Monday, August 17, 2009

My Favorite Deal Sites

An integral part of my frugal nature is to buy things I want on when they are on sale. I rarely pay full price on my wish list. This does two things for me. One - it ultimately leaves items on my list for quite some time. This forces me to really consider whether I really want the item, or if I just wanted it in passing one day and can really do without. Two - I end up spending less than I anticipated which allows me the freedom to buy more things on the wish list than the original budgeted amount would have allowed. This system has worked for me on numerous occasions. I am happy with the purchases that I do make and get to make more of them than I usually anticipate.

How do I do it? I browse around deal sites and keep a section of my bookmarks reserved for "Deals".

Almost daily I stop by Woot! and see what they are offering as their daily deal. The real draw for me to their site is more my daily dose of humor than for shopping for a new gadget or thing. Woot! always provides an interesting product description that can leave you smiling for hours. They run their site on the impulse buy because their deals are only up for one day. Through their continued success they have expanded into five different venues. Shirts, Kids, Wine, and a portal at Yahoo! Shopping.
In the few years I have been stopping by - I have only purchased something that happened to be on my wish list. And this has only happened three or four times. It doesn't help your frugal nature to visit if you succumb to the impulse buy temptation. I once purchased some USB hubs and they mostly gathered dust. :(

Another daily visit goes to SlickDeals. This site is forum based with user submitted material. Once a thread becomes more active it can get promoted and if the deal is 'Hot' enough it can land on the front page for all to partake. This site is a great resource for finding decent deals on all types of products from all types of stores - both brick and mortar and online versions. It can also serve as a great place to find out what you should expect to be paying for a future purchase, finding freebies like magazine subscriptions, software free after rebate, etc.

I recently picked up a cordless drill and impact drill from Home Depot because I was alerted to a special deal and rebate combination that I would not have found by browsing the store in person or online.
The greatest benefit I derive from Slickdeals after finding a deal I like is to follow the commenters. They often have extra information and tips that has proved invaluable for me.

What if you know what you want to buy and are ready to purchase? RetailMeNot is the place to visit right before you place your order. You can check for coupon codes for 10% off or free shipping codes. This has saved me a bunch of money on several occassions.

Other avenues for saving while shopping?
Microsoft is heavily promoting Bing through their generous cashback program.
Newegg is a great place to find your electronics and computer anything for great prices. Combined with Bing or Slickdeals and you will find yourself very happy indeed. is another site like Slickdeals except each find is an individual entry and always includes a photo.
BeatMyPrice is a wonderful resource for finding the lowest price on your item.
Amazon also has joined in on the daily deals fun, too, with their gold box deals.

The thing to remember about daily deal sites is that if that item wasn't already on your wish list - you shouldn't buy it. Sales and profits are often about that unintended purchase. Just think about how many extra items you bought the last time you went to the grocery store to just pick up some eggs and milk. You came home with two more bags of stuff, right? So remember to use these links as a resource. Otherwise, you may find that you are a valuable resource to those companies who keep offering you unbelievable deals.

What are your favorite deal sites? Where have you saved the most money? Where have you fallen victim and spent more than you should? :)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I do not watch television.

I do not watch very much television. This is partly by choice and partly by circumstance. Around the time I turned 13 my parents had to put on a new roof on their house. Rather than go with another round of asphalt shingles, they chose to go with a metal roof. My parents decided to hang the TV antenna in the attic rather than punch more holes than were needed into the new roof.

I vividly recall the human radio chain we formed as my Dad made slight adjustments in the hot attic and waited to hear back from us kids watching the signal flicker in and out on the basement TV and then relaying new requests. "Oh, almost! Move it back a little! No, the other way!" In the end, out of frustration or cleverness on my Dad's part, the signal was lost and never to be retrieved. Thus ended our TV watching days.

We still watched movies from time to time, but more and more we turned to books, outside play, or my favorite - our new 386 computer. My parents have been ever grateful that my Dad was unable to restore the TV signal. They credit our good grades in school to the lack of TV in our home. I can't help but agree that he is right.

Nevertheless, a funny thing happened when I went away to college. I was living on campus with 5 other roommates in tiny apartment. In the living/dining room was a TV and I found it necessary to limit my time in that room or find myself sucked into whatever happened to be on. I discovered this as a problem when I would visit friends and find my attention drawn to the TV rather than the activity at hand. Where everyone else had seen so much they didn't think to much of it. I had not seen it in so many years I was fascinated with all the new shows that I had only heard my friends talking about on occasion.

