Thursday, August 30, 2012

Yes, the Pennies Count

The saying used to be "Watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves."  Today a lot of people pooh pooh this saying.  After all, what today can you possibly buy for a penny.  It's the dollars that are far more important.

Well no.  It still takes 100 pennies to make up one of those dollars, and I have yet to hear of a merchant who will sell you an item costing $1.19 for only $1 because you don't have those 19 pennies.  But the saying alludes to more than just pennies and dollars--it's telling us that you need to watch small expenses and savings just as much as you do larger ones.

And related to this is the idea that saving even a little bit can add up in the end to larger savings.  Saving 60 cents on a can of tuna may not sound like much, but saving $6 on 10 cans of tuna is not small change.  Okay, so maybe you don't need the ten cans of tuna.  But what if, through reading the circulars and clipping coupons, you saved about 25 cents on each of 13 items--$4.25 is dollar savings.  Multiply that by 4 weeks to the month and you've saved $17 that month.

What brought on this posting?  I passed along some information I received about senior citizen discounts.  Please keep in mind that for retailers, senior citizens may begin at 50+ and go up to 65+.  A number of stores and service/product providers will offer these discounts, the key being that you have to ask for them.  Some providers will limit the discount to certain days of the week--Pathmark supermarkets offer a 5% senior discount on Tuesdays, and you must bring in the coupon that is printed in those circulars that are delivered to your home.

Someone responded to my email by basically saying big deal, they're willing to give you a paltry 5%? What's the big difference if you pay $100 for something or $95 with the discount?  It's this type of attitude that fuels a lot of the budgetting/financial problems you hear about today. 

What's the big deal with "only" saving 5%?  We were away this month.  Thanks to the discounts available, our air tickets and rental car were  $63 cheaper.  The groceries we bought while away were $17 dollars cheaper due to the discount plus an additional $34.30 in sales/coupons savings.  Our movie/show tickets while on vacation gave us a savings of $39 dollars.   One of our restaurant meals was $10 cheaper thanks to a weekly coupon.  Yes, "only" a 5% discount, but it all added up.  We saved $163, and that's an awful lot of pennies added up.

If you don't know if a retailer offers any kind of discount, ask!  What have you got to lose?  And look at what you just might gain.  Don't know about you, but I can think of a lot of things that $5 would pay for.  Actually, I can think of a lot of things that even $1 could pay for.  Besides, it's my $1, and why should I spend it if I don't have to?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

In Hot Water Again

After the news of the last few days, I would very much love to hear about a zillion people taking purveyors of Shabbos hot water urns to a din Torah, or filing suit in secular court.  It is not exactly a secret that the vast majority of the hot water urns sold for Shabbos/Yom Tov use are not under the UL--Underwriters Laboratory.  And yes, I'm not going to be l'chav z'chus and say that the owners of these stores have no idea what the UL is or that there are UL certified urns.  If you sell electronic items you need to be knowledgeable about those items--ignorance is no excuse.

News of three accidents that happened with non-UL urns.  One urn overheated and shorted out the electrical system in the owner's kitchen, leaving them in the dark and with no hot water for Shabbos. Sparks from the shorting out urn also put burn marks into the kitchen counter.  Also cost a small bundle to repair the shorted out system.  Two urns with the bottom spigots that were overturned and had no reliable safety feature to keep the top closed when someone applied pressure to the spigot handle to get hot water into a cup.  In one case an adult got scalding on his body; in the other case a young child got scalded from the head down.

A lot of the stores selling these urns don't carry any UL urns.  Generally, those white urns with the flowers on them are not under the UL.  One brand that is UL certified is made by Innovative Consumer.  It's a brushed stainless steel outside and inside finish.  There are a few stores in Brooklyn which sell this model.  Call first and save yourself a trip to a store that won't have a UL urn.

You could also try querying UL--Underwriters Laboratory--for a more complete list of the urns they certify.

Note: one of those injured by a non-UL urn actually knew that UL urns existed but mentioned that she was waiting for her old urn to wear out and then she would replace it with a UL one.  Please, there is being money conscious and then there is taking an unwarranted risk with your safety.  With Yom Tov coming in a few weeks and all the added hot water use, now is the time to prepare for the new year with safety in mind.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

What Change?

I've been playing around in my mind with some topics for future postings.  Yes, I've thought of a few things I haven't really written about before that I want to research.  But here's the depressing thing--the major problems that seem to occupy our minds are still alive, well and unchanged.

