Steelers 27 Packers 24

I know I’m going to upset some of my Packer brethren with this prediction but I just feel like the Steelers are the better team. Here’s why…

First Rashard Mendenhall. I see him having a big game. If he rushes for over 100 yards it’s game over. Packers must stop him to have a shot. The more Mendenhall is running, the less time you will see the Packer offense on the field. Now Pouncey’s (C) injury on the Steeler offensive line could be a factor. As Packer fans know, their defense will bring a blitz from anywhere on the field. One of the center’s jobs at the line is to call out line checks and blitz pickups. Losing Pouncey is huge but I still don’t think the Pack will stop them from moving the ball.

Pittsburgh D. If you look back at the season and even the course of his career, the games where Aaron Rodgers has struggled (which is very few) is when he’s faced a lot of pressure. He tends to hold the ball a little too long in these situations. I see the Steelers getting quite a bit of pressure on him with their various packages and alignments. Their secondary is good, but not great. I do think it’s good enough that the Steelers are comfortable with blitzing at any time.

It’s going to be close. I see it being a great game. Very evenly matched. Early on, I’m going to be looking at how the Packer offensive line handles the Steelers defensive line. If they are handling them early on and Rodgers has time to throw, then the Packers have a great chance.

My NFC Championship prediction was a 20-14 victory for Green Bay. They won 21-14. Sometimes I hit and sometimes I’m totally wrong. I know my Packer friends are hoping it’s the latter.

Quick review: H&R Block At Home Tax Software

This is a preliminary review of H&R Block’s tax software (deluxe edition).

Let me start out by saying I’ve been a TurboTax user for 10+ years and intended to use them again for my tax preparation this year. Then a couple weeks ago, Amazon ran a one day special for the H&R Block At Home software (formerly known as TaxCut) for less than half of the cost of TurboTax Deluxe version. After reading that H&R Block’s software will import last year’s data even from TurboTax, I decided to try out H&R Block for the first time and save a little money in the process.

Since I’ve used TurboTax for so long, I’ve become accustomed to how they lay out the questionnaire and information finding in their software. They have tweaked it over the years but it’s generally remained the same. H&R’s questionnaire and flow are very similar to TurboTax. All of our personal information was indeed ported over from last years tax return that I had saved on my laptop so that was a timesaver. Employer info, interest income, and mortgage interest were all imported as well. All I had to do was update the amounts and make any necessary changes.

I live in an income tax state so the version I purchased included a state return. After the federal questionnaire, H&R Block took me to the state portion where all I had to do was confirm which state to download. Then it ported over all the information I had entered for the federal return and took me through each section for accuracy and applicability.

I decided to test out H&R Block At Home software support when I had a question about where to enter an IRA contribution. I went to the website and clicked on chat support. The support representative took my question, had me hold for a while and came back with an answer. He was professional but it did take a while to get an answer.

So I’ve got my returns all completed but due to Congress passing new tax laws so late in the year, electronic returns can not be submitted until the software is updated. I’ve read of a target date of Feb 14 so I am pretty much on hold right now. There is a feature built in to the software to alert you when an update is ready for download.

I’ll follow up on this review once I’m able to e-file. For now though, I have no issues with recommending H&R Block At Home for tax preparation. There are various versions available for both purchase (CD Rom) and download depending on complex your tax situation is.

 

Deal Alert: Free $10 credit at BuyWithMe

Click here and sign up for free at BuyWithMe.com and you automatically receive a $10 credit into your account. It’s for new and current members.

BuyWithMe is similar to Groupon in that daily offers are available for products and services at discounted prices.

No harm in getting the $10 credit and trying it out.

