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Bryan Monzon

websites & triathlons

Too Many Subscriptions

My sister is a personal trainer and owns her own business. She’s a savvy web user and can figure things out on the internet with ease.

Every so often she comes to me with a problem she wants to solve for her business. She’s always looking to streamline her business and how it operates.

Originally, she would invoice her clients using an Apple Pages template. She would fill it out and email it over to her client and hope they would pay. If they needed to use a credit card, she would have them use Paypal. Over time her records got messy and she felt very disorganized.

When I found out she was using Pages, I asked her if she had heard of Freshbooks. One look at the marketing page and she was sold. Freshbooks is a convenient online invoicing system that will keep your business organized with little to no effort.

You can try it out for free and have up to 25 clients for less than $20/month. For less than $240/year you can save hours upon hours of time book keeping. That’s pretty cool.

Why subscriptions exist

The main reason Freshbooks charges a subscription is sustainability. Without recurring revenue, companies like Freshbooks wouldn’t last long. Limiting businesses to a certain number of clients and charging based on that and some other features gives Freshbooks the ability to employ a strong team and the funds to develop new features.

It’s like a gym membership. You pay a monthly few to use the equipment in exchange, the gym maintains the equipment and buys new machines when the old ones aren’t usable. This is great.

Preventing Subscription Addiction

I have to admit. I’ve had issues subscribing to services. Treehouse is an amazing resource with a lot of benefits, however, am I using it enough to warrant the subscription? Do I really need a subscription to Rdio or can make do with something cheaper like Pandora?

The number one way you can prevent a subscription addiction is to either not subscribe in the first place or review your previous month’s finances and evaluate their worth. Are they saving you time and thus money? Or is it just an expense taking away from your overall margins.

Things like Helpscout, Droplr, Dropbox Coschedule, Slack, Intercom and Optimizely are great services but are they costing you more than you’re making? That’s a question that should be asked every month and prior to any new purchase.

I wish I had an unlimited budget to handle all of these expenses. But I don’t and every month I prune the things I don’t use enough to warrant a subscription. It’s easy to let yourself go. It’s hard work to keep things light.

My rule of thumb is, “unless a subscription solves a real problem, like the one my sister was experiencing, you don’t need it”.

Taxes are Not Fun

Since 2010 I’ve had to monitor my expenses for those little write-offs that seem to be hiding in every nook and cranny of my bank statements. It’s a tedious task with rewards but not much.

Things like taxes frustrate me. Not the fact that have to pay them or even the generally poor decision-making that goes into using our tax dollars. It’s just how convoluted and archaic the process is.

When it comes to taxes, there is very little automation that can be done with it. There’s always someone doing menial tasks like categorization and seems crazy to me. Obviously, good record keeping is imperative but it feels like it punishes the honest.

2015 will be the first year I will have been a salaried employee and won’t need to keep track of such things. I actually look forward to filing next year as it should be a 30-45 minute process.

Anyway, baseball season is back. It’s good to have something to zone out to while organize things and trudge through my expenses. I’ve noticed a lot of subscriptions, a lot of restaurants and a lot of jewelry. I guess getting engaged and married will do that.

bellingham-sm

Hello from Bellingham

I’m writing from a coffee shop in Bellingham, Washington. It’s a medium sized town near the border of Canada. The weather is great, which is to say it’s mostly cloudy and rainy. I love that though. The 4 year drought we’re suffering though in California has been pretty ridiculous. It’s been refreshing to see shiny clean cars, green forests and drinking delicious water straight from the tap.

I haven’t written in a while and I’ll tell you why. I’ve been down. I lost a bunch of weight and wanted to keep it off working out. The scale is creeping up again and I don’t like it. The reason for that is pretty simple.

There’s the shoulder injury, which if I were being honest, isn’t as big of an issue anymore. It’s still a setback though. Another reason is a new cough I got. It’s not the worst thing I’ve experienced, but it’s enough to discourage me. I might try and run this afternoon a bit. Not positive I’ll be able to, though. There’s a lot on my plate for work.

