Get The Most Out of Travel On A Budget

Enjoy this guest post on travel savings from longtime member and financial independence champion, Diania Merriam. 

I absolutely love to travel, and after many months of staying home during the pandemic, I’m sure you’re itching to get out and explore as much as I am.  While traveling might seem like a luxury, there are many ways you can be resourceful and creative in keeping your travel costs as low as possible.  Read on for some of my favorite tips when it comes to budget travel. 

Utilize Credit Card Rewards Points: I really can’t remember the last time I paid for a flight with cash, because I almost always utilize credit card rewards points.  While some  criticize rewards points because they can lead to overspending on credit cards, when used strategically, they are game-changing.  My discretionary spending is very low, so it’s not really possible for me to accumulate any meaningful amount of points through my regular spending. 

The key for me has been to open new credit cards that offer large signing bonuses at a time when I’m about to make a large purchase.  Many cards will offer bonus points if you spend a certain amount in the first few months, so I only open cards when I have a big purchase I need to make.  So for example, one of the most popular cards for travel rewards points is the Chase Sapphire Preferred.  Right now, they are offering 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months from account opening.  It would take me forever to earn 60,000 points from my regular spending, and I would struggle to spend $4,000 in discretionary spending over 3 months.  But a few times each year, I will have some kind of a larger expense, which prompts me to do research on the best credit card signing bonus offers.  Next thing you know, I’ve got thousands of points at my disposal without much time or effort on my part!       

Find a local host: Many times when I know I will find myself in a new city, I will post on social media and ask my network if they have friends that might want to host me.  While some might find this distasteful and prefer to simply pay for a hotel room, the benefits of staying with a local extend far beyond any money you’ll save.  Some of my most memorable trips were when I stayed with someone I barely knew, usually a friend of a friend who was available to spend some time with me and share what they love about their city.  I myself have hosted many friends of friends and have always appreciated the spontaneity of the experience!  And if you’re really wild, you could also explore staying with a total stranger through couchsurfing.com.  I have done this a few times, and had some great times! 

The grocery store is your friend: We all know that eating out can blow our budget, and while traveling, it’s very easy to eat out for every meal.  I make sure to pack healthy food and snacks for my travel days.  Yes, this saves money, but I mostly do this because I find it very challenging to find healthy food in airports and while on long road trips.  Usually, when I get to my destination, the first thing I do is find a good grocery store where I can stock up on simple foods that I can eat for breakfast and lunch.  Since many of my vacations include activities like hiking and walking around sightseeing, carrying my food with me adds an element of convenience in addition to cost savings.  And then I can splurge on dinner guilt-free! 

Download your favorite shows while on WiFi: While I am a podcast host (you can listen to me every day on Optimal Finance Daily!), I’m also a podcast listener.  Listening to my favorite shows is a great way to pass the time on flights or during road trips.  One way I save here is that I always download the episodes while I’m on WiFi.  I made the mistake once of not downloading content, and I will never make it again!  I burned through my data without realizing it during one trip.  Luckily Republic Wireless offers extra GB for only $5 when I need them, but I can avoid the extra expense with better planning! 

If you’re looking to add a trip to your calendar, track news about The EconoMe Conference which just finished up year 2 on November 13th & 14th.  This event is rooted in the FIRE movement (financial independence, retire early) and it features incredible mainstage speakers that will guide us in questioning our assumptions about happiness, freedom, and prosperity through the lens of personal finance.  But we also have many breakout sessions that are designed to facilitate discussions between attendees that can be the start of beautiful friendships.  You’ve already optimized your phone expenses with Republic Wireless, but there is so much more you could be doing on your path to financial independence.  

 

How Many Towels Do You Need? (And How Much Data?)

Guest post from Republic member and Minimalism expert Rose Lounsbury on decluttering your life, including your cell phone service and data use.

How many towels do you need? This was the surprisingly life-changing question I faced on a Saturday afternoon in early 2012, as I scrutinized my linen cupboard. 

I had just started on a minimalist journey, inspired by my 1,500 square foot house that could no longer comfortably contain the possessions of me, my husband, and our three 2-year-olds (yes, you read that right… triplets).

A few weeks earlier, we’d returned from visiting out-of-state relatives for Christmas with a van absolutely packed full of presents. As I walked into my house and assessed our already stuffed surroundings, a slow, frightening realization came upon me…

We didn’t have room for the things we already owned. Where was I going to put this new stuff? 

I felt defeated and overwhelmed. I knew the gifts had been given in love. I knew they were supposed to make me and my children happy. But more than anything, they added stress to my already stressful full-time-working-mom-of-triplets life.

Luckily, though, a change was coming.

About a week after Christmas I had lunch with a good friend, and I explained my problem. I thought the solution was to either buy a bigger house or allow no one to buy my kids Christmas presents again, ever

But my friend casually suggested another idea, “Or… you could just become a minimalist.”

I immediately thought of monks living in a cave or college students traversing Europe with all their possessions on their backs or black-clad hipsters lounging on white couches in apartments that doubled as art galleries. None of that sounded like my real life in the Ohio suburbs with three kids, two cars, and a mortgage.

But my friend reassured me that minimalism was just a philosophy, a less-is-more approach to living, and that any modern American could adopt it. Skeptical but intrigued, I went home and started reading. I was hooked.

Which brought me, a few weeks later, to January of 2012, when I went to put away some towels in my linen cupboard and asked myself the aforementioned life-changing question.

This wasn’t the first time I’d asked myself questions about my stuff. I’d actually been asking myself questions about my stuff my entire life (and you probably have, too) but those questions sounded different. They sounded more like…

“Rose, how much stuff could you AFFORD to buy?” I was a dedicated closeout, clearance, and coupon shopper, always scouring the racks for the best “deal” I could find. 

