Archive for May, 2012

Hanging out with Rich Friends

Hanging out with Rich FriendsThey say good friends can enrich your life, but what happens when hanging out with rich friends leaves you feeling broke? This is a pretty common feeling among many people. You feel that you need to keep up with them in terms of paying your share when it comes to going out for dinner, going on vacation or just hanging around. Unfortunately if they have a larger bank account than you do, chances are you are going to end up feeling that you are spending money that you do not have and you may even begin to resent your friends.

How does this topic blend with home maintenance costs? It is all about managing money and saving money for other priorities. One of the issues we all have to deal with is about how we spend our money when it comes to hanging around with friends.

Hanging out with Rich Friends

Diverse Group of Friends

In my thirty five  years, we have met many people and become friends with a wide assortment of people from various professions. We tend to gravitate to groups of people who are in similar situations as ourselves from a financial perspective. While we hang around with a fun, diverse group of friends they are very different when it comes to how much money we have or earn. We are all smart, hard-working people, we are compensated very differently and we may have inherited different amounts of money. Some are high-priced lawyers, bankers and people of the corporate persuasion. And then there are those of us who are slugging it out in the service industry, fulfilling unpaid internships or freelancing for pocket change. Some have inherited from wealthy parents and really have no need to work while others are supporting parents who do not have sufficient funds.

What are Your Priorities for Your Friends

So what is the price of being good friends with people who earn significantly more than you? Surrounding yourself with financially successful individuals can be both motivating and inspiring. In fact you can learn a great deal from these friends and often be exposed to opportunities that you might not consider other wise. However, there are times when trying to fit in with friends who earn super-sized salaries can also leave you feeling jealous and insecure. Everyone wants to feel successful and feel that other people look up to them. At the same time it is all about having fun and enjoying the people around you without taking into account how much money they have. In other words there is a balance to achieve if you can define it and then achieve it with your friends.

Living Beyond Your Means

It is very easy  to live beyond your means when trying to keep up with your friends in a  social circle that has rich friends. Whether you’re splurging on a lavish night out or expensive wedding presents, there’s plenty of room for financial tension when budgeting for your friends’ expensive tastes. None of us want to be made to feel cheap or be embarrassed about how much we spend on gifts or dining out.

Sometimes, well-meaning friends can be insensitive to the diverse income brackets that exist within the group. They may not even realize that they are making some of their friends feel inadequate.  Hosting your birthday party at a pretentious resto with heart-attack inducing prices is one thing. But ordering a pricey bottle of wine plus an expensive  platter for the table and expecting everyone to split the bill is ridiculous.

Managing Get Together

Going to restaurants and parties can be challenging when you have rich friends. While you might order a salad and tap water to drink, they order wine and expensive appetizers for the table.  If they then suggest that the table split the cost of the meal, you may feel that your spending a lot more than you planned. One group friends we go to dinner with always orders desert with their meal and often do not even finish them. We have started telling the waitress that we want split bills right at the beginning to make sure that everyone pays for what they order.

This seems to work well for our group, and everyone feels free to order as much or as little as they wish because it will show up on the bill of the person ordering it. Parties can be the same. We always like to host dinner parties at home, while another couple are not good at hosting and are uncomfortable as a result. They are the ones that tend to pay for everyone when we do go out to dinner, since it is their way of paying everyone back for the dinners they have been to at our homes.

Never Discuss Money Other Than in General Terms

We can talk about all kinds of things with our friends even investments, but we never discuss how much we make. This is just taboo for most people. Although there is one couple who has a business that has become very successful and he likes to tell us how much money his business has generated a year. We are very happy for him since he started from nothing, however sometimes it can get a little tiring to hear it. The point is that circumstances change for everyone, sometimes good and sometimes not so good. We all need to look beyond this and focus in on why we are friends. Good rich friends will the thoughtful too and not make their less successful friends( in terms of money) feel uncomfortable.

If you have comments and would like to add to this post, please feel free to leave a comment which we will add to our post. Spam comments will be deleted.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that while good friends might be priceless, friendship doesn’t have to come at the expense of your financial security.


When to Buy Cell Phone Insurance

When to Buy Cell Phone InsuranceIn our last post we talked about, “Cell Phone Insurance – Do you need it?”. This post discusses when to Buy Cell Phone Insurance and what situations might justify spending the extra money on cell phone insurance. For the majority of people we believe that cell phone insurance is expensive and not worth the money. The amount of money you  would need to spend to replace it is not a huge amount so why waste money on cell phone insurance?

