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Family Websites and Services I’ll Use In 2007

Jan04

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Inspired by TechCrunch’s list of “Web 2.0 Companies I Couldn’t Live Without“, I decided to come up with my own list of the services, products and websites I predict I’ll use the most this year.
You know what would make me even happier? If you had your own predictions you could share in the comments I would be thrilled because productivity is a major theme of my year and I can use all the help I can get.
Flickr
qoop_flickr_logo.gifI always liked Flickr, I liked the ease of uploading my images there and the ease of browsing other’s pictures. I liked how I could share my images with friends and family and read their comments. I liked using their ‘notes’ to make a little boy in my son’s preschool class appear to drop the F-word. (Advice: Don’t do this!) But Flickr and I could only be ‘friends’ because I couldn’t make prints there so I had to ‘see other people’. Last year that all changed and Flickr and I are going exclusive this year.
I’ve resolved to keep up with my yearly family albums (which are all blank after 2004 when I bought my first digital camera) and also print and display more of my shots around the house, replacing the shots which have been displayed for 5-8 years. It’s as though we stopped being visible as a family once the kids stopped crawling and we went digital. Since I already upload my full size images to Flickr, starting now I’m ordering images for my albums once a month. I’ll also use Quoop to make special albums of events, like my trip to Amsterdam and the cabin up north last year.
Netflix
netflix.jpgNetflix isn’t new, but it’s essential for me because I have a disorder. I am incapable of driving 2 blocks west and giving back my movie rentals on time. Hollywood Video saw a major decrease in revenue the first year The Summers joined Netflix simply because they lost about $532K in late fees from my family alone. I’m sure there were graphs and board room discussions with executives frantically asking,”What’s happening to our Michigan market!?”
With our $17.99 a month membership, we get three videos at a time and last year Netflix allowed us to allocate one dvd to each member of our family. This is nice because sometimes our queue would get out of order and we’d have three Disney movies featuring Lindsay Lohan at once (kids) and there’s nothing like sitting down to choose between three dvds you’d rather use as coasters than watch.
Honorable Wishful Thinking Mention: I’d give up Netflix for Tivo any day. My husband disagrees.
Trulia, Zillow and Family Watchdog
trulia-real-estate-.gifI had to make this entire section encompass all my real estate obsession, because as my husband put it, “This is not the “Things I’m Driving Myself (And Everyone Around Me) Crazy With In 2007″ list.” Fine. But it’s true we’re getting ready to sell our house, which is not perfect, in an incredible buyer’s market. So I’ve been frantically using Trulia’s real estate search engine to find houses up for sale. I like Trulia because it maps out almost all the properties, and often links to more pictures than Realtor.com, so I don’t have to drive my realtor insane with MLS numbers to look up for me from now until our house finally sells.
zillow.jpgZillow is the other real estate site I’ve had bookmarked for a year. Zillow let’s me see how much a house sold for last, how much comparable homes in the area are going for and I can also track the rough value of my home. This allows me to kick myself several times a month for not insisting we move a year ago when property values were about 40% higher. Thank You, Struggling Automotive Industry!
familywatchdog.jpgThen, if we ever do sell our home (positive thinking), I’ll be plugging the address of any homes we look at into Family Watchdog to check for sex offenders living nearby. I like this site over my state’s public registry site because it plots out the location of offenders and clearly labels their crimes as against children or not. I know there are a few ways of looking at the sex offender registries and I know sex offenders have to live somewhere once they’ve served their time. I just don’t really want to attend a neighborhood block party with a child rapist. I mean, if I can avoid it.
United States Postal Service
usps.gifThe post office in my town is really busy and there’s always a homeless guy outside screaming four letter insults at people as they enter the building. I don’t mind it if I’m alone but I’m not really ready to explain to Max what a “B*t*ch *ss Ho M*ther F#c*er” is. I know, that’s so suburban of me.
So I use the Post Office site to order stamps and to print postage for packages I need to send (get yourself a scale….$20 on Ebay). All your postage needs without the colorful language!
Honorable Mention: If I procrastinate ordering and have mail to send, some banks offer stamps at their ATMs.
More Thyme
morethyme.jpgContrary to the evidence of our dinner table for most of the last year, I don’t actually want to feed my kids pasta every night for dinner. I’ve been trying, for almost five years, to come up with 7-10 meals which make up my repetoire so that I can make them without reading a recipe and without forgetting any ingredients at the market.
I think I’m missing that gene because I still don’t have a handful of meals I can prepare. For as little as $4 a month, More Thyme will help you plan your meals each week. Using your own recipes or theirs, you can easily fill your calendar with menus and let them give you a shopping list. Unofficial goal: make good food for my family more often than not (pasta with butter is not a complete dinner).
Fishing For Deals
fishing_for_deals.jpgI’m afraid to tell you about this site I use pretty much every day, because you may take all the good deals from me and I can’t have that. Fishing For Deals has a message board called ‘Catch of the Day’ where members share the deals they find around the web.
It’s true, there’s often some unappealing deals to pass over (“Great Sale On Kitty Cat Airbrushed Sweatshirts Today!”), but I often find bargains I would never have caught on my own. For example, the Radio Flyer ‘retro rider’ I picked up a few years ago for $10 shipped.
Amazon Prime
amazonprime.jpgAmazon Prime has been buzzing around my peripheral vision for a few months now so I decided to look into it. We decided to take the plunge when I realized I hate going to the mall and I also hate paying outrageous shipping. For just over $5 a month (for 15 months), you get free unlimited express shipping from Amazon.
This will work out nicely for me as we shop for birthday parties. The kids get distracted by their own ‘wants’ and are very often totally overwhelmed by all the choices in the toy aisle. I don’t want to push them to make a decision but around hour two, it’s time to take the plunge. Online shopping means no toy store and a specific set of choices and so, no tears.
My Public Library’s Website
library.jpgThe last service I can not live without is my local library’s online catalog. I use it every time someone tells me about a book I must read or after I’ve browsed at the bookstore and found something I’d like to read in depth. Occasionally there’s a book I love so much I must have a copy for myself, but more often I’m only going to read a book once and since I hate clutter, why not just borrow it?
My library’s online catalog is set up remarkably like any bookstore’s website. You find your title (at any library in the over 100 member network), add it to your cart and request a hold. It’s delivered to your local library in 2-3 days where you pick it up. It couldn’t be easier. Well, except if it was like Netflix delivering the books to my door and not charging me late fees. Maybe in 2008!
What are the services, online and otherwise, you think you’ll be using this year? (And come back for products and websites I won’t be able to live without in 2007.)

