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Frugality is an approach to managing personal finances that focuses on saving money through smart choices. To be frugal, you need not always opt for the lowest cost, but the best quality for the price. Consumerism Commentary offers many frugal living tips.

Frugal Living Tips

Frugality is an approach to managing personal finances that focuses on saving money through smart choices. To be frugal, you need not always opt for the lowest cost, but the best quality for the price. Consumerism Commentary offers many frugal living tips.

The cell phone company war bodes well for consumers, with cellular plans reaching all-time lows. Here are some of the cheapest cell phone plans we could find.

cheapest cell phone plans

Over the past few years, cell phone providers have declared an out-and-out war to win over consumers. This spells good things for the consumers, who can now take advantage of more low-cost cell phone plans than ever.

These days, even the “big four” cell providers–Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon–are lowering their prices. And there is a host of other companies jumping on board with cheap voice, text, and data services.

Finding the right plan for your needs requires some research, though. First off, the provider you choose should have decent coverage in your area and areas to which you travel often. Saving $15 a month on your cell phone bill doesn’t mean much if you constantly drop calls in your own living room!

Plus, you’ll need to ensure that the plan you choose has what you really need in a cell phone plan. That might mean unlimited voice and text, or a hefty amount of data for your business.

Whenever you are ready to lower your cell phone bill, check out these 20 low-cost plan options.

Sprint Unlimited Freedom

Sprint’s Unlimited Freedom plan offers an excellent deal of anywhere from two to five lines with unlimited data, talk, and text for $100 per month. One line will run you $60 a month but two, three, four, or even five lines on the same account will only be a flat $100 each month. (AutoPay required for this special pricing.)

That’s as little as $20 per line for unlimited talk, text, and data!

Each line will be able to stream HD video, gaming, and music, as well as high-speed data for everything else (like apps). Plus, you’ll also get a 10GB/line/month mobile hotspot and a free Hulu plan.

T-Mobile ONE

The ONE plan offers quite a bit for a great price. For a limited time, you’ll also receive a number of neat benefits for having an account, too.

You’ll receive unlimited talk, text, and data for $70 for the first line, $60 per for two lines, $47 per for three lines, or $40 per for up to four total lines. So, you’ll pay $160 per month if you have four lines on the same account. (To get the $40/line rate, you’ll need to sign up for AutoPay.) Oh, and that’s a flat rate–taxes and fees are already factored in!

The plan offers unlimited everything (phone, text, and date) in Mexico and Canada, and unlimited text and data just about anywhere else in the world. You have unlimited streaming at DVD-quality, a free 2-user Netflix plan, in-flight texting and an hour of data on Gogo-enabled flights, and unlimited 3G hotspot data.

Also, if you’re over 55, you can take advantage of the T-Mobile ONE 55+ plan, which gives you two unlimited lines at $60 each per month.

AT&T Mobile Share Advantage

This customizable plan allows you to choose how much data you want to share. Pick from 1GB for $30 a month to 25GB for $110 per month, then add smartphones for a monthly access fee of $20 each per month.

If you don’t use much data, this plan would be a great way to cut your expenses down to as little as $70 per month for two lines and limited data access. It also allows for rollover data, on months where your family doesn’t use as much as expected.

Verizon Plan

This giant is known for its great coverage, but has started to lower its prices to stay competitive. Their unlimited plans are no exception.

Choose the number of lines you’d like to add, from one to 10, and then select either the goUnlimited or beyondUnlimited option.Both offer unlimited 4G LTE coverage, unlimited talk & text, unlimited mobile hotspot, VerizonUp rewards, and an optional military discount.

The difference between the two is the speed/quality at which you can stream videos and the speed limit for your mobile hotspot. Plus, the beyondUnlimited plan also includes Mexico and Canada.

The goUnlimited plan starts at $75 for one line, $65 per for two lines, $50 per for three lines, $40 per for lines four through 10. For the beyondUnlimited plan, it starts at $85 for the first line. Then, you’ll pay $80 per for two lines, $60 per for three lines, and $50 per for lines four through 10.

