Posts filed under ‘Be Frugal’

Stock Market Analysis Began with Rice in 18th Century Japan

The past few years have proven that the world economy lives and dies on the success of major financial markets around the world.

Traders use sophisticated software to analyze trends, make predictions and purchases. There is one legendary trader, who made billions of dollars analyzing market trends.

His name was Munehisa Homma and the only thing he traded was rice. His billions in earnings are in today’s dollars and he may have known more about market analysis in the 1700s than our smartest people do now.

He began trading rice in Osaka, where the rice market was very sophisticated, it even traded rice futures. Coupons were sold that promised the delivery of rice at a specific price in the future. Homma was believed to have created a personal network of 100 men located about 6km apart from each other to move market information between Osaka and Sakata.

He wrote the first book on market psychology in 1755, The fountain of Gold – The Three Monkey Record of Money. I have no idea what the title means, hopefully somebody is working on a movie adaptation and we can see it in 3D. Maybe it could be a prequel to 12 Monkeys?

Seriously though, Homma was a genius. He invented the candlestick chart, which is still used by traders today.

This handy chart combines four pieces of data into each plot point on a date axis. For example, you can look at a single day of trading of a specific stock and see the open and close price of the stock on that day (the candle body), along with a low and high range of prices at which it traded throughout the day (the candle wick). The candle body is solid when the open price is represented by the top line and the close price is the bottom line. It is hollow when it’s the opposite, indicating whether the price increased or decreased that day.

For a single date, this gives the reader a lot of information. But, it becomes a fountain of gold when you put multiple days together — that’s when patterns can be spotted. The great master could read the chart and predict how the market would behave in the future. Understanding these patterns is how he made his billions.

Charles Dow recognized the value of candlestick charts around 1900 and included them in his studies. You may have heard of him, he’s the guy who co-founded Dow Jones & Company, The Dow Jones Industrial Average and The Wall Street Journal.

He was obviously a brilliant man, but it was the research of Steve Nison in the early 1990s that popularized candlestick charts in North America. If you want to know more about these charts, you should look at his work.

Homma is still recognized as the greatest trader of all time. It is believed that he made more than $100 billion (today’s dollars). He once said, when all are bearish, there is cause for prices to rise.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Sources: Trader’s Log, Candlestick Forum, Wikipedia (Candlestick, Charles Dow, Homma Muneshisa)

Images:  Wikipedia (Candlestick Chart, Candlestick Definition)

June 23, 2010 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

Coupons You Get at Grocery Stores are Based on Your Purchases

In the United States it is very common for supermarkets to offer discounts to shoppers who present their loyalty card at the checkout. Price tags in the aisles often quote two prices, with and without the discount card.

The loyalty cards are usually provided by the retailer at no charge. However, they’re not free.

Although you don’t pay any money for these cards, you do handover your entire purchase history at that store. Your information is often used immediately at your time of purchase to determine which coupons should be printed out for your next visit.

Marketers frequently target consumers who buy their competitors products. For example, if you frequently buy Uncle Ben’s Rice, you may get a coupon from Rice-A-Roni. The manufacturer is trying to entice you to buy their brand the next time you shop.

Purchase history may also be used to determine the dollar value of the coupons you receive. For example, if you normally buy Dannon yogurt, then Yoplait may offer you $0.50 off your next Yoplait purchase. If you’re already a Yoplait customer, you may only get a $0.10 coupon or none at all.

Obviously, you don’t need a loyalty card for the store to recognize that you’re buying Uncle Ben’s today, but it is important if they want to know if you have bought that brand before or if you typically buy another brand.

When you sign up for a loyalty card, you often fill out a short survey of personal information, including your home address. They say they want your address so they can mail other offers to you, which they may. More importantly, your address allows them to understand a lot about you, including the average income of your neighborhood and even how much you paid for your house. In some cases, these programs are run by outside companies. Your address will help them combine your shopping information from multiple stores, assuming you always use the same name and address.

By comparing your personal information with information about other people’s shopping habits, average income and other demographic information, they can predict which products you’ll most likely try if they provide a coupon a for it.

Many stores will give you their loyalty card and let you use it right away, then they send you home with a survey to fill out and mail in to register for the card. I can tell you from experience that you can use your loyalty card for years without ever mailing the survey in. Although they’re collecting your shopping history, they don’t know much else about you.

