Monday, August 22, 2011

5 things we do wrong and could do better.

1. Tying our shoes
I still tie my shoes incorrectly, but I make myself look at this site to do it correctly before I go running on a treadmill.

2. Peeling a banana
I have adopted this new method of peeling a banana from the opposite side. People look at me funny when I do it, but I have converted many to the new way.

3. Adding salt to water doesn't help it boil faster (stop wasting salt)
I used to add salt thinking it would help me boil pasta faster. However, I still use salt because I've learned it helps add flavor to food.

4. Errors in English usage and grammar 
I occasionally will go back to this website as a refresher.

5. Stop pushing down on hamburger patties when cooking them 
I used to think this helped cook the food faster, but it only made it worse.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The enjoyment in NOT going out

The older I get, well, the OLDER I get, and I realize how unappealing it is to go out. This isn't a post extolling the virtues of being anti-social. I like people. I still like to attend events and have dinner. However, it's just not the same to go to sporting events or the movie theater. Largely, I'm turned off by crowded spaces indoor that are noisy and impersonal.

I just had a great evening with my wife. She cooked a delicious Italian dinner, then we went to Dairy Queen to get their new Nutter Butter Blizzard, and then watched a movie at the theater. Of all the activities, the most meaningful time spent was during dinner.

The benefit of this dislike, naturally, is saving money. When you think about it, going to the movies is not really a social experience. The experience is largely one of pure consumption doesn't match the interaction you may find, in say, having a conversation over a board game.

A great alternative is to spend that time outside.  Building a house with Habitat for Humanity on a Saturday morning. Then a game of pickup basketball at the gym. Follow that by an evening BBQ at the park. All great activities with outdoor time, physical involvement, and interaction. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Is it worth it to invest in good furniture?

When I graduated from law school and found my first job, I had no furniture. I could fit everything in my Toyota Camry and carried most of my belongings in a suitcase. I was single guy and didn't have a sense of style (I still don't).

Short answer to the question: Yes, it is worth buying good furniture, but don't do it before you're at least in your mid 30s. Here's why. Most young people move a lot. For the person pursuing a professional career track, there is the home to dorm move. The the dorm to apartment move. Then the post college to graduate school move. From there it's moving apartments until you find a job in a city you plan to stay in and meet a woman you plan to marry (you may have to move with her to do this).

Don't buy "good" furniture until you decide to settle in a place for more than 5-10 years. Nothing wears of furniture, regardless of quality, more than moving. At the same time, quality furniture (Ethan Allen) weighs a lot more than cheaper furniture  (Ikea).  So, the less you own and the lighter the things you own, the easier it is to move. Also, if you are a guy - don't buy until you are married - because no matter how stylish you are, you wife will probably hate most of the stuff you own.

If you have to buy and can't wait, then at least get some basics right:

1. Buy quality. I know this sounds contradictory to my earlier advice, but while furniture is not an investment, it is a good expenditure. So when you are buying, look limit your search to quality pieces. Buy wood and make sure it is real, not particle board. You can refinish good wood pieces. If you buy quality pieces, then you can expect at least 25 years of life from the furniture. You'll get tired of the style before the craftmanship fails on you.

2. Buy used. This is how to get furniture that is cheap and good at the same time. Used furniture can be had pennies on the dollar, especially in a recession. You can find it at thrift stores like the Goodwill Restore, estate sales and furniture auctions. Moreover, you will likely resell the furniture for about the same you paid for it. Why? Because at some point, people are simply paying for the functionality of a table and not the premium associated with style or newness. The same phenomenon is found in used car markets, where a $500 beater car can still be sold for $500 after several years of use, assuming it runs.

3. Spend more on the important pieces.

Desk - it doesn't matter if you're married or not - a good work area allows you to be productive at home.

Mattress - this is never seen and a good one will typically last at least 10 years. Since sleep is a third of your life, it should be spent comfortably.

The Dining Room set (if you're married)- these usually stay the same for the rest of your life. A formal dining table and cabinet set tends to have an elegant style that is timeless.

4. Save money on less important pieces.

Bedroom sets - you see it every morning and every night and it becomes boring very quickly. While an elegant dining table can be a timeless piece, a bedroom set can tell people what decade you're still stuck in. A good rule of thumb is to change your bedroom set when you change your mattress - once a decade.

Couches - they see more wear and tear than any piece of furniture in the home. They also tend to be seen by guests. Unlike dining tables, they are not made of wood, and therefore less durable. Instead of covering them in plastic and worrying about picking a style that will last the ages, stick with something contemporary and replace the pieces every 5 years. Spending less money on them now will allow you to keep your entertaining space fresh and updated.

5. Shop the Carolinas when you're serious. This isn't a sales pitch and I didn't believe it at first until I went there. You can get a wide variety of high quality furniture from places like Hickory, North Carolina. It's like visiting an outlet store, but with a greater discount and larger variety. Furniture has a very high mark up that allows retailers to make profits even after deep discounts. Furthermore, many of the stores will ship for free and waive taxes if you are an out of state customer. It is worth taking a flight there, given purchasing furniture for an entire home can run upwards of $20,000. Even if that seems out there, promise you won't go to stores like The Room Store because no matter how great it seems, getting a couch, love seat, coffee table and end tables for $700 only guarantees the furniture will be uncomfortable and poorly made.