Saturday, July 4, 2015

Donating cars and buying a reloading press

I don't think I've written about donating cars for charity, but I have done that in the past when I had an older vehicle that a family could use.

Mostly nowadays I give money. I like to give back -- not just around the holidays either -- because it provides a rewarding feeling. (I also like it because of the tax break.) The tax break helps me afford stuff I normally would not spend money on -- one such instance is gun-related stuff.

I don't want to write a lot about gun stuff on this blog but I do want to mention that I just bought a reloading press, which is a way to load ammunition, a few days ago. I read a lot of reviews about buying the best reloading press for the money and settled on a progressive one.

I realize that most people have no idea what one of these thing do, which is why I'll post a video below explaining it.

Be careful

I know these presses can be dangerous, which is why I have appropriate safety gear and ear plugs, but I'm hoping it will be cost effective, too.

I don't go through tons and tons of ammunition and prefer quality rounds over quantity for competition shooting so I hope this was a good investment. Time will tell, though.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What to Consider Before You Donate to Charity

You may have decided to give donations to charitable organizations this year but are uncertain about what to consider before you donate to charity.

It's important to do a little research before contributing your hard-earned cash. In this article, we'll look at a few ways to determine how to find one of the top non-profit organizations for you to provide a charitable gift to.

Research before making any donations to charitable organizations
Your first consideration about donating to charity should be to learn about potential non profit organizations you want to donate to.

Find out as much information as you can, including contact information and making sure they are a registered organization.

You also want to make sure you agree with the organization's values and mission. It makes no sense to support a pro-life organization if you are pro-choice.

Many non-profits have a webpage with their statement of purpose, and many organizations will have a point person who fields questions.

Good information to find out includes the following:

  • How many people does this charity serve?
  • How many grants (and how much money are they) does this charitable organization receive?
  • How many awards (and how much are they) does this nonprofit get.
  • What is this charity doing to stop the problem?
  • Are they addressing the main cause of the problem or creating s temporary solution?
  • How is my money going to be spent?
  • You should also determine the following: What is my charitable gift going to be -- i.e., am I donating my time, donating money to charity, or making an automobile donation to charity?

Local or global?

I'm a firm believer in the local community. I value local organizations because they are the backbone of my community.

I am more likely to donate to one of these non-profits than, for instance, a global organization such as Livestrong.

When donating locally, you can see how your donation affects the community, especially if you see how grateful a low income family is when they drive their car to work or the grocery store rather than walk.

Global non-profits, though, have the ability to make wide-scale changes if they are effective.

Finding the most effective non-profit organizations

As a donor, you want to make sure your money is used by the non-profit wisely -- the last thing anybody wants is to be donating money to charity and find out that gift paid for the CEO's Mercedes.

The best solution is to look at the financials of the non profit. By law in the U.S., a tax-exempt 503c business needs to file a 990 form with the IRS.

This form is available for the public to view. Websites such as GuideStar provides access to many 990 forms, but the charitable organization should be able to provide you with a copy of the form as well. (They are required to do so if asked.)

The form will contain all financial statistics and provide details about how the money donated is being used.

An effective organization will have less overhead to run it and more spent to run the programs that support its mission.

An organization, for example, that spends $4.5 million to fundraise $5 million is not effective. In this example, only 5 percent of the monies generated would actually be used by the organization.

This example does not provide a very good bang for buck charity to donate to.

Other tips to consider before donating to a charity

Up until this point, we've focused on being pro-active when donating to a charitable organization. Sometimes, though, we may get solicitations for donations and that's where we'll turn our focus.

Be wary of telephone solicitors asking for donations. It is one of the easy ways to donate to charity but the most troublesome.

 A reputable non-profit will not make you donate on the spot.

Any telephone solicitor should be willing to provide you with written documentation about the charity's goals, vision, mission, and finances. If the solicitor is unwilling to provide that information, hang up.

Also, be careful of organization names. Some nonprofits will have names that mirror more effective nonprofits. Don't be fooled into providing a donation to a organization that resembles one you've heard of.

A nonprofit can call itself, for instance, "The Police and Fire Organization Union of California" and not provide any money to public safety in your area. This is why it's important to find out where the money is going.

On the subject of police and fire: if you choose not to donate to one of these organizations, they can not refuse you emergency protection. As long as you are a member of the community and paying taxes, you will receive support from public safety workers no matter if you donate or not.

  • Dos and Don'ts
  • Do write a check
  • Do research the nonprofit
  • Do keep good records of previous donations
  • Do say "no" if you don't want to donate
  • Do be an anonymous donor if you choose
  • Don't give cash
  • Don't feel pressured to donate on the spot
  • Don't be fooled by an organization that has a name similar to a larger nonprofit

Now that you understand about giving to a charitable organization, you should be well-educated and know what to consider before you donate to charity.

