We had dinner this week at two small restaurants that had 3% and 3.25% add-on surcharge fees for using a credit card. It may not seem like a lot to most diners, but it does make the statement, loud and clear, that “you are paying more for everything that you do and buy when you use a credit card,” and that we all are paying more in most cases.
It may not be that the merchant fees that retailers pay are plainly stated or collected in in the form of these surcharges like with these restaurants, which is something new after the pandemic, but those fees are priced into the costs of the goods and services that we are all buying. In fact, in cases like these restaurants, it really is a “double whammy,” because it didn’t look to me like the menu prices were less than in the past. You don’t have to look further to see that these merchant fees are built into the cost of goods than at those gas stations that advertise a regular and a cash discount price.
While we are on the subject of restaurants, we have talked a lot about the labor shortage and the challenges that many businesses are experiencing in finding workers. One place that I have really noticed this is in several restaurants where it is taking a longer than usual time for meals to be served. It seems to me that they are not having as much trouble finding wait staff as they are finding reliable and qualified kitchen staff, like line cooks. Be understanding. It’s not intentional. The restaurant owners that I have spoken with are more frustrated than you are, believe me.
On a different subject, I paid my school taxes this last week, and I was relieved that they only increased this year by about the 2% New York state cap. On the other hand, I expected and planned for that because, unlike in some past years, there had been no procedures taken in our district to override the cap. I know that increases in other districts may be more this year, and it is something that you definitely have to pay attention to, and project into your budget. If you have a mortgage and the real estate taxes are escrowed, your mortgage payment will increase. If you are like I am, and your mortgage is paid off, and you have established your own monthly escrow for real estate taxes and insurance, you will need to adjust it as these expenses increase so that you will always have the money to pay them as they arise.
Speaking of these home-related expenses, I am anticipating that my homeowners insurance, which seems to go up at least a little each year, will go up more this year because of two things in the news. First, the increased flooding and fire disasters nationally, which are no doubt increasing carrier losses. Second, increased inflation, since most policies cover replacement value, and with that increased inflation, replacement values will also be projected to increase. Some other things that can increase your homeowner’s premiums that we often discuss are a decrease in your credit rating — so pay all of your bills on time, and keep your debt-to-income and credit availability ratios low — and deferred maintenance issues, like an older roof. So stay on top of those “anticipated expenses.”
Speaking of tax and insurance escrows, every month I transfer my monthly calculated amount from my checking account to my savings account at the Pittsford Federal Credit Union branch at Tobey Village, and then the amount of any taxes or insurance due back from my savings to checking account, so that I can pay those bills. That way I am earning interest on the amounts escrowed, at a rate, I believe, greater than paid by the mortgage companies. The Service Representatives at the credit union are “the best” about these little rituals, and we usually get a good laugh about it.
As is our tradition, here are just some of the days in October, Domestic Violence Awareness month, that I will be celebrating: Oct. 1 – National Homemade Cookies Day and World Smile Day; Oct. 2 – World Frugal Fun Day (my personal favorite); Oct. 4 – National Taco Day; Oct. – World Teachers’ Day; Oct. 10 – National Handbag Day (my wife makes me celebrate this); Oct. 12 – National Pulled Pork Day and National Savings Day (a biggie); Oct. 14 – National Dessert Day; Oct. 17 – National Pasta Day; Oct. 21 – International Day of the Nacho; and Oct. 22 – National Nut Day. It is also National Pizza Month.
It appears now that inflation may be greater and longer lasting than predicted earlier in September. That said, it is time to get serious about comparative shopping, store brands, unit prices, coupons, sales, discount stores, and the many frugal vs. cheap tips we talk about. It is also important to look at things like: Is a store brand still cheaper than a premium brand with a coupon? As well as, are there things…