Made in the U.S.A. Monday – Pad and Quill Bella Fino Case

Everywhere I turn I see new iphone 6’s popping up. Back in the 2000’s everyone wanted a smaller phone, now we have made a complete 180. People essentially seem to want small tablets that also double as phones. I tend to agree with this idea, every year I use my phone for more and more tasks and the bigger screen will certainly aid in that effort.

I still have my iphone 5s, but my contract will soon be up and I will have to decide which handset I want to be my sidekick in life for the following 2 years. One thing I will not have to decide is which case to buy. I have had my Pad and Quill wallet case for over a year now and I can’t say enough good things about it. Not only is it hand crafted in America, but it has stood the test of time.

I have dropped this case, jammed it in my front jeans pocket, or bounced it around in my cargo short pocket during the peak of the summer. Now it sits in my jacket pocket on these freezing NY winter days. Everywhere I go my phone and that case have been with me. The leather hasn’t cracked or ripped and the wood looks as good as the day that I bought it.

If you are the proud owner of a new iphone you would be well severed by one of pad pad and quill 12and Quills cases. Perhaps this “Bella Fino” case is your style. It comes in sever different color combinations, has room for three cards and a license, and includes a space for your money.

It sells for $59.99 and as far as I am concerned is worth every penny. Ditch your wallet and carry your life in one pocket. Buy an American made product that can handle what your life will throw at it.

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Made in the U.S.A. Monday – Sauder Carson Forge Technology Pier

Earlier in the fall I wrote about Ohio base furniture maker Sauder Furniture. Today I am happy to report thatpier I am the proud owner of one of their products. While I didn’t buy their clever little adjustable coffee table that I featured in the September article, I did purchase one of their technology piers. Having received and assembled the product I would like to share some of my thoughts.

  • Assembly – I’m not going to sugar coat it, it’s a bear. I am a pretty handy guy, I can assemble most things with relative ease. I probably put in about 3 hours into this bad boy. You really have to bring your A game on this one and a second set of hand would be recommended. 
  • Quality – The reason it takes so long to put together is because it is so well made. The quality of the build and the detail set this piece part form many in this class. 
  • Value – At just over 100 bucks I think this piece occupies a very unique spot. The build quality puts it right up their with some of the higher quality furniture makers, but the price is in the particle board assemble your own category. So while it’s not an heirloom grade piece of furniture it stands head and shoulders above the Ikea crowd. 

I’ve had my technology pier for over a week and I am pleased with my purchase. Before this I had placed my printer on a shelf under my desk, now it is out and easily accessible. My technology pier looks so good I am now considered buying a matching Forge Desk. What can I say, buying American is contagious. 

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The 2015 PiggyBankBuilder Portfolio Challenge

This will be my third year conducting my educational investment portfolio. For those of you who are new to the site, I create a fictitious portfolio to demonstrate to my readers the potential of stock investment. In my first year I failed. Last year I gained about 12%. This year I aim to surpass that. 

Here are the rules, I have $5000 in fake investment money. I select four stocks and track their progress over the year. If I see an opportunity or suspect that a situation will change I will buy or sell a stock to take advantage of that situation.

  • Microsoft (MSFT) –  I am a big fan microsoftof this company and continue to believe that it was a bright future ahead. For many many years this company has been unfairly underestimated. The addition of their new CEO is a welcomed change and I believe will allow their share price to climb into the future. I still hold a 100 a share price target for this company. Purchase Price $46.76, number of shares 32.
  • BlackBerry (BBRY) - It was once believed that BlackBerry’s days were numbered. Another victim of the Iphone. While this is still a very popularly held belief, a bbrygrowing number of investors see this company as either a turn around story or a potential buyout target. I think a $!5 price target is very possible for this stock and I am keeping it in my portfolio. Purchase price $10.82, number of shares 138
  • iShares Silver Trust (SLV) – I have been wrong about silverssilver and it has cost me dearly. Yet I will still stubbornly hold on because I know that if I am right I will be handsomely rewarded.  Purchase price $15.11 , number of shares 99
  • Krogers (KR) - The only new edition for 2015. krogerThis is a solid growing company with a good reputation. Normally i would shy away from a stock that has run so much, but I can’t see a reason why they wouldn’t maintain their current trajectory. Purchase price $63.53, number of shares 23

