Tag Archives: money

The Power of Second Opinions

piggy bankWhile I consider myself an optimist who likes to think the best in people, I thank my Mom for raising me with a healthy degree of skepticism to keep things in balance.

If she didn’t, I think it would be safe to say that the Pollyanna in me might have fallen off the turnip truck, not seen the forest for the trees and may have gotten into financial hot water.

One life lesson that has proven invaluable has been the idea of getting a second opinion (…and sometimes a third.)

I don’t think a second opinion is needed when making small, routine purchases. Let’s face it, despite being starved for conversation after the pandemic lockdowns, we probably won’t make friends while canvassing for second opinions about long-lasting breath mints at the express check-out counter.

But to me, there are times when a second opinion makes sense to validate the necessity of an expensive transaction and that the associated costs are justified. Also, having a few moments to just take a deep breath and to absorb what we are being told without freaking out is an added bonus.

I recall a situation many years ago, where I took my car in for servicing. My plan was simply a regular oil change and to swap my winter tires for the all-season tires.

When the mechanic had completed the complimentary inspection, they found that my four tires needed to be replaced and my rear brakes needed significant work. Total value of the estimate: a lot!

Earlier that morning, when I loaded the tires into the car, I had indeed noticed that the treading on the tires was starting to get low. I did not dispute that maybe it was time to buy new ones. But given the amount I had driven and my typical driving conditions, the extensive brake job seemed a little early to me.

When I shared the verdict with a couple of friends who knew cars better than me, they agreed that contextually it seemed early for that magnitude of a brake job. I decided to go for a second opinion.

The $34 brake inspection at a different garage was the best $34 I spent. The mechanic at the second garage said the rotors were fine, the rear brake pads looked new and that there was a safe amount of brake pad left on the front ones. His verdict concluded with, “How about if we look at them again in the fall when you come in for your snow tire appointment?”

It took every ounce of willpower to hold back my nervous giggle in recognition that this appointment saved me some serious money. Nonetheless I couldn’t contain a big toothy smile and my enthusiastic agreement to revisit in the fall.

How can two automotive professionals have such different opinions? Either way, I liked the verdict from the second opinion and dodged an expensive bullet… for a while. The brake work did have to get done eventually, just not on the ambitious time table of the first mechanic.

Similarly, just after the warranty expired on my central air conditioning system, my service provider came for the annual maintenance appointment and in doing so, found something broken in the unit which would cost over $600 to fix.

I told them to let me think about it as that was a lot of money.

In seeking a second opinion, a family member recommended a friend who was in the heating and cooling business. I made an appointment for him to have a look at it.

The verdict: the piece in question was not broken, it was just loose. For the house call and the minor fix: $125. The air conditioner ran perfectly for several years after that. Needless to say, I changed service providers.

In some cases, a second opinion might not yield savings, but might add up to peace of mind and convenience.

Shortly after my last car purchase, I received 4 estimates for snow tires. To my great surprise, the price difference on comparable sets of tires was rather insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

That being the case, I chose to go with the dealer that was across the street from my office. I could drop off the car in the morning and pick it up in the afternoon with the new tires installed. What could be easier? And because the prices were so similar, I could sleep well at night knowing that I probably wouldn’t have gotten a better deal elsewhere.

While I like to think of myself as a fairly smart and knowledgeable fellow, I know and admit that I am not a specialist in everything. I have to trust professionals to give me an honest opinion, to do the work competently and at a fair price.

To me, the second opinion is that insurance policy, providing information from an independent source that should help me make a confident, informed decision on how to manage a situation.

Also, with two opinions (or more) in my back pocket, it doesn’t leave me wondering “what if”.

Even though a second opinion might cost a little in time, effort and sometimes money, it can often be worth it.

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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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25 Worries about Hair… When I Had Hair

In my late 30’s when I first noticed my hair thinning, I wasn’t prepared to admit defeat. I chose to chase after the remedies on the market that claimed to restore hair.

