Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Avoiding Post Holiday Doldrums

Hey all. Happy Wednesday to you.

The Holidays aren't quite over yet, but the nearness of the New Year has me thinking about post holiday slumber and peace. Sometimes that peace can lead to doldrums if not harnessed in the proper way. :-) In other words, if we don't have the positive attitude that comes with Christmas and the New Year celebration, we can sometimes get depressed. Why does this happen and how can it be avoided?

Well, I think part of this is a double edged sword. There is the hurrying and festivities that surround the Holiday time, along with seeing family and being in the giving spirit. That always brings happiness (or usually) and the residual good feelings tend to last through the Holiday period. We also tend to get some time off work (if we're lucky) and we look forward to that time like it's the Holy Grail of the work year. We get much needed rest and mental release from our jobs and the stress that is right behind our job. So, again, why do we sometimes get in to the New Year with a bit of a low or melancholy?

I equate this to a similar feeling that comes with separation anxiety. We are separated from the family that we see 2,3,4, or more times a year. We have that good feeling that comes after seeing said family and now it's over until next year. Or, at least until our family gets together again, but the Holiday time is over until next year. That's okay though. We can all find our own ways to keep that cheer in our lives. Find the positives like we do so easily during the Holidays. Keep those with us through the rest of Winter and in to Spring, and there's always next year to look forward to for another Holiday.

Giving throughout the year can also have similar effects as the giving that we experience at Christmas. Find a charity to help with, even if it's just your time. Those experiences and feelings can have lasting effects, and people will benefit as a result.

I hope you have happiness all year long. All the best!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Resolving New Years Resolutions

Happy Holidays everyone!

I have taken some days off from posting here lately, but am back now and just wanted to explore the topic of New Years Resolutions.

First off, what qualifies as a New Years Resolution and how do we narrow things down to a substantial resolution? I guess it doesn't have to be that seriously pondered, but if it's going to get resolved, it's got to be something that we want to improve right? Well, I have some goals that I'd like to reach, but nothing as far as losing weight, or stopping smoking (don't smoke), or any other normal resolutions that people have. Mine involve things like: getting a proficient understanding of complex jazz improvisation for guitar and mandolin and being able to open my musical vocabulary a bit more. Other than that, just traveling more and seeing/experiencing new things.

I really feel like the older I get, the more important my family and friends become. I also plan on spending as much time with family as I possibly can. After the X'mas Holiday, I look back and think, it is wonderful to spend all that time with family that I get to see twice a year. Maybe I can bring that up to three or four times a year.

My new goal each year also is to see a new country every year. This year it will either be Thailand and Southeast Asia or another country in Central/South America. It depends of friends' schedules and plans as to what we do. I can't wait. I love the excitement that comes with seeing new places and people. I love to immerse myself in new (to me) culture. I love trying new foods and drinks in new places as well. That stuff gets my creative juices flowing.

What is it that you value and want to resolve in 2010? What can you do to make it happen?

Here's to the Holidays and the news years...Cheers!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Avoiding Burnout With Your Career

I think everyone, at one time or another, feels that burned out feeling from over working and trying to make sure things are squared away at the end of the year. So, what do you do to avoid getting burned out doing the same things day in and day out?

Change up your routine- This seems like a no-brainer, but some people get stuck in their rut and forget to spice up their life a bit. This can be easy. Just do a couple things differently in your day to change things up. Take your lunch break for the full hour, or go somewhere different for lunch that you wouldn't normally go to. I like to go to the library and browse the Cd's, movies, books, magazines, and newspapers. Just depends on my mood and what I'm interested in that day. It's a great way to get your mind off of work and away from the stress that work can place on you.

Take little breaks- Make time to pull away from your most stressful patches of work. If you know that between 10 am and 2 pm is your busiest time, then plan 5 minute breaks for every hour to walk around the office, or step outside for minute, or just surf the web mindlessly. This allows you to regain your composure and decompress a bit to allow yourself to better complete your task at hand. Everyone operates differently though. Some people prefer to just put their nose to grindstone and get things accomplished and out of the way, that way they're done for the day. Some people prefer to take breathers in between their tasks to avoid getting over stressed and spreading out the work for the day. Neither is right or wrong, one just may work better for you.

Make your tasks meaningful- I like to make a list and use it as kind of a daily goal planner. I can check off my tasks and make it feel like a game. It's like a personal game that you can play with yourself to feel like you accomplished your goals and gave yourself a purpose for the day. If you approach your tasks with a sense of purpose, you'll feel a bit better at the end of the day. On the other hand, don't take your tasks too seriously. If you approach them with too much importance, if one task doesn't get done, you'll get down on yourself. This defeats the purpose. Keep positive.

Have fun with your co-workers- This isn't always possible in every work environment, but in most, you can find ways to have some fun with your co-workers while getting your work done. At my workplace, we all tell jokes, tell each other our debacles in life, share our own shameless screw ups, and just generally shoot the breeze. This can be done while getting work done if you instant message, sit close to your co-workers, or if you get regular breaks. If you get one of these, email works well too. Just find ways to add some humor and fun to your work bubble.

If possible, do some work from home- Don't do this in your "off" time. In other words, if you work allows you to, work from home as a substitution from you office work time. This allows you to change up your sterile work environment for your cozy home. Just make sure that you stay productive so your boss doesn't regret letting you have some at home work time. This helps me greatly as it allows me to get more done by focusing on my work away from office distractions. The nice trade off here is that with that focus, I can get my work done quicker and have time to do the things that I want to do around the house, etc. It's a great trade-off.

I hope you effectively avoid burnout while you press through this end of the year work quarter. Good luck and have some fun.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Getting Away to the Desert

Hello everyone. I've been away in Phoenix, Arizona for the last 5 days and haven't been keeping up with my blogging in the meantime. I did want to post some reflections on the trip and how it made me think differently about certain aspects of my life.

First off, we went to Phoenix to go celebrate my father's 50th birthday party and I couldn't be happier that we did. It was great to see all of my parents' friends and our family come celebrate with him on his milestone birthday (although in my mind it's just another day, as Dad would say as well). My parents are both very young to have a son that's 30 (that's me) and 27 (my brother), but it works out well for all of us as they are very active and adventurous. Not only were they up for whatever we want to do, they even come up with their own crazy agendas. I love that about them. My brother is very cool as well and I love counting my family as my best friends (along with Evelyn of course).

Secondly, my parents surprised my brother and I with some tunes that they've been learning on the banjo (my Dad) and the fiddle (my Mom). Needless to say, I was stunned and so proud. I think it's awesome that they're learning these very difficult instruments and I'm so proud that they've made such progress is so little time. They were playing old fiddle tunes very well for the 5-6 months that they've been playing them. My jaw was on the floor when I walked in the house from the airport and saw them playing them. I always knew that I got my musical abilities from somewhere and I think my parents are realizing that they have it in them as well. That's so inspiring. My brother and I have been playing for some years, and we are now complete with the "Stackhouse Family Band." :-)

Thirdly, going back to that adventurous part: my parents and I went hiking Monday in Usery Park outside of Phoenix, and we did some pretty intense hiking. We climbed roughly 2000 vertical feet and a trail that was at least 3 miles (although we dispute that as it seemed much farther and we're not just saying that because of the elevation gain). Seeing the panoramas and the views of the Arizona valleys was stunning to say the least. It's a mental health wonderland up their on the mountain and I literally am excited about the next visit out there so I can do it again somewhere new. I love the crisp air and the warm sunshine when you're trekking up the mountain. There's nothing really that compares to that feeling of reconnecting with the outdoors.

