Outfitting A Home Recording Studio On A Budget

Something that I have been interested in for quite some time now is setting up my own little mini recording studio in my apartment. I don’t have a lot of space or a lot of money, which is what has kept me from doing this before now. It all started back in college when I got a cheap acoustic guitar for beginners after wanting to learn to play all throughout high school. I spent many an afternoon out in the quad under the big oak tree attempting to teach myself how to play and woo some of my crushes. Though I did not end up successfully wooing anyone, I did manage to teach myself to play guitar on a pretty decent level.

Fast forward to today and I’ve been using that same guitar to write my own music for the past couple of years or so. And, I’ve gotten so many of them complete that I think the time has come to start assembling a mini recording studio here in the apartment so that I can start laying down some of these songs. But home recording studio gear is expensive. Even if you’re going bare bones. Fortunately, I already have the instrument, a decent enough computer and a USB microphone that I can use for now. But that still leaves me needing to buy a few things.

First up is a good set of speakers so that I can be certain that I’m getting the sound that I desire. I don’t really have to spend a lot on these as I’ve come across some of the best studio monitors under 200 that will help me keep my spending down. So that is pretty great.

Next up, I need to come up with a solution for a good mixing board that is also low priced. Or, I can go completely digital with it and use some software. Of course, the software is not exactly cheap either. In a dream world, I’d be using something like Pro Tools and making kick ass music with no money worries. But, that’s not real life when you’re paying off debt, eh? So, I’m not really sure that I’m going to do about this just yet. Currently, I am using Audacity as it is free and it is pretty good too but not as robust as what I’m looking for right now.

Soundproofing is something else that I need to work on sound that I don’t end up with a lot of reverb issues and the like. Fortunately, this is something that I do not think that I will have to spend money on as I’ve got a few things around the apartment that I can use for this purpose. Taking the old egg shell mattress cover and putting it on the ceiling and then covering the walls with some old blankets. For the window? A few layers of bubble wrap should just about cover it. And since there are bookcases in the room that I will be using, that should take care of any other sound issues that I might encounter.

So what do you think? Am I leaving anything out?

Reducing Your Travel Costs

When it comes time to create the budget for a little weekend trip or longer vacation, those travel costs can really start to add up. And while some of them can be reduced, not all of them can. So, let’s look at some of the more costly areas of travel and a few ways to reduce them so that you travel budget does not get maxed out before you even leave home.

Transportation is probably the biggest of the travel expenses. At least if you are not single. Think about it – there are lots of ways to travel but what is most expensive really varies by family size. For instance, flying is very costly for a family of five while it may be the cheapest for a single person. So, you need to add up the costs to see which is cheapest for you. For most people, the transport ways to choose from would be:

  • car (road-trip style)
  • plane
  • train
  • bus

If you are leaning towards driving your own vehicle, then do not forget to include the cost of gas and any tolls – as well as wear and tear to the vehicle. I like to use the Gas Buddy website to get an estimate of fuel costs for a potential road trip.

If you are flying, then you can use sites like Travelzoo to look for any airline discounts that you can use for some low airfare. You can also use the same site for hotel deals, if you plan on staying in a hotel.

Speaking of hotels, lodging is probably the next biggest area for people’s spending when traveling.  While you can find great deals on rooms using sites like the one mentioned above, you do not actually have to stay in a hotel when traveling. You might prefer to spend less and stay in a hostel, a vacation rental or even do a bit of camping. Each of these can offer substantial cost savings depending on the number of people in your traveling party.

Food is another one of those big budget areas when taking a trip away from home. This is because most of the time you do not have access to a stove, refrigerator or any other way to make some of your own meals. That leaves you to dining out, which is usually overpriced compared to grocery store prices. However, you can save money on food a few different ways.

Pack a cooler with cold items that won’t spoil like salad stuff, bite size veggies and bottled waters. This is a great way to have snacks and drinks on hand without having to spend anything else. And if you end up staying in a place with a mini-fridge, then you can transfer stuff from the cooler to the fridge.

If you’re a coffee drinking, then those coffee shop visits will really add up and bite a hole out of your budget. Instead, check out some of the best portable travel coffee makers so that you can make your own cup o’joe and save a lot of money in the process. Or, book a room at a hotel with a coffee maker!

If you are doing a hotel stay, then you can opt for one that kitchenette so that you can do a bit of cooking. Or, just a simple microwave gives you an easy way to heat up some soup or other food on your own.

