Wednesday, October 28, 2015

MetroPCS Is The Best Phone Plan For 2 People

A week or so ago, my mom came over to visit.  And since she lives out in the boonies, of course she had errands she wanted to run in the "city", one of which being she wanted to look at a new phone plan/carrier.  As I was helping her research, I realized that there may be better options for my husband and myself as well.  So after she was done (she settled on Cricket btw which has great deals as well and on an awesome network), I got to work looking up for myself.

Now if you've been reading a lot of my posts, you'll know I posted a while ago about a cell phone carrier that I've been with for a few years that I love, Ting (red my blog article on it here).  They are consistently rated the highest in customer service and that is part of why it is hard for me to leave them but there are a few negatives: 1.) You have to pay full price for your phone (unless you can find an amazing deal online somewhere).  At first this wasn't an issue, you save so much each month it made up for it.  But now phones are basically computers and they cost about $500-$600 new.  My husband and I were waiting to save up money for a new phone (not even the newest!), while our current phones were driving us crazy with how slow they are!  2.) Speaking of slow, unfortunately most of Ting's phones are on Sprint's network which, apparently, is the slowest of them all.  And 3.) For the amount of data we were using, there were actually cheaper plans out there for the two of us.  With all that being said, I still love Ting, and their idea is awesome, I just recommend it more for people who use very little to no data and don't need a newer phone.

At the time I had settled on Ting a few years ago, I had never had a smartphone before, so I didn't know how much data I'd be using and, therefore, how much I would need in a plan.  I liked that Ting was a no contract, and that you only paid for what you used.  Plus, there weren't as many options then for cheaper and no contract phone plans.  THINGS HAVE CHANGED.  This is a consumer's market.  With the internet, people are able to do more research, find the best options, and make complaints/suggestions, especially publicly, which has forced companies to change their plans.

So down to my findings: the cheapest and best plan for two people is MetroPCS's 2 for $50 plan.  It comes with unlimited text and talk and up to 1GB of data for each line at 4GLTE speeds, and unlimited at slower speeds.  My husband and I generally used about 1GB between the two of us, so we should be fine.  They use tMobile's network which isn't the best, but it's better than what we were on.  They do offer discounts on newer phones as well and the best part was: they were giving away a $50 discount to new customers that had their old account number and pin on the Samsung Galaxy Core Prime which is at a $49.99 discounted price.  Meaning, we got our phones for free!  Oh and all their plans are no contract :)

So do some research.  Find the best plan for you.  There are so many companies out there now offering customizable or unlimited plans for much cheaper than the main companies.  Plus you're not locked into a contract or only able to update every so often.  That's so 10 years ago! ;)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Join Amazon Student

This week, from October 7th to 9th 2015, shop exclusive deals for Amazon Student members on electronics, tech, study supplies, and more.  Not an Amazon Student member?  Join here and try it for free for 6 months!  After the 6 month trial, upgrade to Amazon Prime at 50% off!!

Amazon Student is a great way to to get free 2 day shipping from Amazon plus all the other perks of Amazon Prime: music and video streaming plus kindle books, for much cheaper!  I utilize this all the time as I do a lot of shopping on Amazon, it saves time by not having to go to a store and if you have free shipping then it's no extra cost!  Plus the movie and tv selection is different than Netflix so you get more streaming options.

Right now they are also doing giveaways like gift cards and games!  So join now!

Amazon Student

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Trader Joe's: It's Cheaper Than You Think

So it's been a little over a year since my husband and I got married and we moved in together.  As with any new location, scouting out what grocery store you are going to frequent can be difficult.  For most of this year, I'd been going to Safeway to do most of our shopping because of all the deals they offer on their member card.  But lately I had gotten tired of getting the same things we usually get and thought I would shake it up a bit and go to Trader Joe's.

For some reason, for a long time, I had always assumed that since Trader Joe's is healthier, it is more expensive.  It wasn't until I moved to San Francisco and had one right across the street from my apartment that I realized this wasn't the case.  But after years away from it again, the old assumption had crept back into my mind.

For those of you that may think that too . . . don't!  Trader Joe's has great selection with great prices that even rival national supermarket chains.

