Things I Like

Groceries & Retail:

  • Costco
    • We get 2% cash back through our executive membership. Executive membership costs $110 vs the normal $55, but we spend more than enough to pay for the entire $110 membership fee. If you become an executive member and don’t get at least $55 back, you can ask them to refund the difference. This is by far my favorite store on the planet.
  • Amazon:
    • What we don’t buy at Costco we get at Amazon. Amazon pricing is very dynamic and volatile. If you can be patient, set a price alert at Camel Camel Camel and have them email you when the price drops. I’ve saved at least a grand using this tool over the years.
    • You can share prime benefits with one other adult. Fine print here and here.
      • The catch is that the credit card of the secondary credit card user will be available as a payment option to the primary account holder. Amazon does this to prevent random strangers from sharing account benefits. However, purchase history, account login, etc. remain as if you had a single account.

Tech stuff:

  • Favorite Chrome plugins:
    • Ad Block Plus (link).
    • Sound Control Plus (link).
      • Enables me to listen to endless Pandora and mutes the adds for me.
    • Lastpass (link).
      • Free password manager with 2-step authentication enabled. Not the most user friendly.
  • RSS Readers:

Phones:

  • My wife and I do VOIP alongside free/very cheap cell phone services
  • Home phone (VOIP: Google voice + OBI) (link)
    • Google voice provides free VOIP. Do it. Hook up some cheapo cordless phones to the above box and you have a free landline from home.
  • Free/very cheap cell phone service
    • I used to do RingPlus which was free and awesome. Now it’s dead. RIP, RingPlus. The old adage of “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is” certainly proved true for RingPlus as well.
    • If you want free phones, give freedompop a try. Be forewarned, however, that they are a slimy company. If you carefully monitor usage, you’ll be able to avoid overages and get truly free service. I’ve dealt with them in the past with mixed success (it was free until I got nailed with overages).
    • As of February 2017 and onward, I’m using Tello prepaid (link) for $0.03/min text and $0.02/MB data. Hopefully my annual spend on 2 cell phones is around $50 with free VOIP through google voice. They use Sprint’s network.
      • You may think I’m crazy for doing prepaid, but once you taste the freedom from a life without expensive cell phone plans, phones, and contracts, you will never go back. This first occurred in 2006 for me, when I woke up and realized that the were alternatives to expensive cell phone plans (i.e. free voip + cheap prepaid).
    • Android phones cost almost nothing (link). The Moto G line is well regarded as the best cheap phone. I’ve owned both the 3rd gen and 4th gen phones. If you buy a phone through Amazon, you can elect to have Amazon advertisements on the lockscreen for a $50 discount. These Moto G phones are 80% as good as an iphone for 25% of the price.

Internet:

  • We use cheapo $15/month internet, which is 2mbps download, 1mbps upload. Good enough for streaming, VOIP, browsing, etc. Not great for concurrent VOIP + browsing + etc. This minor inconvenience is worth the savings to us. TWC was bought out by Spectrum recently, and we were upgraded to 3mbps download for free. Woot.
  • We have a google Onhub router (link) which allows us to give priority to certain devices (i.e. OBI VOIP). Smart throttling across devices can make 2mbps go pretty far. 4 years into this experiment and I don’t think I’ll ever go back.

Insurance:

  • I use Geico for car insurance, but shop around.
  • I use Esurance for homeowner’s insurance, but shop around. Quotes on our annual premiums ranged from $600-$2600/year for the same coverage. I could not believe it.
  • Self insurance through high deductible plans is the way to go. I don’t carry comprehensive insurance on my sedan. I carry high deductible insurance on our van. We carry very high deductible ($10k) on homeowner’s insurance.

Investing:

  • Vanguard is the pioneer in low-cost investing, but other firms have responded by offering low-cost funds. As a result, Fidelity, Schwab, etc. have competitively priced index funds that can compete fine with Vanguard’s. You really can’t go wrong with any of these brokerages, provided you chose a low-cost index fund. For a domestic index fund, expect to pay about 0.05% in fees. For an international index fund, expect to pay about 0.15% in fees.
  • DIY investment strategy:
    • Three Fund Portfolio.
    • Or pick a target retirement fund (link) and forget about it (though these often times have slightly higher fees which is why I avoid them).

Books:

  • If You Can. Summary: Be frugal and invest in index funds for the long run. It’s really, really, really well written. Read it. It’s short (14 pages). Do it now. Reread it until you understand the meaning of every paragraph. Each paragraph is packed with meaning and intent.)
  • Little Book of Common Sense Investing. Summary: Invest in index funds for the long run.
  • Millionaire Next Door. Summary: Millionaires are frugal.
  • Richest man in Babylon. Summary: Educate yourself, spend little, invest wisely.
  • Life‑Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Summary: Simplify your life by keeping only those possessions in life that bring you joy.

