Updated on 07.31.14

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Three Little Things Edition

Trent Hamm

Three little items of interest.

1. I will be attending the SXSW Interactive conference in Austin, TX on March 12-16 (or some subset of those days). I hope to have copies of my upcoming book there to give to a few people. If you’re going to be there as well and want to meet up, let me know!

2. Starting next Friday (or possibly the Friday after that), I am going to be writing a series of weekly food posts on frugal meals and food preparation, ones that are kind of similar to the “How Low Can You Go” series from this summer. These will be heavy on the photography, but I do not want the typical over-the-top food photography – I want it to look like a realistic kitchen where real people prepare food and serve it to their families. Please, take extra effort in commenting on these posts, as these are “warm-ups” for an eventual blog that I hope to write dedicated to food and cooking.

3. Over the years, many readers have been kind enough to send me gifts of all kinds, and I really appreciate it. But after receiving some (very) awkward gifts in the mail, I’ve changed that policy. If you wish to send me a gift, please choose an item from my wishlist at Funagain Games. We play a lot of board games here as a family and with friends, and Funagain is a great game retailer with great prices and a very easy ordering system (you can even pay via PayPal). Alternately, please make a donation to Jump for Joel (my favorite charity) on my behalf. This change in attitude about such generosity was a difficult decision to come to and I puzzled over how to handle it (and write about it) for a long while.

Here are some interesting personal finance writings I found in the past week.

5 Ways Self Storage Units Are More Sad Museums Than Savvy Solutions Before our financial meltdown, we had a self-storage unit to hold the stuff that wouldn’t fit in our apartment. It was an incredibly stupid mistake. Instead of throwing more money away storing stuff that we’re not using, we should have gotten rid of a lot of stuff. (@ wise bread)

Goals Are the Gateway to Financial Success This is the second in J.D.’s list of thirteen guiding principles. I’m a huge believer in personal goals for success, not only in finances, but in any area of life. (@ get rich slowly)

A Secret to Happiness? Don’t Get Organized. This seems counterintuitive at first, but it actually makes a lot of sense. If you have so much stuff that it’s difficult to keep it organized, you have too much stuff and should consider getting rid of some of it. A lack of organization is a sign of being overwhelmed – and that means it’s time to step back a little. (@ happiness project)

The Death of Multitasking and Rebirth of Unitasking If you do any sort of work that requires deep focus, multitasking won’t help you get it done. I find time and time again that I work better if I close off as many distractions as possible. (@ dumb little man)

The Neutral Fallacy: There is No Sideways in Life A thought-provoking article. I tend to agree, for the most part – everything you do in life is either a step forward or a step back. I don’t really think “sideways steps” exist – they’re usually steps back. (@ jonathan fields)

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  1. Nick says:

    Good luck with the food posts (and future blog) Trent! It’s a great writing subject.

    I’ll warn you about one thing… if you’re like me (and you might not be) you’ll become obsessed with food photography.

    Once you start playing around with it, it is addicting: different lighting, different backgrounds, different angles… it’s a great hobby. You don’t have to have a really fancy camera either to get good photos… I used a point and shoot camera and got really good results for quite a while on my blog before upgrading.

    Good luck!

  2. Four Pillars says:

    I want to hear about the “awkward” gifts…

  3. evi says:

    YES, FOOD-POSTS! Keep them coming, pleeease! I am very much looking forward to your food-posts as they are very interesting and inspiring (a little too meat-oriented for my taste, though). Keep your work up, I will be here reading it!

  4. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    “I want to hear about the “awkward” gifts…”

    There are several varieties. For at least one, let’s just say I likely would have appreciated it more if I were single and without children.

  5. chris says:

    Oooh, I’m looking forward to the food entries — those are some of my faves on your blog!

    Also, with respect to “awkward gifts”, does this mean I can’t send you any macaroni art? (j/k)

  6. Jen says:

    I want to know about the awkward gifts too!! That was not a good enough clue… I am very dense, lol! People are weird.

