Posts filed under ‘Hacks’

Mason Jars Can Be Used as Mini Blender Jars

By Chad Upton | Editor

Perhaps this is why they call them “Blender Jars” — the thread on the bottom of the jar is the same as a mason jar. That means you can remove the blade assembly from your large blender jar and attach it to a mason jar for small recipes, quick smoothies, baby food, etc.

If you’ve already got a blender, that’s just a few dollars in mason jars. Otherwise, you could shell out $50 for a magic bullet:

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February 28, 2012 at 6:00 am 15 comments

Shirt Tags are Moving to the Bottom Left Seam

By Chad Upton | Editor

Most shirts used to have an irritating tag inside the back of the neckline. Some tags were particularly jagged and became increasingly torturous throughout the day.

The tags are useful because they displayed the shirt size, fabric type and care instructions. But, the shirt size is the only one that really needs to be there since it’s a convenient place to look when you’re browsing the rack for your size.

Thankfully, many shirt makers have started screen printing the size on the inside of the neckline. In those cases, the protruding tags are often moved to a more comfortable position — on the inside of the left seam near the bottom of the shirt. Not all garments have a side seam of course, but you will frequently find the tag there when they do.

I bring this to your attention not for superfluous trivia, but rather for a “landmark” you can find when you’re getting dressed in the dark. You may not want to turn the light on when your roommate or spouse is still sleeping, but you still want your clothes on correctly.

So far, this has held true for men and womens shirts, sweaters etc. Although I haven’t found any yet, there will likely be exceptions.

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January 9, 2012 at 2:00 am 2 comments

Baby Proofing Your Home on a Budget

By Kaye Nemec

For those of you with babies approaching the age of movement, it is time to start opening up your eyes to all of the dangers hidden within your once perfectly safe home.

Stores like Babies ‘R Us, Buy Buy Baby and Target have shelves full of products designed to help protect your baby from sharp edges, hot surfaces, poisonous cleaners, toilet bowls etc. Buying all these products can be expensive. There are ways to help keep your budget in check by baby proofing with products you probably already have at home.

  1. Sharp Corners – Once you start looking for sharp corners in your house you’ll be overwhelmed by the amount of foam corner cushions you need to buy. To protect fire place corners, coffee and end table corners, counter top corners, kitchen table corners, vanity corners etc. etc. use tennis balls.  Make a cut into them with a saw or very sharp knife and wedge them onto the corners.
  2. Cupboards – Your kitchen and bathrooms are full of cupboards that your little one will be curious about. The problem is, you need to keep him out while still being able to get in yourself. Store bought cupboard locks can be expensive and difficult to use (although you should still use them on cupboards with cleaning materials and medications).  To baby proof on your own use rubber coated hairbands. Just wrap one band around both handles of the cupboard. Bungee cords or the thick rubber bands often found around produce like lettuce and broccoli also work well.
  3. Doors – Trying to keep your little one from opening doors and getting into our out of rooms on his own? As you close the door, place a washcloth between the door and the door frame. Place it high enough so little baby arms can’t reach it. Even if your baby is able to turn the door knob, she won’t be able to pull open the door due to the washcloth wedged between it and the frame.
  4. Power Outlets – For a quick and easy way to cover up outlets use Duct tape or masking tape. Tape is easy for you to move if you need to access the outlet but difficult for your baby to figure out. This is also a great way to cover outlets when you are traveling and didn’t bring outlet plugs with you.
  5. Miscellaneous – Velcro certainly won’t work once your baby really starts using their muscles, but it can help at early movement stages to help keep some knick knacks and small objects in place. Try using Velcro to hold down remotes, telephones, household decorations etc.

Of course you should also move sharp and dangerous objects out of reach and use baby gates or barriers to shield off-limits areas. To make sure everything is completely baby proof, take a tour of your house on your hands and knees so you can see your home from your baby’s view. Look for objects that are easy to grab, easy to run into etc.

These DIY solutions are also great for friends and family who don’t have babies, but have occasional baby visitors.

