Clark Howard’s Best….

Budgeting can seem a lot like dieting if you feel like you’re being deprived of something you’ve always had.  That’s why so many people never budget to begin with, which I believe is a big mistake.

Habits guide my spending decisions more than my actual budget.  When contemplating a purchase, I ask myself a few questions to avoid buying something that I might regret:

  1. Is this a want or a need?
  2. Can I afford it?
  3. Will this enhance my life?

When I choose to buy something after answering those questions, I can do so without feeling guilty.  I also don’t need to worry about overspending because of those savings habits I mentioned, which have become personal money mantras.

Here are a few examples to show you how I apply them in my daily life:

Know what things should cost

If you’ve ever watched “The Price is Right,” you know that half of America has no clue how much things cost. Once you understand the way retailers price items, you can decide what’s an acceptable amount you’re willing to pay.

Not all sales are equal

Retailers will plaster the word “sale” on just about anything because many shoppers will trust that they’re getting a good deal if it’s on sale. We know better than that. While I usually buy discounted items, I recognize that the word “sale” is part of corporate America’s marketing strategy to get you to spend more. Be a skeptical shopper.

Reject brand loyalty

Apple is just one example of a company that has enormous power over its customers. This is obvious by folks with perfectly acceptable phones who stand in line to trade-up to the company’s latest and greatest iPhone every September. Apple also has other expensive items to feed your addiction, such as the iPad and Apple Watch, which essentially perform the same functions as the phone. While these products may be great, think about how much money you could save if you considered what other brands have to offer.

Can I fix what I already have?

When something breaks, it doesn’t automatically have to go in the trash can. For example, wear and tear was taking a toll on a pair of my shoes. Instead of spending another $75 for a replacement pair, I used super glue to fix damage to the side of my shoes and then I used Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (generic version) to make them look brand new again.

Shop in store, buy online

A major downside to online shopping is that you can’t try on clothing or shoes before you make a purchase. That’s why I prefer to shop in brick-and-mortar stores and then go home to search for the best price on Google. This method also gives you more time to think about whether you really want or need the item in the first place, eliminating impulse spending.

Get every discount possible

One great thing about living in the digital age is that we no longer have to wait for a Sunday newspaper to clip coupons or find out what’s on sale. It’s all just a Google search away these days. In addition to maximizing store incentives, I save on online purchases by using TopCashBack, Ibotta, Swagbucks and shopping portals linked to my credit cards.

Banking should be free

Banks need our deposits in order to continue making loans, which earns them billions of dollars through interest. In return, I believe basic checking and savings accounts should be free. After all, the banks aren’t paying out much interest on our deposits, so why pay them? Consider a checking account like Capital One 360 to avoid being hit with monthly maintenance fees.

Your credit card should pay you

Like commercial banks, credit card companies are in the business of making money, but they’re not making it from me — they’re paying me. Right now, there are at least a dozen good rewards credit cards on the market, including some that pay 2% cash back on all purchases. Find a card that suits your lifestyle and pay it off in full every month to avoid interest charges. That’s the only way to go.

It doesn’t matter what other people think

This mantra has probably saved me more money than all of the other things I’ve mentioned in this article combined. My goal in life is to pack in as many experiences as I can, not to accumulate fancy cars, expensive clothing and silly gadgets that “everyone else” is buying. You have to define what really matters in your life and surround yourself with people who share similar beliefs. I’ve never met anyone who was happy trying to be someone else.

No Justice, No Peace….

