Monthly Archives: January 2010

Top 10 Tips and Tools for Freelancers

Written by Kevin Purdy

Freelancing isn’t something you should just jump into, but it makes sense for a good number of workers. If you’re looking into, or getting started with, working on your own, here are 10 resources we think every freelancer can learn from.

Photo by Mat Honan, who is himself a freelancer.

10. Make your schedule family-friendly

If you’re going to have to entirely ignore your kids and family when you’re working at home, you might as well head into the office. Career columnist and Wall Street Journal writer Alexandra Levit offered up six tips for working parents to spend more time parenting. They were aimed at anyone with a job, but freelancers certainly have an easier time of shifting their schedules back and ahead, taking web meetings instead of traveling for in-person summits, and involving their children in their work. Photo by Amit Chattopadhyay.

9. Do it without quitting your day job

Why freelance on the side instead of full time? The taxes are a lot more simple, the income a bit more stable, and, best of all, your day-to-day job provides you with countless opportunities to meet and greet future clients and referral helpers. That’s assuming your side gig is kosher with your boss, of course, but if you want to test the waters of selling yourself on the freelance market, do it without quitting your job.

8. Use discounts to get paid on time

Becoming your own Accounts Payable department is new to most freelancers, and not very fun. If you run into clients who are hesitant to pay on time, or leave you on the hook waiting for their next order, try offering a discount or repeat business incentives, as suggested by Web Worker Daily. Give clients a 5 percent discount if they pay within, say, 24 or 48 hours of invoice shipment, or whatever you consider prompt—the cash value is almost certainly worth the time you’ll spend tracking it down and worrying. If clients make you wait forever for their next order, offer a coupon or discount after receiving payment on a gig, giving them a small bit off if they place another order within a certain time frame. It’s easy for small businesses to lose track of freelance people, but they tend to pay attention to dollars and cents. (Original post)

7. Track your work and generate invoices simultaneously

The web is full of freelancers and contractors, and many of them have created better systems for tracking time and sending bills. There are too many free or “freemium” services to try and compile into one list, but, hey, let’s throw out a few. MakeSomeTime is simple, CurdBee handles everything up to the Google Checkout/PayPal payment screen for clients, FreshBooks covers a lot of different aspects of billing, Toggl is a great second-by-second live tracker, and BlinkSale has been generating crisp-looking invoices for years. Any of them are worth checking out, and probably fit the bill better than a gigundo spreadsheet. (Original post)

6. Know what you can write off

If you’re starting to get actual, notable income from your freelance work, the first thing you should do is find someone who know how to handle the taxes of independent contractors. Gina proved the value of a good accountant in her human versus showdown, but noted that an experienced filer could probably make due with the tax software solution. The Freelance Switch blog also offers 10 easy-to-miss freelancer deductions, like coffeeshop meetings, unpaid invoices, and gig hunting expenses, that any independent worker would do well to look into. (Original post)

5. Find more work

Cold calling is not fun, and if you think it might be, watch Glengarry Glen Ross again. A good lead comes from knowing where people are looking. FreelanceSwitch has compiled a monster list of freelance job sites, though some of them are going to be hired-gun-type, low-paying grunt work. On the other hand, a 10-minute call to your clients can get you all kinds of results you weren’t even looking for. (Original post)

4. Track your pitches with a custom spreadsheet

Who should you call with a reminder that you’re available, and who needs a quick follow-up on a pitch? Those are questions you should have answers for. Web Worker Daily’s Celine Rogue explains how to set up a spreadsheet with drop-down choosers, collated data, and other tools to become a great pitch, client, and job tracker. Half of life is just showing up, after all, and some extra percentage is knowing exactly where and when to be present with an offer. (Original post)

3. Get into the estimated tax groove

If you don’t cover the tax burden throughout the year of not having an employer to deduct social security, unemployment, and other taxes for you, the month of April will truly be the cruelest. Read how our own self-employed readers set aside money for estimated taxpayments four times each year (or in other installments), and read how Gina automates her finances to always have the money on hand, even when her income is very variable.

2. Learn your legalese

Besides having to learn the basics of contracts and work rules, freelancers should try to grab the basics of selling and regulating resalable (and different) stock work, as well as know how to stand their ground on copyright, fair use, and Creative Commons. It is, in short, not enough to simply create cool things—you have to know how to shepherd them through the cloudy worlds of commerce and the web these days. Photo by MikeBlogs. (Original posts: legal resources, stock work).

1. Determine your hourly rate

Not every contract will rely on hourly rates, but you’d best be prepared to offer a price if someone asks. The general advice is to aim slightly higher than you figure you should really charge, because you will always, always aim low when you’re determining the time and administrative costs of getting the job done. If you want a more concrete number to base your rate on, try FreelanceSwitch’s hourly rate calculator, which takes your office and supply costs, experience, and other factors into account. (Original post)

If you’re an established freelancer, what apps, tools, or advice did you find truly helpful when starting out? If you’re still green at working for yourself, what do you need the most help with? Swap the tips and stories in the comments.

How to Fall 35,000 Feet…..And Survive

Written by Dan Koeppel Illustrations by Nanospore

You’re six miles up, alone and falling without a parachute. Though the odds are long, a small number of people have found themselves in similar situations—and lived to tell the tale. Here’s PM’s 120-mph, 35,000-ft, 3-minutes-to-impact survival guide.

