Tag Archives: New Jersey

North Jersey’s Secret Campground

We went deeper and deeper into the forest. Tents and shelters disappeared, replaced by foxes, deer, and silence.

We pulled up to a small clearing, scarcely another human in sight.


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The road to Steam Mill

This is Steam Mill Campground in Stokes State Forest. The 16,000 acre park in northern New Jersey is popular with campers, but today we were off the beaten path.

This beautiful spot is less visited than other camping spots in Stokes. The sounds of music and conversation were replaced with bird calls.

Deer near Lake Ocquittunk

Dinner was an incredible coq au vin courtesy of our friend Jim*. A lengthy reduction of the broth left it redolent of bacon and wine.

We weren’t the only ones who loved the smell. As darkness fell, an adorable baby raccoon wandered onto our campsite!

Our friend Roscoe

He was so tame, he rubbed against my leg like a cat. My friend Tim* named him Roscoe.

As he ambled back into the forest, we heard his mother scold him with a loud shriek. I guess little raccoons can be as naughty as little humans.

Our days were for exploring.

Tillman Ravine

We hiked Tillman Ravine, a steep and dramatic landscape of rock and evergreen. It reminded me of the hills and pine forests of the Pacific Northwest.

After a short hike, our friend Victor* casually mentioned “I think the car is this way.” Some campers prefer the hot dogs to the hiking. 🙂

Towering evergreens at Tillman Ravine

Eager to go further, I took a long stroll down an abandoned fire road. The isolation and quiet does wonders for the mind.

But I wasn’t entirely alone. A huge barred owl glided across the path and landed in a tree, looking down at me.

Look closely…

In all our lives, what were the odds that we’d ever see each other? But I’m glad we did!

That night, unexpectedly heavy rain came down. I suffered a catastrophic tent failure and ran to the car.

Settling into the dry seat, I was so grateful for civilization. Sometimes you need to rough it just a bit to feel that gratitude.

Despite its remote location, Steam Mill is quite livable.

There’s delicious spring water on tap a short walk away. Many sites have platforms for tents and there’s even a bathroom…sort of.

The toilet seat is like the one you have at home, but it sits above a deep pit. 😨 It may not be the Four Seasons, but it’s serviceable.

Flush toilets and showers are a couple of miles away at the Lake Ocquittunk camping area, among others.

If you yearn for quiet and wildlife, Steam Mill is for you. It’s a bit less comfy, but the tranquil beauty makes it more than worthwhile.

Hope to see you there!

What are you favorite natural spots? Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

More on the outdoors:

A Hidden Castle…In New Jersey?

The Real Groundhogs of New Jersey

Pine Barrens Glamping in Brendan Byrne State Forest

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Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 with great returns.

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Misfits Market

I’ve used Misfits for years, and it never disappoints! Every fruit and vegetable is organic, super fresh, and packed with flavor!

I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $15 on your first order. 

*Not their real names.

A Special Weekend in Stokes State Forest

I walked up the cracked country road, wildflowers on either side. The birds sang and a rustle in the bushes made me turn my head.

A chipmunk! The little grey man stood still, awaiting my next move.

I tried to get a picture, but he was too fast!

This weekend I had the joy of visiting Stokes State Forest in northwestern New Jersey. Our state may be known for chemical plants and garbage dumps, but in these verdant woods, you’d never know it.


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The land undulates gently, slowly rising into broad, thickly wooded mountains. Tucked away in that woods was our campsite.

I returned to our temporary homestead after my stroll, dropping into my lawn chair with a groan. Burgers sizzled on the grill.

After a wonderful dinner and many laughs with friends, I retired to my tent on the edge of the forest. There’s something peaceful about making your bed in nature.

Stokes State Forest has excellent camping facilities that I’d recommend to anyone.

There are real bathrooms nearby, and they’re actually clean! The dispensers always have soap, a rare amenity in the woods.

A short drive away were the showers, and I felt like a new man after lathering up there on Saturday!

