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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Product Review: Craig Electronics MP3 Player

Once again, apologies to my regular readers for not having written and/or posted anything recently. As some of you might know, I have been working on several books for the last year. Needless to say, I have been very busy.
I’m going to jump right into this posting’s product review. It is probably the easiest product review that I’ve ever written considering that I have absolutely nothing good to say about this product. This month’s review comes courtesy of Craig Electronics and what passes for their “quality” mp3 player.

I bought a Craig manufactured 2 gigabyte mp3 player from Amazon after reading a couple of good reviews of the product. However, I should have read further reviews because for some reason, positive Amazon listings of products tend to be the first one listed, while those warning would-be buyers of the more negative aspects of a particular product lag behind on the list. Whether by design or incidence, I opted to use my own platform here to warn those in the market for an mp3 player to stay as far away from the piece of garbage as possible.
From the moment I received this product, there were problems, the major one being that it simply did not work (yes, I purchased this product new, not “refurbished”). According to packaged instructions, purchasers should charge player for approximately 10 hours prior to first use—which I did (the player is supposed to be charged with the power switch in the “on” position). After about 12 hours of charging (I left it charged while I went to work during a 12-hour shift), I came back to the product expecting it to function. But sometimes, expectations often exceed reality. This product proved that in spades.
I then charged the product another 10 hours with the power switch in the “off” position, in the hopes that I might have bought the one version of the product that was somehow mis-wired. No go. No lit screen…nothing. After my frustration level shot past the maximum tolerance level, I then contacted the manufacturer’s customer service center for a remedy. I was told that I would have to send the product back to their service center along with $15 dollars to “fix” the problem.
Curious, I went back online to search other sites hoping to pick up more accurate and relevant reviews of the Craig 2 gig mp3 player. Did I ever learn that it pays to read as much as you can about an off-brand product, especially electronics. I found many similar reviews by disgruntled customers of Craig’s mp3 players. Luckily, Amazon was willing to provide me with a refund for the defective product. But I don’t blame Amazon, I blame Craig Electronics for impersonating a manufacturer of working consumer products. Don’t waste your money on this (or any) Craig-produced product.
So disappointed I was with this product that I'm going to convey upon it the first "Golden Turn Award" given away by Beyond Dollars & Sense.  Way to go Craig!  Please don't keep up the "good" work!


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Teaching Kids About Money

Just a little something I came across that goes a long way towards helping children understand the value of a dollar.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

J.C. Penny To Close 33 Stores - An Opportunity To Save!


Whenever someone of a particular age groups hears about the closing of a store with history, it tends to evoke thoughts of nostalgia, or memories of simpler times and experiences in that store. When J.C. Penny announced this week that it was closing some 33 stores around the country in an effort to save the struggling retailer some more than $60 million in annual costs and expenditures (and ending some 2,000 positions), this was probably the thinking that entered into the minds of some longtime and loyal customers of the chain. However, what I and other penny pinchers thought upon hearing this news was the opportunity to save money in the upcoming inventory liquidations that are sure to come in the wake of the closings. Granted, some stores will be moving their inventories to higher-performing stores designated to stay open, more isolated stores will probably be the ones to begin slashing prices in order to reduce their stocks in preparations for the closings, which are slated to being this New Year.
Below is a list of the stores slated to close, as reported by the Wall Street Journal yesterday. It is highly-advised that those looking for deals—especially in the vicinity of these particular stores—to keep a sharp eye out for sales indicating the beginning of inventory reduction.




