Archive for the 'Simple Living' Category
Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008
Nobody has ever accused me of being the most organized person. I don’t carry a PDA, a dayplanner, or even a notebook/moleskin. It’s pretty much just Outlook at work, and a lot of Post-Its at home. But recently I’ve discovered two applications that help me remember all the thoughts that flit in and out of my mind. This is in turn saves me money indirectly with less late fees and missed opportunities. Both have been around a while, but were new to me:
First up is IwantSandy, which is an assistant that you can interact with by sending e-mails. She communicates back to you via e-mail or SMS text messages.
Say you want someone to remind you for your doctor’s appointment at 4pm next Monday. No problem, just send an e-mail to Sandy:
Remind me about Dr. appointment at 4pm next Monday.
Sandy will send you an e-mail or text message to do just that, both in a daily digest and a specific reminder 15 minutes (by default) before the event. Most casual language is recognized. You can set repeating reminders easily:
Remind me to pay off Citi 0% credit card on 4/24 @monthly
You can also tag items for easy organization, add contacts, and or create To-Do lists.
Remind me to call contractor back in 3 hours @newhouse
Remember Melissa Valiant (415) 555-1212 firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember my United mileage number is A4362215 @travel
Remind me to refill my prescription tomorrow @todo
You can even “snooze” by replying to a reminder with “snooze 4 hours”. Lots more examples here. I live by my e-mail and I have unlimited text messages, so this system has been working out well for me. (Text messages can be better if you are under e-mail overload.) I basically just shoot Sandy an e-mail anytime a thought pops into my mind.
Remind me to blog about Sandy @daily @blogposts
Remind me to sign up for Citibank 25,000 mile banking bonus @daily @todo
Try it! It’s free and even a bit fun at first. I’m not quite sure how or even if they intend to make money. More organized people might not need Sandy, but I learn a new feature every day. For example, if I e-mail Sandy from any computer with “lookup blogposts”, I get a reply with all my post ideas. Very handy while traveling.
Now what if you’re away from your desk? Jott is a service that convert your voice into text and sends it as an e-mail. It’s like having your own secretary transcribe your thoughts.
On top of that it, even integrates with Sandy. Just add Sandy as a contact, and call her. From the EfficientMD:
Let’s say you’re on your mobile phone and a colleague tells you about a meeting you have to attend tomorrow at 3pm. You’re walking quickly and don’t want to slow down, so you call Jott’s toll-free number and have this conversation:
“Who do you want to Jott?”
“Sandy. Is that correct?”
“Remind me about meeting tomorrow at 3pm.”
And that’s it. Sandy/Jott will email you a confirmation to ensure that they’ve heard you correctly (which in my experience, is practically 100% of the time), and then tomorrow before 3pm, you’ll receive a text message reminding you about the meeting.
Together, it’s like having your own personal administrative assistant. She’ll remind you about stuff, remember important contact and numbers, and you can just e-mail or call her like a regular person. You don’t need to install any new software or buy any new gadgets.
LifeHacker posts on Sandy and Jott
Mrs. Micah on Sandy
Efficient MD on Sandy and Jott
Wednesday, February 27th, 2008
My 5-year-old shredder is dying from all the junk mail I’ve fed it over the years. I’m totally hyped about buying a jumbo 12-sheet shredding beast. Coincidentally, I just ran across a free service called ProQuo.com that supposedly helps you remove your name and other information from a variety of different lists, including Coupons & Weekly Circulars, Snail-Mail Marketing Lists, Mail-order Catalogs, Telemarketing Lists, and Credit Card and Insurance Offers. From their FAQ:
How does ProQuo help consumers?
ProQuo helps consumers remove their personal information from marketing lists, data brokers, and other organizations responsible for a large amount of junk mail. ProQuo does this by helping people request removal directly from these sources. In many cases, ProQuo will send these requests electronically to the specific organizations that consumers select. For companies that don’t accept electronic requests, ProQuo helps consumers to print out forms for mailing or directs consumers to third party web sites.
I’ve been trying them out, and many of them do require you to print out and mail in a form to request removal. Still, many accept electronic requests, and I had no idea any of this was even an option. ProQuo also incorporates other removal services like the National Do Not Call List. Here’s a screenshot from their interface:
If the service is free, how does ProQuo make money?
In the future, ProQuo will allow consumers to request offers that they do want in addition to eliminating the offers that they don’t want. ProQuo will make money from the advertisers that provide these offers. ProQuo will only provide these offers when requested by consumers.
Thursday, February 7th, 2008
With all of this talk about recession and after watching too much History Channel, I’ve been reading up about the Great Depression of the 1930s. Check out this excerpt from a paper entitled Main Causes of the Great Depression:
One obvious solution to the problem of the vast majority of the population not having enough money to satisfy all their needs was to let those who wanted goods buy products on credit. The concept of buying now and paying later caught on quickly. By the end of the 1920′s 60% of cars and 80% of radios were bought on installment credit. Between 1925 and 1929 the total amount of outstanding installment credit more than doubled from $1.38 billion to around $3 billion. Installment credit allowed one to “telescope the future into the present”, as the President’s Committee on Social Trends noted.
This strategy created artificial demand for products which people could not ordinarily afford. It put off the day of reckoning, but it made the downfall worse when it came. By telescoping the future into the present, when “the future” arrived, there was little to buy that hadn’t already been bought. In addition, people could not longer use their regular wages to purchase whatever items they didn’t have yet, because so much of the wages went to paying back past purchases.
