Archive for August, 2008

Three Options for FREE Directory Assistance: FREE 411, GOOG 411, FreeMobile411

Posted on August 31, 2008. Filed under: Business, Career & Work, Personal Finance, Travel & Leisure, Uncategorized | Tags: , |

For those of you who are on the road, and on their cell phone, all the time, here is some great info.  Fees for directory assistance calls (including ones made from cellphones), are on the increase. On Feb. 1, Sprint increased its 411 fee from $1.49 to $1.79. Last fall, Verizon and Cingular boosted fees to $1.49 and $1.79, respectively.  Last month, I had to find a phone number to call a distant relative in another state. So silly me, when I couldn’t find it on the web, I called state area code-555-1212 for directory assistance from my land line.  When I got my AT&T phone bill, I was unpleasantly surprised to find I was charged $1.75.  The last time I had done that, it wasn’t more than 50 cents.  Bad BudgetMaven.

What I should have done and will do from now on when I need directory assistance from home or cell, without incurring any charges, is dial one of these:

1-800-FREE-411 which is also 1 (800) 373-3411
Thanks to a newly expanded service called 1-800-FREE-411, you can request the digits of individuals and businesses without paying a fee at all.  The start-up has been around since September 2005, but was propelled into the spotlight late last year after garnering $30 million in venture capital. The trade-off is minor: to keep the service free, you’ll listen to a short sponsor ad (on average 12 seconds) from a local business before your request is completed.

800-GOOG-411 which is also 1 (800) 466-4411

Google’s directory assistance 800-GOOG-411 is offered to the public free of charge and does not contain advertising

Users that call 1-800-466-4411 are told that the call is being recorded to improve results, and then asked to say the city and state of the sought business. Users may then search for the business by name or category, which generates a list of businesses matching the search. Users may then select a business on the list by saying “number” followed the number that corresponds to the business, or press the desired number on their phone. Once a business is selected, Google automatically connects the user to the business or sends an SMS/text message with the phone number. Alternatively, users can listen to the address and phone number by saying “details”.  U.S. users may narrow search results by zip code or street intersection.

Search can also be invoked by using the phone keys if the system misses the spoken query multiple times. This works in a similar manner to predictive text input on a cellular phone.

You can view a short video of how to here: http://www.google.com/goog411/

FreeMobile411 (available at both freemobile411.com and fm411.mobi)

FreeMobile411™ by V-ENABLE gives fast and easy access to millions of US business (restaurants, shops, banks etc) and residential listings, detailed maps, nearby points of interests, driving directions and much more.

The downloadable version of FreeMobile411™ is a very easy to use VOICE-ENABLED search application. After downloading FreeMobile411™, just open the application on your mobile phone, PRESS and HOLD the “talk” key and say the “City and State” you need. Next, select either “Search by Business Name”, “Business Type” or “Person”. PRESS and HOLD the “talk” key and say either the business listing you are looking for (“Joe’s Pizza”), a business category (“Pizza”) or a Person (“John Smith”). Within a few seconds, the phone number, address, map, directions, nearby places and other great features will be displayed on you phone. You also have the option to make a search by typing in your request if you are in a very loud or quiet environment.

Where the product differs from others today, such as 1-800-Free-411 and Google’s Goog-411 is that FreeMobile411™ also allows you to type in the information you need and connect to a live operator if needed.  Using real people to assist with free 411 calls seems like a step back into the past, but it’s a point of differentiation that will appeal to some people, especially when automation fails.

To obtain FreeMobile411™, please fill in the information needed in the “Get Started” page of their site or click here.  You can also access FreeMobile411™ in your phone’s browser by typing freemobile411.com.

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Free or low cost hair and beauty treatments

Posted on August 15, 2008. Filed under: Health & Beauty, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Frugal does not mean frumpy. One way to get free or discounted hair, spa and beauty treatments is at a local beauty school. I just discovered that the south San Francisco Bay area has a new high-end school that recently opened February, 2008 in Santa Clara called the Academy for Salon Professionals. The salon facility is beautiful including 50 stations with state of the art equipment. The instructors are excellent and you can get spa services (nails, hair, and skin) at a discount. For example, a haircut for $10.00, if you are willing to allow a student in training work on you. The price list and more info is on the web site.

