Opportunity only knocks once?

Unleashing  your inner potential.

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The word genius means exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability. It used to be a word that described the ability to do something remarkable, but sometime during the 1800’s the definition changed and began to refer to the person, not the potential. As a result, a line was drawn in the sand, and people were classified. You either were born a genius, or you weren’t.  This is a lie.

We are all born the same way, and we all die eventually. Aside from accidents, tragedies or illnesses which may cut our lives short, we have decades in which to learn, and potentially improve our lives. The sad reasons that the majority of the populace fails to do so is largely because they either don’t know to improve their lives, don’t believe they can improve their lives, or flat out don’t want to . There’s really nothing that can be done for that last group, you can’t help people who don’t want to be helped.

“If you don’t believe that you have potential, you will never try to reach it.”

­­–John C. Maxwell

There are millions of millionaires, thousands of billionaires, and countless entrepreneurs in the world today. The most envious ‘unsuccessful’ people demonize these ‘successful’ people as being greedy, arrogant, undeserving and a plethora of other negative adjectives. Despite this I have never heard of a person with zero income, zero savings, and zero resources starting a business, creating jobs, and hiring employees.  Those who consider these highly successful individuals to be role models often refer to them as being ‘financial geniuses’.  They are said to have been presented with opportunities and met with influential people who in turn, helped them reach their potential. Maybe, maybe not.

I’m not going to deny that sometimes there is an element of ‘luck’. I am going to say that those who had that ‘luck’ worked hard to make that ‘luck’. In other words, what some people would refer to as ‘luck’ is not some random chance. It is the end result of years of study, countless attempts, and lots of hard work. You may have heard that old saying ‘opportunity knocks once.’  It does. It knocks once to let you know that it exists, and that it’s just on the other side of the door waiting for you to seize it. It doesn’t go away, it’s always there waiting for you to reach out and grab it, but you have to believe you can achieve it first!       

 “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

– Jackie Robinson  

The role of a father in a family is to provide for his children, and his children’s children.  This refers to not only the essentials of food, clothing, and shelter, but also guidance, knowledge, hope, and  opportunities.  If you raise a child to believe that there is no hope, no opportunity for improvement, and that things will continue to get worse, you crush their spirit. My father died when I was a young boy, but not before instilling in me that belief that anything I wanted in life was attainable though knowledge, hard work, and persistence.   If you want your children to be successful, you must first strive to be successful.  The more resources and knowledge you have to pass on to your children, to greater the chances  they have for success.

“Deliberately seek the company of people who influence you to think and act on building the life you desire.” –Napoleon Hill   

If you really want to be successful, you need to surround yourself with people who are more successful, and cut ties with all the negative ‘sad-sacks’ who keep trying to discourage you. Many of these ’emotional vampires’ thrive on seeing you fail, because it makes them feel better about themselves because you can’t achieve your dreams either. Misery loves company and these dream-crushers will find every dark cloud they can to wrap around your silver lining.

Every choice you make in life has consequences.  Good choices usually lead to good outcomes while bad ones have negative outcomes.  A single bad choice made early in life can set you back years, if you ever recover at all. And the more poor choices you make, the more cumulative the fallout becomes. Surrounding yourself with losers who apply peer pressure to encourage you to travel their path will only end badly.   This is the real reason behind the other success cliché, “it’s lonely at the top.” Think back to your high school days. How many classmates did you have? Of those, how many went on to be successful? I mean REALLY successful, not just getting by. Odds are that one-in-a hundred became super-successful, and one other became very-well-off. Yet back in high school, you were all more-or-less on equal footing. Of all the people I went to high school with, today I speak to only two of them, and only once or twice a year.  Earlier this week, I bumped into someone from high school who remembered me, but I didn’t know their name, face, or anything about them. 

On the other hand, if you surround yourself with winners, these individuals will be there to advise and encourage you.  You’ll be able to get valuable insights which will help you avoid the mistakes of others. Some may even offer to help you in  your endeavors. Successful people love to help others became successful.  The key here is to be genuine, and not have hidden agendas.  I have had some former friends who asked for assistance and had zero intention of fulfilling their end of the agreement. They intentionally took advantage of my kindness. Thus ended our friendship.  

