Why You Don’t Always Need To Complain About Price Increases

My wife alerted me of a price increase for a regular purchase.  She pointed out that our annual zoo membership would be going up to $99.  Previously, we paid $79.  At first, I was a little taken aback. After all, that’s nearly a 25% increase.  But then I started doing some math.  Within a few minutes I was fine with the increase.  See, I don’t complain about price increases every time.  Only when it’s justified! 🙂

Zoo Membership Is Still A Good Deal

A couple of years ago, I calculated the break even point for the zoo.  At the time, the family membership was $79.  A trip for our family of four would cost $53 without a membership.  This meant that on our second trip, we would be saving money.

With the new increase in memberships, they also raised individual tickets prices.  A trip for our family would now cost $60.  So, even with the 25% increase in our cost, we’re still saving money starting with our second trip.

Considering that we go at least 1-2 times per month on average, I’d say we’re doing just fine.

Why The 25% Increase Doesn’t Bother Me

Normally, I rail on big price increases.  When price increases dramatically outpace inflation, that’s usually a big sore point for me.  But not this time. Why?

  • Time Between Increases.  We were paying $79 for at least 3 years.  Maybe even a year or two longer.  So, when you average out the price increase over several years, it averages out to around 6-8% per year at most.
  • Improvements.  I get upset at increases when you don’t see value in the increase.  I just wrote about how Disney is now charging for parking.  This one bugs me because the increase to the consumer offers no additional value.  But, this isn’t the case with the zoo at all.  The zoo is constantly improving things.  They recently opened the world’s biggest penguinarium.  They are refurbishing the tiger and red panda exhibits this year.  In fact, every year, they update at least two exhibits.  Last year they adding a parking lot.  You get the point!  Our zoo is world class, and they are constantly making it stay that way.  I have no problem paying more since I can see value in my dollars.
  • Fun.  The zoo is just a great time.  Every time you go you see different things.  Some animal is doing something different, or they have a new baby somewhere.  I don’t think we’ve ever had an awful experience.

When Those Who Complain The Loudest Don’t Even Have A Right

Later in the day, my wife and I were talking about the increase.  She told me that someone in her Facebook feed was livid.  She went on this big rant and was complaining about the cost that she purchased.  She purchases this pass that allows you to bring in up to five kids and it was going to cost her around $60 per year more.

But here’s the thing.

She only has one kid!

She was bringing in her nieces and nephews and friends of her kids.  That’s totally a violation of the membership agreement!  Here she is breaking the rules and having the nerve to complain that it’s costing her money.

All my wife and I could do was shake our heads at the irony.   We kept hoping that someone in her Facebook thread would point out her hypocrisy, but nobody did.  And, you know it would have sailed right over her head anyway.

As my dad is fond of saying, it takes all kinds!

In any case, our zoo membership will be renewed without hesitation this year.

Readers, what do you use to determine if a price increase is justified or not?  What are some examples of increases that you have hated versus those you’ve been OK with?  Please drop a comment and let me know.

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Greed Or Smart? Disney Overnight Parking Will No Longer Be Free

We are just a couple of weeks away from our family spring vacation.  Part of it will be spent at Disney World.  We did a family vacation a few years ago at Disney World, and had a blast.  We wanted one more experience while the kids are still charged at lower rates.  With our vacation coming up, we’ve been following all things Disney related.  Last week a big announcement came in that Disney overnight parking will no longer be free.

The Old Policy

Previously, if you were staying at a Disney resort, overnight parking was free.  This was a nice perk, presumably to make their resorts more attractive than surrounding hotels.  But, they announced that soon, there will be a daily fee between $13-$24 depending on the resort.

Bummer.

What This Means For Us

Thankfully, we are not impacted for our upcoming trip.  Although we’re driving, the fee only impacts bookings made after March 21st.  Any bookings made before then will not have this charge.  We made our booking a few months ago, so we’re good.  For this trip.

Greed Or Smart Thinking?

Many people are outraged.  Reading some of the Facebook groups, people are upset.  This should come as no big surprise.  It is, after all, an extra cost to which customers get no added value.

So why is Disney doing it?

Greed?  Many people say that Disney is being greedy with this move.  They point out that this was a nice perk for people that made Disney resorts more attractive.  Many also point out the ever increasing cost, and figure it’s just a money grab.

That could be.  Or maybe they’re being….

Smart?  One of the things that we’ve seen with Disney World is that it’s busy.  You’d expect this, but it’s always busy.  When we went a few years ago, there were certain times of the year that you could book and expect to enjoy low or moderate crowds.  Now, there is really no such thing.  If you read the real time reports, crowd levels are either high or really high. That’s pretty much it.

So you could say that Disney is making a smart business decision by increasing their revenue.  If demand is up, then you could argue that they have a responsibility to their shareholders to maximize their revenue based on that demand. Yes, I majored in Economics in college! After all, if park admissions (and presumably resort reservations) are running at robust levels, would an increase in costs put that at risk?

Probably not.  I’m sure the bean counters at Disney made sure of it.

What Do You Think?  Greed Or Smart?

I’m curious what you think.  Is Disney being greedy or smart by charging for something that was formerly free?

My answer: I think it’s a bit of both.  If I were a Disney shareholder, I’d love the move.  As a Disney customer, not so much.

What do you think?  Leave your answer in the comments below.

