Saturday, March 16, 2013

My Laptop Hard Drive Broke

generic laptopA few weeks ago I accidentally broke my Lenovo laptop's hard drive. Let me start off by saying this was totally my fault. I had placed a couple of heavy objects on my desk's shelves and one of my daughters asked for an item. While I was grabbing for it one of the heavy items fell off the shelf and landed squarely on my laptop which was on at the time. Immediately it started making a weird noise so I tried to go to Windows and shut it down, but the mouse cursor was unresponsive so I manually pressed the button to turn it off.

When I tried booting up my computer again it seemed to load correctly and reached the windows screen. It didn't make the weird noise anymore, but unfortunately when I tried to use the mouse or open any program the laptop stuttered and wasn't responsive. I tried running a memory scan, but this did little to help the situation.

I called up my brother since he is the computer wiz in my family, and he told me to try to load an Ubuntu disk to retrieve my saved work and files. I went over to his apartment and picked up an Ubuntu CD, and successfully loaded the CD and was able to run Ubuntu. I then proceeded to transfer my files over to a USB stick.

My next step was to buy a new hard drive at Best Buy. I was able to get the same amount of space for about $30.
Lenovo logo

I then called Lenovo support to ask them for recovery disks. I had to talk to two different people and their phone support was terrible. I could barely hear them, because the line was fuzzy and scratchy. The first thing they did was check and see if my laptop was still under warranty, and after giving two different people the same information; they concluded that it wasn't. I was fine with this I knew my laptop was over a year old, I just wanted my installation disks to fix my computer! They then asked me what model I had, and I told them it was an Ideapad Y560. After 30 minutes of being on the phone I was able to get them to send me the disks, but it would cost me $50! I ponied up the money with my credit card.


After two weeks my disks arrived in the mail, but to my dismay they were for the Y460 model, and not the Y560 model that I told them several times! I was livid, but I ran the disks and it installed most of the software correctly. The only problem was the disks didn't have the correct graphics card drivers. I went to the Lenovo website and with the help of my brother we were able to find the right drivers and install them.

Two Lessons Learned From This Incident

  • Never overload and place heavy items on my desk shelf area again.
  • I will not be purchasing a Lenovo brand laptop again.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Shopping for Sister's Birthday

birthday gift box with a green bowMy sister's birthday is coming up so I decide to send her a text message and see what kind of birthday gift she wants this year. I was out getting my haircut at the mall and was hoping she would reply quickly enough so I wouldn't have to make two trips.

Alas she doesn't text me back until the following day. She tells me that she is planning on purchasing some new pairs of jeans and offers me two of her desired stores that I could get her a gift card from.

I immediately think of my local Kroger store to purchase the gift cards, because they offer quadruple points on all gift card purchases. The next day I head over to Kroger and peruse their gift card kiosk, and quickly find one of the stores she messaged me. I pick out a $50 one and then head over to the holiday/birthday card aisle.

It's amazing how sometimes I take a long time to find the right birthday card and other times I find it within the first or second one I look at. This time I found the perfect card on the second one I picked up. It said something about how as siblings growing up we didn't agree all the time on the front cover, and inside it said there is one thing we can agree on, she is getting old. I know I am going to get it next year for my card.

gasoline pump dripping gas
I head over to the self-checkout and proceed to complete my purchase. I check my receipt and I received 200 fuel points for the $50 gift card. After I get back to my car I head over to Kroger's gas station to immediately use up my fuel points. I end up getting 40 cents off per gallon bringing the price down to $3.05. I really prefer using their gas pump as opposed to my local Exxon Mobil station even though I have the ExxonMobil Smart card I haven't been using it that much.

I think this was the best way to purchase my sister's birthday present although next year I will do some more research to see if I can find a better deal than just getting fuel points, but at least I used the points and didn't let them go to waste.

Monday, March 4, 2013

My Hubpages Challenge

hubpages logoThis month I am setting a goal of writing two new Hubs a week for Hubpages. I have been a member of their website for well over 4 years, and in the beginning I was pretty gun-ho about writing and publishing articles through them.