As you go further on in life, you will find along the way friends will come and go. Some will not be able to accompany you on your road to success, and you need to let them go. It may be hard, but it will be worse for both of you if you try to make them stay. Thrust me, I’ve cut a lot of fair-weather friends in my life, it’s never easy, but looking back it was always the right thing to do. Most people can only accommodate five close friends in their life at most. Any more than that and you will be neglecting family or your own personal time. Friends are great to have, but that the only real constant in your life will always be your family. This is because you can choose your friends, but family is forever.

“Life reflects your own thoughts back to you.”– Napoleon Hill

When people are happy inside, it often shows on the outside. Successful people tend to be happy people. And when they project this positive energy outward, it tends to attract like-minded people. No one wants to be around depressing, unhappy people. Your attitude in life will open or close doors for you more often than the situations you find yourself in. People tend to respond positively towards happy congenial people. Just as what you know, who you know, and where you are in life are all important, the final piece of the puzzle is how you behave.  Charles Swindoll once said “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” So the best way to be happy and successful is to start by being happy. Focus on all the good, healthy positive things in your life. If you start counting your blessings you will find that you have more things in your life to be happy about than you realize. And smile, it’s contagious. Before you know it, you’ll attract positive people to your life to fill the spaces left by the negative ones you cut from your social circle. And each new person will bring new knowledge, new opportunities,  and new adventures to share. As always, I wish you happiness and success!          

What’s a Bargain for You???

How much time are you willing to invest searching for deals?

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When I was a still a young boy living back in my hometown of Woodhaven NY,  Woolworth’s was the king of ‘five and dime’ department stores. We didn’t have the internet or World Wide Web in the 1970’s, it didn’t exist.  Walmart was not the powerhouse it is today, and was unknown. I think the first time I ever heard of it was when I was in college and the late Paul Harvey raved about Walmart on his radio program.

The nearest Woolworth department store from Woodhaven was in Jamaica NY, about 5 miles away, and a twenty-minute bus ride on the Q-56 bus. You could also take the J Train and get off at Sutphin Boulevard. Either way, you had to wait for the train or bus, each way, and pay carfare.

In Woodhaven, there was a small town, two-store department store chain called Lewis’ of Woodhaven. It was started in 1933 by Louis Lewis. When he died, he left his two stores to his two sons Larry and Julius.  They in turn passed the stores onto their sons Jeff and his cousin Robert . Sadly the chain finally closed its doors shortly after Christmas of 2003. For me, it was another tragic loss of my childhood as the wonderful hometown I remembered slowly died one location at time.

When my aunt Arleen was still alive, she would often say, “Woolworth’s will have it on sale a little cheaper, but Lewis’ has it too, and we save time and carfare.” The point I’m trying to make is, we brought stuff locally.  If you had to invest time and money hunting down bargains, often you were penny wise and dollar foolish. It was always better to buy local, and support small business.

Video killed the radio star
Video killed the radio star
In my mind and in my car, we can’t rewind we’ve gone too far – Lyics from the song Video Killed the Radio Star by the Buggles    

The Internet is killing brick and mortar stores.

With the rise of e-commerce, traditional brick-and-mortar stores are finding it harder and harder to stay in business. Each year, more and more of the stores and chains we remember from our youth disappear, replaced by just a wisp of memory in the mists of our minds.  There are many problems that arise from the convenience of online shopping. As stores vanish, you lose the natural competition for sales, the variety of goods and services, and the proximity of locations of these stores to your home.  So you go back to the internet, pay shipping, wait a few days and maybe get the item as you thought you understood from its description, and a picture or two.  Had there been a local store you could have shopped at, you might have had it that very day, and supported a local business for about the same amount of money when you consider the cost of shipping.

Caveat emptor! –Latin for Let the Buyer Beware

I’m not going to tell you that there aren’t great deals online, there are. But you really can’t judge quality from a picture and a few words of description.  I read a story about a poor soul who lived in a foreign country. He read a 5-star review of a book on Amazon called Why Socialism Works by Harrison Lievesley. Rave review after rave review. The book costs about ten bucks. So this guy in Turkey though this must be a very  interesting book, and paid very high foreign shipping for a book that is just a gag. Every page is printed with “It doesn’t”.  

