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The history of Christmas shopping.

Welcome to Wednesday, money nerds. There’s one week left until Christmas. You know what that means: If you celebrate the holiday (and exchange gifts), then you only have seven days left to shop! As for me, I haven’t even started yet. I’m not joking. I know, I know. I need to sort out my priorities…

Right now, my top priority is to share with you some top stories about money. Happy holidays!

How to spend money without worry. [Of Dollars and Data] — “Ultimately, your money should be used as a tool to create the life that you want. That’s the point. The suggestions in this article were merely meant to reduce your anxiety around money, not to tell you where to use it. The hard part, therefore, isn’t spending your money, but figuring out what you truly want out of life.”

Stop believing in the myth of free shipping. [The Atlantic] — “What got us to the present is Amazon Prime, the $119 annual program with more than 100 million American members, which promises unlimited two-day shipping to almost anywhere in the United States. The trick Amazon pulled off was to divorce shipping costs almost entirely from individual buying behavior by charging an annual shipping fee, then further camouflaging matters by making video-streaming services and the like part of the package. And now that we think nothing we order online should take more than two days to arrive, the company is in the process of shaving a day off that expectation. Buyers will receive their purchases the next day, as if delivered by the package fairy.”

How to avoid a transactional Christmas. [Handful of Thoughts] — “If you are feeling like the holiday has transformed into a transactional Christmas, gratitude may be an easy way you can change your outlook. By focusing on being grateful, it takes the focus away from the ‘transaction’…At the end of the day, for me, the holidays are about family, making memories and quality time.”

Finally, on a related note, here’s a ten-minute video looking at the history of Christmas shopping from public broadcasting’s Two Cents.

That’s it for today. We’ll be back tomorrow with more, of course. In the meantime, if you know of a story we should share with the money nerds who read this site, please drop us a line. Thanks!

Nobody knows what luxury is anymore.

Top o’ the mornin’ to you, my friend. It’s Tuesday and this is Apex Money, the site (and email list) where Jim and J.D. collect the best money stories from around the web. Here’s what we have for you today…

Nobody knows what luxury is anymore. [Quartz] — “Luxury ain’t what it used to be. Blame the internet, the rise of on-demand services, and the shift in consumer values as younger generations become more important buyers of high-end goods — all are challenging traditional notions of what luxury is. The classic symbols —the Hermès Birkin bag, a couture dress by Dior, a watch by Rolex — aren’t in any danger of losing status. But around its edges, the concept of luxury is getting blurry, making it less clear where it begins and ends.”

This is what racism sounds like in the banking industry. [The New York Times] — “What makes their cases extraordinary is not that the two men say they faced discrimination. It is that they recorded their interactions with bank employees, preserving a record of what white executives otherwise might have dismissed as figments of the aggrieved parties’ imaginations.”

The surprising breadth of harbingers of failure. [Journal of Marketing Research] — “Previous research has shown that there exist ‘harbinger customers’ who systematically purchase new products that fail (and are discontinued by retailers). This article extends this result in two ways. First, the findings document the existence of ‘harbinger zip codes’. If households in these zip codes adopt a new product, this is a signal that the new product will fail. Second, a series of comparisons reveal that households in harbinger zip codes make other decisions that differ from other households.”

How Wes Anderson became an accidental icon of interior design. [Inside Hook] — “To say that Wes Anderson has a style would perhaps be an understatement…Anderson’s movies are immediately recognizable because of what’s in them: Steve Zissou’s red beanie and Margot Tenenbaum’s oversize fur coat, Suzy’s trusty binoculars in Moonrise Kingdom, the pale pink Mendl’s bakery boxes that match the exterior of the Grand Budapest Hotel.” [Trivia: Wes Anderson’s Rushmore is one of my favoritest movies of all time. Love it!]

That’s it for today. We’ll be back tomorrow with more from the world of personal finance. Got something we should share? Send it to us!

Is the only “solution” in life to have a ton of money?

Brrr! Baby, it’s cold outside! I know I keep complaining about the cold, but that’s, well, because it’s cold. I’ll quit grousing once we hit March or April. Sound fair?

Cold or not, it’s Monday, and that means it’s time to share some of our favorite financial stories from around the web. Ready? Let’s go!

