Sunday, August 25, 2013

Cut Cell Phone Bill in Half: Switch to Ting

Let me start off by saying, I do not work for Ting, I just really love what they are doing and want you all to know about it too!

When I was about to switch to paying for my own cell service and not be under my family's plan anymore, I spent a lot of time researching different companies.  I wanted to finally have a smart phone, but not have to pay the ridiculous monthly charges that comes with the territory if I knew I wasn't going to be using data all that much.  My goal was to find something where I would be paying under $50/mo, preferably less than $40/mo.  What I found was much better.

I found the problem for me was that my needs went completely against what most packages were: I wasn't going to use data all that much, I send texts but not too many, and I still wanted a lot of minutes.  A lot of packages are great for one or two of those areas but really skimpy on the other and it never seemed to work in my favor.

Now on to Ting.  Let me explain why they work so well for basically any needs.  Here's the genius plan: you pay for what you use.  That's it.  You don't have a limit, there are just different scales of prices in each category: minutes, texts, and data.  If you don't use on area, you don't pay for it.  There's a $6/mo device usage fee and some other small fees, and that's it!


Not quite making sense?  I'll give an example: Let's say you don't really talk, you just text, and your on the internet all the time.  It's $3 for the smallest amount of minutes (100), $8 for 1000 texts, and $24 for 1000 MB of data.  With the other fees, that's only $41/mo!  If you happen to not talk one month, you don't pay for any minutes.  And guess what, if you have multiple people on your plan, the savings are even greater! You can check out all their rates here: https://ting.com/rates.  You can also compare your current bill to what you would pay at Ting here: https://ting.com/calculator.   Or here's a video if it's still not clicking:



Other pluses:
  • great customer service
  • easy to understand bills
  • no contracts
  • fun and cool company!


What's the downside?  Well the only slight downside is that the prices for phones are pretty steep.  Because they offer you such discounted monthly rates, they can't give you the great prices on brand new phones.  But you can easily make up what extra you spend very quickly because of how much you will save per month on your bill.  Plus there's no contracts!  (Or if you already have a Sprint phone, you can use that one if it's on the accepted list!)

You should definitely check them out.  And if you are interested in switching over, here's a referral link: https://zh58t2kbb.ting.com/.  If you use this referral, not only do I get $25 credit, but you get $25 off your device purchase or credit too!



****UPDATE 10/28/15**** While I love Ting and still recommend it for people who don't use much data and don't need the newest phone, I have discovered a better plan for most people.  Read this article.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Reached the 1,000 Mark!

There have been 1,000 views!

Cheap Ways to Go to the Movies

I just got back from seeing a screening of Singin in the Rain in Union Square in San Francisco.  I'm tired and wanted to do a quick blog and I've had the idea of posting about cheap ways to see all the movies you want during the summer since they are expensive and there are so many that come out during this time, but I thought since it's nearing the end of summer that maybe it's better to wait to post about this until next year BEFORE summer starts.  But this is too perfect an opportunity not to post.  Maybe I will repeat myself next year.

popcornAnyway, there are several options for seeing movies more cheaply.

FREE
Yes you heard me.  Free!  During the summer months, many cities offer free movies in the park or other outdoor settings.  Many are family friendly so they are generally animated films and usually this aren't going to be current releases but if you're just looking for something fun to do, check out what your area has to offer.

If you're in the bay area, here's a website for seeing what movies are being shown in different locations: http://www.filmnight.org/


Drive In
Did you know these still exist?  It's true.  Depending on where you live they may be kind of a rarity but here in Northern California we have the West Wind Drive Ins located in Concord, Sacramento, and San Jose.  They also have a location in Santa Barbara and some in Arizona and Nevada.  Check it out: http://www.westwinddriveins.com/

Why drive ins?  They are usually cheaper and most still offer a double feature.  This means you get two for the price of one.  The quality is not quite as good so I generally don't go see action or sci-fi movies that I want to see the detail but it's great for comedies.  Plus it just has a fun vibe.


