FIRE is Not Beans & Rice. FIRE is Not Pink Lambos. FIRE is Life!

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FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) is certainly a catchy acronym, but it always seems to confuse people because the word “retire” suggests a line between working and not working. What does it mean to “Retire Early”? What if you only work part-time? What if you like your job and have no intention of quitting completely? Beyond that, FIRE has been further hijacked. I’ve noticed that many mainstream articles about FIRE follow a similar template:

  • Create your own custom definition of FIRE. For example, FIRE is people who eat only lentils, use 100 coupons at the grocery store, and don’t have any friends nor fun. Alternatively, FIRE is just rich people who didn’t have to make any effort at all, they are just smug rich people.
  • Once this straw man is created, you can easily attack it. Eating only lentils is weird and you are a foodie. The person using coupons is that super-annoying person that spends 10 minutes at the cashier. This person did FIRE but now regrets never having friends or fun when they were younger. How sad. That person is rich and therefore you personally have no chance at it, so why bother unless you make $300,000 a year or enjoyed a million-dollar windfall?

On the other hand, I think pointing out the many possible paths as a good thing. One of those lifestyles will likely click with some specific reader. A recent entry is from the NY Times with Your Neighbors Are Retiring in Their 30s. Why Can’t You? Meet the schemers and savers obsessed with ending their careers as early as possible (gift article). Yet the cover, of course, is a pink $300,000 Lamborghini…

If we want to stay catchy and shiny, but make it broader and more encompassing, how about “FIRE is Life!” I am a latecomer to the Ted Lasso bandwagon (yay free Apple+ trial!), but this is how I interpret the catchphrase “Football is Life!” from the character Danni Rojas.

  • To be successful at football, you need to work hard. This is the variable that you can control, and thus should be your focus.
  • To be successful at football, you need be lucky. You need some natural-born talent, supportive people, and a few breaks along the way. Thus, you should act with humility.
  • Sometimes you start strong, but still lose. Sometimes you start horribly, but still win.
  • Sometimes you try your best, but you still lose a particular game.
  • Some people have a playing style that is very aggressive and risk-taking.
  • Some people have a playing style that is very defensive and reliable.
  • Some people follow the rules with good character, and others break the rules whenever they think they can get away with it.
  • There is great beauty in the game, if you step back and take the time truly understand it.
  • You are far from the first person to play football. People having been kicking around balls since before you were born. According to Wikipedia, the earliest known written evidence for a similar game with standardized rules was 2,000+ years ago (Han Dynasty, China).

Similarly, FIRE is not something invented in the 2000s. It didn’t even start with Your Money or Your Life in 1992. People have been pursuing financial independence since… there have been people. Sure, for about two million years we were hunter-gatherers. But as soon as people could gather enough wealth to not have to spend their time gathering food or working for food, they did. Well, a few of them did. Here’s a selection from my old FIRE books reading list.

The Quest of the Simple Life by William J. Dawson is a book from 1907 that talks about escaping the grind and spending less money to create a simpler life (sound familiar?). My review and highlights: The Quest of the Simple Life: Escaping The Work Grind in 1907 vs. Today. Here is a sample quote on the cost of “keeping up appearances”:

Money may be bought at too dear a rate. The average citizen, if he did but know it, is always buying money too dear. He earns, let us say, four hundred pounds a year; but the larger proportion of this sum goes in what is called ‘keeping up appearances.’ He must live in a house at a certain rental; by the time that his rates and taxes are paid he finds one-eighth of his income at least has gone to provide a shelter for his head. A cottage, at ten pounds a year, would have served him better, and would have been equally commodious. He must needs send his children to some private ‘academy’ for education, getting only bad education and high charges for his pains; a village board-school at twopence a week would have offered undeniable advantages. He must wear the black coat and top-hat sacred to the clerking tribe; a tweed suit and cap are more comfortable, and half the price. At all points he is the slave of convention, and he pays a price for his convention out of all proportion to its value. At a moderate estimate half the daily expenditure of London is a sacrifice to the convention or imposture of respectability.

