RingPlus: Basic, Free Cellular Phone Service – 1000/1000/1000 Talk/Text/Data

rplus_logoUpdated with new limited-time generous plans. RingPlus is a Sprint MVNO that offers cheap cellular phone plans, starting at… $0. You can bring over an off-contract Sprint phone (check eligibility) or you can buy one from them (slightly more expensive that on secondary market). They make money partially from ads – ads play whenever you call someone instead of the normal ringing. When your friend picks up, the ad stops immediately. You also pay for any overages past your free allotment. There are no contracts and no activation fees.

Recently, Ringplus has been aggressively courting new customers with limited-time plans. RingPlus free plans are usually only open a for a limited window, and then it closes for a while. But recently, their plans have been getting more generous, with special super-generous plans available for a few hours only. These have very little notice, but it’s worth checking their site daily if you are very interested. For example, I was able to jump on a plan with 1000 min, 1000 text, and 1000 mb every month for free. The fine print states that I must keep a non-zero balance, otherwise I will be charged a $10 top-up that will apply to any future overages.

The most recent offer is here and I can write about since it actually lasts more a few hours! Here is the best link for current offers. You can again get 1000 minutes, 1000 text, 1000 mb data until Monday 10/5/15 at 10 pm Pacific. Eligibility includes new Member and existing member sign ups with any eligible Sprint Bring Your Own Device which has not been previously activated on RingPlus for at least 30 days. They also require you to share on social media. If you miss this one, be on the lookout for future phases.

You may also find a “Jasmine” Plan with 500 minutes, 500 texts, and 500 MB of data for $0 a month with fewer restrictions.

The most important thing is to find an eligible phone and activate it during the window. It can be an ancient flip phone from Virgin Mobile (Sprint MVNO). Later, you can swap the phone out for 99 cents and keep the free plan.

You will need a credit card on file, although some of their plans don’t even require a credit card (but come with much fewer free minutes). No additional activation fee. Not even additional taxes are due on the zero plans (taxes are due on top-ups). Here’s a screenshot of their current plans, but again they change daily.


Here’s a screenshot of my dashboard that tracks your usage:


Are there any catches?

  • You have to sign up for their free plans during certain availability windows. That means you’ll need the ESN of an eligible off-contract Sprint phone waiting around, ready to go. If you’re like me, you have to resort to asking all your friends if they have any old Sprint phones you can have.
  • In the past, RingPlus has discontinued their free plans without much notice if they can’t line up enough advertisers in your calling area. That would be annoying, especially if you invested good money into a Sprint phone. Have a backup plan.
  • Honestly, I don’t know if giving away this much free talk and data is a viable business model. They are definitely trying to grow customer base and sacrifice short-term profitability. Again, know that they may cease operations with little or no notice. Plan ahead as to how you would quickly port your number to another cheap service.
  • If your phone is not eligible, then they may de-activate your plan in the future, even if you manage to activate it initially.
  • You must maintain activity on your plan. If you don’t make a call every 60 days (may differ by plan), they will de-activate your account and you’ll have to pay a fee to re-activate.
  • If you do sign up and decide to link your credit card, know that overages cost 2 cents per text, minute, or MB. MMS picture messages are at an additional cost (4 cents each). Roaming is available, but those overages are much more expensive. I would disable roaming completely on your phone to avoid such surcharges.

In case you were wondering, this is not a VoIP-only service like FreedomPop as normal calls use the Sprint voice network. However, free WiFi calling is an option so you can save your minutes. I know there are some RingPlus users out there as readers, so please share and discuss in the comments!

Manage Your Cell Data? Disable Wi-Fi Assist in iOS 9

wifiassistoffI usually don’t upgrade my iPhone to the latest OS right away, as you know there is going to be 9.0.1 and 9.0.2 and so on in the upcoming weeks. But since the Discover Apple Pay promo required it, I upgraded immediately this time.

One of the new features of iOS 9 is something called WiFi Assist. Previously, your iPhone would try to cling onto that WiFi signal as long as it could before finally giving up and switching to cellular data. Sometimes it would interrupt your Netflix or Spotify streaming. If you found that annoying, the good news is that WiFi Assist will now seamlessly transfer you earlier onto cellular 3G or 4G data.

