Life Style

Does the Property You are Buying Meet the Lifestyle Test

Does the Property You are Buying Meet the Lifestyle TestLifestyle is a very important criterion when shopping for a new home. After all, a home and its surrounding neighborhood are the places where much of your lifestyle is going to be experienced. There are many important factors which could influence your decision on one home or another. Does the Property You are Buying Meet the Lifestyle Test? We have listed a few that many people consider, however there are probably many more that could be included on the list. So when considering a new home, think about the lifestyle to which the property is going to lend itself.

Does the Property You are Buying Meet the Lifestyle Test

Ask yourself:

  • How much entertaining do we do?
  • Is it important to have good schools located nearby?
  • How long will the commute to work be?
  • HDo you want a large backyard?
  • Do we need a rec room?
  • How easy will it be to get to golfing, dance lessons, baseball practices, movies and other activities my family and I enjoy?
  • Is there adequate shopping nearby?
  • How important is it to be in a quiet area?
  • Do we want a local park nearby for jogging, playing with the kids, and walking the dog?

This list is just an example. Ideally, you’ll create your own list of questions to ask yourself when considering a particular home. These questions will be based on your own likes and dislikes. It will relate to the life style you want to lead. For example is room for a pool important or perhaps a home with a pool already? For more information about life style issues, click here.


Renovate or Down Size

We have been struggling with the decision to Renovate or Down Size for years and as it turns out so have many of our friends. The more we talk about it the more we find people are struggling with what to do as they age and are looking for something different. Some want a life style change, while some consumers are just looking for less upkeep work and lower costs. In the city were we live condo’s are being built but they are far too expensive to purchase and they condo fees are out of site. Instead of lowering your costs, they would actually be going up. The city is also in on the act and have increased the taxes as well on these units so you do not save on property taxes either, even though you end up with less space to actually live in.

We put together a list of points that consumers can consider if they are thinking about moving. Compare and decide which is the better strategy financially and emotionally! Fill in your own data and make your decision based on where you live and your own personal situation. Based on information that we have heard on TV as well as read about, other cities appear to be treating condo’s differently from a price perspective as well as a tax perspective. Your situation could be significantly different from the one we are facing. We have pretty much concluded that we will stay right where we are for now!

Renovate or Down Size : Calculate your cost to move

  • Legal fees
  • Real estate fees
  • Land transfer fees
  • Moving fees
  • New furniture
  • Replace appliances
  • New window treatments

Just a note about the furniture costs, do not assume that everything will fit in your downsized home. You are going to need to get rid of some things because you do not have the space and it just does not fit the decor of the new home.

What will it cost to renovate?

  • Make ready for senior living
  • Major maintenance issues
  • Roof replacement
  • Furnace replacement
  • AC replacement
  • Driveway
  • New Windows
  • New Appliances

Renovate or Down Size – Modernize

  • Kitchen
  • Bathroom
  • Window treatments
  • Paint
  • New furniture

Emotionally Ties to existing home and area

  • Stress of moving

This last point is a really big issue for many people. With friends and family close by it can be difficult to move away or to a new location with strangers and new neighbors.

The decision to Renovate or Down Size is a very complicated decision and if you are going though these issues that we just discussed, then you are probably not going to move and it is best to renovate.

Things Your Neighbors Won’t Tell You

Things Your Neighbors Won’t Tell YouThis post is about Things Your Neighbors Won’t Tell You because they are jealous or are mad at you for some other reason. “Complaining about your neighbors or complaining to your neighbors will cost you”. You will just be never sure when it will happen. How they will do it or how much it will cost you. If you have a neighbor that is difficult to deal with they will sabotage you at some point. It may cost you a great deal of money.  Always try to get along with your neighbors! Things Your Neighbors Won’t Tell You can cost you a great deal. You may not even know it. The following are several areas to watch out for.

