Thank you so much to all of you who entered. I am excited to announce that the newest winner of the “PiggyBankBuilder Made in the USA Giveaway” is Devon from Bryant, AR. Congratulations to him, we hope he enjoys his prize and we hope that he enjoys the fact that it is “Made in America”. We would like to thank him and everyone else who participated. Please stay tuned for our next giveaway which will be announced tomorrow.
What’s the worst that could happen? This is usually one of the main considerations when making a decision. It’s always smart to pay attention to the downside, but what if there was no downside? Not every choice or action has a negative reaction or consequence. I remember when I went with my Dad to buy a car, right before we were about to close the deal I asked that the dealership throw in three free oil changes, they agreed to two. I knew that I really had nothing to lose, dealerships don’t really care about oil changes and they wanted the sale. By asking I managed to save my Dad a few bucks on his first two service visits. As a general rule it always a good idea to ask for more.
This was true of my honeymoon. I had done a great job planning the trip, but I still wanted to see if I could make it even better. I decided to call all of the hotels that we were staying at and spoke with the manager of each. I told him/her that I was visiting my hotel as part of my honeymoon, that my Bride and I were from America and that this was our first time visiting their city. I ask if their was anything that they could do to make the trip a even more special.
In each case the person from the hotel was very accomodating. They made a note in the computer and told me that they would “see what they could do”. I thanked them and hoped for the best. I knew that their was no harm in asking and left it at that.
Jump forward to the actual Honeymoon and my requests paid off. At our first Hotel, the Hyatt Vendome, in Paris the concierge upgraded our room and gave us a very nice bottle of Champagne. At our second hotel in Venice we were given a nice bottle of red wine. These gestures were very generous and the Bride and I were very grateful, but the biggest surprise came on our last night in Rome.
As you may recall I used my Hilton Honors Visa to get 40,000 reward points. I took those points and used them to book a room at the Waldorf Astoria Rome Cavalieri hotel. This is a luxury 5 star place, where rooms can easily cost 1000 bucks a night. With my points I had knocked that down to a little over 100 dollars.
When we arrived at the Rome Cavalieri were amazed. This hotel sits on a hill high above the city of Rome. The grounds are beautiful the architecture of the hotel is amazing. Everything about this place scream 5 star. As we checked in we were greeted by the Concierge. She congratulated us on our marriage and offered to take us to our room.
When we entered the elevator she informed us that to access our floor we would need to swipe our room key in the elevator panel. A restricted floor? I was impressed. We then proceeded to follow the Concierge down a very long hallway. We stopped at the end and in front of the door to our room were two statues. This was the only door with such decoration. She turned to us and said, “In honor of your honeymoon we are upgrading you to and excelsior suite.”
As the door opened the Bride and I were shocked. This was the nicest hotel room we had ever been in. This was the type of place a movie start would stay. It had four balconies each offering an amazing view of Rome below, two bathrooms, a living room and a giant bedroom, plasma TV’s everywhere. We even had a TV in the master bathroom. I have to be honest its kinda weird watching TV while you take a shower. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure I could get used to it.
Our heads were spinning trying to take all of this in. Then the Concierge turned to us and said,”Let me show you how to go upstairs.” Upstairs? She hit a button and this glass ceiling slid open. We felt like we had won a game show.
We walked up a winding set of stairs and onto a huge balcony. It was the same size as the floor below! It had a jacuzzi and a bar, a dozen sun chairs and an out door shower. It also had the most amazing view of Rome, we could see the Sistine Chapel.
We thanked the Concierge profusely and handed her a large tip. She left us still shocked standing in this amazing room. I had done good.
That night we order up some room service. We had bought a bottle of wine from a shop in the lobby. We enjoyed our meal on the balcony, eating our dinner as the sunset over Rome. It was like a dream, picture perfect.
Later we hopped into our jacuzzi and enjoyed the beatiful view of Rome as night. We feel asleep in a big bed, under a ceiling that had hundreds of little LED lights in it that looked like stars. It was a fantastic end to a great Honeymoon.
The other day, out of curiosity, I looked up the normal cost of that room. It is $7000.00 a night. We could never afford that, the whole trip didn’t cost that much. We got it because I made a 1 minute phone call a few days before. That is the power of asking.
One of my favorite things about the hot weather is sandals. Sock draw empty? Can’t find your left shoe? Who cares, you have sandals, slide them on and go. You probably can’t wear them to work, but when the weekend rolls in the sandals comes out. Sandals or flip flops or clogs, they all mean freedom to me.
One of the most interesting sandal makers that I have been watching is Okabashi. With over 25 years of experience, this company stands out not only for the unique look of its products, but how they manufacture them. Made in Buford Georgia, Okabashi footwear is made from recycled materials and is itself 100% recyclable. Their sandals are not only good looked, but they were awarded the “overall wellness” endorsement from the American Chiropractic Association. How many times have you bought cheap flip flops that irritated or even damaged your feet? Okabashi is a quality brand, they are so confident in what they make that they offer a 2 year warranty on all of their footwear. Most appliances don’t come with that type of guarantee.