Metro PC

Launching into the smaller providers, we’ll start with Metro PCS, which offers nationwide 4G coverage. Its “unlimited” data, talk, and text plan really comes with 1GB of 4G data before kicking you down to lower data speeds. Still, the plan is a good deal at just $30 per month for each line between one and four. If you want more data, you can pay $40 per line for 5GB of data or $50 per for unlimited data.

For just $60 per month, you can get unlimited talk and text plus unlimited data and a mobile hotspot.

Cricket

Cricket’s Basic plan runs just $30 per month, and includes unlimited nationwide text and talk plus 2GB of high-speed data access. Or the $60/month Unlimited plan offers unlimited high-speed data, unlimited nationwide talk and text, unlimited international texting, and data access as well as unlimited talk and text to and from Mexico and Canada.

Cricket also offers group pricing. Plus, you’ll get a $5 per line discount for signing up for auto-pay with the higher-tier plans.

Page Plus Cellular

Page Plus Cellular is a no-contract provider that still offers super-cheap plans with restricted minutes and text. The cheapest plan is just $10 per month for 250 minutes, 250 texts, and 100MB of data. Or opt for the largest plan at $64 with unlimited calling, unlimited national and international texting, and unlimited 4G LTE data.

Virgin Mobile

This provider is gaining in popularity, and not without reason. Its Inner Circle plan is just $50 per month and includes 4GB of high-speed data. Plus, it allows you to stream music from services like Pandora and Slacker without tapping into your data.

To add a mobile hotspot is another $10 a month, unlimited everything to Mexico and Canada is $5 a month, and unlimited everything to over 70 countries is another $10 a month.

Boost Mobile

Boost’s Unlimited Starter package starts at just $35 per month and includes 3GB of 4G LTE data. Like Virgin, Boost offers unlimited music streaming through certain music apps.

For more data, check out the $50/month Unlimited Gigs plan, which offers optimized streaming for videos, gaming, and music, and unlimited 4G LTE data for everything else.

Straight Talk

Available plans for Straight Talk depend on your phone and current phone number, so you’ll have to check availability. But some example options include a 1-year unlimited plan for $495 total. This one offers unlimited nationwide talk and text and 10GB of data per month at 4G LTE, restricted to 2G service after that.

Republic Wireless

For just $15 per month, Republic offers unlimited talk and text without data (except on WiFi). It’s a good plan option if you’re near a WiFi signal most of the time. Plans add more data from there, up to 10GB per month on the $90 plan.

GoSmart Mobile

This provider offers four service levels, including a $25/month plan that includes unlimited international texting, unlimited national talk, and unlimited 4G LTE access for Facebook. Its largest plan is $55/month and includes up to 20GB per month of 3G data access, as well as the other perks listed.

FreedomPop

This provider actually offers a free Basic Plan that includes 500 texts, 200 minutes, and 500MB of data each month, as well as free calling over WiFi. You may be able to bring your own existing device to this provider, or purchase a device from them.

H2O Wireless

For $30 per month, you can get unlimited talk and text, 3GB of data, and $10 of international talk credit. Or go up to $60 per month of unlimited talk and text, 10GB of high-speed data (restricted to 2G data thereafter), and $20 per month of international talk credit. H2O also offers pay-as-you go plans, which let you customize your payment based on how much talk, text, and data you’ll actually use at a time.

Scratch Wireless

This provider, like many other small providers, operates on the “WiFi First” principal. In other words, if WiFi is available, your phone will operate on that rather than using data. When connected to WiFi, you’ll have unlimited text and data. So if you’re typically in places where WiFi is available, Scratch could be the ideal service for you.

You’ll pay an annual access fee to use the service, which is $69 a year for cellular devices and $89 for smartphones. You can also buy data and voice passes, for use when WiFi isn’t available. These start at $7.99 for a 30-day pass or a certain amount of data/voice time.