After a few months though my enthusiasm died down after I saw how little traffic and revenue I was receiving to my Hubs, and I thought I had moved on. I am also a member of Squidoo a similar website with the same concept, and at the time I was getting much more traffic to that site and a little bit more revenue, but nothing that would blow anyone away.

Over time though Hubpages really turned things around with quality control. It seemed like 4 years ago you could write just about anything, and they would publish it that has since changed dramatically for better. Now it is more difficult to get any substandard writing approved, and they have actual moderators that must approve any new material. A fair Hubpages review I found online.

The reason for my personal challenge is I have found that Hubpages is a good way to get Youtube views and people interested in your website. Plus I still am making a couple dollars a month from the Hubs that I wrote all those years ago. I know it isn't much money, but I like to look at this as an extremely long-tail venture.

For me their isn't much work involved in writing. I can complete an article in 2 to 3 hours depending on how much research I need to do on the topic. Most of the topics I write about are video games and personal finance related. I will keep this updated and let you know if I complete my challenge!


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Took Car for It's Oil Change

greasy guy filling oil into a car filter
A Minor Update

I would like to include a minor update to this original blog post that I made a couple years ago. After continuing to use Grismer for my vehicle needs I have since applied for a Grismer Tire credit card after they improved their rewards, and I noticed that the interest rate is actually quit a few points lower than other auto repair cards offered.

The Original Post 

It was time to get my 2008 Nissan Versa's oil changed again. I'm told I should take it every three months, but that is not normally the case. This time I waited a little bit longer than I should have. I was due for an oil change back in December 2012, but I didn't go till this week.

I like to schedule my appointment a day or two ahead of time that way I have things planned out. I called my local Grismer Tire shop and made an appointment for the following day in the afternoon.

I was very pleased with the service I've received at the East Dayton Yellow Springs Rd. Grismer Tire location. I have used them for all my car repair and needs, and they have done a great job every time! I was especially happy this time, because I used a $25 coupon I received in the mail and one of my four free oil changes for purchasing new tires through them. I was able to get the premium oil change for only $12.98. The normal price runs $55 and you get all your liquids drained and refilled, tires rotated, car checked for problems, and a new filter.

I only had to wait 40 minutes this time, which is great. Normally it can take up to an hour to get my oil changed, but this time there wasn't any surprises that my car needed fixed so I was in and out pretty quickly.

I think it's kind of funny that a small local auto repair shop like Grismer that only has 22 locations offers a credit card. I know both Goodyear and Firestone offer credit cards, but those are both national brands. I surmise that Grismer must do enough business to constitute their own card. Credit First National Association (CFNA) issues both the Firestone and the Grismer cards.

smiley face with hands and fingers crossedNext time I will probably go with the regular oil change, and I will make sure I don't wait too long in-between services, which is why I went with the premium to make sure my car is in good shape I want it to last a long time. It hasn't had any major problems yet! (keeps fingers crossed)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Best Shopping Reward Sites

Listed below are the best shopping reward sites that I have found and participate in over the years. Each one has it's own way of rewarding it's members for shopping through their portals some offer points for each dollar you spend while others give you a percent back of the total purchase price excluding shipping costs.

Cashcrate -is my favorite site to use. It began as a paid for offers website, but has expanded to include shopping rewards. They have a limited number of places you can receive a percent back from, but they payout the most of any site I have found. Using Cashcrate will give you 3% cashback on purchases made at Wal-mart, 0.5-5% at Office Depot, 3-4% at Apple iTunes, and 2-3% at Microsoft Store.


MyPoints - is more of a coupon site, but they also have a section that lets you earn points for shopping. You receive a set amount of points for each dollar spent. They have all the major brands including; Kohl's, Best Buy, Disney, and many more. Most of the time you will only get 2 points per dollar spent, but sometimes they run specials that gives you a boost in points earned.

Swagbucks - started out as a way to win points for Internet searches. It has slowly grown over the years and now incorporates points for shopping as well. You can shop at all the name brand stores including; Wal-mart, Old Navy, Lowes, Macy's, and many more. Swagbucks gives you 2 to 6 points per dollar spent. You can redeem your points for gift cards or receive money through PayPal. It takes 2,500 points for $25 deposited into your PayPal account.