FIRE is considering the possibility that you don’t have to spend all of what you earn. Considering what is “enough”. Considering how much (life)time to devote to work, and how soul-sucking that work should be. There is no black and white answer. The variables are infinitely adjustable.

Along the way, I’ve changed my mind on some things. I am not retired. I could try to live off what I have saved so far, but I was surprised to find that I do like some of the mix of purpose, money, community, etc. that comes with finding the right kind of work. I also cut back enough to make time to pick up my kids every day after school. Financial independence is the power to spend your finite time how you wish. Saving $1,000 helps with that. Saving $10,000 helps with that. Saving $100,000 helps more.

The most important lesson that I would tell my kids is that the pursuit of FIRE has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. My life is infinitely better for taking the time to make more conscious decisions about how I make money, spend money, invest, and so forth. Not only can I spend more time with loved ones, I am more present and happier during those times. FIRE is Life!

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.


Healthcare FSA Warning: Average Lost Contribution was $300-$400 Per Person

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone.

It’s mid-December. Do you know where your Healthcare Flexible Spending Account (FSA) contribution are? If it’s still sitting in your FSA, your employer may be waiting to pocket it shortly (subject to possible carryover or grace period). Money.com analyzed government data and found some concerning stats on these “use-it-or-lose-it” accounts: Workers Lose $3 Billion a Year in FSA Contributions (and Employers Get to Keep It). Here are some highlights:

  • About 40% of the private workforce has access to FSAs.
  • 44% of workers with FSAs in 2019 forfeited money. On average, the amount lost totals $339 per person. In 2020, those numbers went up: 48% forfeited some amount, while the average amount was $408.
  • In total, FSA holders forfeited an estimated total of $7.2 billion in 2019 and 2020.
  • Legally, all those billions of forfeited dollars are allowed to be kept by the employer.

This is why I send out a year-end reminder every year with ideas on how to use up your FSA funds. Amazon even has a special FSA-eligible page where you can link up your FSA/HSA debit cards and everything is already filtered for your convenience.

The flip side: Your employer can’t claw back spent funds, even if you use your entire annual allowance early on in the year, and your employment ends mid-year. Let’s say you set aside the maximum $3,050 for 2023, and have corrective eye surgery in January, spend it all, and get reimbursed for the full $3,050. Even if you get fired in February and have only had about $250 in salary deferral contributions, you are not on the hook for anything further.

From this SHRM article (HR site for employers):

Generally, the uniform coverage rule does not allow employers to charge an employee for the balance of a health flexible spending account (FSA) if the employee leaves employment mid-year. The rule requires that the full amount elected by an employee for an FSA must be available for reimbursement at any time during the coverage period or plan year. Employers cannot limit the amount of reimbursement to the amount the employee has contributed thus far during the plan year. Additionally, employee contributions may not be accelerated based on the employee’s incurred claims and reimbursements.

This supposedly makes it “fair” that the employer keeps unused FSA funds, but I am willing to bet that the amount of unused contributions far outweighs the used-early-then-left-work funds.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.


How Much Income is Enough? $20,000 A Year More Than You Have Now

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Here’s a graphic of how much additional income Americans say that they would need to “feel happy and less stressed”, as compared to their current annual salary. Taken from this Axios newsletter and data from this Empower survey.

On average, those with annual incomes of $150,000 or less said they would need ~$20,000 more per year. At annual incomes of over $150,000, folks started needing a lot more, both in percentage and absolute terms. That’s just how us humans seem to be wired. We quickly grow accustomed to our current situation, and imagine how nice an extra $1,500 per month would be.

But here’s a different perspective. If you make $80k, you think you’ll need $100k to be happy. If you make $100k, you think you’ll need $120k to be happy. But this also means, if you make $100k, you’re already at the happy point for someone making $80k.

In other words, someone out there is getting through life reasonably fine with 60% or 80% of your salary, while also daydreaming about how nice it would be to have 100% of your salary. That other person is also spending closer to 60% or 80% of your salary, even if only because they have no other choice and are confined by their income.

