Saturday, August 12, 2017

Should My Next Computer Be a Mac, a PC or a Chromebook?

One trick to getting your money's worth with any purchase is to buy enough product to meet your needs, and not more.  If TV is your major source of entertainment, the big-screen, all the bells and whistles model may bring you a lot of pleasure.  If you watch it an hour or two a month, just about anything will probably be fine.

If sitting at an antique table set with beautiful china and real silver gives you pleasure and you can afford it, go for it. If all you see is furniture to dust and silver to polish (what a pain) then you'll probably be happier with a Wal-Mart table and stainless steel flatware (and save a few dollars).

What about your next computer?  Until recently, you had two basic choices:  you could buy a PC or you could buy a Mac.  Now you have a third mainstream choice--a Chromebook.  Should you buy a PC or a Chromebook?  Should you buy a Mac or a PC?  Let's look at the options.

Things to Consider When Buying a New Computer

  • What would you like to use it for?  If you could spend as much as you want, what would your new computer do? If the answer is send emails and surf the internet, you will probably be happy with a lower-priced machine than the person who wants to play graphics heavy games.  If you have particular software you want to run, check to see if it can be run on the computer you are considering.

  • Where do you want to use it?  Obviously if you want this computer to travel with you, it will need to be some sort of laptop.  If it is for office use only, you may prefer a tower hooked up to multiple monitors (though you can hook your laptop up to multiple monitors as well).

  • Who is going to be using it, and how computer savvy are they?  Some people like to tinker with their computer and software while others just want it to work.

  • How much do you want to spend?  How important is price?  
  • Reasons to Buy a Windows PC--And Reasons Not To

    A PC (personal computer) that you buy in a store runs the Windows operating system, which is the most commonly used operating system today.  Today you can get a desktop computer, without a monitor, a laptop, or an all in one desktop computer that integrates the processor and the touch screen.  Generally speaking the desktop design gives you the most processing power for the dollar, though laptops are more comparable in price now than they were a few years ago.  All in ones are the new kids on the block and like most things, if you want the newest, you'll pay more.

    The main reason to buy a PC is compatibility.  Since the Windows operating system is the most popular, particularly with businesses, there is more software available for it than for the other systems, so if you need to run software that is only written for Windows, you may need to buy a PC (there are ways around it, but they generally require some level of technical expertise to implement and maintain). 

    Overall, Windows works reasonably well, though you won't find many people who love it, and because of its ubiquity, finding people who know how to tweak it or fix problems isn't difficult.  On the minus side, that same ubiquity means Windows is a popular virus target.

    One thing some people consider to be a big minus for Windows (and others consider an advantage) is that they have moved to automatic updates.  Rather than releasing new versions of the software, Microsoft is pushing updates to current users.  While they will take "not now" for an answer, they keep requesting to update and even if you don't want to do so, you may eventually end up accidentally hitting the "yes" button and updating.  Microsoft does this to keep the program secure, but people with finely tweaked systems or who are running outdated software may find that one of these updates "breaks" their system.  

    Reasons to Buy a Mac--And Reasons Not To

    Like PC's Macs (Apple Computers) come in desktop and laptop versions.  

    People who use Macs often love them and hate to even think of going to Windows.  People who do a lot of graphics or other artistic work tend to use Macs more than most businesses, so if that is your field, you may need a Mac to be compatible with other people--and I tend to think that if most people in a field are using Macs there must be some economic advantage to doing so.   

    Macs do not tend to get the viruses PCs do because there are not as many of them and because  they work differently.

    While Windows has become a lot more user-friendly lately, Macs have a reputation of just plain working--if you want something to fiddle with and tweak, go buy a Windows  PC.

    While you can buy Windows PCs in a lot of different configurations, made by a lot of different companies, at a lot of different price points all Macs are made by Apple and there are relatively few price points.  In general Macs are more expensive than Windows PCs, but they are durable and high quality.

    Reasons to Buy a Chromebook--And Reasons Not To

    The new kid on the block in the computer business is the Chromebook.  In a lot of ways, these computers are glorified web browsers, or tablets with keyboard--and whether that is a good thing or bad depends on your needs and wants.

    When you turn on a Windows PC you have to wait for it to "boot up", for all the background programs to start, before you can start doing what you want to do.  Chromebooks turn on in about 5 seconds.  

    Chromebooks are designed to be connected to the Internet and to run apps rather than locally installed programs.  While you can use them offline, it is not what they were designed for and if WiFi is not generally available where you are going to be using this computer, a Chromebook is probably not the best choice.

    The main strengths of Chromebooks are their price, ease of use, and battery life.  Even with a keyboard, their size and weight are closer to tablets than laptop PCs. They are becoming school favorites because they can be made school-ready (connected to the school's network, with chosen apps downloaded) in a matter of minutes.  Updates can be made to all computers in a school via a central control panel in a matter of minutes, whereas Windows PCs must be individually updated. 