What Situations Might Require Cell Phone Insurance

Consumers who travel a lot and have a tendency to misplace things might be candidates. Business people who work on construction sites and could easily lose their cell phone. If it is lost on a construction site, it will either be lost in the mud, crushed by something going over it or just disappear down a hole somewhere. If you have a tendency to lay your cell phone down were it could easily disappear you might also want cell phone insurance.

People who get a cell phone through their business and use it for both business needs and personal needs usually can get their cell phones replaced at no charge, provided that it does not become a habit. Most companies have negotiated free cell phone replacements based on the total business that they do with the cell phone providers.  If you are a small business and provide cell phones for people in your company, carrying cell phone insurance is not a good idea either due to the high cost inf insurance. It is easier to split the cost of a replacement with your employee or the cell phone provider than pay for insurance for cell phones.

One additional point we would like to remind people when they are doing these calculations and making a decision is whether the insurance is tax deductible or not. Depending on your tax situation, claiming this insurance as an expense reduces the overall cost of the insurance, which just make it more palatable.

Fine Print Cell Phone Insurance Issues

Always read the fine print in a cell phone insurance coverage package. Will you receive a new phone or a refurbished phone which is essentially a used phone that someone else had? How long will it take to get a new phone to you? Days or weeks? What is the reputation of the insurance provider? Do they have a good reputation for paying on time and / or replacing cell phones quickly?

What is the deductible. If it is $50, which means you pay the first $50. Is it really worthwhile to purchase cell phone insurance? Everyone will feel differently about the answers to these questions and will make up their mines as to whether they want to go ahead with cell phone insurance. We believe that it is just not worth it based on all of these issues.

How Long will You Keep Your Phone

Some consumers like to replace their phones every year. They want the latest and greatest that is on the market. They are willing to pay for the newest phone. These consumers probably would not benefit from cell phone insurance. If they do lose their phone they do not want a replacement with the same phone. They will want another phone that is the newest release and may even change models.

If you keep your phone for a long time it is worth doing a simple calculation.  Calculate how long it would take to pay for your cell phone replacement with your insurance. For example if you purchase another phone it will cost you $150 to replace the phone you have. The insurance is $5 per month, then it is going to cost $150 divided by $5 or 30 months which is 2.5 years.

In other words based on this example, you can afford to purchase a new phone every 2.5 years if you avoid paying the cell phone insurance coverage. Every phone will be different in terms of cost and insurance, so take a moment to do your own calculations to see if it makes sense for your situation.

Let us know if you found this post helpful. Well written comments will be approved even with links back to your own web site.

For more information about cell phone reviews, click here.


Costco Tires

We really like the service we get at Costco and also the prices we get as well. Yesterday I took my car into Costco to have the tires balanced, rotated and checked for tire pressure. What a great decision I made to purchase my cars tires from Costco.

Not only did they have the best price at the time of very close to it, they also provide free tire rotation , free tire balancing and free tire checks for as long as I own the tires. When you factor this into the price comparison, this was the best deal. Oh, and I forgot one other thing. My tires are filled with nitrogen at no extra cost and I have to say that the tires have never needed air to be added. The tire pressure as been perfect for the last 6 months and over 10 thousand miles. This is why we spend money at Costco.

New Costco Tires for Your Car

If you need new tires for your car, this is a strong recommendation to visit Costco tires and check out the deals they have. They do have tire sales from time to time, so it is worth checking each time you go to the store for other things as long as you are not in a hurry.

Our last post talked about Costco Tire Rotation. You can read this post to find out how we actually ended up with Costco and purchased the tires from them. However this post is all about Costco Tires and the service level we get from them. One of the reasons we purchased the tires for our car from Costco, we liked the idea that you can go to any Costco tire store to have the tires rotated, balanced and checked.  In fact you can go to other countries such as Canada and still receive the same service!

Costco tires is by far the best place to purchase tires from based on price as well as service levels especially for someone who travels a lot and may need their tires rotated while they are en-route.  While some people never bother to have their tires rotated,  the fact of the matter is that your tires will wear more evenly if you do and Costco Tires makes it easy to maintain this schedule recommended by all tire manufacturers and car manufacturers.

Shop While Costco Balances Your Tires

By the way we just pulled in to the Costco tire entrance and they took our car right away. It was late on a Sunday afternoon, so it was not busy and there was virtually no wait time. We shopped in Costco while we waited and they called us to let us know that the tires were ready!

Well this will be a short post, but we wanted to make sure that Costco Tires is really a good place to shop for tires. If you have found Costco tires to be a great place too, let us know and of course if you have had a bad experience let us know that as well. your comments will be welcome as long as they are on subject and helpful to our readers.

For more info about the right tires for your car, click here.

