Tag Archives: consumer

What’s Normal, We’re Not

When I arrived in Germany in December 2008 to backpack for 2 weeks, my first time leaving the country, I was shocked at how un-shocking things were. People were people, living like people. No big deal. I arrived in Afghanistan in January 2011 for a deployment. I remember that of course, but the adjustment there mostly involved the job to do. After a half year there, the real shock was returning home. The colors! The information! Options! What to do?! That returning home shock doesn’t seem to wear off. I have left the country for 6+ months 5 separate times now, to Afghanistan, Japan, and Brazil. Each time I return, I am shocked by how shocking it is to come home.

Over the last year or so, I have spent a lot of time listening to history lectures from the Greeks through today (I recommend The Great Courses, available on Audible, they are awesome). I started with world history for a while, then recently listened to 2 sets of lectures on American history. The shock is the same. We are truly different. Our everyday lives are different. In fact, I would argue that America is more different from every other country than any other 2 countries are from each other. In order, the following are most noticeable:

1. Consumer Culture

Goods are so abundant and cheap that producers systematically create demand with advertisements. The result is bright colors everywhere representing the well-organized system professionally designed to make us want stuff. Our system of advertisement reaches around the globe now, and it stands out everywhere else it appears (McDonald’s, Coke, Viagra).

2. Cars

We each have one. We drive mostly alone. Carpooling is the exception. We park close when we can, pay when we can’t. Cars are our status symbol for which we spend 6 months to 2 years up to a lifetime of income.

3. Strong Institutions and Rule Following

We trust our institutions. From the government to our universities even to our franchises and brands like Coca Cola and McDonald’s. They consistently tax us, educate us, make our favorite treats, always convenient parking, minimum service standards, and a free bathroom when you need it.

We trust institutions over people. We will invest our life savings in a faceless stock in the stock market, but are much more hesitant to invest in a local business whose owner we actually know.

We stop for traffic lights with nobody around. We pay our taxes. Corruption surprises us. The roads are straight, fast, aligned at perfect right angles. We drink alcohol in specific regulated places at specific times. Next time you walk down the sidewalk in Las Vegas and think it’s cool that you can carry a beer with you, remember, that’s the only thing normal about Vegas!

Some of these things seem unrelated, but I don’t think so. We are unique in having a ubiquitous, mostly stable government that is older than the population, and we accept its authority. Most of us arrived since the constitution was adopted in 1789. Name another country in the world whose current government is older than its people. Egypt or China? Mexico? Any South American country? Some theocracy? No, not like us.

4. Sugar as a Food Group

You notice it in the people immediately upon arrival at a US airport.

5. Security

You probably won’t be robbed at a US airport, bus station, or in most public spaces. America has never been invaded. We expect security. We expect our government to counter threats, and it does.

6. Air Conditioning

7. Television

 

For better or worse, our lives are different. We adapt everyday. Adaptation is so ubiquitous we aren’t even aware of it. We are living an experiment from which came many of the greatest improvements in our lives, … but it is an experiment. It has not run its course. The US accounts for just 6.6% of the land area of the world. It has been less than 200 years since the industrial revolution, out of more than 1 million years of human history. As a population, as a culture, we are shocked, adjusting, and changing. We will not live to see the conclusion. The only thing known so far is that we are not normal.

I live in the US, but mostly without the things on that list. It is liberating to at least identify the ways in which we are different, the stressors on our lives. To see people shop as a hobby, drive, follow conventions, sip sugar water, follow years’ worth of TV series, and refrigerate their living space is like stepping into a hyper-modern future world. You might think I’m crazy, but I am here to tell you: we are.

Furniture Consignment Shops, Let’s Pop Some Tags, Columbus!

Consignment shops are a great place to buy and sell used furniture. Here’s how they work: somebody has a piece of furniture they want to sell, they bring it to the consignment shop and agree to allow it to be sold there for a commission to the consignment shop. The furniture sits on display at the shop until it sells and then the shop sends a check to the seller minus the commission. As time goes by and the furniture doesn’t sell, the shop lowers the price until it sells. This is usually done on an agreed-upon schedule.

It’s kind of like a full-time garage sale, or Craigslist with physical building.