I hope that these tips have made your travel planning a bit more affordable. If you have some tips of your own to share, just leave them in the comments below.

Ways To Save Money On Back To School Shopping

It’s that time of year again – the time when the summer starts to wind down and the kids and teachers have to return to those early morning alarm clock calls for the back-to-school routine to set back in.

And with the return to school comes an increase in the expenditure for most families. This can be anything from just your normal school supplies like notebooks, pencils and backpacks to things like special uniforms for school and high tech gear like scientific calculators

One thing is certain though – you can end up spend a lot of money during this time of year if you do not keep your spending in check. Fortunately, there are some great ways that you can keep those costs down and stay in budget while getting everything that your child needs for the new school year.

Probably the biggest way to save money and get cheap school supplies is just by watching the sales ads each week to see if there is anything at a fire sale price that you need to buy. Often the office superstores, like Staples and Office Depot, run penny sales where you can get things like notebooks and for just $0.01.  Sometimes the sales are at a higher price, but almost always they are well under a buck. I do not even have kids but still use this time of year to stock up on office supplies at a steep discount.

Buying only what you need is another way to save money when back to school shopping. For me, it is hard to not buy lots of the stuff under $1.00 just cause it is so low priced and there is the chance (small chance) that I might need something like it before the same sale rolls around next year.  But buying things that you do not need does not make good financial sense. For me or for you! So, create a list of things that you need before you leave the house and stick with it. Most schools these days offer parents a list of supplies that are needed, which makes it super easy to do your shopping from a list.

Shopping around also saves you money. By comparing price and selection between different stores, you can determine who has the lowest price and the best products. You’d be surprised how effective this is at lower your overall spending amount when shopping like this.

What are some ways that you and your family cut costs when doing a little back to school shopping?

Is Dining Out Ever a Good Idea

Going out to restaurants is one of those things that we all do from time to time.  Some of us more than others though. And a lot of personal finance blogs and gurus say that this is one of those things that we all need to cut back on.  But is it really?

Sure the cost of a meal at a rrestaurant is a lot higher than if you made it yourself.  But whar about the time value of money?

For instance, it takes me a really good long time to make a meal at home as I’m not so great in the kitchen. And when you consider the time value of money, it looks like dining out is a good thing for me since it frees up time for me to work on income producing projects.

But there is a catch.  My income potential is only so high.  That means that meals out for me are only worth it up to a certain degree. And I believe this is true for a lot of people out there.

Granted, if you just lay around watching the television all night then it is not a good return on the time saved for you to dine out at a restaurant.

Another thing to consider – what if you would not be spending the time saved on something that produces an income but on something else beneficial, such as your health. Say you do a little working out in your home gym like this site recommends with the time saved by grabbing restaurant food. Or, maybe you can spend the time working on some personal development or something like crafty items that you post up for sale on Etsy or a similar site.

So, no, dining out is not always a bad idea. And for some people and some situations, it is even a good idea when you consider the time value of money that comes into play.

Poker – Is Patience is a virtue?

Table Tales – Patience

I was having a bit of fun today in a tourney over at Everest Poker.

Anyway, finally I made it down to the last three without much drama and then got on top through some blind stealing as the other guys seemed kind of passive. The weakest of these guys fell in the end as he ran out of chips to play with and got penned in the corner… leaving 2 of us heads up.

Next thing, it got to the point where I had 65% of the chips and got a tasty enough looking hand (QJs). The other guy goes “all-in” off the bat so I call him… he’s holding J6… he hits the straight with the 6… I call him a “nice guy” and “pat” my monitor;)

Anyway, I have been playing like a muppet all week so am playing for my pride here and stay patient. I get QQ and he goes all in again… this time I win… I now have 70% of the chips. He goes all one more time… this time my J10 against his 107… I am waiting for him to get lucky again… my fist is ready… not this time… my hand wins out.

I don’t always have it, but patience is a virtue and I think the beats and what have you will even out… just bear it in mind.

Why Doesn’t Anyone Visit my Blog?

There are many tribes who live in the Amazon, few people ever make contact with them and there are maybe some that haven’t yet been discovered. Only a few intrepid explorers ever meet up with them.

When you start off your website on the world wide web, you are like a tribe in the middle of the Amazon. Chances are that no-one is ever going to know about you . Maybe just the odd person who stumbles upon you when they are lost. You are in the middle of nowhere and you don’t exist on any map. If you want to be found, put yourself on the map.

