Is Costco a good fit for you?

Posted in Business, Reviewson Sep 12, 2014

With Costco coming to Northern Colorado, I thought I would share some thoughts on why you would or wouldn’t want to get a Costco membership.

Costco is a good place to buy quality products, in larger quantities, at good prices, but that doesn’t mean your grocery budget will shrink.

Why Costco might not be a good fit:

  • If you are the type of person who is ok buying lower quality products at bargain prices, then Costco probably isn’t a good fit for you.
  • If you wait to buy groceries until you have a coupons to match with a sale, then Costco probably isn’t a good fit for you.
  • If you only buy groceries for the next few days, then buying groceries at Costco would require changes to you shopping methods.
  • If you only buy groceries for a couple of people, then the quantities purchased at Costco might be too much for you.
  • If you want things delivered to your home.
  • If you like asking store associates for help.

Why Costco might be a good fit:

  • If you buy a lot of organics, you might find Costco’s prices pretty competitive.
  • If you like to do a lot of dinner entertaining, Costco has great selections.
  • If you have a couple of hungry teenagers, Costco can sell you lots of food quickly.
  • If you normally buy the highest quality brands even when they are not on sale, Costco will sell you comparable brands at better prices.
  • If you don’t choosing between brands, Costco has already researched the best brands and will only sell you the brand they stand behind.
  • If you are looking to buy some big-ticket items (furnature, bikes, televisions), then buying it at Costco might save you more than your membership fee in a single purchase.
  • If you bake bread, Costco will sell yourflour and yeast in quantities you can’t get at King Soopers.
  • If you like shopping where employees are paid and treated well, you will find lots of happy employees at Costco.

If you still don’t know if Costco is a good fit for you, I suggest giving it a try. They have a satisfaction guarantee on your membership: if you try Costco but are unhappy with your membership, they will refund your membership fee. If you try products at Costco but are unhappy with them, you can easily return them (some electronics have a limited return window.)

Cheap cell phone plans

Posted in Business, Reviewson Sep 3, 2014

If you are spending hundreds of dollars on a cell phone plan that you don’t use very much, you are spending too much.  Here are a couple of different cell phone services for those people who only need a cell phone for talking a few minutes a day.

Ring Plus has plans starting at just $2/month for 50 minutes.  Apparently, you get to listen to advertisements instead of ringing. While there is no contract, this isn’t a strict pre-paid plan and you can incur (reasonable) overages. Operates on the Sprint Network.

Ptel provides a Pay As You Go with rates of 5 cents/minute.  You have to recharge your account with  minimum of $10 every 60 days.  They operate on the T-Mobile network, so you should be able to use any unlocked GSM phone.

FreedomPop operates on Sprint’s Data Networks.  From what I can tell, you use a FreedomPop VoIP client on the phone to make calls over a data connection.  Since calls go over data instead of voice, the reliability, coverage or call quality may not be as good in some areas.  However, they provide 200 minutes, 500 text messages, and 500 MB data for free every month.

H2O Wireless provides a Pay As You Go plan providing 5 cents/minute, with payments of $10 or more every 90 days.  They operate on AT&T’s network, and you can bring any unlocked GSM phone.

PagePlus is on Verizon’s network.  Their Pay As You Go rate is 10 cents/minute when you add $10 every 120 days.  They provide better rates when adding $25 or $50 to your account.

Because plans change all the time, you should take all this information as a general starting point and investigate your own plans.  I’ve only listed 5 services, but there are many more.  With all sorts of various plans including pre-paid, post-paid, pay-as-you-go and unlimited plans.

This table shows an average monthly cost for each service based on a set number of monthly minutes.  The rates do not consider text-messaging or data rates, do not include the cost of a phone, and may not be valid for variable month-to-month usage.

Monthly Minutes RingPlus Ptel FreedomPop H20 PagePlus Net 10
 10 min  $2  $5  Free  $3.33  $2.50 $15
 30 min  $2  $5  Free  $3.33  $3 $15
 50 min  $2  $5  Free  $3.33  $5 $15
 100 min  $3  $5  Free  $5  $6.25 $15
 150 min  $4  $7.50  Free  $7.50  $9 $15
 200 min  $5  $10  Free  $10  $12 $20
 250 min  $6  $12.50  $8  $12.50  $12.50 $20
 300 min  $7  $15  $8  $15  $15 $20

Want to know more?  Ask a question in the comments.