6:59:00 AM

35,000 Feet

You have a late night and an early flight. Not long after takeoff, you drift to sleep. Suddenly, you’re wide awake. There’s cold air rushing everywhere, and sound. Intense, horrible sound. Where am I?, you think. Where’s the plane?

You’re 6 miles up. You’re alone. You’re falling.
Things are bad. But now’s the time to focus on the good news.

(Yes, it goes beyond surviving the destruction of your aircraft.) Although gravity is against you, another force is working in your favor: time. Believe it or not, you’re better off up here than if you’d slipped from the balcony of your high-rise hotel room after one too many drinks last night.
Or at least you will be. Oxygen is scarce at these heights. By now, hypoxia is starting to set in. You’ll be unconscious soon, and you’ll cannonball at least a mile before waking up again. When that happens, remember what you are about to read. The ground, after all, is your next destination.
Granted, the odds of surviving a 6-mile plummet are extra­ordinarily slim, but at this point you’ve got nothing to lose by understanding your situation. There are two ways to fall out of a plane. The first is to free-fall, or drop from the sky with absolutely no protection or means of slowing your descent. The second is to become a wreckage rider, a term coined by Massachusetts-based amateur historian Jim Hamilton, who developed the Free Fall Research Page—an online database of nearly every imaginable human plummet. That classification means you have the advantage of being attached to a chunk of the plane. In 1972, Serbian flight attendant Vesna Vulovic was traveling in a DC-9 over Czechoslovakia when it blew up. She fell 33,000 feet, wedged between her seat, a catering trolley, a section of aircraft and the body of another crew member, landing on—then sliding down—a snowy incline before coming to a stop, severely injured but alive.
Surviving a plunge surrounded by a semiprotective cocoon of debris is more common than surviving a pure free-fall, according to Hamilton’s statistics; 31 such confirmed or “plausible” incidents have occurred since the 1940s. Free-fallers constitute a much more exclusive club, with just 13 confirmed or plausible incidents, including perennial Ripley’s Believe It or Not superstar Alan Magee—blown from his B-17 on a 1943 mission over France. The New Jersey airman, more recently the subject of a MythBusters episode, fell 20,000 feet and crashed into a train station; he was subsequently captured by German troops, who were astonished at his survival.
Whether you’re attached to crumpled fuselage or just plain falling, the concept you’ll be most interested in is terminal velocity. As gravity pulls you toward earth, you go faster. But like any moving object, you create drag—more as your speed increases. When downward force equals upward resistance, acceleration stops. You max out.
Depending on your size and weight, and factors such as air density, your speed at that moment will be about 120 mph—and you’ll get there after a surprisingly brief bit of falling: just 1500 feet, about the same height as Chicago’s Sears (now Willis) Tower. Equal speed means you hit the ground with equal force. The difference is the clock. Body meets Windy City sidewalk in 12 seconds. From an airplane’s cruising altitude, you’ll have almost enough time to read this entire article.

7:00:20 AM

22,000 Feet

By now, you’ve descended into breathable air. You sputter into consciousness. At this altitude, you’ve got roughly 2 minutes until impact. Your plan is simple. You will enter a Zen state and decide to live. You will understand, as Hamilton notes, “that it isn’t the fall that kills you—it’s the landing.”
Keeping your wits about you, you take aim.
But at what? Magee’s landing on the stone floor of that French train station was softened by the skylight he crashed through a moment earlier. Glass hurts, but it gives. So does grass. Haystacks and bushes have cushioned surprised-to-be-alive free-fallers. Trees aren’t bad, though they tend to skewer. Snow? Absolutely. Swamps? With their mucky, plant-covered surface, even more awesome. Hamilton documents one case of a sky diver who, upon total parachute failure, was saved by bouncing off high-tension wires. Contrary to popular belief, water is an awful choice. Like concrete, liquid doesn’t compress. Hitting the ocean is essentially the same as colliding with a sidewalk, Hamilton explains, except that pavement (perhaps unfortunately) won’t “open up and swallow your shattered body.”
With a target in mind, the next consideration is body position. To slow your descent, emulate a sky diver. Spread your arms and legs, present your chest to the ground, and arch your back and head upward. This adds friction and helps you maneuver. But don’t relax. This is not your landing pose.