It is really not a good joke to have a book with emty pages just saying “it doesnt”. Price of book may be 8 dollars but it costed almost to 25 dollars to get it in Turkey. I am very frustirated with this cold joke –Kahraman Gürcanon February 22, 2018

I feel very badly for Mr.  Kahraman Gürcanon, I feel his frustration. If there had been a local store he could have picked up this book, held it in his hands and saw what it really was, he probably would have laughed at the joke and put it back on the shelf.  He got stung by too-good-to-be-true advertising. It happens. Occasionally, you get something really shoddy, BUT if you know what to look for, you can find amazing deals.

But all the best deals are online!

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Recently, I rediscovered the joy of cooking. As a result, I ordered new cookware, and a new set of chief knives.  The best knife in my kitchen was a used, like-new Chicago Cutlery 10″ chef knife. This blade is razor sharp, and finding it discarded at an apartment complex cost me nothing. I picked it up and put it in my truck, because I was afraid some child would come across it. Although I usually dispose of such things, this was a really good knife and throwing it in the dumpster seemed like such a waste. Seeing and feeling the quality of the knife really was instrumental in choosing to purchase a set of the knives.  Sadly, they are made in China, but they are really great quality knives for the price and eventually I did find a fantastic deal online at Amazon,  (but I wasn’t really actively searching for it). I did do a quick price check, saw that it was indeed a steal, and had free shipping to boot, so that cinched the decision.  I have the 30 day free trial for Prime, so I’m getting free shipping right now. But paying for ‘free-shipping’ is only a deal if you buy often which I do not! Impulse buying is a great way to go broke fast.  There is a difference between needing and wanting, and just because you want something doesn’t always mean you need it, or can even  afford it. In such cases of wants, I save the item to my ‘wish list’ and check periodically for a price reduction or sale. Delayed gratification is the best way to hang on to your hard-earned cash.  As Ben Franklin supposedly said, “The best way to double your money is to fold it in two and put it back in your wallet!”

Consider three things when purchasing an item:

  • Cost– The price of the item is never the full cost. Are you supporting local commerce, or foreign? Is it a quality item, or a cheap knock-off? Was it made by well paid workers, or in a sweatshop? Are you going to use it just ONCE, or are you going to use it very often? Will it last? Does it have to be brand new, or will used be acceptable? 
  • Shipping – Does the price of the item justify the shipping fee? If you’re paying an annual fee to get ‘free-shipping’ is it really ‘free-shipping’?
  • Time– Is it worth the wait, or do you need it right now? How much time are you spending hunting for that bargain?  

“After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but is often true.” – Mr. Spock from Star Trek, season 2, episode 1 (“Amok Time,” 1968)

Comparison is the enemy of contentment.

Do you really need something just because your friend or neighbor owns one?  I’ve only ever brought one TV in my entire life thus far. When I got my first apartment, I furnished it with EVERYTHING I needed or wanted. A TV was a MUST for a twenty-year-old.  I threw that old set out years ago, but I never brought another.  First off, I don’t nearly waste as much time in from of the ‘boob-tube’ as I used to. Anything I ‘need’ to see, I can always watch online somewhere using my laptop. The image is good enough for me. Yet I have friends who are on their 5th or 6th set, because TVs keep changing. The flat screens are getting bigger and bigger, HD is switching to 4D, curved screens, more hook-ups, better sound and resolution. Lower prices! Big sales! Act now!! I guess that’s great if you want to spend your entire life sitting in front of a screen living vicariously, but there is a whole wide world outside your window, and maybe it’s time to cut the cord. As always, I wish you happiness and success!    

Time is money!

The importance of proper time management.

Every second is precious.

With the two exceptions of the day you are born and the day you die, you and every person who has ever lived has the same amount of time allotted to them daily, twenty four hours. No more, no less. Yet despite having the same amount of time, some people are wealthy while others are poor. In some situations circumstances beyond your control may rob you of your economic opportunities, but how you spend your time is largely up to  you.  All successful people share two traits with regards to proper time management. They have learned to maximize their daily schedule to the height of efficiency, and they have a sense of urgency, never delaying for tomorrow what they can do today.