Lastly, I'm grateful. I'm grateful that I get to spend such great times with my family while I'm young. I'm also grateful that we can put any differences aside and just love each other no matter what. That is great when you think about so many people out there that just can't seem to get along with their family because of petty differences. During the Holidays, I'm thankful that I have these things. I think I will always be grateful and thankful for that.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Making It Through the Holiday Stress

If you are like most Americans, you are freaking out about how you're going to get all your Holiday shopping done and how you're going to travel everywhere you need to go over the Holidays. Trying to overdo it is a normal situation for all of us and sometimes we all just need to take a step back and realize that the Holidays are about family, friends, and being with the ones we love, not impressing them. I think we all sometimes work a bit to hard to make sure every detail is perfect for our family and really, our family just wants to relax and be with everyone.

Perfect is the enemy of good enough. It's taking me a long time to realize (30 years of my life) that being a perfectionist is not always a good thing. Sometimes, we all need to step back and accept good enough. Having the "perfect" Christmas is sometimes as simple as just having family over, eating together, and then enjoying each others company. Really, do you remember a gift that you received 5 years ago that really changed your Christmas day. There are some exceptions, but we are all so conditioned to give and receive gifts that we really tend to overlook or glaze over with all the gifts. I'm not saying that we don't necessarily appreciate them, but it's almost like over stimulation of the senses and we get overloaded. I'm of the opinion that one great gift is enough and especially one that has meaning.

So, when you're preparing for this Holiday Season, keep in mind the importance and the point of this great time of year. Don't get too caught up in the hoopla that can create stress in an otherwise fun time. We don't get to see the whole family (or the vast majority hopefully) all the time, and being appreciative of this is good for the soul.

Good luck with your shopping and preparations for the Holidays. Good luck if you have a challenging family also! :-)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Doing What You Love

How is it that we convince others to pay us for the things that we love to do? How do we go about it? Is it just sheer determination or is it the fine art of marketing? Is it networking and using contacts that you have to create your ultimate business? Could it be brute force and the force of just putting your nose to the grind stone?

I happen to believe its a bit of all the above, as you might have guessed. Timing can also be a factor as well since we don't always have the time to pursue our passions, and given that time, we may come across the opportunities that we didn't have before. For example, you may work a job now that consumes 60 hours of your week. God forbid, but let's say your employer cuts back your hours to 35 hours a week. With all that time that you have, you may pick back up your passions and or find new ones. Who's to say that won't turn in to something that goes to a full time gig? I used to think this mentality was for dreaming about when one retires, but now I realize that we all can make our own realities with some hard work and determination. We just have to try. That's the biggest part of the equation that a lot of people miss!

Trying. Be it as it may, trying can be very difficult. Difficult for our egos (especially when we fail), and difficult for us on a physical level. It's easy to sit around and do nothing about change or creating change, but taking that first step or just jumping in head first can be scary. The funny part is though, once you dive in head first in to crazy challenges, they all become easier and more manageable through time. Even when approaching new challenges. The skills learned from the last big challenge can guide you through the current one.

That's the wonderful thing about us humans. We adapt and grow with change. We naturally don't like change, but we do deal with it in our own ways. We can choose to fight it, but change always wins. When we create and make the change, we get to guide our own destiny. That's the cool part. How do you think that you'll guide your destiny?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

De-Cluttering My Life

Well, we made it through another Wednesday unscathed. I have been having a pretty good week so far, and tonight I played a gig to top off my "hump" day. Can't say that I'm not happy about that.

I have been seriously planning and scheming (in my head) all the ways that I can de-clutter and lessen the amount of "stuff" that I (we) have. One of those approaches involves selling the stuff that is of use to others, but of no more use to me. I have some pretty expensive (well, it used to be anyway) music equipment that I haven't used in years and could be sold on Ebay to generate some additional cash flow and make room for less clutter. Other ways that I'm approach are to decide what has been used in the last 4-6 months, and if it hasn't, it's got to go. Minus the camping stuff, kayak, and other stuff that I know I'll use when it's warm again.

So, why the reasoning for this? I feel that I need to simplify all aspects of my life so my mind is less cluttered. Plus, it's good for your mental health to de-clutter and streamline all the stuff in your life. This is evident when you see elderly folks that tend to clutter stuff after their spouse passes away. They do so to "hold on" to the memories and the tangible from what was in their life.

Another reason for this mode of getting rid of stuff is because I have become very anti-consumer in philosophy as I hit this 30th year mark in my life. I hate consuming things and buying things just because I can. It drives me nuts to see an over abundance of packaging used on items, people running up credit cards and the banks charging F-U interest rates, the gluttony of collecting junk, and then going back for more. I'm not in any way saying I'm "better than that" or "holier than though," so please don't take it that way. I'm just saying that I refuse to be like that and it depresses me that so many are trapped in that mode of addictive behavior. I want to help those people and heal that emotional wound that causes them to do this.

Do you have ways that help you de-clutter your life so you can think more clearly? Do you have traditions or ritual times of the year when you do this? I can't think of a better time than the holidays, given the fact that we'll probably all end up with more than we had after it's all over, said and done.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Winterizing the Home

Well, the Thanksgiving Holiday has come and gone and now we're on the downhill slope to the Christmas Holiday. With that, we have colder weather as well, and it's already starting to show it's ugly face. Surprisingly, we've had pretty mild weather so far this fall and approaching winter. It's been pretty common to see it hit 50 degrees every day or every other day. For that, I'm not complaining. That does bring me to my next topic: Winterizing and cutting heating costs.

We bit the bullet last year and got new windows for our house (we didn't really bite the bullet too bad as they were a Christmas present) and that has really cut down on our overall heating bill. That, combined with monitoring the thermostat more regularly and turning it down when we're not at home, etc. I would suggest that to anyone that doesn't do that now, as it saves you quite a bit of money that you wouldn't imagine. Another good way to save on your gas bill is to turn your water heater down to 140 degrees as that is more than sufficient for heating your water for your personal needs. That will save a good chunk of change as well. So, what if you can't do new windows or need alternative options.

There are other options for winterizing and saving money, even if you have an old house with leaky windows. Start by going up in your attic and checking out the insulation that is present. If there is minimal insulation or it's less than 6 inches thick, you may want to consider getting more and lining the attic with it. This will save the most money and keep you the warmest in the winter as heat rises and without adequate insulation, your losing a lot of heat. Another great way to keep from losing heat in your home is to buy plastic window insulation that will provide an airtight seal against the drafts that might plague old windows. 3M makes a good product that I have used in the past and it does work quite effectively.