Photo is by Don DeBold off Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cars, Longboards, and My Son

It's no surprise that I'm big into cars -- what guy isn't? I do have other hobbies, like guns and skateboards -- not in that combination, though.

The skateboard hobby is quite surprising because I'm about as coordinated as an elephant on a tightrope.

However, I bought my son a skateboard and he just loves it and thought it would be cool to be able to ride around and do tricks with him -- some good father-son time.

I did do some research and found that a longboard might be a good solution.

I know I don't write on this blog a lot, so I thought now might be a good time to change that. New Year. New goals. And I have something to share today: How to choose the best longboard for you.

Skateboard or longboard: Oh my, choices???

The difference between the two is one is -- wait for it -- longer than the other. A skateboard is about 28" to 32". A longboard is about 35" to 60".

The extra length improves overall stability and speed. (There's more room for my size 14" feet and I can carve this thing like a surfboard.) They are used mainly for downhill runs and transportation.

Skateboards are just the opposite. They sacrifice stability and speed for maneuverability and being able to do tricks. You won't find a skateboard blasting down a mountain road at 40 MPH.


I could not find a solid history about who invented longboards, so I'm just going to list what I got -- whether right or wrong -- and you can be the judge and do additional research.

Tom Sims was one of the pioneers of longboarding. Some say he was the inventor when he put his skateboard wheels and trucks on a water ski. Then, it sort of mutated from that. Wikipedia lists Sims as a pioneer but notes that longboarding didn't become popular until him and Brad Stradlund were listed in the "Cult of the Longboard" article back in the late '70s.

Another idea is that surfers, who couldn't surf in the winter, put wheels and trucks on a surfboard.

How will you use the board?

Unlike skateboards, longboards come in different styles -- there's downhill, carving, sliding, cruiser, slalom, freestyle boards. There's, also, a lot of different longboard brands.

It's important you know what you want to do with your board before you plunk down any cash on one.

Wheels are important, too. They come in durometer ratings. The lower the durometer, the smoother the ride and more sticky the grip. The higher the durometer, the easier to slide and less sticky the grip. Here's a good resource for choosing longboard wheels.

Trucks and bearings

It seems the wheels and a deck of a longboard get the most focus. They are, after all, the parts everybody sees -- the cool paint job and shape of the deck, along with the cool color of the wheels.

There are less sexy pieces on a longboard, though. Longboard trucks attach your wheels to your board and help determine how stable your ride will be. The wider the trucks the more stability you'll have; the narrower the trucks the quicker turning ability you'll have. See: How does truck width affect the ride?

Bearings are not sexy, either. They are an important part for speed. The faster you can get your longboard bearings to roll the faster your board will go. Speed equals the least amount of friction. (One of my benefits is that I'm 200 pounds, so once I get going down a hill, gravity and weight give me an extra boost in speed.


Longboarding isn't cheap, and make sure you budget safety gear into your total costs. Gear is much cheaper than a hospital visit.

There's all I know about longboarding. I will say that it is a lot of fun to go for a ride with my son, so I think the cost was worth it.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Which is the best hybrid car?

Deciding to purchase an alternative fuel vehicle is a responsible choice, but how do you know which is the best hybrid car in the U.S.?

Many manufacturers have invested dollars in electric cars, with eco-unfriendly batteries. Others have invested in flex fuel options, such as diesel engines running on cooking oil.

But the best hybrid car is the the Honda Civic Natural Gas, which runs on compressed natural gas also known as CNG.

Natural gas burns cleaner and hotter than gasoline, which means less emissions. Because natural gas is domestically abundant in the U.S., our reliance on foreign oil is diminished.

Honda Natural Gas Car

In production since 1998, the Honda CNG is a clean alternative fuel vehicle. It is the only compressed natural gas vehicle in the U.S. available to consumers.

Chrysler and GM will be in the market, though, in the near future with natural gas trucks; also, conversion kits are available.

The Honda Civic GX is similar to its gasoline counterpart, with a few differences.

The most noticeable change with this hybrid car is the natural gas fuel cell in the trunk, which reduces cargo volume.

The gasoline Civic sedan has 12.5 cubic feet of cargo space, but the Civic CNG has only 6.1 cubic feet.

Also from a numbers standpoint, the compressed natural gas engine produces less horsepower and torque than the standard gasoline motor in the Civic.

The CNG engine cranks out 110 horsepower at 6500 RPM and 106 foot pounds of torque at 4300 RPM versus the gasoline counterpart that produces 140 horsepower at 6500 RPM and 128 foot pounds of torque at 4300 RPM.

Despite the 30 horsepower difference, the Honda CNG makes up for it with the price of natural gas, which is $1 to $2 cheaper per gasoline gallon equivalent.

This is a significant advantage of natural gas cars over their lifespan.