Things Your Neighbors Won’t Tell You – A-List

“I will use your Wi-Fi — and might get you arrested”. Leaving your WiFi unprotected with no password is a sure way to exceed your data limits. It could even attract the wrong attention from the police. Your neighbors will not tell you that they are using your WiFi for free! Or what kind of content they might be downloading on your system. The police will eventually figure it out if there is really something sinister going on. But in the meantime, you must deal with all of the suspicions, etc.

“Good luck blocking out our din”. Noisy neighbors can be irritating. If you complain, you can almost be sure that they will take extra pains to be noisy. It could be always arranging to cut the lawn just when you are having an outdoor dinner party. Or perhaps having large noisy parties on a work night.

“I’m a registered sex offender”

No one is going to tell you this information ever unless they are forced to. Be alert and if you are concerned check with websites that track this sort of thing.

“We’re ripping up the flower beds and planting corn.” You move into a beautiful neighborhood and expect all the neighbors to keep up their end of the bargain. But then there is the guy who does not cut the lawn, lets the flowers die and the weeds grow! Your home is next door and losing value every time a new weed pops up. You may even have to call the city to get him to cut his weeds down and now you have a neighbor who only wants to see revenge.

“My bed bugs need neighbors too.” The garbage is not thrown out properly, your kids sleepover, rodents visit and it is downhill from there. But will they tell you about these issues or let you find out yourself? Their mangy dog is always in your yard and doing his business wherever he likes.

“I’m secretly stealing your land.”

Neighbors can encroach on your lot by extending flower beds, moving sidewalks, or fences. Unless you pay attention you will never know until you have your lot lines surveyed.

“Our bad behavior will give the whole block a bad name.” One neighbor can ruin a neighborhood and drop home values overnight. Imagine holding an open house to sell your place and they hold a huge party. It is always the guy on the corner lot that does not keep his property up and brings the value of all of the neighbor properties down.

“We’re not paying our mortgage.” They will not tell you that is for sure, but you will figure it out soon enough. No maintenance is done on the home and collection agents are coming around. As their home is sold for collection the value of yours is also going down!

“You’re moving? I’ll cut $20,000 off your sale price.” Casual chats with prospective buyers could cost you a great deal if they say the wrong thing.  A chat with a neighbor could cost you the deal or cause the buyer to offer a really low price for the home and make it difficult to sell your home. Remind them that lower prices affect the value of their home too and someday they will be selling their home. Real estate agents always look for comparable when they price a home and you do not want several homes selling for a low price due to someone sabotaging your home.

That’s it when it comes to Things Your Neighbors Won’t Tell You


Spending Because I Can Afford It

Spending Because I Can Afford ItSome of my friends have this attitude that they have the money and they should spend it now while they can afford it.  They have the attitude that they are spending because I can afford it approach. We were out with another couple at a restaurant were the spouse ordered several dishes and barely touched any of them. I asked her why she ordered all this food and then did not eat it. Her response was, who cares, we can afford it. When I asked her if she was going to take it home for a later meal, her response was, NO, we do not eat left overs! We decided to add this post because it really illustrates how couples can save some money while still enjoying themselves.

Spending Because I Can Afford It – Surprised

My wife and I were really surprised at this brazen display of waste of both food and money. Our parents raised us to enjoy our food, to eat what was in front of us and not to over eat either. We always ate left overs, even from restaurants and just as important we always are careful with our money. We try to really enjoy ourselves but we avoid wasting it too. In this example, you might as well flush $20 or $30 down the toilet!

Why Should We Care About Saving or being Careful with Our Money?

For this couple that we discussed above, they are well off right now, both have jobs and make a good salary between them. They have more money than they need and their kids are out of the house and doing well on their own. So really, if they want to waste some money, why not?

Well it turns out there are lots of reasons to be careful with their money.  These range from loss of their current jobs, sickness in their family, sickness for one of them and causing them not to work, their investments nose dive, their company they work for goes bankrupt and they lose their pension, and any number of other potential conditions that could cause them to have money issues. What would happen if you lost your health insurance?

While we cannot predict any of these situations and we can never save enough money for all situations, some money should be set aside for a rainy day. When you are wasting money it is so easy to save for the future.