“Time is your most precious gift because you only have a set amount of it. You can make more money, but you can’t make more time. When you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you’ll never get back. Your time is your life. That is why the greatest gift you can give someone is your time.” – Rick Warren

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The 40-40-40 Trap

Your greatest source of wealth comes from the income generated from your job.  When you retire, you usually have to depend on a combination of your savings (if any), a pension fund (rare or non-existent), your investments or contributions to a 401K plan (if any), and government social security (which may become insolvent by 2034 due to the National Debt crisis). For the average American, this is known as the 40-40-40 Trap. Because of procrastination or indifference during their youth, they never made the proper choices to ensure a worry-free retirement. As a result, they spend their entire working life employed at a job, working FORTY hours a week, for about FORTY years, then retire and discover they only have about FORTY percent of the cash they had while employed, to pay their monthly bills. You can always go back to work part-time to generate more income, but you can never replace the lost time. If a person fails to plan for their future, they have no future!

No time like the present!

If you have no 401k available at your job, it’s time to seek employment elsewhere. The longer you delay investing for the future, the less likely you actually will. Excuses do not pay the bills. Do not allow yourself to become trapped in a dead-end job. I have known many individuals who stay at a low-paying job for a couple of years, only to move on to another low-paying job. Every time I changed jobs with one, or two rare exceptions, I went on to a higher-paying job, with better benefits.  At my previous full-time job, I was about to become an assistant manager, when the opportunity opened up at my present career. My prior company really wanted me to stay, but they could not offer me a matching salary or benefits program. Leaving for greener pastures was in my best interest. Today, I earn far more than they pay their current managers.    

If you take a position that offers a set salary:

  • Do not work more than the hours required for that salaried position. Generally, there is little or no additional pay for the extra hours. You are wasting your time. Doing it once or twice in an emergency situation is one thing, but doing it all the time just makes you a fool.

If you take a job where you swipe or punch a time-clock:

  • Always work on the clock. If you aren’t logged in, you’re not getting paid. If you are scheduled to start and end at a pre-determined time, start and end at those times. Playing ‘The Time Clock Game’ where you clock in a wee bit early, and clock out a tad late each day to earn a few extra minutes of pay is not only a bad idea, it’s like stealing from the company and could cost you your job.
  • Always show up when you are scheduled to work.
  • If overtime is available at your job, it will generally be paid at your normal rate, plus half. Working overtime is an excellent way to generate extra income, while at the same time impressing your supervisor by your diligence. Diligent behavior is indicative of a work ethic and can open doors for advancement to a higher paying position.
  • Do not become dependent on the overtime income. Overtime is never a guarantee, and should always be considered extra money. Your base salary should be enough to cover your monthly spending needs and still allow you to save for your future.
  • Do not become obsessed by the overtime. The love of money is the root of all evil. I know many individuals who work sixty hours a week or more chasing every overtime-penny they can get.  I’m amazed at their end-of-the-year totals. When the work level reaches that point, it causes home and social problems. It’s one thing if you live alone, but if you have a family, family comes first! The time you spend with your loved ones can never be measured or replaced. It’s priceless. Don’t waste it. Nobody ever had an  epigraph on their tombstone expressing their desire to have spent more time at their job.

Take time to play!

A balanced schedule should always allow ‘breather room’, ‘personal time’ and still allow for work and play. If you over-schedule, you run the risk of causing a cascade of lateness and cancellations. It also causes stress as you race from one meeting or destination to your next scheduled appointment or location. Keeping a tight schedule can be done as long as everything goes according to plan, but if things start to unexpectedly go south, you may not have the wiggle-room needed to stick to the items on your list.

Always be productive

I try to get as much done on my day off as humanly possible. With my work schedule, I don’t have a lot of extra time during the work week. I find as many time saving tricks as I can to avoid wasting any down-time I may find myself with.  I’ve been working overtime this quarter, and I need all the sleep I can get to recover from the physical and mental stress of the added work load.  I always eat a PB&J sandwich for lunch. It’s filling without making me feel bloated or sluggish after lunch, and it satisfies my hunger. The beauty of the PB&J is that all of the ingredients freeze well. Now my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are healthier because I use the best peanut butter, the best jelly, and use sprouted grain Ezekiel bread. So I Sundays I’ll make a half-dozen PB&J’s, bag each one in a ziploc bag and put them in the freezer.  In the morning packing my lunch takes seconds.   