There is always the tried and true method of using more clothing in your home and just turning down your thermostat too. Wearing slippers and sweaters around the house will save you some pennies too, but can get old pretty quickly.

If you have a wood burning fireplace in your home, this would be an additional way that you can create heat without using the furnace. We do this in the winter with our fireplace and have to secure wood before the cold sets in to do so. This isn't so hard being in the Midwest though. Right now, there seems to be an abundance of firewood suppliers trying to earn extra money or doing it as a living with the job market being as thin as it is.

Lastly, check around the seals and the trim on your windows and you can caulk any areas that need to be airtight. Make sure you don't caulk the area that will need to move when opening and shutting the window though, unless you want it shut for good (or until you cut it open with a utility knife anyway). This is a really great way to cut down on drafts from the windows and can save lots of money as well. Check the doorways also and see if they are in need of caulking.

Good luck and I hope that this winter will find you safe and sound.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Oh Black Friday...

I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving and is having a nice, relaxing weekend spent with family and friends. The holidays are always an interesting time and this "Black Friday" was no different. I chose to be less than wise and go to Guitar Center yesterday on "Black Friday" and found quite crowd of teenage boys playing all sorts of metal and hard rock tunes on guitars in the store at just below ear blasting levels. Now, this by itself wouldn't be so bad, but then throw in the same number of kids trying out drum kits, running around the store with their parental counterparts, and then trying to check out. What that leads to is irritation of many levels. I managed to stay calm and collected without freaking out, but that was not the case with other shoppers. Some left after waiting in line for 15 minutes because they just needed small items.

Evelyn is an enthusiast about "Black Friday" and all of it's shopping grandeur. She's become quite the frugal queen and finding the best bargains has been the challenge for her shopping adventures. This includes grocery shopping with coupons, as well as using fliers to find the best %50 off deals possible. The other perspective on this is that she probably wouldn't have bought some of things she bought because she wouldn't have been in the store to be lured in to other "bargains." We try to stay focused on what we go to the store for, but we all know that sometimes the lure of other sales or specials are too tempting to pass up. This is the result of constant exposure to marketing that we are all bombarded with and the spending is the after effect.

Now, when it comes to Christmas (and we're really only buying for close family and a charity family that we "adopted"), we don't mind being generous and getting people more than they expect, but we really try to keep the spending reigned in so we don't have holiday spending regrets. Evelyn and I are not the typical consumerists, but we do like to treat ourselves and others well with gift giving.

Is "Black Friday" worth the effort? This is a very subjective question, of course, but do you feel that it's worth it to spend the effort to wake up early, go shopping for bargains, and fight the mass onslaught of the holiday crowds? I don't. I would rather pay $5 more on a gift that spend my time that way. That's my priority. Yours may differ and I accept that whole heartily. Regardless, we all need to keep in mind that we're all out for the same purpose.

I hope your shopping experience this year, whatever it may be, is not a stressful one. Good luck! Just a reminder, there's always the online shopping option. :-)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Some Thoughts on Giving Thanks

Another Holiday year is here again, and just the same as last year, the madness and hustle and bustle of it all is making it fly by pretty quickly. Already we've got Thanksgiving knocking at our door and Christmas is right around the corner. I truly don't know where the year went.

With that said, I do have a few things that I'm very thankful for. My health has been mostly good this (very good relative to many) and for that I'm thankful. I have a wonderful girlfriend that loves me unconditionally, and I'm grateful. I have an awesome and inspiring family for which I am thankful. I'm been blessed enough to still have a great job and a wonderful home, with plenty to eat, and a warm bed in which to sleep. For all those things I am very thankful. Since I've begun this blog, I've made it my priority to see the lighter side and the simpler path in life. In doing so, it makes me really put a microscope to my own behaviors and actions, as well as the components of my life. This has given me all the more reflection time, resulting in more appreciation for the gifts and blessings that I do have.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am really excited about giving thanks tomorrow for the celebration of our ancestors making the trek from Europe to Plymouth Rock. Whether it means gorging myself on pumpkin pie and turkey, or just appreciating good conversation with my family members, I will be in the spirit of giving thanks. I know that not everyone has the blessings that I have and I must not take any of it for granted. As we all say, "life is short" and "this too shall pass." I don't want things to change, but life happens and things do change. All the more reason to enjoy what we have now. In the here and now.

Please enjoy what you have and count your blessings this Thanksgiving. By all means, have a wonderful one!


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Very Affordable Housing

I always thought that Indiana was a pretty cost effective place to live and work, but I just needed some real numbers and data to back me up. I found that backing when I read this article and found out that Indianapolis, IN is the most affordable city in the country to live in right now, with a median home price of $107,000.

What's also pretty amazing is that the median income is $68,100. That's pretty high considering the low prices in the housing market. Our dollar goes a lot farther here and on the flip side, homes don't appreciate quite as aggressively as in other areas. The positive to that argument is that we don't have the bubble bursts in real estate to the extent that California, Florida, and other major areas experienced. The benefits that I experience here in Indianapolis are in my business of owning and managing real estate. With low home prices, I am able to create more residual income as the mortgage payments are less as a consequence of a lower purchase price. This goes hand in hand with the fact that I can apply extra money to principal as well and pay off the houses quicker. It's a win/win all around.

On the other end of the spectrum, not all surprising, is the least affordable place to live. New York City. As seen here, the median home price is $425,000, while the median income is $64,800. That is a huge differential between home price and income! No wonder so many people rent in the Big Apple.

The interesting part of this article that isn't mentioned is the fact that when you go outside of these cities, prices tend to be even lower (with the exception of high end suburbs, which can be higher on average). When you look at housing costs in rural areas, especially in Indiana, you see even lower housing costs than in the major cities. You also see slightly lower median incomes, but that's not always the case.

The trade offs. You know there are always trade offs. Of course, we have the Indianapolis Colts, the Indianapolis Pacers, The Indianapolis Indians (minor league baseball team for the Pittsburgh Pirates), The Indianapolis 500 race, Wes Montgomery came from Indianapolis, Dave Letterman went to Ball State, Don Mattingly grew up in Evansville, Indiana, and many other notable events, sports, and people. But, Indiana is cold and located in the Midwest, where there aren't movie actors, we don't have an ocean or beaches, no mountains, lots of corn fields, and very little in the way of entertainment industry. Those are the trade offs.

So then the question becomes "What's it worth for you to live where you live?" If you love the location, weather, features, people, network, job, etc. that you have and live in, then no price tag can be placed on that (within reason of course). Happiness is paramount and affordable housing can be found nearly any place.

Have a great week everyone!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pareto's Principle

How is it that the most productive and efficient 20% of the population creates 80% of the wealth and prosperity (in philosophy of course)? The Pareto Principal attempts to explain this phenomenon and can be applied to many other aspects of life and work. I tend to apply it in my career by keeping my focus on my 20% most loyal customers that refer 80% of the business to me. This philosophy can be applied to many aspects of our lives though, but it's not something that should be thought of as an exact science (of course), but more a concept and direction for applying our energy and focus. If you think about your most loyal friends that encompass the most enriching aspects of your life, you might be able to apply this rule.