I was just able to get my hair cut and colored for FREE by a supervised student in training. My student, Louise, who is fabulous, needed to complete an assignment with an actual live client (i.e., me). The school uses Redken products and she did a great job. Because Louise has only been in the program 8 weeks, her instructors worked with her every step of the way. After we agreed on a color, Louise consulted with two of her instructors. Each gave her slightly different direction regarding what would work best on my hair, and she went with one of the recommendations. However, the first semi-permanent color mix she used didn’t take and she had to re-do it, following the advice of the other instructor, which worked very well. Sometimes you learn from what goes wrong as well as what goes right. Because it was a low peroxide, no ammonia color product, there was no damage to my hair, it looks and feels great.

It had been about 2 1/2 months since my last haircut which had been a good cut. As Louise said, one of her favorite instructors, Lonny, tells the students, “the difference between a good cut and a bad cut is 4 weeks.” In other words, if you get a hair cut, and it doesn’t look good as it’s growing out after 4 weeks, it probably wasn’t a very good cut to begin with. Nor was it a good value for the money you spent on that haircut if you have to go back and get it cut again so soon. So Supercuts may not always be your best bet.

I looked through the hairstyle books Louise gave me. During my consultation for the cut, we talked about my hair type (thick head of naturally wavy but fine hair) and what I was looking for – relatively low maintenance, to have it look good wash and wear or styled smooth with some volume via a round brush and a blow dryer or hot rollers. I also wanted to be able to keep the layers long enough to be able to wear it up. So ultimately, I chose not to do anything drastically different, just a health trim with rounded long layers. After she cut it, which she said she loves to do and it shows, Louise styled my hair with a blow dryer. Louise did a very nice job, and I am quite happy. The color and products she used made my hair super shiny and the good cut brought the bounce back. We went outside and she took a photo with her iPhone, for her portfolio and for my blog.

I have a flexible schedule at the moment, and the whole process for the free color and cut took longer (like 10:30 am – 2:30 pm including a lunch break). As I knew this upfront when I scheduled my appointment with Louise, I was fine with that.

If you don’t have the extra time or very flexible schedule, try the discounted services.

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Get a FREE Museum Day Admission Card for 2 to use on Saturday, September 27th

Posted on August 13, 2008. Filed under: Entertainment, Travel & Leisure, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Thanks to Smithsonian and their sponsors – Enjoy free general admission for you and a guest to hundreds of museums and cultural venues nationwide.

When?
Saturday, September 27, 2008

Where?
Search for participating museum venues by state here

How?
Present the Museum Day admission card to receive free general admission at participating Museum Day locations. The admission card is available in the September 2008 issue of Smithsonian magazine or downloadable via the Smithsonian site. You will need to select a museum from the venue page list that you want FREE admission to on September 27th when you apply for the card.

Note: Smithsonian is promoting membership, but you don’t need to be a member or subscribe to the magazine to participate!

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10 (make that 12) Common Sense Money Saving Tips For Movie Fans

Posted on August 8, 2008. Filed under: Entertainment | Tags: , , , , , |

I haven’t mentioned yet what a big movie fan I am, so I was happy to see this article written by a fellow movie fan and wanted to share it. Here are a couple more tips for FREE movies I use regularly that didn’t make the writer’s top 10 list:

11. viewing movies and tv shows for free on your PC or laptop (legally) at hulu.com

Hulu is an online video service that offers hit TV shows, movies and clips at Hulu.com and other online destination sites — all for free, anytime in the U.S. For more details on Hulu’s service, check out the Hulu product tour.

Hulu brings together a large selection of videos from more than 50 content providers, including FOX, NBC Universal, MGM, Sony Pictures Television, Warner Bros. and more. Users can watch current primetime TV such as The Simpsons and The Office the morning after they air, classics like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Married…with Children, movies like The Usual Suspects and The Big Lebowski, and clips from Saturday Night Live and other popular TV shows and movies.

12. borrowing movies from the local library

I can keep the movies I borrow from my town library for 7 days and they often have some options that have long since been retired from the local Blockbuster, including some good foreign films. Recently, I watched a very good award winning Swedish movie, a drama called The Inheritance. I just borrowed Waitress on DVD, an indie flick from 2007.

Last night I babysat for some friends who have 3 pre-schoolers (including 5 1/2 year old twins) while the parents went to dinner and a play. So I borrowed a couple of kid-friendly videos from the library and brought my air popper to make popcorn which made me quite popular with this little trio. I don’t think it was too soon to introduce them to “School House Rock” even if they don’t quite yet understand what “Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?” really means or how to multiply, they appreciated the catchy tunes with cool cartoons. I got six thumbs up, and 5 1/2 year old Skyler informed me that I could bring that DVD again next time I came over to his house and he would “clean the family room” (i.e., pick up all the toys), so we could all dance.

