Welcome to My World

-Welcome to the new & improved blog, Life In The Trenches.  On here I will be detailing things from everyday life, such as, recommendations of things that I have come across and the panning of those that I have found to be waste of time and money.  I will occasionally post some rants about things that I find annoying and raves about things that I get excited about.  I do have a political blog at the Thinking Progressive so I will keep politics, religion, and other controversial issues to a minimum on here.  I also author a couple of other blogs: My Family Research, which I use to detail my experience in researching my family history and post interesting/relevant information.  Then there is Digging Around Winslow Township which satisfies my interest in local history; my near term plans are to expand this deal with the history of New Jersey (so, yes, this site needs extensive work).  Other than that, enjoy my current endeavor and if you wish to comment, please feel free to register and post your thoughts.  However, I must say that I will be moderating all comments and determining if they get included or not.  Sorry, my blog…my rules.

 





Want the information but not the nagging?

You’re online searching out prices for a specific service such as auto insurance, life insurance, or maybe a new home. All you’re looking for is basic information and price but you’re not ready to take the next step. You’re in the exploratory stage. You really don’t want endless calls from salespeople with their endless pitches. But in order to get the information to display on your computer screen or sent to your email they require that you provide them with your phone number. You don’t want to give them your normal one because you don’t want your normal phone number to be constantly ringing at the most inconvenient times. But you still want the information and a contact person for when you are ready to take the next step. What to do?

I stumbled across a service/app some time ago that allows you to get a free second number that you can use as your business number or as a second phone number. It’s called Sideline (www.sideline.com/). The intention of the Sideline app is to give you a business phone number that connects with your existing mobile number. However, you can set calls to your Sideline number to go directly to voicemail for you to review later (this is what I do). In this way a smart salesperson can leave me a message that I can review and decide when I want to call them back. I also have a separate email address that I use for inquiries where I can review the information and decide what I want to do.

What I like about the Sideline phone number is that I don’t have to deal with high-pressure salespeople at their convenience. High-pressure salespeople rarely leave you a voicemail message, they will keep calling until you pick up the phone and they get to speak to you directly in order to manuveur you into a commitment to purchase from them. That’s probably why they’re so good at that jobs. I just don’t want to deal with it on their terms, preferring to deal with it on my terms.

That’s why I use Sideline as the phone number I place on inquiry forms online. I have other free tools that I have come across that I will detail in additional posts.

A story line very close to home and relevant

Douglas Richards has come up with another blockbuster book that will keep you enthralled.  He creates a plot and sub-plots that pique your interest and brings them together in his stories.  The main character of his book, BrainWeb, Nick Hall is an unwilling recipient of brain implants who can surf the Web with his thoughts and read minds. And while this makes him one of the most formidable men on earth, he is determined to stay off the grid.  But when terrorists seize control of the Academy Awards and vow to butcher the world’s most beloved stars, one by one, in front of an international television audience, Hall is forced to reveal his astonishing capabilities.

Now, power players around the world will stop at nothing to capture him. And as the secretive group working with Hall begins to unravel, he is sure of only two things: he has been betrayed by someone close to him. And the stakes he is playing for could not be any higher .

The book is based on actual research on thought-controlled Web surfing, BrainWeb is a great thriller that raises a number of intriguing possibilities about a future that is rapidly approaching.  Book is very thought-provoking.  BrainWeb is available in paperback, Kindle, audio-book, and CD.

Are you looking for a book you won’t be able to put down?

Well, I came across a book that when I had to out down I was very reluctant to do so.  Anyone that knows me knows that I am a fan of anything Sci-Fi.  Additionally, I enjoy just sitting and reading a good book.  I cam across a series written by Michael Grumley called Breakthrough (a 3 Book Series).  The 3 books in the series: Book 1 is just titled Breakthrough, Book 2 is called Leap (Breakthrough Book 2), and the last one is called Catalyst (Breakthrough Book 3).

One of the best things that I like about this author is that he writes Books 2 & 3 that contains references to the to the previous ones.

