Sunday, September 30, 2018

The New iPhone XS and XS Max

The new iPhone XS and XS Max are here and the XS Max is pretty incredible. While the differences may not seem earthshattering at first compared to the iPhone X. There are some things that make it pretty great. 

Unless you are planning to upgrade to the larger size XS Max it's probably not worth it if you have the iPhone X, but previous generation phones will make a bigger difference. 

The biggest benefit the new phone has is the size. I have really enjoyed the larger size iPhones and the XS Max seems like the perfect sized phone. The gorgeous 6.5-inch screen is amazing. Plus the longer battery life really helps. In fact, now I rarely see under 50% when only charging at night and the little bit that CarPlay adds something that the plus-sized phones didn't offer even though they were rated for a similar battery life. The new speakers are incredible. It's unbelievable the difference they made. You are actually surprised it's coming from a phone and it just feels less tinny. 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The New Exxon Mobile Rewards

The new Exxon Mobile Rewards is here and is starting off to be a great deal. I just joined and got my few remaining Plenti points matched plus $1 worth of points. On top of that, you can redeem at just $1.

With the new program, you get 3 points per gallon spent on gas and 2 points per dollar for convenience items. I am interested to see what promotions they will offer.

Currently, this program is great and Exxon is the only gas station near me that allows me to buy gas with mobile payments like Apple Pay through the Speedpass+ app. They can even email you your receipt. It's currently not quite as good of a deal as Shells Gold Level FuelRewards where you get an immediate 5 cents of per a gallon, but the convenience and security of Apple Pay is nice.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Rewards Programs: Addictive but Lucrative

Obsessive at First

Whenever I see a new reward program at a place, I am interested in it easy to be obsessed. I try to learn all the details and restrictions. The original Starbuck's rewards program was great for me. It allowed you to get free rewards for buying anything and since I mostly purchased regular coffee while at school it allowed me to accrue rewards for other more expensive drinks. Now the program is based on the amount of money you spend, but I am still hooked. Looking for bonuses and participating to get free rewards although not nearly as lucrative for me.

The Real Draw

The reason Starbucks rewards is appealing is that it offers elite levels like a frequent flyer program. It makes you want to strive to maintain your gold level. It makes you feel like you have joined this elite club which is for the most part artificial. You do receive extra benefits, but you most certainly do pay for it by purchasing things more frequently. Many airlines do precisely the same thing by making you feel less important unless you are a part of their programs. They can be lucrative, but also cause some people to make extra flights just to maintain their level in the program. I still love this programs but also realize you have to look at what you are getting for your efforts.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

3 Ways to Make the Most of your Commute

There are many ways to both make your commute smoother and more enjoyable. There are a few things I like to do during my commute that go beyond having a nice travel mug full of coffee. 

1. Audiobooks

I am a big fan of audiobooks. They can really help make a commute more enjoyable and allow you to learn along the way. I currently use the Overdrive and download audiobooks for free from my local library. This is a great opportunity for anyone who doesn't want to spend the money on Audible or buying audiobooks. The only downside is Overdrive doesn't have a CarPlay app and you sometimes have to get on a waitlist for books.

Some of my favorite reads are the 4 Hour Workweek and the Richest Man in Babylon.

2. Podcasts

Podcasts are a great way to learn about any topic or keep up with the news. You can download a podcast app and listen to a virtually unlimited number free of talks. You can even use them to help keep up with your busy career during your long commutes.

Some of my favorite podcasts are Mad Money and Talking Points

3. Music Streaming

I have become a big fan of Apple Music. If you are a student you can get a subscription for $5 (normally $10) a month after a 3-month free trial. The thing I like best about Apple Music is that they curate music you will enjoy into playlists and then update it every week. This is nice because it gives you something you can throw on without having to search. I also like Pandora for this same reason.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Tips for Generating Passive Income

Why generate passive income?

If you have been following my blog, you see I often talk about ways to make more money. Many of my tips require a bit of work and don't always amount to the results I would like. Many blogs discuss setting things up like online businesses to generate income. While this may work for some, they often don't discuss how and even still they require a lot of work continuously. Virtually all passive income streams require something from you, even if they require no work after setting them up. Here I will discuss three legitimate ways you can make more money right now. 

Three Options for Passive Income

Passively Sell your Information

There are a few options to passively sell your information. This comes in a couple of different ways. First, you can passively sell your fitness activity. There are plenty of great options for this including Achievement and SweatCoin. You simply link your fitness and health apps and watch the money roll in. The other possibility is to sell your locations data. Apps like the PanelApp let you share your location and earn money as payment. 

Start an Investment Account and Invest for the Long-Term

Here you have to give up the money you invest. The great thing here is if you pick a good long-term fund you don't have to monitor your investments as much if at all. Personally, I like low-cost ETFs. There are many options out there, and I won't make any recommendations here, but I personally like funds that pay dividends so you can get some compounding. I also like tech stocks, and there are plenty of good tech ETFs. I personally use Stash Invest for my long-term passive investing. 

