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

tinglog(Update 6/9: Limited-time offer is now ended, back to $25 referral credit.) Ting 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. Their GSM SIM card service uses the T-Mobile GSM MVNO network, while their original service is a Sprint CDMA MVNO.

Until June 8th, Ting has upped their refer-a-friend bonus to $100 off a device or $100 in Ting credit if you buy used or bring your own phone to Ting. This applies to both GSM and CDMA service. I believe the standard referral offer is only $25 off. I’m actually on vacation right now and thus won’t have a full review ready in time, but here’s what you need to know:

  • 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 is my referral link. You get $100, I get $50. Thanks in advance if you use it!

Here’s a screenshot of their rate breakdown:

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Here’s the full referral e-mail text:

Dear friend,

From now until 11:59pm ET on June 8, the Ting Refer a Friend program is offering you $100 to try Ting mobile phone service. If you sign up and activate a phone, I’ll also receive a $50 credit and yes, once you join Ting, you’ll be able to refer your friends too.

z4jl1i37om9.ting.com. That’s my unique referral URL and the key to this offer. Click through and you’ll receive $100 off select phones in the Ting shop or a $100 credit if you bring your own phone to Ting.

Speaking of which, the phone you already own will probably work with Ting. Go to the Ting compatibility checker to find out for sure.

See Ting network coverage here.

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.

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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.

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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 Amazon.com 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)

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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.  

Employee or Student Discounts for AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile

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Updated 2015. Every major cell phone provider offers discounts for large groups, even when it’s an existing personal line. You could qualify through your employer, educational institution, or even affiliation with certain organizations like AAA or credit unions. So grab your work or school e-mails, check out these links, and find out what discounts are available to you. You may be pleasantly surprised.

AT&T Wireless. BusinessDirect Premier Discounts

Submit your work or student email address to find out if you are eligible to receive exclusive AT&T offers and discounts on your wireless bill through your employer or school. Once we validate your email address, you will receive an email to start shopping in your own personal AT&T online store!

We need your work, school, or organization email address to determine if you are affiliated with an organization that qualifies for additional savings. AT&T has business agreements with thousands of corporations, government agencies, and educational institutions to offer wireless products to their employees at a significant discount.

If we match your work, school, or organization email address with our list of qualified companies, we’ll send you an email so you can start taking advantage of applicable discounts and benefits for which you qualify. (We are unable to match personal email addresses such as Yahoo!®, Windows Live™ Hotmail, or AOL®.)

Verizon Wireless. Employee Discount Program

Verizon Wireless offers you discounts on wireless products and services based on your employment or affiliation with an organization that has an agreement with us.

If you are new to Verizon Wireless and have an employer issued work email address, you can enter the address below to check your eligibility status.

T-Mobile. In 2014, T-Mobile changed their corporate discount program for consumer lines. Existing corporate discounts were mostly left grandfathered in. The T-Mobile Advantage Program now gives a $25 gift card per device instead. If you have a work phone directly paid for by your employer, you may qualify for Business Family Discounts.

Do you work for a company that is part of the T-Mobile Advantage Program? You could be eligible to receive a $25 T-Mobile Advantage™ Reward Card with every purchase of a new smartphone or tablet.

Does your company directly pay for your voice line on the T-Mobile network? Your family can save 50% off your first two lines on an eligible Simple Choice family plan—and pay just $10 per line after that. Is your family already on a T-Mobile Simple Choice Plan? Great! Because they’re eligible, too.

Sprint. Employee Value Program and Sprint Discount Program.

ENTER YOUR WORK OR ORGANIZATION ISSUED EMAIL ADDRESS BELOW FOR ACCESS TO YOUR PRIVATE PORTAL
If your company or organization has an account, you will gain instant access to your portal. (Please note that we cannot accept personal email addresses)

Just enter your work, school, or organization email address below to see if you’re eligible for the Sprint Discount Program. Don’t worry, we won’t sell or share your personal information with third parties. What are you waiting for? Find out now!