    Chromebooks under $200 are easy to find, though a recent Amazon search also found one for over $400.00.  The one my daughter's school required cost right at $200.  Most Chromebooks will last close to eight hours per battery charge, far more than the average Windows laptop.  

    The main disadvantage of Chromebooks is that they do not run Windows software (though they can connect to Cloud Office).  If you have a need for a particular program and there is no Chrome app for it, you will have to chose another platform.  If your need is for web browsing, basic word processing and basic spreadsheets, a Chromebook will probably meet your needs.  

    What will your next computer be?  At this point, I'm still thinking Windows PC but Chromebooks are looking better all the time.

    Disease Called Debt

    Friday, July 28, 2017

    Why I Bank At Metairie Bank

    I've seen a lot of blog articles over the years praising certain banks and offering handy affiliate links that allow readers to open accounts, and bloggers to be paid commissions.  I have nothing against bloggers making money, and I'm certainly open to earning more of it.  However, you will not find any affiliate links in this post, nor will I be paid for writing it.

    Years ago I wrote an article about how we came to be customers of Metairie Bank. Basically I felt that our prior bank, Chase, stole $6.00 from my son.  He did not have a bank account (or any money) but had received checks as graduation gifts.  I had him endorse the checks to me, take them to my bank (Chase) deposit them in my account and then cash a check I had written to him.  Since he did not have an account, they charged him $ 6.00 to cash his mother's check, drawn on their bank.

    This week I found yet another reason to be pleased that we chose to move our money and banking business to a relatively small local bank, Metairie Bank and Trust.  We have several large bills that are due only once or twice a year and we've had to pull money from savings to help pay for some of them this year.  I've read several bloggers who have suggested creating separate bank accounts for bills like that, and contributing to those accounts monthly, so, via the website, I opened a new savings account to cover such bills.

    When the bank statement came, I found that I had been charged a $15 service charge, and since I had never seen a service charge on my other savings account, I called the bank to find out what I did wrong.  The clerk who answered the phone could not help me but put me through to the officer in charge of my accounts.  I left a voicemail message and she called me back within a couple of hours.

    When I told her what the problem was, she explained why the service charge had been assessed--there was a minimum balance requirement that I had not met.  I told her I'd accept responsibility for not reading the fine print, but that I needed to close that account before that charge hit again.  She said that wouldn't be necessary and asked me what I expected the minimum balance to be and how many transactions per month I expected.  When I told her, she changed the type of account--no more than six transactions per month (more than I need) and no minimum balance and no fee.

    I then asked her if I was going to be charged for a paper statement, like I was on  my Girl Scout account and on the account for my Dad's estate.  I told her that with those accounts, I was willing to pay for the paper because it wasn't my money, but that I'd be ok with online only for the savings account.  Again, she said that wasn't necessary, and then went through all my accounts with me and changed them to accounts that met my needs and didn't charge ANY fees.

    My whole family banks at Metairie Bank.  They offer free teen accounts which require the teen to get parental permission for large debit card withdrawals.They are everything I want in a bank and I hope they are in business for a long time because I have no desire to go back to doing business with a behemoth like Chase.  While Metairie Bank probably isn't in your area, I'll bet there is a small local bank that offers better service than the "big boys" do; give them a chance.  You may be as happy as I am.

    Friday, July 21, 2017

    Can You Make Money with Amway or Other MLM Companies

    One way many people make ends meet, or gain extra cash for investments or luxuries is via "side-hustles", jobs they do when not at their regular employment.  One such side-hustle that has been around for years is direct sales, otherwise known as "Multi-Level Marketing".

    What Is Multi-Level Marketing?

    Multi-Level Marketing is a business model wherein the company's products are sold directly from one person to another, without a physical store.  The sales people are independent contractors who set their own hours and find and service their own customers.

    It is called "multi-level" marketing because one characteristic of these businesses is that if you recruit and train a new sales representative, you get a share of his/her commissions, and depending on the company, a share of the commissions of the people those people recruit.  The people whose sales earn you money are called your "downline".  Generally speaking, people who make a lot of money in multi-level marketing companies are people with big downlines.

    What Types of Products Are Sold Via Multi-Level Marketing?

    The multi-level marketing model is used to sell products from insurance to cosmetics to toys or kitchen gadgets.  Well-known names include Avon, Amway, Pampered Chef and Discovery Toys. 

    How Do I Start With MLM?

    Many people have been invited to parties where the purpose is to display and sell MLM products.  You can go to parties selling Pampered Chef kitchenware, essential oils, candles or even sex toys.  Besides taking orders for merchandise, the sales representative is almost certain to tell you that you too could make money selling this stuff.  Today, many MLM sales people offer merchandise via facebook or webpage, and, again, let you know that you too could be doing this. In short, anyone who purchases anything from a MLM representative is likely to be encouraged to become a sales representative themselves.

    Why Would People Recruit Competitors?