AL
Selma
Selma Mall
CA
Rancho Cucamonga
Arrow Plaza
CO
Colorado Springs
Chapel Hills Mall
CT
Meriden
Meriden Square
FL
Leesburg
Lake Square Mall
FL
Port Richey
Gulf View Square
IA
Muscatine
Muscatine Mall
IL
Bloomingdale
Stratford Square Mall
IL
Forsyth
Hickory Point Mall
IN
Marion
Five Points Mall
IN
Warsaw
Marketplace Shopping Center
MD
Salisbury
The Centre at Salisbury
MI
Marquette
Westwood Plaza
MN
Worthington
Northland Mall
MS
Gautier
Singing River Mall
MS
Natchez
Natchez Mall
MT
Butte
Butte Plaza Shopping Center
MT
Cut Bank
(N/A)
NC
Kinston
Vernon Park Mall
NJ
Burlington
Burlington Center
NJ
Phillipsburg
Phillipsburg Mall
OH
Wooster
Wayne Towne Plaza
PA
Exton
Exton Square Mall
PA
Hazleton
Laurel Mall
PA
Washington
Washington Mall
TN
Chattanooga
Northgate Mall
VA
Bristol
Bristol Mall
VA
Norfolk
Military Circle Mall
WI
Fond Du Lac
Forest Mall
WI
Janesville
Janesville Mall
WI
Rhinelander
Lincoln Plaza Center
WI
Rice Lake
Cedar Mall
WI
Wausau
Wausau Mall


And as with any store closing, prices will invariably being to cut more the closer each store gets to actually shutting its doors. The closing of these J.C. Penny’s stores might actually be an opportunity in disguise to do a little early gift-shopping in anticipation of next Christmas…or to indulge in a little self-pampering with savings on high-end merchandise. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Disaster Planning - Publications Available

I suppose in a sense, this posting for the new year is indirectly related to financial planning. Specifically, it relates to ways to mitigate the financial costs that may be incurred when someone faces the prospect of a natural (or man-made) disaster. Granted, this posting is something of a personal plug, it does have the direct effect of helping people cope with the losses that may be incurred in the event of a disaster.Some of you might have noticed that I haven’t been writing and/or blogging as regularly as I have in the past. Although I still manage to keep abreast of many issues—social, political, and financial—my time been consumed by writing and publishing books. My first (among many future) endeavors is a series of crisis manuals based on a crapload of research I had intended for another project.
The first four of these crisis manuals have already been published, and two of them are already listed for sale on both Amazon.com. and Lulu.com. The first is called “The No-Nonsense Guide To Tornado Safety.” The guide is exactly what it appears to be—an 84-page source of information related to knowing about, planning for, and responding to tornadoes. In addition to providing a survey-level understanding of these potential disasters, the guide provides the most up-to-date advice and suggestions by weather and safety experts about what to do in (planning for in) the event that a tornado disaster. The guide gives a brief history of tornadoes and their effects as it relates to planning, as well as a series of appendixes that list—among other things—where publicly assessable tornado shelters (those operated by local municipalities as well as those privately-run) are to be found in the most tornado-prone regions in the country. There is also a state-by-state (province-by-province in Canada) listing for regional government offices charged with disaster-relief, as well a list for charitable organizations whose functions include the same. I designed these series of books to be a one-stop source of safety information on related disasters.

The No-Nonsense Guide To Tornado Safety

• Paperback: 84 pages • Publisher: lulu.com (November 22, 2013) • Language: English • ISBN-10: 1304648648 • ISBN-13: 978-1304648648 • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.2 inches • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounce
Amazon.com
Lulu.com

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

In addition, three more books in the series are also available for sale, with availability on Amazon projected in the future. I also hope to publish ebook versions of my publications when it becomes feasible given my time constraints. “The No-Nonsense Guide To Blizzard Safety,” a book whose subject-matter has become more relevant in recent weeks, is similarly designed to be a one-stop guide for anything and everything related to blizzard safety as well as planning in the event of blizzards.

The No-Nonsense Guide To Blizzard Safety

• Paperback: 54 pages • Publisher: lulu.com (December 21, 2013) • Language: English • ISBN-10: 9781304709394 • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.2 inches • Shipping Weight: 0.28 pounds
Lulu.com
Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

The third book in this series is “The No-Nonsense Guide To Flood Safety.”

 • Paperback: 60 pages • Publisher: lulu.com (November 22, 2013) • Language: English • ISBN-10: 1304648613 • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.2 inches
Amazon.com
Lulu.com

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

The final published book in the series is “The No-Nonsense Guide To Hurricane Safety.”