Second Run/Classic Movie Houses
Obviously these are not current movies, but they give you something fun to do for much cheaper.  I am a big fan of classic films and it is very thrilling to see them on the big screen.  So look up what may be in your area.  My favorite in the bay area is http://www.stanfordtheatre.org/


Military
If you or someone you know is affiliated with the military and you are near a base with a theatre, take advantage of that.  The prices are super cheap, $5.50 at Travis AFB, and they are current releases.  They also have regular free advanced screenings.  Here's where you check for Army and Air Force: http://www.shopmyexchange.com/reeltimetheatres/reeltime-landing.htm

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Enter Sweepstakes . . . Why Not?

Sometimes it seems like sweepstakes can be a waste of time.  I mean the likelihood that you will be chosen out of the hundreds, sometimes thousands, that enter are very slim . . . but why not?  SOMEBODY has to win and maybe it will be your lucky day.  Usually all it takes is a few minutes.

I mean my friends and I won a video contest to see Spamalot when it came to SF, a backstage tour and meet and greet, dinner, and part of our video got to be played on a local spot during the Tony Awards.  (Yes I like theatre).  You can see our winning video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPFsm8BSP-M

So why not?

And while I'm on the topic of sweepstakes, vote for my boyfriend and myself as the Bay's Most Adorable Couple so we can win a Disney cruise :)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Make Money With Credit Cards

(Read Part 2 of the series right here: Part 2: My Favorite Cards)

Up till now I've written posts about just saving money and I haven't written any about making money.  Well there's two reasons for that, there aren't as many easy ways to make money plus I feel that saving money is making money anyway.  But here's one that you actually gain money.  This is not for the faint of heart though.

The key for a really easy way to make money is . . . credit cards.  Don't gasp like I just said Voldemort or something.  Credit cards get a bad rap because of all the stories of people going into debt because of misuse.  It is not the credit card's fault that they are in debt, it is their own fault.  All it requires is self control.  If you don't think you can handle that, then by all means do not open up a credit card.

How to Not Go Into Debt with Credit:

Visa Mastercard1.)  As I said, the key to not going into debt is self control.  Do not think of it as being able to buy anything you want on credit, think of it just the same as your debit card, i.e. you have to have the money to buy it.  Generally I like to keep the rule that it already has to be in my account, like I could pay for it with cash right now, but if you know you will have enough money in your account by the time you have to pay your bill then that's okay too.  But I don't recommend living paycheck to paycheck like that if you can help it.

2.)  The second reason people go into debt over credit cards is because they don't pay their bill IN FULL each month.  If you've followed the rule above, you will have enough money in your account to pay the full amount.  DO THAT.  If you do not, the interest charged on what you have not paid will end up being way more than you should ever pay for the stuff you bought.  Just don't do it.  If you happened to have an emergency or something that prevented you from paying your bill in full one month, that's understandable, pay as much as you can, not just the minimum.  And then make sure you pay it off as soon as possible.  Oh and make sure you pay on time.


And that's it!  If you keep your spending limit within your means, that means only buying what you can actually pay for, and if you pay your bill in full on time, you will never pay credit cards any extra money (as long as you get a card with no annual fee but more on that next) and you won't go into debt.


Things to Look For When Choosing a Card:

1.)  NO ANNUAL FEE!!!!!!  This is super important.  Really the only fine print you have to look for as long as you follow the above two rules, is no annual fee.  Why should you have to pay a fee to pay for thins?  You shouldn't and that's why you won't.  There are plenty of cards out there to choose from that fit your style that don't have one.

2.)  Rewards.  Here comes the fun part and a little bit of the money making.  The reason why credit cards are so nice (not because of the credit because we don't use it based on credit we used it based on the knowledge that we have the money for it) is because you get rewarded for your purchases.

The way you get rewarded varies greatly per card.  Most are either based on points or a percentage.  Generally points give you less value per dollar spent, but that's not always the case.  It's also just easier with a percentage to know how much you are gaining back.

What you are rewarded for.  Here's where choosing a card that is tailored to your specific buying habits is key to getting the most out of your rewards.  I'm not going to go into great detail because there are hundreds of sites devoted to devouring every bit of every credit card offered out there.  Just do your research to find one that benefits you most.