Okabashi footwear comes in dozens of styles and colors. With so many choices you should have no trouble finding the perfect pair. They range in price from $14- $23. If you buy before June 20th and use coupon code “SUMMER13″ you will get 20% off your order.
Okabashi just hired 150 workers at their manufacturing facility in Georgia and are looking to add 150 more in the near future. They are a growing American success story, proof that Made in the USA still works, and they need our support. When you decide to buy your next pair of sandals skip those cheap imported flip flops that will wear out in a month or two and buy a quality pair of Okabashi sandals.
At the beginning of the year I wrote about the “Regal Crown Club,” a rewards program offered by Regal Cinemas. To recap, you enroll in the program, it’s free. Shortly after you receive a card and whenever you go to see a movie you present that card at the ticket booth or concession stand and you are rewarded points(up to 20 points per visit.) As you accrue points you build up to various rewards milestones like a free concession item or a free movie ticket.
I am a Regal Crown Club member and I am happy to report that I crossed the 50 credit threshold a few weeks ago earning me a FREE small popcorn. I was given a voucher for that item and I used it last night when the Bride and I went to see “The Purge”. That is an actual photo of our free popcorn. I’m quite certain I looked a little strange photographing my popcorn in the middle of a crowded lobby, but I did so for my readers.
My Bride enjoyed the popcorn and she took the rest of it come to leave out for the chipmunks. I hope those little guys have some water handy because that popcorn is salty.
I currently have 70 credits. That puts me about 2 visits away from a free drink and 5 visits away from a free movie ticket. With so many great movies coming out this summer I should reach those marks before the end of August. I was going to see these movies anyway, why not earn some nice free stuff.
If you are like me and enjoy seeing movies in the theaters, the “Regal Crown Club” is a no brainer.
I’ve never played Fantasy Baseball before. I’ve watched others do it and I noticed two things, first it takes a lot of time, and secondly the people who play in those leagues know a whole lot more about baseball stats then I ever will. It never made sense to lay down my money for an activity that burned up all of my spare time competing in something that I have very little chance of winning.
The other day a coworker of mine mentioned a fantasy contest called “Beat the Steak”. In baseball a hitting steak is when one player gets at least one hit per game for a consecutive number of games in a row. The longest steak in the history of baseball is of course held by a Yankee, Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio. His streak lasted 56 games!
To beat the streak you need to pick 57 consecutive hits from any player in either league. It doesn’t have to be the same player and it probably shouldn’t be the same player if you want to win. You pick any player, up to two a day and as long as those guys get hits your streak continues. If you pick two at a time be careful because if only one of them gets a hit and the other doesn’t your steak ends.
If you can pick 57 consecutive players who get at least one hit in each of the games that you selected, you will win $5.6 million dollars. Sounds easy right? Well in the 13 years that this contest has been held no one has ever done it. Few people have ever crack at 45 game streak. The highest streak this season is 34. I’m friends with a guy in the Sports dept. of the TV station I work at, his longest streak is 17.
Still it is free to enter and also a lot of fun. Play with your family, see who can get the longest streak, perhaps you will win? I enrolled yesterday and my streak is ZERO, the player I selected went 0 for 4. Tonight I have selected two guys, Miguel Cabrera and Yadier Molina. Let’s get that streak started. I’m 23 days away from becoming a millionaire. We all are, at least until August. Good luck to all of you, buy me a house if you win. It seems only fair, I told you about the contest. A small house, with an ocean view, and a pool. We’ll talk about it later, after you win.
Our biggest giveaway to date is less than two days away from happening. Remember you can get $25 for entering, $25 more if you leave a comment for the American made item you are interested in, you must choose from an item featured in the “Made in the U.S.A. Monday” articles on the site. Finally you get an additional $25 if ask the company you are interested in to mention us on twitter. If you satisfy all of these requirements you will win $75 towards the purchase of a product that you selected.
To date only one entrant has satisfied all of the requirements. It’s a wide open field, don’t delay.
If you are traveling out of the country there is a good chance that where you are going will not accept your currency. Converting your cash to the money of the place you are visiting will be necessary. The fees for such a service vary wildly. With the right planning you can save yourself a significant amount of headache and money.
A good number of credit cards offer currency conversion. You use your credit card just as you would here, you pay for your item in the currency of the country you are in, and the credit card coverts that amount to dollars on your bill. For my Honeymoon I called some of my credit card companies and found that a few of them offered this feature. Some of them wanted a 3% fee, I found that my Chase Hyatt Visa Signature Card that I used to plan my Honeymoon with, offered currency conversion for free. I used it the entire trip and never once had any trouble with it.
While having a good credit card is very helpful, you still need paper money for places that don’t accept plastic. Taxis, small cafes, and street vendors want and will only accept cash. Many banks will allow you to “buy”currency for free, provided that you are a member of that bank. I am a member of Cititbank and they offered this service. Unfortunately you have to “order” your currency 2-3 days before hand and pick it up at a local bank. By the time I discovered this my Honeymoon was a day away.