So there you have my selection for the 2015 PiggyBankBuilder portfolio challenge. I think it offers a nice balance of risk as well as sound growth companies. I will also tell you that I plan to chase IPO’s this year. I will go into deeper detail as those events near. If you have any question please ask. Best wishes to all of you in 2015, I hope you have a healthy and profitable new year.

 

***Please not that I am not and investment advisor.Please consult your investment advisors before making any financial decisions that could result in loss.

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5 Things You Can Do to Improve Your Finances in 2015

Day 1 of 365 in our new year. We are all setting our plans and goals, trying to turn our hopes into realities. Most people want to lose weight, some want to exercise more, somewhere on that list for many of us is “improve finances”. It can seem like a tricky one, kinda hard to gain a handle one. Eating better and exercising are pretty self evident. Managing your money,shrinking debt, not so easy. Here are a few suggestions to get the ball rolling. 

  1. Move your credit card debt to a 0% card. The average household has over $10,000 in credit card debt.slate That is a massive burden and the 20% interest rate is only making it worse. The road to debt free living leads through the 0% balance transfer. The interest cards alone on 10k in debt at 20% is $2000.00. With one simple step of moving it over you will save yourself almost $170 a month. That is money you could be using to dig yourself out of that hole. I would recommend the Slate card from Chase. It has no annual fee and a 0% interest rate for 15 months. It also has a no transfer fee which is very rare. 
  2. Switch or Bundle Your Insurance. A few year back I decided to ditch my old 1000 auto policy and shop around for a better one. I found a 700 policy and never looked back. A year later I got married and bought a house. We bundled our homeowners with our auto and saved even more, I went from paying over a grand to under 500 on my auto policy just by taking a few simple steps. 
  3. Renegotiate Your Cell Phone Bill. You can’t turn on a TV without seeing a commercial for one cell phone carrier or the other. Now I realize you might be in a contract, but if it’s near its end you have a lot of leverage and if you are going to bundle your plan with a family member all the better. I dropped my cell phone bill form $100 a month to $70, just by making a few calls. That was over a year ago and the switch has saved me almost 500 bucks! If youbillcutterzaren’t interested in the art of haggling you could hire someone like BillCutterz to do it for you. My buddy tried it and he was very pleased. 
  4. EBay It! You have too much stuff, we all do. If you are honest about it, you don’t need it all. Like that Xbox 360 that you haven’t played in years. Sell it and your library of games on Ebay. You might not get that much, maybe 100 bucks, but its money you didn’t have before. Not only will you get the cash but you will lose some clutter. 
  5. Work As a Secret Shopper. I’ve had some experience with the secret shopping app “Field Agent” logo FAand I was very pleased with the experience. Such an app could easy bring you a few extra bucks every month, perhaps hundreds of dollars a year.  

Everyone’s situation is unique, but if you pursued even one or two of these ideas the result could be very helpful. Best of luck to all of you in the New Year. 

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The PiggyBankBuilder Portfolio – 2014 Year End Results!

The second year of my educational investing portfolio is in the books and I can tell you that without even looking I have improved over 2013. That portfolio was closed down due to losses, so this years profitability is a great success. With mere hours left in 2014, let’s see how I did. 

