Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How Good is Your Insurance?

After you have a wreck or hail damage is not the time to find out. Trust me, I’ve experienced both. A hailstorm destroyed my neighbors’ roofs and put a hurting on mine. By the time, my cut-rate insurance adjustor arrived most of my neighbors were getting new roofs. The adjustor attired in dress clothes and shoes climber the ladder and merely peeked at the steep roof. “No new roof for you,” he pronounced looking at a small section of the wet roof. He didn’t actually look at the roof and it was wet, which can fill in or gloss over some hail damage, which he probably knew. I followed him to his car pointing this out, and he said stiffly. “Just because your neighbors are getting new roofs, doesn’t mean you get one.” Well, I got one on my own dollar because I wanted to sell in the spring. Wait, wasn’t insurance supposed to protect me from these sorts of things. Maybe I went too cheap.

Another tale of woe this one from the auto viewpoint, our auto insurance was switched by my independent agent when buying a new house. I wasn’t sure why they switched it, but it was more expensive about $150 higher a month. That’s a big jump. I never got a clear reason behind this either. No wrecks, no speeding tickets, and four cars all over six years old, then my stepdaughter’s parked car was hit by a drunk driver. Despite the neighbor’s taking down the driver’s license of the offender, the insurance company has yet to do anything two months later. They don’t return my calls and tried to DROP me as a customer. I’ll drop them all right as soon as they pay the claim.

How do you know your company is on the level before you have a claim? Ask your friends, but make sure they filed a claim. I thought all my companies were okay before I filed a claim. Two friends’ houses burned down almost the same time. The first friend had no problem getting what she needed at the right price. The second friend was low-balled on everything. They would only give her fifty dollars to replace the wide screen television. After their modest house was restored to normal, they were hit by lightning destroying everything electronic. Company refused to pay told her she couldn’t have two disasters per year. Personal stories will help you select.

The big difference on the two women’s houses was replacement value clause. For about $71 dollars more a year, replacement value actually pays what it costs to replace an item. Another deal on homeowners if your house is destroyed by fire, you’ll have to pay to have the site cleared before rebuilding. This can cost you several thousand dollars make sure your coverage covers this.

Car insurance is an expensive item, but needed. Many commercials advertised cheap insurance, and it is pretty much that. Always have uninsured motor coverage because most of the people who hit you are uninsured. Some out the uninsured rates as high as 50%. There are ways to lower your rates even if you have teenagers.

Good grades this help out with your children, along with them taking online driving surveys to prove their driving skills. I believe anyone can pass these tests, so don’t worry. Multi-car discounts plus clustering with your homeowners will bring the rate down.

Make sure you have at least 100,000 on medical for each individual. Hospital expenses will run through 50,000 in no time. It sounds high but a few more dollars a month that will save you from bankruptcy.
Can you afford to replace your car if it is totaled? I can't so I carry full coverage on a paid for car. If the worst happens and the car is totaled at least I'll be able to get some type of replacement. The difference for me was about $20 a month.

Please don’t pick your friend or relative for an agent. If you do you might expect them to do superhuman feats to get you what is owed you, they’ll disappoint, and your relationship will be strained. The nature of an insurance company is to deny claims. Do you want to find someone who has a good record? Free Advice, a consumer site allows customers to rate their experiences with various insurance companies. Commercials aren’t your friend in picking out a company, and independent agents aren’t either. Please investigate on your own first. Don’t go to the insurance’s own site for advice because it would not be beneficial for them to report bad service.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Frugal Fine Dining

A dinner out at a nice restaurant as jumped almost as quickly as the price of gas. What is really frustrating is laying down anywhere from sixty to over hundred dollars for subpar food and service. How can you avoid this?

I have a three-prong approach to this dilemma. The first one is hitting lunch specials or specialty meals. Many local restaurants will offer specials a certain day, time of year, or week to beef up their business. This is a great time to check out the place to see if it could be your special occasion spot.

