When the Digital Intersects with the Offline World

bitcoinIt isn’t quite how I envisioned it. . . I’d dreamed of taking out my cellphone and opening the camera. I saw myself change the settings to video and then hand it off to my daughter as I prepped to open the envelope. My dream had me talking on camera excitedly about the trip to the store I was about to make, then we hopped in the van and ran off to the store. My dream continued with me picking up a few items then going to the self-checkout where the camera’s video function was turned on again. I dreamed of that moment when I punched in the card’s PIN and pulled out the receipt, triumphantly announcing that I’d just bought groceries with my BTC debit card!
 
No. . . it’s not going to be that way. Instead, in order to keep my HP Connect Instant Ink subscription going, I am needing to obtain a debit card that has a virtual number rather than strictly physical as is the case with the XAPO card I wanted to get. As of tonight, I have begun a slow transfer from freebitco.in over to the wallet of this virtual card. We’ll see how that went by morning. If successful, I’ll be able to order the virtual card tomorrow morning and then update my payment settings over at HP Connect Instant Ink to maintain my monthly subscription. Doing this makes the cost of ink so much more manageable and the printer gets used for everything from resumes to printing to music.
 
bitcoin faucetOn the plus side, thanks to the meteoric rise in value of BTC, the faucet earnings I’ve accumulated since mid February’s experiment began will be enough to pay for at least two month’s worth of this subscription as well as fees for use of the card and exchange rates from USD into CAD. So it’s nice to know I have accumulated useful coin that can have a real-world benefit to this household even if it isn’t a bag of groceries at the store. Still looking at that keychain flashlight I posted about earlier as well, but ink is a little more important at this time.
Hopefully, if all went well, I can post an update to my FB page saying HP Connect InstantInk is saved by the bright, shiny new world of Bitcoin!

Serving up a Buffet of Savings Today

From food to clothes to summer electrolyte boosting, today’s blog post is a little bit of everything.

First up, foraging this summer continues to show just how badly the wet and windy Okanagan spring affected local flora and fauna.  Our favourite chokecherry trees are slim pickings this year in the usual haunts.  We’ll have to go up further into the local woods to get even close to what we harvested last year, and we’d vowed to get more than that this year. . . not sure if that’s doable now.  Our usual plantain harvest is slow to get going as well, although we finally got some decent narrow plantain leaves for drying in our medicinal cabinet.  Oregon grape is growing well however, and I gathered some more Salsify roots from dead plants to boil up and see how their taste and texture changed from when they were alive.  False Solomon’s Seal berries taste just like raw snap peas!!!  Who knew?!  So we’re gathering those and freezing them for a winter vegetable this year.  I should take a picture of those at some point. . . forgot to do that before they went into the freezer.

Salads this year are largely legume oriented with a healthy helping of thistle/dandelion/chicory leaves and false solomon’s seal.  We’re adding broadleaf plantain whenever we can.

On the money-saving front, my daughter has discovered an infusion of plants and berries that not only act as an electrolyte, but also a brain and stamina booster as well.  She’s nicknamed it her “Stamina Potion” and anyone she’s given a taste to loves it.  Some even say she should sell it.  She usually buys Powerade or Gaterade or similar products to get her through the summer at her job, but not this year.  She’s probably already saved herself at least $10 by making this infusion instead.

Also on the money-saving front, I’ve been given over 24 pieces of high-end clothing, sized Small or Extra Small that I need to sell to help pay a few bills that piled up this Spring.  If you are interested in any of these, drop me a line to author@fa-ct.com.  Send payment via e-transfer to songdove@fa-ct.com along with a note containing which item you are buying, the password to accept the transfer and the address to mail it to.  All pricing is half off the original in keeping with my goals here on this blog, and some pieces are priced less than that.  Brand names are given where possible so you can look them up to verify price ranges of new clothing.  If you are like me, you’ll see those new prices and gag.  If you regularly buy high-end clothing, the sticker-shock won’t be so bad.

