8 Things Your Travel Agent Should Be Doing For You

Planning a trip can be a very exciting time.  Still, there can be a lot of stress to go along with it. Sometimes it’s OK to plan things yourself.  This applies if it’s a simple trip or if you have made arrangements before.  But, if you’re taking a trip that involves going somewhere new and/or has a lot of detailed planning, you might find value in using the services of a travel agent.

We’ve used a travel agent twice in planning trips.  Both of them fit the criteria above, as the first was for our honeymoon trip to Hawaii back in 2007, and the second was for our family trip to Disney World last fall.

How Our Travel Agents Earned Money

In both cases, our travel agents worked for us and we got the same pricing for the services or goods that we purchased as we would have had we gotten them on our own.  (Trust me, I checked!)

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Powered Device Not Working? Check The Battery Contacts

I’ve said this before on this blog, but the fact that it keeps happening makes it worth repeating: If you have a battery driven device that isn’t working properly, it’s important to check the battery contacts.

This just happened to us again during a recent cold spell.  This time, it was our thermostat.

I woke up and I could immediately tell that the temperature was not right.  I couldn’t see my breath or anything, but I know what the house feels like when I take that first step out of the covers, and this was colder than it should be.

For the record, the variation was only three degrees off.  We have the heat drop to 60 at night, and it was 57.

I wasn’t sure what was going on, but went downstairs to investigate.

The first thing I found was that the thermostat was the issue, as it was flashing the pretty obvious message: LOW BATT.

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What Might We Do With Our Extra Money?

Looking at our money and our budget, there are a few things that have changed over the recent months, and it will require some change in planning on how we approach our money.  One of the things we’ll have to look at it how we allocate extra money.

Where Is This Money Coming From?

Everybody will define this differently, but for us the extra money boils down to a few different areas.

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Should You Save Money Or Pay Off Debt First?

Whether you’ve gotten a reverse mortgage to dig yourself out of a financial hole, come into some money and are ready to start a more effective approach to budgeting, or are just trying to live a more financially savvy life, you are probably debating a common issue: save money or pay off debt? Opinions abound on each issue. Some financial planners will tell you that paying off debt doesn’t give you anything, so you should save first. Others point out that the interest payments associated with debt are inevitably higher than those associated with saving, so nixing the debt first makes sense. The truth is that you’ll need to consider several factors before making the decision.

Can You Lower the Interest on Your Debt?

The interest you will pay toward debt is almost always much higher than the interest payments you will accrue from savings. This means that, when all other factors are equal, you should pay off your debts first. Of course, all things rarely are equal, so you need to explore all options for paying off debt. One of the best things you can do is transfer your balances to a low or zero-interest card. Then, dedicate yourself to fully paying off the debt until the balance is wiped clean and the introductory period ends.

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Why We All Might Be A Bit Like Bernie Madoff

Recently, ABC aired Madoff ,a two-part miniseries about the biggest ever (to date) ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of $65 billion dollars.  By now, many are likely familiar with the details of the scheme, so I won’t go into great detail except to recap that he started a hedge fund and always provided great returns, except that he was never investing a penny of money.  Instead, he was just putting the money into a giant savings account.  As long as there was more money coming in than going out, he could keep it going, but once the financial markets started crashing and investors started redeeming money faster than it was going out, the whole thing fell apart when the bank account (nearly) dried up.

The miniseries was pretty entertaining, and I always like Richard Dreyfuss, who was entertaining, but might not have been the best casting decision, as he usually makes his characters likable to a degree, so much that you often forgot to hate Bernie Madoff at various times.

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Have You Ever Had A Financial Freak Out Moment?

Have you ever had a moment where you just flipped out about something money related? That happened to me last week.  The worst part is that my financial freak out ended up being a total false alarm!

Costco Rewards Time Is Almost Near

Around the beginning part of the year, holders of the Costco American Express card receive a paper certificate, on the last page of which contains your certificate for the rewards you’ve earned by making purchases on the card throughout the year.

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Only Buy Sale Items At The Fancy Grocery Store

We have a few different grocery store options near us, and they cover all of the different price categories that I would say are available.  Here’s how I would define the price options and an example of each that is pretty widely known:

  • Cheap: Wal-Mart
  • Moderate: Kroger
  • Expensive: Whole Foods

Where We Do A Majority of Our Shopping

We do most of our shopping at Meijer, which is a regional chain that I would classify as moderate.  We have a Wal-Mart nearby, but honestly the experience of shopping in that store just isn’t worth it.  (Note to Wal-Mart: Opening two registers at peak time and causing a 30-minute wait for a standard basket of items is a guaranteed way to get people who value their time to shop elsewhere).

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Bummer News About Our Cat Boomer

Last week wasn’t the best week in our house, as we had to put our cat Boomer to rest.

Boomer was my companion for a little over fifteen and a half years.  When he came into my life, I wasn’t looking to be a cat owner to another cat.  I already had one, and had recently lost a second one.  A girl I was seeing at the time also liked cats, and I must have mentioned something about missing the other cat, because as a birthday present she decided to get me a kitten!

I was a little shocked, but the moment he walked in, laid down on a pile of blankets next to the couch, and fell asleep, I was hooked!

(For those who are wondering, the relationship only lasted a few more months, but by then the cat was part of the family!)

Boomer got his name because, as a kitten, he loved jumping up and down off furniture and made quite a loud thump, or BOOM, every time he hit the floor.  And so was Boomer!

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Book(s) Review: Last Hundred Year Trilogy by Jane Smiley

tI read a lot of books, as reading fiction is one of my favorite hobbies.  Every once in a while, one book hits me to where I want to share my thoughts.  The Last Hundred Year trilogy is actually three books that did just that!

I make great use of our public library, and I keep tabs on new books that they get through an RSS feed that gets updated whenever they get something in.  I’ll take a look, and will mark the book for a read if it looks interesting enough (and often, I’ll check Goodreads to see what other readers think).

mb-2016-02-booksAbout a year ago, a book appeared that I knew I’d like, called Some Luck by Jane Smiley.  It was the first book in a trilogy that she was releasing over the course of about a year that would chronicle a family over the course of 100 years, which happened to be 1920-2019.  Yes, the book goes ‘into the future’ but I’ll cover that at the proper time.

I was intrigued, the ratings for the book were good, and as she’s an accomplished author, it looked great.  I’ve recently completed the trilogy, and thought it was interesting enough to post a review, breaking down the review by each book.

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Thoughts On Amazon Prime Benefits

We joined Amazon Prime last fall.  Tjey offered a $32 discount on their normal $99 price as a one-day promotion for new customers. Since we had considered it in the past, we decided to take the leap.  Now that we’ve had it for just over three months, I figured it would be a good opportunity to evaluate things.  There are a number of Amazon Prime benefits that we enjoy.

2-Day Shipping / Convenience

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