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CTCF.org

CTCG stands for Cara's Tips for Consumer Finance. As you may guess, this is a site that focuses on helping consumers wise up and make smart purchases, both online and offline. And as you might gather further, my name is Cara. I live in the Seattle area and work professionally in the Internet field. I am also an avid shopper who spends thousands of dollars online buying both products and services. The long and short of it is that I've learned quite a lot in my many years of being a consumer. This site is my way of giving something back and helping other people out there find the best information they can about shopping in an intelligent way.

Who doesn't love a good deal? I know I do, and one of the main criteria I used to decide whether or not to purchase something is to determine if I am getting a good bargain. But it's easy to fall into the trap of buying something simply because it is cheap. And studies have also shown that many people who buy inexpensive items actually end up spending more money because they buy more things overall. So like all things in life, nothing is simple, and to be a smart consumer, you need to factor all of these things in.

Streaming Services - Are They Worth It?

streaming services on the internet

Today, I'd like to talk a bit about streaming services. For many people, they are quickly replacing traditional TV and cable. They certainly have a lot of appeal, as they allow you to watch programs whenever you want. Streaming services like Netflix are largely responsible for modern viewing behaviors such as "binge watching."

The main streaming services worth considering are Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. For the majority of people out there, Netflix will be the no-brainer choice. Not only is it the largest streaming service by far, it also has the greatest number of original programs. And Netflix programs are, on the whole, very well-made and highly acclaimed. They include shows like House of Cards, Jessica Jones, Orange Is the New Black, Marco Polo, Daredevil, and other hit shows. In addition to originally programming, streaming services also offer previous seasons of popular shows on network television. This can include shows like Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Breaking Bad, The Blacklist, Marvel's Agents of Shield, Arrow, and lots of other popular programs.

In the beginning, streaming services did not offer the best picture quality, but this is no longer the case at all. All of them deliver HD-quality streams, and so long as you have a sufficient Internet connection, your viewing experience should be superb.

Most people have cable bills between $50 - $100. Streaming services, however, cost around $8 a month. The downside is that it's not live TV, and if you watch sports programs, you will definitely want to keep some sort of service that allows you to watch programs live. A possible solution is to use a new service called Sling, which offers 20 or so cable channels including ESPN and other sports channels. If you get a streaming service alonw with Sling instead of cable, you would no doubt save a lot of money. Many people are in fact starting to ditch cable altogether, and this has many cable companies understandably panicking.

So what about the other streaming services, such as Hulu and Amazon? Since they cost roughly the same price as Netflix and offer less original programming, I personally would not choose them. In addition, Hulu has commercials, which are completely absent on Netflix. For some people, Amazon Instant Video (the name of their streaming service) may be a smart option since it is bundled together with Amazon Prime, which allows you to get free shipping on things you buy from Amazon. In other words, if you shop at Amazon on a regular basis, you could probably save some money by being a member of Amazon Prime and using their streaming service instead of the one offered by Netflix. As for Hulu, it is in my opinion an okay service, but probably not worth getting because your other options are better.

jessica jones on NetflixWill streaming services and services like Sling ever replace cable companies? I believe they eventually will, as they add more and more features. It's been said for many years now that TV and Internet will eventually merge, and we are finally starting to see this happen. But no doubt, cable companies will try to stand in the way of this happening. It will be interesting to see how everything will unfold in the coming years.

If you only watch a couple of TV shows every year, and even cheaper option may be simply to buy the programs you watch. Amazon and Itunes both offer entire seasons of TV shows that you can purchase. They are a bit pricey, costing you around $2 per episode, but again, if you only watch one or two programs, then you will save money by purchasing the TV shows and forgoing streaming services or Sling.

Whatever you do, you have plenty of options on how to watch TV these days, and with the plethora of choices you have, we can safely say that consumers will come out the ultimate winner.

The Lowdown on Eharmony

Eharmony – it’s probably the most well-known dating sites in the world. Anyone who has not had much luck finding romance in their lives probably have thought about joining this service at one time or another. One thing that might hold some people back is the ticket to enter the game. If you want to use Eharmony, the cost can be a whopping $59 per month if you opt to pay on a monthly schedule. The good news is that the monthly cost does go down quite a bit if you purchase a long-term subscription plan, however, this can be a big commitment for some people. Another tactic that you can use to lower your membership costs is by using promotional codes.

If you go to some coupon sites, you can find quite a few Eharmony promo codes. You will find deals that allow you to save anywhere from 50 – 70% off membership plans. The catch, however, is that you need to sign up for at least 6 months. This can seen like a bit of a commitment, but in my opinion, it’s better than paying nearly $60 a month.

Before handing over your hard-earned money, you might want to learn a bit more about how Eharmony works. This is not hard to do, given that you can get a trial account from eHarmony by using a search engine. This account is available to all Eharmony newcomers, who are able to set up a profile, take the compatibility test, and receive matches without having to pay anything upfront. Also, earlier this year, Eharmony began allowing people to communicate with each other for free. The type of communication you do is called guided communication.