Now I know some people will read my blog and be more interested in how they can maintain a personal or household budget more than the foraging, so let me share a way to potentially save money on food and clothing items from a new site I’ve joined recently.  The site is called “Tripleclicks”, and they feature sellers based in countries all over the world selling their local wares to the international community.  Some are selling used goods while clearing out their closets.  Others are selling hand-crafted goods you won’t find anywhere else, while still others are selling commercial goods from their own businesses.  Check out these links to discover what might fit into your budget a bit better.

Becoming a shopping member earns you member reward points that make things even cheaper as you can apply those points to the cost of the purchase instead.  You’ll earn T-Credits as well, which can be used to enter auctions for items, further reducing the final cost of what you wish to buy.  Put the two together and there might be occasions when all you paid was shipping, assuming it wasn’t an item where free-shipping was also being offered.  So yeah, give these links a look-see and check it out for yourself.

Grocery Shopping:  https://www.tripleclicks.com/collection?id=51746

Clothing (what appealed to me, there are tons more): https://www.tripleclicks.com/collection?id=51398

Yard and Gardening: https://www.tripleclicks.com/collection?id=51399

Computer-related: https://www.tripleclicks.com/collection?id=51397

Amazon vs Tripleclicks! The Mat’s Been Thrown Down!

amazon logoYes, indeed it has!  A news article released recently, continues to show Amazon’s ambition in maintaining it’s growing stranglehold on the online e-commerce marketplace.  Not everyone is happy about this.  In somewhat older yet still current and ongoing news, creatives are getting increasingly frustrated with Amazon’s ability to crack down on plagiarism taking place on their site.  Reporting mechanisms put in place are not moving very quickly, if at all, to deal with this growing problem.

There’s a new player on the block that’s been lying low for a while.  It has begun to pick up steam and now has well over 93,000 products being sold by sellers living all around the world.  This company, according to its parent company’s tech support service, does NOT make any use of Amazon services whatsoever.  This makes them a TRUE competitor against the Amazon monolith.

If you are a creative looking for another large e-commerce site to latch onto, then be sure to check out Tripleclicks!  You can click this link here, or on the garage sale link in the sidebar.  These links will show you the wide range of products people are selling, from stuff in their closets to handmade goods to small business outlets, sales and closeouts.  If you’d rather skip the introduction and head straight to where you can sign up to start selling your stuff, click this link here.

Just like Amazon, you’ll be able to pick categories for your stuff, choose shipping options, add photos of your goods, add descriptions and keywords, pick your price, or offer shoppers the ability to suggest a price, and more.

A reasonable online competitor to Amazon DOES exist!  Pass this on to your creative friends selling their goods online.  Perhaps if Amazon starts losing sellers to Tripleclicks, they will wake up and realize they need to address plagiaristic behaviour.

6 Habits of the Wealthy – a Low Income Perspective

I read an interesting article on CTV News last night!  The lady was talking about the attitudes of the wealthy and was impressed that most wealthy people she interviewed, discussed wealth outside the terms of money.  Whenever money did come up, a list of generally accepted mindsets or attitudes began to develop and she shared them in her article here:

http://www.ctvnews.ca/5things/pattie-lovett-reid-engage-in-these-6-habits-of-the-wealthy-1.3374225

When I read this list, I was suddenly amazed at how my own family often accuses me of having a poverty mindset!  I had to add my own thoughts to the author’s 6 main points in the article above.  Before writing these out however, I showed my daughter this list and asked her how many of them are present in our home.  She responded with “most if not all of them”, although current finances prevent us from enacting one of the sub-points in this list.  It hasn’t however, stopped us from trying in the past, nor will it stop us from trying in the future.  Here are my own thoughts.  Anyone who has purchased my course “The Poor Man’s Budget: a Five Week Course – Learning to live within your means” will recognize some of these points.