To start things off, here’s an interesting conversation from Reddit’s /r/financialindependence. One 24-year-old feels overwhelmed by the relentless hamster-wheel of society. “The only solution in life is to have a ton of money,” (s)he says. Then /u/BurrtoAburrido offers a long, insightful reply, which includes this passage:

Life isn’t some paint-by-numbers that a certain age means you know or don’t know anything, or that you should or shouldn’t feel a certain way.

I caught myself mid-judgement reading your post.

When I first read your post about being 24 and feeling stuck on a hamster wheel, burned out, and that life is a series of deadlines, my immediate reaction was to scoff.

My thought, “How could you know burnout and frustration at 24! You’re barely even beginning the rest of your life.”

Then I paused for a moment and thought back to age 24 for me. I had completely forgotten, but then recalled feeling exactly what you are describing.

Anyhow, I found the entire thread interesting and well-worth reading (which is unusual for /r/financialindependence lately).

Want to advance your career? Get a sponsor. [Keeping Up with the Bulls] — “Having a sponsor is critical if you want to advance your career. It’s not just about what you know but who you know. Many decisions will be made about your career when you aren’t in the room. It’s important to have people who are in that room that will advocate on your behalf.”

Twelve people talk honestly about how they paid off their debt. [BuzzFeed News] — “What you’ll find below is a collection of stories, culled from the hundreds of responses, with various motivations, strategies, and outcomes. The sacrifices people made to pay off their debt might not surprise you. But the reaction those same people had to finally paying off that debt likely will.”

To close things out, here’s a bit of fun: It’s a fifteen-minute YouTube collection of the best news bloopers from 2019. Enjoy!

Found something that Jim and I should share with other Apex Money readers? Send it to us! We’re here to spread the love…

Planes, trains, and automobiles: Isn’t travel the best?

I love to travel. I enjoy seeing and living in different places, usually as slowly as possible as to recreate a local’s living experience rather than a tourist whirlwind through sights… but I am not a fan of the actual travel to and from those places.

Airports are magnets for stress. Easy going, normal people are always stressed out 150% and TSA doesn’t help.

We have three kids so traveling is a chaotic juggling of children, luggage, and schedules. It’s not fun but it’s what we need to do to get to the fun. 🙂

Today’s Apex will be mostly travel-related, starting with a little behind the scenes at LAX:

Nine Secrets I Never Knew About Airports Until I Worked at LAX [Bloomberg] – “From dead bodies in the security line to a cobra in a Pringles can, you wouldn’t believe the crazy things that happen at America’s busiest airport of origin.”

The Girl’s Guide to Hiking Solo [Nomadic Matt, written by Kristin Addis from Be My Travel Muse] – “Like solo traveling, some people will argue that hiking alone is never safe, no matter what. As someone who does it all the time, I have a different take on it. I find it empowering, incredibly peaceful, and one of the best ways to get closer to myself. I get to push out all the noise and clutter and just be one with nature. That said, you have to take precautions to make yourself safer.”

Why Cruise Lines Keep Cutting Their Ships in Half [Bloomberg] – “With sparks flying, and shipyard workers and invited guests cheering him on, Delany made the final vertical cut to chop Star Breeze in half. But he was hardly destroying the small ship—he was doing just the opposite.

In a process called “stretching,” the Star Breeze is getting pulled apart to make room for a new, 84-foot, 1,250-ton prefab midsection addition. Think of it like unsnapping (or unwelding) two Legos and putting another block in between. But with a boat.”

This last one isn’t about travel but was too good for me to not share!

Expensive Cars are Masquerading Around as Signs of Wealth [Greenbacks Magnet] – “You ever drive by a neighborhood that ends in Estates or Hills and look in the driveway?

There are usually enough European cars around for these folks to start a dealership down the street and give Audi a run for their money.

You figure places like Beverly Hills, Miami Beach, and New York are places that can afford these types of cars, but what about places you would think those people may not make the type of money it requires to have those vehicles?”

Before you go, a fun little video about something you might’ve heard about. In 1981, American Airlines sold a $250,000 pass that allowed the holder to fly for free… until they clawed it back.

Watch this video to learn more about this program and what happened:

(if you are really into it, The Hustle did a long piece about AAirpass too)

That’s it for me – next week, J.D. returns with a heavy dose of Apex Worthy stuff for you to enjoy!

Tis the season to TAKE :)

Two days ago, the theme of the post was giving.

The theme of today’s Apex is all about TAKING.

Don’t get me wrong… taking something that isn’t yours is bad. Very bad.

