Three Thrifty Guys Personal finance blog helping folks keep a few more bucks in their pocket Tue, 28 Jul 2015 10:35:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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. :)

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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Financial Peace University Review Mon, 20 Jul 2015 09:00:54 +0000 charlie_imageIf finances was all about math, then all mathematicians would be millionaires.” During the first few weeks of our nine week course, I was hit with a realization: The reality that finances are more about behavior modification, then about numbers. It is more about suppressing wants and purging your life of debt (like a disease).

When my wife and I entered the class, I had a feeling that I had a pretty good handle on our family’s finances. We thought we were on pace for being financial independent and were “ahead of the game.” However, after about the third or fourth week, we both realized that we had a lot of work to do on our family’s finances.

Things I learned

Insurance – my insurance was way underfunded and I needed to significantly increase both my wife and I’s insurance policies. No one had ever sat me down and explained what is a good multiplier for both of our life insurance policies. With my wife being a stay-at-home wife it was very hard to quantify what $ value she is providing our family, and what it would cost to replace her services if she would pass away. Also, I had no clue about how much car insurance was a “safe” amount, and the value of umbrella insurance. In calling my existing insurance agent, I found that increasing my car insurance to 300/500/300, and purchasing the umbrella insurance was about a net even. Meaning, it didn’t cost me anything to increase my car insurance when I supplemented with umbrella.

Things I didn’t expect

I didn’t expect to feel so far behind on our college savings. To be brutally honest, we are on Dave Ramsey Baby Stepstrack for step 4, skipping 5, and on going right to step #6. I’d estimate that we are on track to payoff our home in the next three years, and our oldest is set to enter college in eight years. Based on our above scenario, I‘d love to hear other peoples’ opinions on whether it is a good idea to delay step #5 until after our house is paid off? I know Dave has a method to his steps, but I want to feel so liberated in having our house paid off. In addition, after we have our house paid off, then we’ll be able to save for 5 years until my oldest enters college. So in theory, this should give us enough time to save up a nice chunk. What are your thoughts? What would you do?

Biggest Benefits

Financial Peace Benefit #1 – point blank, Financial Peace gives you a biblical perspective on handling your family’s finances and living your life with legacy purpose. A purpose that will change your family’s financial trajectory. In a culture so ingrained with “acceptance” of being in debt up to your eyeballs, Dave passionately lays out steps to show Christians and non-Christians alike that we don’t have to live like everyone else. He is like a fish that is swimming against the stream, and it is so refreshing to see someone providing easy to understand steps. If I had been given this class when I was 22 (right out of college), I think I would have had a lot better understand of how to get to financial peace, and a healthy perspective on debt.

Financial Peace Benefit #2 – it provides you steps to get your finances under control, but in a way that doesn’t make you feel overwhelmed in the poor choices you’ve made in your past. Honestly, my wife and I got in a lot of heated discussions (which most of you may), but that is alright. It is alright to come together and logically discuss what is good for your family. Your finances deserve this attention. Your family deserves a change in altering your financial course. Put in the time! Do it with passion!

Financial Peace Benefit #3 – finally, I loved hearing the experiences others would go through with their own finances and learn from older or younger people on what they are doing. It gave my wife and I an understanding of what works and doesn’t work, and sometimes applies those same principles to our family. It was just great tohave a feeling that I’m not alone in this journey. I’m not the only one that feels “perceptually” behind schedule according to Dave. At the same time, everyone was encouraging to each other and motivating! Loved this aspect of community in going through the course.

Overall, I LOVED Financial Peace University and highly recommend it to anyone. No matter whether you are 18 or 65 years old, it provides a great structure to get your family finances to a more peaceful state. One that motivates you to pay off debt, and “live like no one else, so you can later live like no one else“!

What are your thoughts of the course? What is your hesitation in taking the class?

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Financial Moves That Will Give You Peace of Mind Fri, 17 Jul 2015 12:01:00 +0000 Over the past month or so, we’ve incurred some larger expenses related to unexpected car repairs and other miscellaneous things.

But, I really wasn’t overly concerned and managed to keep my peace through it all. None of these expenses caused us to stress over being able to pay the bills or caused us great worry.

The reason we were able to keep things status quo through it all wasn’t anything magical. We just had savings to back us up.

While my wife and I try not to place all our hope in money – there is something to having some on hand that provides more peace of mind. And, I’m all for creating more peace in our life. There’s enough strife and stress around us as it is.

All this got me to thinking about other financial moves that we all can do to add more peace in our lives. I used to live paycheck-to-paycheck where I was just fretting about whether or not I’d be able to pay this bill or that bill. And, it’s no fun.