Another favorite: “Rose, how much stuff could you FIT in here?” I used every spare inch in my snug home to cram in as much as possible, often resorting to space saver bags and bins stacked precariously high in my attic. 

And, finally, the Big Daddy of them all, the question I continually asked every night as I spent hours putting away toys, shoes, sippy cups, and errant paper: Rose, how could you better ORGANIZE this stuff?” 

I thought organizing was the answer, the Holy Grail, the thing that–if I could just master it and buy the right bins with the right labels–would solve my problem. I’d finally have the home in the magazines. I’d finally stop feeling like every day was a continual battle between me and the chaos.

But that Saturday afternoon, I wasn’t asking myself any of those questions. That day, fresh in my nascent minimalist awakening, I was asking myself a very different question:

Rose, how many towels do you NEED? 

That’s the kind of question that just might change your life.

The answer was surprisingly clear: two per person. Which immediately felt wrong, because by the power of math that’s only 10 towels for a family of five. That certainly wasn’t the number of towels I’d registered for on my Bed, Bath, and Beyond wedding gift registry.

So I did something I rarely do. I entered the sanctum of my husband’s man cave on a Saturday afternoon (aka prime sports-watching time) to ask him a very serious question, “Honey, is it okay if we have just 10 towels?”

Josh paused and looked at me for a long time, while he pondered the critical issue of the towel supply. He eventually responded, “Yeah, I guess. I mean, that sounds about right.”

That settled it. Ten towels.

Now remember… that was almost TEN YEARS ago. In that time, I have not increased our number of towels and everyone in our family has been dry when they needed to be dry.

This early venture into minimalism taught me two very clear things:

  • I can live with a lot less than I think I can. 
  • I can definitely live with a lot less than society tells me I should. 

 

My towels are just one example of minimalist thinking. After I decluttered my towel cupboard, I went through the rest of my house, asking different variations of that original question:

Rose, how many coffee cups do you need? 

Rose, how many pairs of shoes do you need? 

Rose, how many boxes of holiday decorations do you really need? 

And slowly, over a period of almost one year, my home transformed. My cluttered corners turned into open spaces. My formerly crammed cupboards had room to breathe. My now unstuffed drawers opened and closed easily.

Yes, my home looked neat and tidy, but that wasn’t the point. That wasn’t why I kept doing what I was doing. The reason I kept doing it was because of how I felt. I felt free. I felt at peace. I started to find myself, at the ends of my long days, relaxing on my couch instead of frantically picking up my stuff.

So today I want to encourage you… ask yourself a life-changing question. 

Insert any word you like (towels, sweaters, hammers, wine glasses, etc.) into the blank space:

How many _______________ do you need? 

You can also use this question for the “non-stuff stuff” in your life, like volunteer commitments, email subscriptions, and cellular data.

A personal example… I used to believe that I needed unlimited data for my phone. (Ya know, just in case I had a video streaming emergency.) As a result, my phone bill was about $100/month. I considered it normal to pay that much for the supposed “security” of unlimited data.

But then I asked myself… How much data do I really need? 

The answer? About 2 gigs per month.

As a result, last year I switched to Republic Wireless with a 2 gigabyte plan and I now pay $25/month. (In just one year, this has saved me almost $1,000!)

So I urge you, ask yourself, How much ______________ do you need? 

You’ll be amazed at how this simple question can open up so many possibilities and create more freedom in your life.

 

Author bio:

Republic member Rose Lounsbury is a keynote speaker, coach, and Amazon bestselling author who helps people live happier lives by owning less stuff. After blogging about her personal journey toward a simpler lifestyle, Rose was inspired to leave her classroom teaching job and help others create more meaningful lives through simplicity. Her popular TEDx Talk has almost 500,000 views. 

Enroll Your Community to Reach Your Goals

This is a guest post on Community from Republic Wireless member and founder of EconoMe LLC, Diania. 

If you look at your inner circle and you’re not inspired, then you don’t have a circle, you have a cage” -Anonymous on Community

As I write this post, I’m about halfway through the 75 Hard, which is a mental toughness challenge for 75 days straight.  Everyday I do two 45 minute workouts (much of the time it’s just walking, everyone calm down!), drink 1 gallon of water, read 10 pages of a personal development book, take a progress picture, and adhere to a diet that includes no alcohol (I chose intermittent fasting).  Completing this challenge has been on my bucket list for a while because it completely intimidates me.  I imagined I would be so proud of myself if I could actually do it.  So when I was writing my goals for 2021, completing the 75 Hard was at the top of the list.

I spent the first quarter of 2021 “training” for it. I figured if I could get used to drinking the water, and do at least 1 workout a day, it wouldn’t be such a shock to the system when I officially started the challenge.  I set my start date for Monday April 19th, the Monday after returning from an epic vacation.  And then I did one last thing that didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, but it’s the only reason I’ve made it this far: I called in reinforcements.  I let my Facebook friends know that I was doing this, and I invited them to join me.

I ended up with a group of 4 people who I check in with every day over a video app called Marco Polo.  On the days that I just don’t feel like doing another work out, I think about the time that Heather got home at 11pm from a trip and still did her second workout even when she was tired.  Or how Lynn had a really painful ear infection, and she still managed to stick with it.  Or how Autumn has 3 kids, and she’s a nurse with changing work hours, and has rental properties that she manages.  Everyday, we all share resources that are helping us, and often reflect on things we are learning about ourselves and what we are getting out of this challenge.  This group inspires me to no end, and they’ve added a richness to this experience in ways that I wouldn’t be able to do on my own.

