Posts Tagged 'money'

To tip or not to tip, thats the question

A wee conundrum this morning. My washing machine that we inherited with the house when we moved in, died early this week.  It had been causing problems for a while so we had started budgeting to replace it at some point in 2012, but then it went to silicon heaven earlier than we anticipated.

On the plus side it tied in well with the Black Friday sales (they spill over into Canada too) which meant I we got a stonking deal with $500 off. Not too shabby.

But back to the point of the post, the guys coming to deliver (from Sears) were also installing the new one and taking the old one away. So do you tip?  If I still lived in the UK the answer would be a flat no, an offer of a cup of tea or coffee would be about it. If I lived in the States I think the answer would be yes, but this is Canada. The place where traditions from all over the world come toe to toe with North American consumer etiquette and muddle together.

If its food service then yeah, its a no brainer but I’ve paid extra for delivery and unlike some food service businesses these guys will be on a set wage that doesn’t take tipping into account as part of their earning.

So what did I do?  I did what everybody does in similar situations – I asked Google. Unfortunately my Google search came back with a mix and match of different opinions and comments and still I had no definitive answer. By this point I had offered the guys drinks if they wanted them, they didn’t as they had their own in the truck but they were both very friendly, chatty and seemed more intent on getting the job done and on to the next.

I think that was they key, they were friendly. If they had a face like thunder I would have shrugged and gone back to my morning but the friendly manner and how quickly they were getting on with the task in hand, combined with the blog comments by delivery guys that I’d read as part of my Google search who said that they really appreciate any tips although dont expect them made up my mind. I was going to tip.

Yeah, I really wish I had checked to see if I had any cash BEFORE I made up my mind that I was tipping.  I didn’t ask but I think trying to tip 2 delivery guys with a credit card would be difficult. What ensued was a frantic search for some notes (I feel weird about tipping with coins, not that I more than pennies anyway) and ended up with $15 US left over from a trip down there earlier in the year. Its not really what I had in mind, but it did give me what I need which was a monetary token of my thanks.

I signed the paper work and as we stood at the door I made comment that I didn’t know if it was the done thing to tip or not, but here was a thank you and they should subsidize their lunch on me. I should say that because of the amount of US tourists that come here most places accept the cash so its not like they wouldn’t be able to spend it.

They didn’t shed any light on whether or not it is the standard thing to receive tips, but they were visibly grateful with a couple of broad smiles and a genuine “thank you very much”.

 

 

Money talk & my first impressions of Mint.com

Way back at the start of the year I said that 2011 was going to be the year that I got my act together with money. It’s not that I was bad with money before, more that I just didn’t actually have any kind of longer term plan.  Being that 2010 was the year I bought my first house, it seemed like the logical step that as I work my way through the mire of mortgage payments I should be looking above and beyond that, to my short and long term financial goals and how my mortgage played into them.
Then I realized my only financial goal was ‘to not be poor’.

So I got about trying to work out some more specific goals, and while I was doing that I more importantly started looking quite sternly at my cash flow. One of the ways I thought I would do this was to get an app on my iPhone that would allow me to record my transactions, so I downloaded a few and tried them out but none were as user friendly as I hoped, then I tried the mint.com app, and I was instantly more impressed.

This led me quite quickly to Mint.com and since then I have become a bit of a Mint.com geek. Rather than having to physically type in transactions of what, where, how much I spend and then turn these records into different categories that will really help in working out where your money is going. You can even pick from a selection of graphs.  This is of course as long as you use your credit card, if not you do still have to add it the old fashioned way BUT with your iPhone app it will work out where, you are (as in what store you’re in) and you just add the amount.

 

It’s funny because I now rarely use the iPhone, 95% of my transactions are on credit card (I know the likes of Gail Val-Oxlade say that you should use cash, but I like the cash back I earn and always pay the balance in full) yet it was via the app store that I became a Mint.com user.

The first thing I noticed was that I was spending far too much on groceries, so I’ve now got that under control, the second thing I noticed was that I was spending way too much at the bar. I’m still working on that one…
There is a hesitation with any web based service that has anything to do with your own money, I’m sure the majority of people would think twice before allowing a third party access to your personal financial information, and I think that that skeptisim is a good thing, it was will hopefully ensure you’re never ripped off online, but in this case I would certainly recommend Mint.com for its user-friendly way of keeping an eye on your finances.

Xbox phone line help

I called to cancel my Xbox live subscription, simply because it’s a broken piece of hardware that just sits there mocking me gathering dust.  Having suffered the frustration of the 3 rings of death on 3 separate occasions I still havent bothered to even find out if I can get it fixed.

