I Miss Streaming Music But Not Enough To Pay For It

One of my favorite RSS feeds is that of Slickdeals.  I actually have two different ones that go and grab deals in their ‘Front Page’ and their ‘Up & Coming’ sections.  I’ve found some pretty cool deals and coupon codes along the way.

A few months ago, I happened to see that there was a free 3-month trial of Google Play Music, their streaming music service.  I had always been interested in streaming music services but the price, usually around $10 per month for Google and for their competitors (e.g. Spotify) never made it interesting enough to actually try.

Reading the Slickdeals information, it turns out that they typically offer a one-month trial, which I could have had at any point, but the three-month trial was a rarity.

I signed up.

My Thoughts on Google Play Music

I started my free subscription in mid-December.  My first use of it was mainly for playing Christmas music.  I’m a traditionalist when it comes to Christmas music, so it was really cool to be able to find a lot of the stuff I like and just play it whenever I want.

I also started using it at the gym.  This was really cool and ended up being the main usage for me over the three month time frame.  There are certain albums or artists that I like working out to, and it was nice to able to just find what I was looking for and listen while I did my runs at the gym.

I also found myself listening to music at work. Again, it was awesome to be able to have a song pop in my head, and for the most part, be able to listen to it, as Google has quite an extensive catalog available.

I found myself using it just about every day, and when my time came up toward expiration, I actually started giving some thought to paying for it.

I was using it all the time.  It really bolstered my music listening experience.  Plus, it was only $10 per month.  No big deal, right?

Why I Let My Trial Expire

After thinking about it, especially that last sentence, I realized that I just couldn’t justify that cost.  Yes, $10 per month really isn’t a lot, but it would definitely be a luxury purchase, and one that I really couldn’t justify in the grand scheme of things, especially when I had alternatives that worked quite a bit.

The Alternatives To Paying For Streaming Music

Once I let it expire, I was definitely sad.  It was really a cool service and I do love music, but I quickly found myself going back to the old way of listening to music which consists largely of a mix of the following:

  • Slacker Radio (free) – Many people use Pandora for streaming ‘channel’ music, butmb-2015-03-cds I had always preferred Slacker Radio.  It’s basically the same thing, but I found that it seems to have less intrusive commercials, and for some reason, seemed a bit better at buffering.  My work is on the fringe of data coverage, and it’s sometimes just fair.  Slacker seemed to more robustly handle buffering, as I had less times where things stopped if the coverage dropped.
  • Copying my MP3s – I have quite a large CD collection, largely from the 1990’s and 2000’s.  I ripped most of the CDs to digital format over the period of a few months, and it’s not really that big of a deal to copy MP3s over to my smartphone or thumb drive, and listen to them at work.  When I reflected back on the listening I did with my Google Play Music trial, probably half or more of the music I listened to was stuff I already owned, and while it was nice to not have to go through the hassle of copying stuff over, it wasn’t really worth the money for the trade-off, especially when I looked at it that I’d basically be paying again for the music I listened to that I already technically owned.
  • Youtube – If a particular song gets in my head for some reason, most of the time it’s pretty easy to go to Youtube and listen to it.  Really, how hard is that?

In The End

In the end, I loved the Google Play Music service, and if given another opportunity to get another trial, I would jump on it in a second.  At some point, I wonder if they could go to a free model where you have to listen to commercials but have more freedom to choose what you listen to.  Perhaps advertising revenue couldn’t make up the difference in user subscription fees that are generated today, but the music industry has evolved and changed so much over the last 15 years, you never know what could happen, right?

Readers, what are your thoughts and personal experiences with streaming music services?

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

What If Costco Was In Our Backyard?

Costco is one of our favorite places to stock up.  We have a list of items that we believe Costco gets us the best price, and we stock up regularly on those items.  We fully take advantage of their regular coupons on items that we could buy anyways or items that can replace other items that we might buy anyways.

We make a list for our Costco trips, but we are admittedly guilty about adding things to it during the course of a trip, though we really keep it to a minimum.

We save what we believe is a good amount at Costco, and we also try to limit our spending, with one thing helping us in that regard: Geography.

We don’t have a Costco within 11 miles of our house…yet we have four of them within 14 miles.  That means that we are basically in the dead center of an area with no Costco stores.  This actually works to our advantage because it limits our trips.

However, there is a rumor floating around that a recently closed Kmart spot about a mile from our house is drawing interest from Costco as a new location.  Looking at the geography that I mentioned, that would make sense as a potential new location in our area, though I’m sure they would have to balance this against potential reductions in sales at other stores.

Would Sales Go Down At Other Stores?

I’m sure that Costco would not open a new store unless overall sales were expected to increase.  Otherwise, why would they take on the overhead of another location?  But if they were able to see slightly reduced sales at the surrounding locations from the potential ‘new’ store that were more than offset by the new sales, it would likely be worth their while.  They would  likely accomplish this in several ways:

  • Increased visits from current customers – We would likely fit in here.  My wife and I were talking about this and we might end up spending more on smaller trips, with the hope that we would offset purchases elsewhere.  These would largely fall into items that we can’t buy regularly with our current once-every-four-to-six-weeks schedule, like milk, bananas, eggs and other items that we might prefer to buy at Costco, but will often buy elsewhere because going 11 miles out of our way for a ‘fill-in’ trip just won’t happen, whereas going a mile away would not be a problem.  We’d just have to be careful that it was truly an offset, but regardless, Costco would likely benefit.
  • New retail customers – There are likely people living near us that simply choose not to go to Costco that might if one were closer, so you would likely attract a new customer base.
  • New business customers – Along the same lines, many businesses like to stock up on supplies and ingredients from Costco.  We have a large mix of businesses in the area, from retail to manufacturing, and many offices, and I would expect that if a Costco were to open, it would be attractive for businesses, which I know is a very lucrative area for Costco.