In summary, the books follow Alison Shaw as she and her team make her earth-shattering breakthrough research in establishing communication capabilities with another species, namely, dolphins.  In the first book, Breakthrough, a nuclear submarine is forced to suddenly abort its mission under mysterious circumstances. Then strange facts begin to emerge that lead naval investigator, John Clay, to a small group of marine biologists who are quietly on the verge of making history.  Through the use of a powerful computer system, Alison Shaw and her team of marine biologists are preparing to translate the first two-way conversation with the planet’s second smartest species, dolphins. But they discover more from their dolphins than they ever expected when a secret object is revealed on the ocean floor. One that was never supposed to be found.

In the second book, Leap, after Alison and her team of marine biologists had stunned the world with their incredible breakthrough with dolphins, they were about to do it again.  But an ocean away, something strange was unfolding. Along a lonely coast in South America, an experimental Russian submarine — long thought to have been dismantled — has suddenly resurfaced. And the U.S. Navy has taken notice, sending officers John Clay and Steve Caesare to investigate.  And Alison and her team get pulled.

In the third book, Catalyst, the marine biologists and naval investigators have been assigned to find out a doomsday vault that was discovered decades after one uncovered that was constructed on a remote island in the Arctic Ocean.  Its purpose was to preserve Earth’s genetic history in the event of a global catastrophe.  Now, decades later, a second vault has been uncovered and this one resting where no one ever expected.

The story line in all 3 books keep the reader interested and wanting to know the conclusion to each adventure.   All 3 books are available in paperback and for Kindle.  You can buy them separately or as a set.

Effortless, free, & automatic method to jump start your Savings Plan

I needed to come up with a Savings Plan.  I was like everyone else that had a Spending Plan but not a consistent Savings Plan.  Every time I tried to put some money away Life came along and derailed my plans.  I needed a system or something to put my Savings Plan on auto-pilot.  Well, my answer came in the from of an article that I read on The Motley Fool about apps that help kids with managing their money.  If an app can help kids then it could work wonders for me!

The app that I am referring to is called Digit.  It’s an online savings account that puts money into your online Digit savings account automatically.  It does this without any effort on my part.  You interact with your Digit savings account via text messages and the available smartphone app.  The text messages allow you to perform all your regular banking transactions, such as viewing your balance, initiating withdrawals, saving extra money or even viewing upcoming bills, all without using a computer. For example, if you want to pause your savings, simply text “PAUSE” to Digit’s number.

The Motley Fool did a write-up on Digit where it included it with 7 other apps that they recommended for managing finances (I’m already using Mint.com).  I don’t take things that I read in The Motley Fool lightly, so I did a bit more research.  How safe is Digit?  What kind of reviews has it been getting?

The key questions is if Digit Savings is safe?  “Digit uses state-of-the-art security measures. Your personal information is anonymized, encrypted and securely stored. All funds held within Digit are FDIC insured up to a balance of $250,000.”

And “Digit studies day-to-day spending and income history looking for daily savings opportunities consumers won’t notice. Every 2 or 3 days, Digit transfers some money from a checking account to a secure Digit account. The four main signals that influence Digit’s savings include checking balance, upcoming income, upcoming bills and recent spending patterns. From these variables, Digit derives a nonessential amount you won’t notice based on how you’ve been spending. There is never a transfer of more than you can afford, and there is a no-overdraft guarantee.”

Another question I had was whether Digit currently charged or planned to charge a fee for its service.  To the best of my knowledge, Digit does not have plans to charge a fee for their service, so I expect it will remain free in the future. It’s not a service that’s going to make you rich, but it does help you stash away the extra money you won’t even miss.  The way Digit makes money is they earn interest on the money you save, and pay out only a small portion (0.05%) of interest to you.  This is not major concern for me because my focus is to save money and not make money.  So, I feel this is a small price to pay for the convenience of my Savings Plan being on auto-pilot with Digit.

Finally, be sure to read the FAQ’s included on the Digit website and conduct your own due diligence.

 

Buy shaving razors without costing you your skin.

About a year ago I saw an advertisement for a product on TV that I’d thought I’d give a try.  What prompted my interest was that I had been spending $18 and more for replacement razor blades at the grocery store.  This gets to add up over the course of a year.  If there’s an alternative to the overly expensive, name-brand blades then I am definitely interested.