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Another change I’ve made is having my dinners shipped to my home  from a meal-kit service. I use Hello Fresh. The meals are quick to cook, and it saves me time stopping for groceries or takeout food. Also, as the three meals they send are meant for two people, I only have to cook three nights a week, and just heat up the leftover portions the other three nights.

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When I run errands, I try to make a large circle of destinations to save travel time from point -to-point.

Keep life balanced!

When was the last time you spent time with your friends?  When was the last time you spoke to distant relations or acquaintances on the phone? No man is an island. We are all social beings interconnected by a network of friends and family. When a spider builds a web, it is building a net to catch food to keep itself alive. If one strand of the web brakes, it immediately repairs it. Neglecting to repair the broken strand can weaken the entire structure and cause it to collapse. As we get older and older, we need to strengthen our social network. No I’m not talking about Facebook or Twitter, I’m talking about real life. Go where the people are, out in the real world and spend time with the people you care about. As Always, I wish you happiness and success!

Healthy Wealthy and Wise

Your most valuable possession is your health

“The race is long, but in the end it’s only with yourself.” – Line from the song Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) by Baz Luhrmann  

Twenty years ago, Baz Luhrmann released his pop song Everybody’s Free, which was a 7-minute spoken word poem set to instrumental music, offering advice on health and happiness, which stressed above all else, wear sunscreen. The ultimate point of the song is that you’ll be much happier if you take care of your physical and mental well-being. Good heath is a wonderful thing to have, but it’s not a given. You still need to do the right things to care for your body if you wish to live a long life.  

There are no certainties in life except death and taxes. I can’t explain why some people live to a hundred while others die at fifty. My father was a few weeks short of his 58th birthday when he passed away. He was overweight, smoked, drank, and didn’t exercise or eat the healthiest of foods. Clean living and exercise won’t guaranty that you live a long life, but they will drastically improve your odds. Because of advancements in health, medicine, and nutrition, people are living longer. Now I wasn’t even born fifty years ago, BUT by living a healthy, active lifestyle, there is a chance that I may yet still be alive fifty years from now.

This is 2018, fifty years ago it was 1968.

In 1968 these were some of the prices:

Average annual income–$7,844
New house–$14,975
New car–$2,822
Gallon of gas–$0.33
Gallon of milk–$1.21
Loaf of bread–$0.22

Now compare those with today’s prices.  Imagine how expansive everything will be fifty years from now.  I often hear people complaining about how expensive their prescription medication is. Imagine the cost of these medications fifty years from now. And now imagine if you required them because you failed to take preventative steps today to improve all aspects of your total lifestyle.   This is why you have to not only take care of your finances, but your health as well.  

As you know, in two prior blog posts, I covered the both the  possibilities that your money might not last as long as you do, and the opposite where sudden death robs you of a well-deserved retirement. The  THIRD item which you should be concerned about is your health. The most valuable possession you have is your health, and in many cases once it’s gone all the money in the world can’t replace it. This is why along with improving your financial situation, and increasing your knowledge base, you should be taking every step you can to achieve your healthiest physical potential. Just as living to a ripe old age with no money is a miserable existence, so is being so unhealthy that you can’t partake or enjoy activities that require you to be physically fit. Being the best you should encompass EVERY aspect of your life.  

But health food and exercise equipment  are expensive.                                   

If you think health food and exercise equipment cost too much to fit into your budget, consider how expensive it is to be unhealthy and sickly. According to a study in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) There are more obese US adults than those who are just overweight. Almost half the population of the US is overweight, BUT nearly one third of adults are obese. If a person’s body weight is at least 20% higher than it should be, he or she is considered obese. If your Body Mass Index (BMI) is between 25 and 29.9 you are considered overweight. If your BMI is 30 or over you are considered obese.

Being overweight is expensive. Clothes cost more for one. When traveling on a plane, you may be required to pay for a second seat. You may require a certain model of car because you can’t fit into a compact model.  Limited mobility from extreme obesity may require a person  to need a motorized power chair for even short trips. You may need a handicap accessible house with special facilities and ramps.  Have you noticed how many grocery stores and department stores like Wal-Mart have increased the number of handicapped parking spaces and have started providing motorized shopping carts? Next consider the secondary illnesses triggered from living an unhealthy lifestyle. Everything from high blood pressure and heart  disease  to adult onset diabetes. All of these require treatment with medications, which can be each have side-effects requiring additional medications to correct.  Taking all of this into account, what’s REALLY more expensive? How much more expensive will it be fifty years from now?

