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11 Free Video Games That Will Develop Your Business & Personal Finance Skills

Written by Brett McKay

I love simulation games. Ever since I played Sim City on the Super Nintendo back in 1990, I’ve been addicted. In fact, I feel simulation games gave me my first lessons in economics. By playing SimCity I learned about taxes, spending, and budgeting. While the real world is a bit more complicated, SimCity gave me a basic understanding.

I still think simulation games have a lot to offer as a way of introducing people to basic financial principles. About.com has put together a nice list of free business simulation games. Play these and you’ll increase your business savvy or at least motivate yourself to become more business savvy. If you think you’re too old or already know enough, have your kids play them. It’s an excellent way to teach your children business and personal finance skills.

  1. Simutrans. The goal of Simutrans is to build a network of railroads and bus connections. Think Railroad Tycoon.
  2. Food Force. The United Nations helped develop Food Force. The object of the game is feed 6 million people on an island in the Indian Ocean. Food Force will help develop budgeting and planning skills.
  3. Lemonade Stand. Lemonade stands are most people’s first introduction to business. Now you can do it online. The object of this game is to make as much profit as possible in 30 days.
  4. Chart Wars. Ever wanted to manage a band? Now you can with Chart Wars. You hire bands, plan road trips, and sell albums. Harness your inner Rick Rubin.
  5. Fantasy Stock Market. The best way to learn about investing is to actually do it. But if you’re afraid of losing money while you’re learning, check out Fantasy Stock Market. It’s online game in which you compete with other investors to see who can develop the best portfolio.
  6. GameBiz. It’s 1983 and you’re video game developer. Try to outperform other well known video game companies like Atari and EA.
  7. Industry Player. This game is played online with other registered players. You start off with a set amount of money to be used to grow a business empire.
  8. MiniMogul. You take the part as movie producer who invests in future movie releases.
  9. Musical Manager 3. It’s the similar to Chart Wars. In this game you’re band manager trying to help your band make it big.
  10. Rich Man Game. Perfect the art of the corporate take over in this massive multiplayer game.
  11. The Second Chance for Mankind. This is very similar to SimCity. You goal is to build a successful metropolitan area.

If you go through all these and still haven’t satisfied your craving for simulation games, you can always play old school SimCity for free.

Google Talk as GTD Capture System

Written by Brett McKay

There’s this guy that I sit behind in property class that is always doing something else on his laptop instead of listening to the professor. For the past few week’s I’ve noticed him typing stuff into a little box in the bottom of his screen. At first I thought he was using an idea capture tool like GyroQ to capture his ideas. Instant productivity envy and fear that this guy was going to set the curve on the exam filled my soul. But then I got a closer look. The guy is really just chatting on Google Talk. The envy and fear left, but an idea was born. Google Talk GTD Capture System.

Here’s how it works.

First, create a “dummy” account with Google. This is the account you will be “chatting” with.

Second, Send messages to yourself on Google Talk when you have an idea. That’s it.


The really handy part is what happens to those messages after you send them. All chat sessions on Google Talk are saved in your Gmail account under “Chats.” This has three very powerful advantages to other idea capture tools.

  • First, your notes are filed in chronological order, so doing daily and weekly reviews won’t require remembering when you wrote that note. The date is already there and filed accordingly.

Second, you can add categories to your chat sessions to yourself. Thus, you have the ability to easily add contexts to your notes. If you have GTDGMail

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  • Finally, you have the power of Gmail’s search feature at your disposal. Need all your notes on that trip to Rome you’re planning? Type in “trip” or “Rome” or whatever and let Gmail retrieve your notes. It’s like having a reference file without having to really file anything.

I’ve just started to use this system and have been really happy with it. I’ve been looking for a good computer based capture system, but have not been happy with the plethora of digital scratch pads or sticky notes that are out there. Sure, they’re handy for writing an idea down, but organizing them was a pain. Now I have Google to do that for me. I love you Google.

Make free diagrams for your notes

Written by The Frugal Law Student

Want a free option to Microsoft Visio? Head on over to Gliffy. Gliffy is a web-based application that allows you to create some spiffy looking diagrams. This would be perfect to make flow charts showing the parol evidence rule or UCC 2-207. Gliffy also allows for collaboration, so you can work with fellow law students developing a flow chart to outline your class.

Create Flash Card Wikis

Written by Mrs. FLS

Lifehacker has a post about Memorizable.org. You can create your own web based flash cards using the wiki format. If you’ve never used a wiki before, it will take some time getting used to. Not only can you make customized flash cards for your Contracts or Family Law class, Memorizable is free. Try it out and see if it will help in your exam preparation.

Notes from 20/20’s Special “Flat Broke”

Written by Brett McKay

20/20 did a special tonight on America’s debt crisis. The broke it down into three parts: Spenders and savers, debt collecting, and cyberbegging. Here are some of the highlights of the show.

Spenders and Savers
This segment focused on two families living on opposite ends of the financial spectrum. The Peterson Family are big spenders. They’ve racked up over $60,000 in credit card, hundreds of thousands of dollars in time shares, and a few mortgages on their house. Despite their money problems, this year the family has gone on more vacations than any time in their marriage. They’re on the brink of bankruptcy.

