Coinstar Promo: Redeem $30 of Coins Into Amazon Gift Card, Get $5 Bonus Credit

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Here’s a way to both help keep physical coins in circulation and get a little bonus for yourself. If you redeem $30+ worth of coins into Amazon gift cards at your local Coinstar kiosk, they will add a $5 Amazon promotional credit code (valid on products sold by Amazon). Promotion expires November 30, 2020 and the promotional Amazon credit expires December 21, 2020.

You also don’t have to pay any fees using the Amazon gift card option, whereas the cash option hits you with a big 11.9% fee (the last time I checked it was under 10%!). I would have a hard time paying that fee… I’d rather pay the money directly to my kids for rolling up those coins! There are still some banks and credit unions that offer free coin counting services for customers.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. 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.

Mint Mobile New Unlimited Data Plan $30/Month (Stack w/ $45 off $90 AmEx Offer)

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In my own phone, I use Mint Mobile to keep my cell phone costs low. They use the T-Mobile GSM 4G LTE and 5G networks, which means most phones are compatible and switching just requires swapping in a new SIM card. I don’t use a ton of data (even less nowadays), and I’m fine on their $15 a month 3 GB LTE plan.

Need lots of data? Mint now has a new Unlimited Plan for $30 a month, which includes:

  • Unlimited domestic talk and text
  • Unlimited calling to Mexico and Canada
  • 5 GB of mobile hotpost
  • High speed LTE/5G speeds reduce until 35GB of usage, capped at 128 kbps after that.

All of their plans offer the slower 128 kbps speeds after you use up your LTE data, which is nice as you can still check your email and access some emergency services. Most other providers throttle or “de-prioritize” their unlimited data after some threshold, and the key number here is the 35 GB of LTE data. Some other popular MVNOs charge more than this for only 5 GB of data!

As with all of their plans, you can get their lowest pricing for 3 months as an introductory offer. After that, you must renew for 12 months at a time to get the $30/month price. That’s their “gimmick”, you buy in bulk and save. After 3 months, you should have a much clearer idea of whether you want to commit to another year of service.

Be sure to use their phone compatibility checker first to see if you can bring your current phone over and just pop in the Mint Mobile SIM card. They also offer a 7-Day “No Questions Asked Money Back Guarantee” (starts upon SIM activation) so you can test them out before making any commitment. This should get you past any activation issues – for more guidance see my previous Mint Mobile SIM Activation and Number Port Transfer Review.

If you’re not happy with your plan. You can say “no thanks” at any time during your first 7 days of activation and we’ll refund you what you paid (minus S&H). You don’t even have to send it back.

Bonus tip #1: If it does not automatically apply, use the promo code IRFREESHIP to get free shipping as well on your SIM card kit.

Bonus tip #2: Check out your American Express offers to activate a limited-time $45 off $90 offer. This would cover 3 months @ $30 a month or 6 months @ $15 a month. Mine expires 11/9/2020. Here’s a screenshot:

Also see:

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

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. 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.

DIY Home Office Idea: Amazon Door Desks

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One of the reasons that Amazon, Walmart, and Costco have taken over retail is their relentless focus on low prices. This is both obvious and not-so-obvious, as it means turning down easy profits in the short-term in exchange for growing customers. Amazon operated on a “let’s barely break even” basis for years while it mowed down the competition.

One of the symbols of this lean culture is the “Amazon Door Desk”. The story goes that Jeff Bezos needed some desks but traditional ones were too expensive, so he made desks from unfinished doors and some 4x4s instead :

It was the summer of 1995, back when Jeff Bezos could count his Amazon employees on one hand and those few employees needed desks. Bezos’ friend and employee number five, Nico Lovejoy, says Bezos himself found a scrappy, cost-effective solution right outside their doors.

“We happened to be across the street from a Home Depot,” said Lovejoy. “He looked at desks for sale and looked at doors for sale, and the doors were a lot cheaper, so he decided to buy a door and put some legs on it.”

With that, the Amazon “door desk” was born. What neither of them knew at the time was that the scrappy, do-it-yourself desk would turn into one of Amazon’s most distinctive bits of culture. More than 20 years later, thousands of Amazon employees worldwide still work each day on modern versions of those original door desks.