However, I liked the old way. If I have weak WiFi and my ESPN3 video won’t stream, I don’t want it to seamlessly switch to my cell data. I want it to cut off and let me know. Video streaming at high-definition can use up 1-2 gigabytes per hour. That’s $15 to $30 an hour at my overage rates. Some folks argue an early handoff won’t cause a “massive” overage, but I want the choice of either moving to improve the WiFi signal or turning it off. (With WiFi Assist on, your only indicator will be a greyed-out WiFi icon, if it is even visible)

WiFi Assist is turned on by default in iOS 9. You might like this feature, or you might not. If you also manage your cell data somewhat carefully, you may decide to turn off this feature off. Here’s how:

  • Open Settings.
  • Tap on Cellular.
  • Scroll down to the bottom.
  • Turn Wi-Fi Assist off.

More: Ting Blog, Houston Chronicle

Save Money on Pet Costs: Splitting Larger Doses of Frontline Flea Medication


Updated details for 2015, but it still works! Now that we have two dogs (three for a while), we’ve had to keep a closer eye on pet costs. One regular expense is flea medication, for which we have found Frontline Plus to work acceptably. If you buy it straight from the vet or in a retail pet store it can be around $15 per monthly dose. Here, I’ll show you how we get it down to between $1.50 and $3 per dog per month. That’s nearly $300 a year in savings for us! We have dogs so that is what I’m using for my numbers, but it would work the same way for cats.

Online shopping savings. In the past, we’ve found that the cheapest price has been on eBay, getting costs down to about $8 per dose for the exact same 6-pack product packaging. Here’s an example of the cost comparison for their “Orange box” meant for small dogs (22 lbs and under).

Store Cost (w/ shipping) Cost per 0.67 ml dose
1800PetMeds.com (“retail”) $75 for 6-pack Orange $12.50
Amazon.com $66 for 6-pack Orange $11
eBay (sample listing) $50 for 6-pack Orange $8.33


Online shopping + DIY savings. For a while, eBay sellers were selling the biggest size (Red box) made for 89+ lb. dogs along with with glass vials and syringes. The idea is that the consumer could split the medication fluid into smaller doses themselves. I’m not sure what happened, but I believe that the manufacturer Merial pressured eBay and/or their authorized sellers to stop the sale of such kits. I don’t see any such kits available for sale any longer.

I still believe the DIY method can be efffective and safe if done properly. I can understand why the manufacturer can’t officially condone such actions. But I’ve seen articles from licensed vets and also multiple reader comments saying their own vet approves this practice. Pet shelters and rescues also commonly do this.

You can also achieve more accurate dosing for your pet. By default, Merial categorizes dogs into four broad categories: 0-22 lbs, 23-44 lbs, 45-88 lbs, and 89-132 lbs. This corresponds to vial sizes of 0.67 ml, 1.34 ml, 2.68 ml, and 4.02 ml. I don’t know about you, but I see a pretty big gap between 45 and 88 pounds.

They have to make sure even the biggest dogs in the range are adequately dosed, so if you divide the vial size by the largest size for each category in pounds, you get 0.0305 ml per pound every time. So if you have a 25 lb. dog why give them double the dose of a 22 lb. dog? Just give them a bit more (0.76 ml) and you should be fine – and save even more money!

Here’s an estimate of your savings for smaller dogs. For math simplicity, I’ll assume you have exactly a 22 lb. dog. Remember, if you go by the boxes and have a 25 lb. dog, you’d need to get the bigger and often more expensive size of a 44 lb dog. I’ll assume you buy the biggest size (Red box) made for 89+ lb. dogs and split it into the exact same 0.67 ml doses as the 22b size (Orange box) using a glass vial and plastic syringes.

Store Cost (w/ shipping) Cost per 0.67 ml dose
1800PetMeds.com (“retail”) $75 for 6-pack Red
(6 x 4.02 ml = 36 x 0.67 ml doses)
Amazon.com $66 for 6-pack Red
(6 x 4.02 ml = 36 x 0.67 ml doses)
eBay (sample listing) $54 for 6-pack Red
(6 x 4.02 ml = 36 x 0.67 ml doses)


Online shopping + DIY savings + Generic brand savings. In 2011, the patent for the main active ingredient in Frontline (fipronil) expired. Generic options now include Sentry FiproGuard Plus and PetArmor Plus. If you bought Pet Armor Plus for 4-22 lb dogs (Orange equivalent), that would cost $57 per 6-pack on Amazon, a savings of 7%.

