Arnold Ahlert: Who speaks for us?

If there’s one thing the current election cycle has made clear, it’s the reality that millions of Americans feel utterly disenfranchised. Their anger and frustration are driven by the daunting realization that neither political party represents their interests. This despicable status quo begs the simplest question, one every candidate running for elective office in 2016 should be forced to answer: Who speaks for us?

We want to live in a nation where there is a clear understanding of right and wrong, not one dominated by the “anything goes” cultural sewage churned out on a regular basis by Hollywood and the mainstream media. Who speaks for us?

We want to live in a nation that puts Americans first — one with definable, enforceable borders and one where Rule of Law is paramount — not one that gratifies the desires of millions of illegals and their cadre of elitist supporters aiming to fundamentally transform our national character, using cheap votes and cheap labor to do so. Who speaks for us?

We want to live in a nation where we no longer cater to the lowest common denominator of human behavior to accommodate “root causes,” the “soft bigotry of low expectations,” or a multiculturalist mishmash that excuses misogyny, anti-Semitism, and racism under the rubric of “celebrating our differences.” Who speaks for us?

We want to live a nation with an educational system that teaches children how to think, not what to think. A system where ideological indoctrination social promotion, grade inflation, worthless diplomas, “creative” math, and the generalized dumbing-down of vulnerable children is tossed on the ash heap of history. Who speaks for us?

We want to live in a nation where merit and excellence matter, not one where millions of “snowflakes” have been cushioned by trigger warnings, micro-aggressions, speech codes and helicopter parents who believe everyone should get a trophy just for showing up. A nation where the content of one’s character is far more important than the color of one’s skin, one’s gender, one’s sexual orientation, or one’s membership in a particular grievance group. Who speaks for us?

We want to live in a nation where the Constitution is defended for what it actually says, not what some people would like it to mean because a “living” interpretation of the document accommodates their agenda, political correctness or the latest trend. Who speaks for us?

We want to live in a nation where we don’t burden our children and grandchildren with unconscionable levels of debt that will destroy their standard of living, one where able-bodied people are expected to work for a living, and one where the free-market capitalism that rewards ambition, risk-taking and talent isn’t subsumed by a government-controlled crony-capitalist oligarchy that stifles competition and picks winners and losers. Who speaks for us?

We want to live in a nation with the strongest military in the world, not one debased by social engineering. A military that only sends men and women into harm’s way when our national security is threatened, and one that utterly rejects such nonsense as “winning hearts and minds,” restrictive and dangerous Rules of Engagement, and politically correct warfare that elevates concerns for collateral damage above the lives of American soldiers. A military with only one objective in mind when it becomes necessary to put the nation’s blood and treasure at risk: unambiguous victory. Who speaks for us?

We want to live in a nation where states’ rights are once again paramount, where 50 separate constituencies would be given maximum freedom to innovate, to compete, and do anything else to improve the lives of their citizens without the interfering heavy hand of the District of Columbia. A nation where people intuitively understand government operates best from the local level outwards, not the federal level inward. Who speaks for us?

We want to live in a nation where we treat our allies like the friends they are, and our enemies with the suspicion they have earned. A nation where foreign policy is grounded in reality, not faculty-lounge-inspired wishful thinking. A nation that will no longer send foreign aid to people who hate us, based on the dubious assertion we can buy their loyalty and admiration. Who speaks for us?

We want to live in a nation where we celebrate our exceptionalism, not identify only by our shortcomings. Those who insist otherwise should be asked to explain why people all over the world are beating a path to our shores. Who speaks for us?

As the opening of the Constitution states, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”

“We the people” is us, not a bunch of self-interested politicians and their well connected benefactors. A “more perfect” union is an aspiration. We must not allow our pursuit of that perfection to be the enemy of our goodness. Same goes for establishing justice and insuring domestic tranquility.

As for the next two items, it’s important to note the critical distinction between providing for the commence defense and promoting the general welfare. It is the government’s constitutionally mandated duty to provide protection for the nation. It is not the government’s duty to provide for the peoples’ welfare, but rather to promote the conditions that allow a free people to provide for their own welfare, that of their families and those Americans who are truly in need.