Saving Your Money for an Emergency

We do not have any idea if these friends of ours have savings or not and if they have enough to look after them if and when they have some kind of an emergency. Let’s hope that they do.

If they do not and they are spending money in this manner, it is really time to begin saving and make sure they have funds set aside to help them when they are out of work or are dealing with an emergency sickness or some other life style problem.

Everyone should have at least 6 months to 12 months in emergency savings set aside and they should have money set aside for retirement as well. Always diversify your holdings and make sure that you do not invest in some get rich quick scheme.  If you need the money at some point, you want to make sure that your investment is not at a low point which causes you to lose money.

Are they Just Showing Off

Could be that they are trying to show off to try to tell us that they can afford to do whatever they want to do. However in this particular case, I think they have no clue about money in general and investing. This is the same couple who asked me if they should keep their money in GIC’s or just in the bank to make sure they had access to it when they needed it.

They worry at night about losing their money they have saved and have gone to GIC’s instead. When we talked about financial issues, the wife does not even participate, leaving it all up to the husband to decide. She just spends money like it is water. Wow what a situation for home to be in. Glad that it is not me!

I really hope they never need to be concerned about their finances. At the same time, by being a little less frivolous, perhaps having a budget and investing wisely, they could have a lot more and do a lot more to.

Childhood Spending Habits

Childhood Spending HabitsOur web site is all about saving money around the home and how we can do things ourselves. I read an article recently that discussed the reasons that we spend money and it occurred to me that if we were able to manage the urge to spend money better we would probably be able to save more money for some of the things we consider higher priorities in our life.

So I decided to write this post based on some of my own experiences. The basic premise is that your child hood experiences with money often have a huge impact on how you manage money as an adult.

Child Hood Spending Habits

Your childhood spending habits have more impact on your spending habits as an adult than you know. If you were careful with money growing up, then today you are probably the same way as an adult. On the other hand if you spent every cent that you earned or were given as a teenager, then there is a really good chance you are still doing the same or close to it. Old habits are hard to break for many people and this is one that can have significant impacts well into your late adult years. There are lots of other examples we could discuss. Each person needs to examine their own experience as a child growing up to determine what is influencing their spending habits the most.

There are lots of theories about why this phenomenon is true, however the reality is that you are still spending all of your money every pay check. Taking control of your finances and managing your money so that you have funds for some of the things you need or want to do later in life is in your best interest. In the writers situation, we never had a lot of money and to this day I hate to part with a cent and I am very upset if I feel that I am getting ripped off.

Examine Why You Spend Money

You also need to focus on why you do some of the things that you do. For example if buying something new makes you happy, then you need to give some thought about how to control these feelings and the reasons why you spend this money. Not having nice new things as a child might drive you to buy lots of new things as an adult. Having your allowance stolen, might mean you feel you need to spend it before it is gone. These are all child hood experiences that sometimes carry through into our adult years and we need to understand them and get control of them.

Influencing Your Children

We did the usual thing with our kids. This included giving them an allowance and we gave them pretty much everything they needed or wanted. We did not give them a TV set in their bedrooms or a cell phone or a car when they were teens. We wanted them to make these purchases themselves and in doing so set their own priorities. They tend to make different decisions when they have to balance their own decisions about how they are spending their money vs. their parents.

We also taught them about saving and how their money could increase through generating income. We bought shares in their names for them and for every birthday and Christmas we would add more shares. I also talked to them about the 10% rule of saving 10% of their income. As a result they added to the purchase of shares and now they both have a nice little nest egg and the 10% rule continues to be followed for them.

Repairing, Doing Without and Delaying Spending

There us another habit from my child hood that continues to this day and a reason why I am making posts to this web site. My family always would try to repair something that broke first before throwing it out and purchasing a new item. In fact it became a challenge to see if an item could be repaired instead of throwing it out. Of course you always need to evaluate whether it costs more to repair vs. buy new!