The advertisement was for The Dollar Shave Club.  What piqued my interest was the price they were charging; $6.00 for a package of four cartridges that consisted of 4 stainless steel blades.  These are similar to the ones that I have been paying $18 and more.  That’s a saving of $12 per cartridge pack.

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There are also a few additional perks when you sign up with The Dollar Shave Club

  • I received a new handle with my initial order
  • I can decide if I want shipments every month of every other month.
  • You don’t have to remember to buy new razors because they are shipped automatically either monthly or every other month, depending on the time period you decide.
  • The Dollar Shave Club also offers many other products that you can include in your shipment box.
    • Pre-shave oil
    • Shave butter
    • Post-shave lotion
    • Shampoo
    • Face cleanser
    • Face moisturizer
    • Lip Balm
    • Hair Gel
    • You can also add an extra handle and cartridges.

So, if you use multi-blade razors to shave and are sick of tired of paying the high prices at the grocery stores, like I am, then check out The Dollar Shave Club.  The cartridge blades are, in my opinion, of similar quality as the ones that you buy at retail.

 

 

Pears in a Jar

I’ve been to many different grocery stores, Shop Rite, ACME, Trader Joe’s and even Dollar Tree Stores along with the food section at Target and Walmart but I’ve never been able to find pear slices or halves in a resealable jar. They all have pears in cans but not in jars. I can find peaches in jars, I can find fruit cocktails in a jar, I can even find mangos in a jar. But I have yet to find any type of pear in a jar.

Why is that?  Am I looking in the wrong places?  Are grocery stores the wrong places to look?  Is there some specialty store where I should be looking?

So, why don’t the fruit producers have pears in a jar?  Are pears not a fruit?  They can put diced, slices, and halves of peaches in jars. Also, pineapple chunks, slices, and diced in jars. They even provide maraschino cherries in a jar.

Why pears in a jar?  Convenience. What if I wanted a slice or two, or maybe just one half. With a jar I can take what I want and reseal the container with the unused portion. With a can I can’t reseal it, I have use all of it.  Sure, I can cover the open top with aluminum foil or plastic wrap. This, however, does not completely seal the container and will still cause a mess if it tips over.

So, if anyone knows where I could buy pears in a jar I’d appreciate hearing from you.

Trying to Understand The Hype – Trader Joes’

I had an opportunity to do some research and find out for myself about Trader Joe’s. For those that don’t know, Trader Joe’s is a grocery store located on Route 73 near the old Marlton Circle. I’ve heard a few comments about TJ from some people about the saving and the low prices.

I use Shop Rite as a base because my household does the majority of grocery shopping there. Previously, I’ve checked out Aldi’s and found that for the most part the prices there are less than those at Shop Rite.

Now, for me I find that there is extremely little difference between national name brands and regional brands and store brands. After all, I’m not a food-snob. Foods have to taste reasonably good. That said I have found that Skippy brand peanut butter has a slightly sweeter taste than any other. But this is minor and peanut butter is peanut butter. Whole wheat bread is whole wheat bread, I’ve never been able to taste that much of a difference between the different brands.

So, now back to Trader Joe’s. Right from the git-go I saw that almost all of the brands were store brands (Trader Joe’s). I didn’t notice any national brands (like at Shop Rite) or regional brands (like at Aldi’s). The other thing I noticed was the diverse selection of items that I never saw at any other grocery store. Specifically, in that I mentioned peanut butter before, Trader Joe carries, in addition to 2 varieties of peanut butter (saled and unsalted), almond butter plus others made from different variety of nuts.

The last thing, and the most important, was price. Some prices were higher than Shop Rite (store brand PB is $1.88 for 16 oz jar) while Trader Joe brand is about $2.29 for a 16 oz jar. Aldi charges $1.67 for the same size in a regional brand. Shop Rite prices their store brand eggs at $1.99 for large size and Trader Joe has them for $0.99 for large size.

Conclusion is that Trader Joe’s is not as large as a Shop Rite but larger than Aldi, the price difference between Trader Joe’s items and Shop Rite’s does not warrant the drive of the extra distance to Marlton. The money saved would be negligible. Aldi’s, on the other hand, is worth the extra few minutes drive. As long as you don’t mind not having national brands to choose from, no deli or bakery, and smaller store.

