Archive for August, 2010

Wireless Trends Continued

Wireless Trends ContinuedThis is a continuation of our blog post on wireless trends.  We cover the last three topics that seem to be the foremost issues for wireless carriers which also impact consumers no matter were you live. One area we have noticed that only a few consumers are beginning to become aware of is free WiFi. Instead of having to pay for your data, many consumers are now taking advantage of free Wifi to gain access to the internet. You have to frequent coffee shops, restaurants even laundromats to find free Wifi, but many business are adding WiFi every day because they understand that it could bring them additional business. Starbucks and McDonalds have certainly learned this and have embraced the free WiFi approach.

It does not seem to matter what country you are in there are five wireless trends that all markets seem to embrace at one time or another.  Some countries are behind others are ahead, however they will adopt these trends at some point in time. These trends are :

  • The decline of voice revenue
  • The data crunch
  • Mobile broadband

In some countries as well, particularly Canada and the US , the data crunch is overtaking the ability of the carriers to provide capacity. There is a tremendous cost to augment their networks, however they seem to be following in the same direction as other countries have. Using a combination of rates and added capacity they seem to be managing the growth in their networks. More on this later.

Wireless Trends – The decline of voice revenue

Voice revenue is under pressure because many of the new carriers are offering unlimited minutes or so many minutes that it might as well be anytime minutes. This puts a lot of pressure on the traditional wireless carriers.

Combine this with unlimited texting, unlimited data and alternate services such as Skype and WiFi, and you see potentially a huge impact on the carriers revenue. Consumers are not stupid. They are switching, they are avoiding long term contracts and they are looking for better deals which allows them to control their monthly costs.

Wireless Trends – The data crunch

More and more people are switching to smart phones  which are gobbling up vast amounts of data on mobile networks putting a lot of pressure on the networks run by the carriers as well as causing some consumers to have large monthly bills.

As more and more people move to smart phones, data will continue growing at a phenomenal rate. Email, photos and video contribute to a large portion of what is being downloaded or sent. The amount of data traffic will only increase.

There are ways that consumers can limit their data bills and carriers may even encourage their customers to follow these sorts of solutions to take some pressure off the wireless networks. WiFi at work, at home, or at coffee shops is a great way of taking advantage of free data connections, which helps the consumer as well as the carrier. Data traffic is channeled to landlines when a WiFi connection is used for data.

Wireless Trends –  Mobile broadband

The future is clearly  mobile! Consumers love the convenience and also the freedom to check their email, send text messages and browse the internet while on the go. Riding the bus to work in the mornings, half of the bus riders are checking their email or staying in touch with family or colleagues. Same thing on the ride home. Anytime, anywhere is the motto for most people for voice , data and even video on their smart phones.

Feel free to leave your comments and opinions about our thoughts and ideas regarding wireless trends. Spam comments will be deleted. For more thoughts about wireless evolution, click here.

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Save Money – Set a Budget

Save Money - Set a BudgetThis may seem like an odd title to write about for a blog that is dedicated to managing home maintenance costs. However when you think about it if you know were you spend your money, then you can make some decisions about what to spend and what not to spend. Developing a budget is one of the tools that can help you with this objective to manage your overall home costs. Get started and set a budget.

Save Money – Set a Budget

There are a number of guidelines when it comes to building a realistic budget. Here are a few:

  • Be realistic about your budget. Setting it too small or too large will not allow you to achieve your objectives
  • Track your expenses against your budget so that you can compare
  • Develop your budget with the family so they can help you meet your targets
  • Need vs. Want. Evaluate whether the planned expense is something you need to have or merely want to have.
  • Always look for alternatives and ways to save money. This can be the difference between meeting your budget objectives vs. overspending
  • Just because you have not spent all of your money in a specific area of your budget avoid the tendency to spend it anyway. You might need this to offset an over expense in another area
  • Pay yourself as well. this is important so that you and your family have some mad money to spend on dining, hobbies etc

There are probably many other tips and areas that should be considered when setting up a budget. Based on my own experience, these are the important ones. If you have tips of your own, please feel free to leave comments on our blog. Spam comments will be deleted.