  • Cablevision (CVC) – Purchase price – $17.96, number of shares 68. Current Price: $21.00 a gain of $206.72
  • Microsoft (MSFT) – Purchase price $37.47, number of 33. Current Price: $47.47, a gain of $330.00 
  • iShares Silver Trust (SLV) – Purchase price $18.92, number of shares 66. Current Price: $15.65 a loss of $215.82
  • BlackBerry (BBRY) - Purchase price $9.25, number of shares 160, Current Price $10.88 a gain of $260.80

My year end results stand at $581.70 or just shy of 12%. winnerThis is almost in lock step with how the markets have performed. Much of my success was from OIH. I bought shares of it believing that prices would rise going into the  Summer, they did. I sold them when I began to read about declining oil prices, they did. My choice to get out of oil and into BlackBerry stopped any losses and locked in profits. Had I not done so I would be sitting slightly in the red. As Kenny Rogers once said “You got to know when to walk away”. 

As for Cablevision, I think it’s a great company with amazing buy out potential. Microsoft is in my opinion is a $100 stock and the decision to change CEO’s will see that prediction realized. Silver, oh silver, with all the turmoil in the world no one seems interested in the shiny metal. This is my second year being wrong about that. BlackBerry is a well run company and I suspect they may be bought at as well. 

So there it is, 2014 in the books, profitable. What does 2015 hold? Come back in a few days to find out. 

 

***Please not that I am not and investment advisor.Please consult your investment advisors before making any financial decisions that could result in loss.

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Rip Off Alert: Abe’s of Maine

Everything was going so well. I found a great TV that I was really excited about and I put together what I thought was an impressive deal. I bragged to a couple of my close friends about it and as far as I knew at the time my amazing TV was mere days away from my possession. Then I got a call from the seller, Abe’s of Maine. There was an issue with my order. 

My first thought was that they had sold out and that I wouldn’t be getting it in time for Christmas. A bummer, but the Bride and I could live with that, we’re adults. Perhaps they would knock some more of the price to compensate me? I was wrong and I had been wrong about a lot of things as I was about to find out. 

I called Abe’s of Maine and a rep immediately got on the phone with me. ME TVHe told me that there was an issue with my order. I had selected a TV with the Chinese made AU panel and did I want to upgrade to the TH01 Samsung made panel. He informed me that the Samsung panel, it’s a Samsung TV, is a better proposition. Now I work in TV, I know a lot about the industry and I had no idea what this guy was talking about. Still I said that I wanted the better Samsung panel. He told me it would be $200 more. 

Now right now alarm bells are going off in my head. Unfortunately I was at work and I didn’t have time to fully assess the situation. I agreed and he thanked me, he even offered to speed up my shipping and throw in white glove delivery. I got off the phone and immediately felt a growing sense of betrayal. It lingered in the back of my mind all day. 

The next morning I contacted Samsung and spoke with one of their reps. He confirmed what I suspected, the salesman was lying. He was either trying to juice up the price of the TV or he was selling non-US market models of that television. The Samsung rep asked me for the model number and when I did he told me that it was a US model TV and the panel was made by them, their was no cheaper Chinese panel. That was all I needed to hear. 

As luck would have it my credit card denied the charge, Abe’s e-mailed me asking me to contact them so the order could process. I jumped right in and told them I knew about their lie and I wanted nothing to do with them. I called my credit card company and told them not to accept any charges from “Abe’s of Maine”. To make sure they understood I sent Abe’s a second e-mail telling them not to charge my card, that I would block the charge of they did, and if they tried to deliver it I would refuse the TV and send it back. 

A trip over to Yelp confirmed my experience. Over 80 reviews and almost all of them bad and most of them sharing the same experience. A cheap price is offered, the buyer accept it and then a phone call asking to raise the price, if the buyer refuses they get an opened box item or a damaged item or some other defect. These guys are real slime, money grubbing criminals. 

But I thought you said you bought from them before? I had, several years ago. I don’t know if I was lucky them or if the site changed owners. I suspect it did as Abe’s of Maine is now located in New Jersey. Please heed my warning and stay away from these losers. If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is. 

I had to relearn that lesson the hard way, but I came out relatively unscathed. I apologize to you for steering you towards what I thought was a good deal. I will continue to look for another TV deal from a factory authorized Samsung dealer and share it with you when I find it. I will chalk this up as a reminder to always double check your deals. 

