How Checking Our Grocery Bill Saved Us $14

My wife usually takes care of the grocery shopping.  On days when she does the shopping, I always come home and asked to see the bill.

It’s not because I’m checking up on her or that I’m questioning any of her choices, it’s just I have a pretty good eye for spotting errors.

And you’d be surprised how often I find them.

Just last week, I found a whopper that, had I not taken a look, would have cost us $14.

The Bill Seems High

My wife was talking about the grocery trip and how everything went (most notably, a worker from behind the deli counter offered my kids free ice cream…yum), when she commented that “the bill seemed pretty high”.

At $66, it was actually lower than usual, but it was also a smaller trip than most weeks, as they weren’t having great sales on many items we often stock up on, and we didn’t buy any meat or other ‘high priced’ items.

She showed me the bill, and I started looking through line by line when I noticed a line for $14 for cherries.

I incredulously asked her, “You spent $14 buying three-and-a-half pounds of cherries?”  We don’t usually buy cherries, even when they’re on sale, so this seemed crazy.

She ripped the receipt from my hand, looked, and said “No, I didn’t buy any cherries at all!”

What Fruit Most Closely Resembles A Cherry?

She started looking through the rest of the bill and noticed that there was no charge for another item that she had indeed purchased.

What fruit is small and red and could probably be mistaken for cherries by a rushed cashier?

Red grapes.

Red grapes were on sale for $0.99 per pound.  The cashier gave a quick glance, entered in the code for what he thought it looked like, and moved on.

Full Refund

My wife called the store (Meijer) and explained what had happened.  The person answering the phone apologized, gave my wife his or her name and logged it in a book, so that my wife can just go in, take the receipt, and get a refund.

The best part is that they said that they wouldn’t just give the difference, but that they’ll give us a refund for the full line item.

So, not only do we get the mistake corrected, we’ll also end up with free grapes.

All because we took the time to look through our bill.

Quite Frequent Though Less Costly

You might be wondering how often we find mistakes.  I’d say at least once per month.  Sometimes I’ll find that something appeared twice, only to find out that we only got one.  The dreaded double bar code scan.

Other times, we might find a missed store promotion that did not get applied, even though we purchased everything exactly as required.

Rarely does it work out anywhere near $14.  Usually it’s a mistake of a few dollars. I believe that the mistakes are honest mistakes.  I don’t think the cashiers have any interest in trying to overcharge or double charge.  I just think that most of the time they are going so fast trying to get through the many customers as quickly as possible that they make mistakes.

It’s our job as customers to make sure that we check for mistakes.  Ideally, we’d be able to catch the mistakes as they’re being rung up, so that my wife would have noticed the charge when the cashier entered it, but with two small children to manage, it’s not always possible.

So, if you can’t check in the store, make sure to check when you get home, otherwise it’s not the store making the mistake, it’s you!

Readers, what mistakes have you caught on your grocery or other store receipts?

Copyright 2014 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.

Someone Has To Buy That New Car That You Buy Used

One of the things that I enjoy reading and have even made mention is that the best decision when it comes to buying a new car is to buy a used car.  This offers a few benefits to your bottom line, including that it will be less money, that you’ll let someone else handle the massive up front depreciation, and so on.  I’ll stop there as that’s not the purpose of this article (but here’s a great article to read if you want to know more).

I agree 100% that this is the best financial decision for money savings, but the fact is that not 100% of people can follow this advice.

Nope, there has to be someone that purchases that car the first time.

Every used car out there, whether it be a gently used car that’s as good as new, or a rusted out beater, was once new, and someone paid the ‘new car’ price.

Think about that.

Next time someone tells you that they’ve got their eye on a new car down at the dealer, maybe you should hold off before advising them to buy a used car instead.

After all, that could be your next used car, and someone has to buy it, right?  Maybe you offer to drive them right down to the dealer…and in return, they give you a call when they’re ready to sell!

Copyright 2014 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.

If a Tree Falls in My Yard… Will Homeowners Insurance Cover It?

We all know that homeowners insurance protects your home and its contents, but what about outside your home? Are trees, landscaping, and outdoor furniture all covered under the same umbrella as the house itself? After all, a fallen tree or a smashed fence after a bad storm can be just as expensive to remedy as a broken window or damaged roof. How do you know what’s covered? Let’s take a look at some typical home insurance policies and see what they cover outside of the home.

Fallen trees cause millions of dollars in damage to homes every year. If a tree falls and damages your home, you’ll almost certainly be covered. Even if it’s your neighbor’s tree, just about any homeowners policy will pay for repair to your house caused by fallen trees or limbs. Most other structures such as detached garages or fences usually will be covered as well.

Note that not everything in your yard will be covered, however. If a tree falls and destroys a children’s play set or an above-ground pool, a standard home insurance policy might not pay for replacement or repair unless these items were specifically added to the policy in a rider. You can read more here.

But what about getting the fallen tree out the yard? If tree does damage a covered structure, your insurance will probably pay a limited amount towards tree removal. If a tree falls and damages nothing but the ground below it, you’re probably on the hook for the total cost of removing the tree or limb. The cost of tree removal is usually capped at around several hundred dollars, too. So if ten trees fall and one of them damages a covered structure, you might end up paying quite a bit out of your own pocket to have them hauled away.