Charges for Vacant Home Property Management

Vacant Home Property ManagementIn our last post we talked about having your home monitored while you are away on vacation or away on an assignment for your employer. Vacant Home Property Management is also important from an insurance perspective. The next question that many people have is what should they expect to pay for this kind of service. We find that many people do not have any idea of what this service costs and are surprised when they receive a quote. They may be already stretched when it comes to paying for their vacation and then the charges for home property management are added. It is just too much and they decide to pursue other ideas for someone to look after their home, whether it is friends or family. Note that if you are away for work related purposes, most employers will allow you to expense any charges for looking after your home.

What factors go into determining the appropriate charges?

If you have ever hired a repairman to come and fix an appliance, then you already know that they charge a high fee just to show up at your home and then for the time to repair your appliance. In this situation of property management, the property manager is not in your home for any significant period of time. They need to check the security of your home; they need to confirm the heating system is working and that there are no water leaks.

In addition they will collect news papers and flyers and perform any other special duties that you may need and have placed on your contract. This is what most people think about and consider that the charges should be based on and yes they are partially correct.

Most people fail to fail to consider travel time to and from your home. This can vary a great deal depending on where you live relative to the property management firm. In addition there are charges to cover wear and tear on a vehicle and gasoline charges to drive to your home. Most property managers must also charge the appropriate taxes for state or local provincial authorities. These charges can add up especially if you live some distance from the property management firm.

Charges for Other Services

Aside from the basic charge for a visit to your home to check on the security of your home and meet the requirements of your insurance company, many people require additional services as well. Depending on how long you will be away, you may need someone to cut the lawn or clear snow from the driveway. In dry periods, the lawn may need to be watered and if you are away for a long period, hedges may need to be trimmed as well. Most property managers are comfortable with sending pictures to customers, prior to any additional work being undertaken.

In one situation that we came across, a customer had hired a property manager for a year to manage a home. During that time the shrubs grew a great deal and really needed to be trimmed to keep the home looking as if it was well looked after. We simply took pictures of the offending shrubs and allowed the home owner decide on what they wanted to have done.

In some cases home owners will do nothing while others will be comfortable with the work being completed. This work is in addition to the visitation charge and usually is based on an hourly rate. Always ask for a quote prior to agreeing to have the work completed. This applies to all other charges, whether it is snow removal, pool maintenance and lawn care.

If you are concerned about the charges for home property management, ask the property manager to explain the charges and ask for several quotes prior to agreeing to hire a specific company. Also make sure you have a signed contract that clearly specifies the charges as well as the detailed services that are going to be provided. If they are not on the contract, chances are that they will not be provided. If you ask for these services to be added after the contract is signed, chances are that this will involve additional charges.

If you found this post helpful or have other points to add, please leave a detailed well written comment for our readers. Our objective is to educate our readers so that they hire the right company for home property management.

For more information on vacant home checklists, click here.


Removing Scratches and Dents in Hardwood Floors

Removing Scratches and Dents in Hardwood FloorsWe have not tried the process of removing scratches and dents from hardwood floors that we are going to describe in this post. If one of our readers has tried this we would really like to hear from you. We have a couple of scratches and some marks we want to get rid of but are hesitant to try this approach. We know that you should always experiment first in an out of the way place on your floor in case you screw up so that it will not be seen. We just do not have that situation and are afraid to try it in a main floor area. Anyone with comments?

What we have is a scratch from moving a piece of furniture across the floor. It is about 3 inches long and maybe a 16th of an inch deep. We have a rug covering it now, but really would like to remove the dent in the floor so that it does not show. The rug is not in the ideal place for us. It happened before we even realized that the bottom of the piece of furniture had a leg that could do that. My husband was so mad, he could spit nails. The floor is only a year old and we would like to be able to remove this scratch or at lease minimize it so that it is not as noticeable.

The Recommended Process

Removing a scratch or dent sounds pretty simple. The steps are as follows:

  • Wet the scratch or dent with a little bit of water
  • Apply a wet cloth or paper towel over the dent, and then
  • Move the iron in a circular motion across the towel for 3-5 minutes
  • Make sure there is a lot of stem being generated and do not allow the iron to stay in one place for long to avoid over heating the floor.

We were told that this does not work on all hardwood floors especially those with finishes. You definitely want to try this in an area that is out of the way before trying it on the floor in a high visibility area.  Older hardwood floors were the finish has worn off are probably the best to try this process on.

Applying heat over a damp cloth may in fact lift the finish off or at least remove the shiny look that your floor may have. Sanding with a very fine sandpaper or steel wool may buff it back to the shiny look, but not always. Try it first somewhere out of the way. I know we keep saying this, but we cannot emphasize it enough.

