All posts in The Frug Recommends

Make Banks Work for You.

bankrates

How I locked in a historically low mortgage rate without getting lost in research, voicemails, and paperwork.

By Brad Beckstrom

I’ve been putting it off. Mortgage rates are at historic lows and, on paper, it made a lot of sense to refinance my current mortgage to a 10 year mortgage available at a lower fixed rate. It’s just that even thinking about my past experiences with refinancing both my home and some rental properties gave me gas. I knew I needed to get it done, especially since I’m always telling people to cut their largest expenses first. Our mortgage is our largest expense.

I’d made some mistakes in the past, like listening to some TV ad and then going to a website like Lendingtree. They say they’re going to find you the lowest rate but in fact they are getting all of your information and giving it to banks, selling your name as a lead. Immediately your phone starts to ring off the hook from banks you’ve never heard of. Luckily I gave them a Google voice number that sends all these folks directly to a digital voicemail graveyard. The messages are transcribed for me in a Gmail account and I quickly delete them in bulk. But, the calls kept coming for months. So, the lesson here is don’t give your loan or refinance information to any consolidator site, claiming to “find the best rate” or “do the work for you.” In fact, take this one step further: don’t share any of your personal information, email, phone number, address, income etc. with any mortgage site, including companies like Quicken Loans. Or any other big banks that bombard you with national TV ads. There’s a reason they can afford to advertise on the Super Bowl.

When it comes to finding a great mortgage rate, you’ll actually save time by doing it yourself, and you won’t have to share any personal information. Here’s a few steps I recently used to lock in a fixed 2.37% rate on a 10 year mortgage. With rates this low there’s really no benefit in getting an adjustable rate loan. Read more…

The Frug’s List. The best free things on the internet (I’ve used for over a year).

The Frug's

By Brad Beckstrom

I should have made this list sooner, but I don’t like recommending something unless I’ve used it for a while, especially if it’s free, or it’s often too good to be true cousin (freemium).  Since I started this blog in 2013, I’ve written about all kinds of free things on the inter-webs so I thought it would be a good idea to consolidate these into an ongoing list that I can update when I discover new free things, or get pissed and take one off the list. You can be sure that if it’s on this list I’ve been using it for at least a year.

Some of the items on this list are what we call “freemium”, meaning the initial version of the app is free, with more full-featured versions available for a fee. I won’t include them on the list if I don’t feel the basic version will fulfill most people’s needs, and I’ll be sure to mention if it’s ad-supported or freemium.  These are not in any particular order, but in the future, I’ll add my latest discoveries to the top of the list.

thefruglist

  • Craigslist, the granddaddy of useful free things on the web. Craigslist has been one of my favorite tools for getting rid of stuff, whether it means posting a curb alert to have your old stuff hauled away for free, unloading old computer equipment for cold hard cash, or selling some sports tickets without some service adding 20% to the price. It’s free, it’s useful, it works. The more you use it, the better you get. Always remember to use photos to get your items noticed. My favorite craigslist story was when our local UPS guy came and hauled away an old sofa that The Salvation Army would not accept.
  • Google Apps for Work. Including Drive, Calendar, Docs, Gmail. I’ve been using Google’s online suite of apps for years. It always amazes me that I can create or find something much faster online in my browser than I can waiting for slow apps from Microsoft and Apple to grind through their bloated routines. After 6 years, I am currently using about eight gigs of the 15 free gigs of storage Google includes with my suite of apps. If you’re worried about security, you can even add two factor authentication. You’ll get a code sent to your mobile device if you try to login to your documents from another browser. You can also sync and backup your docs to your computer using Google Drive for your desktop.

Read more…

The 5 Minute Body Scan.

How a free app and 5 minute exercise for the brain is like a reboot for your day. 

8996093943_25707d34a6_z

By Brad Beckstrom

For years I’ve been reading about professional athletes, coaches, CEOs, artists, writers and others I admired, who meditated daily. I’d read about meditation and written about my experiments with it in the past. I wanted in on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness and I’ve been trying to make it a daily habit.

