Tag Archives: benefits

Declaring War on My Debt

At time of writing this post, I have three debts of $2,650 + Interest, and one debt in collections (which I will detail later in this post). This is a significant improvement from a couple of years ago where I owed nearly $40,000. Needless to say, I have declared war on the money I owe to banks, and other creditors and taking on my financial mistakes with a vengeance.

This however is not without sacrifice. I had to make some serious decisions in my life, and I am sure some people will disagree with my actions, but the ideal is to live meagerly now so I can have a better life later. Some people will want to get out of debt so they can buy a car or a house. I don’t see me having such options available to me. In reality, the idea of owning a place I can call my own is a fantasy rather than a dream. So why am I doing it? Well, first – it is the right thing to do. Second, when I seen a light at the end of the tunnel, I had to make $125 in minimum payments per month to be on good terms with the companies I deal with now. Considering that I live below the poverty line, this is a serious challenge that will never end unless I first fix my life, and second attack my debt with the ferocity it deserves. Continue reading Declaring War on My Debt

Why Smart Phones are Smart

Most people in many first world countries own and rely on a smart phone daily. However, there are many people that still find smart phones as too expensive, too complicated, or just not effective. I am going to address many of the concerns that some many have.

Expense

Yes, most smart phones are more expensive than basic phones, or even feature phones. However, let’s look at the expense. First, the price of a phone. A basic phone can cost as little as $30. However, a reliable smart phone can cost more than 5 times that price. I would recommend at minimum a Motorola Moto G. The Moto G is not capable of supporting LTE, but it is also less than $200. Next is the service. Many cellular plans are about $35 or more. A smart phone plan if one shops around can get service for about $50. What would one get for the extra $15. First, at least 1GB of data. Keep in mind that the extra cost provides for data that a basic phone will never need.

Complicated

In reality, the smart phone is simpler than a basic phone. Yes, there will be some areas where a smart phone might be more complex, but keep in mind that there is much more that a smart phone can do. A smart phone not only will have a 12 key dialer, but can also handle the keys in a larger format – making keys easier to dial. However, where a basic phone will have to rely on T9 for text input, a smart phone can bring forth a QWERTY keyboard. This makes using SMS easier. In addition, a smart phone can handle email, and social networks. Don’t like your SMS capabilities, consider a new one.

And another issue to consider. What happens when you buy a new basic phone. You may have to enter all of your contacts again. All smart phones now can simply import your contacts. So, login with your credentials, and in a couple of minutes – all of your contacts are in your new phone. And rather than trying to find a number, important contacts can simply be put on the home screen (on some phones).

Efficiency

So, what about efficiency. Well, let’s take a look. Your smart phone can not only be a phone, but in some instances, it can also replace your transit schedules. The more routes your city may have, the more valuable this could be. It can also be your map, and navigation. It can be your calendar, and social network clients. It can handle your email, and provide for a basic point and shoot camera. The phone can connect with cloud based services to back up and store your content, and even be a flash light if you have a LED light for your camera. Services with some taxi services, and Jitney services such as Lyft and Uber can be installed. You can also play games, watch movies, read books and media. There is also the ability to have a translate service, and a media player. So, if you have a music library, or want to rely on streaming service – the smart phone can do it. The phone uses the cellular networks for your time, so no matter what time zone you are in, your phone has the right time. And with that in mind, you have an alarm clock. And as if that wasn’t enough, depending on the device – you can even have a digital wallet including storing all loyalty cards.

With this in mind – you can replace your cellular phone, calendar, social network clients, email client, camera (basic cameras), flash light, gaming device, ebook reader, alarm clock, timepiece, loyalty card, and in some cases, an NFC credit card. And of course, if that wasn’t enough – there is a web browser involved. A good smart phone can repalce a number of different devices, and even your personal wallet. I know personally, I carry a phone, photo ID, Google Wallet Card, and my Transit Card. If most places supported NFC payments, and if Port Authority of Allegheny County supported Google Wallet – I would only need to carry my ID.

And if this wasn’t enough, one can likely install a SIP client on a smart phone. This will mean that with a broadband internet connection at home, one can also have a lower cost home phone. If most home phone services are $30, and a sufficient calling plan with SIP is half that – this means that this could actually save the cost of the expense of a monthly service that would have to be paid more.

Reality

My first smart phone was the Blackberry 8320. This was about 7 years ago. Obviously, I had basic phones before hand. I would never consider a basic or even a feature phone. And it is not just me, but I recommended a smart phone to more than a dozen people, and those that took that suggestion, never regretted. In a matter of fact, none of those dozen of people will switch to a basic phone. This is because the basic phone will simply no longer meet the expectations they expect from their mobile device. A smart phone has become too valuable.

My Suggestions

So, you are going to bite the bullet, and will jump out to a new smart phone. You have a number of options, and this could be daunting. You might ask a sales representative who might be a fan-person (thinks a particular brand/model is the best ever no matter what), or they may be paid by commission of how much money they can get from you. I understand the value of most OSes, and therefore will give suggestions on that. So with that in mind, here is my opinion.

First, unless you live almost entirely in the Apple eco-system, an iPhone will not be the best choice. Even the cheapest iPhone is $500. To jump in the iPhone will mean exclusive use and demand of iTunes, and iCloud. You will also be limited to the types of apps. For example, no call manager for you.

Windows Phone is really only of any good if you are going to remain within Windows entirely. The lineup of apps for Windows Phones are limited, and as with Apple, apps that can handle various controls of the phone is not available. Blackberry has fallen out of favor, and like the iPhone – expect to pay more than you should. You are also limited by the number of apps, and while there is a way to get to use Android Apps, this is not completely reliable.