Removing Scratches and Dents in Hardwood Floors

Dents that have been around for a while may also have dirt lodged in the crease or depression. Even with the treatment above you may find that light sanding is going to be needed in order to remove this dirt. Before you start sanding, ensure that you have a plan for dealing with the floor area to be sanded after you remove some or all of the finish.  Sometimes you can match the existing finish and do a patch job which will be almost invisible, however again experimentation is encouraged before trying it on the main floor.

You definitely do not want to end up with a floor that has several colors or tones to it which stand out even more than the dent or scratch did.  If it does not work in your experiment you definitely do not want to try it in the main spot.

If you have tried this or have comments on removing dents or scratches from hardwood floors, leave a comment. Both of us will benefit and we will help our readers at the same time.


Recharging Electric Vehicles in Apartment Buildings

Recharging Electric VehiclesWhat do you do if you need recharging electric vehicles in the  apartment  building you live in. If the superintendent finds out and tells you that you are not allowed to use this electrical outlet, what do you do? This is a huge impediment to sales for electric vehicles that need to be recharged every night. It is just one of the many problems that the fledgling  electric vehicle industry is facing. In our last post we talked about how to provide an electric recharging stations. Also how the infrastructure needs to be upgraded. In another post we discuss the same issue in condo buildings were owners of the condo would not allow one car owner to recharge his vehicle.

Recharging Electric Vehicles – Issue

People do not want to be bothered by these kinds of issues. The supply of power is going to be the single issue that will prevent many customers from getting on the electric vehicle bandwagon. The car industry needs to solve this issue. They need to try to resolve much of the negative words in the press. These are real problems that need to be solved and unless they are solved, the electric vehicle is not going to sell well.

Apartment buildings are even worse in some ways because owners do not want to incur any more cost that will impact their overall profit. Upgrading the electrical system to handle the increase power draw and adding outlets in the parking garage, not to mention the electrical usage are big negatives for the owners. They are unlikely to spend money until there is some perceived advantage for them such as competition or profit.

Profitable Recharging Stations in Apartment Buildings

The apartment building owner is motivated by profit and if we are to solve the recharging station issue for electric vehicles, the entire industry will need to figure this out. However we are focused on apartment buildings in this post, so we will stick to that subject.

The owner will need to spend some money to install electrical outlets at a number of parking spots in his parking garage. He will need to make sure that the electrical system can handle the increased electrical load and may even need to upgrade some the circuits to handle this increase load. Load can be determined by the number of cars that would be charging at the same time. the cost of these upgrades must be amortized over some period so that he can recover his cost plus a profit. There is also the cost of electricity that is actually consumed.

With these two numbers the apartment building manager now knows what the cost will be to provide electric charging stations for electric vehicles.  He may or may not want to add an additional amount to this number so factor in his profit.  Sounds easy doesn’t it, but there is one more problem and it is very difficult to solve.

Not Enough Demand for Electric car Charging Stations

No apartment building owner is going to spend any money at this point for one or two vehicle owners that may want to charge their cars in his buildings. Right now he needs to recover his cost in a a reasonable time and he cannot charge all of the upgrade cost to one or two owners.

We think that this situation will gradually resolve itself over time as demand increases and availability of stations becomes a competitive issue. Governments can also help as well by offering incentives to provide these stations.  It may take 10 years to reach the tipping point, however we are very confident that we will get to a heavy concentration of electric vehicles that will drive solutions that are cost effective for drivers as well as apartment building owners and condo’s as well. It will become common place to offer recharging stations in apartment building parking garages.

The auto industry has to get in on this and start doing some of the things needed to help the industry along. They need many locations to charge your vehicle were you pay for the power at reasonable rates.

Tackling Simple Wood Floor Problems

Tackling Simple Wood Floor ProblemsThere are lots of suggestions available on the web about what to do with various problems you may have with your hardwood floor. One piece of advice that we always give to readers is that before you try something on a hardwood floor, always experiment first. If you have a left over piece of hardwood floor use this piece to try your solution on first. If you do not have an extra piece of flooring, then select a location that is out of the way and try it on that area first.  This is the best way to avoid making a small mark even worse on your floor and having everyone notice it. This is one of the cardinal rules of looking after any kind of flooring.

Tackling Simple Wood Floor Problems

The following are a few suggestions, that are untried by the writer, however they have been picked up over the years as potential solutions to hardwood floor problems.

When white water spots mar your floor’s finish? Add a small amount of mineral spirits to an extra-fine (0000) steel wool pad and gently rub the area in a circular motion. Keep the area well ventilated as you work. Do not overwork the area or you will remove the finish that is on your hardwood floor. If your steel wool is not fine enough, you could damage your floor and you may see scratches across the wood. Take extra care when performing this activity.

