Chromecast: Saving Money on Cable

Google has decided to jump into the competition of content streaming by introducing its very own streaming device, the Chromecast. Following in the footsteps of other dominant content streaming devices and services such

Chromecast

Chromecast (Photo credit: Stratageme.com)

as Apple TV or the Roku, Google hopes to allow casual video watchers the ability to watch streaming content on their TV instead of on a tablet or smartphone. With penny pinching being on everyone’s minds as prices increase for everything ranging from food to gas, cutting costs on entertainment expenses by eliminating cable is a wise decision.

Chromecast costs significantly less than other devices available on the market at a mere $35. Three months of NetFlix are included with the purchase, which essentially puts the price of Chromecast at only $11. It is a bit larger than a thumb drive and plugs into an open HDMI port on your high-definition television. It can be powered directly through the HDMI port on newer televisions as long as you have HDMI 1.4, but if you have older HDMI technology, Chromecast can also get power from a USB port if your television has one. As a last resort, you can also get an optional power cord to power the device from a regular outlet. You’ll also need to have Wi-Fi access to send the signal from your chosen device.

Chromecast is designed to allow you to stream your content at a low cost without requiring you to buy a smart TV. Once it is connected, you can stream video or audio content from your phone, tablet or computer directly to your television. One of the key benefits of Chromecast is that it can be controlled with multiple devices, not just Google’s. It can be controlled with an iPhone, iPad or Android-powered tablet or phone. You can also project content that you have open in Google’s Chrome browser on your computer to your TV screen. Unfortunately, you’re completely out of luck for the moment if you use a BlackBerry or Windows device since they trail behind Android and iOS in popularity.

Since Chromecast is relatively new, only a few apps currently support the “cast” ability that projects your content to the screen. The device runs a barebones version of Google’s own Chrome operating system. When you press “cast” through an application the content is sent directly to your television. It doesn’t merely mirror your device’s screen, so you can still play games, surf the web or check your email while watching your TV.

Control of the Chromecast is also simple since you can select what you want to watch, adjust the volume and control playback directly from your device without having to adjust to a new interface or have another remote floating around the house. Another selling point is that family and friends can utilize your Chromecast without needing to jump through any set up hoops along the way.

Ditch the costly cable service and get with the times by utilizing streaming devices and services.

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Whose Line Is It Anyway? Why do some shows return from the dead?

Aisha Tyler

Aisha Tyler (Photo credit: MandeePhoto)

Watching TV in the summer used to mean surfing channels of reruns, but lately there seems to be a slew of “new” shows that are repeating old ones. Networks and cable channels are bringing back previously popular shows such as “Whose Line is it Anyway?”, “Hawaii Five-O”, and “Dynasty”. While some people are thrilled that their favorite shows are back, a lot more of us are wondering why we need to keep rehashing the past.

The answer isn’t that the networks have suddenly become nostalgic. With increasing competition from internet videos and more cable channels, many TV networks have seen their profit from advertising drop in the past several years. More worrisome for the networks, many economists are predicting that the model of having companies pay for advertising during show breaks will become obsolete over the next decade.

These factors mean that TV stations are not very willing to take risks with new shows. A new drama or science fiction show can take millions of dollars to produce, and in some cases it will be pulled within a few episodes if it fails to catch on. When reviving an old show, a network has some guarantee that it will be popular. While not every remake catches on (Charlie’s Angels anyone?), a remake will usually attract enough interest to make the first episode a success.

The costs to produce these shows are also much lower than “new” shows. In many cases, networks already own the property rights to the show as well as contracts with many of the former actors, directors, and producers. In several cases, they also have access to props, costumes, and set pieces. Because of this, they can produce a pilot for a much lower costs than a “new” show.

Finally, advertisers like the idea of bringing back a show. While a network usually has to struggle to find sponsors for shows that don’t have a full season of Nielsen data to show, they can easily sell a show that advertisers are already familiar with. Furthermore, advertisers like that they know what to expect. Without seeing a single episode, an advertiser can accurately guess at the demographic that will be attracted to the show just by looking at the data from the original show. Because advertisers are familiar with the plot of these shows, they are also more willing to negotiate for product placement within the show itself. In some cases, advertisers have even suggested how their product could be incorporated into an episode before the first script is even finalized.

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3 Worst Things About Being Financially Responsible

Sexy Lingerie

Everybody talks about all of the wonderful things that happen when you’re saving money and being responsible.   I know I do.   It’s true, good things do happen.    There’s really nothing like the feeling that you’re suddenly not living paycheck to paycheck.

But what about the other side of the coin?   What sucks about staying in the black?

1.  You have to make choices.   When you’re living on credit, you can buy a car, charge an expensive dinner every week, and go on vacation.   If you’re not spending real money, then who cares?   When you’re living for real, you have to prioritize.   Do you buy groceries or video games?   Do you buy sexy lingerie or a fancy dinner?   Braces or college?   You’re given a lot of choices, but you can only pick the ones you can actually afford.