As of late one protest seems to spark another and the whole nation holds in collective breath every time you hear of a police action against an African American for whatever reason.  The marchers in these so called “protest marches”, which for the most part so far; have been just lead-ins to rioting and looting.  I’m OK with marching peacefully to get your point across but that point goes away real quick when you start looting and burning down the businesses and buildings around you, and in your own neighborhood to boot.  Figure that out.   Many of the protester walk along with their hands in the air mimicking the act of being arrested.  Seems to me that if the people their marching for would have done this when officers initially came to confront them, the minor situations which the police were there for would not had gotten out of control resulting in their deaths.  The man in New York City selling bootleg DVD’s or CD’s decided instead of being arrested and paying a small fine, he would fight five cops.  If you decide to fight five cops “YOU WILL LOSE”!  The SC man, who instead of sitting in his car as told to do so, decides to run.  Did I mention he was a wanted felon?  The young man in Fergusen MO who had just committed a strong arm robbery disregards an officers request to get out of the street decides a confrontation with him would be a better option.  It goes on and on.  The solution to all this is pretty simple really.  If a cop tells you to stop, you stop.  If he tells you to stand over there, you stand over there.  Stay in your car, stay in your car.  Not too hard.  All of these incidents as far as I can tell were pretty minor situations that as a result of the perpetrators actions escalated out of control.  So doesn’t it look a bit silly to be walking down the street with other protesters with your hands in the air which if that action would have happened in the first place they wouldn’t be marching and looting?  I want to say it’s almost ironic, it’s not, it’s sad.  The people of Baltimore kind of saw this and the protests and looting which happened, terrible as it was, were over quickly as the residents realized this was not the answer.  People we need the police.  As bad as some want to say we don’t, and show no respect for, we need them!  Recently a black sportscaster, a very outspoken sportscaster, said, “go ahead and take the police out of the hood, in two weeks it will be like the wild west and you’ll be begging for them to come back”.  Right now it’s all quiet on the western front.  I hope the spark of protest doesn’t return.

18 Best Books I’ve Ever Read….

Go ahead, pick it up.
Go ahead, pick it up.

1. “Isadore’s Secret” by Mardi Link – The murder of a Nun in the little town of Isadore Michigan in 1907 takes more turns than a dogs hind legs.

2. “Into the Wild” by John Krakauer – A young man’s adventurous side continually pushes him to the limits.

3. “The Giver” by Lois Lowry – Futuristic society where a new seer is needed and found. Hard to believe this sometimes graphic book is aimed at young people.

4. “Tom Watson’s Strategic Golf” – Tom shows you how to play the set up of the course, the do’s and don’ts. No swing tips which you’ll forget anyway.

5. “Lake Wobegon 1956” by Garrison Keioler – Childhood revisited.

6. “Catch Me If You Can” – Frank Abagnale as the con artist elite.

7. “Commandant of Auschwitz” by Rudolf Heoss – Untold tales of concentration camp life.

8. “The Rape of Nanking” by Iris Chang – In 1937 Japan invades China, history you don’t hear much about.

9. “Miracle at Midway” by Gorgon Prange – It really was a miracle we won this battle and turned the tide of the war with Japan. As you are reading you’ll have to remind yourself, “we won this battle”.

10. “Escape from Camp 14” by Blane Harden – Modern day tale of a North Korean prison camp escapee and prison life inside the so called labor camps.

11. “Survival at Auschwitz” by Primo Levi – Untold tales of concentration camp life.

12. “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy – The apocalypse has come and a Father and Son struggle to survive.

13. “When Evil Came to Good Hart” by Mardi Link – The unsolved murder of an upstanding family in Good Hart Michigan in the summer of 1968. You figure it out after reading and being introduced to the suspects.

14. “No Country for Old Men” by Cormac McCarthy – One chases the other in this tale of hitman -vs.- anyone in his way.

15. “Heaven Is For Real” by Todd Burpo – Leaves you thinking after a young boy momentarily dies and experiences what he believes is Heaven.

16. “At Dawn we Slept” by Gordon Prange – Day by day account on both the US and Japanese sides leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. The research that went into this book is absolutely astonishing!

17. “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London – Excellently written tale of a kidnapped dog forced to be a member of a sled dog team. When I finished chapter five, I read the last paragraph 10 times it was so well written, and still go back to read it time to time.

18. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee – Very good read of a depression era father and his two children. Wish I had read it before I ever saw the movie.

The Last Great Art Form….