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Special thanks to Daniella for suggesting this post!

Sources: Essortment.comFreeShipping.org

March 18, 2011 at 2:00 am 3 comments

9 Volt Batteries Contain 6 AAAA Batteries

By Chad Upton | Editor

The batteries in most consumer electronics produce 1.5 volts each.

Different products use different numbers of batteries to achieve different voltage requirements. For example, a TV remote might be designed to run on 3 volts, so two 1.5 volt batteries will provide the necessary voltage when connected in series.

Larger devices, such as radios with large speakers or large kid’s toys, typically have larger batteries, like C and D cells. Smaller devices often use AA and AAA batteries, allowing the devices themselves to be smaller. All of these batteries output 1.5 volts, but the larger batteries have much higher capacities, meaning they last longer. D batteries have four times the capacity as AA’s. So, if you’re going to be blasting music on the beach, you’ll change fewer batteries if your radio uses D batteries.

There are many other types of batteries that are not 1.5 volts. One of the most popular is the nine-volt battery, which is technically called a PP3 battery. Smoke detectors, garage door remotes, transistor radios and a variety of other devices use these batteries.

They’re pretty convenient, giving you the voltage of six batteries after only inserting one battery. In fact, that’s exactly what they are — they’re just containers that link six smaller batteries together. Here’s a picture of a nine-volt battery that I took apart:

Each of the six batteries outputs 1.5 volts, giving a total of 9 volts when connected in series. The name brand nine-volt batteries usually contain six quadrouple A batteries (AAAA) which are rather uncommon in consumer electronics but find a home in medical devices such as glucose meters.

Some of the lesser known battery brands may contain 6 flat cells which are not easily reusable. As you can see in the picture above, AAAA batteries are very close in size to AAA cells. That’s worth noting since they could save the day if you’re short on AAAs:

Keep in mind, device manufacturers often use standard batteries in their rechargeable products and you can replace them yourself.

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Sources: Wikipedia (Batteries: D, AA, AAAA, nine-volt)

December 20, 2010 at 2:00 am 6 comments

Coupons You Get at Grocery Stores are Based on Your Purchases

In the United States it is very common for supermarkets to offer discounts to shoppers who present their loyalty card at the checkout. Price tags in the aisles often quote two prices, with and without the discount card.

The loyalty cards are usually provided by the retailer at no charge. However, they’re not free.

Although you don’t pay any money for these cards, you do handover your entire purchase history at that store. Your information is often used immediately at your time of purchase to determine which coupons should be printed out for your next visit.

Marketers frequently target consumers who buy their competitors products. For example, if you frequently buy Uncle Ben’s Rice, you may get a coupon from Rice-A-Roni. The manufacturer is trying to entice you to buy their brand the next time you shop.

Purchase history may also be used to determine the dollar value of the coupons you receive. For example, if you normally buy Dannon yogurt, then Yoplait may offer you $0.50 off your next Yoplait purchase. If you’re already a Yoplait customer, you may only get a $0.10 coupon or none at all.

Obviously, you don’t need a loyalty card for the store to recognize that you’re buying Uncle Ben’s today, but it is important if they want to know if you have bought that brand before or if you typically buy another brand.

When you sign up for a loyalty card, you often fill out a short survey of personal information, including your home address. They say they want your address so they can mail other offers to you, which they may. More importantly, your address allows them to understand a lot about you, including the average income of your neighborhood and even how much you paid for your house. In some cases, these programs are run by outside companies. Your address will help them combine your shopping information from multiple stores, assuming you always use the same name and address.

By comparing your personal information with information about other people’s shopping habits, average income and other demographic information, they can predict which products you’ll most likely try if they provide a coupon a for it.

Many stores will give you their loyalty card and let you use it right away, then they send you home with a survey to fill out and mail in to register for the card. I can tell you from experience that you can use your loyalty card for years without ever mailing the survey in. Although they’re collecting your shopping history, they don’t know much else about you.

