Hunting For Thistles and Research Apps

by | Nov 4, 2019 | *Financial Awakenings, Travel and Dining, Weekly Column

“Hi, my name is Rick. I am addicted to thistling.”

It’s true. Every summer weekend that I am in town I spend 2-8 hours scouring the canyons and gullies in my neighborhood for noxious weeds. With my four-gallon backpack sprayer and wide-brimmed hat, I probably look like an alien. By now I have the Canadian, bull, and Scotch thistles under control, so I am after mullein, hounds tongue, and cockleburs.

When I am bold enough to confess this to people, I receive two types of answers: “Come to my house, I have plenty,” or “Why do you do that?”.

Why do I? According to Dr. Ted Klontz, “Every behavior, no matter how illogical it seems to you or others, makes perfect sense when we understand the underlying belief system.”

So what belief system underlies my attraction to weed eradication? Some self-examination helped me discover that this behavior satisfies four things I really enjoy: hiking outdoors, hard physical exercise, hunting, and researching.

The aspect of hunting and researching for investment opportunities is one of the things I like most about my career. I can totally lose track of time comparing the performance details of mutual fund and ETF managers or the best asset allocation of various asset categories.

My love of research and hunting also comes into play when I travel. I can spend hours researching the best places to eat, the best itineraries and airfares, and the most memorable sights and experiences.

In my daily life, I research the best products before I buy.

I even hunt for apps that will help me research. Here are some that I find useful.

Travel Planning. Travel is one of my passions. Trip Advisor, which is driven by the experiences and candid opinions of customers, is valuable in helping me find lodging, restaurants, and experiences most suited to my needs and interests. However, I rarely book through TripAdvisor. I prefer other sites like Hotels.com and OpenTable where I get reward points.

Goods and Services. Retail salespeople cringe when I walk up to them with a copy of Consumer Reports firmly grasped in my hand. I know the brand, model number, and specifics of exactly what I am looking for. My research keeps me from settling for a brand—sometimes at a higher price—than the top-rated product. I have the satisfaction of getting great value, whether I’m buying a car, a lawnmower, or the best herbicide for a particular noxious weed.

Trip Insurance. This is becoming increasingly important to me. Many of the lowest fares and deposits, and even workshop and seminar tuitions, are nonrefundable. The insurance offered by airlines and cruise companies lacks broad coverage and is often expensive. The two apps I use are InsureMyTrip and Squaremouth. Both let me compare scores of travel insurance policies and pick the best coverage for the best price, which varies from trip to trip. I also use GetFreeBird, a reasonably priced service that will book you a ticket on the next best flight, regardless of the airline, if your flight is cancelled or delayed for over four hours.

Airfares, Hotels, Car Rentals. Here I consult a number of different sites to find the best deals and itineraries. These include Kayak, Skiplagged, and lastminutetravel. I also set alerts on various sites to let me know when fares drop to various locations I want to visit. I’ve found bargain fares like $543 for a round trip from Rapid City to Vienna, $810 to London, and $1,050 to Barcelona.

I’m always hunting for new research apps, so I’m interested in hearing about yours. And I still haven’t found an app to help me locate thistles.

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