October 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »

As part of the Chasing Our American Dream series, I’m exploring different ways to build wealth. Last time we talked about opening a retail store. This week we are talking about finding a storefront.

Looking for commercial real estate can be overwhelming for a first-time business owner. You need a space that will bring in traffic, but will not bust your budget. Once you find your perfect storefront, you have to negotiate a lease.

Finding the Perfect Spot

Who is your customer? Is your item an impulse buy? Or are you a destination store? You cannot find your ideal retail space without knowing your customer and how they think.

Once you know who you are selling to, you can start looking for the perfect location. Commercial real estate brokers are an excellent resource. They have information on the demographics of the area and the foot traffic. They can also help with your lease negotiations.

Understanding The Lease

Leases are legal documents. As a small business, you will most likely sign the standard lease form of the property manager. This lease is written to benefit the property manager, not you. You should have a lawyer to review the lease and explain all the terms of the agreement. Here are some key lease terms:

Base Rent: This is the minimum rent payment. It covers the rent for your space. There will be additional rent outlined in the lease.

CAM: CAM stands for Common Area Maintenance. The lease may either require a CAM contribution or payment of pro-rata share of actual CAM expenses. The lease will also detail which expenses are included in CAM. If you are paying pro-rata share, you will receive an annual statement from the property manager of actual expenses.

Gross Rent: A single rent payment that includes base rent and CAM.

Marketing Fee:  Some shopping centers require tenants to pay a marketing fee. The fee is to cover marketing expenses for the center, but most leases do not require the  property manager to detail how they spend the fee.

Percentage Rent: Percentage rent is rent paid on a percentage of sales. Some leases require percentage rent in addition to base rent after your store passes a specific sales volume. Other leases have percentage rent instead of base rent. For a new operation, this type of lease can help while they grow their customer base because it makes rent a variable expense.

These are just a few issues to keep in mind while you start looking for your storefront. It’s important to have professional resources such as a commercial broker and lawyer  that you trust and can help you navigate the lease negotiations. Make sure that any promises made during lease negotiations are included in the lease document.

Do you have any other questions about leasing commercial space? Do you have any advice for a new business owner?

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October 21st, 2014 | 8 Comments »

Okay, it’s been a few weeks since I posted. What have I been doing? Work, work, work, work, work, work.

I got overloaded at work and buried my head. BIG MISTAKE. I realized that not only have I neglected my blog, but I’ve neglected myself. I’ve been eating crap. I haven’t worked out. I’ve ignored my finances.

Yesterday I decided to peak at my finances with one eye closed cause I knew it was going to be scary. What did I see? I totally messed up!

I have a lot of travel expenses for work. I haven’t filed an expense report since the end of August. Since I didn’t get my expense reimbursement, I didn’t pay my credit card in full. Which means I paid interest on my credit card. All because I didn’t take a few minutes to file my expense report and get it signed. Ugg!

Since I was already feeling down, I decided to hop on the scale and see how that was going. Uggg! I don’t even want to admit what I saw.

So I’m back. This blog keeps me accountable to myself and I promise not to drop off the earth again.

I’ve missed you all and I have a ton of catching up to do!

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September 25th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

As part of the Chasing Our American Dream series, I’m exploring different ways to build wealth. This week we are talking about opening a retail store.

Retail Store

A retail store is a physical location where you sell products. It could be in a mall or on a street. Wherever you choose to open, you will face competition from both the Big Box stores (Wal-Mart) and online (Amazon).

How will you distinguish yourself?

It’s difficult to distinguish yourself on price when competing against retail giants that sell everything. To be successful, your store needs to sell something people want and be somewhere people go. Maybe you sell something unique, or something that people would prefer to see before buying. Or you distinguish yourself based on the experience customers receive.

3 Questions To Ask Yourself:

1. What will you sell?

What products will you sell? How common is your product? Will people come to your store just to get that product or can they get it anywhere? Where will you source your products?

2. What sets you apart

Why will people come to your store? Once customers come in, will they come back? Or will they tell their friends about you? Do you sell something unique? Do you provide a unique customer experience? For example, a Nail Salon recently opened in our town that is decorated with chandeliers and very high end finishes. Customers are given a glass of wine while they receive their services. There are Nail Salons on every block in our town, but this is the only one that offers that experience. Customers are willing to pay a little more for the experience.

3. Where will you open?

Finding the right location is a key to your success. Who is going to buy your product? Where do they shop? Will you open in a mall or a downtown storefront? How easy is it for customers to park and get into your store

Once you know your product, where you will source it and who your customer is you can start looking for a location. Next week we’ll talk about finding a location and what to know about leasing retail space.

