So how did my boycott go?


Remember back before Thanksgiving I had my knickers in a twist over the fact that so many retail stores were opening on Thanksgiving, hence forcing their employees to work rather than spent time with their families?  I realized there was not much I could do to change this trend but I opted to stand up for my principles and boycott all these stores during the holiday selling season - Thanksgiving through Christmas.

As it is now two days before Christmas and my shopping is done and I have no plans to buy anything else, I think I am safe to write an update post on how my boycott went.  The short answer is it went very well and and actually saved me a lot of money!  But more importantly, I took a stand on something that I felt strongly about.  And that always feels good!

There is a certain large chain that starts with a "W" ends in "mart" and has a blue logo that was especially hard for me to avoid, as I tend to shop there a lot.  A LOT!  But I found with a little research I was able to get everything I needed at other stores, many of them locally owned (an added bonus!).  Yes, sometimes I had to pay more for an item but I still managed to save money because when I go into the "big W" store I always end up spending 2-3x what I initially intended due to all the impulse items that somehow find their way into my cart.  With the smaller stores I avoided all the impulse buys and came away with more money in my pocket, overall.

When it came to clothes shopping, avoiding the big retailers like Walmart, Macy's, Old Navy, and others wasn't as difficult as I feared it would be.  Again, previously unknown local shops proved to be a great source for unique clothing items for me and for gifts for others.  I also found a lot of great buys online.  With the internet, you can find just about any kind of clothing item you need - trendy styles, coats, plus size clothes, petite sizes, kids clothing, etc.

Did my shopping boycott do any good?  Likely no.  I am sure stores will be opened again next year on Thanksgiving.  But it made me feel better and I saved money in the process so I might just make this an annual holiday tradition.

Did you do a lot of Christmas shopping at big-name chain establishments?  Did you boycott any stores due to making their employees work on Thanksgiving or other holidays?  

And since I likely won't be posting again until after Christmas, from my family to yours - MERRY CHRISTMAS!


Did you go Black Friday shopping?


It is Black Friday night.  Our bellies are full from our Thanksgiving feasts, and no we focus our attention towards Christmas and the holiday shopping season.  And of course "Black Friday" is the starting point for the holiday shopping season!  How many of you went shopping today?  And if you went shopping, did you buy anything or find any awesome deals?

I never go shopping on Black Friday (the traditional day of shopping chaos the day after Thanksgiving, for all my non-American readers).  I don't like crowds.  I don't like spending money.  And I don't like getting up early.  So nope, Black Friday isn't really my cup of tea. 

But........ I made an exception this year.  Home Depot had garage door openers on sale for $97 and I needed four for one of my rental buildings, so I went out and bought them.  But that was for business, not pleasure, so I am giving myself a pass.  (Incidentally, Home Depot is not on my boycott list as they were closed on Thanksgiving.) 

I have a friend who make Black Friday shopping a true sport.  She has lists of the best deals at each store, getting the lowest prices possible on all sorts of items from purses to smart phones to TVs.  She gets up early and takes her shopping very seriously.  Do NOT get in her way, as she is focused and determined to get every deal she can!

So what kind of Black Friday shopper are you?  Non-existent (like me), a mega-shopper (like my friend), or somewhere in the middle?  Oh, and as I type this the Black Friday deals keep coming... one big box electronic store (which shall remain nameless) is offering special sales from 10pm until midnight.  Will you be there? 


Boycott Retail Stores Opened On Thansgiving



I am joining MY HOUSE, MY RULES and boycotting all retail establishments that are ruining their employees holidays by making them work on Thanksgiving.  You can read more about the justification behind this boycott here.

This boycott is not just for Thanksgiving Day, however.  That would really not do any good.  This boycott is designed to show these bad retailers how we really feel.  Therefore, I will not be supporting any retailer who is open on Thanksgiving my not shopping at their stores between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.  Want to join me?