The sad reality was that I could not fight with Mother Nature as male pattern baldness ran like sap through one side of the family tree.

It was after I turned 40 that I became more accepting of the situation, although you could say that I didn’t really have much choice. All of the haircuts that I tried seemed to look a little off-balance in one way or another, which drove the Type A part of me a little crazy.

One day, I saw a picture of a young man with a shaved head, whose facial features and head shape looked a lot like mine. The shaved head was a very flattering look for this guy. I would even say that he looked pretty cool, which opened the door for me to gradually cut back my hair and then to try my first clipper cut.

Once I started in the clipper zone and went progressively shorter and shorter, I grew to like it more and more.

To me, this was an extremely freeing experience. With a low-maintenance haircut, I reclaimed so much time in the morning, I was able to sleep more plus I saved money on hair product and trips to the hair stylist.

Now, in retirement, I appreciate it even more, in terms of saving time and energy for more important activities, especially my writing. Continue reading

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Discovering the Joy of “Seniors Days”

an antique cash registerOn a recent shopping trip to my rural pharmacy, when I brought my bottle of vitamin supplements to the cash register, the cashier rang it up and said “With your discount, your total is…”

In true Canadian fashion, my immediate reflex was to reply, “Thank you” as I reached for my credit card. Then the unexpected word “discount” finally sunk in and processed through my subconscious.

“What discount was that?” I asked.

“The seniors’ discount” replied the cashier.

At that moment, I could see a momentary pause came over her face. I wondered if she thought she might have insulted me especially since I believed that my hydrating cream and anti-dark-circle eye stick seemed to be working in perfect unison on the day in question.

I jumped in and inquired “Oh, and at what age does that start?”

She said “55.”

I didn’t want to have her thinking she had made a social faux-pas. I let her off the hook by quickly exclaiming, “Oh that’s wonderful, I’m 56!” Continue reading

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The Irony of Black Friday Shopping

This past Friday, on my way home from work, I decided to check out a nearby department store to see if they had any stock left for a couple of items I use, which I had seen in their most recent Black Friday flyer at really attractive prices.

I also wanted to look for a few items on my Christmas gift list, which I cannot divulge at the moment as this is classified information between me and the North Pole.

On my arrival, a man bumped into me, trying to exit through the “in” door with a panic-stricken look on his face, as he ushered his son ahead of him. I could have sworn he mouthed the words “don’t do it”, but I thought to myself that I must have imagined it. But being the polite Canadians we are, we both excused ourselves, even though I clearly had the right of way.

Ten feet into the store, I understood the gentleman’s escape route.

I had never seen the store this busy before. Some people were clustered together, blocking the aisles, as they scrutinized their flyer while pointing to empty shelves, to the ire of others trying to whizz by with full shopping carts on their way to the checkout line. I could hear babies crying, young children whining and adults barking at each other. When combined with the aromatic combination of seasonal scented candles, ladies’ perfumes and snow tires, I was heading into sensory overload. Continue reading

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Boxing Day Memories: Sam the Record Man

When I think back to my Christmas wish lists over the years, music has been a constant. As a long time music lover, my voracious appetite for music goes as far back as age 10.

Through my early teens, I had an allowance from my parents, and in my later teen years, I had pocket money from a part-time job. A lot of that money was spent on records.

At that time, vinyl record albums were relatively pricey for someone earning $2.35 per hour. Christmas became that opportunity to ask Santa for the albums I did not get a chance to pick up myself through the year.

In preparing that wish list, there was some careful consideration and a few (if not several) trips to the record store(s) to ensure that the albums I chose would bring maximum enjoyment. I would meticulously review the song lists and count the number of songs I knew versus the ones I didn’t, and then compared from one album to the next.

