Three Thrifty Guys Personal finance blog helping folks keep a few more bucks in their pocket Thu, 13 Aug 2015 11:52:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Mapping Out Your Income for Multiple Streams of Income Thu, 13 Aug 2015 11:52:07 +0000
charlie_imageTwo years ago I started using this new concept called the two checking account system. The concept was where I diverted a fixed amount of my primary income into a fixed expense checking account and everything else into a variable checking account. The money flow worked pretty flawlessly, and allowed our family to automate all of our fixed expenses. Thus saving us a lot of time and money on paying our bills.

Being the visual guy that I am, I’ve progressed with the concept, and drew out how our income is being diverted, what amounts are being paid out from our fixed bills, and what other sources of income we have coming in.

As I’ve developed the concept over the years it has helped me to see how much money is going where and incentives me to reduce my bills. On top of that, it helps facilitate the development of my other income streams, and where to flow those other income streams.

Here is an hypothetical example of how my money flow looks today:

Money Workflow Example

Most people’s money flow is directly into one account, and all your bills, variable expenses, and emergencies all come out of that one account. In dealing with my own finances this way I found it hard to manage my money, and decipher what %’s were coming out for what type of expenses. On top of that it helped me develop my multiple income streams and allocate money towards specific causes. This can be anything from saving up for a new van, to saving for a down payment on a new acreage, or paying for private schooling.

Advantages of mapping out multiple streams of income

  • Helps save for specific causes
  • Encourages creation of other income streams
  • Helps divert primary income to money making ventures (like Vanguard Managed Payout Funds)
  • Helps you focus on bill reduction
  • Tracks whether you are spending more than you make (if your variable account is losing value or not)

To start my layout of my money flow I used Microsoft Visio, but you can use Google Draw, Microsoft Paint (built into your Windows operating system), or even go old school and draw it out on paper. Regardless of your method, hopefully you will find laying this out visually, effective and encouraging for your finances.

I’d love to hear from our readers on what you think of mapping out your multiple streams of income. Have you drawn out your money flow before? Were you surprised? Why haven’t you drawn it out?

Charlie is a fan of Robert G. Allen’s Multiple Streams of Income book. He talks about why it is important to have multiple income sources and what you can do to make extra money.

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Try This to Get the Best Deal on Car Repairs Mon, 10 Aug 2015 11:09:51 +0000
get the best deal on car repairs

Do you ever feel like you are just emptying your wallet, time and time again? It feels like we are in that season right now.

Several months ago we made some major car repairs, next we got notice in the mail that everyone in our neighborhood would be assessed $500 for street repairs (“What are my taxes for?!“), then we found out a skylight is leaking water from the roof and (finally) just this past week we encountered another major car repair on one of our aging vehicles (which makes me think more and more about leasing an electric car).

As I’ve mentioned, all this would be a lot more stressful, if we didn’t have some money stashed away. But, thankfully, we do and have been using some of it up to pay for these “surprise” expenses.

Those darn car repairs

I come from a long line of guys who detest putting money into their cars. My dad would sometimes go long periods of time without changing the oil in his car (sometimes forgetting) and he would always put off repairs as long as possible. I now realize what he was going through. It’s no fun to pour money into a depreciating asset.

At the same time, my mother’s dad was a mechanic who always believed in preventative maintenance on vehicles. It’s hard to do – but it’s no question that a car that has been well taken care will likely take care of you.

All this leads me to today’s post, about the last car repair that we just did.

Last week, my wife found some smelly, oily liquid coming from underneath the passenger-side dashboard. After we investigated it further, we came to the conclusion it had something to do with the heating / cooling system in the car.

We were just hoping it was a broken hose or something.


Aaron, it turns out your leak is related to a broken heater core,” my mechanic said. “The part itself doesn’t cost a lot – but the repair could take some time. It’s going to cost about $1,500.”

What?!” I blurted out. “That’s crazy.”