Why couldn’t you spend like them? Taking your monthly rent or mortgage. It could be higher, or lower, and someone is living in each of those homes that represent 20% less or 20% more than you are paying now. Take your transportation costs. How would a car that costs 20% more or less change your level of life satisfaction?

Don’t just wish for more money, examine the money that you already have from the perspective of someone who is wishing to be you. Now you already have the extra money. Would that money be better spend put aside and buying more income-producing assets? Would that money be better spent on improving your skills and career prospects? Or would it be better on moving to a more expensive home that reduces your commute time so you can have less stress and more quality time with your family?

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

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RIP Charlie Munger: Thank You For Sharing Your Wit and Wisdom

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone.

Many investors around the world were saddened to hear that Charles T. Munger passed away on November 28th, 2023, only about a month before he would have turned 100 years old. Most people discovered him through his long friendship and business partnership with Warren Buffett, and many of us enjoyed the fact that he was more bluntly honest, more revealing at times, and overall a great compliment to Buffett.

For the certain type of self-motivated person, his message simply resonated. Lifelong learning. Frugality and delayed gratification. Putting up with adversity and not complaining. Spending your time as you want. There will be many tributes, and here I’ll simply share some of my favorite Munger quotes over the years. Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Essential Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger (cover of new edition above) is another great repository of his past speeches and wisdom.

His desire for independence starting at a young age. From Damn Right! A Biography of Charlie Munger (my review):

When Charlie’s grandparents read and reread Robinson Crusoe to him, they planted a notion in his head. “He wanted to be rich so he could be completely independent, like Crusoe on his island, and not have to do what anybody else said.”

I had a considerable passion to get rich. Not because I wanted Ferraris – I wanted the independence. I desperately wanted it. I thought it was undignified to have to send invoices to other people. I don’t where I got that notion from, but I had it.

Working and saving hard early on to start your snowball. Charlie Munger was financially independent at age 38 in 1962.

The first 13 years I practiced law, my income [from practicing law] was $300,000 total. At the end of that 13 years, what did I have? A house. Two cars. And $300,000 of liquid assets. Everyone else’d have spent that slender income, not invested it shrewdly, and so forth.

I just think it was, to me, it was as natural as breathing, and of course I knew how compound interest worked! I knew when I saved $10 I was really saving $100 or $1,000 [because of the future growth of the $10], and it just took a little wait. And when I quit law practice it was because I wanted to work for myself instead of my clients, because I knew I could do better than they did.

Work for yourself an hour each day. Like the schoolteacher I just read about that now makes $10,000 a month creating worksheets and selling them to other teachers, Charlie looked beyond his current working situation. From The Snowball:

Charlie, as a very young lawyer, was probably getting $20 an hour. He thought to himself, ‘Who’s my most valuable client?’ And he decided it was himself. So he decided to sell himself an hour each day. He did it early in the morning, working on these construction projects and real estate deals. Everybody should do this, be the client, and then work for other people, too, and sell yourself an hour a day.

The first $100,000 is the most difficult:

Munger has said that accumulating the first $100,000 from a standing start, with no seed money, is the most difficult part of building wealth. Making the first million was the next big hurdle. To do that a person must consistently underspend his income. Getting wealthy, he explains, is like rolling a snowball. It helps to start on top of a long hill—start early and try to roll that snowball for a very long time. It helps to live a long life.

If you do it right, you only have to get rich once.

The beauty of it is: you only have to get rich once. You don’t have to climb this mountain four times. You just have to do it once.

Lifelong, continuous learning. From a commencement speech within Poor Charlie’s Almanack:

“I constantly see people rise in life who are not the smartest, sometimes not even the most diligent. But they are learning machines. They go to bed every night a little wiser than they were that morning.”

On living a happy life and surrounding yourself with good people.

You want to have reasonable expectations and take life’s results good and bad as they happen with a certain amount of stoicism. There’ll never be any shortage of good people in the world. All you got to do is seek them out and get as many of them as possible into your life. Keep the rest the hell out.

