Archive for October, 2013

PostHeaderIcon JBL Pulse Wireless Speaker Features Programmable LED Light Show

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JBL Pulse is a new wireless Bluetooth speaker from Harman that features a programmable LED light show. It costs $199.


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PostHeaderIcon Field Trip to the Pumpkin Patch: Life Lessons Abound

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So I just got back from going on a field trip with my daughter’s 1st grade class. Seeing that we are only a week away from Halloween, it was the obvious pumpkin patch trek.

About fifty 1st graders and maybe a dozen adults walking around a field looking for the perfect orange squash to take home and carve up. Kids left and right passing up the most absolutely perfect pumpkin in hopes of maybe finding something even better deeper in the patch.

It is amazing the life lessons that can be learned when walking around a huge field with fifty 6 year-old kids looking at pumpkins.


“Only Take a Pumpkin That You Can Carry!”

Once we de-boarded the tractor led hay ride it was time to look for pumpkins. The three teachers immediately hollered to the kids, “Only take a pumpkin that you can carry!” I just stood back and grinned as about ten kids immediately ran to the biggest pumpkin they could find and strained to pick them up. I was near one of the red-faced boys and said, “Hey, don’t get a hernia now. Let’s go find a good sized one you can carry.”

It left me thinking about the need of many Americans to have the “biggest and best” at whatever financial cost. Always working to be able to afford the next best pumpkin, maybe even one that you can hook to wifi. Instead, why not buy a “pumpkin” you can carry without any major strain on your back or wallet.

STOP comparing pumpkins! Be happy with the pumpkin you can carry. When your neighbors head hits the pillow at night they aren’t thinking about the expensive pumpkin parked in your garage. Rather they are thinking about their own financial issues and debt problems.

“If It’s Bigger Than Your Head, It Ain’t your Pumpkin”

This was also said by a couple of the teachers and it created some amusement as a few of the kids immediately wished they had heads so big they’d make Andre the Giant blush.

I think this quote should be used as a frugal living mantra from here on out. Sure, you might have to swap out a few of the words, but so what. Here are a few of the thoughts going through my mind as I was helping kids hold up pumpkins to their noggin to test out this plan.

  • “If the mortgage payment is more than 30% your monthly income, it ain’t your house.”
  • “If you can only make the minimum payment on your credit card, it ain’t your 55″ Samsung Smart TV.”
  • “If you already have 10 pairs of jeans at home, it ain’t your pair of Lucky Jeans.”
  • “If the cable bill costs more than your grandfather’s first car, it ain’t your cable package.”
  • “If your Mr. Coffee is gathering dust at home, it ain’t your $5 Double Venti Mocha with a pinch of nutmeg.”

Kinda fun, huh? Feel free to add yours in the comments section.

Being Picky Is Good

A few of the kids simply couldn’t find the “perfect” pumpkin and I was totally willing to work with them until they did. After all, how often does a first grader get complete control over a situation and decision? From day one they are told what they can and can’t do.

Even if they were to be held accountable to the first two rules, I was going to let the final decision on which pumpkin to pick be theirs and theirs alone. So we wandered and wandered, finding something wrong with almost every pumpkin we examined. But guess what? Each kid finally got a pumpkin they were proud of.

As I loaded the pumpkins up for delivery back to the school, I couldn’t help but think of the times I rushed a buying decision because someone was waiting for me, or better yet, I felt I had to “Buy Now!” because the price was so great and I’d never see it again. Total crap. Always better to be picky.

Believe me, as someone who finds coupons and deals for a living, there is never a coupon so good that you must buy now. A 40% off coupon with free shipping is only a good deal if you were going to make the purchase anyways. If you are not in financial situation to buy something, then don’t! Just like the “perfect” pumpkin, a 40% coupon will be back soon enough. This is especially true of the upcoming ‘Black Friday’ madness. Unless you are willing to stand in line for 40 hours to get a 55″ TV for $200, stay home in bed and enjoy the day with your family.

Sometimes Money Doesn’t Matter

My daughter had been excited about the prospect of me coming on this field trip for the past week. Last night she carefully made her lunch, sure to pack extra for me, and set out her clothes for the big day. Then, being the little fashionista that she is, said “Dad, what are you wearing to the pumpkin patch?” I said, “Why?” She then said, “Oh, well, I want to make sure we match.”  LOL.

Was missing work inconvenient? Absolutely. Did I make a little less money today? Probably. But the memory of her holding my hand as we boarded the hay ride and having her tell me where she wanted me to sit, not only made it all worth it, but made the idea of money seem pretty darn insignificant. No “perfect pumpkin” can ever beat our perfect day together.

