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Save Money Watching Movies via the Web with the Roku Box

August 8, 2010 | My Ramblings | Save Money | No Comments

I recently read an article about saving money by watching movies/TV via the Internet.  I decided to look further into this.  

After a little research I decided to purchase the Roku HD-XR box.  This small simple device allows you to connect your TV and high-speed Internet to access video content via the Internet.  You control the unit via a remote control.

Roku offers 3 different models (Roku SD ($70), Roku HD ($90), and Roku HD-SR ($120).  I decide to purchase the Roku HD-SR because I have a HD TV and I wanted to connect to my router wirelessly.  The other 2 models do not include wireless connection to your router.  Connecting the device is extremely easy.  I just plugged the power in and plugged the HDMI cord into the Roku box and TV.

Roku claims you can setup the unit in 5 minutes.  This took me longer because I couldn’t get the unit to connect to my router.  It took me a few minutes to figure it out, but once I got it working, I was very impressed.  For one I was surprised that the videos streamed with no hesitation (or buffering).  When starting a video it does take several seconds to load, but once the video starts to run, there is absolutely no hesitation.

I currently have AT&T FastAccess DSL Xtreme service which claims download speeds up to 3 Mbps.  However, download speed in reality averages about low 2+ Mbps. This seems to be fast enough to watch HD videos with no hesitations.  When I watch HD videos on my laptop, sometimes there is hesitation (buffering) but with the Roku box, there is none which was surprising.

When initially viewing a video on the Roku it will state video quality from 1 to 4.  Most of the time my video quality is 4, sometimes 3 but rarely 2.  A video quality of 2 or 1 isn’t good.  One occasion when video quality was 2 I unplugged the router and modem to reset the connection and video quality jumped to a 4.

As far as HD is concerned, HD is only for 720p.  There are no 1080p HD videos available it seems.  So if you have a 1080p HD TV, watching 720p HD videos will not be as sharp.

I also decided to try Netflix free 2 week offer which includes watching videos via the Roku box. For $9 per month, I think this is a great deal.  You have access to many movies online and DVDs by mail.  The newer movies are still by mail, but there are quit a few movies/TV shows available online.  Again I was impressed with the video quality and streaming with Netflix.

Purchasing the Roku Box included a $10 credit from Amazon Video on Demand (AVOD).  However, when I tried watching HD movies on AVOD it kept telling me I wasn’t setup to watch HD movies because my speeds was too slow.  However, the movies streamed well and the video quality was acceptable.  I’m not certain if HD videos from AVOD come in 1080p but if you don’t have fast enough speed it drops to 720p.

The Roku box also allows you to access numerous channels if you don’t sign up for Netflix or AVOD.  

So in conclusion, I highly recommend the Roku boxes and Netflix service to watch videos and movies via the Internet.  This can save you tons of money my reducing or eliminating your cable/satellite service.

Roku is currently offering 10% off their players

Save Money with Groupon Daily Deals

July 29, 2010 | Save Money | Videos | No Comments

Groupon is a service that provides daily deals that save customers money. Every day they feature a new deal at deeply discounted prices.  However, you will only get the deal if enough people take the offer.  See the video below for a detailed description of how the service works.

Save Money with Free Anti Virus Software

September 11, 2009 | Save Money | 2 Comments

If you are looking for free anti virus software you may want to consider the six listed below. They include Avira AntiVir Personal, Alwil Avast Anti Virus Home Edition, AVG 8.5 Free, Microsoft Security Essentials, PC Tools Antivirus Free Edition and Comodo Internet Security. These free apps have been tested, rated, and reviewed by PC World.

Anti Virus Program

Site to Download

PC World Rating

Review at PC World

Download

92

Superior

pcworld.com/63548

Avira AntiVir Personal
       
  Download

91

Superior

pcworld.com/63550
Alwil Avast Anti Virus Home Edition
       
Download

86

Very Good

pcworld.com/63551
AVG 8.5 Free
       
  Download

86

Very Good

pcworld.com/63552
Microsoft Security Essentials
       
Download

69

Fair

pcworld.com/63553
PC Tools Antivirus Free Edition
       
  Download

68

Fair

pcworld.com/63554
Comodo Internet Security

 

Keep in mind that free anti virus software don’t give you everything that paid anti virus software does. Most free apps offer little to no support if you run into problems. They may provide online forums or charge you for over the phone support. AVG offers paid telephone support for $50 which isn’t worth it. 

Also, free apps tend to have less frequent updates which in today’s world with new viruses popping up all the time this maybe a problem. Free apps also provide limited features. As an example, Avira’s paid anti virus will scan traffic before it’s downloaded to your computer, but it’s free version doesn’t. 

Some free applications also give you stuff you don’t want such as toolbars and will urge you to upgrade by purchasing the paid version. For many companies the free app are used to give you a test drive, but the goal is to have you upgrade eventually.

Some of the top rated selling anti-virus products are listed below:

 

Currently, FreeVirusTrial.com is offering 30-60 days antivirus trials for Symantec (Norton Internet Security 2010), Trend Micro Internet Security 2010 and Avast Antivirus Professional Edition.

