Archive for the 'Economy' Category

How to Efficiently Pack a Suitcase

The widespread implementation of checked bag fees has made all of us want to travel lighter and bring more with less bags. It turns out though that many of us don’t know how to get the most out of a suitcase. Packing efficiently will save you lots of time, money and space wherever you go and Gizmodo has a great article on how to do just that. Here’s their main points:

Don’t bring what you don’t need:
Here’s how much of each article of clothing you should pack and it’s not as many as you think:

Socks and underwear: One pair of each per day traveled.
Shirts and dresses: Two less than the total trip length. Wear the same outfit on the flight there and back.
Pants: A pair of jeans for every other day. These can be replaced with slacks if the occasion calls for them.
Shoes: A pair of sneakers or sandals. Bring boots or formal shoes if needed. If you need to bring boots, wear them on the flight.
Coats and Jackets: Wear these on your flight. If you’re going to a warm weather destination don’t even bother with them.
Toiletries: Pack the essentials in a small bag. Make sure any liquids are in a TSA compliant container.

Know the Weather: Take a look at the extended forecast for your destination and pack accordingly.

Roll or Fold:
Roll anything that you don’t mind getting wrinkled. It is far more space efficient. Folding should only be reserved for nicer clothing that you don’t want to iron later.

The Order of Packing:

1. Stuff your shoes full with socks and underwear and put the shoes in first.
2. Put in your heaver rolled items like jeans and sweatshirts squeezed in as tightly as possible.
3 (optional). Put in any fragile items you have. Putting them in the middle will make sure they’re cushioned at all times.
4. Put in the lighter tightly rolled items like t-shirts and underwear
5. On top of all of that place your nicer, folded clothing.
6. Stuff any other lightweight items into the sides.
7. Put your toiletries bag on top.

Coming Home
You can be less precise in your packing on the return trip. I recommend investing in a compressor bag like this one for all of your dirty clothes. At this point you probably don’t really care about wrinkling your dirty clothes so just use a compressor bag to drastically reduce the space taken up by your clothing. This will allow you ample space to fit souvenirs from your trip.


This doesn’t have to be you.

Churchill has short-term corporate housing available Nationwide. Please contact us at 866-255-0593 or National@FurnishedHousing.com for more information.

New York City in the 1990s

New York City or really any major city in the world is in a constant state of change. Old buildings are being torn down while new ones rise up to take their place. Even more buildings are finding themselves remodeled to meet the needs of their current occupants. New business are starting up while others are shutting down. New bike sharing programs are being added to the streets while old rail lines are becoming public parks. I received a reminder about this fact of life when I saw this wonderful collection of photographs of New York City in the 1990s. I always find it somewhat remarkable seeing pictures of old businesses that no longer exist even going back to the not-too-distant past of the 1990s. Pictures like these are a good way to tell what has changed and what has stayed the same over time.


That was back when MTV actually broadcasted music.

Churchill has short-term corporate housing available Nationwide. Please contact us at 866-255-0593 or National@FurnishedHousing.com for more information.

The Lottery Explained By Math

The Mega Millions jackpot is approaching record levels. At the time of this posting the jackpot is currently $636 million. I am currently involved in two lottery pools here at Churchill and would absolutely love to be instantly wealthy from sheer dumb luck. But even though I currently have a stake in about 100 sets of numbers, I’m well aware of the odds. Gizmodo has a good list of things that are more likely to happen than winning the grand prize tonight. Among the highlights are:

Houston Astros Winning the 2014 World Series: 200-to-1
Bowling a Perfect 300: 11,500-to-1
Dating a Supermodel: 88,000-to-1
Getting Struck by Lightning: 576,000-to-1
Being Canonized: 20,000,000-to-1

Business Insider also has a great article concerning the math behind the lottery. I won’t bore you with the various regression analyses but I’ll share some of their conclusions.

