December 31, 2008

Free Shipping and Clearance Sales from Overstock.Com

I love a bargain, and I routinely stop by HalfPrice Books and the Ross Dress for Less next door to check out their clearance shelves. It's amazing some of the great stuff I've found this way ....

Well, shopping online has some great bargains, too -- but there's that shipping cost problem. (And, yes, the inability to physically check out the product -- I find it hard to buy shoes, for example, online if I haven't already tried on the same pair in a local store.)

Overstock.Com is addressing that problem, here's what is on its site today:

$1 shipping offer applies to U.S. orders with standard shipping only. For expedited shipping, additional charges apply. This offer applies to the lower U.S. 48 states and APO/FPO destinations only. This offer excludes orders comprised solely of products from the "Books, Music, Movies & Games", "Gift Cards", and "Auctions" categories. Offer ends January 5, 2009 @ 11:59 PM MST.

Looks like there are some good finds at the clearance section of the site, too, in case you're interested in buying anything. (That, of course, is an entirely different question ....)

December 29, 2008

Expatriates: Are You Considering Moving Overseas Because of the Economy?

There's more and more talk about Americans relocating to other countries as the American economy continues its downslide -- there's a lower cost of living, there's less stress, there are already established expatriate communities to consider.

If you're one of those Americans considering a move to another country, there's lots to ponder. First, there is a lot of information about cost of living, jobs, and culture for a variety of destinations over at the ExpatForum -- here you can read about living in Australia or Malaysia or elsewhere, and there are lots of forums set up so you can communicate directly with expatriates who are already living in your target location. Other informative sites are Expat Exchange and Expat Essentials.

It's fun and exciting to surf through these sites, and ponder your new, simple life in a beautiful, tranquil, and inexpensive location. However, there's a lot of investigation to be done.

You're considering a new daily life, not an extended vacation. For instance:

1. Consider Taxation - How Much Will You Have to Pay Now and in the Near Future?

There's some reporting that expats will be facing increasing taxation in the future. The National reports (12/29/08):

The United States is not most countries, however. Citizens living abroad must continue to file returns and pay tax on their worldwide income, although the first US$82,400 (Dh302,655) in foreign employment or business earnings is excluded, plus a bit more, sometimes, for housing expenses.

With one hand in their wallet already, are Americans more at risk of a tax hike than other expats? Could they be asked to pay more?

“It would be a fairly easy to thing to do,” said Patrick Stevens, a tax partner in London for Ernst & Young. “All they would have to do is reduce or wipe out the excluded amount.”

He is not betting on it, but something that produced the same result occurred just two years ago. While the earned-income exclusion was raised from $80,000, tinkering in the formula for the housing allowance led to sharp increases in tax liability for some overseas Americans.

J.D. Foster, a researcher in tax and entitlement policy at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank, does not expect any similar move – yet. His somewhat paradoxical reasoning is that the US treasury needs too much revenue.

“I don’t think it’s all that probable simply because deficits will be so large for the next couple of years and the amounts raised would be so small that it’s not worth it,” he explained. He warned, though, that it may become worth it later.

“There’s a legitimate concern for two or three years from now,” Mr. Foster said, “as Obama will have to demonstrate to the markets that after these unprecedented deficits he’s concerned about fiscal discipline.”

2. Consider Crime - Kidnapping of Americans Is a Risk in Some Areas
Kidnapping Americans for ransom is considered a business enterprise in some parts of the world, and while this may be more of a risk for the overseas American businessman and his family, it's a risk to be considered by retirees and other "rich Americans" in many regions.

December 28, 2008

Books on Simplicity Rising in Popularity (Though They're Calling it Frugality): Here's a Reading List

Over at the Salt Lake City Tribune, they're sharing an article written by Susan Carpenter of the Los Angeles Times, "Books: Concept of frugality makes comeback - Salt Lake Tribune". And guess what? It's all about that classic simplicity tome, Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin.