I often prepare myself mentally for what a car repair is going to cost me – just so I don’t get too worked up or initiate a coronary episode. I was figuring this one would be about $600-800.

Check repair costs online

I told my mechanic that I was going to get a second opinion and call him back. Plus, I was looking to get my thoughts in order and regain my composure. I had recently heard about a website called – so I figured I’d see if it could offer some assistance.

After going to the site, I plugged in my year / make / model of my car / my zip code and the repair I need. In no time, the site does the rest and spits out an estimate of what you can expect to pay at neighboring shops.

Here’s what my estimate looked like:

repair pal estimate


There is no cost or obligation to use the site – and they offer recommendations of shops in the area who they call “certified RepairPal shops”.

Armed with this information, I called my mechanic back up and asked if he would do the repair for $900 instead of the $1,500 which he quoted. I also told him that I found the price on He said he’d have to do some research and call me back.

A couple hours later, I got a phone call and he was willing to do the repair for $1,100. Granted, this wasn’t what I had requested, but it was fair and within what the site had quoted (I still feel like this repair was more than I needed to pay – but I always feel that way when putting money into my cars).

So, all-in-all, the site saved us about $400 worth and it was a lot easier than calling up repair shops in the area and getting quotes from them.

Try the site out for your next repair – and let me know how it goes. OR, have you heard of the site already and used the estimator tool?

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How to Save Money at Best Buy Fri, 07 Aug 2015 17:24:15 +0000 how to save money at best buyBest Buy has stood the test of time in the world of electronics and has outlasted many competitors, including Circuit City and Radio Shack. Today, Best Buy is known for having a huge selection of all kinds of electronics and gadgets. Although the prices tend to be reasonable, they are often not as low as they could be, which makes it even more important to know how to shop smartly and save money. Use the following techniques to get great electronics for great prices at Best Buy.

Join My Best Buy

Best Buy recently revamped and renamed its rewards program to attract more customers. The “My Best Buy” program is free to join at the basic level and provides a number of money-saving benefits. You can join My Best Buy in store or by registering online at All you need to create an account is your full name, email address, and phone number. If you join in store, you can easily enter your member ID when you create an online account. My Best Buy comes with a number of benefits, including these three: 

  • Rewards certificates: As a My Best Buy member, you’ll earn one point for every dollar you spend at Best Buy or (excluding taxes and fees). Once you hit 250 points, you’ll receive a $5 rewards certificate. Rewards certificates work similarly to coupons and can be used for nearly any purchase that is over the certificate amount. You can also choose to save your points until you hit 1,000 points and redeem them for a $20 rewards certificate. Although this is a better deal, it can take longer to reach and is the maximum amount you can reach before the points reset. Note that it can take 15 days after a purchase for the points to be applied to your account and the points expire after one year.
  • Member-only exclusives: My Best Buy customers are often the first to know about upcoming sales and are given early access to many promotions and store events. You will also sporadically receive exclusive special offers, which can vary from a coupon for 15% off a certain type of product or extra rewards points when you buy certain brands.
  • Free shipping on $35+: Many expensive items, like laptops and small appliances, come with expensive shipping costs, which makes this offer of free shipping on all order of $35 or more even more appealing. This offer excludes items with scheduled delivery, like refrigerators.

Elite and Elite Plus Memberships

Although the basic free membership has its share of perks, you can also opt for the Elite and Elite Plus versions of My Best Buy if you are a very loyal customer. You must spend at least $1,500 at Best Buy in one calendar year to become an Elite member, and you must spend $3,500 in a single calendar year to become an Elite Plus member. The elevated reward status comes with bonuses, including: 

  • Extended exchanges and returns: Instead of the typical 15 days to return an item, Elite members have 30 days after making a purchase and Elite Plus members have 45 days to return or exchange.
  • Point banking: While basic My Best Buy members have a cap of $1,000 points for a $20 reward certificate, Elite and Elite Plus members can accrue points with no limits. Unlike basic membership, the points never expire so you can save for a huge reward. Note that you have to maintain the Elite or Elite Plus annual spending levels to keep your points active—if you fail to spend the right amount of money in a year, you will be demoted to basic status and lose your points.
  • Bonus points. Instead of the basic one point per dollar spent, Elite members get 1.1 points for every dollar spent and Elite Plus members get 1.25 points for every dollar spent. That means basic members get $5 back for every $250 they spend, Elite members get $5 for ever $227.27 they spend, and Elite Plus members get $5 back for every $200 they spend.