In order to help them, 20/20 brought financial planner Robert Pagliarini, author of the book The Six Day Financial Makeover. He set up a plan for the Peterson family that included selling their house and time shares. I wonder if the family will follow through with it.

Watching this family, I couldn’t believe that people could just rack up debt like that. They never regretted a single lavish purchase they made because they figure they’ll probably be dead tomorrow. I don’t get it.

Lesson from the Peterson’s: DON”T USE CREDIT CARDS! Cut the darn things up (don’t cancel them; it hurts your credit score) and start paying with cash. Take it easy on the big purchase items. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. Duh.

The Economides are the cheapest family in America. At least that’s what they titled their book. They earn less than $35,000 a year, have seven kids, cars, but no debt. They’ve accomplished this by buying everything used and planning grocery store trips so they’re economical as possible. They carry around walkie talkies in the store to report on the good deals to each other. They also buy expired lunch meat. I’m going to have to do this again.

Lesson from the Economides: PLAN, PLAN, PLAN. Take advantage of coupons; every cent counts. Buy whatever you can used.

Debt Collectors
This segment was a perfect torts hypo for Intentional or reckless infliction causing severe emotional distress by extreme or outrageous conduct (See? I learned something in law school). They interviewed a former debt collector about the techniques they used to get money from people. Tactics included persistence calls with death threats, threats to reveal their debt to neighbors, and just plain emotional abuse. It was heartbreaking to see the crap that some of the debt collectors could drag people through.

Of course John Stossel had to bust out his libertarian stick to show that we should be thankful for debt collectors. He points out that the bad debt collectors are a minority. The tactics they use are illegal. He then goes on to argue that if it weren’t for debt collectors, prices would go up because companies would lose money on default payments. He also made a point that most of the clients of debt clients are small businesses. I always figured debt collectors were for big companies. Overall, I think Stossel made some good points. At least he got me thinking about things.

Lesson learned from debt collectors: keep only two credit cards, negotiate lower rates, and if for some unfortunate reason you become the victim of thug debt collectors, contact the FTC, your lawyer, and tape the culprit berating you.

Cyberbegging is a hot topic, especially in the blogsphere. Paypal donation buttons are popping up on blogs everyday. One law student started a blog to raise money to pay for his student loans. (However, one should note that he’s converted the site into way of raising scholarships for other students and raising awareness about student debt.) Cyber Beg is a popular site where one can list their financial need like they would list an item on craigslist. The crazy thing is that people give money.

The segment discussed how an admitted shopaholic, Karyn Bosnak, got herself out of $20,000 worth of designer handbag and belt debt by asking complete strangers on the net. It worked. She wrote a book about it and made even more money. A movie deal is forthcoming.

They also discussed how Dustin Diamond (aka Screech from Saved by the Bell) used cyberbegging to save his house. His sex tape, “Screeched”, has been picked up by a major porn distributor and he’s raking in the dough. (That makes two former Saved By the Bell alum who’ve gone on to make porn. Don’t do it Lisa Turtle! Resist!)

My first reaction is disgust. These people have no shame. Both Bosnak and Screech say what they did is creative, not shameful. Right… when was the last time you heard someone praise the creativeness of panhandlers and bums? That’s right never. Screech and Bosnack… you’re bums. Jason Ryan Dorsey, author of My Reality Check Bounced: The Twentysomething’s Guide to Cashing In On Your Real-World Dreams, discussed how Screech’s and Bosnak’s attitudes are common among twenty somethings. They’re not responsible with how they spend money, so they don’t want to be responsible for paying it.

I guess one could make an argument that ad’s or pay per post are forms of cyberbegging. I concede that I’m making money by just writ ting my thoughts, but it’s pocket change. I’m lucky if I get .20 a day. However, I think I’ve earned this money. I work hard trying to find content, writing up posts, and marketing my site so people will know about it. I think a dollar a week isn’t too much to ask in return. Same goes for pay per posters. They have to look into the product and spend time writing a quality post about it. They deserve the money they get.

Lesson learned from cyberbeggers: Get a real job!

Overall, it was a good show. I thought they could have spent more time disusing the frugal family. Check out the 20/20 site for more details.

Breeze through cases with ZAP Reader

Written by Mrs. FLS

It’s been said that reading law cases is like mixing cement with your eyelids. It’s long, boring, and tedious. What many people don’t know is that the human mind can process more information than they think it can. When most people read silently, they use the silent voice in their head to read each word one by one. However, the brain can process and understand more than a word at a time. It takes some training, but people can quickly increase their reading speed up to four times from what they are reading now.

ZAP Reader is a tool that can help you with that. ZAP is a free online web app that allows users to download any text into the reader. You then determine how many words and what speed the ZAP reader will present the text to you. By doing this, ZAP forces you to turn off the inner voice in your head and forces you to read faster than you think you can.

This can come in really handy if you need to get through a bunch of cases quickly. Just bring up the case on Lexis or Westlaw, copy, and paste it into ZAP reader.