I saw a hitcher hiker the other day on my side of the road that had his hand and thumb up to a car coming toward me in the other lane, with no luck there he put his hand and thumb up to me?!? He was going somewhere and didn’t seem to care where or what direction.  Read the book “On The Road” by Jack Kerouac, you’ll find that he romanticizes it so much you can’t wait to get out there.  It was set during the dustbowl days and it’s the story of a group of young folk who travel all over this great land by hook or by crook visiting friends wherever they find them.  Living and sleeping wherever they find themselves.  Good read.  It’s also been said that the road is better than the inn.  I knew a guy who told me he saw the same guy hitch hiking quite often but never picked him up because he didn’t want to feel obligated every time he saw him.  I used to hitchhike quite often when I was a teenager, never had an issue.  We have actually walked farther away from our destination to start hitchhiking so there was a better chance of getting a ride because of hitchhiking longer.  Quite often with no luck you ended up walking to the place you were going anyway.  I always debated at what point do you give up hitchhiking and just walk the rest of the way.  You don’t want to get picked up and have tell them almost immediately to drop you at the next corner.  How embarrassing is that?  Hitchhiking is a lost art.  There are the guys who just walk along with a thumb flying in the air.  Come on hitchhiking is a form of begging and you’ve got to turn around and look forlorn or sad, you know, put some effort into it.  Look that driver in the face and connect with him in the split second he’s deciding yes or no.  Actually it’s a no going in but you got a second or so to change that with the right expression on your face.  A poorly written sign shows effort I guess.  Gives the driver the idea that at least you have a goal for yourself.  Don’t put the words Vet or Veteran on the sign.  People are leery of veterans who wear a lot of camouflage, appear to be somewhat unkempt walking the highways.  Groups are bad.  Don’t hitchhike with a group.  Does it seems like a lot of hitchhikers have guitars and dogs?  Although it’s not as exciting or popular as it once was I still have faith it will continue on as a form of travel for the people of lesser means.  However all’s not lost for those that traverse this great country of ours because I heard a serial killer once say that there are people he knew who rode around looking to pick up hitchhikers.  So there you go.

Mastering It….

Lucky hole #13
Lucky hole #13

Have you ever been to a place that’s so well kept and manicured that it’s inconceivable the amount of work that would have to go into it on an almost constant basis. Have you ever been to a place like this that makes you feel welcome and proud at the same time that your there to enjoy it.  This place does exist and it’s in Augusta Georgia.  I had the pleasure not long ago of crossing off my bucket list a want that’s been building and building for the past several years and finally came to be a few weeks ago.  Attending the Master’s Golf Championship!  Unless you win the ticket lottery you will pay a premium price for the pleasure.  I fortunately didn’t have to do either and am extremely grateful for the opportunity a friend gave me.  The Master’s Golf Course is a place like no other I’ve ever seen as a past golfer, and I’ve played quite a number of nice courses.  There is nothing out of place, nothing!  Looking back I find it’s set up for the “Patrons” or visitors as much as it’s set up for the golfers that play there.  Maybe more so.  I ended up walking the entire course and took in many of the side events and history the golf club offers.  I figured when the day was said and done I had walked more than six miles and only sat one time for about 15 minutes.  I made the most of the opportunity and when I hit the car at days end I was spent.  Watching on TV is fine, but to experience it first hand and then take it in on TV brings it into a greater context.  This course, set up to the way the pros play it would eat the lunch of the average hacker.  I stood on many of the fairways scratching my head wondering how I would play certain holes if given the opportunity.  I’m still wondering.  It is relentless with trips up and down hills with added sloping one way or the other and the greens are just as undulating and lightening fast.  TV brings you there but in no way gives you the real feel for what the course offers.  All that said it’s no longer on my list, but I wouldn’t mind doing it again.  Trying to pass on the experience to others always ends in the same statement “you gotta see it to believe it!

Wal-Mart, Beware of Falling Self Respect….

Sure there are times when I need something and have to take that seemingly dreaded trip to Wal-Mart. NPR called Wal-Mart the death of small town America.  I guess I don’t have to go to Wal-Mart but hell they have everything, the prices are decent or at least somewhat cheaper than what you would find at other stores.  It’s pretty much one stop shopping.  Don’t get me wrong I don’t go there to shop, I know what I want, I get it and I’m in and out in short order.  That is if more that two of the 50 registers are open.  Have you ever seen at least half of the registers in a Wal-Mart open at the same time?  Any Wal-Mart, ever?  You have a better chance of seeing a UFO.  Sometimes I park and check out in the auto department sometimes just to curb the wait time.  I was thinking the other day, what ever happened to those benches they used to have throughout the store for old men to camp out on?  I guess Wal-Mart figured out old men have money and that bench isn’t going to spend it.  That and they needed the space for the $3.99 DVD bargain bin.