Another employee later improved the basic design with better hardware. They even have instructions on how to build your own Amazon door desk. Unfortunately, they don’t offer details on the parts needed for bracing the 90-degree connections, but here’s what I found based on the pictures (why don’t they sell this as a kit on Amazon?!):

With many more people working from home and kids distance-learning, this may be a good weekend project. I estimated the total cost at under $150, lower if you have access to some reclaimed building materials. I recently scored some donated 4x4s from my neighbor, but no door. Having the legs cut yourself (most stores will cut to order) also lets you adjust the table heights for kids or other specific ergonomic needs.

You’re not being cheap by making your own desk, you are using the same equipment as a trillion-dollar company! My own work desk is a 15-year-old office-supply folding table with scotch tape on it to stop the cheap laminate from peeling. My frugal side is a bit disappointed, as one of these Amazon door desks would have probably lasted even longer.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. 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.

Charlie Munger: Huge Compilation of Annual Shareholder Letters, Interviews, Op-Eds, Speech Transcripts

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Charles Munger is probably best known as the Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and longstanding investing partner of Warren Buffett. However, he has also been the CEO and/or Chairman of the Board of multiple other companies. This means there many additional sources of knowledge and wisdom beyond just BRK shareholder letters. I recently discovered this huge 1,000 page compilation (PDF) of everything Munger, including annual letters from Blue Chip Stamps, Wesco, and Daily Journal as well as his op-ed contributions and transcripts of speeches. Found at ValueWalk, the PDF includes links to most of the individual sources inside as well. Thanks to all the folks that worked hard to preserve this material.

There was no table of contents, so I started making a list of all the goodies inside:

Annual Shareholder Letters and Meeting Transcripts

  • Blue Chip Stamps, Annual Shareholder Letters, 1978-1982. Blue Chip Stamps was merged into Berkshire Hathaway in 1983.
  • Wesco Financial Corporation, Annual Shareholder Letters and/or Meeting Notes, 1983-2010. Wesco Financial was officially merged into Berkshire Hathaway in 2011.
  • Q&A sesssion with Charlie Munger July 1st, 2011. An event paid for by Charlie Munger after the Wesco merger.
  • Daily Journal Corporation Annual Meeting Notes and/or Transcript, 2013-2018.

Speech Transcripts, Op-Eds, Interviews, Etc.

  • Opinion Pieces, 1984.
  • Speech by Charlie Munger to the Harvard School, 1986.
  • Resignation of Mutual Savings from US League of Savings Institutions, May 30, 1989.
  • A Lesson On Elementary, Worldly Wisdom As It Relates To Investment Management & Business, 1995.
  • Practical Thought about Practical Thought?, 1996.
  • Investment Practices of Leading Charitable Foundations, 1998.
  • Foundation Financial Officers Group Master’s Class, 1999.
  • A Perverse Use of Antitrust Law, 2000.
  • Philanthropy Round Table, 2000
  • Optimism Has No Place in Accounting, 2002
  • The Great Financial Scandal of 2003
  • Herb Kay Undergraduate Lecture at the University of California, Santa Barbara Economics Department, 2003.
  • Munger speech at University of California, Santa Barbara, 2004.
  • The Pyschology of Human Misjudgment,
  • Charlie Munger – USC Commencement Speech 2007
  • Sacrificing To Restore Market Confidence, 2009.
  • Basically, It’s Over. A parable about how one nation came to financial ruin, 2009.
  • Wantmore, Tweakmore, Totalscum, and the Tragedy of Boneheadia: A Parody about the Great Recession, 2011.
  • A Conversation with Charlie Munger and Michigan Ross Dean Scott DeRue, 2017.
  • Charlie Munger, Unplugged, 2019.
  • Foreword to the Chinese Edition of Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger (by Louis Li).

This should keep me busy for a while!

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. 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 Deal ($40 Costco Gift Card)

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Here’s a new Groupon deal for a new Costco Gold Star Membership where for the regular price of $60 you can get the following:

  • 1-year Gold Star membership ($60 normally), with auto-renewal of the Costco membership using a Visa® credit or debit card.
  • Membership card for the Primary Cardholder and one additional Household Card for anyone living at the same address, over the age of 18.
  • $40 Costco gift card (valid towards any purchase, including gas)
  • Online coupon: $40 off any order of $250+ on Costco.com

Valid only for new members and those whose memberships expired prior to April 1, 2020.

Save even more on your Groupon with a cashback shopping portal. Many offer new customers bonuses if you make a qualifying purchase, including Rakuten (formerly eBates) ($10 bonus), TopCashBack (varies), and BeFrugal ($10 bonus). I have cashed out of all of these in the last 12 months.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. 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.