Here’s to more peace of mind for all!

financial moves that create peace of mind

Life insurance

One of the first things I did when I was getting out of debt (more than 10 years ago) was to get life insurance. One thing I feel pretty strongly about is taking care of my messes. I knew that if I passed away while paying off some of my debts, it would likely all be forgiven. But I wanted to be able to cover these responsibilities regardless. I also was single at the time and my mother was widowed. I wanted to leave her with a little extra. Having life insurance – especially if you are with family – is a no-brainer. Get it.

Living below means

Whenever I hear about young people / families wanting to buy a house, I offer them my two cents (whether they like it or not). If you are married, purchase something that one spouse can adequately cover with their salary. This is pretty abnormal today – where most young folks get into properties that are way more than they need or can afford should something happen to a spouse or themselves. Besides, who wants to be house poor?

Forget the budget and automate

Yeah, I just said that. For all the talk about budgets and how important they are – most of us don’t even follow them. Now, I’m not against writing down your expenses and income to see where you are at and what you can improve on – but most of the people I know who are really good with their money DON’T do budgets. Instead, automate your finances and go on with your life. Charlie and his wife have instituted a no-budget, two-checking account system that has worked wonders for their finances. Try it yourself. It’ll be one less thing to worry about.

Plan ahead

The government isn’t here to provide better lives for us. I’m done waiting for the government to bail me out. We have to be our own / and each others keepers. While it took me longer than it should have – I’m putting money into retirement, building passive income streams and doing side gigs in the hopes of a better tomorrow. This helps alleviate unproductive worry about the future.

Giving it to God

One of the most helpful things I do is to give it all over to God. If He truly is the Creator of the universe, and cares for His creation – what have we got to worry about? This is an important concept for me to keep bringing to mind and gives me great peace.

I’d love to know how you are creating more peace of mind within your finances?

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How Long Should You Keep a Car? Wed, 08 Jul 2015 12:08:23 +0000 I’ve come to a fork in the road with my beat-up, 210,000 mile, 2004 Saturn Ion. I wrote about her awhile back, when I duct-taped the passenger-side door (I’ve had to tape ‘er several times since then – and the door is still hanging on!). The issue: how long should I keep driving it?

Here’s my default, thrifty guy answer: until it breaks down.

While I hate the idea of having it go kaput on me in the middle of the highway in rush hour on the way to work (sorry, this is my worst case scenario that runs through my head every time I take it out for a spin these days), I really want to get the most out of the car as possible.

how long to keep a car

I can think of a few reasons for selling the car while it is still functional:

  • I’ll have some money to put towards another vehicle
  • I won’t end up on the side of the highway. In rush hour, on the way to work.
  • No more duct taping the side door
  • Expensive repairs are imminent (last one cost about $1200)

And, I can think of reasons for hanging on to her until she clonks out:

  • I’ll have gotten all the life out of it
  • No cash out-of-pocket for buying a newer, used car
  • I could be trading it for a lemon (this happened to my brother). At least I know what I have with this one.

We do have money in savings that will go towards a new car. But, I really want to hold out as long as possible. Like I mentioned, there are several things wrong with the car and one is a pretty expensive fix (which is more than its resale value).

I’m sure there are other ways to figure this out – so I’d love to know how you decide when to purchase a new vehicle. Do you drive it til it won’t drive any more OR do you always get rid of a car at a certain mileage?

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How to Save Money on Things That Are Rarely Discounted Fri, 03 Jul 2015 11:58:16 +0000 There are always those items and services that you purchase on a regular basis that rarely (if ever) go on sale. A few that come to mind are: gas, utility bills, doctor visits, Chipotle burritos and Apple products.

This got me pondering: are there still ways that we can save money on these things?

Here’s a few suggestions that have worked for me and I hope will help you save on those goods and services that are hard to get deals on. Please share any that you’ve encountered that have worked for you!

save on things that rarely go on sale

Buy discounted gift cards

I wrote a year ago about how I’ve been saving as much as 13% on some everyday purchases by using discounted gift cards. I have notifications set-up with a gift card aggregator called, so I get emails when my favorite brands go on sale. You can get lots of different cards – even the ones that are hard to find deals on (like gas stations).

$5 off a purchase of $75 or more with code RAISE75AF

Discount for new customers only at discounted gift card reseller

Buy refurbished or open box items

Here’s a tip that I only recently discovered: when you want to purchase an item – like an Apple computer (that rarely goes on sale) – ask the store associate if they have one for sale that was an “open box” item. We actually got several hundred dollars knocked on a perfected good – but slighted “used” – Apple laptop at a big box retailer by doing this. Not all of them allow this, but it’s always worth a try and the item can still fall under warranty.

Sign-up for online deal news

One of the most popular deals newsletter is called SlickDeals. Charlie has talked about it too – but everyday you’ll get a run-down on some really good deals that you can take advantage of that others have posted to the site. Just a couple months ago, I picked up a gas gift card for 10% off retail as eBay was running a deal on them. With gas being one of those “everyday” purchases, I’ll take all the discounts I can get!

