Category Archives: Save Money

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How to save money on storage

I’m back in apartment living after a nearly 15 year break. Our apartment in Vancouver, WA has little to no storage for all the things in our home in Boise from which we are moving. So, today my goal was to find a place to store things. I went to public storage near our apartment which I’ve been driving by for several weeks. It’s close to our place so I thought why not. I got in and learned a few things I want to share which might benefit you too.

1) Rates vary by location. Each location has different rates despite being under the same company. Shop around.

2) Rates vary by day. Each facility changes its rates daily dependent upon availability and occupancy. By nature, with people moving in and out, this causes lots of changes. My recommendation is to shop around for a few weeks in advance and lock in on a good rate.

3) Rates for a larger unit are sometimes nearly the same price as a smaller unit. A 10×10 was $158 / month. A 10×15 was $212 / month and a 10×20 was $216 per month. So, at that moment on this day and that location the 10×20 was only an incremental 4 dollars.

4) Not all units come with the sign advertised “First month free” or “First month for one dollar” promotion. Again, it’s basically a teaser to get you in the door. More on fixing that later.

5) You WILL save money by booking online. The ‘walk in rates’ are about 10% more than the online rates. It will save you money to go to www.publicstorage.com to ‘reserve’ a spot.

6) Public storage requires you to have insurance to cover your stored belongings. Of course they offer it at a premium for you when you sign up. In our case, we were already paying renters insurance. I made a phone call to confirm our coverage also supported storage units (which it did) and saved an additional $11 / month.

7) They will charge you for a lock, and it’s another 21 dollars. They use a cylinder type oddball lock which I couldn’t find online. My sense is they are forcing you to buy their over-priced proprietary locks to earn extra money. Do you know where to buy one online that works? Tell me and I’ll update this post for the world to benefit.

8) Be open to a larger unit – you might save money. In our case the larger units at the facility we ended up going to were on sale and nearly 50% cheaper than the smaller units. Do your own research online. They publish their prices on their website so you can quickly figure out what to do.

Hope all of that saves you some time and money.

First experience with Uber

I needed a ride back from Vancouver, WA to Portland airport to pick up my car. The taxi fare for this is typically around 30 dollars + tip. I downloaded the uber app and within 10 minutes was picked up by a nice driver in a clean new civic. He dropped me where I needed to go promptly and the total fare was $18.92 or just a little more than half what a taxi would have charged. Of course, I also gave him a tip for his effort. The overall experience was good. The setup of an Uber account was quick and easy, I like that you can watch the driver on his way to pick you up (so you know how long it will be). The cashless system is quick, and easy on everyone. As a bonus it was fun to talk to this guy during the ride and the nearly instant SMS updates on pickup estimate and arrival etc. are wonderful. Overall A+ and I’d do it again next time I need a lift. Unfortunately Portland pickups are currently on hold while Uber works out terms with the local government. They are supposed to resume in April 2015 providing pickup service within Portland, but in my case I needed a WA pickup and a Portland dropoff which was still allowable.

Have you used Uber? Was your experience similar?

Does republic wireless moto g work overseas?

I’m headed to Shanghai China today with my Moto G republic wireless cell phone. I’ve had the phone now for a few months and aside from a few quirks, it’s been a very good experience in the US. Will my moto g work overseas? Well, we’re going to find out this week – in all places, in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.

I’ve read reports of others experiences using their republic wireless phones abroad in Wifi Mode. I switched to the $5/month plan today which allows VoIP calls only. It’s no secret that mainland China internet users are among the most challenged among large countries regarding internet censorship. I think this will be a good test of RW and I’ll provide an update later this week when I am able to try to make a call.

If you’ve been to mainland China with a RW phone, please drop a comment, Id love to hear about your experience.

Update 12/10/2014

Nearly two weeks in China now and have been using my Motorola G cell phone in both Shanghai and Guangzhou cities with Republic Wireless in Wifi mode. Overall, the experience has been very good.
The call quality for wifi calls has been on par with what I experience in the US. Call drop rates are very low. I’ve had a few problems finding wifi when I’m away from the hotel but that’s about it.

The cities have free wifi in many areas, but in China you often have to supply a local phone number to which an access code is sent via SMS which then allows you to use the free wifi (this is the case
in CHinese Starbucks stores). This creates an issue in actually being able to use the local free wifi since I have a US number and the system only works for local Chinese numbers.

In the nice hotels, the rooms all have wifi, and calls are easy to make – it’s not different than if you were in the US.

One thing I wonder about is the security of the phone – not just in China, but anywhere. I’m not sure if the VoIP connection is hardened via SSL or some other mechanism, so this could possibly
be a security issue for some people but I’m not overly concerned about it.

Bottom line, Republic Wireless Wifi calls work in China.