The campsites themselves are spacious and provide a good distance between you and other campers. But the water might be the best thing of all!

Stokes has an artesian well that provides some of the best-tasting mineral water you’ll ever drink! Locals who aren’t even camping drive into the forest to fill dozens of plastic bottles from this pristine spring.

When we’re camping, my friends and I don’t have to worry about getting home. Home is a tent just a few feet away!

There is no other time in this hectic modern world where I get to spend days at a time with some of my favorite people. That’s why camping is special.

If you’ve never camped, give it a try! Stokes is just over an hour from New York City and its natural beauty is more than worth the trip!

What are some of your favorite experiences in nature? Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

More on the outdoors:

How Camping Is Improving My Life

Pine Barrens Glamping in Brendan Byrne State Forest

My Camping Essentials: The Basics, The Wishlist, And The Things I Never Thought I’d Need But Can’t Live Without

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Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 with great returns.

More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get $100 in free bonus shares!

Misfits Market

I’ve used Misfits for years, and it never disappoints! Every fruit and vegetable is organic, super fresh, and packed with flavor!

I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $15 on your first order. 

Pine Barrens Glamping in Brendan Byrne State Forest

We opened the door to the cabin and stood silently, our mouths agape. In years visiting the woods, we’d never seen anything like this.

A beautiful brand new cabin!

The bunks were feathery soft. The carpentry was stunning, each board fitting together perfectly.

No sleeping on a bare floor tonight!

This is Brendan Bryne State Forest in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. This unusual ecosystem of pine trees and sandy soil is home to many rare plant and animal species, including 274 kinds of moss!

My friends and I unpacked our gear and started a fire, grilling up steaks and salmon burgers. Sitting around that fire, the concerns of daily life faded away like the smoke.

After a fine night’s sleep in the cushy bunks, we wolfed down ham and eggs and set off for a hike. The hiking is easy in the Pine Barrens, with flat terrain and well groomed trails.

We wondered at the beautiful conifers and placid ponds, often content with saying little.

As we made it back to camp, our friend Victor* pulled up! He had been tied up Friday but didn’t want to miss this wonderful weekend entirely.

Together, we cooked burgers, apple gouda sausages, and even a savory chili over the flames. We joked and laughed, untroubled by the need to get home at the end of the night.

Come Sunday morning, we all sat around after breakfast, reluctant to begin packing. It would mean the trip was over.

But pack we did, already planning our next visit.

Brendan Byrne has both cabins (with plumbing and electricity) and “shelters,” which was the simpler cabin we stayed in. I found it more than adequate, and at about $50 a night for Jersey residents, it’s a steal!

Now is the perfect time to visit the Pine Barrens!

The weather’s getting warmer but the ticks have yet to emerge. Enjoy this unique world while you can!

More on New Jersey:

Is this NJ’s Most Beautiful Spot?

The Mafia’s Hoboken Fortress

New Jersey’s Jelly Donut Heaven

*not his real name

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Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been great so far.

More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me.

Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor.

I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy!

I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

Classic Coffee and Cake in North Jersey

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Mocha cake

What could be more classic than coffee and cake? After a recent dinner out, my wife and I stopped at Paris Baguette in search of this venerable combo.

We found cases filled with some of the most beautiful, artistic cakes I’ve ever seen. They’re so pretty you almost don’t want to eat them.

Almost.

Tiramisu cake

We ordered a tiramisu cake and cappuccino for her and mocha cake and a small coffee for me. They were ready in no time and we sat down at the handsome marble tables, ready to feast.

The tiramisu cake was novel with a deep espresso flavor. But the star of the show was my mocha cake.

My fork sliced through the rich icing into a deliciously moist, crumbly interior. I closed my eyes as I chewed, transported to chocolate heaven.

The finely brewed coffee was a perfect counterpoint to the chocolate. We sipped and relaxed, content as could be.

As we finished up, I noticed my wife furtively eyeing the dessert case. I mean, you only live once right?