About the author

Melissa Summers

Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa's Buzz Off.


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18 Responses to “Family Websites and Services I’ll Use In 2007”

  1. Phc Jan 04 at 8:26 pm Reply

    I hope it makes you feel better that Blockbuster sent my account to collections. Collections! All because I accidentally returned a home video instead of Sixteen Candles. I was too bitter to pay the fee, so instead have just banned them from my universe. I’m the better for it.

  2. lousoz Jan 04 at 8:46 pm Reply

    Tivo is an essential way of life.
    I think I would die without our dvr.

  3. Susan Wagner Jan 04 at 10:30 pm Reply

    2007 will be the Year of the Sam’s Club Membership. My hatred of All Things Wal-Mart has been tempered by the fact that we are CONSTANTLY out of toilet paper and paper towels and laundry detergent and bottled water and various other things that I might as well just buy in bulk.
    Also, I’m starting to think that this may be the year that I spring for a monthly manicure. Not for any good reason, but since I’ll be saving all that money on toilet paper, why not?

  4. MG Jan 04 at 11:11 pm Reply

    Amazon Prime is awesome; my Christmas shopping was a breeze this year because of Amazon Prime.
    Speaking of manicures, the salon I go to has a ‘manicure card’ that allows you to pay $80 for 2 months of unlimited manicures. If you’re a manicure-type person, it’s very handy. You only need cash for the tip and it’s incentive to go.
    I love using Drugstore.com for the toiletries and whatnot I purchase regularly. I make a list and when I’m about to run out of several things, I place a big order at Drugstore.com — orders over a certain amount ship free and they have a ‘cash back’ type of deal for repeat offenders (I order contact lenses from a partner site and I earn discounts there too). I’ve compared the prices and they are the same/less than Target or Walgreens, making it worth my while to have my face scrub/mascara/lotion/contact solution delivered to my door.

  5. Virginia Jan 05 at 8:31 am Reply

    I also use the Postal Store online – last time my 8-yr-old daughter and I went to the Post Office there was a dude wearing a t-shirt that said “F*** You, You F***ing F***” in big letters. I had to make her avert her eyes until he was gone. Anyway, one of my favorite online services is banking online. Most banks offer e-banking these days. I can check balances, transfer money, pay bills, etc. Saves me tons of time as well as stamps.

  6. melissaS Jan 05 at 8:48 am Reply

    I was going to mention Costco, except I don’t have a membership. I glom onto my friends and whenever they go I ask for dishwasher detergent (two big containers last me 6 mos) and garbage bags….which last me about a year.
    I am unable to control myself otherwise. Honey! Look I got us 4 pounds of spinach dip!
    I did the Drugstore.com thing for a while a year or two ago. I should get organized again…because I’d probably save a lot just by not entering a Target at all ever again in my life.