Many homeowners policies also have liability coverage, so that if guests are injured in your yard you’ll be protected from lawsuits to a certain extent. Some policies specifically cover liability from dog bites. So if Fido bites a kid crossing through your yard, you won’t have to worry about being on the hook for excessive medical bills or other lawsuits. Be sure to read the fine print, however. Certain dog breeds that insurers consider overly aggressive, such as pit bulls and Rottweiler’s, will not be included in the dog bite liability clause.

Another thing that insurance companies won’t cover is liability for injuries from trampolines. Many companies will flat out refuse to insure homes that have a trampoline on the property. The reason is that they are so incredibly dangerous. In just 2009 alone, trampolines caused nearly 93,000 accidents which required a visit to the emergency room!

Read up on your homeowners policy to see exactly what kind of outdoor damage is covered. If you live in an especially forested area, make sure you have the right kind of coverage to protect your home. Given enough storms and bad weather, it’s only a matter of time before a tree falls.

Copyright 2014 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.

Consider Epoxy Grout For Your Bathroom Remodel

Every once in a while I look around our bathroom and dream wistfully of a ‘down to the studs’ remodel.  Then, I realize that there’s no functional need to re-do it, and the costs are prohibitive.  But, regardless, I still think of new fixtures, a luxurious shower, improved hardware, and big tiles (as opposed to our white ones).  One of the things I can’t stand about new bathroom jobs is how quickly the grout often gets dirty and wears out. As it turns out, your standard grout is cement based, and while cement is a hard substance, it absorbs water slightly.  This means that dirt and such that comes from the water in your bath ends up making it dirty, and the wetter areas lead to cracking.

Epoxy To The Rescue

One of the ways to address this is to avoid using cement grout.  The best alternative to this and becoming more popular is to use epoxy based grout.

Benefits of Epoxy Grout

Epoxy offers a few distinct advantages over the cement counterpart in terms of grout:

  • Waterproof – Epoxy is completely waterproof so it will not take on any water.
  • Easier to clean – Since the water does not lead in any dirt, the dirt will not absorb into epoxy grout, keeping the look fresh for years after installation.
  • Stands up to chemicals – While normal grout can often be cleaned, the harsh chemicals required to get all the dirt from the grout can end up weakening the grout, leading to failure.  Although you shouldn’t need strong chemicals to clean epoxy grout, you can be assured that whatever your cleaner of choice, epoxy grout proves much more resistant to breakdown from any chemical or cleaner.

Why Not More Widespread?

With these advantages, the first question I asked was why the entire world hasn’t switched to epoxy grout.  The biggest reason for many is that it’s more time consuming and more difficult to install than cement based grout. Time: Epoxy grout takes longer to setup than cement grout.  Since it takes a few passes to get the joints filled, the common approach with cement grout is to mix a batch, go through and lay the grout. By the time you’re done, often enough time has passed for the first pass to set up, so you can just keep using your batch.  Epoxy takes longer to set up, so not only is there more time in between coats, you also have to mix multiple batches, resulting in more pre-work. Difficult:When you’re installing cement grout, if you get some on the tile, it’s not that big of a deal.  Just wipe it off before it dries and you’re good to go.  Epoxy grout does not simply wipe off, as it will leave a haze on your tile that is difficult if not impossible to remove. While an amateur or semi-pro can often lay cement grout, an epoxy grout installation is best left to a professional.  Megasealed is a great option and they have more information on their website about the benefits of epoxy. Epoxy definitely doesn’t sound easy, but the benefits sound like they make up for it in many ways.  Since a bathroom is expected to last for many, many years, I would definitely consider epoxy as it stands to make up for the extra resources needed up front. I’m only dreaming of a new bathroom for now, but if you’re doing more than that, give epoxy grout some consideration as part of your planning.

Copyright 2014 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.

This Big Winner Sees Beyond The Jackpot

I was reading through some Yahoo headlines, when one in the sports section caught my eye, basically talking about how a poker player who won a $15 million jackpot had the opposite reaction that pretty much anybody would expect.

Most people, upon knowing that they are $15 million richer, would celebrate, yell, jump up and down, thank God, hug their family, or any number of things.

Daniel Coleman, the 23 year old winner of the ‘Big One For One Drop’ tournament, didn’t even crack a smile.

In fact, he almost looked sad and upset once he won.

The Big Picture

Most winners of a $15 million jackpot would stop and start right there.  They just won $15 million dollars, end of story, right?

Not Daniel Coleman.

As it turns out, his thoughts on the winning was not the money that went into his pocket, but beyond that.

His thoughts also included the people who didn’t win.  The people who lost money along the way to get there.

Not everybody in poker wins.  In fact, most people probably lose.  People lose money.  People lose their families, their homes, their jobs.  Many people chase the dream of winning the big jackpot, and sacrifice everything to get there, only to end up with nothing.

