Another Interesting Funeral Cost

With the passing of my Mother-in-Law, I was exposed (yet again) to the Funeral Industry and I am starting to think that I might soon be lumping them in with the Pay Day Loan Industry for attempting to suck as much money out of people when they are the most vulnerable. For those who haven’t dealt with them (yet) the “small town funeral home” really seems no longer to exist, and most are owned by a few very large conglomerates.

The overall cost, I won’t go over, since it is a very large cost and it can vary wildly from funeral to funeral, but I did come across a very interesting “extra fee”, should you be cremating your loved one.

Rose

If you cremate your loved one, there is the issue of the ashes and what you do with them. If you want to keep the ashes to spread them in a special place, you can get a beautiful urn and for which you’d pay a good deal of money, or you could have a cheap and cheerful box (with the ashes in it (in a plastic bag)), my guess is it might be cheaper to buy your own urn.

Most crematorium or funeral parlors offer to “inter your loved ones ashes in our memorial garden”, or more simply, we’ll bury the ashes for you in our Rose garden (and we’ll keep track of where, and promise not to dig it up). For my family the idea of burying the ashes in a Rose Garden would be nice (my late Father and Mother were rose mavens), however the cost of this privilege threw me off.

The price quoted to my Father in Law was $500 for this service. As a young lad I dug in the garden (begrudgingly) and to dig a hole large enough to bury a loved one’s ashes is about a 5 minute job (if not less), and it will cost $500? Wow!

Any other funeral service charges folks have heard of ? I am curious.

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Tire Storage the Business

So in the fall I wrote a slightly off colour piece Do You Store Your Tires, where I bragged about my wife’s rack (the tire storage rack that I include in this post, because I am very proud of it), but after retrieving my tires from my mechanic I learned something more interesting about the ever growing business of “storing our stuff” (to quote the Late George Carlin from Brain Droppings).

A very Nice Rack
A very Nice Rack

Someone at my mechanic’s shop pointed out that they stored over 1600 sets of tires this past winter, and I thought, “WOW! That is a lot of stuff!”.

That is more than 6400 tires stored somewhere (actually it was being stored in a set of storage containers (a big (but not huge) place to keep your stuff) beside his property.  I guess if you have the space, storing your customers tires is a service that is in high demand, but I was just floored by how many tires that was.

Will I be storing my tires next winter? I am hoping I don’t because I plan on putting a shed on my property where I can store that kind of stuff (tires, lawnmower, snow blower, bikes, etc.,), because I have a lot of stuff . Is it cheaper for me to store my own stuff, or to pay someone to keep my stuff somewhere else (where I might have to call to go look at my stuff)? I don’t know, but I don’t feel safe leaving my stuff somewhere else, I like having my stuff close by, to make sure no one is fooling with my stuff.

Every time I turn around when I am driving in a rural area there is yet another “store your crap here” business popping up, so storing your stuff must be a growing business. Where I live in Ottawa storage is a booming business where folks store their stuff, their RV’s (which are places with wheels to store stuff, which then need to be stored when you aren’t using them), and other stuff.

At the end of it all, Mr. Carlin had it right when he said,

“A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.”,

George Carlin

Do you store your stuff, or do you not have enough stuff to worry about it?

Some crazy folks get rid of their stuff, but what if they needed it later? I like my stuff, but I am not sure I like paying to store it, maybe I just need a bigger house to put my stuff in?

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How to Save $100 in Service Fees

It is always important to read your investment statements. I checked out my TD Waterhouse RRSP account was horrified to see a $100 service fee on my account.

After my sticker shock, I did vaguely remember reading about having a minimum balance in a self-directed RRSP account, and I was not sure exactly what that was, but was going to find out. Did I send an E-mail? No, this kind of query is best done face to face, but barring that ability you must use the telephone for effect (e-mails saying NO! are far to easy for customer service to send).

$100 notes/Coupures de 100 $
No only 1 $100 Bill but it’s still nice!

After waiting on the line for about 18 minutes to get through to an agent (I assume it is a crazy time of the year with folks asking about RRSPs and such), I got a hold of a youngster who seemed to have a head on his shoulders. I first asked (in a polite tone) what was this fee for, and was told that if I didn’t have a minimum balance of $25K in my Self-Directed RRSP TD/Waterhouse would charge this fee (oh and there is a $13 HST to add injury to insult).

