If You Like Eating Out: Read Me

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Dear Rich Lifer,

When it comes to saving money, a category many people cut out right away is dining out. This makes sense – restaurant meals can be pricey, and when you add on tax and tips, they can break the budget quickly.

Luckily, if you use a little forethought, there are lots of ways you can save money and still indulge in a meal out now and then.

Here are a few of our favorites:

BYOB

An easy money saving tip is to drink water instead of pricey soft drinks or alcohol, but sometimes you just want to enjoy a tasty beverage with your meal. Sodas can cost $4-5 apiece, though, and beer and wine is much more per serving. Instead of spending $8 each for a glass of house wine and a decent beer, look for local restaurants that will let you bring your own.

Yelp and Google reviews will usually mention if a restaurant allows you to bring your own, and while some places might charge a small corkage fee, it’s nominal compared to the price of buying a bottle from the restaurant – or worse, paying per glass prices.

Grab a Groupon

Sign up for Groupon emails for your area and scroll through the offers every few days. They often have coupons for great new restaurants as well as your old favorites, so buy them when you can and save them for when you want to enjoy a night out.

One word to the wise, though – look very carefully at the small print on your offer. Unlike gift cards, Groupon offers aren’t available at all times and they can expire, so be sure to play by the rules.

Eat Out at Happy Hour

I’m not saying you should sit at the bar and drink dollar beer and eat peanuts – that’s a fun experience in and of itself, but it’s not a meal.

Many nicer restaurants have a full Happy Hour menu with lots to choose from, and the pricing is a lot less than what you’d pay if you sat in the main portion of the restaurant. Because Happy Hour is usually so lively, you’re likely to get good service this way, too.

Double Dip Online

If you’re not totally set on a specific restaurant, go to Rakuten.com and look up Restaurant.com. If you shop through this portal, you can get a discounted gift card from Restaurant.com (like a $25 gift card for just $10!) AND you’ll get cash back on the purchase from Rakuten. You can enjoy many great local restaurants at a deep discount this way!

Shop in Advance

Next time you’re at Costco, look at the big kiosk of gift cards right in the middle of the store. You’ll probably find cards for some of your favorite restaurants – at an amazingly low price!

If you pick up a few discounted gift cards now, you can save them until you want to go out again – it will feel like you’re eating for free (and you’ll still be dining out on the cheap).

Go OUT to Eat

If you want to skip out on the restaurant experience, but still have the same delicious food, you can still save by ordering takeout from your favorite restaurant and eating it elsewhere.

Not only will you save by skipping on the drinks, appetizers, and desserts you might normally order, by taking food out, you’ll also save on the tip you’d normally pay. Even if you tip on to-go orders, it’s usually much less than the 20% you’d tip for the sit down experience.

Instead of going home to eat, though, you can make your takeout extra special by heading to a picnic table at a local park. This way, you can save while dining al fresco – and you still don’t have to cook anything!

Check Out the Senior Menu

While this might seem like an obvious option, many people overlook it because they assume there won’t be enough food or that the choices will be boring or bland. At many classic favorite eateries, the senior menu is a selection of the same exact items – they’re just at a lower price.

Take a look and see if what you want is there before looking at the standard-priced items.

Split a Meal

Let’s face it – at many restaurants, the dinner portions are out of control!

At On The Border, for example, their Dos Equis Fish Taco meal is over 2000 calories, and at The Cheesecake Factory, the Pasta Carbonara with Chicken clocks in at almost 2300 calories! Each of these dishes is your whole recommended daily allowance on just one plate!

Instead of overeating, or wasting half the food, split a bigger meal with your dinner companion. If you’re worried that you’ll still be hungry, add an inexpensive house salad to start. You’ll both be full and happy – for half the cost of two standard entrees.

Don’t Skip the Apps

I’m not talking about appetizers – I’m talking about savings apps on your smartphone. If you want fast food or to go to a fast casual restaurant, download the restaurant’s app before you go.

Many places will give you a free item just for downloading, and others will let you earn towards even more free food by placing your order through the app – this saves money and time, too.

If it’s a sit down restaurant you prefer, check out OpenTable or Seated. These apps give you monetary rewards for making your reservations via the app – and using the service is convenient, too.

Follow your Favorites and Get Rewards

If you have a favorite few restaurants, follow them all on social media and sign up for their rewards clubs via email. You’ll get money saving coupons and the inside scoop on when they’re having special events with discounts, too.

Sometimes, they’ll even reward their most loyal customers with free appetizers, and really, who doesn’t love free food?

So, even if you’re eating on a budget, there you have it, a ton of great ways you can save big while dining out. If you budget wisely, you can enjoy a meal out as often as you like without breaking the bank!

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year? Not So Fast…

This post The Most Wonderful Time of the Year? Not So Fast… appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Dear Rich Lifer,

The holiday season is often hailed as “the most wonderful time of the year”. For most that is true!

Filling your days with hot cocoa, classic movies, and the smell of pine trees, baking cookies, or logs burning on the fire, along with the company of friends and family to warm your heart can be festive indeed. But for some, especially those further north, the long, dark winter months can be dreadful, regardless of the joy surrounding them, if you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

If you’ve never heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder, it’s a medical condition that affects the lives of millions of Americans. Seasonal Affective Disorder, more commonly known as S.A.D, or seasonal depression, is defined as a form of depression that is directly related to the change in seasons.

Bouts of Seasonal Affective Disorder begin and end at around the same points in time every year (meaning for most that symptoms begin in the late fall, and continue into the winter months, ending in spring).

What Causes S.A.D.?

S.A.D. occurs for a variety of reasons, one of which being a lack of exposure to sunlight, which affects your circadian rhythm.

Think about it: winter months tend to be much darker than the summer months. The sun sets earlier, leaving less opportunity to get outside and absorb its rays. Just as a plant cannot thrive without sunlight, nor can we. S.A.D may also be caused by a drop in serotonin, or melatonin levels.

