You’ve gotta fight for your right

I recently moved from one apartment to another a few miles down the road. Until now, all visits to my previous landlord’s office were cordial and fair. Recently however, they sent me a move out bill of $50 because my security deposit alone was not enough to cover move out costs.

Now, I know for some $50 might not be a lot- but as far as I am concerned that’s a weeks worth of groceries. Also, there was one more problem with the move out costs: THEY WERE FRAUDULENT.

The property charged me for an apartment cleaning, a carpet cleaning, and drip pan (stove) cleanings. The total amount of $300 less my $250 deposit. I spent the weekends before I left meticulously cleaning out the place- very careful to take BEFORE and AFTER pictures of the process. This is something I’ve done with every property I have lived in, and this is the first time I needed it.

So, I go to the office to ask them why they made those charges. The manager at the office was hunky dory about it all as she navigated for my file on her computer looking for pictures her staff would of taken of my apartment while cleaning it. After twenty minutes of searching, she discovered there were no pictures. She then told me we would need to wait a few weeks to find the maintenance guy to see if he had them. I told her a week was all the more I would do because that was a bullshit excuse. They were just looking for ways to derail me from getting my money back. I asked her what she would do if I had before and after pictures- as well as video- of me cleaning the property. Her face went white as a ghost but she had no comment. I told them I would be back the following Friday.

I come back the next Friday and no one is at the office but the new front desk girl. Coincidentally, the management decided to be uniformly sick that day. By a streak of luck, the front desk girl was able to connect me to the corporate office. After relaying the same information, the corporate office was much less reluctant to process my refund and apologize about an ‘accounting error’. I received my full $250 back and left in a much better mood.

Moral of the story: Corporations will nickel and dime you, and a lot of people won’t think twice about the money they have been screwed out of. And those that do, will have to fight for it. It’s your right to fight for your money- you earned it. Don’t let some white collar corporate bozos steal it from you.

 

Starting a Frugal Balcony Garden

For the past 6 years I’ve been living in apartments. Until now, I’ve only tried to garden a few flowering plants- but not consumable ones. I’ve recently learned how easy it is to get a reasonable harvest of veggies and herbs on a windowsill or porch. It will be important for me to learn how to produce my own food for two reasons:

  1. To Save Money (now and later)
  2. Learning New Life Skills and creating the opportunity for Sustainability

Gardening is key to sustainability. It’s a venture I’ve never tried before. I don’t have much space, but could still potentially  grow a variety of veggies, herbs, and fruits on my 3rd floor porch. It’s early springtime, so this is a great time to start. I have a few plastic pots, but a may build a window box like this simple one at hgtv. I also may be extra frugal and recycle 32-128 oz aluminum cans as planting pots. A major disadvantage is my production will be limited due to the size of my porch.

A major advantage, however, is after some initial setup costs (~ $100 for dirt, seeds, and pots) everything I do will be more or less free. The seeds will last a very long time as there will be hundreds. Buying hundreds more will only cost a few dollars. There may be some fertilizer costs along the way that I need to add into the total costs of my garden. On the whole, I expect it will save me tons of money in the long run.

I am going to grow (links to seeds in titles) and perhaps some herbs:

  • Tomatoes
    • Tomatoes are awesome! I use them for all sorts foods and sauces I make at home.
  • Chilies (Hot Peppers) and regular Peppers
    • Peppers are excellent because when diced and saute’d, they can add a ton of flavour as well as a satisfying crunch. Chile and other hot peppers bring in the spice. >:)
  • Onions
    • I use onions is pretty much every thing I cook, I think I will prioritize this!
  • Potatoes
    • Hearty and filling- a staple crop! This may be best to grow in the less sunny months. It’s also super cheap to grow!
  • Spinach
    • Spinach is awesome lettuce. It has everything lettuce has plus way more nutrients. It’s expensive to buy, but cheap to grow!
  • StrawberriesBlackberries, Raspberries, and Blueberries 
    • Berries are much more expensive compared to veggies and other fruits…. but they are also more expensive to buy. In the long run,  it will still be far cheaper. And I can make a ton of smoothies.

If the weather is good, I will start this weekend! Wish me luck!