1. The takes are incredibly high if you take the lump-sum jackpot. All of it is taxed as earned income so just in federal income tax you’ll be paying 39.5 percent of your winnings straight to the federal government. Taking the money as a 30 year annuity will significantly reduce your tax burden if you win, as will moving to a state without an income tax.

2. According to their math it only makes sense to buy in when the jackpot exceeds $380 million.

3. Try to play in smaller state lotteries that don’t get much press. The odds of winning those are much higher (though still ridiculously low.)

Don’t spend too much money on lottery tickets though. For the most part you’re only buying a daydream and you can do that for free. Just remember putting $20 into a retirement vehicle like a 401(k) or IRA will yield you far more money in the future than hoping for the best with the Mega Millions.

Churchill has short-term corporate housing available Nationwide. Please contact us at 866-255-0593 or National@FurnishedHousing.com for more information.

There’s About $1 Billion Worth of Unredeemed Gift Cards in America

I never liked getting store gift cards as a present. The intent is certainly nice. The person giving it to you usually has no idea what you actually want and they’re giving you some money towards something you can get for yourself. This is what annoys me though. Many gift cards have expiration dates and restrict you to buying from a certain store. If that store has what you really want then that’s fine but what if it doesn’t? What do you do then? Gift cards are incredibly easy to re-gift and you could always sell it off on a site like Cardpool for some actual cash.

There are some people who absolutely love gift cards and those are the stores that sell them. Why is that? There is a good chance that a customer with a gift card will either spend more than the entire value of the gift card on their trip or they’ll spend less than the card’s value. Either way the store makes more money than if the customer was paying the total sticker price of their purchases. Also every year about one percent of the total balances on gift cards go unredeemed. Considering that about over $100 billion worth of gift cards are sold each year, that comes out to about $1 billion in pure profit retailers get every year. I’m not against businesses making money but I hate seeing stories of consumers wasting money. If you’re considering buying someone a gift card for Christmas this year, just give them some cold hard cash instead. It may seem a bit more impersonal but the recipient has way more options on what they can do with it and it will be more appreciated.

Churchill has short-term corporate housing available Nationwide. Please contact us at 866-255-0593 or National@FurnishedHousing.com for more information.

The First Skyscraper to Generate Its Own Energy is Now Under Construction

We’ve been building skyscrapers for more than a century now and for past few decades cities all over the world were engaged in an arms race to try and be home to the world’s tallest building. Ever since the current record holder, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, was completed in 2009, that race seems to have died down. That is one of the many consequences of a global recession caused by a crash in the real estate market. However, it was recently announced that there will be a new skyscraper completed by 2020 that will be the first of it’s kind. Instead of trying build the world’s tallest building, Indonesia’s state-owned energy company Pertamina will be building a skyscraper that is designed to generate it’s own electricity. The tower is designed to open up at the top which will create a wind tunnel. Those winds will power turbines and generators and it is estimated that those generators will satisfy about 25 percent of the building’s energy demand. It’s not entirely self-sufficient but it will significantly reduce the demand it places on the city’s power grid which is far more than any other skyscraper can claim. I think that this skyscraper is going to be the first of its kind and future buildings are only going to emulate and improve upon this model.


Jakarta’s future skyline.

Churchill has short-term corporate housing available Nationwide. Please contact us at 866-255-0593 or National@FurnishedHousing.com for more information.

A Map of Air Travel in 1929

Flying across the country is a whole lot easier than it used to be. Today you can spend a few hundred bucks to get a non-stop flight from New York to San Francisco and you can get there in about 6 hours. Back in the twenties though that whole long-distance air travel thing was a lot more complicated. Even though great advances in aviation were made during that decade like Charles Lindburgh’s first non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean and the advent of in-flight entertainment, flying was still quite new, dangerous, and lacked much of the infrastructure that airlines heavily rely on today.