Earn Money for Things You do Anyway

There are many possibilities here. One thing I like to do is use sites like Swagbucks to earn money for searching the internet. The possibilities here are endless. You can earn money while you shop online. Get paid to watch short videos. Generate income playing games or listening to music. The only downside here is that you won't get paid much for them, but if you are doing it anyway who can complain.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Stash Invest: A Great Way to Get Started in Investing

I have been using the Stash Invest app for almost a year now. It's a great platform for new investors and takes away a lot of the barriers to investing. They say you can start investing with as little as $5, but considering you have to pay $1 a month for accounts under $5,000, it is too little to get any benefits out of it. The biggest feature they offer is the ability to buy fractional shares.

Let's start by talking about fees. For a standard Stash account, you will pay $1 for accounts under $5,000 and then 0.25% a year for accounts above that threshold this may sound like a lot, but you have to realize there are no trade fees. The best thing about no trade fees is you can let your money hit the market as soon as you get it instead of having to wait until it makes sense financially allowing you to take full advantage of your money.

They also provide a lot of valuable information. This is much more relevant as you are starting out, but they helped me not overreact during the correction earlier this year and to learn about things like dollar cost averaging and how dividends work. It's a great added benefit and they are very high-quality posts, but you can also find all of the same information elsewhere.

Stash Invest allows you to start investing very easily. In fact, it can be quite addictive. The thrill you get from seeing the money in your Stash grow really makes it fun. The longer you spend with Stash you worry less about the little ups and downs looking for long-term gains instead. 

Currently, my favorite investment is Robots Rising. I have always loved robotics and found it interesting to have to opportunity to invest in them. You can learn more about this investment here.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Easy Ways to Save Money on Groceries

I am a big fan of saving money on things. It's often better worth your time-saving money rather than making extra money because any money saved is tax-free. There are many ways to save money on groceries, but some methods I use are printing online coupons, adding coupons to my savings card and using rebate apps that give a discount for buying specific products.

One straightforward way to save money on groceries is printing online coupons. My favorite place to print coupons is Swagbucks because at the time of writing this they currently offer 10 cents extra in the form of Swagbucks when you redeem and an additional 2 cents just for printing them. For most people that should more than cover the cost of printing allowing you to keep more of the savings. It's also easy to find reasonably high-value coupons on things like cat food and dog food. I've even used coupons as high as $5 off.

The next best thing you can do is add coupons directly to your savings card. At Giant, for example, you can add many of the coupons you would see on directly to your card. That way you don't even have to bother with printing them. The nice thing here is that you don't have to worry about printing cost and can add any coupons you think you might use. The only drawback here is that if you find at higher value coupon somewhere else you usually can't use that instead of the digital version, so it's worth checking your print coupons before activating them.

Finally, you can save money through cash back rebate apps like Ibotta. I have been amazed by how much money you can save. This is how it works before you go shopping you activate any offers you may like. They even have any brand offers and sometimes any item offers. Then you purchase the items you activated, you can even scan them to ensure they are the correct item. Last you upload your receipt and may have to scan the items. After a little while, they will deposit the money to your account and you can redeem for PayPal or gift cards once you reach $20.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

3 Apps that Pay you to Workout

There are a number of apps that will pay you to work out. The majority of these apps will pay you simply for walking and chances are if you have a smartphone its already counting those steps.While the length of time to cash out on most of these apps is quite long you are getting paid for something you should be doing anyway.

1. Achievement
I have been using this site for a couple of years now. This app allows you to earn rewards for simply linking your health apps. It can be difficult to know exactly what apps qualify, but I find with only a couple apps linked the earning are quite reasonable. The payment threshold is only $10 so for allowing them to passively track your health data you get an extra $10 every so often. You can also complete short surveys in-app to earn extra points.

2. Sweatcoin
This is the app pays you to walk outdoors that everyone's been talking about lately. It's a great app and actually has the potential to pay quite well. At about 10K steps outdoors a day you can get about $50 a year. Pretty good for just walking. This app has an interesting twist to it where you can upgrade to higher earning limit tiers using the Sweatcoins you earn. It's actually a pretty good deal even if you only max out a few days out of the month.

3. Earthmiles
Earthmiles allows you to earn credits by connecting your health apps. While this app has large rewards store it mostly offers discounts on different health and wellness products. I like the feel of the app and it's easy to use, but don't quite feel as rewarded as by the other apps. I am interested in seeing where this app goes in the future.

Want to learn about more apps that pay you to work out?  Check out this post on 10 apps will pay you or save you money!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Why I use Bing for Web Searches and News?