ChatSIM

Communicate mostly by text? ChatSIM is super-cheap way to make that happen. The base plan costs $10 per month and comes with unlimited texts and emojis anywhere in the world. You can also purchase multimedia credits to cover photos, videos, and calls, ranging from $15 to $60 each.

Red Pocket

Red Pocket offers plans that begin at just $10/month for 500 each minutes and texts. Or, you can opt for the $19/month plan to get unlimited talk and text plus 500MB of data.

These plans go up to $60 per month for unlimited everything with 8GB of high-speed data (and lower speed data after that).

Simple Mobile

You can bring your own phone or buy a phone through Simple Mobile, and then sign up for a $50/month plan with unlimited 4G LTE data. Don’t need the data? Keep it simple with a $25/month unlimited talk and text plan (plus 1GB of data).

US Mobile

This provider offers completely customizable plans, so you only need to pay for the services you actually use. For instance, you can pay $3/month for 100 talk minutes, or $15/month for up to 5,000 minutes.

Similarly, texting costs $2/month for 100 texts or $7/month for 5,000 texts. And data costs from $2/month for 100MB to $26/month for 5GB. Add on a $4/month service charge, and you’ve got a plan you can completely customize to your actual usage.

ROK Mobile

As with other providers, this one cuts back on the cost of streaming music by providing the ROK Music App. It offers a $45/month plan with unlimited talk, unlimited text, and 5GB of 4G LTE data.

So which one wins?

As you can see, there’s some huge variability in plan prices here, from free plans that focus on WiFi coverage to $100/month plans from the “big four.” The key is to ensure that any provider you choose will have good coverage in your area, and that the plan will be sufficient to meet your talk, text, and data needs.

Be sure to read the fine print. Also talk to friends and neighbors about their coverage, especially with lesser-known providers. Then, pick a plan and start reaping the financial reward of this wireless war for customers.

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On Free Shipping Day (December 15) 131 retailers will ship your purchases to you for free. Here are all the details you need to know.

free shipping day

According to the latest statistics, over 55 percent of shoppers are now buying their Christmas gifts online. This isn’t surprising to me personally. With Amazon’s free Prime shipping, I do most of my shopping from my computer, too.

However, if you want to buy from a retail store other than Amazon, the cost of shipping can be a deterrent. This is especially true if you have waited this long to finish your gift-buying. You may need to upgrade your shipping speed to ensure delivery by Christmas Day.

This is where Free Shipping Day comes into play.

What Is Free Shipping Day?

Held on December 15 this year, Free Shipping Day is a one-day, promotional shopping event where hundreds of retailers come together to help facilitate the remainder of your holiday shopping. On this day, not only do retailers agree to offer free shipping, but they also guarantee delivery by Christmas Eve.

Free Shipping Day was originally started in 2008 in an effort to extend the holiday e-shopping season for consumers. Stats showed that Cyber Monday (the Monday following Thanksgiving/Black Friday) was the peak of online shopping for the holidays, with a steep drop immediately following.

The reason for that drop? Consumers didn’t want to pay for expedited shipping and assumed that without it, their purchases wouldn’t arrive in time to be placed under the tree.

Enter Free Shipping Day.

When retailers originally started the event, most required a minimum purchase to qualify for the guaranteed Christmas Eve delivery and free shipping. Since then, however, the consumers have spoken. Retailers no longer require minimum order amounts for buyers who make Free Shipping Day purchases.

The response to Free Shipping Day has exploded as a result. In fact, in recent years, sales from the promotional day have exceeded $1B. Talk about a turnaround for last-minute online gift sales!

Who Is Participating This Year?

On December 15, you’ll be able to shop at over 130 online retailers. You can get not only free shipping and guaranteed Christmas Eve delivery, but also additional savings offers from many of them.

The actual offers and savings for each store will be revealed beginning at 12:01 am on the event day. Simply visit FreeShippingDay.com to view them and begin your shopping experience.

