Sunday, November 3, 2013

Finding reading material

So you like to read. But there are a few bazillion books from which to choose! How do you find the right one? Here are a few ways I have used to find some of the books I've loved:

Keep a log of books referenced in books that you have already loved. These might be as formal as footnotes, or they might just be casual mentions. But if an author of a book you love has a book that he in turn appreciates, that is worth something.

Create a mission statement for your reading. With a given purpose, evaluating each potential book becomes easier. This could be a topic to focus on for a month, or maybe a task you have in mind that you'll do with the information you're reading. (I'm biased toward non-fiction, but fiction could certainly be chosen in a similar way, with a more human-oriented problem statement.)

Find others with similar tastes and ask them. This could be through a physical medium, like a book club, or in a venue you frequent anyway, like work or church.  Alternatively, an online community can be a stand-in. This is a good mechanism for broadening your horizons, where the others here are generality better for specializing or narrowing down the field.

Last but not least, you can just peruse the shelves at the local library and go judge some books by their covers!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Prepaid Phone Phrenzy

Recently, the arena of prepaid cell phone service has really been heating up. T-Mobile has spun off a separate prepaid service called GoSmart, and MVNO's are cropping up everywhere.

What's an MVNO, you ask? Well, it's short for Mobile Virtual Network Operator, and the key here is the Virtual part: they sell phone service on other networks. Each of the major telcos has MVNOs running on its network, and they generally sell the same services, only at a steep discount.

In our case, we are making a switch from Verizon to LycaMobile, a new entrant to the US market but an established player in Europe and Australia. Here's how the math works for us:

We average just under 800 minutes of voice per month, including some nights/weekends and mobile-to-mobile. No texting currently, since our Verizon plan charges $.20 a pop for them!

Current, Verizon cost:
With 22% corporate discount provided by my day job, the 450-minute plan is $32, and taxes and surcharges bring it up to $40 each month. Any overage of 'peak' minutes is viciously overcharged, at 45 cents apiece.

New, LycaMobile cost:
LycaMobile charges a flat two cents per minute of voice. Texts are four cents, but only outgoing; incoming texts are free. Assuming we keep our present usage, it will run only $16, a savings of just about $25 each and every month!

Now when I called Verizon to make the shift, they helpfully informed me of the contract we signed a bit over a year ago. The early termination fee for it would run $100. Worth it? With nine months to go, it should pay off indeed; $225 less in monthly fees.

(Incidentally, one of the great things about having a cash reserve is taking advantage of opportunities where you pay today to save tomorrow.)

Wish us luck!