Here is the article with the first 10 tips…

10 Common Sense Money Saving Tips For Movie Fans

LOS ANGELES,(RUSHPRNEWS) AUGUST 4, 2008–When you sit back and actually start to add up all the money you spend on movies (I don’t recommend you do this… you’ll only end up being depressed) and include all the little hidden expenses as well, the total can be staggering. So anyway, the other day I started making up this list of just simple common sense ways that I can save money as a movie fan.

There is nothing revolutionary on this list… but it’s funny how sometimes the most obvious ideas are the ones we overlook. And sometimes we dismiss the smallest little savings and fail to really think about how they add up.

Read the rest of the article here

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Recipes for Healthy Homemade Dog Treats

Posted on August 7, 2008. Filed under: Cooking and Eating, Pets | Tags: , , |

My sister, Kirsten, grew tired of the ups and downs of the high tech and telecom industry and about five years ago decided to open her own business. She owns and operates 4LeggedFriendzee, a very successful doggie daycare, boarding kennel and dog grooming business in southern Maine.

Kirsten and her husband Bruce, have four labrador retrievers of their own. Here are her recipes for money saving, healthy, homemade special treats enjoyed by Porter, Bella, Maya and Truman, the 4 resident Lab’s at 4LeggedFriendzee – they love to share them with their friends on special occasions and holidays!

Soft Banana Strips
Ingredients:
1 egg 1c fast-cook oats
1/2 banana 1/3c milk
1/2c flour (white or whole wheat)
1/8c rice

Squash bananas, and beat the egg. Mix all ingredients then spread evenly on a plate. Next, heat in microwave for 3 and 1/2 minutes. when done, let them cool. Then cut and serve. The rice can be pre-cooked or un-cooked for xtra crunch!

Pupsicles
Ingredients:
1 Quart fruit juice
1 banana, mashed
1/2 cup yogurt

Mix ingredients together thoroughly, then freeze. These can be eaten by people too!

Banana Bites
Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk
1 egg
1/3 cup mashed ripe banana
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 beef bullion cube dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water
1 tbsp. brown sugar

Mix all ingredients until will blended. Knead for 2 minutes on a floured surface. Roll to 1/4 ” thickness. Use a 2 1/2″ bone shaped cookie cutter (or any one you prefer). Bake for 30 minutes in a 300 degrees oven on un-greased cookie pans.

Carob Crunchies
Ingredients:
2 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup HOT water
1 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. molasses
Carob chips (about 1 cup)

Mix all ingredients together until well blended. Knead dough two minutes on a lightly floured surface. Roll to 1/4″ thickness. Bake on an un-greased cookie sheet for 30 minutes in a 300 degree oven. Cool. Melt carob chips in microwave or saucepan. Dip cool biscuits in carob or lay on a flat surface and brush carob over the biscuits with a pastry brush. Let cool.

Frozen Peanut Butter Yogurt Treats
Ingredients:
1-32oz. container of vanilla yogurt
1 cup of peanut butter

1. Put the peanut butter in a microwave safe dish and microwave until melted.
2. Mix the yogurt and the melted peanut butter in a bowl.
3. Pour mixture into cupcake papers and freeze.

Banana Pupcakes
Ingredients:
2 cups water
2 bananas
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour (white or whole wheat)
1 tbsp baking powder
1 egg
3 tbsp honey

Heat oven 350 degrees. Mash bananas In bowl mix all ingredients WELL pour into cupcake pans. Bake 20 minutes. Great for birthdays! Some carob chips can be melted for frosting.

Feel free to add other mixers such as sunflower seeds (without the shell), nuts, carob chips, shredded carrot or apple. Crunchy peanut butter can be used instead of smooth. Whole wheat flour is always better than white. Extra treats or double batches can be frozen for future use.

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.99 cent Frozen Yogurt Waffle Cone Wednesdays at TCBY!

Posted on August 5, 2008. Filed under: Cooking and Eating, Travel & Leisure, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

TCBY is proud to announce Waffle Cone Wednesday!

