Payday Loans

April 2008 Monthly Archive

The love of my life... Homer Simpsons. I mean, Cap 'N Crunch cereal.

Long time readers that have forgotten to unsubscribe would know that I have a certain unhealthy fetish for Cap’n Crunch cereal — enough so that I’d find numerous attempt to work the cereal into various post on a “personal finance” blog (and even taken screencaps of said cereal when it appears on TV).

Although I love to crunch away in the morning, afternoon, and evening… my love and loyalty for Cap’n Crunch came into an abrupt halt back in 2005, when I switched brand (gasp) and tried another cheaper alternative.

Was I crazy that fateful night in Wal-Mart? Did my years of loyalty vanish due to competitive pricing? Yes to the first and double-oh-yes to the second.

My post detailing the switch can be a bit exaggerating (and lame); but at the end, I bought Cap’n Crunch for years because I thought it was the only choice available — a pretty silly mindset for an easily reproduced preprocessed food such as cereal — but that’s the power of marketing, and the power of a brand.

Being a savvy consumer is about going beyond such mindsets, to be able to distinguish between hype and value, and be able to get the most out of your purchasing dollars. Here are some things a consumer should always keep in mind:

  1. Everyone will always have a favorite brand.
    Apple products lover. Starbucks addicts. Crunch Berries enthusiasts. Name the company or brand, and you’ll have a following. There is nothing wrong with having a preferred brand for certain products, but if you always limit your choices to the tried-and-true, you may be doing yourself a disservice to discovering, cheaper, or even better alternatives.
  2. Not all brands are created equal.
    The big names do well because they deliver great products at consistent quality. You generally know what to expect when you buy a Honda and the shipping time is fairly consistent when you order a book from Amazon. That’s the problem with trying something different, you might end up with a crappy result. But with the help of the Internet and a little comparative shopping, a savvy consumer can always find actual differences between choices. And it’s not always about the cheaper but just-as-good choices too, sometimes, you’ll simply find better stuff for higher prices.
  3. Understand the marketing and identity shaped behind a brand.
    Marketers poke brains to find image and terms you can relate to. Apple iPod commercials are hip and cool. AARP TV spots are slow and soft spoken. If you’ve ever seen the other side of the fence, you’ll see that the companies may label you as “easy going,” “price conscious,” “value oriented,” “image conscious,” “early adopter,” and “trend follower.” You may think you want or need a certain widget and you may think you have the best widget for your needs, but understand that there are other forces at work, constantly influencing your purchasing decisions. Being able to see through the layers and truly differentiate products is the hallmark of a savvy consumer. And of course, the Internet made all of this much easier. Search “### review” or “### sucks” to get opinions that can help you narrow your choices.
  4. Challenge these identity and make them earn and keep your loyalty.
    Dell may have treated you right for years. Fidelity may have never screwed you over. If you deal with a company for years because you trust them, make them constantly earn and keep your business — especially if they screw up. This isn’t about being a hard-ass customer, it’s about reminding the companies that there are always other alternatives out there. Any businesses worth their salt knows this, and any company that’s respectable would want to take that extra small step to help win you over or keep your business. In a world where different choices are clicks away, there is nothing wrong with expecting companies to fight over each other for your business.

There is nothing wrong with having a preferred brand for certain products. It’s okay to trust a big brand over some unknown generic, but you should always challenge these notions and thoughts.

No one sane needs to research intensively over a breakfast cereal, but just because your car has treated you right for years doesn’t mean there aren’t better rides out there. Just because your financial institution fits your current need doesn’t mean there aren’t more personalized banking solutions out there.

At the end, we’re the driving force behind the share prices, the earning reports, and the executive compensations. Never stop challenging them to earn and keep your loyalty.

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The world's your oyster when you have the Blakcberry data plan!

After about eight months of paying an additional $20 to T-Mobile for my Blackberry data service, I have decided to remove the plan in an attempt to cut various unneeded expenses.

Paying more than $65 per month for a mobile phone plan was just ridiculous, considering how little friends I have to talk to. As my sister often said to me when I misplace my phone: “Why do you even need to look for it? Everyone that’ll call you is already here with you.”

This decision was made much easier as I had already temporarily removed the data plan during my month abroad earlier this year. By cutting my “Crackberry” addiction of checking emails (I needed my fix of daily joke emails and Viagra spam)… I have found extra time to update my blog, evident by the one post I made in January, the six I wrote in February… etc.

Be gone, addiction feeding demon!

Removing the data service was simple enough, thanks to the rampant days of account services manageable via the web. Easily removing options like these always made me wonder how the company stay in business if they provide a crappy service, but I suppose easily adding on crap can also be a selling point. (On a side note, My T-Mobile needs some seriously fixing. The site is down or non-functional half the time).

One important thing I realized from this episode was that had I not gone without the service while abroad, I would have never noticed the presences of the extra monthly charges. Was it nice to have the Internet at my fingertips, even though it brings me back to the dial-up days? Sure.  But this was one of those “nice to have but not needed” service — something I’ve kept just because it’s there and it was convenient to have.

If I can live without it for a month, I can live without it for years. Until I’ve reached the point where I need constant Internet access (seriously hoping never), I’ll be keeping the data service off my mobile phone plan.

Some Questions to Ask Yourself When Cutting Monthly Expenses:

  • Why did I got this in the first place?
  • Can I go a month without using it?
  • How many times per month do I use it?
  • Is there a cheaper (or free) alternative?
  • Is this a “nice to have” or a “much needed” service?

So the pay day has finally come. I can finally cash out and say what I’ve always wanted to say to colleagues, family, and friends — because I’m stinking rich. It is strange that lucky events often happens to me on April First of every year – but who am I to deny destiny?

What to do first? Perhaps buy myself another private jet? Or another 3 series from BMW? But why stop at the poor man’s M3?

With odds of 1 in 175,711,536 for the Mega Millions, many of us would expect that many Americans would know better to avoid sinking money into lottery tickets — but unfortunately according to a survey from the Consumer Federation of America, 21% of Americans still believe lottery to be a practical means of wealth accumulation.

You can argue that when the jackpot reaches a certain astronomical value, the positive expected value would warrant a lottery ticket purchase. And we can throw other factors such as after-tax results, taking the lump sum, more than one person winning into the equation, and have some math debate about probability theory — but in general, it is still safe to say that most lottery tickets are a crappy bet.

Anyhow, who cares? I’m stinking rich.

Sure, it’s a bit strange that I’ve won a lottery that I haven’t entered myself into, but hey, a “National Lottery” from the city of Istanbul can’t be wrong!

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