Doing the math does pay off

This week our columnist Claudette Sandecki talks about... money.

How many people depend upon credit or debit cards because they can’t do math? They choose to close their eyes and swipe the plastic rather than estimate the total of their planned purchase or face accurately counting the change a clerk may hand them. On the other side of the checkout counter, plenty of cashiers must trust their electronic registers to calculate a customer’s change. Shoppers can’t estimate the taxes on any purchase before they reach the checkout. Others can’t calculate a 15 percent tip on a restaurant bill or a taxi fare.

Both of Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s money advice TV shows, ‘Til Debt Do Us Part and Princess, are gone, except as re-runs, to be replaced in April by her new show, Money Morons. The title says it all. And anyone who has followed her two shows, as I have, knows exactly why Canada’s best known money advisor chose that title. In show after show she presented families or ‘princesses’ spending far more than they earned every month of their adult life, yet mystified how they got to be thousands of dollars in debt, how to end their unbridled spending, or how to pay off all their creditors and become debt-free.

For basic advice on money management and making sound money decisions, watch Vaz-Oxlade’s January 16, 2013 lecture to students at Red River College in Winnipeg.

Her story of her 17-year-old daughter Molly’s experience securing a replacement debit card from her bank after the teen’s wallet, I.D., and debit card went missing at a party illustrates sound advice for anyone of any age when confronted by a “company policy” which prevents you being treated fairly.

When Molly asked her bank branch for a replacement debit card so she could get home, the teller said the bank needed I.D. Molly asked to speak with the manager. The manager, too, insisted on I.D. To which Molly reeled off her phone number, home address, account number and the last three transactions she had paid with her debit card. Still no go. A parent would have to sign for Molly.

Molly advised the manager her mother was a 350 mile drive away. Did the bank really need to eyeball her mother?

“That is company policy”, the manager said.

Knowing the rules, Molly reminded the manager she had an account in the bank with a “load of cash” her mother had deposited to pay Molly’s college expenses. The bank could replace her card or Molly would move her funds to another bank.

Molly’s story begins 27 minutes into Vaz-Oxlade’s talk at:

In this 45 minute talk to college-age students Vaz-Oxlade offers money advice for young people, but any age can benefit from sound math. Weekly grocery shopping is an excellent place to begin saving a few dollars if you can do math in your head while you compare prices. Last week one supermarket offered red grapefruit at $2.89 for a 5 lb. bag or 25 cents per grapefruit from a bulk bin.

The bag held nine grapefruit. Quick math told me each grapefruit in the bag cost 32 cents.

In other words, I would pay 64 cents for the ease of plunking a bag in my cart, versus the time consuming, strenuous task of opening a bag and filling it with nine grapefruit from the bin.

In an unrelated but just as confusing circumstance,  blueberries were priced at $4.99 on either side of an island display. One side of the island offered square boxes two inches high weighing 510 grams. The other side of the island had shallower but wider boxes.

As it turns out they were the same weight but I was still left wondering about the difference in packaging.

And what confusion that might entail.


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