HERE’S HOW YOU CAN HELP

1.)
 From the period of Thanksgiving Day to Christmas Day, do not shop at any retail store that is open for business on Thanksgiving Day.  They are robbing their employees of the opportunity to enjoy this holiday with their family and friends.
(CLICK HERE FOR A PARTIAL LIST OF RETAIL STORES OPEN ON THANKSGIVING DAY)

2.)
 Support local businesses and big box retailers who are showing kindness to their employees and respect for the meaning behind Thanksgiving by remaining closed on Thanksgiving Day. (CLICK HERE FOR A PARTIAL LIST OF STORES THAT WILL BE CLOSED ON THANKSGIVING DAY)

3.) Spread the word!  Let’s show the retail world – with our voices and with our wallets – that we are not going to tolerate a take-over of Thanksgiving!


How do you spend your bonus money?


One of the big perks about working in Corporate America (besides health insurance, regular paychecks, employee discounts, etc.) is getting a big fat yearly bonus! Granted, these aren't guaranteed and some years they are not as "fat" as others, but it is still nice to get a little extra money that wasn't planned in the budget.

One of the big topics my co-workers and I discuss around the water cooler is how we will by spending our bonus money. Some blow it all on vacations, or the newest i-gadget on the market. As you can likely guess, I take a more conservative approach.

First of all, I always put 75% of any bonuses I receive directly into savings or investments. (Super boring, I know...) That leaves me with 25% of the bonus to use as "fun money." How do I spend it? 

BOWLING - Sometimes I will treat myself and some friends to a day of bowling. I love bowling but it can get expensive so it is not something I do every day. Of course, Wii bowling is free and can be done at home in my pajamas, but it just isn't quite the same as going to an alley and enjoying a day of fun with friends.

BINGO - Bingo is one of my guilty pleasures that I will sometimes splurge on if I have some extra cash on hand. I normally go to some nice church and play there, but you can also play online at places like GalaBingo. I've enjoyed Bingo since I was a kid! Granted, my luck here is dismal and I don't think I have ever won anything, but I still find the game lots of fun!

CLOTHES - I am not one to spend a lot of money on clothes. I do a lot of my shopping through Salvation Army. However, I will be the first to admit there are times when my wardrobe can use a bit of professional help. So if I have a little bonus money on hand, sometimes I will use some of it to go to one of the higher-end shops and have a trained sales associate pick out a few nice outfits for me. I have to admit - this is fun and I see how people get addicted and blow tons of money at the mall each year! LOL!

TRIPS - If I know I have a vacation coming up, sometimes I will boring and practical with my extra bonus money and put the money in my vacation account... then enjoy some super-awesome activity or experience while out of town.

RISKY INVESTMENT - I love investing but I prefer to invest in relatively safe, dividend producing investments. If there is a riskier investment I want to invest in, I will use 'found money' such as from selling items around the house or from my bonus at work. That way, if I lose it I do not feel I lost my "regular" money.

 Does your employer give bonuses where you work? If so, how do you spend those bonuses?

7 Term Life Insurance Fine Print Nightmares - Avoid!



7 TERM LIFE INSURANCE FINE PRINT NIGHTMARES – AVOID!

Considering a term life insurance policy? Be aware and be prepared! Below are 7 items that you should look for in the fine print and do away with before it’s too late! You can get your own insurance policy at http://www.gio.com.au/personal-life-insurance/life-protection-insurance
1
1.      
Time Limitation – or Exclusion – on Policy Type Conversion

A good term life insurance policy will offer you a conversion option – not forbid it. This conversion will allow you the option of exchanging your term policy for a whole life policy, should you choose to do so, at any time without having to prove your health all over again. Keep in mind that not all conversion options are necessarily good ones, just because they’re included, though – some won’t let you convert until you’re half-way through your term. For those that want to refinance and reevaluate their assets on the regular, this will prove to be an annoyance.

22.       No Renewal

Just because your term policy comes to an end, shouldn’t mean that it really has to come to an end. If you’re still alive and kicking, chances are you still want that policy. Don’t let the insurance company kick it to the curb and ask you to start over again – go with an insurance company that has an easy renewal system built right in.