So she grabbed a scrumptious twisty donut thing whose name I don’t know, holding it triumphantly in the air like a trophy. Oh, and a mini cheese cake for the morning, too.

Who’s counting?

In addition to numerous locations across northern New Jersey, you can find Paris Baguette in New York City, Philadelphia, and numerous other locations across the country. Stop in for delicious coffee and baked goods in a relaxing atmosphere!

More on food:

Our Man in Hunan

The Best Mexican Food Is In…New Jersey?

Manhattan’s Burger Baron

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Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been great so far.

More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me.

Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor.

I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy!

I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

Jack Ciattarelli’s $10 Billion Budget Cut

New Jersey has an election tomorrow, pitting Democratic Governor Phil Murphy against Republican candidate Jack Ciattarelli.

While researching who to vote for, I came across a startling piece of information. From NJ.com:

Ciattarelli has vowed to cut $10 billion in spending from the budget. But he has not outlined what programs he’d slash.

That got me wondering: how big is the state budget? Would cutting $10 billion be a little, or a lot?

It turns out the total state budget is $46.4 billion. A $10 billion cut would mean slashing 22% of the state budget.

That sounds drastic. If Ciattarelli had clearly outlined wasteful spending we should eliminate, I’d feel a little better about his argument.

But the total lack of clarity on what state services will get the axe concerns me.

Would this mean no more buses, closing state parks, or the end of free community college? We have no way to know because the candidate hasn’t told us.

The question is, do we want to find out?

More on New Jersey:

Murphy’s Innovation Agenda

The Best Mexican Food Is In…New Jersey?

A Hidden Castle…In New Jersey?

Photo: “File:Jack Ciattarelli.jpg” by NJTVNews is licensed under CC BY 3.0

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Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

Murphy’s Innovation Agenda

If you’re a fellow New Jerseyan, you know a big election is coming up. We have the constant barrage of commercials and junk mail to prove it.

Doing some research on the races today, I came across an interesting initiative Governor Phil Murphy recently passed. It’s called the NJ Innovation Evergreen Fund.

This fund provides tens of millions of dollars to venture firms to invest in New Jersey-based companies. I’d love to see our state dominate this field, especially since we’re the original home of the transistor!

I invest in tech startups and I can tell you this much: every one of them is hiring. They’re a great source of high quality jobs.

Murphy also passed free community college and a $1 billion school funding increase. This means our population will have better skills.

The transformative inventions and great companies of tomorrow will be created by those with the best skills. And I want New Jersey to be a big part of that.

One change I’d suggest to the fund would be to have it directly invest in companies. Its current structure is complicated and hard to understand.

If the fund simply hired people knowledgeable about tech and venture capital and came in as a co-investor on great New Jersey-based companies, it could help them scale much faster.

And if the fund did well, the state could make a huge profit.

I’m excited to see this novel approach by the Murphy administration. Let’s make the Menlo Park that matters most Menlo Park, NJ!

More on tech:

Why I Just Invested in Kippo, Where Gamers Find Love

What if Everyone on Earth Had Super Fast Internet for $1?

Why I Just Invested in Capbase, The Startup in a Box

Photo: “Governor Murphy, Lieutenant Governor Oliver, Senate President Sweeney and Speaker Coughlin hold a press conference on budget agreement in Trenton on June 30, 2019.Edwin J. Torres/NJ Governor’s Office.” by GovPhilMurphy is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/Facebook/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

The Kings of Cuban Coffee

Last summer, as the lockdowns were lifting, my wife and I sat at a little table on bustling Bergenline Avenue. I lifted a tiny cup to my lips and tasted some of the boldest, most flavorful coffee of my life.

The place was Sweets and Cortaditos in North Bergen, NJ. It sits near the top of the lively shopping street near leafy Braddock Park.

This small shop serves the most outstanding cortaditos and cafes con leche I’ve ever had. The signature cortadito has a deep, rich flavor complemented by the smoothness of steamed milk.

It goes beautifully with a slice of creamy cheese cake or a delectable cupcake.

