Freeze your credit file!

I’m not one of those crazy fear mongers that like to talk about the end of the world, etc. I am an pessimist most of the time though. There’s been tons of blog posts and even the media has told people to do this. It used to cost money to freeze your credit file. Because of security breaches, the government made this free. You should take advantage of this. The reason I’m posting this is because there are still many people I know that haven’t done this and very few people that I talk to have. You’ll hear about a new data breach once every few months or so and sometimes it’s big, sometimes it’s not. Regardless, your information is probably out there for purchase on the dark web. Back when Scott McNealy was CEO of Sun Microsystems, he said “You have zero privacy anyway … Get over it.” I think it’s truer today than ever.

That said, even if you data isn’t out there, you should protect yourself. One important way is to freeze your credit report. The links are below, but they can change at any time.

Note: You can unfreeze anytime for free and it’s instantaneous, but if you’re looking to get a bank loan, mortgage, credit card or something else that will require your credit to be checked, you might want to do that before freezing your credit files. If you have already frozen your credit files and need credit cards, etc, just ask them which credit bureau they’ll be running. Most banks will tell you. When they do, you can do temporary lifts and it’s a pretty simple process.

https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html

Experian was hacked a few years ago and gave up a bunch of T-Mobile customer data.

https://www.equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services/credit-freeze/

Oops. I couldn’t freeze on Equifax’ website. Ended up having to call them. 888-298-0045. At least you can do it through the automated system. No need to talk to a person.

https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze

TransUnion was hacked in 2019 and shared a bunch of data on Canadians.

All credit bureaus have been breached at some point. They will be hit again. Please, freeze your credit files.

Some additional things to do are to keep an eye on your finances and monitor your personal credit report and financial activity. Nearly every bank now will also do credit monitoring for free. Sign up if you need to. If your bank doesn’t do it, find one that does.

My travel packing checklist

I wrote this list mainly for myself, but thought maybe others could benefit from this. No matter how much experience you have traveling, I think you’ll always run into something you forget. Hopefully this list can help you minimize those things and allow you to enjoy your trip more rather than you needing to get out and get something because of an emergency.

Medicine – obvious #1 on my list. It’s not always easy to get medications, especially in foreign countries. Bring the ones you need – anything that you’re prescribed. For me, luckily, I don’t take any prescription medicines except for Montelukast (Singulair) if I have an allergy. I guess you can’t predict allergies. For that reason, I carry Loratadine (Claritin) as well. At my last doctor’s visit, he asked me to try Zyrtec instead of the combination of the two, so I will do that next time. Aside from the allergy medications, I would recommend some of the common ones. These include Tylenol or Ibuprofen, NyQuil, etc. If you need pills for motion sickness, sleep aid, caffeine, etc., you probably want to bring some of those as well. Don’t assume that you’ll be able to buy medications abroad. Some over the counter medications in the US are not sold over the counter in other countries. I was shocked to hear that Ibuprofen was considered a strong medication in another country. I also carry stomach medication just in case I eat something bad. I use the Japanese one pictured below. If you have asthma, even if you haven’t had an attack in a long time, be sure to keep an inhaler and if you use a nasal rinse, you might want to bring a bottle and some salt packets. I usually just mix mine with cold bottled water, but most hotels have water kettles to boil water.

Glasses/contacts – I recommend having an extra set of each just in case. What can you do if you can’t see?

Toiletries – toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, maybe a small bottle of mouthwash. Unless you’re staying in Asia, your hotel will not likely have these available for you. They may have some available for sale, but I like to carry my own.

Charging cables – you don’t want to be desperate without a cable. Do whatever you can to avoid paying the tourist price for a crappy cable. In Las Vegas, they were trying to sell generic iPhone cables for $40! Bring your own cable. I like Anker cables, but will carry super cheap cables I get off Amazon as spares as I lose cables pretty often. I also have couple of cables that charge both, my watch and phone.

Nail clipper – I cut my nails almost every week and I’ve bought countless nail clippers abroad. I think it’s good to keep one with you just in case.

Shaving Razors – I’ve also bought many of these abroad. If you’re staying in Asia, most hotels will probably provide you some disposable ones. I would recommend that you have at least one set with you.