Speaking of work. I’ve been working remote this week. It’s not as fun as I thought. I wonder if it would be different if I were in my own space, rather than our friend’s house. I think it would be better working from my own space. I just know not having control of your work environment is probably more the key than anything else. Even in an office environment, I’d like to control some of the things that are distracting.

Anyway, I’m hoping I can shake this cough and get back to working out. I think I’ll be happier. I always feel better when this pent up energy is released. It’s weird how that happens. A little workout gives you more energy than a little more rest. It’s tough to do, but it’s important. Especially when I sit and stare at a glowing box all day.

My cousin Skyler plays base for his band Swim Team.

San Diego Local Music

It was a rare evening more me and the Mrs. last night. We ventured out to a bar to watch some local music. My cousin, Skyler plays base for Swim Team and he invited us to come out and watch them play.

It’s been a while since I’ve gone out to see bands play live. My schedule for training and work tends to put me under the covers before bands even start to set up for their shows. So I don’t get out much these days. I’ve been sick and hurt lately, so I decided to make an evening of it and support Skyler.

Skyler’s band is great. The unfortunate side of playing small venues like The Balboa (formerly the Tin Can) is sound quality. For punk rock, it’s great! A guitar, bass and drum set will sound awesome anywhere. A band that has a lot of melodies and tones, not so much. Despite this, Swim Team sounded great.

Prior to Swim Team another band played. I won’t name them because I’m not really interested in personally attacking anyone. I respect the fact that they’re people just making stuff they like and really, my opinion shouldn’t matter much. Since this is my blog though, I get to have an opinion about anything I want.

They were terrible. Their description on Facebook says they make “Atmospheric Dream Pop”. Pop is generally standard for popular and what they were doing won’t ever be popular. The were less dreamy than they were nightmarish. Everything about them was boring and awful. The beats were predictable and the guitar parts sound like noise. The keyboardist had little knobs and buttons alongside his keyboard and when he would turn them, nothing would happen.

They were trying and I appreciate that. I shouldn’t judge. But I felt so disappointed in the music quality of the next generation. I asked on Twitter if the music in San Diego was overall just shitty or if I was getting old. The answer I got were that it’s just shitty. I’m glad to know that my taste and opinion of music at least matches some peers on Twitter.

Bottom line, the kids were trying. They were merely pushing buttons from recorded sound loops, but whatever, they’re trying. Good music will rise to the top. I just wonder if the ease to make music like theirs and acceptance that it’s good will lower the bar and the amount of enjoyable music. It’s all subjective, but at some point there needs to be a gatekeeper that says it’s good or not. That shouldn’t be me. If I’m able to spot bad music, then the local scene has a problem.

Anyway, I’ll end with this positive quote.

To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it. -Kurt Vonnegut

Vagrant and New Technology

I freaking hate it.

There, I’ve said it. I hate Vagrant…so far. I know I’ll love it, but like Ruby and Ruby on Rails, I’m over the whole set up process. I get the advantages and I think they’re great. My set up just works for me. It doesn’t fail and I know how to fix it when it does.

I could let this way of thinking get the best of me. I’ve been trying to get Vagrant & Virtual Box installed forever. It frustrates the hell out of me when one little thing doesn’t work. There are things about my computer I just don’t get. It immediately makes me feel like the guy that says “Where’s the internet? You know the “e”?”. You know because the Internet Explorer icon is obviously the internet.

I hate that feeling of not understanding. Working in the web (and in the world of programming) is often like this though. You constantly run into situations where you have no clue what to do next and running away sounds like a better option. I retweeted this recently:

Right now I’m installing Vagrant again. I want to use it while learning Laravel. Learning Laravel has been yet another challenge. It’s object oriented and the concept of it, I totally get. The execution however, is a different thing all together. I’m getting closer though and will keep at it.

My advice to young programmers. Accept that you will always be learning and facing challenges and always learn and face new challenges.

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