As for the blessings of Liberty, the implication is clear: There is a higher power from which those blessings are secured and it does not emanate from Washington, state legislatures or local governments. As Thomas Jefferson so eloquently explained in the Declaration of Independence, all men are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” There are millions of Americans who cherish that wisdom, even as they still understand it is the ultimate foundation of the greatest nation ever devised by man.

Who speaks for us?

From: Patriot Post

Thought of the Day — George Pólya

Examine your guess. Your guess may be right, but it is foolish to accept a vivid guess as a proven truth — as primitive people often do. Your guess may be wrong. But it is also foolish to disregard a vivid guess altogether — as pedantic people sometimes do. Guesses of a certain kind deserve to be examined and taken seriously: those which occur to us after we have attentively considered and really understood a problem in which we are genuinely interested. Such guesses usually contain at least a fragment of the truth although, of course, they very seldom show the whole truth. Yet there is a chance to extract the whole truth if we examine such a guess appropriately.

Many a guess has turned out to be wrong but nevertheless useful in leading to a better one.

No idea is really bad, unless we are uncritical. What is really bad is to have no idea at all.

From: Observational Epidemiology

47 Things You Can Do To Make Your Life Simple

  1. Talk with each other, don’t guess what others’ thinking.
  2. Be friendly to people around you, wearing a smile can change your day.
  3. Treasure the friendships you have, you don’t need to be friends with everyone.
  4. Hang out with positive people who can boost your energy.
  5. Ask questions if there’s something you’re not sure about.
  6. Follow what your heart tells you.
  7. Accept things and people to be imperfect.
  8. Accept the fact that you’re imperfect as well. A man’s got a limit.
  9. Don’t always ask “why?”, ask “why not?”.
  10. Forget what others think of you and demand for you.
  11. If you want to cry, just cry. Crying doesn’t mean you’re weak.
  12. Be mature, and be playful still.
  13. Treat others as you’d like to be treated; give out what you want to receive.
  14. Stop expecting yourself to please everyone around you.
  15. Don’t let the weather affect your mood. You can’t control the weather but you can handle your emotions.
  16. Get some sleep when you’re tired, don’t stay up late for no reasons.
  17. Get up early to enjoy the quiet morning.
  18. You have the control over your body, ignore others’ judgement on it as long as you’re healthy.
  19. Eat healthily, yet there’s no need to stop eating all the sweets and snacks as they can add fun to your life.
  20. Don’t get addicted to alcohol, drugs and cigarette.
  21. Only eat when you’re hungry, not because you’re sad or bored.
  22. Do exercise regularly.
  23. Think about what you have now and feel satisfied about it.
  24. Always buy what you need, not what you want. Your desire is endless.
  25. Don’t want to have something only because others have it.
  26. Be true to yourself and don’t lie to others.
  27. Don’t be afraid to say “I love you” to people who you care about.
  28. It’s okay to lose your temper, just don’t hurt anyone.
  29. Don’t argue for the sake of fighting, discuss with reasons.
  30. Apologize when you’ve done something wrong.
  31. Allow mistakes and forgive others.
  32. Be opened to learn about new stuff.
  33. Don’t hide yourself, you should meet the world.
  34. Keep a notebook to take note of important things.
  35. Learn to use technology to simplify your daily life.
  36. De-clutter and make space for yourself to work or do whatever you’ll do.
  37. Learn to cook, so you won’t eat-out too often.
  38. When you buy things, buy them with cash and avoid using credit/debit cards.
  39. Find the job that you like to do.
  40. Set a goal for yourself.
  41. Make priorities for what you want to do.
  42. Do something that you’ll feel proud of.
  43. Learn from the past, let go of your guilt and move on with your daily life.
  44. Find out what’s most important right now and focus on this.
  45. Hope for the best; plan for the worst.
  46. Have faith in yourself (and God).
  47. If there’s anything you hate to do, just stop doing it. (Yes as simple as that!)

