How I Saved Some Extra Money At Lowe’s

Spring is one of my favorite times of the year, but one of the things I don’t like are the inevitable costs that come about for the upkeep on the yard areas.  Flowers are exempt, because, well, flowers are awesome, but there’s always a few other things.

I had a list of items that I needed to get and decided it was time for a trip to Lowe’s.  Here’s what made it on the list:

  • Garden Soil for the soon-to-be planted flower beds
  • Potting Soil for the flowers we put out on the deck
  • Top Soil to fill in a hole where a rotting tree stump used to be
  • Grass seed for the aforementioned spot
  • A new hose nozzle as I broke the handle on the old one last year by snagging it on a tree.  Oopsmb-2016-05-sandbox
  • New play sand for the kids sand box
  • A bag of mulch.  We mulched last year and most of it lasts every two years, but there’s one tree in the street that needs it more often because the lawn mower tends to chew up the mulch
  • Wasp and hornet spray.  We get at least one nest every year.

All together, the items above totaled out to $63, but we ended up paying about $8 less than that with two simple things:

  1. Took advantage of a gift card offer at the grocery store – By clipping an online coupon, we were able to buy a $30 Lowe’s gift card for $25 at the grocery store.
  2. Used our Lowes Credit Card for the balance – When you use your Lowe’s credit card, you get 5% off your order.  And, what’s nifty is that you get the 5% on the whole order, not just the amount that’s charged to the card, so we got 5% off the full amount, even though we paid $30 for the gift card.

Is $8 world changing?  Of course not, but it still felt pretty good to save money on items that we were going to buy no matter what.  If you’re going to end up bringing the same items home anyway, you might as well come home with a few extra bucks in your pocket, right?

That’s the name of the game!

Readers, have you scored any small deals that made you feel extra good lately? 

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Financial Planning for Specialty Vehicle Purchases

Most of us wouldn’t mind owning a sports car, motorcycle, watercraft, or some other kind of vehicle used for excitement and relaxation. Money is the object, however, and the majority of these dreams don’t break through to reality. If the family budget can’t support the strain, opting to skip the urge to take up a “bargain” on a fun vehicle is a clear sign of financial responsibility. However, if there is room to spare, there’s no shame in going after these dreams and making them true.

Just do it responsibly. The following bits of advice for financial planning when specialty vehicles come into the picture can help pave the way:

Take advantage of exceptional lending options. Most providers of car, motorcycle, and boat loans offer online calculators to determine your prospective rate. This enables folks to map out the next 36 months or so to see if their budgets can pull it off.

Use a strategic approach when dealing with the dealers. Take advantage of invoice price knowledge and details about the vehicle’s specifications to get the best price for a sports car, SUV, and other high end options.This can, of course, be extended to standard car buying as well. Take the final figure home to “think it over” – and plug the figure into your monthly budget planning.

Do your homework on the make and model of whichever vehicle you’re thinking about buying. Having an Internet connection means there’s really no excuse to not conduct due diligence prior to purchase. This gets insight into long-term maintenance costs, which must be calculated before going forward.

What about taxes, licensing, and storage? These are also costs associated with owning a specialty vehicle which must be taken into account. Most people don’t stop to consider them, but men and women with financial responsibility in their veins will weigh these values by instinct.

Now it’s time to throw the monkey wrench into the works: what about unexpected life emergencies? Will buying a specialty vehicle prevent your household from weathering a bad storm, literal or otherwise? Depending on the type of vehicle – motorcycle for example – the chances for medical emergencies will go up, albeit only mildly.

Finally, it’s important to make an effort to factor in a fattened monthly payment, rather than simply go with the minimum due every month. Whenever possible, it’s always a smart policy to overpay every month, thus helping to eliminate the long term burden of paying interest. Adding even $20 to each payment is enough to make a dent, though abiding by percentage is the proper rule of thumb; 20-30% added on top is a sure way to maximize the benefits of financing.

The desire to own a fancy car or operate well made watercraft is something millions of people share. Only a select number will likely ever be in the position to make this dream a reality without going over budget. For those lucky enough to afford a specialty vehicle, it’s still important to go through the numbers as best as possible in order to ensure the best financial decisions to make. This way the fun and relaxation found in a specialty vehicle won’t lead to stress and anxiety down the road.

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

The Question Of Loyalty

Here in the Detroit area, loyalty to the ‘Big 3’ automakers is always a hot topic.  At one point, it seemed like just about every family had someone employed by one of the automakers or parts suppliers, or had some other stake in the game.  Now, while there are a lot less people directly employed, it can still be a hot topic.