For some odd reason, you can also find PetArmor Plus for 89+ lb dogs on Amazon for roughly $38 including shipping for a 6-pack of their 89+ lb (Red equivalent). That’s less money for a bigger size!? If you split this package for 22 lb dog, that would work out to $1.06 per 0.67 ml dose.

Proper precautions. Here are some tips to make sure you split your doses safely and effectively.

  • Use protective gloves. You’d ideally want to do this with the official product anyway, but you’ll be handling it more when splitting doses so a box of latex or similar gloves is a good investment.
  • Keep medication away from light and air. You can either use a dark, glass vial or keep it an airtight syringe in airtight bag in a dark, cool space. When using a plastic syringe as the applicator, remove any needle! You’re just drizzling the stuff on your dog’s skin surface. You can buy kits of glass vials and plastic syringes on eBay for around 5 bucks.
  • Do not mix and match dog and cat Frontline. The ingredients may be the same, but sometimes they aren’t. Also, even if the ingredients are the same, the ratios are not and that is also important.
  • Don’t overdose! As with all these flea medications, you can do some trial and error to see what brand and dosage level works for your dog. You might need more or less than indicated, but I would avoid going over the max manufacturer recommendation.

As you can see, you get most of the savings from simply doing the splitting. You can get some additional savings by buying online and/or going generic. eBay is often cheapest online source, but I know some folks may be wary of authenticity so Amazon or your local warehouse store may be another option.

Bill Fixers: Let Someone Else Haggle Your Cable and Phone Bills For You

billfixers0I’ve written about haggling your cable or satellite TV bill for years, with hundreds of comments sharing both success and failures. I’ve certainly negotiated with a healthy share of customer service reps myself. But I don’t like doing it. I do it because unlike say the electrical company, who tells me “you pay based on how much power you use”, the cable company tells me “if you bother us, we’ll give you a discount, but if you are nice and quiet, you’ll pay double”. Big Data is tracking whether you compare prices or not, so it is in my best interest to announce that YES I COMPARE PRICES!

But what if you could just pay someone else to haggle for you? Deal with the long hold times, the “accidental” hang-ups, and the multiple transfers between supervisors? Enter brothers Julian and Ben Kurland of BillFixers.com, who will do just that. I came across them in this Businessweek article:

Despite all the various life-hacking sites that will teach you how to reduce your cable bill, a recent Consumer Reports survey found that fewer than half of people who attempted to do so were effective. Services such as BillCutterz have been offering some relief, but the Kurlands say their success rate—94 percent—is higher. It usually works out because they’re annoyingly persistent. Calls can last several hours as the brothers are passed among operators, managers, and various departments. The Kurlands often call companies multiple times, looking for different representatives who will cut a deal. “You’ll talk to three people who won’t offer anything, and the fourth one will magically have a discount that no one mentioned,” Ben says.

Which companies will they negotiate with? According to their website, they’ll take a shot at any recurring monthly bill you have. They don’t do things like credit cards and medical bills.

  • Television (Cable, Satellite, IP TV)
  • Internet (Cable, DSL, Other)
  • Landline
  • Cellular (AT&T cellular bills are one of the “easiest”. T-Mobile is one of the hardest.)
  • Satellite Radio

How much does BillFixers cost? They work on a contingency basis. If they don’t save you money, you pay nothing. If they do, they charge you 50% of the first year’s savings. You can pay via lump sum or in monthly payments (which in theory would match up with your monthly savings). Some stats from USA Today:

– Of the 650 clients, 94% receive savings
– The average reduction in bills is greater than $300 per customer
– About $155,000 has been saved for customers since 2014

I don’t doubt that someone with the right skills and motivation can be a good hired negotiator. I suppose the only concern would be giving out personal information like Social Security Number. However, if you give them the right information like account numbers, they shouldn’t need that kind of sensitive information.

If you’ve been thinking about haggling but have been putting it off due to either dislike or procrastination, why not give them a shot?

I’m going to add BillFixers to the growing list of services that will help find you money for free (but if they find it, they may take a cut).

  • CoPatient: Negotiate your medical bills. They take a cut of any successful savings.
  • AutoSlash: Helps you track price drops on rental cards. They make money when you rebook at a lower price with them.
  • Paribus: Helps you automatically request price adjustments on all your online retail purchases. They take a cut of the price drop savings.
  • AirHelp, Refund.Me, AirTaxBack: Get fees refunded for certain cancelled or missed flights to/from Europe. They take a cut of the refund.