And the posts today will show you exactly how bad it is to take what is not yours, especially after you get caught (and you will always get caught).

Where Husbands Hide Money During Divorce [Christine Luken] – “If things aren’t going well in your marriage, you might wonder where husbands hide money during divorce. Although no one really “wins” financially coming out of divorce, women are more negatively impacted than men. […] Since many of my clients are divorcing women, I’ve heard quite a few stories of financial deceit: husbands hiding assets, income, and even debt from their wives!”

The Big Bitcoin Heist [Vanity Fair] – “He was the lone guard at the Advania data center, housed in a former U.S. naval base not far from the Reykjavík airport in Iceland. His job was to keep watch over two hangar-like buildings that held rows of small, box-like computers, the size of two cartons of cigarettes, stacked in towers as far as the eye could see. It was a hot, constantly blinking trove of devices, lashed together with tangles of cables and wires, all dedicated to a single job: mining the cryptocurrency known as Bitcoin.”

Jackpot [Medium] – “How two lottery-crazed bank clerks cooked up China’s biggest bank robbery of all time.” Like many bank robberies, it was not a good plan. And in China, the consequences are far more severe.

A Pickpocket’s Tale [The New Yorker] – “In magic circles, Robbins is regarded as a kind of legend. Psychiatrists, neuroscientists, and the military study his methods for what they reveal about the nature of human attention.” This article is dated 2012 and every so often it reappears in my life and I’m reminded how amazing Robbins is. If you want to learn more about him, you’ll find numerous videos on him and his work but definitely watch his TED talk on attention and misdirection. Solid gold and very useful.

Thanks for reading and please please please share this with someone who will enjoy it!

Hustle your face off

In America, we celebrate hard work. Burning the candle at both ends. Rise and grind. [insert your favorite “work hard, play hard” quote here]

But is it always the right thing?

Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.

And it’s especially hard to know when you’re working for yourself (or aspiring to) because there’s always more to do and the pressure to do it. But working harder doesn’t always mean you’re working smarter. In fact, the more you work, the less you’re able to differentiate between the good stuff and the bad stuff. It’s like cramming for a test… that last hour of studying is usually trash.

We start today’s Apex with a post on entrepreneurship and finish with a fun video series by the champion of hustle, Gary Vee:

Why Your Entrepreneurship Addiction is Making You Broke (and how-to fix this) [Studenomics] – “You’re proud of yourself because you suddenly feel like an entrepreneur. You’ve listened to a podcast, you’ve signed up for another seminar, and you shared an inspirational meme today. You did all of this before 6 in the morning since you’re up at 5 because that’s what you’ve been told to do by a guru.

I’m here to tell you why your self-help addiction is making you broke and what you can do to fix this right away…”

How to Manage Two Successful Business (And Why One Wasn’t Enough) [Afford Anything] – Julia Kelly shares why she started a second business after having a ‘successful’ first business. She’s a caricature artist making six figures that also co-started an accounting business with her neighbor. “Three years in to starting the biz, we have over 50 clients and five employees making up an awesome team of humans doing work that’s valuable, important, and (for me at least) fun!

I still run JK Expressions and do a decent number of the gigs myself. Turns out, I’m much happier when drawing caricatures is my side gig and it’s balanced out with more analytical type of work.”

Ever wonder where Amazon returns go? People buy them by the pallet and resell them!

Where Amazon Returns Go to Be Resold by Hustlers [The Atlantic] – “With a couple hundred dollars and a few minutes, you could go to a liquidation website right now and buy a pallet full of stuff that people have returned to Amazon. It will have, perhaps, been lightly sorted by product category—home decor, outdoor, apparel—but this is mostly aspirational. For example, in one pallet labeled “home decor,” available for sale on liquidation.com, you could find hiking crampons, shimmer fabric paint, a High Visibility Thermal Winter Trapper Hat, a Mr. Ellie Pooh Natural White Paper List Pad, a St. Patrick’s Pot O’ Gold Cupcake Decorating Kit, a Spoontiques Golf Thermometer, a Feliz Cumpleanos Candle Packaged Balloon, and five Caterpillar Hoodies for Pets.”

It’s a GRIIIIIIIND.

IF you enjoy that type of thing, I found a fun video series you’ll enjoy. Gary Vaynerchuk, of Wine Library TV and Gary Vee fame, goes around to garage sales for vintage toys, mugs, and other high-value goodies that he can flip on eBay (more accurately, his team flips it). It’s basically a version of Storage Wars but with stuff that all 80s kids will identify with. It’s quite fun to watch. Here’s the first video in the series:

Have a good day and send this to someone you think will enjoy reading this!

