RSS

Monthly Archives: March 2012

Research, Pets, and Personal Finance- How Are They All Relevant?

Image

Almost a year ago my girlfriend and I decided to buy a puppy. We were on the fence for a long time about whether or not it would be a good idea. There were just so many things to consider: Did we have enough time for a puppy? Did we have the money to support a puppy? Do we really want to give up sleep to take care of a puppy? In the end, we decided just to run out and get one.  I think it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Sure it can be rough at times, but once you get used to the lack of sleep, and spending all your free time at the dog park, it’s actually really fun. The thing that worried me the most about the whole situation was paying for its medical supplies. What happens if he gets sick and we can’t afford the vet bill? Luckily for us we’ve only had to take him to the vet a few times, but there has to be a way to save money when your pet gets sick. When we got his shots we went through a clinic (which was way cheaper). They only do it once a month, but if you can time it right it works out perfectly.

I still haven’t been able to find a way to get cheap vet visits. Maybe someone out there has an answer for me. The first time we took him to the vet it was just a checkup. He ended up prescribing us some heart worm tablets to give our puppy. They were $60 for 6 months worth. I didn’t think that was too expensive, but all the costs of a puppy definitely add up. Once we ran out of the pills I wasn’t sure about how to get them again. Sure I could have gone back to the vet, but I was worried they would charge a $50 checkup fee. I didn’t want to pay a fee when my puppy was perfectly healthy so I decided to look them up online (and I’m glad I did). I went to 1800petmeds.com and found the same pills for half the price! I was skeptical at first. Wouldn’t it be hard to buy prescribed medications online? As it turns out it’s really easy.  I just needed to enter hits veterinary’s information, and they call them to get the new prescription.  The tablets were delivered to me a few days later (I did pay a $3 shipping fee).

I just find it interesting how much money we can save if we just put a little time and effort into researching something before we buy it. I’ve always liked to just run out and buy something as soon as I needed/wanted it. I’m starting to think that’s not the way purchases should be made. I had no idea I could save money on pet medication, but I did. It makes me wonder how many other things I’ve bought without knowing I could get a better deal. I think we can all save a lot of money with just a little bit of research. I know I don’t want to be the person that pays full price for everything, do you? 

 
6 Comments

Posted by on March 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , ,

Five Key Things to Check BEFORE Renting a Home

So I’ve mentioned in a few posts about me looking for a new place to move into. I have no experience in deciding if a home is in good shape or not. After getting approved for the duplex I thought everything was going to be smooth sailing from here on out. I guess I was naïve to think that if someone was going to rent out a property they would make sure everything was in working order before they allowed someone to live in it. Luckily for me, my girlfriend’s parents happened to come up and visit us the weekend before we signed the lease.

Her father deals in real estate so he has all the experience I’m lacking. When we walked into the duplex he immediately started combing through everything. As he went through the places we made a list of over 15 problems that needed to be fixed before we could move it. Some were minor, like one of the electrical outlets was missing a cover. Then we found some major issues, like where the plumbing in the bathroom leaks into the wall. I would like to give the owners of this property the benefit of doubt that maybe they didn’t notice the leaks (but I’m sure they had). The things that really blew my mind were the tricks the landlords had used to hide major issues. For instance, instead of replacing the bathtub they decided to paint it. Well it looks ok at first, but after a while the paint peels away (sneaky, sneaky). Also, they painted the ceiling to make it look nicer; however, to cut costs they didn’t use primer and the whole ceiling was starting to peel off. After seeing what type of people we were dealing with, I knew we couldn’t move in.

I wrote this blog post because I want to pass on the lessons I’ve learned to others so you don’t make the same mistake I almost made. Here are the main things:

1) Take Your Time And Look Through EVERYTHING– When we first found this place the only thing we looked at was the floor plan. It’s so important to look at all the little things to make sure everything works. Check things like the toilet, the shower, the fridge, the stove, the furnace/water heater, the air vents/filter, and especially look for water damage.

2) Don’t Be Shy, Talk To The Neighbors– We talked to the guy living next door to the duplex, and he filled us in on some very important information. He told us the roofers that built the roofs in this neighborhood were cut rate and did a terrible job. We also found out that the area was really windy and the siding of the houses tends to fly off. We wouldn’t have known about any of this if we hadn’t been open to chatting with the neighbors.

3) Never Trust the Landlord– It’s sad. The older I get the more I realize you can’t trust anyone (except a select few) when it comes to money. Never assume the landlord will have made sure everything is in working order before you move in.