The Problem

To be honest, I struggled with it. The longest streak of daily meditation I’ve had was five days,  five minutes per day. Surely I could spare 5 minutes a day for this life changing habit? I was really having trouble silencing my ADD tendencies enough to get started and stick with it.

My problem was trying to meditate in silence. I learned quickly that the way my mind works is trying to fill any silence with thoughts. I’ve tried to train myself to silence these thoughts and banish them as they appeared.  My meditation experiment included interesting tricks like envisioning these random thoughts as Post-it notes floating through the air and then being crumbled and tossed as I tried to clear my mind and focus on my breath. So, that’s what my meditation looked like, breathing sounds and Post-it notes full of thoughts and to-dos. I learned that’s how meditation often begins, helping you understand how your mind works so you can silence stress and negative thoughts. I was still having trouble with it as my stream of thoughts just became more visual as I sat in silence with my eyes closed.

How I Fixed It

Read more…

Never Pay For Cloud Storage Again.

Claiming your one terabyte of free space in the cloud. 

cloud storage

By Brad Beckstrom.

It’s out there. The land rush is on. Free space. I’m not talking about a few free gigabytes of space, I’m talking free terabytes (1000 Gigabytes).  If you’re like most people you have a lot of photos. They are probably out of sight, scattered around in all kinds of places, shoeboxes, disintegrating photo albums, old laptops, photo apps, and smartphones. Especially smartphones. As cameras in smartphones get better (Over 800 Apple engineers worked on the latest iPhone camera) we are taking more and more photos.  We take photos of family, friends, pets, projects at work, that dent in our fender, photos of our stuff (a home inventory with photos can come in handy with the insurance company after that next natural or household disaster).  

Wouldn’t it be great if we could store all our photos in one place and have them automatically tagged and categorized by date, topic, location, and then easily decide which ones to share with family and friends and which ones to keep private?

I recently got a crash course on photo storage options as I’m working on a project to publish 10,000 images over five years. I needed space for personal photos, work photos, and photographs for the project. If you count photography as a hobby and shoot high-resolution and raw images, up til recently online storage wasn’t a great option. Less than 100 full size image files from a modern digital SLR can take up more space than 65,000 pages of word documents. (about a gigabyte) High res scanned images can be even larger.

Don’t pay for cloud storage. Read more…

This Once a Month Habit Will Change Your Life.

The 10 best tools for finding truly great books.

IMG_7663

By Brad Beckstrom

Recently Tim Ferriss (Writer and 4 Hour Workweek guru) was interviewing Kevin Kelly Founding Editor, Senior Maverick of Wired Magazine and an expert on all kinds of cool stuff.  Kelly has a crazy two letter domain name kk.org where he shares everything from his extensive list of documentary film recommendations, books, photography and all kinds of cool tools he’s come across. The interview was so fascinating that Tim Ferriss extended it to a second podcast and eventually a third. I highly recommend having a listen.

In the interview Kevin Kelly said one thing that really stuck with me. “ read one book (any book) a month and it will change your life”. I’ve always enjoyed reading, but over the years but I’d gotten more reliant on magazines, blog feeds, apps (like feedly and flipboard) and podcasts. Taking the time to find and read really good books had gotten pushed aside. I was doing quite a bit of reading but the problem with books is that it takes some time to find good ones. I’d often start a book and then not finish it. I might even have two or three books I’ve started on my Kindle app at one time, but after the first few chapters they just sort of trail off.

A lot of the books I’ve read, especially nonfiction, business, and finance books start out like gangbusters then end up trailing off and repeat themselves for the second half of the book. The Kindle app lets you download a sample to your device, but I found the samples are rarely enough to really get a good feel for the quality of the book as they wrap up pretty quickly.

Here’s a quick tip, if a book doesn’t hold your attention at least to the middle chapters dump it.  You wouldn’t go around telling people you’re in the middle of a bad book.  If you’re going to commit the time to finishing a book a month it should really be one that you enjoy, that you can’t wait to get back to. There are a lot of bad books out there but there are still many many good ones you just need some cool tools to find them. Read more…

Load More