Your Personal Finance Pro http://yourpfpro.com Personal Finance for Young Professionals Sat, 13 Oct 2018 00:14:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 31591919 5 Productivity Hacks from Successful Entrepreneurs http://yourpfpro.com/5-productivity-hacks-from-successful-entrepreneurs/ http://yourpfpro.com/5-productivity-hacks-from-successful-entrepreneurs/#comments Wed, 09 Mar 2016 14:30:51 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=6580 If there’s one thing I still haven’t mastered, it’s productivity. For all the apps out there to help you manage your productivity, I still find myself occasionally mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, or Twitter, or even just watching TV. While we all need breaks once in a while, it’s easy to let a “break” slip into […]

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If there’s one thing I still haven’t mastered, it’s productivity. For all the apps out there to help you manage your productivity, I still find myself occasionally mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, or Twitter, or even just watching TV.

While we all need breaks once in a while, it’s easy to let a “break” slip into a lazy afternoon. Like many skills, you have to practice, train, and get inspired to make yourself better. After all, maybe you want to finish writing that novel, start your own business, hustle harder to make extra money, or even be a better parent/spouse/friend!

For me, listening to inspirational people like entrepreneurs (which I aspire to be) is the best way to get myself focused and productive. The following five entrepreneurs all offer many suggestions to be more productive, and here are their top 5 productivity hacks to get you more focused and productive as well.

1. Tony Robbins – “Ditch Your To Do List”

While it seems completely contrary to productivity, Tony Robbins, an author and motivational speaker, recommends you kick your to do list to the curb. The reason for this is to keep you from checking tasks off and ignoring your Master Action Plan (MAP).

According to Tony, you need to define what it is you want to accomplish. Once you identify that big goal, then everything you do needs to fall into place to achieve that goal. Your MAP will help you define the steps you need to take to achieve that goal, but they won’t be to do list type tasks – they will be strategies and actions to accomplish your plan.

2. Tim Ferriss – “Have a Not To Do List”

Tim Ferriss, writer, investor, and entrepreneur, recommends saying “no” more often. In fact, Tim says he even has a “not to do list”, which allows him to get more accomplished than a to do. In Tim’s case, having a not to do list seems more to do with automating your processes so you just don’t have to think or worry about them anymore.

Consider this approach in your day to day life, if you can get away with it! This may mean coming up with strategies for tackling boring meetings – can they be shortened or done away with entirely? Maybe you can have a meeting via an email update or quick conference call. Personally, I’ve found setting an agenda for meetings to be really helpful in getting meetings out of the way faster. Sometimes we find we don’t need to have meetings at all when our agenda is only 2 items long!

3. Tracy DiNunzio – Escape the Workplace

Tracy DiNunzio, entrepreneur and CEO of Tradesy, recommends getting out of the office one day a week – and avoiding multi-tasking. For many of us, getting out of the office might be impossible, but what about getting to work earlier or staying later? Having a quiet work space with no interruptions is one of the best ways to get the maximum amount of work done – and done well.

Perhaps telecommuting could be in your future, too, if you sell the idea well to your boss. You may be able to flex your time by working late some days and working from home (on a shortened schedule, even!) on Friday or Monday. Depending on your workplace, you might be able to virtually access your work computer from home and just check in via conference calls with your boss. If you’re more productive at home, it could be a win-win for you and your office!

4. Dustin Moskovitz – “No Meetings Wednesdays”

The co-founder and CEO of Asana and co-founder of Facebook recommends giving yourself one day of no meetings to get consecutive, contiguous work done. Much like Tracy, Dustin says he works best with no distractions, which means no planning for and attending meetings that may be only semi-useful to attend.

Once again, depending on your office, you may not be able to get out of meetings entirely once a week, but if you could block out time on your calendar to have a free morning or afternoon, you could get some serious work done. Those uninterrupted hours could be the time you get your more difficult, brain-intensive and time consuming work done.

5. Warren Buffett – Prioritize Your Goals

No article about productivity hacks from successful entrepreneurs would be complete without advice from Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha. Buffett recommends the best way to be most productive is identifying your top 25 life goals. What do you want to accomplish in your life? This goes beyond just work, and includes family, travel, financial goals, and anything you could possibly think of.

Once you have 25 goals listed, circle your top 5. What are the top 5 things you want to accomplish in your life? Once circled, cross out everything else. That’s right, just cross it out. Don’t even think about touching anything you crossed out until you’ve achieved your top 5 goals. Come up with a plan to achieve each of the those 5 goals, and consider yourself very, very productive once you’ve accomplished them!

Basically, these productivity hacks from successful entrepreneurs focus on identifying what it is that makes you passionate. What do you want to do with your life, what do you want to get from your work? Once identified, don’t let anything get in your way. Say no to things that waste your time, block out time from your schedule, and guard it so you can get things done and get closer to accomplishing your goals.

What are your favorite productivity hacks? Which one of these productivity hacks was your favorite?

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How to Fly on American Airlines for Free (or Close to it) http://yourpfpro.com/fly-american-airlines-free-close/ http://yourpfpro.com/fly-american-airlines-free-close/#comments Fri, 20 Jun 2014 13:19:20 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=3495 I’ve worked in the aerospace industry for almost 5 years now since I graduated college. And whenever I tell people what line of work I’m in, they undoubtedly ask if I ever get to fly in the planes I work on for free. Sadly the answer is always no, actually there aren’t a whole lot […]

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How to Fly on American Airlines for Free or Close to itI’ve worked in the aerospace industry for almost 5 years now since I graduated college. And whenever I tell people what line of work I’m in, they undoubtedly ask if I ever get to fly in the planes I work on for free. Sadly the answer is always no, actually there aren’t a whole lot of flight related benefits that being an engineer will get you. Generally, it’s only the flight attendants and pilots who get to fly for free.

But even though my job doesn’t get me many freebies, that doesn’t stop me from trying to fly for free. When I first started flying as a young guy, I remember laying out in the back of a plane across three seats. But in the past 10 years, we’ve seen a huge shift with the airlines: fuel costs are rising, competition has gone up and that’s forced bankruptcies and mergers like the recent joining of American Airlines and US Airways. There are only three major airlines in the US now(Delta, AA and United) and generally less competition is a bad thing for consumers.

Flying is Getting Costly

I’m sure you’ve noticed that flying is pretty expensive these days and the big three airlines are some of the worst when it comes to added fees and lack of service. I always try to fly Southwest whenever I fly domestically but there are times when I have to go with one of the big three. Southwest is awesome when it comes to customer service and they rarely try to nickel and dime you like other airlines.

