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The AmazonBasics Automatic Travel Umbrella, with Wind Vent: The Perfect City Umbrella?

The AmazonBasics Automatic Travel Umbrella, with Wind Vent, Black is a fantastic umbrella, not just at the affordable $15.99 price point.

For some background, I live in New York City, where cheap umbrellas are plentiful. For years, I would buy $7 umbrellas from the local bodega and just replace them if they broke or I lost them. I must have gone through 4-5 umbrellas a year and recently after the last one broke I decided to look on Amazon for an alternative.

If I was going to spend more money on an umbrella, I put together some simple criteria:

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Grove Ave Starter: Jumpstarting Your Day

Getting Started With Starter

About a year ago, my friends and I began working on a new company called Grove Ave (fair warning, this is a bit of a cross-promotional post). The other two guys who regularly write for BuysWithFriends, Andy and Pete, are also working on Grove Ave. We put out a free e-book that helps people become more productive and we have a second e-book on the way. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that we really value our time and our freedom, both of which greatly inform whatever purchases we make. So, we began to think about the following question: what kind of product could we come up with that would help people save time every day? It took close to a year to formulate but we finally did it: we created Grove Ave Starter, a combination energy and immunity booster. I took it for a month and now I’m ready to talk about it. How did it go?

Picking up Starter after a year's worth of research and development efforts
Picking up Starter after a year’s worth of research and development efforts

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Never run out of power again with a ChargeTech portable battery pack

How often do you find yourself looking for an outlet in a crowded airport? Or in an older classroom that has few accessible outlets? The latter situation is what I’ve routinely found myself in, while teaching and taking classes. I decided to fix the problem by carrying around my own power source. I went out and grabbed a ChargeTech portable battery pack (24000 mAh size) for $150 on Amazon. After a month with the battery pack, I’ve found myself asking, was it worth it?

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2015 Top Buys: Daily Necessities

Top Buys of 2015

Spending more time reflecting is one of Tim Ferriss’ 25 things I learned from guests in 2015. After all, action without reflection diminishes the learning value of acting. So with that in mind, here are my 2015 top buys, the items that I got in 2015 that made my life more convenient or solved a problem (and three of these items I never leave home without): the Anker slim iPhone 6 battery case, the Mpow Cheetah Bluetooth headphones, the BRYK RFID credit card wallet, and the KeySmart key holder.

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The Three Best Gifts for Students: Fisher Space Pen, Stanley Vacuum Bottle, and BlenderBottle GoStak Storage Jars

Working hard or hardly working?
Working hard or hardly working?

Back to school after the holidays? Gifts for the student in your life this holiday season

Last year I decided to quit my tenured federal job and become a full-time student again. The challenges of being a student are very different from the challenges of working full-time. Student life is very much on-the-go and most days I lived out of my backpack or messenger bag. Anything that got thrown into the bag had to be reliable and tough. Below I discuss three things that helped me overcome some of those challenges. I think any of these, a Fisher Space Pen, a Stanley vacuum bottle, and a BlenderBottle GoStaks, would make an excellent gift for the student in your life. They are all under $25 too! Read on to find out why I think these items make awesome gifts for students.

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Cutting Costs with a Better Razor: Cheap Shaves with Dollar Shave Club?

Shaving Costs with Dollar Shave Club

I joined Army ROTC my freshmen of college and served on active duty for almost five years immediately after I graduated. During my time as a cadet and as an Army officer, I shaved daily. One of my pet peeves was how expensive razor blades seemed to be. It wasn’t convenient to go to Costco or Sam’s Club in New Hampshire and this was before Amazon really took off so online ordering with free delivery was out of the question.

Probably as a result of having to shave all the time, my facial hair now grows very quickly. I’m one of the few Asian guys that I know who can grow a full beard. As a result, I wind up having to shave every two days or so, even though I don’t need to be completely clean shaven all the time any more. In total, I’ve probably spent thousands of dollars on razor blades and handles over the years. Enter Dollar Shave Club, a company that professes to be a more economical option for purchasing razors and razor blades. I told myself I would give it a try after my apocalypse-level supply of Gillette blades ran out (turns out I had stockpiled 3 years worth of blades from my Army days). Was it time for me to give up my Gillette Fusion Proglide?