Have you ever opened a retail store? What was your greatest success? What did you wish you knew before opening?

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September 21st, 2014 | 6 Comments »

This week on the House of Tre we talked about…

…I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by Brian @ Debt Discpline. Wahoo!!

How Not To Get New Customers, otherwise known as our adventures with Dish Network. I’m happy to say that after 8 days of calling them and still not getting the channel he wants, Mr. Tre has decided to cancel our service. Happy day!

…the Frugal FinCon Fiesta! Thanks DebtDebs for organizing the party! I found lots of new blogs and learned so much about other bloggers.

3 Surprising Facts About Successful Retirees as part of the #RetireeNextDoor event for FinCon. Download the free ebook  by September 30th.

Thank you Christa of Object Wealth for nominating me for a Liebster Award.

Whew, that was a busy week! Thanks to everyone who visited my blog or shared my blog with others.

This week is my travel week for work, so it will be a different kind of busy. I’m starting to think I should block off random times with fake meetings so they can’t overload my schedule :-) maybe next time.

 Blogs I Loved….

Thanks to the Frugal FinCon Fiesta, I found a bunch of new blogs this week. I’m not sure how I’m going to keep up with them all, but here are my favorite “new to me” finds of the week….

…@BustedBudget shared her Frugal Finds.

…@DownstairsDebt celebrated her Blogiversary!

…@ObjectWealth wrote out How To Make The Most Out of Failure.

Hope you have a great weekend!


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September 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Saving for retirement is a common topic in the personal finance world and most of the advice seems to revolve around three key ideas:

1. Save 10% of your salary for retirement

2. Accumulate at least $1,000,000 in your retirement accounts

3. Pay off your mortgage

A recent survey of over 500 successful retirees conducted by MoneyTips.com provided some surprising information. What did we learn?

 36% Never Calculated How Much They Needed to Save for Retirement

There are several theories on how much to save for retirement. Some financial advisors suggest a minimum of $1,000,000. Other financial advisors suggest enough to replace 80% of your income. They all agree that you need to calculate how much to save and create a plan to reach your goal. That’s why it’s surprising that 36% of the retirees surveyed never calculated how much they needed to save.

68% Have a Net Worth Less Than $1,000,000

Pay off your debt. Have at least $1,000,000 in retirement savings. Those two pieces of advice make a $1,000,000 net worth the minimum to retire successfully. But according to this survey, only 31% of retirees have a net worth over $1,000,000. 25% of the retirees surveyed have a net worth between $500,000 and $1,000,000.

They Didn’t Save Early

51% of the retirees surveyed did not save in their 20s and 30s.

25% did not save in their 40s.

For those that did save, 6-10% was the most common savings rate for all age groups.

It’s not to late to start saving for retirement. Don’t worry if you don’t know how much, just start saving! Want to learn more from successful retirees? The Retiree Next Door Ebook is available free until September 30th.



Source: Moneytips.com.

The Retiree Next Door

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September 18th, 2014 | 24 Comments »


Debs from Debt Debs had a great idea for those of us too poor frugal to attend FinCon this year. We’re having our own blog party! The Frugal FinCon Fiesta!

For the next 3 days I’ll answer questions you post on the blog. Ask me anything (except my secret identity) and I promise to answer. Please post your questions in the comments and I’ll update the post with my answers. If you are not a blogger, stop in and say hello. This blog party isn’t just for the geeks personal finance bloggers.

Update #1

Thanks everyone who has stopped by and asked me question!

Brian @DebtDiscipline asked: Do you ever think you make the trip to a FinCon?

I would love to make the trip to FinCon one day. It sounds like there is so much to learn. I’m hoping the next one will be close to home. I travel 25% of the time for work, so it’s hard to add another trip away from the family.

Tonya @ BudgetandtheBeach asked: What are your biggest pet peeves?

Ooohh, that’s a hard one. I think being late is my biggest pet peeve. I get really stressed out about being late and it irritates me when other people are late.

Brandy @Busted Budget asked: What was your FIRST job and what was your WORST job?

My first job was at Burger King when I was in high school. It was fun, but it made me realize how important school was. I couldn’t understand how the people with kids survived on the wages.

My worst job was at Revenue Canada. Everyone thinks I’m nuts when I say that because it was a union job, but I HATED every minute of it. I worked in the mail room processing incoming tax returns. We had to process a certain number of returns per hour and could only take a bathroom break during set times. If you finished what you were doing before leaving for break, you got yelled at by a supervisor.

Kirsten @ Indebtedmom.com asked: What are your three biggest accomplishments in life?

Number one would have to be my babies! Or would that be number one and two? They like to remind me they aren’t babies any more, but they still are to me :-)

Number two is travelling by myself in a country I didn’t speak the language. I spent a month in South Korea and traveled everywhere by train. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever had.