Here are specific links for the Sprint AAA 10% discount, and Sprint credit union 10% discount. LoveMyCreditUnion.org also offers credit union members Sprint monthly plan discounts and waived activation and upgrade fees.

Verizon Wireless 8% Customer Loyalty Discount

vzIf you have Verizon Wireless but don’t already have a good employee or education discount on your plan, you may want to try this Customer Loyalty Discount at vzw.com/appreciation. You may qualify for up to 8% off of your monthly access fee. Note the following fine print:

*Discounts apply to plan monthly access fees of $34.99+ and data features of $24.99+ when added to a plan of $34.99+. On Share Everything and More Everything plans, discounts apply only to the Account Access fees. Prepaid, already discounted and promotional plans are not eligible for discounts through this program.

In addition, after reading through the Fatwallet and Slickdeals forum threads, please note the following:

  • Already discounted plans are not eligible (as noted in highlighted text above).
  • Submitting the form will attempt to apply the discount. Even though the page suggests that you are only checking your eligibility (“complete the form below to see if you qualify”), it will in fact attempt to apply the discount to your line immediately.
  • Your employee discount may be removed. Basically, be careful before submitting the form. If you have for example a 15% employee discount and sign up for this plan, the new 8% discount will actually replace your existing 15% discount. You will have to re-validate your employee discount if it is removed, requiring additional time and effort. A previously grandfathered employee discount may also be lowered upon re-validation.

Despite these warnings, I bet there are plenty of Verizon customers out there without a corporate discount that wouldn’t mind shaving a few bucks off their monthly bill.

The Easiest, Fastest Homemade Pizza Dough Recipe Yet

madlypizza

I’m still trying my best to cook at home at least 5 times a week, mostly avoiding the pitfalls in my cooking at home flowchart. We make pizza at least once every other week, as it tastes better than anything from the frozen aisle and is very flexible. We’ve recently topped one with leftover corned beef from St. Patrick’s Day.

Suzanne Lenzer of the New York Times recently shared her own pizza dough recipe in Homemade Pizza, Easier and Faster.

So let’s assume you already know that homemade pizza is better and quicker and cheaper than what you can buy at the neighborhood pizza place. You know the reasons to make your own, which are as obvious as they are appealing: You can top a pizza with virtually anything (from special ingredients to leftovers) or almost nothing (one of my favorites is little more than a smear of caramelized leeks dotted with taleggio). You can bake it in minutes — it takes longer to heat up the oven than to bake a pie.

The recipe is from her new book, and it differs from the 5,000 other recipes out there in these important ways:

  1. No kneading! Use a food processor instead. Pizza dough by hand isn’t hard, but this makes it stupid easy. Dump stuff in food processor and turn on for 2 minutes. Done.
  2. Takes 30 minutes all-in on the weekend. Yes, you’ll want to make it ahead for busy weeknights. 20 minutes includes the minimal prep, using the food processor, the rise, and cleaning everything up during the 20-minute rise. Clean counter to clean counter, 30 minutes.
  3. Make ahead, store in freezer. You keep it in the freezer until you need it. Throw it in the fridge to thaw in the morning. Take dough out and preheat oven when you get home. In under 20 minutes, food can be on the table!

Here’s a direct link to the dough recipe, and another NYT article with easy pizza topping ideas. I made the NYT dough last weekend, froze them, and ate them later in the week. We liked it! Here are our comments, which I actually think make it even easier:

  • We used all-purpose flour. The recipe says bread flour and we’ve used it in the past, but AP flour worked just fine and it’s less hassle.
  • We used a rolling pin to roll out the dough. The recipe says to stretch the dough by hand and specifically says “not flat on a work surface”, but we use a floured, flat surface and a rolling pin. It still works and takes nearly zero skill! Here’s a good, simple YouTube video that describes the stupid-proof method. I like stupid-proof.
  • Parchment paper for the win. We bought a baking stone. It got all nasty after a few months. Now we just use a half baking sheet that can preheat in the oven and parchment paper. Also stupid-proof, as it always results in no sticking! Although if you bake 550 degrees, the paper may turn black. We bake at slightly lower temps.
  • Double the recipe. Assuming your food processor isn’t one of those tiny ones, I like the article’s tip to double the dough recipe. Now you’ll get four balls of dough in 30 minutes.