Cost of Washing Reusable Bags

Posted in Insightson Aug 20, 2014

According to this USA Today article, you should wash your reusable grocery bags once per week to avoid getting sick.  How much does it cost to wash your bags?

Suppose you wash all your bags in a separate load of laundry, once per week.  That load of laundry requires:

  • About 1.1 kWh of electricity to wash in a front-loader and 1.4 kWh to dry for just 20 minutes.
  • About 15 gallons of water for your front-loader washer
  • Laundry detergent.

In Fort Collins, water rates are $2.53 per 1000 gallons, sewage rates are $3.34 per 1000 gallons, and about $0.09 per kWh of electricity.  Member’s Mark liquid detergent from Sam’s Club costs $0.11 per load.

For an entire year of washing reusable bags every week, you would use:

  • 130 kWh of electricity
  • 780 gallons of water (and sewage)
  • 80 ounces of laundry detergent.

For a total cost of: about $22 to wash your reusable bags once per week.

Fort Collins recently passed an ordinance requiring stores to charge $0.05 per disposable bag.  For the $22 cost of washing bags, a person could instead “buy” 440 plastic bags.

Environmental Cost: The main motive for charging for disposable bags in Fort Collins was the environmental impact of those bags.  What is the environmental impact of washing the reusable bags?  What is the environmental impact of producing the reusable bags?  What is the environmental impact of reusable bags that are worn out and thrown away?

Xcel West Main Gas Pipeline

Posted in Businesson Aug 4, 2014

Dear Xcel Energy,

Your communications about the Xcel West Main Gas Pipeline construction through Fort Collins have been misleading.  Considerations to Fort Collins motorists have been minimal.

In an April 21 article in the Coloradoan, Kevin Duggan reports that East bound Drake Road would be closed for two weeks for construction.  15 weeks later and there is still construction on Drake Road causing lane closures.

In a June 30 article in the Coloradoan, Kevin Duggan reports that work should wrap up that week, by July 4, along Drake and Timberline, except that it hasn’t.

On your own website you state, “There are currently no road or lane closures in place for work along South Timberline Road north of the Drake Road intersection.” (Pulled 8:45am, August 4).  Except that as I drove by this morning I noticed that a South bound lane was closed for more construction.

I understand the need for infrastructure upgrades.  But the importance of such upgrades are no excuse for poor communications with the public.  Not only is information passed through the newspaper or your website incorrect, but roadside information has been almost non-existent.  There have been no signs informing the public of possible delays.  Even “LEFT LANE CLOSED AHEAD” signs are located low to the ground on the right side of the road where they often can’t be seen by drivers in the left lane.  That is not being “responsible by nature.”

Maybe you are wrapping things up (although I’ve thought that a few times before) and it is too late to make this plea, but I request that you get your communications act together and start being more forthcoming with the public about lane closures, possible delays, and the realistic time frames for such activities.

Sincerely,

Jacob Brunson

Go to Amazon.com and buy a gift card.  Choose “Instant Delivery: Email” and send the gift card to your own email.  When paying for the gift card, make sure you use your prepaid credit card number and the full remainder of the Visa gift card balance.

In just a couple of minutes after purchasing the gift card, you will get it in your email.  Then you apply the gift card balance to your account, and use it on your next Amazon purchase.

Since it is difficult to use the exact balance just by shopping at stores, this is a good way to clean every last cent off that card.  Also, a good way to “regift” that Visa gift card by turning it into an Amazon card that you can give to someone else.

So long Springpad

Posted in Technicalon May 29, 2014

Springpad is kind of like a mix between Evernote and Pinterest.  It was a very clean personal organization site that I thought was pretty decent.  Sadly, they announced this week that they are shutting down.

It is always a little sad when I see such a good product and many hours of innovation just die.

Coding in the cloud

Posted in Technicalon Dec 30, 2013

I’ve been looking for ways to write code inside a web browser.  There are a number of offerings, and I plan on giving a serious look to the free ones.

So far, I’ve come across runnable.com, It seems like a good site to share code snippets that can be executed right on the site. Kind of like a YouTube-like site for sharing code.  It isn’t the sort of site that you would want to code a large project, but good for sharing just a chunk of code that might be useful by others or useful for programming instruction.

Some of the things I am looking for when writing code in the cloud is the ability to import, export, run, and write code easily.  I am especially looking for the ability to work along side my existing development practices on my home computer.

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