Number three is finishing grad school with a newborn and full-time job.

Brooke @ PFTwins asked: How did you get into student loan debt and what’s your approach to tackling it? How is your business plan/goals coming along? My husband wants to start his own business and is finding it so hard to get started / get momentum at the very beginning.

All of my student loan debt is from grad school. In retrospect we should have tightened the budget and tried to get through without loans, but we were living the dream and didn’t want to make sacrifices :-) At first I was making my minimum payments and pretending the loans didn’t exist. I did write about my pay off strategy in this post. I’ve increased my extra payment to $750 per month since then.

My business is stuck. Like I need to call the tow truck to drag me out of the mud stuck. I have a lot of great ideans, but I don’t have enough time to get everything done and tasks are taking longer than they should. I think I need to hire someone to help me with the website, but it’s hard to justify spending too much when you are starting up. Is that how your husband feels?

Jean @ Nearly Retired asked: What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

The best book I read this year was The Divorce Party by Laura Dave. It was a book I randomly picked up at the library and finished it the same day.

Update #2

May @Messy Money asked: what has been the biggest surprise about blogging for you?

That people are actually reading my blog! After that shock wore off, I was surprised by how supportive other bloggers are and that they are always willing to offer advice. It’s really a great community.

Kara @The Daily Wisk asked: In a world where all cars cost the exact same amount – which is your dream car?

Hmm…that’s a hard one. I’m not really a car person. I guess something convertible, but I don’t know what make.

Femme Frugality asked: Okay, so this is totally random, but I heard this story on the news about how NASA is contracting 2 companies for space shuttles, potentially for civilian travel into space. Would you go? And why or why not?

No! I don’t want to be the test subject. Maybe after they’ve done it for a few years and everyone survived and didn’t get eaten by aliens :-)

Update #3

Kip asked: You mention in your about page about being a financial professor, knowing what you know now, is there anything you think you should have done differently in your finances upto this point?

Yes, I do work in the financial field. There are so many things I would do differently. I could write a book about all the mistakes I made. I think the two biggest changes I would make would be avoid student loans and start investing younger.


Thank you everyone who stopped by my blog during the fiesta! It’s been great getting to know you all better.



Here are some more details on the Frugal FinCon Fiesta:

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September 16th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

A few weeks ago I mentioned that we had changed Internet/Phone/TV providers to save about $35 per month. Mr. Tre was also getting the channel he’s been missing since we moved. Wahoo!

Okay, hold your excitement. This is what really happened…

The Problem

We were using Charter as our Internet/Phone/TV provider. When we hit our one year anniversary they sent us a lovely letter saying that our monthly bill was increasing by $37 per month and we would have fewer channels. But the fewer channels would be in HD. Wasn’t that generous of them?

The Bait

There are only a few companies that service our area. Mr. Tre found a DirecTV/Verizon bundle that would get us more channels than we had with Charter and cost $35 less per month. What could possibly go wrong? After several hours on the phone we had everything set up and scheduled our installation. Since there were two companies, there would be two installs. I work from home so we decided to keep Charter connected until Verizon had the Internet/phone working.

Installation day arrived. I lost service for a few hours, but the Verizon portion went much smoother than I expected. The installer was even nice enough to run some new wires and clean up the connections in my office.

Then the DirecTV installer showed up. He walked around the house for about two minutes and announced that there were too many trees. We could not possibly have satellite service. Mr. Tre took him outside and pointed out that all our neighbors have the same mature trees and most of them have DirecTV service. After several minutes of heated discussion, the installer said it wasn’t possible and left.

The Switch

Mr. Tre REALLY wanted that channel. He called DirectTV back, explained what happened and asked them to send someone else. They promised to call us back with a new installation time. After several hours someone called claiming to be the installers supervisor. He apologized and asked if we wanted someone else to come out. Yes, didn’t we already ask for that? He said someone would call back within 15 minutes to schedule a time. No one called.

The next day, still no call from DirecTV. We called Charter to cancel the phone/Internet and learned that our TV would increase by $35 dollars. Verizon also let us know that if we did not activate with DirecTV our pricing would increase. Our $35 savings was now a $40 increase per month. Mr. Tre called DirecTV again. They assured him that someone was coming, but they couldn’t give us a time.

The Warning Signs

The second DirecTV installer showed up 5 days after the original installation date.  Our first warning should have been when he demanded payment before doing the install. The original deal was no installation costs. He had everything working in 30 minutes, but the channel Mr. Tre wanted didn’t work. He told us that it could take up to 24 hours for all the channels to load.

