More Than a Season to Buy

November 28, 2009

After making many Black Friday gift purchases and admittedly, an item or two for myself, I thought that today might be a good day to talk about  doing some maintenance on the karmic scales. That is to think of those less fortunate, who are not able to enjoy the benefits of the holiday season.

In the Techeap way,  it is important to get the most for your donated dollar, and I have some ideas to do just that.

The first is DonationDoubler.org. This is a site that finds out about businesses that are offering matching donations to various charities. In this way, the charity of your choosing is getting double the bang for your buck. There is, however, a limited number of charities available on the site, and some of them require a purchase from an online store before hand. The good of a double donation, however, will probably equal out buying a 5 ft. ethernet cord.

Another good option is DonorsChoose.org. This site is set up to allow teachers to announce a specific need they have for their classrooms. People then donate money to the classroom or project they like and the classroom shows pictures of the items in use. Some of this site’s projects are also getting matching donations from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.

Finally, if you are not able to donate money, and in these economic times, that wouldn’t be surprising. There are always volunteer opportunities that you can participate in. One site of the many that are out there to help find places to volunteer is VolunteerMatch.org. The thing I like most about this site is how easy it is to find opportunities close to your physical location. In this way, you can save yourself the time and aggravation of traveling a great distance to donate your time.

Do you have any tips for getting that extra value out of your donations? Let me know in the comments.

 


‘Tis the Season for Savings

November 21, 2009

As Black Friday, the shopping extravaganza after Thanksgiving, comes once again. I have some tips and tricks for getting you through this time of year with the most savings.

The first tip is to read every flyer and advertisement carefully. As CNN’s Money site points out, many stores will try to  lure you in with incredible deals in extremely limited quantities. So unless you plan on being in front of the store hours before it opens, you are probably best off avoiding those situations.

Some stores, like Wal-Mart, have decided in order to avoid those mad rushes for bargains to open stores 24 hours, but activate the sales at 5am. In this situation, you may be able to grab the item you want and just wait to checkout at the appropriate time. While this may not work in every Wal-Mart, it may be worth a shot if you want to grab the best bargains.

One site that I mentioned in my last post was BlackFriday.info, but if you prefer more of a blog format to the layout of that site you can check out BFAds.net. I also prefer this site’s search function, but both sites are worth checking out.

However, for online shoppers, it’s even better if you don’t have to leave your house. That’s where sites like DealNews and Ben’s Bargains come in. These sites will have update on online offers and coupon codes, many of which include free shipping. However, most of the deals are in the technology market, so if you are getting gifts for people who don’t like electronics these might not be the perfect sites for you.

One other thing to keep in mind is that after the Black Friday rush marketers have come up with a new way for online stores to get some attention by creating “Cyber Monday.” The theory is that everyone is  coming back to work after the holiday weekend will be working on their holiday shopping list instead of working at their job. However, as tends to happen with these things, perception has become reality and “Cyber Monday” has become a real phenomenon with increased sales and deals to attract those sales. Make sure you check those websites on that Monday for the good bargains that can be available.

Do you have an inside track for deals in this season? Make a note in the comments.


TeCheap Winterized

November 13, 2009

As the temperatures start to cool off, in the Northern Hemisphere anyway, I have a couple of tips for you to make winter as tolerable as possible.

The first is a new offering from Google designed to help you avoid the flu. It’s the Flu Shot Finder overlay for Google Maps. Just enter your location into Google Maps and it will give you a list of locations near your area that are offering the seasonal flu shot, the H1N1 flu vaccine, or both. While you have to call to get fee information, it does give you a convenient list that you can call down to compare prices and double-check availability. (Thanks to Search Engine Land for the heads up.)

Last year, Google also came up with a map to track flu trends by tracking how often flu symptoms were searched for in different geographic areas. This map, at Google.org, shows a country breakdown, and if you click on any particular country, you can also get a state by state, or region by region map. There is also an interesting graph showing the time of each year’s flu season.

Along with keeping an eye on the flu, Lifehacker has some good tips on protecting yourself against wasted money on heat. Along with a couple of more standard tips, the tip most interesting to me involves attaching bubble wrap to your windows in order to add pockets of air. This helps keep the cold out and the warm air you are paying for in. The other nice thing about this method is that , if you are like me, you have a lot of bubble wrap lying around from packages that are sent from on-line retailers.

Since some of those packages may be holiday gifts, it is time to remember that Black Friday and the holiday shopping season are coming. I plan on talking more about Black Friday as it approaches, but the first place to find out info about it is BlackFridayInfo.com. They’ll have early looks at all of the ad scans that they can get a hold of and can let you know about some great deals.

Do you have any TeCheap ways of getting ready for winter? Let me know in the comments.


Charting a Course for News

November 7, 2009

I’m a serious consumer of news. I read, listen and watch a lot of it. Sometimes though I get caught in the trap of only reading stories that I find interesting. Certain major topics do not interest me enough to follow up and read about them as much as I probably should. I still don’t really know what Rihanna said about Chris Brown, so sometimes I need something that will force certain items to my attention.

One website that I’ve found that can do that is Newsmap. Newsmap is a colored-coded grid of stories that uses Google News to prioritize the most significant stories of the news day. Stories that have had more written about them are relatively bigger in the grid and have their headline in a larger font. Clicking on any of the stories will bring up the story where you can read more about it.

It defaults to having all categories of news, but if you want to limit it to just certain sections like health or technology, you can just click the appropriate check boxes and the grid will reorganize itself. It’s a nice little way to visualize the news.

At the 10000 Words blog, they have a great list of other news visualizers if you are interested in looking at news in a different way. There is the popular Newser tiled headlines with pictures, but this type of layout tends to make me focus on the interesting pictures instead  of finding good stories.

Another interesting visualization is 10×10, which offers a 10×10 grid of story pictures taken from Reuters, the BBC and the New York Times RSS feeds. It is very focused on international stories, but the way that it works is worth noting. It analyzes the words from the RSS feeds of these stories and computes the most important words of a particular hour. Then it will associate a picture with each word. Often times, the result will be that the same picture will come up multiple times, which lets you know that a story is worth looking at more closely. I would prefer if looked at a larger amount of time than an hour, because you will often get stories with no picture or only a very few stories and lots of repeated pictures.

How do you find news content? Have any interesting tips? Let me know in the comments.