Many Americans were raised with the mindset that mental health is not important. Maybe when you were growing up you were told to “man up”, “get over it”, or “toughen up”. Many people, men especially were lead to believe that “emotional weakness” and depression were just things that you could snap out of. As medical science has progressed with modern brain imaging, we have been able to verify physical changes in brain chemistry that indicate that depression is a real disorder and something that you can seek medical assistance for.

I am here to tell you that Seasonal Affective Disorder is real, and something that should be addressed with your doctor if you are suffering through it.

How to Identify Seasonal Depression

S.A.D is different from the “winter blues” that we may get from time to time. S.A.D cannot be “cured” by simply putting on a happy Christmas movie or taking a walk around the block. Many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder without even knowing it! If you are struggling with the following symptoms and have been a few years, it may be time to see your doctor.

Losing Interest or Motivation

Maybe you were an avid painter, woodcarver, or loved to work on the old hot rod not so long ago, but now you can’t seem to force yourself to pick up your tools and work. Maybe you once loved to cook, read, or exercise, but now you can’t seem to pull yourself out of bed. If “why bother?” crosses your mind at the thought of a once beloved activity, you may be showing signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Struggling with Low Energy

If simple tasks are now exhausting to you, it could be another symptom that you are suffering from S.A.D. If even simple things like getting out of bed in the morning, or getting off the couch seem like too much effort to bother with, it could be a sign that it’s time for a mental health checkup with your doctor.

Change in  Sleep Schedule

While trouble sleeping can be a sign of numerous medical issues, if coupled with other symptoms on this list, you may want to consider bringing this up with your doctor. When it comes to S.A.D, most patients report struggling with sleeping too much. However, if your energy has been low during the day, causing you to nap more, you may now be struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep at night.

Difficulty Concentrating

Want to read up on your Paradigm newsletters or subscriptions but you just can’t seem to focus? Maybe it’s taken you a ridiculous amount of time just to reach this point in the article. Are you forgetting things more frequently, misplacing items, or having trouble sitting still?

Difficulty concentrating is yet another sign of S.A.D.

Increased Feelings of Anxiety, Irritation, or Agitation

Changes in mood, especially extreme ones, should always be taken seriously.

If you find yourself burning with anger over spilled milk, tearing up at the drop of a hat, or dreading ordinary phone calls or tasks, these may be red flags that point towards Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Feeling Hopeless or Worthless

Often times difficult to talk about, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness are major concerns, and should be brought up to your doctor quickly, especially if they have come on suddenly and are not normal for you.

Weight Gain

Whether it be from lack of exercise due to low energy and motivation, poor eating, or (more commonly) a combination of both, weight gain (beyond your typical gain from the milk and cookies you typically consume around this time of year) is a symptom of Seasonal Affective Disorder and should be discussed with your doctor.

Treatment Options for S.A.D.

If you suspect that you or a loved one may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, do not lose hope! You are not alone: an estimated 10 million Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

There are treatments and ways to help alleviate the symptoms of S.A.D. If you do suspect that you suffer from S.A.D, the first step is to make an appointment with your doctor.

It may be difficult for you to discuss, but opening up to your Doctor or another medical professional could lead to relief from these harrowing symptoms. Your doctor may recommend a variety of treatments, from antidepressants, changes in diet or even, light therapies may be beneficial.

Go in with an open mind and try your best to make an effort for your health.

Regardless of what you were raised to believe, having a condition such as Seasonal Affective Disorder does not make you “crazy”. If you were suffering with arthritis, you would go see a doctor and have the condition treated. Your brain is the most powerful organ in your body. Why not treat it as such? Investing in your health is the best thing you can do for yourself and your family.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

The post The Most Wonderful Time of the Year? Not So Fast… appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Turn Your Trash into Cash

This post Turn Your Trash into Cash appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Dear Rich Lifer,

eBay is an interesting place. If you’ve ever been working on a project and needed some odds and ends, the chance of you finding someone selling what you’re looking for on eBay is pretty good.

I’ve bought all kinds of things from eBay over the years and it’s saved me a ton of money. From used tools to furniture, vinyl records to gift cards, you name it.

Even downright weird things, like empty egg cartons for DIY soundproofing, I’ve been lucky enough to find sellers.

What this means is that you could also be selling these things too. For example, what do you do with used toilet paper rolls? If you’re like most people, you throw them away.

But, you could collect them and resell the rolls on eBay for a few bucks. There’s a surprising number of weird things people will buy online.

So before you declutter your house this holiday season, check online to see if someone might be interested in buying what you’re throwing away.

Here’s a list of 10 things you probably didn’t know you could sell on eBay for decent money:

Toilet Paper Rolls

Yes, the cardboard rolls that your kids refused to change can be sold for a few bucks on eBay. As long as the rolls are clean and not crushed, you can usually get anywhere from 10-50 cents for each one. Crafters and other hobbyists will buy them in large quantities for projects.

Paper towel rolls sell well too. Just make sure when you ship them, you use a box to avoid crushing them. The great thing about selling cardboard rolls is they’re super lightweight so shipping is typically cheap.

Wine Bottles and Corks

Do you drink wine? Is that even a question?

What do you do with the leftover corks? If you’re like most people, you probably recycle the bottles and toss the corks.

But there are people looking for both wine bottles and corks. The going rate seems to be anywhere from $20-30 for two hundred corks. Wine bottles sell for about $1 each but you usually have to clean the labels off and sort them (blue, green, etc.).

Egg Cartons

Like I said earlier, I’ve bought egg cartons on eBay for a DIY soundproofing project, and I was amazed at how many sellers there were.

It doesn’t matter whether you have cardboard, plastic or styrofoam cartons, people are buying them all on eBay. Crafters and backyard chicken enthusiasts seem to be driving this market.

Instead of throwing away your egg cartons why not sell them to someone who will use them and make a little extra cash! Most cartons are selling between $10-49.

Remote Controls

Next time your TV breaks, or if you bought a new one over Black Friday, look online to see if someone’s interested in buying your old remote. For every broken TV, there’s usually a perfectly good remote someone else needs.