Yep, the one written about 40 years ago ... although it has been revised and updated for today's market. Of course, they're confusing frugality and simplicity: leading a simple life is a lifestyle that is far from lack (which the term "frugality" might suggest). Simplify your lifestyle and enrich your life - simplicity isn't about loss, it's about gain.

If you're interested in reading more about living a simple life, here are some Simplicity books worth your time:

Finding Happiness by Christopher Jamison

100 Ways to Simplify Your Life by Joyce Meyer

Choosing Simplicity: Real People Finding Peace and Fulfillment in a Complex World by Linda Breen Pierce

Living the Simple life: A Guide to Scaling Down and Enjoying More by Elaine St. James

Voluntary Simplicity, Revised Edition: Toward a Life that is Inwardly Simple, Outwardly Rich by Duane Elgin

The Simple Living Guide by Janet Luhrs

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Simple Living

Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic by John de Graaf, David Wann, Thomas H. Naylor

Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Approval Addiction: Overcoming Your Need to Please Everyone by Joyce Meyer

For more, check out Books to Read at Everyday Simplicity.

December 27, 2008

Blog to Read: Jack Quits $300K Job for Simple Living

Here's a nice blog that gives lots of details on the actual, day to day process of changing one's lifestyle to one of simple living. Over at Adventures in Voluntary Simplicity, Jack shares his personal story of quiting a $300K job as an attorney to follow a life of voluntary simplicity.

Yes, this is the guy who burned his Harvard Law diploma and put the video on YouTube. I don't see that video posted on the blog, however.

December 26, 2008

Cheap Eats and Frugal Recipes: Chicken Tortilla Soup

Okay, another recipe. Because it's cold out and this tastes great. Really, really great. Soup for breakfast great.

Rebecca's Chicken Tortilla Soup

3-4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 cans Rotel tomatoes with green chiles
2 poblano peppers, chopped
1 large sweet onion, chopped
5 medium plum tomatoes, quartered
3 T garlic (I like garlic)
2 cans chicken broth
1 can tomato paste
1 T comino
1 T chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
2 bunches fresh cilantro, chopped
shredded Mexican 4-cheese blend (Kraft)
corn tortilla chips

In a Dutch oven (mine is a 5.5 qt Le Creuset, woo), combine all the ingredients except 1 bunch of the cilantro, the cheese, and the chips. (I know many say never add fresh herbs till the end, but I like to put fresh cilantro in this soup while it's cooking.) Add water as needed to cover the ingredients, you want a good amount of liquid. It'll boil down.

Simmer for 1-2 hours, till done. Remove the chicken breasts, take fork and shred them. Return the shreds into the soup. Add the remaining chopped cilantro.

Serve in bowls with crushed tortilla chips and shredded cheese on top. Some folk add sliced avocado and/or globs of sour cream. You choose - I didn't miss them.

December 24, 2008

Cheap Eats and Frugal Recipes: The Grilled Cheese Sandwich

We've all have them, we all love them, and there's lots of memories we all share about the All American Grilled Cheese Sandwich.

Here's what I recommend as your jumping-off board for a Great Grilled Cheese:

1. It's GRILLED. None of this throwing the bread into a toaster and then slapping the cheese between the toasted slices and nuking it in the microwave. That's just sad. Don't try the toaster oven, either. Suck it up and get your frying pan out. You've got to use the stove top for this one.

2. Get your butter. Not fake butter - no Country Crock here. The real stuff. Throw a tablespoon into your frying pan, or onto your griddle, and let it melt.

3. Take two thick slices of bread and throw them onto the hot, buttery panface. Here, you can play with flavors and textures as time goes by: a pumpernickel grilled cheese can be decadent, a rye can be nice, and a traditional white bread can be scrumpious. Around here, it's usually a 12-grain baked by the local grocer.

4. Slap some mustard and some mayo onto those slices as they are toasting up. I suppose you could do this before they hit the heat, but it can be messier that way. And, yes -- one of the big secrets here is a little bit of both: mustard and mayo.

