Kill Your Television (or “How I ‘found’ $804″)

Posted July 26th, 2011 in Finance, Lifehacking, Tv by davecopeland

In 1993 my college roommates and I made the New Year’s Resolution to cancel cable and stop watching so much t.v. (which was done out of economic necessity more than a desire to spend more time studying). It’s a resolution I recently re-adopted for somewhat different reasons than I did 18 years ago, and so far I’m thinking it will end up being a lot easier now that, even without cable, I have more viewing options than VHS cassette tapes.

The Problem

I was paying $112 for combined cable, phone and Internet service from Comcast plus $15 a month for a Netflix membership. Like a lot of Comcast customers I A) felt that there were no other options and B) got roped into using Comcast with a special deal that expired after I had been a customer for a year. About six months ago I called and threatened to leave, which got my bill knocked down to the current $112 for a fairly standard cable package with no movies.

Like a lot of people, I took cable T.V. as a given, a monthly expense that was categorized right along with utilities like electricity and gas. But the more I looked at my viewing usage, the more I realized I wasn’t watching $127 worth of television and movies per month. I called again and the only other option was to dump my phone service (which I combine with Google Voice for huge savings on my monthly cell phone bill) or scale down to the most basic cable package of 20 channels, most of which I didn’t watch with any regularity.

The Solution: Cancel Cable

I hemmed and hawed on this quite a bit but very quickly realized most of the “quality” time I spent watching television was either on-Demand programming or videos sent from Netflix. I was also losing money on my Netflix subscription, paying for video streaming service as part of my subscription that I didn’t use (Netflix has since separated the two services, but, for now, I’m keeping both the DVD’s at home option for the more recent releases and the streaming service for its convenience, which I’ll explain in a few paragraphs).

An offer from Verizon for phone and Internet service for $24.99 per month for two years with no contract, plus the ability to combine it with my cell phone bill, pushed me into a decision that a lot of friends have, so far, considered radical. I ordered a $80 wireless Internet player from Sony that would allow me to stream content to my television from the Internet. I cancelled cable the day my new phone and Internet service was installed.

Netflix will raise its prices later this year to about $20 for the service I currently have. Still, my new combined services costs $45, meaning a savings of $67 per month, or $804 per year. Here’s how I did it:

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Apple Cider Vinegar = Wonder Liquid

Posted September 23rd, 2010 in Cosmo, Food, Lifehacking by Muhammad84G

Speaking of clean kitchens, this is a pretty cool trick for getting rid of fruit flies:


“By simply pouring apple cider vinegar into an open cup or bowl and adding a drop or two of dish detergent you can easily make an incredibly effective trap for ridding your kitchen of fruit flies. Place it near your fruit bowl or trash can and within a day you will have nipped the problem in the bud.

“Apple cider vinegar works as an attractant because of its strong sweet odor while the dish detergent decreases the vinegar’s surface tension so that when a fly touches the surface it immediately sinks and drowns. It’s particularly satisfying to see the collection of flies you have dealt with at the bottom of the glass.”

But wait! There’s more! A couple of months ago I got this email from my dog walker about ACV being a panacea for a lot of pet ailments:


Every home with dogs should have apple cider vinegar. It’s a remedy with multiple uses for dogs: alleviating allergies, arthritis, establishing correct pH balance. You can also give apple cider vinegar to cats and horses.

As written in an excellent, 1997 article by Wendy Volhard:

“…If your dog has itchy skin, the beginnings of a hot spot, incessantly washes its feet, has smelly ears, or is picky about his food, the application of ACV may change things around. For poor appetite, use it in the food – 1 tablespoon, two times a day for a 50 lb. dog. For itchy skin or beginning hot spots, put ACV into a spray bottle, part the hair and spray on. Any skin eruption will dry up in 24 hours and will save you having to shave the dog. If the skin is already broken, dilute ACV with an equal amount of water and spray on.

Taken internally, ACV is credited with maintaining the acid/alkaline balance of the digestive tract. To check your dog’s pH balance, pick up some pH strips at the drug store, and first thing in the morning test the dog’s urine. If it reads anywhere from 6.2 – 6.5, your dog’s system is exactly where it should be. If it is 7.5 or higher, the diet you are feeding is too alkaline, and ACV will re-establish the correct balance.

If you have a dog that has clear, watery discharge from the eyes, a runny nose, or coughs with a liquid sound, use ACV in his or her food. One teaspoon twice a day for a 50 lb. dog will do the job.

After your weekly grooming sessions, use a few drops in his or her ears after cleaning them to avoid ear infections. Other uses for ACV are the prevention of muscle weakness, cramps, feeling the cold, calluses on elbows and hock joints, constipation, bruising too easily, pimples on skin surfaces, twitching of facial muscles, sore joints, arthritis and pus in the urine. There are also reports that it is useful in the prevention of bladder and kidney stones.