If you are a frequent Best Buy customer and take great advantage of the My Best Buy program, a My Best Buy credit card could be a good option. Cardholders get 5% back in points on every purchase compared to 2% for basic members or they can choose interest-free 12-month financing on purchases of $399 or more. You can also use the My Best Buy credit card to get to Elite or Elite Plus status more quickly, as the $1,500 and $3,500 spending requirements can be met with any purchases made on the credit card, not just those at Best Buy and

Shop Deal of the Day

Aside from its regular clearance sales online and in store, Best Buy also runs a Deal of the Day section that is similar to Amazon’s Lightning Deals. The Deal of the Day section is easy to use. Best Buy releases a new deep discount on a specific item every day, but the deal only lasts for one day before it is replaced by a new product with a deep discount. Daily Deal discounts are almost always at least 25% off and frequently more than 50% off. There are also sporadically Bonus Deals of the Day with extra items with low prices for a single day.

Because Deal of the Day products come with such great discounts, many items sell out quickly. Stay on top of the best discounts by signing up for the Deal of the Day email newsletter so you can score a product as soon as it is released.

Shop Best Buy Outlet

Best Buy was one of the first stores to create an online outlet shop, which is a great place for bargain hunters to get a great deal.

The outlet section of features clearance, open-box, refurbishes, and pre-owned items. Search by category, brand, or savings level to find the perfect item. Outlet items can be picked up for free at Best Buy stores and can even be returned or exchanged, which is rare for online outlets. Products fall into the following categories: 

  • Clearance: Items that are discounted by the manufacturer or that are no longer in stock
  • Open box: Practically new items that have been returned
  • Refurbished: Items that have been repaired so they are as good as new
  • Pre-owned: Restored used items that have passed tests to make sure they are in like-new condition

Clearance and open-box items from the outlet still qualify for manufacturer warranties, but pre-owned and refurbished items may not have an applicable warranty, so be sure to ask customer service before making your purchase.

Use the Best Buy Price Match Guarantee

Best Buy rewards loyal customers with an extensive price match guarantee that allows them to shop for everything at Best Buy while knowing they are getting the best possible price. Best Buy will match any local competitor’s in-store or online price and the price of identical items sold at online-exclusive stores like,,,,, and, as well as

The price match guarantee applies to identical products from other retailers, but it doesn’t apply to third-party marketplace sellers on,, or other similar sites. Clearance items, coupon offers, flash sales, mail-in rebates, open-box items, and refurbished and pre-owned outlet items are also disqualified from the price match guarantee. Best Buy doesn’t match any sale prices from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, so don’t plan on price matching during Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

Buy Discounted Gift Cards at

Save even more money at Best Buy by purchasing a discounted gift card from, a site that also sells discounted gift cards for many other stores. sells Best Buy gift cards at a great 5.5% discount, which can add up to great savings online or in store. Best Buy allows up to 10 gift cards to be used in a single transaction, which means you can buy eight $25 Best Buy gift cards from CardPool for $188.96 and save $11.04 instantly on a $200 purchase. When used with sale or clearance items, the savings can be even greater. The smallest amount for an electronic gift card is $20, but physical gift cards can be mailed with free shipping and come in amounts as small as $10.

This post has been brought to you by – who provides comprehensive services for online bargain hunters. TTG sometimes receives commissions on sales made through certain links – at no cost to you.