This leaves Android. And unfortunately, not all Android phones are equal. In my experience, non Nexus devices may get a minor update, but you already bought the phone, and therefore – no one cares about your happiness. In they end, they just want to be good enough to get you to buy their product again. Also, many phones will have OS UI overlays and “value added software” (aka: S**tware). This could be a good thing for some people, but my opinion, it is more trouble than good. Even non-modified UIs do not guarantee a reliable update path (LG G2x is a good example). Why should you care about this? Well smart phone OSes are much like your PC OS. If not updated, it leaves to security issues. However, where you can update your PC, the smart phone is at the mercy of the OS developer, phone manufacturer, and in some cases – carriers.

To avoid this, one should look to one of the following lines of devices

  • Android One (found in India, and eventually 3rd World Countries)
  • Google Play Edition (like other phones, but stripped of UI changes, and S**tware)
  • Nexus Line (specified by Google for hardware, and handled all OS updates)

You should have at least 8GB, or 16GB if you will see yourself in using a lot of apps. 8GB with a micro-SD card is needed if you would want a low number of apps, and want to use media. The Motorola Moto G (Play Edition) with 16GB for $200 is probably the best budget choice. The Nexus 5-32GB is a much better option in every way (no micro-SD card slot) is $400 which will be twice as much, but much better option which includes regional LTE, and global GSM-2G/3G. There is so much more. If you are on a tight budget, the Moto G, and those that can splurge a little – the Nexus 5. If you are going to buy used – a Nexus 4 or 5 is worthwhile if on a budget.

For service providers, you will likely have to utilize a GSM or LTE provider. Even with LTE, consider the carrier to support your bands. In the United States, this will likely limit to AT&T, T-Mobile, and TIng. Also, MVNOs using one of these carriers will likely be sufficient. T-Mobile with 2GB of service for $45 will likely be the cheapest. Cricket Wireless (now owned by AT&T) is $50 with 2.5GB. If your provider is using Assurant, I can not in good concience recommend using this insurance option. Consider outsourcing new or refurbished devices through Securanty, or Square Trade.

What I Do?

I personally use a Nexus 5 which I have payments through T-Mobile. This increases my phone bill, but allowed me to purchase a phone that would otherwise not be available to me. My phone has Securanty as the insurance provider. If my phone breaks, it will be repaired or the money for a new phone will be provided. I also have a Nexus 7-32GB with LTE – also through payments on T-Mobile, and serviced through them. As soon as a new Nexus tablet becomes available with T-Mobile, I will be upgrading which will eliminate the payments I have with T-Mobile on the Nexus 7 and I will start with new payments. As with the phone, the tablet will get Securanty as the insurance provider. While I am on a family plan, I am going to account if it was just these two devices:

  • Nexus 5: $16.50/month
  • Nexus 7: $16.00/month
  • Service: $50+$10 (Tablet – 1GB)+$10(JUMP on Tablet until replaced)+$15(taxes/fees)

In total, I pay $85 for the service for both phone and tablet. About $25 is for the tablet. $32.50 is spread across 24 months. This will pay off the tablet and phone. However if this was just on the phone – one can expect to pay $76.50 and this will assume they went through T-Mobile to get the phone payments across 24 months. If service is cancelled before payments are fulfilled – consider it as an ETF.

2013-11-28 (Thanksgiving)

Today was like much most holidays. No bus service, and nothing special. One nice thing was that my landlord did bring over a dinner. I obviously took it, and shared the ham with the dogs. I however took the turkey and stuffing.

On another note, I received my SSI benefits early, but it didn’t matter much since no transaction will take place until tomorrow. However, nonetheless, I still sent the electronic orders to pay my bills. My bank account started with $4.10 – then went to $714.86, and tomorrow, it will be down to $12.78.

Continue reading 2013-11-28 (Thanksgiving)

2013-02-01

Not much happened today. I received my benefits, and paid all of my bills. It will take the weekend for them to be recognized, but at least they have been addressed. Otherwise, the day has been relatively quiet.

As for plans for tomorrow, there are no plans. I will have to make a phone call, but that will be about all. I will do the weekly grooming with the dogs, but that will be the most eventful of the day.

Easier Said than Done

With the news that AT&T is going to buy out T-Mobile, unless the US Regulatory stops it (like that would happen), it would seem as if I would end up paying more than I would like for phone service. If I was to go with AT&T choosing either a locked up iPhone, or just as locked up Android phone, it would seem as if no matter what, I would have to consider trying to reduce my demands. So far, the best option is to use an IAX server, along with a dedicated Google Voice account.

However, the problem is to find a budget friendly, and resource friendly system. In goals to try to keep things to less than $150, it would mean I would have to rely on used systems that are either lacking in capability, and/or power hungry. One example is a 160 watt Dell Optiplex which only has 256MB of memory for about $90. Now, mind you – the system won’t be running at 160 watts all of the time, but as with all servers, it should be running 24/7. Even at 100 watts, this would mean that every day, the server will cost 2.4kw. In a month, that would be 72kw per month. On someone that has to pay for electricity, and on a tight budget, that is discouraging. This is one reason I am not considering commissioning my desktop to the task. I’m assuming 3¢ per kilowatt as I hadn’t received my first electric bill yet, this could mean an extra $30 per year just to make phone calls While this may not sound like much, keep in mind that I am on a tight budget, and there is a refrigerator that runs 24/7 as well as an iPod dock that runs nearly 24/7. Either dock is only 10 watts per hour which means that the iPod dock would require 10 days of 24/7 usage for it to rack up the same power demands the server will require in 1 day. Thankfully, servers don’t require monitors beyond the initial setup. A better option will be an HP that is used in a  smaller package, but with a slightly faster CPU, and more memory.

Continue reading Easier Said than Done