Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Is $22 too expensive for a book?

My wife and son has just left for a trip to the Murray River. The day before she left, we went on a shopping trip to stock up on some baby supplies. While we were walking around, she also bought a novel to read during the trip. Now we haven't bought a brand new book for a long time, we have always bought second hand books, at book liquidation sale or at the library. I was a bit taken back by the price. It was $22 for the book!

In the scheme of things, $22 is probably not that much if it meets the following 3 criteria
  1. It provides good entertainment - a novel is usually a work of fiction and it provide nothing more than entertainment. If it provides some positive insight, then we managed to get bonus.
  2. It is easy to understand - This is highly dependent on the reader as everyone's ability to consume visual information is different, and choosing the right book is key to providing a good entertainment.
  3. It is not overly expensive - There is no way that if the book was anymore expensive, the cheapskate in me would try to persuade my wife to look for another book, but I would not need to do this as my wife has a fantastic sense of worth. She would have know what is good value and what is bad value.
J.D. over Get Rich Slowly wrote an article about getting a debt to pleasure. He spent the day playing paint ball. From a financial perspective, he broke his activities down and found that it cost him $10 per hour. Whether that is expensive or not totally depends how J.D. views on how much recreational activities are worth.

From my perspective, paying $22 dollars for a book is well worth it as I know that my wife will totally enjoy it, especially give the month that we just had.

How much is too much for you?

photo credit: Manu M

Thursday, 23 August 2007

What to tell the kids if your family is in financial hardship?

Recently I did a guest post over at The Happy Rock about raising financially savvy kids . I want to explore one of the points a bit further. In that article, I wrote

Be upfront with them - Don't colour the family financial situation for the kids as this may bring up false expectations in the kids. You know, if the family can't afford to go on the big holiday this Christmas, let them know and the reasons why. Or if the big holiday is happening due to strong financial commitment from family, let them know that as well.

I have been thinking about this point today as I was watching son play with his toys. If we were in financial hardship, how would I let him know? I don't think I would not tell me about it, and I definitely not lie to him and tell him that everything is OK. It would him give a false sense of security, and if the financial hardship were to become something worse, the situation would be hard on his emotions.

I think I approach it in the following manner.
  1. Tell him that we will be short on money over the few months, and explain to him what it means to our lifestyle. The language that I would have to be suitable for my son's age.
  2. Show him some of mum's and dad's activities that will be changing.
  3. Allow him to select some of his activities that will be changing.
  4. Allow him to contribute in a positive manner towards the good family life.
  5. Most of all, I would show him a plan that would get the family out of the financial hardship. This would give him hope.
There many other ways to approach this situation, and will largely depend on the family dynamics and the relationships between the family members.

How would you approach this if you were in this situation?

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

ACCC links discount fuel vouchers and increase grocery prices

Today, I read an article in The Age newspaper regarding a report by the ACCC of an increase in groceries' pricing by Coles and Woolworths due to fuel discount vouchers. If the report is true, then it supports the an observation that I have had over a number of years.

I have noticed that if the petrol station is near an affiliate supermarket, the price of the groceries from that supermarket is inflated to cover the cost.

In Australia, if you spend more than a threshold, typically $30, in a single transaction, you are entitle to a discount to an affiliate petrol station. The discount is usually 4 cents/litre, up to a maximum of 150 litres.

I have always had a suspicion that if the supermarket is attached to a service station, the cost of the groceries is higher to cover the cost of the discount. I was not able to detect the price increase. I feel that the pricing has only be very slightly increased, and is amortise over a period of time.

In some ways, I should be shopping at one of the other independent supermarkets like Foodworks or Ritchies. However, even these independent supermarkets are also offering fuel discount vouchers. So you cannot really escape it.

Assuming that all supermarkets has the same practice, it is almost compelling that you visit the affiliate petrol station so that the savings could be recuperated. If not, the supermarkets wins.

I have previous written about the discount fuel vouchers here.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

I decommissioning an alarm line and saved $130.

One of the things that we did not ask during our negotiations of the house is what are actually connected to the house. Beside the standard utilities like the electricity, water and gas, they could be other things connected that may affect the operation of the house.

We have been in the house for about one week and continue to find things about this house that we should have known in the first place. We found that the house is connected to a security alarm monitoring services. These monitoring services are connected with a phone line, and will ring the monitoring services if there are any problems with the alarm system. The previous owners has closed their account but have left the line connected.

From our perspectives, we are going to decommissioned the line to the monitoring services, to save on any out-going phone calls to the monitoring services. The thing that got me a bit peeved is there is a call-out fee for the service man to decommission the phone line, the call out fee is in the order of about $130.

Looking around the house, I have found that alarm box with a phone line attached. I think I will decomissioned the line myself by unplugging the phone line from the alarm box. Problem solved.

This is definitely one of those items that will be locked into my memory bank for the next house purchased.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

3 days in the house

We have just relocated into our new home. It was just as well we opted for some removalist to help out, especially the moving of the big and heavy items like the fridge, study desks, bedding and sofas. It ended taking about 6 hours for the professionals to do the moving. I think if it was us, it would taken about 3 days! The removalist were great, they were able to transport it without any hassles.

Due to other circumstances beyond our control, we weren't as prepare for the removalist as we would have hoped for. If we were more prepared we could have some on some money. The three main items that were really obvious on the day are:
  1. Put small items into boxes - We found that the removalist were packing absolutely everything. They were even carrying small little baskets, unpacked into any cardboard boxes, into the massive truck. Amazingly, when they unloaded, the small little baskets were in great conditions. However, as they were charging by the hour, these small items were taking up time. If they were packed into boxes, they could have taken a bunch of small items in one hit.
  2. Have large items dismantle - If your furniture could be dismantle, do it. It saves time on the on the removalist
  3. Have the removalist transport everything - By packing all of you items securely in boxes, the removalist could transport it in their truck. We were transporting some of them items ourselves because of our fear of the items being damaged. If we had packed the items securely, they removalist could have transported it for us, and save us the transport cost on fuel.
Previously, I have written about various options for moving houses.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Posting comments as an "other".