Categories for Your Budget

You probably cannot identify every budget item that needs to be included. We have listed some of the main ones for you to consider.

  • Auto – including gas, maintenance and repairs
  • Insurance – including home, auto, life, health insurance costs
  • Groceries – self evident
  • Utilities – cable, phone, cell, electrical, heat
  • Taxes – federal, state, city, provincial taxes, property taxes
  • Entertainment – including dining, movies, shows, etc
  • Vacation – travel costs and hotel, including dining and vacation entertainment
  • Home Maintenance – this is a big one and the expenses can be large. You may want to draw up a maintenance plan and then decide how much you need to set aside every month to ensure that you have sufficient funds to deal with the major expense. These include – window replacement, furnace , water heater, air conditioner replacement, roof repairs, driveway repairs, fence repairs etc
  • Home Decoration – Allow some money in your budget for decoration and furniture additions or updates
  • Pay yourself budget – although this may be a small item, budget to allow yourself to spend some money on frivolous items from time to time.
  • Clothing – plan your expenses around sales and updates to your wardrobe. Take advantage of sales to stay within your budget.
  • Office or work related expenses – lunch, transit, coffee at work
  • School – folks with young children will need to set budgets in this area as well, particular for that back to school time frame.

Keep Your Budget Simple

Sounds like a lot of work to set a budget and track it. It can be unless you keep it simple and really assess if you really needs things or just want them. It can be very rewarding at the end of each month to know that not only did you meet your budget, but you saved some money as well.  Stick to your guns with the family as well and set a time each week to over how you are doing relative to the budget for the month.

For more information about cost savings and set a budget, click here.

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Wireless Trends

Wireless TrendsIt does not seem to matter what country you are in there are five wireless trends that all markets seem to embrace at one time or another.  Some countries are behind others are ahead, however they will adopt these trends at some point in time. These trends are :

  • Fragmentation of the market
  • Wireless substitution
  • The decline of voice revenue
  • The data crunch
  • Mobile broadband

In some countries as well, particularly Canada and the US , the data crunch is overtaking the ability of the carriers to provide capacity. There is a tremendous cost to augment their networks, however they seem to be following in the same direction as other countries have. Using a combination of rates and added capacity they seem to be managing the growth in their networks. More on this later. The wireless trend is still evolving and mobile wireless smart phones will gradually take over the way we communicate.

Wireless Trends – Fragmentation of the market

Although Canada is nothing like the US in terms of number of carriers, the Canadian market is becoming more fragmented all of the time. There are the main carriers such as Bell and Telus who operate nationwide, however even they have their regional strengths. Bell is strong on Ontario and Quebec, while Telus is strongest in Alberta and British Columbia in terms of numbers of customers and revenue generated.

Then there are all of the local carriers such as Videotron in Quebec, and a number of other carriers that operate mainly in province. They are posing a great deal of competition to the incumbents with their focus on establishing themselves and acquiring customers. There is a transition while these new carriers establish themselves and capture market share, however in the long run they may become self funding or end up being acquired by one of the incumbents.

As more competitors enter the markets regionally and even locally in areas such as Toronto, there will be more fragmentation.  Consumers need to be careful of which carrier and plan they go with. If the only make local calls, they will be fine in most cases, however if they roam at all then they may not have coverage or pay higher fees than they were expecting. We have enven heard of some local carriers not covering an entire city, leaving some people without service.

Carriers use a combination of market specific pricing and termination fees to attract and hold onto their customers. Most people will find that the cost of services will be different in various provinces, even sometimes between cities in the same province.

Wireless Trends –  Wireless substitution

The existing incumbent carriers have a serious problem. They weathered the loss of long distance revenue when the internet and competition forced significant reduction to long distance revenues. Now the threat is wireless that is posing a threat to this revenue stream. Many people already have or are considering moving to wireless only, reducing the revenue that the big carriers get from land lines.

Companies such as Mobilicity, Wind Mobile and Public Mobile who have no land lines do not worry about this issue at all. In fact one of their key market thrusts is to people who want to reduce their overall costs and move to a wireless only home.

