It’s 2015 and I haven’t written much of late, so I wanted to share my favorite tips, tricks, recommendations(and disappointments you should avoid) and would love your advice on a few things. This post is a bit long, so I’ve broken it out into a few sections to try and maintain some semblance of organization.
Savings Tips Off the Beaten Path
- Airfare – Just this past week, I was reading about how the airlines are suing a young entrepreneur for sharing (their flight and pricing info!) tips on how to save money on flights using a little-known method. In short, this 22 year old has been posting at skiplagged.com how to save significant amounts of money on your flights by buying multi-leg plane tickets and then just getting off at the first leg. I was unaware of this, but these tickets are often quite a bit cheaper because people tend to avoid layover flights. Meanwhile, there may be many circumstances where your actual desired destination was the interim layover city. So, off you go! Just have to make sure you don’t check your bags so you can take your carry-on with you. Here’s an article outlining the lawsuit and like typical big media, giving credence to the plight of the airlines and hinting that this is akin to switching labels at a department store (which IS theft). This is simply smart aggregation of data. Don’t shoot the messenger.
- Just About Any Purchase – Over the years, I’ve raved about the benefits of buying discount gift cards but I’d usually focused on buying the physical gift cards in advance. Now, what I’ve been doing is realizing I need to buy something that day and just buy an “electronic” or “mobile” gift card where you get an email (usually within an hour) with the code. Essentially, I do this an hour or two before I hit a Lowes, Walmart or whatever the store is. Why pay full price when you can save 5-20%? Actually, we saved 21% on Pier One Imports for new living room furniture my wife wanted for Christmas. The fact that most people leave this money on the table is a shame so I continue to sing the praises of discount gift cards. Some popular sites are cardpool.com and plasticjungle.com.
- Reduce your Interest Rates Easily – Why people continue to pay 20-25% interest rates on high interest credit card debt is beyond me. Now, there are completely easy loans you can take, often at a 6-9% rate to pay off your high interest debt through either Prosper.com or LendingClub.com (or both!). Make it a New Year’s Resolution to pay less in interest this year if you carry a balance and take a low-interest loan.
- If you’re a business owner, scope out discount shops for furnishing your office, store, or establishment. For example, look at Restaurant Discount Warehouse for inexpensive restaurant essentials like menu covers and chef’s aprons.
The Most Awesome Gifts for Kids
- Osmo for iPad – You’ve gotta see this one to believe it. There’s a neat demo video and tons of reviews here at Amazon – everyone loves it. Osmo is basically some apps and a small mirror that gets placed on your iPad or mini and you can play various games from Tangrams to Words for kids to drawing objects to interact with the game similar to the older Crayon Physics game my kids used to love on PC. You can even place objects like toys and kitchen objects and the camera forms a 2D image IN the game which interacts with the balls dropping down. It’s really neat, especially when a new friend or cousin comes over – our kids end up spending time showing them how to play. Evidently, they are adding more apps which are free. Check it out:
The Most Awesome Gifts for Adults
I could list out dozens of new gadgets and toys I’ve seen during this past Christmas season, but if I list my favorite, it would be an amazing-sounding portable Bose speaker I got for our pool parties and general listening. Most of the great sounding speakers I’ve researched required a hard electrical connection, but this seemingly small battery powered speaker packs incredible sound. It connects via bluetooth so you can walk around with your smartphone in your pocket while playing a list off Spotify, iTunes, etc. The reviews are overwhelmingly positive – this is the best one in the field I’m aware of:
- Pseudoscience and scammers – in 2014, I’ve continued to see a transition of seemingly smart people falling for “holistic”, “integrative” medicine docs who purport to cure the incurable and claim vaccines cause autism, etc., despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Don’t be one of those people. There’s a reason that Medicine and Alternative Medicine exists. Alternative Medicine is not proven to work. Once it is, it becomes medicine. One of the worst of the worst, this guy, used to claim there’s been a cancer cure being hidden from the public for years and there was a giant conspiracy to suppress the truth. As naive and silly as this sounds, millions of Americans believe things like this. Well, he was finally sentenced to 10 years in prison for his repeated lies and scamming over the years which enriched him while likely harming thousands, if not millions of people. Where there’s a myth, there will always be a market, no different than the white man creating the AIDS virus or 9/11 conspiracy theorists. Two pieces of advice: always look at evidence, opinions, data presented by both sides of an argument and you can usually see who’s lying or embellishing and 2) if a following of a particular belief or opinion seems particularly cult-like and overzealous, they are probably wrong – this goes for everything from fundamentalist religions to naturo-quacks to gold-bugs. These people allow emotion and dogma to over-ride their common sense and scrutiny.
- Books I Don’t Recommend – See? I don’t just write about stuff I recommend. I’m going to try to save you some money and NOT buy some of 2014’s hottest books. See, I’ve already read or skimmed them and I’ll save you the trouble:
- Tony Robbins’ Money Game book – it’s a huge like 700+ read full of common sense stuff you already know. He interviews several “experts” who share some seemingly interesting ideas that are impractical. One is that you should buy nickels since the metal is worth more than 5 cents. But it is illegal to melt down US Currency and inflation will likely eat up any value derived from pursuing this silly scheme over a decades long period. His other gem is the all-weather investment portfolio which is a mix of stocks, bonds, commodities and such. While it back-tests well historically (don’t many great ideas?), it is highly unlikely to perform well in the future. Here’s a reasoned take-down of his thesis from a man willing to bet $100,000 it will fail: all-weather fail. I skimmed the rest of the book and it’s really basic stuff you’ve probably already read on cookie-cutter finance blogs.
- Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell – I’ve liked some of his prior works but this book is just boring. Much of the book continues to cycle back to the same few case studies which are annoying in themselves. He creates a thesis about why a trend arose but provides no definitive evidence to support the claim. One case study centers around Hush-Puppy sneakers and the hipsters in East New York wearing them which triggered their resurgence – annoying. Another is the drop in crime in NYC which has been written about ad nausea but he totally discounts or ignores a major factor which is the reduction in unwanted pregnancies outlined in a much better book Freakonomics.
Career – You’ve probably noticed I posted less in 2014. It’s not because I used to spend time writing stuff while I was at work, as I used to spend an hour or two most weeknights working on blog-related stuff. But a new role I took in late 2013 has turned into a fair amount of travel and work spilling into night time hours to the point that I just haven’t had the time or energy to dedicated to high quality posts. Nonetheless, I’ve continued to have some interesting inquiries from recruiters that find me through various referrals, LinkedIn, or on the research side, I always recommend signing up for TheLadders. It’s free and you get routine emails for roles in the 6-figure range only so you’re not wasting time on entry level or non-skilled roles that pop up in want-ads and other traditional job ad formats.
Predictions for 2015 – I predict we’ll continue to see racial issues persist with the feigned outrage from the left over anyone calling BS on the protests or people who don’t think police should do their job. The media is salivating over any police shooting now with a minority involved. Stories that used to get no attention are now front page until people move to the next thing. In terms of financial markets, oil, etc, I make no predictions. People that do are usually wrong and there’s nobody to hold them accountable – hell, Cramer still has a TV show. Beware arrogant and confident prognosticators of the financial media – they are blowhards that make a living making predictions, not investing.
What are some key learnings, tips, tricks you want to share for 2015?