Friday, August 30, 2013

5 Ways to Get the Best Price at a Flea Market

Are you afraid to negotiate? Do you watch with envy those TV shows where the participants negotiate at flea markets and get the best price on the item they wish to buy? Well, that can be you if you follow a few easy tips.

What is it that those flea market purchasers can do that is different from what you are able to do? Let me suggest that the key is preparation and knowledge. When they go to a flea market, they bring with them knowledge of what they want and how they can go about getting it for the best possible price. In other words, they come prepared to buy what they know. They know the value of the items they are seeking and if they do not know it already, they will check it out on their iPad or smart phone. You can do the same in any negotiation. But you must prepare.

1.  Lesson Number 1 is "Be Prepared".

Let's assume you see the item you are looking for, such as an antique chair.  It is priced, however, way above your budget. How can you get it down to a  price that you can afford? Once you have information concerning comparable items (see Lesson No. 1), you must not make it clear to the seller that you are too interested in the item. In fact, you might even walk away to demonstrate how little you are interested

2. Lesson Number 2 is "Be a Bluffer".

Many people assume that you should always open the discussion on price with a low ball offer. Sometimes that can be a good strategy, particularly if the item is grossly overpriced. Let's assume it is overpriced but not grossly overpriced, what should you do?  This is where you begin to admire the object. You tell the seller, what a wonderful piece it is, but you think the price is too high. 

3. Lesson Number 3 is "Admire the Item."

Here is where it becomes difficult for a lot of people. However, there is a simple solution: Let the seller lower the price.  If you have followed the above three steps, you have essentially softened the seller by initially walking away and then returning to show your admiration for the item, but making it clear that it is too pricey for your pocketbook.  If the seller is anxious to make a sale (and who isn't), you may be surprised how quickly the seller will drop the price---and sometimes, dramatically, particularly if you return at the end of the day.

4. Lesson Number 4 is "Let the Seller Make the First Offer."

At this point, you should be prepared to make your best offer based upon your knowledge.  Make it clear that it is your best offer and that you are prepared to buy the item right then. The seller will undoubtedly come back with what he says is his best offer. This is where you agree to "split the difference" and the item is yours.

5. Lesson Number 5 is "Split the Difference".

Will this approach always work?  Probably not, but in a substantial number of instances it will. "Try it, you'll like it."

For more information on negotiating the best deal in all situations, click on my name below.

Tony Basinski

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

3 Simple Ways to Meditate and Improve Your LIfe

I have written several times about the many benefits of mindfulness or meditation.;;  Here are three simple ways to incorporate mindfulness in your daily life:

1. When you awaken in the morning, while still in bed, concentrate on your breathing.  Start with a minute or two and then build slowly from there to 5 to 10 minutes.  It will clear your head and put you in a good mood the whole day.

2. When driving your usual commute to work, concentrate on one word or sound when you begin to feel frustrated with the traffic tie-ups and crazy drivers around you. I use the word "ten" and just keep repeating it until I feel relaxed.

3. Finally, at night when you are in bed, use the 4-7-8 breathing method three or four times. That's where you breathe in for a count of 4, hold the breath for a count of 7 and exhale for a count of 8. I predict you will be asleep even before you finish the last count.

5 Things to Consider when Picking a Cruise

Interested in a cruise this fall or winter?  Lots of people will be cruising to Alaska, the Carribean and even the rivers of Europe.  So, what should you look for in a cruise.  Here are some thoughts based on a  number of cruises we have taken on several different cruise lines:

1. Get the best price by waiting. Cruise lines are always looking to fill up their ships. If you have the freedom to wait to the last minute to book your cruise, you will probably save the most money. On one of our cruises, a Canadian couple paid $98 per person for a three day Caribbean cruise which they booked at the last minute.

2. Look for open seating for your meals.  While it can be interesting to sit with the same people every day of the cruise, why not sit with different people instead. It will make the cruise more enjoyable (particularly if the people you are stuck with are boring or bores).

3. Try to book a stateroom midship. You want to be close to the stairs and elevators (of course, not right next to them) because you will be moving from deck to deck all day and you will avoid unnecessary walking.