If you want to take a look at the (growing) directory of this year’s participating stores, you can visit the site now. That way, you can make your shopping list and plan what else you need to buy. Then, on the big day, simply visit the homepage to see what additional savings you’ll snag and take advantage of your complimentary shipping offer.

Current retailers that are participating for 2017 include Target, Bass Pro Shops, Under Armour, Lands End, Stride Rite, Fat Brain Toys, Talbots, the Vitamin Shoppe, and more. You can also view stores by categories, such as Electronics, Department Stores, Bookstores, Children’s retailers, and the like.

  • Make sure you use Ebates to do your online shopping.  You can save up to 10% cash back on your purchases and still get the free shipping!

How Much Will You Save?

The amount you’ll save varies from store to store and depends on what you order.

The last time I placed an online order (for two children’s shirts), I paid $7 for standard Ground shipping. Had I expedited the order–which some retailers would typically require to receive holiday delivery in nine days or less–I would have paid as much as $35. Imagine if I had ordered a piece of furniture, shoes, or another bulky or heavy item!

Buying on Free Shipping Day not only saves you a trip out to the mall in the holiday shopping chaos but also potentially saves you hundreds of dollars in shipping fees in order to receive your order in time. Plus, that doesn’t even include the additional savings and coupons that many of the retailers will unveil at 12:01 am on the 15th.

If you’re still a few gifts short of being Christmas-morning ready, Free Shipping Day may be your saving grace. Not only will you snag some great discounts, but you’ll have your items delivered by Christmas Eve, guaranteed, and for free. That’s a great deal, and worth the visit to FreeShippingDay.com for me.

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There are now more ways than ever to watch free movies online. Here are 10 of them, some of which offer recently released flicks.

watch free movies online

If you’re anything like me, your family time and date nights often involve watching movies. There’s nothing our five-year-old likes better than curling up on the couch with some popcorn to watch one of my favorite childhood classics.

But all that movie watching can get expensive, especially if you don’t already pay for TV-watching services like Netflix and Hulu. And even then, you can pretty quickly tap out those services’ movie lists if you’re at all picky.

Luckily, there are lots of great places online that let you watch movies for free. Sure, you might have to wait a while before you can watch the latest blockbuster. Or you might have to search through a few different sites before you find the movie you want to see. But these sites may be a good way to get some movie watching in without paying a dime.

Of course, you need to be careful when figuring out where to watch movies for free. Many movie-watching sites are basically scams or feature illegally-uploaded content. We’ve done our best to help you avoid sites like these in this list.

Here, in no particular order, are the 10 most legitimate options we found:

1. SnagFilms

This streaming site has a variety of types of movies, including some classics and some you’ve probably never heard of. It definitely specializes in artsy films and documentaries. But you’ll also find family movies, comedies, and more.

2. Top Documentary Films

This site is just what it sounds like: a place to watch great documentaries. It’s got everything from low-budget productions to better-known documentaries. You’ll likely find some interesting options here that you’ve not heard of before.

3. PopcornFlix

This site includes recent-ish movies, like M:I-3, as well as some TV series. You can stream them directly from the site. It also includes a wide selection of older movies and TV shows. You’ll have to watch commercials in order to access the content. But that’s no big deal for free content!

4. Amazon Instant Video

Even if you aren’t a Prime member, you can access some movies for free on Amazon Instant Video. And if you’re already a member of Amazon Prime, you’ll get access to even more movies. So these aren’t strictly free. But if you use Prime for other things, you should always double check to see if you can find a good movie to watch on Prime before you went one.

5. PBS

PBS has produced a lot of great content over the years, including movies and feature-length series episodes. PBS Masterpiece Studio offers a wide variety of content, and you can stream some of it online for free.

6. My Lifetime

If overly dramatic Lifetime movies are your guilty pleasure, you’re in luck. You can stream some online. Current options include Sea Change and Drink, Slay, Love. You have to sign in to watch using your TV provider login information. But Hulu counts as a TV provider, so you probably have an account that will work.