Change your money mindset: Have a positive attitude, increase your knowledge base, have goals and get disciplined ~ This begins by being thankful for what you have and following that Biblical concept that if you have two of something, give to him who has none.  It can be tempting to hoard when you are financially struggling, living below the poverty line, or desperately battling debt.  But if you honestly end up with more of something than you realistically know you need (not want), giving it away to someone else in need also contributes to a more positive attitude.

Sweep away your financial dustballs or myths:
a) Self worth equals net worth (Clearly it doesn’t but some might think it does) ~ I run into many people who believe this lie.  Your self-worth is not found in things, nor in others around you.  Your self-worth is found in the One Who made you!  Your self-worth is found in Jesus Christ.  Believe what He says about you in His Word and lack or plenty won’t affect your view of yourself.  Secondarily, look after yourself no matter how much or little you have.  You can always use water from a public fountain to wash up in the morning if you live on the streets.  You can brush your hair and straighten your clothes.  Walk with purpose rather than ambling aimlessly.  Shake hands firmly and meet people eye to eye when greeting them.  Don’t let life’s problems define who you are.  Everyone, rich and poor have issues they battle with.  Hold your head up and don’t let your particular issues drag you into the dirt.

b) A little debt never hurt anyone (Yes it will) ~ Financial advisors will tell you on one hand that it isn’t wise to get into debt.  They will turn right around in the very next sentence and tell you to get a credit card so you can build up a positive credit rating.  They will then go into detail about how to manage that credit card so that you ideally never slip into debt.  Human nature, being what it is, will invariable see the credit limit, see an emergency, what Christmas approach, and decide to spend just a little bit more than they can pay off at the end of the month.  They will justify it by saying now they have a debt load against which to build that credit rating, because creditors will see the monthly efforts.  Now this is true to a point, but it will come back to bite you eventually.  Yes, unfortunately the modern financial world won’t sell you a car or house if you don’t have positive credit ratings, but a little debt has and will continue to hurt people.

c) I need at least $1 million to retire (No, you don’t) ~ What you need is to assess the lifestyle you want when you retire, what would it cost now and what is the current inflation rate?  Based on that inflation rate, how much will you need to have in savings when you retire to lead that kind of lifestyle month by month?

d) I need to be a math major (Also, not true) ~ No, the above calculations are basic math.  Addition and multiplication and maybe some division.  If you graduated grade 6, you have what it takes to figure out the previous answer.

e) I don’t have enough money to start investing (How about $25 a month?) ~ Most people can afford at least $25/mo.  Those living on fixed incomes may not be able to however, nor those living below the poverty line, but whenever possible, it is advisable to set aside even $5 a month if you can manage it.  What I find in our household is that I can get up to $3 or $400 saved up, then an emergency comes along or income takes a dive and I need the funds to buy gas and groceries.  I am looking forward to the day when income is steady and I can get that savings account above that particular threshold.

f) It’s too late for me to start building a nest egg (No it isn’t, and retirement could last a third of your life) ~ It’s true, you can start saving at any age, the earlier the better, but any time is a good time as long as it is sooner to your present than later.

g) Personal finance is all about investing (It is so much more encompassing: debt management, insurance, retirement planning and more) ~ The biggest point in personal finance, is budgeting based on what you are regularly earning at the time.  Then learning to stick to that budget.  Failure to get this step down will make any other financial management task more difficult.

h) I can do it alone (Maybe, but start by asking for help) ~ If you understand how to set money aside and not touch it, if you know about TFSA’s or RRSP’s already, sure, go it alone, but be almost religious about the plan you put into action.  Asking for help often involves paying an advisor for their time or using their ongoing services from which they get paid a commission. If you can’t afford to pay someone for help, start small and work from there.

