Thursday, April 30, 2009

Clueless about color?

Today I dropped in at a wig sale of one of my advertisers. There was a kallah there who did end up purchasing a fall but who did not have a clue about how to find her color. I explained to her the number system, the lower the number the darker the color. 2 is near black, 4 is a dark brown, 6 is a medium-dark brown, and so on. Once you're above 10, you're in blond shades. 30 is red. Higher numbers are usually the individual label's mix of shades, though mixed shade are usually put down with their highlight color and base color. So I wear a 12/8. An auburn is achieved with 30/6/8, which is red, with a medium and darker brown. As even the sister of the kallah, who had been married some years, seemed unfamiliar with the number system, I thought this should be a subject to be covered in the next issue of Kallah Magazine. I will also note that shades differ for the premium quality wigs, as they are supposed to be natural shades rather than dyed hues.

Swank versus Substance

I am now working on the sixteenth issue of Kallah Magazine, which is the 4th issue of the 4th year. During these 4 years I've seen numerous publications based in the area come and go. There were the the Home Pages, Ipages, The Advertiser, Post It, Talk of the Town (that only lasted for one issue), Queens Connections (which also distributed in the 5 Towns), not to mention Updates, that ceased about the time I began publishing and some Brooklyn based ones like Frum and Fit, or another two that did not cease to be but felt it necessary to reinvent themselves with new names. All of these magazines were started by people who wanted to make money and believed that advertising was an easy way to achieve that goal. There's nothing wrong with having that as a goal. But it seems that the goal alone is not enough to assure success, as all these magazines have ceased to be.

There have been some new publications that have at least made it through a year, and a new monthly that supports Chazaq. I wish them well. And now there is a new weekly that proclaimed itself in its first week: "Your #1 source for weekly listings in the 5 Towns." But for me the interesting thing is that this person who has been in the business for all of 2 weeks offers to take a piece of my business to add the "Wow factor" that he believes to be so strong in his publication. It is such a male swagger thing to seriously content that you know a business better to someone who has been doing it far, far longer than you have. I'm not saying my publication cannot be improved; anything can be improved. But we usually look to those with greater experience to point out improvements. Less than a month's experience hardly qualifies anyone as an expert.

I gently pointed out to him that if he paid the full rate card amount for the ad he placed for another business in the local paper, he really does not know how many publishers (the one in question included) deliberately raise their published rates so that they can lure people in with the promise of discounts on that rate. It works like this: he wants to sell this ad for $700, so he puts in the rate card a list price of $1000. Then he offers "a deal" to the prospective advertiser of 30% off. He may even be able to offer 50% off. So the macher advertiser feels like he won a great bargain while the publisher laughs in his sleeve about how easy it is to manipulate people. So this self-declared expert of selling advertising fell for paying the full price for his ad (for anotehr business) in the local paper. Wonder why someone with the "#1 weekly" would pay someone else top dollar to appear in his (not #1) weekly? The answer is obvious is you know the circulation figures and the recognition drawn by the publication titles.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

inches and pounds

No, this isn't about weight loss, it is about the system of measurement. Was anyone else around in the late 70's when everyone thought that the US will switch to metrics? We even had songs about "The Metric System" and one that had lyrics to the effect:

Inch by inch
and yard by yard,
we find old systems in discard,
giving way to metric meters,
kilograms, and millimeters.
The metric system's here to stay.
Pint and quarts must now give wa.
Think of Celcius when you're cold,
and talk of grams to young and old . . . .

Well, are you Americans meauring in meters? What is the temperature in Celcius of a pleasant spring day? I would have to divide by 1.8 and subtract 32 to come up with the answer. We're still buying our gas in gallons, and the only thing that comes in liters seens to be soda bottles. So despite the fact that the metric system is used the world over and is far more mathematically elegant than the traditional system, we stay mired in tradition, no matter how out of sync we are in the eyes of the rest of the world. There can be several parallels to be inferred from this particular system that remains in place despite the earnest hopes expressed for improvement so many decades ago.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Budget proposal: pay yourself

I thought about this just after I cleaned my living room windows and glass door (one of the items that did not make it to my mental to-do list for Pesach). I am really not into housework. It does not interest me the same way trying out new recipes sometimes does. But it has to get done. I haven't had any hired cleaning help in years, though I do now have assigned jobs for the kids on Fridays. Yet, on most days, unless I am purposely avoiding it because of Rosh Chodesh (not to mention Chold HaMoed), I throw on in a load of laundry or two. That does not mean it all gets put away the same day, but at least it is washed so that the children will have clean uniform shirts and socks (should they take the trouble to keep the matches together).

So why the elaboration on laundry? Well, a woman in the area told my daughter that she didn't feel like doing laundry after Pesach, so she just gave it all in to the dry cleaner, knowing that the bill would amount to about $45. Note, this person does not have a job or a houseful of kids, so it was not real time constraints that influenced the decision here. when my daughter recounted this story, my husband cried out that he would do the laundry for $45. Why not? It should take no more than an hour of actual work even if you do fold.

Only if you are the type of professional who earns a hundred or more per hour, and you find you don't have time to spare during your workweek to take care of your own laundry would it make any financial sense to pay someone else $45 for about two bundles of wash. Otherwise, one should consider that they may have to work 2, 3, 4, or even 5 hours to earn that $45 -- before payroll deductions. Consequently, saving one hour on laundry work, in fact, cost more time in earning the income needed to pay for the service. Even if it is about a wash (no pun intended) in terms of your earnings versus the payout, you would still come out ahead in doing your own laundry, as the savings are tax free, unlike additional income.

