Whatever You Do, Don’t Buy Designer Sunglasses

I saw a ‘money saving’ news story on one of the local news channels that discussed the value (or lack thereof) in purchasing ‘name brand’ or designer sunglasses.

Long story short, the extra money that you spend on a designer label, like RayBan or Oakley, simply isn’t worth it.  One thing that I never knew is that many of the labels (the two I just mentioned included) are actually owned by one company, Luxottica, so the competition between brands really isn’t competition at all in many cases.

To top it off, Luxottica owns many of the retail outlets that sell the designer brand of sunglasses, including the staple of many malls, Sunglass Hut.  It’s also reported that when you shop at one of these stores and pay for a pair of ‘designer label’ sunglasses, upwards of 60% of your purchase is pure profit for Luxottica, and a good portion of what you’re paying for at a mall store is the ridiculously high overhead that goes into operating a mall store.

In other words, don’t buy designer sunglasses!  They’re just not worth the extra cost.  Yes, you get the fancy little label on the side, and you may even get a little case to put the glasses in that makes you feel extra special, but even so, most of what you’re paying for is rent, employees, and most importantly, to line the pockets of some already rich investors.

I have never had a pair of designer sunglasses.  I guess I’ve always been too cheap to buy one, and now I’m glad of that!

My experience is that I will buy most of my sunglasses from one of the kiosk stores at the mall that sells ‘compare to’ styles of the designer brands.  Chances are, they’re identical or practically identical.  I know that I’m still paying for overhead, but the overhead at a kiosk has to be pennies on the dollar compared to a store.  The rent charge is obviously much lower, and there’s only one employee at a time at most kiosks.  Most of the sunglasses I’ve purchased here have been in the $15-20 range, and I’ve been satisfied most of the time.

Personally, I find that, for me, sunglasses reach their end of life under one of the following circumstances:

  • They go out of fashion and/or I get sick of them
  • I lose them
  • I drop them and scratch the lenses

I’ve had a couple of pairs that have started to fall apart, where a screw might start working itself loose repeatedly, but considering that I can buy five or six pairs of the type I typically buy for the same price that one pair of ‘designer’ pair cost, I am confident that I have still come out ahead.

Way ahead.

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Cheap Ways To Extend Your Computer Life

We’ve all had the itch for a new computer. I work with computers, so I know how quickly technology changes. With that comes the ever-present knowledge that today’s technology will become tomorrow’s obsolete dinosaur.

My computer is now four years old, and I have noticed it slowing down. Not just because it is slow compared to other computers, but because that’s what computers do over time, especially if you run Microsoft Windows.

There are some good ways to put the itch to rest for awhile. None of these will get you to where your computer compares to the latest and greatest, but they can get you noticeable improvement over what you have today.

  • Defrag – Most computers have a tool where you can defragment the drive. The operating systems are lazy and will just place data on the drive any old place it can. Over time, this leads to the data being spread out. The computer runs better when the data is on one part of the drive, and the Defrag tool can assist you with this. Note: If you haven’t run defrag in a while, you may want to run it a few times in a row to get things organized.
  • Spyware and Virus Removal – Many people have programs to check for viruses and spyware, but do you really know if they’re working? Check into them to make sure that they have the latest definition files, so that it recognizes the latest attacks. Make sure to do a full system scan if you’re not sure that it runs regularly. You’d be surprised what little buggers might be on your computer slowing them down.
  • Temporary Files – Most programs are supposed to clean themselves up but many do not. Most programs will create files in the system TEMP folder, which is normally under C:Documents and Settings%USERNAME%Local SettingsTemp. Find that through ‘My Computer’ and clean it up. I typically go after anything older than a month, which should help minimize the risk that you’ll delete anything important. Tip: Do this before you defrag.
  • Add memory – My computer shipped with 512MB of RAM. Good at the time, but not so much now. I recently added 2GB to bring it to 2.5GB total, and it’s helped. Memory is pretty cheap. It cost $20 to add that amount to my computer.
  • Start from scratch – After awhile, it might just make sense to start from scratch. You probably want to be pretty savvy or know someone that is, but most computers come with a system disk that will let you re-create it as it was ‘out of the box’. There’s a lot of work involved in getting it up to where it needs to be. You need to re-install any programs. You have to re-create your settings. You need to install all security updates that have come out since then, which can be daunting. But, this is probably worth around the three year mark. Tip: The ideal way to do this is to purchase a new hard drive and start from scratch on that one. You can still keep your old one plugged in and boot to either one. That way, it’s much easier to transport your ’stuff’ over, and it also gives you the flexibility to log into your ‘older’ system if need be.

There are a lot of other things you can do, but this is a few things that might help extend your computer life. In this day where we’re holding onto things longer (a good idea), hopefully this helps get you started.

Happy computing!

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Watching TV For Free With Hulu

I have to admit, I’ve become a pretty big fan of Hulu.com, the site where you can watch many TV programs or movies online without breaking the law. I had been watching it for various programs that were older or to see if I wanted to perhaps watch a particular show that I’d never gotten into on first run.

However, it really came in handy the past two weeks with one of my favorite shows: The Office.

I normally have my DVR record The Office, but for the last two weeks it didn’t work out. Two weeks ago, for whatever reason, the DVR didn’t think it was a ‘new’ episode. As it’s only set to record new episodes only (as to avoid it recording re-runs or syndication versions of shows, which would quickly fill up the machine), it skipped the recording.

Last week, I interrupted the recording because I was watching the NCAA tournament game (University of Michigan was playing) and it tried to record the two scheduled recordings: Grey’s Anatomy and The Office. I told it to stop recording The Office so that I could continue watching the game.

No fear, I was able to watch both shows on Hulu. Granted, my office chair isn’t as comfortable as the couch or bed that you can normally watch TV in front of, but it’s really not bad. You have to watch less than a minute of commercials on Hulu, which is less than if you watched it on TV real time, and still less time than even fast forwarding through the commercials on the DVR.

I applaud NBC and other networks for participating in Hulu. It’s nice to see companies realizing that the traditional ways of reaching people are not the only ways.

Oh, and by the way, it was worth interrupting the show. Michigan won! (Though unfortunately, they lost the next game).

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Proud To Say I Insipried Somebody To Be Frugal

I was walking down the hall with a co-worker today, and he made a comment that floored me. It was simple. He said, “You inspired me to start bringing my lunch in everyday.”
I had no idea that I was able to inspire someone in that regard. I do bring my lunch everyday, but I don’t make a big deal about it. I simply bring my lunch bag every day and our re-usable container, and that’s that. Most of the time I bring sandwiches, but for variety, I’ll sometimes have leftovers or a pre-packaged meal.
Still, I had no idea that people were noticing.
I asked him about it and he said that it was more convenient to eat in the building versus going out or waiting in line at the cafeteria, and of course it was a big money saver. Only after he stopped spending the money on going out every day did he realize how much it was costing him.
I wonder how many expenses all of us have that we don’t even think about. For my co-worker it was lunch. For others, maybe it’s a daily coffee or a weekly trip to the mall.
We get so used to stuff that we don’t even think about another way.
I’m glad I insipired someone to see another way, and one that’s saving him money.
Now I can only wonder….
What else are people watching me do that I’m not aware of? :)

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