Honda Civic GX range

The range of the Honda CNG is about 250 miles. This natural gas vehicle holds 8.03 gasoline gallon equivalent and gets 31 mpg.

The Civic hybrid's range should be adequate for commuters. Road warriors, though, will need to make sure CNG stations are on their route.

CNG stations to fill up your Honda
Public CNG filling stations dot the United States, with about 1,000 of them. Only about 500, though, are open to the public.

These pumps are similar to standard gasoline pumps. The difference is that CNG pumps have a female end and gasoline pumps have a male end.

But a CNG home filling station is available. Because it uses your home's existing natural gas piping to refuel your vehicle, it is an overnight process.

Best hybrid car: Honda CNG

Although you may not know much about alternative fuel vehicles, you will soon see these clean energy machines soon replace the gasoline chugging motors of today.

As an early adapter, you will be ahead of the general public by driving a compressed natural gas car. Also as an early adopter, Honda has had the time needed to develop its Civic GX, which is the best hybrid car.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

What Is A Good First Car?

Every first year driver is confronted with a major question: What is a good first car?  Unless your parents just gave you your first automobile, you have a lot to think about when buying a car. Although there's no definition of what makes a good first car, I want to help you by providing info about what to look for in a starter automobile.

Safe cars for teenagers

As a 16-year-old driver, you need to keep safety in mind. Your parents will thank you. But what should you look for in a safe vehicle?

To start with, you may already have an idea of a good first car. If not, that's OK. This step can be returned to when you do narrow your choices down. If you know the make and model, you should do a little research about the safety of that car.

All good first cars in the last 20 years have been ranked according to a 5-Star Safety Ratings system (available online), which measures the safety of vehicles in a crash or rollover.

Although you don't expect to be in an accident, a 16-year-old driver has a higher crash rate than any other aged driver, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. This means that a well-built vehicle is good insurance for you.

Where to buy a good first car

A few common places to buy a good first car are through private parties, the new car dealership used vehicle section, and through used car lots.

Private parties: These are automobiles listed on Craigslist, in somebody's driveway with a for sale sign, in a newspaper ad, word of mouth, and many other ways. You are more likely to get a good price and won't have a high-pressure salesman breathing down your neck.

New car dealership used vehicle section: These automobiles are usually in the back of the lot and are usually trade-ins. Bought at dirt cheap prices, dealerships usually sell these cars at auction if nobody buys them in a specific time frame. Some are good first cars -- others, well, are on the lot for a reason.

You can usually offer a pretty low price on one of these and get a good bargain, but you need to make sure your offer provides the dealership with some profit.

Some dealerships offer certified used cars, which have been inspected and usually have a warranty; this can be a piece of mind.

Used car lots: These lots get a bad name, with images of snake-charming salesman ready to sell you a lemon. A used car lot may be a good choice if you need a loan to buy a good first car and can't get one anywhere else.

Tips for buying cars for young adults

You'll need to determine your budget. I don't recommend buying cars on credit. (Good first cars provide a learning experience and are not always that well-taken care of.) But if you do have to take out a loan to buy a good first car, you should shop around at banks and credit unions. The best way, if your parents agree, is to get a small loan from them. Of course you'll need to pay your parents back, but they might be generous and not charge you interest.

An important point is to get a car that's not too sporty because eventually you'll be asking insurance agents about “what car insurance coverage should I have?” The agent will most likely mention that you fall in an age bracket where even just liability on a sporty auto will be expensive. To cut down on the insurance costs, get a car insurance policy that has good discount programs and keep your grades high in school.

Finding out possible insurance costs before you buy a car will provide no surprise and may mean the difference between buying, say, a 3000 dollar car over a 4000 dollar car.

Once you know how much you can spend, watch the market for used cars before you buy. This will give you an overall idea about how much certain makes and models cost. You can also use Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds – both of which are online – and determine what price range that car should fall within.

Having the price range info will help you know whether or not you are paying too much or getting a good deal on a good first car.

Once you have found a safe vehicle, you need to ask the seller questions about the vehicle and its history.

Some sellers can be dodgy or lie about vehicle problems, maintenance, and history, which means you should get a CARFAX on the vehicle. The last thing you want is a salvage titled car that was wrecked, rebuilt, and now being resold!

You may want to bring your dad or a mechanic friend along; he can help you determine if the car needs mechanical work to be safe and about how much it would cost to fix it.

Now you've found a good first car with a title, made sure all the mechanics are tip-top, and are ready to buy. Now all you need to do is negotiate with seller.

Use your research to your advantage and try to get the best price possible. Point out any flaws or mechanical problems that need to be fixed and deduct from the asking price.

Although there's no one thing that makes a perfect car for new drivers, we've looked at a few things you should think about when answering the question "what's a good first car?"