The second place is reading several reviews to get a feel for a place. The first glowing review might be deceiving. Online sites such as Yelp, and Tripadvisior inadvertently allow restaurant owners to write their own reviews, or ask friends, and employees to place favorable reviews.  I recently patronized a restaurant with questionable service, when I looked them up on the Yelp, among the glowing reviews where a dozen reviews mentioning my same complaint. I think I know which ones tended to be more genuine. I also know people tend to comment more on a bad experience as opposed to an average one.

When reading the reviews, consider what the comments were. A local Japanese restaurant run by recently immigrants, a commenter had the audacity to remark the family didn’t know how to cook Japanese. Another person gave a restaurant one star because they found the host aloof.  Focus on the issues that are important to you.

If you and your sweetie want a romantic restaurant, beware of casual and family friendly—please read well lit and over ran with other people’s children. If you walk into a place and it isn’t what you thought it would be, please leave. You know from the get-go it will not be a pleasant experience.

To save money at the restaurant avoid alcohol, if possible. I am not a heavy drinker, but I do know when I am being charged twenty-four dollars for a five-dollar bottle of wine. That eighty-dollar bottle of wine is only twelve at the grocery. As for mixed drinks, you overpay, but there is also no consistency in the product. Sometimes you’re not even sure you have the right drink.  Usually drinks are watery to make more money, and to have people order more.  Go with water and save a bundle. You can have a glass of house wine and not break the bank too. Often people will have a cocktail before they leave, but use discretion especially if driving.

If you’re going to a sit-down restaurant they almost bring you some type of house munchies, be it bread, crudités, or simply chips and salsa. The classic move is to ask what you want for an appetizer before providing this service. By the time you gobbled up your complimentary munchies and appetizer, and over-priced drinks, you may have to force yourself to eat the entrée. Pass on the appetizers. Get what you want as an entrée. Your waiter may recommend a soup and salad. Do you eat this much at home? If not, you probably won’t elsewhere either.

Finally, your waiter reappears with a dessert menu and the offer of after dinner drinks.  Unless you are eating at the hotel you’re staying at, pass on the after dinner drinks. You have to get home somehow. Do not pass on dessert because it is usually the best part of a meal. You can share a dessert if you want. This is your dining experience you really can have it your way.

So now, you’re ready for your special night on the town. You’ve check the reviews. Maybe hit a special night/week offering. Decided what you really want. Most restaurants have menus you can look at online.  Dressed for a night of fine dining at a reasonable cost. If you really like the restaurant, get on their email list because they will continue to send you coupons and offers to keep you coming back. Many have birthday and anniversary clubs too. Bon appetit.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Return of Lay-Away


If you’re old enough, you might remember lay-away. You pick out your Christmas goodies in October, then pay on them until you can retrieve before Christmas.  Stores got rid of layway saying it took up too much space, but stores are bringing them back as a convenience.  I heard many stores such as K-mart aren’t charging a lay-away fee. Is lay away for you?


1.       It helps you actually budget your Christmas shopping by only buying what you can afford.

2.       You also don’t have post-holiday credit card regret.

3.       It is a great place to hide items from curious family members.

4.       Keeps you out of the mall during the holidays.

5.       You can pay online.

6.       It guarantees you’ll have the hot toy or must have item that will sell out if you wait.

7.       Since you are shopping less, you are likely to spend less money impulse buying.

8.       Save more time since you are shopping less.



1.       It limits where you shop because not everyone offers lay-away.

2.       People change their minds. The drill your husband wanted he bought himself. Some stores will allow you to return an item to stock, but charge you a restocking fee.

3.       If you don’t follow up on your payments you lose everything. The forty dollars you put down, then promptly forgot you even had a lay-way belongs to the store now. ( Most will send you email reminders.)

4.       Keeps you out of stores during the busy season (some people think this is a bad thing.)

5.       It also keeps you from the major sales because you already bought everything and put it in lay-away, probably at full price.


So now it is up to you to decide if lay-away might work for you. Keep in mind, lay-away isn't magical. You don't put something on lay-away and hope you find the money in time, you budget for it.