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Showing posts from November, 2016

Tracking Spending - and a Strategy

I don't like spending good money on stupid crap.  And so I have a new strategy that I've developed to help me keep it in control:

Basically, I keep track of my monthly recurring expenses across a ton of categories, such as:
Cable TVInternetInsuranceElectricityNetflixMortgageetc.  If prices go up, I make a note of it.  If prices go down, I make a note of it too.  My goals?
Financially respond to every price increaseReduce at least one recurring cost every month So earlier this month, I knocked down my cell phone costs from $70 to $40 a month (win!).  I also eliminated my iTunes Music subscription, which I didn't use much, from $15 a month to $0.  Another win!

Earlier this year, I changed from my old employers healthcare plan (a "COBRA" plan) to a healthcare market place plan, saving me $260 a month (!).  And some people complain about Obamacare.

I also updated my auto/property insurance, which increased by $14 a month, but which gives me about 5x the coverage.


My Ugly, Old MacBook

I have an ugly MacBook.  I like it.

I bought my current MacBook for a mere $40, cleaned it up, and then upgraded its RAM and stuck in a 1 TB SSD drive.

But it's still ugly.

The prior owner sold it to me as broken.  He was a heavy smoker of something, and the machine was a disgusting disgrace.  It had scrapes and stickers on the back of the display and on the case.  Everything was covered in a thick grime. And the keyboard smelled bad.

The only things to repair was the magsafe connector and the battery, and while doing that I cleaned out a lot of the disgusting. The tough sticker adhesive, burn marks, and scrapes are still there, but I put a cheesy case on it to cover up most of that. And it has a dead (always red) pixel in the middle of the display.

But it's a good computer. It is reliable, and it's reasonably fast. The whole working setup cost me about $300, but that includes the 1 TB SSD which was more than half of that cost.

Why dump it? A new, non-upgradable low-end Ma…

New Car versus Old Car

As I said before, I'm a car guy.  I love cars.  They are awesome fun, and many are beautiful works of art and engineering.

My car is beautiful.  My car is reliable, and it costs very little to own it.  I'm going to keep it that way.

Many years ago I bought a new car.  I put 168,244 miles on it, and then I sold it to a friend.  Then I bought a used car.  I kept it for four years.  Then I bought another used car.  I still have that one, 17 years later.  And I have no plans to replace it.

Some day my old car may suffer a catastrophic failure, or get wrecked.  It may get to the point where repair is an economic impossibility.  Then I'll replace it.  Until then, it's my car.  And I'm keeping it.

Yes, I do have to have my car maintained, and that costs real money.  Hoses, belts, brakes, tires, alternators, water pumps, and so-on can cost $1000 a year.  But the fact is that $1000 a year is a hell of a lot less money than the cost of a $30,000+ car.

Furthermore, I'd li…

The Smartphone Industry Isn't Green.

Google and Apple.  They're doing us wrong.  They don't build things to last.

Let me take that back.  They -do- build things to last.  But they withdraw security patching from their products way too early, making older devices a literal danger to use.

I love my iPhone 4.  But it is stuck at iOS 7, and who knows if it has dangerous vulnerabilities.  It is unclear if Apple is watching over iOS7, and it is a safe bet that Apple will never release a security patch for their older devices even if dangerous vulnerabilities are known to exist.

Don't get me wrong: I think Apple is right to leave the iPhone 4 at iOS 7.  After all, the iPhone 4 was designed and developed long ago.  Technology has moved forward, and no one in their right mind can expect an old device to run the latest and greatest operating system.

But I'm not talking about that.  I'm talking about security patches for over a million useful, active devices that are "stuck" at iOS7.  The security of a…

Lance J., the Anti-Sales Guy

I now see all these friends and family who get entrapped in a salesperson's bullshit.  I'm tired of it.

I'm fine with people selling products.  I'm fine with people over-paying for a product because that product is great, convenient, or well-supported.

Unfortunately, the majority of corporations ask their salespeople to sell product using lies, distortion, and manipulation.  It's bullshit, it's wrong, and I'm gonna stop it.