We didn’t have listening stations, YouTube, iTunes or Spotify to check out those other unknown songs. Sometimes I might have been able to borrow a certain album from a friend or from the library, but for the most part, those other songs were often a mystery until the record was home and on the turntable.

When I think back, I am surprised at how methodical I was for such a young age, but value for money was pretty important given my limited means and my appetite for music. Continue reading

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The Coin Conundrum

With every passing day, the use of debit cards, credit cards and online banking seem to become the norm as we inch closer to a cashless society. Given that certain vending machines and self-checkouts are only accepting cards now, are coins falling out of favour?

When we also consider that Canada phased out the penny four years ago and inflation has greatly diminished the purchasing power of low denomination coins, how is it that I became a magnet for people who need to unload some precious “doubloons” because their purse or pocket is getting heavy?

Don’t get me wrong, I completely sympathize and have been on the opposite side of the coin on a few occasions myself.

Given some underlying disc issues in my back that flare up from time to time, I am very much aware of the need to keep the contents of my messenger bag to a manageable weight for my travels to and from the office. If I don’t, and my spine compensates for a few extra contents by shifting a little more to the left, it could lead to neck, back or shoulder issues, which leads to an added visit or two to the chiropractor. Continue reading

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When Money Talks

Shopping CartsIt was a quiet Friday night at the grocery store, picking up the essentials for the week ahead, when I spotted it on the floor, peeping out from behind the rack of discounted fruit. A five dollar bill!

As human nature would suggest, I took a look around, as if somehow the link between this five dollar bill and anyone in the store would be immediately obvious. The store was a ghost town. There was almost no one to be found.

I took another look around, this time to see if anyone else saw it. Clearly there was no risk of anyone swooping in to collect it.

Normally, when it comes to picking up a coin off a sidewalk, I wouldn’t think twice or look twice to locate an owner. I would just do it. But this case seemed different. Maybe it was because it was private property. But what hit me the strongest was the fact that it was five dollars, not five cents.

As these thoughts were blazing through my mind and the ensuing analysis of whether to pick it up or not, I’m not sure if the fumes from my recent oven cleaning had anything to do with it, but I could have sworn the five dollar bill said “Psst… Psst… André! Not meant for you!”

I took another look around to see if anyone else heard that, but again, the nearest customers were either squeezing the Charmin or inquiring about whether they stocked Grey Poupon. I looked down again and considered what the five dollar bill was saying. Continue reading

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Electronic Transactions, Missed Opportunities?

There is no disputing that direct deposits and pre-authorized withdrawals have made personal finances much simpler.

Even if I am on vacation or feeling under the weather, it no longer matters if I am in the office on pay day. The money shows up in my account and shortly thereafter, the money comes out for the mortgage and utilities. (Easy come, easy go!) It is certainly convenient and saves me from standing in line to go pay the bills in person.

But in adopting this convenience, have we also phased out unique moments of joy? Are we missing out on moments to enjoy the fruits of one’s labour, the satisfaction of a job well done, and the incentive for why we work to earn a living?

Do you remember the thrill of your first job and getting paid for the first time? That was a feeling of power, wasn’t it? And do you remember the fleeting sense of financial independence and going to spend it on pizza, clothes, shoes, camera gear and journals… or maybe that was just me.

But the point is that there was a natural ebb and flow to earning, saving and spending. Receiving a paycheque was validating, rewarding and made me feel like I really made a contribution. The ritual of walking up to a teller or a bank machine and depositing this piece of paper that was the result of two weeks of blood, sweat and tears actually made me happy. It was also a motivator.
But now, with direct deposit and automatic withdrawals going on autopilot, I barely remember what week is pay week anymore.

A fond memory from the early years of my career, working as an assistant, was when the secretary was not in the office, I would be the one tasked with distributing the envelopes containing the paycheques. The warm reception and the smiles on people’s faces were something I will never forget. I even remember thinking to myself that this is what “spreading sunshine” is all about, making people happy like this. Continue reading

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