Related Article: Get the 2014 US Airways Card and 40,000 points

Since I vacation to Hawaii pretty often, I fly AA the most out of any major carrier. They have cheap nonstop flights from the West Coast to the islands and I also have a lot of frequent flier miles racked up with them. Everything came together on my most recent flight to Hawaii and I was pretty much able to spend next to nothing for two roundtrip tickets to Hawaii. Here’s how I did it:

Getting to/from the Airport

Even though technically this isn’t really part of flying, it is something that you’ll need to think about every time you fly. We flew out of LAX this time, so I used a place called Sam’s Park and it ended up being only $10/day including the base rate($7/da7), tax and fees. Every situation and every airport is different so I usually like to compare my options when it comes to getting to/from the airport. I’ve done everything from public transportation, Uber/Lyft, car sharing to getting dropped off by friends.

Checking In Baggage

This is one area where the big three airlines tend to take advantage of flyers. AA charges $25 for the first checked bag and although that may not seem like a lot, you’ll have to pay it both ways and for each person you’re traveling with. You can avoid this charge if you’re an AAdvantage Gold member but sadly I am not. AA is the only airline I don’t have status on even though it’s the one I fly on the most.

But there is a way you can still get a free checked bag and that’s by signing up for the Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage Card. The nice thing about this card is that it also gets you Group 1 boarding and you don’t even have to pay for the reservation with your card. All you have to do is have your AAdvantage Frequent Flier number tied to the reservation and you plus everyone in your party will get group 1 boarding and one free checked bag.

The Late Checked Bag Method

I actually discovered this method on my most recent flight. As we were boarding, the gate agent asked if anyone wanted to check in their bag at the gate for no fee. They usually do this in order to prevent the overhead bins from filling up. The only problem with this method is that you will have to lug around your luggage through security and to the gate. Once you’ve dropped it off though, you would pick it up at the carousel just like a normal checked bag.

Buying Food and Drinks

I’ve never cared for airline food and it doesn’t bother me one bit that they charge for it now. If my flight will be over 2 hours, I always make time to go to the grocery store the day before and get some snacks for the ride. If it’s a longer flight, I’ll usually buy a pre-made meal at Trader Joe’s or a similar place. I’ve found that pre-made salads keep really well for long periods of time but I’ve also taken on sandwiches, burritos and wraps. The key is to make sure that you get all the condiments on the side, that way your food doesn’t get too soggy sitting there for a few hours. I guarantee that whatever you bring onto the plane will taste way better than what the airlines are serving and it will also be a lot cheaper.

I’ve always liked to imbibe a refreshing drink once I sit down on the plane but like any decent restaurant, airlines charge a premium for alcoholic beverages. A mini bottle of alcohol on an AA flight will cost you $7. Instead, I like to bring onto the plane my own alcohol mini bottles and create my own personal bar. Since sodas are free, the more you drink, the more you’ll save. As long as the size of the bottle is under the TSA approved limits, you should be fine. If you want to take it one step further, you could fill up reusable travel size bottles with your favorite alcohol. Now that’s cheap!

Getting the Entire Flight Paid for

Up until now, all of the savings have only been a few bucks but if you want to get the whole flight paid for, your best bet is to sign up for an AA credit card. I’ve actually signed up for 7 AA cards(6 personal, 1 business) over the past three years and gotten anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 points each time. One roundtrip ticket from Los Angeles to Hawaii is 35,000 points so you can see how valuable each card would be. All of the Citi AA cards do carry an annual fee but it’s waived for the first year. I usually call in every year once my AF hits and see if they’ll waive it for me, if not, I’ll cancel.

The nice thing about using miles on AA is that they only charge $5-$10 in fees. Other airlines like British Airways can charge up to a thousand dollars in fees on a roundtrip ticket when you pay with points!  Right now you can sign up for the US Airways card and get 40,000 points after your first purchase.  Since AA and US Airways are merging next year you’ll be able to use these points on American Airlines flights in the very near future.

Readers, have you ever thought about all of the ancillary costs of flying or do you just focus on the price of the ticket? Are all these tips worth it to save a few bucks or do you not mind paying extra?

-Harry @ PF Pro

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Using Vanilla Reloads to Meet Credit Card Spend Requirements http://yourpfpro.com/using-vanilla-reloads-meet-credit-card-spend-requirements/ http://yourpfpro.com/using-vanilla-reloads-meet-credit-card-spend-requirements/#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 12:15:00 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=4383 (Editor’s Note:  I wrote this article a couple weeks ago and since then CVS has instituted a new policy that requires cash to pay for Vanilla Reloads.  Sadly, it looks like this deal is now dead unless you can find VR’s somewhere else) According to my credit card statements, I spend a lot of money. […]

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Using Vanilla Reloads to Meet Credit Card Spend Requirements

(Editor’s Note:  I wrote this article a couple weeks ago and since then CVS has instituted a new policy that requires cash to pay for Vanilla Reloads.  Sadly, it looks like this deal is now dead unless you can find VR’s somewhere else)

According to my credit card statements, I spend a lot of money. At any one time, the sum of my credit card balances tends to hover anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 yet I only spend about $1,000-$2,000 a month. The reason why my balances are so high is because I do what’s known as manufactured spending. As you might have guessed, manufactured spending is just what it sounds like: it’s spending that you manufacture on a credit card.

Ok let’s not sugar coat it, it’s basically a legal way to launder money(but a lot of people like to pretend they’re not doing something unethical). I’ll admit that manufactured spending is slightly unethical but when a credit card company is on the losing end of a deal you might as well call me Robin Hood.

Now that that’s out of the way, the reason why you might want to MS is so that you can meet the terms of credit card sign-up bonuses. Most higher end credit cards will ask you to spend a few thousand dollars in 3 months in order to get 50,000 or 40,000 points.

Generally, the higher the sign-up bonus, the more you have to spend though. I’m currently in the midst of trying to meet my largest single spend requirement ever: $10,000 in 3 months for the Citi Executive AA card. $10,000 in 3 months might seem like a lot but that’s where manufactured spending comes in.

What are Vanilla Reloads?

Vanilla Reloads are like a prepaid debit card that can be added to accounts with various payment services. I use Vanilla Reloads to load my Bluebird credit card from Amex and then pay my rent, mortgage, or even write someone a check. Bluebird is a pretty cool service but you need both Bluebird and Vanilla reloads in order to MS.

You can buy Vanilla Reloads at grocery stores, drug stores and gas stations but a lot of stores are starting to crack down on paying for Vanilla Reloads with a credit card. The Vanilla Reloads cost $3.95 and you can load up to $500 per card. So you’re basically paying a fee of .8% for Vanilla Reloads but you’re getting back at least 1% back by paying with a credit card.

