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I have to admit something; I like large spaces. I’m not a small guy but that’s not the reason why.

Jay Shafer's Home Sweet Tiny Home
Todd Lappin
via Compfight

As a military kid we always lived in base housing. That’s literally kind of a 2 or 3 bedroom two-story place, depending on the size of your family, and it’s not very big. Then when I moved out on my own I had a succession of small apartments while living by myself. When I got married we got larger apartments but the rooms were so small that it really didn’t feel like a larger place.

Right now I live in a 1,900 square foot ranch, and you’re think that would be a lot of space, and in reality it is. A five-bedroom house with a 16×20 living room is pretty nice, even if a couple of the bedrooms are small, including my office. Still, it’s a pretty nice house.

What if I had to live smaller though? What if it was you and you had to live smaller than you do now? Could you do it? Would you like it?

Do you see the house in the image above? That’s a trend we’re starting to see more in this country. There are some fairly obvious benefits if you can handle it. Obviously they cost way less and most people have them paid off within 2 years, if that long. This one’s on a trailer hitch, which means they’re easy to move, but most people just locate them somewhere and move on with life. Because they can go almost anywhere but probably wouldn’t pass the zoning laws of many communities, you’ll see a lot of these out in the country, along lakes, in woods, or within their own little communities.

Jay Shafer's Home Sweet Tiny Home
Todd Lappin via Compfight

Some houses aren’t much bigger than 300×300; a few are even smaller. They have everything they need which includes a tiny bathroom, tiny shower, tiny stove, a bed, etc. I have no idea how they get electricity, as few of them have fireplaces (dangerous stuff in a tiny wood house) or how the plumbing actually works but I’m sure it gets worked out somehow.

For someone like me, this would never be an option. However, I’ve wondered, if I needed to or if I was ever single again, if I could downsize willingly and how would I want to live. I’m not sure I’d want another one bedroom apartment, which is what my hotel suite is like. I’m not sure I’d want a studio apartment because I like the idea of being able to just close a bedroom door without always having to keep it clean if visitors stop by.

Yet, economically, for most places in the United States and probably in other countries, living small means living cheaper, not having as much clutter because you have no where to put it. Sometimes we have to do things like this because it’s all we can afford, or maybe because we’d rather save our money for something nicer or to do other things.

Nothing wrong with that; but could you live in a tiny house like this one?
 

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Just over 3 years ago I asked the question on this blog Are Store Rewards Cards Worth The Effort. That seemed to be a valid question, and still is, because many of those cards have caveats that make it illogical for most of us to use them. For instance, Staples will send you coupons that you can only use if you buy a certain amount of stuff, and most of the time you’re buying way less than that amount.

Light Hotel...
JH Images.co.uk via Compfight

So, in my mind those types of cards are a waste of time. Three years later I’m ready to talk about different types of rewards cards, and these are cards related to travel in some fashion. As I’m traveling a lot right now I ca honestly say that some of these cards are definitely worth it, even if not in the full manner you might hope for.

For instance, I have the U.S. Airways card as it’s the airline I use most of the time. I also have the American Airlines card, since they’ve just merged. Anyway, once I had so many flights behind me I moved up to silver status which meant automatic upgrades to first class if there’s a spot available and the ability to move further up the aisle on planes with available seats without having to pay for it. I also get one suitcase for free, although I don’t have to use that as often. And when I finally hit the next level I get 3 suitcases for free if I need them; wow!

I also accumulate lots of airline miles but this is where the downside comes in. It seems that trying to use them for flights when you don’t have a few hundred thousand miles is useless. I was going to use them for a trip to Orlando and on to San Diego but even with the miles I had it only covered “most” of the one way to Orlando, and I’d have had to pay full price otherwise. I decided against using the miles since I get to write them off anyway but after flying so much in 16 months you’d think that mileage would have accumulated quicker. Still, no gripes.