Daniel Coleman saw that.  He knew that, although he was the big winner, there were many others that weren’t.  Hundreds.  Thousands.  Nobody was covering them or putting a microphone in their face.  Nobody cared about the expression on their faces or what they were going to do with the money that they had (or no longer had).

That bothered him.  He couldn’t knowingly celebrate the fact that he was the lucky one knowing that there were so many others out there who weren’t as lucky, or lucky at all.

Seriously, what person who has ever received $15 million dollars has ever had that as their first emotion?

Now his point wasn’t that poker should halt.  He didn’t say that jackpots should cease to exist.  Heck, he’s not giving his back.  I think he just recognizes that in order for one person to get there, there’s a toll, a cost, and probably a pretty big one, that nobody really thinks about.  He recognized that and his conscious would not let him just put that aside so that he could celebrate.

We love to celebrate the winners, but who in the world thinks about the losers when a $15 million jackpot is being won?

Daniel Coleman, that’s who.

In my book, that makes him a pretty big winner.

Copyright 2014 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.

How You Should Allocate Mileage Reimbursement

If you do any driving for your job and use your personal vehicle to do so, chances are that you are familiar with mileage reimbursement.  Basically, a company should pay you for the use of your personal automobile while doing company business.  My understanding is that it is not a requirement, but is fairly standard practice.

The general rules I’ve seen is that the mileage must be for company purposes, on company time, and that you have to back out mileage that you would have driven anyways.  So, if your normal commute to the office is 10 miles each way, but you are sent out to a location 30 miles away, your first 10 miles would not be eligible for reimbursement, with the thinking that you would be driving that no matter what.

There seems to be a lot of different rules that each company or organization is allowed to follow.  One thing that is often used as a standard is the rate at which mileage is reimbursed.  Most companies that I’ve worked for have used the IRS rate, which is set once per year.  I would imagine that there are tax implications for the organizations, and that using the rate provided offers the maximum benefit to companies who offer this.

The current rate for 2014 is $0.56 per mile.

The Big Mileage Mistake Almost Everybody Makes

There’s one mistake that many people make.  They look at the rate and think that it applies only to gas, and they figure to use it as a money maker.

I’m here to tell you that isn’t true, and if you’re doing it that way, you need to stop.  Now.

The Math Behind The Mistake

Using my earlier example, say you take a 30 mile round trip drive one day, whereas your normal trip was 10 miles.  That would leave you eligible for 20 miles each way, or a total of 40 miles.

When you submit your request, you’ll then get a reimbursement of $11.20 based on today’s rates.

Many people will then look at their mileage, and look at the actual ‘cost’.

Say gas is $3.50 per gallon and your car gets 25 MPG.  You would burn 1.6 gallons of gas to cover the extra 40 miles, which would work out to a cost of $5.60.

Since you’re getting $11.20, you think, cool, I just got paid double for what I just drove.

mb-2014-07carFor people that get reimbursed for a lot of mileage, this can work out to a pretty big number.

There’s a couple of reasons that this is a big mistake.

  1. Gas is not the only cost involved – Receiving reimbursement is to cover your entire cost of driving.  This includes not only the gas you pay for, but also goes toward other costs involved.  Think about this.  If you drive a lot of extra miles for work, you’re going to need more frequent oil changes.  You’re going to need tire replacements faster.  In fact, the car will likely need to be replaced earlier than if you just drove a standard commute.  One 20 mile day isn’t going to make much impact here, but if you drive thousands of miles per year for work, these costs will end up being significant.  If you don’t allocate the reimbursement money accordingly, you will end up scrambling when these costs get realized.  And, trust me, they will.
  2. You start thinking of the extra as income – If you get mileage checks on a regular basis, the natural behavior is to start allocating that as part of your paycheck.  No big deal, right?  Wrong.  Not only will this bite you for the reasons above, there might come a time when the mileage reimbursement is no longer there.  If you no are no longer required to make that longer commute, that will reduce your costs, but if you’re not careful, it will reduce your supposed income by a greater amount. If you’d started relying on that regular reimbursement, you could end up scrambling.

The Correct Approach To Mileage Reimbursement

I have a pretty strict rule for how I allocate my mileage reimbursement.  The rule is simple: It all goes towards elements related to my car.  If you break it out into three categories, you’ll be covered:

  • Gas
  • Car Repairs
  • New Car

The simple rule I use is to allocate it one-third toward each. If I get $90 in reimbursement, I’ll pay $30 toward the credit card, which has gas costs, and I’ll take $60 and put it into our savings accounts, where I have a ‘fund’ (tracked exclusively through my Excel spreadsheet) each for New Car and Car Repairs.

No matter how you track this, the important thing is that you put the money aside accordingly.

You can even split the percentages.  In my example above, gas was roughly 50% of the cost.  If this is the case for you, then take 50% and pay for the gas, and split the rest between Repairs and New Car.  Whatever.  As long as you don’t start ‘spending’ the extra, you’re in good shape.  If you’re spending the extra, then you’re doing it wrong, because as you now see, there really isn’t extra.

Readers, how do you handle the divvying up of your mileage reimbursements?

Copyright 2014 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.