Three Thrifty Guys http://www.threethriftyguys.com Personal finance blog helping folks keep a few more bucks in their pocket Mon, 29 Jun 2015 22:36:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 Now Hiring! – The Effects on 2015 Finances http://www.threethriftyguys.com/2015/06/now-hiring-the-effects-on-2015-finances/ http://www.threethriftyguys.com/2015/06/now-hiring-the-effects-on-2015-finances/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 09:00:08 +0000 http://www.threethriftyguys.com/?p=5638 charlie_imageLately, I’ve been noticing signs posted everywhere with employers looking for employees. Every corner I turn I see them at fast food, department stores, repair jobs, and the like. Doesn’t it seem like suddenly there is a shortage of employees everywhere? Am I the only one that has noticed this or is there only a need for employees in my small suburban midwest community? I doubt it.

From what I hear, it sounds like there is a definite shortage of qualified employees, and the employers are at a definite disadvantage. As I see all these signs posted around town its got me thinking. Thinking of why? Thinking of why all of a sudden? Thinking of what will the effects be? Thinking of how can I capitalize? Here are a few of my theories and answers to take a stab at answering those questions.

Why?

  • Babyboomers – a lot of babyboomers are starting to retire, and it is leaving a gap in employees to service ratio that needs to be filled.now hiring
  • Employee Turnover – with how many businesses are hiring it is encouraging people that are already employed to shop around for higher paying jobs and/or with better benefits. As a result, employee turnover is a vicious cycle that is making the entire market place more competitive and makes it harder to keep your best employees
  • Higher quality/paying jobs are hiring – if higher skilled jobs are paying for entry level workers, then that is attracting lowered skilled workers away. Consequently, there is glutton of lower paying jobs available and only adds to the already existing employee turnover
  • Prices are increasing – regardless of what the government tells us, there is a big increase in the cost of goods and services! This inflation, pushes people to capture higher wages or take on additional side jobs. If you are on a slow and steady salaried job, then it will either make you find a different job, ask for an increase at your existing job, or take on additional part time work.

Why all of a sudden?

  • Low cost borrowing – with the Federal reserves long term low interest rate polices, then it is causing more services to be rendered for goods to be delivered. This is like a hidden tax on all of the economy, but has been mounting since early 2009.
  • It’s the economy stupid! – the economy has been improving! Duh! If you believe this theory, then the increased employee demand will increase the cost of supplies and services. Thus if people perceive the economy as good, then it’ll increase their demand to purchase.

What will the effects be?

  • Higher pay – it’s a classic case of supply and demand! With more employers chasing fewer eligible potential employees, then its going to cause pricing of those services to be pushed higher. As a result, employers aren’t going to just swallow those increased costs, but that’ll result in higher prices of goods. It’s a vicious cycle!
  • More turnover – as employees realize that more things are costing more, then it’ll put a pinch on their family’s financial picture. Thus employees will go elsewhere to find a higher wage, and result in higher turnover of employees, which may result in fewer employees staying with employers for a lifetime. Less dedication to an particular employer.
  • INFLATION! INFLATION! INFLATION! – with back and fourth tug-a-war between dollars chasing services and good, then the net result will be inflation!
  • Increased debt – if people aren’t willing to take on a higher wage or additional work, then some people will choose to fill the gap between wages to expenses with debt. Thus compounding our nations low savings rate and possibly pushing us into negative savings.

How can I capitalize?

  • Keep a pulse on the job market – it is always good to have a pulse on how hot or cold the job market is and what equivalent jobs are paying out in the market place. This will help you know if you are getting paid a fair wage, and may be a way to negotiate your salary higher.
  • Decrease my debt – with how everyone else is seeking to increase their income to keep up with their spending, then now would be a good time for me to swim against the stream! Fight off debtshow me the money and fast! This will put me in a lot better position when (not if) the economy tanks, and might allow me to take advantage of some extreme values.
  • Make sure my existing employer knows my value – be sure to (humbly) let your employer know the value you are bring to the workplace, and how you are worth your weight in gold. This continual feedback will make it easier to negotiate a raise, and will make you more attractive when a promotion becomes available. Keep fighting!
  • Take on some additional work – with all these employers wanting more employees, then try and capture some additional work beyond the typical 40 hours you work. This will help your overall financial picture and help you get out of debt.