7 Reasons most people can’t Save Money

A few months ago I decided to dedicate my life to building personal wealth to attain financial freedom. I started this blog as away to share my experience and opinions as I go through the process. Right now, I am focusing on building wealth and in perhaps a year or so I hope to invest that money. For the time right now, I am experimenting with stocks with a small portfolio(<2k) as well as Writing books on the side in addition to my full time Software Job. The little time I have leftover I spend on this blog, researching, or with my lovely fiance.

While it’s important to look for things to invest in; it’s fundamentally more important to get out of the Rat Race Mindset. In doing this, you’ve already taken the first step.

Financial freedom is truly a journey, not a destination. Good Luck! -WW 

  1. You’re stuck in a cycle of debt
    • When you’re broke, you’re desperate. When you’re desperate and can’t find work, you will do anything for money. Payday loans and credit cards are your worst enemies if you are already in debt, as they just add to it.
    • You need to break the cycle of debt and get a head of your finances. This is not an easy task, but it can be done. This is not an optional task either. It may take you months or years, but you WILL BE BETTER OFF. How I paid off my student loan debt quickly!
  2. You feel like you don’t even have a chance
    • This is often the root cause to why most people don’t try to escape the rat race. They feel overwhelmed. They’ve gotten up and fallen over so many times that they don’t think it is worth it. This point is more or less a shout out to everyone I knew in High School. You always have a chance, but you need to take the first steps yourself to see it go anywhere.
    • I should know that you have a chance. Two years ago my income was less than $8,000 a year, now it’s much higher ($110,000). Albeit, the high income is subsidized by high taxes and high costs of living. Either way, I’ve moved up in the world in the past few years. I intend to keep moving up, too.
  3. You don’t know about personal finance
    • Did reading personal finance stress you out a little? That’s ok. Two years ago I knew NOTHING but basic budgeting skills. Now, I know far more. Knowledge is power because knowledge gives you options. When I was young and broke, I thought stocks were just.. well… stocks. Now, I know that there is a multitude of different types of stocks, ways to invest in them, and strategies at that.
  4. You put short term happiness before long term happiness
    • Stop eating out everyday. Stop buying Coffee at Starbucks. Stop buying energy drinks. Stop shelling out $500 to stand in line at Disneyland.
    • In general, don’t waste money on things that provide short term happiness. It’s ok to do this occasionally, but the average american does this EVERY DAY OF THEIR LIFE. All the money you don’t spend can be invested or saved for later when you just want to drink some tea and watch the sunset on a lazy afternoon.
  5. You don’t have an emergency fund
    • In general, it’s a good idea to save up 4-6 months living expenses. It’s an even better idea to keep this money liquid. Save up for emergencies before you invest. This money will act as a safety net if you loose your job or if there is an actual emergency. If you need this money, you will thank yourself later.
  6. You’re not making savings a priority
    • You think… “I can buy this shiny new thing now, and just save next months paycheck.”
    • What you should think is… “If I save up for 3 months I can buy the shiny thing and put money away. Holy shit I’m awesome.”
    • A great tactic is to decided before you get your  paycheck how much you can afford to put away and just do it. Once it’s no longer readily available, it’s far less tempting.
    • It’s also good to learn will power and avoid impulse buying. When you want something online, put it in your cart and wait a few days. If after a few days, you still really want it: buy it. You may find that you don’t need it that badly.
  7. You don’t budget
    • This kills me that people don’t know how to budget or even that it’s a concept. Even some of my younger friends at the Company I work for don’t budget. When you don’t budget, you can’t anticipate savings. You also have no idea how much your spending. Once you know how much your spending, you can learn how to save money more efficiently.

6 Simple Rules for Life Success

Sometimes you just need a basic framework for success. I haven’t thought about this directly in years, but this is a list I made back when I was in high school (2008!) and still figuring ‘life’ out. Least to say I live by these rules everyday and have been so for nearly a decade. I am a much more positive person because of it. Life is all about maximizing your internally derived happiness.