There are also studies that show stores with loyalty cards don’t always have the best price, even when you use your frequent shopper card. In fact, one study even showed that sale prices went up after the introduction of a loyalty shopping card. It’s a good idea to keep track of the prices of a few items you commonly purchase to see if the regular price is better at other nearby stores.

I usually shop at a co-op, which does not use a loyalty card but has better prices than any other store around. They even have better prices than Target on items that they both carry, although that is one of the few places I cannot use my credit card to get cash back — they only accept cash or debit, one way they try to keep their costs down.

It’s not just grocery stores that provide you with sponsored coupons. I stopped at target yesterday to pick up some envelopes, on my way to the cash I spotted a new iced coffee drink. From other posts, you know I am addicted to coffee, so I couldn’t resist. At the register I was given a $7 off coupon for Crest Whitening strips. I doubt the envelopes triggered that.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Sources: Seattle Press, No Cards, an Industry Insider

June 22, 2010 at 8:16 am 3 comments

License Plates and Headlights Increase Visibility to Traffic Radar

I did a previous post about how speed enforcement radar works.

There are two primary types, laser and tradition (Doppler) radar. Even if you have a radar detector, laser is the most difficult type of radar to avoid getting caught by. Laser radar gives officers a near instant reading on your speed, so you don’t have time to slow down before they get a reading on you.

Your best defense is reducing or even preventing the laser beam from bouncing back to the radar gun. The front license plate and your headlights are the most reflective thing on the front of most vehicles. If you’re not required to have a front plate in your area, get rid of it.

The next best thing is laser jamming, although it’s not legal in all places. But, if it is allowed in your area then you can buy laser jamming or scrambling units which prevent the radar gun from receiving a usable laser reading.

If laser jammers are not allowed, you have some other options. You can get plate covers and headlight treatments to help reduce the amount of laser light that is reflected back to the radar gun.

Reflectors on the back of your car are also an ideal reflector for Laser radar guns. For safety and legal requirements in some areas, you should probably keep these reflectors on your car.

I hope that some these tips will help you avoid some speeding tickets.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Source: Wikipedia Laser Lidar

June 15, 2010 at 1:37 am 5 comments

WD-40 Ingredients and Uses

By Chad Upton | Editor

WD-40 was created in 1953 by Norm Larsen. It was originally designed to prevent corrosion caused by water — the WD stands for “water displacement.” Norm’s 40th formula was successful and that’s where the “40” comes from.

The formula is so secretive, they decided not to patent it. This may sound counter intuitive, but filing for a patent would require disclosing the ingredients.

That strategy was good for a while, but many years later, the Hazardous Communication regulation required that ingredients of potentially hazardous products be made available to emergency responders.

I did some digging and found the material safety data sheet for WD-40 (PDF).

The main ingredient is Stoddard solvent, which is also known by its own brand name, Varsol. CO2 is used as a propellant and mineral oil is another main ingredient.

It was first used to protect the Atlas missile from corrosion and it became available to consumers in 1958. Since then, consumers have found over 2000 uses that the WD-40 Company endorses (and many more it doesn’t).

There is a popular email circulating that you may have seen. It states WD-40 is primarily fish oil, but that’s not true. The email also lists a number of uses, although the WD-40 company only recommends about half of those. Some of the 2000 recommended uses include:

  • Stop squeaks (doors, bike chains)
  • Remove and prevent rust (lawn mower blades during off season, cookie tins/sheets)
  • Remove gum, glue, ink and lipstick from fabrics and other items
  • Lubricate metal parts (zippers, tools, machines)
  • Loosen nuts and screws
  • Cleaning (shower doors, tools, lime stains in toilet bowls)

Check out the full list of 2000 uses (PDF).

PS – The WD-40 company has an affinity for product names with numbers. They also make 2000 flushes, X-14, 3-in-one-oil and a few other products.

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Sources: Official WD-40 Uses (PDF), MSDS (PDF), Snopes

June 11, 2010 at 12:24 am 4 comments

Increase Your Income With Your Credit Card

There are two ways to get rich(er): spend less money and earn more money. Both can be tough, but here’s an easy way to start earning more money immediately.

