Amazon Brand Detector

Two months ago, The Markup — a big-tech watchdog site — published a piece about how Amazon prioritizes its own "brands" first above better rated (and/or cheaper) products. This came as no surprise to me.

I've found Amazon increasingly useless over the past few years. Its search results are cluttered with ads. Sometimes my searches fail to show products I know the company stocks and sells. And Amazon Prime has lost its luster as shipping times have lengthened and Prime Video has become increasingly superfluous.

So, to learn that Amazon cheats search results by crowding out better and cheaper products in favor of it own stuff was no big shock. Yet another reason for me to take my business elsewhere, when possible. From the article:

Continue reading...
More about...Apps, Shopping

The long, complicated history of lines at Disney theme parks

As part of my new commitment to just being me, I hope to share a lot more random stuff around here — just like I used to. Instead of waiting for weeks (or months) in order for inspiration to strike for a longer essay, I want to share the best of the interesting money stories (and semi-money stories) that I find around the interwebs.

Think of it as Apex Money, I guess, but instead of sharing three to five discoveries each day, I may share one or two a week. And instead of editing and polishing these pieces, they'll just be quick braindumps with minimal attention to detail.

Today, for instance, here's a 103-minute YouTube video about the lines at Disney theme parks: Continue reading...

More about...Travel

One thing to my people (A prayer of thanksgiving)

I recently flew to Cincinnati, Ohio to attend the second-annual EconoMe Conference. I had one of the best weekends of my life.

I can't say that the conference itself was the reason for this peak experience. There's no question that I enjoyed interacting with the speakers and attendees. As the video below demonstrates, the main-stage talks were both entertaining and educational. The conversations at the venue were great too. I reconnected with old friends and made some new ones.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dIKlFgCqyk

Continue reading...
More about...Money Mindset, Psychology

The Get Rich Slowly file vault

A new Get Rich Slowly subscriber emailed me yesterday to alert me of two problems.

  • First, all of the free resources I share on Google Drive have magically switched from publicly-available to private.
  • Second, the automated email sequence for new readers is broken (which means that folks aren't receiving The Money Boss Manifesto).

Fixing the email sequence will take some work. It wouldn't take much effort to make it functional again, but while I'm in there mucking around, I might as well make a pass to revise it. The info and examples are five years old. (Meanwhile, the current version of The Money Boss Manifesto can be downloaded here.)

Fixing the shared documents on Google Drive was easy, though. They should once again be publicly viewable. Please let me know if they're not.

Continue reading...
More about...Money Tools

Your First Rental Property

It's official: Kim and I have moved from Portland to Corvallis, Oregon. We closed on our home — a 1964 daylight ranch with fully converted basement — at the end of August, and we've spent the past six weeks moving and unpacking. I thought I'd have time to post the gory details of our purchase, but obviously that hasn't happened. We've been too busy!

The short version is this: After offering $128,000 over asking on our dream home (and still losing out to a cash offer), we came close to joining in another bidding war on a similar house. But we didn't. While other folks were bidding up a place down the street from $589,000 to $707,000, we snuck into a home we liked better for $680,000 — just $5000 over asking. We got lucky.

And while I was worried that we might experience buyer's remorse, I'm pleased to report that absolutely has not happened. We love our home and we love Corvallis. How could we not?

<
Continue reading...
More about...Investing, Side Hustles

Series I savings bonds: A safe investment with a high return

I get a lot of questions about money. These questions tend to vary based on the asker and her needs, but there's one question I get more often than any other: "What's a safe investment with a high return?"

For the past decade or so, I've had no answer to this question. Savings accounts and certificates of deposit are safe, sure, but they're no longer attractive investments. Since the Great Recession of 2008/2009, interest rates have remained shockingly low. This is by design. The government doesn't want you parking your money in a savings account. They want that money out circulating in the economy.

Over the long term, the stock market offers excellent returns. But when people are asking for "safe" investments, they're wanting avoid short-term volatility, which means stocks are out of the question. (And stuff like Bitcoin and precious metals are even more out of the question!)

Continue reading...
More about...Investing, Saving & Investing

We sold our house!

June has arrived and it's glorious! The sunshine and warmer weather make living in Oregon wonderful this time of year. October is better, but June is a damn fine month here in Portland: wild roses, blackberry blossoms, and strawberries; birds, squirrels, and bicyclists; outdoor dining, evening strolls, and morning coffee on the porch.

I've been in a great mood for the past week, and it's not just because of the weather. It's also because, after three months of hard work, Kim and I have sold our country cottage. We're not sure what the future holds, but for now we're renting a small place in the Lake Grove neighborhood. It's fun!

And now that all of that work is finished, I can turn my attention to other things — such as writing about money. To kick things off, here's the story of what I've been up to for the past few months, of how we sold our house in this crazy real-estate market. Continue reading...

More about...Home & Garden

An uncertain future

On February 17th — in the middle of nine days without power due to an ice storm — we had the foundation contractor out to re-inspect our house. We experienced some settling last fall, and I was worried that might indicate deeper problems.

For thirty minutes, the contractor explored the crawlspace while I sat in the living room, fretting. When he finished, he came up to tell me what he'd found.

"Look," he said, "my assessment is the same as when you had me out here three years ago. Your foundation is fine. It's not failing. The house isn't falling down."

Continue reading...
More about...Home & Garden

My personal philosophy of life: 52 lessons from 52 years

On this day in 1969, baby J.D. entered the world. I don't think there's any way my parents could have predicted the path their firstborn would take through life. It hasn't always been easy — no thanks to the obstacles I've placed in my own way — but I've really had a wonderful (and interesting) life, and I look forward to whatever time is left me.

I'm going to commemorate my 52nd birthday by sharing 52 of the most important things I've learned during my time on Earth. These are the most important pieces of my life philosophy.

My Life Philosophy

Before we dive into the rest of my life philosophy, I want to make something clear: I am no wiser or smarter than anybody else. And I'm certainly no better. But I am an individual.

Continue reading...
More about...Psychology