The Costs of Having a Pet

Michelle —  October 4, 2013 — Leave a comment

Getting a new pet for your family can be expensive, and if you don’t fully plan adding this new family member, then you may be in for some surprises. Many pets can probably be had for cheaply, but if you’re thinking a dog, then make sure you fully think about this decision.

I currently have 2 dogs, one is a mutt (they say she might be a Pointer/Pit Bull mutt) and the other is a French Bulldog runt. The mutt is super healthy, but my French Bulldog – not even close. He is about 12 pounds and has already had numerous things wrong with him. And the vet has said that many more things will most like start happening as he gets older, so we do know that we need to start saving just in case something does happen.

We used to have a third dog. We sort of got her on a whim, but fell in love with her immediately. We didn’t really think about much her medication would cost and her had many medical problems. It cost around $100 per month for her medications. She ended up passing away 2 months later which was very sad.

1. Buying or “homing” the pet

There is of course the initial cost of obtaining the pet. I am 100% for pet adoption. There are so many animals out there (both puppies and adults) that need homes, and most pet shops support puppy mills. Adopting a pet may cost anywhere from free to something like $300. Usually this adoption costs includes all shots and possibly the pet being spayed or neutered.

2. Food

Food for your new pet can add up quickly also. I usually like to buy the higher quality bags of dog food. Saving a couple of bucks on dog food is most likely not worth it when it comes to your pet’s health. Dog food can range anywhere from $10 to $100 per month. We spend around $50 to $75 a month on dog food.

Food costs also depends on what type of animal and/or breed you have. Obviously my 12 pound dog eats no where near the amount of food as my 80 pound dog.

3. Medical

Medical for your pet can add up quickly. It will need all of its shots and you will want to keep them current on these shots. You might also want to get them spayed/neutered as well. The Humane Society near my house will spay/neuter your dog for around $40, whereas if you go to your local vet, it is usually around $200 to $300, but I have heard of higher cost of living places with it being around $800.

Also, if anything happens to your pet, will you be able to take them to the doctor? What if your dog gets a really bad rash, a tumor, breaks a leg, has a bad reaction to something or anything else? The cost can be as small as $75, and maybe up to a couple of thousand dollars.

4. Treats, Toys and a Bed

I really like to spoil my dogs, so I tend to spend a lot of treats and toys. Bones can be expensive, and my dog can eat a $20 4 foot long bone in a couple of hours. I don’t give her one of those often, but it does add up!

Beds can also be quite expensive as well. A crate (depending on the size) can be $100, and the bedding can be an extra $25 – $50 to go inside of it. I don’t keep my dogs in their crates ever, but it is said that dogs usually like a place with walls that makes them feel safe. My dogs willingly go in their crates and sleep in there (with the crate door open).

5. Groomers

Taking your pet to the groomers can also add up very quickly as well. My bigger dog cost around $50 each time, and my smaller dog i still expensive at $40. Usually I clean and wash them myself, but every now and then they do need to go.

Did you think about the costs before you added a pet to your family?

Recently, my wife and I have been doing pretty well for ourselves. We aren’t what most people consider rich (although, by the world’s standard’s I am rich), but we do have a few extra dollars to truly enjoy ourselves. We are no longer forced to wait 6 months for a movie to come out on video because we can’t afford a night out on the town. We can now afford to visit both of our families within the same year and not pay for it later. This is a nice feeling to have, until the guilt kicks in.

We’ve always dreamed of living a life that is different from the American Dream. We don’t want a mansion or nice cars, but what we really want is to make a difference. While we’ve had to give up on some of our dreams, we still hope to make a positive difference in this world. We may not lead the next revolution and break systems of injustice, but we genuinely do care about the world.

That’s why the other day my wife came to me and said we need to give more. She wasn’t talking about giving away all our wealth, but she was talking about caring about other people before our selfish desires. Right when I thought we were finally starting to enjoy ourselves, she drops this self-righteous bomb on me.

If I am honest with myself, I can’t help but think two things when she brings this up.

  1. This means we won’t be able to enjoy ourselves as much.
  2. She’s absolutely right.

Once I let myself process it a bit more, I realized that we do need to give more and that’s when the question really began to hit me: How Should we Give? What’s the best way to give?

You may think I am a bit extreme, but I love to analyze things. Some may say OVER-ANALYZE. Here’s the issue: I love to make sure that I am making the best choice possible. This applies to this situation of giving. I could easily give more money in the offering plate each week at church, but is that really making a difference, or am I just making myself feel better? I think when we are honest with ourselves, most of us give just to feel good. We didn’t want to make our gift another one of those, so we decided to talk about what’s the most effective use of our money. We don’t have a lot of money, so we wanted to make sure it counted for something.