Community matters… a lot actually.  There is an easy sense of comradery that builds between people headed towards a common goal that can make the whole journey feel so much lighter and more fun.  Finding a community with common goals can also help form a sense of identity, which makes it easier to generate the focus and build the habits you need to reach those goals.  For example, if you want to run a marathon, it would benefit you to identify as a runner, not someone who is “trying” to run.  You will get up in the morning and run, because that’s just what runners do… and because your training group is waiting for you downstairs so you better giddy up.  Surround yourself with the right people to hold you accountable, do the hard work beside you, celebrate your wins with you, and soften the blows of your losses.

The idea of community is powerful for any type of goal, even for financial goals.  This is a big reason why I identify as part of the FIRE movement (financial independence, retire early) which is a lifestyle movement with the goal of financial freedom.  Since I started reading various blogs on the topic and going to different meetups and events, I noticed over time that my entire circle of influence are now people who are pursuing financial independence.  All of my closest friends today are either financially independent or well on their way.  While money tends to be a taboo topic that many people are uncomfortable discussing, there is an openness and transparency in the FIRE movement that can be really eye opening.  As I scroll through my social media feeds, most of what I see are people discussing topics surrounding personal finance, sharing tips, asking for advice, or celebrating milestones.  I find myself surrounded by people doing incredible things with their finances and this has really helped me expand my understanding of what’s possible. While my finances are still my responsibility, I can’t help but wonder sometimes if they’ve improved somewhat from osmosis!

The power of community is a big reason why I created The EconoMe Conference which is an event rooted in the FIRE movement.  We have incredible main stage speakers that guide us in questioning our assumptions about happiness, freedom, and prosperity through the lens of personal finance.  But we also have many breakout sessions that are designed to facilitate discussions between attendees that can be the start of beautiful friendships.  You’ve already optimized your phone expenses with Republic Wireless, but there is so much more you could be doing on your path to financial independence.  

Republic Wireless also believes in the power of community. The Republic Member Community serves Republic Wireless members who share an interest in enjoying technology affordably. It is the best place to find the latest Republic news, get to know other members, and learn or share new tips on using technology

Defining “Fi-lexible” with Diania of EconoMe

Are You Fi-lexible?

This is a guest post from Republic Wireless member and founder of EconoMe LLC, Diania. 

The path to financial independence, similar to the stock market or life in general, can be a long journey of highs and lows.  

I’ve certainly enjoyed the highs: getting out of $30k of debt in 11 months, receiving raises and promotions at work, buying a house, and walking 500 miles across Spain on the Camino de Santiago all became possible by prioritizing my financial health.  There have been lows as well: a salary reduction due to COVID, my property tax bill tripling over the last year, an unexpected battle with depression, and my passion project, The EconoMe Conference, resulted in a $40k loss in its first year (don’t worry, I have a plan to make it up in the coming years)! 

The safety net we build for ourselves by keeping our expenses low and living below our means helps us navigate what life throws at us.  It also puts us in the position to seize opportunities that present themselves, ones we couldn’t imagine when we’re developing our financial goals.  

While it’s important to have goals … it’s also important to be able to adjust when the unexpected (positive or negative) inevitably happens.  One of my big goals is to reach financial independence by the time I’m 40, but for a number of reasons, I’m being “fi-lexible” about this time frame.  

What is “Fi-lexibility”?

The Merriam Webster* dictionary defines it as: 

  1. A mindset of adaptation amid the obstacles and opportunities that present themselves on the path to financial independence
  2. A concept I made up to make myself feel better about not being financially independent
    *this isn’t true but I’ve taken liberties since my last name is Merriam


Why be Fi-lexible? 

This mindset allows you to prioritize the journey over the destination.  I’m not sure that becoming financially independent is even the best part of the pursuit.  I’m finding that the journey itself offers many gifts along the way and the opportunity to learn about myself.  

Financial independence opens up the option for early retirement or just more freedom to pursue the things we want in life.  Here’s the thing… what if we don’t know what we want? Many people pursue FI with a very clear understanding of what they want: to start a business, travel the world, stay home with their kids, or move out to a homestead, etc.  I find myself envious of these people because over the years, I’ve discovered that perhaps I’m wrong about what I think I want.  My path to FI is not just about saving and investing my money, it’s also about testing my assumptions about what I think I want to do with my time. 

Here are some things I used to think I wanted (spoiler alert: I was wrong)

  • Be the highest paid female CEO : this one is embarrassing to admit, but it captures my young naive ideas about success.  It didn’t matter the work I was doing, or the contribution I was making, I just cared about prestige, status, and a high income.  After glimpsing what is at the top of the corporate ladder, it’s safe to say this isn’t for me.  
  • Pursue a career in stand up comedy : I absolutely love to make people laugh, so the idea of doing that as a job was thrilling to me.  After 2 years of refining my material at countless open mics in New York City and Cincinnati, I ultimately decided to hang up the mic.  Creative expression is vital for me, but when it starts to feel like work, the pressure thwarts my creativity.  
  • Play in a brass band : Music was a big part of my daily life growing up.  I played baritone horn in a school concert and jazz band for many years.  I missed it and so found an alumni drum and bugle corps that I played with from 2014-2016.  It was a group of grumpy retired old men between 60-80 years old and I absolutely loved them.  Ultimately, I found the time commitment to be a bit too much so ended up leaving the group, but I’m so much better for the experience and learned a lot from those grandpas.   
  • Sing in a band : While walking the Camino for 38 days, I found myself singing a lot to pass the time on the trail.  Singing might be a strong word, it was more like wailing but it was very cathartic.  When a School of Rock opened near my house it felt like a sign.  I joined the adult program and trained for 4 months, every day, to ultimately sing about 7 songs in front of a 100 people.  I’m so proud of myself for trying, but when the show was over I felt more relieved than excited to do it again.  
  • Become a digital nomad :  Travel seems so glamorous and I’ve certainly done my fair share of it.  However, after sleeping in a different bed every night while walking across Spain, I realized how much I enjoy having a home base.  I bought my house when I got back from that trip! 