First off, I don’t smoke or drink alcohol. These are expensive and bad habits that only deprive you of your health and wealth.  If you are doing these unhealthy things, for God’s sake please quit doing them today. Then apply the money you same towards your new healthier lifestyle. You can always find ways to fit healthier alternatives into your budget.  Secondly I’ve been a vegetarian since college. Ovo-lacto, NOT VEGAN. And no, I have no intention of going vegan either. I like my milk products, eggs and honey far too much.  Going vegetarian will cut your grocery bill while improving your health. Meat is expensive and not really good for you either.

 

“Ninety per cent of the diseases known to man are caused by cheap foodstuffs. You are what you eat.”– nutritionist Victor Lindlahr

The shorter the ingredients list is, the better off you are.

Many of today’s groceries  are filled with preservatives, chemicals, fillers, and dyes. Also they are overly processed and sweetened with high fructose corn syrup or sugar. Some still even have trans-fats.  No wonder diabetes and obesity are rampant in our country. We’ve become a nation of junk-food junkies.    

goodfood 

I’m not going to tell you that healthier food doesn’t cost more than junk food, but good health is PRICELESS!  The extra money you are spending for organic, non-GMO, ‘health’ foods, and supplements may seem pricey at first, but imagine how much better off you’re going to be in your golden years when you aren’t wasting all your money on dozens of medications to combat all the future health issues you prevented by living a healthy style today.  Not all of the food-swaps you will be more expensive. Bottled spring water is cheaper than soda. V8 vegetable juice is good for you and has less calories per serving than soda or fruit juice.  An orange or a banana are cheaper than most candy bars. Better for you too. Ditch white bread altogether! It’s one of the worst foods out there.  Switch to wraps such as Flatout flatbreads, or sprouted grain breads like  Food for Life’s Ezekiel 4:9 Bread, or   Dave’s Killer Bread, the #1 best-selling organic, whole grain, Non-GMO Project Verified bread available.  They even have bagels!

I usually like eating a PB&J sandwich for lunch, and when I do I ONLY use the BEST peanut butter Crazy Richard’s  (which has ONE ingredient: PEANUTS), and my favorite pepper jam from Jacky’s Jams and Jellies.   Jacky’s Jams are handmade, all natural, fat free and no gluten added. Also no preservatives or food coloring added. Just a few simple ingredients.

Here’s some other suggestions you can do to improve your health:

Keep track of where you are in your journey to better health

Most successful fitness enthusiasts keep a fitness journal. This can list everything from the days you exercise to your weight or what you eat. I’ve been recording my weight weekly for years. Having something to chart my progress really helps to keep track of where I am, where I was, and where I want to be. 

Add supplements to your diet  

A multi-vitamin can help supplement some of the vitamins and  minerals necessary for good health. You decide what’s right for you. Just be mindful of the dosages. Some discount vitamins may not pack as much punch, or lack potency due to inferior contents. Do your research and always remember that you get what you pay for.

Look into Chiropractic care

I’ve been seeing a chiropractor regularly for years. I feel they are essential to good health, a credit them for my lack of back and neck pain. Again you decide if this route is good for you.

Therapeutic Massage

Treat yourself to a massage to release toxins and improve circulation. I go monthly for a 90-minute full body massage. It’s worth the expense and I feel wonderful. 

 “You can do it.”– Fitness guru Tony Little

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Join a gym.

The average monthly cost of a gym membership in the US is about $40 a month. Look around, there are some discount gyms out there.  Planet Fitness  offers memberships for as little as $10 a month. I have the Black Level membership which has a few extra perks and just cost $21.99 a month. I like the fact that they are open ’24/5′ M-F,  7am to 7pm Sat & Sun. It fits my busy schedule. The advantage of joining a gym is that you’re not buying expensive exercise equipment that you’re only going to use a few times and then hid in the basement. 

Of course you can always do sit-ups, push-ups and jog for free.

