Free Tivo

Vintage TV set, pt. 2
Image by Marcin Wichary via Flickr

TV is causing problems in my life.

We watch too much TV. Often, we’re only watching because there’s a crappy show in between two shows we do want to watch.   In the winter–during the new seasons–my son has wrestling practice 4 or 5 nights per week, which means I miss the new shows I like.     We recently downgraded our service provider, so there’s no functional guide button in the house.

That all makes me sad.

Then I found out that Tivo’s lifetime service is attached to the unit.  If you sell a unit with lifetime service, you can transfer the service to the buyer.   You can’t, however, transfer the service to a new box.   That means that everyone who upgrades and sells their old box is selling the lifetime service with it.  If you don’t mind having older equipment, you can pick up a used box with full lifetime service for less than the cost of a new box.

After reading Erica’s method of finding 750 extra hours per year, we decided to give it a shot.  We are taking back control of our TV. No more rushing home to catch a new episode.   No more mindlessly channel-surfing to kill time between good shows.  No more commercials.   And a guide!  I like having a guide button.

I started shopping.  My goal was to get a Series 2 Tivo with full lifetime service for about $100 before shipping.  I came close a few times, but always lost the auction, in the end.  I wasn’t in a hurry, and I didn’t actually have the money budgeted, so it was good to lose.

Then, a friend found himself in a situation that didn’t work with a Tivo and decided to sell his heavily upgraded, heavily accessorized Tivo HD for $100 + shipping.  A quick call to my wife resulted in just one objection:  Where were we getting the money? We don’t have an opportunity fund, yet and I needed to take advantage of this quick if we were going to get it.

I decided to make it free.

When I automated all of our bills, I rounded up. If a bill was for $63.50, I paid $64.   If a bill wasn’t exactly consistent, I paid enough to cover the higher amount.   For example, I didn’t have a text messaging plan on my cell phone until December.  Before that, I’d get about a dozen texts each month, so I budgeted for paying for the texts.   If I didn’t get the texts, I’d get a credit on my bill.   I never lowered the automated payment.   All of my bills were set up like that.   My insurance company dropped my rates, but I left the payment alone.   I slowly started accumulating a credit on a number of bills. My intention was to skip a month when the billed amount got to $0, and apply the money to debt.  It was just a mind-game to play with myself to make the debt easier to pay.

I flipped through the bills, looking at the credits.   I adjusted the payments to match the bills this month and found more than enough to buy the Tivo.   This is a purchase that doesn’t influence my budget in any way.   Almost.   This unit doesn’t have lifetime service, so I will be paying for the monthly fee, but that’s been more than balanced out by  reducing our television service.

This is a recently-high-end model for free, as far as my budget is concerned.   I used money that wasn’t even on the table before I went looking for it.  It’s like searching the couch cushions for money to catch a movie.

Now,  I’ll have control of my TV–with a strong measure of convenience to boot–for $13 per month.  The time savings is yet-to-be-determined.

A free Tivo simply because I rounded my bills up when I automated last year.   That’s a pain-free opportunity fund.

Update: After I wrote this, I found out that I dropped the ball in budgeting for child-care now that summer is here and my oldest won’t be in school.   These costs are going up $350 per month.   I spent an hour scavenging the couch cushions of my budget this week.   I had to adjust some savings and repayment goals, but I’ve effectively paid for a summer worth of care for my boy the same way.  Free.

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Making the Most from Your Home Theatre with Window Treatments

Home theater projection screen displaying a hi...

Home theater projection screen displaying a high-definition television image (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time home theatres were only reserved for the rich and famous – the equipment and rooms necessary were just far too expensive for your Average Joe. Now, the landscape has changed and with projectors and all of the other core essentials being more affordable, home theatres are more popular than ever before.

Rather than pointing you in the direction of the latest equipment, we’re instead going to talk about another way that you can boost your home cinema experience. The windows in this room can make or break your movies, even though they are often left until the very end of a project. However, make a bad choice in this this regard and the whole expense associated with your home cinema will have been for nothing.

Your window treatment decisions should mainly revolve around your viewing preferences and the type of room that your system is located in. If we start with the latter, if your home cinema happens to be basking in glorious sunlight for most of the day, it goes without saying that you’re going to suffer from the dreaded screen glare. Right in the middle of the best scene in the film, you’ll be hit with a glare that means “part two” will have to follow the day after.

In the above instances, new blind technology is your best friend. Turn to something like a solar shade to eradicate the beaming rays that blind your screen and tune into your movie without any disruption at all.

The above solution assumes that you actually want a bit of natural daylight streaming into your home theatre. Of course, some people might not want to rely on this.

It’s these instances where a more traditional treatment enters the picture, like a blackout blind. As the name suggests, these are able to eradicate all natural light that would otherwise be flowing into the building, to leave your room blanketed in darkness. In other words, your home cinema has just mimicked the setting of the traditional high-street cinema. It doesn’t get much better than that, does it?