Qualities of an Effective Gift

After much discussion, we realized that a gift that is really going to make a difference should have these qualities:

  • Sustainability - The most important thing for us is sustainability. We’ve seen “band-aid fixes” too often in our lives. People can give poor people money all they want, but if they don’t give them a way to earn money for themselves, it won’t make a difference. Sure, it might provide them with a nice dinner tomorrow, but if they have any hope of feeding themselves tomorrow, they are going to need something that’s sustainable. It’s similar to the idea of teaching someone to fish instead of giving them a fish.
  • Affordable Enough to Give Now – While we would love to provide a well for a community in Africa or something that would REALLY make a difference for a LOT of people, we’re not foolish enough to believe we can afford that. We recognize this and yet we still want to give now. We don’t want to wait to give 3 years from now because who knows what excuses we will come up to justify spending that money on ourselves. This is the reason, we wanted to be able to give now – so we can make it a habit before we forget about it.
  • Most Bang For Our Buck – This expression may be dying out, but we really wanted to get the most return for our investment. That’s how we see it. We see giving as an investment in making the world a better place. While there are multiple ways to give a sustainable gift, we wanted one that would give the highest return.

What Did we Decide?

While I don’t want to limit my readers to thinking this is always the best choice for anyone, I do want to share what we decided on for last month. We decided to give a goat via Heifer International. It’s a well-known organization and giving a goal has several benefits:

  • Ability to thrive in extreme climates – In other words, less risk for our investment.
  • Provide Quarts of Milk a Day – This can be a great way to provide food for the family or a source of income
  • Manure for Fertilizer – Not only do they get food from the milk, but the ability to grow crops
  • Children – Goats can have 2-3 kids per year, meaning either exponential source of food/manure or more money by selling the children.

Readers, what goes into your decisions when you decide to give?

 

Back in the 1980s, one of the things that became quite popular in a number of corporations was to have a neatly typed and laminated Recommended Code of Conduct. According to the American Bar Association, this developed out of a slew of ethical issues that began cropping up throughout corporate America about this time. The Recommended Code of Conduct has not quite passed out of popularity, but businesses and employees no longer take it as seriously.

One of the main reasons that the Recommended Code of Conduct began to fall out of favor was because people did not take it seriously. It seemed like nothing more than a bunch of standards and rules that no one really would follow. But, according to the Journal of Trial Advocacy, this supposedly laughable document could actually be admissible in court as a defense or even as evidence.

The Business Record Exception

One of the ways that it can be worked into evidence is through the business record exception under the Federal Rules of Evidence. Generally, as can be seen on Legal Zoom and other similar legal sites, this rule is used to introduce into evidence documents and records that are kept within the course and process of business. Yet, in a growing number of cases, the Recommended Code of Conduct falls into that exception so long as it meets certain criteria, because the Recommended Code of Conduct itself is prepared in the ordinary course of business.

The Requirements

The precise requirements vary based on individual state law, but the general basis of introducing the Recommended Code of Conduct is to ensure that it is something that has been distributed throughout the business and that has been upheld as much as possible. Upholding it means enforcing the rules and the codes listed within the book. Instead of just having a general recommendation, it must be followed unless good cause can be demonstrated otherwise.

Even if the practice has not always been followed, the Recommended Code of Conduct can be introduced. It is up to the opposition to contest its introduction into evidence.

Why This Matters

Most of the time, introducing a Recommended Code of Conduct is necessary when a key employee or member of the board has done something that violates the law while in the employ of the business. For the liability to fall on the business or the corporation, that individual must generally have been shown to be acting either with actual or implied authority from the business. Unless it is specifically stated otherwise, the general stance is that so long as it has not been prohibited or standards made clear, then even acts such as embezzlement or fraud could come back onto the business or corporation through vicarious liability.

Obviously, businesses do not need to have that added burden of liability. A Recommended Code of Conduct is a concrete statement that such activities are prohibited, and it demonstrates in one tangible way how the business views that scenario.

No triple-dip hip hooray!

Corey —  May 29, 2013 — 1 Comment

Anyone who doubts that local authorities are still wasting ratepayers’ money on incompetents in pointless jobs need look no further than Kent’s police. A week ago, to much media fanfare, they hired a 13-year-old crime commissioner on a £15k salary. Unfortunately they failed to point out that her job was not actually to commission crime. Grasping entirely the wrong end of the stick the lass not only indulged in underage drinking and alleged drug use but wrote up her exploits on Twitter to encourage other youngsters to follow her example. Following complaints about her posts which included, for good measure, homophobic and racist comments, she has taken early retirement. The details of her payoff and pension have not yet been made public.

