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 and 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 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.

Portion Distortion: Change Your Perspective, Eat Better, Spend Less

I’ve got one month left on my $600 in weight-loss bets, and an important tool that has helped me success is portion control. This way, I can still enjoy most of my favorite foods while still losing 1-2 pounds a week. Even naughty things like pizza, pasta, and yes even the occasional chips or french fries. (Of course there are also lots of fruits and veggies to balance things out.)

The National Institute of Health has a page on portion distortion, which outlines how our idea of reasonable portion sizes have changed over the last 20 years. (The slides appear to be from 2004, so make that 30 years?!) Everything from bagels to pizza slices to soft drinks used to be much smaller…just like our bodies! The average American man weighs 195.5 lbs now, which is 30 lbs more than in the 1960s. The average American woman weighs 166 lbs now, 26 lbs more. Here are their slides for cheeseburgers and french fries.



Just this week, I saw a McDonald’s commercial offering a cheeseburger and small fries for $2.50. They look so small now, but would have actually started out as an oversized meal (due to the extra meat patty).


The double cheeseburger has 430 calories, 24g protein, 21g fat. (The single cheeseburger has 290 calories.) The small french fries (2.6 oz.) have 230 calories, 2g, 11g fat. Bring your own water bottle and you’ll have a meal with 660 calories, almost exactly 1/3rd of a 2,000 calorie day. I’m not recommending this as a daily healthy meal, but I found it interesting that you can still order a 1960s-sized meal on their menu which doesn’t completely blow up your nutrition plans for the week.

This NY Times article has many more ideas for meals at restaurants under 750 calories. What do they say is the “most valuable trick”? Don’t eat an entire portion.

Instead of splitting an entree between my wife and myself, I prefer to order two entrees (we like variety and enjoy sharing) but make sure that we leave enough food for lunch the next day. I do the same thing for meals cooked at home; I cook around the same amount as before (due to habit and my use of recipes) but split it into two meals. At the same time, rarely having to pay for lunch saves me money.

I also pulled weight-loss tricks from other sources like eating less “empty” carbs, including enough protein and fiber to feel fuller longer, and keeping healthy snacks like fruit and nuts around at all times. But realizing that my previous portion sizes were simply too big has definitely helped me the most.

If I wanted to stretch this idea further into personal finance, I could point to how the square footage of US houses have doubled since the 1950s, even as average household sizes have shrunk.

Home Improvement Receipts: Scan Now, Save Indefinitely

housecostbasis2For many people, when they sell a home they don’t even consider taxes. But over time, especially if you live in a relatively expensive area, more and more people will bump up against the federal capital gains exclusions of $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for couples. (You must have lived in the home for at least two out of the five years before the sale.)

This NY Times article projects that the following share of homeowners in certain high-cost cities will exceed the 250k/500k limits within the next 10 years, assuming just 3.5% annual growth and no further improvements. (Also consider the uncomfortable idea that you really can’t know if you’ll be single or married when it comes time to sell your home.)


Most importantly, the article provides a good reminder to save all of your home-related receipts because they can raise your cost basis and thus reduce any potential capital gains. It’s so easy, and those little pieces of paper can literally be worth thousands of dollars down the road when the tax bill hits.

In general, you should save all of your home repair and remodeling receipts, although things considered maintenance won’t count (painting, fixing leaks, patching cracks, etc.). Here are a bunch of things taken from IRS Pub 523, Selling Your Home. Don’t take this as specific tax advice, but instead as a potential reminder in case you have done something on this list but don’t have the receipts properly stored away and archived.

Home Acquisition and Closing Costs.

  • Charges for installing utility services, legal fees for preparing the sales contract, title search fees, recording fees, survey fees, transfer or stamp taxes, and owner’s title insurance.

Home Improvements

  • Additions. Bedrooms, bathrooms, garages, decks, patios.
  • Exterior. New roof, siding, satellite dish, storm windows.
  • Interior. Built-in appliances, kitchen modernization, flooring, wall-to-wall carpeting, fireplace.
  • Lawns and grounds. New driveways, landscaping, fences, retaining walls, sprinkler system, swimming pools.
  • Systems. Heating, air conditioning, furnace, duct work, air/water filtration, security system.
  • Plumbing. Septic, water heater, water softener, water filtration.
  • Insulation. Attic, walls, floors, pipes, ductwork.

Physical receipts can get lost or fade over time, but the IRS accepts electronic records so it is quite easy to make a PDF using either your home scanner or just your smartphone. I use the well-reviewed Scanner Pro app and am impressed by its quality, but there are many competitors out there that I haven’t tried. You can then save to a cloud service like Dropbox or Evernote, or simply e-mail them to a searchable gmail account as another form of backup.