The David Rumsey map collection has an incredible flight map of America from 1929 and it shows you how difficult it would be to cross our country as quickly as possible back then. A trip from New York to San Francisco back then would require several train rides over hundreds of miles and layovers at fourteen different airports. Even though back then there were planes like The Spirit of St. Louis that were able to fly over 3000 non-stop miles, those planes were only designed to hold one or two people. The earliest passenger planes of that era had to carry far more people and weight and therefore had a much shorter range. It really is amazing how quickly commercial aviation has advanced to the point where almost anyone can hop on a plane and cross a continent or an ocean in the course of a few hours. It is something that our ancestors would be quite envious of.

Churchill has short-term corporate housing available Nationwide. Please contact us at 866-255-0593 or National@FurnishedHousing.com for more information.

Things You Should Pack to Survive the Worst Parts of Flying

Today many people will be flying all over the country to be with their families tomorrow on Thanksgiving and the skies will be packed with many infrequent flyers. Add to that some miserable weather in one of the busiest areas of the country and you have a flyer’s nightmare on your hands. However, many of these common flying woes are entirely predictable and with some strategic packing you can make a bad experience more tolerable. Lifehacker has a great article up listing some of the best things you should pack in your carry-on to help you combat some of the most common problems encountered during a flight.

Problem: Your flight is delayed.
Solution: Always bring something to entertain yourself like a book, magazine, e-reader, computer, or tablet.

Problem: The plane runs out of food or drinks.
Solution: Always pack an empty water bottle that you can refill after you pass through security and have a few small snacks ready. I always make sure to pack a few granola bars.

Problem: Your electronics are running out of battery life and you have no place to charge them.
Solution: A USB backup battery is a great thing to have handy for these situations. These batteries can give a much needed charge to anything chargeable with a USB cable which includes most of today’s smartphones and tablets.

Problem: Parts of your body are starting to hurt from sitting in the plane’s torture devices economy class seats for too long.
Solution: Pillows and pills. You can get some great portable pillows to support your neck in the terminal and any spare clothing you bring can make an improvised lumbar pillow. It may be wise to bring some over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen to help dull some of the pain you’re feeling on the flight.


If your airport looks like this, chances are no one is going anywhere for a while.

Churchill has short-term corporate housing available Nationwide. Please contact us at 866-255-0593 or National@FurnishedHousing.com for more information.

Video Games Have Surpassed Hollywood

For the past decade we have been in the middle of a sea change in how we get our entertainment. Gone are the days of the 1980s when television and movies are the heavy hitters in screen-based entertainment. As computer hardware has improved video games have become more and more entertaining and life-like. The other thing that’s come with that is cold hard cash. The biggest video game publishers now bring in tens of billions of dollars per year and they money the industry is making is now eclipsing Hollywood. I think that this infographic I found really drives this point home. Compared to a Hollywood movie, video games usually cost less to make, sell for much more money per unit, and entertain us for a much longer period of time.

To use a personal example, I watched all three Lord of the Rings movies in theaters, paid about $24 to see them, and was blown away on the journey they too me on for the roughly 10 hours those movies lasted. I paid $60 for Skyrim and spent about 250 hours of my life exploring that incredible fantasy-themed world and doing generally whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. Guess which gave me far more for my money? The 21st century is upon us and more and more of us are now taking a more active role in our own entertainment. If you don’t believe that just follow the money.

Churchill has short-term corporate housing available Nationwide. Please contact us at 866-255-0593 or National@FurnishedHousing.com for more information.

11 Things to Do At Home Before a Vacation

Thanksgiving is one of the busiest times of the year when it comes to the number of people traveling in America. With that in mind, Apartment Therapy has a great post up listing all of the things you should do in your house before you leave home for an extended period of time. While this is prescient for the upcoming holiday, this advice holds true for any vacation where you leave home for more than a few nights. Here are their suggestions for converting your living space to “vacation mode” so you can avoid any unpleasant surprises when you get back:

Clean your refrigerator – Toss anything that is nearing its expiration date before you leave. You’re probably not going to eat it when you get home.

