Apple Announcement September 9th: What You Need to Know (Part 1)

Apple Announcement September 9th: What You Need to Know (Part 1)

Hatters beware. On September 9th, Apple is going to announce the new iPhone 6s–expect a better camera, faster LTE capabilities, and maybe even the ForceTouch technology we saw in the Apple Watch.

Also expect Apple to team up with the big cell phone carriers whose subsidy and payment installment plans rip you off.

What You Need to Know about Apple and the Big Carriers

In the past few months, we’ve seen the big carriers move away from contracts explicitly based around a two year plan.  Smaller players like T-Mobile, Republic, and Straight Talk have influenced consumer consciousness enough that Verizon, ATT, and Sprint know a two year contract is seen as an unpopular option.  Those lofty two year contracts, though, were very good at one thing consumers love; they lowered the initial stocker shock for smart phones like the newest Apple installment.

As most of us know, Apple operates on a tiered pricing system based on release schedule.  Right now, consumers who sign onto a new two year contract could pay $299 for the entry model iPhone 6 Plus (the latest release), $199 for iPhone 6, $99 for the iPhone 5s, or they could get the iPhone 5C for free.

Don’t let the advertising fool you, though.  iPhones were never sold at those price points.

Apple gets away with advertising those prices because the big carriers would subsidize the remaining cost of your phone as part of your two year contract.  You traded your freedom to pursue a better deal for hundreds of dollars that would be spread out month to month within your hefty plan.  It was a win/win for businesses, and, I’ll concede, for those absolutely desperate for the latest iPhone model, but for most consumers, it was a really bad deal.

So what’s changed without two year contracts?

Here’s where I really need you to pay attention.  Very little is going to change in our quasi post contract world.  Expect that Apple will talk about the low entry fees associated with the brilliant new phone we meet this Wednesday.  Apple needs to talk that up because otherwise, the sticker shock of iPhones priced at $800+ would let Samsung hammer in the nails to the iPhone’s coffin.  iPhones needed to be affordable, but they’re an incredibly sophisticated piece of technology.  Apple was never going to give these phones away, but consumers weren’t suddenly going to pay hundreds of dollars more to own them.  Something had to give.

So what did Apple do?  Team up with the big carriers (insert my shock here.)

Rather than selling you a two year contract, the big players in cell service are now going to offer you the opportunity to place a deposit on your phone (hmm, I bet a tiered model starting at $299 and working its way down would do just fine) and allow you the chance to pay the rest of your phone off month to month within a set amount of time.

Are they kidding me? Isn’t this just a two year contract?

No, of course they’re not.  Yes, of course, it is.  It has a different name, it has a slightly different structure, but for all intents and purposes, nothing’s changed at all.  This is business and business is not about your freedom.

So what should Hatters, who want to be free but also love iPhones do?  Stay tuned for Apple Announcement September 9th: What You Need to Do (Part 2) to find out.  Want that post ASAP?  Like our Facebook page to get the quickest notification of when new posts arrive.

Cell phone bill more than $35/month? You’re Being Ripped Off.

Cell phone bill more than $35/month?  You’re Being Ripped Off.

Hey, Hatters– Do you like unlimited calls, texts, and data?  Do you thrive on keeping up with the latest phones and tablets?  Are you paying more than $35 a month for the cellphone plan that makes it all work for you?  You’re being ripped off.

Let me say that again.  A cell phone bill that’s more than $35 a month for use with an iPhone, Galaxy, whatever much-hipper-than-I-am phone that lives in your pocket is a complete and utter waste of your money, which is a waste of the hours of your life you trade for your money.  That time is precious, and on Life as a Hat, I want you to keep every bit of it you can.

Why am I setting $35 as the limit to what you should spend on your cell?  It’s what I do with the T-Mobile and Walmart team up pre-paid plan.  Here’s what I get for $30 a month ( which comes to a grand total of $33 and change after taxes and fees.)

  • Unlimited texts
  • Unlimited data (5 gigabytes at 4G LTE speeds and unlimited data at 3G speeds after that.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with what those numbers really mean, I use my phone heavily.  I stream music when I workout, I use data for GPS, and I surf the internet prettttttty frequently in my downtime.  I don’t think I’ve ever gone above 3 gigabytes of data usage in a month.)
  • 100 minutes of talk time, which I extend into unlimited talk with Skype.
  • There’s no last bullet point because there’s nothing else you could want from a cellphone plan.  This is unlimited everything for 1/3 of what most consumers pay.

How can you join the ranks of this too good to be true plan?