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Should Parents Affect Their Kids Perception of Money? Thu, 06 Aug 2015 11:10:21 +0000


When I was in 4th grade my parents scared the living daylights out of me. I was crying/complaining on the way home from not getting a toy at the store, and my mom slams on the car breaks. Immediately she burst into tears, and says, “Charlie! We can’t afford the toy! The farm isn’t doing well. Corn and bean prices are down, and Dad is struggling to make money. We need to do everything we can as a family to pull together. We just don’t have the money right now. I’m soooo sorry.” 

Boy did I feel like crap! This one incident revolutionized my life and perception of money with one slam of the car brakes! I felt so convicted and devastated of my own selfishness that I went home and got all my money from my piggy bank and gave it to my mom. She refused to take it, but I learned a lot from this pivotal moment in my young life. Years later, I realized that my parents influenced my perception of money. Consequently, their influence is now impacting my thrifty 5, 6, and 11 year old boys.

parents affect kids perception of moneyFamily sticks together

I was truly blessed to have such great parents. They feared the Lord. They loved their kids. They were some of the cheapest people I know – but we always stuck together. What does that mean? Even through the tough times of the 1980’s farming crisis or through record crop prices, our family was always willing to do things for the mutual benefit of the entire family. We would work together to butcher our year’s supply of chickens, plant sweet corn or get everyone helping out with harvesting the corn crop before the first snow fall. It didn’t matter. We did whatever needed to be done.

Everyone makes sacrifices

For example, during the Great Depression all the kids and relatives participated in saving the family money. There was no blurred lines. Everyone was involved in planting and harvesting garden veggies to feed the family. On top of that everyone did what they could to make the family money. From helping out neighbors to even dropping out of school at 8th grade to help dad on the farm. My grandpa talked about his experience in leaving school at 8th grade so he could work for dad full-time. It wasn’t his choice, but in 1934 they were in the depths of the Depression and everyone needed to help out.

Invest in your children – Start a Mom and Dad 401k plan (aka 401kmd)

With my own children we started this cool program that encourages our kids to save their money. At age 5 years old we open up a bank account at a local bank with each of our kids and we tell them, “For each dollar you invest in your savings account, we will match it. If you invest $100, then we will put in $100 too.” At age 18, each of them will be allowed to withdraw it or use it as they want. Hopefully this will motivate our children to participate in their own to participate in their company 401k or 403b.

Well, as my 5, 6, and 11 year olds group up, I wanted to describe a few ways that our family is influencing their financial behavior. I’d be interested to hear from some of our readers on what you are doing to both positively and negatively influence your children? It’s an open forum here!

Check out Frugaa ( for online coupons that will help you save on your next purchase

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Ting Revisted – One Year Review Mon, 03 Aug 2015 10:34:16 +0000

ting review one year laterReviewing is a key component to success. I constantly encourage my ninth grade Algebra students to review their work. Coaches are always reviewing game film to learn from the previous game. I would submit to you that reviewing financial decisions is an important aspect of living wisely in the area of finances. When I make a big purchase, I should ask if it were worth it one year later. If I change a lifestyle habit, I want to evaluate how it affects my bottom line a year later.

One decision that I wrote about last year and wanted to review was my decision to switch cell phone providers to Ting Mobile. I started my review by reading last year’s article and re-evaluating the pros and cons. This time I spare you the obnoxious puns.



At the time, I was anticipating a monthly phone bill of $39 per month without changing habits. Over the span of 18 months my bill has averaged just over $40, due to my usage being higher than average a few months. The rates have not risen which has been a pleasant surprise!

Good Coverage, No Contract

My wife and I have had no surprises with reception. At home in Bellevue we experience great coverage, and experience no bars while floating down the Niobrara River in rural Nebraska. This would be exactly the same had we stayed with Sprint.


We both upgraded phones during the past year (my wife to an iPhone 5 and myself to an even newer flip phone!!!) and changing our numbers over to the new phones was a piece of cake.


