FRANK AND MURIEL NEWMAN
The New Zealand Herald recently reported the results of a survey into the spending habits of Kiwis. The headline result was that nearly half (44%) of New Zealanders are living day-to-day without any savings to fall back on. The article attracted flow-on discussion on talk back and in other news outlets.
The commentary pointed out that this situation was especially prevalent for young people and women.
It is logical that this would be the case for young people, who have not had many years in the workforce to build up savings or to climb very far up the corporate pay scale. Young people do however have the greatest advantage of all - time. They have time on their side to invest whatever savings they are able to make and gain the benefit of compounding interest as the years pass. We often hear from people who say they were fortunate to have parents who instilled into them a savings habit.
The good news was that nearly two-thirds of people said they not only had a budget but they stuck to it!
An interesting comment was reported from the North Shore Budgeting Service's Brian Pethybridge, who said most people only require about three changes to balance a budget - "It can be something like smokes, alcohol, Sky TV, or little things that add up."
FRANK AND MURIEL NEWMAN
A reader has written in telling of their experiences with a product they bought from a merchant some 12 months ago. They said the product had not performed in the way that was promised at the time of the sale and eventually they asked for a refund. The merchant refused.
Consumers have all sorts of rights and protections, including the Consumer Guarantees Act so we thought it worth looking at the Act to see what it says about our reader's situation. Here's a quick outline of the Act.
- The Act has the word "guarantees" in its title because it is expressed as a series of guarantees. These are guarantees given by a merchant to a consumer regarding: title, the quality of a product or service, whether a product is fit for the purpose stated and promised in advertisements or by a salesperson, that the product is the same as samples or photographs provided, that the price is fair and reasonable where the price or a pricing formula is not agreed in advance, that the product is able to be repaired if required, and any other express guarantees that may be given.
- The other word in the title is "consumer" which is defined as a person who "acquires from a supplier goods or services of a kind ordinarily acquired for personal, domestic, or household use or consumption." It does not cover business assets like trucks, machinery, and so on.
- Goods sold by a private individual or via auction or by tender are NOT covered.
- This is what Trademe says on its website. "The Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) only applies to sales by sellers 'in trade' - essentially, professional sellers. It does not normally cover private or one-off sales. If an item is bought through a Trade Me classified, or by 'fixed price offer' or 'buy now' from a professional seller, it should be covered by the CGA. The CGA doesn't apply to items sold by auction. What constitutes an 'auction' is not defined in the Act, so it is unclear whether the CGA applies to items bought by bidding online."
- It does not matter whether you buy goods from a merchant online or in-store - they are covered.
- Sellers are not able to avoid the Act by saying they do not make refunds or exchange goods. Nor can they say they are not liable for any "consequential" costs. These are costs that you may have incurred as a result of the product being defective (for example the cost of returning the goods).
- If the fault is minor, the retailer can replace, repair, or refund the value of the product. If the retailer refuses to make good the repair within a reasonable time, then the repair can be done elsewhere and the costs recovered from the original merchant.
- If it's a major fault, the consumer can claim a full refund, a replacement product, or claim compensation for the loss in value of the product.
- Where a fault has been made known to the purchaser, eg blemished goods, that fault cannot use that as a basis for subsequent complaint. Any undisclosed faults however can.
- Gifts are covered. You have the same rights as though it were you who made the purchase (you don't have any rights against the person who gave you the gift!).
- Changing your mind is not one of the grounds for complaint! Try your luck but the seller is under no obligation to change the goods just because you have had second thoughts or something else more demanding of your money has cropped up. Many firms do however make this guarantee themselves in their promotional material and therefore are bound by their statement.
- Damage caused by using of the goods in a manner other than its intended purpose is also not covered. For example if you buy a child's bunk bed, but it breaks while an adult is sleeping in it, then there are no grounds for complaint. Likewise, using a power tool rated for domestic use only on a commercial job is at your own risk.
Now we come back to the reasonable time problem our reader had. The Act says claims must be made "within a reasonable time." What is reasonable is always a contentious issue but will depend on the product, how much it has been used, and how long they should last.
In our reader's case it appears an over-zealous salesman made unrealistic claims about the product. Unfortunately they did not make their feelings known to the merchant, despite using the product each day. In their case a reasonable time frame was probably more like a few weeks rather than 12 months.