Simply avoid certain things. From How To Make Your Life Completely Miserable:

Let me use a little inversion now. What will really fail in life? What do you want to avoid? Such an easy answer: sloth and unreliability. If you’re unreliable it doesn’t matter what your virtues are. Doing what you have faithfully engaged to do should be an automatic part of your conduct. You want to avoid sloth and unreliability.

He has also advised keeping an extremely wide chasm between you and gambling, alcohol, and drug addiction. Why even mess around with things that could destroy your life completely?

Optimism for the future. He may sound cranky a lot, especially when he was a loud critic of crypto during it’s boom, but his overall message was of one of optimism. From the book University of Berkshire Hathaway:

However, Munger beamed that Berkshire’s best days of contributing to civilization are ahead. He noted that mankind is getting close to solving the technical problem of our time -solar power. Cheap, clean, storable power will change the world. Munger said, “As I get closer and closer to my death, I get more cheerful about the future I won’t see.”

[…] Munger may have surprised the crowd with a list of things he is quite optimistic about: The main problems of civilization are technical and solvable, all with energy, with huge benefits for civilization. Berkshire’s culture will continue to work for years to come. He likes to see people rising rapidly from poverty, and that is happening in China and India.

More sources of Charlie Munger wisdom:

Thank you, Mr. Munger. Learning from your wisdom and example has materially improved my own life (and indirectly that of my family) in many different ways.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.


Groupon: Costco New Membership $60 w/ $40 Costco Gift Card

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The Groupon deal for a new Costco Gold Star Membership is back, this time for the regular price of $60 you can get the following:

  • 1-year Gold Star membership ($60 normally by itself)
  • Membership card for the Primary Cardholder and one additional Household Card for anyone living at the same address, over the age of 16.
  • $40 Digital Costco gift card (valid at Costco locations and Costco.com)

Valid only for new members and those whose previous memberships (Primary and Household) have been expired for at least 18 months or more. I know that some people like to cycle between Sam’s Club and Costco memberships. (We personally spend so much at Costco that 2% Executive rebate basically covers the membership fee.)

Save even more on your Groupon with a cashback shopping portal. For example, trigger the Rakuten new member bonus ($40 right now) since this costs over $40.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.


Stuff I Bought Myself and Would Buy Again (2023 Edition)

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Many “buying guides” are bland and generic, but I find that I still enjoy hearing what works for the discerning creators that I follow. I went through my buying history and these are random items that I have bought myself from Amazon (no free samples) that I would gladly go out and buy again. I’ll also list a few misses at the bottom of stuff I wish I hadn’t bought.

(Note: If you are reading this in an email/RSS reader, I am not allowed to include any Amazon affiliate links in e-mails, so they have been removed. Please click here or on the post title above to view the links in a browser. Thanks!)

LISEN 15W MagSafe Car Mount Charger

I finally upgraded to the latest iPhone this year after a 3-year wait, and wanted to take better advantage of all the MagSafe features. After a bunch of research, this car mount charger allows your phone to both display information and receive power magnetically with no plugging in required and no spring-type or gravity-type mounts. The magnetic connection is strong and has the extra aligning magnet in addition to the circular ones. Air vent attachment system works well. Includes the USB-C cable (some don’t). Even lights up so it’s easy to find at night. After buying the first one, I bought another one for my spouse’s vehicle.

YETI Rambler 46 oz Bottle w/ Chug Cap and YETI 64 oz Rambler

I have tried many water bottles, as I’m sure you probably have, and this is the best combination of my favorite drinking spout style (no straws!), nice handle, quality construction, and ease of cleaning. I wish it wasn’t the expensive YETI brand, which is very nice but also very expensive, but alas it was. I just have to focus harder on not losing them. The 64 oz bottle is good for longer outings, while the 46 oz is a hard-to-find size that I find perfect for everyday use (holds significantly more than “just” 32 oz, but not unwieldy).

COSORI Air Fryer Pro LE (5 Quart)

Love our air fryer. Use it at least every other day. Air fryers are like microwaves but the food doesn’t get soggy. Reheat all kinds of stuff, from pizza to roasted veggies. Cooks steaks (really!). This Cosori brand was a Wirecutter recommendation that worked out (my average success rate with them is ~70%). Good quality, easy to clean (entire tray is dishwasher safe), nice user interface.

