sunny and 70 degrees for the past week.  Great winter running weather here!
  10. Christmas.  Don't over spend.  Buy useful gifts.  Enjoy the season.  Say 'Merry Christmas' instead of Happy Holidays if the mood strikes you (PC crap annoys me).
Happy Thanksgiving to all of our blog readers!