Obihai Obi200: Free Monthly Home Phone Service + $29.99 Upfront Cost


On sale for $29.99 for limited time, see details below. Depending on the survey, somewhere between 40% and 65% of people now live in households with no landline (cell phone only). If you still have landline phone service and are looking for a cheaper alternative, Obihai is officially supported by Google:

Obihai is excited to announce official support for Google Voice. With a Google Voice account and a companion OBi device you can make and receive VoIP calls on a regular telephone. To get started, just login to the OBiTALK website, add your OBi device and select Google Voice as your service. You’ll then confirm your account with Google, and within minutes, you will be making and receiving calls from the comfort and convenience of your home phone.

An Obihai VoIP phone adapter is a little box that will allow you to plug in any standard landline telephone and use Google Voice to make free phone calls within the US and Canada. You can also make cheap international calls starting at 1 cent a minute.


It’s tough to beat under 50 bucks upfront and no ongoing monthly fees for unlimited home phone service. I bought one earlier this year – check out my OBi200 Adapter + Google Voice Installation Review.

We primarily use cell phones now as well, but it is nice to have a backup service that doesn’t cost anything monthly and we can have the occasional long conversation without worrying about battery life, plan overages, or too much cell phone radiation.

$29.99 deal details. Periodically, Obihai will run a promotion that knocks down the price even further. Currently, they are celebrating the 1-year anniversary of being officially supported by Google. Buy the Obihai OBi200 VoIP Telephone Adapter from NewEgg and if you apply promo code EMCAXKK52 the price will go down $15 to $29.99 with free shipping available. Shoprunner is also supported by Newegg. Coupon expires 9/15/15. If it shows sold out, try to check back before the coupon code expiration.

  • Google Voice Officially Supported Device
  • Easy to Set Up Using OBiTALK.com
  • Free Domestic and Super Low-Cost International Calling
  • Works with Up to Four (4) VoIP Services
  • 1x USB for Obihai Accessories

Ting GSM SIM Cards: Bring Your Own Phone + Referral Credit

Updated September 2015. New Ting customers now get a $50 credit with a referral link (normally $25). GSM SIM cards for bring-your-own-device are also on sale for $5 with free shipping sitewide (I paid $9 + $4 for shipping). Both offers end September 30 at 11:59 ET. More details below.

tinglogTing provides mobile phone service with a “pay-only-for-what-you-use” structure. Think “a la carte” instead of Golden Corral buffet. :) For the last few months, I’ve been beta-testing the new Ting GSM program in my out-of-contract iPhone 5. Just popped in their SIM card and off I went. Supposedly 80% of smartphones now work with GSM service and have SIM card slots. Their GSM SIM card service uses the T-Mobile GSM MVNO network, while their original service is a Sprint CDMA MVNO.

For the month of September 2015, Ting has upped their refer-a-friend bonus to $50 off a device or $50 in Ting credit if you buy used or bring your own phone to Ting. This applies to both GSM and CDMA service. The standard referral offer is $25 off. Here are the highlights:

  • Ting interactive rate calculator to see how much they would charge you. If you are not a power user or have a lot of variability in your usage, Ting can often save money over time. (Tip: You can set alerts or even hard usage caps, so you’ll never exceed a certain level.)
  • Ting phone compatibility checker tool. Bringing over a used GSM or Sprint phone is the best deal in my opinion. You can find a lot of good, cheap GSM phones on the secondary market now, like the Galaxy S series or iPhone 5 or 5S.

Here’s a screenshot of their rate breakdown:


Here is my referral link. You get $50, I get $50. Thanks in advance if you use it! You’ll be saving my parents some money on their bill, as I set them up with Ting service and an old iPhone.

Verizon Wireless New Plans August 2015: Existing Customers Should Compare Prices

In August 2015, Verizon Wireless announced that it was ending 2-year contracts for new customers. Before, you got a ~$450 discount on a new phone but also got locked into a 2-year contract with an inflated monthly plan price. Now, you have to buy your own phone, but the monthly plan is cheaper. The basic monthly breakdown is that you pick a shared data size below and add $20 per phone line. Unlimited talk and text. Data overages are $15 per GB.