Anyhow, these are just a few of my theories as I’ve seen a lot of employers posting “Now hiring” signs and a few of my thoughts. Has anyone else noticed this lately? I’d like to hear your thoughts on why so many employers are hiring, are you experiencing a employee shortage in your area, and what are you doing about it?

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6 Useful Items Under $10 that Can Save You Money http://www.threethriftyguys.com/2015/06/6-useful-items-under-10/ http://www.threethriftyguys.com/2015/06/6-useful-items-under-10/#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 11:34:02 +0000 http://www.threethriftyguys.com/?p=5632 items under 10 dollars that can help you saveSaw this thread up on Reddit the other day – and thought it was a great topic. Sometimes we think the most useful things cost a lot of money. However, as you will see in the discussion, there are lot of helpful items that you can pickup for under $10 that can actually help you to save more money.

Here’s a few items that I’ve gotten for under $10 that I use often.

Lunch Blox

My wife picked up these lunch boxes that are made by Rubbermaid awhile back and they are really nice. You can stack them, and even put an ice block underneath ’em to keep everything cold. Never buy sandwich bags again! (under $8)

Checkbook register

Being that I still track our finances in a checkbook (yes, I’m old-school!) – checkbook registers, are great! Plus, they are free at most banks when you ask. While this isn’t technically a money-saver, it can sure alleviate headaches or other finance-related maladies.

Water bottle

I’m a big water drinker – and it’s great to be able to tote it wherever I go. Our family has pretty much stopped buying bottled water and have opted for water bottles. I’ve heard some good things about Nalgene water bottles (you can even customize one). But, even if you don’t want a designer model – you can get good, BPA-free bottles for under 10 bucks.

Postage stamp

Count me odd, but I’m still amazed that you can put a stamp on a letter, put it in a mailbox and the darn thing arrives at its destination just a couple days later. Cheaper than driving it there yourself!

LED light bulbs

You can purchase most of these for under $10 – and they will tend to save you money over the long haul too with their extended life.

Coupon book

I somewhat hesitated in adding this because many of us purchase these things and then never use ’em. I really try and put ours to use. We mainly pick-up the Entertainment coupon books. They are stocked with tons of local / national coupons that you can put to use. I would caution you to wait til the middle of the year to get these though. They often drop drastically in price around that time. Right now, you can pick a 2015 book up for under $10.

Love to know the items you feel are the most useful to you under $10

Three Thrifty Guys may receive some compensation through a couple of the links if you make a purchase through them, at no cost to you.

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Swappa Review – Buy and Sell Used Phones and Tablets http://www.threethriftyguys.com/2015/06/swappa-review-buy-and-sell-used-phones-and-tablets/ http://www.threethriftyguys.com/2015/06/swappa-review-buy-and-sell-used-phones-and-tablets/#comments Wed, 17 Jun 2015 11:43:34 +0000 http://www.threethriftyguys.com/?p=5622 Several months ago, my wife’s iPhone slipped from her hands and hit the floor, screen-side down. You might say this affected the phone’s resale value.

cracked iPhone
Wife’s cracked iPhone

My wife was a trooper though. She used that phone for two more months, delicately placing it against her ear every time she answered a call and deliberately moving her finger across the screen as she texted, surfed, and played games. But with the phone suffering from other problems, we knew we had to replace it sooner rather than later.

Here’s the thing: no way on God’s green Earth were we going to pay $500 or more for a brand new phone. Thankfully, neither my wife nor I feel the need to have the latest and greatest phone on the market. She had been using an iPhone 4 which she bought used from a local seller for $200 a few years ago; and I recently purchased a used HTC One M7 on eBay for $165.