Where Can You Find Vanilla Reloads?

I actually tried buying a Vanilla Reload for the first time the other day and it was a success! I went to the CVS in Seal Beach and bought a Powerade and two vanilla reload cards for $500 each. The cashier was pretty nice about it, she took down some info from my ID, rang me up and I was on my way. Apparently, if you buy more than $500 in Vanilla Reloads the CVS cashier is forced to type in some information from your driver’s license. But I don’t really see this as a big deal since you’re not doing anything wrong(not yet at least!) by buying these cards. CVS even recently raised their Vanilla Reload limit to $5,000 per day.

A lot of people have reported having some trouble finding stores willing to accept credit card payment for Vanilla Reloads but in my case it was pretty easy. I’d suggest keeping an eye out for them on your next trip to the grocery store and try to buy one along with your normal groceries and see what happens.

What do you do with a Vanilla Reload?

The cool thing about the Vanilla Reloads is that as soon as you buy them you can go to www.vanillareload.com and load them onto your Bluebird card instantly. All you need is the 10 digit PIN found on the back of your Vanilla Reload and the 15 digit account number on the front of your Bluebird card. I had both my cards loaded up in about 30 seconds and I wrote a check to my fiancee for $1,000.

Bluebird is a free payment service from American Express but pretty much the only reason I use it is for manufactured spending. You can use Bluebird to write checks to your landlord, pay your mortgage, or even pay your credit card bill(yes the same credit card bill that you bought the Vanilla Reloads with). I try to stay under the radar and mix up my Bluebird spending but they don’t seem to be too strict.

So there you have it, what do you think about manufactured spending with Vanilla Reloads? After Amazon Payments, Vanilla Reloads are probably the second easiest way of MS’ing. The only trouble you’ll have is finding a merchant willing to accept credit card payment for Vanilla Reloads.

-Harry @ PF Pro

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Overpay Your Utilities Before You Cancel Service http://yourpfpro.com/overpay-utilities-cancel-service/ http://yourpfpro.com/overpay-utilities-cancel-service/#comments Fri, 07 Mar 2014 14:22:01 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=2980 I’m always looking for easy ways to save money or make money.  Basically anything that will put more money in my pocket without much work is something I like.  I get a lot of my ideas from browsing deal forums like Slickdeals or travel forums like Flyertalk but occasionally I’ll come up with a good […]

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Overpay Your Utilities Before You Cancel ServiceI’m always looking for easy ways to save money or make money.  Basically anything that will put more money in my pocket without much work is something I like.  I get a lot of my ideas from browsing deal forums like Slickdeals or travel forums like Flyertalk but occasionally I’ll come up with a good idea on my own and share it here.

One of my favorite cards is the Chase Ink Bold Business card that I signed up for a few months ago.  I like this card because it gave me a 50,000 point sign-up bonus, has no foreign transaction fee and it gets me 5x points back on office supplies and utilities like phone, internet and tv services.  The Chase Ultimate Rewards points are very valuable too since you can transfer your points 1:1 to airlines like Southwest and United and hotel chains like Hyatt.  Or you can redeem your points for 20% off travel, so for example a $625 flight on any airline would only require 50,000 points.

Racking up the Points

The only problem is that I don’t spend much on my utilities every month so I don’t get the 5x back on much money.  I pay about $70/month for Directv and $40/month for high speed internet.  I’m still on my mom’s family plan so even my smart phone only costs $50/month(although my mom pays the bill).

When we moved a couple months ago, I decided to switch from ATT Uverse to Time Warner since the former only offered internet in my new area.  Before I canceled my U-Verse though, I did an experiment to see if I could overpay my bill and still get 5x the rewards points.  On my last statement, I overpaid by $300(that was as much as they would let me) and waited.  The payment worked and about 2 months later, I received a check in the mail for just under $300.

So I essentially got 5x back on $300 2 months after I cancelled my service.  I had to call AT&T once to make sure everything was going to get refunded but I guess they’re just really slow to process refund payments.  On my $300 purchase, I got 1,500 Chase UR points back.  Assuming a conservative 1.5 cents to 1 point ratio, these points are worth about $22.50.  Not bad for a few minutes of my time.

Readers, what do you think about my strategy to overpay utilities and get 5x cash back?  Is it worth it for $22.50?  

-Harry @ PF Pro

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Are You Walking Away from Free Money on the Table? http://yourpfpro.com/free-money/ http://yourpfpro.com/free-money/#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2014 13:45:39 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=4233 Everyone has their preferred method on building wealth and financial security. Some folks like to get frugal, cut expenses, and make the most of their current income. Others prefer to not worry about the little costs because they’re focused on increasing their earnings instead. These two ways of handling money create a spectrum, and most […]

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free money on the tableEveryone has their preferred method on building wealth and financial security. Some folks like to get frugal, cut expenses, and make the most of their current income. Others prefer to not worry about the little costs because they’re focused on increasing their earnings instead. These two ways of handling money create a spectrum, and most of us fall somewhere on that spectrum rather than being 100% in one camp or another.

But there’s another way to better your personal finance habits that often gets overlooked. You don’t have to pinch pennies and you don’t have to launch your own side business; you simply need to take advantage of opportunities that essentially create free money. There’s no budget magic going on and you don’t have to pick up a side gig. All you need is to know where to look for these opportunities to pick up the free money that’s on the table.

Finding Free Money with Your Full-Time Job

The easiest place to start is by checking out what your full-time job has to offer you. The most obvious place to start is with your retirement options. If you have access to a company-sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k) or Simple Plan IRA, it’s likely to include an employer match of something like 3%-5%. As in, your employer will match your contributions to your account up to that amount. That’s the easiest money there is to be made! You’re essentially being rewarded for saving (which is going to create a reward for you in you future as it is).

But there are some less-obvious places to look for free money at work. Consider your other benefits. Do you have access to special savings accounts like HSAs or FSAs? Can you get reimbursed for certain work-related expenses, like your commute or wardrobe? Are you on the most appropriate health insurance plan offered? Are you using up all of your vacation days every year? The answers to these questions should be available to you in your employee benefits package (as HR for a copy).

Taking the Tax Deductions and Credits for Which You Qualify

While you shouldn’t try anything funny when you file your tax return, you need to ensure you claim the things to which you’re legally entitled. There are countless credits (and even more deductions) that you can claim to ease the burden of your tax bill. Some of them act like an employer match and reward you for saving. At the very least, when you file you should use a well-known tax software that will help you claim everything you can without raising major red flags with the IRS. If you have your own business, it’s probably worth it to take your return to a professional. You’re likely to end up walking away with enough free money from Uncle Sam to easily cover the cost of having a tax expert help you.