There is the question of Need vs. Want. We all think we need things. However most people when they really looked at something they are considering purchasing, might have to admit it is something they want vs. need. If it is something you want, then there is a decision to be made. Can you do without that item? Or can you delay spending the money on that item? If you answer the question honestly, you may be able to save yourself a great deal of money.

Summary of Spending Habits

  • Examine your childhood spending habits
  • Assess what habits have carried through into Adult hood
  • Asses which habits you can change
  • Develop a plan that changes habits and gets control of your spending
  • Start by saving 10% of your income
  • Can you repair damaged or broken items
  • Delay your purchases
  • Can you avoid your purchases
  • Evaluate your needs vs. your wants

Let us know your thoughts and comments by leaving comments on this post. Additional ideas are also welcome as well if they will help our readers get control of their finances and savings.


Tips at Restaurants: What is Enough?

Tips at RestaurantsNow here is a sensitive topic! How much should you tip for service at a restaurant and when should you hold back or exceed the recommended amount? There is bound to be a lot of disagreement on this topic so we are looking forward to hear what other people think about tipping and how much you should tip.

We decided to add this post to our blog, because it really does affect how much money you spend, although it is not really related to home maintenance. Let us know what you think the tip should be. One thing for sure, never leave pennies as a tip. They are not worth much and are heavy. Who wants pennies these days as well?

We have two friends who work in the service industry and obviously have strong feelings about tipping. They both feel that you should tip 15% automatically whether the service was great or not and only decrease your tip if the service was really bad. Actually they feel they always provide great service so why would you not tip a good amount?

Formula for Tips at Restaurants

Someone once wrote that you should break down the tip as follows: 5% for the decor, 5% for the food and 5% for the service . If all three met your expectations then 15% was the correct amount to leave with your meal. If they exceeded your expectations, then by all means leave more. Many people have a problem when they receive bad service or their food was not up to par and they still leave 15% to avoid any kind of conflict or confrontation.

We have found that mentioning the issue, whatever it is, bad food, your meal not cooked as requested, etc.  during your meal usually brings a positive response and the restaurant usually goes overboard to correct the problem. When they do not correct the problem cut the tip. They need to understand that their income is related to the level of service you receive at the restaurant you are at.

But they Only Make Minimum Wages

In some locations this is absolutely true and if they received no tips, the salary the waiters and waitresses would make would be very low indeed. However as with all jobs there are good people who do excellent work and then there are those who only do average work at best.

Should those that perform average work make as much as those who do excellent work? Personally I like to reward those who work hard and provide excellent service and have no problem leaving a good tip. But when it comes to less than average servic,  leaving a good tip is only reenforcing bad service.

We know a couple, who have dual incomes. One was a NASA scientist, while the other was a waiter in a very popular restaurant. The waiter made more money from tips than the scientist did from his salary! They were both good at what the did, but the waiter was really  good at what he did, provided excellent service and was rewarded for his efforts. The good ones do very well and deserve it.

Tips as High as 20 % or Even Higher

Both of our friends who work in the business have received tips that are 20% or even higher. Typically this has been with a large group and the group was very happy with the service they received.

This is the way it should be and please do not hold back if you find yourself in this situation.

Groups Were the Tip is Automatic

I detest this rule that many restaurants have for large groups. They automatically add 15% or sometimes more as a gratuity to ensure they get their tip. I have been to places were they have done this and the service has been excellent. They deserve 15% and more.

On the other hand we have dined in restaurants were this rule was applied and the service has been terrible. It is almost as if they do not care , they know they are going to get paid anyway. I always make a point of mentioning that the service should be excellent if they are going to apply this rule.

They usually get the message and we are often very satisfied with the service in this regard. One place to avoid in a situation like this is the Matchbox Restaurant in Palm Springs. They applied this rule and then proceeded to give us rude service, mixed our meals up and were extremely slow. Why would I ever go there again?

Your comments and opinions on this sensitive topic are more than welcome. I am sure there are lots of other opinions out there just waiting to be heard.