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Made in the U.S.A. Monday – Hopkins SnowBrush

Common wisdom is often wrong. It is widely believed that America can no longer manufacture small things. No profit in it they say. An airplane or a car can be made here because of the expense, particularly with shipping. Small stuff, don’t even bother. The Chinese can do it cheaper. 

It’s a good thing for us and their employees that Hopkins did listen to that bit of advice. ice scrapperThey make well reviewed quality snow brushes right here in America. I bought one, I haven’t used it yet, but it seems fine.  I got it on Amazon and they have cut the price since then. You can have it for $3.39. That is not a type, for less than 5 bucks you can have an American made snow brush. 

Another incorrect bit of common wisdom is that American made stuff cost more. Looks like they were wrong again. If you need  a snow brushes I an;t see why you wouldn;t buy one, at that price, buy it and out it in the closet until you do. Buying American couldn’t get any easier. 

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My 4k TV Christmas Deal Can Be Yours Too!

**** RIPOFF ALERT: DO NOT TAKE THIS DEAL, PLEASE SEE MY LATER ARTICLE ABOUT WHY*****

 

I bought my current HDTV back in 2006. It cost $2000, down from $2500, and I was over the moon. To have a flat panel plasma TV was a movie lovers dream come true. Now almost nine year later, my beloved little (40 inches) TV is starting to show its age. From time to time the screen will go black and I will have to jiggle the cables to get the picture to come back on. Now it’s only a matter of time before a catastrophic failure ends my set. Could I open the case and reenforce the connections? Maybe, and that’s  big maybe, sometimes opening up a set and messing around with it can cause more harm than good. From the looks of things, it’s time to get a new television. 

If I am completely honest about it I welcomed the opportunity to buy a new set. So much has changed in TV’s since 2006. Sets have gotten bigger, cheaper, 3D, smarter, and with better (4k) resolution. I still love movies as much as I did so many years ago and I was pumped to bring an even better movie watching experience into my living room. The search was on. 

I clicked over to Cnet and poked around. The true champ of picture quality was one of the OLED sets, but the price was north of three thousand dollars, no go. Eventually I paired down my search to one TV, the Samsung UN55HU8550, which I viewed as the perfect balance of quality, features, and price. My parents have a Samsung TV 4K TVwith a smart remote and I was very impressed. Reputation goes a long way with me. 

From Cnet I went to my trusted first stop for shopping, Amazon. They are selling this set in the 55 inch size for $1797.99. As much as I wanted the 60 inch, its almost 1000 bucks more or 200 dollars and inch, way too much. The original price of this set was $3000.00, high for sure, but it is a 4K set. At nearly 1/2 off I was heading in the right direction, but I knew I could do better. On a side note, I checked the price one Cyber Monday and I could swear it was around $1500.00.

From Amazon I went to the search engines and compared prices. Most sites were in line with Amazon’s, but here is where things get a little tricky. Some retailers that I have never heard of were offering much lower prices. I avoid such sites because of the high potential for fraud. These cheaper TV’s could be different models that are being miscategorized, they could be refurbs, who knows. Not worth the risk in my opinion.  

I continued my search and then, up popped a cheap price from a seller I had heard of “Abe’s of Maine”. These guys have been around for decades and have a good reputation. I have bought electronics from them before and don’t recall having any issues. Their price for my future TV is $1399.99, about $400 dollars less than Amazon. They were offering free shipping and depending on where you live they don’t charge tax. Of course being the obedient citizens you are you will check your state laws and submit the appropriate taxes where applicable.

Now this is where a little leg work can pay off. I didn’t want to leave any savings on the table. The first step was easy, right on their home page was a 2% coupon code, “save2″. Boom, 2% or about $27 right off the top. On top of that I went over to BigCrumbs and found a 3.5% cash back offer. Build that deal! Finally at check out, I paid with my discover card for a sweet 5% cash back. Now I have to check on that BigCrumbs offer because it says up to 3.5% so I might not get the full amount, but all in all it looks like I saved and additional 10% off or about $140. 