An eHarmony free trial is one of the best ways to get a good notion as to whether or not the eHarmony service is something you would be willing to invest money in. Eharmony actually made a few changes to the free trial recently. Today, you can actually not just set up an account and view matches, but you can engage in guided communication as well without having to pay anything. Although guided communication does tend to be a bit limited, it’s only by interacting with other members that you’ll be able to determine just how well Eharmony members jibe with you. Get the most recent Eharmony offers here.

One other thing you should consider doing in terms of eHarmony is setting up a free trial account prior to purchasing a subscription. The eHarmony free trial was recently updated, and here are the things you can do for free now:

- take a lengthy personality test
- get a free personality profile
- start receiving matches, based on the eHarmony compatibility matching system, which uses 29 different factors
- contact matches using guided communication
- create your dating profile

This is enough to get you started and determine if you want to use this dating site or try a different dating site altogether. Therefore, anyone who is still unsure about which dating site to join should definitely create an eHarmony free trial account before they sign up.

Are Mods Worth the Trouble?

coupon for volcano lavatubeA lot of people who use e-cigarettes eventually end up buying Mods, which are large, complex batteries that offer many different features like variable wattage and variable voltage. So should you get one as well, or should you stick to more traditional e-cigs such as the magma or lavatube from Volcano Ecig?

To be sure, Mods do have certain advantages. The most obvious one is that it allows you to highly customize your vaping experience. The question ultimately boils down to how simple or complex you want your vaping setup to be. Another thing to consider is that complex setups usually end up being less portable. A small battery that is the same size as a regular cigarette can be carried anywhere you go, but larger batteries, in my opinion, are far more cumbersome. Depending on how fancy your battery is, you may end up paying more money as well over the long run.

If you do get a mod, there are some nice ones at Volcano Ecig that are worth taking a look at. The aforementioned Lavatube, for instance, has an LED display that lets you know the current wattage you're using. If you want a mech mod, Volcano offers two such mods at the present time as well.

Although this may sound silly, the appearance of your e-cigarette or mod is something you should not dismiss. After all, vaping is something that most of us do throughout the day. Depending on your taste, you may want something that looks simple, or perhaps you'd like something that looks fancier and even has a sci-fi feel to it. Whatever you decide, it's important to get an e-cigarette that you're happy with, not just in terms of features, but in terms of its appearance as well.

When it comes to shopping for your e-cigarette, there are numerous stores you can shop at. My personal favorite at this time is Volcano Ecig, since they have e-cigarettes that look nice at prices that are affordable for anyone. I have not seen any vape shops carrying this brand yet, but it's better to buy online anyway, since that allows you to take advantage off Volcan Ecig coupons (currently available from http://e-cigbargains.com/volcanoecig/). If you're new to vaping, you probably want to start out with the magma. If you want a bigger battery, the Lavatube, Inferno, or Mech Mods are currently your best bet.

Vitamin Buying Guide

I take about a dozen different supplements daily. This may sound like a lot to you, but it was not by plan. It's just that I found supplements that address one condition or another, and over the years, I began adding more and more vitamins into my regiment. Currently, I take calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin B, Zinc, Rhodiola, and digestive enzymes. These supplements have helped me deal with many health conditions, including things like acne, depression, and Vitamin D deficiency. Thanks to the Internet, I was able to find out about which supplements can be used to address which maladies. Therefore, if you're currently dealing with a health-related problem, I encourage you to do as much research online as possible.

As you can imagine, because I take so many supplements, the cost can get quite high. I have dealth with this issue by using Pureformulas coupons and buying my supplements almost exclusively online. For simple vitamins like Vitamin D or E, you can purchase from the local grocery store if you're in a pinch. But in almost all cases, I find that if I buy from a dedicated online health store, I am able to get a superior brand for less money. For the moment, I really like Pureformulas, because they have a really wide selection of excellent products. I also like the fact that they offer free shipping on all orders, no matter how small. This is a great benefit to me, since I sometimes only need to buy 1 bottle of a certain product. Go to the following link if you want to get the most recent Pureformulas discount.

Use Inkfarm for Cheap Ink

image of ink on top of a deskSo far, I've talked about ecigs, vitamins, and many things health-related in the past. Today, I'll be taking a bit of a detour and talking about a topic that may not sound too interesting at first blush: printer ink.

I really do not like ink cartridges. They are bad for the environment and as we move more and more into the information age, they seem to be relics of the past. But with all of that said, there is no denial of the fact that a certain amount of printing is still necessary. While I try to minimize my printing as much as possible, I still find that I need to buy new ink cartridges on a fairly regular schedule. My dislike of inkjet cartridges also has something to do with the unfortunate reality that ink cartridges, on the whole, are relatively pricey.

The ultimate solution for me came when I began buying printer ink online. This opened the door to two really great things.

1) I was able to purchase ink at prices that were way lower than what I was accustomed to paying. The savings were not insignificant either. Using top ink stores like Inkfarm, I regularly save 10% - 20% off retail prices. I can decrease prices even further using Inkfarm Coupons, of which there are quite a few. Just go to http://inkjetprinterdiscounts.com/inkfarm.php to claim some for yourself.