Eliminate the spending habit: Live below your means and ditch your bad debts ~ Hear, hear!!!  This is the second worst problem I am seeing among those who claim to be struggling in their finances.  They still visit the corner store regularly.  They still buy cookies and candy bars regularly and sugary or other unhealthy food choices when grocery shopping.  They still think they can engage in bad habits that cost them anywhere from $200/mo to $500 or more and they wonder where their money is going!  Newsflash! You don’t need that jacket on sale when you have two others at home already.  You don’t need sugary drinks or foods when because you are struggling, you need healthier food options instead.  You don’t need to waste gas with extra-curricular activities when you can’t afford the gas to begin with.  Start walking more.  Cancel the Cable TV subscription and watch all your shows online.  If this step isn’t mastered, the previous ones will all be derailed by some justification to spend!

Create a savings habit: Pay yourself first ~ See the previous comments about saving and spending.

Embrace the investing and compound habit: Learn more to earn more and compound your earnings ~ This may be where you want to ask for help, but in a standard savings account, if you leave your money there, the interest accrued will compound based on what stays in the account, previous interest and all.  This can work in your favour.

Choose a destination: Get real and set goals ~ Revisit this entire list, master the other points and when you get to this one, write down those goals.  In a quick-fix, instant-access society, long-term gratification seems like punishment.  But if you can get over the need to spend and start actively saving toward your goals, you will discover the pride and personal joy in having achieved those goals on your own!  Start with small goals that you can reach if you are disciplined in a month.  Say perhaps you can get $25 put aside into savings.  Reward yourself with a hot bath that night.  Say perhaps you went for three months putting that money aside?  Take $5 and go buy a booster juice smoothie (remember the poor spending point above).  Say perhaps you managed to maintain your new saving regimen for an entire year, take $20 and go have pizza!  These examples are merely for savings goals, but you might have other goals, like paying for a college course, replacing a dieing vehicle, maybe even owning your own home and saving up for a down-payment.  Once you realize you can meet your smaller goals, these larger ones will become easier to achieve and you’ll have the necessary patience to see them through.

Black Friday: When is a Deal a Deal?

On my author blog a few years ago, I shared a few articles on managing home finances where I didn’t merely discuss savings or budgeting, but when to tell a deal from a ruse.  Those three articles are as follows:

I shared two examples in Part 3 that had been major learning tools in my children’s lives as they were learning how to manage their own finances as teenagers.

A few years later, I ran across a blatant example this very Black Friday weekend!  Not everything touted as a sale, actually truly is a sale!  Sometimes stores will merely place things in a sale flyer to get your attention, rather than have any real correlation to the sale featured by that flyer.  Other times, sales may offer some reduction in price, but only because prices had risen a month or two prior.  Then there is the issue of research!  In today’s example, it must be understood that many Canadians actually go south of the border to go shopping on Black Friday weekend.  To prevent this loss of customers, Canadian stores have begun offering their own Black Friday deals, door crashers, etc.

Staples is one such store to try keeping Canadian shoppers in Canada!  Unfortunately, Staples did not check all potential competing sources for prices before putting their flyer together, because I made the following discovery:

Their photo products mousepad, ornament, blanket, and puzzle at supposedly “sale” prices, are equal to or just a dollar or two less than the same items in my Cafepress store!  Check out these images:

 

The image to the left is the local Staples flyer for Black Friday weekend.  The image to the right is my comparison drawn between Staples and my store at Cafepress.  This image is taken from a clickable PDF where you can visit the following links:

Mousepads $1 USD more than Black Friday pricing

Ornaments $3+ USD cheaper than Black Friday pricing

Quail Throw blanket $2+ USD more than Black Friday pricing

Quail puzzle similar price USD to Black Friday pricing

The lack of research really shows up when you also consider Cafepress regularly has their own coupon codes across their entire site.  The current site-wide offer: Black Friday Deals! 25% Off* Your Order! Use Code: BLKFRI25 So this makes the above price comparison even more of a goof on Staple’s part!  Canadians can still shop south of the border without ever leaving the comfort of their living rooms!