For now, a local Costco is just a rumor, but if it came to fruition, I’m not going to lie, I would be pretty happy about it, though I know we’d have to make sure that more frequent usage would in fact lead to savings for us.

Readers, do you have a Costco (or other warehouse club)  ‘just around the corner’, and if so, how does it affect your shopping habits?

 

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Financing Options after a Foreclosure

A foreclosure is a big black mark against your credit. There’s no getting around it. Lenders will be less willing to work with you and if the foreclosure has been within the last 2 years, they may not be willing to work with you at all. When a lender is making a credit decision on a borrower, they are trying to assess your ability to repay the loan. A recent foreclosure makes a very strong argument against your ability to repay a mortgage.

This being said, a foreclosure doesn’t mean that you will never be able to buy a home again. Given enough time, you can buy a home after a foreclosure as long as you continue to keep your credit clean.

VA Loans

If you qualify, lenders that offer VA programs are the best place to start. Getting a reasonable interest rate after a foreclosure will be a challenge. That’s why programs like Low VA Rates for veterans are preferable since they’re designed specifically for veterans. The rate you can get won’t be as low as if you had perfect credit with no history of foreclosure, but every little bit helps.

If your prior foreclosure was also a VA loan, be aware that some or all of your entitlement may be tied up in the foreclosed property. Veterans receive entitlement of 25% of the loan amount with the entitlement amount capping at $104,250. Any shortfall from your prior foreclosure will be deducted from this amount. If you had a sizable shortfall, a VA loan may not be an option.

FHA Loans

If a VA loan is not an option for you, a FHA-backed loan is your next best option. The FHA requires that you wait a minimum of one year from your foreclosure before they will consider your application again. Your particular circumstances will dictate if you’re eligible after one year through the Back to Work program or not.

If you don’t qualify under this program, you may have to wait up to three years before you will be eligible again. Note that failing to qualify for an FHA loan doesn’t prevent you from getting a mortgage during this waiting period, though a non-FHA loan will carry higher rates in most cases.

Local Credit Unions

Local credit unions often have softer underwriting requirements than more traditional lenders. They are also more likely to perform manual underwriting rather than just plugging your information in to a piece of software. That means that there is actually a person reviewing your specific situation rather than some automatic calculation.

Credit unions can be especially helpful if you already have an established relationship with them. Positive history on a checking account or bank issued credit card will help to offset the negative aspects of your application.

Mortgage Brokers

One final source is to speak to a mortgage broker. Mortgage brokers have their pulse on the market and can submit your information to lenders that are more likely to work with those with recent foreclosures. Rates may be higher, but if you have exhausted all other options it may be the only way you can get a mortgage.

There’s no harm in submitting your information to a mortgage broker. You won’t have to pay anything out of pocket. Brokers only get paid if your loan closes.

When All Else Fails

If the above options fail, don’t get discouraged. A foreclosure doesn’t mean that you’ll never be able to buy a home again. But it will take time and work to put the foreclosure in the past and rebuild your credit. As you’re waiting for time to pass, continue to pay your bills on time. So long as you don’t add any negative marks to your credit, try applying again in 6 to 12 months. You will eventually reach the point where a lender is willing to move forward.

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

How I Keep Brown Bagging Fresh

I don’t go out for lunch.  Period.  Or at least, it’s pretty rare, maybe once or twice per year.  Outside of that, I brown bag it.  Well, actually I have a reusable bag that’s gray so as to save on waste, but you get the idea, right?

So, how do I keep it fresh.  Well, it’s not easy, but really the secret for me is mixing and Brown baggingmatching, all while staying within a few guidelines.

Generally there are four components to my lunch, and presented in the normal order which I eat them:

  1. Vegetables – This is the one area where I don’t have too much in the way of variety, as I take carrot sticks 95% or more of the time.  I just don’t get sick of them.  It does help that we cut our own carrots.  We started doing that a few years back, and after doing so, quickly realized that they taste much better than the pre-cut baby carrots.
  2. The Main Portion – Next, I move on to the main part of the meal, which more times than not is a sandwich.  However, there’s no way I can take a sandwich five days a week, week in and week out.  Just not going to happen.  So, usually 1-2 times per week on average I’ll have some sort of leftovers from an evening meal.  However, on the sandwich front, I try to keep it up by switching between salami, ham, PB&J, and occasionally turkey, all from the deli.  We also mix up the bread we buy, usually buying whatever is on sale between 5 or 6 different types.
  3. Fruit – I always have some sort of fruit.  This rotates between what’s in season.  For example, right now we’re eating a lot of strawberries, but in the fall, we’ll have lots of apples to eat.  If we have multiple kinds of fruit in the house, often I’ll combine them to make a simple fruit salad.
  4. Yogurt – I have a yogurt cup every day.  I am apparently one of the few people in the world that has not moved to the Greek yogurt craze.  I prefer regular yogurt.  I do like different flavors, so I keep this fresh by rotating flavors.  I generally get whatever is the best price between three different brands (Aldi, Meijer’s Purple Cow, or Yoplait) that I have found I like the best, and between the three, there’s enough rotation in the flavor to keep it from getting too boring.

That’s really it.  I guess you could say that my lunches have definitely moved toward consistency, but by trying to mix things up between the different areas as much as possible, it makes brown bagging an option that, so far, I have not gotten sick of.

And, I do love the savings as opposed to people that consistently go out.

Readers, do you brown bag it?  What do you do to keep yourself from revolting against the same lunch day in and day out?

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.