Tuesday, October 21, 2014

DIY Sign: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

My wife and I made this sign for the baby's room to give as a present at the baby shower this past weekend for our daughter and son-in-love. They are decorating the room in a beach motif.

Here are the photos of how we made this.

First, we took the recommendation of one of our friends who has the popular blog: The Thinking Closet and used a pallet.  You'll find more information on the two links I just gave you than I'm willing to copy here. I just used my God given (and father trained) know-how to pull the wood I needed.

Then we cut them to the size we wanted. In this case, we wanted them to be as wide as the 3 starfish we selected.
Then we placed them together and flipped them over and connected them together in the back. Make sure not to use screws that are so long that they come out the front: just hold the screw up to the two boards laid on top of each other and you'll see if they're too long (no measuring ruler required).
We placed a paper over it and creased it to get the layout of the boards so we could design the lettering
Then we used carbon paper to trace it to the sign
So, then we could see the placement of the lettering
Then we lettered the front with permanent markers and put a message on the back 
Here's a close-up of our message to the baby
Then we glued on the stars with hot glue! (just a little bit of glue, starfish aren't all that heavy)

Yes, that's a quick tutorial. Our daughter and Son-in-love really like it. We were able to contribute something we made together, by hand, to the baby's room!  They hung it over the changing table soon after we got home from the shower! Hooray! 

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Great Cell Phone Expedition: In Search for the Best Carrier

We are no longer under a contact, so I've been looking for a cell phone carrier.
We currently have Verizon Wireless, but we're trying Republic Wireless (the photo above is their "welcome kit" that came with the moto X phone I'm trying out). We've also considering Straight Talk and Consumer Cellular.  Here below is the run down so far. We invite your comments and suggestions.

First, let me say that there are 3 of us and we currently use about 3GB of data a month. We are restricted to 700 calling minutes (which we rarely use) and unlimited text. Two of us have the iphone 4 and one has a simple phone used only for texting and calling (without a desire to necessarily have a smart phone).

I comparing prices by computing costs over 2 years.

Verizon wireless:
This is the carrier we currently use. If we renew for a 2 year contract, they currently offer free upgrades to iphone6 for the two iphone4 models. The other phone could be an iphone 5c for free or a 5s for $99.  There is a $35 per line one time activation fee.
Monthly costs:
$60/month for 3GB data (I would get 22% discount on this with my employer)
$40 per phone 
this comes to about $167/month with discount
So, cost over 2 years is $167*24+($35*3) = $4108

Republic Wireless
This carrier makes calls over wifi to reduce costs. It has high satisfaction ratings. They offer only 3 phones, all Motorola phones. No contact is required, but you need to buy their phones up front. We are currently trying it with the Moto X phone for 30 days with a trial moneyback period. We've found a few issues with the service:
  • One app we loaded said it wasn't compatible with the phone
  • It doesn't seem to sync to the bluetooth in our Hyundai Tuscon car (2012)
  • We found out that they don't yet allow us to send picture messages (MMS) to Straight Talk which a few very close family members have
  • the network they use is Sprint which doesn't appear (on the coverage map) to have as much coverage in some areas we travel (there's no coverage for data in some areas from what I understand on the map)
Monthly Costs:
  • $25 for unlimited talk and text and data (throttled back after 25GB) (note: there is a plan for $10 that might be used on one phone - that plan offers unlimited talk and text and data only over wifi)
One Time costs:
  • They have a limited selection of 3 motorola phones (owned by Google, I understand)
  • I like the phone except for the issues above, but it's not as versatile and doesn't have access to as many apps as the iphone)
  • The Moto X (the one I'm trying) is $299
  • The Moto E (this is a smartphone with not as many "bells and whistles" that could be used for one of the phones -it's supposed to be available on Oct 15): $99
 So, worst case over 2 years (note: no contact is required)
(3 * $25) * 24 months + (2 * $299 + $99) =   $2500 (might be $15*24=$360 less if use the $10/month plan)
This is a savings of $1600 over 2 years compared to verizon, but the coverage may not be as good and the phone does have the issues I listed above.

Consumer Cellular
This carrier is highly rated for customer satisfaction. We can get a AARP discount of 5% off the monthly fees. The use the AT&T network. There is no contract. They offer many various phones.

Monthly fees:
  • 1200 talk minutes, $30 (with discount $28.50)
  • 15,000 texts 2.5GB data $30 (with discount $28.50)
  • 2 extra phones $10 *2 = $20
  • If we continue to use 3GB data:  1.5 cents per MB * 500 = $7.50
 One time costs
  • iphone6 $650 (times 2)
  • iphone 6c $450 
So, costs over 2 years:
($84.5*24)+ ($650*2)+$450 = $3778 (I'm not certain this is enough of a savings over Verizon to make it worthwhile) - cons: AT&T coverage may not be as good as Verizon from what I'm hearing and we would have to watch data use and voice minutes

So, who is the winner?
There isn't a clear winner here. I'm leaning toward Verizon only because of the great coverage and ability to get an iphone6 (I'm already familiar with the way they work), but the $1500+ savings of republic wireless is still keeping me from making the decision too quick.  What do you think?