My Favorite Things - The Sterling Report
16066
page-template-default,page,page-id-16066,bridge-core-1.0.4,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,transparent_content,qode-theme-ver-18.0.9,qode-theme-bridge,disabled_footer_top,disabled_footer_bottom,qode_header_in_grid,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.4.5,vc_responsive
 

My Favorite Things

gear

My Favorite Things

As an endlessly curious person, I’m constantly investigating and experimenting with things that might be able to improve my experience here on Earth. This is a list of things I use and enjoy and I update it from time to time. I hope you find it useful.

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. Some are not. The price for anything you find here (that isn’t free) will be the same to you whether or not you click the link before making your purchase. Affiliate links are how I (almost) make enough money to pay for this website, so you’re not paying for my Lamborghini or anything like that. It’s always appreciated when you click one and make a purchase, but it’s certainly not required. The FTC requires this disclosure, otherwise I wouldn’t be wasting your time with it. 

Tech

WordPress powers all of my websites. It’s a fantastic framework and makes it easy for beginners to get online projects up and running. The best part? It’s free. To set up your own website with a few clicks, visit this page for step-by-step instructions.

Captio: This simple iPhone app does only one thing: It allows you to email yourself. That might seem like a small thing, but I use it every day.

Here’s how I use it: Let’s say I’m in the middle of a conversation and hear about something I want to investigate later. I open the app, type a quick note a press send. It does the same thing with photos if I want to snap a shot of something to investigate later. The message lands in my inbox and twice a week I have a calendar reminder to “check Captio messages.”

It removes a few steps from my old method of emailing myself with an email app. There’s no need to wait for the email app to load, run the risk of getting distracted by new emails in my inbox, address a new email to myself, type my note, etc. Captio allows me to quickly make a note of something and get back to the conversation without (rudely) wasting time on my phone. Several minutes of time saved per day turns into hours over the course of a year. It costs $0.99 in the App Store. I don’t know if it’s available on Android devices.

MailMunch: Many times, part of building a successful online business involves building an email list. People who opt-in to your updates are extremely valuable and you should focus on building your list of subscribers from day one. MailMunch makes it easy to create sign-up forms and design email blasts. There are more expensive list-building options out there, but MailMunch will do everything you need to get started with your email list. If your business takes off, you can always migrate to a more expensive option later.

Noise cancelling headphones: These headphones make it easy to sleep on long-flights or train rides. Crying babies are no longer a problem.

Apple products: All of them. Because they’re the best.

Money

Lolli: Have you heard of bitcoin? Of course you have. Lolli is simple plugin available for Chrome and Firefox that allows you to earn bitcoin when you make everyday purchases. It’s a great introduction to bitcoin and it is *free* to install and use. That’s right. Free bitcoin for making the purchases you were going to make anyway.

They have partnered with a bunch of merchants (like Priceline, Walmart.com and Groupon). You’ll pay the same price on those purchases, but you’ll get some bitcoin sent to you when you purchase through your browser at a participating merchant.

Schwab: I love my Schwab checking account for two main reasons. One, there is no monthly fee and two, I can use any ATM from any bank IN THE WORLD and they refund all the ATM fees those banks charged me at the end of every month. For a guy who travels all the time, it’s wonderful and makes a big difference. The refunded ATM fee policy also applies to all US ATMs.

Betterment: Betterment takes the thinking out of investing. They do all the things that used to be reserved for the super-rich and they do it for almost no money. They basically manage index funds for you (so, very low fees or no fees charged to you from the funds). Some of their best features are automatic rebalancing and tax-loss harvesting.

If you don’t know where to begin with investing, but know you should be investing, start with a Betterment account. You can take their free risk assessment quiz to see what they recommend before you commit. I’ve been using them for a few years now and my portfolio performs much better than it did when I was “actively” managing it. This link will get your some free stuff from them.

Revolut: Revolut is a digital bank (no physical branches) that makes it easy to send or transfer money abroad. No rubbish fees or nasty exchange rates that you find with all the major US banks. They recently made their service available to US citizens and this link will get you in.

Discover Credit Card: I love my Discover card. I have several credit cards I use on a regular basis, and Discover is one of my favorites. The rewards are wonderful and their customer service is top-notch.