  7. Don’t get organized. Get happy instead, I like that one.

  8. Michael says:

    I’d also like to hear about the awkward gifts. But how is your policy going to stop people from sending things to your house? If they are weird enough to send awkward gifts, they’re weird enough to ignore the policy.

  9. Johanna says:

    I’ve gotten my share of used and/or heavily discounted cookbooks over the years, but the ones that I keep returning to again and again are all ones that I bought new, and mostly for full price. (I can think of only one exception, and that was a real fluke: I happened by a Dean & Deluca store when they were closing out their cookbook department by selling everything for 75% off. They had three books of vegetarian recipes, and I bought them all. One turned out to be fantastic, while the other two were fairly forgettable.)

    I suspect that this is because cookbooks are different from, for example, novels: People are happier to get rid of good novels, because it’s not always so much fun to read the same novel over again, even if it’s very good. But – for me, anyway – when I find a cookbook that I really like, I want to keep it – I’m much less likely to donate it to a book sale or to a library.

  10. Angie says:

    We play a lot of board games, too, and found Caesar and Cleopatra (on your list) to be only mildly entertaining. And not good for kids, unless you want to explain why an orgy might distract people from voting.

    We sold it on eBay after only about 4 or 5 plays.

    Now, Fury of Dracula, there’s a 2-player (or up to 5-player) game that keeps on giving. We’ve played dozens of times. Or, if you’re into history (which it appears that you are), consider Twilight Struggle for an outstanding 2-player game.

  11. kristine says:

    Looking forward to the food blog! Our version of your Indian potatoes is now a once a month batch cook staple at our house.

    And I think imagining what the awkward gifts were is much more entertaining than actually knowing!

    It helps to keep a sense of humor, after all, even the First Lady had to endure Obama girls Youtube.

  12. Sandy says:

    Loved the multitaking article. My husband has a box that he lives in in his head. when he is at work, he is at work. When he is at home, he is at home. He rarely talks about work when he is at home with the girls and I..we totally rule at home. On the other hand, he very rarely calls during the day, just to say “hi!”…work totally rules when he is at work.
    I must say, this technique has always been successful for him!

  13. Daria says:

    I had emailed you previously that we live in Austin, Texas and offered to let you stay in our home to save on hotel costs. The offer still stands.

  14. bethany says:

    I love your food posts, I’m excited to see more!

  15. Shevy says:

    For Mike (4 Pillars) et al who asked about the “awkward” gifts, I would imagine that they had some sort of sexual subcontext. Think of rock concerts and the groupies who throw stuff up on stage perhaps….

    And Michael is probably right that a change in Trent’s policy may not eliminate the inappropriate gifts. If they don’t have a sense of boundaries and what is appropriate (knowing that Trent’s a family man) they probably won’t be buying family board games just because they were asked to.

    I agree about the cookbooks but the one time people may give away cookbooks they really enjoyed is when they dramatically change the way they eat (become vegetarian, discover that a family member is gluten-intolerant, have a heart attack, become diabetic, etc.).

  16. Lawrence says:

    1 vote for Dominion – Intrigue, it’s a game my housemates and I play a lot along with the original game. I love how the game has so many different permutations depending on which cards you end up using so every gave is truly different! I also didn’t know there was another expansion pack coming out, nice!

  17. Tamara says:

    My boyfriend and I are all about the retro cookbooks. We pick them up at garage sales, goodwill, etc. for close to nothing. Some of the recipes are great, but they’re also an enlightening look at the past. I mean, who ever knew aspic was ever that popular?

  18. Hallie says:

    Great! I can’t wait for the food posts, those are def my favorites! And while I like “the typical over-the-top food photography” I agree that it will be nice to have some “normal” food posts from real people. Get going, please!!

  19. Evita says:

    YES!! I just love your perspective on food! I have loved each of your food post and can’t wait for the next one!

  20. Catherine says:

    Can’t wait to see you in town! See you there – and (pre) Welcome to Austin!!

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