I hear it all the time:
Auto Repair Industry:  Your brakes are down to 2 mm, so driving could be dangerous.  We can't be responsible. (Using Fear)Mobile Telephone Industry: You should get a bigger mobile data plan because you use more than simple email. (Using Fake Advice)Cable TV Industry: If you sign up for Cable TV, Internet, and Telephone, your monthly bill will actually be a little lower than if you just signed up for two of them. (Using a Fake Bargain)Electronics Retailer: The $30 gold plated HDMI cable will give you a better p…

Our New Lighting Strategy Saves Us 70% on Electricity Costs

I'm responsible for managing the energy use at my condominium complex. 

My mission is to always minimize our energy costs to in order to help keep our association fees low.   By strategically using LED lighting, we have been able to reduce our lighting costs by 70%.


We have a bunch of common area lighting that, for safety reasons, needs to be on 24 hours a day.

However, our lighting doesn't have to be super-bright.  It needs to be strong enough so that people can safely use the common areas, and safely enter and exit the building.

Over the past decade we have used 14 watt CFLs in all of our fixtures.   With a 25,000 hour service life, each CFL bulb lasted about 3 years (there are about 8750 hours in a year).    Some CFLs died sooner, and some lasted much longer, but given that the bulbs are lit 24 hours a day, they don't see the stress of being switched on and off.

But even with CFLs, we were still spending about $3000 a year on electric power (or $250 a month).  S…

Leaving Sprint for Huge Cost Savings

So my friend is under a Sprint contract, and it's killing him.  He pays $145 a month for service for two lines, and he has 8 months left on his contract.  That is $1745 a year!

He came to me because he wanted to upgrade his phones - he has two iPhone 5c's with 8 GB of storage - not enough - and so he was thinking of signing up with Sprint for another two years to get "new phones".  Stop!  Stop the contracts!  $1745 a year is a LOT OF MONEY.

So we have THREE problems:
He is under contract for 8 more months, at $145 a month.He has two phones that are too limiting for his day-to-day useHe has two phones that are locked to the Sprint network We have FOUR goals:
Reduce money being sucked out the doorGet phones that are not so limitingGet phones that are not locked exclusively to SprintGet out of any "contracts"Stage 1: New phones!

So our first step is to get new phones - phones that will work with Sprint or any other carrier.

Well, not NEW phones, but good and af…

Buzzing Mac is actually my Mighty Mouse

My Mac started to make this crazy buzzing sound, and it was bothering me for several days.  At first I thought it was the hard disk drive failing.  Then I thought it might have been the internal fan getting worn out.

Then I realized it was my Apple Mighty Mouse.  It was buzzing.  Making a racket.

Imagining how a mouse would buzz, I first thought it might be an internal electronic component about to fail.  But then I learned that the Mighty Mouse has a tiny a little speaker which makes a "click click click" sound as you rotate its tiny trackball.

That little internal speaker is now clicking all the time, dozens of times per second.  And the left/right trackball movement seems non-functional.  Ug, its REALLY ANNOYING.  The mouse is about 6 years old, so it could be an internal failure related to age, or it might have gotten a little, um, wet.

I'll open it up soon to see if there is anything I can do.  If not, maybe I'll just cut out the speaker circuit.  Alternatively,…

My MetroPCS Experience and Review

I decided to try out MetroPCS.  I have been paying AT&T about $70 a month since the advent of the iPhone 3G.   Competitors offer less expensive plans.   Now is the time for me to look for alternatives.

My approach for selecting a new carrier is to (1) Figure out what level of service I need, (2) Figure out what quality and features I will be happy with, and (3) locating the low cost provider given that.

Any plan I sign up for should closely consider my usage.  I went to my AT&T account on-line and looked at the use of my AT&T plan over the past 18 months, and was able to determine my usage pattern.  With this information, I can find the most affordable plan for me.

Voice Max of 300 minutes per month Texts Max of 50 texts per month (thanks to iMessage!) Data Max of 5.5 GB per month (outlier) Data Max of 2.5 GB per month (typical)  table 1: my usage pattern

What I want out of a mobile phone service

Everyone has different interests when it comes to service quality and features. 

In t…