Redeeming rewards is probably the most fun.  Generally the rewards options come in the forms of actual objects, gift cards, statement credit, or cash.  While it may be fun to build up the rewards to get that fancy TV on the list, you usually get more value out of getting either statement credit or cash (don't worry it usually comes in a check or direct deposit not actual cash).  Why, you ask?  Because the amount you get back in cash is usually more than what you would actually spend on whatever item you are looking at.  Say you've saved up 100,000 points.  That TV you were looking at is valued at 100,000 points.  But 100,000 points equals $500 cash back.  Look up the value of the TV (they're not gonna let you know it's not worth all those points) and you'll see that it would only cost you $350 to buy.  The value of that TV is $150 less than you would get in cash.  So get the cash, then ask yourself if you really need that TV or if the cash can go to something more useful.


Now that's all cool, you get free rewards for spending money.  But that's not the only way, and certainly not the most prosperous way, to make money off credit cards.  Here's a way to make a lot of money, quickly, without going over your budget.


BONUS REWARDS

Bonus rewards are offers for when you first open up a credit card.  As long as you spend a certain amount in a certain time period (generally 3 months) you get the bonus reward.  These rewards start at $100 and can go up to $500!  Or if you're into travel, enough miles for a plane ticket anywhere in the world.

Now be careful.  Remember to still check to make sure there's no annual fee.  Also make sure the amount you need to spend to get the reward is doable, within your normal spending amount.  The ones that offer the larger amounts, usually either have an annual fee or it's a really high amount you have to spend to get the reward.


And those are the keys to making money off credit cards while not spending any extra yourself.

Sometimes I open a credit card just to get the bonus reward.  That's fine.  Just make sure you don't start using too many different cards at the same time.  Find one that really suits your style: rewards you the most for your normal spending habits and has rewards you like, and use only that one.  Obviously you need to switch to the new one for those three months or however long it takes you to get the bonus reward.  Then when you are done with getting the reward, switch back to the old one.

If you build up a pile of cards, you can even just cut up the cards you don't use anymore and throw those away.  But don't close the account, that will kill your credit score.  Even though you may have accounts you don't use at all, it still builds up positive credit because you are "paying it off" every month.  It's strange, but it's true.  So actually having multiple accounts helps your credit score as long as you are paying everything off.

Also make sure you don't open too many new cards within a short amount of time.  This can also kill your credit score.  It looks like you're in a desperate need to borrow money.  I like to only open 2 or 3 new cards a year.

It think that covers all the essentials.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask.


*A note about travel cards, i.e. cards that give you miles towards plane tickets.  I didn't really cover these kinds of cards in my post because I don't have experience with them.  I've looked into them, but found that just like the product in catalogs for rewards, the miles you have to build up to get a good plane ticket are more than you would get back in cash.  BUT there may be some really good ones out there that I'm missing out on.  Let me know if there's one you really like.

 
Read Part 2 of the series right here: Part 2: My Favorite Cards

Friday, August 9, 2013

Turn Off the AC

Even though we're having unusually cold weather in Northern California for one of the hottest months of the year, I know some of you out there are still experiencing extreme heat.  This is an article on how to save a little on your PG&E bill by using some techniques to naturally cool down your house.  For some places, this may be enough for you to not have to us the AC, for others it's just to keep it a little cooler.  Use your judgment.

I grew up without air conditioning, so these tips seem second nature to me but I realized that a lot of people don't really understand when it's best to open your window, keep it shut, use a fan, etc.


Step 1: Use Your Blinds

The first step is all about keeping the hot sun out.  Of course this leaves your house a little dark so some people might not like it.  But if you are not home during the day, you don't mind the darkness, then this will be fine or you can just open the blinds near the window you are at.

shadesThe trick is to follow the sun throughout the day.  I would hope that by now everyone understands that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.  If you are directionally challenged, like me, you may not really know all the time which direction is east and which is west but you should be able to realize which windows face the sun as it's rising, which face it during midday, and which face it when it's setting.

So since the sun rises in the east, those are the windows you want covered first.  And, unless you're a really early riser, you should do that at night before you go to bed.  If you'll be gone all day, cover your south facing windows as well.  The western windows you can usually do yourself when you get home later but it might be a good idea to keep all windows covered while you're gone since it really doesn't matter and can really keep it cool.

Follow the sun around.  You can put the blinds up once there isn't direct sunlight there.  If you really want to reflect the light, you can put up a bunch of those car windshield reflectors to reflect the sun.  Or, if you don't care about looks as much, you can make your own by cutting cardboard to fit your window and wrapping it in foil.


