Personal Finance 
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Consider Bed & Breakfasts Instead of Hotels

In the two and a half weeks we spent in the island of Hawai’i, we stayed at a timeshare, two bed & breakfasts, and a resort hotel. We did it in that order because, as more avid hikers than beach loungers, we figured we’d tire ourselves out in the first ten days and then lounge around at a Marriott for the last five. The two bed and breakfasts we stayed at were on the Big Island, the Shipman House in Hilo and then the Hale Maluhia Country Inn in Kailua-Kona.

Bed & Breakfasts often have better rates, significantly more personal service, but their variance in quality is much greater. If better rates and more personal service appeal to you, the variance in quality might be the only sticking point in the whole deal. The appeal of a major brand, whether it’s a Marriott or a Hilton or a MacDonalds, is that you expect consistency regardless of location. A Marriott in one city should give the same level of service as a Marriott in another. There might be small differences but the quality should be above a certain level. You also know that if you don’t get the quality you feel you’ve paid for, there’s a big megacorporation you can complain to. With a bed and breakfast, you’re often dealing with the owner-operator and the best they can do is say they’re sorry and refund you some of the money.

With many bed and breakfasts, you’re essentially renting a room in someone’s house, albeit a much nicer and probably more organized house. With the Shipman House and the Hale Maluhia, we really saw both ends of the spectrum when it comes to bed and breakfasts. The Shipman House was this elegant and refined Victorian building that had so much history and culture to explore. The Hale Maluhia was far more rustic and less refined but certainly had a “tree-house” type atmosphere that we also enjoyed. Both places served breakfast with a beautiful selection of locally grown fruits and incredible Kona coffee. The next time we go back we would certainly stay at the Shipman House (Hale Maluhia was okay too, but we probably wouldn’t go back, especially if the owner is trying to sell it).

Local Flavor & Personal Service

Bed and Breakfasts aren’t always cheaper but you can always depend on a more personal level of service and a better sense of local life. I like nice hotels as much as the next person, but you always pay a premium (even if it’s a discounted premium) and you always get a ‘sanitized’ version. If that’s your preference, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, if you want a better taste of local living, you can’t go wrong with a bread and breakfast. At the Shipman House, the proprietor was so kind to us and told us where all the good places were.

Variance

As mentioned earlier with the variance between the Hale Maluhia and the Shipman House, it’s difficult to know if you’re going to get a good place, a great place, or a so-so place. I would categorize Hale Maluhia as a so-so place and the Shipman House as a great place (but you do pay a premium), but it’s hard to tell from the online reviews and testimonials. My advice is to read a lot (I’m now a huge fan of unbiased Hawaii blogs like GoVisitHawaii, I’m addicted to that particular one though) and try to find as many pictures as you can, pictures can lie but they’re better than nothing.

So, before you just book a room at the Marriott, consider a bed and breakfast; you might be pleasantly surprised!


 Personal Finance 
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Act Your Age (Financially)

When I was young, I used to write a fake company name on all sorts of papers to make it look like my company stationary, like I was this big swinging successful entrepreneur like Andrew Carnegie. We’d play football in the streets and pretend to be Joe Montana throwing yet another touchdown pass to Jerry Rice. We tackle each other in the field and pretend we were LT (no, not Ladainian Tomlinson, the real LT, Mr. Lawrence Taylor) getting Joe Theisman, minus the snapping leg. The point is, when we were young we’d fantasize of a time when we’d be older and in situations that were fantastic (and, in the case of football, unlikely to happen too!). This is something that, for a lot of people, we never grew out of and that ultimately impacted our finances.

Well, I’ve been wanting to get a coffee grinder since we brought back some Kona coffee beans from our honeymoon. This item is a $20 little gadget that takes beans and turns them into powder that I can used in my free Gevalia coffeemaker (haha!). I was talking to Cap about it when he asked if I already had it (then he told me coffee was bad, fish don’t sleep, and that he doesn’t drink juice either — he’s quite the eclectic conversationalist), I expected him to tell me it was crap and that I shouldn’t buy it! That’s when I suggested that a coffee bean grinder is a luxury good, it’s an item that exists simply because man’s desire for a theoretically better product (freshly ground coffee) has created a device that will deliver it to him for a small price (fixed price of $20). It’s $20 that I feel is “beyond my age,” which I’ll explain momentarily, but one I’m still going to spend.

If you imagine that everything you buy is on a “path,” then you’ll want to progress on this path in a nice orderly and chronological way. The prime example is a car. If you work during high school and college, save for a car, you’ll probably get a “beater” or otherwise inexpensive car because that’s what you can afford. The point is to get from point A to point B in a means faster than by foot or by bicycle (or by parent). Knowing the awfulness that is a beater helps you appreciate the awesomeness that is a car that doesn’t need a rolling start. Unfortunately, some people get the benefit of their parents’ finances and get a beamer (BMW), rather than a beater. Those kids also, in many cases, seem to have much higher expectations of what the world is supposed to do for them (this is not a good thing). Those kids were supposed to go down this “transportation path” but were spiked in somewhere farther than they were supposed to be, thus causing them developmental harm.

For coffee, the path is less clear but I see it as: instant coffee, ground coffee & coffeemaker, whole bean coffee & coffeemaker & coffee grinder, etc (I’ll let you know when I get there). I know that ground coffee made from a coffeemaker is better than instant coffee (not that much better, but I’m a lazy person) because I drank instant coffee, perhaps I’ll find whole bean coffee, freshly ground, will be better than regular ground too. The point is, I may appreciate the luxury because I’ve had the regular or the economy versions, not because someone told me it was so much better.

What’s my point? My point is that so many people don’t follow the path from the beginning or time warp through the journey to a point in the future. They get a job and their first thought is to buy a luxury vehicle because they see executives driving them and they want to be a big shot. They see football players with enormous televisions on MTV Cribs and they want an enormous house with a pool and a pool table. They see the luxury brand names being worn by celebs and they want to feel special too so they break the bank getting LV. What funds all this? Credit.

The result is that many people fund their relatively lavish lifestyles on credit and then end up in thousands of dollars of debt. There’s value, both financially and developmentally, for following the path in an orderly fashion and not jumping farther down. You can’t skip your teenager years and you shouldn’t skip drinking instant coffee (it’s really not bad at all), enjoy the bad so you can truly enjoy the good (and not be in debt!).


 Personal Finance 
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Wow, Another Reason I LUV Southwest

Right now we’re sitting on a two hour layover in Oakland, CA on our way to Hawaii for our honeymoon. Our trip thus far has taken us through Kansas City on Southwest and we were reminded once again why Southwest is easily my favorite airline. We were the only two people on the flight from Baltimore to Kansas City that would continue on to Oakland and we arrived ten minutes early so we had some time to chat with the flight crew. They asked us where we were going and my wife said we were flying onto Honolulu for our honeymoon. They said their congratulations and we thanked them, everyone smiling all around, and we thought nothing of it. A new flight crew came on board to help the first flight crew clean up and then we were on our way. About five minutes before we were to land in Oakland, the a member of the flight crew came on the PA and said “We wanted to congratulate two of our passengers who recently got married, everyone please give them a round of applause!” There was clapping all around, some more congratulations, and then one of the crew walked over and gave us a bottle of Korbel champagne!

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