Every humpday, now throughout the summer at participating locations, you can get a ginormous frozen yogurt waffle cone for only 99 cents, instead of the usual $3 or so. Try a different flavor every week chosen from their expansive menu. A few faves: White Chocolate Mousse, Cheesecake, Dulce de Leche, and they have a new Blueberry flavor.

TCBY yogurt is loaded with probiotics – live active cultures that enhance your immune system and help regulate digestion. So not only does it taste good, it’s good for you. Some flavors are fat-free and/or have no added sugar.

I just wish there were a TCBY closer than 20 miles to me!

Find a TCBY near you. Offer ends unknown.

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Free online classes: software, business, marketing and IT

Posted on August 4, 2008. Filed under: Business, Career & Work, Education, Software & Technology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

Need to brush up on your Powerpoint or learn how ERP can streamline your business? Hewlett-Packard’s online HP Learning Center offers free online software, business, marketing, and IT classes for small to medium businesses (any individual can take them too). You can choose from:

Software & Technology (29 classes): Microsoft Office, web skills, operating systems and technology updates

Business/Marketing (9 classes): Real estate marketing, creating marketing collateral or direct mail, and a new course on learning how your business can implement ways to save energy with energy-efficient technologies in order to save money and conserve resources.

IT (14 classes): Best practices for IT: networking, data management, infrastructure and more.

Classes are free and available 24/7, but sometimes you need to purchase materials. For example, a while back I took an online class on organization based on the book, Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern (she’s had programs on PBS). Fortunately, a friend had a copy of the book, so I just borrowed it from her and didn’t need to purchase it.

More new classes coming in September:
– Business logos
– Firewall basics
– Microsoft® Excel 2007: introduction
– NAS basics
– Business writing
– Wireless NW solutions
– Microsoft® Windows Vista®: advanced customization
– Introduction to Linux system administration
– Blade servers
– Printing marketing materials
– Mobile internet
– Virtualization
– deployment
– First web page
– MS Project intro
– Security threats

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King Arthur Flour lowers the price grocery retailers pay for their flours

Posted on August 2, 2008. Filed under: Cooking and Eating, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |


Baker’s Banter, the King Arthur corporate blog, posted a letter yesterday from Michael Bittel, their senior VP and general manager of the Flour division at King Arthur Flour, announcing an immediate price decrease on flour.

The company is lowering the prices it charges to retailers on it’s Unbleached All Purpose, Unbleached Bread, and Traditional 100% Whole Wheat Flours. So look for lower prices in your local supermarket, and if you don’t see them, don’t blame King Arthur. You should be able to save some dough buying their flour to make your dough.

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PlentyofFish.com – free dating site

Posted on August 1, 2008. Filed under: Entertainment, Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

I actually know quite a few people, former co-workers, friends, and family members, who met their future spouses on a dating site or have had a long term relationship (LTR) with someone they met online. People are also less embarrassed these days about admitting to this, when asked that inevitable question, “how did you two meet?”

Plenty of Fish or POF, was founded in 2003 by Markus Frind. The website states, “It’s a 100% Free online dating and matchmaking service for singles where you can register and interact with members without paying any fee.” Markus Frind still operates Plenty of Fish himself out of his apartment in Vancouver, British Columbia. His girlfriend sometimes helps him out. Markus makes his money from very lucrative online advertising.

From a New York Times article that interviewed Frind published on January 13th, 2008, “Plenty of Fish doubled the number of registered customers this past year, to 600,000, Mr. Frind said, despite the fact that each month it purges 30 percent of users for being inactive. Somehow, the site instantly replenishes the lost customers and attracts many more to boot.”

“No one heads to Plenty of Fish for the customer service, which is all but nonexistent. The company does not need a support structure to handle members’ subscription and billing issues because the service is entirely advertising-based. Its tagline is: “100 percent free. Put away your credit card.” For hand-holding, users must rely on fellow members, whose advice is found in online forums. The Dating & Love Advice category lists more than 320,000 posts, making up in sheer quantity what it lacks in a soothing live presence available by phone.”

Markus writes a very interesting blog full of web statistics and his experiences managing Plenty of Fish, called The Paradigm Shift also on WordPress. According to his blog post on June 23, 2008: Normally around 300,000 users from the US log into Plentyoffish every day.

If you’re single and looking for romance or activity partners, online dating sites should not be your only avenue for meeting other singles, but POF is definitely worth a try as part of your personal marketing mix in your search. As with any potential online or dating situation, beware of sharks.

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