Check To Make Sure The Cheaper Option Is Still Cheapest

One of my cats has been on a special diet for a number of years due to a minor health issue that caused more than a few trips to the vet back in the day.  The special food contains higher fiber content which he needs to supplement his diet and keep his inner workings in tune.

The vet prescribed a food that fits the bill for what he needs.  At the time, I did some research and found that the price they wanted to charge me was significantly higher than what I could get it for online, through a web site called ‘Pet Food Direct’.

My vet (grudgingly) wrote a prescription for the food, and I commenced purchasing it through Pet Food Direct.  They were great, and even with shipping costs added in, the price was significantly cheaper.

For awhile.

Over the years, the price kept increasing steadily.  I typically bought the food by the case, and the price per case would seem to increase a dollar here, two bucks there.

Recently, the other cat also developed a health issue of her own (she’s fourteen and a half) and she also needed to go on a special diet.  I got the price that the vet wanted to charge and logged into Pet Food Direct to see if it was cheaper.  Much to my surprise, it wasn’t.  The vet was able to provide the food at a cheaper price.

I asked the vet what their cost was on the first cat’s food, and lo and behold, they are now cheaper than Pet Food Direct.  The actual cost of the food is technically cheaper with Pet Food Direct, but the shipping costs push it to now be a higher price point than the vet.

I contacted Pet Food Direct and politely inquired if they would be willing to either reduce the price or shipping to match what I would pay at the vet.  They politely e-mailed me back and said that they could not.

So, it’s back to using the vet for purchasing the food, though I will be more adept at shopping around and making sure that, whenever I need to stock up, I do so via the cheaper option.

Lesson learned: Always make sure that what you think is the cheaper option remains the cheaper option.

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Why The Kindle Price Wars Mean Absolutely Nothing To Me

Lately, Amazon has been in a price war surrounding their Kindle with other e-readers.  The Kindle has been out of a couple of years, and long story short, it allows you to read books in electronic book format.

When it came out, I think the price was somewhere in the neighborhood of $299.  I remember they were in pretty high demand, as visits to Amazon’s website would often indicate that they were ‘Out of Stock’.

Lately, though, other e-readers have entered the market, and the price of the Kindle has now dropped to $139 last I checked.  I’m not sure if this has all of the same features, or less, or maybe even more than the $299 model.

Why?

Because even at $139, I have no interest.

A cheap e-reader with a lot of features sounds cool when you consider that it’s half the price that it used to be, but the fact remains that for a guy like me, that’s still way too expensive.

The simple fact of things around the Beagle household is that we buy very few books.  I will buy (or ask for a gift) books from favorite authors or that I know I will read often.

Otherwise, it’s the library, where the books cost nothing.

Let’s face it, most books I read are going to be read one time.  There are some books I’ve read that I’ve loved so much that I will probably read again, but I’m totally cool with paying nothing for them at the library. If I were to ‘take advantage’ of the Kindle (or another e-reader), it would force me to start paying for stuff that I now pay nothing for.

Why would I do that?

I know there are a lot of people that don’t have as easy access to the library as we do.  Or, maybe their library doesn’t carry a good selection of the types of books that they want.  If that’s the case, maybe a Kindle is the right answer.

But, for me, the library is close, they have a great selection, and I’ve developed a pretty nifty system for making sure that I always have books to read by placing things on hold via their computerized system (read about it here if you want the details).  If that doesn’t come through, I have no problem wandering around picking things off the shelf until I find a book or two that I think might work.

When I do that, some are great reads and some I put down after a couple of chapters.  In any case, I don’t have regrets because I have little invested.  I’d hate to make that same mistake with an e-reader.

Are e-readers worth the money, even at a price-war enabled price?  Maybe for some, but for now, it’s not for me.

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Would You Hire A Driver For Your Own Car?

Personal Finance Playbook is one of the newest additions to my RSS reader feed. I get his articles delivered when he writes them.
One of the articles made me really think about how far I would go to save money.
In this post, PFP writes about how he was planning a bachelor party. He was planning things the right way because there would obviously be some drinking going on, since he was planning alternative methods of transportation other than driving.
First, I applaud his responsibility in that regard. Always better safe than sorry.
However, the post went on to talk about how he was planning to bypass some of the more traditional methods of transportation in such a circumstance, namely a limo or a taxi.
The reason, both were simply too costly.
Again, more applause to PFP for being frugal in that regard. It sounds like he was planning some fun stuff, but the reasoning was that the ‘getting there’ was less important than the fun of the planned events, so why spend the money?
Right on.
The alternative, though, to the three ideas listed above (driving, limo, taxi) was given as this. He was planning on hiring someone from Craigslist to drive his car, where they would be (hopefully) fully sober and available for the egal, vening.