Starting to look at your website like this can open up a whole new philosophy of Internet marketing . When I first started out I was angry because nobody visited. I was angry with all the Internet users in the world. Then suddenly one day it clicked… it’s not their fault. 99.99999% of them don’t even know I exist.

I then started to think of a website like a club or village or city in the real world. There are some cities in the world that are world famous. Everybody knows of them and there is a reason, they are full of attractions and things to do. If you look in a travel book they are there. They have major highways, train links and airports. They stick out on the map. There are signposts to them everywhere. You can’t miss them. These are like the super-bloggers such as ProBlogger and John Chow.

Of course not everybody wants to be Mayor of New York. Some people are just happy running a small exclusive club. Whatever you do though, you have to think about how and where you will find your customers and make sure you are where they are looking. The more places you are referenced and the better your venue is signposted, the more visitors you are going to get. When they arrive you want to make sure you have what they want as well.

Hold a party, strive to please your customers and start to spread the word. If you keep your venue smart, are friendly and welcoming, the visitors will keep coming back. Try to beat their expectations, just as in the real world. If you want more visitors, then you need to build more attractions to keep them interested and you need to make sure these attractions are advertised.

When you go to a party, there is always the one person who everyone seems attracted to. This is the person who is approachable and most of all passionate. Remember that, people are attracted to passion. They are also drawn to a person who smiles. Don’t be the person sitting in the corner hoping someone comes over to them, be the one going over.

This metaphor could go on in a million different directions, but the point I am getting at is that the Internet is not that alien from the real world. Think about things in relation to the real world. Use what you use in the real world.

You will find success.

The Power of Financial Diversity

As I mentioned in my last post, I was recently laid off. I have found some more work, but the experience has made me think a lot about financial diversity and the idea of not putting all your eggs in one basket.

One of the things that has suddenly clicked in my head, is the idea that if you are dependent on one source for the majority of your income then you are pretty much owned by that person or that company. If you rely on an employer for most of your income then you are a slave to them and their ideas.

Having a diversified portfolio of income gives you independence and gives you the power to choose how and where you get your money from.

It also cushions you from the ups and downs in one line of business or in one company.

  • If you rely on your savings account for the majority of your income, what happens when interest rates fall?
  • If you rely on your property, what happens when you can’t rent it out?

I think it is a simple philosophy, but the benefits of diversifying your income are easy to see and is something everyone should start thinking about doing today.

My mission from now on is take make sure that I am never again reliant on one source of income for more than 33% of my income (we shall make that living income). That could be anything, whether a job, a bank account or my own company. I don’t want my fate tied so closely into one thing.

I want the power to choose and I think diversification gives you that.

What do you choose?

3 Rules for Coping with Change

I am writing this from the position of recently having lost my job and now moving onto new things. When reality hit that I was no longer employed and that I wasn’t going to be receiving my latest paycheck, I decided to take a step back and make sure I reacted in a positive way.

Amongst all that was going on around me and the situation it was pretty difficult, but I am also a pretty simple person, so I like things as straightforward as I can make them. I like a simple method I can follow, because the simpler it is, the easier it is to fall back on. This is how I dealt with the upheaval.

The first thing I did was to accept that I couldn’t alter what had happened and so put that behind me. Why waste time on if’s and but’s and things you can’t change? The situation was done, it wasn’t going to change, no matter what I did. So…

  • Rule 1: You can’t change what has already happened, don’t waste your energy.

The second thing I did was decide to see what the positive side of being laid off was. Or what it “could” be. As they say, you attract what you focus on, so I started to look at the opportunities for change that it gave me, the new possibilities.

Once I started doing this I actually became pretty upbeat and life started moving in a positive direction again. Then the momentum effect began to take over, it’s important just to get the ball rolling.

  • Rule 2: Look for the opportunities the change has created.

I believe Winston Churchill once said that “some people see difficulty in all possibilities while some people see possibility in all difficulties”. I think this is something to bear in mind. When change happens, train yourself to focus on the possibilities.

Having seen the opportunities that being out of work had given me, somethings that I had been blind to previously, I quickly started to feel more positive and decided to pick my fight. Where was my energy and focus going to go?

For me, it wasn’t going to be to fight the change. It was going to be to fight for a better future. The result being that I have now found myself a better job and also have set about more time for myself to update me skills.

