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. 

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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…

How the ordinary can become extraordinary.

What can you create that people will be talking about in 100 years?

Time Capsual

By Brad Beckstrom

If you were asked to create a time capsule that would be opened in 100 years what would you put in? I recently spent some time with my sister and cousin Dave looking through some old family photos and letters that were found in my grandmother’s attic. A few of the photos were tintypes most likely created in the 1870s or 1880s.  Many more were from the 1920s – 1960s.  

1860s

Looking through several hundred of these, I learned quite a bit about my family. Like the furniture company in Baltimore that my great great grandfather owned in the 1880s.  My grandfather’s brothers and family who were lost or left behind after wars or immigration. The search my grandfather made for some of his brothers who were living as far away as Texas and California in the 30s and 40s. Or his mother, sister and youngest brother who stayed behind in Finland when their father and older sons emigrated to the United States. When they caught up again, so many years had passed that my grandfather and his brother who were left behind no longer spoke the same language and the letters needed to be translated on both sides. I had a great uncle in Finland named Thor. No doubt descended from Vikings!

Time seeds

The letters were helpful in putting dates and addresses on things, but so many of the photos didn’t have names, dates, or places. The cars, the clothing, even the type of photograph were like time seeds helpful in piecing some things together. After looking through a lot of these, I realized a lot of the old photos I’ve taken don’t include dates, names, or places either.

100 Years from now.

I thought about how it’s important to leave some kind of record. 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…