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Fun and Contests

Back in the late 1980s, I collected baseball cards just like millions of other kids. That’s around the same time that popularity of baseball card collecting skyrocketed and the producers of cards — and Major League Baseball — ruined the hobby, never to recover.

Taking advantage of collector — and even investor — interest, the companies tried to make as much money as possible and increased supply to meet demand. By the early 1990s, there were too many brands of baseball cards producing too many variations and too many prints of each. Card collecting became a chore rather than a fun and exciting exciting. (Plus, like millions of other kids, I was simply getting older and less interested.) Looking to make money on baseball card appreciation, fewer cards were handled and more cards were kept in pristine condition, ensuring that no cards would ever be “rare” in top condition.

Endy Chavez 2007 Topps baseball cardRecent;y, I had heard that Major League Baseball finally realized that they had helped ruin the card collecting hobby (with additional help from the public distaste with the sport for a time). They recently cut back the number of baseball card producers to just Topps and Upper Deck. Perhaps, due to limiting the production of baseball cards and the resurgence of the sport, card collecting and trading would become popular again.

As I tried to complete team sets of Mets cards for myself and my girlfriend, not for investment but just because we’re fans of the team, I discovered that not much has changed. It’s true that there are only two companies producing baseball cards, but there are so many variations and sets that keeping track of everything would still be a chore. For example, Topps sells factory-sealed sets for each team. The team sets contain only about 15 cards, but these cards are slightly different from the cards you would find if you looked through the traditional random baseball card packs sold in delis and convenience stores looking for the cards you want.

Here is what it would take the be a true collector presently. If you’re an enthusiast looking to complete just a 2008 collection for one team, not only do you need all the cards from Series 1 and Series 2 featuring players from that team, but you’d need a second 55-card “special edition” team set that includes cards for the managers, coaches, and mascot. You would also need cards from the “Opening Day” series, the “Chrome” series, the “Co-signers” series, the “Finest” series, the “Milestones” series, and the “Heritage” series. Don’t forget that Topps also owns the Bowman brand, so you would need to find the “Bowman” series as well.

Even for kids who spend their parents’ money with reckless abandon, it’s simply too expensive to properly be a child interested in being successful at collecting cards in the traditional manner. You might as well just give up now. I certainly understand why millions of kids have left card trading and collecting behind.

Here’s how to make card collecting popular (and perhaps even profitable) again. Lower the price of baseball cards. Reduce the number of cards in a complete set to fewer than 1,000 for the year. Don’t print as many. Keep investors away. Convince kids that the cards should be traded, handled, and even abused, not placed in pristine holders to be kept in mint condition forever.


Related: Men Paying for Dinner: Is It More Romantic?.

School’s back in session, work’s ramping up again, and it’s almost time to let go of summer and fully embrace fall. But that shouldn’t mean your romantic life falls by the wayside. From what I’m seeing in the weather reports, it’s supposed to be a nice warm weekend across the U.S., the perfect opportunity to get outdoors and have a really memorable, fantastic date to carry you through the colder months.

The best part? All of these ideas can be done for $30 or less, proving that frugal can still be fun.

1. Private Wine and Cheese Bicycle Tour

If you don’t already have bicycles, chances are there’s a friend or family member not using theirs this weekend who’s willing to let you borrow. You can get a nice bottle of wine for under $10, a crusty loaf of bread for under $5, and cheese, grapes, and perhaps even some olives for the remaining $15. Pack it all up in a backpack with a corkscrew, a knife and some plastic glasses, and you’ve got all the makings of a fantastic day out.

Find a nice, quiet place to cycle — a local park, a scenic area, or even an official bike path. I suggest avoiding cycling near traffic because of the noise factor. You can look up routes near you at your preferred level of challenge at or just use your favorite search engine. As long as there’s a nice place to stop and enjoy your feast, you’re all set. You may want to pack a light blanket to relax on.

2. Canoe for Two

A quick Google search shows a bevy of rental outlets across the U.S. who will rent a canoe or even sometimes a 1 or 2-person kayak starting as low as $8 an hour:

Pack some sandwiches and fruit in waterproof bags for lunch and you can make a day of it, even if you only spend an hour on the water. There’s lots of opportunity to relax and take in the scenery for free. Make it a double or triple date and you may even qualify for a group discount!

3. The Secluded Beach Getaway

Coastal beach getaways can be prohibitively pricey, but there’s a frugal and possibly more romantic alternative: the lake or recreational/state park “beach”. One such area I’ve personally been to is Penn State Forest in the famous New Jersey Pine Barrens. There’s no entrance fee whatsoever, so for the price of gas and lunch, locals can find a haven in the wilderness with a sandy beach area, picnic tables and the clear, blue swimmable waters of Lake Oswego. You can even get your fill of free wild blueberries, when in season. Bring some chairs or a blanket and swim and sun till dark without fear of a parking ticket.

Spruce Run is another of my NJ favorites — for a $10 entrance fee per car, you can hang out on the beach and watch the colorful sailboats go by, cook out on the provided charcoal grills, or take a dip in the reservoir.