So where should you go to “pop some tags” on furniture in Columbus? I have to defer to my mom on this one. My mom the expert says that the best consignment shops are:

Consignment Shops

  1. Grandview Mercantile Company in the Short North
  2. Experienced Possessions in Shawnee Hills
  3. Trading Places in Dublin

OSU Surplus

Of note also, Ohio State releases their surplus furniture once per month, click here for more info. There are some massive deals here and they also sell electronics.

The Goodwill

The Goodwill. You may not choose to buy a couch here, but you cannot rule out the Goodwill. I bought a floor lamp at the Goodwill yesterday and if I told you I paid $100, you’d believe me. Stainless steel, all three switches work, and I saved enough to put LED bulbs in it. Don’t feel bad either. Pay cash. You are creating jobs, and also helping people get rid of their old stuff. Win-win. Don’t believe me? Believe Wikipedia.

General Re-Use Stores

New Uses in Columbus is like Craigslist in person, or like an on-going garage sale with quality items. I highly recommend them. There are currently three locations near Columbus.

  • New Uses, Sawmill Rd. and three other locations.

More Consignment Shops

How to Sell
  1. Take several pictures of each piece of furniture.
  2. Put all in one folder, and reduce the pictures to <1MB each.
  3. Write a short description with everything you know including manufacturer, age, original purchase price, condition.
  4. Each consignment shop’s site has a submission form or e-mail. They respond within a few days with a recommended price.
  5. They take a commission, usually 50%. With most you have to deliver the furniture, but some do pick-up.

Buyers, Get an Agent

Most homes for sale are listed on the MLS with a seller’s real estate agent. Most of those are listed under a contract called an “Exculsive Right to Sell,” with the seller’s agent and buyer’s agent commissions already agreed upon. That means that a buyer’s agent is already paid for if you buy the house, whether you have an agent or not. The seller pays for it from his proceeds. Make an agent earn that commission by working for you!

So where does the money go if you don’t have an agent? In that case, the seller’s agent usually is entitled to both sides of the commission.

Buyers, Get an Assumable Mortgage Loan

You should ask your lender about an assumable loan. This means that if you sell your house in the future, you can pass the loan to a qualified buyer. Typically, FHA loans are assumable.

The market conditions are great to buy a house right now. Interest rates have risen a little, but can still rise a lot more. If you have an assumable loan, you have the option to offer a qualified buyer today’s market conditions by giving them your low-rate mortgage along with your house.

An assumable loan can make your home easier to sell with more buyers and at a higher price in the future.

More information here:

http://www.bankrate.com/finance/mortgages/assumable-mortgage.aspx

Useful Real Estate Links

Central Ohio Real Estate Entrepreneurs is the local Columbus real estate investor club.

Franklin County

Franklin County Auditor has property owner information.

Franklin County Sheriff Sales has foreclosure auction information.

Columbus Development Commission

Franklin County Sex Offenders Search

Trulia Crime Map

Delaware County

Delaware County Auditor

Delaware County Sheriff Sales

Loan Programs

OHFA 1st Time Home Buyer Down Payment Assistance Mortgage Tax Credit Etc.

Grants for Grads

National

FHA Approved List

National Association of Realtors® Economist Outlook

NETR Online has the link to all public records websites around the US

Non-Fiction

Stranger than Fiction

A man fails as an actor, then goes to Alaska to live with grizzly bears? No way you say. Yep. The only question is, will the bears eat him?

A church founded by a science-fiction writer gains worldwide power? Yep, true. Watch out for Scientology.

Better than Fiction

A dolphin loses its tail, then becomes an inspiration to human amputees. Check it out! Straight out of Clearwater, Florida.

Nate’s Favorite Things 2015

Oprah has 87 favorite things this year. For her favorite things, click her picture.

Oprah Christmas
Click the picture for Oprah’s favorite things.

Notice she has teamed up with Amazon this year! She must have stolen that idea from me, since I have been doing that right here on my website since March 2014. Oprah is rich and trendy. Her favorite things are expensive and trendy. My favorite things are just awesome. See below.

1. GE LED Light Bulbs

Technology has finally produced a bulb to truly replace the incandescent light bulb. These have all of the advantages of the incandescent bulb with none of the drawbacks of compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs), and use less energy than CFLs. They even look just like regular light bulbs. Perfect for that guy on your list who just wants cash. One 60W equivalent that costs less than $6 saves more than $100 in electricity over the 22 year life of the bulb!