PopSockets Phone Grip with MagSafe

PopSockets are popular due to their comfort and overall high quality, but these are unique because you can easily remove and/or add them off instantly with no adhesives. Works with any MagSafe case or directly onto a naked iPhone w/ MagSafe. The magnets are very strong so it won’t fall off by accident. Clear color also goes with everything.

VEVA HEPA Filters Compatible with Coway Airmega AP-1512HH (2-Pack)

The Coway Airmega AP-1512HH is a very effective and reliable air filter and has been running in multiple rooms in my house basically non-stop for years. I love the simple, functional design and once you see how much gunk gets caught in the filters, you won’t want your family breathing that into their lungs ever again. I go through a lot of HEPA filters (and use a garden hose on the screens) regularly. These VEVA filters are the highest-quality aftermarket filters that I have found, yet they are only half the price of the OEM filters.

Arctic Zone Titan Cooler – Zipperless Hardbody Cooler

I have traditional big Igloo coolers with and without wheels, but I wanted a lightweight cooler that I could easily carry (but still holds 30 cans!) but also wouldn’t break the bank (i.e. not YETI). This thing has surprisingly good insulation and durable construction. Combines well with reusable ice packs. Easy cleanup. Has a lot of little thoughtful features like a comfortable shoulder strap and the quick-access zipperless lid.. This $300 YETI looks great but only holds 18 cans.

KitchenAid Classic Pizza Wheel

Another random kitchen tool on my list!? Years ago, I got a free promo pizza wheel with an insurance company logo on it. I ended up using it so much it finally got too dull. Cuts so many things faster than a knife. I’ve found KitchenAid brand stuff to be pretty decent quality overall, and this one did not disappoint.

Rester’s Choice Ice Pack for Injuries Reusable

Both old adults (like me) and young kids need a lot of ice packs for their boo-boos. This reusable one is very high quality and goes back and forth from the freezer all the time. Much better than real ice in ziploc backs.

Misses: Here are stuff that was highly-rated in other places like Consumer Reports or Wirecutter, but did not perform up to my expectations.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.


HBO Max Black Friday Deal: $2.99/Month for 6 Months (with Ads)

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Max (formerly HBO Max) has a Black Friday deal of $2.99/month for 6 months on their Ad-supported plan that includes two devices and HD resolution. Regular price is $9.99/month. Works for new and returning members. Set a calendar reminder if you don’t want to auto-renew after 6 months.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.


The Half-Hour Car Rental Hack

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone.

When you make a reservation at nearly every car rental website, you simply agree to a price and make a non-binding reservation without giving any payment information. You can cancel at any time, without penalty. I’m really not sure why this is still standard industry practice, but I guess it works for them.

AutoSlash takes advantage of this quirk by helping you repeatedly rebook whenever it manages to help you find a lower price. I just came across a “tip” from their blog where they discovered that you can get differing prices by changing your pick-up time by only a half-hour:

Instead of automatically booking your pickup time to be on the hour — say, 9 a.m. or 1 p.m. or 6 p.m. — ask for a second quote for the half hour before or after your original time — 9:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. or 6:30 p.m.

Skeptical that this car rental hack can work? Let’s look at a few examples. We ran a quote for a weeklong minivan rental at Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC), picking up and returning at noon. In this particular case, Alamo and Payless tied for the cheapest of the major car rental brands, delivering a price of $525. Then ran the same quote request at the same airport, for the same car at the same time, but bumped back the pickup and return time to 12:30 p.m. Alamo’s price dropped to $470, while Payless and Enterprise came in at $525. The upshot: If you booked with Alamo, you’d save 10% without breaking a sweat.

For a recent quote at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), we saw a whopping $143 difference in National’s price simply by shifting the pickup and return time by 30 minutes.