Nor is there any official word yet on Britain’s economic performance in the first quarter of 2013 but the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) offered its own provisional estimate yesterday. It reckons gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by an inflation-adjusted 0.1% in Q1. The news would have provoked celebration among the Conservatives, had they not been in sombre mood following the demise of Baroness Thatcher, and gloom on the Labour benches, save for the above. Today’s media are full of stories about how Britain has avoided a triple-dip recession but, in reality, three months of 0.1% growth after three of -0.3% contraction is not exactly an achievement to be trumped from the ramparts. For more information money transfer abroad services please click here.

That was the cautious view of investors yesterday afternoon. A few of them, perhaps out of a sense of moral obligation, bought sterling following the news but the majority felt no need to join in. That is not to say sterling had a bad day. It lost half a cent to the Australian dollar but otherwise is unchanged or firmer. Not a lot firmer though; the pound’s best performance was its gain of half a US cent. The main factor in sterling’s favour was the figures for industrial and manufacturing production, which were better – or at least not as bad – as expected. Manufacturing production grew by 0.8% in February while broader industrial production, which includes mining and energy, was up by 1.0% on the month. Year-on-year declines slowed to -1.4% and -2.2% respectively.

There were no data of any consequence from Euroland or the States but it is worth noting that consumer price inflation in Greece was a negative -0.2% while industrial production there fell more slowly, down by 3.9% on the year. There were surprises overnight from Australia, where an unexpected -5.1% fall in consumer confidence had only a momentarily dampening effect on the AUD, and China, which reported a trade deficit as exports slowed and imports shot up.

This morning France recorded a 0.7% monthly rebound for industrial output but the figures for Spain and Italy are likely to be less impressive. The only other European ecostats this morning relate to Portuguese inflation. Nothing is due from the United States or Canada except for the minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). The most important data tonight are those for Australian employment. For more information on Foreign Exchange please click here.

Tips When Buying a Home

Michelle —  February 25, 2013 — 10 Comments

Buying a new place, whether it be a condo, house, townhouse, and so on, can be a very long and difficult process.  When we bought our current house that we live in, it was extremely easy. Of course easy is relative, but it sure did seem easy.

We looked at a lot of houses, but we only put a contract down on one and it was accepted (after a couple of negotiations). Our move in date was set for just a couple of weeks after that and we moved in maybe less than one month from the day that we first toured the house. Even our loan officer said he’s never been through a home process as quick and as easy as process was.

However, I have heard others’ stories about how hard their home buying process was. Some have to wait months to sign the papers and move in. Some submit multiple offers just to be outbid by tons of other people.

There are so many things to think about when you buy a new home, and in today’s post I will be listing some of those.

Put 20% down

Putting 20% down has many positives for a home buyer. It will lower your payment in more than one way, mainly that you will take out a smaller home loan.

If you don’t put down at least 20%, then most mortgage companies will require that you pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). This can add an extra $50 to $150 to your monthly mortgage amount, and possibly even more. We made the mistake of not putting 20% down and now have to pay PMI. We definitely won’t be making this mistake with our next house.

Get pre-approved

Getting pre-approved is a big step.  Not knowing what you can “afford” and looking can be a big problem because you might fall in love with something but then no bank approve you for that amount. If you are pre-approved, then you can eliminate houses out of your search that are not possible due to your budget. It will save you a lot of time and the possibility that you will buy way outside of your budget.

Buy what you can truly afford

Now, just because you were pre-approved for a loan, it does not mean that you can truly afford that loan amount. Banks are notorious for approving individuals for MUCH more than they can afford. When we bought our current house, we were pre-approved for much more than could truly afford. Also, you are pre-approved normally on your gross income, not net income. Your gross income is of course much higher than your net and can make it seem like you can afford a house, when in reality you cannot.

Our real estate agent also gave us a little tip: if you are pre-approved for much more than you ever plan on buying a house for, then ask the loan officer to send you a pre-approval letter stating that you are pre-approved for a smaller amount. This way when you put a contract on a house, the seller and/or their real estate agent do not see some crazy number that someone believes you can afford. This way there will be less negotiations as the seller won’t be trying to get you to your top dollar.

Think about the long-term

How long do you plan on living in your home? A lot of people will say that their first home will just be a starter home, but what if that ends up not being the case and you live there for quite some time? You might want to look into the school district there just in case you do decide to have children, make sure the house is something that you would like for quite some time, and so on.

What tips do you have for a potential homebuyer?

My wife and I went to see Spiderman on Broadway last night. It was a great production and to be honest, it was one of the first times I had been so close to so many people in a long time. I really noticed how long it had been when I became aggravated that the people sitting next to us, came back 5 minutes after intermission ended, forcing us to miss a few crucial seconds of the play.

Not only did I notice our tendency to hang out with people in small groups, but I also noticed how individualistic our society is. As I looked around the theater at intermission while chatting with my wife, I couldn’t help but notice the many lights that flickered in the crowd. The mixture of cell phone screen lights could be compared to lightning bugs on a summer night. While somewhat amusing, it’s also interesting to connect the isolation to this visual display. In the middle of the quite social event, most people were in their own individual world. This is how our society is.