40 Watt Equivalent

60 Watt Equivalent

I have not bought anything more than a 60 watt. Maybe next year.

2. Simple Kneads Gluten-free Bread

Brand new product available to order only since last week! The best gluten-free bread available. Get it while it’s hot! My favorite is the sourdough.

3. The Best Phone Charger You Can Buy

Ever notice that some chargers charge your phone fast and some take a long time? That is because of the current rating of the charger. This thing puts out enough power to light that 40 watt (equivalent) bulb above! It also has a long cable with a little light on the end and a USB port so you can remove the cable.

4. The Best Car Charger You Can Buy

Same as above, but for your car.

5. Supplemental Battery

This will run any phone (even smart phones) for several days on a charge. I used it while traveling on my bike for days at a time.

6. Trailer Hitch Bike Rack

While not as beefy or secure as its name-brand $450 counterparts, it gets the job done for 130 bucks. It is certainly heavy-duty enough that the bikes will not come off on the highway. You can get it stolen twice and still spend the same as for the name-brand!

7. Go Buckeyes!

8. At a Glance Phrasebooks by Barron’s

For whatever language, At a Glance phrasebooks are the best you can buy. They have the usual phrases, as well as pronunciation, and a handy dictionary in the back. I have personally used the Japanese, Korean, and Portuguese. Good pocket size and sturdy cover. Only one fits in your pocket. This is the best one.

9. The Best Pens

How many different types of pens are out there? Way more than there should be. This should be the only type. They are the best.

10. Kindle Paperwhite and Carrying Case

The Kindle Paperwhite is the best e-reader out there. I haven’t used the other e-readers, so how do I know? Because you can’t improve on perfect. The screen looks like paper, the pages flip fast, and it has a built-in back light for reading at night. You’ll want to be able to carry it without scratching the screen and this case is just that. Nothing fancy, just a well-fitting cover.

11. Jump Rope

A great product for a great exercise. It has ball bearings, adjustable length, and what else do you need in a rope?

 

The Ultimate Commuter Bike

Bike to work, because driving cars everywhere makes us soft and weak.

This is the Ultimate Commuter Bike. The bike and accessories are tried and true by me for over 1400 miles and counting. Build one with the links in this post.

In order to set yourself up for commuter success, the right accessories are the key. Flat tires, you can’t have them. Theft, it might happen, but it can’t break the bank if it does. The sun is down half the time. You are going to have to ride in the dark.

It is simple and reliable. The bike is a single speed. The single speed chain never comes off and rarely needs adjusted. The bike itself, the Motobecane Fantom Cross Uno costs $399.

The “egg beater” pedal clips are great for beginners. They are designed for mountain biking, making them easy to get in and out of and impervious to dirt.

I have never had a single flat on the tires. The bike pump is portable and effective for keeping those tires hard and ready to ride.

Inexpensive: A simple, lightweight cable that you can wrap around the frame prevents crimes of opportunity, but short of carrying a U-Lock everywhere, theft can happen. $400 for the bike is the least you will pay for a legitimate bike. If it does get stolen–like mine did in 2012–hopefully you’ve gotten a few hundred miles out of it first.

Versatile: the cyclocross bike is good on the road, and still able to go off road when necessary unlike sissy pure road bikes with tiny tires.

Day and night: with the bright rechargeable AA battery powered headlight and AAA battery powered tail light, day and night riding is safe. With the single speed bike, you won’t go too fast for your light at night.

Other items that make your ride more enjoyable on the good days and bearable on the bad are a good pair of gloves. A good bike tool that is light and versatile is useful for on-the-road and at-home repair. Back sweat from a back pack is no fun, a good messenger bag eliminates this and gives you lots of compartments for little items you want for every ride. A water bottle with a removable bottom makes cleaning easy.

None of these accessories will make the ride easy. It will still be cold, dark, wet, and scary on your ride at times. Your success will always depend on your own fortitude, but these will remove any excuses you might have. I personally own and use each of these accessories and each is worth every penny I paid after hundreds of miles. The total accessories I purchased cost about $400.

Biking makes us lean and strong.