Tis the season to give

Ever wonder what it is like to run a foundation?

It sounds really exotic and fancy but it’s actually quite easy to start a foundation. My wife and I did it a few years by making a small contribution to a Fidelity donor advised fund. Now we are the proud advisers to a DAF that gives us the flexibility to separate our donations from our giving. A DAF lets us contribute in a way that maximizes our tax benefits while decoupling it from when we give from the fund. It’s a great system.

Want to learn more? Leif does a great job explaining how this works in his epic post on the subject:

The Donor Advised Fund : A Smarter Way to Give [Physician on Fire] – “A donor advised fund (DAF) is an excellent and tax-efficient way to give to charity. The vast majority of my charitable giving is to and from my DAF. There are several big advantages to using a DAF as opposed to giving cold, hard cash, or writing checks.”

As for the actual giving, I really enjoy how Andy and his family approach giving:

How to Make Charitable Giving a Family Tradition [Marriage Kids and Money] – “Charitable giving can feel difficult or even impossible when we’re in debt and barely scraping by. When we’ve lifted ourselves up to a position of financial strength and confidence, giving back feels like the right thing to do.” This post shares how Andy and his family have made giving a part of their family tradition – it’s a lovely post.

Using Your Real Hourly Wage to Make Smarter Financial Decisions [Life and My Finances] – “Your real hourly wage is the amount you are actually making per hour after all work expenses are accounted for. These expenses include things like the cost of your commute to work each day, work clothes, unpaid lunch breaks, etc.

Discovering how much you actually earn per hour can be a real eye opener. But once you know this number, you can use it to make smarter financial decisions.”

Lastly, our video for today comes from my good friend Bob Lotich of Seed Time – how many of these 17 things do you do?

Have a great week and consider sending this to a friend who might want to see it!

Finding comfort in discomfort

Happy Monday! Welcome back to another exciting week of personal finance awesomeness from Jim.

Today’s post will be slightly different in that it’s not entirely about money. We have three articles all talking about a simple but powerful idea – finding comfort in discomfort.

No one enjoys being uncomfortable but just as you can’t enjoy sweetness without bitterness, you truly can’t enjoy being comfortable when you haven’t been uncomfortable. Today’s posts all discuss this idea… and no ice-cold showers required!

Discomfort Zone: How to Master the Universe [Zen Habits] – “Of all the skills I’ve learned in the past 7 years of changing my life, one skill stands out: Learning to be comfortable with discomfort. If you learn this skill, you can master pretty much anything.”

Don’t Let Life Get Too Easy in Early Retirement [Our Next Life] – “Removing too many pain points from our lives risks actually doing ourselves harm in a different way: a life with no pain points makes us soft. And is that what you want for your early retirement, to go through it as a person who’s growing less and less resilient, who is so used to everything being easy that you become intolerant of dealing with challenges? Because that’s what we’re talking about.”

Are We Happier When We’re Uncomfortable? [The Frug] – “Imagine for a second that all of your needs have been met. You don’t need to lift a finger to do anything. You’re in the perfect location, with the perfect partner, all of your physical, emotional, and financial needs have been completely taken care of. Servants bring you fresh food and drinks. No need to even get out of your beach chair.

I don’t know about you but I’ve been on vacations like this and it truly gets old after the first week or two. Even when I have plenty of good books to read, a beautiful beach, and an ocean to swim in, this thought of sitting still bores the hell out of me.”

And for the candy after the medicine… we have a treasure hunt!

The Fisherman’s Secret: A modern day treasure hunt [SF Chronicle] – “One late night five years ago, fisherman Giuseppe Pennisi was lying in bed with his laptop propped up on his barrel chest, reviewing video footage captured from his 76-foot boat, the Pioneer. The boat is a bottom trawler. It scoops up fish with a net that bounces across the seafloor at depths of more than 4,000 feet. A tinkerer, Pennisi likes to keep GoPro cameras attached to the net, allowing him to study the footage and improve his technique. That night, around 2 a.m., he noticed his camera slide past something unusual.

Along the murky seafloor, fish and rocks come in rounded shapes and soft colors, muted grays and greens. His eyes were attuned to this drab underwater landscape, which is why he had been puzzled by brief flashes of light on the video screen, shiny surfaces glimmering by. Then he saw it: a rectangular object, sharp-edged and pale, almost white, with a tinge of yellow.”