4) Ask For Repairs Before You Sign The Lease– There are two main reasons it’s important to catch all these issues before you sign the lease. A) Their might be too many problems and you don’t even want to move in anymore (like in my case). B) You have way more leverage to get them to fix things before you’re already locked in to the lease. If you tell them you won’t move in until everything is fixed you will have a better chance at getting them to do it quickly.

5) Do All This Before You Fill Out The Application– We didn’t do a good job at checking the duplex before we filled out the application. If we had, we wouldn’t have wanted it and saved ourselves the non-refundable application fee.

Does anyone else have more advice for people that are looking to rent?

 
18 Comments

Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , ,

Make Sure Your Free Credit Score is FREE

In one of my recent blog posts I mentioned that I was looking for a house to rent. I applied for one last week but hadn’t heard back from them (until this afternoon). I was starting to get concerned that I hadn’t gotten the place. I knew I made enough money to afford the rent, so that shouldn’t have been the issue. I started to think of other reasons I might have gotten passed up. The first thing that came to my mind was my credit score. What was it? Could I have missed a payment on something? Maybe that credit card I never activated affected me negatively? With all these questions about my credit going through my mind I remembered the popular jingle from freecreditreport.com. I decided to go on and check it out. After all it should be free. Their name has the word free in it.

 I went to their website and started filling out their questions. Once I was through, they gave me the option to wait two days and get my credit score for free or pay $1 and get it instantly. I was there to get it for free, so naturally I waited. Once I got my score back I was happy. It’s very good considering one of my credit cards is new, and I’ve never purchased real estate. I was so pleased with my score I decided to tell my girlfriend’s father about it. Once I was done, he seemed interested in checking his own credit. The only thing he asked me (which I’m glad he did) is if the website is secure. I wasn’t totally sure. At this point I was praying it was. I decided to do a little research to make sure. To my relief, everything seemed to check out OK. I was glad to find out my information was safe, but I was disturbed to also find out that after seven days they were going to start billing me almost $20 a month to track my credit score. Now, I know it’s my fault that I didn’t read the fine print, but the word FREE is in the name FREEcreditreport.com. I was able to call them and cancel my account before they charged me, but that’s how they make their money. I thought it was funny because when you call them to cancel they immediately offer you 50% off the first six months. I guess their accustomed to people actually wanting a free credit report.

This whole story boils down to a few things:

1) You can get a free credit score. One way to do it is to go to freecreditreport.com. Then, select to wait two days. After you get your score call them and cancel (you have 7 days from when you sign up). You don’t even have to talk to anyone. It’s all automated. I would recommend keeping the cancellation e-mail they send you just in case.

2) If you want to track your credit score you can get 50% off the first 6 months by signing up and then threaten to cancel your account.

P.S. I ended up getting the house!

 
8 Comments

Posted by on March 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

3 Reasons You Should Celebrate Holidays Late

Ever since I was 15 I’ve worked in a restaurant. It is a great job for students trying to get through school. It allows you to work for a few hours, and then leave with a substantial amount of cash. The thing that has always really bugged me about working in a restaurant is having to work holidays. While everyone else is spending time with their families, I had to work. After a few years of this I became numb to the holiday spirit. This reminds me of my grandfather’s birthday. Every year when his birthday would come around he’d say, “when you get to my age it’s just another day.” At the time I didn’t understand it, but I think he was right. Every day is just another day, and we have the option of what we want to do (or celebrate) on that particular day. After working more and more holidays, I decided that just because most people celebrated that holiday on a particular day didn’t, mean I can’t enjoy it on a different one. After trying this a few times I decided it’s actually better to go this route.

1) Holiday Items are 50% Off: This year my girlfriend and I celebrated Valentine’s day on February 15th. I waited until the day after V-day to go shopping for her gifts. Normally I wouldn’t want to buy her the normal cheesy gifts because I would feel like I was getting ripped off,  but this year I was able to buy her a lot of presents because they were all on sale. If you wait to buy holiday themed gifts until after the holiday, you’ll normally get at least 50% off. Who doesn’t like a good sale?

2) Going Out = Better Service: I’ve always been amazed with how many people actually go out and eat on a holiday. When I was growing up, we always had big family events that involved a home cooked meal. I guess some people just don’t like to cook. If you’re going to celebrate a holiday by eating out, go the day before or after. Every holiday I’ve worked has been a cram fest (how many people can we cram into this room without them complaining). Even if you have a reservation you’ll end up having to wait for a table. Once you finally get sat, your chance of having a problem with your food is higher due to the amount of orders coming out of the kitchen. Also, it’s a lot harder to get the proper amount of attention from your  server because they are busy. You’ll have a better dining experience if you don’t dine out on holidays. Also, if you have a family tradition that involves going out in public (like going to the movies), it will always be crowded on holidays. Increase your odds of having a pleasant experience by celebrating your holidays a little earlier or later.