Ask the Reader: Have you ever rushed a big financial decision only to have the pumpkin turn out to be rotten in the middle? Or have you ever taken home a pumpkin bigger than your head?

By Kyle James


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PostHeaderIcon Frugal Hack #14: How to Find Free (and Almost Free) eBooks

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When I bought my wife a Kindle Fire from Amazon a year ago the whole family was excited about it. My wife was excited about reading books on it and having instant access to any title she dreamed, and the kids and I were excited about playing Angry Birds on such a big screen!

But I gotta say we had some pretty serious sticker shock when we started seeing the costs of many eBooks. They seemed to be the same exact price as if I got in the car and drive down to our local Barnes & Noble. No buena!

So it was at this point that I started researching how to find good deals on eBooks for my wife and I, as well as our three kids. The cool websites and services that I found will help with new and old eBooks on all tablets/readers, not just the Kindle. What I found will amaze you… (insert scary music)


Open Library
Open is a really cool website that allows you to not only download over 1 million free eBooks but also borrow them like you would at your local library. For what it is worth, most of the free titles are classic literature. But the lending library is what makes this site so incredibly cool. You can borrow up to 5 eBook titles at a time for 2 weeks each and some of the authors that caught my eye include Nora Roberts (one of my wife’s favorites), C.S. Lewis, John Grisham, Tom Clancy, and Danielle Steele. Also, it is worth noting that the available file formats for the lending library are Web, ePub, PDF, and the ever popular Send to Kindle feature.

Kindle Daily Deals

Kindle has a really cool page called Kindle Daily Deals which lists nothing but HUGE discounts on Kindle eBooks for kids and adults. They update the page every morning with new books and the savings is pretty stellar. Most of the titles go for $1.99 and rarely do they go over $2.99. They categorize the page nicely by genre which makes it easy to search for what you’re looking for. If you have a child that is a voracious reader you should definitely check out Kindle Daily Deals as they have a huge selection of children’s books. I speak from experience on this one, it has saved us a ton of money.

Similarly, if you have the Barnes & Noble inspired Nook you should check out the NOOK Daily Find page.

Kindle was first introduced to me by my buddy Carolyn at Wonder of Tech when she did a great review of the service. Essentially BookBub finds you free or highly discounted eBooks for all readers and tablets including Kindle, Nook, iPads, Android devices, and Sony Reader. It is completely free and only requires you to register with your email address and pre-select your areas of interest and they will email you when they find great deals you should know about.

You can also browse the available eBooks directly on their website. I was blown away with the number of completely free titles available for instant download and the majority of the other eBooks are priced at a very reasonable 99 cents. So you might be asking yourself, “Free or almost free, are the authors complete unknowns?” Amazingly, no. They only “feature books that are bestsellers or written by a bestselling author, were published by a top-tier publisher, or have received strong reviews from critics and readers.” Definitely worth a look.

Amazon’s FREE Kindle eBooks Page

Going back to the Kindle for a moment, did you know that Amazon also has a page that lists Nothing but FREE eBooks? Cha-ching, neither did I. You’re obviously not going to find brand new releases but you’ll definitely be able to discover new authors and catch up on some of the older titles from your favorite authors. The best thing about this page are the children’s eBooks as they have a slew of free ones. Having 3 kids in grade school who are asked to do a lot of reading, we are always downloading free eBooks for them. It is a great way to figure out what types of books they like without having to buy them first.

Kindle is another excellent source for both free public domain eBooks as well as discounted new release titles. I was most impressed with their section called ‘Best Selling eBooks Below $0′ – not sure if that means they’ll pay you to download them or what, but I like it nonetheless!  Many of these free titles are the first 5 chapters of new release books, which is kinda cool, as it will give you a good idea if you like the book enough to pay to download the entire version.

Kindle Owners’ Lending Library

Open Library
For those of you with an Prime membership, or on the fence about getting one, lets break down the Kindle Lending Library which is included in the membership. It’s a pretty slick deal that allows you to borrow over 350,000 titles for free with no due dates or late fees. They also claim to stock “100 current and former New York Times best sellers and all 7 Harry Potter books.” Dang, the 7 Potter eBooks alone would practically pay for the $79/year Prime membership. The biggest perk of the membership is the unlimited free 2-day shipping but the lending library is a nice bonus and could sway your decision.

Ask the Reader: Have you used any of these services? If not, how do you score deals on eBooks? Or maybe you haven’t made the move to eBooks yet?

By Kyle James


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