Why am I bringing this up? I am constantly striving to improve my efficiency in life and work, along with that finite balance in living. If I apply my energy to the most effective parts of my life, most effective friends, most effective partners (business and relationship), and most effective experience, I get more out of life in general. What I mean by the word effective: most enriching, rewarding, caring, and abundant. To find the 20% (of whatever it is you need) that are the most effective, makes you 80% more effective and abundant (in life, love, and happiness, at least that's the goal). I know this seems like seriously over thinking life, it's really not. It's simply learning how to put life on auto pilot and learning to use your energy in the most effective way. This leads to more mental and physical energy for the things that matter to you.

Things that matter to me are spending time with family and friends, being able to travel the world, playing music, helping others, experiencing new food and culture, and staying fit and healthy. The more efficient I am in choosing how I spend my time in my career and personal life, the more time and energy I have for these things that matter. How do you spend your time and energy? Do you find that you are constantly fine tuning your approaches to all aspects of your life? What in your life is worth putting more time towards? How can you find more time for that?

Check out the Pareto Principle and see if it can help you focus on the things that really matter in your life. Good luck!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Set Backs in Life

We all will run in to challenges in life that will test our will and our patience. Why is it that the challenges in life can create the most upheaval in our moods and routines? Change seems to be hard for us as humans to grasp a hold of unless we are accustomed and used to change on a regular basis. But, as we all know, challenge and adversity give way to strength and life lessons.

How is that some people are just more adaptable to change and are more patient with the tough stuff in life? I think we can all agree that living our lives in certain ways can add to or take away from our energy, outlook, and overall way of dealing with adversity. We can choose to approach things in a positive light or a negative light. It's our choice. I'm constantly trying to learn from others that are so adaptable to change and so flexible with challenges. I really strive to remain positive through adversity, and also keep in mind that I've never experience REAL adversity the way some have. I've been pretty fortunate and lucky in my life.

What do you find throws you off your game? How do you deal with the big challenges in life?
What do you consider a big setback? This differs with all of us as well.

Life is sometimes like a marathon. We have to keep our heads in a happy place to make it through the long haul. What I like to keep in mind is that there are always different approaches to the mundane and the common adversity in life. Why not take the road less travelled and even the higher road? We all know that's better for our mental and physical health anyway.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

What is it about desperation that forces us to reinvent ourselves and ultimately follow our muse?At other times we do things that just allow us to skate by, but when we have nothing, we have nothing to lose, right?

Throughout the economic downturn that our country has been experiencing, I've been reading countless stories about people that have reinvented themselves after being laid off or downsized from their previously stable jobs. They are now working for themselves and doing what they love. One blogger that I read occasionally has recently gone through this and you can read his story here as he's finding ways to reinvent himself, creating new sources with which to support himself. Others that I read about are doing freelance work in fields that they always wanted to. Viable fields are photography, graphic design, web design, consulting, writing, and editing, along with many other ways that you can work physically in your area to keep yourself afloat.

For another example, a friend of mine here in Indianapolis has begun a business doing painting and power washing for large apartment complexes and is doing quite well for himself. He will switch to plowing snow in the winter, which usually picks up in January, February, and March here in Indiana. He has chose to do this as his career in the business world became very disappointing for him and unreliable. If you're miserable in your job, I think this is the way to go. Why not take the leap of faith and work for yourself? If you have the self discipline and the tenacity to do it, I think there is no better way to employ yourself than being your own boss.

This topic is something that I've been researching pretty extensively over the last year as I'm trying to create other businesses that will take over my current day job. I do enjoy my current day job and it's as close to self employment as I can get (with outside sales and a very laid back manager that doesn't micro manage), and I also have my business with real estate rentals as well. However, my ultimate goal is to create a successful online business that can and will support me from any location.

If you have ideas or suggestions with regard to this topic, please email or comment to let me know. I am eager to get the wisdom from others that are doing this currently.

Have a great week everyone!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Financing From the Old School

There used to be a time when people bought Christmas presents with cash and saved all year to do so. There wasn't an abundance of store credit cards that offered 0% financing for 12 months and there weren't credit card offers being sent to 90% of the homes in America. If you talk to the older generation of Americans (depression era folks), they didn't use and probably most haven't used credit cards much in their lives.

There is and has always been an alternate option that many stores still employ as a technique to sell their wares. Layaway. Kmart is king for the layaway and I'm sure you've all seen the Christmas commercials that highlight their layaway program since the credit card companies have tightened up their card requirements and approval processes (no financial interest of course). The important part to remember though is that layaway is interest free and allows for a purchaser to buy something over minimized payments without paying financing fees and crazy interest rates that credit card companies charge. It really is a fiscally smart alternative for the holidays.

Sears also has a pretty reasonable layaway program as well, along with some Best Buy stores, Burlington Coat Factory, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and some local stores that you may not even expect to offer layaway. A music instrument and supply store that offers layaway is Sam Ash in case your doing some shopping for a musician in your family.

So, if you don't want to pay cash for your Christmas presents, use layaway. In case you haven't caught on to my contempt for credit cards, now you know. The more I can steer people away from their evil ways, the better I'll feel.

Good luck with your holiday shopping!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Of Utmost Importance: Health

We've all heard the phrase, "If you don't have your health, you don't have anything" and I think we would all agree with this statement. If we're not in good health, every effort and every task seems like a great one.

Every time I get sick, I really appreciate this bit of truth a bit more (and my flu bug, or whatever cold is really nothing big picture). But some times, someone comes across my path that really hits home to me and makes me really appreciate the health that I have on the grand scheme of things. I don't have a life threatening illness, I don't have a disability, I don't have a physical impairment, and I'm a socially adept person with a lucky job, life, and group of friends/family. What I'm getting at is that I have my health.

I ran in to a guy through work that really made me think about this and made me realize that the big man upstairs put him in my path for a reason. This guy has had trouble with his health for the last 5 + years, lost his job, is losing his home to foreclosure, lost his mother to death a year ago, and just struggles in general. He has friends and some family left, but I can see the struggle in his face.

These types of situational encounters make me realize my fortune in life and the great cards that I really have been dealt. It makes me stop and take inventory of the things I'm lucky to have. With the holidays coming up, in particular Thanksgiving, we all begin to reflect back on what's awesome in our lives and what we're grateful for. I'm grateful for the people and opportunities that I have had in my life. I'm really am truly blessed and I feel I've been given extraordinary circumstances for the good.

Do you feel like when the timing is right, people come across your path to teach you a lesson? Are you grateful for your health? Lets all help each other remember how lucky we are to be here for this short time on this big, blue planet.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Is Blogging Really Work?

Well, some people seem to think so and I happen to agree that it's work. It takes upkeep and constant intellectual work to write the posts and to continue coming up with blog topics for the future posts. I'm not necessarily saying that it's real hard work, but it is work regardless.

As far as whether it's technically considered a job, the state of New York happens to think it is and they also feel it's a viable income source as well, as witnessed by the decision to cut unemployment benefits for one laid off attorney in New York. The article is found here, which talks about this particular case. This is a particularly interesting case as the laid off attorney is making a paltry $1.30 a day in income, which in no way supports the blogger in food or living expenses (it doesn't say this, but we can clearly assume).

