I have three shedding dogs and two twentysomething male roommates, so I end up cleaning my house more than most people. This means that I’m always on the hunt for new, effective cleaning products that are a) cheap and b) environmentally-friendly. This is a difficult combination to come by even though most companies are hopping on the “green cleaning” bandwagon.
My desk is a mess.
It’s not so much a factor of having too much stuff - virtually everything on it has a purpose. The problem is that I collect too many little pieces of paper and various other items and I tend to not spend enough time organizing them and dealing with them in a constructive fashion. My desk usually winds up being a mess of notes jotted on pieces of paper, magazines, photocopied articles from the library, books, photographs, and various correspondence that I need to attend to or file away somewhere.
Between workdays extending well beyond the old school eight hours, children’s extracurricular activities and the enigma of how to pay all of the bills while still having money left over for vacations and college funds, who has time to relax? To this day, when my mother is sick and you tell her to relax, her response is always, “Baby, I don’t have time to relax.”
Aside from making you grumpy, stress is a real medical problem. It contributes to headaches, muscle tension, heart attacks, high blood pressure and has even been linked to cancer. Stress can weaken your immune system, making it nearly impossible to fight off infection. With this in mind, there are a number of local businesses that are in your corner, ready to help with stress reduction.
The Relaxation Center, located in Loveland, offers exactly what their name says—pure relaxation and a vision of “healing the world, one body at a time.” According to Joyce Warner, co-owner of the center, hers is a company that prides itself on a quiet, warm and inviting atmosphere and was even voted Best Massage in 2006 by Citysearch.com. They offer many services to help your worries melt away including deep tissue massage, relaxation massage, pregnancy massage, sinus massage and craniosacral aromatherapy, just to name a few. The Relaxation Center also provides on-site chair massages, brought directly to your home or office.
Tucked away in a historic train station in Blue Ash is the Mantra Wellness Center. The key word for this business is “holistic.” They are focused on not only treating stress, but also preventing it. While they do offer some unfamiliar services such as Iridology, which studies a patient’s iris for signs of illness, and Feldenkrais, which focuses on body awareness and movement, they are best known for their customized services. Some of these include massage therapy, Reiki energy healing, acupuncture, diet and nutritional guidance, hypnotherapy and detox hydrotherapy. They have practitioners who specialize in bamboo massage and Thai yoga massage. In addition to their many services, they offer classes including Reiki Dojo, where one can be trained to become a Reiki practitioner, Primordial Sound Meditation for deeper, more effective meditation and even classes on aromatherapy and infant massage. According to Adrienne Davidson, owner and operator of the center, they take personal attention seriously. “We know who your are when you come in, and not just because we’ve looked at your chart,” she says.
If you’re looking for total energy treatment, then visit Het Heret Transformation Resources in Blue Ash. This center offers something completely out of the norm and, in fact, there are only ten practitioners in the country who offer Atlasprofilax services, which involve using a vibrating instrument as well as some light manual pressure on acupuncture and trigger points in the upper cervical region. The treatment works toward deep and thorough relaxation in the muscles and it leads to a new balance between the antagonist muscles (a medical term for muscles which pull in opposite directions), causing the vertebrae to function better.
Beverly Welbourne, owner of the center says, “Atlasprofilax relieves not only the neck and back, it also brings more life force, Qi or Kundalini to the body. It is an initiation into a new energy field, one which is very welcome for those who are prepared for it.”
These are just a few of the incredible alternative health experiences available in our area. Through holistic work, you may just find that there really is a happier, calmer you somewhere inside after all.
I think I'm in love. Just think: Instead of pulling out my gear at the bar to test my levels, all I'll have to do is check my skin. So in love.
Fantastic research has developed a ink using nano technology that can be used in tattoo and will change if blood sugar levels get outside the normal range. Of course this is all still experimental.
Fox News: A Brazilian bikini wax nearly kills an Australian woman.
