Sunday, 28 May 2017

Do Charities Manage their Donations Well?

 



We  moved to a new home almost a year ago.  It had been previously occupied by an elderly woman, now deceased about a year and a half.   She must have been generous because a steady stream of charities are still writing to her asking for donations, including local and federal political parties.   They are all mainstream charities whose names I am familiar with and perhaps the lady felt this would ensure her donations were well spent.   I notice that the charities spend a lot on postage yet must have no way of knowing if the donor has moved away or died.   Many solicitations seem to include date books, calendars or other goodies perhaps attempting to create a feeling of required reciprocity.

I've wondered about charities that I've supported myself over the years. When I research charities in general I  usually haven't been pleased with the information that's come my way.   Large, well known charities are often top heavy with administrators and Chief Executive Officers and similar positions are generously renumerated.   Large offices in high rent areas appear to be necessary.    A Moneysense article provides some details about the efficiency of large charities in Canada. Charity Navigator calls itself a guide to intelligent giving but some organizations have disputed their figures, for example, here.
  


One way to uncover more information is to volunteer at organizations that provide services you value.   Unfortunately,  as is often the case where you are employed, you may be disappointed to find that waste is endemic.   I have heard that from those employed in both medical and educational institutions.    People may be well-intentioned but they make poor choices.   This article in the National Post details how only 45% of funds raised for cancer go to fight cancer.  Having a good heart doesn't necessarily make a person financially savvy.  Small charities may yield to spending money developing logos, attending conferences or paying too much for office space.    In developing countries corruption can be rampant.   The justification may be given that some people are unfairly rich and resources (also known as other peoples' money) need to be redistributed.

When I was involved with a school parent group I found out that in middle class/well to do areas parents were allowed to fund raise for computer labs while in poorer areas where fund raising was minimal the school district would provide the computer labs.   Seems like another form of taxation.

What is the solution?






Sunday, 21 May 2017

Try To Make It Fun

 
Only $45.65 CAD at Nordstrom


Do you find it a pain to be frugal?   . . .


That's the wrong approach.   You need to adjust your attitude.   When you have a goal in mind that is important to you, focus on that.   Do you want to buy a house?   Have a baby?   Take early retirement?   Travel around the world for a year?     These are big picture goals that will change your life and you have decided that will be in the best possible way.   Having longer lashes just isn't the same.

But don't give up on beauty entirely, if long lashes are in your definition of that.   There's a whole world of choice out there.

   
$4.96 CAD at Amazon.ca



The first mascara is approximately ten times more expensive you will note.   Giving credit to The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn where I first read the idea, you should ask yourself if this product is ten times better.   That is a difficult hurdle to overcome.   Some might consider the product superior ( although the Yves Saint Laurent brand may influence you in that decision).  Look at that shiny gold colour.   I would be curious to know if a chemical analysis showed the ingredients making up the mascaras are significantly different.

Look on it as re-directing your money.   You are not cheap, you are not depriving yourself of something, you are channelling your money to what is a significant goal.   

I read in an interview with the venerable Mrs. Dacyczyn that she considered the internet to be the single greatest new aid to frugality.   I agree.   You can check prices, shop around and generally occupy yourself very inexpensively in a myriad of ways.   Look on it as a treasure hunt.   They were always fun, weren't they?

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Is Insurance to Reassure You?

              




One of the first things a professor/instructor in Insurance Law said, and incidentally the only thing I remember from that course,  was "The first rule of insurance companies is 'Don't Pay!'"  Litigation would arise from this refusal in a small number of cases, bearing in mind that the cost of litigation would be more than most household and even travel claims, saving the most extreme.  I suppose that's why I've always been wary of insurance policies.

You have to have fire insurance on your home.   Probably your mortgage company requires it.   House fires in owner occupied homes are not very common but just in case . . .    You couldn't sleep at night without it.    What about a robbery claim?    Those are more common.   A young person broke in and stole our stereo and video recorder many years ago.   If you ever make a claim be prepared to have your premium go up the following year and not just on that property but any other real estate (like an investment condominium) that you happen to own.   Don't forget you'll need to pay the deductible ($500 to $1000) first.   Before long you've paid for your replacement item yourself.     

Some people take out disability insurance.   It seems you are more likely to become disabled, than die, at least in the short term.   But what is disabled?    If if you became a quadriplegic, unable to use all four of your limbs, your insurer might think that you might be able to hold a pencil between your teeth and tap out letters on a keyboard with the eraser end.    A little research on-line turns up a lot of sad stories.  Some are satisfied with what the insurance company has provided.   It can make you feel that paying a monthly disability premium was a little like buying a slew of lottery tickets every month.   You hope, you hope.  






Sunday, 7 May 2017

No Shopping?

   
Garth Williams (illustrator)



Are you one of the millions of people who has read the Little House in the Prairie series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder?   Many people, myself included, have read and re-read the books and read them to our children.    Down to earth tales of family life in pioneer America and guess what?   No shopping.  (almost).   Somehow this family lived their life, their adventures, their struggles with little money.   They would be considered poor today, no doubt, but they didn't think of themselves in that way.   Their neighbours were all in similar situations.    But the love they had for each other, the hard work they engaged in, the ingenuity and inventiveness shines through every book.

I suspect the foregoing is one of the reasons these books have endured.   We want some of that in our lives.   Can we replicate it in any form?

The Ingalls children all had chores which they were expected to do without complaining.   Pioneer life was labour intensive and everyone had to pitch in to make it work.   Laura even took on work that was not considered appropriate for girls or women--heavy farm work pitching hay--because she was needed.    They were able to produce much of what they used.   Pa Ingalls hauled logs manually using his horses to build their home, Ma Ingalls gathered river side straw to make summer hats -- you get the picture.  These skills must have been passed on to them by older relatives.  

In Little Town on the Prairie the Saturday evening socials held in the town were free entertainment for all.   Talent shows of a sort and entertainment by town residents ending with a pot luck provided by the town ladies.   Reading that chapter made everything sound heartwarming, even hilarious.   Some family reunions are a little like that, as long as they're not held in a hotel.

Yes, the Ingalls did go shopping, maybe twice a year.   They needed fabric to replenish their sparse wardrobe occasionally or metal teeth for the farm harvester but it was a rare occasion and purchases were carefully considered.

If Little House in the Prairie wasn't part of your childhood reading, you must have read Nancy Drew Mysteries  or the Hardy Boys.    Lots of adventures and not much shopping.  

We like to keep young people safe nowadays so there aren't many adventures.   Lots of shopping and screen time though.  It gets to be a habit.


                  
Garth Williams, Illustrator