It helps if you know the model of the TV that the remote goes with. And make sure you specify the condition and whether you’re including batteries or not. Also, you’re not limited to TV remotes.

People are looking for remotes for all sorts of electronics. Stereo systems, projectors, air conditioners…whatever you have in your junk drawer, someone might be willing to buy.

Box Tops for Education

If you have kids or grandkids, there’s a good chance their schools run competitions for collecting the most box tops.

Instead of throwing them out, stop. You might be able to earn some cash with a few seconds of work. Parents are looking for cheap ways to get these codes and would rather pay a few bucks for a bag of trimmed BTFEs than collect them individually. You’ll get anywhere from $4-25.

Coupons

If you’re not into couponing that’s okay. But there are a lot of people who are and would be willing to pay you for your coupons that you get in the mail.

Depending on the discount and store, buyers will pay $2-10 for 10%, 15% and 25% off coupons. A great example is Pottery Barn – those coupons can go for a few bucks because of how much the savings could net you.

Next time you get a pack of coupons in the mail, take a look at eBay and see if anyone’s buying.

Old Software/ Installation CDs

I bet you’re surprised that someone would pay you for an old copy of Windows or Microsoft Office, right? Well, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

Some people are still using old computers to handle simple jobs, or they’re collecting software to display in their office. In any case, if you have a junk drawer filled with installation CDs and old software packages, you might be able to offload them on eBay.

Empty Makeup Containers

Vintage containers are a big seller online. But you can make some money off newer containers too. M.A.C. a cosmetics brand offers a Back to M.A.C. program that lets you exchange six empty makeup containers for a free lipstick.

If your daughter or wife likes M.A.C. makeup but not a fan of the lipstick, why not sell the containers for cash to someone who will participate in the program.

Huge Pinecones

Crafters love these. If you’ve ever visited a place where there’s massive pine cones, grab a few to take home with you.

There’s a ton of people buying “big” pine cones on eBay for arts and crafts. Big is usually close to the size of a can of soda but anything bigger than average will do. Some of the giant ones, the size of wine or champagne bottles, sell for $10!

Anything Discontinued

This last one seems obvious but I’m not talking about just anything vintage. There’s a ton of random things you can sell that are worth a lot of money that you never would have guessed.

For instance, remember Lehman Brothers? A Lehman Brother’s mousepad can net you $10. The Lehman Brothers 2007 annual report sold for $99!

If an iconic company goes bankrupt, there’s usually some money to be made with the junk that’s left behind. Surprisingly, people want to own this “historic memorabilia.”

These are just a few of the weird things you can make some money off selling on eBay. There’s no doubt a lot more. Next time you’re doing a purge, see if you can make a few bucks by selling your old junk online.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

The post Turn Your Trash into Cash appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Don’t Fret over Winter Woes. Do This Instead!

This post Don’t Fret over Winter Woes. Do This Instead! appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Dear Rich Lifer,

In many parts of the USA, dealing with winter weather is no joke!

Whether you’re in Ohio or Oregon, the snow, freezing cold, and weeks without seeing the sun can really drag you down.

Social occasions also become fewer and farther between because no one wants to go outside in dreadful weather.

Not only that, it’s a major inconvenience to get around, and living costs, like food, car insurance and can be much more expensive, not to mention your heating bill. For many people, winter weather drives prices up and quality of life down.

What’s a Man to Do?

The good news, is now that you’re retired, you don’t have to stay put if you don’t want to… and there are many beautiful cities with warmer weather, low cost of living, and lots to do even in winter.

Moving may seem extreme, but when you think about it, you’re spending a quarter of your life (or more, depending on how far north you are) living a lower, more expensive quality of life. And if you’re suffering from medical conditions like COPD, asthma, or arthritis, the cold isn’t just unpleasant – it can be downright painful and even dangerous.

So maybe it’s time to make the move to warmer weather, become a snowbird, or at least plan extended trip to get away from the worst of winter.

If getting away from the cold weather appeals to you, here are a few cities you should consider retiring in if you want to save money. Best of all, we’ve skipped the costly old favorites like San Diego, Austin, and Ft. Lauderdale. Don’t get me wrong, those cities are well known for a reason, but these cities are just as good – maybe even better – and a lot more affordable, too.

Round Rock, Texas

What’s so special about this place? Round Rock is one of the fastest growing cities in America – and for good reason. The mild weather, sound infrastructure, and low crime make this a very enjoyable place to call home. Also, with a booming real estate market, many of the houses are sporting the latest comforts and amenities.

If you’re a fan of barbecue or Tex-Mex, you’ll be in good company in Round Rock. There are several restaurants specializing in either cuisine, and some of the best barbecue in the world can be found right next door in Austin.

  • Average Temperatures In December – 62 high, 41 low
  • Median Home Price – $275,800

Ahwatukee, Arizona

What’s so special about this place? Life in Ahwatukee is all about relaxing and enjoying the great outdoors. There are three golf courses and opportunities for hiking and trail riding. If cooking is your thing, you can try your hand at the famed Ahwatukee Chili Cookoff – this annual festival lasts three days!

The housing market is moving pretty fast, but don’t worry – with a couple hundred newer homes available, you’ll be sure to find one you love.

  • Average Temperatures In December – 66 high, 39 low
  • Median Home Price – $319,200

Las Cruces, New Mexico

What’s so special about this place? Believe it or not, Las Cruces is getting hot on the wine scene! You can go wine tasting at a number of wineries along the Las Cruces wine trail. If you’re not into the vino, there are tons of other things to do, too – camping, golf, and bird watching are all local favorites.

Whether you want a new custom home or an older home with acreage, Las Cruces has got you covered – just about anything you could wish for in a home is available here, and the housing market is cheaper than many other locations.