Online Shopping: Are You Being Tricked By These 15 Dark Patterns?

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

During these stressful times, many of us are doing a lot more shopping online (unfortunately for local retailers). The competition to get you to spend as much as possible has evolved to take full advantage of all of our psychological weaknesses. This Wired article discusses The Subtle Tricks Shopping Sites Use to Make You Spend More, including the deceptive tactics called “dark patterns”. They linked to an academic study Dark Patterns at Scale: Findings from a Crawl of 11K Shopping Websites, which carefully broke things down into the following 15 dark patterns which usually target at least one cognitive bias.

If you’ve bought anything online recently, you should recognize many of these tricks, but there were a few that were new to me. I was intrigued and tested out many of the sites myself. I no longer plan to shop at certain retailers like Proflowers and CellularOutfitter due to their use of certain shady tactics.

“No, I don’t want become smarter and wealthier”

  • Confirmshaming: Using language to steer your choices
  • Cognitive bias: Framing effect

“YES! vs. no

  • Visual interference: Steering users using visual design.
  • Cognitive bias: Anchoring, Framing effect

“Uncheck the box if you prefer not to receive lots of spam”

  • Trick questions: Steering users using confusing language
  • Cognitive bias: Default, Framing effect

“Do you really want to cheap out on the flower bouquet for your mom?”

  • Pressured selling: Most expensive option is the default.
  • Cognitive bias: Anchoring, Default Effect, Scarcity Bias

“Free shipping with (trial) membership!”

  • Hidden subscription: Charging a recurring fee which isn’t clearly disclosed.

“⏲ Sale ends in 00:15:36 ⏲”

  • Countdown timer: Suggests that deal or discount will expire soon using countdown timer
  • Cognitive bias: Scarcity bias

“Only 3 left in stock. Order soon!”

  • Low-stock message: Suggests that limited quantities are available
  • Cognitive bias: Scarcity bias

“🔥 Selling Fast! 🔥”

  • High-demand message
  • Cognitive bias: Scarcity bias

“‼ Sale ends soon! ‼”

  • Limited-time message
  • Cognitive bias: Scarcity bias

“43 other people are viewing this item” or “Joseph in Maryland just bought these masks!”

  • Activity message: Informs that someone else did an activity or purchase
  • Cognitive bias: Bandwagon effect

“These yoga pants are the most comfortable ever! – Jane from IA”

  • Testimonial
  • Cognitive bias: Bandwagon effect

“Care & Handling Fee: $2.99” (Looking at you, Proflowers!)

  • Hidden cost: Adding new fees or charges at the last page of checkout, after you have submitted address and payment details.
  • Cognitive bias: Sunk cost fallacy

“You must create an account to continue.”

  • Forced enrollment: Must create account or share information to complete task
  • Cognitive bias: Sunk cost fallacy

“Oops, how did that item end up in your shopping cart?”

  • Sneak into basket: Additional products placed in shopping carts without consent, like accessories (CellularOutfitter) or warranty/insurance.
  • Cognitive bias: Default effect

“Please call 1-800-NOT-OPEN between 1:34 and 1:36 AM to cancel.”

  • Hard to cancel: Easy to sign-up, hard to cancel.
My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. 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.

Lesser-Known Cheap Unlimited Talk & Text ONLY Cell Phone Plans on Every Network – From $8 a Month

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

Updated 2020. Cell phone bills have gotten to the point that you can now get unlimited talk and unlimited texts for $15 or less on every major network. That’s less than my bare landline used to cost. The major networks sell wholesale minutes to lesser-known MVNOs (Mobile Network Virtual Operators), which they in turn sell at a significant discount to individuals.

This post focuses on unlimited talk & text only plans (although some plans include some anyway). Here are the cheapest plans with unlimited talk & text and 2+ GB LTE data. Here are the best options by network below (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint) along with an alternative. 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 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 + 3 GB LTE data. Mint Mobile has a $15 a month plan with unlimited talk, text, and 3 GB of LTE data. You even get slower 2G data speeds if you exceed your LTE allotment. Their intro offer is 3 months at $15 per month. After that, you’ll have to buy 12 months of airtime upfront to get the $15 per month price. They offer a 7-Day Money Back Guarantee (starts upon SIM activation) so you can test them out before making the multi-month commitment.
  • Less data, but not MVNO. Alternatively, you can go directly with T-Mobile Connect and get unlimited talk and text with 2 GB data for $15 a month.