  1. Own your own phone.  That might mean you don’t have the latest and greatest, but you will have freedom and won’t be locked into a pay off the phone by month plan or a contract with a subsidy.  Check out Ebay, Amazon, or your own network of friends for great deals on used phones you can buy outright.
  2. Purchase a SIM card through T-Mobile or Walmart.  As of last week, T-Mobile had a special where each sim was only $0.99.  That’s my kind of price.
  3. Activate your new sim card ONLINE.  This part is crucial.  Because of the dual nature of the T-Mobile and Walmart plan, you will not be able to purchase the correct plan if you call T-Mobile directly to activate your SIM.  Do you hear me?  Do not call T-Mobile to activate your SIM.  Use the activate online option.
  4. Select the $30 plan with 100 minutes from the dropdown menu.  Reread the options and ensure you’ve selected the correct plan.  This is the best deal on the market and the process is designed to make it difficult to access.

When I set up my plan, it took about an hour of my time, and it’s since saved me $60 a month, every month, and I have the luxury of knowing that I can walk away at any time.

That’s freedom in a phone plan.

There’s a Labor Day Sale on Stocks. You Better be Buying.

There’s a Labor Day Sale on Stocks. You Better be Buying.

The title says it all on this one, folks.  The stock market in the United States has been volatile this past week, and it closed on Friday hovering at about 3% down for the week.  

This is the best labor day sale for your freedom imaginable.

What’s that, those of you who read my 24/7 shopping method might be asking?  You want us to drop what we’re doing and make a purchase?

No.  I want you to drop what you’re doing and make the best choice of your day for true freedom.  If you’re coming along for the financially free ride with me, the stock market is your new best friend.  To beat this metaphor into the ground, stocks are the vehicle that drive us down the road to financial independence and the freedom to pursue whatever we want.  Stocks let you be a hat, Daddy.

So who make money in the stock market and how can you do it?

People who make money on the stock market get into the market and stay.

That’s pretty much it.  When stocks are low, you’re seeing the best chance to buy your piece of the market and watch the value rise.  If the market takes a hit again, people who make money stay steady.  You’re here for financial freedom, not a quick buck, and historically, the markets average a 7% return each year.  That means some years are tough, some years are buoyant, but overall, your money is making you a hell of a lot of money if you can divorce yourself from fear and start (and stay!) investing.

How can you get into the market?

Index funds!  Index funds!  Index funds!

I don’t have the time, interest, or skill set to monitor individual companies and make data based predictions on whether they’ll increase or decrease in value.  And you know what, even the people who have the skill set don’t beat the market.  Index funds give you a chance to buy a small, small, small fraction of the entire U.S. market (or whatever index you choose.)  The market is on sale right now, but history tells us that it’s going to rise again.

My personal favorite index fund is Vanguard’s Target Retirement Fund*.  If you have $1,000 saved, you can enter the market today with Vanguard.  What makes this fund great is that Vanguard is client owned, so there’s far less motive and ability to charge high fees for your transactions.  In fact, Vanguard has some of the lowest fees around, which means much, much, more of your money stays your money as it works for you in the market.  If Vanguard isn’t for you, research any other low-cost index fund to find the right fit.  My goal isn’t to sell you this fund, but to sell you on the idea that low transaction fees and a slice of the entire market are the right choice.

And if you don’t have $1,000 to enter the market with?  

No shame here, it took me awhile to save mine up.  There are other funds that you could enter into, but I suggest building yourself a safety net of $1,000 in savings, first, and then place your next $1,000 into Vanguard as soon as possible, no matter where the market is at.  The point is to get you onto this path, and the sooner you’re invested in investing, the sooner you’re going to be free.  We’ll get more into how (and WHY) to build up that initial $1,000 in savings soon.  In the meantime, we’ll keep more freedom building tips coming to help you get there as quickly as possible.

Now stop reading blogs and go.buy.stocks!

*I’m not a licensed stock broker, this isn’t financial planning advice or an endorsement.  I’m your local neighbor telling you to stop reading blogs and start buying low fee index funds.

Shop 24/7 and Never Regret a Purchase Again

Shop 24/7 and Never Regret a Purchase Again

When I started thinking about who I wanted to be, I also started thinking about how I wanted to shop.  I’ve realized that deep down, I’ve always believed that when we shop, we’re creating ourselves.  And we are, aren’t we?  Humans live on snap judgments–is someone friend or foe?  Are they like me?  How can I categorize them to know how to interact with them?