  • Average Temperatures In December – 58 high, 29 low
  • Median Home Price – $171,800

Jacksonville, Florida

What’s so special about this place? Anyone who loves the beach would love to call Jacksonville home. With 22 miles of coast, you can enjoy fishing, diving, and (most importantly in my book) surfing, as well as all sorts of other water sports practically year round. If you prefer watching sports, the Jacksonville Jaguars are a local fan favorite – and watching football when it’s warm at the stadium is pretty nice!

Jacksonville real estate isn’t just beachy shacks. If you’re into a particular style of architecture, you’re sure to find it here – there are thousands of homes on the market, so you’re sure to find the perfect one for you at a great price.

  • Average Temperatures In December – 68 high, 49 low
  • Median Home Price – $180,300

Lafayette, Louisiana

What’s so special about this place? A lot of life in Louisiana is all about the food. From crawfish to oysters to etouffee, be prepared to eat like a king! There’s such a rich tradition in this area – French blended with Cajun and Creole – that permeates just about everything, and with the second largest Mardi Gras celebration, a good time is usually had by all.

Simplicity is key in Lafayette homes – you’ll find many comfortable one-story ranch style homes here, and they’re all pretty affordable, too.

  • Average Temperatures In December – 64 high, 45 low
  • Median Home Price – $159,100

Murrieta, California

What’s so special about this place? While the median home price in Murrieta is higher than the others on this list, it’s also more than $100,000 cheaper than the rest of California. It’s also one of the safest cities in the state, and is just a short drive from San Diego or Orange County, so you can hit the beach, visit Disneyland (a great choice if you have young grandkids), or enjoy food and beverages at world class restaurants and breweries.

If you believe bigger is better, then you’ll love house shopping in Murrieta. You’ll find many homes that are 2500Sqft –or even bigger– and many of them are on the new side, too.

  • Average Temperatures In December – 67 high, 49 low
  • Median Home Price – $446,100

Charleston, South Carolina

What’s so special about this place? Charleston is rich in history, and you see that reflected everywhere. There’s a strong arts community here, and you can visit a museum or a beautiful old plantation just about any day of the year. If you prefer being active, they’ve got sailing, fishing, golf, and tons of other activities you can enjoy year round.

If you’re looking for a slice of Americana, you’ll love the homes in Charleston. There are a few classic architectural styles in town – you’ll be sure to enjoy them all.

  • Average Temperatures In December – 61 high, 46 low
  • Median Home Price – $316,500

With choices like these, does it really make sense to stay put through another harsh, horrible winter? Maybe it’s time to find somewhere you’d really love to live…

If you’re not completely sold on moving to one of these cities, now is the perfect time to schedule a trip to see how you like it. You’ll be able to see the sights, learn more about the community, and, of course, escape the cold for a little while!

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

The post Don’t Fret over Winter Woes. Do This Instead! appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

The Best Five Minute Phone Call You’ll Make This Year

This post The Best Five Minute Phone Call You’ll Make This Year appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Dear Rich Lifer,

I love talking about investments that can make you lots of money. But you know what I love even more? Simple strategies that can SAVE you lots of money with very little effort.

After all, even the safest investments carry risk. Meanwhile, some money-saving strategies can end up putting a lot more cash in your pockets with absolutely ZERO risk!

Take insurance. Two weeks ago I answered some popular questions on the topic but one thing I didn’t cover is just how easy it is to shop around for car insurance these days.

So let me ask you: When was the last time you actually DID THAT?

I’ll answer first …

Shopping Around for Insurance

After a year or two, I decided to re-check my options this past week.

And I used a new method this time, which I’ll get to in a minute.

First, as it turns out I’m getting a pretty darn good rate with my current carrier.

But all those commercials and billboards featuring pigs, geckos, and crazy comedian ladies aren’t lying… it is quite common to save thousands if you simply do a little research.

That was my own experience back when my wife and I left Florida.

Back then, and for our new location, Liberty Mutual was able to beat our carrier at the time (Geico) pretty handily, so we switched.

But after we recently changed up our household’s car assortment – and our premiums shot up substantially — I decided to see what else was out there.

At the risk of sounding like an ad, the process literally did take just 15 or 20 minutes with each company I investigated. Yet the savings were massive…

15 Minute Really Can Save You a Bundle

Progressive ended up being 30% cheaper than Liberty Mutual while Geico offered the same basic level of coverage at 58% less cost!

That put thousands of dollars back in my family’s pocket over the next couple years.

These days, I’m in California and back with Geico.

But I do a fresh check every couple of years.

This time, I used a relatively new website to do my check – www.thezebra.com.

After entering some basic info, it came back with quotes from a whole bunch of different carriers.

According to the results, my current policy is a little cheaper than what other places are charging.

However, if it’s been a while since you last shopped for auto insurance, I strongly recommend doing it right away.

You might quickly save yourself a grand or two over the next year.

Here are just a couple things to pay attention to …

Car insurance Variables that You Control

Obviously there’s no way for me to tell you what particular aspects your situation requires, or even what items or choices your state mandates.

What I can say is that you should look carefully at these inputs for two big reasons …

First, you might find new ways to save money even with your current carrier.

For example, a lot of people have roadside assistance through their car’s warranty or AAA, yet they’re paying for the same service on their insurance policy.

They may also be paying for rental reimbursement when they have extra cars that could provide transportation in a pinch.

You might even find that you’re paying for extra medical coverage that is redundant with your healthcare insurance.

Second, you have to use these same inputs when you get competitive quotes.

If your current policy has $500,000 in liability coverage and a $1,000 deductible … there’s no point in comparing it to a quote that has $15,000 and $250, respectively.

It seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people make this mistake. That’s especially true since website quoting tools often use different default inputs.

Call me a geek, but I like using one tool and altering the choices for a while just to get a sense of where the biggest savings come from.

What I’ve personally found is that higher levels of liability coverage cost just ten or twenty dollars more a year. Deductible amounts make a bigger difference since your typical claim is for relatively minor amounts of money.

Obviously, I’ve just scratched the surface of this whole topic. But you don’t have to make it too complicated if you don’t want to.

At the very least, get a little more familiar with what specific variables are currently on your auto and homeowners policies.