Noise-cancelling Headphones – Bose QC35II – I don’t travel without them. I turn them on while I’m on a plane even if I’m not listening to anything just to cancel out the noise. Like a friend said, “They’re expensive, but they’re worth it.”

Humidifier – I keep a little mini humidifier with me when I travel because hotels don’t usually have them. This one works great for me.

Travel power adapter – I keep one of these even if I’m traveling domestically. I recommend you get one of those that has usb charging. I use mine for a night light and usb charging. Additionally, most plugs on airplanes are universal and they tend to stay in much better than standard U.S prongs. The one I use is this one.

Shoes/Slippers – If I’m traveling for work, I always keep a pair of sneakers in the luggage or the dress shoes in the luggage if I’m not heading for business the same day. Always have a set of sneakers or slippers just to be comfortable. I might also bring a pair of flip flops if I plan on swimming.

Extra underwear/socks – I always bring a couple of extra just in case there’s a flight delay or you get dirty for some reason, etc.

Workout clothes/Bathing suit – if you know that where you’re going will have a gym/pool, you should bring a set even if you don’t think you’ll have time to use the facilities. Many times, I’ve gone and been up at 5 am wondering what I should do. The gym is a great way to help you get over jet-lag.

WiFi hotspot – I have one of these so that I can share WiFi among my multiple devices – laptop/iPhone/iPad, but it’s becoming less and less necessary. United airplanes allow you to switch devices as you wish.

First aid kit – if you’re going to be outdoors and not staying at a nice hotel, bringing a first-aid kid with you. Your first aid kit should have things like alcohol, Neosporin, itch cream, bandages, etc.

Portable battery – I don’t usually need/use it, but I carry a portable battery with me most of the time just in case. If you get one, get one that can charge with multiple interfaces – micro-USB and iPhone if you can find it. I use this one. It’s a bit heavy, but it has a high capacity and it charges very quickly.

Laundry detergent – I’m pretty cheap, so I almost never use the hotel laundry service. If I’m staying for more than a week or so, I would look for a laundromat and do the laundry myself if laundry machines are not available in the hotel. If they are, all the better. For this reason, I usually keep a couple of detergent pods in my suitcase as well.

Hope this helps! Please tell me about some of the things you pack in the comments. 🙂

Don’t buy/give gift cards! Store bought Visa gift cards are unsafe!

Unless someone really wants a gift card like the ones in the photo, I would not recommend it! They’re unsafe and prone to hacking. I’ve been burnt twice now for over $600 with no recourse. I bought these because I wanted to pay off some bills with American Express. Because those providers didn’t take AMEX, I bought Visas to do it with. I left the cards sealed and unopened in my drawer figuring that I would just use them later.

The first time I ran into an issue was when I logged into the website and saw that my $500 gift card had only $2 on it! Turned out that somehow, it was used at Gamestop for $497.xx. I had no idea how that could’ve happened! The card was in my drawer and I had just opened it! I emailed the company to file a dispute and I got this response:

  
CONTENT SOLUTIONS COMPANY
Communication Update    Subject: charge dispute  Hello,   Our team is currently working on your Case CS2767575 and has the below update. Thank you for your patience with this matter.   Comments:
Hello,

As stated in your Account Agreement, account discrepancies are to be communicated to us no later than 60 calendar days after the transaction history was first made available to you. Unfortunately, we did not receive your inquiry within this time limit. We have no recourse to recoup these funds for you.

Therefore, we are unable to credit your account, thus closing this dispute. Although we are not able to assist you further, we urge you to pursue this matter directly with the merchant.

We appreciate your business and value you as a customer. If you have any questions about this matter, please contact our Customer Service Department at the number or website address listed on the back of your card. This inbox is used strictly to receive documentation, or information requested related to the disputes processes. We are unable to provide account or disputes updates and apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Thank you,
Customer Dispute Services
   Case Status Tracker (Resolved)    What Next? Our customer service team will reach out to you shortly regarding your issue.     Any Questions?   Click here to reply.                                                                      
 

Sure, I let the card sit in my drawer for a long time, but the card hadn’t expired. How did it get used!?