Heel marks that won’t wipe off? Adding a small amount of wax to an extra-fine (0000) steel wool pad and gently rubbing the area in a circular motion will often remove the heel mark. However once again, if you over do it, you can remove the finish and leave a dull area on your hardwood floor.

Food stains leaving a mark on the floor? Wipe the surface with a damp cloth, rub dry and wax. When removing any stain (from wood or carpet), always work from the outside edge in toward the center.

Secrets to Preserving Hardwood Floors: 3 Must-Follow Rules

To extend the life of your hardwood floor regardless of what the finish is, use  these three simple rules:

  • Sweep or vacuum often. Ground-in dirt destroys wood floors. To prevent buildup, clean floors once or twice a day in high-traffic areas, like the kitchen and dining room. In fact avoid placing hardwood flooring in the kitchen. It is a very high traffic area and pron to food spills.
  • No time? Cut down on sweeping time by placing a doormat at each entrance to your home. Take your shoes off and leave them at the doormat. Vacuum this area often. (Some estimates suggest that doormats eliminate 80 percent of the dirt tracked inside!)
  • Wipe up mud and spills immediately. Make sure that you clean all spills, including food that can leave marks. Wood is easily damaged by water.
  • Choose carpeting wisely. While carpets will protect the floor there are a couple of issues. The floor surrounding the throw rug or carpet will bleach over time from the sun.  If you aim to protect your wood floor with a rug, remember that rug dyes have been known to stain floors, and plastic backings may affect the wood finish.  Plastic or rubber backings may stick to the floor and be very difficult to remove without damaging the floor. Ask an expert from the  carpet store to recommend an appropriate  underpad as a safeguard.

Our next post will be about removing dents and marks in your hardwood floors. If you found this post helpful and wish to leave a comment please do so. We also appreciate any suggestions that will also help our readers as well. If you are an expert please feel free to comment.


Is Wifi at home for Me? At Home

Wifi at homeI used to have Ethernet cables running around my office to connect up several computers that I owned. There was no Wifi at home. This is from the cable modem that we receive our internet connection with. I even had an Ethernet cable running from my office out the door , along the walls and over to the couch so that I could multi task at night. This included watching my favorite show or at least being in the same room as my wife in the evening. While I kept track of email or played a game or kept up with Twitter and Facebook.

Now with WiFi all of the cables are gone and my wife is happier since there are no cables running around the room. She still is not happy about my multi tasking when we are supposed to be spending time together. Oh Well. It was pretty simple as well. The cable company came and replaced the old modem which had only Ethernet connections with one that had Ethernet and WiFi capability. I do not even use the Ethernet any more preferring to use the WiFi when I am at home regardless of what room I am in, including the office.

WiFi Products are Interoperable!

Wi-Fi products from all manufacturers are easy to connect together. The Wi-Fi Alliance has awarded more than 11,000 product certifications to devices that have been tested for interoperability. This ensures that they are good neighbors to other Wi-Fi equipment. This means that they won’t interfere with operation in other products that you have in your home. Or while you are traveling about outside of the home with your WiFi enabled computer.Many coffee shops now have WiFi for their customers , although some limit the connection time to 2 hours.

All Wi-Fi CERTIFIED products have been tested to operate well on wireless networks. They contain the latest security features to protect users who are connecting to the Internet over the WiFi network.

Is Wifi at home for Me?

If you want to avoid having unsightly cables running around your home, WiFi is definitely for you. That really is the main reason for WiFi. It allows you to roam around your home or office within specific distances and still be on the internet. Upstairs, in the basement, out side on the driveway or in the backyard.  Best reception for WiFi devices is found when you locate the WiFi in the center of your home or as close to that as you can.  Some people have had weak signals if they locate the modem in the basement and they are at te other extreme end of the house.

Everyone can use Wi-Fi, almost anywhere in the world, in coffee shops, in their homes, even at the office. We will discuss WiFi more for business in the next post. Home Wi-Fi networks act as a gateway to the internet. As well as they can connect multiple devices to each other, to audio and video content, and to the Internet via a single high-speed connection. A Wi-Fi network can connect a family’s computers, media and display devices together. There are no cables to share hardware and media resources such as printers, audio files and Internet access.


We think that just getting rid of the cables and being able to wander around the house or yard with your computer, your smart phone or iPod is a real bonus. You are still be connected and it is by far the most advantageous benefit for having WiFi in the home.

If you have similar ideas or thoughts about WiFi at home, please leave us a comment. All helpful and thoughtful comments will be approved. We will even approve a link to your web site if you provide a quality comment  that is interesting and helpful to our readers.

