If You Hate Your Bank Then I Have Bad News For You

I read a lot of other personal finance blogs, as I think getting different voices, opinions and thoughts on various items is great.  I have quite a few (see my blog roll) that I love and others that I read in passing.  One topic I see time and again are posts that tie back to complaints about banks.

Bank of America seems to take the brunt of bloggers ire, but it seems like many banks catch the rancor.  The complaints seem to boil down to a few common themes:

  • High fees
  • Poor customer service
  • Complaints about banks having taken bailout money

Read moreIf You Hate Your Bank Then I Have Bad News For You

10 Things I Wonder About

Recently, Kim at Eyes On The Dollar did a post about some random things that she can’t understand.  While I agree with her on many accounts (especially the one about popcorn ceilings…how did those things even come to be invented?), I figured I’d blatantly copy the idea and give a list of ten things that I often wonder about.

  1. Why do people insist on sharing any details about their juice cleanse? It’s gross.  Stop it.  I don’t care if you skip over the disgusting parts, it’s still disgusting.  If I owned a juice company, I would specifically put a note on each bottle of juice asking people to please not use my juice as part of any cleanse.  Because, you know, it’s gross.
  2. Why do people buy homes and then let the home or yard fall into disrepair?  I’m not saying every home and yard has to look immaculate, but for people who just neglect them, I don’t get it.  It’s not like we haven’t been doing this home buying thing for decades now.  You should sort of know what to expect.
  3. Why can little kids can magically pick up on any bad word?  Even if you say it in a regular tone of voice surrounded by fifty other words that you want them to learn, but they don’t, they will instantly pick out any naughty or swear word and being using it.  In context.
  4. Why do we think it’s OK to treat each so poorly when we’re behind the wheel of a car?  People think nothing of zooming around other cars or cutting other cars off.  Read that sentence again and it becomes clear why people rationalize it.  Because they see themselves as cutting off another car or going around another car or getting angry at another car.  People forget that there are other human beings driving those cars, and in most cases, people wouldn’t dream of treating another person that way in a face to face situation.
  5. Why has executive and management pay gone up (in terms of real buying power) but everybody else has pretty much stayed the same over the last 20-30 years?  Is management the only group doing a better job than other workers?  And, are they?
  6. How come companies could afford to offer things like pensions and full health benefits but now cry poverty and cut anything to do with those benefits without giving it a second thought?  Oh, wait, I guess that’s the executives doing such a good job, right?
  7. Why do people care so passionately about the political beliefs of other people?  Honestly, as long as you don’t try to push your beliefs on me, I really don’t care what you believe.  But, how many people now instantly dislike someone when they find out a particular affiliation or belief?  Too, too many.
  8. Why do computers know to ask if you’re sure you want to do the things you are absolutely sure of, but to give you no such consideration when you click something by mistake?
  9. Why do we think that it’s only today’s politicians that don’t worry about what the decisions they make down the road will cost ‘our grandchildren’?  Let’s face it, most of the infrastructure we have was put into place under politicians who are long out of office or dead, and while they approved the funding, they didn’t look ahead and plan for what do with it once it started falling apart.  So, this has been going on for a lot longer than many people think.
  10. Why does every Michael’s or Joann’s store have leaky ceilings?  I remember my grandma dragging me around to crafts stores as a kid, and every ceiling was covered with water stained tiles.  Now, every so often, my wife drags me to one of the stores, and the ceiling is the same.  Other stores in the same shopping centers are fine, but leaky ceilings in craft stores?  Every single time.


Does Aldi Stack Up In Terms Of Quality And Taste?

We’ve recently added Aldi as one of the stores we visit regularly to fulfill our grocery shopping needs.  There isn’t one really close to us (7 miles is the closest), but we found that it was worth it and could offer savings for our family.  Last month, Aldi represented about 20% of the money we spent on groceries.

mb-201304groceryAfter buying some items, either once or regularly, I thought it would be interesting to review how the items stacked up against the same items we would buy in a more traditional grocery store.

Here are a few comparisons, with as much information as I can remember:

Read moreDoes Aldi Stack Up In Terms Of Quality And Taste?

Is Flipping A Charity Auction Item Going Too Far?

Our son’s preschool has run a charity auction for a number of years, I believe this was the 12th year.  Being that this is his first year, and our first year involved with the school, we were excited to see what it was all about.