From: Lifehack

Making Virtual Teams Work: Ten Basic Principles

Here is a good article with relevant tips for management of virtual teams:

Consider this now familiar view from the field:

“I’ve run a virtual team for the past 18 months in the development and launch of [a website.] I am located in Toronto, Canada. The website was designed in Zagreb, Croatia. The software was developed in St. John’s, Newfoundland; Zagreb, Croatia; Delhi, India; and Los Angeles, USA. Most of the communication was via email with periodic discussions via Skype. I had one face-to-face meeting with the team lead for the technology development this past December.”

Could this be you? Virtual teams have become a fact of business life, so what does it take to make them work effectively? On June 10, 2013, I launched a discussion around this question on LinkedIn. The result was an outpouring of experience and advice for making virtual teams work. (I define “virtual teams” as work groups which (1) have some core members who interact primarily through electronic means, and (2) are engaged in interdependent tasks — i.e. are truly teams and not just groups of independent workers). I distilled the results and combined them with my own work, which focuses on how new leaders should assess and align their teams in their first 90 days. Because that’s really when it’s most important to lay the foundation for superior performance in teams — virtual or otherwise. Here are ten basic principles for making this happen:

1. Get the team together physically early-on. It may seem paradoxical to say in a post on virtual teams, but face-to-face communication is still better than virtual when it comes to building relationships and fostering trust, an essential foundation for effective team work. If you can’t do it, it’s not the end of the world (focus on doing some virtual team building). But if you can get the team together, use the time to help team members get to know each other better, personally and professionally, as well to create a shared vision and a set of guiding principles for how the team will work. Schedule the in-person meeting early on, and reconnect regularly (semi-annually or annually) if possible.

2. Clarify tasks and processes, not just goals and roles. All new leaders need to align their team on goals, roles and responsibilities in the first 90 days. With virtual teams, however, coordination is inherently more of a challenge because people are not co-located. So it’s important to focus more attention on the details of task design and the processes that will be used to complete them. Simplify the work to the greatest extent possible, ideally so tasks are assigned to sub-groups of two or three team members. And make sure that there is clarity about work process, with specifics about who does what and when. Then periodically do “after-action reviews” to evaluate how things are going and identify process adjustments and training needs.

3. Commit to a communication charter. Communication on virtual teams is often less frequent, and always is less rich than face-to-face interaction, which provides more contextual cues and information about emotional states — such as engagement or lack thereof. The only way to avoid the pitfalls is to be extremely clear and disciplined about how the team will communicate. Create a charter that establishes norms of behavior when participating in virtual meetings, such as limiting background noise and side conversations, talking clearly and at a reasonable pace, listening attentively and not dominating the conversation, and so on. The charter also should include guidelines on which communication modes to use in which circumstances, for example when to reply via email versus picking up the phone versus taking the time to create and share a document.

4. Leverage the best communication technologies. Developments in collaborative technologies — ranging from shared workspaces to multi-point video conferencing — unquestionably are making virtual teaming easier. However, selecting the “best” technologies does not necessarily mean going with the newest or most feature-laden. It’s essential not to sacrifice reliability in a quest to be on the cutting edge. If the team has to struggle to get connected or wastes time making elements of the collaboration suite work, it undermines the whole endeavor. So err on the side of robustness. Also be willing to sacrifice some features in the name of having everyone on the same systems. Otherwise, you risk creating second-class team members and undermining effectiveness.

5. Build a team with rhythm. When some or all the members of a team are working separately, it’s all-too-easy to get disconnected from the normal rhythms of work life. One antidote is to be disciplined in creating and enforcing rhythms in virtual team work. This means, for example, having regular meetings, ideally same day and time each week. It also means establishing and sharing meeting agenda in advance, having clear agreements on communication protocols, and starting and finishing on time. If you have team members working in different time zones, don’t place all the time-zone burden on some team members; rather, establish a regular rotation of meeting times to spread the load equitably.