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The only Blue Apron review you need to read: How three years of subscribing saved me time and money *Updated October 2016

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From Amateur Cook to Well-Fed Amateur Cook

***Update 3***

Hi there! Welcome to our site and Blue Apron review which you probably saw on Facebook. We’re all out of free week trials and since there are 30+ people on my list already and I’m unlikely to get more than a few free trials to give out a month, I’m now closing the list. However, Blue Apron customer service was nice enough to send over this link for $30 off your first order (which is 50% off for the two person kit). Enjoy!

***Update 2***

Ok, so this Blue Apron review may have gotten a bit more popular than we intended. We went from about double digit organic views to over a thousand views (5/16 update: 17,000+ and counting!) in the last three days. So as a result, I’m all out of free trials to give away.

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What I don’t buy

It might seem a bit strange to kick-off this blog that is presumably about buying things with a post about the exact opposite. Well this post isn’t exactly about things that I don’t buy, but more about things that I don’t spend time buying. Because while time can be converted into money through labor or investment, money can’t be fully converted back to time since your personal stock is finite. All of which to say, saving time is a principle I follow and informs my life philosophy.

Amongst my friends I’m notorious for being a tech early adopter and buyer of all things gadgety. But I’m also known for being frugal and efficient, which probably allows me to get the latest government surveillance device in your house or the best Fitbit money can buy. Both Meredith (my better half) and I work (ok ok, you got me, I’m a grad student, but would you be convinced if I said I’m a really busy one?) and like most dual-income earners we really value the time we can spend together. So how do we do this?

Saving time by buying on your own terms

Multiple factors are converging to make it possible for you to run your life with just-in-time efficiency like a good ol’ fashioned Dell supply chain. There’s the major scramble for market share by established players in the goods delivery market, numerous on demand service providers funded by private equity, and of course, the ease of doing all of this on your phone or computer. Competition + flush with PE cash + technology = wins for consumers.

This allows us to “buy on our terms” in ways that are accessible to most people. We rarely wait in line unless we really want to (I think the last line we waited in was to see Furious 7! Vin Diesel voice: “one last ride”) or need to.

Ensuring you have what you need for your life

We’re able to ensure we have good healthy food for the week, snacks, and all of our household items (soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper, cat litter) without ever having to go to the store or mall (I can’t remember the last time we were in an actual mall). And all of these services are flexible enough to allow us to easily tweak them if we go out of town or if our plans change.

We rely on a combination of Amazon Subscribe and SaveBlue Apron (started by our high school classmate and valedictorian extrordinaire Matt Salzberg), Nature Box (co-founded by our high school classmate and snack master Ken Chen), and Fresh Direct to ensure our house runs smoothly. Each service has built-in automation so that you can put your supply chain on auto-pilot for the most part.

Downsides

Now, what are the downsides? First, we live in a city (Philadelphia) and having your boxes stolen off of your front porch is a regular occurrence if you leave them there for more than a few hours. So usually I try to schedule deliveries (UPS My Choice is a godsend) for times I’m home. This has been particularly difficult this semester with lab work, TA duties, classes, and meetings so I’ve tried stacking everything to be delivered on Mondays. Second, it usually takes six months to get a good idea of how much of one product you need. Amazon Subscribe and Save has been whittling down the products that they have in the program, which means some delivery schedule adjustment is necessary when your normal 12 toilet paper roll delivery is now 36 rolls. Third, sometimes things get left off of the delivery truck or the store runs out of it (Fresh Direct, I’m looking at you, although you’ve been much better than Peapod) and you don’t find out until it is too late. Then, you might actually have to go to the store to get stuff. But other than that, you can leave that part of your life on auto-pilot so that you can concentrate on the things and people that matter most to you.

What are your favorite time saving schemes? Put them in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you. And thanks for reading the first post of our blog!