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Every Day Carry [EDC] Series: What I never leave home without

My every day carry

It never ceases to amaze me what people carry in their pockets and backpacks all day, every day. We’re going to start a short series where we profile each of the writers of BwF and what they can’t leave home without. My general philosophy is: better safe than sorry. It definitely shows in my every day carry items. Read on to find out what’s usually in my backpack or pocket!

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BuysWithFriends Philosophy 1: Thoughts on making the “right” buys

Vacations = Free Time = Thinking

I’ve been on vacation for the last few weeks in Glacier National Park (pictures forthcoming!). My wife and I got to use our national parks pass right before it expired. We got a ton of value out of the pass. One unavoidable thing about vacations that I came to recognize as necessary evils: gift shops. All those little tchotckes and Glacier branded items probably really help the park’s bottom line. But, I almost never buy anything from them. Quickly browsing or skipping them altogether, gift shops got me wondering about my own personal buying philosophy.

A Buying Philosophy

The act of purchasing something is often personal, emotion-driven, and made with almost zero reflective thought. Many of us largely rely on intuition when making a buy, whether that’s out of habit, cognitive miserliness (our tendency to want to conserve mental resources), or because we don’t often have the time to do in-depth analysis. Usually, we reserve detailed comparisons and note-taking to large purchases of non-perishable items, such as automobiles, televisions, and computers. While these more costly purchases can lead to big one time hits to the wallet or purse, our daily purchases are usually the ones that send us over budget or keep us on track with our savings. So while we can spend too much time over-thinking a purchase, we can also spend too little time and under-think, leading to inefficient spending and regret. What we want to do is strike a balance between analysis-paralysis and willy-nilly spending– since a dollar saved today is many more dollars we can spend down the road (a concept called temporal discounting). To help myself stay on track with making the “right” purchases, I developed a method I call VCR– value, cost, and replacement, whenever the item I want (or think I want) is above a pre-set dollar threshold. While I didn’t realize that I did this almost unconsciously with every purchase, upon deeper reflection and introspection, I was able to figure out that I did have a personal buying heuristic that I employ on a regular basis. Read on to find out more about how I think about buying.

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Finding Time: Functional Watches that Represent My Personality

What job does your watch do for you?

I have four watches and each one says something slightly different about me. At one time I had five. About a year and a half ago I wrote a blog post about the Apple Watch. I actually sold my Apple Watch to a family member a few months ago. I stand by all the benefits I laid out in my original post but I don’t think I really understood the downsides of a smartwatch at the time. The biggest issue is that the watch was on me at all times because I wanted to use it as a fitness tracker. This meant that I was tempted to use it for at least a few notifications. But even with the sound turned off (eventually vibration too) and notifications turned to a minimum few, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the watch was wearing me instead of the other way around. Sometimes this meant anticipating the hourly “stand up!” exhortations– other times it meant meaninglessly scrolling through watch apps or looking at the stock ticker on the face.

For my attention’s sake I got rid of it. Many of us are faced with this dilemma daily, especially those who do deep work (Cal Newport’s term for effortful, creative work that requires concentration).

But I didn’t get rid of my other watches. In fact, I found myself wearing them more often, after going for a few months with just my phone for telling time. That didn’t last long. The temptation when you pull out your phone to look at the time is to swipe and look at the other things going on in there. Not the kind of behavior I wanted to turn into a habit.

The watches that I do have are functional and I’ve had two of them for a long time. Many people associate the word functional with “utilitarian” or even “ugly.” That’s definitely not the case with these watches. Read on to find out more about the functional watches I have and my watch wearing philosophy.

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Our Favorite Denzel Washington Movies

Denzel: Best Actor Ever.

Denzel Washington is one of our favorite actors, if not our absolute favorite. When you view his career one thing stands out: the consistent, forceful performances. Denzel rarely, if ever, “phones it in.” Its as if he’s incapable of being lackluster. Add to that his flexibility: he’s played flawed heroes (Man on Fire, Manchurian Candidate, Flight), more “pure” heroes (Remember the Titans, Book of Eli, Glory, Equalizer), villains (Training Day, American Gangster), historical figures (Malcolm X, The Hurricane) and very much “human” roles (John Q, Taking of Pelham 123, He Got Game). In fact, he’s been nominated for an Academy Award eight times, including two wins for his performance in Glory (best supporting actor) and in Training Day (best actor).  If you’re bored on a Friday night, you could do much worse than find a good Denzel flick to stream. Peter and I have been talking about doing a Denzel Marathon for a while, which would include back-to-back-to-back-to-back viewings of our favorite Denzel flicks. Here’s all of our favorite Denzel movies, in order based on release (it is honestly too hard to decide which one is better than another, so we decided to go with chronological order).