So eat healthier and save money!  Click here to learn more about what's new at Trader Joe's and their prices.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

hitRECORD: How Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Paying Artists Around the World

So for those of you who don't know, I'm a performing artist.  I do musical theatre primarily which means I act, sing, and dance and currently my job is teaching theatre and dance as well as performing when I have the opportunity.  My parents were professional musicians, my grandparents on my mom's side were musicians, let's just say I know exactly what an artist's life is like.  All art forms go greatly unappreciated in this country.  Because many people assume it is a hobby, they are reluctant to pay people for these jobs.  (Yes, they are jobs)  So this is why I am so pleased to write about something today that will help earn artists (and art appreciators) money for their work!

Joseph Gordon-Levitt
While looking for a new show for myself to watch on Netflix, I came across a show called Hit RECord on TV!  It had a picture of Joseph Gordon-Levitt with an artistic background and it triggered my memory of a YouTube clip I saw on Facebook of JGL (is that a thing?) doing a musical theatre number and it said it was on his show Hit RECord on TV.  At the time I just watched the clip, enjoyed it, and thought nothing more of it.  But seeing this complete season of his show available on Netflix, I thought I should check it out.

What I was treated to was an amalgamation of different artists' writings, drawings, readings, music in a very unique and fun way.  It was funny because I started it right as my husband was walking back to his gaming station after a bathroom break and he stopped in his tracks to see what I was watching because it was so interesting.  He stayed standing because presumably he was going back to play a game but he ended up watching the whole episode, standing in the middle of the living room.  At the end I said, "Do you want to watch this with me?"  With out a pause he said, let me just save my game and I'll be right there.

So what is this show exactly?  Well I urge you to just check it out because it really is a great show that I think would appeal to just about most people but here's a brief explanation.  Hit RECord on TV is a new kind of variety show.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt hosts the show which features short films, live performances, music, animation, conversation, and more from an online community, hitRECORD, with each episode focusing on a different theme.  (And by the way, if you just love Joseph Gordon-Levitt you will even more as he continually shows more of his talents as well)

After quickly finishing the first season (the only available on Netflix right now) I thought I would check out the website where they do all these collaborations, hitRECORD.  I was even more impressed with what JGL had put together because, well, he honestly believes in featuring all people's work and the best part . . . he actually wants to compensate you fairly for it!  And who better to explain how it all works than JGL himself?!

I think this idea is so awesome and I'm really trying to be a part of it as much as I can.  And I really encourage everyone to be a part of it, or at least watch the show because it's really fun!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Prius Auxiliary Battery Saver

In my last post, Hybrids . . . Are They Worth the Upfront Cost?, I wrote about purchasing a hybrid car.  Well, only after about a month of owning the car, we had battery failure (the auxiliary not hybrid).  I did a lot of research about how each of the batteries work before deciding what to do.  I found this battery on Amazon:

In the reviews, I read that this is the most recommended auxiliary battery for Priuses.  A common problem is that since the battery needed for a Prius is so different from a normal car, they don't get used as much so auto shops can have them sitting on the shelves for years thus diminishing the quality of the battery.  Many people were saying they were having to have them replaced every year.

Since this was a highly recommended battery, I thought I would buy it.  And even better, when I added it to my cart, Amazon asked if I wanted to have it installed through Amazon Services.  There was an option for a shop in the city next to me for only $15.  So I ended up getting a battery and installed for under $200, hundreds less than if I just took it right away to a shop.  Plus, I can be more sure that this battery is better quality!

So if you have a Prius, keep this in mind for when you start having power issues!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Hybrids . . . Are They Worth the Upfront Cost?

When I was trying to think of what to write about this week, I realized I hadn't talked at all about our recent addition.  A few months ago, I took my car in to get the AC checked because it wasn't working.  I figured it just needed a flush as is most cases when the AC doesn't work which isn't that bad.  Of course, with my bad luck of cars in the past few years it ended up being the most expensive part to fix and since I had a VW that part was even more expensive, $900 to be exact.  That is a lot to pay for air conditioning!

Now to give you the full picture, you should know that I only purchased my VW Beetle about a year and a half before then.  Yes it was quite old even then, a '98, but it only had 75,000 miles on it so in car life that's still pretty good.  Little did I realize, this car would give me so many problems, I basically had to take it in every few months.  And I probably ended up spending an extra few thousand on it in that short amount of time.  I really wish I had gone with my feelings when purchasing that car to go with newer and better.