The website makes it very clear what you will pay for. I switched phones midway through this year and did it all myself with ease.


ting savings calculator
Ting Savings Calculator


Last year I told you about the irony of cost with Ting. It is not for everyone. I searched average cell phone usage and by inputting the averages into Ting’s estimator tool, found out what a “normal” bill would be.

DEVICE CHARGE: $6 for 1 device

MINUTES: $9 for 450 minutes

MESSAGES: $11 for 2500 messages

DATA: $29 for 1.75 Gigabytes

TAXES: $10

TOTAL: $65

Again,Ting is probably not a good replacement for unlimited talk, text, and data if you use all three in large amounts each month.


As mentioned above, a person rolls with Sprint’s coverage for better or worse.


My wife’s phone broke three months ago, and without insurance we had to eat a fairly significant cost to buy a new phone (we used Glyde to buy a gently used iPhone 5 for just over $100). We’ve learned our lesson to invest in good phone cases and save towards new phones (my sights are set on going back to the Razr! Who’s with me?)


Overall, there has been no significant surprises except for two pleasant perks. First, I have not waited in a line at a cell phone dealer for over 18 months now! By my “what it feels like” estimates that’s like 20 hours saved! Because efficiency is a high value for me and because lines at cell phone stores are the bane of my existence, Ting has worked out great for me! Secondly, Ting has made controlling my phone use easy. I’m able to set alerts when I reach a certain level of messages to warn me before I go over. If I go into “super strict crazy budget guy mode” for a month, I’m able to ask Ting to “cut me off” when I’ve had too many messages or data for that month. After a year and half of using Ting, my loyalty to the company is even stronger because of the lack of surprises, pleasant perks, and low phone bill each month!

Update 8/4/15: One important detail that I failed to mention – Ting’s network mirrors that of Sprint but this year Ting’s coverage has expanded and includes GSM wireless coverage. Click here to check out the coverage maps!

See if you can save with Ting

Receive a $25 credit on your first order with Ting via this link. TTG may receive compensation if you purchase via this link – at no charge to you. 

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Ooma HD2 Handset Review Tue, 28 Jul 2015 10:35:42 +0000 ooma handset hd2 review

Recently, I was given the opportunity to try out Ooma HD2 Handset as another add-on option to my Ooma home phone system. In testing the unit I looked for ease of setup, how it compared to our existing analog phone, distance the phone signal reached and overall rating.

Ease of setup

Press the wireless signal in the upper right area of your Ooma base unit
Press the wireless signal in the upper right area of your Ooma base unit

The Ooma HD2 Handset was very easy to set up. Just follow these instructions:

  • Remove from box, and install batteries in handset. Plug into dock if no image comes up on the front display.
  • Once docked, press the wireless signal in the upper right area of your Ooma base unit
  • Your handset will ask you to confirm your authentication – press yes
  • After the handset has initiated its trust with the base unit, then it will ask you keep it on the dock and it’ll update its software (if there are any new releases)

The entire setup process took me less than 5 minutes from unboxing to usage. Pretty simple!

Handset compact to my existing Uniden analog phone

I’ve had my Uniden home phone (with 2 remote units) connected to my Ooma base unit for over 3 years. The entire time I’ve had my Uniden phone I’ve had to replace the batteries about once per year, because the phone really drains the battery. The Ooma handset has an extremely long battery life, has a caller ID feature on the front display, and even shows me how many voice messages I have that need to be read. I wouldn’t know this by using my regular phone unless I’d look at the base Ooma unit and the mail light would be flashing.

In addition, there are a lot of nice features on the menu that aren’t available with my regular phone. These include voicemail, intercom, services (do not disturb, call forwarding and sync config), phonebook, favorites, call logs and other settings.