4. Stake out your chair at the pool early in the day. Most deck chairs fill up fast, so get there early.

5. Consider booking your own excursions. The ship excursions are usually fairly pricey. You may be surprised how much you can save if you do an internet search on your destination and find a guide who will basically do the same thing as the ship's provider. We did this on a cruise to Ephesus in Turkey and we had a terrific guide, who showed us much more than we would have seen with the ship's guide.  Shop around!

I hope these tips are helpful.  Let me know what you think. Bon Voyage!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

How Antoinette Tuff Averted a Disaster in a Georgia School

By now, most of us have heard the story of the courageous woman in the Georgia school, who single-handedly persuaded an armed gunman from shooting up a school and by doing so, avoiding another Sandy Hook tragedy. Her name is AntoinetteTuff and that name could not be more appropriate.  Hats off to you,Antoinette! You are a true hero.

Let me also comment on the tactic she used to defuse the unbelievably tense situation. I have written about the concept of "mirror neurons" before and how they can be used to defuse anger and avoid unnecessary confrontations.. Basically, this theory says that we are all hard-wired to reflect the emotions of others and adopt them as our own. That is what Ms Tuff did with the alleged gunman. She made it clear to him that she understood his situation and even pointed out that she had also been through difficult times recently and managed to get through them. Using this technique she was able to get the alleged gunman to surrender to police without a single injury.

Now, I'm sure Ms Tuff never heard of the theory of "mirror neurons", but she knew in her mind that the only way she could avoid tragedy was to treat  the gunman in a way that would defuse his pent-up anger and despair. Most of us, fortunately, will never be faced with this type of horrific scenario, but each of us will face situations that can become explosive such as a hostile customer or a road rage driver. The Georgia school situation demonstrates that showing a little bit of understanding of the other person's position can go a long way in resolving potential conflict. Try it next time you are in a situation where conflict seems inevitable. You may well be surprised at the outcome.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.

"Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be."  The quote is from Abraham Lincoln and it just about sums up the whole philosophy of positive thinking from Norman Vincent Peale's "The Power of Positive Thinking" to the present day "Happiness Project." If you are looking for a daily dose of happiness information, check out the Huffington Post GPS for the Soul.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

3 Easy Ways to Save Money in Retirement

Are you worried about saving money in retirement? You are not alone. Most of us who are in retirement or thinking about retirement wonder if there are easy ways to save money that will not impact the standard of living we enjoyed before retirement. Here are three ways you can save in retirement that do not require you to abandon your current lifestyle and may in facts enhance that lifestyle:

A. Always ask for the senior discount. This is probably the easiest way to save money, usually 5 to 10 % and sometimes even more. These discounts sometimes apply even to those 55 and over and almost all apply to those over 65. Many theatre chains offer discounts as most people know. But did you know you can get a discount at hotels? The U.S. also gives you a break. You can obtain a senior pass at any of the National Parks operated by the National Park Service. senior pass entitles you and three others in your party to enjoy the national parks for free. If you are a member of AARP, they will provide you with a list of other businesses where members can get discounts. If you are a former member of the military, you may also be entitled to a discount (usually 10%) at retailers such as Lowe's and the Home Depot. You will need to obtain a identification card from the VA or the Department of Defense to obtain these discounts.

B. Buy Products that last. This may seem like an obvious suggestion, but it is one that is often ignored both in and out of retirement.  If you are buying a large ticket item such as a new car or refrigerator, you need to do your homework to determine which product will provide you with the longest wear. An excellent source of information is Consumer Reports magazine. It will provide you with unbiased analysis of just about anything you are interested in buying. It is well worth the subscription price of $20 or so, which you will probably save on your first purchase. Also shop around. The most advertised product may not be the ones that last longest. For example, everybody knows about Gillette razors and blades, but did you hear of Wilkinson blades?  I've been using them for years and they are usually cheaper and last much longer than other razor blades.

C Do it yourself. With the advent of television networks such as HGTV and DIY, there is certainly a boom in this country of persons who do their own repair and renovation work. This is an enormous potential money saver for retirees, who generally have the time to work on these projects.  And with You Tube showing you how to do just about anything, you should take advantage of those resources and fix that running toilet or repair that broken wood floor. You might be amazed how handy you really are and surely, you will be amazed at how much money you can save by going the DIY route. Try it.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

How Do I Prepare for Retirement?