How I fought It

I remained calm and politely pointed out that I was only “a whisker” away from that exact value, and I asked if this fee could be waived (this one time)? The answer by the intelligent chap I was speaking with, was “Of course!”. The agent pointed out that charging the fee was done by the computer, but the agents are given some discretion in refunding the fee (he had to fill in a form to do it).

The fee was waived, however, I was also warned that I should top up that account and get it over the $25K threshold or I might have to pay the fee next year (something to keep in mind, I have marked my Calendar for the end of February to check that). Luckily I have my $113 from this year still, so I am a little closer already.

Another classic example that If You Don’t Ask the Answer is Always, NO!

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The Beer Bed Saving Scheme

It’s always interesting to see how people devise methods to save money. One of the most interesting I ever ran into was in 1st year University. I am not sure whether the beer bed plan was deliberate or it was just a happy coincidence, but it ended up working out quite well.

Every floor in a university residence has the party guys, or the drinking guys. Our floor had some heavier drinkers. Two of the heavier drinkers came up with a novel way to “save” for the end of year trip home.

The Noble and Under-appreciated Stubby
The Noble and Under-appreciated Stubby

After the 3rd week of class the space under their bed was filling with empty beer cases.This suggests just how much they were drinking. They also did scrounge empty bottles and cases around campus too, I found out later.

A few weeks later a single chair was created from the empty cases in the room. I thought that was a good idea.

Around the beginning of the winter term I noticed the cases had moved back under their beds and the legs had been removed (from the beds). The bed frame were sitting on the beer cases. This continued on and levels were added until at the end of the term. By then they had beds that were about 4 beer cases wide, 4 beer cases long and ended up 5 cases high, so about 80 beer cases total. This was about 1920 bottles give or take an empty slot or two. That was a lot of beer. I don’t think they drank it all (because that would be averaging about 8 beers a day at school). No matter how it happened they had a lot of stubbies.

A historical note, this was in the day of the “stubby” bottle. The beds were not that tall even though it was 5 cases high! Some days I miss the stubby, but I think it is mostly nostalgic reasons.

The deposit on those bottles was 5 cents, so they had $96.00 at the end of the term. This amount paid for their bus tickets home (however they had to get the cases to the beer store, which did take a couple of trips). This meant they were able to go home using their bed savings plan. If you heard a beer savings plan, you might think they put their money in their mattress.

I liked this idea because most folks would simply have put their deposit money back into their next beer purchase and the money would never have really been “saved”. Using this method assured the money was saved. It’s also interesting to remember just how much was drunk in my first year of university. Luckily this has nothing to do with the financial aspect of this story. It is, however, a topic to think about if you are planning on going to University. How much are you going to drink, and how much is it going to cost?

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No_Op Storefronts

I went into a Bell store to ask about whether I could get a better cell phone deal. I was told, No, I cannot have a better deal.

This has happened to me more than once. I have walked into a Bell, Telus, or Rogers store and I get told that the folks who work in the store are not allowed (or cannot (or even worse will not)) try to make a better deal with an existing customer (which in the case of Bell Mobility, I am (I have been with them for more than 5 years, which I view as a very long-term client)). They can try to make deals for new customers, but no better cell phone deal for existing customers.

What is a NoOp?

better cell phone deal

Storefront Locations are of Little Value

Throughout my life I keep coming back to things I learned when I was a young programmer and one of the interesting assembly language commands I come back to is the NoOp (which meant no operation, or do nothing).

What is the point of a NoOp? In low-level programming there were needs to sometimes fill out programs or simply have the processor do nothing for a command to let things settle down (yes, settle down is a technical term). In my grammar NoOp became synonymous with Do Nothing.

The Storefronts for most of the major Telecomm companies in Canada have become NoOps : they are simply there for folks who don’t like doing things on-line (and for folks who don’t like calling the Bell Customer Service line). I can go in and buy something (that I could just as easily buy on-line) or I can talk to someone about a problem (which I can do over the phone), but I cannot get a better cell phone deal.

This means that the only way I can get a better deal for an iPhone or any other Bell product will be to call their Customer Line, and then point out that my contract is up in 2 months and that Telus (and Rogers for that matter) are calling me to offer me better deals to have me use their services (i.e. Customer Retention). I can’t even get a better deal going to a 3rd party such as the Future Shop or Wal-Mart, so it begs the question why are do these Mortar and Brick establishments exist?

 

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