Signing Up for Birthday Clubs

Yes, this one sounds kinda ridiculous – but birthday clubs are a great way to score freebies and free up your own cash for other purposes. Many establishments will send you coupons for a free item in your birthday month (Starbucks is a good example – become a member of their little club and get a free drink around your birthday). It might be a little thing, but it can be really fun to treat yourself throughout the month your birthday falls in with free stuff from your favorite restaurants and retailers.

Making the Most of Credit Card Rewards

If you’re responsible with your money, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to score hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars’ worth of freebies from credit card companies who offer ridiculous sign-up bonuses. For example, if you’re an avid traveler you could easily use credit cards to pay for the airfare and accommodations for your next trip. Or you could use credit card rewards to boost your savings; companies like Fidelity offer cards that put 2% back straight into a retirement account for you.

Obviously, you shouldn’t be signing up for credit cards every other day or using them for anything but purchases you needed to make anyway. You must be responsible and aware of your actions. Remember, you’re using credit cards as a tool to claim some free money. Take advantage of what the credit card companies are offering – don’t let them take advantage of you.

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Free 24 Hour Fitness Super Sport Upgrade http://yourpfpro.com/free-24-hour-fitness-super-sport-upgrade/ http://yourpfpro.com/free-24-hour-fitness-super-sport-upgrade/#comments Fri, 21 Feb 2014 13:56:08 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=3169 I’ve been a 24 Hour Fitness member for over 10 years now, the last seven of which my annual dues were only $99. I signed up at a time when they allowed you to pre-pay 3 years at regular rates and every year after that would be only $99. It was and still is a […]

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Free 24 Hour Fitness Super Sport UpgradeI’ve been a 24 Hour Fitness member for over 10 years now, the last seven of which my annual dues were only $99. I signed up at a time when they allowed you to pre-pay 3 years at regular rates and every year after that would be only $99. It was and still is a great deal considering my monthly gym membership costs me only $8 per month for the rest of my life.

But I’ve been noticing an alarming trend over the past few years that could put my $8 a month membership in jeopardy. My membership gives me access to any Sport level 24 Hour Fitness club across America. Most clubs are either Active or Sport but there are some Super Sports starting to pop up(there are even a few Ultra Sport but only one in California as of 2013) which I don’t have access to. At first, it was a super sport here and there, but now it seems like they’re popping up all across the state.

Why This Bothers Me

Super sports are, as the name would imply, super versions of their sport clubs. They’re bigger and better with more workout area, newer equipment and extra amenities like a basketball court, sauna, etc. All that extra stuff is nice, but personally I don’t really need it. I like going to the gym when the weather forces me inside(which is hardly ever living in SoCal) or if I need to bulk up before a Hawaiian vacation 🙂

Obviously with extra benefits, comes extra cost. I’ve heard that a super sport membership can range anywhere from $40 – $60/month. When I called in on 10/17/13 they quoted me at $19.99/month extra(in addition to my $99/year) to get access to all super sport clubs. So that would be a total of $28/month for access to all super sports which isn’t a bad deal compared to the $40-$45/month most people pay. I also asked about the monthly cost for a new member to sign up and they quoted me at $45 a month(plus initiation fees).

I don’t really use the gym enough to justify $30/month right now but going forward I’ve found a few ways that could get you free access to a super sport. Most of the time, you’ll know way in advance when an active or sport club is going to switch to a super sport so keep your eyes out on the local media and signs around your club. Since these upgrades are multi-million dollar renovations, there are usually several articles in the newspaper and online before they happen. Once you find out that a super sport is coming, here’s what you can do to get a free upgrade:

1. Original Member

If you originally started your membership at a club that is later remodeled to a super sport, you’ll be automatically grandfathered in. I can confirm this since my home club in Santa Monica was converted from a Sport to a Super Sport a few years ago and I have access to it now. Unfortunately, I don’t get to use it very often though since I don’t live there anymore.

2. Join the Club

If you know that a location is going to be getting upgraded to Super Sport, it might be a good idea to go and join today at the lower Active/Sport rates(generally $30/month or less). That way, once the club is remodeled you’ll be grandfathered in due to the first method above but you won’t have to pay the Super Sport rate of $45 a month.

3. The 50% Rule

I found out about this rule the hard way. Back when I lived in San Diego, I would go to the UTC 24 Hour Fitness Sport and the Mission Valley 24 Hour Fitness Sport all the time. At the UTC location though, they built a brand new Super Sport right next door and once it opened they closed down the Sport. I went in one day and asked them if I was grandfathered in since I’d been coming to that location off and on for the past few years. The rep I spoke with told me that in the last 6 months of a Sport club’s existence(before it becomes a Super Sport) 50% or more of your gym visits have to be at that location in order to get grandfathered in to the new Super Sport.

My total was only around 30% since I went to the Mission Valley location more often as it was right next to my house. Looking back, if I would have known about this rule beforehand, I would have just signed in every time I passed by the location to make sure I got over the 50%. You won’t find anything about the 50% rule on 24 Hour Fitness’ website but I’ve seen it talked about in multiple places. Your results may vary on this one but I think it should work.

Readers, what do you think about 24 Hour Fitness Super Sport membership? Would you pay $45/month, $28/month or just go for a run and do some push-ups at the beach like I usually do?

-Harry @ PF Pro

By the way, 24 Hour Fitness offers a 3 day free trial to prospective members so if you want to see what all the hype is about, sign up and check them out since there’s no risk except a sales pitch at the end I’m sure 🙂

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Loophole of the Day: Free Costco Membership For Everyone http://yourpfpro.com/loophole-day-free-costco-membership/ http://yourpfpro.com/loophole-day-free-costco-membership/#comments Fri, 07 Feb 2014 13:45:42 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=3478 For regular readers of my blog, you probably know how cheap I am by now.  Any time I have to make a purchase of significant value I make sure to weigh all my options and figure out if I really need that product.  Sometimes I’ll ask myself, will this product improve the quality of my […]

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Loophole of the Day: Free Costco Membership For EveryoneFor regular readers of my blog, you probably know how cheap I am by now.  Any time I have to make a purchase of significant value I make sure to weigh all my options and figure out if I really need that product.  Sometimes I’ll ask myself, will this product improve the quality of my life or make me happier?  If the answer is yes then I’ll buy it.  But if the answer is no, I’ll pass and move on with my life.  I’ve even been known to buy a product and not open it for a few days just to get over the initial excitement.  Then I’ll decide if I want to keep the item in question or return it.