Healthy as a Cash-Cow

Did you ever notice that most of products sale price increases considerably once the manufacturer places the word “Healthy” on the label?  Take a well known soup manufacturer.  Just look at s specific soup type…tomatoe soup.  They sell a regular brand and a “healthy” brand.  The “healthy” brand sells for twice the price of the regular brand.  Lets look at some specific nutritional items from the label.  These items are the ones we are told that we need to control and keep to a minimum:

 Regular brand vs Healthy brand

–                                   Regular                        Healthy           Diff                 %chg

Calories                       90                                90                    0                      0%

Fat                               0g                                1.5g                 +1.5g               +100%

Cholesterol                  0g                                0g                    0g                    0%

Sodium                        480mg                         410mg             -70mg              -15%

Carbohydrates             20g                              17g                  -3g                   -15%

Sugar                           12g                              10g                  -2g                   -17%

OK, let’s look at the numbers.  How much healthier is the company’s “healthy” brand…really.  Does reducing the sodium content by 70mg (15%) make the product “healthy”?  It seems that companies play games with our minds and words.  Who determined that a 15% reduction made a product healthy and justified doubling the price for it?  I thought fat should be avoided and minimized?  Wouldn’t the regular brand be considered healthier because it has no fat content while the “healthy” brand has 1.5g?  How much difference does it make to a person on a low-salt diet to save 70mg?  Could you tell the difference?  You draw your own conclusions.  My conclusion is that majority of companies practice market trickery.  They trick you to believe that you are paying more for a better product and that the higher price you are paying for added value.  I don’t believe you are.  If the medical field that cow manure was healthy for you and that you should use 1 pound a day, you’d see some company out their jack up the price of cow manure a thousand-fold.  They’d also justify it by stating the price was a factor of supply and demand, that more people were buying it and that they wasn’t enough supply.  But did you ever notice…supplies NEVER catch up with demand?

Remember, we are no longer living in a free market society as purported by The Powers To Be or even outlined in text books.  We are all now unwilling participants in Gotcha Capitalism and allow corporations to trick us into buying their higher priced products.

A stupid commercial

Television does not lack stupid commercials.  There are so many out there.  But one that is being aired during this Christmas season I find very insulting.  That is one that is put out by one of the auto makers (I’m not going to name it or the auto model) that opens with Santa and one of his elves in front of a PC or Notebook video chatting with a young boy of 8 to 10 years of age.  Essentially, Santa tells the boy that he has been good and would receive an extra present and proceeds to ask the boy what he wants.  Santa goes on to name a few items that a normal 8 to 10 year old would want.  But does this boy want those items? Oh, no.  This boy asks for a car.  And it just so happens to be the cat that this auto maker manufactures.  The boy goes on to name the features and praises the car.

Come on!!!  I’m going to run right out and buy this cat because some 8 to 10 year “convinced” me about the car?  I don’t think so.  How many cars has this boy owned?  How many has he been responsible to maintain?  How many miles has he driven.  No, what this commercial has convinced me to do is never buy this car because the auto maker believes that I am an idiot without any functioning brain cells and will buy a car on the basis of some talking points from a child.

On a similar note, another automobile commercial that came in a close second as the stupidest auto commercial is one where we see a woman getting out of her car after being out on Black Friday looking all haggard and beat.  Then we see her neighbor come over and comment on her condition.  The first woman (the shopper) agrees but tells her neighbor how much she saved.  The neighbor then tells the woman that she saved thousands by purchasing a certain vehicle.  The auto maker wants the idiot in us to believe that shopping is the same as buying a vehicle for herself.  The shopper bought items for other people (the fact that she got up early to partake in the Black Friday hysteria is another exercise in idiocy, but that is for another blog) and neighbor bought an SUV for herself.  Hey, automakers, NOT the same!

I know that the automakers are just looking to drive business and make sales but do it in such a way as to not to insult our intelligence.  You want to increase sales?  Try lower the overinflated prices of your product.  Dealers, be happy with a reasonable profit.  Automakers, try trimming the salaries of some of the over-paid & underworked executives so as to lower the overall overhead.  I’m not referring to the line workers because they actually add value to the product.

There are other stupid commercials out there, but I found the one with the young boy pushing for a new car especially insulting.