Side tip: Don’t got half an hour on Sunday? You can also freeze pizza dough from the supermarket. You can buy a ball of pizza dough for $1 to $2 at places like Safeway or Trader Joe’s. If you look at the ingredients, many of them are quite simple with minimal questionable additives. Freeze it ’til you need it.

Best Frugal Cast Iron Skillet Pan – America’s Test Kitchen

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Back in 2007, I wrote about cast iron skillets as the ultimate frugal cookware? To this day, I still think they can play a regular role in the home kitchen. America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) has recently released to free e-mail newsletter subscribers the results from their extensive test of various cast-iron skillets. They made everything from scrambled eggs to steaks to cornbread. (Must sign-up and log-in to view. Did I mention it’s informational and free?)

Over the past 30 years, nonstick skillets have taken the place of cast iron in most homes. But with disturbing reports about the effects of nonstick coatings on the environment and our health, we decided to take another look at cast iron to see if it’s worth bringing back into the kitchen.

Cast iron has always been known to have a few advantages over other types of cookware. Its material and weight give it excellent heat retention for high-heat cooking techniques such as frying and searing. You can use it on the stovetop or bake with it in the oven. Its durability is legendary—many people are still cooking with cast-iron pans handed down for generations. Unlike most consumer products, cast-iron pans actually improve with time and heavy use.

Cast iron also has disadvantages. It’s heavy and needs special care. […]

As to the special care, I suggest reading this link about the many myths about cast iron pans. A bit of soap is fine. You do want to keep them dry when not in use to avoid rust spots, though.

The winner? Why, the same model and size I bought myself back in 2007, the $34 Lodge L10SK3 Pre-Seasoned Skillet, 12-Inch with a 4.6/5 rating and over 5,000 reviews. (This 10-inch version is only $15.) Read the full article for the details and rankings of other brands. Here’s a screenshot of my Amazon page when logged-in as proof:

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These days, my workhorse cookware is my enameled cast iron dutch oven. Soups, stews, chilis, short ribs, pork shoulder, and so on. Eggs, searing, and cornbread can be done as well. Less maintenance but a little costlier. Well, Le Creuset and Staub are high quality and high price (we got one as a gift and love it), but this $70 Lodge dutch oven also gets good reviews. Tramontina dutch ovens are another well-reviewed and cost-conscious choice; you can find them sometimes at Wal-Mart and Costco physical stores.

Verizon Wireless Drops Most Data Plan Prices by $10, But Existing Customers Must Opt-In

vzwnewprice2Verizon Wireless positions itself as a premium service. They have the biggest 4G LTE footprint, but they also seem to cost more across the board. For people that depend on reliable phone and data service for their work, the extra price is often worth it. However, Verizon just announced a price drop for many of their data plans.

From their press release, Verizon puts it this way:

Beginning Thursday [2/5/15], Verizon’s MORE Everything plans with data allowances of 1GB to 3GB (or from $40 to $60 per month) will include 1GB of additional data for the same price. A new $70 plan with 6GB will be available. […] Verizon is also adding new 12GB, 14GB, and 16GB options to its MORE Everything plans for customers with greater appetites for data and all that it enables, like streaming video or sharing large files.

But really, this is a $10 price drop if you are happy with your current data limits. This graphic from Recode summarizes it best:

vzwnewprice

However, the real reason I am mentioning all this is that existing Verizon customers must opt in to this “new” plan to get the savings. This a potential $120 a year savings without changing your behavior, but you won’t get it automatically!

To save $10 every month (or get an increased data allowance at your current price), either call customer service or log into your Verizon Wireless account online and pick the option to change your plan. You will be told that your existing plan is “no longer available” and that you must choose a new plan. Verify that your new monthly bill is $10 less than before (excluding taxes and fees).