Wall Street Journal: States slash health care for uninsured while the Federal government picks up the slack.
Finance and Frugal Living
The Simple Dollar: The truth about debt elimination programs and why you may not need them.
Five Cent Nickel: Moving toward a cashless society.
About two years ago, I wrote a very popular piece for my blog, The Simple Dollar, called 30 useful Pieces Of Free (and Open) Software for Windows. In it, I talked about how I had a new Dell laptop and that I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on additional software for it, so I went hunting. I sought out open source software so that I knew it would be not only free, but the code would be peer-reviewed and it wouldn’t have any bugs or malicious elements in it. And, eventually, I found thirty pieces of software that really met my needs.
In the book, Gladwell mostly argues that exceptional success is the result mostly of factors outside of our control: demographics, genetics, and so on. However, he does point to a few tantalizing clues of things we can control for increasing our own chances at personal success.
This article on the murky and industrialized world of high fructose corn syrup walks readers through a psychotically complex process that takes corn and turns it into sweetened gel (or fat Americans or poison, however you'd prefer to describe it).
"HFCS has the exact same sweetness and taste as an equal amount of sucrose from cane or beet sugar but it is obviously much more complicated to make, involving vats of murky fermenting liquid, fungus and chemical tweaking, all of which take place in one of 16 chemical plants located in the Corn Belt. Yet in spite of all the special enzymes required, HFCS is actually cheaper than sugar. It is also very easy to transport--it's just piped into tanker trucks. This translates into lower costs and higher profits for food producers"
Here are some other facts to consider--
HFCS consumption is up:
HCFS "... has become a popular topic in the discussion of obesity in America. The reason for this is that HFCS comsumption has increased dramatically since the 1970s when it was developed and so has obesity. It has not been proven that there is a link, but the average American consumed 39 pounds of HFCS in 1980 and 62.6 pounds in 2001"
HFCS doesn't trigger an insulin reaction:
"If you are an optimist, you are happy that fructose - unlike glucose - does not stimulate the release of insulin, and in small amounts can be a useful sweetener for people with diabetes.
If you are a pessimist, you will fret that fructose is preferentially metabolized to fat, raising the possibility that HFCS - or any other source of fructose (but we won't worry about fruit) - could have something to do with current obesity trends.
HFCS entered our food supply in the mid 1960s, but did not really come into its own until farm subsidies encouraged farmers to grow as much corn as possible. In 1981, at the dawn of the obesity era, the United States food supply provided 23 pounds of HFCS per person per year, along with 79 pounds of sucrose - 102 pounds total.
Today, the balance is 56 to 62 (118 pounds), with the increase entirely due to HFCS. Guilt by association! Glucose corn syrups and honey add up to yet another 18 pounds, but their use has not changed much over time. All told, the food supply provides a third of a pound a day of HFCS and sucrose combined, which works out to about 600 calories a day per person, just from these two sources."
HFCS may accelerate aging, boost hormones and more:
"Fructose interacts with oral contraceptives and elevates insulin levels in women on "the pill."
In studies with rats, fructose consistently produces higher kidney calcium concentrations than glucose. Fructose generally induces greater urinary concentrations of phosphorus and magnesium and lowered urinary pH compared with glucose.
In humans, fructose feeding leads to mineral losses, especially higher fecal excretions of iron and magnesium, than did subjects fed sucrose. Iron, magnesium, calcium, and zinc balances tended to be more negative during the fructose-feeding period as compared to balances during the sucrose-feeding period.
There is significant evidence that high sucrose diets may alter intracellular metabolism, which in turn facilitates accelerated aging through oxidative damage. Scientists found that the rats given fructose had more undesirable cross-linking changes in the collagen of their skin than in the other groups. These changes are also thought to be markers for aging. The scientists say that it is the fructose molecule in the sucrose, not the glucose, that plays the larger part.20
Because it is metabolized by the liver, fructose does not cause the pancreas to release insulin the way it normally does. Fructose converts to fat more than any other sugar. This may be one of the reasons Americans continue to get fatter. Fructose raises serum triglycerides significantly. As a left-handed sugar, fructose digestion is very low. For complete internal conversion of fructose into glucose and acetates, it must rob ATP energy stores from the liver."