Those are my three favorite sites to use, but there are others with similar features. Look around and find one that fits your shopping habits.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Earning Rewards for Online Shopping

monopoly looking guy holding a sack of money
Although I have previously stated I am not a huge fan of online shopping; I am a big fan of making extra money or getting rewards in my spare time. This is especially true if there is little to no work involved or the rewards are a passive venture.

This is probably why I like making websites so much. Most of the work is done over a short period of time, and I gradually earn money or other types of compensation from them.

But making enough money to live off the Internet and getting a percent back for shopping at your favorite retailers are two completely different topics. Sorry, I like to ramble sometimes...

Back On-Topic

Not surprisingly being an Internet entrepreneur I know of several websites that offer members the option to receive a percent back or points for shopping through their website. You don't need to worry about shady sites stealing your credit card information. You will still do all of your shopping through the same retailer there is just a couple of extra steps you need to take to earn rewards.

How It Works

  1. The first step is registering for a rewards site. In my next post I will give a list of my favorite ones. Some may require you to confirm your email address.
  2. Next you will need to login the site you joined and head over to their shopping section. Here they will list the places you can get points or a percent back off the purchase price. The percent back ranges from 0.05 to 5.0.
  3. Click on the site you want to shop with.
  4. Pick out the items you wish to purchase and checkout normally.
  5. After you have completed your purchase you should see how much you got within a few minutes, but sometimes it will take longer especially during the holidays there might be a delay.
If you don't receive credit for your purchase after a couple of days I would contact support of the rewards website.

Hopefully you have found this post helpful, and if you choose not to join in you at least know more about how it works. I feel like every little bit counts and using some of these sites helps me squeeze everything I can out of my shopping budget.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Shopping at Barnes and Noble

a stack of three booksMy mom's birthday is coming up so I text her and asked what kind of gift she wanted this year. She promptly responded with a book that I haven't heard of before but apparently it is written by a local author that goes by the name of Sharon Short not to be confused with Sharon Stone who I thought it was at first when I read the name, but I took a double take and realized it was Short and not Stone.

Unfortunately I procrastinated and waited until the day before her birthday party to go shopping. My daughter and I drove to our nearest Barnes and Noble. At the store I realized I knew nothing about the book so before I walked over to customer service desk I whipped out my smart phone and visited their website. I learned that I could save 30% if I had ordered the book online! Even with the addition of standard shipping at $3.99 I would be ahead a couple dollars. You can receive free shipping if you spend over $25 on your order to, which I ended up spending a total of $36 with batteries and a birthday card.

a window with the word procrastination underneath it


It seems like every store nowadays has a little area for gift bags and cards. I am happy to say that Barnes and Noble has one as well. It makes it easier since I like to give people a card with their gift, and I never really go shopping for just a card.

After I find the book in the fiction section and pick out a birthday card I head over to the check out section. We walk past a battery display and I pick up a pack of AAA and C that are needed to power a couple of toys the kids own. When I arrive at the checkout counter I asked the cashier if they matched the online price. She gave me a flat no, I then asked her if I selected the pickup option if they would then match the online price, again she answered with a no. She told me the only way to get the online discounted price is to order it online. A little disappointed I surrendered my items and paid the price.

Hopefully I have learned my lesson for waiting to the last minute to buy someone a gift. If I had looked earlier I could have saved a couple of dollars off the book not to mention the gas I spent driving to the store and with these insane gas prices every little bit counts!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Insane Gas Prices

My wife and I take turns driving our five year-old daughter to school every week. This week it was my turn, and the route we take to get to her school passes several local gas stations one being a Speedway, another a Shell, and the last one a BP.

I am shocked to see how the price of gas has been continuously rising the last few weeks and is now hovering around $3.75 per gallon mark! This is the time of year the cost gasoline is supposed to be lower. If the price is going to continue to climb it could be well over $4 by the time it hits the usual summer bump.

Luckily for us the drive to school is very brief and is less than 10 miles both ways. I really feel for the people that have a much long commute and have to deal with these insane gas prices by filling up their tank every week.