  • Rule 3: Pick your fight wisely, then put all you energy into it.

Of course, you can choose to fight the change (if you are sure it is a change for the worse and it’s of a benefit to be fought) or you can choose to fight for new openings and new opportunities.

This is my simple story. This is my simple method of dealing with change. I hope you can take some optimism from this and start to believe that all change isn’t bad. Find your own way of coping and turning it into a positive experience and make it a habit.

A New Direction

I have come back from holiday and just one of those things, it has proven difficult to get back into the blogging habit. The break has given a bit of a new perspective on things though as it has moved me away from the action and so I have had a bit of a think about the direction of the blog.

Before I went away I was beginning to drift, so I want to add the focus back to what I was doing, so I am going to introduce some themes for the week. These are:

  • Monday-Tuesday: Self Improvement
  • Wednesday-Thursday: Finance
  • Friday-Saturday: Blogging & Marketing
  • Sunday: Links & Everything Else!!

I am also kind of embarrassed by the look of my site, so I am going to try and work it around a cleaner theme. Fingers crossed that I can make it look a bit more appealing :D

Carnival of Self Help and Inspiration – Oct 2007

The hard work has been done for you. Take a look. It’s that time of the month now where I host a carnival to help people show off all the great articles they have written. I received a lot of submissions and it took me a while to sort through them all to make sure they fit in with the site and are of appropriate quality. Bearing that in mind, many thanks to all the authors for their hard work and the many words of inspiration and new ideas for my readers.

So here it is, a whole host of articles arranged around 3 themes related to this site. The themes are the ideas of self help, inspiration and mind hacks. Please enjoy :D

General Self Help

Arin Vahanian presents How to Build True, Lasting Confidence posted at Super State (editor says: an interesting look at how to build confidence and how very close you are to it)

FitBuff presents How to Speed Up Your Metabolism posted at FitBuff.com’s Total Mind and Body Fitness Blog (editor says: learn how to speed up your metabolism and receive the many health benefits)

Silicon Valley Blogger presents My One Money Advice: Be Prepared For That Rainy Day posted at The Digerati Life (editor says: you’ve heard it before, but never forget it)

Matthew Spears presents The innocence of anger posted at Loving Awareness (editor says: a look at a positive process by which to use anger)

Todd Goldfarb presents Why Your Smallest Actions Define You posted at We The Change (editor says: a reminder that the small things add up, so don’t let your standards slip… even for a second)

Alex Marlin presents Most Educated People Have No Social Skills posted at Life Improvement Tips For Thin and Small People (editor says: it’s among the most important things for success, take the time to learn and use it)

Albert Foong presents Love, Sorrow, and Attachment posted at Urban Monk (editor says: shows how nothing is permanent, learn how to cope with change through love)

John Crenshaw presents Are You Proactive or Reactive? posted at Dominate Your Life (editor says: a reminder to think ahead so you don’t spend your life just reacting to situations)

Inspiration

Bradley Woods presents Defeat Is Only Temporary posted at Conceive, Believe, Achieve (editor says: the greatest people in the world share one thing… perseverence)

karen alonge presents relationship life preservers posted at postcards from nowhere (editor says: some very sound advice on preserving a relationship)

Tupelo Kenyon presents Choose the Companionship of Positive People Who Inspire You posted at Tupelo Kenyon (editor says: learn how to get more positive energy and relationships in your life)

Nubby Twiglet presents The 5 Secrets to Success posted at Nubby Twiglet Art & Design (editor says: a straight forward guide to point you in the direction of success)

Ronit presents If You Think You Can or Think You Can’t, You Are Right – The Story of Marina posted at Ronit Baras (editor says: as it says on the tin… eye opening case example)

Jennifer Mannion presents Heal Pain Naturally: Self-Talk posted at Heal Pain Naturally (editor says: Jennifer has an interesting story, this part is on the effect of your internal dialogue)

Tina Su presents How to Fight Your Fears posted at Think Simple. Be Decisive. (editor says: 5 ways to fight your fears and empower yourself)

Mind Hacks

Uni presents Personal Brain Revitalizer:Take Advantage of Your Brain Cycles posted at You Deserve More (editor says: an interesting method by which to select the hemishpere of your brain which you want to use)

Bert presents Attention posted at Ask-Bert (editor says: nice article from a new blogger on how to keep your focus)