When we shop, we’re building the lens that the rest of the world sees us through. We’re telling friends, acquaintances, strangers, “Hey, this?  This is how I want you to tag me in your mind.  I’m like the other people you’ve met who dress like this, but I’m not the ones who dress the opposite.  I like Johnny Cash, or Katy Perry, or raging against the system in clothing the system designed.”  We’re creating our own reality with our purchases.  I didn’t think there was anything more powerful than that.

Well, there’s nothing more powerful than shopping except for the fucking fact that I’d rather not live through categories that someone else created to make money for themselves.  That’s more powerful.

Not all shopping is “wrong.”  Wanting to create an image for yourself isn’t wrong.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is condescending, or misogynistic, but probably both.  Being too caught up in the system, though, is bondage, and we’re about freedom here.  I still love to shop, but I use what I call a 24/7 system now when I do it.

24/7 Shopping to Never Regret a Purchase

What’s the 24/7 system?  It’s a way to shop that makes sure you’re getting the maximum amount of utility for the money (freedom) you exchange for your clothing.  It’s how I can keep my desire to create the me I see in my mind from stopping me from creating the free me I value more than anything.

The 24:

  • If you’re going to use the 24/7 shopping system, you’re not going to buy ANY piece of clothing unless you’ve had 24 hours to think on the decision
  • It’s a flash sale?  It won’t be there tomorrow?  I don’t care.  Those flash sales are design to give you less time to think.  They’re the definition of being enslaved to the system.  You’re better than that.
  • If you want something after 24 hours, it might be a real desire and not just a whim of marketing and pressure.  You’re going to give yourself the chance to find out.

The 7:

  • It’s been a day and you still want that leather jacket?  Awesome.  Now you’re giving yourself a week to find it second hand.
  • Yes, a week.  Entire careers went into making you want that jacket. One day is a joke when it comes to the amount of time you need to separate yourself from the marketing.
  • Yes, secondhand.  Remember, we’re about freedom and sustainability.  Buying your clothing second hand means that it’s already depreciated in value, and you’re paying far closer to its actual worth.  You’re also not participating in the fast fashion marketplace that does a whole hell of a lot of damage to our world and the people in it.

If you haven’t found what you wanted second hand after 7 days, and you’re still thinking about that jacket now 8 days after you saw it, go back to the store and try it on again.  You know what, though?  I bet you’re not thinking about it.  I bet you’ve completely forgotten about it, or you’ve found it second hand for a fraction of the price and guilt.  I bet you’re a step closer to freedom because you shopped 24/7.

On Being Free

On Being Free

Life as a hat is about finding your path, but before we get started, I want to make something clear.

I’m not here to help direct you to your perfect career or the right hobbies to make you marketable.

Don’t get me wrong–I would love if becoming more free led you to find the interests that make you happy and make you money at the same time. The goal here isn’t, though, to put you on a path to the right 9 to 5 for the next forty years. I want you out of the 9 to 5 (or, 7 to 6 with commute for most of us.) I want to give you freedom, even when you’re not yet sure what you’ll do with freedom when you have it.

That brings us to Life as a Hat’s first post. What is freedom, why do we want to be free, and how do we get there?

I started thinking about freedom when I was a few years out of college but hadn’t felt like I found my “calling” yet.  I had skills, but I didn’t have passions.  I had interests, but I didn’t have ambitions to monetize them.

I’m starting to think that’s okay.

It turns out, some pretty smart people agree with me.

We’re ambivalent about work because in our capitalist system it means work-for-pay (wage-labor), not for its own sake…  For most of us, a paying job is still utterly essential — as masses of unemployed people know all too well.  But in our economic system, most of us inevitably see our work as a means to something else: it makes a living, but it doesn’t make a life. — Gary Gutting, The New York Times

So, freedom.  When I talk about it here on Life as a Hat, I mean the ability to make choices without wondering how I’ll put food on the table. I mean “F*ck you!” money–the ability to leave any situation where I’m being taken advantage of, whether that’s on the job or in a relationship. Freedom is being able to say that I choose where I am and whom I’m with because I want to be there.  Freedom means the people around me can trust that I want to be there with them.

Freedom sounds pretty damn good to me.

It doesn’t come by magic, though, or by ambition, or by the right Etsy page, or the right credit card, or the right connections at the right farmer’s market.

We get freedom when we cultivate habits and skills that remove us from the bondage of trading hours of our life for money.  That’s it.  

I’m not free yet.  I’m not even close.  I’m learning, and I’m trying, though.  I’m starting on my path.

And I want you to come with me.