Life hacks: Save time, money

Use old phone for surveillance, learn how to replace key fob

You've seen the memes, the internet articles-- all proclaiming to tell you different "life hacks".

News 6 found three different ways you can hack common problems-- to save time and money.

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Keeping your home and family safe is a top priority. But paying top dollar for a home security system isn't always an option.

There is a budget-friendly way to keep an eye on your home while you're away using something you may already own: an old smartphone.

These days, it's common for many of us to throw phones we no longer use into the family junk drawer.

If that phone has a camera and Wi-Fi capability, it could find new purpose.

All you have to do is charge the phone, connect the Wi-Fi and download an app that can turn that phone into a surveillance camera.

"You need this app that you download on the phone which is able to activate the camera on your phone to take images and videos," said Pranav Bhounsule, a University of Texas at San Antonio mechanical engineering professor.

There are many apps on the market that offer the surveillance camera feature. Bhounsule says it's important to select one that has security features.

"It needs to be saying something like its Wi-Fi secure or the data is encrypted so that people, like hackers, can't get into the data and look at what you're looking at," he said.

Some of the apps available enable the phone to start recording images and video when motion is detected in your house.

It then sends those images straight to the phone you're currently using, letting you know what's happening, as it is happening, while you're away.

"The software provides you with all those things," Bhounsule said. "It provides you with ways to communicate back to your phone so you can monitor wherever you are -- maybe at your office, somewhere at a business event."

The technology is not without its own vulnerabilities. Like anything connected to the internet, it could potentially be hacked.

"The person should not be able to get the password off that particular app. And if he gets that, everything is doomed to fail," Bhounsule said.


So pick a unique password. Bhounsule suggests you make it mix of lowercase and capital letters and special characters.

It's relatively easy setup for added security.

REPLACING A KEY FOB 

If you have ever had to replace your car's key fob, you know it can cost hundreds of dollars from the dealership. Manufacturers have a lock on the price, so to speak. But you can get around the high price by calling a locksmith.

We called a local Toyota dealership to get a quote to replace the key fob for a Sienna minivan. If we didn't have a spare and couldn't start the van at all, it would cost $583.67 plus the cost of a tow to get the vehicle to the service department.

But a local locksmith quoted us $295. That's a savings of $288; and the locksmith comes to you, so you won't have to pay for a tow.

"We go out to your location. We do it under 5 minutes, most likely. And we'll be done," explained Khaled Bakkar.

So how do they do it for so much less and faster?

"A lot of times they don't have the key in stock," said Bakkar. "But we have hundreds of keys in stock for every vehicle type that we support."

Most fobs have a key tucked inside for emergencies in case your fob battery dies and you need to manually open your door.

"This part right here (the key insert) costs about $75 at your local dealership. We're able to replace it with a brand new one at no cost," Bakkar said.

When you lose the only fob you have, most car makers require that you purchase two, even if you don't want to buy the extra one.

"We're able to cut costs by instead of programming two keys to a vehicle, we only program one," said Bakkar.

Be careful when you call around for quotes for a new key fob. Make sure you specify-- you want the complete price for the key insert, the fob, programming and any fee for the service call. Some locksmiths may try to trick you.

We also compared prices on a replacement fob for a Ford Expedition and  found we would save at least $135 using the locksmith instead of the dealership.

FASTEST GROCERY LINES

Americans spend an astounding 37 billion hours a year waiting in lines. That is time you could be making dinner, pulling your child's Halloween costume together or sleeping. It's why we are always looking for which line or lane will move the quickest. Consumer expert Amy Davis found some tricks to help you choose the fastest lane at the grocery store.

A New York Times article  recently offered tips for choosing the fastest line at the supermarket. We took it a step further and tested those recommendations to see if they really will get you out of the grocery store faster.

"Some checkers are faster than others," explained one shopper.

But researchers say by simply observing you can choose the quickest line.

If there are multiple customers in each lane, researchers say you should get behind the shopper with a full cart. They say the time it takes cashiers to greet each new shopper with just a few items in their basket and then process their payments will take longer than ringing up one person with more items. And they claim you can pick the fastest cashier just by looking at them. One line expert says female cashiers are faster.

We tested these theories. We brought three interns; Brittany and Vanessa filled their carts with 15 items each.
Robert put 30 items in his cart. They wheeled their baskets to two separate lanes. Brittany and Vanessa went to a lane with a female cashier.

Robert went a lane with a male checker. We timed the transactions.

The lane with Robert's basket of 30 items moved faster than the lane with Vanessa and Brittany, each with half the amount of groceries. That tip panned out.

It did not hold true that female cashiers are faster. In our test,  the male cashier rang up Robert a full minute and 13 seconds faster than the female cashier rang up the same number of items in two customers' carts.

How much produce shoppers have in their carts can make a difference, too, because it usually takes longer to ring up than items with bar codes. And if someone has a lot of the same items in their cart, you know that will move faster than a full cart of a bunch of different stuff.

Experts also say most people tend to head towards lines on the right-- so heading to the left may be your best bet. And when it comes down to it, help the cashier help you-- face all the barcodes towards the cashier, especially on awkward objects, so they don't have to hunt for them.

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