How to spend money

If you have some money but not all the money, I ask you to consider how you choose to spend it. What things are worth splurging on? What things you should buy as cheap as possible? Here are a few questions to ask yourself before spending money:

Where do I spend the most time? 

We can get a lot of value out of money if we spend it to enhance the places where we spend the most time. You should spend an average of 8 hours a day on your mattress; make sure it’s a good one. The side effects that come from poor sleep can literally wreck your entire life. Spend a little bit more and sleep well.

We recently had an energy audit on our house. Aside from wrapping water heater pipes and replacing light bulbs, one thing they did was offer to install a water-efficient shower-head. Sure, I said without thinking. The next morning, I was treated to a Seinfeld-like shower with no pressure. NO PRESSURE. I immediately emailed my wife and told her not to stress, that a new shower-head was on the way. I believe my exact words were “We are not going to live like savages.”

DeltaI soon installed a Delta 75152 and it was the best $23 I ever spent. Now we are still seeing a noticeable decrease in water usage while getting a better shower than we ever had before. Fifteen minutes a day in the shower is over 91 hours every year. Money well spent.

You probably spend an awful lot of time at work. Why not spend a couple of bucks to reduce the misery of your workday? A nice plant or decoration can make a huge difference if you have a dedicated workspace. If you are on your feet all day, get quality shoes. These things matter in your life.

What do I see/hear the most? 

Screens. The good ones usually don’t cost much more than the crappy ones. You can’t tell by looking in the stores b/c the lighting and displays are not the same as your home. Check out a site like The Wirecutter and trust their research. You will be thankful later.

Get the biggest screen you can with the highest quality you can. This will pay off for years when you do not feel the urgent need to upgrade again quickly. It’s far better to save and get the right one rather than settle to get one immediately.

Remember that screens now have multiple uses. I bought a large 27″ display for my home computer. I like having it in a dedicated space with a big screen. I also use it to watch Netflix or stream sports in a pinch. This makes it much more versatile than saving a few dollars and reducing my options for using it in different ways.

Between my television and computer screens, I spend a lot of time looking at them. My life is greatly enriched by having a terrific experience in those hours instead of watching mediocre screens. Also, a decent soundbar can make a huge difference in the quality of your home viewing experience without all the hassle of a surround system.

What do I touch the most? 

Spend money on things you touch the most. Even if it seems silly, this will make a huge difference in your daily life. It’s much better to spend money on a shoe horn you use daily instead of a tie you wear once a month. It’s better to have a well-fitting undershirt you wear daily that makes you feel good than one that is too short and irritates you constantly.

A great towel can start every day off on the right foot. If you love to cook, get some decent pots and pans. Love coffee? Spend a weekend upgrading your skills and drink better coffee every day.

How many times will I buy this item? 

We recently replaced our furnace and central air unit. We chose to spend more money on these because even though they are not highly visible, a more efficient furnace will save us money on future energy bills and add value to our home. We also hope this is the only furnace we buy in the next 12-18 years.

Our garage door also recently broke, splintering the wood (it was an old door) beyond repair. Again, we only plan to buy one garage door and felt that a really great door would add value to our home and give us a feeling of pleasure when seeing it daily versus a door that was poorly matched or saved a few hundred dollars over the course of our lifetime.

What should I not spend money on? 

Think about how many times you use a given item and spend money on the things you use the most. Avoid so-called luxury items that are for special occasions only. Odds are, you can rent or borrow one if needed for far cheaper than buying one and you won’t have to maintain or store it.

Do I care what other people think? 

If the most important thing to you in deciding how to spend your money is that other people know how you spend your money, you are going to make poor decisions. You might have a house that’s too large for no reason and a car that costs too much. You will have a lot of things on display for others to see that you rarely interact with yourself. You will wonder why these things do not make you happier.

Don’t do that. Look at your own life, ask the questions above, and spend your money accordingly. If you spend 3 hours a day in your car, by all means, get the best and most luxurious ride you can afford. But make the choice consciously, knowing that you are doing so because it will bring you joy, not just because the neighbors will see it.

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Father’s Day Gift Guide

It can be hard to buy for the father in your life, whether that’s your own father, the father of your children or just a father figure. Most gift-buying guides are heavily influenced by product placement. Not here! In this guide, I offer you my 100% personally tested recommendations. I’m pretty confident there is something on this list for everyone. Without further ado, let’s get started:

Grill Grates

It’s hard to oversell these. Grill Grates have revolutionized meals at our house. I’ve always been a fantastic griller (rumor has it I was once named Best Griller in Indianapolis) but Grill Grates take it to another level. For men who enjoy grilling out, this is the absolute best gift you can purchase. Even better, it’s really a gift for the whole family! grillgrate

Shoe Horn

Just get the man a decent shoe horn already. He won’t know how much he wanted one until after he has one. This is perfect. ae shoe horn

Dr. Squatch Soap (formerly Sasquatch Soap)

Is the male in your home surrounded by females? Does he begrudgingly use flowery soaps and fortified shampoos because you’re unwilling to let him have anything of his own in the shower? Give him back his dignity. Give him Dr. Squatch soap. drsquatch