One of the things I struggle with on a monthly and yearly basis is membership fees.  For some reason, it really pains me to have to pay a monthly or yearly subscription fee, even for services that I use all the time.  And the one membership I’ve been contemplating lately is my Costco membership.  I know people have mixed opinions on Costco but I usually buy a lot of food related products that just aren’t sold elsewhere(for comparable prices).  My co-workers and I actually used to run a small exact vending machine setup in the break room(we donated the profits to charity) so Costco was great for stocking up on snacks and candy.    My favorites include:

  • Meat and Fish: Costco has an amazing flank steak and their salmon is pretty awesome too.  I also like buying their frozen shrimp because it’s cheap and most of the shell is already peeled off.  Their fresh chickens aren’t bad either and they are very cheap compared to the supermarket.
  • Frozen Foods: My mom used to buy the mini frozen pizza brand from Costco called Sabatasso’s.  I used to live on these things when I was a kid so I always make sure to buy them when I go there now.  My fiancee recently turned me on to some of their frozen pastas too which are very tasty.
  • Bakery: Costco’s muffins and croissants probably aren’t the healthiest items but they taste amazing.

Those are just a few of the staples I buy on my Costco trips.  I’m sure there are things I’m forgetting but as you can see, my list is dominated by food.  I’d rather have all my household supplies like laundry detergent, paper towels, toilet paper, etc delivered via Amazon Prime for free.  That’s much more convenient in my book and if you buy them when they go on sale, you can get them for almost as cheap as at Costco(but minus the lines, traffic, parking, etc).  Definitely worth it in my book.

Free Membership Loophole

This year I actually let my membership expire.  I didn’t think it was worth it to pay the membership fee since I was only going a few times a year.  Last year though, when I was a member, Amex and Costco had a Twitter sync deal that gave me $25 off a $100 purchase on Costco.com.  Since I had 5 Amex cards at the time, I bought 5 cash cards for $100 and instantly saved myself $125 at Costco.  That savings was nice but it’s been a year now and I still have about $250 left on 3 cards but no membership.

The cards have actually just been sitting in my car for a while since I’ve been waiting for someone to take me to Costco so I can spend the money.  A similar Twitter sync deal popped up this year and I wasn’t planning on doing it since I still had cards left over but then I read about the membership loophole.  This is straight from the Costco website:

You must be a Costco member to purchase or reload Costco Cash Cards.  Members and non-members may use the cash cards to shop at any Costco location in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and online at Costco.com or on Costco.ca. Costco Cash balances may be used toward membership or merchandise.

You might have missed it but the key sentence was: “Members and non-members may use the cash cards”.  I’d heard about this trick before but I’d never seen it in writing until now.

In order to buy a cash card, you do need to be a Costco member though.  Costco cash cards can be ordered online or in-store so if you have a friend who’s a member it might be time to ask them for a favor.  Once you get your hands on a cash card you just flash it at the door just like a regular membership card and you’ll be able to shop.  Now not every employee knows about this policy so you might find some resistance here and there but if worst comes to worst, just call a manager over and have them explain the store’s policy to the employee.  If you exhaust the balance on your card, you can pay for the rest of your balance with an Amex card or cash/debit.

I was near a Costco the other day and low on gas so I thought I’d see if I could buy gas using a Costco cash card and it couldn’t have been easier.  All you have to do is swipe your Cash Card at the pump instead of swiping your membership card and you’ll be pumping gas in no time.

Readers, what do you think about the Costco membership loophole?  Do you think it’s wrong to take advantage of it or will you be all over it next year when it comes time to renew your membership?

-Harry @ PF Pro

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Four Productive, Fulfilling Alternatives to Boredom Spending http://yourpfpro.com/boredom-spending/ http://yourpfpro.com/boredom-spending/#comments Wed, 05 Feb 2014 14:00:10 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=3921 One of the biggest spending traps people of all income levels need to watch out for is boredom spending. It’s too easy to make this kind of spending into a habit, as we often use it as a way to deal with negative feelings or circumstances. We resort to unnecessary spending not only when we’re […]

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boredom spendingOne of the biggest spending traps people of all income levels need to watch out for is boredom spending. It’s too easy to make this kind of spending into a habit, as we often use it as a way to deal with negative feelings or circumstances. We resort to unnecessary spending not only when we’re bored, but also when we feel down, depressed, lonely, and even confused about a decision we need to make.

Obviously, too much of this kind of spending leaves us much worse off than we originally were. It’s unlikely that we’ll truly feel better in the long run; money and buying things only acts as a sort of band-aid for our problems. And of course, we’re also leaving ourselves worse off financially by blowing our money instead of saving or investing it.

So how do we solve this problem? By choosing meaningful, productive, and positive alternatives to dealing with the negative emotions we experience from time to time, and engaging in behaviors that help us instead of hurt us even more. Shopping isn’t an effective way to solve a troubling issue. Instead, the next time you feel the urge to deal with your feelings by spending, try these 4 alternatives to boredom spending instead:

1. Try a Physical Activity

You don’t have to be a world-class athlete to enjoy sports on either competitive or recreational level. Consider joining a local rec league for your favorite sport – soccer and softball teams are pretty common. You can try something you’ve never done before, like volleyball or ultimate frisbee. Or you can stick to tried-and-true activities that you can do with a group or by yourself, anytime you want: running, swimming, biking, or even just walking. Switching your shopping habit for a physical activity not only improves your finances, but your mental and physical health and fitness, too.

2. Work on a Skill

Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn Spanish. Or you want to learn how to bake souffles. Perhaps you’d like to improve your chess game or become a sudoku master. Do you enjoy crafts but have no idea how to sew? Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to garden.

These kinds of skills and abilities are  the perfect alternative to boredom spending. You can get started with most of these for free by simply doing some necessary research online or at the library. Additional resources or materials you may need should also be free or at least low-cost. The benefit of spending even a little bit of money here is far greater and offers more reward and fulfillment than any money you would spend shopping or buying more stuff you don’t need.

3. Get Organized and Keep the Stuff You Already Have in Good Condition

Nope, it’s not glamorous, but it’s a fact of life: stuff gets dirty. It needs to be cleaned. So if you feel bored or down, don’t waste your time and money going out to get even more stuff that’s just going to pile up and turn into clutter. Take the time to care for the items you already have.

