A Free Idea For Gas Station Owners

When I was younger (early-to-mid teens) I harbored a lot of different ideas about things I might do later in life.  One of the things I thought was that I would own a chain of gas stations.

Why gas stations, you ask?  It wasn’t for reasons you might think.  I didn’t think that there was some great opportunity in gas stations, nor did I have any particular fondness for gas or fuel or anything like that.

It’s because I had an idea associated with them that I thought could separate me from the pack.

See, my idea was going to be that I would price my gas honestly.  I was going to drop the $0.009 cents that is and (at least as long as I can remember) has always been commonplace.  Then, I was going to run my advertising campaign by touting that I was the only gas station that, if the sign said $1.09 per gallon (this was twenty years ago!), it really was $1.09 and not $1.099.

Obviously my dreams of glory by being the ‘only honest gas station salesman’ never came to fruition, but if there are any gas station owners looking for an angle, feel free to try it out and let me know how it works.  The only stipulation for using my great idea is you have to call your station ‘Beagle Gas’.

Happy weekend!

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Should I Ditch The Earmarks?

In our net worth, I have a series of earmarks, and I’m wondering what your thoughts are on getting rid of them.

Here’s a brief rundown of how my ‘system’ works when it comes to earmarks.

We keep money between an ING Direct savings account and an Ally Demand Notes money market account to cover the following:

  • Emergency Fund
  • Future New Car Fund
  • Vacation Fund
  • Electronics / Furniture Fund
  • New Roof Fund
  • Car Maintenance and Repair Fund
  • Escrow Fund (we pay our own property insurance and taxes)

There’s a couple of other funds but they’re too complicated to explain, but I think you can get the picture from the categories above.

What I do is basically ‘write down’ a portion of each of the funds above, since, in theory, they’re allocated already for spending.  The emergency fund is the only exception that has no earmarks against it.

The rationale I used when I set this up is that, because it’s a matter of when the money get spent, not if, writing off part of the amounts would reduce the drastic swings in calculating our net worth.

If I have $1,000 in our car repair fund, I might have a 75% write-down on that.  That means that when I calculate our net worth, only $250 of that amount shows up in our net worth.  It also means that if I had a repair come due that cost me $1,000, we would only see a drop in net worth of $250 for that month.

So, it does exactly what it’s supposed to do.  But, after a few years of running this way, and adding various categories over time, I’m just not sure it’s worth the trouble anymore.  I guess the better question is whether it’s really such a bad thing to have drops in net worth when big expenses come due?

It would certainly make things easier to just drop this.  This would result in a one-time spike in our net worth, but would then be a lot easier to keep track of on a month to month basis.

What are your thoughts on earmarking funds?

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Make Good Financial Decision Making Automatic

In the years we’ve been working together, I had never seen my boss in the break room getting his lunch ready until last week.  I knew him as one to go out every single day.  So, when I saw him in there last week, I did a double take.

He admitted that he had never been one to bring lunch from home, but wanted to start doing so regularly.  His motivation was both financial (saving money) and health (eating better).

He first told me that it had been a tough transition, simply because he wasn’t used to making his lunch regularly.

This immediately made me look at how I handle my lunch, which is to bring it from home every single day.  Why?  Because making my lunch is now part of my automatic routine in the evening.  After dinner, I’ll always spend five or ten minutes making a sandwich or putting together some leftovers for the next day, along with fruit, yougurt, and veggies.  This has become so habitual that I’ve even unthinkingly made my lunch on days where I haven’t needed to (when the company provides lunch or something along those lines).

We talked, and he realized that the ‘habit forming’ part is what was holding him back, and he is now working on developing new habits that will allow him to make this more part of his routine.  He is now portioning out a bit of what is served for dinner at the same time he takes his dinner plate.  This ensures that lunch gets made, since it ties in with eating dinner, something he does every day.

What does this have to do with finances?  Well, the same analogy could be used for determining the difference between those who exhibit good financial behavior and those who don’t. It comes down to forming habits (and making sure they are good ones.

Here’s just a few good financial habits that you should be making sure you have:

  • Save for retirement – If your employer offers a savings plan, sign up for it. They’ll take it out of your paycheck automatically.
  • Pay your bills – Setup a calendar reminder and sign up for automatic bill pay when you can to ensure that you don’t get any late payments.
  • Check your balances – Keep an eye on your bank and credit card balances every day.  Looking at them will make sure you’re familiar with your spending and can lead to being able to avoid costly overdraft charges.
  • Stash your tax paperwork – If you get something important, put it in a basket or folder that you can then go through to file things away later.  Instead of doing a mad scramble at tax time or being without important documents, your habit of putting important stuff in the same spot will make for easier time come tax time.

There have got to be hundreds of other ways to develop good habits, from everything ranging to finances to making lunch.  The key is making it easy and repeating it.  After you repeat your good habits a few times, you won’t even have to think about doing them, they’ll just come naturally, leading to a better and less stressful life!

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.

Restaurants and Debit Cards

Maybe someone with experience or knowledge of the restaurant industry can help me understand a minor point on how debit cards are handled.

This arises from a situation on New Year’s Eve.  My wife and I went out to a restaurant to eat.  We’ve been there a time or two in the past, but not for a long time.

The meal was wonderful, and as we usually do when we eat out, we paid using my debit card.  As is also usual, I signed for the tip to be added on.

What I’ve noticed happens at most restaurants when I do this is that for the first day or two, the transaction shows up in my register as a pre-authorization and is usually for only the amount of the check.  This makes sense as I’m guessing that the restaurant swipes the card before bringing it back to the table where tip can be handled.  Typically, when the transaction clears after a day or two and appears as a Posted Transaction, the full amount including tip shows up.

Now, with our New Years eve experience, the pre-authorization amount included an additional 20%.  I didn’t tip 20% exactly, but I was able to calculate the difference by looking at the check and the total on my transaction register.

Is this a new thing where restaurants want to make sure you can afford to tip when you get back to the table?

Even though, once the transaction posted a couple of days later, everything was updated to what I had actually tipped, for some reason this bothered me.  What if I tipped less than 20%?  Is the restaurant assuming that I’m cheap for doing so?  What if I had chosen to leave the tip in cash instead, therefore any amount over my check amount was unjustified, and could have caused problems had I not been one to leave a cushion in my bank account?

Any thoughts on whether this is standard practice or what the basis is for a restaurant choosing to operate this way?  It’s not going to stop us from going back, but I’m curious as to whether it would be out of line to comment on this next time we pay.

Thanks in advance if you have any insight.

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