Side note: If you just want to take advantage of Verizon’s good voice coverage, you can use the Page Plus Prepaid MVNO which uses Verizon towers but may not have the same roaming agreements in certain areas. You can get a Pay-as-you-go plan for as little as $10 every 120 days. They offer 4G LTE now as well, it ends up being big savings for single plans but less so for family plans with multiple lines. If you’re ending a Verizon contract and are still happy with your “old” phone, this may be something worth considering.

Side note 2: Oh, and don’t forget to check if you can get an employee or student discount with just your e-mail address.

Time Again to Reconsider Refinancing Your Mortgage?

If you have a mortgage with an interest rate over 5% or even 4%, hopefully you have explored refinancing it to a lower interest rate. Yes, it can be a bit of a pain, and that is why many people leave tens of thousands of dollars, if not over a hundred thousand dollars, on the table. A one-time hurdle now is better than worrying about skipping lattes forever! Here are some useful nuggets of information that will hopefully motivate you to pursue it further.

Mortgage rates are back near record lows and refinance applications are spiking. From the NY Times on 1/20/15:

The average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 3.8 percent at the end of last week. That is down from 4.5 percent as recently as last spring, the lowest since May 2013 and far below the 5 percent-plus rates that prevailed as recently as early 2011. […] Homeowners who secured their current mortgage in late 2013 or early 2014, or anytime before mid-2011, may want to at least plug their numbers into an online calculator to see if the potential savings are worthwhile.

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Home price appreciation may mean you can refi and get rid of private mortgage insurance. Home values have been rising, so you may now be eligible to refinance when you weren’t in past years, which could reduce your interest rate and/or enable to you stop paying for mortgage insurance.

20% of people who could benefit from a refinance didn’t… From a NBER paper and this CBS Marketwatch article

For example, in the period they study, December 2010, 20 percent of households that would have benefited from refinancing and had the ability to refinance did not do so. The median amount of unrealized savings was approximately $160 per month, or $11,500 per household over the remaining life of the loan.

… and they could have saved big bucks.

… a household with a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage of $200,000 at an interest rate of 6.5 percent that refinances when rates fall to 4.5 percent will save over $80,000 in interest payments over the life of the loan, even after accounting for typical refinancing costs. With long-term mortgage rates at roughly 3.35 percent, this same household would save roughly $130,000 over the life of the loan by refinancing.

Shop around! People spend more time comparison shopping for a $500 computer than a mortgage that could save you $10,000. From Bloomberg:

Mortgage interest compounds the cost, and over the life of a loan, small differences in an interest rate really add up. The best way to save, then, is to shop around for the best rate possible, but a new survey by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) finds that half of homebuyers consider only one lender or mortgage broker. That’s particularly unimpressive considering that typical shoppers will spend at least four hours choosing a new computer.

There are new tools to help you comparison shop. Forget average interest rates. You want the interest rate for your situation. The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) has a new rate checker tool that takes into account your credit score, state of residence, house price, and down payment size to see what other interest rates people are getting. I like they show an actual distribution of rates and the number of lenders offering that rate:

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In the end, you will have to gather lots of paperwork and probably deal with a couple hiccups to get your refinance done. I never said it would be fun, but it is profitable. You can try the big networks like and Quicken Loans, or you can ask around for a referral to a reputable mortgage broker. The CFPB recommends that you get quotes from three or more lenders. That way you can compare and even negotiate one off the other. “Rates often change from when you first talk to a lender and when you submit your mortgage application, so don’t make a final decision before comparing official Good Faith Estimates.”

Consumer Reports Product Testing Details

crmagVox has an in-depth look at Consumer Reports, including their continued efforts at staying unbiased, rigorous testing methods, and their future financial outlook.

To ensure they’re getting the same thing you’d buy at a store, they buy all of these products anonymously, at full retail price. To maintain independence, they don’t run any ads in their print magazine or on their website and don’t even allow manufacturers to trumpet positive test results in their own ads elsewhere. For many of these products, Consumer Reports is literally the only group testing this thoroughly — and in some cases, they’ve noticed potentially dangerous defects and alerted manufacturers or regulators to issue recalls.