While on the phone with the Xbox serf I explained to him that I had no working Xbox so I had no need in a subscription, so he then offered it to me at half price. Eh why?  IT DOESNT WORK!

Financial ramblings about mortgages

As I mentioned in a post a few days ago I see 2011 as the year I my finances in order,  develop my comprehension of personal finances in general and a  get a sound understanding of the investment strategy options available to me.   A few years ago the very idea would have bored me to the bone, but having been forced to reassess my income vs outgoings with a fair amount of scrutiny and weigh up the true worth of any savings I have over the last couple of years due to state of world economics, I’ve had the kick up the butt I needed.

My first conundrum that I am wrestling with is that I am expecting to have a bit of extra cash come my way over and above my regular salary and I am trying to decide whether or not I should put some of it straight into my mortgage.  Putting it straight at my mortgage principal seems like straightforward way to reduce my overall debt and to actually own more of my house.

However there seems to be conflicting advice all over the internet.  Some people say that due to low interest rates you can make more from your money by investing rather than by using extra cash paying off your mortgage.  What I have found though is that these articles talk about that ‘low interest rate’ and concentrate on the interest charged only in the short term (as in over a year) where as the way I see it as I am at the start of my 25 year amortization period any money I can put in now will have huge implications further down the line. In doesn’t just save me money now, but it will continue to save me money every consecutive year here after.

As it stands each of my monthly mortgage payments has a portion going to interest and a portion going to paying off principal, the lower the principal the less interest I can be charged and the more of my monthly payment goes straight to paying off principal.

As I have had my mortgage less than a year, if I pay an extra months rent now in Year 1 I save the equivalent of 5 months worth of mortgage payments over the life of the mortgage.

A good website that helps to illustrate this is www.albertacreditunions.com you can put in all the relevant details and hey presto it gives you an idea as to how much money you could be saving. For example if I had a $100k mortgage at a rate of 4%  with an amortization period of 25 years and at the end of the 1st year I decide I can drop an extra $5k onto the principal the savings over the full length of the mortgage is a pretty staggering $7549.

It may not been money earned but its money saved at a return rate I wont get from any other investment, with zero risk.

 

2011; A New Year with no resolutions

That’s right, no resolutions, not one. Instead I have opted to concentrate on things I do want rather than things I don’t, goals and achievements that I would like to tick off as I journey through the year.

I have done similar things previous years and I find it a lot more gratifying to go through the year hitting each of these goals rather than concentrating on not doing something or concentrating on trying to do a specific thing to much.  So what kind of things am I talking about?  Well for a start I always approach each New Year with the desire to see a new city, the base line of travel goals for 2011.

Health? Well I know I need to drop a few pounds so that’s on the list, as is running a 10k this year.  The latter made the list last year, unfortunately the only one I did was on a treadmill in a gym and not a proper race, hopefully this year I’ll go one better.

I also have a couple of night courses on there, and I really want to be come fluent in a foreign language, due to the years spent studying it at school French is looking a likely choice, but then again I might surprise myself and go for something a little bit more uncommon.

2011’s goals though focus mainly around becoming more disciplined and educated when it comes to money. The last few years I’ve had my ups and downs like most people due to the roller coaster economy and yet I’m leaving 2010 financially sound (wellI think I am…). Despite it all I became a home owner for the first time in 2010 and there is nothing like a mortgage over your head to get you think about ways to minimize your monthly outgoings. 

While I’m not completely naive about economics and personal finance I’ve never had anything that you would call an investment strategy or really even any long term financial goals.  But this is the year all that changes.  I have already found a couple of blogs I’ll be pouring over in search of sound advice from those who are better at this than me:

  • Youngandthrifty.ca a finance blog for generation Y with a particular insight into Canadian economics (perfect for me!)
  • The quite brilliantly named punchdebtintheface.com which I’ll be honest I’ve not read as much of yet, but with a name like that its got to be awesome!

I may not be a millionaire by May, but if I’m a few dollars better of this time next year I’ll be heading in the right direction.

 

 

A few days in San Diego

Can I afford it? No.

Do I still want to go?  Yes.

Can I justify it?  Not really.

Bottom line I have a voucher that expires at the end of the month for 25% off any flight with Air Canada, combined with the fact that I am very close to having the silver membership with their reward miles.  That may sound a bit wankey, it’s not supposed to, it’s just I quite like the idea of having the perks for the next year. 

I have 3 days off and a credit card, and at the end of it all I guess I would prefer the experience even if it does mean that I’m skint over Christmas.