  1. Don’t compare your life to others, or feel where others are successful you’re are shortcoming.
    • Comparison is the thief of Joy!
    • It’s ok to constructively compare yourself to someone else, but only when learning.
  2. Make peace with your past
    • Similarly, if you dwell on past events you will never get passed them. Instead, use knowledge of your own history to learn from mistakes you’ve made.
  3. Time heals all wounds
    • Tragedies, financial loss, employment loss. This can all hurt, but there makes little sense in crying over it. Take some time to grieve, but also remember to get back up on your feet and that… in time… everything will be better.
  4. The only person responsible for your own happiness is you
    • And you should Maximize your happiness, while remaining humble. Spend time with Family and Friends. Enjoy experiences and life.
  5. Don’t worry about what other people think of you
    • Everyone has a right to an opinion. You’re better spending your time thinking about pretty much anything else than what someone else thinks of you. Be yourself.
  6. Smile
    • Smile as much as you can.
    • I find that if I smile more, the people around me also smile more. I also find that I am generally happier. Perhaps it’s the placebo effect… I don’t deny it could be. But if I do really feel happier what does it matter?

How to save money by going off the grid (sort of…)

For quite some time I have been researching what it really means to “Get off the Grid”. It turns out there are many ways to get off the grid, and various severities as well. The most extreme being Homesteading and providing everything for yourself- power, food, shelter, education, etc. While this lifestyle isn’t for some, there are many ways for people to save money and minimize their dependency on the grid. It’s all and all a win win. You learn to do things for yourself, which is empowering. You also will save a ton of money on bills. I’m going to use this post to share as well as be my checklist.

  1. [DONE] Stop eating out and learn to cook at home. Cook healthy and simple meals like hearty potato soups, red beans and rice, vegetable scampy, homemade burgers, and PB&Js. I pay about $25-30 per week average for meals I cook at home. Most meals I make have 6 servings and cost less than $3 per meal. Spaghetti and Potato Soup are normally about $2 per meal (with bread sticks and  meat of course!). Rice and gravy is also pretty cheap!
    • I do eat out on occassion, and sometimes at work because I don’t always have time to prepare lunch. For the most part, my eating out meals are more of a cheap entertainment expense rather than a weekly bill.
  2. [In Progress] Loose the internet, cable, and pick one phone bill
    • Internet [Thinking about it]
      • This one isn’t for everyone :/. The internet is an amazing tool! But it can also be a timesink… I have internet right now, and I am considering my options.
      • Most people think: “ok, I’ll just stop paying for internet and use public WiFi or my wireless data”. This is a great start and you will save a ton (depending on your phone plan), but at the cost of high speed internet.
      • Save common reference websites to your hard drive. This internal / external hard drive is 4tb and costs $122. That’s less than most’s monthly  internet and cable bill. Use a tool like HTTrack to download informational websites. You can also download all of wikipedia. This will not work on social media sites or sites that require javascript. It will work on php/html driven websites.
      • Use sites like Videater and KeepVid to download videos!
      • Share internet with a neighbor. Don’t do this with more than one or two, and always get it in writing. This will cut the cost drastically!
    • Ditch Cable! [Ditched]
      • I don’t really know if I have to make much of an argument here. Cable sucks and there is no way it will survive in it’s present form.
    • Ditch A Phone!
      • Landline [Ditched]
        • Handy to have for communication, net needed with a cell phone though.
      • Cell Phone [Have]
        • I have to have a cell phone for work mostly. It’s convenient to have for sure, but I could certainly do a home phone with an answering machine.
  3. [In Progress] Invest in Cheap Solar Power! You can still use broken Panels, and they cost a fraction of the price! You can also look into wind power for your home.
    • This is definitely a bigger challenge for some. Also, It’s only possible if you have a home or property. There’s also a large upfront cost, but the benefits are great!
  4. [In Progress] Grow your own food! Save on your grocery bill and grow veggies and fruits in a home garden!
    • I don’t own any property yet, but want to do this as soon as I have some land. When I was a child growing up my mom tried to grow in our back yard, but it wasn’t always fruitful. This is not as easy as it may sound and will require effort and much research, but it will save you a ton of money. Potatoes are a great vegetable to start with!
    • You can also grow on your apartment porch, but you won’t yield as much.
    • EDIT: I’m starting this weekend!

Simple approaches to Midfulness Meditation

Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and sensations. It’s also known as Vipassanā.

Mindfulness is being in the moment.

There are many approaches to Mindfulness meditation and increasing overall focus and awareness of your surroundings. Here are two simple approaches that will help you get started. I talk much more about Mindfulness Meditation and several other techniques in Meditation: Benefits and Techniques for Beginners.