This will be interesting to see how this actually turns out given the magnitude of this decision. We are in a generation where many bloggers are actually making decent livings from their blogs, which can in turn lead to book deals, freelance writing, advertising, and guest posting that all pay pretty well when, as a writer, you're well established. The site is a fine example of how one can make a living from blogging, not to mention getting the benefits from your own blog (advertising, Google Adsense as the example article above represents, etc.) if applicable. In my opinion, there should be an income limit that is applicable to qualify someone as being truly able to support themselves on a blog alone. For instance, one does not need to file a tax return if earning less than $400 of self employed income for the year. In this case, this person should not have had to file a tax return when making $1.30 per month, but maybe we're not hearing the whole story.

What do you think? Is blogging for $1.30 a day a living and should it disqualify someone for unemployment benefits?

I find this a hard pill to swallow considering the fact that our government has extended unemployment benefits for 14 additional months. Don't get me wrong, I agree with the writer of the article (linked to above about extended unemployment benefits) that unemployment benefits are not incentive to find new work, however, let's be fair across the board for all employees/people.

People are finding creative and new ways to make a living and put food on the table in addition to their unemployment benefits, because we all know it would be difficult to live on just an unemployment check. Is that really fair to someone trying to eek out an existence?

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for incentive to work and for people to support themselves in society, but I think we all need to be a bit compassionate given the hard economic times. I'm curious to see how other states take issue with blogging income. New technology brings new income sources, and states have to adapt to this new income in their own ways.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Some Thoughts on Holiday Sales

Happy Friday everyone!

I hope this day finds you well.

The holiday commercials that are beginning to be played everywhere and on everything are always interesting to me. From the television to the radio, to the internet, and text messages; they surely are driving home their message of, "since you're going to spend massive amounts of money at Thanksgiving and Christmas, lets make it easier to swallow." From 30% off sales, to buy one get one free sales, to free shipping here and there, it's all marketing and they speak to our American consumer sensibilities as a society.

People are back to spending again now that the media has stated that the economy is on an upturn and the recession is almost over/over/lessening/and other varying degrees of improving. What does this mean? Fear is loosening and people aren't so scared to charge on their charge cards, and spend their savings. They are feeling more secure about letting go of their hard earned cash.

Is this good? That's debatable by any ones standards, but a lot of analysts see it as a good thing as the wheels of the economy are turning again. One problem that is a natural reaction, many stores have reduced inventory and it's likely that supplies will run out if spending continues to increase along with demand. It turns out that some retail stores over estimated the downturn that 2009 would experience, but then again, time will really be the teller.

My real rub with the holiday sales slogans and marketing ploys are the fact that a lot of stores try to justify and instill in us the idea that saving money through a 30% off sale for something we don't really need (by need I mean, really need) will really be beneficial for us in the long run, especially when they promote their store credit cards and their 0% for a year promotions. Isn't that what got our society in to this economic mess?

I don't mean to harp on the negative here, because I do like the holidays. I do like the decorations and hoopla that comes with Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. It's like, people take on a better spirit toward the end of the year to get in the mood for the holidays. I love seeing family and friends and reconnecting with loved ones.

I don't think things will ever change here in America with regards to psychological marketing, but that doesn't mean that I won't continue to be amazed. What about marketing amazes you? Do you ever feel like you are constantly barraged by intense marketing during the holidays?

Good luck with all the commercials out there. Stay strong my friends, stay strong. :-)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Finding Common Ground

When it comes to friendships and relationships in general, there has to be common ground to make it work right? I think so and I think most would agree. What about when it comes to hobbies and extra curricular activities? Do the same rules apply. I would apply the old adage, if you're going to spend your down time doing something you love, why not with the people you enjoy?

So, that leads me to my next topic and item that I've been pondering. When you're indulging your hobbies, do you have to have absolute common ground or is it okay to be quite different in your beliefs, ideals, and taste? I am finding that the older I get, the less I can tolerate the opposite of me. I'm a pretty open minded, accepting individual and I can't stand ignorance and narrow mindedness, especially when it pertains to things that I love. For instance, music.

The more I play music with other people, the more appreciation I have for musicians of extremely varied backgrounds and musical taste. I like to play a lot of styles of music and can "get down" with others that are the same. That doesn't mean that I won't or can't accept someone just because they only choose to play classical music, or jazz, or insert musical style here. It just means that I get bored with monotony and repetition. My only exception to this is The Blues.

I'm in a place that I haven't been in for quite a while. I'm playing music with 2 different groups right now pretty regularly and am about to start playing with a 3rd and see if the fit is there. It seems like it may be upon initial discussion, but we'll see. It's got me thinking hard about what I want to spend all my free time on and whether I really do want to devote more time to another musical project.

I have been contemplating putting together a band of my own for a while now and it seems like the more I get involved with, the further that gets out of the realm of possibility. I want to keep that at the forefront and make it happen soon and I know if I don't, I'll fill that time or energy with something else. Oh, priorities.....

Do you find that your hobbies involve a lot of common ground with others? Do you grow from the differences? Learn from extreme differences? What can we learn from all these differences and tolerance?

Here's to hoping things work out for the best and everything is creatively inspiring!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Instant Movies on the Flatscreen

I hope everyone had a great weekend and a wonderful Halloween!

Evelyn and I have recently spent the money necessary to hook the laptop (Macbook) up to the LCD flat screen TV in our living room so we can watch movies and tv shows on it when we wish. It's really been quite a novelty lately and the initial fun hasn't wore off just yet. We had a movie marathon yesterday, taking a break from going out and from Halloween parties. We're signed up with Netflix and we've got the plan where you can watch movies instantly as well. That's been the coolest feature that's available as of yet. We watched everything from documentaries, to romantic comedies, to stand up comedy, and a drama. We can also catch up on tv shows as well if we have time (depends on the work week).

The way you go about doing this is first, you have to buy a cable that will hook your computer up to your tv. This can be done with a vga cord or an hdmi cable, depending on which your computer has. HDMI is better quality and allows for a digital signal to be transmitted from the laptop to the tv. The other cords you will need is for your audio. We have a separate set of computer speakers that we hook up to the laptop (in to the earphone or audio out 1/8" plug in) and that works magnificently. The only other cords or additional accessories that you may want are a wireless keyboard and mouse, which I picked up at Best Buy (no financial interest of course) for about $40-50 and that allows me to sit on the couch and surf that web without having to get up (oh yes, sedentary American-ism).

So, all told, this set up cost me about $119 (had to buy an additional converter cable for my Mac to VGA cord) and I feel that it's been well worth the cost. We no longer have a cable bill, so that pays for the upfront cost in a couple months as it is. Plus, it's just kind of fun to be able to surf the internet from your couch in your pj's on a big screen tv. It's cool for listening to music as well. You can just flip on the computer speakers and have music in the living room while cooking or cleaning up the house.

That's the latest in our home/tech forays.