No matter what you do, the only way to effectively lose weight is to eat right, eat less, and exercise.

Look what’s for dinner!

Skip eating out, fast foods, or frozen microwave dinners. Cook fresh healthy meals at home. Subscribe to a meal-kit delivery service. They deliver the meals to your door in kit form. You just follow the recipe and do the cooking yourself, all the ingredients are provided (excluding butter, cooking oil, salt and pepper).    There are four major meal-kit delivery services that I know of in the USA. FULL DISCLOSURE: The ONLY one I have used is Hello Fresh.  Some of my friends and co-workers have tried the others.  I am one-thousand per cent satisfied with the vegetarian menu  from Hello Fresh. I had a discount code to try it, (most do) and I decided to give Hello Fresh a try for one month to see if I liked it. I didn’t need a month. ONE BOX was all it took. I have cooked some of the most  amazing, healthy, flavorful  meals I have ever eaten.  I URGE you to try a meal-kit delivery service, and I will let you chose which is right for you. They all appear to have similar offerings, websites, and prices. Most run about $60 a week for three two-person meals. As I am single, I usually cook the meal, eat one serving and have the second  serving the next day as leftovers. Because you’re dealing with fresh foods, you MUST cook the entire three meals within five days max.  If you decide to try Hello Fresh, use my promo code EXPRESSOM to get $40 off your first box.

Four Popular Meal Kit Services Listed In Alphabetical Order.  

I have been using Hello Fresh now for three weeks. I have cooked some amazing meals.

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This is in the Hello Fresh box. Three recipe cards, some promotional offers, and a big insulated cold bag with an ice pack containing, three 2-person meals, each meal separated in a smaller paper bag.

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This is the contents of one bag, the Yellow Squash Flatbreads meal.

hellofresh3Here’s the finished meal. Delicious! IMG_0070

Who needs to go to a restaurant when you can cook fine meals like this at home? Fresh herbs, fresh ingredients, few if any preservatives. If you have basic cooking skills and a basic assortment of kitchen utensils,  pots and pans, you can cook these meals easily in about 30-50 minuets, prep time included. Discover what great food tastes like.

Another benefit of the meal kit is that it helps teach you portion control. The caloric information per serving is listed on the recipe cards. As each meal makes exactly two servings, you become accustomed to what is a healthy amount of food. Binge eating is disastrous to your health. Like I said, I cook the two person meal and eat the second serving  the next day for dinner as left overs. So my three meal Hello Fresh box is providing me almost a full week of healthy dinners.

Again, all of these suggestions are just that, suggestions. Only you can decide what’s right for you. Fitting all of the above into your budget may be tricky and take time depending on your financial situation, but neglecting your health all together will prove to be far more expensive in medical costs decades from now. An ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure. As always, I wish you happiness and success!      

 

   

 

Be American, Buy American!

Is there really a trade war?

When I was much younger, there was a period where I lived with my aunt Arleen and uncle John. This is a long story, but the short and simple version is that my mother couldn’t even take care of herself, let alone me. My uncle John was a retired union employee. A popular slogan used in advertising at the time was ‘Look for the Union Label’. This was meant to encourage consumers to buy not only domestic goods, but domestic goods produced in union shops which supposedly provided better conditions, benefits, and higher wages for employees.    

My uncle had a coffee mug which I really, really liked. The mug had pictured upon it The Great Seal of the United States (used to authenticate certain documents issued by the U.S. federal government), and the phrase ‘Be American, Buy American!’ But, in tiny print under the last word was printed ‘Made in Japan’.  It was a novelty mug meant as a gag, but I laughed so hard the first time I saw it, that it stuck with me all these years.

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Nowadays, cheaply made products come to the USA more from China than from Japan. We import goods nationally to provide alternatives to local varieties, or to give consumers an item not locally produced, for instance Australian  Vegemite  or its cousin British Marmite.  I like them both, but they are strictly foreign goods and sometimes hard to come by, as well as expensive.

Consumerism is driven by both supply and demand,  as well as wants and needs. I may want Vegemite, but I don’t need it. And if it’s in low supply and priced quite high, I’ll settle for the lower costing Marmite which is more readily available. In the case of similar products both in high supply, it comes down to preference. Bottom line, you can have anything you want in the world, as long as you are willing to pay the price.