There are lots of public lakes and reservoirs across the country with such amenities, usually for an entrance fee of $10 or less. Google “state parks” or “reservoirs” in your state and you’re likely to find at least a few special retreats. Share your favorites in the comments — I’d love to discover some more great spots.

4. Hammock Time

So you’re not really up for cycling or paddling, but still want to enjoy the great outdoors with your date? Find a hammock (or borrow someone else’s) and create your own retreat for two.

Dick’s Sporting Goods has a nice 2-person hammock for $29, and OpenTip has one for even less, though you may have luck at your local Wal-Mart or even a yard sale. All you need is some music, lemonade and a relaxed attitude.

5. Pick-Your-Own Date

Apples are just coming into season where I live, but there’s still a wide choice of fruits and vegetables ripe for the picking. For $30 or less, you can get a nice harvest, plus end up with food for the week. offers a terrific state-by-state listing of farms and their seasonal bounties.

After strolling through the fields, head home and have a little Iron Chef-style dinner for two, seeing what kinds of creative dishes you and your date can create with your newly-acquired produce. You might work together on your creations or choose to enjoy a little friendly competition. Who knows — maybe you’ll even invent a great eggplant dessert.


On Sunday, I purchased a Nintendo Wii. It wasn’t for me. My girlfriend, celebrating her thirtieth birthday, wanted the game system as a gift.

Not knowing much about the current state of demand and supply for the game consoles and assuming any frenzy ended with the past holiday season, we went shopping on Saturday. Our first stop was the nearby Toys R Us.

Nintendo WiiThey had none in stock, but there were laser-printed signs all over the store indicating they expected a shipment of Wiis in the next day, in addition to some kind of Pokemon thing. I couldn’t help thinking that this really wasn’t my kind of game.

We stopped into other stores, including Circuit City and Best Buy, but no Nintendos could be found. Best Buy would have them in the next day like Toys R Us, but no one at Circuit City seemed to have any information about their next shipment.

After confirming for the third time that my girlfriend was positive this was what she wanted for her birthday, we decided to head to Toys R Us on Sunday before the store opened. [click to continue…]


The random comment selector has chosen 2million of My Journey to Financial Freedom to be the winner of the free copy of Quicken Rental Property Manager. Thanks everyone for playing! There were some good comments as well.

Brenda says:

I have 3 rental properties and have been keeping all my books by hand! Ugh!!! Can you imagine the hours this program would save me? I hope to have more properties in the future. I tried using a program called “Saferent” but wasn’t impressed with it. If you choose me as the person to give the gift to and it doesn’t work out for me, I promise to give someone else a go at it. It will not be wasted. Also, if you like, I will let you know if it was helpful to me or if I passed it on.

From Jon K:

I have one rental property now. Just filed my 2006 taxes- the first year to report activity from a rental property. I intend to never sell my residence. In other words, when I decide to move, I want to simply convert my current residence to a rental property. Not sure if that’ll work out, but that’s the plan. I’ve checked out this software in stores before, but I was holding off on buying it. Now that I’m once again in the market for a new home, it might not be a bad idea to have some software to manage my future real estate empire! ;-)

Valerie has this comment about the software:

Rental Property Manager might be OK for anyone who is NOT using Quicken itself. But, as Savvy notes in his review, RPM is very rigid in regard to changing categories, entering prepayments, etc. The big problem for Quicken users is that it is impossible to transfer the data from RPM to Quicken, so if you want a report on your Net Worth, you have to re-enter the data into Quicken. AND you can keep all the same information in Quicken just as well and not need to have a separate program at all.

Robin has a favorable review:

Just to let you know, I do use this software presently for my one and John’s 5 rental properties, and while I probably could have set up an Excel file to do at least some of the tracking for me, this is a much cleaner-looking solution which comes nicely set up. I track all of our income and outlay all year as it happens with this software, then print out all our Schedule E forms simply… One of the best features is that it tracks tenant information, providing nice centralized storage, and even alerts me when I need to update/renew leases…

Again, congratulations to 2million. Stay tuned; I have two more Quicken-related giveaways in the upcoming month or so.


Rockin’ the Suburbs: Y’all Don’t Know What It’s Like

by Luke Landes

Early tomorrow morning, I’ll be boarding a plane to head out to California for Thanksgiving. I’ll still be posting, but perhaps not as frequently. To hold you over, here are some lyrics from one of my favorite musucians, Ben Folds. It’s about life in suburbia, something which many of us can relate to.

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7 Ways to Save Money While Maintaining Your Extravagant Lifestyle

by Luke Landes

If you haven’t noticed, I’m a fan of long post titles. Anyway, as the title says, here are seven ways you can save money while maintaining your extravagant style. After all, isn’t that what everyone wants? The best of both worlds? If you love living beyond your means, follow these guidelines and both worlds will […]

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Sometimes, You Spend Some Money

by Luke Landes

My weekend, spent in New York with my girlfriend, was a little expensive. No, we didn’t crash in a Manhattan hotel, nor did we see a Broadway show. All of our time was spent in Queens. On Satuday morning, without any plans for the weekend yet, we decided to be spontaneous. Here’s what we decided […]

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