Best Frugal Chef’s Knife – America’s Test Kitchen (For 20 Years In a Row!)

fibroxUpdate: ATK just sent me a new review that considered newer chef’s knives that have come onto the market, and the same knife won again! They say it has now been on top for 20 straight years. You can see the methodology and full rankings here, but it requires a free registered account. There’s also a good embedded video that doesn’t require registration.

Original post:

Some of you may be familiar with the PBS cooking show America’s Test Kitchen. The same company publishes the magazines Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country, which you can think of as Consumer Reports for cooking in that they do not accept any advertising and are entirely subscriber-supported. I happened to find a bunch of back issues on sale at a community garage sale a few weeks ago for a dollar. Wow, I can only describe the content as heaven for cooking geeks! Lots of good tips inside.

Common frugal wisdom is that you don’t really need a 15-piece knife set with a fancy wooden block that costs hundreds of bucks, it’s mostly marketing. The 8-inch chef’s knife is often recommended as the most versatile and useful knife. (I’m partial to the Santoku-style knife or hefty Asian cleaver, myself.)

Cook’s Country tested the 8-inch chef’s knives from all the major brands that cost under $50 – Wusthof, Henckels (various), MAC, Calphalon, OXO, Chicago Cutlery, Victorinox and Farberware.

The bargain chef’s knife winner? The Victorinox Fibrox 8-Inch Chef’s Knife outperformed many more expensive competitors including a $50+ knife from the Wusthof Gourmet line and everyone else. The knife was judged to be sturdy, stayed sharp, and had a well-designed, comfortable handle. Amazon has 700+ now 3,000+ reviews with a 4.8/5 star average.

Another frugal chopping tip is that you don’t really need expensive cutting boards, let alone multiple ones for food safety reasons. Simply buy a set of flexible cutting mats to place on top of one cutting board or durable surface. They are thin yet sturdy, and can be rolled up like a funnel for transferring ingredients easily. You can get a set of four CounterArt Flexible Cutting Mats for only $8.50, which are the current best-selling ones on Amazon. Comes with Microban antibacterial stuff and is dishwasher safe.

Big Data Knows If You’re Comparison Shopping… Or Not

cheapscore0One of the few benefits of getting older is that my car insurance premiums are much lower today than in my 20s. But is that low rate caused by insurance companies knowing that I recently switched high-speed internet and refinanced my mortgage twice? Via drawpoker of Bogleheads, here’s an NPR article called Being A Loyal Auto Insurance Customer Can Cost You about the practice of “price optimization”.

“Well, it’s really profit maximization,” says Bob Hunter, with the Consumer Federation of America. He says insurance companies can buy software that compiles an astonishing amount of data on everyone who buys almost anything, anywhere.

“They have all the information on what you buy at your grocery store. How many apples, how many beers, how many steaks,” he says. “They have all the information on your house. They have incredible amounts of information on are you staying with DirecTV when Verizon is cheaper.”

A sophisticated algorithm crunches that data and spits out an index showing how sensitive a customer is to price increases. Only the insurance company knows the index.

From a USA Today article on the same topic:

Many insurance companies now use a sophisticated data-mining technique called “price optimization” to set rates just high enough that inertia keeps customers from shopping around. Research found that the longer customers had been with their insurers on average, the greater their savings when they switched, due to all the rate increases they experienced during their loyal years. […]

A 2013 Earnix survey found that 45% of large insurance companies and 26% of all insurance companies in North America currently optimize prices, with an additional 36% of all companies reporting they plan to adopt this technique in the future. What this means is that given two customers with identical risk profiles, the one who’s judged less likely to switch carriers if his rate increases will pay more.

In other words, forget just FICO scores affecting your insurance rates. Your grocery club card, your mortgage quote requests, your switching from cable to DSL, your social media activity, it all could be funneling into some sort of “Frugal Cheapskate” Score. If you don’t shop around elsewhere, you probably won’t shop around for your insurance so they can hike it up without worrying about you jumping ship.

If you want some hints as to where you should start your comparison shopping, you may want to check with your state insurance department. For example, California provides some numbers for your rough situation without needing any personally-identifying information. Here are some numbers for a married couple living in Alameda Country, driving 9k to 16k a year, with no accidents or violations. The lowest average premiums are coming from USAA, Wawanesa, and Anchor General.


All-Clad VIP Factory Sales: Limited-Time Discounts on Lifetime Cookware


All-Clad cookware is known to be very high quality, but also quite expensive. If you cook often, then the prices aren’t so bad when you consider that the stainless steel pans will essentially last forever (skip the non-stick stuff). Frugal home cooks know that All-Clad has (semi-annual?) Factory Sales that offer the same pans with slight cosmetic blemishes for significant discounts. These still come with the same lifetime warranty as if you’d bought them at Williams-Sonoma. (Really, who cares about dents and scratches when it comes to cookware!)