Which brings us to such topics of importing, exporting, free-trade, and tariffs.

 Importing and exporting are easy enough to understand. We export or ship-out goods to foreign countries where there is demand for the good, and at the same time import exotic items like Vegemite and Marmite from overseas. It gets trickier when the items are ‘the same’ though.  I might be tempted to buy a foreign good over a domestic good if the foreign product is significantly cheaper.   If free trade exists between countries, a foreign country which can produce goods at a lower cost can flood the other country with its goods.   This is where tariffs or duties come into play. A tariff is a tax imposed on a foreign good. Tariffs are bad for consumers. They are mostly good for domestic companies, and the government.     Tariffs increase the cost of foreign goods and decreases consumption of the lower priced import. Let’s say the US decided to slap a $5 per jar import tax (tariff) on Marmite, raising the cost from $5.99 to $10.99. The one jar a year I currently buy would drop to ZERO. I REFUSE to pay that much for a mere 4.4 ounces of something I like, but don’t necessarily need.

Types of tariffs

There are five main types of tariffs, protective, prohibitive, specific, ad valorem, and revenue:

  • – Protective Tariff:  These push up the price of imported products as a protective measure against foreign competition.
  • – Prohibitive Tariff: the tax is so high that it makes an import far too (prohibitively) expensive.
  • – Ad Valorem – the tax applies to a percentage of the imported good’s value. For example, an ad valorem of 10% would mean that a product costing $100 would sell in the market of the importing country for $110.
  • – Specific Tariff: A tax is levied on the specific amount – which could be the good’s weight, number, or other measurement.
  • – Revenue Tariff:  Imposed solely to raise government income rather than to protect domestic producers.

In each of these cases, the consumer will pay more for the good, or discontinue its use all together and the only one really benefiting is ‘The Tax Man’. Taxation is theft! 

“Taxation is theft, purely and simply even though it is theft on a grand and colossal scale which no acknowledged criminals could hope to match. It is a compulsory seizure of the property of the State’s inhabitants, or subjects.” ― Murray N. Rothbard

 FREE TRADE

NAFTA, The North American Free Trade Agreement is the largest free trade agreement in the world. It was negotiated by three US presidents (Regan, Bush, and Clinton) before it was finalized and signed in  1993 by President Bill Clinton. NAFTA became law January 1, 1994.

This is great for consumers in North America because it keeps the costs of goods low. But with free trade, if a product can be produced cheaper in a foreign country, there is no need for local production.  This resulted in a loss of US jobs when companies like HERSHEY CHOCOLATE shifted production to Mexico where non-union labor was much cheaper.  (Unions, like tariffs can also kill local production, but that’s another topic altogether.)  If a company can import a product cheaper than they can produce it, and still turn a profit, they will shut down plants, slash jobs, and shift their business model from producing to simply shipping. Business is business. Here’s your pink-slip, nothing personal.  

So it falls back to the consumer to ‘vote with their wallet’ if they want to protect American jobs and products. If you like a band and want to see it flourish, buy it. If nobody buys the products a company produces, they will either change their products or cease operations. Successful business rarely shut-down overnight without some long-standing cause.  Many times there is an American made item that is comparable to the foreign produced good. Often the cost is same, but occasionally even  a little cheaper. Sometimes not.  Many domestically produced goods will sport an American flag and proudly proclaim made in the USA.

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I buy Pepsodent toothpaste, Pennsylvania Dutchman Mushrooms and often check the country of origin. If it’s made in the USA, I’ll buy it over a foreign brand. Even if it’s just assembled in the USA, it still means American jobs. If there’s no readily available domestic equivalent, I will only then purchase the foreign import.  For me, it’s patriotism and I have the means to support my spending habits.  I do understand that there are many cash-poor people in my country for whom every penny counts, and they MUST buy whatever is cheaper, but if you live in the USA and you are in a financial position where you can support the US economy by purchasing goods made in the USA, I encourage you to do so. The job you save may be that of a friend or relative. There are many companies online that sell US made products like  http://madeinusaforever.com/ for one.  

As for the manufacturers of Marmite and Vegemite, no worries mates. 

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As always, I wish you success and happiness!