So, this newest $900 quote and a warning that my clutch would be going out soon (also the tires were wearing down) and the fact that it was only two doors, a stick shift which is both annoying at times and my husband didn't even know how to drive, I had had enough.  I would much rather put more money down for a better car than to put more into this one.  So a search began.

This time I did my research.  I had for years wanted a hybrid since the gas mileage was so great.  But last time when I was looking for a car, I realized that better MPG didn't actually save you that much but hybrids were selling for so much more than comparable non hybrids so I didn't actually think it was worth the upfront extra cost.  But my heart still yearned for one (probably just to feel super modern) so I thought I'd look into it again.

I realized that my focus last time, and the focus of many people buying a car that are budget conscious, think too much on mpg, year of the car, and mileage.  What you should be focusing on is . . . maintenance.  Of course!  I had gotten a car that had very low mileage last time and not too bad on gas but the think that was costing lots of money, was the maintenance.

There are two big things to consider when looking for a car:
  1. Reviews: Read reviews from real owners and they'll definitely tell you if the car has issues often or not.
  2. Country of Manufacture: European cars have more expensive parts so even if things do break down, Asian and American parts are generally cheaper to replace as well.
Now that I knew where to focus, I read and read and read all about peoples' opinions of cars.  And I realized that hybrids are not only great on gas but they often require much less maintenance too!  Why is that so?  Well in basic terms (because I don't know that much about cars) since a hybrid doesn't always run off of engine power, there's obviously less wear and tear on the engine (duh!).

But it doesn't just stop there.  There's not as many engine start up problems since the car "turns on" by a battery and the computer then starts the car.  Electronics also help slow down hybrid cars when you release your foot from the gas pedal and even when you start pressing on the brakes so there's less wear on the brakes.  And then I thought more about the mpg and realized that I would almost be doubling my mpg so having to pay half the amount on gas each month DOES add up.

But a lot of people are nervous to buy used hybrids because they hear all about how expensive it is to replace the hybrid battery and if you buy it used, that may need to be replaced soon.  But now that hybrids have been out for over 10 years, there's been a lot more research on it.  Before, there wasn't really an answer because they didn't know for sure how long they would last.  But many people are getting to the 200,000 mile mark without having to replace the battery.  And even then, they realized you don't have to replace the whole thing quite often, you can usually just replace a cell or two which is only a few hundred instead of a few thousand.  It's a fear of the unknown.  As one person pointed out, you take a risk buying any used car.  There are many parts in a standard car that cost a couple thousand to replace that wouldn't be needed in a hybrid.

hybrid car
Anyway, we ended up getting a 2005 Prius with just over 160,000 miles on it.  While the mileage was pretty high, with all the things we know now with the less wear and tear I wasn't too concerned since the previous owner had taken good care of it (and gave us a great deal).  There are many people selling older hybrids to upgrade that still have a good life left and the prices are lowering since there are now so many on the market.

Since I've only had the car about a month, I can't truly say if it's worth it yet.  But it FEELS great!  Plus we took a trip down to Los Angeles (over 300 miles) and while we did fill up because we had stopped for dinner anyway, we wouldn't have had to.  We're averaging 45 mpg in both city and hwy driving which is so awesome!

I'll update later, but for now I think it's totally worth it!

UPDATE:  It's been over 6 months since we've had the car and I still love it!  Now it has just over 180,000 miles on it and it's still running great.  No problems so far (knock on wood) other than the issues with the auxiliary battery early on.  (Read The Prius Auxiliary Battery Saver)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Referral Programs

Today I'm going to talk about referral programs.  These are easy ways to make money or earn rewards for products and companies you already know and love!  If you've read a lot of my blogs, you've probably already seen some links for referrals from the things I really like but I'm going to explain a little more about these and how they can be useful for you.

What are referral programs?  Referral programs are where companies reward you, one of their customers, for bringing in more business to them.  Quite often they also give an incentive for the new customer as well.  It's a win-win-win situation in that case!  With referral programs made much easier with the internet and social media, there have been a lot more popping up within the last few years and much bigger rewards as well.