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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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An Epic Review of the Dyson V6 Trigger: A Supercharged Handheld Bagless Vacuum

The Backstory

We have two really cute cats, Percy and Portia. Unfortunately, I’m mildly allergic to them (although I’m dangerously allergic to trees and grass, a problem I developed after my first Iraq deployment… something about the trees at Fort Bragg). My doctor told me to get rid of the cats, but they’re definitely part of the family and there’s no way I could ever give them up.

You can follow these two cats on Instagram
You can follow these two cats on Instagram

So I decided to place several more portable air filters in the house, increase the filtration in our A/C system, start immunotherapy for all of my allergies, and buy a serious vacuum to help reduce the amount of cat dander floating around. We’ve had some not-very-effective vacuums before, even from well-known brands like Daredevil, so I wanted to do my homework and avoid repeating those experiences. How did my vacuum search go?

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Guest Review: Tom’s Experience with the DJI Phantom 4, one of the best drones on the market

NOTE: this is a special guest post from friend of BwF Tom Hickey. Tom recently bought a DJI Phantom 4 and wanted to let everyone know about his experience with this really cool drone. If you’re interested in guest posting, shoot us an email @ buyswithfriends-at-gmail.com

My Journey to Getting a Phantom 4

By: Tom Hickey

My friend and avid outdoor adventurer Supriya told me I should get a drone. I told her it was ridiculously expensive. My wife told me that drones were exciting and that we should get one. I told her we didn’t need one- no one needs a drone. Apparently both these people know me better than I know myself because I ended up buying a Phantom 4 from DJI. How did my experience go? Read on to find out!

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Music and Alexa on the Go: An Amazon Tap Review

Reviewing the Amazon Tap: Another Piece of Amazon Hardware

Amazon continues to build out its surprisingly successful hardware line. From with the Amazon Echo, which we previously reviewed, to the very successful (to the point of selling out) Amazon Echo Dot (which I wasn’t able to get in time), Amazon recently produced their own UE Boom– inspired speaker, the Amazon Tap. Regular readers know I really like the convenience of having speakers in conveniently placed areas around the house. The Tap basically replicates the Echo’s abilities in a package that you can literally take with you. So I took the plunge for the speaker (it seemed a bit expensive at its regular price of $129) when the price dropped down to $69 ($50 Prime Day deal and $10 off any item you order off of Echo). All it took was saying to Alexa: “Alexa, order an Amazon Tap” and two days later it was in my hands! So how did my two month road test go? Was it worth it?

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America the Beautiful Pass: Your Ticket to the National Parks is the Greatest Value in America

A Pass to See America’s Greatest Natural Treasures

nps-2016-news

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service. America’s 59 National Parks (called America’s Best Idea by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns) are located in 27 different states. Some of the scenes in these parks are so iconic that they can be found on state license plates (for example, Delicate Arch in Arches National Park is on Utah’s). Chances are, you live near a National Park. You may even go frequently. While the parks themselves are an undoubtedly great value, the $20-25 entrance fees can really add up.

Over the last decade or so, I’ve had the great fortune of being able to visit many parks. Right before my first overseas deployment, I was fortunate enough to visit the Grand Canyon and Badlands National Parks. For a good friend’s bachelor party, we hiked Angel’s Landing in Zion. After my second deployment to Iraq, my wife and I went to Acadia. The landscapes in all of these places are just astounding. With so much noise intrusion and pollution in our everyday lives, the golden silence just a mile from the trailhead is priceless.

I had heard of a mythical thing called an annual pass that would allow you access to these parks a few years ago. I never had the presence of mind to buy one (our trips to the parks were intermittent and we would always forget about it until we got back) and so I made it a point to research the pass before our most recent vacation this year. I discovered that for just $80, you can get a pass that will allow you unlimited entrance into the whole range of National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges. Per the National Park Service:

“A pass is your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. Each pass covers entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges as well as standard amenity fees (day use fees) at national forests and grasslands, and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A pass covers entrance, standard amenity fees and day use fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per vehicle fee areas (or up to four adults at sites that charge per person). Children age 15 or under are admitted free.”

We were planning to visit several parks during our 2016 road trip and so I went online to the USGS website and purchased the pass. Five business days later I had it in my hands. So how did my trip go? And was the pass worth it?

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Anker Premium Stereo Bluetooth Speaker Review: Big Sound for a Small Price

Sound Envy

About a year ago I was on an overseas beach vacation with the other BuysWithFriends guys. One of the guys brought a bluetooth speaker system. It just so happened that it led me to the opportunity to listen to sweet, melodious tunes pumped out of a Bose SoundLink mini bluetooth speaker.  I was instantly impressed but knew that along with Bose’s impressive reputation for quality was also an impressive reputation for priciness. When I came home, I thought about beefing up our in-home sound capability. I was already benefiting from better sound on the road with an Anker portable speaker. This led me to do some more research and I ultimately settled on an Anker Premium Stereo Bluetooth Speaker for our living room. How did it go?

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