Distance my Ooma Handset reaches

One of the premier features I get out of the unit is its capability to get a good signal a long ways from my base unit. In looking at my existing phone, I’d often struggle to get a clear signal with my base unit at the top floor of a three story house and making calls from my basement. The Ooma handset not only gets a clear signal through all three floors of my house, but I’m able to walk four or five houses down the block (in both directions) and still communicate clearly over the phone. That is approximately the diameter of 1000ft my handset can reach. I was very impressed with this feature, and is another reason for its great value.

Overall rating

Overall, I would give the Ooma HD2 Handset 5 stars out of 5. The value, ease of use, and the advantages it provides compliment my Ooma phone system. If you are already using the Ooma Telo, I highly recommend adding the Ooma HD2 Handset. You won’t be disappointed.

This article has been brought to you by our friends at Ooma.

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Amazon Fire TV Stick Review – A Streaming Device That’s Easy to Use and Thrifty Fri, 24 Jul 2015 11:39:52 +0000 This past October, my thrifty friend Charlie gifted me with an Amazon Fire TV Stick for my birthday. Not being as technologically advanced as he is, I hadn’t heard much about the device and what it could do.

When I opened it up and tried out the device, I was immediately hooked.

Streaming is the new way to watch TV

The trend these days seems to be that more and more of us are cutting the cable cord. But many of us still want a way to stream the shows and movies that we enjoy – when want. This is where streaming comes in. Instead of accessing cable, we are using our internet connection. 

Many devices have come onto the scene since streaming has gotten faster and more reliable. Among the most popular (besides the Fire TV Stick):

  • Google Chromecast
  • Roku
  • Apple TV
  • and even your video game console

The rise of these devices has allowed many folks to slash their cable bills and has given them more freedom to choose what they want to watch and when.

Fire TV Stick is one of the best

While I haven’t tried many of the other streaming devices (I’d like to hear if you have), I have read other reviews and many people put the Fire TV Stick at the top of their list. And, I can see why. Again, I’m not ultra-techie – but the device was very easy to set-up and get going.

It’s basically a 3-step process to install:

installation steps for fire tv

  1. Plug the stick into your HDTV
  2. Plug in an outlet
  3. Connect to your WIFI

Once you get it going, there is a prompt (an animated fella, actually) that guides you through the Fire TV Stick’s features and capabilities. It’s really a simple process and you are up and running in minutes.

If you are an Amazon Prime member, you will log in with your credentials and have access to 250,000 movies and TV shows. New programs are added all the time. (I will say this: I have been a subscriber to Netflix – and while Netflix’s selection is a bit better than what Prime offers – it is still a thrifty deal, being that you don’t have the monthly charge).

Among the other things you can stream with Fire TV stick:

  • Games
  • Music
  • Youtube (and other online video services)
  • Sports (like ESPN)
  • News

The stick also has 1GB of storage where you can upload your photos and videos and have access to them if you want to show friends/family. Very handy!

fire stick remote
Amazon Fire TV stick and remote

When you order the device, it also comes with a handy remote that takes a little while to get used to, as it has a radial dial. Once you get the hang of it, you’re off to the races.

There’s also the Amazon Fire TV

Amazon has also come out with the Fire TV. This device is a little larger, has more storage and features and (you guessed it), costs more. Here is a break-down on the comparisons between the stick and TV courtesy of Amazon.

fire stick vs tv

To be honest, I think the stick would be good enough for most folks. The biggest benefit of the TV is that it has voice recognition (which is a good benefit, as you will find out after using the stick for a period of time).

Win a Fire TV

We are giving away a Fire TV to one reader. All you have to do is comment below with your favorite movie or show and you’ll be entered. Contest ends next Friday (7/31) at midnight and a winner will be notified by email on 8/3. One entry per person/household please. US residents only. Being a subscriber to TTG does increase your odds of winning. :)

Congrats to Kent who was randomly selected as the winner of an Amazon Fire TV! Thanks for playing along everyone!

Have you tried the Fire TV or Fire TV stick? What are your thoughts on the device?

Purchase a Fire TV stick

For a limited time, you can get a Fire TV Stick FREE with the purchase of an Ooma Telo

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