My best guess as to how the card got used: Their website sucks. Now, it has a little stupid check to see if you’re human – shows you a picture of a toy that you need to rotate and when you finally get it, you could check your cards – register the card to use online, check balance, etc. I think maybe the theft happened prior to this security measure was put in place. Maybe it wasn’t. Anyway, I think someone had a script that generated numbers against their website for CVV matches and return the gift card values.

I was unlucky. Hope you’re not next. If you must buy gift cards, definitely have a plan on using them. If someone gave you one, try to use it asap. Some ideas on how to use them – obviously, it’s best to get cash for them if possible. It’s possible, but not easy. I’ve traveled to different places where Walmart cashiers are oblivious and would sell money orders for them. Most Walmarts will not. I’ve also loaded a bluebird card with one as well. Unfortunately, none around me will do it. I think it’s just how lucky you are. The way I use the cards is by doing my regular spend and all of my bills. T-Mobile takes them, I’ve used them for my water bills and energy bills as well. It’s great that I could use them to the penny.

Hope this helps!

By the way, if you’ve been screwed like me and think this is worthy of a class action lawsuit, please let me know and I would love to join.

Samsung Refrigerators are pieces of shit!

If you’re considering a new fridge, don’t buy a Samsung! We bought it because we thought it looked good. Also, it was about $1500. Not cheap. We didn’t think that an expensive fridge would be of such poor quality. I should’ve decided based off one of the reviews I read. Since there were relatively few of the same review, I didn’t think this problem would happen to me. Boy was I wrong! The fridge I got was a piece of crap! It worked for just over a year, just for it to go out of warranty and had to be fixed.

The vegetable boxes (crispers) were getting filled with water! Whatever food we had there got wet. If there was packaging, the water would seep through the packaging. The wife used paper towels and sponges and towels to absorb the water. As shown in the picture below, the water that made it out of the crisper into the fridge would become ice. It was a total nightmare!

I fixed it using a YouTube video. Here are a few I watched.

I have not tried draining the water in the back. I will junk the fridge before going through that pain!

We bought the Samsung RF18HFENBSP fridge 12/5/2016. The crispers filled with water around 1/15/2017. I cleared the ice out of the back of it and drain around that time. It filled up again around May 2018.

I tried calling Samsung technical support and they were almost utterly useless. They offered to pay for the parts, but not the labor for repair. In this episode of CBC Marketplace (Canadian show), the woman is persistent and gets Samsung to fix it free.

Around the end of the year, January 2019, we decided on a last ditch effort to save the fridge. If this didn’t work, we would give up and junk it. We decided to clear out the fridge and the freezer for 2 days. Just let all of the water out and it totally flooded the kitchen. We were prepared for it – we left towels all over to make sure that the water didn’t go anywhere we didn’t want it to go.

Hopefully it fixed it, but I think the problem will probably come back again. I’ll post the status in a few months.

Please post in the comments section below if you have any ideas or experience. Would love to get some help on this.

Thanks!

Read this before changing the iPhone screen yourself to save $50 or more.

Don’t be afraid to change your cracked iPhone screen yourself. Here are some caveats before you do.

You can get the screen for pretty cheap. Just about $20. What you do NOT want, is to get just the glass. Replacing just the glass is way more difficult. The LCD and the touch digitizer is glued onto the glass, so removed those pieces and gluing them back onto the new one is extremely difficult and not worth the $10 in savings.

Don’t freak out if your new screen and old one don’t look exactly alike. The left is my phone. The right is the screen replacement. There’s a piece rubber that needs to be removed. They’re the same screen.

Consider getting a magnetic mat. I didn’t have one when I replaced mine, but fI can see the value. A couple of alternatives to doing this is to create your own place where you’re putting your screws, like using some double-sided tape on the table or packing tape, upside down, so that you can stick your screws to it. I used a white bowl, where I put a magnet inside. I have a little spinning toy that’s stuck to my fridge that I took off. I used the different spaces at the edge of the toy as a divider and put the screws in order so that I would put them back in the same order. Here’s a picture:

Consider getting some spare screws. They are very easy to lose. They only cost about $2.

