Avoid Excessive Over-Charges or Unethical Business Practices

Nothing is more upsetting than receiving a statement showing hidden excess billing charges or being cheated by an unscrupulous dealer. No one likes to be taken advantage of.They may be justified or unjustified surprises, some tantamount to being classified as unethical “rip-offs”. Unfortunately, some may be accidental accounting duplications; others may be embedded surcharges that you were not aware that you would be charged for like hotel usage. Others may be fraudulent or deceptive professional services.The worst types are “scams” where unscrupulous charges are created intentionally, or planted. Some of the most notorious industries that can create excess charges are: hotels, hospitals, auto repair, veterinarians, dentists, plumbers, website designers, and computer repair technicians.Initially, be aware how you present yourself, inadvertently announcing your income status. Walking in with a Gucci bag, driving a BMW, prices can escalate.Coming from a frugal, small Dutch Iowa town, we were taught monetary principles ingrained generations back. Immigrating to the United States in the 1800s, the Hollanders wore velvet breeches and conducted business with gold coins. They soon found they were cheated wherever they went, and finally, resorted to an “unassuming-frugal-chameleon survival code”.In other words, they learned not do display their affluence, or they would be charged more in business transactions. Currently, remaining unpretentious, few drive new high end cars and do not flaunt wearing expensive apparel with flashy accessories.There is something to be said for this dictum, because if you look foolhardy, or appear pretentious with careless spending habits, you become subject to excess service rates. There is bias with older people, teens, and women, who become targets.Or, if the proprietor finds that you are in an “emergency situation”, you can be targeted, and unethical business practices may come into play.Auto repair establishments, whether in a city or out “in the middle of no-where” like rural Utah, Kansas, or Montana, will double charge if they think they can “get away with it,” when you lack alternative options and need your vehicle.We recently had our automobile towed from a near city’s hospital to a local repair garage. Then, the same week, our second car had severe mechanical problems, but luckily, happening near the garage we routinely use, so we drove the car in, limping all the way. The proprietor, knowing we were in a health-state emergency situation, gave us excessive double-cost estimates to repair the two autos.Refusing to be victimized, the next day I called several other places to compare repair rates, and had both cars towed, a second time, from one garage to the next. I saved nearly one thousand dollars by being alert and on the offense.One of the most surreptitious situations is when you unwittingly trust an unethical dentist. With many small and midsize towns becoming filled with dental competition, some find unscrupulous ways to create cash flow. They know they can get away with fraudulent work, because their colleagues will not acknowledge investigative inquiries regarding their missteps to the State Dental Board.For some time, I was fortunate to have a reputable dentist, who did fine, professional work. When he retired, I went to an acquaintance who I thought was highly regarded. Then, a minor traffic accident unfortunately loosened four front teeth. Subsequently, to stabilize the fragile teeth, my new dentist inserted four posts without root-canals, which would create abscesses. Much successive dental work would be then required, perfect cash flow. Conversely, the expected consequential plan would back-fire. The damaged teeth all abscessed simultaneously, rather than piece-meal.Was this dentist merely a bad dentist performing shoddy work? At first, it was hard to determine.Local consulted specialists were obviously appalled, but had little to say. They advised that they had never seen anything like that before, as root canals for posts were basic Dental 101. I would have to go to another state to get a true evaluation for corrective surgery.I was further dismayed when I consulted a Dental School regarding the issue, and overheard students joking about how easy it was to practice unethical dentistry without fear of repercussions. And, make good money doing it.To avoid your own dental horror story, if you question any work at any point of a procedure, find a reputable dentist, or dental school, in another state for a complete evaluation. A local second-opinion dentist will not want to reveal or try to correct any faulty work. Remaining professionally bonded with their local colleagues, they will refer you back to the dentist who created the mess.The best way to avoid hidden fees and unethical business services is to:Research the person’s or the business’ background and reputation. Go online. Talk to people (not their references who may be shams) who have used their services. Inquire within other businesses, like real estate firms, if they have conducted work with them.
Be certain you are working with the authorized decision maker or owner when making a purchase or arranging for services.
Up front, obtain second, even third opinions regarding the work to be done.
Ask questions. Obtain firm, descriptive cost estimates in writing, and establish specific guidelines up front.
Be aware of your surroundings; read body language.
Do not sign any document without carefully reading the fine print.
Carefully review all billing statements and inquire if you note discrepancies

What is Debt Management?