We usually only have to fill up our tank only twice a month sometimes only once every three weeks. Our car gets great highway mileage and above-average city mileage.

a clear road with maple trees on the left side
Even with our gas discount that we get from using our reward credit cards it is still too expensive to take a long trip. My poor wife really wants to visit her parents, but they live 300 miles away and at these gas prices I don't see us being able to make the trip until after they go down a bit. I don't want to spend $100 on gas alone!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Birthday Shopping at Kohl's

birthday smiley faceFor my birthday this year I found myself needing a couple more pairs of jean pants. Some of mine have deteriorated after spending countless hours giving my 5 year old and 3 year old daughters horsy-back rides across the living room.

I took the girls with me and my wife to Kohl's yesterday on a Saturday afternoon to do some clothes shopping.

Luckily the girls were well behaved. Their behavior can be a crapshoot, most times we don't know if they are going to be well-behaved or mischievous.

The girls were very patient while we stood in line to return one of the shirts I purchased for my wife, which I purchased mostly with the Kohl's cash I had gotten from doing my Christmas shopping.

While we were waiting in line a man asked Bernadette (the 5 year old) if they could trade shoes. She looked at me for a second to see if it was okay to talk with him. I smiled at her and she was at a loss for words. The man then told her that it was okay they didn't have to trade shoes and that he didn't blame her for not wanting to.
men's blue jeans

What We Bought

  • 16 pack of Swiss Miss K-cups
  • Jar of Caramel Apple Butter
  • Discounted pair of pearl earrings
  • 2 Pairs of Apt#9 jeans
After we have picked out everything we wanted to buy we head over to the check out lane. I had saved my MVC Kohl's $10 birthday gift card, my $50 Kohl's gift card that I got for Christmas, and we used my wife's $2 store credit we got that day from returning the shirt. We also went shopping during a 30% off discount period for using a Kohl's charge card. Our total was only

$2.34!!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Grocery Store Price Surprise

environmentally friendly grocery bag
My wife normally handles the majority of the grocery shopping in our household, but every now and then I help her out by going to the store especially if we are running low on a couple of items.

This time we were on our last gallon of milk, and short on a few other items of necessity. It was late and the middle of the week, my wife normally wakes up earlier than me so I told her I would go to our local Kroger to pick up what we needed.

When I get into the car I notice we are low on gas. I decide it would be better to get the gas first before I do the grocery shopping. We buy most of our groceries at Kroger so naturally we have their rewards card. I pull up to the pump at Kroger and glance at the stubbornly high price of gasoline. I swipe our card and select the option to use the gas reward of $0.25 off per gallon. Our car is a Nissan Versa, which has a small 12 gallon tank, I proceed to fill up the tank and wasn't too surprised to see that the tally was over $25 even with the discount.

After I finished at the gas station I drove down to the main entrance of Kroger and parked. Now I haven't been to the grocery store in well over three months, and when I do go I don't always pay that much attention to the prices of most goods. This time however I was quite surprised at how expensive everything was. It seemed like the prices on most items had been raised at least a little bit. I have noted in previous that generally the price of beef and other meat products had increased, but they were even higher than last time!

smiley face that says wowI walk around the aisles and load up my hand cart. I eventually make it over to the self-checkout lane. I scan my plus card and begin the task of scanning each item and placing it in the bagging area. As I approach the bottom of the hand cart I look at the total, and it is much higher than I thought it would be. Normally on my trips to the store I pay between $25 to $35, this time it was well over $55 and approaching $60. I reluctantly swipe my credit card and pay the amount due.

As I drive home I wonder about how much this increase in food is hurting American families and other families across the world. I am thankful that I can afford to feed my family, but I have a feeling that if the price of food continues on this upward trajectory many more families will have to cut back on spending or worry about buying enough food.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I Don't Recommend FlexOffers For Your Affiliate Needs

thumbs downFlexoffers

As an owner of many websites I often have to deal with various affiliate sites for advertising purposes. While for the most part I've had a positive experience with many affiliate sites and most are very professional; I can't say the same for Flexoffers.

A little history of Flexoffers: I first joined an affiliate site called Cardoffers.com, which will a couple years later turn into Flexoffers. While I was a member of Cardoffers I was pretty satisfied some of their payments would arrive a month or two late, which would put me on edge a little, but for the most part I was pleased with their service.