After testing different rental car companies I finally decided to go with National, and after so many rentals I was sent their rewards card. What that allowed me to do was not have to stop in to register if the car was booked in advance and there was a special row I could go to and select any vehicle in that row. That was kind of cool because I no longer had to get those smaller cars, but sometimes the choices were limited. Now I’m at the executive elite level which means I get to select from a premium row of cars; oh yeah! I don’t know if there’s another level but I’m happy at this level.

Also, with more rentals I now start earning free days, and I’m already up to 3 free days, which could come in handy if I decide to use it in San Diego, where I’ll be for 3 days. There’s no limit to how many days you can accumulate either.

Finally, I stay at Hilton Hotels, most of the time enjoying Homewood Suites because I like the extra space. As you accumulate points you jump into different levels of membership, and with each level you get special perks. Right now I’m at their highest level, diamond, which means that I’m guaranteed a room at any Hilton family hotel in the nation, and if they don’t have one they’ll pay for me to stay at another brand; isn’t that cool?

I’m now up to over 500,000 Hilton Honors points, which is the equivalent of having 10 to 20 free nights stay at hotels across the country, depending on the level of the hotel in that city and how many points a night they cost. I’m using my points for my Orlando stay and my room will have a whirlpool bath in it; oh yeah!

Of course there’s a downside. If you’re not using these services all that often at some point you only stay at these levels for so long before they start burning away. The airlines drain your miles pretty quickly, and so will the rental car people. Hotel rewards last longer and it’s actually economical to book a hotel room every 9 months or so, even if I’m not traveling, to keep all my points to use at a later time. Strange as that sounds, I’ll book a room at one of the local hotels that I know has a whirlpool bath and have a relaxing night with my wife.

I would recommend hooking up with as many of these cards as you can, even if you’re the occasional traveler. Having a rewards number can always help you reach someone who will take your call if you have a number as opposed to not having one.
 

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Last week news came out that Best Buy’s sales performance was pretty weak. The speculation was that people going into the stores to look at merchandise, then going home and ordering it through online stores was the reason for the problem and that it might be time for them to start exploring a different business model.

Best Buy
Creative Commons License Kevin Dooley via Compfight

Although I’ve been on the internet almost 20 years, I’m a relatively new online shopper. In the past couple of years I’ve purchased mainly small items like HDMI cords, DVDs, and my most recent purchase, a charging cable for my MP3 player, considered obsolete. The most expensive item I’ve purchased is a CPAP mask that no one locally carried in the store any longer, so it was a forced purchase.

A couple of days ago I went to buy some glucose strips so I can check my daily numbers, being diabetic. It turns out I haven’t reached the deductible level for my insurance plan this year, which means I have to pay the full price. The cost of these strips is $152; ouch!

When I came home, for the first time ever I decided to look online to see if I could get a better price. It turns out I can get the same number of strips from an online store for as little as $64; in essence, I can save 150% by ordering them online. Wow! And with shipping, it still comes to at least a 100% savings; I’d be stupid not to take that.

The thing about online suppliers is that they can get a lot of items and put them in a warehouse. In some cases the companies selling the items don’t even have to store them; they can get them directly from someone else and all they have to be is the middle man.

In regular stores, it’s all about the psychology of presentation. They know which items go with what, and they also know that they have to have so many of each item, especially popular items, because people come to stores with the expectation of walking out with whatever they want to buy.

True be told, that’s still the largest market, physical buyers. But the numbers are dwindling, and in this age of demands for the increase of worker pay and insurance coverage, companies like Best Buy, Sears, Penneys and others might go the route of reducing staff before trying something else; unemployment can help companies but it always harms communities.

Still, it’s hard to blame consumers for making smarter purchases. After all, even I buy my insulin at Walmart because it costs less than anywhere else locally since they have their own brand of insulin.

Luckily, there will always be some industries where buying things online isn’t going to work as well… or is that even true? Grocery stores will probably survive, but right now you can buy meats online and goods such as cereals online, along with canned goods, although not everything is as cost effective. Still, it’s something that even grocery stores might have to deal with in the future… other than dollar stores.

What’s your thought on this issue? Do regular stores have something to worry about or is this just a blip on the screen and will everything turn out okay?
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mitch Mitchell

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