While we had little to no issues with buying locally or shopping eBay for her next phone, we were looking for a way to purchase a used phone with more confidence. That search led us to Swappa.

Swappa launched in 2010 and promotes itself as a safe place to buy and sell mobile devices online. To protect buyers, Swappa does not allow phones with cracked screens or water damage to be sold on their site. Listings are reviewed by staff members: this includes an ESN check and requires verification photos that prove sellers actually own the mobile device they are selling. Purchases are made via Paypal to protect both the buyer and the seller. And, as with eBay and many other online markets, sellers are rated (Swappa uses a five-star system) and buyers can leave reviews of their transaction experience.

Using Swappa

You can browse mobile devices on Swappa by carrier or by brand, and can also do a search for a specific phone. We have a plan with T-Mobile, and after researching phones for a few days my wife decided she wanted a Samsung Galaxy S4.

browse swappa

Once you’ve selected a phone, you will be brought to a screen that shows all the available listings for that phone. You can drill down your search and filter by condition, color, and storage space to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. Since this is an open market, the prices for a phone can vary greatly but from my experience, it appears that phones of similar condition are competitively priced.

The checkout process is simple and should be familiar with anyone who uses Paypal regularly. After completing the checkout, you will have a page for your purchase where information on the transaction is kept and updated. This includes a message area where the buyer and seller can communicate. You can even choose to include a Swappa staff member in your conversation should you feel their input is needed.

wifes new phone
Wife’s new smartphone

This turned out to be a very helpful feature for us. We purchased a Samsung Galaxy S4 on a Friday and received it the following Monday – exceptional shipping time. Unfortunately, there was an issue with the phone’s wifi. I mentioned this to the seller and invited a Swappa staff member into the conversation as the site suggests in these situations. The seller was apologetic and the Swappa staff member moderated the return and refund process. My wife and I later made a second transaction with a different seller on Swappa and purchased a mint 16GB Galaxy S4 with a Samsung-branded charger for $230.

We could have bought the phone for less than that: eBay and other resale sites had listings under $230. However, we really liked the shopping experience on Swappa and appreciated the protection the site offers buyers. And when it comes to buying used online – particularly with electronics – buying with confidence is just as important to my wife and me as finding the right price.

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Try This Tip to Get the Edge On a House Offer http://www.threethriftyguys.com/2015/06/try-this-tip-to-get-the-edge-on-a-house-offer/ http://www.threethriftyguys.com/2015/06/try-this-tip-to-get-the-edge-on-a-house-offer/#comments Fri, 12 Jun 2015 12:07:17 +0000 http://www.threethriftyguys.com/?p=5618 I’m a big fan of negotiating to get a better deal and to save more money. I know it’s not often easy in our society or comfortable – but it can be worth the effort. Like they always say, “it doesn’t hurt to ask“.

One of the biggest – and overlooked tactic in negotiating for a better deal (I think) – is to be nice.

Add to that: be personal.

Someone I work with is in the middle of selling her house. Attached with one of the offers she received on her home was a hand-written note in which the author introduced herself and also how much she loved the home.

What a novel idea!

We all know that the housing market is starting to pick up steam and seems to be favoring the seller. In a competitive market like this, with multiple offers, who do you think stands a better chance at landing a home?

Granted, a seller isn’t going to lose thousands of dollars if the highest bidder didn’t include a note. But, if the offers are fairly similar and only one person includes a hand-written note talking about themselves, their family and how much they would enjoy your home – who would you go with?

house offer tip

What to include in the note

If I were including a note with my offer to purchase a home, here’s a few things that I’d say to the seller (and want to hear from the buyer, if I were on the other end):

  • A very brief sentence about myself, what I do and my family
  • Any information that I found out about the owners in my walk-throughs that may allow me to connect with them. Perhaps they have lots of golf paraphernalia. Being a golfer myself, I might add something to the note about how I saw they were golfers too – and that I enjoy the game. NOTE: This could get creepy to some.
  • How the location and house may benefit yourself / and your family.
  • How much you enjoyed the home and picture yourself living there, taking good care of it.
  • Be genuine and sincere!