Not only are the regular rewards generous, but every quarter they give EXTRA bonuses for certain categories of purchases. As an extreme example, they offered 5% cash back on any purchases I made at Amazon last December. So guess who did all of his Christmas shopping on Amazon?

The only downside is that some places don’t accept Discover cards. The fees merchants have to pay in order to accept Discover cards are higher than a standard Visa or Mastercard. Those extra fees are what fund the special rewards for you and some merchants don’t want to pay the extra fees in order to accept them, so that’s how the math works.

Travel

The best travel hack that I share on a regular basis is to remember that people live wherever you’re going. As long as you have your passport and some money (or access to some money via plastic), you should be fine. Aside from special medications or niche products, you should be able to find anything you need when you arrive at your destination.

The second best travel hack? Eat where the locals eat. Find restaurants that are busy with the native population instead of the tourist places that are featured in all the guide books. The locals know where the best local food is served.

Uber and Lyft: If I have my way, I’ll never own a car again. It certainly helps that I like to live in cities that are walkable, bicycle friendly, have good public transportation options and are large enough to support a large fleet of Uber and Lyft drivers.

Hopper: Hopper is a free app that allows you to enter your point of departure and your destination to scan the prices in a calendar format. If you have a flexible schedule or you are trying to find the best dates to travel, Hopper will be a great friend to you. You can even create alerts on particular flights you want to watch. They’ll tell you if you should buy now or wait to see if prices drop because they have mountains of data on pricing history and know when prices are good or bad. They make money if you decide to book one of the flights you find through their app. They also have hotels on their app, but I haven’t found that feature to be as useful as the flights.

Google Flights: Google Flights is where I go to crosscheck what I find on Hopper. Neither of them are fully comprehensive (some discount airlines don’t feed pricing information to third parties like Hopper or Google), but combining the two of them works quite well. Just like Hopper, Google Flights is free, but they make money when you click through and purchase a flight you find on their website. Kinda like how this website makes money!

SafetyWing: Have you noticed that every dang travel website in the world tries to sell you “trip insurance” these days? It’s a great profit source for them, so of course they do. SafetyWing protects both you (health emergencies) AND your trip (cancellations, delays, lost items, etc.). You might be surprised that your healthcare in the US won’t cover you when you travel, so you definitely want to be prepared. SafetyWing is easy and inexpensive.

Airbnb: When I travel, I prefer to stay in Airbnbs instead of hotels. I find that I have a more genuine experience when I “live like a local” instead of staying in the tourist districts. The tourist destinations have their place, so I’ll usually get a hotel for the first few nights in a new city, then move to an Airbnb for the rest of my trip. Some cities around the world have limited or banned short-term rentals, so my fallback plan is to find a place to stay on Hotwire or Booking.com.

Google Translate: The Google Translate app (free) is like magic. You can point your phone’s camera at some text, like a restaurant menu, and it will translate it to English in real time. It’s a life saver when you are traveling in a place where you don’t speak the language, and they don’t speak English. You really have to try it. You can also manually enter text to translate it, or speak to it to have it translate spoken words.

DuoLingo: DuoLingo is a language-teaching app that I find useful for learning helpful words and phrases in different languages. There’s a paid version, but the free version works just fine if you don’t mind some occasional ads. They have a bunch of languages available now and they keep adding new ones.

Health & Fitness

Kettlebells: I don’t have the patience to spend hours at the gym, but I understand the importance of staying fit. Kettlebell workouts are a great way to get a full-body workout in a short period of time. With a few specific kettlebell exercises, I can work all the muscles I need to work in 15-20 minutes. They have been used by the Russian military for hundreds of years, if that’s helpful. (Note: PLEASE take a kettlebell class before doing workouts on your own. You can seriously hurt yourself if you don’t use the proper form.)

Books

I like to give books as gifts. These are some of my favorites for gifting.

Death By Meeting (The trick here is to give this book to people when you start working with them, but you have to do it BEFORE they have a chance to schedule a meeting with you. If you wait until they have a chance to schedule a meeting, you’ll look like a jerk.)
The Millionaire Real Estate Investor
Good To Great
Guns, Germs and Steel
The Courage To Be Disliked
Lies My Doctor Told Me
The Greatest Minds And Ideas Of All Time
The Dictator’s Handbook
The War Of Art
Trust Me, I’m Lying