My current experiment with what I think I want is to be an entrepreneur.  I spent 20 months building The EconoMe Conference and it’s the hardest and most gratifying work I’ve ever done.  It originated as something I would want to do with my time if I didn’t need to work for money.  But I’m hella glad I didn’t wait to reach FI to try this.  Having an income while working on this passion project allowed me to take more risks and created a cushion for all the things I didn’t know that I didn’t know.  

Maybe I don’t really know what I want… but I’m in a great financial position to experiment with what I think I want on my path to FI.  

How to be Fi-lexible

Try stuff, experiment, don’t wait until FI to figure out what you want.  Perhaps like me, you’re wrong about what you think you want.  Better to figure that out while you still have an income, rather than retire early to something that isn’t as enjoyable as you thought it would be.  

Consider mini retirements/sabbaticals.  Before you fully pull the plug on your career, giving yourself a few months to a year to take a break from work and knock something off your bucket list can be really eye opening.  You will gain some clarity that will serve you well in the long run and avoid burnout during your working years.   

Continuously innovate for self discovery, and test your assumptions.  Want to walk the Appalachian trail in retirement?  Perhaps try a shorter day or week long hike and see what you learn from the experience.  Want to go back to school and earn another degree?  Maybe first find some free courses online to make sure the subject matter can hold your interest over time.  

Write down your goals/bucket list.  I find that everything has a season, even ideas for your bucket list.  By writing down your dreams and goals in the moment that you’re most excited about them, you harness their power even if you can’t take action on them right away.  It can be incredibly fun to look back on the things you thought you wanted with the satisfaction of having experienced them, the clarity of knowing they aren’t for you, or the excitement of figuring out how to tackle them next.    

And finally, give yourself the fi-lexibilty to change your mind!

Did you know that Republic Wireless offers you fi-lexibilty in your phone plan? There are great options to change your plan as your plans change! Long gone are the days of being locked down to the same plan for long periods of time, or paying more than you need to. With Republic Wireless, you have the freedom to pay for what you need, and not a penny more. 

Learn more about Republic Wireless and how their service can be part of setting you up for financial success and freedom. Your phone plan can play a larger role in reaching financial independence than you think.

For more information about The EconoMe Conference, access to the 2020 speaker videos and to be entered into a monthly drawing for a free t-shirt, sign up for EconoMe’s mailing list here.

The Best Smartphones for Senior Citizens

 

Switching from a flip phone to a Smartphone can be scary for anyone, but especially for those who don’t consider themselves “tech-savvy”. In this high-tech world, there is a pressure to keep up with this fast-paced even when you don’t feel ready. If you’re a person who grew up when rotary phones were in most households, you might feel especially overwhelmed at the prospect of picking out a smartphone and having to learn how to use it.

I recently purchased a new Android smartphone and I was surprised at how much more difficult the choice was than I expected! Even as a millennial who, by stereotype, should be pretty smart when it comes to technology, I didn’t even know where to begin.

So many manufacturers, sizes, specs… it was overwhelming! I’m not an overly tech-savvy person and looking up the specifications of a phone online didn’t really tell me which would be the best fit for me. With the help of the RW team, I was able to choose the phone that best fit my needs. Through my search to find the right smartphone for me I learned a lot about the smartphones we carry in the process.

As a Senior Citizen, possibly new to the world of smartphones, you might have certain needs that have prevented you from making the switch.

  • Maybe you have trouble reading the tiny text on these small phones
  • Perhaps you need a battery that will last so you don’t have to fumble with the charger every day.
  • Maybe you need a phone with a loud and clear speaker.
  • Or maybe you just want a smartphone that is simple to use without all the extras.

These Republic Wireless phones might have just what you’re looking for! Hopefully, this breakdown will help you find the right smartphone for your needs.

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If you’re someone who wants a fully-functional smartphone for a fraction of the price, the Alcatel A30 might be for you.

Alcatel A30 
$99*

At a retail value of $99 you simply can’t beat the price. You might be thinking, “You get what you pay for,” and, in some ways, you’re right. The Alcatel A30 won’t have as high a quality camera as a device like the Samsung S7 Edge ($599), longest lasting battery, or lightning speed processor BUT it makes calls, sends texts, and allows for use of apps – pretty much everything you’d need if you were a light to mid smartphone user.

The Alcatel A30  allows you to do everything you need to with a smartphone and at such a low price. It also has nice features such as its 5MP auto-focus camera, 2 MP front camera,  and 5.0” HD display. With a fairly large screen, touch ability becomes easier and reading text becomes less of a challenge as well. One downfall is that it is not water-repellant. I would recommend purchasing a case with this phone to help protect against drops and spills.

“Provided that you put yourself in the mindset of what capabilities should be standard on a super budget device, this phone performs admirably for basic communication functionalities and even single-threaded applications.” – Nov. 15, Republic Wireless Team Member

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If you’re someone who wants a quality phone that can do all of the video streaming and image-capturing for a reasonable price, these phones could be for you.

One thing I love about Motorola phones is that they allow you to have a more “pure” Android experience. What this means is that they do very little to modify the operating system. With fewer modifications, the faster the phone typically runs. It is also argued that phones providing this more “pure” experience are often simpler to learn and use than one with many alterations.

All of the Motorola phones I describe below allow the user to have this “pure” experience – something many Android users say is one of the top things they look for when choosing a phone.

Moto G4
$179*

The Moto G4 gives you a great bang for your buck. You get a lot of awesome features with this phone for what many smartphone users consider a rock-bottom price. Like most Moto phones, the G4 has a large, day-long lasting battery. You get a 13MP camera, 5.5” HD display, and front-ported, loud-speaker for easy listening.