I’ve actually never heard of this being done before until recently and I think it’s a great idea. Especially in this sellers market.

I’d be interested to know if you’ve ever tried this tactic when putting an offer on a home OR have heard of it being done before. How did it turn out?

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Comparison Between Ooma Premier and Basic Services http://www.threethriftyguys.com/2015/06/comparison-between-ooma-premier-and-basic-services/ http://www.threethriftyguys.com/2015/06/comparison-between-ooma-premier-and-basic-services/#comments Thu, 04 Jun 2015 12:06:56 +0000 http://www.threethriftyguys.com/?p=5614 A year and a half ago, I needed to do a three-way conference call between fellow TTG writer Aaron and Laurie (from TheFrugalFarmer.net), but my Ooma basic service didn’t provide that functionality. It turned out the three-way calling feature was a part of the  Ooma Premier service offering. So I made the switch!

Changing over to the Premier service was as simple as signing into the site and signing up for the Premier service (which took all of three minutes). Since I switched to Premier service, I’ve soon realized that you get a lot more than just three-way calling for only $10 more per month.

Here is a breakdown of what you get:

As you look over all the differences you get between the two different services, a couple of the features that I’ve really taken advantage are:

  1. Ooma blacklisting– this feature has helped me reduce my telemarketing calls to almost zero, because it gives me the ability to block any number I want to. This can be a big time saver and convenience. Do you ever have those pesky marketing calls that call every night until they reach you? It’s frustrating when you run to the phone every night and expect it to be someone you’d want to talk to (family member or friend).
  2. Nest Alerts– with the integration my Ooma phone and Nest thermostat, it has helped increase my cost savings on my energy bills, because the Nest isn’t solely reliant motion sensing to determine if you are away. Plus, if Nest knows when you aren’t typically home, then it can automatically route your call to an alternative number. Two great features of having these units connected.
  3. Free Mobile Minutes– when my cell phone is coming close to going over my minutes, then I can rely on the new enhanced mobile app. The app provides free outgoing calls for Basic and Premier customers (incoming calls are free with Premier). It will help me save even more money for my family on our overall phone services.

Here is a short video from Ooma showing the Premier services:

I’d be interested to hear if any of our readers currently use the Ooma Premier service or what is stopping you from switching from the basic service. Also, if you don’t use Ooma, and have some of the listed above services, then about how much are you paying per month?

Purchase Ooma Telo at Amazon

This article was brought to you by our friends at Ooma.

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How to Get the Most Savings When Shopping at Amazon http://www.threethriftyguys.com/2015/06/how-to-get-the-most-savings-when-shopping-at-amazon/ http://www.threethriftyguys.com/2015/06/how-to-get-the-most-savings-when-shopping-at-amazon/#comments Tue, 02 Jun 2015 12:04:50 +0000 http://www.threethriftyguys.com/?p=5607

Thought we would shake things up a little bit and offer you a video of more ways that you can save money when you are shopping at Amazon.

To highlight a few that are covered in the video:

Utilize Prime

If you are a regular shopper at Amazon, you may want to sign-up for the Amazon Prime yearly membership. This is $99/yearly, but with free 2-day shipping, access to online videos and more, it may be worth your money.

Try Subscribe and Save

If time is on your side and you don’t need your item tomorrow, you may want to give their “Subscribe and Save” service a try on your regular purchases. I do this with refrigerator water filters and save about 5%. If you add 5 or more items (in the same month) on to the Subscribe and Save program, they’ll give you an extra 15% off. Also, for a limited time (July 4th) get $10 credit with code “TRYSNS10″ on your new Subscribe and Save order.

Use Promo Codes

Many folks don’t realize this – but Amazon does take promo codes during check-out. Often I’ll do a search at some of the popular coupon sites, like RetailMeNot or Rather-be-Shopping (our friend Kyle there will help you out!) for extra savings.

Got a Discover Card?