I have been on Mint Mobile for nearly two years now – see my Mint Mobile SIM Activation and Number Port Transfer Review for tips based on my experiences.

Sprint NetworkSprint Network Color: Yellow

  • Unlimited Talk & Text. Tello Mobile also has an unlimited talk, text, and no data for $8 a month. You need to choose a custom plan to find this option. I also like the same plan with 1 GB of data at only $10 per month.
  • Alternatively, Republic Wireless has $15 a month plan (or $150/year or $12.50/mo if bought annually) for unlimited talk and text (no data) on the Sprint Network, but you can’t bring any used Sprint device over – you must buy a specially-modified Android phone.

AT&T NetworkAT&T Network Color: Blue

  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 500 MB LTE data. FreeUP Mobile offers unlimited talk, text, and 500 GB data each month for $40 for 3 months ($13.33 a month). It is only sold three months at a time.
  • 3 GB LTE data, more expensive. Alternatively, Red Pocket Mobile offers unlimited talk, text, and 3 GB data for $19 a month. After your 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.

Verizon NetworkVerizon Network Color: Red

  • Unlimited Talk & Text. US Mobile offers unlimited talk and unlimited text (zero data) for $14 a month. You can also choose a plan with no texts ($8/mo) or 1,000 texts ($12/mo). US Mobile uses both T-Mobile (“GSM LTE”) and Verizon (“Super LTE”), so be sure to use the right SIM card.
  • 3 GB LTE data, more expensive. Alternatively, Red Pocket Mobile offers unlimited talk, text, and 3 GB data for $19 a month. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets.You can choose the Verizon network (CDMA) when you sign up.

Here are the cheapest plans with unlimited talk & text and 2+ GB LTE data.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. 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.

Lesser-Known Cheap DATA Cell Phone Plans on Every Network – From $15/Month

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

Updated 2020. The world of cell phone plans is constantly changing. Every major network sells wholesale minutes to MVNOs (Mobile Network Virtual Operators), which they in turn sell at a significant discount to individuals. You can still save some serious money over time buy shopping around by using a lesser-known provider.

This list includes unlimited talk and text plans with at least 2 GB and 6 GB of 4G LTE data. The average data usage is between those two numbers. If you don’t need data, here are the lesser-known cheapest unlimited talk and text only cell plans. Many of these advertise “unlimited data”, which 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, Sprint). 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 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 + 3 GB LTE Data. Mint Mobile has an unlimited talk, text, and 3 GB LTE data plan from $15 per month. Their intro offer is 3 months at $15 per month. After that, you’ll have to buy 12 months of airtime upfront to get the $15 per month price. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets. They offer a 7-Day Money Back Guarantee (starts upon SIM activation) so you can test them out before making any commitment.
  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 8 GB LTE Data. Mint Mobile also has a $20 a month plan with unlimited talk, text, and 8 GB of LTE data. Their intro offer is 3 months at $20 per month. After that, you’ll have to buy 12 months of airtime upfront to get the $20 per month price. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets. They offer a 7-Day Money Back Guarantee (starts upon SIM activation) so you can test them out before making any commitment.

Note: I am currently in my second year with Mint Mobile on my own phone. Please see my Mint Mobile SIM Activation and Number Port Transfer Review for tips based on my experiences.

Sprint NetworkSprint Network Color: Yellow

  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 2 GB LTE Data. Tello Mobile has an unlimited talk, text, and 2 GB data plan for $14 a month. You don’t need to buy a year upfront. You need to choose a custom plan to find this option. Their 4 GB plan is $19 per month. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets.
  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 6 GB LTE Data. Tello Mobile has an unlimited talk, text, and 6 GB data plan for $24 a month. You don’t need to buy a year upfront. You need to choose a custom plan to find this option. Their 8 GB plan is $29 per month. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets.

AT&T NetworkAT&T Network Color: Blue

  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 3 GB LTE Data. Red Pocket Mobile GSMA offers unlimited talk, text, and 3 GB data for $19 a month. After your 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.
  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 8 GB LTE Data. Red Pocket Mobile GSMA offers unlimited talk, text, and 8 GB data for $30 a month. After your 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.