6. Agree on a shared language. Virtual teams often also are cross-cultural teams, and this magnifies the communication challenges — especially when members think they are speaking the same language, but actually are not. The playwright George Bernard Shaw famously described Americans and the British as “two nations divided by a common language.” His quip captures the challenge of sustaining shared understanding across cultures. When the domain of team work is technical, then the languages of science and engineering often provide a solid foundation for effective communication. However, when teams work on tasks involving more ambiguity, for example generating ideas or solving problems, the potential for divergent interpretations is a real danger (see for example this Anglo-Dutch translation guide). Take the time to explicitly negotiate agreement on shared interpretations of important words and phrases, for example, when we say “yes,” we mean… and when we say “no” we mean…and post this in the shared workspace.

7. Create a “virtual water cooler.” The image of co-workers gathering around a water cooler is a metaphor for informal interactions that share information and reinforce social bonds. Absent explicit efforts to create a “virtual water cooler,” team meetings tend to become very task-focused; this means important information may not be shared and team cohesion may weaken. One simple way to avoid this: start each meeting with a check-in, having each member take a couple of minutes to discuss what they are doing, what’s going well and what’s challenging. Regular virtual team-building exercises are another way to inject a bit more fun into the proceedings. Also enterprise collaboration platforms increasingly are combining shared workspaces with social networking features that can help team members to feel more connected.

8. Clarify and track commitments. In a classic HBR article “Management Time, Who’s got the Monkey?” William Oncken and Donald L. Wass use the who-has-the-monkey-on-their-back metaphor to exhort leaders to push accountability down to their teams. When teams work remotely, however, it’s inherently more difficult to do this, because there is no easy way to observe engagement and productivity. As above, this can be partly addressed by carefully designing tasks and having regular status meetings. Beyond that, it helps to be explicit in getting team members to commit to define intermediate milestones and track their progress. One useful tool: a “deliverables dashboard” that is visible to all team members on whatever collaborative hub they are using. If you create this, though, take care not to end up practicing virtual micro-management. There is a fine line between appropriate tracking of commitments and overbearing (and demotivating) oversight.

9. Foster shared leadership. Defining deliverables and tracking commitments provides “push” to keep team members focused and productive; shared leadership provides crucial “pull.” Find ways to involve others in leading the team. Examples include: assigning responsibility for special projects, such as identifying and sharing best practices; or getting members to coach others in their areas of expertise; or assigning them as mentors to help on-board new team members; or asking them to run a virtual team-building exercise. By sharing leadership, you will not only increase engagement, but will also take some of the burden off your shoulders.

10. Don’t forget the 1:1s. Leaders’ one-to-one performance management and coaching interactions with their team members are a fundamental part of making any team work. Make these interactions a regular part of the virtual team rhythm, using them not only to check status and provide feedback, but to keep members connected to the vision and to highlight their part of “the story” of what you are doing together.

Finally, if you are inheriting a team, take the time to understand how your predecessor led it. It’s essential that newly appointed leaders do this, whether their teams are virtual or not. Because, as Confucius put it, you must “study the past if you would define the future.” It’s even more important to do this homework when you inherit a virtual team, because the structures and processes used to manage communication and coordinate work have such an inordinate impact on team performance. You can use these ten principles as a checklist for diagnosing how the previous leader ran the team, and help identify and prioritize what you need to do in the first 90 days.

From: Harvard Business Review

Want to be a credible scheduler?

Another great pointer to references from Glen Alleman:

Here is a handbook for developing credible Integrated Master Schedules. There are many suggestions but this one comes from the place where schedules are critical.

navair
Once you have your credible Integrated Master Schedule, you’re going to want to keep it that way and assess its credibility.

AFIMS
With these two documents, you’ll have a starting point for creating schedules that actually describe what done looks like in units of measure meaningful to the decision makers.