While I believe we are typically social creatures, we have created a world where we spend a lot of time alone. Driving in cars, watching TV, playing games on our cell phones, and the list could go on. Unfortunately this has huge repercussions. One of the most obvious is how we treat those closest to us. Western culture has often held a unusual value when it comes to living with relatives, let alone caring for them. As my grandparents get older, I can’t help but think what it will be like taking care of my parents.

We Need to Care for Those Closest To Us

Christianity has often emphasized the need to help others. Selflessly giving oneself for others is a dominant theme with its message(s). Yet, for some reason, we seem to have difficulty caring for those closest to us. In many ways, I don’t know what to expect when it comes to caring for my parents – if I will ever have to. They were the ones who took care of me – it just seems strange to have the roles reversed.

Yet, I know it’s an important thing to do. I would hate to think of my parents alone in a retirement home. When I was growing up, when my grandmother was getting ready to marry for the second time, she lived with us for about a year. I was too young at the time to think through the full implications, but to this day, my father’s sacrifice for his mom still amazes me.

Caring for Others is Difficult

Even though I know it is important for me to take care of those I love, I know it’s not easy. Reading about caregiver burnout is one thing, and the other is the financial burden. There are many days where I feel like I hardly have enough energy to clean my own dishes… how would I take care of someone else?

While I don’t have an answer to some of these questions, I do know that I need to prepare for these unlikely scenarios. In addition to doing some research from authority sites like Genworth, I plan to save a little extra money to both help with care of my parents and for me and my wife. Since we don’t plan to have kids, it’s only likely that there won’t be anyone there to take care of us, especially if we outlive our siblings. While that may be depressing for many people, I know it’s a part of life and you can only do one of two things: prepare for it so that it is significantly more manageable OR ignore it and face the consequences of your action. I choose to do the former. If you have yet to think what life will be like for you or your loved ones in 10 or 20 years from now, take time to think of the worst case scenario so that you can be a little better prepared.

Lately I have been talking about how we want to buy a new house a lot. I think about it everyday and I find myself looking at houses everyday also. I’ve pretty much looked at all of the houses within a 60 mile radius of where I want to be.

I have seen a lot of houses that I like, but none that are perfect. I have literally browsed through thousands of houses. Right now I feel like I’m at the point that if I find a house that I absolutely love, I don’t know if I can wait until the end of 2013 or the beginning of 2014 to buy it. I mean, how could I wait? I haven’t found the perfect one yet so I definitely do not want to let the perfect house escape from me.

There are many things that we need to do before we buy, but we especially want to make sure that our credit scores are as perfect as they can be. Right now we are in the mid 700s and it would be higher if we wouldn’t have taken out a couple of 0% loans (we took them out just because they were 0%, we just let the cash sit in our bank because we believe that’s a better gain).

So, since we are focused on increasing our credit score and we plan on buying once the perfect house comes along, we need to really buckle down and make our credit score as good as it can be so that we can be ready to officially start the home buying process. Every little thing helps and even a couple of points higher would make us very happy.

How to quickly increase your credit score:

1. Check and fix any errors in your credit report.

When was the last time that you checked your credit report? You should do this at least once a year and make sure that there are no errors and that all of the information listed is correct. A small error might be drastically affecting your credit score, so check now! I recently ordered both of our credit reports from the 3 major agencies (all for free of course) and found that everything is correct now.

Everything being correct on our credit reports is a big deal because a couple of years ago I found out that someone had bought a house under my name when I was only 13! I had just found out about it because it was buried in my credit report and I had never looked hard enough. Definitely a big mistake.

2. Watch your utilization rate.

Pay down those high balances that you have. The balances that you have on your credit cards account for approximately 30% of your credit score. You want your balance to be below 30% of your total available credit. So if you are allowed to put up to $1,000 on your credit card, do not charge more than $300. It is also said to try and keep this amount below 20% in order to have an even better credit score.

This is something that we are really working on. I recently paid off a ton of credit card balances. We never carry a balance over and we always pay it off completely, but even with that, if you do not keep your utilization rate below 30%, it can still hurt your score even if you are paying your FULL balance off every month.

3. Keep all accounts open.

Recently my fiancé, “W,” was fooled into opened up a store credit card in order to save $25 off of his purchase.

Yes, I said $25 and that was all it took to entice him to sign up.  Trust me, he will never do that again! I thought about closing it immediately but I do know that closing it will only hurt his credit score and our ability to get a great interest rate on a mortgage. So, for now, we just plan on keeping it open and using it occasionally just so that it will help our credit score.

Closing a brand new credit card so quickly will most likely not have a positive effect on our credit score.

Are you trying to increase your credit score? What tips do you have?