One really great feature of this phone is its water-repelling abilities. Although it isn’t “waterproof”, this phone will survive getting caught in the rain, or being lightly spilled on – and if you’re clumsy like me, this can be a lifesaver! The G4 is also easy to grip due to the rounded edges of the phone, making it slightly less likely to be dropped. Of course, I always still recommend a case to protect your smartphone.

“My first smart phone! I am 68 years old and was a little worried I might have trouble figuring it out. I would say I’m even enjoying it and have found it easy to navigate. I like the size. Old dogs can learn new tricks.” – Jan. 27, G4 owner

 

Moto E4 Plus
$199*

The affordable Moto E4+ is perfect for basic tasks like web-browsing, watching Netflix, texting, making calls, and catching up with Facebook friends. This budget smartphone is best known for its long battery life – lasting 2 days or more with light use! Other notable features include the fingerprint reader and its ergonomic design, so it fits comfortably in your hands. It comes with a front-ported loud-speaker for clear, high-quality audio. The Moto G4, it has a 13MP camera and 5.5” HD screen.

“I like the size – it is just big enough for me to be able to read things on the phone with ease, but not too big not to be able to handle it easily.” – Oct. 24, E4 plus user

 

Moto G5 Plus
$229*
Save $30 offer ends 11/30

The Moto G5 Plus is actually the phone I am using right now. For less than $200 this smartphone provides so many awesome features for just a sliver of the price of other smartphone brands.

Although there are many things I love about this phone, my favorites include the large, bright screen and long-lasting battery. I would consider myself a mid-high range smartphone user. I stream video, play games, and browse the internet and with doing all this my phone battery usually lasts at least a day and a half! While watching videos I love the large, 5.2” HD screen. I went from a 4” display to 5.2” display and also found it much easier to read texts and web pages compared with my old phone.

Other awesome features of this phone include 12MP auto-focus camera, water-repellent nano-coating, and a front-ported loud-speaker. After having this phone for a couple months, the only problem I notice is that sometimes it is hard to hear other people on the phone. However, if I turn it on speaker phone, it is clear and I have no trouble hearing the person on the other end of the line.

“I was using a “not so smart” phone that didn’t have good reception. I wanted one with an excellent camera and something that wouldn’t break the piggy bank. This phone fit my needs and I have really enjoyed using it. The screen is a great size for reading, the apps work well without any slowing.” – Sept. 18, G5 plus owner

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If you’re someone who is extremely tech-savvy, enjoys streaming video and taking super-sharp, clear images, and are willing to pay more for the perks, this may be the best option for you:

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
$599*

The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is certainly one of the more high-end, top-tier smartphones you can purchase. Its premium features are reflected in the price. At $599, this phone can be a little on the expensive side if you are a not a heavy user and/or don’t need the fancy features a top-tier smartphone provides. These top-of-the-line features include a fingerprint sensor, 5.5” HD Display, water-resistant technology, and a 12 MP auto-focus camera.

Though I have not used this phone for a long period of time myself, I have seen many mixed reviews about it being difficult to text with the curved screen. People say it is sometimes a challenge to press the buttons you want and that it is easy to accidentally tap something you didn’t intend.

If you are someone new to smartphones, I might recommend something a bit more user-friendly for your first time(like a Motorola). If you are someone who is on their smartphone a lot (streaming video, taking pictures, recording video, using apps), and are familiar with smartphone navigation, this phone might be perfect for you due to its exceptional camera, speed, and display.

Another thing to be aware of is the all-glass screen. This can be problematic if you are someone who tends to drop their phone often. Although I always recommend having a case for your phone, I especially recommend it with this more expensive phone option.

“This is a great phone for those of us with hearing that isn’t as good as it used to be. The camera has a ton of features for those that want more control. Pro setting gives aperture and shutter controls…among others, useful for those low light photos. Phones comes with security features, like fingerprint reader and encryption” – Mar. 28, S7 Edge user

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Even with the many smartphone options out there, it’s possible that none meet all of your needs. That’s where the real beauty of an Android comes in – its customizability. If you need a bigger font, more easily accessible emergency buttons, or a way to simplify your home screen, you can get it!

If you haven’t heard of launchers or aren’t too familiar with what they do, they are apps that make changes to your phone so that it will look and do exactly what you want it to. There are many launchers that can give you just the help you’re looking for!

 

Download now

 

Wiser Launcher gives you the ability to:

-Easily find the essentials (calling, messaging, pictures, emergency buttons, etc.) with an easy-to-use interface
-Quickly access favorite contacts and most used apps
-Easily add and find contacts
-Clearly see all notifications and updates

 

 

Download now

 

Phonotto Launcher gives you the ability to:

-Avoid all the “bells and whistles” of the typical smartphone while still giving you easy access to making/receiving calls, SMS, managing contacts, take photo and video, and use your daily apps.
-Has a simple design with large buttons that make it easy for making phone calls and texting.
-Optimized for people with poor eyesight
-Intuitive to keep use simple

 

 

Download now

 

Necta Launcher:

-Has helped over 400,000 senior people and vision loss people use Android phone
-Uses very large buttons for easy visibility and touch
-Has an easy-to-use camera that reacts to touch anywhere on the screen
-Provides a weather forecast, alarm, local newspaper (with larger text size), flashlight, and more!
-Will get you home so you never get lost.