Alice.com

Last week, I touted the virtues of Amazon.com and the vast array of household products they offer for sale at reasonable prices. One potential downside of buying from Amazon.com is often the items are sold in bulk, like Sam’s Club or Costco. That may be what you want in some cases but not in others. Another option in those cases where you only want a certain quantity is Alice.com. Alice offers thousands of household products for sale ranging from health & beauty to medicine to just about anything you would use in your home. It’s a marketplace but not a retail store. The items for sale come direct from the manufacturer and are shipped from a midwest distribution center, thereby eliminating the “middle man”. In my experience, price are competitive with any of the major retailers but this is all dependent on pricing trends, economic climate and manufacturer incentives.

Shipping via UPS Ground is always free but there is minimum order of 6 items. There is no minimum dollar amount per order. Tax is collected based on your shipping zip code. Customer service can be reached via a number of ways – phone, email, live chat, etc. All the major credit cards as well as Paypal are acceptable methods of payment. They also accept returns within 30 days of an order.

The Alice.com website is intuitive and really easy to navigate. There are a number of search options such as by brand, each room of your house, recently added, and most popular. Within each of those searches, you can customize and order your search results by price, coupon amount, alphabetical, etc. You pretty much control how you want to search and what you want to search for, from very broad results to very specific. Manufacturers do offer coupons which are noted on both the product page and any search you choose to perform. No scissors needed! Any available coupons are graphically visible next to the product image and are automatically deducted in your shopping cart.

Here is a review written shorty after the website launched which goes into more detail and even includes a referral offer. Free to sign up and free shipping. Items arrive on your doorstep a few days after you place an order. Alice.com is another cost effective and ultra convenient shopping resource. I have placed numerous orders with Alice.com and every experience has been completed 100% to my satisfaction.

Groupon

Groupon is a rapidly growing company and their name has started to spread nationwide. If you haven’t heard of them, think of Groupon as sort of like a mass coupon company. They offer daily discounts to merchants at the local, national and even international level.

Companies will offer their discounts through Groupon but usually with a stipulation that a minimum number of buyers have to purchase the discount before it goes into effect. There is also a maximum so if you see a deal you want, don’t hesitate to purchase it. Sign up is free at the Groupon website and there is no obligation. If you decide to purchase a Groupon, all you have to do is confirm and pay for it. Then Groupon will alert you via email when your Groupon is ready to print or if it’s on online offer, a coupon code will be given (check the conditions to see if it’s in store or online). I’ve never seen a Groupon without an expiration date (like most coupons) so keep that in mind.

When you do sign up, your Groupon page will list any current offer(s) from a local company. Some are small companies trying to get their name out there and create business. Others are large and well known such as today’s Groupon for Bath & Body Works. Some Groupons are advertised in other parts of the country but can be purchased by anyone if the company does e-commerce. An example of this was when Groupon offered a 16″ x 20″ gallery wrapped canvas for $45 from Canvas on Demand earlier this month. Regular price was $126.95. This offer only showed up for Washington DC but anyone could purchase this Groupon. I typically find out about these offers at Slick Deals.

Groupon doesn’t look to be going away any time soon. Google recently tried to buy the company for a reported $6 billion. After being turned down, Google recently launched “Google Offers” which might provide some competition to Groupon. Other companies vying for the “group buying” business that Groupon started include Living Social and BuyWithMe. They have a ways to go to reach Groupon’s status and outreach at this point in time.

I recently used a Groupon I had purchased in December for a local mexican restaurant. Never hurts to score some points with the spouse by taking her out to dinner! We had never been to this restaurant and probably wouldn’t have if it were not for the Groupon. But I decided to give it a try as it only cost me $10 for a $25 voucher. I had no issues using my printed Groupon and the experience and food were both very good.

I highly recommend checking Groupon’s site regularly and taking advantage of their offers when the right one for you comes along.

 

 

Product Review: Shark Steam Pocket Mop

Periodically I will share my views/opinion of products that I’ve recently purchased and used.

With hardwood and tile floors throughout our home, I have plenty of non-carpeted area to keep clean. I’ve been looking to replace the Swiffer WetJet mop that I’ve been using for a few years now. The cost of the chemical solution and replacement pads was starting to get to me.