The goal was to raise $5,000 toward the school.  This helps keep the costs relatively low, as well as the fact that it’s a co-op, so they have less staff being that the parents participate.

The auction consisted of two different elements, one was buying tickets, and then putting them in buckets corresponding to certain prize draws.  Some of the items included:

Read moreIs Flipping A Charity Auction Item Going Too Far?

There Are Always Savings Opportunities

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten a raise at work.  Quite a long while, actually.  While that in itself is less than optimal (read: it sucks), it gets even worse when you consider that things have gotten more expensive across the board.  Just a few examples:

  • Gas prices have gone up quite a bit
  • Food prices have gone up a lot (or they shrink the packages, which means you have to buy more, so the end result is you pay more)
  • Health insurance premiums have skyrocketed
  • Our mortgage was re-financed.  Even though we are putting over $500 more in principle away each month for a modest $150 increase in the payment, it’s still a cash flow issue.

Read moreThere Are Always Savings Opportunities

The Simple Reason JC Penney’s Pricing Gimmick Failed

It took only 17 months for Ron Johnson be outsted as the CEO of JC Penney. Quite honestly, I’m surprised that it took that long!

When I first heard about the proposed change in the item pricing strategy, I was skeptical.  For those who might have missed the whole thing, Johnson effectively wiped out sales and coupons, two mainstays of JC Penney’s pricing model, and replaced it with ‘fair pricing’ that would lower the everyday prices of all items.  So, instead of a t-shirt being $15, getting marked down 20%, and then being sold for another 20% off with a coupon available in the Sunday insert (making for a total of $9.60 if my math is right), they would price the item at, say, $9.

Read moreThe Simple Reason JC Penney’s Pricing Gimmick Failed

As Pet Care Costs Continue To Rise, Ask When Enough Is Enough

I have two cats, both of whom are pretty old.

Our old girl

The older cat is 17 years old (sometime this month, as she was a ‘barn cat’ we don’t really know her exact date of birth).  She started off as a cat that my roommate and I out of college thought would be good.  The roommate left after a couple of years, and the cat stayed with me.  She was never sick a day in her life, but a checkup a couple of years ago revealed that her kidneys were starting to fail.  This is pretty common for older cats.

The vet also discovered a slight heart murmer.

The vet advised that I start treating her by injecting fluid under her skin.  This would allow more liquids to flow through her kidneys, more than she could get by drinking water.  The vet advised that each bag, which would last roughly a week, would cost $28.  I found an alternate source that costs $10 per week, and the vet agreed to write a prescription to allow me to purchase the medication.

Read moreAs Pet Care Costs Continue To Rise, Ask When Enough Is Enough

From Annoyed To Happy: Always Run Your Numbers

We recently went to Kohl’s and went on a fairly extensive shopping spree.  My wife has gotten pretty good at identifying the real deals available at Kohl’s from the non-deals (where they mark up items higher than other stores, than offer a ‘discount’).

We had two coupons that we wanted to use, one was a 30% off your entire purchase coupon (the ones where you get the mail item and it can be either 15%, 20%, or 30%) as well as a $10 off $30 spent on men’s clothing.

We came out with a fairly decent assortment of goods.  The items that sparked my interest were those which qualified for the $10 off $30 spent on mens clothes.  Our plan was to purchase between $30 and $33.33 and apply the coupon, since this would actually provide a better deal than the 30% off coupon.

One of the things we picked up was a pair of shorts, and we rounded up the $29.99 to $30.

When we went to the register, we initially were going to do that transaction seperate, thinking it would give us the best deal and eliminate any chance of not getting the best deal.  The cashier talked us into just ringing it all up at once.

Read moreFrom Annoyed To Happy: Always Run Your Numbers

Entertainment Book Filed For Bankruptcy

Update: Entertainment has asked me to pass along that they have resumed operations (click here for their press release), and that merchants are expected to continue honoring their coupons until the expiration date.  Thanks to Jennie at Entertainment for finding my post and passing along the information.  Best of luck to her and the rest of the workers as the company works through this!

I’m from the Detroit area, so this got quite a bit of news coverage: The Entertainment Book, known for its coupons on a variety of dining establishments, stores, and other services, abruptly shut down a couple of weeks ago.  Unsuspecting employees showed up to work only to find that they were ceasing operations, and everybody was sent home.  No severance, no benefits, nothing.  The company was filing for bankruptcy and that was that.

Read moreEntertainment Book Filed For Bankruptcy