5. Now, carefully place your cheese slices on the bread. A little on each toasting slice. Once again, play with the flavors. Swiss with the rye and some German mustard versus american on whole wheat with dijon - you get the idea.

6. Using a spatula, take one of your slices and carefully place it atop the other. Voila! A magnificent, tasty, and cheap meal for you!

For more information:

Alton Brown's Big Cheese Squeeze (he grates his cheese, and opts for olive oil instead of butter)

Emeril's Baby Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (he uses cream cheese combined with mascapone, and adds chives to the mix)

Sandra Lee's Grilled Cheese and Crab Sandwiches (yep, she adds canned crab to shredded Gruyere)

Julia Child's Grilled Cheese and Onion Sandwich () she uses English Muffins, thinly sliced raw onions, and Parmesan cheese).

December 23, 2008

Still More Free Movies: Fancast

Fancast is creating quite a nice menu of movies and TV show episodes that you can watch for free. As an example of what you can see, right now, for free, check out some of their listings under M and N:

The Madness of King George
The Magic Sword
The Magnificent Seven
The Man Who Never Was
Man Without a Gun
The Man from Planet X
Man of La Mancha
Master and Commander

The Milagro Beanfield War
Moby Dick
More Dead Than Alive
Mrs. Pollifax - Spy
Murders in the Rue Morgue
Muscle Beach Party
My Name Is Joe

Naked Lunch
Ned Kelly
Niagara, Niagara
Nicholas Nickleby
The Night of the Hunter
Night of the Living Dead
Nine Lives
Nobody's Fool
North Shore

December 21, 2008

Planning for 2009 : Free Calendars, Planners, List Makers, and More

Get ready to hit the ground running in 2009 with these free and very useful planning tools:

1. Grocery List Maker

You do have to join the CommonSenseCommunity here, but this is a nice tool to have. You can create your grocery list from any computer (think work and home) - adding an item here and there as you think of it - and then once it's done, have the complete grocery list emailed to you in time for the weekly store run.

2. Family Budget Planner

Microsoft Office has lots of free templates to choose from -- this Family Budget Planner is one that ranks 4.5 stars and has been downloaded over 2,000,000 times at the time of this posting. Looks like it's well received, right?

3. My Yahoo! Calendar and Life Planner

Along with millions of others, I've stuck with my Yahoo! online calendar over the years because it's served me well, and I really like the timers, alarms, and other things (sync, share) that come with this package (more than I've seen elsewhere). It's more than just a calendar -- other than defining goals for you, the Yahoo! Calendar really acts as more of a planner than just an online calendar.

For example, this calendar allows you to list Events and Tasks - and there's not a time frame here. Plus, it's online - reach it from anywhere, anytime and you don't lose it should your computer crash. Over time, it's built my life quite nicely: until I change things, Yahoo! will remind me about annual events (birthdays, anniversarys, etc.) as well as deadlines (two weeks till publisher's deadline, etc.) in perpetuity.

I can set goals in the Task Lists, then set little deadlines for myself to accomplish each step needed to reach that goal in the Events List. I'll start getting email reminders, etc. according to the schedule I've chosen ... I find this to be really helpful.

4. Fitness Tracker/Weight Loss Planner

FitDay is something that I've used for years. It's just got everything you'd need or want to track your physical needs, as well as your fitness goals and diet progress. The free online account gives you too much information to list here ... it's one of those examples of how great the Web can be.

5. Inspiration to Keep Going

Have a motivational quote delivered to your inbox each morning over at GoalSettingGuide. There's another one over at NightingaleConant, in case you want to pick between the two - or if you want to get two cheerleading emails each day.

December 9, 2008

Predicting 2009: Faith Popcorn's BrainReserve Gives Insights: Simple Living Is the New Black

Faith Popcorn? Do I jest?

Nope. Faith Popcorn has spent the past 30 years successfully mapping out what the future holds, primarily for marketing purposes. She's a real person, and her company is a thinktank called the Brain Reserve.

