Thursday, August 29, 2013

How We Negotiate, Part I

Negotiating is a lot like sex. Negotiations involve (at least) two people. The stated goal is for both parties to walk away happy...though it's not uncommon for only one to truly be satisfied. And while negotiating is something we all do at some point in our lives, few of us were ever properly trained. We may have one or two good moves, but that’s about it. We probably aren't as good at it as we think we are. Most importantly, if you ever find yourself about to negotiate with a real pro, it's time to walk away.

Part of my job as a procurement professional is to negotiate. The longer I work in the field, the more often I run into the skilled and seasoned few, and I realize I am no expert. But in this post, I will share some of the lessons I've learned. They may be of some use if you are negotiating a large dollar purchase, such as a car or ongoing services with a supplier; and the concepts can also apply to smaller negotiations as well, such as a phone bill or craigslist purchase.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Confusing Yard Work Experience, Part II

I am traveling for work for the first half of the week, attending some all day training sessions, so I only have a short blog post today. Apologies to those whose blogs I haven't been able to read or visit lately. The bosses have us going back to back all day, and then there is the networking at the bar after work. I see a bunch of great stuff in my reader but it will have to wait until Wednesday evening, when I get back. Such are the complaints of the first world yuppie. Poor me, being forced to learn about my field in an air conditioned building, and then not being able to read interesting articles through a magic wireless device when I want to, because I'm drinking beer and eating bar food instead.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Things We Carried on the Appalachian Trail

From last year's hike
On September first, I'll leave for my annual section hike of the Appalachian Trail with my lifelong best friend from Pittsburgh. We are starting our hike in the cool town of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, where the AT goes right through old timey streets lined with historic buildings. We will hike a little under sixty miles to the edge of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Our plan is to eventually walk the whole Appalachian Trail one section at a time.  At our current rate this is going to take the rest of our lives, which is fine by me. An annual hike is as good an excuse as any to go back to Pittsburgh and see old friends, and getting to spend a week in nature is pretty nice, too.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Football, Persistence, and Television Failure

Remember a couple weeks ago when I charted my time in the Frequency Continuum over at the Cash Rebel blog, saw that I was watching way too much television, and decided I needed to cancel DirecTV? Yeah, about that. It turns out that I really like watching football. I saw a few preseason games, had some beers, watched my Steelers fumble and stumble their way to a loss, and I fell in love all over again. They are a terrible team this year, but they are my terrible team. Plus, my wife is leaving the country for five months. My friends love me and all, but there are only so many times they'll hang out with me during the week. Some evenings, I'll be happy to have a recorded NFL game to watch.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Breakthrough Charity Idea: Give Money to Poor People

Happy Monday, everyone. Today's short post centers on two podcasts I recently listened to on NPR, which followed a charity called GiveDirectly that has a simple mission: to give money directly to those in need. Instead of providing training or equipment or performing work or building schools...what if you just gave money to poor people? The simple idea is based on an old economic principle: people know what they need, and how to best get what they need, better than anyone else. Give them money and you not only get the best results--it also dramatically simplifies the charity process. And the concept is being put into action: GiveDirectly is giving away $5M this year.

I won't ruin the podcasts as they are both excellent shows worth listening to. Here is the short podcast from Planet Money, summarizing the concept; and here is the slightly longer podcast on This American Life. But I want to just discuss the idea, as my wife and I did, each of us coming to a different conclusion.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Value vs. Getting What You Pay For

I only have a short post today, as work has picked up, and a lot of my free time is going towards planning for my section hike on the Appalachian Trail at the end of this month. Also, I wanted to announce that I just joined the Yakezie Challenge.

My wife and I recently were discussing two of our favorite ideas over coffee: value (which we think of as getting more than you paid for), and the contrary idea that you do, in fact, get what you pay for. Being frugal, we are naturally drawn towards value because we love the idea of getting more than a dollar's worth for our dollar. But it's clear to me that we have a bias. We overvalue the value, per se. And we have a lot of examples of the opposite thing being true. I buy the inexpensive drill bit and, yes, it breaks. The brand name drill, however, is still running after 15 years with no signs of slowing down.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

So Long, Perkstreet

I received an odd email from our bank on Monday, opening with this:  "We have some bad news to share. PerkStreet Financial will be closing permanently and ceasing all business operations as of September 26, 2013."  Well, then.

This is not the first time my wife and I have dealt with our bank going out of business.  Our last brick and mortar bank in California, Washington Mutual (affectionately nicknamed "WaMu") shuttered its windows during the financial crisis in 2008.  It freaked us out a bit as we didn't really know what that meant for the money we had in our accounts.  Would it just go away?  Would we be reliving those scenes from the 30's and make a run on the bank?  Would we farm the earth like the Joads?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Birthday & 7 Years from the Goal: Progress Update

Today is my thirty-third birthday, and my loving wife made sure I had a great weekend. She and I had a fancy pants dinner at home, complete with my first taste of grass fed beef, along with snow crab legs and way too many vodka tonics. I had thought that was going to be the celebration, but then yesterday when we rode the scooter back from the gym I noticed there were friends inexplicably in our living room. I thought, "Hmm, that's odd...maybe we had scheduled a hangout and I just forgot about it." I didn't realize what was happening until I saw the candles. What can I say? I'm gullible. It was a fantastic birthday weekend thanks to my wife and friends, who baked a cheesecake and a pecan pie and played board games with me. I'm going to extend it one more day by, yes, having another steak dinner at home tonight. Too much beef is bad for me, I know, I know.  But I wants me some steak and I'm going to get it.  

And as we're exactly seven years out from my fortieth birthday, it's time to check in on the crazy multi-year plan and see if we are on track.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Should I Buy Investment Property Locally?

Today we are hosting our first guest post, ever, from Brandon Turner at  Brandon reached out and graciously offered to answer a question I'd recently asked about rental property.  His article addresses how, and where, you should look for a rental home.
I’m not a hippie.
However, living in Western Washington, I’m surrounded by them daily and tend to pick up on some of their habits (it’s contagious, apparently.) One such habit is the importance of buying locally grown food – from farmer’s markets, farm stands, and selectively shopping at the supermarket. I understand that it is good for both the environment and my local economy to buy local.
But what about rental property? Does that need to be local, also?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Fantasy Football Trades & Behavioral Economics

It's August and the fantasy football season is upon us.  There are draft sheets to be built, preseason games to be watched, FFG podcasts to listen to, and research to be done.  It's a great time of year, and a reminder that, yes, life is good.  I look forward to draft day more than I do my birthday or Christmas.  Who needs gifts when you have beer & a room full of friends ready to ruthlessly insult every draft mistake?

Today's post is on one of the oddities of fantasy football:  trades, and why there are so few of them.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Produce Haul

I just have a quick post tonight on produce. Like a lot of people, my wife and I are trying our best to eat more fruits and vegetables. But we find we are not being consistent because of two things. One, our eating goes in waves. We'll have smoothies for breakfast and eat a salad with dinner every night for a week or two, then every night turns into every third night.  Then we get a bit sick of it all and go back cereals or bagels for breakfast, and to starches as side dishes for dinner. The other problem we have is variety.  Because we shop the circulars of the big grocery stores in the area, and try to buy only what is on sale, we often end up buying & burning out on the same seasonal fruits & vegetables, too.  I know this is the height of first world whining, but if I eat any more peaches this summer I'm going to start sweating yellow nectar.