From: Herding Cats

Are We Done Yet? Program Hand-Off and Closure

Programs can often span many years from start to finish.  Completion for a program manager takes many levels and many forms.  When you think about it, there are four possible program closure scenarios you may need to address as a program manager.  Two of the scenarios are pretty good things and the other two address premature termination of a program or one of its constituent projects. The four scenarios are:

  1. The program is complete
  2. A component of the program is complete
  3. A component of the program has been terminated
  4. The program has been terminated

Ultimately, completing your entire program means that all program work is completed and your program benefits are accruing.  This means you are in the last phase of the program and ready to “shut ‘er down” for good. Program closure is its own phase in the program management life cycle, and is ideally performed after all program components have been completed and successfully transitioned to operations.

Of course, closure also occurs for the program components.  Along the program life cycle, its component projects and other work are started up, worked on, completed and transitioned to operations. Completing a program component means that a constituent project or non-project activities of the program are complete and the incremental benefits from them may be accruing.

There are many things taking place when a program or a component project within a program closes.  The Transition Plan, developed as part of program planning and updated as individual projects are selected, is where you plan for both program and project hand-off and closure.  It is always amazing how many times the transition plan is incomplete or not followed at the end of a program. It’s kind of like wrapping a gift and then not adding the ribbon and a card to the recipient. Low quality program closure impacts everyone and everything downstream, including operations as well as subsequent programs that cannot build on your experiences.

When a program is complete and ready to be transitioned into operations, there are a number of deliverables to produce and some meetings to schedule as well. At a minimum, you should expect to build a program closure report, hold final performance reviews with the team and stakeholders, populate your program archives, document and report on your lessons learned.

I am a big fan of getting formal sign-off and acceptance of the program outcome by the program sponsor and/or customer as well.  Any remaining program-level contracts will need to be closed out as well.  A post-review meeting should be scheduled with your key program stakeholders to review program performance and benefits realization. On most programs using today’s technology, many if not all of these activities will have to be performed and shared electronically since your key program team members and stakeholders may not be in the same physical location.

When closing a component project of the program, your project managers will have some work to complete as well. They will update their project archives, reassign their remaining available resources, make sure all project deliverables are accepted and report on lessons learned.  Formal sign-off and acceptance of the project outcomes by the program manager is also required.  How do you make sure they complete all these activities in a timely fashion as your program marches forward?

Additional things you will need to do when wrapping things up includes returning or reassigning your program and project resources, evaluating individual and team performance and making sure to initiate benefits realization measurement for the program now that everything is operational.

Here is an example of a program checklist to use as guidance for activities required while you are closing a program or component project:

  • Are all program or project deliverables complete?
  • Are all lessons learned log and reported on?
  • Is the end program or project report complete and reviewed?
  • Has the customer accepted all program or project results and other associated deliverables?
  • Have all costs been appropriately charged to the program or project?
  • Are all work packages and work orders complete?
  • Do any incomplete work packages exist?
  • Are incomplete work packages documented?
  • Are all administrative closure activities done?
  • Is the program or project management plan archived with supporting data?
  • Are stakeholders aware that the program, project or phase is ending?
  • Are auditing, support, and maintenance procedures in place?
  • Are program or project team members reassigned or pending reassignment?

Don’t forget those lessons learned when you are closing your program! Lessons learned tell us what worked well and what didn’t work at all as well as everything in-between we feel future teams and the business needs to know. Lessons learned offer opportunities for us to gather, document and apply lessons on future programs and projects and do things better (or differently) next time. At a minimum, it is recommended that you gather and document lessons at the end of every program phase and at the completion of each project.  The contents of your lessons learned log should be used to create your program’s lessons learned report.

From: Learning Tree International

B- environment merits B- effort

Managers who complain about slacking staff without examining their work environment are deluded. Being a slacker is not an innate human quality, it’s a product of the habitat. Fundamentally, everyone wants to do a good job (the statistical outliers who do not follow this are not worth focusing policy on).

The problem is that deluded managers expect unreasonable returns from their investment. They think you can get the best from people by thinking the worst of them. It just doesn’t work like that. You can’t crack the whip with one hand and expect a firm handshake with the other.