School tuition?  I've heard of a few schools that raised tuition for this year but not one that lowered tuition to a workable level, or any lower level.

The School Day?  No announcements anywhere that even one school is considering altering its hours to fit in with what working parents need and want or that would be beneficial for family togetherness.

School Lunches:  Still the same dismal offerings that most schools presented last year.

Shidduchim?  Still no national organization or community group that has announced it will be approaching things differently, allowing for more "natural" socialization among singles.

Money and Budgetting:  Not a single national organization or a local one either that has come out and said that expenditures are outrunning money available and it has to stop, the first step being eliminating conspicuous consumption and spending on simchas and lifestyle events. (Yes, I know that Satmar last year announced some changes, but they apply only to those in Satmar.)

Not all the problems we all wish would disappear or at the very least be reduced in intensity, but there they are, unchanged and still among us.  And yes, still  topics of serious and sometimes heated conversation when people get together.  And yes, here I will go again this year, banging my head against the granite wall of indifference that so many of the "major" organizations and "machers" of Klal have erected to keep us exactly where they would like us, never mind the harm that causes.

Oh well, I must be that cockeyed optimist because I believe and hope that if we all keep chipping at it, that wall will come tumbling down.  Even a few visible chips and missing chunks would give us chizuk to keep on trying.  We shall see.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


A recent posting at Orthonomics once again brought up the subject of SAHMs--stay at home mothers--in reference to a posting at imamother.  And once again I'm scratching my head and wondering just where some of the people commenting on the imamother posting have been living for the last decades.

Let's get something on the table right from the beginning--even where and when being a SAHM was considered a societal norm, it never was so.  That's right, it never was an across the board item.  There have always been working women in society, and working mothers.  And yes, there have also been those who closed their eyes to this fact and continued to preach the "a woman's place is in the home" party line.

Go back to biblical times and read the Aishis Chayil word for word.  Yes, it talks about all the things a woman does in her home for her husband and children.  And yes, it also clearly and with no fuzziness delineates all the areas of commerce that the woman is involved in--that's commerce such as in working.

When mass producing factories came into being there were women working in those factories.  Many a small business, such as a grocery store, took both the husband and the wife to keep the business afloat.  The servant class was mostly populated by women, and yes, many were married with families they were helping to support with their wages.

Let's move into the more recent past and guess what--we still find lots of women in the workplace.  During WWI and WWII women in droves replaced the men in the general workplace who were called up to fight.  And when the men came back home, many of those women remained in the workplace.  As this country continued to make manufacturing a primary concern, women worked in those factories.

Yes, many of the jobs that women worked at were not considered as "elegant" or "highly desired."  This was as much a result of society's restricting women from being educated as it was from society's attitude that a woman's place was in the home.

You want to see the working mothers of Klal?  You have only to look at the immigrant generation that arrived after WWII.  Go ahead and ask your grandparents how many working women they knew of.  If they're being honest they'll tell you "tons of them."  My mom worked outside of the home, as did my mother in law, as did my parents and in law's cousins.  Some worked together with their husbands in small businesses they eventually were able to begin.  Others worked in a variety of factories.  Food on the table and money to pay the rent beat out any societal grumbling about a woman's place.

And today?  A woman's place is anywhere she needs it to be or wants it to be.  The stark reality is that Klal has engendered a "required" lifestyle that makes it impossible for a whole lot of  single earner families to comply with.  Unless a husband is making uber megabucks, it is going to take two salaries to cover expenses, maybe.  And perhaps this is time to mention that for a lot of the frummer families in Klal, where husbands are sitting and learning, it is the woman who is the sole wage earner.  And yes, even where both husband and wife are working, there are enough cases where it is the wife that makes more money than the husband.  And by the way, this isn't limited to just Klal either.

So please, let us once and for all retire the idea that SAHMism is the societal norm and the best thing for a mother to be doing.  Instead, let's get practical for a change.  What we need to do is make sure our women--and yes, our men too-- are well prepared and well educated, so that when they do go out to work they will qualify for jobs of a higher caliber that will pay more and have better benefits available.

And just slightly off the topic, but definitely related to it, why is it that when those ubiquitous researchers do studies about the children of SAHMs versus working mothers, they fail to include fathers in the equation?  Yup, two parents are working to support the family, but if something disturbs the children it is always blamed on the mother's working.  So fathers are nothing but sperm donors?  Talk about an out of whack and out of date attitude that needs adjusting.