Go through what you have and get organized. Sell what you can to earn a bit of extra cash, give away the stuff you don’t need and trash what’s seen better days. Clean up your home, and if it’s been a while since you gave everything a good scrub-down, go through room by room and get everything back in tip-top shape. You’ll feel better for living in a clean space, and your wallet will thank you for passing your time productively instead of emptying it on more stuff that will get used once and then forgotten.

4. Start Up a Side Hustle Instead of Giving in to Boredom Spending

If you’re bored and want to spend money, why not rearrange your thinking so that when you’re bored you want to make money? Thanks to the fact we live in the digital age, creating your own side hustle is easier than ever. There’s a whole wide world waiting for you to come along and monetize your skill set. Take advantage of all the opportunities people have never had before, and set up your online biz. Your gigs can be as small or as big as you want them to be and can provide a bit of extra money or you can develop them into fully fledged businesses. The options are endless and it’s all up to you.

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Tuning Up a Bicycle is Easier and Cheaper Than You Think http://yourpfpro.com/tuning-bicycle-easier-cheaper-think/ http://yourpfpro.com/tuning-bicycle-easier-cheaper-think/#comments Sun, 08 Dec 2013 13:45:27 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=3228 Ever since I moved up to Newport Beach a few months ago, I have been biking nearly everywhere.  When you don’t have a job, you have a lot more free time on your hands so you’re not in quite as much of a rush.  A lot of people think riding your bike takes significantly more […]

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Tuning Up a Bicycle is Easier and Cheaper Than You ThinkEver since I moved up to Newport Beach a few months ago, I have been biking nearly everywhere.  When you don’t have a job, you have a lot more free time on your hands so you’re not in quite as much of a rush.  A lot of people think riding your bike takes significantly more time than driving in a car, but once you’ve got a few weeks of riding under your belt, you can make surprisingly good time.  You might show up to your destination a little sweaty, but you’ll save a ton on gas and you get great exercise while you’re at it.  It’s also never a problem finding a parking spot on my bicycle!

I actually ended up buying a few bikes off Craigslist over the past few months – one older road bike and two newer hybrid bikes.  I didn’t like the road bike that much so I sold it(for a profit!) but kept the two hybrid bikes – a Raleigh Cadent FT0 and a Trek FX 7.2.  I got a great deal on both hybrid bikes and paid about 40% of what they retail for.  Both bikes were in good condition and rideable but they both didn’t shift very well.

Learning About Bicycles

I didn’t know anything about bikes before I moved to Newport and during my initial research phase it took me a few weeks just to figure out what type of bike I even wanted.  But once I learned all the basics, I was hooked.  I loved riding and I figured it made sense to spend the money to get tune-ups for my bikes so that they would run smoother and go faster.

At my local bike store, tune-ups ranged from $50-$150 depending on how much work you wanted to be done.  I don’t think that price is that outrageous but considering that my bikes only cost $200, I didn’t want to spend 50% of that on a tune-up that I would need again in a year or two.  Biking is just a hobby for me and I’ve always felt that the person doing the hobby is a lot more important than the equipment they use.

Craigslist For Hire

I went to my favorite website – Craigslist – and I actually found a few guys who were willing to tune up my bicycle for me and teach me along the way for $50.  The guy I ended up choosing seemed credible since he was on a professional cycling team, had been fixing up his own bikes for years, etc.  But I did have to take some risk since he could have turned out to be some joker who knew nothing about bikes.

I met up with him one afternoon and he taught me all about the basic tune-up techniques.  I could tell he wasn’t a professional since a couple things stumped him and he couldn’t completely tighten my brakes and get the wheels spinning perfectly straight, but he did help me out a ton with the shifting.

Just a Little Cleaning

One of the big problems I was having on both of my bikes was the shifting.  The shifters worked OK, but it wasn’t very smooth going from gear to gear, sometimes they would get stuck and other times they just wouldn’t go at all.  My Craigslist teacher showed me how to clean and lube the chain in about 10 minutes and when I got on the bike afterwards, the shifting was flawless!

I couldn’t believe how much of a difference it made.  I bought four products off Amazon and I’ll be able to tune up my bikes and other people’s bikes for years to come.  Here’s what I ended up buying.

Bike Stand

I don’t have a garage to work on my bike so I couldn’t get a heavy duty bike stand.  Instead, I got a nice adjustable height bike stand that is very small and compact.  I already tried it out and it works pretty well for how lightweight it is.  It doesn’t clamp down like a normal bike stand and suspend your bike in the air but it does let you clean the chain and do other similar minor repairs with the back wheel a few inches off the ground.

Cardboard

I didn’t have to buy this item but in order to clean the spaces in-between the rear cartridge, I cut up pieces of cardboard and slid them right in.  They fit perfectly and they actually do a really good job of removing all the gunk and grease.  You could do this before or after cleaning the chain but I like doing it before.

Simple Green Cleaner(De-greaser)

This was the cleaning product that my Craigslist teacher used and it worked really well so that’s what I bought.  There are hundreds of other ones that you could probably use just fine though.  I like Simple Green Cleaner because you can use it all around your house and not just on your bike chain.  I got a huge 1 gallon bottle(plus you will want to dilute it) for $16 on Amazon.

Finish Line Chain Cleaner

I’d never seen this contraption before but it’s a really cool way to clean your chain without having to take it off.  All you have to do is mix up some simple green with water to dilute it and then fill up the Finish Line Chain Cleaner.  Attach the chain cleaner onto the chain and pedal backwards really fast for 30-60 seconds and you’ll see the liquid turn dark with grease.  I cycled through about 5-6 times but that was only because my chain was so dirty.  It helps to pedal backwards as fast as you can in order to really get the brushes and scrubbers cleaning.

After you’re done cleaning, use a rag to dry the chain.

Finish Line Chain Lube

Since I live in a dry climate, I bought a small can of Finish Line Dry Teflon Lube.  Again, there are a lot of great chain lubes out there but this one seemed reasonably priced and had some of the best reviews on Amazon.  Once the chain is dry, squirt some of the lube onto the chain and cycle through the gears a few times in order to spread out the lube.  After you’re done, use a rag to dry the chain again and you’re all done.

I went for a quick ride after this step, and my gears were changing flawlessly.  If you notice some slipping in the weeks after a tune-up you can always spray a little lube on and see if that helps.

The Final Results

Since I got my tune-up lesson, I went out and bought all four of the items mentioned above and gave my second bike a tune-up.  It was a very easy process and took about 30 minutes.  Eventually, I think I could probably do both bikes at the same time in about 30 minutes.  I know there are a lot of other things you can do tune-up wise but I couldn’t believe how much of an impact just cleaning the chain had.  It was so easy and it made such a difference.