2) I was able to routinely get my hands on high quality, remanufactured cartridges. As you may have learned the hard way, it's often not the best idea to buy remanufactured cartridges, as many of them malfunction or otherwise do not work quite as advertised. But when you buy professionally refilled cartridges like the ones that Inkfarm offers, this problem pretty much goes away altogether. As an added bonus, remanufactured cartridges are better for the environment, and cost less as well.

I look forward to the day when we will stop using ink and paper altogether. This will not only save trees, but will save us all a lot of money. Not to mention the fact that it will be more convenient as well. By using paper, I believe space will be conserved as well. I no longer need to buy new bookshelves after switching to reading e-books. This has reduced clutter for me, and I hope that soon, I will have no need for a printer either.

A Guide to Canvas Prints and Other Types of Printing

Do you like paintings on canvases? If so, you may love canvas prints. A canvas print is similar to a painting in that is printed on a canvas. However, it is different from paintings because it is not original artwork but instead photos or images you can select on your own. In some ways, I think of them as posters on steroids. But the fact is, canvas prints can be of just about any size. Some are small enough that you can put them on your desk or workspace, if you so desire.

If you've seen a canvas print before, you will probably remember, because it can make quite an impact. First off, they are printed on a canvas, so the texture will look different. On top of that, since the canvas is typically attached to a wooden frame, it will be a thicker product, thus having more presence. In most cases, the canvas will continue onto the side of the frame, which is called gallery wrapping. This adds a nice little touch to the piece, further distinguishing it from other decorative items you may have at your home.

So how can you get a canvas print? The easiest way is to get a high quality photo, then use an online canvas printing service. For this, you'll want to use a service that has a good reputation, and companies like Canvas People come to mind. At Canvas People, you can use an online interface to upload your photo, make features selections (such as size, gallery wrapping, and any artistic effects) then place your order. The price generally ranges from $50 to over $100, which is not cheap, but keep in mind, you are getting a very high quality product.

The other option is to print your own canvas print and attach it to a wooden frame. This would be a fun DIY project for those who like to create things on their own. But it wouldn't be for everyone, and your first couple attempts may or may not work out the way you expect. If you decide to use this option, it may be a good idea to watch some Youtube videos to get tips from other people who have made their own canvas prints. Below are a couple videos you may find useful.

Canvas Prints, obviously are mostly a personal product, and usually not well-suited for business purposes. For businesses, more standard printing is usually appropriate. Examples of business products that are frequently printed are brochures, business cards, postcards, catalogs, menus, and other items. For these kinds of printing, I recommend using an online printing service called Printplace. You can receive some really good deals at this company if you use Print Place special discounts and coupons, which are available from Hotprintingdeals.com.

The takeaway is that there are many different types of printing, and you should select a printing service that specializes in the kind of printing you want to have done. The biggest discounts are available from web-based businesses, and you can usually find coupons online that will help you save some money.

Some Facts about Marriage

marriage at the beachRecently, I looked up some statistics about marriage, and some things were as I expected, while other things surprised me a bit. As expected, the age of people getting married has gone up over time. Today, the average age that males get marrieds is 28, while it is 25 for females. Back in 1960, it was 23 for males and 20 for females. This came as no surprise, since more people today go to college and focus on careers. This makes them more likely to put off marriage until they have established their life and careers a bit.

As expected, the marriage rate has gone down as well. It is in fact half of what it was in 1970. This makes me wonder a bit if marriage is a dying institution. I suspect that many people who aren't married still have significant others in their lives and may even live with them. I get the sense, however, that "tying the knot" does not have the importance it once did, and that's probably why many people choose not to get married even if they are in a relationship. With that said, over 60% of people who are married say they are very happy with their marriage, so it seems that for those who do get married, the majority of them end up feeling good about it.

Divorce rates are twice what they were in 1960, but the good news is that it's still gone down since the 1980's when divorce rates hit a high. Some people may think a high divorce rate is a bad thing, but I don't necessarily agree. Back when getting divorced was socially unacceptable, I bet a lot of men and women stayed in marriages where they were miserable. In my opinion, it's much better for such people to have the option to get divorced rather than stay in a bad relationship that just isn't working out for them.

The most surprising thing for me was that married people live longer lives than people who are single or divorced. So it seems like being in a stable marriage ultimately is not only good for our mental well being, but it's good for our health as well. If you are single or divorced, it may therefore be a good idea to search for a healthy relationship. One great way to do this is by joining dating sites like Match.com or eHarmony (If you're interested in eHarmony, I wrote an article about it a while back). In some cases, if you get the right coupon, you can join Match.com for free.

For people who have careers or who are otherwise busy with life, then online dating can be a great way to meet people in your area. It's much more efficient to meet someone on a site like Match.com, where you know they are single and available, rather than relying on random encounters where you often aren't even aware of the other person's relationship status.