The PiggyBankbuilder Wednesday Giveaway – A Winner Has Been Choosen!

Another nice turn out, as always my thanks to all of those who entered. ContestI enjoy reading your comments and seeing your tweets, you guys are the best. Without further delay, the winner of our contest is none other than Laurie from East Troy, WI! Congratulations to her!

For all of you who have yet to win, our next contest will be launching very shortly.

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Made in the U.S.A. Monday – Elio Motors

All of my previous articles in this series featured products that you could purchase immeditaley elioif you choose to do so. Elio Motors in a unique case for a wide range of reasons. You can’t buy one of their cars just yet, but you should seriously consider doing so for the following reasons. 

  • They will be Made in America : Elio is in the process of buying a shuttered GM factory in Louisiana. If they are successful, they plan to hire nearly 1500 people to make their vehicles. 
  • Their car will get 84MPG on the highway: Can you believe that? 84!
  • It will cost $6800: That right for about the same price as a motorcycle you can have one of these unique looking vehicles. You could pay it off inside of a year and enjoy years off payment free use. 
  • It will have a 5 star crash test rating: This is what they claim, if it proves true that is an excellent piece of mind for any future owners. 

Now I realize that these are some bold claims and as someone who follows automotive news I can tell you that launching a new car company is almost impossible. In the last few years Mercury, Pontiac, Saturn, Saab, Oldsmobile, Aptera, and Fisker all either closed, left the US market, or never opened. Only Tesla has managed to successfully bring their vehicles to market. 

Still I am an optimist and I will always root for the innovator. Elio Motors made me rethink the notion of transportation. Does my family really need two full sized cars? What if we had one SUV for weekend and family use and another for commuting and small chores?

What if I had an Elio? A three wheeled two seater that gets great gas milage? I could pay off the $6800 price tag in about a year and have one less monthly bill to worry about. Since the car would be so cheap and have a 5 start crash test rating, my insurance would be very low as well. No car payment, spending less on gas and insurance. This concept has certainly got me thinking.

I am sure some people might not like the radical look of the car or its cockpit style of seating, driver in the front, passenger in the back. For me they are rather intriguing, but come second to the idea of saving so much money. When I add it up I could save about $550 a month by switching from my current car to an Elio. In fact I could probably sell my car and use most of the left over money to buy an Elio. That’s like giving myself a $6000 a year raise, every year!

Now the jury is still out, Elio has to deliver a car, but they already have over 8000 reservations.  This is a very exciting car, keep and eye out for it in the future and let’s hope for the best. 

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Why Rent (Your Modem) When You Can Own?

Life has taught me a great deal of lessons. One of the most important is this: “Read the fine print!”. Don’t just look at the total on a bill, examine what got it to that level.  Check each line and try to find ways to eliminate unnecessary charges. Some charges might seems insignificant, but take a step back and multiply that number by 12. That might sway your opinion a bit. 

A perfect example of this is your cable bill. For a lot of us, a cable bill isn’t just about cable anymore. Now it includes your internet connection and in some cases your phone. Lots of charges in their, but one of them is particularly irksome. Your cable modem rental fee. On average it’s around 7 bucks. modemI’ve seen it as high as 8 and as low as 4, but the majority of people are probably paying somewhere in the neighborhood of $7. So annually you are out of pocket about $84. What is that to you? What could 84 dollars buy? Two tanks of gas? Dinner and a movie? A new pair of boots?

What about buying a cable modem? How much does that cost? Well I did some search and a very popular, well reviewed, basic cable modem sells for $43.34 on Amazon right now. They claim that this “Motorola Surfboard” modem works with most cable providers(call then to make certain) and should takes minutes to set up. 

After six months of ownership this modem will pay for it self in money saved on rental fees. From that point on its all savings. Imagine of you owned this modern for 3 years? Rental cost over that time would set you back about $250. Subtract out the cost of buying your own modem and you are saving over $200 during that same period. A rudy sum to be sure. 