RibbedTee Undershirts (previously reviewed here)

You know what men hate? Undershirts that fit poorly. You know what they can’t find? Reasonable undershirts that fit well. Spend money on things you use the most every day. For men, one of those things is undershirts. These are the best. Also, if he wears white shirts, get him a grey undershirt; it won’t show through. Oh, and V-neck, of course. You probably knew that, though. RibbedTee

Butcher’s Crossing by John Stoner

Can your man read? Then he will love this book. Set in the 1870’s, it’s about a tenderfoot who decides to take part in a buffalo hunt before they’re all gone. This is a book for every man. Guaranteed. butchers-crossing

American Giant Hoodie Sweatshirt

American Giant makes the best sweatshirts on the planet. Fact. He’ll be able to hand this one down to the grandkids eventually and it will still be bulletproof. Yes, it’s expensive for a hooded sweatshirt. It’s also the only one you’ll ever buy again. This one will feel amazing, last forever, and make him feel great every time he wears it. Or you could buy 3 cheap sweatshirts that he won’t much care for and won’t really enjoy. Don’t do that. Get this one instead. american-giant-main

For everyone else: Bill Murray

You’re telling me NONE of the above would interest him? You’re kidding, right? Well in that case, get him one of these prints and put it in a frame. Done. bill murray If you think he wouldn’t like any of these suggestions, just try one anyway. Odds are that you don’t have the slightest damn clue what men like. If he doesn’t like any of these options, check his chromosomes and be sure the Y is actually there. Happy Father’s Day!

Update: One final thought is to find out which apps he uses the most and then buy him the paid version to get additional features and remove ads. It will be the best $1-5 ever spent for him.


*Note: I have not received any compensation/goods in exchange for my priceless recommendations. 

The Perfect Undershirt

RibbedTee

There are few things more frustrating than trying to find a well-fitting undershirt. I have a friend who still maintains a collection of ratty old shirts (no longer made) more than a decade old just because he hasn’t found a replacement. Until now…

A few things:

  1. If you’re not wearing an undershirt with most shirts, you should really start. It is required attire under a dress shirt and for most shirts that aren’t t-shirts.
  2. Why? They soak up perspiration, body oils, deodorant, etc. keeping your outer shirt clean and dry.
  3. Most undershirts are awful. They fit like a refrigerator box and shrink shortly after washing. You end up with a shirt that is short and wide, which is pretty much the exact opposite of what you want.

Enter RibbedTee.com

These shirts are the holy grail. They are long so they stay tucked in, no matter what. They have a ribbed cotton version that’s a little heavier and perfect for winter. They have super thin moisture-wicking shirts perfect for summer.

They are American-made. They cost more than Hanes but far less than really high-end shirts. They are durable and wash/dry well (that means without shrinking). They have excellent customer service.

Two tips for wearing your undershirts properly:

  1. In most cases, v-neck is best. You don’t want your undershirt showing up under your shirt if you can help it.
  2. Grey is the best color. Why? Wear grey under a white dress shirt and you won’t see the undershirt. It blends with your skin tone to be virtually invisible. Wear a white undershirt though, and your undershirt will stand out harshly under your dress shirt.

I’ve bought more undershirts than I care to admit. From now on, RibbedTee.com is the only undershirt I’m buying. You should take advantage of my research and switch over now.

TL;DR: RibbedTee.com makes the best undershirts. Buy grey v-neck shirts.

Note: Once again, I received no compensation for this post. I do love those shirts, though.

H/T: The Undershirt Guy, where I first heard about RibbedTee several years ago.

Rdio Is My Favorite Streaming Music Service

http://www.rdio.com/people/ellismc/

I was an early adopter to Spotify. I loved it, told everyone about it and even became a subscriber (mostly to get rid of those awful ads). Over time, there was a lot that frustrated me about Spotify, such as:

  • Music Management: I grew up in the time of albums and I still like to organize my collection that way. In order to save an album for future listening, you have to create a playlist for each album. This just doesn’t work.
  • User Interface: Spotify is clunky, ugly and not very intuitive.

But that’s only two things! Right, but it’s the only two things that matter. This is where Rdio (pronounced ‘r-dee-oh’) excels.

  • Music Management: See an album you like? Just add it to your ‘Collection’. This is then treated much like if you had an actual, physical album but with the added bonus of being able to be sorted and searchable.
  • User Interface: Rdio really does have a beautiful interface that actually makes you want to browse your collection. When playing music, you can have the album art front and center, over a blurred background of the same.

This is the playlist I created from The National’s show in Indianapolis, August 2013:

What about cost? You can get unlimited web streaming for either service for $4.99/month.

Both services do playlists well, allow sharing, etc.  I will say Spotify has more resources and access to some artists that Rdio doesn’t. However, Rdio has a tremendous selection and I’m never at a loss for something to listen to, whether it’s an old favorite or something I’ve just heard about.

I’ve used them both and Spotify frustrates me every time I use it. Rdio is just fun to browse and has a clean, easy interface. If you listen to online music, I think Rdio should be your choice. Follow me there!

TL;DR: Rdio has the best way to organize your music collection and it’s the most fun to use.