Then, use an online web tool to get some competitive quotes.

If you have

Or, take some time and check in with a few big, well-known companies individually.

For that relatively minor investment of time, you might end up getting an immediate return worth hundreds – or even thousands – a year.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

The post The Best Five Minute Phone Call You’ll Make This Year appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Avoid Account Hacks with This Incredible Tool

This post Avoid Account Hacks with This Incredible Tool appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Dear Rich Lifer,

Black Friday is the single biggest shopping day of the year and with more people than ever shopping online, security can be a major concern for shoppers.

It wasn’t too long ago that we experienced the largest security breach in the history of the Internet.

In October 2017, Yahoo! confirmed that 3 billion of its user accounts were hacked.

Names, email addresses, telephone numbers, encrypted and unencrypted security questions and answers, dates of birth, and hashed passwords were all compromised.

The hack occurred on two separate occasions: the first, around August, 2013 affecting over 1 billion Yahoo! users; and the second, sometime in late September, 2014 affecting 500 million user accounts.

According to Yahoo!, the 2014 breach was carried out by a “state-sponsored actor” and the organization claims that such “intrusions and thefts by state-sponsored actors have become increasingly common across the technology industry.”

Because of how late both data breaches were disclosed to the public and to its users, Yahoo! is currently facing several lawsuits as well as investigation by members of the United States Congress.

The scary part about the whole thing is what kind of damage these criminals are doing with all this data.

Even if they got their hands on just one of your passwords, it can spell disaster. A Virginia Tech study, found that over 50 percent of people reuse the same password across multiple accounts.

If one of your accounts is compromised, hackers can usually access all your accounts. The average Internet user, has approximately 100 different logins that utilize the same email address. If hackers were ever to get a hold of your email password, you’d be in big trouble.

But with all the different accounts and required logins across the web, how is it possible for anyone to remember multiple strong passwords?

Meet Password Managers

Like the name suggests, a password manager’s job is to create, store and recall passwords for you. Think of them like a vault for all your different account logins that can be accessed through one “master” password.

A lot of password managers are websites and apps, so you have access to all your passwords regardless of the device you’re on.

The most popular password managers to date are: Dashlane, 1 Password, Last Pass, BitWarden, Keeper, RoboForm, and ZOHO Vault, to name a few. Generally, they’re free to start and some offer paid subscriptions with additional security features.

How Password Managers Work

The learning curve of going from writing down all your logins and passwords inside a notebook, to saving all this information inside a digital vault, might seem intimidating. But don’t worry, it’s relatively painless once you get setup.

For most password managers, you create an account by providing your name, email address and a “master” password that gives you access to your digital vault. This is the one and only password you’ll need to remember forever now.

Once inside, you’ll probably see familiar logos for popular brands on the web, including Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, Gmail, eBay, and so on. You can also call up your favorite site or bank or any other place you frequent online that you need a password to use.

Tap on one of the logos, and you’ll be prompted to enter your username and password for that site. For example, if you want to save your Facebook login inside your password manager, you’d click the Facebook logo and when it prompts you, fill in your regular Facebook login. After you’ve finished, your Facebook login and password are now saved inside the vault.

Next time you need to remember your Facebook password, you can either login to your digital vault using your master password then search for your Facebook account credentials and copy and paste that info into the Facebook form. Or, most password managers offer web browser plugins that auto-fill website forms for you with the tap of a button – all you have to do is unlock your vault by providing your master password.

How password managers are able to do all this is through the “cloud” online. Which means, you can access your digital vault from any device, anywhere, and all your passwords will sync across your devices. So if you change a website login on your phone, your desktop should update as well.

Are Password Managers Safe?

You must be wondering whether or not all this is safe?

For every website or app password you store inside the vault, you can choose to require your master password only or your master password and a PIN code or fingerprint (on a mobile phone or tablet) for “two-factor authentication.”

But what if your phone or laptop is lost or stolen? Couldn’t someone access all your passwords if they figure out your master password?

They’d also need to figure out your phone or laptop password to gain access to your device, then guess your master password correctly. This would be highly unlikely to ever happen.

Another important feature password managers offer is password generation. When you need to create a new login for a website, your password manager will offer to generate strong passwords for you. The strong password will be saved inside your vault and make it really hard for hackers to access multiple accounts.

So instead of having all your accounts using the same password, you now have different strong passwords across multiple websites.

Also, all your passwords are encrypted with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and AES-256, the strongest grade of encryption available (banks use 128- or 256-bit encryption).

So, to answer the question, yes, password managers are safe!

How to Get Started

If you’re interested in using a password manager, (which I hope you are) then check out some of the links above or search online for “password managers.” Like I said, most are free to start and offer paid upgrades.

The risk-reward here is obvious. The pain and hassle of trying to organize multiple passwords and logins versus having one, secure password manager that does it all for you is a no brainer.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

The post Avoid Account Hacks with This Incredible Tool appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Shop and Save from the Comfort of Your Couch

This post Shop and Save from the Comfort of Your Couch appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Dear Rich Lifer,

Some people love the hustle and bustle of the first big day of the holiday shopping season. They love to wake up early, pour a stiff cup of joe, grab their warmest jacket and head out before the crack of dawn to line up, camp out, and get the best deals and doorbusters on Black Friday.

Some people, though, are more inclined to sleep in, stay cozy, watch the big football game and enjoy the holiday weekend with their family. If that sounds like you, you might be worried that you’ll miss out on all the biggest sales, and that’s disappointing. After all, everyone wants to save money, right?

Not to worry, in the last few years, online shopping has skyrocketed… and retailers have noticed.

In fact, in 2018, online shopping alone brought in $6.8 Billion on Black Friday. Cyber Monday was no slouch either, bringing in a cool $7.8 Billion. These two days of online shopping showed an increase of 23% and 18% respectively over the prior year – and that’s not even counting any sales captured on the Saturday and Sunday in between!

With stats like these, it’s no wonder that retailers are paying attention. In an attempt to drive their Black Friday sales even higher, they’re following suit with fantastic deals online. After studying the trends of the past, I’ve compiled a list of the best ways for you to capitalize on those deals.