Step 2: When to Use a Fan

Lots of people think that a fan works like an air conditioner, if you have it on it makes it cooler.  Unless it is drawing air from a cooler source, that is not true.  Generally, a fan will be in a place where there isn't much difference in temperature.  This means that you should only have it on when you are in that room, otherwise you're just wasting energy.  A fan cools you just by circulating and blowing air on you, it doesn't actually cool the room.

Two exceptions that I can think of where it would be drawing cooler air from another place.  1.) A window fan.  I will get more to when you should have your window open next.  2.) If you have a long hallway and the rooms at one end of the hallway are hotter than the rooms at the other end.  This happens in our house.  The living room is well shaded and stays fairly cool, but the large room at the end of the long hallway doesn't have much shade and gets pretty warm which heats up the other rooms nearby.  For this, it gets annoyingly loud, but you want a large industrial grade fan to put in the cooler room and shoot it down the hallway.  It's taking the cooler air from the cooler room and shooting it down and circulating in the hotter areas.  It doesn't do much but it does help.


Step 3: When to Open a Window

bird in windowThis is another thing that people often get wrong.  They think that opening a window will get air circulating which makes a room cooler.  WRONG!  The air outside MUST be cooler than inside for that to be effective, otherwise you're letting hot air in, even if there is a breeze.  Hopefully your house by now has newer double or triple paned windows.  These aren't just made to keep out noise, they are made for better insulation too.  That means keeping hot air out in the summer and keeping cool air out in the winter.  Let them do their job!

If you live in a place, like me, where it cools off at night, it can be a great idea to eventually open your windows.  I'm often surprised when people in the bay area keep their air conditioners on all day and don't even realize that it's cooled off so much outside that they could just open all their windows and it would be fine.  That is key.  If it's cool outside, and especially if there is a good breeze, OPEN ALL YOUR WINDOWS!  This is when circulation is important.  For example, if you have a room that has windows on two opposite walls, but you only open the windows on one wall, it will let in some cool air.  If you open windows on both walls, the air will flow freely between them.  Not only will it let in cool air, but there will be a constant circulation of cool air.

Going back to fans.  There are some great fans that you stick in your window.  Again, only do it if the air outside is cooler, otherwise you will just be blowing hot air in your room.  But if the air is cooler outside, it draws the cool air from outside and blows it more directly into your room.


In summary:
  • Keep out direct sunlight
  • Only use fans when in room or drawing cooler air from another place
  • Keep windows shut, unless it's cooler outside then open them!


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Don't Keep the Change

So this doesn't actually save or make you any money, it just makes you FEEL like you have more money.  It will make sense at the end.

USE YOUR LOOSE CHANGE WHENEVER POSSIBLE!  Don't put it in your pocket or car and forget about it, don't save it in a jar and cash it in months later.  USE IT!
bills and coins
I'll explain in two ways.

1.  Because of the depreciation of money, the penny will be worth significantly less in a month from now than a dollar, comparatively.  So it just makes more sense economically.  Look at it this way, if you saved all your coins your whole life to see how much you would get all those years later, it would be significantly less than if you had spent those coins when they could buy you more.  Eighty years ago, you could buy a lot with just coins.

Not to mention the fact that a lot of those places where you dump coins in to get cash charge you a fee and if you turn it into a bank it has to be in rolls which require exact amounts.



2.  But for some of you, that's not enough of an incentive.  Here's another reason to use your change.  Let's say you have a purchase of $2.34.  You have two dollar bills, a five dollar bill, and several coins (enough to cover 34 cents).  You can pay two ways, 1.) You can just use the $5 bill or 2.) You can use the two $1 bills and your change.

Now before I explain why you want to do the latter, let me say that most people look at how much money they have only by counting the bills.  I mean it makes sense, you don't want to spend the time counting change when it's probably a dollar or less.

With that in your minds, in example 1.) you would get 2 one dollar bills back along with more change.  That leaves you with four one dollar bills.  In example 2.) you paid in exact change so you wouldn't get anything back.  But you are left with your five dollar bill.  When you just see how much money you have in bills, you have one more dollar.

Now do you really have an extra dollar?  No.  But it FEELS like you have an extra dollar because we only look at bills.  Of course, a dollar isn't much but when you are dealing with larger bills, it can add up.

You're welcome.