Did you ever notice that some people are what I call “Killer Consumers?” Or, when I’m feeling saucy, I call them “kick-ass consumers.” These are people who make sure they get a fair shake from corporate America and find creative ways to snag deals and save money. Today I want to feature one of these “Killer Consumers,” a guy I’m lucky enough to have as a reader and listener. Please welcome Carl Scheider of Minnesota to Easy Money for today’s Save More segment. Hi Carl!
Carl, you first wrote to me after reading one of my Washington Post columns and you have lots of creative ways of saving money, which we’ll get to in a moment. But first, do you consciously try to be a savvy consumer or does it just come naturally?
I am just cheap, and I enjoy it. My parents grew up during the depression – a bit of that rubbed off on me. If I can figure out a better way, I’ll do it.
OK, let’s get into some of your favorite savings tips. First, tell us about PlayOn.TV. What is it and how does it save you money?
I like PlayOn.tv. It’s a software tool that runs on your PC, connects to the Internet and organizes all of the video out there into channels, with a graphical interface. You bring up the APP on your desktop, and identify stations and shows that you want to record. You choose the website or channel, check out the videos there, and you can either watch them, or record them for later.
It’s like a super DVR in your PC that can record almost anything on the Internet.
There is a ton of TV on the Internet – free. And some with modest fees.
PlayOn cost: $5 / month, $24 / year, or $70 lifetime – was my choice.
PlayOn APP then runs in a TV connected gadget – like a Roku – my favorite – or a FireTV, or a ChromeCast, Xbox, etc. A Roku runs from $30 to $100. You use it to play anything from your collection of recorded shows, or live streaming where that is supported.
PlayOn APP also runs in your phone or iPad or other tablet. Let’s you interact with it – watch shows, record shows, cast to your TV – whatever.
Even some premium channels have free TV on the WWW, like comedy central.
I do pay for Netflix – lots of movies, and I can record them with PlayOn before they go away. I probably have 20 that we have not watched yet.
Also pay for CBS access – for TWO shows – StarTrek Discovery The Good Fight. My wife loves CBS shows! Enough said. With this thing, when we record them, we can watch network shows without commercials. It lets us skip them.
It lets you set a recording schedule, just like a DVR. I tell it I want every NEW show – and they are there. When we are away, it just records them all.
All of your media organized – and can stream to your TV.
They have a new version that just runs as an APP in your phone or tablet – no PC required. The recordings you make there are stored on the WWW and you can get them from anywhere. It costs like $1 a recording, but you can also buy in bulk, or by the month.
Now let’s talk about ditching your home phone. Many people, including me, still pay big bucks every month for one. Some people just rely on their cell phones these days, but you say there’s another solution. What is it?
I use Google Voice – VOIP. It’s what all telephones should be. A free service. You need to open an account for long distance usage, but nothing else. Can use it in a browser on the WWW with your cell phone. You have a number that will call ALL of your phones, and switch to the one that picks up. If no one picks up, it takes a message, sends you a text of the message and a recording.
Free US and Canada, modest fees rest of the world. It also lets you block numbers, who get a message that this phone is disconnected. Very cool.
For home phone, I use Google voice with OBI2—obitalk – obihai adaptor. It connects between your modem and your internal telephone line. All of your home phones will work with it.
I use line #2 – 2 wire plug adaptor at HD for about $1 each.
Modem out to adaptor, telephone line out to wall plug 2nd line. All house phones on 2nd line with an adaptor. Simple. Normally line 2 is NOT connected at the outside – easy to check. The outside access is rarely secured.
OBIHAI adaptor buy at Amazon – look it up $47.
It is basically FREE phone service. Switched my Internet to pure DSL – fixed fee, and without all of the normal taxes and overhead for phones. One caveat – no 911. BUT for a modest fee you can purchase an annual service from Obitalk that lets you dial 911 and will connect you. Or – use your cell phone. Register it with local police.
Continuing on the high tech theme, tell me your favorite type of tablet and how you can make it even better.
Fire Devices. BEST tablets around.– watch for a sale. CamelCamelCamel will monitor Amazon prices for you.
Fire 7 $50 Fire 8 $80 Fir 10 $150 – got mine for $100. Add a case and keyboard – laptop for $130.
Look for “how to sideload apps on your Fire”.
Installs google store and can run almost all google apps.
Use the 7 for books and tapes – Bluetooth to car. And podcasts.
Use the 10 to read the paper and magazines, emails.
Here’s another one. Most of us, when an indicator light goes off on our dash board, we think we have to make an expensive mechanic appointment to find out what’s wrong with our car. You have another solution. What is it?
Mechanics normally charge $20 just to read code and tell you what’s wrong.
Every car has a port on the driver side, under the dashboard. Buy a little gadget to plug in there that will talk to an APP on your phone or tablet.