Have a great Sunday.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Self Worth in Every Day Life

Well, tomorrow if Friday and what a week it's been. Month end in the mortgage business can be a real treat (I hope you can sense the thick sarcasm that I'm laying on here).

What is it about our jobs and our role in our jobs that gives us confidence and self worth? Is it the accomplishment that we feel when we complete a task or the notice that we receive from our management/co-workers? Or is it the fact that we feel important in our purpose in our job place and feel like we're really needed?

I believe it's all of the above. Along with realizing our true talents, we get to validate ourselves in some form or another and that makes us feel like we're important. It's critical to feel that importance in our lives to feel like we're worth our weight. Self worth is important to mental health and especially to confidence. We need to feel accepted and like we're the perfect person for the task at hand. We need all these things to carry ourselves with personal conviction and understanding of our self worth.

The other side of self worth is in our God given talents. We all are blessed with talents that may or may not be on the surface of our personalities. Some of us may have developed these talents and others will find them at the opportune time in their life when the moment realizes itself. We all have them and it's all just a matter of developing these talents to realize our true potential. Whether it's public speaking, art, writing, accounting, law, finance, riding a bike, swimming, or just talking with people; we all have within us a natural inclination to excel.

Try new things if you don't know what yours are. Get out of your comfort zone. Really venture in to the unknown with your personality. I talked about this in a previous post here and discussed the possibilities of opening up new opportunities by challenging yourself.

At some point in time, we all question our self worth to some degree. It's important that you find your voice and your channel so that you can show the world what you have to offer. Not that we need to prove ourselves, but to keep us in the right mental place where we feel good about who we are and what we contribute to humanity.

Have a great Friday!


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Life of a Lottery Winner

So, I'm sure we all have thought of that age old question at some point or another: "What if I won the lottery?" I am fascinated with the psychology that goes along with people and their money and naturally that dichotomy is far from black and white when it comes to lottery winners. Some feel that is makes their life easier and gives them everything they dream of, while others feel that it imposes an unnecessary burden that they never would wish upon their worst enemies.

I find some of these stories inspiring and quite positive for the human spirit. For example, I came across this story recently when doing some reading about lottery winners (I get on weird kicks with my reading, I will admit). This man, Solomon Jackson Jr., won the jackpot in the Powerball game and won $260 million. He basically said that he had retired early and has a blessed life, so his life won't change much, if at all. He goes on to say that someones life will be blessed from his winnings. That's commendable and hopefully it works out well for him.

Do you think that it would make your life easier? Would you just create new problems for yourself? Ideally, I think we would all like to think that we would invest wisely and live off the interest for the rest of our lives, but emotions get involved and guilt becomes a factor in how people use their money as well.

The not so glamorous side to winning the lottery is when humans get greedy and take advantage of winners and their financial windfall. This article illustrates that point very well. A successful construction company owner, Jack Whittaker won $314.9 million only to have his granddaughter (the apple of his eye) become hooked on drugs, spending frivolously until she got herself killed and others around her killed as well.

Money can do strange things to us and cause an emotional strain on us as humans. It can come from the stress of making ends meet or the pain of not being able to feed your family. When a large financial windfall comes and the "high" from spending that money comes in to play, all bets are off and emotions really take over. There are interesting stories abound about people who have had it all and then lost it all in short periods of time. I think we as humans will continue to be fascinated by the winners themselves, the situations that drive them to "spend it all," and also by the winners that manage to have the dream life as well.

What would you do if you won? One can fantasize right? I would travel the world and make sure my family was taken care of. Here's to wishing in one hand and ....well you know the rest. :-)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Redefining Your Career

Happy weekend everyone.

In the uncertain economy and even more uncertain job market it's important to define yourself and make yourself stand out in your career. We all have our individual talents and unique characteristics that make us who we are and help us define our roles in the work place. It's important to not get stagnant and let your career go on autopilot once we get a good job. I'm guilty of this at many times in my current position as a mortgage banker and have found myself in places that I didn't want to be in as a result. Like a place of boredom or a lack of challenge in my workplace. It's up to me to make myself better and we all have to take that initiative sometimes to develop as a person.

How do we do it? Reading books on topics that relate to our weaknesses is one way. For instance, I'm not so good at cold calling and making unexpected visits to business partners and potential clients. I find that cold calling isn't really my strong suit, so I try to read books about it and listen to other people that are good at it. Don't get me wrong, I'm good with people and can talk with just about anyone, but when it comes to getting down to the point of the call, I sometimes trip over words. We all do at some point, but we get better the more we do it. Which leads me to my next point.

Just do the things that you're afraid of and make you nervous. Breaking through that barrier of fear opens up new worlds of opportunities that wouldn't have otherwise shown themselves. One example of this in my life is performing music. I used to be afraid of getting up on stage and singing/playing guitar when I was much younger. Now, after doing it for two decades and playing out regularly, it's become a sort of second nature. Don't think I don't get butterflies in my stomach still though. It's still a rush to have a crowd of people watching you and you're every move.

So, in challenging yourself, personal growth comes as a pleasant result, which in turn gives you new talents to bring to your career, thus redefining your place in that given career. Give it try and see what opens up. Could be a raise, or a promotion, or even a better job offer. You never know until you try.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Simply Live

As I approach the big 30 mark in my life, I am constantly contemplating how I want to spend the years of my formative adulthood (ha!). I keep debating how I'm going to pay for traveling around the world, how I'm going to fund my pension, my 401k, my IRA, etc., etc. and sometimes lose track of today. I'm sure we all do that because it's easy to do when you get responsibilities and a career. But it's almost important to just live.

I'm reminded of that every time I talk to Evelyn about this stuff (she is the yang to my yin) and try to be the planner of life. She reminds me that it's about l-i-v-i-n and there's no better time than now. I have my own moments as well where I'm in touch with the moment, but she's good at reminding me when I get out of touch. What a great thing right?

So, since I'm 9 (almost 8) days away from turning 30 (I know it's just a number and I truly feel that way, really) I resolve to hold myself accountable for simply living. Not worrying about the tedious minutia in my life, keep things in perspective, and living for the important stuff: life, love, and happiness. I think that's a fair goal and instead of a New Year's Resolution, I'm making it a 30-40 decade resolution. I figure if I can get that figured out and live that way for 10 years, by then it will be a habit and I'll just keep it going until my formative elder years (yeah I like the word formative). Here's to living and living well!

Remind yourself why you are happy and healthy, but most importantly, keep in perspective all the things in your life.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Housing Tax Credit: Keep or Throw Out

Most if not all of you know that my day job is in the mortgage business, so I keep a good "pulse" on what's going on in the real estate world and especially with real estate legislation.

For the past year, we've had the $8000 tax credit for new home buyers and I've definitely had a spike in new home buyers in that time. This has been great for business and also great for these new homeowners as well. I don't really look forward to my generation paying for the tax burden that will be a result of this $8000 tax credit for all new home buyers, but if it spurs the housing market back to where it needs to be, then it needs to happen, period. My only wish is that I could take advantage of the credit, but alas, it's not to be as my first home was purchased more than 5 years ago. I don't regret that one bit as I've learned a lot and gained equity in the meantime. I've also purchase other homes in the meantime and learned from them as well. Wouldn't trade it all for any other way.