For a small up front cost and a few minutes of effort your could save yourself hundreds of dollars in the years ahead. Stop renting your modem from the cable company and buy your own. 

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Made in the U.S.A. Monday – Sullivan Glove Company

I lost my gloves. We had a blizzard last Tuesday, I was wearing them then and as I trace my steps that were my search stops. Normally I would just ride it out, expecting that sooner or later, they will turn up. The trouble is that, by some measures, this is the coldest winter in over a century. Until last month I didn’t even know what a polar vortex even was. Now I still don’t know what they are but my state keeps getting hit by them and another one is one the way. 

Bottom line, I need gloves. If you are in the same boat you should consider buying another pair from the “Sullivan Glove Company”. Founded in 1941 and based in Oregon, the “Sullivan Glove Company” employees 15 men and women who create hand made gloves for customers all over the world. Theses aren’t flimsy, cheap, mass produced gloves that you wear a few times and toss. They are quality made gloves, hand made by craftsman using some of the highest quality materials available. 

They offer gloves for multiple activities. For my needs I glovesthink the Sierra gloves would serve me well. The site claims that they offer maximum winter protection as well as flexibility. To me there is nothing worse then gloves that limit my ability to hold or lift something. What’s the point of having gloves if you have to take them off to do anything? I appreciate the durability and flexibility that the Sierra gloves seem to offer. 

At $55 a pair they may seem expensive as you sit in a warm house all cozy in front of your computer. When you are out there in your second hour of shoveling the accumulations of the latest blizzard you will see that it was money well spend. You will be grateful for your American made gloves and to the craftsman that made them. 

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BillCutterz – A Customer’s Experience

I’ve written about BillCutterz in the past, now I want to provide a first hand account of their service. billcutterzFor those of you who might not be familiar with BillCutterz, they are a bill negotiation service. They contact any of the service providers that you already use and try to haggle down your bill. If they are successful, you agree to split the savings with them. This is a great service for people who are too busy for or just don’t like dealing with customer service reps. They offer a better deal for you without any of that irritating on hold Muzak.

Since I live in an apartment and plan to buy a house shortly, I am not an ideal candidate for this service at this time. My buddy George, the owner of a two family home in Poughkeepsie is and he agreed to give the BillCutterz people a shot.  

He contacted them and they replied in short order, they began in e-mail exchanges and that progressed into a phone conversation. The rep told George that since it was winter they probably wouldn’t get a good deal on natural gas or electricity rates.  They agreed to table that until spring or summer. She reviewed his cell phone bill and made some suggestions, but the changes to the plan, particularly the data plan were not appealing options to George. 

They settled on the cable and internet bills. The whole thing took a little longer then normal because George was not that comfortable handing over all of his personal information. He opted to conference call with the cable company and told the rep that BillCutterz was negotiating on his behalf.  With all of the identify theft going on in the world, I can’t say I blame him for being cautious. 

In short order the BillCutterz Rep came back with the deal. They could save him $22.76 on his monthly cable bill and $15.43 on his tenants internet bill.  His yearly saving would be $458.28 combined and BillCutterz fee would be half. They offered him a discount if he agreed to pay in full up front. With the discount their fee was $206.23.

When all was said and done George will save $252 over the course of the year, that’s about $21 a month!

He said he enjoy the service and for the most part was satisfied. George said he plans to return in the spring and see what they can do for his electricity and natural gas bills. He estimates that those bills run him around 3500 dollars a year so a 15% reduction could save him hundreds of dollars. 

From George’s experience BillCutterz seems like an effective way to reduce your monthly bills and is certainly work a look. 

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Made in the U.S.A. Monday – USA Coffee Company

Full disclosure, I am not a coffee drinker. I am also not a baby or a women so in this case as in those I will being relying on the reviews of others to inform this article. While I don’t know much about java, I do know that it is typically grow in South America by an old man and his donkey. Most of America doesn’t have the climate necessary to grow coffee beans. The one exception is Hawaii, it is the only state in America that produces coffee. Hawaii has over 800 coffee farms, many of them making the switch from sugar and pineapple growing to coffee beans.

