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End of the year 2005

First, let me wish all my dedicated readers a belated Merry Christmas and a wish for a Happy and Financially Fun New Year. Me and the family are traveling, celebrating and I think I need a 2 week hiatus, so I am taking advantage of that, and will be back in the new year (most likely after January 3rd or so).

I thank you for your continued support reading my rants and commentary. I hope you are enjoying this time for family.

Happy New Year Folks!! Here is hoping that 2006 is a little better than 2005 (for me, less family illness would be great)

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Don’t use Debit, Use Credit?

If you are planning on being the victim of fraud, evidently this is what the following CBC news story tells us.

Very interesting point of view, if you assume you are going to get screwed, you would be better to let the Banks money get stolen, and not your own, because the bank is more likely to work hard to get their own money back and not yours. That is a very cynical point of view (which I guess is why I like it).

In my area of Ottawa there have been a few stores that have been caught defrauding customers who use direct withdrawal or debit cards, so Debit Card fraud is out there and prominent, given how many folks use this convenience. So what can you do about it?

  1. Use your credit card? Well, only if you promise to keep close tabs on your spending, and make sure you get something free for using the card (PC Points, Air Miles, etc.,). You can dig a big hole here without thinking.
  2. Use cash. OK, you have opened yourself up to someone stealing your purse or wallet, but cash is still universal. What is funny is the restrictions on money these days in Canada. Evidently the $50 and $100 bill are no longer legal tender because most stores won’t take them (so keep that in mind).
  3. Don’t spend money, just hoard it (yes, that is an attempt at humor).
  4. If you use a Debit Card, have only 1 account turned “on” on it and never put a large amount of money in that account, and make sure the overdraft on the account is turned off or very low. This way they can’t steal too much.

Just some ideas, but watch out for those “extra” swipes some stores will take of your card.

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Whatever little money you have, make sure you spend it…

This old chestnut is from the first year I started writing here, it’s a little rough around the corners, but I do like the thematic premise.

Apologies to my Druid Friends
Don’t Bankrupt Yourself for Christmas

That’s sort of a paraphrase from the latest George Carlin book, but it is certainly what our society and certainly the retail stores we frequent want us to think. If you don’t spend all your money at Christmas, you are a cheapskate or a communist. The South Park episode where Mr. Hanky teaches the true meaning of Christmas (buy presents), really does sum up what the owners of Wal-Mart hope will happen.

Bankrupting yourself for Christmas, or on the Boxing Day sales does not help you. If you worked out and got in shape all summer and then for December ate as much crap, and put on 25 pounds, would you be ahead? Nope, and the same is true for your Fiscal Planning (unless you planned to splurge a huge amount of cash that you saved, then I guess it’s ok (no, it’s not, I am being facetious)). Keep living to your plan, it may not be fun, but in the spring when you have money, you’ll be happier for it.

Oh, and if you feel you have to blow large amounts of ca$h, please drop some in the Salvation Army kettle (evidently they are only half way to their goal in Ontario, and there is only 3 days left in their canvassing). Give to a homeless shelter, give to your Church, or keep the money and give it later. Give of yourself, don’t dig a financial hole that will make you Grinchy in the new year!

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Opinion: What do I need for Christmas?

People ask me that question occasionally, and it always makes me think that since I can’t name the 5 things I want straight off the top of my head, there must be something wrong with me.

Ask yourself that question right now, and write down 5 things that you think you need this Christmas. Do it, this is an exercise, you ready? Let’s move forward then.

Of these 5 things, how many do you need so badly that any of the following might happen:

  1. A loved one will leave you.
  2. You will lose your house or job
  3. You will die a painful death
  4. You’ll remember this gift next Christmas
  5. You’ll be using it in six months

Yes (1), (2), and (3) are WAY too dramatic, but are any of the things you want in that category? If so, I hope you get them!

How many gifts that you got last year, do you remember? Do you remember who you got them from? Do you remember why someone bought you this gift? I know I got socks last year, because I didn’t have enough socks (I never have enough socks), I got a cloth bracelet that says “P.U.S.H.”, and I got other wonderful gifts like that (when my wife reads this, I know I will be in trouble, since she will then quiz me about what she got me, as well).

I think this is why people say you should think about the gifts you give for the Holidays (be it Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanza, Ramadan, or Druid Shortest Day of the Year). My problem is, I am just that thick that I can’t figure out what people REALLY need. I tried a couple of times, but the reaction I got suggested I missed on what I thought that person wanted.

Oh, and another piece of advice is you can never spend too much on a gift at Christmas, however, no matter what the price of the gift there is no guarantee the recipient will remember it a week later either. I know my son won’t, he might eat the ribbon, but it’s doubtful he’ll remember this Christmas much (but we’ll have it on video for him to enjoy later).

Put some thought in your gifts, or better still put your thoughts down on paper and give them, or tell the person you are giving a gift to why you are giving this gift, it might help the gift last a little longer (in their hearts).

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Snow Day!

Winter has finally come in all it’s glory and force to Ottawa. Great storm, not really that bad, but all those folks who seem to think All Season tires work fine in snow are learning how well this hypothesis works in application.

So here is an interesting question, if you live in the Northern part of the Northern Hemisphere, how do you get your snow removed?

  • Heave it yourself using a trusty shovel, or scoop?
  • Have a burly son or sons who heave it for you?
  • Hire someone to clear the snow from your driveway?
  • Have a snowblower (like me)

All of these have economic expense, but it all boils down to what you are willing to pay. I paid about $800 for my snowblower 6 years ago, I have had it overhauled once for about $110. How many times have I used it? That’s hard to say, but I bought it at my old house which had a single car driveway but moved to a house with a double car driveway.

My guess is I have used the blower about 90 times in these 6 years or so, which makes it about $10 a use (now that is not including gasoline costs). I also like using the blower, because as a kid my Dad made me shovel the driveway, and I hated it. When I cleared the driveway myself, I got very sore the next day as well (when I got older).

We had a contractor do our driveways one year, but then you run into funny rules about how much snow is enough to make them come and clear it, how many times they clear on a snowy day, etc.,. Now some of the contractors offer money back if they don’t come enough times (say 10 times), which is neat too, but I like to have the snow cleared when I want it cleared, not when someone can get to my house.

What’s the best way of doing this? Well, given my son is only 9 months old, I can’t send him out yet, so I am happy with my snowblower, but for you other options may be optimal.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow….

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