With these tips, you can save big from the comfort of your own home, read on!

Plan Ahead, Make A Budget, And Stick To It

Whether you’re shopping in-store or online, you need a plan if you want to stay in the black this holiday season. Write down who you’re shopping for, what they might like, how much you want to spend per person, and how much you intend to spend overall so you can stick close to your numbers. Believe or not, adhering to an Excel spreadsheet, or even a good old fashioned handwritten list can keep your expenditures in check. So figure out your numbers ahead of time, and the temptation to splurge will be much easier to avoid.

Know What You’re Looking For

If you’re still in the browsing and information gathering phase, start with the ads to see what items you can expect to see sale pricing on.

Check out sites like BFads.net or blackfriday.gottadeal.com to look at all the flyers in one place, and get on your favorite retailers’ email lists so you can get a general overview of what deals will be available come in the next few days.

Shop Safely

Not all websites are created equal, so listen to your intuition. If you’ve never heard of a site before, but they’re advertising an insanely good deal, make sure they’re legitimate with ResellerRatings.com before you hit the “Buy Now” button.

Another thing you can look for is “https” in the web address. This means the site has SSL encryption – sites with an SSL certificate are much more secure than those without one.

Consider The Unlisted Benefits

While some sites will show a low price, they’ll make up for it with hefty shipping and handling charges. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples by adding the item to cart and calculating all the costs before you commit.

Brush Up On Return Policies

Unfortunately, gifts don’t always go over the way you hope they will. Make sure you can get your money back for them after the fact if need be by researching the return policy ahead of time.

Luckily, many retailers now allow in-store returns for online purchases, so this part of the process is easier than ever before.

Use Credit Cards The Smart Way

If you’re using credit cards instead of your debit card this shopping season, why not double down on savings and use the cards with cash back? Just make sure you pay it off before interest charges hit to really take advantage of this benefit.

Want one more feature of shopping with credit cards? You can get points back, and if you shop through your card’s shopping portal (such as American Express’s Membership Rewards program), you can rake in even more bonuses. See what programs your credit card offers and map out how you can use them best.

Research With Online Tools

You don’t need to hit up site after site to find the best online deals. Instead, try the Google Shopping feature or services like Shopzilla, NexTag, and PriceGrabber to compare pricing quickly. This way, you’ll save time and money.

Collect Cash Back

When you’re shopping online, you can also get instant rebates with sites like Rakuten. During the majority of the year, Rakuten will give you rebates up to 10% at many retailers, but during special shopping periods, they give back even more. Best of all, there’s a Google Chrome browser extension for Rakuten that allows you to collect this cash back automatically every time you shop at one of the retailers in their program – no long process required!

Shop In Private Browser Windows

This is a next-level savings trick. When you’ve visited a site before, they know you’re already a fan. When you view the site in a private or incognito window, however, you’re more likely to get better coupons and first-time buyer specials.

Disabling your cookies has a similar effect, but that approach can cause inconveniences down the line, so pick the option that works better for you.

Sign Up On Social

Following your favorite retailers on Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram is a good way to get special access coupon codes and limited time only offers. If you’re not into social media, you can always join their individual email lists instead – this is a great way to get coupons and special sales, too.

Give In To Instant Gratification

If you want to avoid the stress of shopping in-store, but you love the feeling of having your items right away, you’re in luck. Many retailers offer in-store pick up, so you can order online and then pick your items up same day – often with the same amazing deals you’d normally only get by waiting days to receive your purchases. Talk about win / win!

There you have it – 10+ ways you can stay home on Black Friday and still save big. With tips like these, you can have a happier, easier holiday season, so pick your favorites and have a good time shopping!

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

The post Shop and Save from the Comfort of Your Couch appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Your Must-Read Black Friday Shopping Guide

This post Your Must-Read Black Friday Shopping Guide appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Dear Rich Lifer,

With the first few days of fall past us, chances are good you’re thinking ahead to the holiday season. Whether you love the joy the season brings, or mostly just dread the looming credit card bills that come after the fact, it’s coming up fast.

Fortunately, if you like to save big when you’re shopping for thoughtful presents for everyone on your list, Black Friday is coming up, too.

I know, I know – Black Friday used to be too crazy to bear. In the past, news stories about fistfights breaking out over the last doll at Toys R Us or people getting trampled on their way to grab discounted TVs is enough to make all but the most deal-conscious shopper decide to stay home.

The good news, though, is that Black Friday doesn’t have to be a horrible, stressful experience anymore. With a few tips and tricks, you can even have a fun time shopping – and saving – this Black Friday.

Black Friday by the Numbers.

Black Friday is by far the most popular, highest-grossing retail sales day of the year. It falls on the day after Thanksgiving every year, and it’s become universally accepted as the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Since it falls on a Friday, many employers even give their staff the day off. The concept of Black Friday has even extended beyond the shores of the US. As many as 20 countries had big Black Friday sales last year.

Last year, over 174 million shoppers visited retail stores on Black Friday, and the average consumer spent $1,007. Collectively, Black Friday sales totals added up to $717.5 billion.

These numbers are only expected to increase in 2019, so it’s more important than ever to plan ahead if you want to get the best deals offered on Black Friday.

Of course there will be lots of deep discounts offered online, (don’t worry I’ll cover that tomorrow) but part of the Black Friday experience is shopping in-store. So, if you are the type that likes to get down in the trenches, I’ve compiled a list of tips for you so you can make the most of your hands on shopping experience.

Set A Budget & Make A List

This is an important tip no matter how you decide to shop this holiday season. After all, 57% of shoppers overspend when they don’t have a budget in place. Also, make a list of who you intend to give gifts to so you’ll be able to plan properly.

