Archive for September 2013

Working with contractors on home repairs

A beautiful weeping willow fell on my house when I was on vacation in August.  I really am a true Tree Hugging Oregonian because I was more upset about losing the tree than I was about the corner of my roof being caved in.

The damage to my house ended up being about $6,000 dollars.  Since this is more than I’d like to take out of my emergency fund I decided it best to make a claim on my homeowners policy.  I ended up just having to pay the $1,000 deductible.

I was really impressed by how smoothly the claims process went with Farmers Insurance.  Unfortunately, working with the contractor was not quite a smooth. When looking for good contractors you can work with, the best ones we have tried are these experts in furnace repairs.

I currently don’t have a contractor that I work with so I relied on the Farmers adjuster to provide me with recommendations.  He provided me with the names of contractors that he works regularly with.

I did my due diligence and checked the Oregon CCB website to ensure the contractors were all licensed.  I actually found that one of the contract’s license was expired.  As a consumer it’s important to work with contractors that are licensed and bonded.  If something happens to where they cause more damage or if you have any other issues with them you are limited on your recourse if they are not licensed and bonded.

I was amazed to find when I called the contractor that they were willing to come out immediately to remove the tree (or so I thought).  They rushed out, but only removed the portion that was on the roof and didn’t haul away any of it.  I should have done a better job and conveying my expectations and getting confirmation from them.

Even though they were very quick to come out that first time I found it much slower to get them to come back and take care of the whole job.  But, I felt like I was trapped because I had started the process with them and was worried about being tacked with a heft bill for that “emergency service” if l did not hire them for the work.

Well, I compromised and had someone else remove the tree and then awarded the rest of the work to the initial contractor.  They did a great job and it made it much easier for me that they had a working relationship with the adjuster so when additional repairs were needed they worked together to ensure it got done.

Still at the end I did end up with a bill for that emergency service which ended up being more than what the bill for removal of the entire tree was.  Because I had chosen to work with one of the contractors referred by the adjuster I was able to just let them “hash it out” and did not have to pay any additional out of my pocket.

Vacation in Northern California on a budget (part 1)

I recently took a trip to San Francisco and Napa Valley.  It was a mother daughter vacation as I flew my mom in from Wisconsin to join me for the trip.  My flight only ended up costing me $50 because I had some money left over on a flight voucher (see my blog Delayed flight could lead to a perk for your pocket book).  That allowed me the opportunity to pay for most of my mom’s flight as a birthday, Christmas, mother’s day present for her for the next year…or two.  I will admit I really didn’t do much research on the cost of taking a trip to San Francisco until after the flight was booked.  When I started looking into booking a hotel room I began to realize how expensive it was going to be to stay in downtown San Francisco.  After lots of research and reading many reviews on Tripadvisor, I was able to find a good rate on a great little boutique hotel in downtown San Francisco.  This great deal did come with a bit of a catch, I had to pre-pay to get the rate and it was non-refundable.   If you are willing to take a risk when you travel, you could end up saving a few hundred dollars by prepaying for your hotel room. 

Stay posted for my next blog where I will share other ways I was able to stick to a budget and save money while vacationing in Northern California. 

A Volunteers Prospective

I have taught classes for Financial Beginnings for several years now and have also been on the Program Committee.  While I greatly enjoy high school students, there are a couple of other groups that I want to tell you about.


First, we occasionally have the opportunity to work with various adult groups.  I have taught parents of students, adults in transition housing, and adults in a family homeless shelter.  These groups bring a different perspective to the class since they have been out in the “real world.”  When I ask high school students some questions (How much does an apartment cost?  Can an employer check your credit? and so forth), I am often met with either blank stares or wild guesses.  The adults not only know, but can share detailed experiences.  Also, the adults we teach are usually living on limited incomes so when we do the budgeting exercises, they really know how to save money!


In working with adult groups, I usually don’t use the Powerpoint slides.  Often they don’t have the capabilities to project them anyway, but I have found that a discussion format is more lively and informative for them and me.  One time, I even taught a class with a Spanish translator.  I was a bit concerned going in, but the translator did a great job and it was one of the better discussion groups I have had.


Recently, I taught the Budgeting and Credit modules at the family homeless shelter where I have volunteered for years.  A couple of weeks later, I saw one of the ladies during my usual night helping at the shelter.  She was excited to tell me that not only had  her family been approved for an apartment, but she had made out a budget and was working hard to live within it.  I wish her the best of luck – she still has a tough road ahead – but felt very rewarded that she took the class to heart.


Another group that I have enjoyed is Special Education classes.  I know that some of you are reluctant to sign up for these, but you should not be.  The students are usually very engaged and appreciative of the training.  I make a few adjustments to the exercises for these groups, but otherwise teach the same curriculum.


As these opportunities arise, I suggest you give them a try.  I think you will have a great time.


-John Gruher