  1. Meditate in a quiet space
    • It’s good to do this for at least 15 minutes per session. Sit up straight but not stiff. Find a fixed point in the room and make this your focal point. Next, focus on your breathing. Isolate the sensation of your lungs filling with air. Feel every muscle in your body stretch as you fill your lungs with air. Feel them relax as you exhale.
    • After you’ve gotten into the rythem of breathing, maintain focus of whats in front of you.
    • If your attention drifts, do not stress out or become upset! Do not fight it either! Drifting is allowed and apart of the process. This helps you discover what is on your mind. After your attention drifts, gently focus your attention back to your breath.
    • At first, your thoughts will be varied and seem like constant interruptions. Don’t be discouraged because this is normal. In fact, to achieve mindfulness, you will need to practice to counter your minds habitual urge to jump from thought to thought. In time, you will learn to truly be in the moment.
  2. Meditate throughout the day in places where there are distractions
    • Precisely the same as above, except instead of finding a quiet space to meditate, you meditate pretty much wherever your are. Places like work, a public park, or even on the bus. This is naturally more difficult because there are more distractions. However, some prefer this. If your busy and don’t have time to meditate it’s another fantastic strategy.

 

Take some time and spend it in the moment. Exercise your mind. Take time to process your emotions, thoughts, and sensations. Observe the world around you with every breath. 🙂

 

How to save money with Credit Cards

I got my first credit card after I received my first big job offer because I needed to move across the country. I never had a credit card before because I wasn’t very educated on how they worked. I thought credit was a bad thing, and to a degree I was right to think so.

However, after I did some research, I began to look at credit as a tool to save money, rather than a tool to spend money. This only works if you use your cards wisely.

Most cards offer a form of cashback rewards. However, if you look and read the fine print you will often discover all sorts of limitations. Often, there is cap on how much you can earn back ($100 per year on some cards). Or you will only earn cashback on certain purchases (groceries, gas, eating out, etc). Sometimes these purchase categories will rotate! This makes it difficult to keep track of and most people will give up trying to ‘game’ their card to maximize their benefits.

Just to be clear, I am NOT an affiliate for any credit card company or bank. The cards I suggest are in my wallet, and I use them carefully and always pay them off. I essentially use the cards to save money. I have a citibank card that has 2% unlimited cashback. I have a chase amazon prime card that gets unlimited 5% back on Amazon purchases. Although 2% does’t sound like much, It’s good to save every cent you can. Everyone has expenditures, so why not save a little bit on every purchase or bill?

For example, say I buy lunch everyday at the office. If I am using my card with unlimited  2% cashback to buy lunch everyday at work ($35 a week average). Across 50 weeks, this is about $1,750 a year. That translates to $35 dollars cash back.

Effectively, I eat lunch 5 times a year for free. This is just a small example.

How I use credit as a tool:

  1. Ignore the interest rate for the card
    • This sounds crazy, I know! But if you follow these rules you will never pay interest!
  2. READ READ READ the terms! If you don’t understand them, find someone who can explain it too you!
    • This is critical to ensuring you won’t get screwed later.
  3. Find a card with 12-15 months no interest (optional)
    • This is handy if your in a tight spot and you might need to keep a balance on the card for a few months while you get back on your feet. Pay the balance off before the end of the term however!!!
    • If your not in a tight situation, this wont matter.
  4. Find cards with very open cashback terms, or cashback terms that may work in your benefit
    • You don’t want to waste time trying to keep up with lenders changing rules. Try to find a card that doesn’t rotate your cashback options.
    • eg. you travel a lot, and the card gives 3% back on gas year round
    • eg. you buy stuff on amazon, and their card gives you 3% cashback (5% for prime), but only to spend at Amazon.
    • eg. you get a 1-2% cashback card and use it everywhere (open terms)
      • make sure there is no limit! Very few cards like this exist, but I assure you they do!
  5. Always pay off the balance before it is due
    • This is the only way to not pay interest
  6. Don’t make purchases that will prevent you from paying the full balance each month
    • unless you are working on step 2, of course.
  7. Always pay off the balance before it is due
    • Saying this twice so it will sink in… Good luck!