3) Coupons/Discounts Aren’t Valid– Because of the poor economy, many establishments are giving out a ton of coupons and discounts. Most of these bargains won’t be valid on holidays (or any other busy day). If you plan your entertainment around these days you’ll be able to save money.

I think it’s important to remember that the best part of the holidays is spending time with the people you love. Working in a restaurant has shown me that it really doesn’t matter if it’s celebrated on the actual holiday or the next week. So why not try to save a little money and make your activities, whatever they may be, a little better.      

 
4 Comments

Posted by on March 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , ,

3 Things to Watch to Make Sure You Aren’t Being Overcharged

I think it’s safe to say that we live in a society where everything moves very fast. Most of us are busy, and life just seems to fly by. I think it’s great how much stuff we can get done at any given time, but it’s important to slow it down sometimes to make sure we aren’t being taken advantage of. Here are 3 instances I think it’s important to take a step back and make sure you aren’t being overcharged.

 1) Grocery Store Reciept– I don’t know about you, but I hate grocery shopping. I’m a poor college student so I tend to shop at Wal-Mart (it’s so cheap). Wal-Mart alone is probably why I hate shopping. It’s always so crowded, which make it impossible to navigate the isles! People are always walking around slow. They stand side by side and block the shelves. It’s just a giant mess. Because I hate it there, I’m always in a hurry to checkout. They don’t really use baggage people so I’m always busy packing up my own groceries. I’m sure there have been times where I’ve been overcharged because I wasn’t paying attention. It wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t have baggage people just to distract their customers from noticing items being rung up twice or with the wrong amount. This is why it’s important to put the rushing attitude behind at the checkout stand and make sure you’re not overpaying.

 2) Monthly Bills– I’ve always been terrible at combing through my monthly bills. I like to just pay them and get it over with. Recently I’ve been hearing a lot about companies tacking on extra fees. It feels like most companies want to hold you upside down and shake every last penny free. Their like bullies stealing lunch money. Most of us probably have no idea if we’ve ever actually paid these extra fees, but in these tough times it’s important to pay attention and end the shakedowns. If we keep paying the fees, they’ll keep adding them.

3) Foreign Travel– My girlfriend’s parents recently got back from a cruise that went to Komodo Island. Tourist from all over the world travel to this island to see the endangered Komodo dragon. Before the cruise ship company would let them off the boat, they made sure they booked a tour with the local Komodo dragon tour company (they are a monopoly). The tour cost over $175.00 a person. If they didn’t book a tour with them they wouldn’t let them on the island. My girlfriend’s father is a very thrifty guy, and he read ahead of time that he could get a private tour of Komodo Island by going to the ranger station and paying $15.00. When he tried to do this the local tour company through a fit. It took a while to work out, but they ended up getting a great tour for 10% of the cost. This example shows how important it is to be informed when you travel to another country. He did his research and was able to get a great deal, and if he would have just gone on with everyone else he would have been overcharged.

 
32 Comments

Posted by on March 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , ,

Only Buy Stuff Online With a Picture? Maybe You Shouldn’t

Technology has completely changed the way we buy and sell items on the internet. The better technology gets the higher our expectations become. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been looking for a house to rent. I noticed that one of the main things I look at, before I even consider a post, is if it has a picture or not. As I look through the endless rental posts, such as Craigslist.com or Hotpads.com, I skip over everything without a picture. I just assume they are scams or too damaged to be worth my time. I mean, who doesn’t know how to post a picture online? Anyone that was serious about selling something should have a picture of it. My girlfriend found a post on Craigslist last night that sounded great but didn’t have a photo. I told her not to bother, but she e-mailed the “owner” anyways. To my surprise she received a response that seemed legitimate, and we are going to check the house out later today. This whole situation has made me re-evaluate my method for showing interest on items that are posted online. I might have been missing out on a ton of good deals because they didn’t have pictures, and I know I’m not the only one. I was discussing this issue with a co-worker of mine, and she admitted that she also only considers buying something online if the owner posts a picture. I still think it’s a good idea for sellers to post pictures of the goods they’re trying to sell, but I can think of 3 reasons why a legitimate seller wouldn’t post a picture.