Fleas, flies, ticks and bacteria, external parasites, ring worm, fungus, staphylococcus, streptococcus, pneumococcus, mange, etc., are unlikely to inhabit a dog whose system is acidic inside and out. Should you ever experience any of these with your dog, bathe with a nice gentle herbal shampoo — one that you would use on your own hair — rinse thoroughly, and then sponge on ACV diluted with equal amounts of warm water. Allow your dog to drip dry. It is not necessary to use harsh chemicals for minor flea infestations. All fleas drown in soapy water and the ACV rinse makes the skin too acidic for a re-infestation. If you are worried about picking up fleas when you take your dog away from home, keep some ACV in a spray bottle, and spray your dog before you leave home, and when you get back. Take some with you and keep it in the car, just in case you need it any time. Obviously for major infestations, more drastic measures are necessary. ACV normalizes the pH levels of the skin, makes your dog unpalatable to even the nastiest of bacteria and you have a dog that smells like a salad, a small price to pay!”

Geeky stuff

Posted June 23rd, 2008 in Internet, Lifehacking by Muhammad84G

For all practical purposes, I declared email bankruptcy today. That is the act of acknowledging you have so many emails to respond to you’ll never get around to them, so you just up and delete them. It also means if you had sent me an email and were awaiting a response (in some cases such an email may have been sent a month or more ago), don’t hold your breath.

I have used many of my recent, dwindling number of posts to note things are busy here — a new relationship, a new book project and loads of new work for the Boston Globe (highlight of today was interviewing/hanging out with Jim koch of Samuel Adams beer fame — more on that later). But a bigger reason was I want to be better about responding to email in a timely fashion in the future.

Part of the reason why I took this rather drastic step is that I read this article and decided to consolidate most of my email accounts into a central gmail account. At last count I had a dozen, five of which I use on a regular basis. As the article notes, this is deadly for productivity.

So now all of my emai accounts (with the exception of my Bridgewater account, which I’m working on fixing) filter through my gmail address. That amounts to better organization but it also means I can respond via Blackberry during my down time

The reason for all this is that it’s rather liberating, and the new system also forces me to deal with email as it comes in — not let it get buried in Thunderbird. I’d suggest trying it if you’re an email junkie like me.

Save 10% or more on almost anything: I don’t know …

Posted February 27th, 2007 in Lifehacking by davecopeland

Save 10% or more on almost anything: I don’t know why I didn’t think of this years ago, but I just kind of stumbled on the idea.

They just announced the Seacoast Half Marathon for November and I started looking at different options for accommodations for the weekend of the race. Last year a friend stayed in a super-phat suite at Wentworth By The Sea and I got to thinking it would be a cool way to make a nice weekend out of it.

Until I saw that rates for a standard room are $250 and up.

So I started playing around on the Interweb and found a whole mess of eBay listings for Marriott Gift cards at reduced rates. Generally speaking it looks like you can get a $100 gift certificate for roughly $89, but there also seem to be deals on 2-for-1 nights and property-specific packages. I’m still thinking Wentworth is out of my price range (last year I drove up on the morning of and home via Haverhill in the afternoon and was none the worse for wear), and I’d imagine if you were going to do it, you’d have to check the restrictions, expiration dates and trustworthiness of the person selling the gift certificate.

Then I started checking other merchants I use on a regular basis, and found that in almost every instance you can buy cut-rate gift cards. The savings aren’t always huge (auctions on the verge of ending seemed to average in the 10-15% savings range) and, in some cases, may not be worth the effort, but it’s probably worth checking before making a major purchase.

Hacking Coinstar: If you’re frugal and fiscally sa…

Posted February 21st, 2007 in Lifehacking, Technology by davecopeland

Hacking Coinstar: If you’re frugal and fiscally savvy, you would never dream of paying 9 percent to a Coinstar machine to count your change when you can simply spend a few hours rolling it yourself.

But let’s face it — you’re lazy and you want your cash now.

AntiYawn says you can have your change and not count it too if you use this Coinstar hack (which is certainly illegal and not endorsed by Dave Copeland):

“This is really quite simple. Follow the directions as usual, but when it asks how you would like your money, make sure to pick the iTunes gift card. After it counts all of your change, the machine will ask you how much of your money you want as a gift card and how much you want as cash. Go ahead and set it all to gift card. Now, before proceeding, you need to find a way to unplug the phone jack from the back of the machine. I’m lucky because the wall phone jack for my local CoinStar is at about shoulder height right next to the machine.

“Now the poor machine is in quite a pickle. It already has all of your change, and it can’t give that back to you. It can’t give you an iTunes card either. It could give you cash, but it’s not going to lay that 9% fee on because you obviously didn’t agree to that when you put your change in the machine. What can it do? Give you cash for FREE. After a few minutes of trying, it will simply give up and just give you a slip which can be redeemed for cash at the store customer service counter.”

Funny, I don’t feel interesting: Lifehack.org (not…

Posted November 9th, 2006 in Lifehacking by davecopeland

Funny, I don’t feel interesting: Lifehack.org (not to be confused with Lifehacker) has pointers on how to be interesting. Among the ones I do or have done already:

  • Start a blog. Write at least one sentence every week.
  • Every week, read a magazine you’ve never read before.
  • Once a month interview someone for 20 minutes, work out how to make them interesting. Podcast it (okay, so i don’t Podcast it — I’m not that much of a geek).
  • Once a week sit in a coffee-shop or cafe for an hour and listen to other people’s conversations.
  • Every month write 50 words about one piece of visual art, one piece of writing, one piece of music and one piece of film or TV. Do other art forms if you can. Blog about it
  • Read

Oh, and for the record, this is my first post with the new beta version of blogger. I’m hoping it works without any glitches.