The products which are for sale on this site are FACTORY SECONDS. They have minor cosmetic scratches and/or dents. There are no defects which will affect the cookware’s performance. For this event, all sales are final, no returns will be accepted.

Usually, first there is a huge in-person sale near their headquarters – last one was in Washington, Pennsylvania. After that, they have a semi-secret online sale, which is going on right now from June 15 to June 17th. Visit this link and use the pass code ACVIP15, thanks to mrdjman of FW. I was also given the access code via All-Clad e-mail so it should be open to all.

(The physical sale already happened last week, sorry! For future reminders, anyone can like their All-Clad Facebook page or send an e-mail to to get on their mailing list.)

I’ve been tracking these for a couple years after I was gifted a set of All-Clad fry pans. America’s Test Kitchen often finds All-Clad pans to be the “best” when price is no object, but in terms of quality/price ratio, that is debatable. However, I do love the hefty feel and balance of my All-Clad pans and have come to appreciate quality in cookware after using my Le Creuset and Staub dutch ovens. As a lazy shopper, I just like the idea of buying something once and never worrying about it again.

The current sale has a much better selection than the other recent ones I’ve seen, so if you’re ready to buy then now is a good time. Or just browse now and think about it while signing up to be notified of the next one. Even on sale, this stuff is spendy. 😉

Google Photos: Unlimited Free Photo and Video Backup


Google may already see all your search queries, have access to all your e-mails with Gmail, and now it wants to store all your photos. Why would you let them? How about unlimited space. Free. From the Google Blog:

Google Photos gives you a single, private place to keep a lifetime of memories, and access them from any device. They’re automatically backed up and synced, so you can have peace of mind that your photos are safe, available across all your devices.

Google Photos will store unlimited images for free, with a few conditions. You can choose from one of two options:

  • High quality – Unlimited free storage. Recommended for phones or point-and-shoot cameras that are 16 megapixels (MP) or less. Good for typical printing and sharing. Will be compressed using their special algorithm. Anything under 16 megapixels will have minimal degradation of quality, supposedly it is optimized so that visually you can’t tell the difference. Anything bigger than 16 megapixels will be downsized to 16 megapixels, which can be significant for DSLR users.
  • Original quality – Limited free storage: Uses your Google Account’s 15 GB of free storage. Recommended if you take photos with a DSLR camera and want to maintain the exact original quality. Recommended for printing large banners or to store your original files. Store your photos and videos exactly as you captured them.

Google Photos will store unlimited video for free at 1080p quality. This is pretty big for me, as my videos take up the most space and right now I don’t pay to back them up in the cloud – only on external hard drives. If you upload something 4K, it will downsize to 1080p.

As you might expect with Google, they have also tried their best to make searching through your huge image library as easy as possible:

VISUAL SEARCH: Your photos are now searchable by the places and things that appear in your photos. Looking for that fish taco you ate in Hawaii? Just search “Hawaii” or “food” to find it even if it doesn’t have a description.

There is even facial recognition that groups photos with the same face. I haven’t tried it out yet, but I probably will as I don’t know of any other service that offers free unlimited 1080p video storage. Amazon Prime members can get free unlimited photo storage, but only 5 GB of free video storage.

Here are the links for the Web interface, Android app, and Apple iOS app.

How To Cook Everything Fast, Reviewed By a Slow Cook

cookfastAs part of my ongoing effort to Cook It Yourself in 2015, I’ve been trying out new cookbooks. (So far I’ve managed to lose over 20 pounds by cooking at home and eating less of what I cook at home. 😉 ) I bought How to Cook Everything Fast: A Better Way to Cook Great Food because Mark Bittman has been a long-time advocate of cooking at home and it received positive reviews including a 4.4/5 average rating on Amazon.

This cookbook is the size of a large phone book (for those of you young enough to remember phone books). At over 1,000 pages and 2,000 recipes (including suggested variations) crammed inside, you probably won’t be bringing this to the grocery store with you. It cost me $21 shipped from Amazon, so if you measured cookbook value by recipes per dollar or pounds per dollar, you’d be a happy frugal camper. But don’t expect nice pictures, as color pages are expensive.


There are some good techniques to streamline your home cooking. Here are some general observations on how this cookbook tries to differentiate itself from the many other cookbooks out there.

  • Clearly indicate whether it will take 45, 30, or 15 minutes to make.
  • Every recipe is laid out so you can see the entire thing with the book open on a stand (see image below)
  • Streamline recipes down to critical ingredients, or substituting easier ingredients when possible.
  • Do things in the right order, like preheating oven, preheating pans, or boiling water first.
  • Use techniques like grating or slicing things so they cook faster, using the food processor, or mincing multiple ingredients all at once.
  • Assign specific prep work to be done during natural downtimes in cooking.