Now I find most times I’m not really dressed to go there. I feel so out of place.  It seems pajama bottoms or sweat pants are the dress code of choice and all the rage.  The only place you’ll see more pajama bottoms is in front of a Netflix vending machine at the convenience store.  This with a nice worn-out dirty sweatshirt or hoodie that doesn’t even come close to matching seems to be the required attire.  Don’t forget the curlers ladies, and don’t you dare to remove them before going.  The pink ones are my favorite.  No shoes no problem.  Who cares if your feet are hanging off the back of flip flops that are two sizes too small for your feet?  I consider this type of dress to be kind of like the “emergency trip to the store” throw on anything clothes?  Well there must be a lot of emergencies going on because that’s the norm.  Now not all the folks dress up this nicely some come a bit more casual.  I had a friend who used to say “just because they make it in your size doesn’t mean you’re supposed to wear it”.  I guess if they’re covered they’re happy.

Of course no trip to Wal-Mart would be complete if you didn’t run into Grandma who took every kid and Grandchild she can find with her and then turned them loose like a bunch of banshees. Don’t kids go to school during the day anymore?  Of course she has to take them as they seem to be calling most of the shots during the visit anyway.  I can’t remember the last time I walked down the toy aisle, that’s scary stuff right there boy!  What a mess!  Although there usually is a good fight going on between some child and an adult.

Then there are the riding buggy people, the group of folks who have never actually walked through a Wal-Mart. They ride in electric cart comfort.  Not long ago I saw two women riding in the little carts side by side down an aisle, shopping, riding, talking and looking.  Two rather large ladies, like twin sisters.  Consider that aisle closed.  I’m sympathetic to any cause but I find that if these carts were designed for the handicapped or injured, every handicapped or injured person who goes to Wal-Mart is overweight.  And I know Wal-Mart is sympathetic to the handicapped because how many handicapped parking spaces do you think there are in front of the average store?  I’ve tried to count them all, it’s not easy but it’s somewhere between 24 and 30+.  Know what else?  They’re always filled.  As soon as one opens it almost immediately gets filled.  It’s one of my pet peeves and it kills me where seemingly fit people park in them and then strut into the store like nobodies business. What’s he rush though, none of the registers are open.

Good luck in there!

Bowl Game Glut, A Recap….

When I said I resigned myself to watch as many bowl games as I could I wasn’t kidding.  I viewed quite a number even if it was not the whole game I still saw a great deal.  Get a load of some of those bowl game names, I love it.  Many of the games were poorly attended but the players played like it was a full house.  The games even produced big emotions at the end many times.  Good for the players, the coaches and the fans.  That’s what it’s all about, right?  Damn straight.  See you in September.

New Orleans Bowl – Boring.  Hell even I couldn’t get into it, but I did watch most of it.

LA Lafayette 13  Nevada 3

Potato Bowl – Why is it every game I watch in this stadium, Boise State with the blue rug, it’s always snowing or raining or something crappy.  It looked like there were about 17 people there.  Of course bringing in teams from far off didn’t exactly help attendance.

Air Force 38  Western Michigan 24

Camellia Bowl – Bowling Green throws the Hail Mary to win it, otherwise forgettable.

Bowling Green 33  South Alabama 28

Miami Beach Bowl – Big fight at the end.  Bad ending to a good hard fought game.

Memphis 55  Brigham Young 48

Boca Ratan Bowl – Marshall had one receiver with 18 catches.  Marshall rolls.

Marshall52  Northern Illinois 23

Pointesettia Bowl – Navy pulls out a squeeker at the end.  Good low scoring game.

Navy 17  San Diego State 16

Bahamas Bowl – Central Michigan makes a hell of a comeback only to miss the two point conversion to win it at the end.

Western Kentucky 49  Central Michigan 48

Hawaii Bowl – Rice rolls.  I was very surprised here.

Rice 30  Fresno State 6

Heart of Dallas Bowl – Actually I thought Illinois was the better team but they kept self destructing.

Louisiana State 38  Illinois 17

Quick Lane Bowl – This surprised me too.  Is Rutgers that good?

Rutgers 40  North Carolina 21

Military Bowl – The only fumble fumble touchdown play I ever saw

Virginia Tech 33  Cincinnati 17

Independence Bowl – Good competitive game.

South Carolina 24  Miami 21

Pinstripe Bowl – Penn State acted like they won the National Title at the end.  That’s what the bowls are all about.

Penn State 31  Boston College 30

Holiday Bowl – Prayer not answered at the end.  Why did Nebraska let their coach go?!?