For more information about using WiFi in your home, click here.



Alternative Energy Businesses

This post is discussing the alternative energy businesses and follows our previous post about the renewable energy business  evolution. You might want to read that post first before reading this one since it is the 2nd post in a series we are doing about alternative energy businesses.

As we write this post, the big electrical companies are wondering if they are going to meet their targets of 30% power generation from renewable sources by 2020. The price of solar panels is coming down which makes home solar solutions more economical. Many government grants are either ending and not being renewed or they are being reduced which also impacts the solar panel demand. Finally the environmentalists are getting into the act and delaying or in some cases stopping the construction of solar farms and even wind farms.

Our last post discussed how the industry was in it’s infancy and had many more evolutionary steps to take before it became mature. But what is the average homeowner supposed to do? should they invest in a small solar panel farm on the roof of their house? Should the investor invest in one of these solar companies and hope to reap millions as the business and the industry matures? These are just some of the very difficult questions. One company we talked to indicated that in California, with the weather they get, they can pretty much guarantee a 4 year payback. In addition they establish a reserve fund that pays for any maintenance that is needed on the units installed on your roof.

Investing in Alternative Energy Businesses

There are also thousands of small businesses that have invested in training and materials in order to get into the business of installing and maintaining solar systems for consumers and also for small business people who want to generate their own power.

This is a tough business which is impacted by some of the issues we have just mentioned, but also the ongoing competitive oil industry. Generally speaking the higher the price of oil goes, the better it is for the solar and wind farm industry. If oil peaks and then falls again, this will take much of the steam out of the push to become independent of the Mideast oil as a country.

Watch Every Dollar

Having worked in an unrelated business start-up, the advice that can be provided is that you need to watch every dollar and only spend it when you are sure that there is going to be decent ROI associated with the investment.

This statement applies to everything including manpower, training, tools, vehicles and office space. With the industry in such turmoil, you need to make sure you have the cash flow to withstand any upticks and downturns in the business cycle and the mood of the consumer to get involved in the solar power generation opportunity.

With unemployment so high, this is not the time to pay high salaries, however you do want to have great staff. A combination of salary and bonus based on how well the company does is one way of tying the business results to keeping good people.

Consumers Beware of Long Term Alternative Energy Deals

Just the fact that this business is in its infancy should tell you that there will be lots of change over the next 10 years let alone 20 years. 20 years is the contract term of some agreements. The technology will change and improve immensely. the price of equipment will certainly fall as the technology is mass produced and the government subsidies will die out to be replaced with other potential market supporting systems.

The only way to protect yourself whether you are a consumer or a small business is to invest very carefully, look for solid ROI’s and short-term payback on your investment of 5 years or even less. Some people would suggest that even 5 years is too long in this volatile market.

We will be writing more on this subject, so please stay tuned for more posts on this subject and others. Comments are appreciated and your thoughts on this business as well.

For more thoughts about conserving energy and reducing your energy foot print, click here.

Living Pay Cheque to Pay Cheque

Living Pay Cheque to Pay ChequeWe normally talk about how you can save money by doing things yourself around the house. However we felt that this topic was so important that we wanted to post it here on this web site. If you can get your monthly budget under control and develop some savings, you will be at far less risk of losing your home. Living pay cheque to pay cheque can also be very stressful. Saving money around the home will make it much easier to survive a job loss. Read on and let us know if you have comments that would assist our readers. This is your emergency fund that you can rely on when a financial emergency occurs.

Living Pay Cheque to Pay Cheque

The following survey is a sad picture of Canadian savings habits. It also high lights the exposure that over 60% of Canadians have to losing their homes, cars and more if they were to lose their jobs. The blunt advice that these people need to follow is :

  • Save 10% of your paycheck every month
  • Have 3 months salary in  savings available if you should lose your job
  • Get your budget under control and learn to live with less money so you can prepare for the future.

Survey Results

The results of the survey follow and it is a sobering message for many Canadians. Almost 60 per cent of Canadians live pay cheque to pay cheque and say they’d be in financial difficulty if their pay cheque were a week late.

A new survey from the Canadian Payroll Association released Monday showed some troubling signs about Canadians’ personal finances.

The 59 per cent figure is the same rate as the one found in last year’s survey. It is the second year that the agency has undertaken the payroll survey.

Almost half of respondents to a national survey said they are saving five per cent or less of their income. Financial planning experts generally recommend a retirement savings rate of about 10 per cent of net pay. They should also hoard three months’ worth of expenses in an emergency fund.

Although they don’t appear to be having much success doing so, 60 per cent of respondents said they were trying to save more money than they used to. The remaining 40 per cent said they were not trying to save any money.