Enter the Shark steam pocket mop. It’s a product I first saw on an informercial. Now, I’m not a big infomercial watcher. Once in a while, something catches my eye as I channel surf and I’ll watch it for a little while. The Shark steam pocket mop is one such example.

So I proceeded to read a few reviews online from people who had purchased this mop. I like to see if the item I’m interested in lives up to the hype. This seemed to have mostly positive reviews so I placed my order with Amazon.com and it showed up at my door two days later.

Unpacking and setting it up was easy enough. In no time at all, I was steam mopping away. No chemicals needed with this mop. The water reservoir holds quite a bit of water. I had to refill it one time to complete all my floors. There is no button to turn it on. Once you plug the 25 foot cord in, it starts heating up. The niftiest part is that it steams on its own. The motion of pushing and pulling the mop back and forth “pumps” the mop and creates the steam. As I was mopping, I could see a very thin film of water on the floor but it dried streak free in less than 30 seconds. Dried water spots on the hardwood disappeared with a couple passes of the mop. The pad can be used on both sides so I flipped mine over halfway through. When I finished, both sides of the pad were dirty which told me that it did the job. All I had to do now is throw the dirty pad in the washing machine for reuse next time. (An extra pad is included as well)

I have no idea how much sanitizing it’s actually doing but I can tell you that the floors came out really nice. I truly could feel a difference on my bare feet. Maybe it was because my floors were that dirty? :)

Slick deals

Let’s say you are going to be in the market for a new lawnmower in the near future. You might start by scouring the Sunday ads looking at some sales and trying to figure out whether to buy or wait and wondering if what you’re seeing is a good price. In addition to this research, how would you like an email alerting you to a deal on a lawnmower. You can get all the details about the lawnmower, see what other deal hunters have to say about it and decide for yourself. It’s like having people you don’t know do some of the legwork for you. In this scenario, you could very well end up with what you want and you’ll probably save money in the process. Sounds good, right? Please read on…

Interested in browsing or hunting for the latest greatest deals? If your answer to this question is yes and if you aren’t heading over to slickdeals.net on a regular basis, you need to start. This site has thousands of users who submit outstanding finds from all over the net. The best deals find their way on the front page.

They have several forums but my favorite is the “hot deals” one. It’s constantly being updated with posts and comments from various users. A great feature is the thumbs up / thumbs down rating system so if you are in a hurry, you can quickly glance at some of the highest rated deals.

 

 

A time saving tool I take advantage of regularly is called deal alerts. Here you have the ability to set up keywords in the forums which can alert you via email or private message (or both) whenever your keyword is entered into the title of a deal. Want the notification instantly? No problem. Want it only on a daily basis? You have that option. You also have the flexibility of alerting you only if the deal meets a minimum rating. Also an expiration date is available if you only want to be alerted for a certain length of time.

Let’s look at that lawnmower example. If you aren’t already a member, go over to slickdeals.net and become one. Then add a deal alert for the word “lawnmower”. Set it up to notify you via email instantly. You want to know about every lawnmower deal so set it for no minimum rating. While you are waiting for that alert to hit, do a forum search for lawnmower to see past and current postings. There might be a deal out there right now! Eventually you will get an email saying a deal alert for your keyword has matched the following thread and a link will be provided. You see that Sears has lowered the price of a Craftsman lawnmower and all the details are usually provided in the deal thread so you can determine if this is the one for you. Let’s say you pass on that one and later that same day somebody has posted that Home Depot has put a few lawnmowers on clearance. You can click over, check it out and decide.

Let’s say your favorite store is the Gap and you want to know about every deal regarding this store. Set up a keyword for Gap and you will start receiving notification of every deal that has Gap in the title. You won’t miss another store-wide sale.

Another cool feature that Slick Deals recently added is their live page. If you just want to see deals as they come in, this page will automatically refresh to show the latest posts, deals and ratings. When I’m bored or have nothing to do (rarely), I’ll glance over at this page.