My Grandfather’s Loyalty

Recently, my dad told me a story about my grandfather and his loyalty.  My grandpa apparently loved Chrysler cars, and had a string of them.  Then, he ended up working for Chevrolet during the later half of his working days.  Once that happened, although he still favored Chrysler cars, he only bought GM cars thereafter.

As my dad said, he knew that the company provided his salary which put the roof over the head of his family, put food on the table, and everything else.  In fact, for him it was so simple that it wasn’t really a choice, because that would have implied a potential alternative.

Today’s Mindset

My dad later went on to lament the fact that many people today don’t have the same loyalty.  He used the example of someone who knew that worked for GM for their his career, and while he drove GM cars during that time, he started buying non-GM cars as soon as he retired.  In Big 3 country, that doesn’t sit well with some people, as they feel that t even though the direct relationship is over, the money was still originally provided by GM.  On the other hand, and while I don’t know if it’s the mindset of this individual personally, the thought seems to be that, yes, GM paid them during that time, but they also gave their time and service back, and don’t feel that furthers the obligation.

Personally, I can see both sides of the argument, and I think it’s one of those that has a lot of gray areas.

Questioning My Own Loyalty

I’ve often considered where my loyalty currently is.  For me, it’s complex, and I’ve been able to put it off for 10 years now, but this discussion raised the question in my head.

See, for me, it’s GM pretty much all the way at least from my family background.  As mentioned, my grandpa worked there, my dad worked there, my father-law-currently works there, and at one point I worked there.  So, it should be simple, right?

mb-2016-05-loyaltyWell, for my personal experience, my employment wasn’t a positive one.  I’ve outlined it before, so I will give the short version:  I was hired for a senior level position for which I had no direct experience.  I was assured that my experience to date would allow for an easy transition, and was promised that I would be paired with experienced team members and given room to grow by management.  When I started, I was assigned to a different group, of which the manager had no interest in providing the accommodations I mentioned above.   I was thrown into several jobs where I was asked to provide leadership to junior level people that honestly, had more experience than I did.

Predictably, it didn’t go well, and after nine months, they parted ways with me.

So, it bring the complexity in terms of my loyalty into question. Here are some of the thoughts:

  • My initial reaction was to say “Screw GM, they didn’t want me, why should I want their products?”
  • As time has passed, I realized that this was only nine months of my life.  I had a great career before this, I landed my next job less than 6 weeks later, and I’m still here…10 years later.  So, one could argue, was there really a harm?
  • I also looked at it that I was not 100% blameless.  I took a risk in taking a job where I didn’t have direct experience.  You could arguably point a few different fingers, and could at least one be pointed at me?  Yeah, probably.
  • As mentioned, my family has a much bigger history with GM than my nine months that continues on as my dad still gets a pension check from them, my father-in-law still collects a paycheck.  I’m a big believer in the legacy of your family, and this is a pretty big component that I’m not sure I’d be comfortable throwing away if it came to it.

I’ve  Been Kicking The Can

Our circumstances have allowed us to basically avoid this issue since everything happened with my brief employment.  We have two cars.  Both are GM.  My car was purchased during my brief employment.  The other car we purchased used (from my parents).

So, basically, we haven’t been in the market to even address the question for a number of years.

Our cars are getting older so potentially it could come up at some point soon.  One of the questions that I’ve thought about that I really can’t come up with an answer is what if we bought used again.   At that point, the car company isn’t getting any of the money.

But that may be the way out of answering the question.  That’d probably just kick the can.  I’d expect that at some point in my life, I’d consider buying or leasing a new car, so it’s a question that will eventually need to be answered.

If Push Came To Shove

As I wrote this, it occurred to me that I may not have to answer the question today, but if I did, with the proverbial gun to my head, I’d probably lean toward sticking with GM.  Even just writing this, I’ve noticed a shift over the years.  For the first few years after my brief employment, I probably would have looked anywhere but GM.  Then, I softened to where I said that I’d at least keep GM in the mix.  Now, as I look back at just how I’ve run through this, I realized that I’ve softened further.  I think that my answer at this point would be that GM would not be guaranteed my business, but that it would be theirs to lose.

With all things considered, I think that’s pretty fair.

Readers, where do you land on loyalty in terms of products or companies that you personally or that your family has worked for?  

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Breaking Up (With Our Dentist) Was Hard To Do

Nobody actually enjoys going to the dentist, right?  It is, after all, roughly 30 minutes of sitting there with your mouth open while someone pokes around with various instruments, some of which are sharp.