Impact on Retirement

“The most significant result of Canadians continuing to live pay cheque to pay cheque is its impact on their  personal finances and retirement,” CPA chair Cindy Forget said.

Younger workers feel especially vulnerable. 65 per cent of respondents aged 18 to 35 saying they would find it difficult to make ends meet if they missed a single pay cheque.

More than two thirds (69 per cent) of respondents said it would be difficult to find comparable employment with a similar salary if they lost their job.

For the survey, the agency interviewed 2,766 Canadian employees across the country. The survey is considered to be accurate within 1.86 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

It was taken between June of 2009 and July of 2010.

“End of Survey”


In case US citizens are reading this and feel that they may be better off than Canadians, think again. You have just gone through and are beginning to come out of a major recession which Canada pretty much avoided. You need to adopt these savings approach even more than Canadians, since jobs are more difficult to come by in the US than they are in Canada. If the past 4 years was bad enough, hopefully we all have learned that having some free cash available when you have an emergency can make a huge difference in your life.

In some cases having that emergency savings can mean the difference between putting food on the table or not. If you live pay check to pay check, and your pay check stops for some reason, there is no money to pay the bills or even buy groceries. Start saving now!

For more cost saving ideas, click here.


Cell Phone Insurance – Do you need it?

Cell Phone InsuranceEvery electronics store tries to sell you insurance for your new cell phone. In fact they try to sell insurance for just about everything you purchase these days and we were wondering if it is worth it? The consensus is that you should not purchase cell phone insurance, or for that matter any other insurance for electronics. There are a number of reasons for believing that this is the right approach and there are a number of situations were you may decide to go ahead an purchase cell phone insurance. We will try to cover these situations in this post and the next one, When to buy cell phone insurance. It will be out in two weeks time so come back to our web site to see the next post.

Is Cell Phone Insurance Expensive

Cell phone insurance to begin with is expensive compared to the cost of most cell phones unless you have an expensive PDA or smart phone. It can cost as much as 4 or $5 a month for some phones, which comes to $48 or $60 a year. I do not know about you, but I can use that money elsewhere! If you do lose your phone, you may have to go to the phone store and purchase another one at full price. However depending on your usage, your cell phone provider may partially compensate you for a new phone. Heavy users can get almost any phone they want any time due to the high fee’s they pay. Some cell phone providers automatically provide a free credit towards your next phone after one year so depending on when you lose it you may pay less than you expect.

Other Insurance Options

Depending on the type of credit card you have, your cell phone may be covered on your credit cards insurance. Usually they extend the manufacturers insurance by one year. They also cover lost or stolen items as well. It depends on the type of card you have. You must charge the cost of the cell phone to your credit card for the insurance to be active.

One thing we learned about out credit card is that it only extends the manufacturers warranty for the item, in this case your cell phone. If you purchase extended insurance from the store for your cell phone, you are actually covered twice, if your credit card also provides coverage. In this case it makes no sense at all to purchase an extended warranty!

Probability of Losing your Cell Phone or Having it Stolen

We really do not know what the probability is. However I am sure you know of or have heard of people losing their cell phones. In 30 years we have never lost one and none of my friends have ever lost a cell phone.  Electronics are so dependable these days that they virtually never fail unless you keep them for a very long time. They either work well right out of the box or not at all. So it is pretty easy to tell if you need your cell phone replaced under warranty.

We just do not think it makes financial sense to purchase cell phone insurance and pay the extra fees that are involved.  This applies by the way to all other electronics as well . Save your money to spend on other things. We can all use extra money these days and this is a way to save some money.

In our next post we will examine a few situations were you might actually consider purchasing cell phone insurance. Also what the fine print can say and deductibles that might be an issue for some people. We will have it out in two weeks time on this web site. Stay tuned!

For more information about cell phone reviews, click here.


Costco Tire Rotation

Just returned from Costco, where we had our tires checked and rotated. What a great service these guys provide. More on that in a bit. Approximately 6 months ago I went through a laborious task of trying to decide where I was going to buy a new set of tires for my car. I say laborious because I checked on web sites and over the phone for prices and service conditions. This took a bit of time to do and then I went to the two places that offered the best price for the tires and the best advertised service. My short list was America’s Tire, Walmart and Costco, all in Palm Springs, California.

  • Tire rotation was one of the items on my list, in addition to :
  • Price of the tires
  • Tire Warranty in terms of miles
  • Service level and knowledge of tires
  • Service after purchase
    • Tire rotation
    • Tire balancing
    • Tire pressure
    • Tire check up

All three locations that I mentioned above met all of the requirements and prices were pretty close, but you get a much different feel about the place you are making your purchase from when you visit the location.