There are also studies that show stores with loyalty cards don’t always have the best price, even when you use your frequent shopper card. In fact, one study even showed that sale prices went up after the introduction of a loyalty shopping card. It’s a good idea to keep track of the prices of a few items you commonly purchase to see if the regular price is better at other nearby stores.

I usually shop at a co-op, which does not use a loyalty card but has better prices than any other store around. They even have better prices than Target on items that they both carry, although that is one of the few places I cannot use my credit card to get cash back — they only accept cash or debit, one way they try to keep their costs down.

It’s not just grocery stores that provide you with sponsored coupons. I stopped at target yesterday to pick up some envelopes, on my way to the cash I spotted a new iced coffee drink. From other posts, you know I am addicted to coffee, so I couldn’t resist. At the register I was given a $7 off coupon for Crest Whitening strips. I doubt the envelopes triggered that.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Sources: Seattle Press, No Cards, an Industry Insider

June 22, 2010 at 8:16 am 3 comments

License Plates and Headlights Increase Visibility to Traffic Radar

I did a previous post about how speed enforcement radar works.

There are two primary types, laser and tradition (Doppler) radar. Even if you have a radar detector, laser is the most difficult type of radar to avoid getting caught by. Laser radar gives officers a near instant reading on your speed, so you don’t have time to slow down before they get a reading on you.

Your best defense is reducing or even preventing the laser beam from bouncing back to the radar gun. The front license plate and your headlights are the most reflective thing on the front of most vehicles. If you’re not required to have a front plate in your area, get rid of it.

The next best thing is laser jamming, although it’s not legal in all places. But, if it is allowed in your area then you can buy laser jamming or scrambling units which prevent the radar gun from receiving a usable laser reading.

If laser jammers are not allowed, you have some other options. You can get plate covers and headlight treatments to help reduce the amount of laser light that is reflected back to the radar gun.

Reflectors on the back of your car are also an ideal reflector for Laser radar guns. For safety and legal requirements in some areas, you should probably keep these reflectors on your car.

I hope that some these tips will help you avoid some speeding tickets.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Source: Wikipedia Laser Lidar

June 15, 2010 at 1:37 am 7 comments

WD-40 Ingredients and Uses

By Chad Upton | Editor

WD-40 was created in 1953 by Norm Larsen. It was originally designed to prevent corrosion caused by water — the WD stands for “water displacement.” Norm’s 40th formula was successful and that’s where the “40” comes from.

The formula is so secretive, they decided not to patent it. This may sound counter intuitive, but filing for a patent would require disclosing the ingredients.

That strategy was good for a while, but many years later, the Hazardous Communication regulation required that ingredients of potentially hazardous products be made available to emergency responders.

I did some digging and found the material safety data sheet for WD-40 (PDF).

The main ingredient is Stoddard solvent, which is also known by its own brand name, Varsol. CO2 is used as a propellant and mineral oil is another main ingredient.

It was first used to protect the Atlas missile from corrosion and it became available to consumers in 1958. Since then, consumers have found over 2000 uses that the WD-40 Company endorses (and many more it doesn’t).

There is a popular email circulating that you may have seen. It states WD-40 is primarily fish oil, but that’s not true. The email also lists a number of uses, although the WD-40 company only recommends about half of those. Some of the 2000 recommended uses include:

  • Stop squeaks (doors, bike chains)
  • Remove and prevent rust (lawn mower blades during off season, cookie tins/sheets)
  • Remove gum, glue, ink and lipstick from fabrics and other items
  • Lubricate metal parts (zippers, tools, machines)
  • Loosen nuts and screws
  • Cleaning (shower doors, tools, lime stains in toilet bowls)

Check out the full list of 2000 uses (PDF).

PS – The WD-40 company has an affinity for product names with numbers. They also make 2000 flushes, X-14, 3-in-one-oil and a few other products.

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Sources: Official WD-40 Uses (PDF), MSDS (PDF), Snopes

June 11, 2010 at 12:24 am 8 comments

Diesel Fuel Nozzles Don’t Fit in Standard Fuel Cars

Diesel cars are not popular in North America. But, diesel engines are fairly popular in pickup trucks and are becoming more popular in North American cars.

Although they have a limited history in America, foreign car manufacturers sell many diesel models in Europe.

Diesel engines are generally very efficient and that behind their new found demand. As diesel becomes more popular, you will likely see more diesel pumps.

This is good if you have a diesel car, potentially bad if you don’t. Diesel pumps present a slight risk to your standard gasoline vehicle — you do not want to put diesel fuel in a car that uses standard unleaded fuel.