The question of how to achieve ground contact remains, regrettably, given your predicament, a subject of debate. A 1942 study in the journal War Medicine noted “distribution and compensation of pressure play large parts in the defeat of injury.” Recommendation: wide-body impact. But a 1963 report by the Federal Aviation Agency argued that shifting into the classic sky diver’s landing stance—feet together, heels up, flexed knees and hips—best increases survivability. The same study noted that training in wrestling and acrobatics would help people survive falls. Martial arts were deemed especially useful for hard-surface impacts: “A ‘black belt’ expert can reportedly crack solid wood with a single blow,” the authors wrote, speculating that such skills might be transferable.
The ultimate learn-by-doing experience might be a lesson from Japanese parachutist Yasuhiro Kubo, who holds the world record in the activity’s banzai category. The sky diver tosses his chute from the plane and then jumps out after it, waiting as long as possible to retrieve it, put it on and pull the ripcord. In 2000, Kubo—starting from 9842 feet—fell for 50 seconds before recovering his gear. A safer way to practice your technique would be at one of the wind-tunnel simulators found at about a dozen U.S. theme parks and malls. But neither will help with the toughest part: sticking the landing. For that you might consider—though it’s not exactly advisable—a leap off the world’s highest bridge, France’s Millau Viaduct; its platform towers 891 feet over mostly spongy farmland.
Water landings—if you must—require quick decision-making. Studies of bridge-jump survivors indicate that a feet-first, knife-like entry (aka “the pencil”) best optimizes your odds of resurfacing. The famed cliff divers of Acapulco, however, tend to assume a head-down position, with the fingers of each hand locked together, arms outstretched, protecting the head. Whichever you choose, first assume the free-fall position for as long as you can. Then, if a feet-first entry is inevitable, the most important piece of advice, for reasons both unmentionable and easily understood, is to clench your butt.
No matter the surface, definitely don’t land on your head. In a 1977 “Study of Impact Tolerance Through Free-Fall Investigations,” researchers at the Highway Safety Research Institute found that the major cause of death in falls—they examined drops from buildings, bridges and the occasional elevator shaft (oops!)—was cranial contact. If you have to arrive top-down, sacrifice your good looks and land on your face, rather than the back or top of your head. You might also consider flying with a pair of goggles in your pocket, Hamilton says, since you’re likely to get watery eyes—impairing accuracy—on the way down. v

7:02:19 AM

1000 Feet

Given your starting altitude, you’ll be just about ready to hit the ground as you reach this section of instruction (based on the average adult reading speed of 250 words per minute). The basics have been covered, so feel free to concentrate on the task at hand. But if you’re so inclined, here’s some supplemental information—though be warned that none of it will help you much at this point.
Statistically speaking, it’s best to be a flight crew member, a child, or traveling in a military aircraft. Over the past four decades, there have been at least a dozen commercial airline crashes with just one survivor. Of those documented, four of the survivors were crew, like the flight attendant Vulovic, and seven were passengers under the age of 18. That includes Mohammed el-Fateh Osman, a 2-year-old wreckage rider who lived through the crash of a Boeing jet in Sudan in 2003, and, more recently, 14-year-old Bahia Bakari, the sole survivor of last June’s Yemenia Airways plunge off the Comoros Islands.
Crew survival may be related to better restraint systems, but there’s no consensus on why children seem to pull through falls more often. The Federal Aviation Agency study notes that kids, especially those under the age of 4, have more flexible skeletons, more relaxed muscle tonus, and a higher proportion of subcutaneous fat, which helps protect internal organs. Smaller people—whose heads are lower than the seat backs in front of them—are better shielded from debris in a plane that’s coming apart. Lower body weight reduces terminal velocity, plus reduced surface area decreases the chance of impalement upon landing.

7:02:25 am

0 Feet

The ground. Like a Shaolin master, you are at peace and prepared. Impact. You’re alive. What next? If you’re lucky, you might find that your injuries are minor, stand up and smoke a celebratory cigarette, as British tail gunner Nicholas Alkemade did in 1944 after landing in snowy bushes following an 18,000-foot plummet. (If you’re a smoker, you’re super extra lucky, since you’ve technically gotten to indulge during the course of an airliner trip.) More likely, you’ll have tough work ahead.
Follow the example of Juliane Koepcke. On Christmas Eve 1971, the Lockheed Electra she was traveling in exploded over the Amazon. The next morning, the 17-year-old German awoke on the jungle floor, strapped into her seat, surrounded by fallen holiday gifts. Injured and alone, she pushed the death of her mother, who’d been seated next to her on the plane, out of her mind. Instead, she remembered advice from her father, a biologist: To find civilization when lost in the jungle, follow water. Koepcke waded from tiny streams to larger ones. She passed crocodiles and poked the mud in front of her with a stick to scare away stingrays. She had lost one shoe in the fall and was wearing a ripped miniskirt. Her only food was a bag of candy, and she had nothing but dark, dirty water to drink. She ignored her broken collarbone and her wounds, infested with maggots.
On the tenth day, she rested on the bank of the Shebonya River. When she stood up again, she saw a canoe tethered to the shoreline. It took her hours to climb the embankment to a hut, where, the next day, a group of lumberjacks found her. The incident was seen as a miracle in Peru, and free-fall statistics seem to support those arguing for divine intervention: According to the Geneva-based Aircraft Crashes Record Office, 118,934 people have died in 15,463 plane crashes between 1940 and 2008. Even when you add failed-chute sky divers, Hamilton’s tally of confirmed or plausible lived-to-tell-about-it incidents is only 157, with 42 occurring at heights over 10,000 feet.
But Koepcke never saw survival as a matter of fate. She can still recall the first moments of her fall from the plane, as she spun through the air in her seat. That wasn’t under her control, but what happened when she regained consciousness was. “I had been able to make the correct decision—to leave the scene of the crash,” she says now. And because of experience at her parents’ biological research station, she says, “I did not feel fear. I knew how to move in the forest and the river, in which I had to swim with dangerous animals like caimans and piranhas.”
Or, by now, you’re wide awake, and the aircraft’s wheels have touched safely down on the tarmac. You understand the odds of any kind of accident on a commercial flight are slimmer than slim and that you will likely never have to use this information. But as a courtesy to the next passenger, consider leaving your copy of this guide in the seat-back pocket.