Other interesting forums include a coupons one, freebies and giveaways, and contests and sweepstakes along with a number of others. You can even search for online coupon codes by merchant name. There is really a ton of great information at this site and it has saved me a bunch of coin over the years.

If you have any questions about the site or how something works, please let me know. Conversely, if you have any tips on making it a better experience, I’d like to hear ‘em.

The ugly part about being a stay at home dad

Wife is on a business trip. Kids wake up this morning and are both sick. Not a good combination. Honestly, I can’t think of a worse scenario. Parents hate it when their kids are ill. I’m certainly no different. I feel helpless. They look pathetic. All I can do is give them the medicine they need, blankets and pillows and an extra hug here and there. But, I’m no substitute for a mom. I don’t have that maternal nurturing that my wife is naturally blessed with as well as that gentle touch and soft voice they seem to need at a time like this. All I can do is work with what I’m given.

Good thing I have some chicken noodle soup in the pantry. It’s not a replacement for their mom but then again, nothing is.

Back later…

Let’s get going…

I am a huge Amazon.com fan. I’ve had a prime membership for a few years now and it’s been totally worth it. Free two day shipping, $3.99 one day shipping option plus you can add your family to the membership so they can use it too.

If you are not a prime member but make an occasional purchase at Amazon, best thing to do is get a free trial membership for 30 days and give it a go. Are you a student with a .edu email account? You can try Prime out for a year for free. Are you a parent or caregiver? Then sign up for free as an “Amazon Mom”. Parents of babies and toddlers enjoy an extra 30% off items such as diapers and wipes when you use the subscribe and save feature. Subscribe and save is something I look for regularly when I buy staple items. It typically subtracts 15% off the price and you determine the length of the subscription (1-6 months). But the great part is the subscription is cancelable at any time. Amazon will mark down household items regularly and most have a S&S option. It’s like getting 15% off their already low price.

You’ll probably find yourself looking for things you’d normally buy elsewhere to get the most out of your trial. That’s what I did and I got hooked. Amazon’s prices are very competitive and more times than not, they’re lower than Target, Wal-Mart, etc. For example, I just recently purchase a 6 pack Brita water filters for our water pitcher for $27. Wal-mart has a 5 pack of the same filters for considerably more. Target has the same 6 pack of Brita filters that Amazon has for the same price. But if you factor in cost of gas and tax, it comes out to a bit more. Best thing about buying from Amazon aside from the great deals is the fact that my purchases show up at my doorstep in two days. So convenient.

What is this about?

How can I balance a desire to save money on the necessities and satisfy a craving for gadgets and other luxuries? That’s going to be a general theme in my musings.

Who doesn’t like to save money on the things we buy? As a stay at home dad, I’m pretty much in charge of purchasing everything my family needs. From toilet paper to televisions, I know our favorite brands and how much they cost. Part of the fun is finding the good deals and taking advantage of them. Probably 80% of our purchases are made online. Most of our food still comes from our local grocery store although I’ve started to buy things like cereal online. My wife recently said our house has turned into a mini Costco store when she opened the pantry and saw 5 boxes of Special K red berries and 12 boxes of coffee filters which will take care of a daily pot of coffee for the next year and a half.

I still go to the mall but trips have become few and far between. As far as I know, there are no online dressing rooms yet.

So I like finding deals. I like saving money on staple items. But I also have a gadget addiction and I keep abreast of all the new electronics. When a $50 iTunes card is discounted down to $40, I’m not going to pass that up.

This is going to be more than just balancing needs and wants. I hope to share some of my great finds, whether I need them or not. Maybe a product review here and there. Some other general interests. I’m hoping readers out there can help me out too. Advice is always welcome. Yes, I am housebroken but I do have an occasional accident.

And for those interested in my personal bio…. married, 2 kids (11 and 5) and 1 lazy bulldog

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