So, what am I getting at? Capital Hill is talking of extending the $8000 tax credit to new home buyers until June of 2010 and I am in support of this, to be honest. This article explains that the Obama administration wants to see more data about what the tax costs will be for us tax payers before signing off on it. Some members of Capital Hill feel that the tax credit has had some very positive effects on the housing market and buying stopping it on November 30th, 2009 could undo a lot of the positives that have come from the initiative.

I can tell you this from my experience in mortgage banking: It is definitely impacting buyers' decision to purchase a home now or later. Many buyers are taking advantage of the tax credit as they see it as "free money," and they are right. It's essentially free money now (with a tax bill that will have to be made up for down the road of course from all tax payers) that helps Americans gain some extra tax refund money for improving their new home, paying off debt, saving, or spending to stimulate our still lagging economy.

Time will tell but we should know soon as our administration is saying that it should only take a few weeks to determine whether the future tax burden will be too significant or not.
Have a great week!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

More Benefits of Not Having Cable TV

Happy Saturday to everyone. I hope you're enjoying it as much as I am.

I was reading an article about someone that just got new cable service recently and how they truly enjoy the DVR options that come with it, etc. They went on about how they can fast forward through the boring stuff and just watch what they want. The best part, the bill is only $17 a month for now (promotional deal, etc. for a limited time).

This got me thinking about our decision to give up our cable at home. I don't regret the decision one bit as a matter of fact. I reflected on what I've been doing with my time without cable TV. I've been playing more guitar, which I don't regret one bit. I've been learning a lot of new songs and getting a lot of new ideas as a result. I've begun writing songs again, which is something I haven't done for a while. I don't regret that one bit. I've also been reading a lot. Whether it's an online article, blog post, a book from the library, or an interesting magazine that I come across. I am learning all kinds of new bits of information for conversation pieces and just general useless knowledge. :-) I'm actually reading three books right now, which cover a gamut of topics from history (about Cahokia), psychology of happiness (Happier), and The Millionaire Next Door (a book about finance and average habits of people that are millionaires, almost done with this one). Mostly, I just enjoy thinking more and not zoning out in front of the TV feeling like a zombie.

I figured that we're saving a pretty good chunk of change as well per year by not having cable TV. To the tune of over $400 per year. That's money that we can use for vacations, road trips, and other various activities that we enjoy (Evelyn and I that is). A better use of the money to me, I think. Your mileage may vary and if you enjoy what cable TV brings you, more power to you and keep on keepin' on. One of my favorite blogs constantly talks about finding things that work for you in your life to simplify and not worrying about what others are doing. This applies to many aspects of life and it's important that we all take this approach.

Have a great weekend. Headed up north to go to a surprise birthday party tonight.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Without a Job...How 'Bout the Military?

Well, that hopefully got your attention.

With all the news about unemployment this and downsizing that, many people are turning to the military in this uncertain job market. What better way to secure your future than with the US government defense right? Well, some believe this to be true so much that they're staking their future on it. A Cnn Money article today said that the Department of Defense has "met or exceeded their recruitment goals for all branches of the armed services for fiscal year 2009," ( The pros being a consistent pay check, no taxes paid if in a combat zone, and free health care benefits. Not a bad gig, except the sacrifice that you make in possibly fighting in the War in Iraq or Afghanistan. That comes with the territory though and is to be expected if you're signing up.

Just as with the Great Depression, government work and resources have pulled us through this recession, whether it be through bailing out the large banks, Wall Street, or subsidizing stimulus packages. These "fringe benefits" of being American come with a price tag of course, but why not take advantage of what we can. That seems to be the motto with the individuals signing up for military jobs. Why not take job security/certainty over struggle and financial strife. I personally am old enough that I think I would shy away from joining the military to ensure my job prospects, but I must admit that if you are well educated, you have good job options in the military that pay well and set you up nicely for the future, without putting you on the front lines of combat. I'm not going to get in to personal beliefs about the war and our defense spending, etc because that's not my purpose of this post, but suffice it to say that when opportunity is knocking, it's fair to open the door when it's needed. I'm happy for the people that can and do serve for us in our defense departments around the globe!

With that said, I hope you have a happy and restful weekend. I also hope your job prospects and career opportunities are on solid ground.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Big Freeze

It's definitely Fall in Indiana and with Fall comes much colder temperatures. They come strolling in hand in hand. This week we found ourselves rushing outside on Sunday night to pull all the fruits and vegetables that were still on the vines and pulled them inside to give away, or consume. This included 13 watermelons (give or take 1 or 2, I lost count), a bunch of tomatoes (green and also ripe), peppers, eggplant, cabbage, onions, and we've still got a bunch of herbs out there that can still be used until frozen off the plants. We hate to see the fruit of the labor go to waste so we're trying to use everything. That means even the green tomatoes that Evelyn has so inventively used in Green Tomato Cake, which doesn't happen to be my particular cup of tea, but she loves it, and I'm thrilled for her. I do happen to truly enjoy fried green tomatoes and that's where I'll do my part. I love making green tomatoes, along with rapidly consuming them shortly afterward. Here's the recipe I used in case you have an abundance of green tomatoes that need eaten.

Our work was not in vain as it turned out. On Monday morning we had the first frost that we've seen for the fall season and it's a good thing that we got what we did because the tomatoes at Evelyn's parents house were shot when we got to them. Oh well, life goes on and there's always more to grow next year. It's nearly unbelievable to me that summer has come and gone and fall is here, with winter quickly approaching. It seems surreal.

Now, we just wait for Indian Summer. :-) One can wish and hope.

Have a great week!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

When is Enough Enough?

We live in a consumer oriented society, there's no question about that. Part of a Capitalist economy involves competition, healthy and otherwise and with it comes that ever present question. How much is enough? When I acquire this amount or these things, when am I going to be satisfied?

I feel the best way for us to approach that is to look at our individual goals and aspirations and be realistic and accountable for them within ourselves. Being a good human being is a given when thinking about how you live your life in relation to these goals as well. For example, we could accumulate all the money in the world, but if we're greedy and self absorbed, not giving any of it away or helping others, then it's all in vain. Right? We all know that giving makes us feel better, but there are psychological effects that are clear results of giving. This article talks about the "the helpers high" and goes on to explain why and what it is that makes us feel the way we do when we give.

Having clear cut goals allows us ultimately to look at these goals individually and keep a tally of our progress toward those goals. This gives us a way to visibly and tangibly see that a goal is reached so we can mentally let the goal go after it's done. We as humans are always going to have a feeling that we will want more, whether it's wanting more money or wanting more in our job, family, or status. It's our human nature. If you have a grip on that, more power to you and I congratulate you. Most don't.

The best thing that we can do is to just make our goals in a visible format (i.e. write them down and keep referencing them periodically) and make sure you congratulate yourself when you reach these milestones. This allows us to free ourselves (even if momentarily) from the grip of want and makes us realize that we can reach our goals, and let go of those wants. The great thing about writing down our goals is that they become real at that point as well. Mentally, we make them real and then we make them happen. Which is always a good thing.