 

 

Download now

 

Big Launcher provides:

-A home screen designed in consideration with senior citizens and the visually impaired to provide maximum readability and easy use.
-Enlarged icons
-Big font SMS editor
-Large battery indicator and direct dialing button

 

 

Download now

 

Koala Phone Launcher:

-Is focused on easy calling and messaging
-Allows you to see big photos of favorite contacts and provides a large dialer
-Contains touch-optimized apps like the camera, photo gallery, alarm, and flashlight
-Gives the ability to increase text size for more comfortable use without glasses
-Reads texts aloud when pressed on for a couple seconds

These launchers can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. All you have to do is tap the Google Play Store app, type the launcher’s name into the search bar, and tap download. VOILA! You will have a new launcher on your phone.

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While launchers are amazing, they still may not meet all of your needs if you have an especially difficult time seeing or hearing.

  • Device’s hearing aid compatibility – For those with hearing aids, it is important to make sure that the smartphone you choose is compatible. All smartphones suggested above have hearing aid compatibility rating M4/T3.
  • Stylus (for increased dexterity) – A stylus is a pen that does not use ink, but rather uses pressure from your touch to select items on a screen.
  • Phone locator – Phone locators are extremely useful for anyone, but can be especially useful for those suffering from memory loss or forgetfulness. Some great phone locators include: Find My Device, Family Locator – GPS Tracker, and Where’s My Droid.

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*Phone prices subject to vary, check our website for current prices and availibility. Prices last updated 1/11/18.

The 5 Best Apps to Help Organize Your Phone

 

One thing that I never take time to do is sort through my apps. I have the general categories my phone gave me to start (utilities, photos, etc.) but once I download a new app I never put it in the right category. Pages and pages of apps later, it’s time for a solution. If your phone looks like mine did, check out these awesome app-organizing apps.

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JINA: App Drawer, Sidebar & Folder Organizer

• Automatic app organizer
• 
Organizes apps by usage frequency, size, name, etc.
• 
Sidebar for easy multitasking
• 
Easily share apps
• 
Searches for apps quickly
• 
Customizable app drawer replacement

Download now

 

The best part of this app is the ability it gives you for customization. JINA makes adding folders and customizing them so easy. By being able to change the colors and icons of the folders enhances my ability to find what I need without having to spend much time searching.

 

App Drawer by Radsoft

• A simple, easy-to-use alternative to your phone’s default app drawer
• 
Offers a light and dark theme
• 
Automatically begins in search mode
• 
Ability to change search filter behavior
• 
Ability to save frequently-used search terms

Download now

 

Quick Drawer by Softonic

• Gives you the ability to find the apps you need fast
• 
Contains three smart layouts including last used apps, frequently used apps, and apps by alphabetical order.
• 
Does not modify or alter any part of your Android phone

Download now

 

The previous two apps are both intended to keep things simple. Both look a bit different, but their abilities are nearly the same and they both accomplish the same goal: to be an app drawer. The only real difference I can tell is the ability to change the theme and use a search bar in the App Drawer where it seems you cannot in Quick Drawer. These two apps are great if you are someone who isn’t looking for a whole lot of customization but wants a simple, easy to use app drawer.

 

Categories – App Organizer

• Easily navigate through categories
• 
Automatically organizes your launchable apps into categories
• 
Ability to personalize structure by creating or modifying existing categories
• 
Sorts by recently used, most used, recently installed, or last updated

Download now

 

My personal favorite way to organize my apps is by most used. I tend to use the same apps multiple times a day, day after day. Having them at my fingertips immediately makes it so much more convenient to find the apps I need.

 

EverythingMe Launcher

• Automatically organizes apps into folders you choose
• 
Tracks top contacts for easy messaging/calling
• 
Prediction bar to give you the app you need when you need it
• 
Search bar to easily find any app
• 
Ability to customize
• 
App discovery tool finds new apps you’ll love

Download now

 

What’s really cool about the EverythingMe Launcher is not only its ability to categorize your apps for you, but it also predicts what app you will need, sometimes even before you need it!

Keep in mind, though, that it is a launcher and therefore has permissions to change your phone. This particular launcher is one very popular one along with the Go Launcher, Nova Launcher, Smart Launcher and many others! All launchers are created to help you customize your Android phone exactly how you want it.

All launchers come with some form of app drawer or another and each with their own specialized capabilities. When looking into keyboards, take a close look at what else the launcher has to offer before hitting download. Though easily deletable, no one wants to go through the hassle. Check out this article by Android Central on the best launchers.

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Six aspects of your life should now be improved by these top organizing apps for Android:

  1. You should find staying on top of your schedule and keep your day-to-day commitments organized

2. You should find that the management and budgeting of your expenses has become a whole lot simpler

3. You should be able to shop with ease while saving money by easily finding e-coupons and comparing store prices

4. You should find making dinner a whole lot easier with fast, simple, and healthy recipes always at your fingertips

5. You should notice that keeping track of your workouts and staying motivated to continue living a healthy lifestyle has become less of a chore and more of a pleasure (well, at least something you don’t have to dread?!)

6. You should find that by organizing your apps, you can find what you’re looking for much more quickly… and hopefully freeing up some space on your phone by eliminating those unused apps!

Thanks for sticking around for all six blogs! I hope you will use some of these blogs to help organize and simplify your daily life. These apps sure did help me, and I hope they do the same for you.

If you’ve tried any of these apps in the past, comment below about your experience! Do you know of any other great app-organizing apps? Post it here for others. Have another category of apps you want to see in the future? Leave those in the comments as well and another blog post will be on its way!

9 Best Budgeting and Financial Planning Apps

In essence, these 9 apps are built to do very similar things: help you budget your money, make paying bills more convenient, and remind you what needs to be paid when.