Gen X & Y  are cutting the chord. They might have grown up in a home which had a traditional wireline phone, however as they moved out of the house they went to a wireless only service to reduce costs as well as to take advantage of the convenience that wireless gives. With family plans for wireless subscribers, a wireless service can be quite effective.

Canada is somewhat behind other nations. The US is ahead of us, but well behind many European countries. We continue to expect some serious cord-cutting over the next few years. As a result many customers will avoid signing that bothersome 3 year contract with the wireless carriers.

Feel free to add your own comments to our blog about our thoughts and forecasts. Spam comments will be deleted.

Next weeks blog will cover the last three topics in our review of wireless trends. Stay tuned. For more thoughts about wireless evolution and trends, click here.

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Electrical Work Around the Home

Electrical Work Around the HomeMany people are afraid to make any changes to anything to do with electricity around the home. They should be careful  and if they do not know what they are doing, should really call an electrician in to make any changes or adjustments to wall switches, lights or electrical circuits. After all, making a mistake can be costly in terms of money as well as personal injury. At the same time calling an electrician to change a wall switch or to replace a ceiling fixture can also be very expensive. This is a pretty easy example of electrical work around the home. For them it is an easy job and takes 20 to 30 minutes to complete along with travel time. So it is profitable time spent for an electrician, and an expensive hour for the home owner.

Electrical Work Around the Home

There are basic rules to follow when doing any kind of electrical work around the home. We will cover these rules in our post, however please call an electrician to do some of this work if you do not know what you are doing or are nervous about working with electricity. If you do not know what you’re doing, then hire an electrician.

Turn the Power Off

This is the most basic of rules and applies in every situation that you as a home owner will every be involved in. Always turn the power off your self and test the circuit to make sure it is not live before doing any work. In my younger days, an older person was emphatic that he had turned the power off. Fortunately I had been trained to always test that the circuit is not live before doing any work, so I touch the bare wire against the back of a stove first and saw the sparks fly!

Always do it your self! Pull the fuse, turn the circuit breaker off and make sure that there is no power on. I always turn on a light or some device on the circuit I am going to work on and them pull the fuse. When the light goes out, I know I have the right circuit and there is no power going to that switch or light that I am going to work on. Pretty simple, but it works and I avoid lots of other problems when I am doing electrical work around the home.

Match the Colors

Another tip if you are planning to do the work yourself is to always match up the colors. This means connect the white wire of the lamp with the white wire of the feed circuit, and the black with the black. Always attach the ground wire which is usually green to the metal box that you are attaching the lamp or the light switch to. If you match the colors you usually cannot go wrong, especially for the simple jobs.

Ground the Circuit Properly

The circuit should always be grounded properly. If you do not know how to do it, then hire an electrician. Follow the rule above and connect the green wire to the metal housing of the box. When your home is wired by the builder, all electrical outlets are grounded. All Switches and lights and plugs have a ground wire which should be connected to this metal box to ensure that the lamp etc is also grounded.

Test your Connections

Once you have connected the wires either with a Mar connector or by attaching them using a metal screw to a connection post, give the wire a good tug to make sure that it is secure. If it is loose redo the connection to make sure that it is solid. Once all of the connections are made, turn the power on and make sure that it works as planned. If it does not operate properly, turn the power off and re-check the connections including the light bulb if you are connecting a lamp of some sort.

Avoid touching Bare Wires

Even if you are confident that the power is turned off, it is always a good idea to get into the habit of not touching the bare wires. Secondly if you have to touch a bare wire, never touch both bare wires at the same time and do not ground yourself in some manner. With the power turned off, you should not have to worry, but some day you might just make a mistake and leave the power on. Following this rule will give you another level of protection!

If in Doubt Call an Electrician

After all of this, if you feel uncomfortable, spend the money and hire a certified electrician to have the job done right. Your house will be safe, you will be safe and there will be no doubt about any accidents or accidental fires from bad connections.

Electricians may cost as much as $100 an hour, but when you consider the alternative, the money is nothing compared to a burn or electrocution.

We invite comments from readers and suggestions on our blog. Feel free to make comments, however spam comments will be deleted. Also negative comments or obnoxious comments will also be deleted.

Enjoy our blog and look for more to be added every few weeks.

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