The 6 Best and Worst Fake Apple Tablet Ads

Collected by theweek

6 best   and worst Apple Tablet adsWell before yesterday’s grand unveiling of Apple’s long-awaited tablet computer, rabid fans began filming their own mock ‘commercials.’

Steve Jobs is rehearsing his pitch in the mirror. Bloggers are already at their keyboards. Today, after years of speculation, Apple will unveil its new tablet device, unofficially nicknamed the iPad. In the months leading up to this almost implausibly hyped event, YouTube-minded Apple zealots have been busy concocting a series of hypothetical “TV commercials” for the as-yet-unseen device. Here, the 6 best—and worst—of the fake iPad ads.


The Paintbox: Although the last thing anyone would want on their slick new Apple toy is blotches of Day-Glo paint, this enthusiast’s execution is very Apple-esque. Less Apple-esque: The morbid lyrics of the bouncy song that backs it. Views to date: 217,727

The Jett-Pack: Despite the grainy video quality and an amateurish hand-model, this spot makes an ambitious attempt to preview how the tablet’s touch function would actually work. Again, the music is a misstep: Would Steve Jobs ever choose a song as crude as Joan Jett’s “Do You Want to Touch Me”? Views to date: 45,237

The iFinger: Unlike the first two ads, this promo went for high concept, and the result is impressive. It might have been even more impressive if it didn’t so strongly evoke the scene in Big where Tom Hanks hops on the giant keyboard at FAO Schwarz. Views to date: 25,162


The Drablet: This ad does a decent job of previewing rumored functionalities. But where’s the inspiration? Snapshots of Idaho and a nondescript indie band aren’t going to fire up Apple’s base. Views to date: 12,879

iPad vs PC: I’m a Mac! I’m a PC! And I’m an odd-looking pair of actors ripping off an old Onion article called “Apple Claims New iPhone Only Visible to Most Loyal Of Customers.” This parody might have looked fresh back when Apple’s “he said, he said” ads first aired in 2006. Views to date: 3,071

The iSlate Odyssey: This slapdash attempt to reference Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is slight and sloppy. The auteur gets everything wrong—from the type (an outline font?) to the Tablet’s launch date. Views to date: 963


iPad and iSlate are among the names the media has floated for the new device.


How to Lose a Guy in 14 Easy Steps

Written by Jessica Conatser

What not to do when in a relationship…

14 Moves That Will Send Him Running

Sometimes girls can be a little psycho and crazy possessive when it comes to their new boyfriends, and while they might mean to come off as endearing and/or cute, here’s a little NEWSFLASH — most of the time, these attempts at trying to be girlish and adorable end in disaster. You know what we’re talking about; it’s when you decide to do things like make up pet names for your significant other (at week two), or leave a million messages in his inbox in an annoying baby voice. The list goes on.

Warning: just because you’ve finally won your crush over and he’s now your boyfriend doesn’t mean the relationship is set in stone (obviously). Don’t send him running in the opposite direction; read our suggested list of what you shouldn’t be doing when you’re dating a guy.

1. Exposing Too Much History

There are certain things you just don’t talk about when you’re in a new relationship including past lovers, previous sexual escapades, how you think you need to lose weight (you get the picture), and any other negative commentary that might put a bad taste in his mouth. You don’t want to scare the boy off the minute you start dating, do you?

2. Redecorating His Bachelor Pad

So you’re smitten and find yourself spending a lot of time at his place. This does not mean to bring a box (or three) of goodies to add a much-needed feminine touch. Leave the stuffed animals, pink blankets, heart-shaped pillows monogrammed with "I Love You" on them, and the flowery scented candles at [your] home. This is not something a guy wants to see when he gets back from work — trust us on this one.

3. Interrupting His Boys Night

When guys plan an exclusive boys night, they’re probably not leaving you out because they’re embarassed of you. It’s much more probable that he doesn’t want you to see what he and the boys do when it’s just the boys. Most men have a guy’s night that consists of poker, beer, pizza, wings and cigars — and we don’t recommened that you intrude uninvited. He’ll get suffocated and feel like you don’t trust him to have a night to himself.

4. Bringing Him to Chick Flicks

Just because 16 Candles and Serendipity is playing on your local silver screen doesn’t mean you should drag the boyfriend out for popcorn and soda fountain drinks. In fact, we’re almost positive that you’ll score major brownie points if you never do something like this.

5. Buying Him a Matching Outfit

Why anyone would feel the need to do this is beyond us, but if you’re that girl who thought matching outfits might be cute, think again.

6. Crying Post Hook-Up

Yes, we get emotional sometimes, but there is a time and a place for this and that time and place isn’t in the bedroom. Hooking up is supposed to be hot and sexy, so don’t ruin it with tears of any kind.

7. Leaving Tampons in His Bathroom

This should be a no-brainer, but unless you’re married, leave your tampons in your purse and not under his sink. While this is the worst offense, we also recommend holding off on the strategic toothbrush placement in his cabinet. He’ll feel like you’re putting him on lockdown.

8. Early Ultimatums 

Giving your guy ultimatums at an early stage isn’t a good idea. It’s too early to tell if there is an actual future between you two, so give it a break. Don’t be that girl who asks questions that are just plain awkward to answer like, "I’m not sleeping with you until you tell me I’m the one," or something along those lines. It’ll make him uncomfortable and he may even start avoiding you…

9. Calling His Mom

Even if you feel really close to your guy and you want to take the next step, never do it without him prompting the move. Calling his mom, without him knowing, because you’re just so excited to make a connection is not acceptable. Not only will you lose some of his trust, but we’re pretty sure he might think you’re crazy.