• Paperback: 59 pages • Publisher: lulu.com (December 20, 2013) • Language: English • ISBN-10: 9781304733030 • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.2 inches
Lulu.com
Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.
I would urge everyone concerned about their safety and planning for their safety as it relates to natural (and man-made) disasters to purchase these books before the seasons for these events are upon us.

Thanks in advance.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Thinking About Winterizing The Car

Apologies to those routinely read  BD&S.  I have been noticeably absent in the last few weeks.  I have been working on several projects that I hope to have published very soon.  Thank you for your patience, and hope to resume blogging on a regular basis soon enough.




The (obvious) bad news; summer is over. The worse news; winter is just around the corner. Growing up in the Midwest, I learned the importance of getting an automobile ready for what seems to be a too-lengthy winter driving season—especially since it seems like our cars tend to break down more in the cold months than the warmer ones.
Since I tend to be on the frugal side, I tend to save money where and how I can by making minor adjustments, repairs, and preparations myself (I don’t believe in chance; I believe in preparation).
Under optimum life circumstances, I tend to have 2 sets of tires, winter tires and summer tires. However, if this is not practical for those with tighter budgets than my own, keeping your tired properly inflated is the best advice. In the event that treads are worn, try to replace one (or possibly two) tires as a time, as money permits. The front tires should take priority over the rear one simply because most vehicles nowadays are front-or all-wheel drive. As a former truck driver, I would use a penny to check my tires’ treading. Put the penny inside the tires’ treads; if you can’t see Lincoln’s head, you have plenty of tread. If you can see it, then it’s time to buy new tires. If you aren’t cheap, a trip to a tire specialist/shop wouldn’t be too much to require for this. Many have no problem checking the condition of your tires for a nominal fee (or even free…shop around).

 

Fill, refill, or change any and all fluids. Water used in the summer in radiators should be replaced with antifreeze or a mixture of water and mostly antifreeze (about 70/30 level should do it). Definitely change the oil.
To save time, you might want to consider heading to a garage or repair shop. Many garages will perform a full vehicle inspection on fluids, the battery, and various hoses and belts and inform you where the shortcomings are, and what (possibly) needs to be changed and/or replaced (naturally, I do what I can myself to save money).
Although this might be a bit of an over-precaution for some, but I tend to pack emergency equipment in my car in the event that a simply drive from Points A to B do not become simple. I have a fire extinguisher (should be replaced and/or recharged every 1 or 2 years…yes, I have had a vehicle catch fire on me), a FULLY CHARGED cellphone, a heavy blanket, a first-aid kit, some what I call “emergency snacks,” and a small air-compressor (which has saved me twice in the last few weeks) that plugs into the cigarette lighter. Granted, we can’t anticipate every contingency, we can prepare for the ones that are most likely to rear up and make our winter driving inconvenient, and potentially costly if not prepared (this coming from someone who grew up both in Chicago, and nearby in Michigan).



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Product Review: Mennen's Speed Stick Vs. Arm & Hammer's Ultra Max

We’re all adults here. And since this particular posting might be considered somewhat touchie for some, allow me to say that we all tend to get that less-than-fresh feeling at sometimes inopportune times—and I’m not talking about feminine hygiene products. I’m speaking about getting the best bang-for-your-buck when it comes to deodorant.
One of the advantages of having a position which becomes occasionally labor intensive (read: physically-demanding) at times is that it tends to test the limits of the products we use to help us remain hygienic. Last week I learned—much to the dismay of my nasal sensitivities—the limits of a named-brand deodorant.
At the risk of sounding like a television commercial, I thought that changing from the brand that I normally use would cut my wallet some slack.
video

This is not to say that the brand that I normally used was bad (it’s actually far better to my downgrade), but trying to upgrade (to use the term loosely) to a better-known but cheaper deodorant was a bad decision. What I substituted for my regular far-superior brand was Mennen’s Speed Stick (it’s “Active Fresh” variety).