Sound familiar? Now add in a stock market slump:
This speculation and the resulting stock market crashes acted as a trigger to the already unstable U.S. economy. Due to the maldistribution of wealth, the economy of the 1920′s was one very much dependent upon confidence. The market crashes undermined this confidence. The rich stopped spending on luxury items, and slowed investments. The middle-class and poor stopped buying things with installment credit for fear of losing their jobs, and not being able to pay the interest. As a result industrial production fell by more than 9% between the market crashes in October and December 1929. As a result jobs were lost, and soon people starting defaulting on their interest payment.
So let’s see. First, people were spending too much. Then, people suddenly became afraid of losing their jobs, so they stopped spending. This meant businesses stopped making money, so… people lost their jobs.
Eighty years later, here we are getting mailed “economic stimulus” checks. But if people are truly scared, why wouldn’t they just hoard it as well? I still don’t understand macroeconomics for the life of me.
Friday, September 7th, 2007
A friend of mine wants to know. This survey is anonymous, so tell the truth!
I will follow up with a more detailed post next week. For the curious, various studies report the average cost of weddings in the US to be about $30,000, while the median is around $15,000. Those crazy celebrity weddings must throw off the averages, especially since everyone seems to get married three times each.
Thursday, August 30th, 2007
As is apparent by now, I have a lot of cards. Credit cards, ATM debit cards, frequent flier membership cards, gift cards, the list goes on and on. I used to just keep them in a big stack tied with a rubber band. Then, one day when visiting my parents and going through my baseball cards, I thought – why not keep them in these plastic pages instead?
If you’re not familiar with them, people often store collectible cards in plastic pages that hold 9 cards to a sheet, are designed to fit inside 3-ring binders. Here’s what they look like:
There are lot of benefits of doing this:
- It keeps all the cards easily accessible, with both front and back visible without removal.
- You can reduce clutter and organize them by type, issuer, name, etc.
- Slide then into a binder, and they blend in discreetly on a bookshelf.
- Place them up on a wall or corkboard, and it helps you remember to use all your gift cards!
- For security, you can also use the pages to make backup copies of all your card information in case they get lost or stolen.
If you’re an old collector like me, they’ll even be free (and you’re recycling!). Otherwise, you can pick them up for only about 10 cents each.
Sunday, July 15th, 2007
Whew! I’ve slept in seven different beds so far in the last two weeks, not including airport lounges. How about some updates?
The Big Move. Sadly, we no longer in Oregon. We are leaving a great city, great food (tachos and microbrews!) and even greater friends. Luckily, we managed to secure a very generous relocation package from our employer, complete with full-service movers that packed almost everything for us, from the dishes to the furniture. The bad news is that we had a lot less incentive to properly shed ourselves of all our clutter, and instead it’s coming with us. I’m keeping our exact location vague for privacy reasons, but I’ve hinted before that it has a high cost-of-living and is near the Pacific Ocean.
New Digs. We are actually going to be staying in a relative’s extra rooms for now. We have been living out of suitcases for a while now and it has actually been nice, so the plan is to keep living as such for as long as we can. If we don’t find any acceptable houses to buy, we will then start to look for another house to rent. Our biggest problem currently is trying to convince our relatives to accept money from us!
New Jobs. Soon after we arrive we will be starting our new jobs. Again I won’t name our employers, as sharing detailed financial information anonymously online is one thing, but sharing them with co-workers is another. I will reveal that we will now both be making six-figure incomes, and they are in categories listed in my six-figure salary survey results. Accordingly, you will be seeing a boost in our monthly net worth changes.
I’m 29 years old now. I know the number shouldn’t matter, but I’m sort of happy that all these things have happened before I turned 30. We are not millionaires or anything spectacular, but we are settling down somewhere for the long haul, surrounded by family, gainfully employed, and moving forward. What more could one ask for?
Monday, April 23rd, 2007
It’s spring cleaning time. On top of the usual build-up, we are moving in a few months to a place where there (gasp!) probably won’t be a basement! I’m not the best at organization, but here’s what we’ve done so far:
Made two big boxes labeled Sell and Donate. If it has a chance of selling for $10 or more, I’ll eBay it. Hard-to-ship stuff will go on Craigslist. For clothes, we’ll do a run at Buffalo Exchange (used clothing store). Everything else will be donated. I might try FreeCycle, but to be honest I will probably just follow my neighborhood’s common practice of leaving a box outside labeled Free Stuff and let people go at it. We get a decent amount of foot traffic. Now that’s recycling locally
Implemented the one-year rule for clothes. If you haven’t worn it in a year and it isn’t formalwear, it’s gone. That means you’ve gone through all four seasons, cold, hot, wet, dry, and not found a reason to wear it. This can be pretty painful for my wife, but she gets dibs on the clothing credit at Buffalo’s so maybe it’ll work out. If I could fit all my clothes besides winter coats into two large suitcases, that would be awesome.
As a certified pack rat, I really need to let go of certain things. I just have to accept that it’s okay to once in a while buy something again that I already owned once 15 years ago… Sure, keeping 500 ft of old ethernet cable might come in handy someday, but really, it probably won’t. I’m not the only one with 300 blank 4x CD-Rs that I got free after rebate ten years ago… am I?
I really want to simplify and de-clutter my life. Any other tips, if only psychological, to help me do so?