Originally from Belleville, Sweets and Cortaditos opened its North Bergen location in 2016. From what I can tell, it’s been an incredible success. A steady hum of customers pass in and out, dainty coffees and satisfying treats in hand.

Sitting at the outdoor tables, painted after the Cuban flag, and listening to a street festival play Cuban music made us feel like we were in Havana. At a difficult time for our neighbor Cuba, it’s wonderful to be able to enjoy a bit of their culture close to home.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

More on food and Cuba:

How to Get Internet to Cuba

The Best Mexican Food Is In…New Jersey?

New Jersey’s Jelly Donut Heaven

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! 

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

New Jersey’s Jelly Donut Heaven

I just had a jelly donut. And it changed everything.

You guys are going to start thinking I work for them. I don’t. But I could be persuaded for enough free donuts.

Francesca’s Bakery has locations in Clifton and Pequannock and also pops up at farmer’s markets across New York City. It was at a farmer’s market in midtown that I first encountered their scrumptious baked goods.

As you bite into their jelly donut, your mouth enters a cloud of cinnamon sugar. The outside is crisp and sweet. The inside: pillowy, soft and moist.

When you reach the jelly, you’ll find an intense flavor of fresh strawberries. And don’t worry, they don’t skimp on the jelly.

Other fine offerings from Francesca’s

With Hanukkah coming up, I can’t think of a better place to get the traditional jelly donut. I may be a gentile, but something tells me I’ll be scarfing a few anyway.

Have a great weekend everyone!

More on food:

NJ’s Best Apple Cider Donut

The Best Mexican Food Is In…New Jersey?

The Best Bakery in NYC (It’s Not Levain)

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! 

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

Move Over, Cake Boss: There’s a New Sheriff in Town

Buddy Valastro of Carlo’s Bakery may be the Cake Boss, but there’s a new sheriff in town. 

Recoleta is an Argentinian bakery in Union City, NJ that makes some of the best cake I’ve ever tasted.  When I walked in for the first time in 2019, I noticed 3 things:

1) The beautiful interior, filled with comfortable couches and chairs

2) The engrossing pastry case, replete with the traditional pastries of Argentina

3) The prices, which are from another era. Most pastries are little more than a dollar, and slices of cake are around $3.

As you bite into a slice of their chocolate cake, you glide through a thick layer of velvety buttercream into moist spongecake pervaded by cocoa.

With a satisfying cup of coffee at your side, and a mere $4 and change gone from your wallet, you can gaze out at lively Bergenline Avenue and watch the people go by.

I can’t think of a better way to pass an afternoon.

If you’re in the area, stop by Recoleta…before TLC does. 🙂

Have a great weekend everyone!

More on food:

THE BEST MEXICAN FOOD IS IN…NEW JERSEY?

NJ’S BEST APPLE CIDER DONUT

THE BEST BAKERY IN NYC (IT’S NOT LEVAIN)

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! 

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

NJ’s Best Apple Cider Donut

On Wednesday, my wife’s coworker gave us the most meaningful of gifts: two apple cider donuts. Considerate husband that I am, I ate them both.

They were the best I’ve ever tasted.

Francesca’s Bakery, with locations in Clifton and Pequannock, makes donuts, danishes, babka and much more! They even appear at numerous farmer’s markets in New York City, including one near the United Nations where my wife first encountered their delicious baked goods.

The apple cider donut is generously sugared, airy, and rich. Biting into it evokes a candied cloud.

Get several. One won’t be enough.

Francesca’s was started in 2009 and gets its ingredients from nearby farms. Everything is fresh, and it shows.

If you’re in the area, check it out! And if you’re not, you can even order their rugelach by mail!

Have a great weekend everyone!

More on food:

THE BEST MEXICAN FOOD IS IN…NEW JERSEY?

NYC’S KING OF SUGAR: POSH POP BAKESHOP

DUNKIN DONUTS: THE DEFINITIVE TOP 3

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! 

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order.