In the end, I had to decide for myself what TV in my life would mean to me. College provided near a hundred channels on cable. When we had TV at home we only received five or six free over the air stations. Ultimately, I decided that I really enjoyed the time away from the tube and didn't feel like I was really missing out on life by choosing not to watch everything on TV.

With my detached relationship of TV I missed the whole phenomenon behind all the hit series, like "Lost" or "American Idol" or whatever. I also found TV series that followed a story to be very limiting to my freedom. I would not allow my happiness be tied to a weekly appointment at 7PM.

And then came along

Suddenly, my views of television were undergoing a paradigm shift. Instead of being tied to a weeknight appointment I found the liberty offered by viewing on my own schedule. Slowly, through, TV regained a lost viewer.

What do I watch nowadays? I am still pretty limited in the amount of time and content, but I have settled in on just three series that I follow regularly. From the USA network - Burn Notice; Fox - House; and NBC - Life.

In another post I'll explore more about why I chose these shows.

What shows/series do you like and how has online television changed your viewing habits?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Drain Your Water Heater

How important is the advice to drain your water heater once a year? Apparently it is really good advice to follow. I learned this just last weekend when I had to repair my nearly new water heater.

The problem was actually identified while some local technicians were servicing my gas furnace. Nearly the entire time they were working my gas water heater was on. Finally, the technician suggested that there may be a problem if it was regularly heating for such a long duration, especially when we hadn't just taken a shower or some other activity to use up an entire 50 gallons worth of water. Suddenly, I noticed that a fitting on my water softener began to leak and that the cold water feed line into the water heater was hot to the touch. The technician was worried I had the temperature setting too high, but this was not the case. The water heater was simply not shutting off properly. My water heater was not even three years old so I placed a call in to the manufacturer, Whirlpool, for help. They immediately sent me a new gas control valve. This part also includes the thermostat to determine when to begin heating and when to shut off.

The directions instructed me to shut off the gas, drain the tank, and disconnect everything. My first clue that something was wrong should have been apparent when the tank took more than two hours to drain. When draining a tank you not only need to shut off the cold water feed lines and open the drain, but also open a hot water faucet to release the water in the lines and the pressure on the tank. The reason for draining the tank is because the gas control valve, as mentioned before includes a sensor for the thermostat that inserts into the tank. When I pulled out my gas control valve water suddenly came gushing out as well. I hurried and stuck my thumb in the hole to stop the flow and cried for help. My wife brought down buckets and towels and we began draining the rest of the water in the tank. We were surprised to see that the water coming out was chunky and gooey. The water heater had failed to drain because the drain was clogged from the hard water deposits that had collected and settled in the tank. I was forced to unscrew the drain faucet in order to drain the tank fully.

I could see inside the tank that the bottom was still covered even after draining the tank of the water and white gelled mineral goo. I believe it was calcium? We opened the cold water line in short bursts to help flush out all of the chunks and rinse out the tank.

A few things we did to improvise along the way. The drain inlet was flush to the outside of the wall of the tank and would dribble water down the sides of the tank and made it difficult to catch the water in a bucket. The first improve was to cut the bottom out of a yoghurt container and slit it down the side so that I could roll it around the opening and provide a little clearance for the bucket to fit underneath. After an hour or more of draining and rinsing into a bucket I finally decided that another innovation was needed because I was getting tired of kneeling. Finally, we realized that our vacuum hose would fit around the opening and reach our drain. This was just what we needed to keep draining as we flushed out more chunks and goo.

To recap, the owner's manual care and maintenance includes a suggestion to fully drain the water heater yearly in order to flush out sediment and deposits that may have accumulated. A separate manufacturer's manual suggests to monthly drain off a few gallons instead of completely shutting off gas and all, for the same effect.

My suggestion: Drain your water heater yearly to help clean out the sediment and buildup that may occur. This will improve your water heater's efficiency and save you on your heating bill. It will also help to extend the life of your water heaterand give you a few more years of service. You may opt to drain more often depending on whether you use a water softener or have unusually hard water. I live in an area that until recently has been notorious for its extremely hard water and bad taste due to large mining operations nearby.

Hopefully, my experience will help some of you out there!


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