Save $ Now vs. Spend More Later

Save NowHave you ever found that you saved a lot of money in the short term, but ended up spending a lot more over the long term than what you planned? This is the subject of today’s post and we will illustrate a few guidelines you may want to consider before you make that decision to save a few dollars today vs. spend money now that will save you a lot over the long term.  An example is a good way to illustrate what we are really talking about.

With the cost of repairs and wages for appliance repairs these days being so high, would you pay $100 to $200 to have an old appliance repaired vs. go out and purchase a new one. The right answer depends on what the cost of a new appliance would cost you.  If a new fridge for example would cost you $2000, you might consider spending money on repairs particularly if the current one is less than 10 years old. On the other hand if your current fridge is 25 years old and a new fridge to replace it is around $1000, well a consumer might decide that the best course of action is to buy the new fridge rather than put money into the old fridge.

Save Now – Our Save Money List

We have compiled a list of 10 things people do were they try to save money now only to find they spend a lot more later!

Delaying Regular Check-Ups With the Doctor, Dentist or Optician

For many people who have health plans this is not even something they think about, but for literally millions of people without plans it is something they think about every day. Fro example, should I go to the dentist to have my teeth cleaned or not? What about cavities that are forming which could lead to root canals! A root canal can really cost a lot of money! Not going to the doctor can mean a serious illness or even your life if whatever you have is life threatening such as cancer. Saving a few hundred dollars now by not going to the doctor or dentist could be catastrophic for you later on in life!

Signing up for Store Credit Cards Offering Discounts, but Paying the Minimum

Obtaining the discounts can be a great way to save money, however if you do not pay the card off each month you could be paying 19% or even more in interest. It is amazing how quickly this interest is eats up any potential discount saving you might have received. This is why the stores do this. They know that the vast majority of people will not pay their credit cards on time and they make a lot of money this way. Take the discount, but pay the balance on the card on the due date or don’t sign up for the card!

Doing Your Own Taxes vs. a professionally prepared return

No one wants to pay more taxes than they need to. For many people who have a simple return, there probably is nothing wrong with doing your own taxes. However as soon as it gets complicated such as real estate sales or investment trades, hiring a professional to do your taxes could save you a lot more than the cost of the professional. In fact this is a good measure. do your own taxes first, then take the raw data to the professional and see what he or she comes up with. At the very least you will have confirmation you are doing it right. You may even save a great deal more money in reduced taxes.

Building an Emergency Fund and a Retirement Plan

Many people do not even have an emergency fund let alone a retirement fund. It is so important to have both so that you and your family have something to rely on in a sudden emergency as well as in retirement. It just makes so much sense! We often recommend to people to set 10% aside out of their paycheck for retirement. Invest it wisely and conservatively and save this 10% from every pay check. Take another 5% and put that into an emergency fund. Don’t touch either of these unless you really need to and you will be surprised at how fast they grow!

Buy Cheap Products to Save Money

How many times have your purchased some cheap thing only to use it once and have to throw it out! While we do not recommend buying the most expensive item, always buy quality or don’t buy it. It will cost more initially, but then you will have the item for many years. this applies to clothes, electronics, appliances and on and on.

Pay the Parking Meter and avoid a Parking Ticket

How many times have you received a parking ticket because you did not put money in the parking meter or not enough in the parking meter? A ticket for a parking infraction can cost a lot more than the couple of dollars required to feed the meter!

Buy one Get one Free Deals and Other Sales

These are great deals if you need the item that is being offered. How many times do you take advantage of these buy one get one free deals and then end up throwing the second one out?  Give some thought to whether you will use the products before you make the purchase. Same thing applies to big discount sales where you pick up multiple items, only to not use those items.

Driving Long distances to by cheap Gas or Other Bargains

Did you know that for a car that gets 30 miles to the gallon at current prices that every mile costs you 12 cents! Doesn’t sound like much, however if you drive 10 miles to get a deal and then have to return, that is 20 miles or $2.40 just for the gas, not to mention the wear and tear on your car. Add to that cost the price of a coffee perhaps or other things that you buy and did not need and it can be expensive.