The major problems began when they switched to the new website. They never said why they switched, but I suspect that the original site was sold, and the new owners didn't want to have anything to do with the affiliate side of the business. The Cardoffers site is still online as a credit card review site.

The final straw for me came when they sent me a check and it bounced. Not only did the check bounce, but the payment itself was three months late. I tried to deposit the check from my affiliate earnings and about a week later the bank told me the account was blocked or frozen. Instead of having $126, I'm out $20 for the bounced check fee.

bounced check from flexoffers

After that I stopped using Flexoffers, and if you are a currently running their ads I would switch to a different network as soon as possible before you get a bounced check too.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

How I Spent my $20 in Kohl's Cash


kohl's cash
As the typical procrastinator that I am I wait until the very last day my Kohl's cash is still useable to visit their store and spend the $20 I earned for spending $100 during my Christmas shopping.


I immediately head over to the Keurig K-Cups section in the kitchen department to check out their stock, and see if they have any decent discounts. As I expected the shelves that contain them are mostly bare with only a few un-liked flavors left. I check the prices of each brand and proceed to see if there are any of my favorite flavors still available.

box of keurig style swiss miss hot chocolate
Very Yummy!
Becareful it comes out Hot!
I buy a 16 pack of Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate for the Keurig coffee maker for $11.99 I normally buy coffee, but this time I decided to go with Hot Chocolate, because I know the wife will drink some, and I have plenty of regular K-cups from Christmas presents.

I ask my wife what should we like if I had some left over money, and she told me a pair of jeggings. I walk around the ladies department a couple of times, but I can't find any jeggings. I decide to look at some tops instead and wander to the clearance section. Most of the tops aren't her size, but after going through what seems like all of them I find a blue paisley, it's been marked down significantly and is only $4.40. This is perfect I might be able to buy one more top for her and still be around the $20 mark. I go through the shirts one more time and find an acceptable one that I hope she will like, it's also priced at $4.40.

I take my items up to the checkout line and wait less than 5 minutes to checkout. I hand over my items to the cashier and after he scans them I give him the $20 Kohl's cash card. He scans it and tells me I owe $0.70. I smile and reach into my pocket and hand him a dollar. I complete the transaction and head to my car.


After I got home I checked and Amazon is selling the same package of K-Cups for $11.29. But I wasn't too bummed since I only spent $0.70 cents for 3 items. The best news is we are both greatly enjoying the hot chocolate on these cold winter nights, and my wife really liked the blue paisley top I picked out.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Christmas Shopping 2012

2012 encased in snow and ice
Christmas Shopping 2012
In this post I'm going to share with you my holiday shopping experience.

This year I accomplished 90% of my holiday shopping on one trip to Kohl's.

Money is a little tighter this year than last so I decide to try to cap my purchases at $25 per gift. I still have my mom, dad, sister, brother, and wife to buy gifts for. Luckily for me, the wife understands our current financial situation (more money leaving our bank account than is coming in) and knows she won't be getting an expensive gift this year.

After perusing my list of gift ideas I head down the aisle ways of Kohl's. I make sure I get what the person asked for but also at the cheapest price. I looked at a few chair cushions for my dad, I had bought my parents some chair cushions a couple of years ago, and they were destroyed by their cats.

Knowing this I felt the fabric of several of the cushions to make sure it was durable and able to withstand the occasional cat kneading. I saw a pair of memory foam that were almost 50% off and plucked them into my shopping cart. Time will tell how well they do against 6 full grown cats.

After an hour of diligently searching most of the Kitchen, Frames, and Pillow aisles I have most of my gift obligations covered.


my kohls shopping receipt

Savings

20% off Coupon$25.23
Chair Pads$30.00
Cookware$10.00
Kitchen Gadgets$2.10
Food$8.70
Frame$30.00
Total: $106.03

When I reach the cashier after a brief wait in line, I remember I only have a 20% off the entire purchase coupon instead of the god-like 30% off. But after seeing the receipt I am pretty pleased with the final price of $106.72. After all the discounted prices and the coupon I saved $106.03 which is almost as much as I spent, and I received $20 in Kohl's cash for spending $100.00.

Luckily I was able to save gas by only going on one shopping trip that was less than 10 minutes away from my residence.