You can also potentially save money by changing the drop-off time by a half-hour or hour:

I tried this “half hour hack” with a few of my existing reservations, and strangely it did take off a few dollars per day on some of them! Not a huge savings, but definitely good to know. Honestly, just using Autoslash at all will probably save you much more money by itself. I’ve used Autoslash as “price drop insurance” for several years now; my old Autoslash review is still pretty much accurate.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.


Project Gutenberg + AI = Free High-Quality Audiobook Classics

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Project Gutenberg is well-known as a volunteer-driven, non-profit project that digitizes free public-domain books, mostly those whose copyright has expired. However, their eBooks were often uncomfortable to read as plain text. Standard eBooks took the most popular ones and improved the typography and device-specific formatting, such that they look as modern as other retail eBooks.

The Project Gutenberg Open Audiobook Collection is a new collaboration between Project Gutenberg, Microsoft AI, and MIT to create audiobooks with natural-sounding speech using neural text-to-speech technology. I wouldn’t say it perfectly matches that of a trained voice actor, but it is certainly a huge improvement over the old robotic voice. I recently read Call of the Wild by Jack London as it was on my kid’s summer reading list, and you can compare the different versions yourself.

Here is the current full list of available audiobooks. You can also find them on Google Podcats, Apple Podcasts, and Spotify. This makes it much easier to listen to classic books during your commute and also for the visually-impaired.

For some title ideas, check out this list of the most downloaded Project Gutenburg eBooks. Here are the top 10 right now:

  • Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley
  • Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • A Doll’s House : a play by Henrik Ibsen
  • Moby Dick; Or, The Whale by Herman Melville
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
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Lesser-Known Cheap Cell Plans on Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile Networks – Unlimited Data from $25/Month

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Updated 2023. You can save hundreds of dollars per year by shopping around and using a lesser-known plan. Every major network sells wholesale minutes and data to MVNOs (Mobile Network Virtual Operators), which they in turn sell at a significant discount to individuals. Most recently, the major networks themselves have either entered the game and/or bought out competitors. You can now get “unlimited” data for just $25 a month on most networks.

The drawbacks are that the customer service may be more lean, and the data speeds may be slower as the MVNO data is usually at a lower prioritization than if you had a direct plan. If you’re at a Taylor Swift concert, the MVNO plan users will be the ones with slow uploads to TikTok. But once I was set up, it was pretty smooth sailing and worth the savings given my needs (I also can’t afford to go to Taylor Swift concerts).

This list includes unlimited talk and text plans that include 5G and 4G LTE data. Many of these advertise “unlimited data”, which actually means they throttle speeds down the 128 kbps (2G) after your LTE allotment runs out. Here are the best options by network below (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile). I sort by network because that usually makes it easier to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), though every MVNO will have a form where you can check compatibility via your phone’s specific identification number (IMEI or MEID).

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links where available. If you make a purchase through the links below, I may be compensated.

T-Mobile NetworkT-Mobile Network Color: Hot Pink

  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 5 GB 5G/LTE Data. Mint Mobile has an unlimited talk, text, and 5 GB 5G/LTE data plan from $15 per month. Their intro offer is 3 months at $15 per month for all plans. After that, you’ll have to buy 12 months of airtime upfront to get the $15 per month price. After your 5G/LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets. 15 GB for $20/month ($240/yr), or 40 GB for $30/month.
  • Less value, but direct from T-Mobile. T-Mobile Connect has an unlimited talk, text, and 1 GB data plan for $10 a month. 3.5 GB for $15/mo. 6.5 GB for $25/mo.
  • Unlimited Talk & Text + “Unlimited” 5G/LTE Data (30 GB full speed). Boost Infinite offers unlimited talk, text, and “unlimited” data for $25 a month + taxes. 30 GB of high speed data before “lower speeds”. Use all 30GB as mobile hotspot for additional $10/mo.

Note: I personally use Mint Mobile – see my Mint Mobile review for tips and details based on my experiences.