You might need another metal shield plate. I broke mine. The ribbon is glued onto the glass screen and I just yanked it off with the tweezers. Be careful and you might not need it, but know that if you do break it, it’s only $4. I’ve circled where I broke it.

Lastly, just be careful when taking your phone apart and putting it back together. It could take from 15 minutes to an hour.

Here’s a nice video that shows the process:

Here’s a guide from iFixit that shows you how to do the replacement step by step: https://www.ifixit.com/Guide/iPhone+6+Plus+Display+Assembly+Replacement/30265Good luck!

3 Steps to shop for the best deals and get the maximum amount of points online!

While shopping this holiday season, don’t leave travel points or rebates on the table! A lot of people, myself included, often will just go straight to Amazon or eBay for certain things without even thinking about shopping around for the best deal or what rewards they can get for a purchase. I must admit that I’ve bought things countless times off of those sites either going directly or using a link off of a deal site.

Shopping online is almost always better than shopping at a brick and mortar. It’s almost always cheaper at least. One thing about shopping online though is that you can’t touch the product, smell it, etc. That said, you can always use the store as a showroom – go to a store and do that and then order online.

Decide what you want to buy: If you’re just looking for a deal and not looking for something specific, some of my favorite deal sites are: slickdeals.net, bensbargains.com, and spoofee.com. When you’re looking for something specific, you should search the forums on slickdeals.net to see what others say as well. For some tips on saving money from Amazon, check out thebabbleout.com.

At the point where you’ve decided on what you’re going to buy, do NOT just add to cart and buy. That won’t give you all the discounts or points you want.

Use Gift cards: First off, do you have any gift cards? If not, would it be worthwhile to buy one and get some points off of it? The best way to acquire gift cards is by seeing if there’s one you can get at a significant discount. A couple of ways to do this is via eBay or Gift Card Granny. Another one of my favorite ways to acquire gift cards is at 5% off. When the Chase Freedom card has 5x points on stores that sell gift cards, that’s when I go out and buy them. I bought a few thousand dollars worth of gift cards at Safeway the last quarter they had 5x points on grocery stores. That’s about 5% off right there. Another way I like to acquire gift cards is through Mileage Plus X. With it, you can get one or more United Airline miles for every dollar you spend on a gift card. I have learned whenever going to a chain store to check the app to see if I can buy a gift card for use.

Use shopping portals: When you’ve decided for certain what you’re buying and which store you’re buying from, if you’re buying online, you want to see if the store can be access via a  shopping portal for additional rewards. The site I like to use is evreward.com. It’s generally up to date, but sometimes, other shopping portals can run special promotions so that you might not want to miss. Also factor in bonuses. Sometimes, the shopping portals can run bonuses so you might want to buy from the same one, like if you spend X amount of $ using the portal, they can give you Y amount of points. The various shopping portals can give you points from a plethora of different loyalty programs, including cash back. Here are some of my favorites: Ebates.com for cash back, American Airlines AAdvantage eShopping for AA miles – they’re generally more than United miles. There are other shopping portals, but those are my favorites. It just depends on which airlines you like to fly, hotels you like to stay at, or if you would just prefer cash.

Buy with the credit card that gives you rewards. Lastly, use the credit card that gives you the rewards you want. This could be the Target card that gives you 5% off, your favorite airline card or your favorite cash back card. Just remember that when you spend cash, you lose cash.

So, here are some examples:

Last year, on Black Friday, I foolishly went into Target and bought an iPad. It was a great deal. I think it was $400 for a 64 or 128gb. I tried my Target card, but forgot the pin. I didn’t want to get back into line again, so I just bought it with my regular card that probably gave me 1% back. That’s only about $4. Had I been able to use the Target card, I would’ve gotten about $20. That’s a significant difference, but had I bought online, where I didn’t need to even leave the house, I could’ve used the AA portal, at the time that was giving 3 points per dollar, and gotten my 5% + about 1200 AA points. 1200 AA miles is a mid distance flight! There aren’t too many discounts for Target gift cards, so I’m going to leave that to another example.