UNION ROASTOne of the sellers of Hawaiian coffee is the “USA Coffee Company”.   They only sell American made coffee and offer a wide variety of blends. One of their more popular products is this “8oz bag of Union Roast”. All most all of the reviews on the site are excellent. At 12 bucks, it is a little on the pricey side, but Hawaii is not a huge state. They only have so much land for crops.

I guess you could view its scarcity as part of its appeal. I would view Hawaiian coffee as a gourmet blend. Climate is a very big influence on the taste and quality of a crop. While I can’t promise that you will like it, I am pretty sure that Hawaiian Coffee will be a very unique experience for the average coffee drinker. 

Give it a try, perhaps you will enjoy it. Perhaps you will love it and make the switch. The switch to buying American and supporting our farmers. Wouldn’t that be something?

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Got Extra Time? Have an Opinion? Need Cash?

According to a recent Nielsen survey, the average American spends 34 hours a week watching TV. Think about that. That means that they spend almost as much time watching television as they do working. Of the seven days in a week, the average American spends over one of them watching TV. It boggles the mind.

I make this point to suggest that most of us have extra time in our day and how you use it can make a huge difference. What if you took 14 of those TV watching hours, two a day, and put them towards an activity that could put a little money in your pocket. I am referring to online surveys. Sites that will pay you to give your opinion on various topics. A few bucks here a few there and before you know it you are making some serious cash.

I want to demonstrate the possibilities with a few sites, I have tried to do this before, but in the months leading up to my wedding spare time was in short supply. Now, a new year, big plans, lets see how much money I can make with my opinions. Here are the 5 sites that I plan to use:

  • SwagBucks: I really like this site, it gives you multiple ways to earn points or “SwagBucks” swagbucksas the site likes to call them. You can watch videos, answer surveys, try free samples of products. Each activity has a value associated with it. The only downside is that many of the activities only offer on or two points as a rewards, but if you really put your mind to it I am sure you could earn  a lot of “Swagbucks” in a very short amount of time.  Once you accumulate enough Swagbucks you can redeem them for rewards. You can even get cash when you select the Payapl option, 2500 SwagBucks gets you $25. I think that for most people this is a very achievable monthly goal. 
  • Opinion Place: I love this site! opinion placeOf all the opinion websites I have used so far this one is the best. Why? Simplicity. They offer you one survey every few days, you do it and you get paid. No points or 25 cent surveys. Today I did a 5 dollars survey, it took a few minutes and I was done. I choose the Paypal option for payment. You can also choose Amazon e-gift cards or America Airlines miles. I expect to ear between $8- $20 a month with this site. 
  • MySurvey:  They have a lot of surveys,mysurvey but lately I haven’t been able to qualify for that many of them. It is a little frustrating. That being said the layout of the site is very easy to use and they are the only one on this list that offers a mobile app. They offer several payout options including Paypal. I can’t say how much I expect to earn on this site at the moment, I guess I will have to figure that out as I go.
  • BigSpot:  I just joined this site, I was awarded $5 for doing so. I like that. They offer a large section of survey, but you have to be fast. Once the survey fills up it closes  and you are out of luck. They have two primary ways of big spotpaying you out Amazon gift cards and Paypal cash. I suspect that I should be able to earn about $25 a month on this site. 
  • e-Rewards – This site is a mix of bad and good. erewards logoThey have plenty of surveys and I often qualify for them, but the redemption of your cash is weird. By weird I mean kind of a rip off, like buying a $10 Best Buy gift card with $30 e-reward dollars. I am going to give them a chance and see how this plays out. 

So by my rough calculation I should be able to earn around $125.oo a month with these five sites or over 1000 bucks annually. This is money I could use for investments, to pay for a vacation, or buy Christmas gifts at the end of you year. You could use it to pay down debt or as seed money for your own small business.  It has the potential to be an additional revenue stream for you or I. All we need to do is to take some of that TV time and put it to better use. 

I will up date my progress in a month. Wish me luck. 