My first visit was Walmart and although they actually had the best price, I was very disappointed with the service I received. Once you decide on the tires you are going to purchase, it is a simple thing to compare price, and service levels. However for the Walmart people I spoke to, this was difficult. They had a hard time getting a price for me and then when I asked them about tire rotation etc I drew a blank look. I really did not get a warm feeling about making a $600 purchase from some one who did not know what they were talking about. Crossed them off the list.

It came down to America’s tire and Costco. There were really was nothing wrong with America’s tire other than the national and international coverage they provided. They were really only in the US and their stores were in various locations. Since we travel a great deal we had to rule them out although we really liked this store, their service level and the technicians knowledge.

Costco Tire Rotation and More

It came down to Costco who had a very good price on the tires and also offered after service for free Costco tire rotation, free Costco tire balancing and free tire checks of air pressure and condition of the tires. So enough of the background on why we chose Costco to purchase our tires.

Yesterday we took the car into Costco in Palm Springs. There was no wait time. It was late  on a Sunday afternoon and they were not that busy.  All we had to do is to show our original receipt. They took the keys and made arrangements for the tire rotation to be done. Within half an hour the tire rotation was completed while we shopped in the Costco store.  After making our purchases, we found our waiting at the entrance to the tire shop for us to pick up.

My tires are filled with nitrogen and they topped this up as well so all in all this was a really good deal. In Canada, I would pay at least $100 for the same service, however I can take the car to a Costco in Canada and receive the same service.

We are really satisfied with our decision to buy cars from Costco! If you have had a similar experience, let us and our readers know by leaving a comment. This is a really great deal and really great service.

Vacant Home Property Management

Vacant Home Property ManagementVacant Home Property Management

We recently received an email from a client who was looking for someone to look after their home for a one year period. This person is with the armed forces and is being posted out of the country for a period of one year. They have obviously decided that they do not want to rent their home to someone while they are away and they also want to be able to return from time to time during vacation periods and other time periods. They need a number of services which we will discuss in this post.

Vacant Home Property Management Services

They are taking the right approach to ensure that their home is looked after while they are away. This is where vacant home property management comes in, regardless of whether you have a friend, a neighbor or a family member look after the home. There are two really important things to consider when you hire someone or ask a favor of someone.

First you need to always check with your insurance company to ensure that you meet their requirements for monitoring while the home is vacant. Failure to have the home monitored adequately could void your home insurance and void any claim you might have while you are away.

Each insurance company is different in their requirements. Some want the water turned off and they want someone to check on the home every day. While other insurance companies are ok as long as someone checks on the home at least once per week. We will touch on pricing in our next post, Charges for Vacant Home Management.

The second item to consider that is important is who you have look after your home while you are away. Regardless of who you have do this important task, they need to be dependable. They need to be able to always check your home according to the schedule you set and they need to be able to deliver a report to you after each visit.

This is so important because if there is a claim to you insurance company, you will need to be able to confirm that someone was visiting the house according to the schedule they require. Hopefully there will be no situations that require the involvement of the insurance company etc, however these same people should also be able to deal with these situations under your direction.

Choose your home sitter or property manager carefully and not just on price alone. Price is important, however you really need to make sure that you have the services you need. Most professional companies will have a checklist that they will walk you through to confirm all details associated with management of your home. After all, your home is your most valuable possession as are the the things in it. Why would you take a chance with your most important possession.

What are Insurance Companies Concerned About

For most insurance companies the major worry is water damage from leaking pipes. If you live in a cold climate were the pipes could freeze you are going to need someone to check more often unless you drain the pipes and turn the water off. Of course they want the security of the home confirmed each time, but the big worry is whether the furnace is working and the temperature is high enough inside the home to avoid water freezing in the pipes.

This is where a professional property management company can really help you. They should visit your home on a regular schedule defined by you and they should also provide you with a report confirming that someone from the property management firm visited the home and verified the security, the temperature inside the home and that there are no water leaks.

They are also concerned about break-ins, however there is not much you can do about this other than make sure that the home looks like it is lived in. Make sure that all newspapers and flyers are taken in every day and that the lawn is cut on a regular basis. These are dead give indicators to a vacant home.

Some home owners will also arrange for lights on timers to come on at regular scheduled intervals in the rooms that you use. It makes no sense to have lights on in rooms that you do not use normally. Have the lights and timers in the rooms that you use and follow your regular schedule.

In our next post we will discuss Charges for Vacant Home Management. If you have comments on this post please leave them. We love to get comments that our readers will enjoy and find helpful.

For more information on vacant home checklists, click here.



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