People like to treat themselves and often think about the small amounts as insignificant in the total financial picture. However, the fact is that they do add up to far larger amounts. So what I would propose to those who do treat themselves while saying they simply cannot save is that they pay themselves for these services and bank the money. Here's how it would work:

Open a savings account to be built up on exactly what you save by doing without these extras. For example, each time you clean your own house, you pay yourself the going rate of $10-$15 hour. Put that money in the bank account right away. You should be able to sock away at least $50 a week from this alone. At the end of a year, that would be $2600. Other savings could build from paying yourself the going rate for raking your leaves, mowing your lawn, shoveling your snow, etc.

You can increase the savings by paying yourself for what you don't spend by foregoing little treats. For example, instead of treating yourself to a $3 coffee for the pleasure of sipping while you shop in the grocery store, make a conscious effort to do without. You can prepare by bringing in your own coffee home brewed for pennies a cup or even picking up one for free at one of the area banks you put your money in. Then you can add those $3 a shopping trip to your savings account. If you forego the home delivery you usually ask for to save your own shlepping, add another $5. Obviously, you have to assess if your desire for delivery is based on real need or something else, but there is not a real need to sip overpriced coffee while shopping. These small amounts can easily add up to $15 a week, which is $750 a year -- enough to buy something far more substantial than a cup of coffee.

If you are the type who needs to feel rewarded for saving, you can divide this type of account so that some of the hundreds of savings go toward the purchase of something you really want for yourself. It may help your forego those cups of coffee if you think about saving up for some accessory you would like or tickets to a play you would love to see, etc. I know someone who kept herself motivated to quit smoking by using the money she saved on cigarettes to buy a piece of gold jewelry. Really, though, the goal is to build up a healthy savings account, so you should try to only use a portion for rewards of that sort and save the larger amount for longer term goals.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

One form of paperwork reduction

In the past I've received registration materials from my daughters' school before Pesach. Getting out the forms earlier actually should increase cash flow with the registration fee of several hundred dollars that must be paid with each registration. This year, however, we have yet to receive the forms. I was told that the school is working backwards alphatbetically, so a B will be on the latter end. But the bigger change is that the school is skilling the financial aid application forms (which normally have to be in by April) and will, I was told, assign the tution that was assessed the previous year. While it is always nice to eliminate paperwork, and I understand that there may not be time to go through the paperwork of so many so late, I wonder if this will work out. Many people have lost jobs this year. If they were fortunate enough to find new employment, they could very well have accepted a pay cut. So it is more than likely that a person's financial outlook for the upcoming school year will be very different from the same person's situation last year. What if a family is subsisting on unemployment after having enjoyed a household income that allowed them to pay full or nearly full tution? In the less likely event that someone enjoyed a raise, the family may be able to actually afford to pay their tuitons with less of a scholarship built in. So there could be variosu scenarios that would call for a review rather than a default repeat. I would imagine that those who really cannot pay what they paid the previous year would still request an adjustment to the scholarship, and though the school could refuse, that does not mean they will succeed in collecting an amount a family can no longer pay.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Wishing you all a good Pesach

I don't know if I'll be able to come online again before the Chag. I have much to do plus a kid with strep. So I will now wish you all a chag kasher vesameach. And for all those of you who, like me, are at home and cooking, when the going gets tough, just remember lefoom tza'ara agra.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Another type of absurdity: "Simcha Stimulus Package"

The "Simcha Stimulus Package" cost a mere $1200. So what do you get for $1200? Food? No. The hall? No. An orchestra? No. This package is offered by a DJ/dancers troupe which work bar and bat mitzvahs. So what is presented as an unbeatable bargain really amount to a significant pack of money just to have people who are paid to liven up the celebration. Back in the days when my peers were having bat mitzvah parties (you know when cell phone were not ubiquitous devices and dinosaurs roamed the earth) there was no expectaton for such a thing. In fact, no one even hired a hall for their parties. If anyone hired any form of entertainment, it was very small scale like a caricutaritst or someone arranging music. There certainly was no troupe of hired dancers. Yet, today, we are presented with a package that pretends to be economical. Anyone else find that absurd? What about just doing away with the hired dancers? What about even scaling back the celebration into a smaller space so that $1200 covers a portion of the more essential party expenses. What we really need is a Stimulation to Sensible Simchas rather than proported bargain prices on completely unnecessary trimmings.

Proposal for Pesach Absurdity Contest

What is the most absurd product or service marketed for Pesach that you have encountered?

My submission for most absurd service offers people that will come to you to clean your car and guarantee its chametz free status. The picture in the ad shows people washing a car. Obviously, though, if one drops crumbs from munchies, they would be in the car not on the exterior. Dirt is not chametz. Keep reminding yourself of that when you read articles like the one Mother in Israel referenced that schedule when to wash the dustruffles.

My submission for most absurd product is the covering for your refrigerator handle, cabinet knobs, and telephone. I am happy to say, though, that this product does not claim any rabbinic endorsement. Really, once you feel you have to cover everything you may have touched, you may as well say you have to repaper your whole house. And to put this together with the previous service, where are the Pesach covers for the steering wheel and car door handles?

Anyone else have a suggestion for absurdities suggested for Pesach?