1 Mint

  • Money manager and financial tracker from the makers of TurboTax®
  • Bring together your bank account, credit cards, bills, and investments, net worth, free credit score, and more!
  • Save time and money by keeping track of your finances in one place
  • Bill pay reminders so you don’t have to worry about late fees again!
  • Get your credit score for free along with tips on how to raise it

Download now

2 Mobills: Budget Planner

  • Create customized monthly budgets that work for you
  • Track spending and be reminded of it
  • Adjust budget when necessary
  • Add expenses, income, and make transfers on the go
  • Credit card management

Download now

3 Monefy – Money Manager

  • See spending distribution in an easy-to-read chart
  • Get detailed spending info from the records list
  • Manage categories
  • Synchronize using your Dropbox account
  • Simply insert expense amount… no other data necessary

Download now

 

4 AndroMoney (Expense Track)

  • Easy-to-use personal finance tool
  • Multiple accounts and support account balances and account transfer
  • Sync with other devices
  • Simple, custom budgets
  • Trend, pie, and bar charts for expense and cash flow

Download now

 

5 Home Budget Manager Lite

  • Track expenses, incomes, and bills
  • Unlimited accounts
  • Bills Reminder
  • Set budgets for categories
  • Statistics graph to see where your money has gone categorized by incomes, expenses, budget vs. expense, etc.

Download now

 

6 Money Manager Expense and Budget

  • Financial planner, expense tracker, and personal asset manager
  • Record personal and business transactions, generate spending reports, review daily, weekly, and monthly financial data, and manage your assets
  • Credit/Debit Card management
  • Instant statistics
  • Budget and expense management

Download now

 

7 Money Tracker

  • Advanced personal finance manager
  • Flexible reports with drill-down capabilities
  • Ability to schedule, enter, analyze, and project your expenses months and even years ahead
  • 8 powerful fully customizable reports with tables and charts
  • Photo attachments
  • Data synchronization between 2+ devices

Download now

 

8 Expense IQ Money Manager

  • Serves as an expense tracker, budget planner, checkbook register, integrated bills reminder, and more!
  • Track your daily expenses quickly and easily
  • Detailed and interactive reports
  • 12+ reports and charts to analyze spending patterns
  • Set monthly budgets to accounts categories and check their health bars
  • Get warnings if you exceed your budget

Download now

 

9 My Finances

  • Will help you manage and control your home budget and expenses
  • Ability to create color-coded categories and subcategories to make the data clear
  • Ability to manage multiple accounts
  • Pay recurring flat-rate bills with ease by setting repeated operations and frequency
  • Predicts your total income and expenses based on your planned operations
  • Tracks your history and follows your earnings and payments
  • Tells you which category(ies) you spend the most in to help you better prepare and save.

Download now

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I hope that these budgeting apps will help make your life a little more organized (hopefully get rid of some of the awful paper clutter). Bills are just another one of those things to keep up with. Let an app do it for you so you can spend less time worrying about when your bills are due, and more time doing what you love (in my case shopping… which is why I need a budgeting app).

If you’ve tried any of these apps in the past, comment below about your experience! Do you use a life-saving financial app that I didn’t mention? Post it here for others. The best part about apps is how easy they are to use and share.

To start saving money on your cell phone bill make the switch to Republic Wireless risk-free. Click the button below to learn more.

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Getting Smarter about Time Management

Time. There never seems to be enough of it, and we’re always trying to find ways to make it work harder for us. With busy schedules, demanding jobs, families, chores, exercise, rest and social commitments, most of us are stretched thin trying to put more hours back in our days.

And then there’s time spent on Facebook and other social media. Procrastinating. Sleeping in. Running late. Or a million other reasons we’re not using our time wisely. Fact is, time management is a learned skill. You just have to use the things in your life more effectively to help you get smarter about how you manage the time you have in each day.

The new school year is quickly approaching. Whether you’re a student, parent, or teacher, managing your time will be vital to your success this semester.   Below we’ll give you  5 key tips on how to improve your time management, and how your smartphone can help!


1. Jumpstart Your Morning

Put yourself in a position to make sure that the day ahead will be productive. Here are some things you can do to start your day off right:

Program your coffeemaker the night before

The programming feature is there for a reason. Because the smell of fresh-brewed coffee sends a signal to your brain that says, “It’s time to get up.” Also, plan your breakfast and have it easily accessible.

Put your alarm clock out of reach

One way to get going early to is to actually force yourself to get out of bed to turn off your alarm. Some great Android alarm clock apps that offer lots of smart wake-up functions include:

Go outside

If the weather permits, take your coffee or tea outside. Not only will it clear your head and connect you with nature – it keeps you from jumping online right away.

Plan your day the night before

Review your day planner before hitting the sack for the night. By thinking through what needs to be done the next day, you’ll start your morning more prepared to hit the ground running.

2. Create Better To-Do Lists

Lists are essential for making sure that the things in your life that matter – get done. Unfortunately, many of us put way too many things on our to-do lists, which can become overwhelming and work against the goal of completing your tasks. The trick is to treat your list strategically, by incorporating a few basic rules:

Keep it simple

Limit yourself to the most important tasks you need to complete.

Add quick descriptions

If you’re completing your task list the night before, a few words of description can help you remember the important details.

Shuffle the priority of tasks as needed

As you work through your day, you may want to move a task that isn’t as important but is easier to complete – to the top of your priority. Crossing it off your list can provide a necessary sense of accomplishment.

Android apps that can help you manage your to-do lists:

 3. Do More With Your Digital Calendar

Keep track of important appointments, social events, payments and commitments by adding reminders to your smartphone calendar. When the reminder is due, your phone notifies you with a sound or buzz – and a pop-up graphic. You can even add options to your reminders to tell you how much time you need to get to an event and the current traffic conditions.

To help keep your family or work group aware of upcoming events or deadlines, use the option to share your calendar with others – so that everyone is up-to-date and in-the-know.

Android apps that can help you keep your calendar organized and working hard:

 4. Limit Distractions

If you want to get things done, give yourself a quiet, clean place to be productive – and do as much as you can to restrict interruptions to your workflow.