How do they work?  If a company has a referral program, you will need to be logged into their site under your account.  Then you find the section of their website about referrals and there should be a spot that either lets you directly share your specific link to social media or through emails or a link that you can copy and paste.  It's important that you make sure that you are logged in and get your specific link so they can track who joined because of you and you can get rewarded!

It's as simple as that!

Here's a list of all my favorite companies/products with referral programs by category:

Cell Phone Carriers

cell phone carriers
Ting Wireless - This is an offshoot of Sprint that works on a pay for what you use concept.  My husband and I have a bill together of about $50 - $60 a month for talk, text, and data.  You can read more about Ting in my post: Cut Cell Phone Bill in Half: Switch to Ting

Referral Bonus: Offer friends $25 off a new device or as Ting credit. For each successful referral, we'll credit your account $25 to say thanks. 

Credit Cards

Chase Credit Card

Chase Freedom - 1% back on purchase with 5% back on rotating categories.  Read more about it on my post: Make Money With Credit Cards, Part 2: My Favorite Cards

Discover Card
Discover - 1% back on purchase with 5% back on rotating categories.  Read more about it on my post: Make Money With Credit Cards, Part 2: My Favorite Cards

Referral Bonus: Enjoy $50 Cashback Bonus for both if they apply and become cardmembers, and make a purchase in the first 3 months. And it works for up to 10 new cardmembers you refer per year.


Amazon free 2 day shipping Amazon Prime - Amazon Prime not only gives you the free shipping, it is a video and music streaming service as well!  You can read more about it on my post: Amazon Prime: A Great Deal!

Referral Bonus: When they join and make a $5 purchase, we'll give you $5 towards your next Amazon purchase.


Search Engines

bing search
 Bing - This search engine gives you rewards points for using it that you can redeem for prizes like gift cards.  You can read more about it in my post: Bing Rewards.

Referral Bonus: You’ll get 150 credits for each of your friends who join and reach Silver Status in their first 60 days, up to a maximum of 5 friends.


Amazon free 2 day shipping
 Amazon Prime - If you do a lot of shopping online like me, you should look into getting Amazon Prime.  Amazon has basically everything and with Prime you get free 2 day shipping on Amazon sold products.  You can read more about it on my post: Amazon Prime: A Great Deal!

Referral Bonus: When they join and make a $5 purchase, we'll give you $5 towards your next Amazon purchase.

Groupon - Great deals on items, restaurants, things to do, etc.

Referral Bonus: You can earn $10 in Groupon Bucks whenever you refer a friend to Groupon and they buy their first deal.

Living Social

Living Social - Just like Groupon.  Great deals on items, restaurants, things to do, etc.

Referral bonus: When someone signs up for LivingSocial using your personal link, they’ll get 10 Deal Bucks to spend on a purchase of $20 or more. And once they do, you’ll get 10 Deal Bucks too!


 Orbitz - This is my preferred travel search engine.  They offer rewards for using their site and I also have their credit card that I use only for booking vacations through them to make the most of the rewards.

Referral Bonus: When friends join, they'll get a $25 promo code for their first hotel stay.  You'll get $25 in Orbucks once they complete their first hotel stay of $50 or more.

 Airbnb - Another great way to find places to stay when traveling.  I just talked about this in a couple recent posts: Traveling Cheaply, Part 3: Vacation Houses and Top 10 Places to Stay on Airbnb for Under $140.

Referral Bonus: Send a friend $25 Airbnb credit. You'll get $25 when they travel and $75 when they host.


Groupon - Find vacation packages on Groupon Getaways, deals on hotels, and activities to do.

Referral Bonus: You can earn $10 in Groupon Bucks whenever you refer a friend to Groupon and they buy their first deal.

Living Social

Living Social - Just like Groupon.  Find vacation packages on Living Social Escapes, deals on hotels, and activities to do.

Referral bonus: When someone signs up for LivingSocial using your personal link, they’ll get 10 Deal Bucks to spend on a purchase of $20 or more. And once they do, you’ll get 10 Deal Bucks too!

Uber Ridesharing
 Uber - Need a ride but a taxi's too expensive?  Try ridesharing!  Read about it on my recent post: Ridesharing.

Referral Bonus: Every new rider who signs up with your code will get their first ride free, and you'll earn a free ride (up to $20) for spreading the word.

Now if any of you signed up through these links, we both get the bonuses!

Are there any companies that you love that have referral programs?