You’ll hear with various sources that its important to compare apples to apples.  Therefore, I will point out that these prices at these two sites, are using the same feature:  personalized items.  At Cafepress, I have uploaded photos I have taken around my area and turned them into useful products people buy every day in housewares and office supply stores everywhere.  I even have jewelry items personalized for purchase.  Staples doesn’t get into the jewelry, but their photo centre is where their offers on this flyer page are coming from.  You can visit any Staples store, or their online photo centre and create these items to purchase.  You are also able to do that at Cafepress too.  Other online sites also exist for this kind of thing with a friend of mine selling her wares on Zazzle, while I’ve seen local businesses use VistaPrint.

As a consumer in a widely-fluctuating economy, even your Christmas shopping should be shrewdly managed!  Always do your homework before settling on where you’ll spend your holiday budget.  Failure to do so will hoodwink you into believing you got a deal, when in fact the store you shopped at was not really offering a deal at all.

What if a Simple Concept Called “Storage” Could save Money? Part 2: Your Clothes

Interesting question, huh? But the ramifications of what I’m about to share may just aid in putting you on the road to more savings. Let’s consider several types of storage that can aid in this endeavour:

Last week, we covered several types of food storage. This week we’ll cover clothing storage, beginning in your closet!

Closet
Many articles have been written about closet organization. Companies such as Canadian Tire sell DIY closet organizers that you can install and configure yourself. The goal is to arrange your clothing so you always have easy access to it. When it comes to saving money with your clothing, the other major reason for keeping an organized closet is to keep yourself from buying clothing you already have. You need roughly three changes of clothing for each season at a minimum. If you are the type to dress up for various occasions, you may want an additional three changes of dress clothes for each of the four seasons as well. Any more of this and you’re spending based on wants now and not needs.
When you can see at a glance what you have in your closet, you’ll reduce the impulse to run to the store to buy more. Being able to see what you have also means you have room to manage the freshness of your hanging clothes via mothball bags hung on hangers or placed on shelves to further ensure your clothing is not enjoyed by the local bug population. This too will reduce the need to head out and buy more clothing.

dresser storageDresser
Similar suggestions exist for managing your dresser drawers. Good clothing management begins with optimal folding techniques. You can find various folding instructions for everything from socks to shirts to pants and even linens for your linen closet that will not only keep your clothing looking nice, but allow you to pack more into smaller spaces. Just like your closet, you should organize your drawers so that you know what you have at a glance. Seasonal clothing gets stacked at the back of the drawers to make room for the current season’s outfits up front. Again, you only need a minimum of three changes of clothing to get through a week of showering roughly every other day or so. Only those who have incredibly dirty jobs need more clothing than this. Anything above this is in the want category. Wants cost money too and can eat away at your family budget. Knowing what you have available will, ideally, lower your perceived need to always get a new outfit, saving you money.

Proper care and storage of your clothing (see the hotwater article) will reduce how quickly your clothing breaks down and requires replacing. Clothes do age and reach a point of no repair. Only at that point should you consider going out to buy more clothing.

Cubbies
If you are the type to store your clothing in cubbies, do the same thing you would do for drawer storage, keeping in mind the front is fully open. In either case, a well-organized and properly folded drawer or cubby will have room for mothball bags as well, so that critters getting into those areas won’t eat and prematurely wear out your clothing.

These concepts can be applied to other areas of the home as well, such as the gardening shed, the garage, Christmas storage, etc. The idea is to organize your home’s closets, cupboards, shelving, cubbies, etc, in such a manner that:

  • a) nothing spoils
  • b) things are used up before they go bad
  • c) clothing doesn’t wear out before its time
  • d) impulse buying is reduced to a minimum
  • e) items aren’t “replaced” because you can already see that you have them.

Carrying on with Unlocked Training at Shoemoney.net

As time permits, I am carrying on with the unlocked video training content over at Shoemoney.net.

I watched the videos for copywriting where I learned that what I’ve done with formatting information on my writing courses is a good example of what Jeremy would call good copyrighting.  I now need to go through and confirm that HOW I’ve used the techniques actually has the desired result of allowing others to quickly scan the page and get the nuggets I want them to know about the courses.