10. Couples Therapy

Couples therapy can be a helpful and a positive thing to pursue later on in a relationship, but two months in… NO WAY. If things aren’t working out already, then it’s a safer bet to call it quits and move on.

11. The L Word

The L word is not something to throw around lightly and dropping the L bomb early on in a relationship might cause him to take two gigantic steps backward. Don’t bring this up until you know the feeling is mutual — better yet, let him spring this one on you just to be safe.

12. Pet Names

Hold off on giving him a pet name in order to avoid some major awkward moments in your relationship. Even if your man is the type to be "OK" with this exchange, be wary of where and when you drop these terms of endearment. Chances are he won’t want his friends to jokingly adopt the moniker.

13. Hacking Into His Facebook

Facebook has private user names and passwords for a reason. Hacking attempts are not okay, so we suggest you get this idea out of your mind right now. If he ever found out about your sneaky ways, we guarantee the relationship would be over.

14. Constantly Checking Up On Him

Please do not call your boyfriend every five minutes and leave annoying messages every time he doesn’t answer. We think you’re smart enough to know why you shouldn’t do this, but just in case, re-read the title of this posting: 14 Things That Will Send Him Running. Hence, the reason why you shouldn’t even dream of doing this or any of the aforementioned acts, for that matter.


Lunch notes from my permanent roommate (my wife)

Written by Chris Illuminati

I loved calling her pre-wife. I hope the permanent roommate catches fire as well.

Anyway, when we have leftover dinner, the permanent roommate packs us both a lunch. Since they look identical, she started leaving a Post-It note so I would know which lunch was mine. At first they just said Chris but I guess she got bored with just writing my name. She started writing funny messages. I saved my favorites.

Stephen is our cat. Makes it even funnier.

Two things going on here: I was dying for an iPhone and I was having stomach issues and a day away from finding out I needed emergency surgery.

I eat a lot.

3 Sites to Learn Useful Street Fight Moves

Written by Karl L. Gechlik

adminHeadThe first rule about fight club is that we don’t talk about….oh wait that is the other club.  So you want to learn to fight like a Ultimate Fighting Champion? You want to rule the streets and kick sand in a bigger guy’s face?

Make sure you are learning how to fight like a UFC fighter for good reasons and not to act like a jerk. What’s that? You want to fight? Oh you want to know how to fight!  OK, let us take a look at some free online resources such as videos and tutorials that should help you get started.

The first site I found in my conquest for street fighting domination was Defense On Demand.

how to fight like a UFC fighter

You will notice the arrow pointing you towards the download videos section here at Defense On Demand. I find these a very good starting place. Once you get there you will see these options:

how to fight like a UFC fighter

Click on the first one to begin learning how to fight like a UFC fighter and watch the video. Continue on watching all 10 videos. Then you will have a base understanding and can move on. Each section has multiple videos and they appear to be YouTube embedded videos like this:

how to fight like a UFC fighter

They have a bunch of other sections on different preparations and training. Get your free learning on and soak up that information!

Next up is some awesome defense techniques and maneuvers I found over here.

This looks to be someone’s personal not so pretty site but hey it’s awesome for a fighter. If someone criticizes him he could always go “hey what, you wanna fight tough guy?”

how to street fight

The site is made up of step-by-step picture tutorials on how to escape certain moves and come out on top. The shot above shows how to escape from a head lock.  They cover everything here on how to maneuver your way out of certain holds and situations. You will be able to use this awesome information when you start training and fighting, As they say the best offense is a great defense. Don’t let your opponent get you into a sticky situation.

And finally there is some great information over here on how to fight like a UFC fighter, or simply how to be victorious in a street fight.

how to street fight

They cover the important stuff that these other sites seem to have left out such as watching your surroundings and staying alert. They talk about knowing when to walk away from a fight, when to go on the offensive and when to fall back on the defensive.

There are loads of resources online for how to fight and win. Read, watch and take it all in and then – and only then – you should seek out a gym to actually try to put your skills to use. You will want to actually test out your skills before challenging someone to fight. Know your limits.

Don’t go picking on someone bigger than you or anyone at all. Use your skills to defend yourself and defend others. In other words be good and don’t be evil! Be a good Samaritan, not a bully!

21 Things We’re Learning to Live Without

Written by Rick Newman

What do you really need?

It’s become a national question. With jobs and money scarce, consumers are taking inventory and tossing lots of stuff once deemed important into a humongous discard pile. To safeguard the essentials—a safe home and supportive community, the kids’ education, Internet connectivity, sustenance for a pet—Americans are giving up lots of other things. Some sacrifices are painful; others bring surprise benefits.

To gauge America’s changing priorities, I synthesized market research, business trends, economic data, and reports from hundreds of consumers into a list of things that many people seem to be significantly cutting back on, or living without completely. Here are 21 of them:

Monthly payments. Old mentality: I don’t care about the price, as long as I can borrow to pay for it and I have enough income to cover the monthly payment. New mentality: I’ve already got too much debt, and the banks won’t lend me the money anyway. Result: More cash purchases and a lot less financing of cars, furniture and other costly items. “The era of unbridled, debt-financed consumer spending is over, and the monthly payer is out of action,” Eric Janszen, president of iTulip, a finance-advisory firm, wrote in Harvard Business Review last year.