USC 45  Nebraska 42

Russell Athletic Bowl – The Tigers could do NO wrong.  The Sooners are better than this showing.

Clemson 40  Oklahoma 6

Music City Bowl – Good competitive game.  ND re-finds it’s life.  FG to win.

Notre Dame 31  LSU 28

Peach Bowl – Over before it started.  TCU tries to make a point.

TCU 42  Ole Miss 3

Fiesta Bowl – Boise quarterback play was outstanding.

Boise State 38  Arizona 30

Orange Bowl –  The Ramblin Wreck’s triple option is hard to contain.

Georgia Tech 49  Mississippi 34

Outback Bowl – First OT game of the bowl season was great ending to a great game.  Maybe the best bowl game of the bowl season.

Wisconsin 34  Auburn 31

Cotton Bowl – The Bears blew it.  Bad!  Now this may be the best bowl game of the season.

Michigan State 42  Baylor 41

Rose Bowl – Ducks speed ruled the day.  The turnover didn’t hurt either.

Oregon 59  Florida State 20

Sugar Bowl – Alabama beat at their own game.  Good competitive game however.

Ohio State 42  Alabama 35

Alamo Bowl –  The game doesn’t matter.  Bill Snyder is a favorite coach of mine.

UCLA 40  Kansas State 35

Birmingham Bowl – Good journeyman game.  Gators one step ahead the whole way.

Florida 28  East Carolina 20

GoDaddy Bowl – Speed speed hurry up speed and more speed.  Really no fun to watch, so I stopped in the first.

Toldeo 63  Arkansas State 44

National title Game – Buckeye’s literally beat up the Ducks, badly.  An ass whipping at it’s finest, and with a third string quarterback too.

Ohio State 42  Oregon 20


Didn’t see any of the:

New Mexico Bowl

Las Vegas Bowl

St. Petersburg Bowl

Sun Bowl

Liberty Bowl

Texas Bowl

Belk Bowl

Foster Farms Bowl

Citrus Bowl

Armed Forces Bowl

TaxSlayer Bowl

Cactus Bowl

Jim Harbaugh #4 returns home to Michigan….

QB Jim Harbaugh will now wear the headset at the "University of Michigan".
QB Jim Harbaugh will now wear the headset at the “University of Michigan”.


jimmy press conference









This guy will restore The University of Michgan back to the winning way!  This guy is a no nonsense football motivator and if you don’t like what he says or does, too bad, that’s the way it is.  And his way wins football games.  Sound familar?  He is a disciple of Bo and coaches with the same fire.  Bo said of all the QB’s he ever coached Harbaugh was the one he trusted the most on the field.  It may be a bit too much to ask coming out of the gate but two or three years down the road the Wolverines will once again be a force to be dealt with.  He’s been successfull everywhere he’s coached and I can’t wait to see him wear the block M hat and walk the sidelines at Michigan Stadium.  #4 is back.

He’s Here, A Christmas Story….

I believe most people who know me would say my two favorite words are, “Go Blue”.   Well they’re up there and were the tops for a great number of years but I think “He’s Here” has overtaken the top spot.  You see when I was waiting on my grandchild, for nine months all the talk I heard centered around the baby coming, showers, due dates, checkups, how big he is, is he healthy, and the mother or baby’s needs.  But mostly the talk was of the future and the baby that’s coming.  You hear about it, you talk about it, but you can’t wrap your hands around it.  It’s like talking about Santa or the Easter Bunny, lots of talk but they never really appear.  You hear the talk talk talk but what they speak of is never with you.  100_8833An intangiable object.  The excitement in their voices is there to be sure, but still something’s missing and what is coming never seems like it will ever get here.  On April 1, 2014 I sat quietly in a hospital waiting room only a short distance down the hall from the delivery area where my Daughter and Son in Law were about to make me a Grandpa.  Only there a few minutes at best when my son in laws sister looks at her phone and says in an excited voice; “He’s Here”.  A text and photo from the delivery room announced his arrival.  It then hit me, BA-BAM!  My mind went clear as a bell with only one thought. He’s right down the hall right now.  He’s in the next room.  No more living in a state of wondering.  I can now see him in person.  I can go meet him and hold what the all the talk was of for so many months.  A Grandchild I can put my hands on.  You have no idea of how remembering hearing the words, “He’s Here” makes me feel.  Just slightly above “Go Blue”!