If you want star quality effort, you need to provide a star quality environment. No, window dressing like a free meal is not it. It can serve as a cherry on top, but if the rest of the cake is full of shit, that’s not going to make it any more appealing.

A star environment is based on trust, vision, and congruent behavior. Make people proud to work where they work by involving them in projects that matter and ignite a fire of urgency about your purpose. Find out who you are as a company and be the very best you. Give people a strategic plan that’s coherent and believable and then leave the bulk of the tactical implementation to their ingenuity.

If you’re doing work in a less than star environment, you owe less than star effort. Quid pro quo. By all means, do yours to affect and change the environment. Nudge it towards the stars. But also, accept the limitations of your power. You can drag a horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink.

So ration your will and determination. Invest what’s left over, after meeting the bar of your work environment, in your own projects, skills, and future. The dividends is what’s going to lead you to the next, better thing.

Everyone deserves to work at a place that inspires them to give their very best. Don’t stop reaching until you have that.

From: Signal vs. Noise

You know you live in a country run by idiots if…

You know you live in a country run by idiots if…

  • You can get arrested for expired tags on your car but not for being in the country illegally.
  • Your government believes that the best way to eradicate trillions of dollars of debt is to spend trillions more of our, or borrowed, money.
  • A seven year-old boy can be thrown out of school for calling his teacher “cute” but hosting a sexual exploration or diversity class in grade school is perfectly acceptable.
  • The Supreme Court of the United States can rule that lower courts cannot display the 10 Commandments in their courtroom, while sitting in front of a display of the 10 Commandments.
  • Children are forcibly removed from parents who appropriately discipline them while children of “underprivileged” drug addicts are left to rot in filth-infested cesspools of a “home.”
  • Hard work and success are rewarded with higher taxes and government intrusion, while slothful, lazy behavior is rewarded with EBT cards, WIC checks, Medicaid, subsidized housing, and free cell phones.
  • The government’s plan for getting people back to work is to provide 99 weeks of unemployment checks (to not work.)
  • Being self-sufficient is considered a threat to the government.
  • Politicians think that stripping away the amendments to the constitution is really protecting the rights of the people.
  • The rights of the Government come before the rights of the individual.
  • You can write a post like this just by reading the news headlines.
  • You pay your mortgage faithfully, denying yourself the newest big screen TV, while your neighbor defaults on his mortgage (while buying iPhones, TV’s and new cars) and the government forgives his debt and reduces his mortgage (with your tax dollars.)
  • Being stripped of the ability to defend yourself makes you “safe.”
  • You have to have your parents’ signature to go on a school field trip, but not to get an abortion.
  • An 80 year old woman can be stripped-searched by the TSA, but a Muslim woman in a burka is only subject to having her neck and head searched.
  • Using the “N” word by anyone but Blacks is considered “hate speech,” but writing and singing songs about raping women and killing cops is considered “art.”

On Monday, June 25, 2012, the following occurred: The Supreme Court unanimously—yes, UNANIMOUSLY—upheld the portion of Arizona ‘s Immigration Law that directs law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of EVERYONE who is ARRESTED for a crime. It not just “ALLOWS” them to check, but “DIRECTS” them to check. That means it’s mandatory.

Less than three hours later, the President of the United States issued an executive order BLOCKING THE ENTIRE STATE OF ARIZONA’S ACCESS to the Federal Database that would allow such checks, the only State or Local entity EVER to be blocked.

One hour after that (which means they had it all ready in advance), the Department of Justice went live with a toll-free number, a web site, and ads, ASKING FOR PEOPLE TO REPORT BEING “RACIALLY PROFILED” because of this ruling, so they—THE U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT—can file “Civil Rights” lawsuits against the Police Departments, Sheriffs, Cities, Counties and State of Arizona .

In other words, the American Citizens of the State of Arizona are going to be sued for vast sums of money, BY THEIR OWN FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, for enforcing a law that The Supreme Court UNANIMOUSLY held as constitutional.