In the end, I spent about $60 on all the parts and equipment.  I’ll probably never run out of cleaner, the chain cleaner contraption should be good for years and the lube will probably last a year or two – but it’s only $8 for a new bottle.  Bikes can literally last a lifetime if you take great care of them and this is one of the most cost-effective ways to do so.

If you have tire mis-alignment or other major problems, you’ll probably need to take it in for a full tune-up but cleaning your chain every few months to a year depending on how much you ride can have a huge impact on performance and the life of your chain.

Readers, did you ever try and clean your chain yourself?  Did you know about these products that can make cleaning your chain a breeze?

-Harry @ PF Pro

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A Tribute to the Greatest Chipotle Article of All Time http://yourpfpro.com/tribute-greatest-chipotle-article-time/ http://yourpfpro.com/tribute-greatest-chipotle-article-time/#comments Tue, 29 Oct 2013 12:45:37 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=3230 If you missed my first Chipotle article, then click here to go back and read it before you start on this one!  Enjoy.. When I first started this site almost two years ago it was with the intention to discuss topics like saving for retirement and investment strategies.  But I quickly realized that those articles […]

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A Tribute to the Greatest Chipotle Article of All Time

If you missed my first Chipotle article, then click here to go back and read it before you start on this one!  Enjoy..

When I first started this site almost two years ago it was with the intention to discuss topics like saving for retirement and investment strategies.  But I quickly realized that those articles were pretty boring to read and to write.  That’s why you see articles today ranging from travel hacking to saving money at Chipotle.  The latter has actually become one of the most popular articles on my site and today it has over 5,000 total views.

I thought it might be a good idea to do a follow up article and touch up on some new tips and tricks I’ve learned for saving money at Chipotle.  It’s still one of my favorite restaurants of all time and I know a lot of my friends and readers love it too so here you guys go:

Chipotle’s Secret Menu

I always knew that Chipotle was very flexible when it came to ordering: you can ask for more of this or more of that but I never knew they had a secret menu.  One of my favorite things to order now a days is called a Quesarito.  It takes a little longer to make so I only ask for it if there’s not much of a line.  People behind you tend to ask for one too if they see it being ordered and the workers don’t like this.

But as the name would imply, it’s basically a quesadilla and burrito all rolled into one.  They’ll add the cheese first and melt it in the tortilla press, then you can go ahead and add your fillings like you would with a normal burrito.  You won’t save money by going with this option but it does taste pretty awesome.

Alternatively, you could also have them make a burrito for you and then ask them to press it in the tortilla press for a few secons to get the outside nice and crispy.

Individual Tacos

I had a friend in college who absolutely lived by this trick.  Not only did he love Chipotle more than me, he was also cheaper than me too.  And since you can order tacos individually he would usually order 2 tacos and completely load them up.  My friend would ask for rice, both kinds of beans, fajitas, meat, all the salsas, etc and he would end up with about the same amount of food as a burrito but spread out across two tiny taco tortillas.  That way he would only have to pay 2/3 the cost of a trio of tacos.

$3 Halloween Burrito

Chipotle used to offer free burritos on Halloween if you were dressed up like a burrito but this year they’re charging $3 for a bowl, burrito or tacos.  Still not a bad deal since you can load up on double meat and guacamole though.  The lines tend to get pretty crazy so the earlier you go the better; the deal starts at 4 pm and goes until closing time.

Free Burrito

It doesn’t happen every year but Chipotle usually offers a Christmas and graduation deal where if you buy $30 worth of gift cards, you get a free burrito on your next visit.  The most recent deal was last year around Christmas time when they offered a free burrito on your next visit if you bought $30 worth of gift cards.  The great thing about the free burrito is that there are no restrictions, so feel free to get double meat and guacamole.

Truly Free Soda

If you live nearby a college campus, the local Chipotle may offer free sodas to students.  Most college ID cards don’t have dates on them so they could potentially be good forever.  I actually still have my college ID(and an extra one) and it comes in handy every once in a while to save me a few bucks.

Alternatively, if you feel like doing a little work you could always go for an ‘East County Lemonade’.  That’s a San Diego reference, but essentially you fill up your water cup and squeeze a bunch of the free lemon slices in there, add some sugar and you’ve got a free lemonade!

Reader Submissions

My last article generated a lot of passionate comments and e-mails with some unique ways to save money.  And by ‘unique’ I mean illegal(haha) but here are just a few of the ideas my readers came up with:

  • Free Soda – Since Chipotle is self-serve sodas and their water cups look just like soda cups, you can pretty easily steal a soda here.
  • All You Can Eat Hot Sauce – Chipotle carries three different types of Tabasco hot sauces – Regular, Chipotle and Green Pepper.  If one of them should make their way into your to go bag, you’ve just earned yourself a free bottle of hot sauce, haha!
  • The Lettuce Trick – This is one of the most creative ways I’ve ever heard of to get free guacamole.  It borders on illegal/negligence but I think it’s worth a shot.  We all know that it’s $3 extra for that amazing guacamole but if you add on a ton of shredded lettuce at the end of your burrito bowl they may not notice the guac when they ring up your order.  According to one reader, this trick has a 50% success ratio.

I’m glad to see my site is breeding a passionate band of bandits and deal seekers, that’s what I like to see!

Readers, what do you think about the follow up piece to my most popular article of all time?  Who would have thought so many people were interested in saving money at Chipotle?

-Harry @ PF Pro

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Why I Always Order Food and Drinks To Go http://yourpfpro.com/always-order-food-drinks-go/ http://yourpfpro.com/always-order-food-drinks-go/#comments Mon, 14 Oct 2013 12:45:45 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=3100 One of my favorite topics is taxes, or more specifically avoiding taxes.  Every year I go to great lengths to delay or even avoid taxes to the fullest extent of the law.  I max out my 401k, Roth IRA and HSA.  I itemize and take huge deductions for property tax and mortgage interest but I […]

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Why I Always Order Food and Drinks To GoOne of my favorite topics is taxes, or more specifically avoiding taxes.  Every year I go to great lengths to delay or even avoid taxes to the fullest extent of the law.  I max out my 401k, Roth IRA and HSA.  I itemize and take huge deductions for property tax and mortgage interest but I still find myself looking for more ways to save.  That might make me greedy but I really hate paying taxes, especially when I know that the money is going to get wasted by the government on stupid things.

Living in California doesn’t help matters either.  There’s a hefty income tax and a nice plump sales tax on all goods sold across the state.  But recently, I’ve discovered a way to avoid paying sales tax on certain food and beverage items.  The rules are pretty complex and your results may vary but it’s definitely worth a shot.

