Posts Tagged ‘Frugal Adventures’

Price watches and price histories are some of my favorite tools for online shopping. I use price histories to verify deals are actually deals, and price watches when I expect the price of something I want to drop in the coming months. The most common things I would price watch were electronics, kid’s toys, and kitchen gadgets – all of which tended to be expensive, and thus a small percentage differences could make a big difference. Lately I’ve found additional ways to save.

Requesting After Purchase Price Adjustments: I used to remove my price watches as soon as I made a purchase. After all, I hate finding out I could have paid even less. Then last Black Friday shopping season baby cheapskate posted a deal on the play kitchen I had just purchased a day or two earlier. The new price was $5 cheaper. Five dollars isn’t much in the grad scheme of things, but it wounded my frugal shopper pride. I decided to call the company I had purchased from to ask if they’d price match themselves. Sure enough they refunded the difference without hassle.

It seems so obvious to me now to ask for price adjustments. I was still within the return window, the kitchen was even still in the box as it was intended to be a Christmas present. I could have returned and repurchased the play kitchen in order to get the better price. (Not that I would have, given how hectic the holidays can be, but I could have.) It would have cost the company more in terms of shipping and restocking, than simply refunding a few dollars. Price adjustments also helps garner customer good will, and makes me more likely to be a repeat customer.

Now I continue to price watch items for a few weeks after I make the purchase. Yesterday we switched Nicki to a twin bed while my parents were visiting. Wouldn’t you know it, the price dropped nearly $30 since I purchased it a week ago! I called up, and got the refund of the price difference. Easy Peasy.

Replenishing Non Perishables akin to a Subscription Service: I am a fan of subscription services – especially subscription services that give a discount! Alas not everything is available through subscriptions, or runs out in predictable intervals. And sometimes the price of an item will drop lower than the subscription price for a brief window.

I started price watching diaper pail refill bags, and have recently added printer ink to my price watches. (We can easily shoot through 2 or 3 ink refills cartridges when printing photos ahead of Grandma’s visits every couple of months – have I mentioned I take a lot of photos?) If I get a price drop alert when my supply is starting to run low, I’ll make an additional purchase.

To get the best possible deal I’ll set up a couple of price watches for the same product, either for different stores, different variations (XL or regular) or different quantities (single or double pack). Usually buying in bulk is better, but not always. Likewise some stores tend to have better every day prices, and others sometimes have better sale prices. The more individual instances of a product I’m price watching the better the chance I’ll get a great deal.

This morning I had a data scare. I was backing up my photos from the zoo when I noticed my laptop could no longer see my external hard drive. That happens from time to time, so I did what I always do – unplug the drive and plug it back in. Nada. Tried a different port. Nope. Tried all 4 usb ports. Still nothing. Tried unplugging the power supply and rebooting the computer. Negatory. At this point I was beginning to wonder if my external drive – the one local copy of all my photos – had bit the dust. Turns out I had managed to trip the power strip, so the drive wasn’t getting power despite being plugged in. Phew. The scare was that kick in the pants I needed to start thinking about that home data cloud again.

When I last blogged about our desire for a home data center, Domingo and I were thinking we needed a rather hefty server. We now realize that’s over kill. We thought we needed the horse power to run virtual machines (VMs), however, we can always use the server to store the VMs and run them locally on our laptops. Thus the “server” will basically be a glorified wireless file repository.

Our home cloud sketch
The new plan.

The idea is that the home data cloud will house all of our permanent, archival type files: media, photos, etc. Our laptop hard drives will be more like working directories. When I take the files off my camera, for example, I’ll save the unedited RAWs to the shared directory in the home cloud. I may open a few directly on my laptop to adjust the color balance, lightening, etc, and then save the finished versions back to the cloud shared directory. From a user perspective, it’ll be functionally just like using multiple folders on my computers. However, because I’m using the shared drive, Domingo can access any photo or media file he wants as well.

The purple lines show how we expect to need to manually transfer files. Mostly we’ll be pushing files to the home cloud, but occasionally pulling them down. The green lines show what’s managed automatically by crash plan – including backing up our laptop working directories, backing up the archival data to crash plans servers, and creating local mirrors of all our data (effectively raid 1). As mentioned before, crash plan data servers are expensive to recover from and a “worse case scenario” type option, e.g. fire and earthquake. Mirroring gives us chance to recover from the more typical hard drive crash without having to pay that price.

The new game plan means we can cobble together our home data cloud with existing hardware and not spend a single penny.

Today I setup the 9 year old server (unix) and my 4 or 5 year old laptop with the dead battery and flaky AC adapter (windows). I then started the tedious process of transferring the files from each unix external drive, connected to the unix server, to a windows drive connected to the windows server. When it’s all finished, I will reformat the unix external drives and the server. By giving the server a fresh copy of a modern operating system it will be much less vulnerable to malware. We’ll have about 8 TB of disk space, more than enough space for multiple copies of everything. The windows laptop will be officially retired and sent off to an e-waste recycling center.

The process is going to take a while. The server only supports USB 2.0 or 280 Mbit/s. USB 3.1 can support 10 Gbit/s, which makes it roughly 36 times faster. Domingo keeps reminding me that we can get a desktop with USB 3.1 ports for sub $300, but given that it’s not my main computer that’s slowly churning away, I think I’ll just let the process crawl along. Our files are small enough that I doubt we’ll notice a difference in speed when using the file server anyway.