Window shopping. Browsing used to be an acceptable pastime. But consumers have discovered that window shopping encourages them to buy tons of stuff they don’t need. So now, they’re shopping only when necessary, making a list and sticking to it, or skipping the mall in favor of online sites, where temptations are weaker. “I no longer spend a day at the mall when I’m bored,” says Debby Abrams of Rising Sun, Ind. “I don’t buy, rebuy, and rebuy again: Buy a lamp, buy one I like better and put the first one in the basement, then buy a third one and put the second one in the basement.”

[See 4 Things That Could derail a Recovery.]

Bells and whistles. The technology arms race is slowing, with consumers gravitating to simpler gizmos like Netbooks, prepaid cellphones, and older, used electronics. Shaving features is obviously a way to save money, but some users also find the simpler devices a relief. “My cellphone is back to being just a phone and not my connection to the rest of the world via texting or the Web,” says Dorothy Robson of Durham, N.C. “Simplicity is definitely the new thing. Now if we can get the government to be frugal, that would be great!”

Clutter. As Americans downsize, do more of their own cleaning, and look for stuff they can sell online, they’re discovering tons of things around the house they can get rid of. After Russ and Deborah Merchant of Delaware, Ohio, moved into a smaller rental home in 2007, they dug out hundreds of items they had never used and didn’t need. For a year, they gave away more stuff than they purchased. “We keep being amazed at how having less stuff, with no deprivation, actually gives us better quality of life,” says Deborah Merchant. “We’ve gained emotional and spiritual maturity.”

Cable TV. Many people are cutting back on pay-TV services or canceling them altogether, which saves $50 to $100 a month. As a replacement, some viewers watch free programs on Hulu or YouTube or make do with broadcast TV. Others are giving up television completely. “There’s no money for cable TV, so my Internet does me for all my news and other entertainment,” says Mariluna Martin of Los Angeles. “That’s money saved, plus no TV means no blaring of bad news, fear-mongering, ad pressures, and other unpleasantness.” Martin spends more time reading books and sipping tea at a neighborhood café. She finds that rewarding: “The changes I’ve had to make have made my life better. Things are simpler and healthier now.”

A home phone. How many phones do you need, anyway? With cellphones ubiquitous, the home unit is becoming redundant. Internet voice services like Skype and magicJack slash the cost of calls but still provide most of the services that are available through the phone lines. Many people are reducing their cellphone service as well. Kathy Bowman of Joseph, Ore., figures she’s saving about $800 per year since she replaced her cellphone with a prepaid Tracfone she mainly reserves for emergencies. Canceling a fax line to her home saves another $120 per year.

Privacy. Got room on the couch? To save on rent or mortgage payments, roommates are doubling up and grown kids are moving back in with their parents. Mark Hamister of Elyria, Ohio, says privacy is one of the many things he’s given up as two of his grown daughters have moved back home, bringing boyfriends, pets—and a granddaughter. But he’s not complaining. “We have learned to enjoy a simple, cost-effective, and minimalist approach to life by developing an appreciation for nature and family,” he says. “Big, expensive toys and trips were fun before, but we really don’t need them anymore.”

[See 17 Ways Consumers Are Changing.]

Prepared foods. More people are cooking at home, and they’re doing it with fewer premade sauces, marinades, dressings, and other ingredients. “Moms are back to basic cooking,” says Chance Parker, a market researcher at J.D. Power & Associates. “They want to use fresh herbs and spices. It saves money, and it’s more healthy.” Patricia Tremblay of Dayton, Ohio, has given up her microwave as she’s cut back over the last two years. She now cooks instead of zapping a premade entrée. “I’ve traded convenience for choice and done well, with the added bonus of weight loss and a sense of accomplishment,” she says. “It’s a great beginning that seems likely to stick.”

Tupperware parties. Sales of Tupperware and other storage products are up, since people are cooking at home more and husbanding leftovers. But consumers still want the best deal, and they’re skeptical of merchants—even if it’s a friend or neighbor. “I flatly refuse to go to any ‘home parties’ where the hostess is selling candles, plastic ware, etc., and she gets free merchandise,” says Lois Barber of Sandy Hook, Conn. “The stuff costs about three times what you would pay retail. My blanket excuse is, ‘My sister sells it.’ ”

Packaged cigarettes. The average price of cigarettes is about $5 a pack or $45 a carton, which mounts quickly for regular puffers. Kicking the habit is the most obvious way to save money, but short of that, more smokers are buying small machines that let them roll their own smokes. “We learned to make our own cigs with a machine that cost $40,” says one smoker. “We now save around $120 a month.”

[See 9 signs of America in decline.]

Lattes. The $5 daily coffee is always one of the first small luxuries to go. But more people are brewing at home. Sales of single-serving home brewing machines have soared.

Guilt. Keeping up with all the latest trends and technology takes an emotional toll. “When I could afford it, I always felt pressured to buy the latest software and gadgets,” says Kathryn Husby of Plantation, Fla. When job and health issues curtailed the family income, she and her husband cut back to bare necessities. That meant she didn’t have to learn a new set of buttons or menu options every year; she just kept pressing the same familiar buttons on the old model. “I’m happier than I’ve been for many years,” she says. “I feel like I’m in charge of my life instead of multinational corporations telling me what to consume.”