Verizon NetworkVerizon Network Color: Red

  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 3 GB LTE Data. Red Pocket Mobile CDMA offers unlimited talk, text, and 3 GB data for $19 a month. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets. You can choose the Verizon network (CDMA) when you sign up.
  • Unlimited Talk & Text + Unlimited LTE Data. Visible Wireless has an unlimited talk and text plan with unlimited LTE data for $40 per month. It’s also owned by Verizon. There is a promo right now: first month is $25/month + $50 prepaid Visa when you bring over your own device. They also have a Party Pay feature where if you can join with a group of two, three, or four, you can get it down to $25/month ongoing. Each person manages their Visible account and their bill separately. You can join a Party at any time after becoming a Visible customer. Try the r/VisiblePartyPay subreddit to join with some random people (which is within the rules). Note that if someone drops from your party, you will have to go back and fill that spot to keep the discount.

If you don’t need data, here are the lesser-known cheapest talk and text only cell plans.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. 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.

Internet Archive / Open Library: Borrow Hard-to-Find Books For 1 Hour

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

The Internet Archive (IA) is a non-profit digital library with the stated mission of “universal access to all knowledge.” They have a lot going on, from the Wayback machine that archives websites (including this one) to old video games to TV shows to books (also through Open Library).

As a regular user of the local physical library, I often read a book but later recall part of an idea or quote but not the entire context. Since I don’t own the book, I can’t just flip through it and look it up. Recently I’ve often been able to scratch that itch by instantly borrowing the book for an hour via IA.

How can I do this? They operate under the Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) theory of copyright law. My understanding is that they obtain a physical copy of a book, scan it, and then lend out that digital copy on a 1-to-1 basis. Using encrypted digital files, they can ensure that only one person is actually “reading” that book at a time. Once that person returns the book, then another person can borrow it, and so on.

Controlled digital lending is how many libraries have been providing access to digitized books for nine years. Controlled digital lending is a legal framework, developed by copyright experts, where one reader at a time can read a digitized copy of a legally owned library book. The digitized book is protected by the same digital protections that publishers use for the digital offerings on their own sites. Many libraries, including the Internet Archive, have adopted this system since 2011 to leverage their investments in older print books in an increasingly digital world.

They either allow a 1-hour or more traditional 14-day loan period depending on their inventory:

Patrons now have a choice in selecting the loan period when they borrow a book. Patrons can choose a short-term access for 1 hour, or a longer 14-day loan. If we only have 1 copy of a book, it is only available for 1 hour loan. If we have more than one copy of a book, it can be checked out for either 1 hour or 14 days, depending on availability. If there are no copies available for 14-day loans, users can join a waitlist.

However, four major publishers are currently suing the Internet Archive over this practice. I am not a legal expert and can definitely understand how they wouldn’t want the latest bestseller distributed this way as they currently charge libraries a much higher price for lendable eBook versions than physical versions. I can also understand that some authors feel that they are losing book royalties. I certainly wouldn’t want unlimited, unrestricted free digital copies everywhere. But one-to-one for books bought when there was no digital version? Don’t traditional libraries theoretically cut into book sales too? Or do they actually help book sales? Or is the public benefit that makes it okay?

In my experience, every scanned book I’ve read on the Internet Archive would be rather painful to read over longer periods and the text is non-searchable, so the site does not replace my local library nor my regular purchases of new and used books. But I can see how if the convenience improves any further, it could soon make a significant impact.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. 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.

Economics of Shared Living: How Much Money Do You Save With Roommates?

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

For most households, the biggest expense is housing. A time-tested way to reduce your housing costs is to share a place with others, but usually we think of a bigger house as the result of a bigger nuclear family. However, even young professional adults can choose to boost their savings rate by embracing shared living past the college days, and families can save big money by embracing the multigenerational households that are popular in other cultures.

In the article The “N” Factor and Retirement Planning, Scott Burns focuses on the financial impact of having kids but also shares a interesting way to estimate how the size of a household affects how much it spends overall:

Here’s the algorithm: The cost of living for a household is the square root of the number of people in the household. So if you are single, your cost of living is the square root of 1 or… 1.

But if you are recently married, your cost of living is the square root of 2, or 1.414. Yes, two can’t live for the price of one. But they can live for only 42 percent more than the price of one. Economists call this “economies of shared living.”

The article is focused on families with children, but here I am shifting it to talking about individual adults. Therefore, I’d rather talk about it in terms of the amount you are saving through shared living as a percentage of your previous level

Theoretical savings from shared living. If you’re single and live by yourself, your total cost of housing may be $2,000 per month.