The Republic Wireless experience

Republic wireless is a company that offers discounted mobile phone service at very reasonable pricing. I’ve never been a heavy cell phone user, and was tired of paying so much for phone service. I had been monitoring the republic wireless offer for more than a year and finally decided when it was time to buy a new phone, I’d give them a try. That was 6 months ago.

After 6 months of service, I continue to be very happy overall with the plan and phone. I have the Moto G phone – which I opted to get in the 16GB variant since it doesn’t have a micro SD slot or other expandable storage option.

Wifi to cell switching – seamless, neither I or the caller detect any issue or delay. I have learned to tell when it’s happening as there becomes a brief (1 second) period on my end where the call is garbled but still understandable as the switch occurs. It’s something that doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s imperceptable to the person on the other end and doesn’t bother me at all, especially when considering how little the service costs.

Wifi call quality – outstanding, no issues at home or work. I do have very good high speed internet access. There have been a few minor problems I haven’t figured out yet with Wifi calling. One is that occassionally I’ll see a wifi incoming call ever so briefly (e.g. 1 ring) then before I can answer it goes to ‘missed call’.

Cell call quality – Outstanding in Boise where we live. Better than expected actually. My understanding is that republic wireless uses the sprint network which in the past hasn’t been considered the best service, however it’s been better than my experience on T-Mobile and Verizon in the Boise area. I get good coverage in Eagle, Boise, and all along Highway 55. I can’t speak to the cell coverage yet in Cascade or McCall.

Moto G 16GB – solid entry level Android phone. Minimal complaints here. I have experienced on one or two occassions the mystery battery drops from > 50% charged to zero suddenly. A few hours on the charger and a reboot seemed to remedy this problem for me. I haven’t had it happen again in the past 3 months. The camera is mediocre, but does an okay job. Audio quality on the phone is excellent for calls, and volume is very good. Speaker phone on the Moto G isn’t very good according to the people on the other end. Phone size and weight are perfect for me. Comes with pretty recent version of Android. I’m afraid to root the phone since it has the proprietary republic wireless image on it so I have had to bury the android stock crapware in a folder rather than purge it from the phone as I’ve done in the past.

Here is a link to save you $20 if you decide to sign up for republic wireless: Republic Wireless Website

Free tool to optimize wood cuts

This is pretty cool, and it’s free. Nothing to install either.

http://www.optimalon.com/PanelCutOptimizer.aspx

Cutting ellipse with router: <a href=”http://www.thisiscarpentry.com/2012/03/30/the-elegant-ellipse/”>click here</a>

Bookcase instructions: <a href=”http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/how-to/step/0,,20186212_20429376,00.html”>here</a>

Should I buy a new laptop

QUESTION: We have 3 older laptops, one not that old, but they all run super slow and I’d just like to turn them into internet stations.  What defrag, cleanup, speed up, type tasks can you recommend?

ANSWER:

First – the industry unwritten rule for laptop design life is about 3 years.  However, usually, the only two things that go wrong with a 3+ year old laptop are 1) Battery life 2) Hard drive failure.  The later being a bigger problem…my father just lost his hard drive but it was on a 6 year old laptop….it happens and when it does you will wish you had backed up your data.
That said, if your computers are 2-4 years old and you just want to use them for simple things like email/web browsing etc. they should be just fine from a hardware standpoint.
The sure fire way (and what I tend to do) is to avoid all the headaches of trying to ‘clean up’ an old computer and simply reinstall Windows fresh.  It takes about an hour, and is easier than you think, especially for name brand laptops like HP with well supported hardware.  Of course, you will need a copy of Windows 7 to do that.
PS – Internet Explorer is probably one of the worst (and slowest) browsers to use.  You should just download Chrome – free, fast, and super good.  It’s what I use…always.
Buying a new laptop is a function of Apple vs. Windows and if Windows, then 300-500 vs. 500-1000 vs. 1000+ price points.  Apple hardware isn’t any better than most 500-1000 PC’s from HP.  You can buy less expensive PC’s from other companies like Lenovo (China), or Samsung (Korea) which may work just fine for you too, but usually have lower quality components.  It boils down to you usually get what you pay for.  For ‘everyday use’ like email, browsing, photos and movies, a 400-500 new HP laptop is going to be all you need for another 3-4 years.
Final note: I would suggest buying a laptop with Windows 7.  Windows 8 is coming out soon and the general views are somewhat sketchy.  Historically Microsoft has a good release followed by a disaster followed by a good release and so on.
Windows 97 and Windows ME -> BAD
Windows XP -> GOOD
Windows Vista -> BAD
Windows 7 -> GOOD
Windows 8 ->  ???  I’d place my money on BAD.
This is an updated version of the last laptop I bought for everyday use.  It’s solid and priced about 550 USD.