Extra calories. Some Americans say they’re eating less to save money and drinking more water or doing other things to suppress their appetite. Restaurants are hurting as people eat out less, but some diners are trimming the check instead of scotching the entire outing. Some strategies for lighter eating: Going out for lunch instead of dinner, sharing entrees, skipping appetizers and side dishes, and turning restaurant leftovers into one or two at-home meals. A few restaurant chains, like Panera Bread, the Olive Garden, and Buffalo Wild Wings, have even managed to gain business by offering high-quality food at slender prices.

[See 8 Restaurants on a Roll.]

Newspapers and magazines. It’s bad news for the publishing industry, but millions have canceled subscriptions to print periodicals and started getting free news and information online (which is probably where you’re reading this article!). The trend may be strongest among tomorrow’s consumers, otherwise known as teenagers: A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that kids between 8 and 18 spend just 38 minutes a day with some form of print media, down from 43 minutes in 2004. That’s out of a total of 7 hours and 38 minutes they spend every day using some form of media.

Healthcare. A forced reduction in healthcare coverage is probably one of the most crushing effects of a weak economy, as the unemployed and others without insurance make drastic trade-offs to cut costs and get by. Millions of Americans are forgoing doctor visits, abandoning medication, ignoring problems, and simply hoping they don’t get seriously ill or hurt. “I don’t go to the doctor as often,” says Debby Abrams. “Aches and pains work themselves out. I have some neurological thing going on in my left thumb right now, but I’m going to ignore it and attribute it to aging rather than go to a neurologist.”

New gifts. Regifting is a time-tested practice—but there’s always room to refine your strategy. Linda Amicucci of Tenafly, N.J., holds a “treasure party” with a group of friends after Thanksgiving every year to swap recyclable gifts. “We bring all the unwanted, unused items in our house that could be used as gifts or were given to us as gifts throughout the past year,” she explains. “We swap items, since a gift received last year during a grab bag cannot be regifted in the same social circle. But in a different social circle, it’s a brand new gift!”

[See 10 products that boomed during the recession.]

New cars. It’s no secret that new-car sales plunged to levels 40 percent lower than the peak in 2006. But many buyers who have traded down to a used model are surprised at the quality of the merchandise. “I have found that many people take really good care of their cars,” says Jay Bailey of Phoenix, who’s currently shopping for a used SUV. “You can find cars that have over 100,000 miles that have been maintained so well that you can easily get another 100,000 miles out of them.” Many other car shoppers apparently agree, one reason used-car prices have actually been rising, with some models hard to find.

Comfort. Thermostats all across America are going lower in winter, higher in summer. After losing his job last year, Phil Landry, a Florida software salesman, analyzed his use of utilities, among other things, and decided to shave costs by setting the temp at 86 in the summer. “Every once in awhile I’ll lower it to 84,” he says. “But as long as you’re not running marathons in the house, 86 is OK.” Carrie Chiarenza, an Army officer who is based at Fort Hood, Texas, and is currently serving a yearlong tour in Iraq, takes supershort “combat showers” when she’s at home, and she applies other tricks learned while living in the field. “Never leave any water running if you don’t have to,” she says. “So when lathering hair with shampoo, water comes off. Same thing with hand washing. Sometimes the task takes longer, but it helps the environment, and my utility bills.”

A daily commute. If you’re unemployed, obviously there’s no job to drive to, one reason the number of vehicle miles driven has dipped to 2004 levels (and traffic on some of the most congested highways has eased). Telecommuting increased during the recession as well, and more people say they’re riding bikes or walking more to save on gas costs—or a gym membership.

[See How to Live Happily on 75 Percent Less.]

Fancy dates. Online dating services like are growing, but courtship is a bit of a comedown these days. Discount-dating advisers suggest cooking at home instead of eating out, looking for free performances, browsing at bookstores, going hiking, and exploring yard sales (yes, yard sales). And some discouraged singletons are sitting on the sidelines, waiting for better times. “I am not dating,” says one woman who recently lost her job at a financial firm in San Diego. “Who will want to date an unemployed female?” Still, she says, “I am determined and motivated to survive this recession.” And date again.

Debt. Who needs it? “I have learned that it takes little time to run dangerously high credit card balances,” says Tom Poirer of Lowell, Mass., “but an inordinately long time to pay it back. I have learned to deprogram myself from the consumerist mayhem.” Many Americans seem to agree. Total credit card debt is about 7 percent lower than it was a year ago, and Americans have paid down more than $100 billion in credit card loans and other types of revolving credit since October 2008. We may ultimately end up with less stuff. But at least we’ll be able to afford what we have.

7 Items That Will Cause a Man to Never Leave His Home

Written by Shawn Norris

Guys like things. We often work very hard to acquire these things. Guys shop with purpose. We go shopping for items that make our living space more comfortable and more importantly, we are shopping for things that will make other guys envious. However, sometimes we have a tendency to buy items that make it more difficult for us to leave or places of residence. For men, it’s not shoes, stylish dresses and new purses we are shopping for. We need “man” stuff. Things like popular electronic devices, a new driver, or a sex robot. Wait, a sex robot?