Look At Historical Trends

Trends on Black Fridays past are a pretty good indicator of how this year’s sales will go. In the past few years, the deepest discounts have been on televisions, laptops, PCs, gaming platforms, and Apple devices. Big box retailers know these items will be some of the most desireable, so they mark these down to attract shoppers in-store. In addition to electronics, you can also find good deals on soft goods like clothing, makeup, and housewares at department stores, like Macy’s.

Research Prices Beforehand

Some retailers get a little sneaky this time of year and slowly raise pricing so they can slash it back down to normal again on Black Friday. This gives the appearance of a deep discount, but it’s really not. Use price tracker tools (such as Camelcamelcamel.com for Amazon pricing) to research the price history of an item before you commit.

Search For Doorbuster Deals

The best part about shopping in-store for Black Friday is doorbuster deals! Again, retailers want you to come in and fill your carts, so they offer big sales on specific items for a limited time. Sometimes, they’ll also offer pop-up sales through the day, too. These deals are usually the best price you can possibly get for an item, so if you want something specific, make sure you’re at the right place at the right time!

On Time Is Too Late, So Be Early

If you decide to shop in-store, set your alarm and prep the coffee maker – the early bird really does get the worm on Black Friday. Stores are opening even earlier than in years past – some are even opening on Thanksgiving night to catch the most shoppers. Look for the time your favorite store will open and then make a plan to show up as early as possible.

Go Shopping Earlier In The Week

In the recent past, some retailers have expanded their Black Friday sales even earlier than Thanksgiving Day. This year, you can expect to find good deals all throughout Thanksgiving week. Do your research and prepare to get started as early as Monday.

Use Discounted Gift Cards To Shop

When it comes to savings, some is good, but more is better, right? To make your purchasing dollar stretch even further, buy discounted gift cards ahead of time at sites like Raise.com or at stores like Costco, and shop with those instead of your debit card.

Look For Bundles & Gifts With Purchase

When shopping, keep an eye out for bundles and gifts with purchase. Many retailers will give away full sized products like perfume, housewares, clothing, and more to sweeten an already good detail. Those freebies make great gifts, too, so you can essentially knock out two birds with one stone!

Download The Best Apps

Even when shopping in-store, you can get the digital edge with the latest shopping apps. For example, Shopular is a location-sensitive app that will tell you all the current deals when you walk into your favorite stores. It also comes with a built in rebate feature that helps you save even more. The Coupons App is a coupon aggregator – it has customizable alerts that let you know when a new coupon pops up or when a new Black Friday flyer is released. And finally, The Black Friday App gives you all the information you could possibly want – from flyers to shoppable deals right inside the app, this one can help you save big with just a few keystrokes on your phone.

Use these tips to plan your purchases, research the best deals ahead of time, and get big discounts on the gifts your family members want the most. With this list, you can have a stress free Black Friday shopping experience and lighter credit card bills come January.

Remember – it’s never too early to start planning when it comes to savings!

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

The post Your Must-Read Black Friday Shopping Guide appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Turkey Day Confidential

This post Turkey Day Confidential appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Dear Rich Lifer,

There are many wonderful things to be thankful for this holiday season: family, friends, our homes and jobs, the delicious food…but what about our health?

Did you know that the average American gains up to five pounds in the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas? While there are many factors that can lead to this weight gain, overeating is easily a key factor.

Throughout the holiday season, it seems as though our main focus is food! Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas cookies, eggnog and cocoa, Christmas dinner…and of course all the leftovers! How do we balance these delicious treats while keeping an eye on our health and avoiding those pesky pounds?

Fortunately, I have a few no hassle ways to tighten your belt this holiday season, without feeling as though you’re sacrificing tradition and all the fun of Thanksgiving.

Load Up on the Veggies (No, Mashed Potatoes Don’t Count)

While stuffing and mashed potatoes are delicious, your carb-filled side dishes should only take up about a quarter of your plate. Fill another quarter with delicious turkey (or ham if you go the non-traditional route), and the other half of your plate with veggies.

Vegetables are loaded with fiber, which helps you feel full faster. Remember, everything in moderation. Don’t worry about restricting yourself during one of the most treasured meals of the year, cutting carbs during the Thanksgiving meal is a lost cause. Instead, take a smaller portion size so that you can still enjoy the meal without going overboard.

After your first plate of food, wait about twenty minutes before grabbing seconds. That will give your brain enough time to process whether or not you even have room for more food. This is a mindset you can apply to all of your meals and snacks.

Slow down to give your body time to process and really focus on enjoying your meal. Which leads me to my next point…

Take Your Time

During a delicious Thanksgiving meal it is only natural to –gobble– down your food quickly, but did you know that this habit is a huge factor in weight gain? If you eat slower, you end up consuming less food by the time your brain tells you you’re full.

If you eat too quickly, you consume more by the time your brain can process how full your stomach is. So take slow, small bites and enjoy being a part of the conversation at the dinner table.

Cut Back on Butter

I recently came across a video tutorial for prepping “The Tastiest Thanksgiving Turkey of All Time”. I was halfway through the video (and drooling) when I realized that what was making this meal unique was that the chef was quite literally stuffing his turkey with butter.

Butter was coating this turkey inside and out. While butter is a way to enhance to just about any meal, there are significantly healthier alternatives to experiment with this holiday season. Try flavoring your turkey with fresh garlic and onion, and herbs like rosemary.

Your food will taste amazing, and your arteries will thank you!

Skip the Extras

It is not unusual for a Thanksgiving host to provide appetizers before the holiday meal begins. Who doesn’t enjoy a spread of cheese and crackers, mini weenies, or chips and a fancy dip while watching the Thanksgiving football game?

Unfortunately for us, when we load up on pre-dinner snacks, we can end up consuming tons of extra calories before the big meal even begins! If given the option of a veggie plate, indulge to your heart’s content, but try and let the dips and spinach puffs go this year.

Ditch Canned Pie Filling

Arguably the best part of Thanksgiving dinner: Dessert. Approximately 50 million pumpkin pies are eaten on Thanksgiving each year. Even with those staggering statistics, pumpkin pie is still comes in second when compared to America’s favorite pie: Apple.