Now, I like the idea of turning your own car into a limo / taxi of sorts. Again, cue up the applause for saving money and creative thinking.
BUT, this idea had all sorts of red flags on it. Specifically:
How do you know if the person you hire is a licensed and safe (driving record-wise) driver?
How do you know that they are trustworthy, in that the second the bachelor party heads inside somewhere, that the person doesn’t peel rubber and head to the nearest chop shop?
Or, maybe a little less dramatic, but what if there is damage to the car in some way? What happens then? What if they pull a ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ and take it for a joyride (if the car is joyride-worthy)?
What are the auto insurance liabilities in the event that there is an accident?
What are the medical liabilities in the event that the ‘driver’ was somehow injured?
I don’t know. Maybe I’m just paranoid but there seems like maybe just one too many ‘what if’ situations that could play here.
If it were me, I know that I’d be nervous about all that, even if I decided to go through with it. I’d be peeking around the corner to make sure that the car was just there and that if it was, there wasn’t a group swapping out my battery and tires with those found from a salvage yard.
I’ll be interested to see how this turns out, so hopefully PFP will post a follow-up when and if he decides to go through with this.
I guess, I’d probably consider other alternatives:
I might see if someone I know is willing to fill this role. Granted, depending on the places that they’re going and the ‘pops’ that might be consumed, this might be embarrassing, but I’d still make sure to leave no stone unturned here.
I might see if the costs can be spread around. Most bachelor parties that I’ve attended generally involve people ‘pitching in’ to ensure the fun times of the bachelor. If everybody threw in an extra $5-10 with the argument being that we all get a ’safe and fun time’, this might make the taxi a more feasible idea without putting the burden exclusively on the host.
What do you think? Are there other ideas? Would you consider this? Let me know what you think.

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Unplanned Spending That I Hope Is Worth It

When it comes to what I call ‘bathroom supplies’, I usually try to find things on sale. I don’t mean anything gross by ‘bathroom supplies’ but it’s probably what a lot of people would call toiletries. Things like shaving cream, shampoo, body wash and toothpaste. Usually, between finding things on sale, using coupons, and stocking up, we can find some pretty good deals.
However, I spent quite a bit of money on these supplies over the weekend and unfortunately wasn’t able to put a lot of the work that I normally do into it.
Towards the end of 2008, a small rash developed on my face directly to the left of my mouth. I had thought it might go away, but it didn’t go. I went to my family doctor. He didn’t know exactly what it was, but gave me a prescription that normally clears up rashes.
It didn’t. When I followed up with him, he gave me a referral to a dermatologist.
This was January of this year by now, and when I went to see the dermatologist, he looked at it and indicated that I had ‘contact dermititis’ which I’ve since learned is a catch-all term for a skin irritation. He prescribed something different, which was a topical steroid, that he promised would “clear it right up.”
It did and it didn’t. What happened is that the cream knocked the rash down to where it was barely noticeable, but it never went fully away. If I stopped using the product the rash would be back in full force within a couple of days.
Clearly there was still a problem, so back to the dermatologist I went. The rash was itchy and I am very self-concious about it given that it’s right next to my mouth. I always feel that whenever someone is talking to me, they’re looking at the rash and not concentrating on a word I’m saying. I’ve asked multiple people if it’s very noticeable, and nobody has said that it is, but I have always thought that maybe they’re just being nice. In other words, this rash has to go.
At this point, the doctor now recommended that I go through ‘patch testing’ which is a type of allergy testing where they expose your skin (on the back) to various chemicals and compounds that can cause reactions. After several days, they see what spots developed any rashes, and determine that you should avoid those products.
There were a few products that came up. A couple are normally things that I wouldn’t have to worry about, but there were two that were noteworthy. The first was parabens, which are preservatives that are used in a wide variety of cosmetic and toiletry products. The second was topical steroids, which if you recall, is what I had been using to treat the rash. So, what this showed is that a large number of consumer goods as well as the very product by which I’d been using to treat myself were helping prolong the problem.
I was given a new prescription and also a 53-page list of ‘bathroom stuff’ products that were OK to use. I was advised to concentrate on any products that I used from the neck up, since the rash was localized to my face.
So, I went through product by product for the following areas:

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Face soap
  • Body wash
  • Shaving cream
  • Lip Balm
  • Hair Gel
  • Moisturizer
  • Toothpaste

I found that the conditioner and body wash that I use were on the list, but none of the other products were. Because my goal was to get rid of the rash as quickly as possible and because we’re pressed for time with the baby coming, I decided to simply make one trip to one store and take care of the entire list. I did find one coupon.
Many of the products (most notably the toothpaste and moistuerizer) required higher end, expensive products. But, in the end, the cost was roughly $50 to get new shampoo, face soap, shaving cream, lip balm, hair gel, moisturizer, and toothpaste.
Had I been buying these products over time, looking at sales and/or buying with coupons, I probably could have gotten them for significantly cheaper, but given that this rash has been with me for six months and I just want it gone, I did not balk at the cost.
All I can hope now is that this unplanned spending turns out to be worth it. I’ll report back over the next few weeks how things go. As of now, the rash is still there but the redness and itchiness has subsided, so some combination of the new medicne and the new products is working, but time will tell if this will completely knock it out.
Wish me luck.

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