So when all is said and done “the Bride” and I bought ourselves a 4K, LED, 3D, 55inch, Samsung Smart TV that originally retailed for $3000 for $1260.00 or about 65% off. It’s being delivered for free and should get to out home a few days before Christmas. A gift to each other that we hope we can enjoy of many years to come and a deal that I am sharing with all of you. 

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Cyber Monday Pre-Shopping Check List

It’s here, I was going to say final here, but the sales and commercials this year have made everyday since Halloween feel like “Black Friday” or “Cyber Monday”. Hype aside, Cyber Monday has arrived. 

Time to find those deals! So many places to look, so much to decide. It can be overwelming and that can cause you to act too fast. Resist this temptation and realize a few moment of planning before hand can lead to huge savings. Almost any deal can be made a little sweeter if you follow these steps. 

  • BigCrumbs – An old favorite of mine, big-crumbs-logothey are a very effective way to stack a deal. For those of you who may not know, BigCrumbs gets cash back from purchases you make on site they direct you to. They then turn around and split that money with you. The percent differs from site to site, but it’s always worth a peek
  • Ebates – They are a competitor to BigCrumbs ebates2which is good for you as a user because they are always trying to out rebate each other. You should always check both to see who is giving you the edge.  
  • DiscoverCard – Did you know that right now they are offering 5% cash back on online purchases? Have you enrolled? It literally takes a few seconds. (Please know that this is capped at $1500)
  • CardPool – If or when you max out your cash back from Discover you can always go to the gift card exchanges to find a few more percent of savings. 

By incorporating these deals into your shopping its very likely that you could add another 5-10% of savings onto of even the sweetest deals. So stack them up and keep that money in your pockets. 

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Black Friday: Load Up Your Apps and Bring Your Friends!

Here we are, right in the thick of it, the deal hunters moment of glory. Thanksgiving is behind us and Christmas is mere weeks away. It’s time to get out there and find those deals, right? Not so fast! You can’t just run out into the mall willy nilly. You need to prepare, you need a plan, you need tools. 

Specifically, you need your smart phone and you need apps. Long gone are the days when you walked into a store, found something you liked and hoped you were getting the best deal. Now you can investigate, you can research and compare, all before you even walk up to the register. Here are three must have apps that will allow you to build the best possible deal:

1. PriceJump: This is savings.com’s own app. pricejumpIt is a price comparison app that searches over 5000 retailers to provide you with a snapshot of available prices. In addition to that, it will search local stores near you and show you their prices as well. This provides you with an online and in store comparison. Be mindful though it does not factor in shipping costs or taxes. 

 

2. RetailMeNot: I have been using this app retailmenotfor over a year now and I can honestly say that it is the Cadillac of shopping apps. You get updates and offers pushed to your phone the moment you even walk near a mall or shopping center.  They work with all the big retailers and will show you every possible sale or door buster imaginable. While I enjoy these features my favorite “RetailMeNot” feature is the coupon codes. They are hands down the champs when it comes to codes. Whenever I buy something online, I always look for codes with them before I complete me order. 

 

3. Raise: Finally, when you have found the raisegreatest gift at the best prices, this little app can give you just a little bit more. Raise is a gift card marketplace, people sell and buy gift cards, usually at a slight discount. This discount is where you can save and extra few percent. Let’s say you found a great deal at “Bestbuy”, now all you have to do to sweeten that deal is load up your raise app and buy a gift card. Right now they are selling at a 3% discount, so you would have made your deal that much better. The card loads right into the app and you show it to the cashier for them to scan. Two seconds of effort for a nice little reward.

 

This apps are a great start for your smartphone shopping tool bag. Load them up and keep them at the ready when you head out into that Black Friday world. 

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