    If you and I pretty much have the same circle of friends, why would I recruit you to sell the same widgets I'm selling?  Isn't that self-defeating?  There are three  reasons MLM sales people try to recruit friends and family to sell:
    • They receive commissions from their "downline".  When a representative recruits you, he or she trains you as well, and for the rest of your MLM career, will get a commission on things you sell.
    • It turns you into a regular customer.  Many MLM products are small low-priced consumables. They are things that will pay a very low per-item commission--the money is made by acquiring repeat customers who purchase multiple items per sale.  By signing someone up as a salesperson and giving them the "dealer" rate on the product, you improve the chance that they will buy the product regularly, even if they don't sell any.
    • They get to sell you a kit and starter supplies.

    How Much Money Can I Make Selling Mary Kay?

    There are people who make a living selling Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, and other MLM products.  However, according to this website, in 2010, Mary Kay had about 30,000 representatives in Canada in 2010.  Of those, about 3,800 had both been with the company for a year, and had earned commissions in 2010.  Over half of that 3,800 earned less than $100 in 2010.  However, Mary Kay did have 24 people in Canada who earned over $100,000 in commissions.

    I researched this subject a couple of  years ago and at that time most of the companies had a document on their website that showed the number of distributors they had and the percent of people with various earnings.  I can't find such charts now so the law that required them to be displayed must have changed.  Nevertheless, the figures I remember were similar to those listed above for Mary Kay--namely that few people stuck with it very long, and most of those who did still didn't make much.

    The other thing to remember is that while companies tout commission rate of 50% or more, they don't emphasize things like shipping, maintaining inventory, gas to deliver product or the cost of brochures or other advertising.  If you are going to sell essential oils, diet supplements or Amway products, you are running a business and will have business expenses.

    Still, I think many of us know people who have been selling these products for a long time.  Some readily admit they aren't making much if any money.  They like the products and sell to a few friends.  They aren't making real money because they don't treat it like a real job.

    Is MLM the Side Hustle for Me?

    Honestly, probably not.  First, realize that with ANY sales job, if you are selling low dollar products, you are going to have to sell a lot of them to make money. The higher the price of the product, the harder you are going to have to work to find customers, and the less often they are likely to buy.  Think car dealership vs grocery store.

    The Car Dealership

    When you walk into a car dealership, you probably want to buy a car.  However, there is a good chance you are going to walk off that lot, after spending time with a salesperson, without buying anything.  If you do buy something, chances are you will not be back for years.  On the other hand, the salesman who does sell you your car will probably make a day's pay (or more) on the deal.

    The Grocery Store

    When you go into the grocery store, you probably want to buy groceries and it would be unusual for you to leave without buying anything.  Chances are very good that unless you are visiting from out of the area, you will return to that store in the near future.  While the per product mark-up of about 15% isn't that much per item, when you consider the number of items moved per day, most grocery stores are profitable, even after paying the help--and speaking of  "the help", the amount of employee time  you consume per item is pretty minimal.

    MLM Products

    The price of most MLM products is closer to the price of groceries than to the price of cars.  If I run out of lipstick, and you happen to call and ask if I want some today, I may buy, but unless I am highly invested in your brand or product, calling you for it is an extra step and if I have to wait for you to get it before I can get it, then I have all the reason to buy a competing product. As a dealer you need me to return over and over again, just like the grocery store does, but you are giving me the attention that I get at the car dealership.  

    Think about it.  How much do you spend on make-up every month, total?  $100?  To me that is high,but let's go with that number.  If I buy $100 worth of cosmetics from you every month and you have no other customers, you make $50.00. Sounds good, right?  If all you want is enough money to buy your own make-up, then maybe, especially if we are friends, will see each other regularly, and you know that I will not need samples or freebies, and you know that I won't be getting any of my makeup at the mall.  

    What is more likely is that you happen to catch me at the right time or that you have a product or two that I like, so I buy it from you periodically, when I want it.  If you want to sell me other stuff, you need samples, you need to spend time talking it up.

    What Kind of People Make Money With MLM?

    People who make money with MLM are people who can sell--not only can they sell the  products to retail users, they can sell the concept of running your own business to other people and they can keep those people motivated to continue to sell both product and program.  They are also people who work their business full time.  

    But I Want to Try MLM

    The first step in "starting your own business" to sell MLM products is to purchase a sales kit of one sort or another.  The kit will contain samples, sales materials and perhaps some saleable products.  New sales reps are encouraged to "invest in their business" by buying more than the minimal kit and by investing in training classes.  If you want to try MLM sales, the first thing to do is determine how much you are willing to lose in the process--and then limit the amount you invest in product and training to that amount until you have earned enough to recoup your investment.  

    While some of the MLM companies sell products people really enjoy, the reality is that most of their sales representatives do not have earnings commensurate with the efforts they employ.  There are plenty of available side hustles that are worth more to the average person. 
    *Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich. *< and The John and Jane Doe Guide to Money & Investing. *