So, with all that fun, it does make things slightly more tolerable to have a dental practice that you are comfortable with.  I had that, for roughly 37 years, but it was time to make a switch.

That’s right, I went to the same practice for that long.  I started going when I was around five years old, and at the time, it was picked for me by the same logic by which I’m sure many people pick their dentist: It was closest to where my family lived at the time.

As I grew older, my dad started going as well.  The practice moved a couple of miles away.  Our family moved about ten miles further away, but kept going as well.  By now, my step-mom had been added to the mix.

The dentist was, at the time, practicing alone.  He was actually pretty cutting edge, being one of the first in the country to employ high level technology into the practice.   It was solid and it served us well.  The practice did grow and change over the years (more on that in a bit) but it was good.

The practice was growing, and this included from our family.After my wife and I married, and after the kids were born and started getting old enough for dental visits, they added to the list of patients as well.

So, why did we change.  Well, there were two reasons:

Distance

The dental office is about a 25 minute drive from our house, an extra 10 minutes at least during rush hour…which was when we were starting to have to go with the kids in school so that they wouldn’t miss a lot of time for visits.  A round trip, including the visit, took upwards of two hours.  With time more and more limited as the kids get older, this just became tougher and tougher a pill to swallow.

Turnover

For a long time, the practice was run as a single dentist operation.  The founder was Dr. R.

mb-2016-05-toothI mentioned above that he took on a lot of technology which was leading edge at the time.  This brought a lot of patients his way and in the mid-1990’s or so he brought on an associate, Dr. G.

Things hummed along smoothly for quite a number of years.  Then, in the later part of the 2000’s, Dr R. was forced to semi-retire, as we has having numbness in his hand that was later diagnosed as something that really didn’t have a fix.  Bottom line, he didn’t feel comfortable in his role with the precision necessary, so he basically ran the practice, and hired another associate.  Around this time Dr. G was promoted from associate to some sort of partner.  I assume she had a small ownership stake in the practice.

The new associate, Dr. I, was brought in and we really liked him.   He definitely met the high standards for which we’d been accustomed, so we stayed on.  After a few years, we were notified that he’d left the practice.  Later, it looked like he ended up across town, about an hour away.  I’m guessing maybe he simply wanted to establish his base ‘closer to home’.

He was replaced by Dr. M, who was another very good dentist.  Dr. P was the first dentist that my children saw, and we all got along well with him.

Later last year, we found out that Dr. M had left the practice as well, and there was yet another new dentist, Dr. P.  On top of that, Dr. G, who had been there for nearly 20 years if my memory is correct, also left.

I didn’t mention, but we really didn’t like Dr. P all that much.  We’d been fine with Dr. I and Dr. M, but Dr. P was just not all that favorable to us.

All of this turnover was pretty alarming to us, and for the first time we’d talked about actually switching.

The idea was made even easier for us when we looked up Dr. M (who we liked) and found that he was now practicing (along with his wife and father-in-law) in a location not more than 10 minutes from our house.

But still, we talked about it for a long time.  Over many months we went back and forth.  I even spoke to my dad, who had a lot of the same concerns.

Finally, we decided to make the switch.

Our first visit was last week.  We actually all went the same day.  It was very odd going into a different office for the first time in 35+ years, but it was nice having some level of continuity as we knew Dr. M and were comfortable that he would provide solid service.

The office was different and the staff was nice.  The facilities were a bit older and all the technology that we’d gotten accustomed to at the old office was a bit behind.  But, in the end, does having a computer next to the dental chair really matter?  No.  And, quite honestly, now that Dr. M and his wife seem to be gradually taking over things in the practice, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that area grow.  Especially since Dr. M had the exposure to it in the past.

For now, the switch seems to be a good one.  We amicably ‘broke up’ with the old office via e-mail.  They were understanding and sad to see us leave.  I’m sure, while we didn’t solely tip them over to profitability, that nonetheless, they certainly never welcome losing the revenue of four patients all at once.

Of course, I did joke that the new office is bad luck.  I think in the last 25 years, I’ve had to have one cavity filled, and wouldn’t you know it, at the new office, Dr. M found one!  LOL.  In fairness, there was a spot that they’d been looking at for the last few visits, so I sort of knew it was coming.  But still!

Readers, I’m curious, do you have loyalty to a particular dentist office or is that something that isn’t as common as I seem to think?  Have you ever had to ‘break up’ with a long standing professional relationship?  How did it go? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.