It was supposed to be simple, but there was still a bit of confusion. Here are some clarifications. Verizon customers with grandfathered or legacy plans can keep their plans if they want to. But if they switch to a new plan, they can’t switch back. Verizon customers currently in a 2-year contract can even keep and renew their existing plan with another 2-year contract if they want to (and get a subsidy).

With the previous structure, folks who finished their 2-year contracts and frugally kept their old phone were still stuck paying the inflated monthly plan price. Reader CJ tipped me off that such post-contract customers should try switching to the new plans with lower monthly prices:

Not sure if you saw it, but Verizon finally got rid of 2-year contracts, which means anyone not currently under contract should switch to the new “Verizon Plan” and save a bunch of $$ instantly. I just did, and for 3GB of data my plan went from around $140 for 2 phones down to $80.

If you are currently still under a Verizon contract, you can also switch over to the new plans. If you are currently under a 2-year contract you will have a $40 per phone access fee instead of the new $20 per phone access fee. (That $20 a month is the baked-in subsidy payback. Notice that $20 x 24 months is $480 and the upfront phone discount was ~$450.) Depending on your data plan size, most people will probably see not net change in price, but some may discover a semi-hidden discount.

Bottom line: Verizon has new plans. All customers (on or off contract) should check to see if switching over will save you money. You may or may not discover any savings, but Verizon won’t automatically check for you.

CoPatient: Helping You Answer “Is This a Reasonable Medical Bill?”

copatient0High-deductible health plans are still growing in popularity. While these can be a great way to save on your monthly premiums, it also means that when you do have to visit the emergency room, you get to tackle nearly the entire bill instead of a small co-pay. The problem is that most medical bills cannot be understood by mere mortals. Likely, the doctors and nurses themselves have no clue how that $6,344 bill for a broken arm got generated.

Right now there are honest people that just got their bill, but they are frantically doing internet research because they have no idea if their huge bill is correct or what is “reasonable”. It would be nice for this problem not to exist, but until then I wanted to point out a service called CoPatient. They are made of health insurance company veterans and hire their own medical billers and coders.

You send them your unpaid medical bills, and they review it for free to determine if there are any errors or overcharges. They will send you a free estimate of what they think they can do for you. If you allow them to negotiate on your behalf, they work on a contingency basis and keep 35% of the actual savings. If they don’t save you money, you pay nothing.


Here’s an example patient flowchart (click to enlarge):


The legwork that the consumer needs to do is request a detailed, itemized bill from the hospital providers. Some tips from ABC News:

Ask what services are covered under your room and facility charges
Ask what treatments were provided
Identify the date and time of when you were admitted
Clarify medical terminology that is confusing
Specifically look for erroneous double charges, for mischarges, and for situations where a charge defies common sense (e.g., a $22 Q tip).

Here are some quick stats, taken from their website and marketing materials:

More than 80 percent of the medical bills that CoPatient analyzes provide opportunities for meaningful savings. On average, CoPatient saves its customers 40 percent on their medical bills. Since its launch in 2014, CoPatient has saved consumers more than $1 million.

According their iPhone app page, CoPatient finds errors on 80% of all bills it reviews and saves folks an average of $3,000. Their FAQ states that it usually takes ~5 days for the review (more for complicated cases), and 3-6 weeks for the appeals and negotiation process. There is no minimum bill size, they will investigate that $500 unpaid bill.

I’ve never used CoPatient myself, but I would definitely consider it if I was faced with a $5,000+ bill that I didn’t understand. I mean, what would I have to lose?

On a related note, this is yet another consumer service that offers to save money on a contingency basis. That is, they only make money if they save you money. A few others:

  • AutoSlash: Helps you track price drops on rental cards. They make money when you rebook at a lower price with them.
  • Paribus: Helps you automatically request price adjustments on all your online retail purchases. They take a cut of the price drop savings.
  • AirHelp, Refund.Me, AirTaxBack: Get fees refunded for certain cancelled or missed flights to/from Europe. They take a cut of the refund.

Costco Pharmacy: Save on Prescription Drug Costs

rxbottleWhile standing in line at the Costco pharmacy, I found myself in a discussion with another Costco member who apparently saves over a thousand dollars a year on her meds by buying them there instead of her neighborhood CVS. (I also got an earful about the Medicare Part D “donut hole“.) I’m fortunate enough that I am currently not on any prescription medications, but OECD health statistics have Americans spending $1,000 a year per capita on pharmaceuticals. A similar survey by Consumer Reports arrived at $768 in average out-of-pocket costs per person.