1) The seller isn’t Tech Savvy: I’m 25 years old, and I often forget that some people aren’t comfortable with technology. I looked up the owner of the house we are going to look at today, and it turns out that he is 78 years old. He might not have a clue on how to post a picture online. Just because someone isn’t good with technology doesn’t mean their post isn’t sincere.

2) The seller doesn’t have proper equipment to post a photo: Nowadays, it seems like everything can take a picture and link to the internet. Pretty soon we’ll have shoes that have cameras on them! That being said, it is still possible that someone doesn’t have the proper equipment to post pictures online. It’s rare, but not everyone has a digital camera, computer with a camera, or smartphone. I’m constantly working with customer’s that don’t use these technologies. Also, they might own a digital camera but it’s broken. I used to go through tech gadgets like most people go through toilet paper. It seems like they’re always breaking.

3) The seller doesn’t think it’s necessary to post a picture: I have a friend that was trying to rent out their home a few years ago. It was a nice house, but no one ever responded to their rental adds. I looked at the post and realized there were no pictures. When I asked my friend about it they said, “I didn’t think I needed any pictures.” It may not seem reasonable but it happens.

I still feel more comfortable checking something out online if I can see a picture first, but I know I’ve missed out on some good deals because of this. Things are harder to sell online if there isn’t a picture, but just remember that it could present a golden opportunity to buy something cheap. Odds are if a seller doesn’t post a picture they will have a harder time selling. If they’ve been trying for a while it might give you the leverage you need to make a good deal. Remember, there are A LOT of scams online, but pictures shouldn’t make or break a deal. Have I missed any reasons a seller wouldn’t post a picture online?

 
5 Comments

Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , ,

A Cry For Help! Finding a Home to Rent

Over the past year I’ve known numerous people that have been having difficulties finding a home to rent. At the time I shrugged it off because I didn’t understand the difficulties that they faced. I thought to myself, “All I hear about is how terrible the housing market is. I bet there are tons of nice, cheap homes out there for rent and my friends just aren’t looking hard enough.” Unfortunately for me, they were right.

It makes sense to me, someone who doesn’t know a lot about real estate, that if you can buy a house for dirt cheap then you should be able to rent a house for cheap too. After starting my hunt for a rental I realized that isn’t the case.  The reasoning for this wasn’t apparent to me so I asked a friend from work, who I know owns rental properties, why people were still asking so much for rent. He explained that people that own rental homes need to build up a cash reserve to take care of any future problems that might occur with that home, and maintain the house and cover the mortgage in case it sits vacant. His reasoning makes sense, but I’m still not happy with the rent prices. Another thought that occurs to me is that with all the foreclosures as of late (Reno is the foreclosure capital) there must be a huge demand for rental homes. Unlike a high demand for home ownership drives prices down to get more bids, a high demand for rentals drives prices up. There is no way rental prices will go down when people have to live somewhere and are willing to pay that high price.

After looking for a few weeks, I’ve come to the understanding that I won’t get to live in the type of house I want.  The only thing I can do is keep looking. I don’t know how many of you have ever looked for a home to rent, but it isn’t a pleasant experience. I’ve tried looking online; I go to websites like Craigslist.com, Zillow.com, and rent.com. The frustrating thing about these sites is they advertise so many apartment complexes, but not many houses. Then, once you do find a house, there is a 50/50 chance it’s someone trying to scam you! I finally found a house that I’m interested in checking out.  I called the rental company that’s in charge of this property and expressed my interest. They told me that I needed to bring $40.00 down to their office so I can leave a deposit and pick up the key and a take a look at the house myself. I guess the days of people showing you the homes are gone. The funny thing about what they said to me is that I can only see the home Monday-Friday and it has to be between 8AM -3PM.  Those days and times just happen to be the same days and times I’m at work, and I’m pretty sure most people work a similar schedule. How does this company plan on renting out homes if their hours are so limited? In case you were wondering, yes I’m frustrated!

So the online hunting hasn’t been working out very well. Maybe a better thing to do would be to drive around neighborhoods I like and look for rental signs.  Because I’m on a budget, I’m looking for a small home. I found a few that looked small so I thought I was on the right path; however, when I called the owners I found out that the tiny houses on my list were all 4 bedroom homes and weren’t anywhere near my price range. I guess driving around doesn’t work as well as I thought it would.

Here is where I need help. I have 1 ½ months left until my lease is up, and I don’t have an effective strategy to find a home to rent. There has got to be an easier way, maybe a website that has a ton of listings for homes but excludes apartment spam, or just some other strategy that I haven’t explored yet. Do any of you have any ideas for me? I’d really appreciate them.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on March 13, 2012 in Uncategorized