As usual, we’ll start things off with a few links to older articles
that directly answer questions I’ve heard recently. A few people have
asked for suggestions for books on how to live cheap. Here are four
suggestions (besides my own book):
The Complete Tightwad Gazette
America’s Cheapest Family
The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Road Map to True Riches
The Frugal Duchess
And now for some great reader questions!
My wife is pregnant and our first kid is due in April.
It really is a miracle, but obviously money is always on the mind. Would
it be better to:
1.) Buy life insurance in case something happens
2.) Start saving for their college
3.) Pay down our house payment to rid ourselves of the devil called PMI
4.) Pay down our very low (less than 2%) interest student loans that my wife and I have ($25g or so)
Throw out No. 4 immediately. Compared to the others, it’s a very poor choice. Stick with the minimum payments on that one.
I would look into term life insurance for both you and your spouse, just in case. Many insurance salesmen will try to sell you more than you need; you should strive to replace one’s salary for a few years, plus enough to cover burial expenses. This shouldn’t cost you too much, though.
I’d also start a 529 plan for the unborn child. Start it with one of you as beneficiary right now and set up a regular contribution plan, then when the child is born change the beneficiary. You don’t need to contribute a ton to this one, either; $50 or $100 a month will give you a huge boost in 19 years or so.
I’d probably focus most heavily on getting rid of the PMI. Get your mortgage down to 80%, then refinance that thing. It’ll be more financially beneficial for you over the long run than almost anything you could do.
I’m a gin and tonic fan myself. What is your favorite gin?
I am highly partial to Bombay Sapphire for the gin. I’ve tried several different kinds and I keep coming back to it.
More important for a great gin and tonic, though, is good tonic water. Skip the Schweppes or the Canada Dry or the store brand. Instead, look around for Fever-Tree tonic water. I swear by it, but I have a hard time finding it locally.
I am currently a college student. Throughout high school
I worked really hard to earn scholarships and save money for college.
During my third semester in college, I started CoOping (if you are not
familiar with this, it is where a college student works for a company
that does work related to the student’s major, and the college student
earns money and gets work experience). Not only am I funding my entire
education, thanks to scholarships and CoOp, but I also have a lot of
money just sitting in the bank earning no interest (on the range of
about an extra $5,000 - $10,000). I am 21, and I have thought the best
choice would be to wait until I make a down payment on a future house
until I start investing long-term or putting money in a 401k. So I have
been trying to put money in short-term CDs. However, I hear that CDs
don’t even keep up with inflation at times (such as now - I think). Is
there anything I can do with this spare money for short-term investing
with little risk other than CDs? Is this the proper approach - waiting
to invest after I purchase my first home (which I plan to purchase
maybe 2-3 years after college)?
CDs are probably your best choice. Given your situation, I would go CD shopping, perhaps using the CD rate tool at Bankrate.com. Allow yourself to look at CDs that mature when you’ll actually need the money - if you know you won’t need the money for three years, then look at CDs up to 36 months, for example.
I’m almost sure you’ll find a CD much better than what you’re buying right now. They’re a pretty good choice if you’re seeking a simple investment choice that keeps your balance safe.
Do you keep tabs of your web site's readers? How many did you have the day you began? How many at 6 months, 1 year, 2 years?
Well, I started The Simple Dollar in November 2006. Let’s use Google Analytics to check my site usage.
During my first month, November 2006, The Simple Dollar had 6,287 visits and 17,080 page views.
During my sixth month, April 2007, The Simple Dollar had 288,301 visits and 586,509 page views.