Delaying Routine Car Maintenance

This is potentially a big one. Sure you may avoid spending a couple hundred dollars by not having your car checked for worn brakes and oil changes, but what happens when your brakes give out in a high speed stop? A big accident,  and maybe loss of your car and possibly your life. Routine car maintenance can mean the difference between spending thousands of dollars to have it replaced due to an accident, or towed or to have additional work completed because you did not take care of the routine things.

Buying too much food; Then Throwing most of it Away

There are lots of deal were you can buy large quantities of food at cheap per unit prices. But it is only a deal if you use all of it. If you end up throwing a lot of this food out, you really end up spending more per unit than you might have paid for a smaller quantity. If you do buy in bulk, cook the food and freeze it. Or donate it to other members of the family. No sense in wasting good food.

Comments are welcome about your favorite money wasting experiences.

New Years Resolution

New Years ResolutionMany people around the world make New Year’s resolutions about money, jobs, life style and health. It is a great thing to do, but not if only to see these  promises easily broken or even forgotten before the year is a month old. We thought we would write this post 3 weeks into the new year to remind everyone that it is never too late to pick up those resolutions and make an attempt to start again. By the way most New Years resolutions if kept will also help you to save money as well in the long run, for example, reduced or stopping smoking, drinking by adding years to your life and save you money at the same time. These are resolutions with side benefits.

New Years Resolution Surveys

According to a Sun Life Financial survey conducted by Ipsos Reid, with the new year quickly approaching, three-quarters of Canadians are resolving to improve something about themselves. We are convinced that this is typical of many people around the world.  Health-based resolutions are by far the most popular with over two-thirds of those making resolutions (74 per cent) stating they resolve to either increase exercise or lose weight in 2011. Eating healthier (31 per cent) rounded out the top three choices.

However, when it comes to making permanent changes, eight out of ten respondents admit they’ve failed to keep past resolutions with a lack of motivation and willpower (76 per cent) identified as the main barrier to maintaining new year lifestyle changes. Thirty-eight per cent also cited a lack of money followed by lack of time (35 per cent).

How to Keep those New Years Resolutions?

Any resolution to improve your health is a step in the right direction and working together with a friend, loved one or professional to put together a plan which incorporates your changes makes them easier to stick to. It is much easier if you have a partner to help you stay motivated. Even a simple statement, ” Are we going to the gym tomorrow?”, is sometimes enough to motivate us to get out and visit the gym, go for a walk or do something that involves exercise.  Look into wellness offerings that may be available at work that can keep you motivated and provide support, which we know is key to any successful change.

More than half of Canadians (58 per cent) say resolution success or failure depends on what the resolution is and the study found that some are easier to keep than others. According to the poll, those who have resolved to travel someplace special, save money and spend more time with loved ones in 2011 have had the most success keeping past resolutions. If you like what you are doing or have fun at it, chances are that you will keep your resolution.

If your new years resolution involves something that is not pleasant, you do not enjoy or don’t like you are going to have a far harder time keeping your resolutions unless you put a plan in place. People who’ve resolved to drink less and quit smoking reported the least success in the past.

Set Objectives that are Achievable

For those of you that have difficult or unpleasant resolutions, you need to set an objective. Then set a series of stages or milestones that lead to the final goal. We all need positive feedback. There is nothing better than achieving a milestone that gets us a bit closer to our goal. For example if our goal is to lose 20 pounds. We do not set goals and interim objectives then there is a low probability of meeting this resolution. Divide the 20 pounds into quarters so that you must lose 5 pounds every 3 months. Decide that you will go for a walk 3 times a week. Decide that you will eliminate a food type that adds a lot of calories or whatever you feel will work for you that helps you get to were you want to be.

Evaluate your progress on a regular basis and if necessary reset your objectives so that you are still on target, but are setting realistic goals to achieve. Celebrate success when you reach a milestone with friends, family and loved ones.

Let us know how your new years resolutions are coming along. Leave a comment about what you are trying to achieve, writing them down is a step in the right direction!

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