Standard engines use spark plugs to burn the fuel, diesel engines use pressure and heat to cause a reaction in diesel fuel. That means standard engines will not burn diesel fuel. If you inadvertently put diesel in an unleaded car, the engine will stop very quickly. It’s not usually a total loss, the fuel system will have to be cleaned, filters will need to be changed and the whole process can cost as much as $600.

But, there is an easy way to avoid this costly mistake. First, diesel fuel dispensers are usually clearly marked with text and with a special color handle (the color varies by station).

Second, the nozzle on the end of a diesel fuel pump is slightly larger than a standard fuel nozzle. That means it won’t fit in your car’s gas hole, at least not that way you’re used to a pump nozzle fitting. If you notice that the nozzle isn’t going as far in as it usually does, check the pump, you might be holding a diesel trigger.

This same principle was used in the 80s when we transitioned from leaded to unleaded fuel. Leaded fuel nozzles wouldn’t not fit in unleaded gas holes.

Checkout some other gas related Broken Secrets:

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Sources: Answer Bag, WTSP, Dixon Nozzles (PDF)

Photo: teachernz (cc)

June 9, 2010 at 5:00 am 5 comments

Exhaust Fans Help Cool Your Home During Summer

The upper floor of your home is likely the warmest place in your home. It’s not usually a big deal in the winter, but it can be very uncomfortable in the summer. It happens because hot air rises.

The ceiling of your upper floor also has the most insulation of any place in your home. It’s there because hot air rises — in the winter, you don’t want to lose that heat. It’s the same reason you put a hat on your head in the winter.

In the summer, that thick insulation in your attic is doing the same thing it does in the winter, trapping that heat on your upper floor. If you have a central heating/cooling system, it should suck hot air from the upper floor and mix it with cooler air. But, it’s not always running and it can’t always keep up with the hot air that is produced inside your home, from people, electronics and appliances.

A good solution is to run the ceiling exhaust fan in a central bathroom on the upper floor during the hottest hours of the day. To help, you can get an automatic timer control light switch; these can be used to run the fan and have it automatically shutoff after a certain amount of time — this might also be useful after somebody uses the toilet.

In some regions, it is even part of the building code that an on/off switch for the upper floor hallway bathroom fan is placed next to the thermostat on the main floor. It’s there so you can turn on the exhaust fan when you turn on the air conditioner (there is also a switch in the bathroom to control it from there). This is not a widespread building code, but it’s worth having a look beside your thermostat. If you’ve got a light switch there that doesn’t do anything, try it again and listen for the hallway fan.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Sources: MSU, About.com

June 2, 2010 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

Inactive Cell Phones Can Still Call 911

Over half of 911 calls originate from cell phones. This number will only increase as traditional phone service declines and cell phone adoption rates continue to rise.

In the US and Canada, wireless phone operators are required by law to connect all calls to 911 services, whether the customer account is active, past due or even canceled.

Even if you don’t need a wireless phone for your social life, it may be a good idea to keep an old phone in your glove box in case of an emergency. There is even an organization called AmericanCellPhoneDrive.org where you can donate an old phone or request a free phone for this exact purpose.

If you have a disabled phone without a service contract and want to use it for 911 service, you may want to test it. DO NOT just dial 911 to test it, they will likely send help, even if you say it was just a test. The proper way to test 911 service is to call the non-emergency number for your local public safety answering point (PSAP) office and schedule a 911 test. That way, they will be expecting your call and know for sure that it is a test. In the US, there is a list of non-emergency contact numbers for PSAPs listed here.

When you call 911, you should be aware that your location will also be transmitted to the operator.

Some cell phones have built in GPS receivers, allowing them to receive radio signals from space and accurately determine a very precise location on earth. But, GPS is rarely available when indoors and obviously many calls originate indoors. Calls to 911 may not use GPS location data, because the phone does not support it or because a GPS signal cannot be found (typical when indoors).

When GPS is not available, the wireless provider can get a fairly accurate location of the phone by analyzing it’s signal and the location of the towers that are receiving it. Current regulations require that a phone carrier can pinpoint a cell phone within 300-600 meters, depending on the technology the phone is using. By 2012, phone carriers should be able to pinpoint you location within 50-300 meters.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Sources: 911 Wireless Service, FCC

May 25, 2010 at 5:00 am 7 comments

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