The bride and I opted to take American dollars with us on the flight and convert them at the airport in Paris. When we landed we found an exchange kiosk, we converted our money are were charged a 3% fee. I don’t like to carry large sums of money, particularly in foreign countries. When our first round of cash ran out we used my credit card to buy more Euros in Venice, the fee 6%. In Rome things only got worse. When I went to buy our last batch of Euros, they wanted 15%! That’s robbery or at the very least usury and I refused. I opted to use the conversion service of my hotel. They charged a much lower 3%.
In hindsight the best option for us would have been to use the credit card for majority of purchases and to convert our dollars to Euros here at our bank for free. We could have locked away that money in our hotel room safe and dipped into it as needed. Something to keep in mind on your next trip.
Anyone who has ever picked up a baseball has probably tried to pitch it by someone holding a “Louisville Slugger” bat. The legacy of this company stretches over 120 years, almost as old as the sport itself. While a lot has changed during that time, you can still buy a wooden bat made in their Kentucky factory.
Primarily carved from Northern White Ash from the Pennsylvania border, “Louisville Sluggers” are used by the majority of modern players as well as a large number of legends, like Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. They offer hundreds of model and cover all levels of experience, from little league, to fast pitch, to professional baseball.
I like that you can buy the exact same bat that the pros use. A bat like the “C243″ one of the most popular models in the game right now. Made of high quality ash using 360 degree compression this bat it the best of the best and can be yours for $99.99. An American made icon that should give you years of enjoyment. Why buy a cheap aluminum bat or an imported knock off. Buy the best, buy American.
Since its Sunday I have decided to keep things light and share with you some observations I made over the course of my Honeymoon to France and Italy. A few interesting facts that you might enjoy.
- The first floor of every building is the “zero” floor. In the US we tend to call the main floor of a building the first floor or the ground floor or the lobby. In Europe it’s “0″. So if you check into a hotel and they tell you that you are on the first floor you are actually on the second. Several times the Bride and I got into our elevator and hit “1″ only to be confused when the doors opened to another floor of rooms and not the lobby.
- You have to ask for ice. In America, every drink comes with ice in it, we even put ice in drinks that are normally served hot, like coffee. I seem recall reading a fact somewhere that America is the only country in the world that drinks more iced tea then hot tea. That being said, when I ask for water or order a beverage I expect it to come with ice cubes floating in it. This was not the case, not once. Every single time I had to ask for ice and to be honest the waiter seemed kind of annoyed.
- 3. Soda is expensive! Now I realize that I was in major cites and I was in the touristy parts of those cities, but 7 Euros for a soda? That over 9 bucks! Even the vending machines wanted 2 euros for a bottle of pop, about $2.60.
- No high fructose corn syrup. I personally don’t like the taste of corn syrup and enjoyed a vacation from it. The Europeans don’t have the massive abundance of corn that we do so they seems less inclined to use it in their food. I like the taste of real sugar, so I found that their food generally tasted better over there.
- Tips are included in the bill. When you get the check, a tip of 10% is already included in the total. You can tip more if you like and we often did, but you should keep that in mind because no one will tell you. Probably as a result of this set up I noticed that European waiters aren’t as nice as American ones. They weren’t rude, they were just not as overly friendly and accommodating as the ones I am used to dealing with here.
So there you are, a couple of differences you might not have know about Europe. File them away in the useless trivia portion of your brian.
Our experiment in investing lasted 5 months. That’s how long it took to hit my predetermined loss limit. This is certainly not the way I wanted this exercise to end. I had hoped it would demonstrate the wealth building effect of investment in the stock market. Instead perhaps I demonstrated just how hard this can be. Here are the final results:
- ishares Silver Trust(SLV) - Purchase Price: $29.48, number of shares 42. Current Price: $20.86 Loss of $362.04
- Cablevision(CVC) - Purchase Price $15.05, number of shares 82. Current Price: $14.65 Loss of $32.80
- Alpha Nat. Resources(ANR) - Purchase Price $10.28, number of shares 117. Current Price: $6.39 Loss of $455.13
- FaceBook(FB) - Purchase Price $29.22, number of shares 42. Current Price: $23.29 Loss of $249.06
This fictitious investment portfolio has ended.
Where did I go wrong? I have been wracking my brain about this. I made my choices based in news information and previous data and invested accordingly.
- I thought precious metals (SLV) would rise based on problems in Europe and the financial world in general. This could still happen, but has yet to do so.
- I think that Cablevision (CVC) is a strong, well run company and is easily worth 30 dollars a share, again I think the long term will prove me right, but it didn’t move much this year.
- For the last 5 years energy prices have climbed as we approach the summer driving season, this year they didn’t and ANR got clobbered. This is the one stock I regret the most in the portfolio.
- I read about the Facebook phone and I believed that it would be successful, it hasn’t been and I don’t think it will be, I have my doubts about FaceBooks future.
So while I failed this time, I will certainly visit this portfolio at the end of the year and I will most likely try again later. I hope this exercise gave my readers a glimpse into investing, even if the outcome was failure.