Blogs:

Podcasts (Podcasts make your brain grow):

Credit Cards:

  • Fidelity 2% Visa Card is a no-nonsense 2% cash back Visa that is the perfect card for Costco users (better than Costco’s). This is my workhorse card that I’ve had for about a decade now. The cash back is distributed to a fidelity brokerage account and can be easily withdrawn.
  • Citi 2% Mastercard is a 2% cash back Mastercard that is great.
  • https://cards.madfientist.com/ for rewards hacking. Basically, you apply for a new card, get the large bonus, and cancel the card. Rinse, repeat and harness thousands of dollars of benefits per year.
  • I’m currently working towards the BOA cash back card. Once I have $100k in a taxable brokerage account, I’ll transfer to Merrill Edge. Doing so will enable me to get “Platinum Honors Status.” Once I do so, I’ll qualify for an extra 75% bonus on credit card rewards.
    • BankAmericard Cash Rewards
      • 5.25% on gas
      • 3.5% on groceries (including Costco)
      • 1.75% on everything else (not great, but that’s where the next bullet point comes in)
    • BankAmericard Travel Rewards
      • 2.625% travel rewards for every dollar spent
    • 75% preferred rewards bonus is described here link.
    • I think the best long-term CC strategy on the planet is using the BOA Cash Rewards card for Gas & Groceries and the BOA Travel Rewards card for everything else (Plus the 5% cash back Amazon visa card).

Identity protection:

  • Paying for credit monitoring is a mistake. The much better, and secure, option is to place credit freezes on your accounts through all three credit bureaus. Here are the links to do so:
  • Depending on the state you live in, it will cost about $5/bureau/person to freeze your credit. Once frozen, no new lines of credit can be taken out in your name. If you need to apply for credit, for example to buy a home, you’d pay $5/bureau/person to temporarily unfreeze your accounts for a specified time period of 30 days, for example.
  • Maybe it’s unnecessary to worry about this, but it’s pretty much a bomb-proof way of securing your identify for a cost of $15/person. The freeze lasts forever unless you “thaw” it as described above.
  • Get rid pre-approved credit card solicitations in the mail: (link)

Travel:

  • We’ve had great success with VRBO and Home Away for reasonably priced vacation rentals. We recently went to Disneyworld and had a great stay in a VRBO property inside of Disneyworld’s property.

Air Travel:

  • Sky Scanner
    • A friend of mine recently referred me to this website for air travel comparison. It’s phenomenal and does a better job than Expedia, etc since it queries Southwest alongside the other major carriers.

Online Money Management:

  • Mint
  • Personal Capital
  • Yodlee is my only money-management tool but it’s closed to new users. Mint and Personal Capital are great substitutes. Personal Capital does a better job than Mint at tracking investments. Please note that if you sign up for Personal Capital, they will call you and ask if you want to use their financial planners for a 1% fee. You can simply decline and they won’t call any more.

Kid Stuff:

Clothing:

  • Best dress shirt on the planet for a skinny dude (link). The Milano cut is a great fit for skinny/athletic dudes. Iron free, of course. I buy them on Black Friday / Cyber Monday for something like $50/piece. Horrible, I know, but better than the alternative of wearing a sumo outfit every day. I went though hell trying to find the perfect dress shirt. Costco is among the many stores that failed me.
  • These are my go-to dress pants (link). No iron. Nice.
  • I like these dress shoes (link). If you set a price alert on camelcamelcamel, you can snag them for $80 on sale.
  • The most comfortable pair of shoes I’ve ever worn (link). I wear these daily.

Totally Random Misc:

  • We use bidets (link). I’m baffled that we don’t use these things in the U.S. We have the Luxe Bidet Neo 185 model, but they all seem pretty similar.
  • One of my daughters wears glasses (link). When she first got glasses she broke two pairs within the first few weeks of having glasses (head-to-head collisions with siblings). A week later a friend told us about Miraflex frames, and we’ve been fanatical customers ever since. The model we’ve had for years is the rectangular “new baby” model, which comes in a variety of sizes and colors. We’d be lost, and much poorer, without these glasses.
  • Decades ago a dentist recommended a particular flossing tool to me and I love it (link). I’ve tried others and this is my favorite. Here’s a horrifically boring video of the product, but it gives you a glimpse of it in action (link).
  • I use a minimalist rubber-band wallet (link). Perfect for carrying the few cards I need: driver’s license, credit card, etc.
  • Just Watch is a website that allows for cross-platform searching of movies available and allows you to apply filters such as a minimum IMDB filter of 8.0.
  • We have used an electric pressure cooker for about a decade now (link). We primarily cook black beans or lentils in the thing. Dry black beans and brown rice cost nothing, and this is one of things we do to keep our food costs low.
  • We do a lot of dishes (a load a day) and for the longest time we would systematically sort utensils and dump them into the corresponding drawer. Then I had an epiphany that we should dump them all in a cup like this one from Ikea. Who knows why it took me over 30 years to figure out this life hack.

 

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2 thoughts on “Things I Like

    • It was on sale for $150 when I bought it without ads ($200 without sale) and available for everyone. You’re correct that the ad-based version ($150 without sale) is limited to Prime users. I still think it’s a bargain of a phone with or without the sale, but it’s the Ringplus service which makes it (or frankly any Sprint-compatible phone) an absolute no-brainer.

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