During my 12th month, October 2007, The Simple Dollar had 423,359 visits and 864,551 page views.
During my 24th month, October 2008, The Simple Dollar had 626,939 visits and 1,178,976 page views.
Other than astronomical growth during the second and third months of the site’s existence, the growth has actually been extremely steady on average (with a few months of fluctuation).
If you are frugal and smart, you have a credit union as
your bank. However, my credit union does not have safety deposit boxes.
Boxes seem like they are becoming a rarity in my area. The only bank
that has them is the BofA in the next town, and that branch is closing.
I’ve switched to a fire-proof “go” box, but are there better
I highly disagree with your first sentence. Credit unions are good for some things but not so good at others. For example, compare them to an online for-profit bank. Such banks can offer a higher interest rate than credit unions can because credit unions must pay for brick-and-mortar infrastructure. However, credit unions do have the advantage of manually underwriting any borrowing you might want to do, which means they’re a great place to go to get loans.
One option would be to open an “emergency fund” savings account at another local bank and use them for a safe deposit box. That’s probably the option I would use in your situation.
If money were no object, would you send your children to a private school?
I would be open to it, but it would depend on the specific school.
I’d want to know about the school in detail. I’d want to tour it and perhaps take a look at the classes offered there. I’d ask around for referrals from people I trust in the community.
If it measured up, I certainly would send my child there. My primary motivation would be for my children to get the best education available to them, and if that meant a private school in my area and money didn’t matter then a private school is what they’d have.
Where do you purchase your Certificates of Deposit (CDs)? Are the online banks reputable?
I buy my CDs through my primary bank, ING Direct. It’s been incredibly easy; just a few clicks and it’s purchased.
I have more faith, actually, in an online bank than I do in a teller-based bank in my local community. With a teller-based bank, you have other members of the community who have access to your personal financial information — and that, frankly, makes me nervous. I’ve known bank employees who openly gossip about the account status of people who bank there. With the online banks, you’re largely just a number; rather private.
If an online bank is associated with a large financial institution and the accounts are FDIC insured, I actually feel more secure with an online bank.
Do you actually practice all of the stuff you write about?
I try almost everything I mention on The Simple Dollar. Obviously, sometimes I mention tactics that simply aren’t routinely applicable in my current life. For example, frugal dating tactics - I’m not a part of the singles scene, so I don’t have a good opportunity to try them out. My wife and I tend to spend almost every evening home with the kids.
Quite often, I’m innately curious and I want to see if things work. Can I really make homemade laundry detergent that works? Does baking soda and water really do a good job at cleaning grout? How much money do CFLs really save? I’m naturally curious and following these questions often lead directly to posts.
In what areas of your life are you NOT frugal?
Our big area of splurging is food. I confess, although I do use shopping lists for my groceries, I tend to choose food items almost entirely based on quality and not on price. We buy a lot of organics and a lot of farm-fresh poultry products. We buy meat directly from a butcher as well.
When we do buy items, we’ve moved from just buying lots of things to rarely buying things - but when we do buy things, we buy high quality items. Rather than buying tons of cheap items for wall decorations, we’re now slowly buying high-quality items (original art, for example) that click with both of us, for example. We plan for these purchases pretty carefully, but we’re willing to spend for quality items that will last us forever.
Do you participate in meetups with other bloggers? If so, which ones?
I’m willing to participate in such meetups, but rural central Iowa isn’t a hotbed of blogging activity. There is apparently a regular blogger meetup in Des Moines, but I’ve never attended it — it would take me almost an hour each way to go there for a one hour meetup, so I usually find that I have something more high priority to do.
My wife and I have discussed going on a long trip this coming summer to a few large cities. If we do so, I’d be willing to have meetups with readers in any large cities we go to: meet somewhere, have a drink and chat freely about whatever.
TRENT HAMM blogs about personal finance at www.thesimpledollar.com. If you have a question that you would like answered, ask in the commments on his blog.