Here are some things you may or may not know about the Costco Pharmacy:

  • Costco posts their drug price list online for everyone to see. No other pharmacy chain does this. Gee, I wonder why?
  • You don’t need a Costco membership to buy things from the pharmacy. You can simply tell the front door greeter/checker your prescription that you are going to the pharmacy.
  • Costco has their own “drug discount card”, called the Costco Member Prescription Program (CMPP), which is for people who have no prescription drug insurance or whose insurance does not cover all of their prescription medication. This is for Costco members only. Since you never know what drug will be covered or not, everyone should enroll and save 5% to 40% if/when you ever need it. You must fill out an enrollment form and return it to your Costco pharmacist.
  • Costco sells pet medication. The hardest part may be getting your vet to write you a prescription, since many vets fill their own orders as a significant part of their income. The CMPP above also applies to pet meds.

In 2013, Consumer Reports found Costco Pharmacy to offer the lowest prices overall when they compared a basket of popular generic drugs like Lipitor and Singulair. Given the “generic” terminology, I was surprised to learn how much prices can still vary.

Our secret shoppers called more than 200 pharmacies throughout the U.S. to get prices on a month’s supply of five blockbuster drugs that have recently become available as generics: Actos (pioglitazone), for diabetes; Lexapro (escitalopram), an antidepressant; Lipitor (atorvastatin), for high cholesterol; Plavix (clopidogrel), a blood thinner; and Singulair (montelukast), for asthma. The result? A whopping difference of $749, or 447 percent, between the highest- and lowest-priced stores.

Costco was the least expensive overall, and you don’t need to be a member to use its pharmacy. A few independent pharmacies came in even cheaper, though their prices varied widely, as did grocery-store pharmacies. The online retailers Healthwarehouse.com and FamilyMeds.com also had very low prices. On the other end of the spectrum, CVS, Rite Aid, and Target had the highest retail prices.


The basic takeaway appears to be that if any your drug costs are not nearly completely covered by insurance, you should do a price comparison with Costco pharmacy (you can also order meds online using their home delivery option if you don’t have a warehouse nearby). The cost differential can be very significant, especially over time. Adding up your annual savings may convince you to forgo the convenience of that 24/7 drive-thru down the road.

Even if you have prescription insurance, it might still be cheaper to get a 90-day supply from Costco as opposed to paying three co-pays for three 30-day refills. (Watch out if you have Part D though, as paying cash may mean it doesn’t count towards your deductible and thus won’t help you get out of that aforementioned donut hole.)

AutoSlash Review: Car Rental Price Drop Tracker

autoslashfb180Here’s a quick tip that I’ve been using regularly this summer for saving money on car rentals.

A quick primer on car rental reservations. When you make a reservation at most car rental shops, you simply agree to a price and make a non-binding reservation without giving any payment information. You can cancel at any time, without penalty. Technically, even if you just don’t show up there is no penalty besides bad karma. The flipside is that they overbook and occasionally your subcompact turns into a Ford Crown Victoria.

First, book your car rental as early as possible using the best deal you can find on your own, be it through a business account, promo code you found online, or using an opaque booking site like Hotwire or Costco Travel. As there are no penalties for cancellation, so you want to start the process as soon as possible.

(Do not use AutoSlash to make your initial reservation. Well, you can try, and then just wait for the future price drop notifications, but you may not get a very good price initially.)

Next, enter your reservation information into AutoSlash.com to monitor price drops. I first wrote about AutoSlash back in 2011, and while their service has changed a bit due to industry pushback, it can still be a valuable service. (Their initial search service excludes many major agencies, but their price-drop tracking service includes them all including Avis and Hertz.)

AutoSlash will then continuously search for a lower price using your dates and preferences, often using coupon codes that you may not know about. If they can find something lower, they will e-mail you. If the new deal looks better than your old one, you can go through their site and book the new deal. Just cancel your old reservation afterward and you’ll have taken advantage of the price drop with no fees or penalties.