If you don’t see the options you want to watch, you can get a Lifetime Movie Club membership for $3.99/month or $39.99/year.

7. BBC America

The BBC produces some of my personal favorite content anywhere. They stream a limited number of free movies, both new and old, on their website. The options change out frequently, and you can always see how many days a film will be available for. As I write this, A Knight’s Tale and Legion are the available options.

8. Crackle

As a Sony-owned site, Crackle is probably the best place online to get newer releases of popular movies. Right now, you can watch movies like 7 Seconds and Man of the Year. If you create an account, you can add movies to a watch list to watch later. Or you can stream them right away. Crackle also lets you see trailers and clips of old, new, and upcoming films.

9. TubiTV

You have to register for an account to even get to Tubi’s content. But once you do, you’ll get streaming access to a variety of old and new films. Right after I registered, classics like Dances with Wolves popped up on the rotating home page. But you can sort Tubi by a variety of categories, many of which include both lesser-known and newer, more popular movies. This one offered more kid-friendly movies than some of the other services listed here.

10. YouTube Movies

YouTube has its own movie rental service. It can actually be a fairly affordable place to rent or buy the latest releases. But you can also watch free full-length movies there, too, including several classics like Gaslight and Charade.

The Bottom Line

You’ll find much longer lists of free places to watch movies. But we tried to weed out any that seemed shady, ad-heavy, or that gave us actual security warnings when we tried to play the movies.

Using this list, you can probably find something to watch for more than a few nights in. But if you want the top new releases as soon as they come out, you’re probably going to have to pay for them. So your goal then is just to find the cheapest possible way to rent those movies when you really want to watch them right away.

(And, of course, remember to take those Redbox movies back the morning after you watch them!)

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Redbox is a great way to watch moves. And while it’s cheap, you can do even better. Here are six ways to get free Redbox codes.

free redbox codes

I’ll be honest: I can’t even remember the last time I paid just to watch a movie. Between streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and my Amazon Fire Stick, I can always find something good I haven’t seen. Sometimes, though, I want to watch a newer move. That’s when I turn to Redbox. But why pay for even Redbox movies when free rental codes abound?

You have to look a little harder to find free Redbox codes these days, but there are plenty of them out there. Here are a few of my favorite places to snag these codes and watch some of the newest movies out on release totally free.

Free Redbox Codes

1. Opt In for Texts

This is the easiest way I’ve found to get free Redbox codes without even trying. You simply text REDBOX to 727272 to start receiving special offers straight to your phone.

These offers come in randomly, and may even be on weeknights. Usually, they are good for that same day or must be used within two or three days, so there’s not a whole lot of flexibility with the offers. However, it’s a great way to regularly pick up a free DVD on your way home and unwind before bed.

You’ll also get discount codes, BOGO offers, and even free game rentals. All of these are in the form of a code that you’ll enter at the kiosk when renting your movie. All you have to do is enter the code from the text, too–no further action, adding the offer to your account, etc. is required.

Also, Redbox may have changed this, but when I initially signed up to receive texts, I got the first free offer sent to my phone within 24 hours.

2. Download the App

Have a smartphone? Download the Redbox app to get a free rental code applied to your account within hours.

redbox.JPG

The app allows you to search for movies and games in your area to determine which kiosk has what you want. You can also reserve specific titles so you know that they’ll be there when you’re ready and available to pick them up.

The app is free, too. After you download it and turn on push notifications, you’ll get your first free code soon after.

3. Sign Up for Emails

Have you noticed the trend yet? Yes, the best place to get your free Redbox codes is from Redbox directly (don’t worry, though–there are other great places, which we’ll cover in a moment). If you sign up to receive their emails, you can snag even more.

