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Spring: Lawn Services and Convenience Checks March 25, 2008

Posted by pf in Credit Card, Expenses and Savings.
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Ah, spring is finally starting to push itself to the forefront and help us leave behind one of the most dreary winters I can remember behind. Of course, like the changing seasons comes a new barrage of advertisements with catchy phrases that work the word spring into it. More specifically, there are two that I notice which are particularly annoying:

1) Lawn Services – Whether it be flyers or richly colored advertisements from the bigger services, they try to convince you that your lawn will be so much more beautiful is you use their services. Also, of course, is the convenience factor (they take care of everything). Personally, I have bought into this before. When we first moved into our house, I really wanted our lawn and trees to start off nicely and paid for the pleasure to the tune of $35 /month. As far as I can tell, it was a good price. However:

  • You can achieve the same if not better results yourself
  • It definitely takes some time to do, but for most of us, we could use the sunshine and exercise anyway
  • Also, for most of us, $35 / month (and often quite a bit more) is real money saved…particularly when in debt. Even if you subtract the costs for purchasing the materials for yourself.

In general, I think lawn services are just another way to spend your precious funds on something you don’t really need and be had for less if you are willing to do it yourself.

2) Credit Card Convenience Checks – I have written about convenience checks before.  Aside from the fact that I feel they are putting me at some risk by mailing these live checks, I also think they are a huge waste of money:

  • Almost all (I actually think it’s 100%, but I can’t be sure) of them have a “fee” of 3% or so with a minimum of $10 or a maximum for as much as $90 for the pleasure of using them.  Right off the bat, you’ve already given away money for the pleasure.
  • It’s just an extension of your credit card.  If you’re going to continue to use credit, then why bother with convenience checks?  You can take up one of those 0% offers or just use the one you’ve already got.
  •  For those of you in debt, it just another way to perpetuate the horrible cycle you already find yourselves in.

Under certain circumstances, I could imagine one of these convenience checks may serve a purpose.  For example, if they offered a promotional fixed rate on the balance which was better than anything you already had.  Of course, you still have to spend money, but if you were going to anyway, then why not?

For myself, I take about 10 seconds to discern whether or not they might be giving me a deal of a lifetime (they aren’t) and then proceed to shred them.


Convenience Checks January 8, 2008

Posted by pf in Expenses and Savings.
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Quite often, I won’t go through any recent mail until the end of the week.  For items that are certain to be solicitations, it might be a month or more before I even bother.  Typically, I will retire to my “library” with a sizable stack and go through each one with almost everything finding its way to the “round file”.

This week, I had quite a few offers from my existing credit card accounts to use their convenience checks so I might access some quick cash…up to my allowable limit, of course.  Generally speaking, I have no problem with financial institutions offering various tools such as these convenience checks so that I might have more options available to me as far as managing my finances.  I know some people feel differently, but I don’t think it’s their job to save me from myself and make sure that I don’t behave irresponsibly with my money.  My primary expectation is that they clearly outline the terms and conditions of whatever is being offered and don’t make to search too hard to figure it out.