33.       No Renewal Rate Guarantees
When you’re looking into the above, be sure to look into the rate renewal, as well. You don’t want to renew your policy thinking you’re good to go, on the same plan that you’ve been on for yours. Chances are good that a change could have occurred which will raise your rates every single year going forward. If you already face a medical condition, you especially don’t want to have to go shopping for a better policy, because this one decided to hike up the price.

44.       No Premium Guarantee

Your policy should come built to withstand the entire length of the policy’s term, guaranteed. If your fine print dictates that you premiums can go up after 10 years of a 20-year term policy, then it’s a no go. Premiums should be guaranteed, and locked into place, throughout the policy’s entire life.

55.       No Good Policies to Switch to at Conversion

Back to the conversion topic – say your policy includes conversion and you’ve already checked that one off of your list. Have you also checked to make sure that there’s a good enough policy for you to convert to when you do it? Some policies are very limited in what they offer at conversion, so be sure that you won’t end up with something later that you won’t want (i.e. an expensive whole life policy, or a Universal life plan).

66.       No Supplemental Protection for Critical Illness & Income-Loss Prevention

Something that very few policy-seekers think to look for in a term life insurance policy is supplemental protection that will cover them financially should critical illness strike resulting in a sudden loss of income. This same loss of income is what you family would endure should you die, so they should still be protected if you simply can’t work for a substantial period of time, due to a heart attack, or something similar. There are term life insurance plans that incorporate this kind of supplemental protection and they’re well-worth the peace-of-mind.

77.       Unstable Financial Rating

Last, but not least, before you even dive into all of the fine print of your policy and begin checking things off of this list, make certain that you’ve checked out your potential insurer’s financial rating. If their rating is low, that means that they’re not the most stable and could potentially go under, leaving you with a big problem to fix in order to maintain coverage while your state figures out its contingency plan. It’s a much better idea to just go with a stable, high-rated, insurance company right from the start and avoid the possible hassle entirely.

Should I, or shouldn't I?


2012 was a big year for me.  Not only did I pay off the mortgage on my primary residence (WOOT!), but I also bought an investment property - a duplex - using cash.  Life with no debt is good!  It suits me just fine.

So it likely shocks you all as much it does me that I am considering taking on another mortgage.

YIKES!

Let me explain....

I have quite enjoyed my time as a landlord and had hoped to get a couple more properties in the coming years.  Well, lo and behold, a very nice property near me has come on the market.  This time it is a 4-plex.  It is in a great location, priced well, and generates great income with what I have been told were long-time tenants.  I ticks every box on my wish list.

And while I loath the idea of taking out another loan, I also know that right now many of my cash assets are tied up in stocks that pay me very generous dividends (most in the 5-10% range).  And with the interest rates still low, it is actually a financially better option to take on a mortgage and not sell any of the stock.  And even with paying the mortgage, it appear this property will still be a profit generator for me (which is, after all, the whole point of getting into the income property market).

Still thinking, and deciding, and fretting, but I am serious enough that I am planning to look at the property on Wednesday.  And if I decide to go ahead with the purchase you can expect to hear about some serious frugality from me since my goal will be to pay off the mortgage in lightning-fast time.  :)

So what would YOU do?  Give up a life of no debt in order to generate more monthly income?  Sell the stocks and buy in cash?  Run fast and far from taking on more responsibility?  I want to hear your thoughts and advice.  

WATCH OUT! Credit Repair Scams are Targeting Desperate Consumers


WATCH OUT! Credit Repair Scams are Targeting Desperate Consumers
Have you ever been contacted by a company offering to help you fix your credit overnight? Beware! It more than likely is a scam.

What are credit repair scams?
There are thousands of credit repair companies and credit organizations claiming to be able to help you repair your credit issues. Unfortunately, many of these are actually credit repair scams. Companies that claim they can fix your credit, remove credit blemishes and magically make your credit score rise are being less than truthful. In fact, no company is able to boost your credit score overnight unless they are doing something illegal. Credit repair scams operate just outside of the law and claim to be able to improve your credit in record time, with minimal effort or financial investment from you. Unfortunately, these are usually scams and consumers find themselves on the hook for money, credit problems and worse.