  7. birdgal Jan 05 at 9:59 am Reply

    My husband and I have the exact same argument over Netflix vs. TiVo…I want TiVo, he’s convinced we don’t need it (plus, it costs MONEY…hey, for that kind of convenience I think it’s worth it, especially when you have small children!)

  8. Coley Jan 05 at 1:25 pm Reply

    I was just daydreaming the other day about a Netflix type company but with books. Seriously, drooling.
    And my doctor’s office/health insurance has an online refill program for all prescriptions. Same price, mailed to my home. I hate pharmacies, so this is like heaven.

  9. mar Jan 05 at 10:00 pm Reply

    Coley –
    I love that idea about the book/Netflix kind of thing. I know, that’s what the library is, but to have it show up on your door – how cool.
    Melissa – I am a Tivo evangelist. I would give up alcohol (well, some of the alcohol) and chocolate, and even ice cream and pizza, and possibly my first born (kidding, son!) for my Tivo. It is the best thing since sliced bread, the invention of the wheel, disposable diapers, and marshmallow fluff. All put together. Seriously.
    Yes, I need help … I know.

  10. Jason Jan 06 at 3:16 am Reply

    Jason from Zillow here. I’m one of the developers and happened to run across this list — happy to see Zillow made it :-) Not sure if you’ve seen our site in the past month, but we just had a major release which now lets homeowners and agents post homes for sale for free.
    We’ve got some awesome stuff in the pipeline for 2007… keep an eye on us!

  11. Jen Jan 06 at 1:10 pm Reply

    Mar, I don’t think you need help because I feel exactly the same way about TiVo! It’s the greatest. I’d give up Netflix and a gazillion other things in an instant before I’d give up TiVo.
    I have to second USPS.com, too. Never having to stand in line at the post office ever again is a very good thing. And I just bought a $5 kitchen scale at Target to weigh my packages, and it seems to work fine.
    Now I’m off to register for Amazon Prime…

  12. Kellie Jan 06 at 4:38 pm Reply

    There *is* a Neflix for books – booksfree.com.
    I liked it but living in CA, it was taking 2 weeks each way for the books to make it to me, which is just too long. If I don’t have a book to read in that time, I end up buying a bunch of magazines to read instead (or spending too much time online).
    Also, I could live without our DVR. Could. Not. Live. My husband insisted on it when we moved 5 years ago, and I cannot believe that we ever watched TV without it. I would give up a lot, maybe even eating out and shopping, before I’d give this up. It is that good.

  13. Jessica Jan 06 at 7:09 pm Reply

    I have had a Tivo since 2000, and I justified upgrading to the dual tuner 180 hr one last week because it uses wireless, I can eliminate my phone line and save 45/month. Buying a new Tivo SAVES me money.

  14. MG Jan 07 at 12:06 pm Reply

    Yep, not entering Target is the reason I have started to use Drugstore.com. I get what I need and don’t come home with $25 worth of cute dishtowels, candles, tights and other hoo-ha. (I mean, I’m not a cyborg. I still go to Target. Just less often.)
    It (ordering online) does require some discipline and record-keeping, but I just keep a Post-It near the computer.
    Any site that offers free/reduced shipping or cash-back type discounts provides a big incentive for me.

  15. Lena Jan 07 at 8:37 pm Reply

    Hell to the yeah. I am shocked that I have not heard of either of these RE sites when I literally spend hours photoshopping my furniture into other people’s photos on realtor.com. I’m getting my little couch and bed cutouts all ready to paste. Woo-hoo!
    Also, More Thyme? Going there now-ish.
    Thanks Melissa! This is my fave post yet.

  16. Michelle Jan 07 at 11:42 pm Reply

    I love our public library site too, I reserve DVDs all the time. I’d love to check out the Amazon site, Thyme and Fishing for Deals sites, they sound great. I tried Netflix myself and thought it was okay, I did a comparison post between Netflix and Blockbuster (if you’re interested) at:
    http://scribbit.blogspot.com/2006/10/netflix-v-blockbuster_06.html
    but I think in the end I’m with you and would rather have tivo.
    Thanks for taking the time on a great list.

  17. Flydaddy Jan 10 at 3:16 pm Reply

    The library system in Portland, Oregon WILL mail you books that you have placed on hold. It costs $2.00, but since we live way out in the sticks, it is often worthwhile. I imagine it also must be a real boon to those who have a hard time getting out and about. Maybe your system will add that feature sometime.

  18. Sue Jan 19 at 9:01 pm Reply

    I use More Thyme. It rocks!

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