Use your credit card and save

I always say this with some hesitancy because I know many of us have, or do struggle with charging too much on credit cards and then aren’t able to pay them off every month. But there are some great advantages to using ’em – like cashback rewards (last year we earned almost $400 in cashback from credit card usage). When I swipe my Discover card, I get at least 2% on purchases, and sometimes as much as 5% on targeted items. So, you can certainly “cheat” the system by paying your bills or buying gas with the credit card to save.

Negotiate, negotiate

I’m a big fan of negotiating. On items that don’t go on sale often – or ever – you may be able to work some other deal that can help you save more. On dental or doctor visits, try asking about paying upfront in cash and then getting reimbursed by your provider. Our dental office takes 5% off our bill if we pay in full with cash.

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Now Hiring! – The Effects on 2015 Finances Mon, 29 Jun 2015 09:00:08 +0000 charlie_imageLately, I’ve been noticing signs posted everywhere with employers looking for employees. Every corner I turn I see them at fast food, department stores, repair jobs, and the like. Doesn’t it seem like suddenly there is a shortage of employees everywhere? Am I the only one that has noticed this or is there only a need for employees in my small suburban midwest community? I doubt it.

From what I hear, it sounds like there is a definite shortage of qualified employees, and the employers are at a definite disadvantage. As I see all these signs posted around town its got me thinking. Thinking of why? Thinking of why all of a sudden? Thinking of what will the effects be? Thinking of how can I capitalize? Here are a few of my theories and answers to take a stab at answering those questions.


  • Babyboomers – a lot of babyboomers are starting to retire, and it is leaving a gap in employees to service ratio that needs to be hiring
  • Employee Turnover – with how many businesses are hiring it is encouraging people that are already employed to shop around for higher paying jobs and/or with better benefits. As a result, employee turnover is a vicious cycle that is making the entire market place more competitive and makes it harder to keep your best employees
  • Higher quality/paying jobs are hiring – if higher skilled jobs are paying for entry level workers, then that is attracting lowered skilled workers away. Consequently, there is glutton of lower paying jobs available and only adds to the already existing employee turnover
  • Prices are increasing – regardless of what the government tells us, there is a big increase in the cost of goods and services! This inflation, pushes people to capture higher wages or take on additional side jobs. If you are on a slow and steady salaried job, then it will either make you find a different job, ask for an increase at your existing job, or take on additional part time work.

Why all of a sudden?

  • Low cost borrowing – with the Federal reserves long term low interest rate polices, then it is causing more services to be rendered for goods to be delivered. This is like a hidden tax on all of the economy, but has been mounting since early 2009.
  • It’s the economy stupid! – the economy has been improving! Duh! If you believe this theory, then the increased employee demand will increase the cost of supplies and services. Thus if people perceive the economy as good, then it’ll increase their demand to purchase.

What will the effects be?

  • Higher pay – it’s a classic case of supply and demand! With more employers chasing fewer eligible potential employees, then its going to cause pricing of those services to be pushed higher. As a result, employers aren’t going to just swallow those increased costs, but that’ll result in higher prices of goods. It’s a vicious cycle!
  • More turnover – as employees realize that more things are costing more, then it’ll put a pinch on their family’s financial picture. Thus employees will go elsewhere to find a higher wage, and result in higher turnover of employees, which may result in fewer employees staying with employers for a lifetime. Less dedication to an particular employer.
  • INFLATION! INFLATION! INFLATION! – with back and fourth tug-a-war between dollars chasing services and good, then the net result will be inflation!
  • Increased debt – if people aren’t willing to take on a higher wage or additional work, then some people will choose to fill the gap between wages to expenses with debt. Thus compounding our nations low savings rate and possibly pushing us into negative savings.

How can I capitalize?

  • Keep a pulse on the job market – it is always good to have a pulse on how hot or cold the job market is and what equivalent jobs are paying out in the market place. This will help you know if you are getting paid a fair wage, and may be a way to negotiate your salary higher.
  • Decrease my debt – with how everyone else is seeking to increase their income to keep up with their spending, then now would be a good time for me to swim against the stream! Fight off debtshow me the money and fast! This will put me in a lot better position when (not if) the economy tanks, and might allow me to take advantage of some extreme values.
  • Make sure my existing employer knows my value – be sure to (humbly) let your employer know the value you are bring to the workplace, and how you are worth your weight in gold. This continual feedback will make it easier to negotiate a raise, and will make you more attractive when a promotion becomes available. Keep fighting!
  • Take on some additional work – with all these employers wanting more employees, then try and capture some additional work beyond the typical 40 hours you work. This will help your overall financial picture and help you get out of debt.

Anyhow, these are just a few of my theories as I’ve seen a lot of employers posting “Now hiring” signs and a few of my thoughts. Has anyone else noticed this lately? I’d like to hear your thoughts on why so many employers are hiring, are you experiencing a employee shortage in your area, and what are you doing about it?

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