The six items below are things a man will probably buy for himself at some point during his lifetime. Unfortunately, these items all tend to have a tendency to make guys want to sequester ourselves in our apartment for weeks at a time. We may never leave our house. Our women will pout and will eventually tire of the act and try to drag us out into the sunlight and public eye, but we don’t want to leave. It’s just entirely too awesome in here. These items make it so…


Men like grilling. It’s just something in our blood. Have you ever seen just one guy by himself in a Home Depot looking at grills? No. There is usually a group of 2-4 guys all looking at grills; usually arguing about stainless steel options and thermal units they have no real understanding of. It’s a big purchase for most guys (when buying a grill we always buy way more than we need), so we need to factor in out friends opinions. And when we get it home and assembled, it’s time to grill. And grill we shall. For every meal for the next month. “Honey, we don’t need to go grab something to eat. We can grill.” “Honey, why don’t you just invite everyone over here and we’ll have a few drinks and grill.” The urge to grill eventually subsides, but women will always be haunted by the statement “That’s why we bought the grill!”

Massive HDTV

Another one of those purchases that takes more than one male arguing about horizontal scan lines and Blu-ray capability at a Best Buy. All guys can agree that watching sports on these televisions is almost better than being at the actual game. Hell, with a comfortable couch, a couple of buddies and beer that cost less than $11 a piece, it’s usually more enjoyable. The grass on the field becomes greener. The video games become more realistic. And the likelihood of a man leaving his television when a major sporting event is taking place becomes that much more unlikely. And have you seen the number of football games on ESPN in December? Just pencil me out of Christmas shopping this year because between the Meineke Car Care Bowl and the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl, I’m just not going to have time for anything till February.

Playstation 3/Xbox 360 with internet connection

Hey, remember all those guys from college I used to stay up all night drinking and playing video games with? I can start having all that fun again with this Xbox and this headset! Isn’t that awesome? Well it would be if most guys could pull themselves away from an epic Halo battle, or the gritty realism of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. “Sweetheart, I just really can’t go to your sister’s art opening because I’m at WAR, right now!” “I can’t go to bed because I’m kicking Klaus from Hamburgs ass right now. It’s the Germans, baby! If we would have rolled over and gone to sleep the last time the Germans invaded–we’d all be “die Deutsch sprechen,” right now. And I will not sleep, bathe, eat, go to work, socialize or leave this couch until I know our borders are safely secure on this Playstation 3!” I don’t have one because of this reason, but I have to admit the games are pretty sick. And when they get “too sick,” this happens.

Internet porn

Have you seen the amount of porn on the internet? Go check, I have some time. Isn’t that insane? You can’t type any word without a porn site popping up in your search queue. Type “Teacher”–porn pops up. “The Brady Bunch”–porn pops up. “White Christmas”–I don‘t really want to think about how they‘ve twisted that one around, but I’m sure that lots of crazy stuff. My point is that it is awesome! All men think about is sex and then someone created something that actually thinks about sex ten times more than we do and then made it free to watch. Like a man’s love for nude and semi-nude women, internet porn is the real never ending story. And have you gotten the emails, tweets, and pop-ups about webcam sites? Strippers don’t even have to leave the house anymore! It’s truly an amazing time we live in. But, some guys will never leave the comfort of the warm glow of their personal computer because of the mesmerizing power of a woman’s bare breast. Probably closer to thousands of bare breasts. Oh, and that clown on the unicycle…

Massage Chair

Beautiful. Comfortable. Built in seat warmer…it’s like sitting on a cloud full of tiny Asian masseuses. After a hard day at the office or at the dog track, it’s always nice to come home to a piece of furniture that can melt you to its leather and kneading the stress out of your lower back. Massage chair, beer and ESPN; the most comfortable and relaxing way to unwind after work. Three beers later and we aren’t leaving the apartment tonight unless there is a fire or the Victoria’s Secret bus breaks down in front of our house. And even then a guy would probably think, “If I get out of this chair, I’ll get meet Marissa Miller. If I stay in the chair, I’m comfortable and definitely won’t have to change a tire…ah, screw em. I think they’re all married anyway.”

A sex robo

Sex Robot. What is that some sort of band or something. It’s a what?

First of all, that face is terrifying. I’m sure millions of dollars went into the development of the production of Roxxy and that was the best face and voice you could give her? I’m pretty sure that having sex with that would give me unrelenting nightmares and months of therapy, but I’m sure there are many men lining up to get their hands *ahem* among other things on one of the most carnal of technological feats. In 100 years we went from traveling across the Oregon Trail by horse and carriage to sex robot. It’s both wildly astounding and somewhat depressing. But you can rest assured that if these robots become will probably become way less creepy looking/somewhat socially acceptable at some point in the future. And when that day when robotic Megan Fox comes out…a large population of the male population will simply disappear.

The combination of all of the above into one awesome “Mancave”

And there a are the select few that have compiled all of the items above into a giant “Mancave.” Bears, like men, will hibernate in their caves during the winter–because that’s when all the good sports are on. Everyone knows that. There are probably guys reading this while sequestered deep in their cave like Batman on Labor Day. Guyism salutes you guys for building your own perfect “manspace.” And we don’t expect you to leave it any time soon. If the outside world needs you they will come and get you. So, turn on your massage chair and have Roxxy pour you a stiff drink. You just sit here and relax while perusing Guyism’s backlog of humorous articles and pictures for the rest of the day. You earned it, Champ.