If you have a Discover card, Amazon allows you to use all of your Cashback Rewards during check-out. During my video demonstration, I had about $13 in Cashback and used that for my purchase.

Or, an Amazon Card?

If you have an Amazon credit card, you can get 3% on all purchases that you make with it at Amazon. A nice extra savings. And, if you are okay with credit, you can sign-up for the card before checking out and get about $40 (right now) credited to your account.

No-Rush Shipping Credit

Again, if you’re not in any hurry to receive that item of yours and you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can elect to get a credit to your account for digital items (ebooks, music, movies, etc).

And, Give Back!

Lastly, I want to make you aware of a neat feature that Amazon has recently instituted that allows you to pick a charity and then allow them to benefit from your shopping, called Amazon Smile. While it’s not going to save you any money, you will feel good about helping out your favorite charity.

Please let us know if you have other ways that you are saving money through Amazon!

Shop Amazon

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7 Creative Ways to Pay for Private School Education http://www.threethriftyguys.com/2015/05/7-creative-ways-to-pay-for-private-school-education/ http://www.threethriftyguys.com/2015/05/7-creative-ways-to-pay-for-private-school-education/#comments Fri, 29 May 2015 11:30:05 +0000 http://www.threethriftyguys.com/?p=5606 creative ways to pay for private educationIn 2013, my family was contemplating whether or not to send our oldest son (going into 4th grade) to private school. At the time, tuition for sending our only son in school would cost our family a good chunk of money. Fast forward to today, and at the start of next school year, we will be enrolling all three of our boys (6th grader, 1st grader, and Kindergartner) into private schooling. Being the frugal guy I am, I’ve been surprised at how easy it has been for me to depart with this money, which will cost us three times as much as it did the first year of sending our eldest.

With the decision of sending our sons to private Christian schooling, I realized that my family has made a lot of sacrifices along the way. I haven’t for a second regretted sending my sons to a private school or the fact that we are diverting money that could otherwise be used for paying off our mortgage, or pumping up our retirement accounts. In our journey of sending our boys through private schooling, I’ve come up with a few tips that have helped me and my family make this possible that might also help you if you are considering making the same choice (or, already have).

  1. Get out of debt and stay out of debt. Our ability to send our kids to private school was rooted in a decision our family made early on in our marriage to rid ourselves of debt. Typically, most American’s income is going towards financing large homes, cars and big credit card balances. If you make smart decisions to avoid debt, then this freedom will allow you to send your family to private school now and years from now.
  2. Start a side hustle. If you don’t want to change your lifestyle, but still have the option of sending your kids to private school then get busy! With the advent of the internet, the ability to start an online business has never been easier. A few ideas that I’ve employed are blogging, selling books on Amazon, selling backyard chicken eggs, selling chicken coops, receiving distributions from my old company pension plan, and buying tax liens.
  3. Ask for a raise. With the job market being really hot right now, it might be an opportunity to ask for a much needed raise, which can be diverted towards paying for private education.
  4. Downsize your home. A lot of people are using 25-35% of their after tax salary to pay for their jumbo mortgages (especially with how low interest rates are now). If you aren’t able to afford private education (and want to have this option), then consider downsizing your home to free up some cash that can be used towards your kids education.
  5. Solicit family members for donations. A lot of family’s are supportive of private education and may even be inclined to assist you in paying for your kids education. It never hurts to ask!
  6. Save monthly from your paycheck. Our family likes to pay their entire tuition at the beginning of the year for our kids, because it gets us a 3% discount. With this in mind, we have to save a little every paycheck prior to August 1st to get us the discount. Through proper budgeting and slowly directing a little of our income each pay period we are able to make private education a little more affordable.
  7. Get a second job. If you are solely reliant on one income for your family, then consider getting a second job to pay for your kids education. You are obviously trading time with your family, but you and your spouse need to weigh the costs on whether this is worth it.

These are just a few ideas that we’ve either used or might recommend. I’d love to hear from some of our readers on how you pay for private schooling or if you are considering it, but something is preventing you.

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