FRANK AND MURIEL NEWMAN
It's time to dig into the mail bags again and reveal the tips sent in by readers. It's amazing that after 20 years of collecting frugal living tips readers are still able to come up with new and innovative ways to make more from what they have around them.
Here's a case in point.
M.E. from Auckland writes, "When using rubber gloves I usually find that the glove I use most (being right-handed) is the one that rips or splits. Splitting one this morning while cleaning my oven and not wanting to take a trip to get more, I turned one of the many left-hand gloves I was reluctant to throw away inside and found that it was quite acceptable for using - so now instead of having 12 useless gloves I have 6 pairs of gloves to carry on with.'
Waste Not Want Not from Whangarei is wasting not the abundant harvest from their passionfruit vine. "Here is an easy way to use passionfruit to make tasty cookies. All you need is: 150g soft butter, 1/2 cup caster sugar, 1 egg, 1/3 cup passionfruit pulp, and 2 cups self-raising flour. Cream butter and sugar, add egg and beat well. Stir in passionfruit pulp, then flour. Roll into small balls, place on baking tray and flatten with a fork. Bake 15 mins at 180C. They can be iced using 2 cups icing sugar mixed with 35g butter and a few drops vanilla but they are yummy - and crunchy - as is!"
Tired of peeling spuds? Faye from Auckland says there's no need to peel potatoes when mashing. "Most the year round you can get away without peeling the potatoes - just a little trimming is all that is needed. When the boiled potatoes are cooked, smash them the usual way."
FRANK AND MURIEL NEWMAN
Nearly everyone likes shopping around for a bargain and we all know people who will drive great distances to save 50c on a packet of sugar. But we reckon there's another better way to save money, and it won't cost anything in petrol - and that's haggling.
Although haggling is not part of our shopping culture, the truth is most shopkeepers don't mind having a bit of a haggle if it means they will get your business. Most things are negotiable, so you should not feel shy about asking someone for "their best price" - or asking if they "can sharpen their pencil" and see what they can do about the price.
We think of it a bit like this - it's a free country, and as a famous economist once said (paraphrased into our own wording), "If they don't wanna do it, they won't." In other words, in a free market someone will only accept your offer if it's in their interests to do so.
The thing about negotiation is that because most people don't like it, they don't bother doing it - or if they do, they try to get it over and done with as quickly as possible. The trick is to know how much you can buy something for elsewhere, know what your maximum price is, and be polite.
Ask how much they would accept for cash. Or say you like the product but ask if they could sharpen their pencil on the price. Or ask them for their best price - if you were to make a decision about this today? Or simply tell them the price their competitor is selling the product for and ask them if they could better it.
FRANK AND MURIEL NEWMAN
This week we are paying an oily rag tribute to Richard Briers, who passed away recently, aged 79.
Many oily raggers will know him better as Tom Good from the Good Life, the comic TV programme where he and his stage wife, Barbara, freed themselves from the shackles of employment to plunge head-first into a subsistence lifestyle - which in their case happened to be on your typical ¼ acre section in a well-to-do suburb. The transformation was of course frowned upon by their neighbourhood, and in particular their neighbours, Marg and Jerry (the latter being Tom's former boss).
In contrast to Tom and Barbara, Marg and Jerry were your typical well-to-do, plum-in-your-mouth types who were not at all inclined towards a frugal lifestyle. They of course, took a dim view of their neighbour's change in lifestyle. It was a hugely popular series, and the four main characters played their roles incredibly well.
While the Good Life was filmed some time ago, the repeats are still very funny and they continue to encapsulate the very essence of frugality and the one essential element that those living of the smell of an oily rag must have - a sense of humour. The one thing we can expect when adopting a penny-pinching approach is the unexpected. Sometimes, frequently even, things just do not go as we expect. Here's a real-life example.
Dad had one of his bright ideas. The idea wasn't original, but it was for Dad - he didn't have bright ideas very often! Off to the local library he went. Back he came with an Aunt Daisy soap-making recipe. As proud as a peacock at a garden party, he said he was going to show us how to make soap, and in the process show us how clever he was.
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