I have been a Consumer Reports subscriber on and off for years, and my parents also subscribed to it when I was a kid. I love their info when buying appliances, but when I’m not making any major purchases the unread issues tend to stack up in a big pile that whispers “I’m wasted money!”. Their constant reminders to renew just serve as reminders that I am not using what I’m paying for. So I cancel. Consumer Reports must have a very frugal client base, so I bet I’m not the only one that thinks like this.

Then I read stuff like this and I want to subscribe again. That’s my cycle. The print subscription is $29 a year. Adding an online access costs $20 a year, making it $49 a year. This is handy when I need car seat reviews or something specific. Getting the online access alone is $30 a year or $6.95 a month. A la carte is probably the best option for me, but as an American I love everything to be “unlimited”. :)

Simple Living and Minimalist Parenting Quotes

I was catching up on some long reads and finished the article When Mommy and Daddy Took the Toys Away which explored parents who are simplifying by keeping their kid’s toys and other material goods to a minimum.

Only having a few toys? Not expecting more toys when shopping? Huh, kind of sounds like my childhood. The snarky side of me just thinks that “minimalist parenting” sounds a whole lot like “parenting without gobs of disposable income”. In retrospect, it was so much easier for my parents. They had so much less money to spend! 😉

All kidding aside, I highlighted a couple of quotes in the article, as I think they apply to everyone. We all know that adults have their own toys and desires for more toys.

On dealing with envy:

“We don’t overcome envy in our lives by getting what another person has,” Becker says. “We overcome envy by being content with what we have and being grateful for what we have.”

On balancing simplicity and priorities (Salem is a kid):

“You don’t really need to have a whole lot of toys to be happy,” Salem says. “Just the ones that you really want.”

Save Money: Bring Your Own Cable Modem & Stop Paying Crazy Rental Fees

Updated. According to this CNN Money article, both Comcast and Time Warner are jacking up their modem rental fees again for 2015. Time Warner will now charge $8 a month, up 33% from $5.99. Comcast will now charge $10 month, up 25% from $8.

These fees are now so high that it is a “no-brainer” decision to buy your own modem. Unfortunately, many people either won’t notice the fee or don’t even know that bringing your own equipment is an option.

Being charged $8 a month is $96 a year. A quick look on the Time Warner Cable compatible modem list showed several models that can be found online at retailers like Amazon.com for under $50. (Here is the Comcast Xfinity compatible modem list.) And that’s just for the basic model rental – the model with a built-in WiFi router costs another $4.95 a month – nearly $60 a year – while you can just buy a router for 20 bucks! Crazy.

For my family member paying for Time Warner, I stuck with a familiar name brand and picked the Motorola Surfboard SB6121 for $64.99 and free shipping. (The SB6141 at $80 is the next model up and compatible with the fastest speeds available, though you’ll have to subscribe to one of the most expensive monthly plans.) Both are DOCSIS 3.0 which ensures future compatibility.

The installation process was quite simple:

  1. Buy the modem. Wait for it to arrive. Remove old modem (unscrew cable cord and unplug power). Install new modem (screw in cable line and plug it power).
  2. Call your provider or start a Live Chat session online. Time Warner is 1-800-TWC-HELP (1-800-892-4357), or pick the “Buy or Lease your Modem” option when chatting.
  3. Provide them with the Cable Modem ID (MAC address) found on the back or bottom of your new modem. Wait 30 minutes or less and your high speed internet should be working again.
  4. Remember to return old modem (this is really the hardest part).

Unless you plan on moving really soon, at $65 for the modem with free shipping you’d break even in less than 9 months. Even better, consider it a $65 investment that distributes $8 of tax-free income every month. That’s like earning 147% APY at a bank with a 0% tax bracket. You’d need $9,600 at 1% interest to earn $8 a month in taxable income.

Some people have accused Time Warner of making their cable internet speeds slower and/or experiencing service interruptions along customer service responses of “We can’t help you, it’s not our modem” after switching to their own modems. Share your experiences in the comments below.