And, here's what Faith Popcorn predicts for 2009 in her latest press release (emphasis added on the portion discussing simplicity or simple living):

NEW YORK, Dec 03, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Leading future-focused Trend consultancy Faith Popcorn's BrainReserve sees 2009 as a year marked by unprecedented fear, anxiety, and uncertainty.

A year in which we'll see a range of consumer reactions to a nation that has seen itself moving in the wrong direction.

Faith Popcorn notes: "This is not a momentary correction, nor a down cycle -- it's the end of the world as we know it. What we'll be deciding in 2009 is whether we'll simply succumb, or whether through a new set of Rules of Engagement, we'll find a new way to set our priorities."
As has been their practice for over three decades, FPBR is applying their TrendBank, 17 insights that are predictive of consumer habits, practices, preferences and behaviors to the ever accelerating changes that drive our Culture.

The four New Rules of Engagement are: Reclaim, Retrench, Reset and Reinvent.

Reframing our power relationship with Companies.

Driven by Icon Toppling -- A new socioquake transforms mainstream America and the world as the pillars of society are questioned and rejected.

Look for: The death of the Consumer, long live the Citizen. With the mutuality of responsibility, Citizenship suggests -- shared values, shared interests, democratic decision making, full disclosure and a free ranging, ongoing dialogue.

2. RETRENCH: Hunkering down and praying for survival.

Driven by Cocooning: Retreating to home to protect oneself from the harsh, unpredictable realities of the outside world.

We'll see that: Cuddles Trump Coupons. A premium based on brands that demonstrate "empathy"; an understanding of the consumer plight -- it's going to be a combination of messaging, price, and purchase continuity programs that offer progressive refunds, as just a few examples. The strategy is simple -- be with them when they're down; they'll remember you when they're up.

3. RESET: Voluntary cutback to find a new equilibrium.

Driven by Cashing Out: Questioning personal/career satisfaction and goals, people opt for simpler living.

It means: We're Scrooged: If you're looking for immediate proof, watch Christmas '08 sales. The worst downside estimate I've seen is -5%, it will be double digit. Black Friday's top-line sales growth is a false metric. Retailers can ignite a consumption spark via discounting, but will the operation survive at zero margin contribution? How many will resist the temptations of store visits and turn to online shopping? Will they ever come back?

4. REINVENT: A rediscovery and reaffirmation of American Ingenuity.

Driven by Fantasy Adventure: The modern age whets our appetite for roads untaken.

Watch the development of A Wampum Economy. A shadow economy will emerge; driven by a culture of haggling, swapping, bartering, hacking, and re-using. It all hearkens back to a time where a direct Citizen to Citizen relationship drove the economy, rather than being disintermediated by channel and manufacturing.

Ms. Popcorn is available to discuss The New Rules of Engagement, including additional predictions that are tangible manifestations of these New Rules.

Please call Kathleen Cantwell on 212-792-6333 to arrange an interview, or submit queries to

SOURCE Faith Popcorn's BrainReserve

December 2, 2008

Movies to See: You Can't Take It With You

Here's a great movie that shows Simple Living is far from a new and trendy concept: this is a 1938 film based upon a Pulitzer-Prize winning play written by Kaufman and Hart dealing with materialism, greed, and voluntarily simplicity as a viable lifestyle option.

It's just great. Directed by Frank Capra, it's got an all-star cast including Lionel Barrymore, Jimmy Stewart, and Jean Arthur. The supporting roles are filled with familiar faces, too -- you find Ann Miller, who dances quite a lot (though she's so good that she can't quite fool you into believing that her character is really a bad, bad dancer) and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson is a nice surprise - both he and Jimmy Stewart are lots younger here than how we tend to remember them now.

It's a witty film without being weighty. The whole family can watch this one and get something out of it. And, the play's even got an online study guide (learn such things as this movie being created as one of the origins of today's TV sitcoms).

I couldn't find it available for free on the web -- yet. But that's just a matter of time, right?
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