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Made in the U.S.A. Monday – Laptop Lunches Bento-ware

Going out or brown bagging it? This is the great debate of work place dining. I’ll admit it, most of the time I go out. It probably cost me around $125+ a month or about $1500 a year! Bringing my own lunch would save me about $900 a year!  It’s my last wasteful habit and something I am working on. 

bento ware logoTo aid me in that goal I certainly could use a few of the products that “Laptop Lunches” offers. Their lunchboxes are made from BPA free, lead free, recycled plastic right here in America. They are microwave in dishwasher safe, built to last, and when they finally do reach the end of their usefulness can be recycled once again.

You can use their products with the piece of mind that you are not polluting your food with chemicals that can leach in from toxic plastics that  foreign made containers sometimes use. “Laptop Lunches” is a company that values quality and responsibility.

For my own personal use I think the Bistro Bento Box 2.0 would serve me best. The large sandwich size container could for almost all of my meals and the size containers could how condiments or veggies. Gotta eat those vegetables.  

bistro bento boxA box like this should give you the flexibility to alter your daily menu choices and avoid the monotony that most people often associate with packing your own meal. One day I can have chicken parm, the next a sandwich, after that make some pasta and meat sauce. Some days I use the microwave, other not, this products can accommodate whatever I might thrown at it.

If you are getting annoyed at the amount of money you are wasting dining out at work, you should probably consider “brown bagging” it with a Bento box from Laptop Lunches”

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The First PiggyBankBuilder Wednesday Giveaway of 2014 Has Started!

The giveaway is back again and ready for 2014. I hope all of you have a happy new year. regal 2:5This time out we are offering a $25 gift card Regal gift card for our contest. The crop of Oscar hopefuls this year is quite impressive. To me there is no better way to see a film then is at the movie theater. If you share this opinion then this is the prize for you. 

As always you have multiple ways to earn multiple entries. Please utilize them. Our past three winners won via a tweet entry. Please keep that in mind and best of luck to all of you. 

 

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Made in the U.S.A. Monday – Who is Billy?

I believe that buying “American Made” is the single most important financial decision that you can make. A great many people seem to think that politicians have the answers, they don’t. If every American resolved to buy domesticaly made products whenever possible it would send billions of dollars pouring into our economy.  You would see a massive resurgence in hiring and those new jobs would probably pay pretty well. The shrinking middle class in this country would come roaring back. You make the difference, not some elected official.

When I tell this to people I often hear the same misconception over and over again in their reply. “Buy American? Good luck finding anything still made here”. This is a misguided and cynical view and my answer usually surprises them. “Really? My New Balance sneakers are made in America, so are my jeans, and my sweatshirt and my jacket”.  Not only are many things still made here, but they are pretty easy to find and pretty fairly priced when you take a long term view. 

In support of the “Made in the USA” movement I have showcased a different “American Made” items every Monday for the last 18 months. Not only do I get to support my fellow American workers, but I also get to learn about some great products.  I often end of buying many of the items that I write about. One of them was a a Carhartt Detroit Jacket that I certainly have been getting a lot of use out of this winter. 

I am happy to report that I really like my new winter jacket. It fits very well, it is extremely warm, and looks great. Being black it does so even a small amount of lint, but I have a brush for that. All in all I am very happy with my jacket, but one small detail inside one of the pockets gave ma a bit of surprise.

BillyIt was a little tag that reads “Inspected by Billy”. I have an Uncle Billy, I know a few guys named Billy. The Billy that inspected my jacket is probably a lot like those guys. Just an average middle class person, working at a factory that makes clothing for people like me. I don’t know the man, but I bet Billy worries about the economy, he believes in Carhartt clothing and wants people to try them. 

Billy is someone’s child, perhaps someone’s brother or husband, maybe he’s someone’s father. Most of what I have said about Billy is speculation, the only thing I know for sure is that he is an American worker, he inspected my jacket, and that jacket is one of the best I have ever owned. We are all in this together and we are the deciders of our future. Please remember that the next time you decide to buy something. 

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