While I love getting comments, I would also love it if the commentators would not post anonymously or as a blogger identity. It would be much better to post a comment as an "other".

By posting as an other, it allows you to specify a URL for your blog. Why is this better? Well, posting your comments anonymously does not allow me or others to visit your blog. Posting your comments via your blogger identity also makes it harder to visit your blog as well.

So next time your post a comment, consider it doing it as an "other". Share your blog with the world.

The small costs of shifting house adds up to a large expense

We are now in the full swing of packing our house into many, many boxes and preparing ourselves for the move. I have shifted a number of times, and each time I am amazed how much it cost to shift. I have previously written about moving houses, outlining a few options. I think it is the little things that that adds up to a large amount. Let see what we have been hit for so far.
  1. $30 - Fee at the local rubbish tip for disposing of items that we haven't used in a number of years.
  2. $300 - Removalist to help shift the furniture. I previously wrote that we might be doing the removalist thing ourself, but we really ran out of time as our son became quite ill during the last week of packing. So to play it safe, we thought of hiring some removalist to do the shifting.
  3. $570 - Renting our old house for three weeks while we wait for the our new house to be settled. This worked out quite well as there isn't a high pressure to shift out as soon as our house is sold. But I think that three weeks is too long. Next time, I will go for one week instead.
  4. $30 - The cost of redirecting our mail to the new address. Although we will tell everyone necessary that we have moved and what our new address is, there will always be someone who misses out. So a mail redirection service is essential. We have opted for the three month service. This should be long enough to capture all mail.
  5. $50 - Insurance for the transport of our belongings to the new house. The removalist that we are using only has insurance if he has accident and is the truck is write-off. My wife and I though that some of stuff could be damage with a small accident. So we are getting some insurance for the delivery.
  6. $75 - boxes, tape and packing paper. The boxes are not cheap. We have tried many source of boxes, and have found the cheapest one to be about $3 per box. We have also managed to get some boxes from friends, the local shop and have some boxes left from the previous move. We need about 30 boxes of various sizes.
  7. $75 - eating out and take away. Since we are trying to eat all the food in the fridge before moving, we have also eating quite a few take away.
So far that is a total of $1460. There will be more expenses to come as we move into the house, such as cutting the new keys, migrating our ADSL internet service to the new phone line and connecting fee for all the utilities. I am not looking forward towards these fees coming in.

photo credit: Ove Tøpfer

Monday, 6 August 2007

Home phone plans.

A few days left

Only a few days left before we start to shift into our new house. There are so many things to look at and to decide upon, especially things that we will have to make a commitment to that will last for a number of years. We have to look at the electricity, gas and phone.

We are currently quite happy with our current service providers, but as I am always looking out for a better deal, I started to investigate other providers.

First off is the phone services. In Australia, there are the two big players, Telstra and Optus. Telstra was the old telecommunications monopoly in Australia, sorta like the AT&T in USA. Optus is one of the early providers when the telecommunications industry was deregulated about 20 years ago.

Optus has several great deals at the moment could suit us quite well. I was looking at their optusOne plans. Currently, we are currently with Telstra and spent about $120 per month on phone calls and services. This includes line rental, mobile phone access and calls and long distance phone calls. Although we get a couple of "benefits" like 50 free SMS, and free 1 hour mobile phone usage, our usage patterns does not really exploit these "benefits".  The lowest our phone bill has been about $100. With optusOne $99 plan and our usage pattern does not change significantly, we are already $20 in-front. If the plan is for 2 years, that is a savings of $240. I think it is time to read the fine print on these Optus plans. Optus also has their basic home phone plans.

Telstra has these home plans to choose from. Telstra plans mainly focuses on the home phone line, and try to not the mix in their mobile phone offerings.  However, they do have some discounts if you have your home phone and mobile phone with them.

Differences between the optusOne plans and Telstra plans

  1. Optus has included phone calls, Telstra does not unless it is the homeline ultimate or homeline advance.
  2. Optus include mobile phone access as part of the plan, Telstra's plans does not.
  3. Optus include line rental. It is not clear with Telstra if line rental is included in the price. Line rental is about $30/mth.
Similarities between the plans

With these plans, to maximise the value of money, the following needs to be considered.
  1. mobile phone access needs to be bundled in with the home phone
  2. if you can provide your own mobile phone, it will be much cheaper as these plans does not provide you with an actual mobile phone. You are a only paying for access to the network for your mobile phone.
  3. there are too many plans on the market, so choose carefully


There have been some discussions around the net about using a purely VOIP phone for a home phone. Personally, I am not too keen on it as I don't have that high confident in ADSL technology yet. Over the years, my ADSL connection has dropped off a couple of times, and for that emergency, I would feel safer if it was connected all the time. Having said that, I don't think that having a land line gaurantee you a connection all the time, but I guess that it is a less likely chance that access is not available via the land line. I'm sticking to the land line for the time being.

1K readers!

This morning, sitemeter just told me that I have made it to 1024 readers! This is a huge milestone for me.

Thanks to all that had read my articles and left comments, I hope that the readers have gain some positive insights to my articles.

I would especially like to thank a couple of the sites that regularly sents me some traffic.

My Journey to Eliminate Debt

The Happy Rock

Apologies for the lack of the articles in the last few days. We are currently shifting houses, and there have been some health problems in the family.