Depending on the type of room that your system is based in, there are other options. For example, a lot of people decide to install their home cinemas in the basement, completely out of the way from the rest of the house. In these instances, where the room temperature tends to drop, it might be worth considering a blind that can retain some of the room’s thermal efficiency. Insulated shades are one of the best choices and do exactly as their name suggests.

Already, the window treatment options for your home cinema are starting to become endless. As you’ve probably been able to see, this is a room which relies heavily on its blinds or curtains and making the wrong choice can ruin your whole viewing experience. Just ask yourself what you actually want from the room, and what the room requires. Answer these two points and your home cinema will be the real deal.

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John Luke Robertson Gets Engaged: The Benefits of Marrying Young

John Luke RobertsonAs I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, a young Mr. John Luke Robertson is engaged to be married at the ripe age of nineteen. While I’m positive you may be reeling in awe at how anyone could fathom being married at that age, the idea isn’t such a terrible one. The Robertsons have done more than build an outdoorsman’s empire; they’ve set the standard for wholesome values and American family dynamic. Even though I’m sure the two lovebirds won’t be dining on ramen and sharing a ramshackle apartment on the cheap side of town, they have the right idea. Let’s take a moment to explore why marrying young may not be such a bad idea for those of us less waterfowl adept.

In the beginning, there was man. Man loved woman. Woman loved man. They found that they were so completely enamoured with one another that they couldn’t stand the idea of a moment apart and decided, “Hey, let’s spend every moment of or life together, forever.” There they are. Two young, ambitious people with the world ahead of them. Now what?

Likely, college is still looming for the two. Instead of struggling to work through school while paying for housing, they help each other. Two incomes mean half the burden and twice the savings. Instead of going out at night, they stay in studying, bonding, burning cookies and making lasting memories. After four years, that time spent at home has paid off. Instead of tarnishing their unblemished credit by applying for for small loans to stay afloat and likely defaulting, they’ve been paying off credit cards, paying on student loans, and thusly establishing good credit.

Speaking of homes, it’s about time for that. Thanks to the lack of partying and indecision, they left school with great GPA’s, promising careers, and a near perfect credit history. They purchase a home. Likely, a nice home with room to grow and most importantly, equity. Now that they’ve made the leap, the mortgage payment isn’t much more than the rent would have been and they can afford to pay a little extra toward the principle each month. Settling down so early has paid in dividends, via two incomes and ever increasing property value. Our couple has accomplished in five years what would take a single graduate closer to ten or fifteen to obtain.

They may or may not decide to have children. In the event that they do, the kids will have grown and left the nest before our couple has even reached 45. Diligently working and supporting each other, they have continued to save. The house is paid off and the kids are gone. Retired at 50, they own their home outright. They can relax and spend the rest of life enjoying it from a comfy porch swing. There is no struggle or financial burden. They are free, while others their age may still be living paycheck to paycheck and worrying about keeping a roof overhead.

You may still consider the idea of marrying young to be frivolous, but it is likely that at this point in your life you could have been twice as well off had you only settled down with that girl from high school who would have followed you to the end of the Earth. Following your heart may not only make you happy, it can make you stable, self sufficient and and financially secure. They don’t make a duck call for that.

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Homeland: What does it cost to make a hit TV show?

HomelandWhen you are producing your own TV show, you can do whatever you want to cut costs. However, you must realize that making a hit TV show is something that is very expensive to do. You must pay your actors handsomely because they are usually Hollywood A-listers, but your actors are only the beginning of the payroll.

You have a very large staff that works on the show to make sure everything works. If you have ever watched the credits at the end of a TV episode, you know that there are many people working on the show. You must remember that every single person on the credits was paid a salary to work on the episode. You must now imagine looking at your balance sheet and deciding how to pay all these people for each episode.

There are many people who wonder why their TV shows do not look as well produced as others. This is something that is left up solely to money. Homeland has Showtime behind them, and Showtime can afford to pay for the exotic locations and all the effects that are needed. However, there are other shows that have to shoot on a much smaller budget. They use a smaller amount of locations, and they use a smaller amount of effects. This does not hurt the show in all cases, but a lack of money would make a show like Homeland impossible.

When Hollywood was equal parts television and movies, Homeland would have become a movie because of the budget. The budget that is spent on just one episode of this show could be used to make a decent movie. In today’s Hollywood, there are many TV shows that would have been movies 20 or 30 years ago.

When you watch Homeland, you need to remember that there is a ton of money behind every episode. You may not like every episode, but you must remember that the producers and studio paid handsomely to have that episode produced. The money that fuels Hollywood today is off the charts, and we must respect that when every new episode come on the television.

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