  • Get one roommate, save 29%. Your cost goes down to √2/2 = 1.414/2 = 71% of living alone, or $1,420 per month.
  • Get two roommates, save 42%. Your cost goes down to √3/3 = 1.73/3 = 58% of living alone, or $1,160 per month.
  • Get three roommates, save 50%. Your cost goes down to √4/4 = 2/4 = 50% of living alone, or $1,000 per month.

Does this match up with actual rental prices? Using rental data from Abodo.com, I found the average rents for a one, two, and three bedroom rental in four major metro areas from around the US: Austin, San Francisco, Atlanta, and New York City. For example, if a 1-bedroom costs $1,366 in Austin and a 2-bedroom costs $1,725, that means your per-person share is $862.50, which is 63% of the cost of a 1-bedroom. This should provide a quick check for this rule, even though we are just looking at housing. It turns out to be pretty close:

According to the √N Rule, the biggest relative benefit comes when you stop living alone, at a savings of nearly 30%. This magnifies the savings ability of a dual-income couple, with possible double the income and 30% less in housing expenses.

Burns applies this to the savings that parents can feel after their kids move out of their house. As a result, retirees may be able to survive on much less than might be expected based on other rough rules of thumb.

Bottom line. Shared living is a powerful way to reduce your housing costs. As rents rise, this may result in more single adults sharing a house, or increased rates of multigenerational family living. Consider shared living as an available option to save more money and increase your financial stability, as opposed to only a last resort. Put another way, “Cooperation is a wonderful but generally overlooked substitute for money.”

[Revised and updated from original post from many years ago. I’m cleaning up my archives and updating selected articles.]

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. 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.

Planned vs. Perceived Obsolescence

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

The Story of Stuff (embedded below) is a short animated film about the lifecycle of material goods. Even though it was released over 10 years ago, the overall message of anti-consumerism and sustainability still applies to our current world. There are debates about specific statements from the movie which you can find on the film’s Wikipedia page, but I’m not here to defend the entire video. I believe that people should be able to watch something with a critical mind and not necessarily agree with every single point.

Here I am focusing on the discussion of planned vs. perceived obsolescence, which is approximately at 12:35 if you wanted to skip directly to that part.

Here are the definitions from the film glossary:

Planned obsolescence: designing and producing products in order for them to be used up (obsolete) within a specific time period. Products may be designed for obsolescence either through function, like a paper coffee cup or a machine with breakable parts, or through “desirability,” like a piece of clothing made for this year’s fashion and then replaced by something totally different next year. Planned obsolescence is also known as “design for the dump.”

Perceived obsolescence: the part of planned obsolescence that refers to “desirability”. In other words, an object may continue to be functional, but it is no longer perceived to be stylish or appropriate, so it is rendered obsolete by perception, rather than by function. Fashion is all about perceived obsolescence, and it could be said that perceived obsolescence is the number one “product” of the advertising industry.

Non-Consumer Alarm! In other words, companies have made easy it is to identify “non-consumers”, which usually comes with a negative connotation in our society. Let’s take cars. (Is it ever “cool” to drive an old car that isn’t a collectible?) Models change very often, even if just slightly, so it’s very easy to tell if you have an older car vs. a newer model. My wife and I have been half-jokingly told by our friends and co-workers that we need to buy nicer cars that better match our job titles and/or income levels. Yet even the newest cars pretty much do the same stuff. I could be driving a 15-year-old well-maintained Camry and add a smartphone for GPS/music/podcasts, and a blindfolded passenger probably couldn’t tell the difference.

The next time you are in public, look at the visible stuff that people own. Notice how easily you can figure out whether it was bought within the last few years.

Bottom line. I still buy stuff. You probably still buy stuff. However, we should at least acknowledge the pressure to own the most current version of everything, even if we are replacing something that still works. Cars. Cell phones. Water containers (Hydroflask). Headphones (Airpods). Kitchens that “need” remodeling because they are outdated. Shoes. Winter jackets. Purses. Clothing.

[Revised and updated from original post from many years ago. I’m cleaning up my archives and updating selected articles. Funnily enough, this post is getting increased attention because a lot of students have been assigned homework after watching this film as part of their “distance learning”.]

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. 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.

Hertz Used Rental Cars: Good or Bad Idea? Big List of Pros and Cons

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In better times, Hertz took out a big loan and put up their vast inventory of cars as collateral. COVID-19 caused the lender to worry about getting their money back, so they called in the loan. Hertz doesn’t exactly have much cashflow right now, so they are forced to sell off the cars in the hopes of surviving bankruptcy.