Information overload is real. While the ability to get notifications from your smartphone about key events or deadlines in your personal calendar is great, what’s not so great is getting notified about non-essential items, constantly. Whether it’s Facebook notifications about posts, news notifications about current events, or available updates to your apps – these push notifications can easily distract you and ruin your productivity. Turn them off.

5. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is not only essential to life – it’s also essential to being productive. People who are sleep-deficient have a much-increased chance of storing fat and becoming sick, as well as experiencing a sharp decline in their cognitive performance. Experts say that adults should get between 7-9 hours a night, without exception, to ensure good health and peak brain function.

Android apps that can help you manage your sleep cycles, drift off more easily and slumber more deeply:


Finding the time to tackle the important things in your life takes initiative, planning, and smart decision-making, especially in our fast-paced, jam-packed lives. By utilizing proven strategies to improve your time management, you’ll feel more focused, prepared and ready to get things done.

“Ok Google…how do you work?”

Your Moto can respond to your voice! We’ve pulled together a huge list of commands you can try for yourself.

Those new motos or Samsungs of yours all have the incredibly cool ability to listen to you when you speak. Simply by saying, “Ok Google…” or “Ok Google Now…” your phone can respond to certain commands. You can also record your own custom voice pattern that it can recognize.  Heck, it’ll even talk back to you sometimes and read your texts aloud. But how do you know what commands it responds to? We’ve pulled together a huge list, with even a few fun surprises that gave us a laugh. Just replace whatever’s in between the brackets [ ] with whatever you’re interested in. Check em out:

Basic Info:

  • How old is [the Dalai Lama]?
  • Where was [Abraham Lincoln] born?
  • Define [revelatory] (Or “What does [revelatory] mean?”)
  • What time is it in [France]?
  • Search for [cooking tips].
  • Show me pictures of [the Italian countryside].
  • Do I need an umbrella today? Do I need a jacket? What’s the weather like? What’s the weather in [New York] [this weekend]?
  • What’s the [Red Hat] stock price? What is [Uber] trading at?
  • What’s [15 yards] in [miles]? What is [16 ounces] in [liters]?
  • What’s [180] divided by [6]? (tons of math equations work.)
  • What’s up? (tells you what is new on your notification bar.)

Smartphone control:

  • Open [Republicwireless.com].
  • Take a picture or Take a photo.
  • Record a video.
  • Open [Pandora].

Getting stuff done:

  • What’s the tip for [148 dollars]?
  • Set an alarm for [8:30 am].
  • Set a timer for [15 minutes].
  • Create a calendar event: [Lunch with mom, Wednesday at noon].
  • Remind me to [buy a birthday gift at 11am] (Locations also work. Try saying: Remind me to [buy a birthday gift at The Lego Store at 11am].)
  • What is my schedule for tomorrow? (also: What does my day look like [Monday]?)
  • Where’s my package? (*Note: This only works if your package tracking info is stored in your Gmail)
  • Make a note: [pay my bills]. (You can also try “Note to self: “)
  • Find [Susan Gilespie’s] [phone number]. (Works with all info in your contacts – addresses, birthdays, etc.)

Communication:       

  • Call [Fred] (also works with relationships: Call [brother].)
  • Text [Fran] [Hey! Thanks for inviting me to the party. I had a blast!] (also works with relationships: Text [Dad] [Sorry for wrecking the car…Please don’t ban me from the house].)
  • Send email to [Luke Skywalker], subject, [Using the force], message, [Trust your instincts. Do or do not! There is no try].
  • Post to [Twitter]: [Way to be a Jedi Luke! Thanks for dealing with that Vader jerk].

Travel:

  • Where is the nearest [Mexican restaurant]?
  • Navigate to [Centennial Campus, Raleigh].
  • Directions to [Umstead Park] by [foot] (also try “Directions home” or “How do I get home?”).
  • Where is [Empire State Building]?
  • Show me the menu for [American Meltdown].
  • Call [the NC Museum of Art].
  • Show me my flight info.
  • Where’s my hotel?
  • What are some attractions around here?
  • How do you say [good night] in [Portuguese]?
  • What is [100 pesos] in [dollars]?
  • What’s the flight status of [Jet Blue] flight [932]?
  • Show me restaurants near my hotel -or- Give me directions back to my hotel (*Note: only works if your hotel confirmation info was sent to your Gmail account).                                    

Are you not entertained?!

  • Play some music (opens “I’m feeling lucky” radio station in Google Play Music).
  • Next Song / Pause Song.
  • Play [Happy] (songs must be in Google Play Music on your device).
  • Watch [Game of Thrones] (movies and TV shows must be in your Google Play account).
  • What’s this song?
  • Listen to TV.
  • What songs do [The Black Keys] sing?
  • Read [The Forever War].
  • Did the [Cubs] win today? What’s the score in the [Mets] game?
  • What movies are playing [tonight]? Where is [Guardians of the Galaxy] playing?

Fun surprises:

Make sure to turn your sound up for these…

  • What is the answer to life, the universe, and everything?
  • What is the loneliest number?
  • It can also do math: What is the answer to life, the universe, and everything minus the loneliest number?
  • What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?
  • Do a barrel roll!
  • Askew / Tilt.
  • Go go Gadget [Spotify].
  • When am I?
  • Make me a sandwich.
  • Sudo make me a sandwich.
  • Who’s on first?
  • Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right.
  • Tell me a joke.
  • Who are you?
  • Beam me up, Scotty!
  • What is [Jennifer Lawrence’s] Bacon number? (as in “seven degrees of Kevin Bacon”).
  • What does the fox say?

So there you have it. These commands should keep you talking to your phone for days. Please feel free to add any commands you come across in our comments section below. Thanks and happy talking.