I was in need of a laser printer and for some reason, after perusing deal sites, I decided on a Dell. There weren’t a ton of deals at the time, but then I decided to use gift card granny, that sent me to buy a gift card from Raise.com. The printer cost about $100, 108 with tax. I paid $96 for the gift card, giving me $4 off. The credit card I used to buy the card gave me 2% cash back, so I took another $2 back on top of that. I again used the AA portal to give me 3 AA miles per dollar and got just over 300 points.

There’s a local banya that I like to visit for hot tubbing and sauna. The typical entrance fee is about $50 for a 1/2 day. The place also sells a Groupon for about the same price for a full day. I never go for more than a 1/2 day anyway. Why would I buy a Groupon when there’s an expiration date and it’s no cheaper than going direct? Again, gift cards and shopping portal. I don’t remember what % off I got from Gift card granny. I might have bought it from Safeway @ 5% off. Then I took 3 AA miles/dollar @ the AA shopping portal. I’ve had up to 10 miles/dollar for Groupon via the United portal.

My last example is an interesting one. Capital One gives you a credit card number instantly after you’re approved when signing up for a new card. For this reason, I was able to use it immediately and knock out about $500 of spend before I even received my credit card in the mail. I keep a list of all of the automatic payments I made and when I get a new credit card number, I change them all immediately. I did this immediately after I applied and was approved for the Capital One Spark card. I then put the number into Mileage Plus X and went to the mall. There, we ate at Red Robin, Cold Stone Creamery, bought gifts and Hollister and Bed Bath and Beyond. For all of those things, I bought gift cards with the Mileage Plus X card. Spent all this money without even getting the credit card yet.

Happy Spending! Hope this read saves you some money! 🙂

Please share any of your tips down below. 🙂

Making Bob’s Red mill pancakes palatable

I normally love Bob’s red mill products. I enjoy their organic soy beans, organic oatmeal, flax seeds, beans, you name it. That said, their multigrain pancake and waffle mix is just plain disgusting. I’ve followed their instructions on the package and it just comes out gross. Both, the pancakes and the waffles.

If you got some however, please don’t throw them out. Here’s how to make them taste better. I was watching an episode of Diner Revival where Amanda Freitag show someone how to make a gluten free pancake and used a banana. That inspired me to give it a shot and it worked well! When following instructions, add a banana to the mix before putting them in the blender.

It’ll add just the texture you want. They’ll taste almost like regular pancakes. Of course, add maple syrup or honey to your liking. 🙂

Does the nightlight bother you on the Prince Lionheart diaper wipe warmer?

First off, we love our Prince Lionheart diaper wipe warmer. A friend of ours convinced us to buy one when he said, “How would you like it if someone put a wet towel to your butt in the middle of the night when you’re half asleep?”. So, we got one. That said though, our little one sometimes does get unhappy when it’s not available – i.e. when changing her outside or at a restaurant or a friend’s house.

A couple of issues I have with it though is 1) there’s no adjustable temperature. The wipes feel like they get cold really fast (once you take it out), but it’s still much better than wipes that aren’t warmed at all. 2) The nightlight keeps me awake at night.

I don’t know how I could hack it to adjust the temperature, but if you want to remove the nightlight, I can show you how. Just don’t do it the way I did!

So here are the steps:

The warmer opens up with just 4 Phillips screws. 2 of which are under a couple of the pads that keep the warmer propped up. Just remove the pads and remove the screws as shown in the picture.

 

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When it opens up, you’ll see that the warmer is built very simply. It’s just a styrofoam insulated box with a hot plate and the little LED nightlight!

To remove the nightlight, all you need to do is snip one of the wires going to the nightlight. Just don’t do it where I did! The idiot in me for some reason thought the shrink tubing was just used to connect a couple of wires. Well, it was. The problem was, that there was a diode or resistor or something (I never took any electronics classes, so I don’t know!) in there that I cut in half! Now, unless I ever replace that component, I will probably never have the light working again.

One drawback to turning the light off is that you don’t know when the warmer is turned on or off. Since there’s no off switch, I guess you can assume that it’s on when it’s plugged in. Otherwise, it works as designed.

Here are some other pictures of what the warmer looks like on the inside. Any questions?

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