 

Simply enter your email address on their sign-up page, confirm your email address, and you’ll receive yet another one-day free rental code, sent straight to your inbox. You can use multiple email addresses that you may have. Just keep in mind that you have to link a card to the account. It’s an easy way to get even more freebies.redbox playpass.JPG

4. Join PlayPass

If you join Redbox’s free rewards program, called PlayPass, you’ll have the chance to earn plenty of rental codes, immediately and over time. When you first sign up, you’ll be sent a free code, which you can use any time within 60 days.

Then, you’ll also earn 10 Play Pass points every time you rent a disc (movie or game). Once you reach 100 points, you’ll get another free rental. You’ll also get a free rental code each year for your birthday.

5. Find Existing Free Codes

Some websites will find and update existing codes that are floating around, and publish them for you to find. These are great for on-the-spot rentals, if you don’t want to wait for that sign-up email code to come through.

Places like RetailMeNot and The Balance have pages dedicated to free Redbox codes, and they update them regularly. Just know that some of the codes may not work, either because they’re expired or they won’t work for your specific account.

Also, Redbox uses your credit or debit card to track code usage. This means that if you find a code that works, you can probably use it again on a second account with a second credit/debit card.

Here’s a link to RetailMeNot’s Redbox code page, and a link to the one provided by The Balance. Sites like InsiderBox also allow you to get feedback from others who have tried the code recently, so you know where to hone your sights. Here’s a link to their Redbox page.

6. Follow Them

If you “Like” Redbox’s Facebook page, you’ll be one of the first to know about special, short-term codes, and promotions. You’ll also have the opportunity to hear about store-specific codes (such as those only offered at kiosks at Walgreen’s locations, for example). This can be a great way to get codes directly from the source, without having to sign up for texts or emails.

The great thing about Redbox rentals is they are incredibly affordable. If you’re like me, though, you still love a freebie. Luckily, there are plenty of places for you to snag a free Redbox rental code, so you can watch your favorite new movies tonight, for free.

Have you found Redbox rental codes elsewhere? Share your sources below!

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How to Save Money on Groceries Without Skimping on Flavor

by Adam Luehrs
save on groceries

A flavorful life doesn’t have to cost a fortune. People who enjoy cooking and baking can often feel overwhelmed by the cost of groceries. Millennials get a lot of flak for their love of pricey avocado toast and other expensive culinary habits. However, the reality is that even just buying groceries for simple meals can add up […]

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The Latte Factor: Your Spending Reflects Your Priorities

by Luke Landes

The concept of the Latte Factor is one of the most divisive in personal finance. Money gurus get so worked up over whether the Latte Factor is a valuable lesson in money management, that one might think the issue were as important as the national debt. Most of the time, passionate responses pertaining to the […]

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Credit Karma is Offering 100% Free Tax Software – Look Out Turbo Tax

by Michael Pruser

The first time I filed my very own taxes was with Turbo Tax, back in 2003. I was 18 years old at the time, attending college, and it was the first year my parents could not claim me as a dependent. I had earned a fair amount of income from my jobs on campus (and […]

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Life Is Short: Toxic Financial Attitudes

by Luke Landes

There’s a good reason I can’t get into extreme savings for retirement. When desperate financial times call for desperate financial measures, there is a good incentive to cut all unnecessary spending and eliminate bad debt. Many people even wait until they hit rock bottom before reforming their approach to their finances, because the effects of […]

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8 Tips for a Frugal Valentine’s Day

by Luke Landes

For several years, it was a February tradition on Consumerism Commentary to look for moderation on Valentine’s Day. Many young couples would like to use the day to express their love, but might not have the financial means to do what television commercials make you believe is normal. If you have additional ideas, feel free […]

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When Money Is Scarce: Forced Frugality and Bad Decisions

by Luke Landes

I’ll be honest. When the idea for this article struck me late last night, I had a definitive idea of how I was going to address the topic of conservation mode. But the clarity of day may have changed what I think about the idea. Throughout my life, I’ve been working with scarce resources. Now, […]

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