I have been a big fan of Bing. I started using them mostly because of Bing Rewards which has now become Microsoft Rewards. Obviously, I appreciate the fact that they pay me to use them, but other reasons include their beautiful background images and easy access to top news.

Let's start with Microsoft Rewards. They will pay you a small amount for each web search which amounts to about half a penny a search with limits of up to about 15 cents a day on desktop and another 10 cents a day on mobile. They also have little quizzes and activities that pay a bit more. This may not sound like a lot, but it gives me at least an extra $5 a month for reading the news and searching the web. Things I do anyway.

As far as the search engine goes it's not bad. When compared side by side, Google may be slightly better, but I really love the interface. I normally don't have an issue finding what I am looking for. The Mobile app has great features. It allows you to see nearby gas prices. You can see local restaurants and browse movies. It even has a built-in barcode reader if you want to compare prices when shopping or scan QR codes.

I also like the interface for browsing the news. Which happens to also count as web searches for rewards. You can browse through top news based on headline images and clicking each brings you to a web search on that topic. It also has an option to search news based on categories, so if you want to see just tech news you can look just under that category.

Looking for other ways to make money check out this post 10 Apps that Pay you or Save you Money

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Smart Kitchen: Wi-Fi Connected Cook Tops

I've always imagined smart homes moving toward talking appliances. While you can't yet talk to these cooktops they do have some interesting features. Including inductions heating, Wi-Fi, flex zones, and Bluetooth.

First, they offer induction cooktops which have the advantage of not only heating food and water faster they don't get hot without a pan on them in case you turn on the wrong burner. If you are interested in an induction cooktop I would recommend checking out this article by Consumer Reports.
The interface is beautiful and looks very futuristic. It allows you to control it with the touchscreen or using removable knobs, which also makes cleaning easier. It even has a virtual flame feature so you can visually confirm what is heating. 

This Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled cooktop also allows you to monitor and control it from anywhere. While it doesn't seem like an earth-shattering feature it does allow you control things without being right next to it. Personally, I think it should be Alexia enabled and allow voice controls, but we will probably be there soon. Learn more about this Samsung model here

Check out how technology is affecting the environment here.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Essential Technology for Travel

Top 10 Essential Technology for Travel

1. Smartphone 
There is very little you can't do these days when you have a smartphone. Make sure to check that you will have service where you are going and that you won't be charged a fortune. I have T-Mobile and they include data and texting in an enormous number of destinations and calling is cheap too.
Smartphone is Essential for Travel

2. An International Power Adapter
This one gets a spot high up on my list just because of how important it is when traveling abroad. I recently took a trip and didn't realize how necessary it would be for my laptop. If you want to power most computers and phones you just need an adapter, but if you are planning to power other devices make sure to check the voltage otherwise you may have to buy a power converter as well. 

Power adapter that simply converts an outlet

3. A Back-Up Power Brick Battery
This can be invaluable if you will need to charge on the go. I find that I need it less than I used to now that many planes and buses have USB ports and power outlets. It's still great to have for the peace of mind it offers.
Back up power brick to charge phones and tablets

4. Compact Headphones with a Normal 3.5mm Jack
I find it very useful to have an extra pair of ordinary headphones. This isn't necessary for everyone, but since my phone doesn't have a headphone jack I don't often think about needing them. I carry a standard pair of Apple Earphones. These are nice for in-flight entertainment too.

Normal 3.5mm corded Apple Earphones

Interested in more about travel tech. Check out my last post on in flight technology

Monday, March 5, 2018

In-flight Technology

I recently had the opportunity to take a relatively long international flight after not having flown for a bit. My flight was with United Airlines, and it offered a number of features. While nothing overly new it was the first time I got to experience most of them.

One of the best experiences for me was the in-flight entertainment system. It offered an impressive number of recent movies along with on-demand shows. The touchscreen-based system worked very well on one of my flights, but the screen was not very sensitive on the other flight, which is ok for movies, but difficult if to want to play games on it. There were also a number of people with faulty systems on my flight. Unfortunately, the flight attendants were unable to fix it for them, but they offered them some money or frequent flyer miles for their inconvenience. It would still be a long boring flight without them if you were counting on them for your entertainment.

The flight was also equipped with WiFi. It was quite expensive, but a nice thing to offer. It is very useful if you need to access your email or grab a file. I purchased a 1-hour pass for $5.99. It was limited though so you couldn't stream music or video and you couldn't access WiFi calling. This prevents my phone from even being able to send texts, although WhatsApp and iMessage still worked for messages.

If you need to power up any of your devices the flight also had a standard US outlet as well as a USB port at every seat so you could power up all of your devices while you fly. This was nice because it allows you to land with your phone fully charged.

There is still a long way they could go, but I am very impressed with where the technology has gotten. The best features are still limited to longer flights, my connecting flights had almost no tech features. We are almost at the point where you can stay completely connected even while flying.

Learn the travel essentials I would never leave home without here.

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