Debt management is a topic most people will have to deal with at some point. Debt is acquired by not living within your means. Living within your means is simply that you do not spend more than you make. Debt management is controlling and managing debt responsibly. To reduce or eliminate debt and create a cash flow that keeps you out of debt is debt management. To completely control your debt you need to make a budget, reduce expenses and focus on paying debt. This is the essence of debt management.To start your debt management program and make a budget you will need to know all of your expenses and income for a set period of time. Most budgets are done on a monthly basis. You should record your monthly income and expenses on a sheet that will allow you to subtract your expenses from your income. You need to have a few sections for expenses because there are a few different types of expenses to consider in your debt management.Fixed expenses- These are expenses, like rent, that are always the same amount or around the same amount each time they are due. These expenses are also ones that must be paid. Good debt management prioritizes expenses.Variable expenses- This type of expense changes from month to month. They are also expenses that you can change the amount of if need be, like groceries.Debt- Debt can be either fixed or variable, but is different because you do not pay the full amount each month. You can chose how much you want to pay or have a minimal amount you have to pay.These three types of expenses should be noted on your budget as part of your debt management. Once you have drawn up your budget you need to balance it. Balancing your budget is also a necessary part of debt management and means that your expenses do not exceed your income. This is very important in any debt management program.You may find that your budget is not balanced. If this is the case you will need to try to find ways to reduce your expenses. While fixed expenses are the same month to month and you have to pay them, there are still ways to reduce the amount. You should comparison shop to find the best price you can get. You can do this with utilities, especially extras like cable TV and phone service. Look at the companies that offer service in your area and find the one with the lowest price. Variable expenses are easy to manipulate and this is most likely where most of your budget cutting will happen. Reducing your expenses will not only balance your budget, but give you some more money to pay off debt quicker. Debt management will pay off with a little planning and self control.Debt can hang around for quite some item. Most debt comes with interest charges that just keep adding up. You can try getting a lower interest rate. By calling the company you have a debt with you may find they have better payment plans or can offer you some savings. You should also always make a point to pay more than the minimum amount due, especially on credit card debt. The minimal amount due is usually mostly paying interest and not your actual debt. Be aware of creating new debt also. Pay your bills on time so you do not get extra charges applied. Debt management requires that you keep good records and stick to your budget so debt doesn’t get out of control.Debt management may seem like a difficult task, but if you keep records and stick to your budget it actually can be easy. Try to cut expenses and remember to always live within your means. Once you get a credit card paid off do not start charging again unless you can pay the balance off in full when the bill comes. That is the simplest way to stay out of debt. Start your own debt management program and not only get out of debt but stay out. Remember, for debt management to be effective you must stick to your plan.

What Are The Greatest Changes In Shopping In Your Lifetime

What are the greatest changes in shopping in your lifetime? So asked my 9 year old grandson.

As I thought of the question the local Green Grocer came to mind. Because that is what the greatest change in shopping in my lifetime is.

That was the first place to start with the question of what are the greatest changes in shopping in your lifetime.

Our local green grocer was the most important change in shopping in my lifetime. Beside him was our butcher, a hairdresser and a chemist.

Looking back, we were well catered for as we had quite a few in our suburb. And yes, the greatest changes in shopping in my lifetime were with the small family owned businesses.

Entertainment While Shopping Has Changed
Buying butter was an entertainment in itself.
My sister and I often had to go to a favourite family grocer close by. We were always polite as we asked for a pound or two of butter and other small items.

Out came a big block of wet butter wrapped in grease-proof paper. Brought from the back of the shop, placed on a huge counter top and included two grooved pates.

That was a big change in our shopping in my lifetime… you don’t come across butter bashing nowadays.

Our old friendly Mr. Mahon with the moustache, would cut a square of butter. Lift it to another piece of greaseproof paper with his pates. On it went to the weighing scales, a bit sliced off or added here and there.

Our old grocer would then bash it with gusto, turning it over and over. Upside down and sideways it went, so that it had grooves from the pates, splashes going everywhere, including our faces.

My sister and I thought this was great fun and it always cracked us up. We loved it, as we loved Mahon’s, on the corner, our very favourite grocery shop.

Grocery Shopping
Further afield, we often had to go to another of my mother’s favourite, not so local, green grocer’s. Mr. McKessie, ( spelt phonetically) would take our list, gather the groceries and put them all in a big cardboard box.

And because we were good customers he always delivered them to our house free of charge. But he wasn’t nearly as much fun as old Mr. Mahon. Even so, he was a nice man.

All Things Fresh
So there were very many common services such as home deliveries like:

• Farm eggs

• Fresh vegetables

• Cow’s milk

• Freshly baked bread

• Coal for our open fires

Delivery Services
A man used to come to our house a couple of times a week with farm fresh eggs.

Another used to come every day with fresh vegetables, although my father loved growing his own.

Our milk, topped with beautiful cream, was delivered to our doorstep every single morning.

Unbelievably, come think of it now, our bread came to us in a huge van driven by our “bread-man” named Jerry who became a family friend.

My parents always invited Jerry and his wife to their parties, and there were many during the summer months. Kids and adults all thoroughly enjoyed these times. Alcohol was never included, my parents were teetotallers. Lemonade was a treat, with home made sandwiches and cakes.

The coal-man was another who delivered bags of coal for our open fires. I can still see his sooty face under his tweed cap but I can’t remember his name. We knew them all by name but most of them escape me now.

Mr. Higgins, a service man from the Hoover Company always came to our house to replace our old vacuum cleaner with an updated model.

Our insurance company even sent a man to collect the weekly premium.

People then only paid for their shopping with cash. This in itself has been a huge change in shopping in my lifetime.

In some department stores there was a system whereby the money from the cash registers was transported in a small cylinder on a moving wire track to the central office.

Some Of The Bigger Changes
Some of the bigger changes in shopping were the opening of supermarkets.

• Supermarkets replaced many individual smaller grocery shops. Cash and bank cheques have given way to credit and key cards.

• Internet shopping… the latest trend, but in many minds, doing more harm, to book shops.

• Not many written shopping lists, because mobile phones have taken over.

On a more optimistic note, I hear that book shops are popular again after a decline.

Personal Service Has Most Definitely Changed
So, no one really has to leave home, to purchase almost anything, technology makes it so easy to do online.
And we have a much bigger range of products now, to choose from, and credit cards have given us the greatest ease of payment.

We have longer shopping hours, and weekend shopping. But we have lost the personal service that we oldies had taken for granted and also appreciated.

Because of their frenetic lifestyles, I have heard people say they find shopping very stressful, that is grocery shopping. I’m sure it is when you have to dash home and cook dinner after a days work. I often think there has to be a better, less stressful way.

My mother had the best of both worlds, in the services she had at her disposal. With a full time job looking after 9 people, 7 children plus her and my dad, she was very lucky. Lucky too that she did not have 2 jobs.