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.


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.


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.

Christmas is just around the corner

And if you are anything like me you’ve waited until the last minute to do your shopping. Now I’ve also decide to do all of my shopping online when possible.  That saves me the aggravation of dealing with the shopping crowds, trying to find a parking spot that isn’t a major trek to get to the store’s front door, and trying to search the aisles for items, and finally not having to wait in the checkout lines.  Christmas can be stressful as it is, no point in adding to the stress.

I have a couple of favorite places online that I like to shop.  One of them is Amazon and the other is Best Buys.  I like Best Buys because they also have a brick and mortar location for those last minute items.  You may need to hurry because some online retailers have deadline dates that you have to have placed your orders by in order to make delivery before Christmas.  Amazon is great for purchasing books, movies, and music, but they also are now selling many other items.

On final note,  as with earning extra money when shopping always be on the lookout for shopping scams.  If something seems to be too good to be true…it probably is.

Check out some of the other deals I came across on the Web:

That’s about it for now.  If I come across any other items and deals I will make sure that I post them here.

Looking for extra money for the holidays? Beware of Scams

The holidays are upon us and many of us are looking to make a few extra bucks to have for the holidays.  But it’s tough to locate a job that you can do without interfering with your steady, full-time job.  So, you turn to Craigslist.  Now, I’m not saying that Craigslist is full of scammers but the odds are better than even that if the scammers are out there you will find them on Craigslist.  You can find legitimate positions that do pay you but you have to be on the lookout for the barracudas.  I came across a couple of them myself.  Most times when they reply and it comes off as a scam I just trash the e-mail.  I don’t see any point in reporting anything to Craigslist because their management has a hands-off approach whenit comes to their website.  They prefer to pass all of that responsibility onto their User Community, which each user has their own personal agenda/bias when it comes to policing Craigslist.  They receive no training or instructions and their attitude is that they are God-like and beyond reproach.  You would need to threaten legal action in order for Craigslist management to get involved, as did a few local law enforcement agencies in the country when they wanted Craigslist to take a more active approach to monitor pedophile activity/ads on Craigslist.  But that a topic for another time, I digress.

I came across 2 ads that, on the surface, seemed to be legit.

  1. The ad stated that they had 2 positions open to help with shipping and receiving activity. Hmm, why would scammers limit the number of people they are looking for? Again, the ad reads like the work would be local. Yes, it is local…from your home. When you reply asking for more details you get an e-mail telling you how their business has grown and that they need help in handling their customers’ orders. That the job entails receiving packages, combining them by final destination, shipping them, collecting payments and then forward the net amount (net amount being the full payment less your “commission”) to an address that they will give you. And guess how the payments are to be made? Yep, wire transfer. The one things that is a sure sign of a scam/con…wire transfer. They will always give you reasons why they cannot collect payments directly – payment gateways have not been set up in their country, there is restrictive limit in regards to payments through Internet payment companies (i.e.PayPal). And payments via wire transfer are ALWAYS a RED FLAG.
  2. The second one I came across was another one that started out as a legitimate position and had all indications that it was local. The position was a warehouse loader/unloader. The ad made it sound as if the person offering the position needed someone to be available to be at the warehouse for cases where the hirer was not available and was required to be elsewhere. Well, within about 4 e-mail exchanges the position went from a warehouse loader/unloader, to personal assistant/warehouse manager (that sounded like you were to represent the hirer when he wasn’t there and to run some errands for them), to finally being a money forwarder. The last e-mail I received from this scammer detailed how he would send me a check for $1880, that I would deduct $400 plus $50 bonus and take the balance it and wire (there’s that wire transfer again) it to an name and location he gave me. Well, I did receive a USPS Express Mail envelope with a check for $1880 in it. The only problem is that he (BTW, his name is John Rush and uses the e-mail address jhnr12@outlook.com) made 2 mistakes, at least, but 2 nonetheless:
    1. He wasn’t dealing with a brain-dead person.       Wire transfers are ALWAYS a red flag.
    2. He used the United States Postal Service to deliver his check (which was probably not legitimate).