A consumer lawyer can help you identify credit repair scams. They will be able to uncover any illegal and unethical operations and determine if your consumer rights have been violated during the credit repair process. Unlike the credit repair scams being run by shady companies, consumer lawyers will only promise what they can deliver. Experienced debt lawyers will help you dispute credit issues and can show you how to repair your credit in the long run, not overnight. They may be able to present you with options that could potentially improve your credit score one step at a time.

Legitimate attorneys do not ever offer to enroll you in a credit repair program. Instead, they will handle your financial affairs and work within your state’s laws to ensure your credit report disputes are handled appropriately. They will be able to negotiate with creditors to reduce or settle debt, restructure payments and perhaps even get late fees and penalties waived. They will work with you to repair the damage your credit disputes have caused and will show you what steps to take to ensure that all of the information on your credit report is accurate and current. Only time and a personally tailored debt repayment program can improve your overall credit rating.

How can I spot a credit repair scam?
Credit repair scams usually operate outside of the law. They often violate many of the regulations and requirements outlined in the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA). Below are some things that are common red flags to help you spot credit repair scam organizations.

  • No Explanation of Legal Rights – Credit repair scam companies will not give you an explanation of your rights such as your 3-day to cancel right, or that they must provide you with a written contract that must state the credit repair process length, the total cost you will pay and any guarantees they are making.
  •  Wants Money Up Front – NEVER pay a credit repair company money before they do any work for you. Credit counseling advocates do not take any money from you until the credit dispute has been resolved.
  • Promises to Clear All Bad Credit – If there are things on your credit report that don’t belong there, you can contact your credit bureau on your own or with the help of a consumer lawyer and get that information removed. However, if the bad credit is something that you earned and is linked to a debt you are responsible for, than even the best consumer lawyer cannot make that go away. When a credit repair company says they can instantly remove that blemish from your credit report, they are probably making false promises and intend instead to enroll you in a credit repair scam. There are however, things that a consumer lawyer can do to minimize negative credit effects for those debts you are responsible for such as debt settlement. 
  • Discourages You from Contacting the Credit Companies – When you work with a consumer lawyer to resolve credit report disputes, the lawyer will most often contact the credit bureaus and companies on your behalf. But they will not try to prevent you from doing so because that is your legal right. However, credit repair scams will try to keep you from contacting the credit bureaus because in most cases, they are not conducting legal business practices and are violating laws that can further damage your credit standing.
  • Asks You to Lie or Provide False Information – A resolution to a credit report dispute never involves providing false information. Credit repair scam organizations will tell consumers that they will get a new credit report under a fake social security number or under someone else’s name. They often encourage customers to lie on paperwork or to sign blank documents. If a company asks you to do this, they are most likely a scam.
  •  False References –Don’t believe what you read in any advertising or on any websites for credit repair programs. Most references online are manufactured. Check with the Better Business Bureau and other consumer organizations for any complaints against any credit advocate before you do business with them.  The best solution is to meet with a consumer lawyer who can provide personal business references and demonstrate their experience at resolving credit issues.

The CROA requires that credit repair programs must give clients a written contract that can be cancelled within 3 business days. The contract must include any payment amount, a full description of what action will be taken to repair the credit and time frame for completing doing so. Rarely do credit repair companies offer this type of information.

What should I do if I’ve been scammed?
The Federal Trade Commission works hard to shut down credit repair scam operations. Just last year they closed down a scam artist in Florida who claimed to fix customers’ credit for $250. The company received an injunction but continued to solicit desperate customers under the guise of being able to repair their credit for a small fee. Unfortunately, customers who were victims of this scam saw no resolution to their credit problems and instead wound up losing any money they paid to the company.

You have consumer rights and if these rights have been violated, you are entitled to sue any credit repair company for damages. If you have not worked with an attorney to resolve your debt, and instead found yourself the target of a scam, contact a consumer lawyer today. To learn more about your consumer rights, what to do if they have been violated and how to protect them in the future visit www.consumerlawqa.com

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