Refrigerate fresh fruits and vegetables – Produce sitting on your countertop is bound to attract bugs after a while. Sticking them in the fridge will avoid that problem.

Take out the garbage
– The longer garbage sits around, the worse it smells and it is also something that will attract bugs and mice.

Clean surfaces
– Give any countertops and tabletops a good wipedown before you leave.

Take care of your plants – Give them some extra water before you head out and move them to a cool area of the house. In cooler weather plants drink up less water and the rate of soil evaporation is much lower. This will ensure your best shot at keeping them alive while you’re out.

Stock up on easy meals – When you get back home you’re rarely in a mood to cook. A few ready made meals will help you get settled back in.

Suspend your mail – An overflowing mailbox is a huge sign to everyone that you’re out of town. Suspending the mail or having a neighbor pick it up is a good way to take care of that.

Turn down (or up) your thermostat – There’s no need to pay to keep the house at your ideal temperature when no one is home. If you’re leaving in the winter turn the thermostat down to 55 which is just warm enough to avoid frozen pipes. If you’re out in the summer, shut off the AC. Your wallet will thank you.

Throw out fresh flowers – Even if they look nice now they’ll probably be dead when you get back home.

Have a plan for your pets – If you’re not taking them with you, you need to have a plan to ensure that they’re taken care of.


That’s how your kitchen should look when you’re on vacation.

Churchill has short-term corporate housing available Nationwide. Please contact us at 866-255-0593 or National@FurnishedHousing.com for more information.

Six Ways to Avoid Airline Fees

Now is a pretty good time to be an airline customer. Cutthroat competition has reduced airfares to some of the lowest levels in history (adjusted for inflation) and that has been a great deal for all travelers. However, to make up the drop in revenue caused by low fares airlines have made up the difference with fees for everything they used to offer for free. The good news about fees is that if you approach them correctly you can almost completely avoid them. Forbes has a great article up that shares some great tips to make sure that you pay only for the price of your boarding pass and no more:

Don’t check bags – Try to travel light enough that you only need two small carry-on items. Fees for checked bags average around $25 per bag and usually escalate for additional checked bags. At the same time don’t be that guy who brings way too much luggage into the cabin just to avoid the fees and hogs up all of the overhead compartments. Pack light and efficiently and you’ll save money.

Check fees beforehand – If you know that you must check bags, check the fee structures of the various carriers before you buy your ticket. You need to remember to add that into the cost of your ticket when shopping. Some airlines like Southwest have far better checked bag fees and policies than others.

Weigh your luggage – Checked bags often come with weight limits and exceeding those limits can cost a lot of money you didn’t expect to spend. For frequent travelers a luggage scale is a wise investment for smart packing. One good tip is to put some of the heaviest items you have in your carry-on. While there are technically weight limits to carry-on items they are very rarely enforced.

Don’t pay for early boarding – You don’t want to be the last person to board the plane if you’re checking no bags but it’s not worth it to pay $20 to cut in line. The trick is knowing ahead of time how the airline loads their planes and selecting your seat accordingly. Some airlines load back to front or window seats first and if you know that and pick your seat accordingly you can make sure you’re not the last person on without paying extra.

Unplug
– In-flight wi-fi really isn’t worth it yet. It’s not available for the first and last 30 minutes of the flight and it’s not entirely reliable at all points in between. It may be worth it if you’re taking an 8+ hour flight across an ocean but for shorter flights you don’t really need that internet access.

Uncheck those boxes – When you’re going through the process of buying a plane ticket online the airline will try to upsell you at every turn. The box for things like travel insurance and early boarding are often automatically checked by the airline hoping you wouldn’t notice it until they actually have more of your money than you thought. Make sure not to rush through the process of buying your tickets and read through everything. They’re trying to sneak stuff by you, don’t let them do it.

Churchill has short-term corporate housing available Nationwide. Please contact us at 866-255-0593 or National@FurnishedHousing.com for more information.