The check and all relevant information is now in the hands of the local police department.

I can’t stress this enough,  Not all ads on Craigslist are scams but you need to know what to look for regarding red flags.  Proceed cautiously in dealing when dealing with anyone placing ads there.  If you’re looking for extra income and they are not willing to give you a specific location and name of the business or contact phone number, these are major reasons to stop and rethink the whole situation.  And if there is any wire transfers pertaining to payment involved…definitely a scam.

But always be on the lookout for scams, especially Work-At-Home Scams.


A money saving haven 

If you are like me and not some brand elitist then you look for items that meet your basic needs.  What do I mean by brand elitist?  I don’t mean it in any derogatory manner.  Brand elitists are also referred to as brand loyalists by many manufacturers. Essentially, brand elitists/loyalists will stick with a product brand regardless of the price or value.  But this blog entry is not directed toward them but to those people who work hard for their money and want to make sure they get their values worth and are able to stretch a dollar.

Some years ago I came across a store that sold items at an extremely low cost.   That store was Dollar Tree Stores.  I’ve been to many other similar stores but this one seems to be the best of the best.  Not to take anything away from stores like Dollar General, Family Dollar, etc., but those really don’t sell the majority of their goods at a $1.  The Dollar Tree Stores do.  For $5 per week I can buy lunch for each day of the week.  As an example, you can buy a packet of 8 hot dogs (why do the hot dog makers packet them in 8’s?  I don’t know) for $1 and if you add a package of hot dog rolls for another $1, you can have 1 hot dog once a day.  That comes out to about $0.25/per day.  If you want to add condiments then you have a one time purchase of $1 for either ketchup or mustard.  Now the hot dog rolls brands are not nationally known brands such as Arnold’s, Pepperidge Farms, or Wonder Bread but they are safe, tasty, and nutritious.  The hot dogs aren’t Oscar Meyers or Ballpark but brands as Bar-S.  Bar-S is not a slouch name.  I use to work for a food wholesaler and I remember that the wholesaler stocked quite a few items from Bar-S, including hot dogs.

Can you save money on all things at The Dollar Tree Store?  No, but you can if you just compare national brands but not always with store brands.  Let’s take peanut butter as an example.  At the Dollar Tree Store you can buy an 8 oz. jar of creamy peanut butter (I’ve not seen them offer the crunchy style) for $1.  Now, I don’t remember the price of 8 oz jars at my local Shop Rite but I do remember the price of 16 oz jars; the one national brand, JIF, sells for almost $3 for a 16 oz jar and the Shop Rite brand sells for just under $2 for a 16 oz jar.  To make an even comparison, you’d have to buy 2 jars of DTS items for $2.  This makes the DTS item cheaper than JIF but the Shop Rite brand is a better buy.

Another item I like to buy at DTS is the knotted rawhide bones for our pet dog, Bella.  It isn’t only the price that is of concern to me but the amount being offered.  I can buy one at DTS for $1 but when I go to Shop Rite in the Pet Section I may have to pay almost $9 for a packet of 6.  I saw prices of about $6.99 to $7.99 for a pack of 3 knotted rawhide bones at Petsmart, this comes out to about $2 to $3 per.  Of course, Shop Rite carries Hartz brand and Petsmart carries most national brands.  But Bella doesn’t care…she just wants something to chew.

Lastly, food storage containers.  You know those plastic containers with lids.  These are the ones that are sold at local groceries stores for about $4 per pack of 3.  At TDS you can get a packet of 3 for $1.  I bought 3 packs (a total of 9) of the medium sized and 2 packs (a total of 6) of the small sized ones.  They’re in perfectly fine condition even though they’ve been through the dishwasher numerous times. No distortion or melting.  Good value for the money spent.  And I like them better than plastic wrap or aluminum foil because they are reusable a number of times and survive the dishwasher.  With the lids leftovers stay fresh for a while.