TREASURE! The article is very long but if you just want the action… read until the legal part (there are several chapters in the middle dedicated to the seemingly-futile legal aspect of treasure hunting) and then jump to Chapter 11.

Thanks for reading and please share this with someone you love!

Don’t throw it out until you’ve smelled it!

Happy Friday, money nerds! You’ve made it through the first week of December. Let’s celebrate by sharing some outstanding money stories from around the web, shall we?

How to lower housing costs. [The Fioneers] — “Buying a home has helped us on our journey, but it is not the right decision for everyone. The important lesson we took away from this is to keep our housing costs low while our income has increased. If you are looking to improve your financial situation, you should consider lowering your housing costs. Figuring out how to lower your housing costs will depend on your unique situation.”

“My emergency fund isn’t just money.” [Tread Lightly, Retire Early] — “So beyond saving up every free dollar and slowly building up that cash emergency fund, what can you do to make your financial situation more resilient? Beyond just more dollars, there are definitely other things you can do to weather those expensive storms. Here are a few things we have in place.”

The ultimate productivity hack is saying “no”. [James Clear] — “If you have trouble saying no, you may find the following strategy proposed by Tim Harford, the British economist I mentioned earlier, to be helpful. He writes, ‘One trick is to ask, “If I had to do this today, would I agree to it?” It’s not a bad rule of thumb, since any future commitment, no matter how far away it might be, will eventually become an imminent problem.'”

Don’t throw it out until you’ve smelled it! [Surviving and Thriving] — “Would anyone I knew have thought that milk too close to its sell-by date should be thrown out? Nope. In fact, we might have hoped it was close to its sell-by date, because it might be discounted. The freshness of bread was a moot point because ours came a dozen loaves at a time from the bakery outlet.”

To send you into your weekend, we’ve got one last feature that has nothing to do with money. In this video, a former Secret Service agent explains how officers keep the President (and other VIPs) safe in a variety of situations. Interesting stuff.

That’s it for this week. Jim will be back with more great stuff on Monday, money nerds. See you then…

You should have a true hobby (not a side hustle).

Good morning, money nerds. We’re glad to see you stop by. As always, we have some of the best financial news from around the web to share with you. Are you ready?

Generally speaking, we end Apex Money installments with a video (when we include one). Let’s mix things up! Today, let’s — gasp — start with our video. It’s a brief look at why “99 cent pricing” works.

Personally, I hate this ploy, and I like to think it doesn’t work on me. But I’m probably just fooling myself. Now, let’s move on to our normal, text-based stories.

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! The borogroves aren’t really mimsy this time of year, but lookee here: Craigslist has, at long last, released an official app for mobile devices. It’s currently only available for Apple iOS devices, but there is a beta version for Android, if that’s how you roll.

Remember when you wanted what you currently have? [Budgets Are Sexy] — “In a world constantly pushing us for ‘more’, it sure is a nice reminder of everything we’ve already achieved/received if we actually take a second to reflect upon it. Here’s a short list of all the things I remember really wanting bad over the years — how about you?”

There’s treasure everywhere! [Financial Panther] — “There’s a natural tendency for many of us to think in worst-case scenarios. We’re often taught to play things safe, and if we do anything out of the ordinary, there’s no shortage of people who will step in to tell us all of the bad stuff that can happen. I think this often makes us forget about all of the opportunities that are out there. We make our decisions, not from a place of abundance and optimism, but rather from a place of fear and scarcity.”

How to have a true hobby, not a side hustle. [Vox] — “The next time you reach for your smartphone or tablet out of habit — or boredom — consider a more fulfilling alternative: find a hobby, or an activity that you do purely for pleasure and relaxation, not for work or necessity…Making time for non-essential activities is, in fact, essential. Challenging leisure activities — such as hobbies — improve mental and physical wellbeing, foster learning, and build communities. Oh — and it’s fun!” I love this article!

Lastly, here’s a Very Important Link for all y’all. The staff over at The Kitchn tried eight different methods of cooking bacon to find out which one was best. Can you guess which technique produced the best results? (As for me, well, I’ve never met bacon I didn’t like.)

Well, that’s certainly plenty for a Thursday. We’ll be back tomorrow with more fun stuff. Got something we should share? Send it in!