Is it just me, or is this getting ridiculous?

Source: unknown, thanks Jim Coursey

Post-Traumatic Stupidity Syndrome

“Something must be done. This is something. Therefore, we must do it.”

Thanks to Bruce Schneier

Questions to Ask Before You Buy

To avoid making purchases I’ll only regret later, I created a list of 14 questions I ask myself before I buy. They’re designed to cut through the consumer noise and get at the true value of the item or the true motivation behind purchasing behavior. The questions don’t fit every buying situation, but they work most of the time. Amend as needed and watch your regrets and credit card bills shrink.

1. Can I get this at a better price somewhere else?

Are you shopping at the right place to get the best price? Is there a less-expensive retailer in your area that you haven’t checked out?

2. Can I get this at a better price at some other time?

Are you buying your lawn furniture in the spring or waiting until autumn when there are deals to be had? If your timing is predictable, retailers have you right where they want you.

3. Do I already own it?

This may seem like an odd question, but often we buy replacement items when we can’t locate things we already own. Does your home need an organizational makeover? Is it time to declutter and discover the wealth of items you already own but can’t find in all the chaos?

4. Is this product about to be improved upon?

This is a tricky one. On one hand, if an object is about to be improved upon, you may want to wait for the more feature-rich model to come out and avoid upgrades later. On the other hand, older models tend to decrease in price when new versions are released and there are deals to be had if you can postpone the purchase. In either case, biding your time can pay off.

5. Can I borrow this product from someone else or buy it used?

Is it even necessary to buy an item or, at the very least, buy it new? Can you borrow a vacuum from a neighbor for that single room in your home that’s carpeted? If you hit a few yard sales this summer, could you find a good used vacuum for pennies on the dollar?

6. Does this product make my life easier or more complicated?

It took a brilliantly evil mind to reinvent the broom by attaching a glorified paper towel to a stick and making a simple device something that required constant refills. Any product that promises to simplify your life by eliminating a single object you already own and replacing it with an object you must “feed” should be relegated to the dustbin of history. It’s not cost-effective and definitely not simple.

7. Does this product function independently or require add-ons to work?

Are you buying a single product that works on its own or one that requires more features, attachments, and upgrades to do the job? Avoiding wallet-hungry products is the best way to go.

8. Do I have to use credit to pay for this item and is it worth it?

Even the best deals are soured once you factor in credit card interest. If you have to use credit to pay for an item (and can’t pay that credit card bill off completely during your next billing cycle), the deal better be worthy of a Facebook status update.

9. Am I an educated consumer of this product?

It’s about time the Information Age did something more than show us funny videos of dancing cats and giggling babies. Use the tools available at your fingertips to research consumer data on products before you buy. Leverage the power of communication to make smarter buying decisions.

10. Is there another product that’s just as good and less expensive?

This question requires an understanding of how you’ll use the product based upon your habits and behavior. Do you need the deluxe MP3 player if you’re just using it while you jog for 30 minutes a day? What’s a simpler, less expensive solution that would fulfill your specific needs just as well?

11. Will this product still be useful in six months or a year?

Fast-forward through the life cycle of this product and see where you envision it in six months or a year. Be realistic — Is it still being used? Has it become abstract lawn art? Is it in the garage with the rest of the yard sale stuff?

12. If I waited two weeks, would I want this item just as badly?

In other words, is this an impulse buy? Is this something that you truly need or just feel compelled to buy at this moment?

13. Does this product carry a warranty?

What’s your recourse as a consumer if this item doesn’t work or malfunctions after purchase? Is the manufacturer confident enough to provide a warranty, or are you on your own the minute you hand over your cash?

14. Is this product disposable when there is a non-disposable solution?

This question focuses on the environmental and budgetary impact of what we buy. Opting for reuse and rejecting single-use items whenever possible may be slightly less convenient, but more beneficial for our planet and our pocketbooks.

As we all try to leverage the power of our dollars, screening our purchases through the filter of tough questions can be the smartest thing we do for our budgets.

From: Wisebread