Here's to your goals!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Saving Money with New Habits

Hey all, happy Friday!

Holding myself accountable has been a goal of mine for quite a while now, especially with regard to this blog. One of those accountability measures of mine is being more conscience of what is going out and what is coming in in terms of income and spending. I'm always looking for ways to get things cheaper with minimal effort as well. I've been changing my own oil in my Jeep for years now, I buy from the on sale items at the grocery, stopped using certain products that I feel are excess in my life, cut my own hair, etc. These measures aren't necessarily to make myself miserable, quite the contrary. I have a great sense of accomplishment doing things myself and being a self sufficient engine. It gives me a sense of pride to change the oil and fix things around the house. I'm not paying some else $20-$40 per hour to fix the things that I can just as easily do. That gives me that money to do what I value, such as travel, save, or not work forever. The latter being the big one that I'm focusing on. I don't want to work the rest of my adult life and I'm making sure that is in order.

Today I stumbled upon a great article about saving money in your day to day life. It's over a CNNMoney and the article is here. There's some great advice and reality checks if you're interested. I enjoy personal finance blogs and news sites, so I come across these often. Some of the suggestions are easy and some are honestly life changing or rather, lifestyle changing. I especially like the page about Twittering for savings. Twitter and technology in general have come so far that we can now quite easily use them as financial and business tools in our life. When people say, "technology will change the way we live," this is no joke. We have channels of communication all around us that allow us to feed each other ideas and suggestions at all times of the day or night.

The article also mentions ways that college students can save money by renting books online as well. That's a great option for people that aren't in college and love to read all the same. This page has the link to their websites, but another great one is This site allows you to buy points and then trade paperback books for others endlessly. It's easy and free after the initial points purchase. You trade a book for another, etc. It's basically an online book bartering service that connects people all over. Of course, you always have the local library as well that your tax dollars support, so use that resource too.

Have a great weekend and I hope this helps to tighten your budget a bit and help you save some pennies! :-)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Staying Happy Through the Tough Stuff

Hey all, happy Wednesday and middle of the week.

I hope this finds you well!

My inspiration for this post comes as a result of starting a new book. It's called "Happier" and it's written by Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph. D. Mr. Ben-Shahar is a Harvard University professor that has taught a class on positive psychology since 2002 and this class is now the most popular and largest class on campus to date. People seem to be seeking a specific goal of happiness and contentment in their lives today.

The gist of the book is about finding fulfillment in the aspects of life that are most important (such as love, relationships, goal setting and meeting, non-material aspects) and pursuing these channels more to find greater personal happiness. I'm finding the book very interesting as he is already hitting home with a few of his fundamental ideas, for example: he has a Hamburger Model that he uses to explain personality types here in America and how we approach life and work. There are four types of hamburgers that that he explains that we as personality types choose (of which we may all have multiple aspects of within our personalities), the first being the Hedonist type of person, which lives by the ideal that they need to live in the now and seek gratification in the now. This person would ideally choose the tasty junk food hamburger with a quick gratification and a later detriment. The Second type being the Rat Race personality which chooses to find gratification in the future and finds detriment in the present. This person would ideally choose a vegetarian burger. The Third type being the Nihilist personality type. This person would ideally choose a tasteless, unhealthful burger that would provide no future or present benefit or pleasure. The last type being the Happiness personality type that would ideally choose the hamburger that would be as tasty as the first option (the unhealthful, tasty junk food burger) but as healthy as the vegetarian burger.

I find this model interesting because we all choose one or multiples of these personality aspects in how we approach life. I happen to be a "rat race, hedonist" type that teeter-totters between immediate gratification and future gratification. I'm learning through this book that being happy is more about being grateful for everything that we already have and to look at happiness as a currency that can never be too abundant. As I keep reading the book, I'll share more, but these ideals stood out to me and made me reflect on my own life and my own approach to the life/work combo.

One of the exercises in the book that he suggests is writing down in a journal what I'm grateful for every night. He mentions that his students who have done this in his class experience a greater level of happiness in their life. I can definitely see the logic in this and we, as Americans in general, sometimes fail to see the good in our lives and be content with what we have. We are a consumer society and we are constantly seeking new stimuli. I've been trying to get myself out of this pattern of behavior for the last few years, and this book is helping me to understand why and how I should do this.

Feel free to check out the book at Amazon here or at your local library like I did. Hope you enjoy it too.

Have a great week!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Using Office to Organize My Life

Happy Sunday everyone. Sunday fun-day is what we say around
here. :-)

For the past couple years, I have been using the Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet program extensively to organize my financial life. I have made charts that detail my bills and allow me to keep track of what's paid and what's not. When something gets paid off, I simply delete. Adding something is just a matter of creating a new column. When I'm keeping track of multiple mortgages from rental properties, this provides some serious peace of mind and ease with which the monthly bill paying takes place. This is definitely not anything new, but a revisit to the software that's been around for over 20 years. Here's a link to an interesting article about Excel's history and how it came to be what it is today.

My reason for bringing up Excel in my life: it simplifies it and makes my life much easier. I no longer struggle to remember what's been paid, what's even needed to be paid, etc. As I've mentioned earlier in my blog, I am creating simpler ways to do the everyday routines in an effort to make life easier. I'm also holding myself accountable by writing on this blog as well.

Do you have an organization method for your life or business that you feel is better? Please let me know if so as I am always looking for good ways to keep track of this stuff and make life easier at the same time. Spending lots of time on the routine stuff in life is not my end goal. I'm really trying to automate my life so that I can spend time on the quality stuff in life. It will come eventually, it's just a matter of practice and technology.

Have a great week and a fantastic Monday!


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Grocery Store Mayhem

Happy Saturday all!

I hope you're having a fantastic weekend! I know I am.

Today we chose to go to the grocery store to stock back up on the essentials, and I love that we're getting better about just getting things that we need, and not all the other fringe junk that can sometimes make it's way in to the shopping cart. This saves us money and makes us eat healthier as well.

Today there happened to be a meat sale, well all weekend it's going on at the local grocery chain that we happened to go to. I find humor in events like this because I don't involved myself in the rush and craziness that people get in to. I get my needed items, then make my way to the checkout line, patiently waiting to pay and leave. I am amazed that the simple notion of a sale on meat can turn the kindest people in to crazed "meat grubbers" that will elbow their way in line and generally just turn on you. Ha...I think it's hilarious and also a bit of irony. It's apparent that all the people in the store need to cooperate and get along to make things go smooth, but that's not possible for some people. That for me, is entertainment and I don't think I'll ever stop being entertained by it.

Lesson learned for me: just go at night when the people are gone. I know this and keep telling myself that I should do this anyway, but I can't ever seem to get it through my thick skull. It makes life easier and the shopping a lot easier and forgiving.

At any rate, we had a great lunch of on sale New York strip steaks and some shells and cheese. We fired up the grill trying to relive the glory days of summer. It's not cold enough yet to take that wind out of my sails. :-)

Have a great rest of your weekend!