How do I prepare for retirement?  That is a question that millions of people in the United States are asking themselves. These people are not just boomers like myself, but people in their twenties, thirties and forties, as well. And no, I'm not talking only about how you must save so many dollars a year so that you have enough to last until you are 96 (although that is certainly part of the preparation process). There are many websites and blogs that deal with that issue. What I am talking about is how do you prepare yourself not only financially, but also mentally, physically and psychologically. What this blog does is to provide you with the paths you can take that will ease  your mind.

When you retire, you suddenly have a lot of time on your hands. How you use that time will determine how successful your retirement will be. But the secret is how you prepare to use that time and resources well in advance that will determine whether or not your retirement will be a success.
So search this blog and see if you get some ideas that will work for you. Here are a few posts that may be of help to you:; We will, of course, continue to add information that will help you achieve the retirement you want and deserve, whether now or 20 or more years from  now.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Green Beans: The Latest Superfood

For years, my wife has been urging me to eat green beans. She says "they are good for you." My wife  just loves green beans. When we are in the supermarket and she suddenly disappears, I always know where to find her: in the produce aisle, loading the shopping cart with--you guessed it--green beans.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to green beans. I happen to like them from the can and mixed with a little French salad dressing. But raw or barely cooked (or blanched as the cooks like to say) just did not appeal to me. That has all changed now that I have read Dr. Weil's Daily Tip.  He cites three reasons why everyone should eat fresh green beans: it promotes strong bones; protects against heart disease; and it can help prevent colon cancer. In addition, he says that green beans contain anti-inflammatory aspects that produce a stronger immune system.

How do green beans do all that? It turns out they are a good source of Vitamins K,C and A.  In addition, they are also a good source of manganese and fiber.

So if the next time you are in the supermarket, check the green beans aisle.  I may be there loading up my cart with green beans.

For a complete discussion of the topic, please see Dr. Weil's tip, "3 Reasons to Eat Green Beans."

Thursday, August 8, 2013

How to Get Money from an ATM while Abroad

Are you traveling to Europe this summer and worry you might not have enough money with you while there?  The simple answer, of course, is to use an ATM if you need immediate cash. Whoa! One problem you will probably encounter is that the machine may not take your standard ATM card (and no, it is not necessarily because you don't have any money in your account).  Most European ATM machines use a different method for reading the card you use. The standard bank card in this country is swiped when using the machine and the machine reads the magnetic strip. European cards, called EMVs, also use a magnetic strip but, in addition, they contain a microchip that provides an extra level of security against fraud and scammers.

This should give you an overview of the problem in getting money from an ATM while abroad. It just might be a good idea to get an EMV card before traveling internationally. For a more complete discussion, see the Nerdwallet blog.

Hot Chocolate Can Prevent Dementia

A recent study of a group of individuals over the age of 70 has suggested that drinking two cups of hot chocolate each day may improve your brain's memory skills. The Harvard Medical School study showed that drinking two cups of hot chocolate for thirty days resulted in improved blood flow to the brain. The participants in the study showed an average increase in blood flow of about 8 percent by the end of the study. This translated to a substantial decrease in the time necessary for the individuals to perform certain memory tests from an average of 167 seconds to 116 seconds.

While the researchers and others who have seen the research have cautioned that the results of the study are still preliminary and that further research is necessary involving control groups, it seems to me drinking a couple of cups of hot chocolate a day may well worth doing. Who knows, maybe those cups may help you find those keys or eyeglasses you are misplacing or maybe even help you to  avoid dementia or the mental decline everyone is worried about as they age. Let me know what you think.

The study was performed by Dr. Farzaneh Sorond, an assistant professor at the Harvard Medical School.  For a more complete discussion of this study and comments from the Alzheimer's Association, see

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Best and Easiest Way to Lose Weight Without Dieting

I recently wrote about Interval Walking as a way to lose weight. My wife and I started the program just about two weeks ago. Since we started the program, we each have already lost about two pounds. Now, that may not sound like a lot, but a pound a week without following any special diet seems pretty good to me.

The program we have been following is to do the interval walking one day, followed by a day in which we try to walk for at least 45 minutes.  Depending on where we are walking (sometimes we walk on the high school track and others, on a "rails to trail"), we usually log about one and half to two miles, sometimes more.

We are obviously going to continue to follow this program and we will keep you posted. In addition, in a future post, I will explore some of the science behind the benefits of interval walking. For now, though, I think it is the best and easiest way to lose weight without dieting.