Look, I don’t expect anyone to pass on the pie, especially on Thanksgiving day. But consider some simple ways to healthily freshen up your Thanksgiving desserts without compromising flavor.

Donate your canned pie filling to the nearest food bank and make your own! Canned pie fillings are loaded with sugar and syrup. Use fresh ingredients to make a dessert that your friends or family will remember.

Additionally, baking your own desserts will get you up and moving, which will burn a few extra calories and help you enjoy your holiday meal, guilt-free.

Does One Meal Define Your Diet?

At the end of the day, no one is asking you to skip your Thanksgiving dinner. Becoming more aware of what you’re eating is a crucial step to making healthier choices.

One meal does not a diet make, nor does one meal a diet break. With days growing shorter and nights longer, it becomes very simple to fall into habits of overeating and avoiding exercise. The reason that so many Americans gain weight throughout the holiday season is not because they indulged in one Thanksgiving dinner, but instead, because they develop unhealthy and sedentary habits.

After that Thanksgiving meal come Thanksgiving left-overs, and then the Christmas cookies and baked goods, and so on and so forth until we find ourselves thawing out for spring heavier than we were before. Don’t let yourself become a statistic this holiday season.

One of the best gifts you can give to your loved ones is your own health. Take charge of your nutrition and do all that you can to keep your body moving and filled with the right kinds of foods.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

The post Turkey Day Confidential appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Pirates Abound in Unwatched Waters

This post Pirates Abound in Unwatched Waters appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Dear Rich Lifer,

As the weather gets colder here in the US, and the dulcet tones of Christmas music permeate the air in every store, you might start to get in the holiday mood…

You might even start shopping or planning your gifts a little early…

But if you’re thinking about buying online and having items delivered to your home, you might want to think again…

Because package theft (also known as “porch piracy”) is on the rise – big time.

In a recent report featuring data from 2017, the makers of the Ring doorbell tell us that 39% of people have had a package stolen over the course of a year. No small number, and not a cheap one either. The average value of these packages is $140!

This year, ecommerce and home delivery are expected to rise as much as 16%, so it’s likely that instances of package theft won’t slow down any time soon.

And this isn’t just limited to urban areas, either. It’s true that cities like San Francisco, CA, and Austin, TX have some of the worst instances of package theft, but according to CNBC, the mainly rural state of North Dakota reports more theft than any other state!

These thefts occur at night sometimes, but they mostly happen during the day – some even just minutes after your package is delivered.

Perhaps worst of all? The offenders almost never get caught. City-Journal reports that less than 10% of reported cases of package theft will end in an arrest – and of that group, only a small minority will ever get prosecuted or punished for their crimes.

The good news is there are a couple of easy things you can do to defend against porch pirates…

And instead of losing time and money, I’ll even tell you how you can save a little cash while doing it.

Defending Against Pirates

First, stay aware. Join an app like NextDoor so you can keep an ear on what’s going on in your neighborhood. If there’s an uptick in mail thefts or porch piracy, you’ll know you need to be on high alert.

Next, consider sending your items to a parcel locker instead of your home. Yes, it’s more convenient to have Amazon bring just about everything to your door, but with every package comes the risk of theft. If your items are sent to a parcel locker, you can arrange to pick them up every few days and have the peace of mind to know nothing is being stolen.

If you have to have something sent to your home, make sure you keep an eye on the delivery updates. Some companies will even text when an item is at your door, so you can go get your package before a thief can scoop it up.

Sometimes, you may be expecting a package at a time you have to head out. Ask a close neighbor to keep an eye out for you, and then return the favor when they’re away, too. The fewer times a thief is successful, the less chance they’re likely to return to your neighborhood.

Ask carriers to leave your package somewhere other than the front porch. Of course, this method isn’t foolproof, but it takes a much gutsier thief to sneak into your backyard than it does to just grab an item from the front door and walk away.

Finally, you should also consider investing in home surveillance equipment. With some of the new systems, you can catch thieves in the act and even confront them from afar as your surveillance system will alert you when someone comes to your door.

Here are a few ways to save when it comes to installing home surveillance equipment.

Know Your Needs

The mega-systems available at many big box retailers look great, but they’re truly overkill for properties that are on the small side. Why pay for cameras you don’t need and can’t use, right? In order to observe what goes on outside your home, you’ll need cameras for front door, back door, side and back windows, and backyard or side gate. This will help you keep an eye on the whole property – even beyond just the threat of porch pirates.

Buy Right

Big box stores have great pricing on sets of surveillance cameras, but they’re notoriously unhelpful when it comes to installation or troubleshooting. If you’re very comfortable with DIY, then go ahead and buy from somewhere like Amazon, Best Buy, or Costco, but if you want more assistance with the process, look for a smaller company that specializes in surveillance equipment only.

Understand the Available Features

If you’re not worried about package theft, you might not care if you can speak to people at your door remotely, but if it’s a big concern for you, make sure the system you pick has speakers, for example. There are tons of surveillance set ups out there, so do research to make sure you’re choosing the right one for you. You can use sites like Cnet.com to validate your ideas.

Pick the Right Brands

You probably don’t want to go cheap on this. Some low-end surveillance kits will offer everything they think you need, but you might need to add additional cameras or upgrade components in the future. If you pick a quality brand with a wide variety of equipment available, you’ll have the flexibility you need and durable equipment that will save you money in the long run.

Wait for Sales

Once you know what brands and components you’re looking for, you can start scanning for upcoming deals. With Black Friday coming up, you can expect to see deals galore, but if you decide to shop for your equipment later in the year, you can still find great prices by using sites like SlickDeals.net to scour for savings.

Call Your Insurance Company

Once you’ve got your home surveillance system installed, contact your homeowners insurance company and ask for a discount on your policy. Most of the biggest insurance providers will give you a break for having this extra equipment.

You may not be able to stop every bad thing that might occur, but with the right precautions and surveillance, you can deter package thieves and other would-be criminals from doing harm. Put the work in now – before the packages start getting delivered in droves. You won’t regret it.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

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