Speed Stick boasts slick television commercials—complete with the obligatory handsome male lead. But quite often, what sells a product is slick marketing, not the effectiveness of the product. And I found Speed Stick’s Active Fresh product to be anything but effective. At the end of my 9-hour workday, I smelled like I had spent a week in the “hotbox” on a Southern prison farm from the 1950s—not a condition you want to find yourself in on a hot August day. Speed Stick’s Active Fresh is not a product I would recommend if you are looking for all-day (or even effective) protection from offending yourself when you lift your arms.
On the hand, the deodorant that I kicked to the curb for this failed experiment in named-brandology, Arm & Hammer’s “Ultra Max” was and is the best-performing brand that I’ve used to date. I can both work and load a lot longer, without having to keep my arms down below head level! In fact, I’ve never had any issues with odor using Ultra Max. Yes, it goes on a little thick. But personally, I like “thick;” it kind of reassures me of being protected (call it “reverse-paranoia” if you will).  No, you won't smell like a field of lilacs in the springtime, but you will smell respectable around others.

The takeaway here is that slick advertisements and brand names do not what a good product make. My suggestion is to do what I did—throw out the Speed Stick and go with what works. Use a deodorant whereby you can get your money’s worth of good protection (and no…this wasn’t a paid endorsement).

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Where The Jobs Are Springing Up...


Recently, Cable News Network (CNN) and Money Magazine did a piece on the top 25 local job markets listed by counties (See: “Where The Jobs Are.”). With job markets in many areas still exhibiting slim pickings, I thought it would be of a benefit for those seeking viable employment to know exactly where the best (current) job market are. In order to get right to the point, I opted to simply list the first 10 of these counties (see the link for the entire list), the major municipalities, the rate of (projected) growth, and the major employers in these hot job market counties, and the major employers therein—without the commentary.

1. Columbia County, GA
Towns include: Evans, Martinez Job growth (2010-2012): 14.1% Major Employers: John Deere, Georgia Iron Works Foundry, Fort Gordon.

2. Rockwall County, TX
Towns include: Rockwall Job growth (2010-2012): 13.0% Major Employers: Bimbo Bakeries, Rockwall Technology Park (various aerospace, logistics, defense and manufacturing companies ), Hatfield and Co.

3. Falls Church, VA
Towns include: Falls Church Job growth (2010-2012): 12.6% Major Employers: Technology Catalysts International, Viget Labs

4. Guadalupe County, TX
Towns include: Cibolo, Schertz Job growth (2010-2012): 12.2% Major Employers: Caterpillar, Amazon.com (distribution center), Continental Automotive

5. St. Johns County, FL
Towns include: Fruit Cove, Palm Valley, Ponte Vedra, St. Augustine Job growth (2010-2012): 12.1% Major Employers: 2G Cenergy, Northrop Grumman (planned production center)

6. Utah County, UT
Towns include: Alpine, American Fork, Cedar Hills, Eagle Mountain, Highland, Lehi, Lindon, Orem, Payson, Pleasant Grove, Provo, Saratoga Springs Job growth (2010-2012): 11.6% Major Employers: Novell, Nuskin, Ancestry.com, Adobe Systems

7. Madison County, AL
Towns include: Huntsville, Madison Job growth (2010-2012): 11.5% Major Employers: Redstone Arsenal (Army Base), Yulista Management Services, SAIC, Huntsville's International Airport, Cummings Research Park (various defense-related and high-tech contractors).

8. Prince William County, VA After a day at the office, golfers can hit the links at a Jack Nicklaus-designed course in Dumfries.
Towns include: Dale City, Sudley Job growth (2010-2012): 11.4% Major Employers: Berkley Net, MCL Systems Ltd

9. Gwinnett County, GA
Towns include: Lilburn, Snellville, Suwanee Job growth (2010-2012): 11.3% Major Employers: Mitsubishi Electric, Primerica, National DCP

10. Santa Rosa County, FL
Towns include: Midway, Navarre, Pace Job growth (2010-2012): 10.9% Major Employers: Avalex Technologies, Priton, WTEC

 Click here for the remainder of the list