Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Fashion Faux Pas

A few years back I bought a smashing black pantsuit to wear to Mr. Colere's Holiday Party. I liked it so much that I wore it to this event three years in a row. As this year’s party approached, I felt I couldn't wear the same outfit once again. I dreaded shopping for myself during the holiday season. I foresaw going into store after store trying on overprized sequined sweaters that didn’t fit quite right. Fortunately, the problem was solved by Mr. Colere. Without my prodding, he decided we were not attending his party this year. A decision that was fine with me.

Many of the women I know would never be caught wearing the same dress to two events that included the same circle of guests. I think it may be prudent to take a lesson from the French, the connoisseurs of fashion; buy one outfit in which you look fabulous and wear it everywhere.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Books on saving money: Are they a waste of time?

I used to be a voracious reader of books and articles providing tips on saving money. I recently came to the conclusion that once I had the basics down; avoiding the daily latte, packing a bag lunch, increasing my deductibles, etc. I just wasn’t reading anything new that was practical. Mr. Colere was beginning to find weird packages of strange substances such as herbs packed in frozen chicken broth covered in freezer burn in our freezer and tossed them out. I was reading articles with bizarre advice such as: take a giant popcorn tub out of the trash when you are at a movie theater and request a free refill, take a shower while wearing your dirty socks to save on laundry or how about flush your toilet every 5th time to reduce your water bill. I have since gone on money saving book hiatus.

My conclusions have been confirmed recently by one of my favorite blog writers “The Nonfiction Readers Anonymous”. Check out her posting on Saving Money with the Tightwad Twins at I also enjoyed her post "Would someone please right a decent simplicity book?” Please? at

Unfortunately when it comes to saving money the best advice, similar to dieting, involves restraint; the only way to really save money is to live beneath our means. How do we do that? I love the old Depression era quote:
Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make it do,
Or do without.
I remember a few years back a co-worker upon returning from an after Christmas shopping sale relayed how much money she saved on her new purchases. Another co-worker exclaimed, "That’s great, but I went to the same sale and saved more money than you. I didn’t buy anything." Enough said.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Medical Identity Theft

Have you heard the latest? According to the article, “Your Medical Records, Stolen!” by Max Alexander in the November 2006 issue of Readers Digest our medical identities are now at risk.

Thieves are stealing our name and insurance information to obtain drugs and expensive medical treatments. But as the article points out, the money isn’t the half of it. When someone steals your name to receive health care, his medical history becomes part of the record – and setting the record straight can be extremely difficult. In a medical emergency having someone else’s medical history commingled with your own could be disastrous.

The best advice for prevention is to never ever give your social security number out to anyone, including a doctor, at a doctor’s office or medical center. It only takes one dishonest person. It used to be a common practice for insurance companies to use your social security number as your insurance ID which was printed on your insurance card. Most insurance companies have eliminated this practice. If your insurance company has not, call and request a new ID number. In the mean time only carry your insurance card with you when visiting a doctor for the first time. Also, read the explanation of benefits forms (EOB's) you receive from your insurance companies. I know from personal experience administering my company's medical insurance, many recipients file or throw their statements away without looking at them. They are a detailed statement listing the medical services your insurance company is or is not paying on your behalf. A couple of phone calls concerning a questionable EOB early in the fraud chain may eliminate a huge problem down the road.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Identify theft precautions

Experts have indicated that 2,000 identity thefts occur in the U.S each week. With statistics like isn't it time to take precautions? Here are a couple of prevention tips:

-Don't print your entire name on your checks. For example, instead of Claire C. Colere, print C. Colere. List your business address rather than your home address.

-When paying bills by check; print only the last four digits of your account number on the check. Better yet don’t carry a checkbook use cash or credit card. Pay your credit card statement online.

- Make photo copies of all your credit cards front and back. Call the 800# immediately if you have a problem.

-If your purse is stolen; report it to the police in the jurisdiction where the purse was lost.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Tips for Getting Motivated

Getting and staying motivated at work is a constant struggle for me. My desk is overflowing with piles of work. When co-workers don't know what to do with something it's usually strategically placed in my in-box. I spend many days not knowing where to begin or working on several different projects simultaneously not finishing any of them. Recently, I stumbled across the following motivational tips taken from the "Get Motivated Workbook" by a colleague who attended a Get Motivated Workshop:

Visualize a clutter-free environment; focus on the desired outcome, not the effort.

Get started, what's bothering you the most? Start somewhere.

Try to remove the small irritants that hinder your achievement. Write it down -- identify your main time wasters, and create an ideal time schedule.

Do daily planning. Take the time each night to manage one of your most precious resources: the next 24 hours.

Avoid distractions - work on only one item at a time.

Clear the clutter-we simply have too much stuff.

Reward yourself-do something nice for yourself after you have completed a specific task. Hang a carrot out there.

Maintain Balance - Our lives consist of Seven Vital Areas: Health, Family, Financial, Intellectual, Social, Professional, and Spiritual. Commit to spend a sufficient quantity and quality of time in each area and then your life will be balanced.

By recapturing a wasted hour here and there, you can make great increases in your daily productivity. Some top time wasters are: Shifting priorities, the telephone, losing things, lack of direction/objectives, attempting too much, ineffective delegating, and procrastination/lack of self-discipline. Does any of this sound familiar?

I am guilty of almost all of the time wasters. I have taken time management seminars in the past and usually come away thinking ~ organization and time management blah blah blah... it's not going to work for me. I think it's time I make an effort to really try. I can't afford not to. Can you?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Dental Insurance: Is it really a benefit?

Five years ago my employer began offering employees a company sponsored dental plan. The plan was instituted due to high demand from employees whose children would soon be in orthodontia.

The plan requires the employee to pay the entire premium using pre-tax dollars. Benefits kick in on a sliding scale. The plan pays benefits at a higher percentage each year, hitting maximum percentages the third year. This prevents members from enrolling, immediately having all their dental work completed, and canceling.

About half of my co-workers are enrolled in the plan. Lately, many of the single and married employees without dependants are doing the math; comparing actual cash output to benefits received. They are finding that even with high usage years (cavities and a crown) the costs are outweighing the benefits over the long haul. Instead they are opting out of the dental plan and setting money aside in a flexible spending account to cover dental expenses. The plan is cost effective if the employee has a couple of dependents, especially if they need braces.

The same could probably be said for some employer sponsored vision plans; the costs outweigh the benefits if you are paying the entire premium.

Bottom line: Not all benefit plans are cost effective. Do the math and consider your options before automatically enrolling in benefit plans

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Why a second Blog?

For the past several years, or at least since I have been working in my current position, I have been somewhat obsessed with living below my means. My thinking has been if I spend less than I make someday I will lose the chains of full time work resulting in more free time to, as Oprah puts it, “Live my Best Life”.

The past year I have become somewhat discouraged with this process. Even though I have been making sacrifices and cutting back financially, it seems as if nothing has changed and that I actually have less free time than when I started. I realize some of this has been self-inflicted such as volunteering for more responsibility in my local professional organization. Currently I have been having fantasies of chucking all my frugal ways and heading out to the newly revamped Bayshore Mall to buy really expensive, unnecessary stuff. I know, however, that this is not the way to go and will continue the course hoping someday to have that much coveted additional free time.

I am going to use this second blog to explore my thoughts, feelings and discoveries from a financial point of view as I continue down this path towards a simpler life. I had difficulty coming up with a name for this blog that was catchy and wasn't already taken. So for now it is “A Little Bit of Finance.” Check it out.