I use OBDII at amazon.com BlueTooth connect to Android APP. $23. But there are many there now.
It reads the codes, looks them up on the WWW, lets you reset them if you want. I have a persistent one for my catalytic converter on a 2015 vehicle. It comes and goes, so nothing really wrong. But I can reset it if I need to. If any other code shows up, I can see what it really is and decide whether to take it to the shop. I trust my car repair absolutely – but it doesn’t hurt to save the $20.
What about cable and internet service. Have any solutions to save money there?
I can’t believe what people pay for television these days. And internet. Negotiate them down – you can do it. I used to call our local internet provider once a year to get a cheaper rate. They would then bump it back up at the end of the year. All you need to do is to threaten to go to the competition. They finally got smart. They now offer a price for life that is just $5 a month more than the lowest one I used to get. So . . . I no longer need to call. And since there is no phone connected with it, there are no added taxes either.
Carl, now you’re shopping around for a new home alarm system. Take us through your thought process when you research a purchase like this. I want people to know how a “killer consumer” thinks!
Alarm System – Fortress S1 Stealth Security System – not yet on Amazon. Brand new.
Fortress sells a bunch of different systems – go with the STEALTH one. New. The older ones have been having quality manufacturing problems. This one is new – should be ok for a while. They are all made in china by different companies – the brand and support is US. Normally I read the Amazon review – the bet ones and the worst ones. This one doesn’t have any yet! I will write one.
Used to have a cheapie from Radio Shack – X10 based. $100, plus components.
That interface was via commands on the console, and a call via phone. Worked but painful.
A Police story: our local police chief said: Get the loudest one you can. Get an external siren for it.
If it goes off, the perps will be long gone by the time it calls you or a service, or the police – and that is your goal. So my alarm calls me and my wife – anywhere in the world. We have Google Voice! Can also do temperature sensor, water sensor, main doors, motion detectors, glass detector. The interface on my old one was crummy – enter things on the alarm itself with a tiny screen. Can also call it, but then you are keying number codes in to get it to arm, disarm, or tell you what happened. I set it up so that it goes off if they even open a storm door – before they get to kicking in the door – which has happened!
Research – this one best: Has a smart phone interface, calls on landline (or VOIP), or on a cell phone SIM if land line not active. You can get a SIM for $10 for really basic calling and text – that will last for years. It only calls when there is an alert. Has battery backup if the power is out, or crooks cut the power and telephone line. Wireless, connects over the wifi from your phone. I want one with a remote as well – when you have a 30 second delay after you open the door to kill the alarm – that’s a lot of time.
AND a good price. $130 – $250. I got the big one because it’s cheaper for the external siren, the 3 motion detectors I need, and the 8 contacts – I have 7 doors and one temperature alarm.
Not yet at Amazon – get it from Fortress. Generally have a sale! Get a package.
Wifi local and remote access, arm, disarm, inquire as to zone.
Cameras also supported. I run my cameras separately. If I have time, I can bring them up in a separate APP and see what’s going on. They can also take pictures if need be. Also have a gadget that lets me turn lights off and one – Insteon – kind of a smart home, but not quite there yet.
Carl, these are all technological innovations you’ve found. Makes me wonder: What’s your profession? And did it help you find these creative savings solutions? Or is it unrelated?
I was CTO for a software company in my last job – been retired for 16 years! I set the strategic direction for our software and products and services. Visited with customers and conferences to give us a presence there. I was the interface to IBM and Microsoft and other vendors. Always enjoyed meddling with the latest and greatest. Bought the first PALM – first handheld gadget – before the iPhone. I even bought their stock – not a great idea!
Save money and get ride of your home phone: support.google.com/voice/answer/7207482?co=GENIE.Platform%3DAndroid&hl=en
Connect your modem and your internal telephone line with a OBIHAI adaptor: www.walmart.com/ip/OBIHAI-UNIVERSAL-VOIP-ADAPTER-SUPPORTS-4-SIP-SERVICES-OBITALK/29861174?wmlspartner=wlpa&selectedSellerId=0&adid=22222222227020075523&wl0=&wl1=g&wl2=c&wl3=40300193672&wl4=pla-78266875712&wl5=9019562&wl6=&wl7=&wl8=&wl9=pla&wl10=8175035&wl11=online&wl12=29861174&wl13=&veh=sem
Keep up with the latest sales: camelcamelcamel.com/
Have a Fire? Learn how to side load: www.laptopmag.com/articles/fire-tablet-sideload-apps
Buy a gadget to plug in your tablet via Bluetooth that will read codes and even reset: www.amazon.com/BAFX-Products-Bluetooth-Diagnostic-Scanner/dp/B005NLQAHS/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1536617697&sr=8-8&keywords=auto+code+reader+scanner+diagnostic+scan+tool