Save Money Shopping with Bing’s Double Savings Day

August 12, 2009 | Save Money | No Comments

Microsoft’s new search engine Bing is offering a new feature to save money when shopping online called “Double Savings Day”.  

Double Saving Days is a Bing cashback promotion where the amount of cashback offered by most stores will be doubled (up to a total cashback reward of 50%) for a limited time.

The program started on August 10, 2009 and will run to the end of the month; however, Microsoft has reserved the right to end the program early.

When you shop you will see a message that explains the Double Savings Day.  See screen shots below.

Screen Shot of Search Page

 Screen shot of Shopping Page

bing2

For more information visit Bing.com/Shopping.

Save Money by Sending Free Text Messages (SMS)

April 14, 2009 | Save Money | No Comments
woman_text_messaging

If you are text messaging junkie and reduce your text messaging cost then I have some ideas for you.  Many carriers charge 20 cents per text message, which can add up to big bucks over time.  Of course, you can add a messaging plan to your service plan that will cost an additional $5 to $20 per month.  But who wants to add on extra expenses in these rough economic times?
 
You can save money with text messaging by using a PC to send the message bypassing your cell phone carrier and saving money.  One service you can use to send free messages to any mobile phone is GizmoSMS.com, which is very easy to use.  Visit the site, pick the country of the recipient, enter the cell phone number and message, a code to prevent spamming and your message if off.  All for free.

If you want 2-way communication then checkout Cherple.com.  They offer a free software program for Mac and Windows that lets users receive and send text messages.  Cherple.com allows anyone with an Internet connection, anywhere in the world; carry on a 2-way text conversation with any U.S. cell phone.

Gmail users can also send text messages for free by enabling Text Messaging (SMS) in Chat, a new Google Labs feature that adds texting capabilities in Gmail.

For iPhone users, you can purchase SMS Touch for $3 that enables you to send unlimited messages.  Replies are sent to your e-mail inbox.  Visit the Apple App Store to purchase.

Analyze Your Medical Insurance Plans & Save Money

February 6, 2009 | Financial Tips | Save Money | No Comments

You have started a new job and have to make a decision of which medical insurance plan to sign up for. Or you are about to re-enroll in your medical insurance plan. You are offered multiple options with various monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and maximum out of pocket costs.

When I started my last job, I did an analysis as to what option would save me money. I was basically offered the 3 options listed below:

Insurance Plan Choices

This is an 80/20 plan. Once your deductible is met, the plan pays 80%, I pay 20% until the maximum out of pocket is met, and then the plan pays 100%.

The question is; which plan will cost me less money? Will like most things, it depends. However, per my analysis most people will save money with Plan C, unless their medical costs for the year is over approximately $17,000.

To figure this out, I created a spreadsheet that you can DOWNLOAD HERE and play with. You can change the spreadsheet to analyze your medical insurance options.

As an example, if your medical cost for the year is $5,000, you will save $1,744 with Plan C, or $1,040 with Plan B (see screenshot of spreadsheet below).

Screenshot of Spreadsheet Showing Medical Plan Options

Medical Insurance Plan Comparison

The lower your medical costs for the year the more money you will save with Plan C.

Most of the saving with Plan C comes from the yearly premium. Plan C will costs $216 for the year, while Plan A costs $2,400 for the year, a savings of $2,184. That’s a big difference!

Although, the annual deductible is $800 for Plan C, one strategy to lower that cost is to put at least $800 in a Flexible Spending Account (if your plan offers it), which is not subject to payroll taxes thus lowering the cost.

See related article: Staying Healthy is Money in the Bank

How to Borrow and Save Money for College

September 2, 2008 | Personal Loans | Save Money | Student Loans | 2 Comments

Let’s face it; going to college is very expensive and can become stressful trying to figure out how to pay for it.  If borrowing for college leaves you feeling lost, be assured that you are not alone.

With so many lenders offering so many versions of basic loan types, it can be hard to find the loan that’s best for you. Having options is great. But you need a guide to set you on the right path. To accomplish this, consider SimpleTuition.

SimpleTuition is designed to help find your ideal college loan, and to help you take action. SimpleTuition allows you to compare and apply for student loans from more than 20 lenders to make the best college funding choice for you and your family.

SimpleTuition also offers an objective, sortable, online comparison solution that will make your college borrowing choices a whole lot clearer. Behind their simple, straightforward navigation, a complex engine crunches real numbers to give you real results. SimpleTuition stand behind the accuracy of our results, because they know the importance of this decision for students and families.

Another company to consider is Upromise. Whether you’re preparing for a child to someday enter college, looking to offset the costs for a child currently working toward a degree, or wanting a faster way to repay existing college loans, Upromise will guide you.

Upromise allows you to earn college savings through eligible everyday spending. You can start a college savings plan which allows you to save money on your taxes.  With Upromise you can learn about ways to pay for college and they also offers special discounts, bonuses and money-saving offers.