For the most part, these techniques work and you start looking for ways to apply them to your other recipes. But sometimes doing the prepwork while something cooks doesn’t work out if you are slow with your knife skills. It took me closer to 10 minutes to do the slicing and mincing that I was given 5 minutes to do, and meanwhile the meat got overcooked. You can turn down the heat, but that doesn’t always work and you might not realize in time either. Many times I found myself wishing for a slower pace and less stress rather than save 5 or 10 minutes.

Sample recipes. Here are some YouTube videos which include recipes from this book. These are definitely some of the better recipes and makes the food come alive much more than the blue and black text in the cookbook.

Overall impressions. In the end, this book certainly delivers as a large reference book on “how to cook everything fast”. It covers everything. It is fast. Now, in many of his videos, Bittman somehow manages to come off as both slightly goofy and a bit condescending. (You may notice this in his videos above.) In the book, everything is much more subdued. There just wasn’t much personality in reading the recipes – I’d even prefer arrogance over blandness.

For me, having a bajillion recipes on hand was not a benefit. If I wanted access to 10,000 recipes, I could just run a search on AllRecipes. I now realize that what I want are the best recipes, dishes with a little flare that a home cook (not restaurant chef!) has made hundreds of times and ideally passed down through at least two generations. With any book with 1,000+ recipes, I would expect some great, some okay, and some disappointing. That’s exactly what I found with this book.

The best part of the book was learning a few techniques to optimize other recipes. If you are more of a visual learner like me, I would start by watching his YouTube videos as they are usually “The Best Of” his recipes before diving into the book.

Disclosures: I bought this book with my own money at for $21. If you buy this book using my Amazon link above, I will receive a small commission.

Sling TV Review + Free Amazon Fire TV Stick or Roku Stick Promo (Updated)


Updated review after 3 months of using Sling TV. Promo still live for a couple more weeks. Sling TV allows you to stream a package of major cable networks live over the internet. That means you can watch it on your smartphone, your home TV, or your laptop. No cable subscription required. Here are the channels included in the base package that runs $20 a month:

  • ESPN (live sports!)
  • ESPN2
  • CNN
  • Food Network
  • Travel Channel
  • HGTV
  • Cartoon Network
  • TNT
  • TBS
  • Cartoon Network
  • Disney Channel
  • ABC Family

Right now, if you commit to prepaying 3 months of Sling TV ($60 total), you can get any of the following deals:

That’s a $39 to $50 savings, depending on the deal, if you were looking for a modern streaming device. You must redeem the promotional code by June 5, 2015.

Alternatively, if you sign up at Sling TV directly first, you can get a free 7-day trial to see how it works for you. If are then ready to commit, then I would sign up for this Amazon promo using a different e-mail address as it says “new customers only”.

My 3-month user review of Sling.

  • Quality isn’t bad; my internet is only 15 Mbps on a good day but we usually don’t have more than one thing streaming at any given time. It looks especially crisp on my iPhone.
  • I’ve had a couple of crashes while channel surfing. This is on the Mac OS X desktop app.
  • You can’t choose to record shows for later viewing. It doesn’t work like a DVR. However, on select channels you can get limited replay of past episodes. From their site:

    Sling TV includes a 3-day replay feature that allows you to watch shows that have aired in the past three days on the following channels: HGTV, DIY, Travel Channel, Cooking Channel, Food Network, Galavision, El Rey, Univision Deportes, Universal Sports, and beIN Sports and we expect this list to grow. Sling International customers can enjoy exclusive 8-day replay on all international channels.

  • On the non-replay channels (including ESPN, ESPN2, ABC Family, TNT, TBS, Disney Channel), you can’t even pause a show for a few minutes and pass the commercials later, or have it blip back 10 seconds if you missed something. On the other channels listed above (Food Network, Travel Channel, etc), you can pause and blip backward. I was surprised how often I would try to click the pause button, with no response. Boo.
  • There is no contract and it is easy to cancel online under your account details. It just took a few clicks and 30 seconds. No calling in required at all, which means no Comcast cancellation nightmares. Note there are no refunds the 3-month prepay offer above. You can reinstate your account easily as well, similar to Netflix.

I did this free streaming stick promo, but after the 3-month comittment I cancelled my Sling subscription mostly due to the lack of DVR ability on all channels. I’ve had a TiVo since roughly 2005 and over the last 10 years, I have completely lifestyle-inflated myself such that I just can’t watch old-school TV anymore. It was too annoying not being able to pause a show, skip commercials, record a show, or blip backwards. I don’t watch that much TV, but when I do, I want it to be on my terms. (You may feel differently!) Now I primarily just stream kid stuff like Sesame Street via Amazon Prime Video.