 

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Ramona Books And Others I Loved As A Kid

I’ve written several times how much I love to read.  The thing is, I’ve loved to read since I could.  So, now that my kids are of reading age, I’ve gone back to remember some of my favorites.  These are some of the books I remember that I loved as a kid.  As you can see, I’m even trying to pass along my love of these great books.

Ramona Books (Or Anything By Beverly Cleary)

Probably some of my favorite books are of Ramona Quimby.  She was the star of a series of books featuring a rambunctious, misunderstood little girl, and the series of many adventures.  I read these books over and over again.  They made me laugh and I got a lot of the feelings that she expressed as a kid.  These books are timeless.  I’m now enjoying reading these to my daughter.  She looks forward to our reading time and brings these to me!

While Ramona was my favorite series of books, I read just about everything else that Beverly Cleary wrote.  She really wrote a lot of great characters.  I can’t even imagine how many kids grew up with her books as their favorites.

The Great Brain Books

The Great Brain was another favorite series of mine.  This featured mainly J.D. and Tom, two brothers growing up in the late 1800’s in Utah.  Although the setting was in a much different time period, you feel like you’re right there.  It makes you appreciate the world we live in.  For example, one of the highlights of the book was when the family got an indoor plumbing!  The series of adventures are awesome.  I started reading this to my son and he loved it.  Now, he’s reading them himself!

Garfield Books

image from Morguefile courtesy of svklimkin

The Garfield strip has been going on forever, it seems like.  It still remains one of my favorite things to read every Sunday.  Back when I was a kid, they started packaging some of the ‘best’ into books.  When I started reading, there were only a few books.  Now there are over 60!  My son loves checking these out from the library and shows me some of the favorites that I remember.

James and The Giant Peach

Roald Dahl is one of the most celebrated authors of kids books, and with great reason.  Many of his books are classics.  Many cite Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory as his best book.  While that is a close second, I loved James and The Giant Peach the most.  There was just something about being taken away across the world in a giant piece of fruit.  I read this book over and over again.  The funny thing about this was that I never even saw the movie.  I think I heard it wasn’t all that great.  Some books, maybe, are simply left in the imagination, perhaps.

Not Quite Human Series

The others on this list may ring with a lot of people.  I expect most can be found in a public library.  Probably not so much with this series.  This was a series of books about a man who built a robot that he called Chip.  The robot was built as a humanoid teenage boy, and the series was having Chip attend school while trying to keep his identity under wraps.  I don’t remember too many of the details, and it’s out of print.  I expect that much of the technology is probably dated, but it’s still one that I look fondly back on.  Maybe I’ll have to check out eBay and try to find some old copies.

There were hundreds of other books that I loved reading as a kid.  Many I’m sure I don’t even remember but if I saw them again, I’d add them to the list.  All I know is that reading gave me the ability to enter different worlds.  As a kid, when imagination is as big as the universe, that was a great place to be.

What are some of your favorite books you remember as a kid? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

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How We Level Out Monthly Expenses

Bills you pay every month require budgeting and tracking.  However, some bills flucuate in costs or even frequency.  We’ve developed a system where I allocate and track these expenses.  It works because we use a spreadsheet.  But, it comes in handy because we never miss a bill. Nor do we come up short on paying recurring expenses.  Here’s how we level out monthly expenses.

Types of Expenses

First, it’s helpful to determine what the expenses are that we level out.  Some of the obvious ones include:

  • Utility Bills
  • Insurance Premiums
  • License Tab Renewals
  • Auto Club Membership Fees
  • Charitable Donations

Over time I’ve identified some others that we also track and save for monthly.  These include:

  • Netflix
  • Other subscriptions (e.g. Amazon Prime membership)
  • Christmas gift fund
  • Camper storage fees
  • I even allocate for my costs in playing fantasy sports!

I am usually pretty on the mark when it comes to projecting the expenses that fall into this category.  What I have to do is allocate them out to cover costs for a year, even when costs are uneven.  Let me explain.  Many of the expenses above are monthly and around the same cost, but some are not. This is because of seasonal changes (higher electric bills in the summer, higher gas bills in the winter) or billing cycles for bills that aren’t monthly (the water bill every two months, the garbage bill every three).

Paying as you go would mean that some months you’d have money left over where other months you’d come up short.  The months you come up short can be a problem for many.  So, by averaging all of the costs for each category and then budgeting accordingly, we are always fully funded.

Utility Leveling Re-Imagined

The gas and electric companies already offer this service.  Both companies will allow you to pay a flat amount based on their estimates.  If you come up short, you do owe the difference.  If you overpay, they’ll lower your estimates.  This works for many people, and it’s sort of what we’re doing.  The benefit is that we keep our money!

One thing that you may ask is how this works when we come up short.  Say we budget $1,200 annually for electric bills, but our costs are $1,350. This means we ‘owe’ that fund $150 at some point through the year.  The way I work handle this is by keeping a ‘cap’ for some of the fluctuating categories.  So, for example, I have a $500 ‘cap’ on the gas bill.  Once we have $500 allocated toward gas, I know that anything further would be over funding the account.  If that happens, I’ll simply take the extra allocation and distribute it toward funds that are under allocated or that could use a boost.

It sounds kind of complicated, but it works well.  Of course I have been doing it this way for many years, and the system works pretty well.

Readers, how do you level out monthly expenses?  Do you create ‘sub-accounts’ off your main checking or savings?  

Copyright 2017 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.