AT&T NetworkAT&T Network Color: Blue

  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 1 GB 5G/LTE Data. Boost Mobile offers unlimited talk, text, and 1 GB data for $8.33 a month. To find this plan option, you must click on “12 months” on the Plans page. You must prepay $100 + taxes/fees upfront for 12 months of service. After your 5G/LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets. You can choose the AT&T network (GSMA) when you sign up. You can also upgrade to 15 GB of data for $20/month ($240/yr).
  • Unlimited Talk & Text + “Unlimited” Data (16 GB full speed). AT&T Prepaid offers unlimited talk, text, and “unlimited” data for $25 a month. You must prepay $300 + taxes/fees upfront for 12 months of service. After 16GB of data each month, speeds are slowed to max 1.5 Mbps for the month… 16GB is a relatively low cap for “unlimited” data.

Verizon NetworkVerizon Network Color: Red

  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 2 GB 5G/LTE Data. Twigby Mobile runs on the Verizon network and offers unlimited talk, text, and 2 GB data for $15 a month (Intro offer is $5/mo for 3 months). 5 GB for $20 a month (Intro offer is $10/mo for 3 months).
  • Unlimited Talk & Text + Unlimited 5G/LTE Data. Visible Wireless has an unlimited talk and text plan with unlimited 5G/LTE data that recently dropped their pricing to a flat $25 per month, tax and fees included, no annual prepayment required. Data speed will be lower (5-12 Mbps for LTE) compared to Visible+ plan. No group buy required. Visible is owned by Verizon. Unlimited hotspot included (5 Mbps cap). Ability to add a smartwatch Apple Watch for $5/mo.
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Ranked: Things vs. Experiences vs. Things That Keep Creating Good Experiences

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You’ve probably heard the advice that you get more happiness when you spend money on experiences (e.g. vacation), not material possessions (e.g. watch/jewelry). But what about purchases that have aspects of both (e.g. a swimming pool or home remodel)? The study What Makes People Happy? Decoupling the Experiential-Material Continuum (via Klement on Investing) takes data from multiple studies and places hundreds of items along two separate continuums:

  • Material happiness qualities. Happiness derived from the primary intention of acquiring a material possession – a tangible object that one obtains and maintains possession.
  • Experiential happiness qualities. Happiness derived from the primary intention of acquiring a life experience.

Some items are low on both spectrums, like tax software or insurance (low-low). Some are high on one spectrum and low on the other (high-low, low-high). Finally, some are high on both scales (high-high). The study has found that the happiness derived from the experiential and material sides are additive and not dilutive, so you can get even more total happiness this way.

The chart below takes only the goods that rated in the top 10% of highest anticipated happiness (out of 370 total goods), and then plotted them on two scales of material vs. experiential qualities.

This excerpt summarizes the conclusions well:

Therefore, the experiential advantage advice is correct in that if consumers must choose between material and experiential qualities, they should choose experiential consumption. However, when consumers can seek both qualities, such as when “high-material high-experiential” mixed consumption is available, it can provide as much as or even more happiness than purely experiential consumption.

The benefit of material goods is that they don’t go away after the experience ends (food is eaten, cruise ends, etc). The best material goods are those that keep generating new positive experiences and memories. A swimming pool or kitchen/deck remodel where family and friends can gather for many years. Of course, these things are also quite expensive!? I suppose we could skip a vacation and save up to fix up the deck instead.

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Consumer Reports: Which Store Brand Food is the Cheapest Overall?

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Consumer Reports compared several name brand products against generic store brands to see which private label products get the closest to the name brand for the lowest cost. I have never found any other ketchup that tastes like Heinz, but I could be probably be persuaded for other things. (Actually, I have found Whole Foods’ generic “healthy” versions of popular cereals to be pretty bad as well.)

They also bought a range of products from each store and calculated the overall savings you’d get as compared to name-brand products (on a per serving basis). Costco, Aldi, and Walmart are clearly at the top. I personally think Costco has the best quality store-brand stuff, although you usually have to buy a lot of it. I don’t have much experience with Aldi. I’d also have thought Whole Foods 365 would be better than just a 5% savings, but I suppose it just seems cheaper next to the regular price stuff at Whole Foods. 💰

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.