I Eat Out a Lot

If you couldn’t tell by all my food related posts, I love to eat.  I try to cook a few times a week but I also find myself eating out quite a bit.  I don’t go to real fancy places, in fact, most of my meals outside the house are at small hole in the walls or anywhere cheap that has great food.  Most of the time, I’ll eat lunch at a restaurant, but I almost always take dinner back home.

I was having lunch with a friend the other day and I noticed that he ordered his food “to go” even though we were eating in the restaurant.  The place was a small hole in the wall sushi joint in a strip mall and the seating barely qualified as dining in but I didn’t know that some businesses won’t charge sales tax on “to go” items.  Although the laws in every state are a little different(since we’re talking about state sales tax here), in California, cold food “to go” is not supposed to be subject to sales tax.

YMMV

The sales tax law in California on food is extremely complex.  Merchants are supposed to charge tax if 80% of their sales are from food and drinks and an additional requirement states that 80% of the food and drinks have to be able to consumed on site.  Confused yet?  Merchants can also petition the Board of Equalization to exempt to go hot foods(like coffee), bakery goods and cold food(like sushi or sandwiches).

The only problem is that it’s pretty much like the Wild West out there when it comes to enforcing all these rules.  Some businesses follow the law, others don’t even know the law exists.  I think it makes sense though to just always order your food “to go” and see if you get charged sales tax or not.  Like I said, there are some pretty weird laws out there relating to sales tax and it can’t hurt to just get everything “to go”:

Here’s a personal example of just how confusing the whole “for here” vs “to go” tax situation can be.

The Subway Conondrum

I decided to test out this theory over the past few months so I went in to Subway and ordered a chicken breast sandwich for $5.  I got the bill and it was $5.44!  “Dammit, what the hell?”  I asked the cashier.  And she told me that since I got a hot sandwich, they have to charge tax on it.  If I would have ordered a roast beef or a turkey sandwich, then there would be no sales tax.

A few weeks later, I went back into Subway and got a turkey sandwich with everything on it.  I got the receipt and it was still $5.44!  I asked why and the cashier told me that since I got the sandwich toasted, it’s now considered “hot” and I have to pay sales tax on it.  See how confusing the whole thing can be?

There’s no way I was going to eat a third Subway sandwich so I stopped my experiment right there.  But I’m assuming that if you order a truly cold sandwich from Subway and take it “to go” you won’t have to pay taxes on it.  I guess this is just one example of why our tax code is so messed up since I need a CPA just to figure out the true cost of my freaking sandwich.

Readers, have you ever noticed a difference in sales tax price on food “for here” vs. “to go”?  If so, what state are you in and do you always order “to go” or are the savings not worth it?

-Harry @ PF Pro

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That Printer Ink Cartridge Costs What?! http://yourpfpro.com/printer-ink-cartridge-costs/ http://yourpfpro.com/printer-ink-cartridge-costs/#comments Wed, 09 Oct 2013 12:45:38 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=3029 One of the things I miss most about my old day job is the free printing.  I’m not kidding either.  Even though we live in a digital age, I still find myself printing out a ton of documents nearly every single day.  I print out everything from contracts to shipping labels and everything in-between.  At […]

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That Printer Ink Cartridge Costs What?!One of the things I miss most about my old day job is the free printing.  I’m not kidding either.  Even though we live in a digital age, I still find myself printing out a ton of documents nearly every single day.  I print out everything from contracts to shipping labels and everything in-between.  At my old job, there were three laser/color printers within 25 feet of my desk.  I was in heaven.

I know you’re not supposed to use company resources for personal use but no one I know really follows that.  In fact, I would always save all my personal printing for work and it was part of the four hours a day I spent not working.  But now, all that has changed.  And even though I don’t have free access to a laser printer anymore, I still have just as much stuff to print.

I Forgot How Expensive Ink Is

I have a standard HP Office Jet printer that I bought from Costco five years ago and it still works very well.  It’s an all in one with scanner, fax(what’s that??), and of course printing.  I primarily use it for scanning and printing though since I don’t even own a home phone line.

All that ‘work printing for my job’ enabled me to get by on a couple cartridges I bought a few years back.  But when my ink ran out the other day, I went online and typed in to Google: “HP 74 XL Ink Cartridge”.  The first result was directly from the HP website so I clicked on it and the price was $41.99!  Alright obviously I’m not going to buy ink from HP, that would be like going to the dealership to get your car fixed.  But even good ol’ reliable Amazon had a pretty high price at $34.17.

Time to Get Creative

I did a bunch of searching and the best price I could find was for seller refurbished cartridges on eBay.  I bought 2 black cartridges(74XL) and 1 color cartridge(75XL) for $10.65 with free shipping and no tax.  That’s about $3 a piece since color cartridges are usually more expensive.  The black ink cartridge was 10x cheaper than the cheapest price that I found on Amazon.  WOW!

I think these cartridges are so cheap because the companies that sell them ship off old cartridges to China and fill them up with ink there and then send them back to the US and sell them for dirt cheap.  It’s a smart business model if you ask me because they’re able to undercut US ink cartridges by 10x.  That’s just ridiculous.  Why would anyone buy a regular cartridge?

Quality of Cartridges

I know some people will probably tell me how much better quality the HP cartridges are but honestly, I bet they come from the same factory in China!  And there’s no way they’re 10x better.

That being said, the HP ink cartridges may be higher quality and they may last longer but the physical quantity of ink in both cartridges is definitely the same.  And I’ve found that there are actually some things you can do to make your ink last longer regardless of whether you buy manufacturer or refurbished cartridges.

In order to extend the life of your cartridge it’s all about preventing your ink from drying.  When the ink dries, it becomes useless and can really cut into the life of your cartridge.  Here are some tips for making your ink last longer:

  • Avoid extreme temperatures – Printer ink can be a little sensitive and hot more so than cold can make the ink evaporate and dry up faster.  Try to leave your printer in a nice cool or shaded place.
  • Turn on and off your printer manually – On most printers, when you manually turn off the printer, the cartridges are parked in a spot where they are exposed to less air.  So by turning on your printer only when you need it, you’re effectively extending the life of your cartridge.
  • Print at least once a week – You might not think that printing ink would save you ink.  But if you don’t use your printer for a few weeks, the ink will start to dry up and leave less ink for printing.  Try to print at least one page a week to keep the ink fresh and prevent the cartridge from drying up.

Readers, are there people that actually spend $40 on a black ink cartridge?  Can’t you get a new printer for about the same price these days?  What do you think about my eBay solution that’s 10x cheaper?

-Harry @ PF Pro

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