So, I found myself browsing HertzCarSales.com for the first time. I’ve never seriously considered buying a car from a rental agency, mostly due to the fact that I didn’t want a Dodge Caravan last redesigned in 1996. However, I did buy a cheap off-lease corporate fleet car from my employer, and it worked out great. Is buying a used rental car from Hertz a great idea, or a stupid idea? Here are some arguments from both sides.

Reasons why a used Hertz rental car may be BETTER than you think:

  • Check the in-service date and determine how much of the factory warranty is remaining; it could be a significant amount.
  • Hertz will let you bring it to a mechanic and do your own inspection.
  • No-haggle pricing will be appreciated by some, similar to CarMax.
  • All Hertz Certified vehicles include a 12-month/12,000-mile (whichever comes first) limited powertrain warranty.
  • Hertz has a better reputation of doing regular maintenance on their cars than lesser-known car rental companies. According to the Hertz website, while they do not provide copies of maintenance records, you can view the maintenance records in person.
  • Hertz is usually the most expensive option for a casual traveler. Most of their business is corporate and government workers. Business travelers tend to simply use the car as a tool to get from the airport to/from office/hotel, so the car will likely be in better shape than perhaps with other companies.
  • You can return your vehicle within 7 days or 250 miles after your purchase, whichever comes first. A cleaning and recertification fee of $200 will be deducted (unless prohibited by law), as well as any excess wear or damage to the vehicle.
  • Normally, used cars are subject to the “lemon” theory: people tend to sell the cars with problems. However, a rental agency does things robotically – all cars at a certain age are sold. They already bought the car at a highly-discounted bulk rate from the manufacturer, and they just need to get the car off their books in an expedient manner.
  • Some reports claim that the more “beat up” cars, especially cosmetically with dings and stains, never make it to the sale lot and are instead sold more cheaply via wholesale auctions.
  • Healthcare worker and first responders currently get $350 off with promo code HCS-HERO.

Reasons why a used Hertz rental car may be WORSE than you think:

  • Rental cars have a “fleet” or “rental” designation on the title, which stays with the car and can affect future resale value.
  • The reputation is that these cars are more “beaten up” given their mileage. I used to accelerate a little harder on freeway onramps in a rental car (it was usually the econobox version so not much excitement anyway), and was probably a bit more liberal with the air conditioning in those humid summers. However, I was still careful as I often skipped the insurance waiver on personal rentals.
  • You won’t get the “1 owner who drove it only on the freeway and was a neat freak with perfect maintenance records” car.
  • Anecdotally, cars that are made for “fleets” are of lower quality because the factory workers know these are fleet cars when they build them, and thus care less about quality control and more about pumping out 100 of the exact same car.
  • Some rental car agencies self-insure their cars and do repairs in-house, which means accidents are not necessarily reported on CarFax or other vehicle history reports.
  • Never buy “sports cars” as these are rented specifically so you can have fun going fast in them and do things you wouldn’t do in your normal car. Same deal with pickups, they are likely used heavily nearly every rental.
  • They will still add some sort of $200 to $400 documentation fee and attempt to upsell you various extended warranties, just as any other used car dealer.

Used car marketplace iSeeCars.com compared Hertz prices with their estimate of market value to find which models had the steepest discounts. I didn’t really find the results to be very useful though, as most models are rather rare with very limited availability (BMW 7-Series, MB A-Class, Buick Cascada?). The only Honda/Toyota/Mazda on the list was the Toyota Tundra, and I couldn’t find a single one within 200 miles of my location.

I tried to run some comparisons myself for a popular model with decent inventory like the Toyota RAV-4. This black 2019 Toyota RAV-4 XLE AWD (Hertz) with 22,000 miles was $23,587. This black 2019 Toyota RAV-4 XLE AWD (AutoTrader) with 22,000 miles was $21,689. I didn’t drill down into the options, but this shows that you should definitely do some comparison shopping first.

In the end, the process is similar to buying any used car and comes down to price. You need consider the reliability of the make/model, do your own personal pre-purchase inspection with an expert, and comparison shop across the same model, same options list, and similar mileage. Read the factors above and then add your own “Hertz adjustment”. Is the Hertz no-haggle price still the best deal?

Also see: How Much Car Can I Afford?

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. 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.