Credit cards are a real life game and depending on how you play, you can win or lose real money.

When you lose, your credit card issuer wins big. When you win, your card issuer still wins, just not as much as when you lose. So, if you’re going to use a credit card, then you better be winning.

Some people have lost and decided not to play the game anymore, they cut up their credit cards and swear off credit forever. Depending on your lifestyle this may or may not work. In many cases, you need a credit card to rent cars, reserve hotel rooms, book flights and buy online.

Credit card issuers make it easy for you to lose the game. When you apply for their card, they ask you what your income is. Once they know they can trust you, they increase your credit limit beyond what they know you can afford to pay back each month. If you take the bait, they start lining their pockets with your hard earned money. If you carry a balance, you instantly lose the game — if you want to be a winner, be sure you pay your bill in full every month.

That’s the first step to winning. The second step is to switch your card to a high dividend credit (or debit) card. Dividend cards pay you a cash reward for using your card, usually 2-5% of how much you spend. This might not sound like a lot, but many people can make over $1000 per year with this. (more…)

May 24, 2010 at 5:00 am 14 comments

Keeping Secrets Safe at Home

You probably have things in your home that you want to keep safe: cash, checks, credit cards, jewelry, computer data, documents and other valuables.

In case of fire or theft, the best place to put them is in a fireproof safe. This might sound like overkill, but affordable models start around $30.

Safes are an obvious place to put valuables, so you want a bolt-down model — thieves don’t usually have time to open a safe during a robbery but they’ll want to take it with them and open it later.

If you’re looking for a less obvious hiding place, there are many options. You can buy “diversion safes” that look like everyday objects such as: canned food, bleach, candles, books, clocks and many other items.

If you’re going to use one of these safes then you should store it with other similar items; it doesn’t work well if there is a can of fruit in your sock drawer.

The fake bleach container and candle are both good since there are many places you might find those in your house. The bleach container could make a good hiding spot for the spare key in your garage.

The other thing about these “safes” is that they’re not always that safe. For example, they’re not fireproof and they’re very easy to get into, but they can be useful for storing a bit of spare cash when thin-mint go on sale.

If you don’t want to buy a diversion safe, you can make your own. Pringles cans work well.

Sometimes, it just comes down to location. Reader’s Digest interviewed a number of convicted burglars to find out their secrets to successful home robberies and among other things, the robbers revealed that they rarely ever go into kids rooms. Simply putting stuff in your kids rooms may be secure enough, although you may never find it again either.

The same interviews revealed that robbers don’t go near your house if they see a flickering TV or hear a radio because that’s a sure sign that somebody is home. You can buy a small device that emulates a flickering TV and it’s much cheaper to buy and operate on a timer than a real TV.

Although these hiding places would be great for an Easter egg hunt, they shouldn’t be used for really valuable items. The best place for that stuff is in a proper safe, safety deposit box or federally insured instrument such as a bank account.

Broken Secrets | Written By: Chad Upton

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Sources: Reader’s Digest, Reader’s Digest, FakeTV.com

April 28, 2010 at 12:31 am Leave a comment

Use Your Watch as a Compass

I remember in third grade science class, my teacher asked for a helper who had a watch with a second hand. I volunteered because my watch had two hands, the first one and the second one. I was really embarrassed when she explained that the second hand was actually a third hand that measured seconds.

Watches are more jewelry than necessity these days. Many young people don’t wear watches because their cell phone keeps the time. But, if you do have an analog watch, you can use it as a compass. If you don’t have an analog watch, you can draw one in the dirt or picture it in your mind.

Let’s say you’re lost in the woods, or maybe you’re just lost on Wood street in Chicago. You know it’s getting close to dinner time and you were going to meet your friend by the lake for dinner. You know the lake is East, but you don’t know which way that is. So, you think back to this post on BrokenSecrets.com. (more…)

April 22, 2010 at 12:12 am 5 comments

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