2.   You’re no longer the Joneses other people are trying to keep up with.   The guy down the street, with the fancy car, big screen TV, and artificially perfect noses on his teenagers?  You’re not him, anymore, but that’s okay, because he’s financing his lifestyle 9.9% at a time.  Yes, a bit of incoming envy can give you a warm, tingly feeling, but it doesn’t put food on the table.

3.  It’s boring.   Taking a trip in a fast car and picking up an entourage for a 10-day party is fun.   Balancing your checkbook and spending 6 months saving up for your kid’s braces is not.   If you’ve been living like a rockstar, rolling back to a responsible standard of living is going to come as a shock, but it’s better than suddenly running out of money and having your world come crashing down around you.

Being responsible comes with a lot of downside, but it’s all superficial.   The benefits are real, and long-lasting.  What’s the worst thing you’ve had to deal with by being responsible?

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20 Lazy Ways to Save Money

Single point of failure
Image by Paul Vivier via Flickr

Investopedia ran a post on 20 lazy ways to save money.  I thought it was worth sharing my take on the post.

1.  Schedule automatic payments. I do this obsessively.   I run all of my regular payments through my bank’s online bill-pay.  I think there are 2 bills that get paid manually; 1 is a quarterly payment, the other is due annually.

2.  Eat your groceries. According to the post, Americans–on average–throw away 15% of the groceries they buy.   I totally believe that.  We don’t throw away that much, but it’s still too much.  It tends to be the fresh vegetables, which we eat as side dishes instead of the main course.   We need to switch that mindset, both to use the vegetable efficiently and to eat healthier.

3.  Bundle services. I refuse.  I hate the idea of having a single point of failure for multiple systems.  If the power goes out, I lose my cable, but I keep the phone.   If, for some reason, I can’t pay my phone bill, I don’t lose my internet connection.   I like keeping these things separated.

4.  Pay off credit card. Hardly a lazy process, but otherwise…duh!

5. Mark your calendar. I use my Google Calendar as obsessively as I use automatic payments.  I put in reminders, grocery lists, or anything else I need to know at a specific time.

6. File your taxes on time. I just helped a friend dig out of this mess.   I pay as soon as all of my paperwork is delivered.   The IRS doesn’t give up and they have leverage, including garnishment and even jail.

7. Roll it over. When you change jobs, take your 401k with you.  Don’t leave it behind like a series of red-headed stepchildren.   It’s too easy to lose track of the accounts.   Don’t cash it out!  I made that mistake once and lost far too much to taxes.  A rollover doesn’t count against your 401k contribution limits.

8. Switch credit cards. If you can a good balance transfer offer that’s followed by a better interest rate than you currently have, use it.  But don’t forget to pay attention to the transfer fees.  Do the math.  If it costs you $500 to transfer the money, how much interest do you have to save to make it worthwhile?

9. Use your privileges. If you have a AAA membership, use it.  It gives you a discount on hotels, oil changes, car rentals, and more.   Read the paperwork. Former military gets a ton of random discounts, too.  Ask.

10. Rent instead of buy. Renting can save you money over buying, if it’s something you’ll only use once, but borrowing is free.

11. Buy instead of rent.  Rent-a-center is a ripoff, but they can’t even legally operate here.  If you’re going to use something regularly, buy it.

12. Ask. I love to call up every company I give money to and ask if there’s a way I can give them less.   Outside of chain stores and restaurants I almost always ask for a lower price.

13. Just say no. Extended warranties are generally a waste of money.   However, if I can’t afford to replace the item, I do get the warranty.  On my car, I brought it in for a full inspection and repair a few weeks before the warranty ran out and made all of that money back.    We are slowly building a warranty fund to replace the need for any future extended warranties.

14. Have the awkward conversation. We tried giving gift-giving the axe, but nobody enjoyed that.  Now, we cap the gifts at $20 and do a round-robin type of gift.  $40 for gifts keeps 10 adults happy.

15. Eat at home. Generally, I can cook almost anything better at home, but I really do enjoy eating out and trying new restaurants.  We just keep it from being a regular expense.

16. Balance your checkbook. What a waste of time!    With automatic payments and cash for all of the discretionary budget items, I balance the checkbook once a month.

17. Stick with your bank. Either use your own bank’s ATM network, or use a bank that refunds ATM fees.  I only take out cash on the first of the month, for the entire month and I do that with a teller, so this is never an issue for us.

18. Use your TV. Cable movie packages instead of a video membership?  Really?  That’s a horrible idea.

19. Quit those bad habits. I quite smoking, saving $200 a month.  I don’t drink much and I’m working on fixing my eating habits.   Vices are fun, and this is certainly not a fun way to save money.

20. Forget the pet. There is no way this would fly at my house.  we have 5 cats, 2 gerbils, and a dog.   Our renter has 2 pythons.  We’re a flippin’ zoo and honestly, mess and cost aside, we all like it that way.

How do you stand on these ideas?

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