After going through those videos, I watched the video tutorials on best practices for using Youtube.  As I wrapped up that course, updating videos in my training playlist and book trailer play list, I discovered something.

The following video has 330 views since it was shared in January 2015, as of the time I wrote this blog post.  It’s a 13 min video showing you how I use Pinterest as an author.  Pinterest drove sales of my grad gift, “Mom’s Little Black Book: Godly Advice for the High School Graduate” in 2015, being responsible for over 30 copies of this book being sold between May and June that year.

This video actually got a thumbs down!  Most of the comments so far are all positive, but someone thought they’d help out a little with a thumbs down!  COOL!  Why does that excite me?  People want to see what the negative rating was all about!

Video marketing is an interesting animal.  For starters, you need a focus.  What do you want to accomplish?  Are you trying to send traffic to your site?  Are you trying to make sales of your product?  Are you trying to promote a cause or equip users for a certain task?

Whatever the focus is, you need to optimize your video’s title, description, and keywords to suit that purpose.  I learned a few things today from these unlocked Shoemoney training videos and put them into practice on my existing videos as the tutorials went along.

As usual, we shall see how it goes.  If you want to know what I’m learning since unlocking the initial paid levels of the Shoemoney system, then use my affiliate link to check it out!  It’s always nice to earn a little on the side while you’re at it.  You have to go through the levels and get paid for them before you can unlock content that I am doing now.

What Have You Baked in Your Toaster?

In the first blog post here, I wrote about several things you can do with your toaster.  Our toaster oven died on my birthday this year after serving us well for many years!  It became a very good cost saver, allowing me to do many things with it that normally require the much larger 220V oven.

One of those cost/energy-saving tasks in the first article’s list, was that of baking.  Single-meal size baking tasks, or tasks to feed a small family, fit very well into our toaster oven.  From baking the last few scones that just wouldn’t fill a complete tray in the larger oven, to baking pies, small cakes, and small batches of baked pasta, this little oven became a staple in the kitchen!

A toaster oven typically only pulls 110V in North America, versus the 220V of the larger oven. 

While not all toaster ovens are built with the same depth and height available, they all have room for a small tray and can accept single-serving pasta dishes, some sizes of corning ware, and more.  The toaster oven that died could not accept a 9″ pie plate, but could accept a full-height long corning ware casserole dish!  Our newer toaster oven can accept a 9″ pie plate, but can’t accept a full-height casserole dish.  So you’ll have to experiment with what oven dishes your toaster oven can take.  Once you find them, use them in your toaster oven instead of your larger oven to save money on your electrical bill.

Ode to a Toaster Oven

Today, on my 45th birthday, a toaster that came to live in our home from the Salvation Army Thrift store years ago, finally kicked the bucket!  It isn’t much to look at, but this little toaster oven was a real trooper.  We used it for far more than just making toast!

Did you know you can use toaster ovens to:

  • Make toast
  • Cook meat
  • Warm up pasta in pasta dishes just like the microwave but without wrecking the nutritional content of your food in the process
  • Bake fresh pasta dishes such as baked spaghetti
  • Bake Scalloped Potatoes
  • Bake scones or biscuits if you’re only doing a single batch
  • etc.

These handy little ovens are far more useful than most people give them credit for.  In our home, cooking the evening meal often involved cooking the meat in this toaster oven’s much smaller space rather than heat up the entire oven below the stove.

Not only did we get marinated steaks, breaded pork, sausages, meatballs, and other dishes cooked on time, but for far less electrical cost as well. When you’re on a tight budget, saving money on electricity is something that should be looked at with a critical eye.  Our little kitchen helper proved quite helpful in this regard.

It is important to realize that this toaster was used when we got it, meaning it is far older than the years it spent in our home.  We will be seeing if it’s possible to resuscitate it’s wiring system, but if not, we will be forced to say good bye to an awesome little kitchen helper!