The Bullseye - September 2008

Monday, September 1, 2008

In This Issue:
Your Guide to Hidden Fees,
Alumni Update,
Smart Money Saving Tips,
Opec Oil Reports

Your Guide to Hidden Fees

Hidden fees are a common occurrence within businesses and organizations. These “hidden” fees can add up over time and cost several hundred dollars per year, or more. Some are one-time activation fees and others, like ATM use, are charged every time you use your ATM card at another bank. So what can be done to keep the “hidden” fees to a minimum? The following guide can help you win the fees war: 
 
Read The Fine Print: The smartest thing you can do, after asking questions, is to read the fine print. Many companies ask you to sign a contract (such as a cell phone company). The problem is within the contract, which may seem too long to really read. Hidden fees, such as activation, service, and transfer fees are commonly included. Reading the fine print can help you make a more informed decision and aid you in shopping for competitive prices. Never hesitate to take a contract home, and read it prior to committing. 
 
Know The Industries: There are several industries that commonly sneak fees into their contracts and commitments. These include the travel, banking, cell phone, and student loan industries. When you set out to deal with these companies, know that hidden fees are common, so that you can ask the appropriate questions and ensure hidden fees are avoided. 
 
Networking: Your friends and family can be the best resource in dealing with companies. They offer personal experiences and can let you know companies that are great to work with and those that are not. If you are in the market for a new cell phone, ask around and find out with what companies others have had good experiences. 
 
Check The Internet: The Internet can be an invaluable resource, especially for shopping comparison. It can also provide you with the fine print from the comfort of your home. This allows you to take the time to read the fine print, and make an informed and cost effective decision. 
 
Send A Letter: It is common for a company to treat you like a number when you call to complain of hidden fees. You may not receive the response you were expecting. One way to get the VIP treatment is to call the Attorney General’s office (of your state) and file a complaint about the hidden fees, as well as their poor customer service. The fee may not always be erased, but perhaps the next customer will have the benefit of a “hidden fees” explanation. 
 
You may not be able to avoid all “hidden” fees, but following the above suggestions can certainly help. The most important thing to remember is that you are in control and do not have to commit to anything. Be a smart shopper and, essentially, a smart money manager.

Alumni Update

"I wish I would have contacted Orion International sooner than I did, but it all worked out in the end!
 
Working with Orion was a great experience from the get-go. All my questions were answered up-front, and the follow-up during the entire process was outstanding.
 
Since getting my job, I have found that there is awesome opportunity for growth within CIRCOR Aerospace. CIRCOR is an expanding aerospace firm and one of five different global businesses in our aerospace group. I envision a great future ahead and plenty of career advancement opportunities!"

 – Tim O’Neill, Value Stream Leader, CIRCOR Aerospace

Do you have an update to share with us?  Did you get promoted, have a new addition to your family or any other news you’d like to share?  Click here to tell us about it.

Smart Money Saving Tips

Times are tough. A looming, if not active, recession, home foreclosure crisis, and rising food and gas prices have got Americans on a stringent budget diet. What can you and your family do to ease the burden? There are several things that any family can easily do to help.
 
First, put your family on a home energy diet. It is time to change those light bulbs to energy efficient ones and stop running the water when brushing your teeth! Setting your thermostat to 78 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer months and below 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter will show immediate cost savings. Always turn off your computer when not in use. Plug home electronics into power strips, and turn the power strips off when the equipment is not in use. Take short showers and baths, and set the hot water heater’s thermostat to below 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash only full loads of laundry and dishes. And finally, when buying new appliances, always buy energy efficient appliances by looking for Energy Star appliances. Following these tips can save the average family up to $1600 per year.
 
Cut back on entertainment spending. Going to the movies for a family of four can cost an astounding $100 or more. Instead of going to the movies, plan a family movie night, or when going to the theater, bring your own snacks. Also, learn to cook. Eating out costs as much as $50 or more for a small family per dinner. Over time, eating at home can really save a lot of money. And don’t forget about free entertainment like the public library and public parks. These places are free and help your children learn and exercise!
 
Be a smart shopper. Utilize the Internet when shopping for something. Go to www.slickdeals.net and www.couponsaver.org for up-to-date coupons and deals. Utilize www.Ebay.com and other auction sites to find deals on gently used goods. There are also sites out there like www.uswapit.com and www.freecycle.org where people can swap or trade and even give away goods that they no long use. Also, utilize large retailers like Target and Wal-Mart that manufacture and sell clothing for a lower cost. Other retailers that can lower the cost of goods are places like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls that sell brand name clothing at discount prices.
 
Finally, ride public transportation and walk or use your bicycle. This tip helps you keep physically fit, saves money and gas and helps the environment.
 
All of these things can really make a difference. Also, remember, if you are able, to use the savings you acquire and invest wisely. Investing or saving the money and not spending the savings will help you and your family in the future. This is especially important if it takes some time for the economy to stabilize.

OPEC July Oil Report

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Companies (OPEC), a permanent intergovernmental organization consisting of thirteen member countries across three continents, released its oil report for the month of July. The report discusses major issues affecting the world oil market and provides the crude oil market forecast for the coming year.
 
The OPEC Reference Basket, a weighted average of prices for petroleum produced by OPEC countries, reached a record high of $128.34/barrel in June, representing an increase of $8.94/b or 7.5%. The increase was due to an escalation in geopolitical tensions triggered by financial market concerns and U.S. dollar fluctuations.
 
World economy in 2009 is forecast at 3.9%, which is lower than the 4.0% estimate for 2008. The outlook for the second half of 2008 has worsened due to weakening labor markets, low consumer confidence, and financial market risks.
 
World oil demand in 2009 is forecasted to grow by 0.9 million barrels per day (mb/d), a slight decline of 0.1 mb/d from estimated growth in 2008.
 
This year’s forecast has been revised down by 0.1 mb/d to 86.81 mb/d. Consumption of petroleum products experienced further declines in the second quarter due to slower economic activity and higher oil prices.
 
Finally, the demand for OPEC crude in 2008 is estimated to average 32.0 mb/d. This is a decline of 90 tb/d over the previous year. In 2009, the demand for OPEC crude is expected to average 31.2 mb/d, or 710 tb/d lower than 2008.