I just went from a $66 one-day rental with Alamo to $29 with Avis:


Some potential minor issues:

  • You may be presented with quotes from lesser-known rental agencies. I normally try to support smaller businesses, but in this case I am wary of being improperly charged for a dent or scratch on the $25,000+ vehicle they are lending me. I have used Dollar/Budget/Alamo/National/Enterprise without any problems.
  • The lower price quotes may not offer pickup at the exact location you booked initially, especially if not at an airport. Depending on your situation, the savings may be worth a bit of a walk or a short taxi ride.
  • You may get a lot of price drop e-mails, and also multiple confirmations of new bookings. I know that for one reservation where I re-booked multiple price drops, I probably accumulated over 20 e-mails.
  • Because AutoSlash uses promo codes it pulls from around the web, I have read stories that a rental agency can deny a price quote because it claims that you weren’t eligible to use that promo code. I have never run into a problem like this (and would otherwise use promo codes from the internet anyway), but I thought that I should mention it.

Even if AutoSlash never e-mails you, at least you have some additional peace of mind that you got close to the best deal on your auto rental. All for free and with minimal effort.

Alternative View: Keep Up With The OTHER Joneses


We’ve all heard the phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses”. It even has its own Wikipedia page with competing origin stories. Perhaps the greatest marketing trick ever is making people equate social status with material goods.

Instead of worrying about the neighbors who (supposedly) make more money than us, what if we instead looked carefully at the neighbors who make less than us? Their valuable example is what can actually help us grow real wealth. What am I talking about? Michael Taylor of Bankers Anonymous explains in his post Saving is never easy:

But – and here’s a key point that you should understand – if you make $50,000 per year, you probably live on the same street as someone who makes quite a bit less than you, say, $40,000 a year.

Somehow your neighbor making $40,000 has figured out how to pay all the bills and sock away an extra few hundred dollars every month. I don’t know she does it. Frankly, I’m resentful of her success. But I’m also impressed.

Also, she doesn’t understand how the family of four two blocks away can survive on $30,000. And yet, that family does it too.

Meanwhile, in another part of your same town, another family is going completely broke on $120,000 a year. If they could just find an extra 10% more income, they think, the checkbook would balance. They could pay down that ever-growing credit card balance. But each month comes and goes, and the debts grow.

Let’s consider this in the context of financial freedom and early retirement. If you wanted to oversimplify things, you would say that you need to control your spending to the household median income level (say, $50,000 a year) while boosting your household income to double that (say, $100,000 a year). A nice, round 50% savings rate. I’m sure many households who make over $100,000 would laugh at the idea of spending under $50,000 a year. Impossible. Can’t do it. But guess what? Half of all US households are doing exactly that every day, so it certainly isn’t impossible! For some reason of human psychology, it is just incredibly hard to make that choice.

Best Frugal Non-Stick Fry Pan / Saute Pan


I think it was Alton Brown’s food show that first told me that all non-stick pans were pretty much disposable and simply weren’t meant to last very long. Therefore, you should just buy the standard fry pan found at your local restaurant supply store (these target commercial kitchens, but usually open to the public). My version was to buy whatever was cheap at Ross’s or TJ Maxx for 15 or 20 bucks and then throw it out when things started to stick. However, right now America’s Test Kitchen is sharing the results of their Nonstick Skillets equipment review to registered members (free, only e-mail required).

Is is actually worth it to spend extra money for a better non-stick pan?

Well, yes and no. ATK tested overall design, cooking quality, and coating durability. They made crepes and fried eggs with no oil or other fat. I’ll leave the details to their free site members, but their free video reveals the top winner as the $40 T-fal Professional 12″ Non-Stick Fry Pan, which actually beat out the $130+ All-Clad 12-Inch Nonstick Skillet on merit alone and not value. (There’s a reason the T-Fal is the #1 selling saute pan on Amazon!) Given that All-Clad is usually considered the “gold standard”, that means you can get a top-quality pan for $40 as compared to my $20 discount store pans. I’ve never owned a T-Fal but this will be my next non-stick pan.

You may note that the All-Clad has a “lifetime replacement guaranty against defects”, which some people suggest makes the All-Clad premium worth it over the long run. This warranty requires you to mail in your pan for inspection, and then All-Clad decides whether or not your damage was due to a defect. From reading through the Amazon reviews, this is hit or miss. Some people got new replacements (happy review!) while others got rejections (angry review!). The overall trend appears to be that chips in the coating alone won’t get you a replacement. Considering I could buy three of the better-rated T-Fals and still be ahead in terms of money spent, I can’t it being worth the hassle of hoping for a replacement. I do still like my classic stainless-steel pans from All-Clad though, as they actually can last a lifetime.

Also see: Best frugal chef’s knife and best frugal cast-iron skillet.