The next day the channel still didn’t work. Mr. Tre called DirecTV and was told we did not order that channel. The first installer deleted our order. The new installer gave us a package he chose. The deal we had originally received was no longer available. To get Mr. Tre’s channel would cost us $40 more than we were originally quoted and they weren’t sure we qualified for the bundle pricing with Verizon.

Just Bad Customer Service

I called DirecTV to cancel. This is how the conversation went….

Me: I’d like to cancel my service.

DirecTV: I see you just activated yesterday. Why are you cancelling?

Me: Um… because you lied to us. We don’t have the channels or pricing we were promised. Please cancel the service and refund the installation charges.

DirecTV: Let me transfer you to a supervisor.


After one hour of being passed from person to person, they still had not cancelled the service and I was getting a little hoarse from telling them what I thought of their company. Mr. Tre finally took the phone away from me. He decided to keep the service for a little while because they promised his channel free for 30 days. What they didn’t tell him was that they would take away 10 other channels.

The End

It hasn’t ended yet because we are still with DirecTV and have a bill that is $71 per month higher than we were quoted. I think they are counting on the fact that I don’t have hours to spend on the phone trying to get them to cancel the service.

Have you ever had an issue like this? What did you do?

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September 15th, 2014 | 16 Comments »

The Versatile Blogger Award is an award that gets passed from blogger to blogger. Every nominated blogger has to share 7 things about themselves and nominate other bloggers for the award. Thank you Brian at Debt Discipline for nominating me!

Versatile Blogger Award

7 Things You Don’t Know About Me

Well, since I blog anonymously, there are lots of things that you don’t know about me and I’m always a little nervous about revealing too much. Here are seven odd little things:

1. I’m Canadian

I grew up in Vancouver and my entire family still lives there. I’ve lived in the US for about 12 years now and totally lost my Canadian accent, except for the occasionally pronunciation of “about”, “processed” and “roof” that sets my co-workers off laughing.

2. I have 5 brothers

Yes, you read that correctly, I have FIVE brothers. I am the only daughter in a family of six children. Let me tell you, it’s impossible to be girly when you are surrounded by so many boys. I grew up playing street hockey and climbing trees. I blame them for my total lack of fashion sense.

3. I was a competitive figure skater

When I was young I was a competitive figure skater. I really wanted to play hockey, but my parents thought it was too dangerous. Thanks to my brothers and their broken legs (3 of them), I was delegated to the realm of figure skating. I think they regretted that choice when I discovered figure skates were an excellent choice of weapon for self-defense.

4. I was a VA before it was cool to be a VA.

Way back in 2000 I started doing some VA work. I had a couple regular clients and it helped out while I was on maternity leave, but it really wasn’t my thing so I went back to work when my maternity leave was up.

5. I don’t drink coffee

I never liked coffee, but I need a caffeine boost in the morning. Tea is my morning go-to. I’m a little cranky until I’ve had a cup of tea and watched the news.

6. I’m addicted to the Real Housewives Series

Okay, this is a little embarrassing to admit. It’s kinda like watching a car wreck, I just can’t turn away. Every so often I ask Mr. Tre what future generations will think of us when they uncover the Real Housewives. He looks at me with disgust and tells me to turn that crap off.

7. I’m a Canucks fan

Hockey Night in Canada was a staple in our house growing up (you Canadians know what I mean). I grew up watching the Canucks with my dad and am still a huge fan. They are also known as the Canuckleheads is our house. As in: “The #### Canuckleheads got knocked out in the first round this year!”

I hope you enjoyed learning more about me :-)

I nominate the following bloggers:

Debs of Debt Debs

Erin of Journey to Saving

Tonya of Budget and the Beach

Michelle of Budget Blogess

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September 14th, 2014 | No Comments »

This week on the House of Tre we talked about…

CPE on a budget. This year my employer is paying for a one-day seminar but most of my CPE is coming from free hours. I’ve found several great sources for free or low-cost CPE.

franchising. As part of the Chasing Our American Dream series, we are exploring different ways to build wealth. Have you considered purchasing a franchise?

Thank you @debtdiscipline for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award!

This week a lot of personal finance bloggers are heading to FinCon. I have to admit I’m a little jealous, but my day will come! I was supposed to be heading west for a business trip, but that has been delayed. I’m looking forward to another week at home with my boys :-)


Blogs I Loved….

There are so many great blogs about personal finance. I have to admit that I am falling behind on my reading, but these were my favorites….

…@DebtandtheGirl asked Can You Manage to Live on Six Figures? I find this discussion fascinating. Is $100k really necessary for the middle class life?

…@fitisthenewpoor updated us on No Spend Week 1.

Hope you had a great weekend!


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September 11th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

As part of the Chasing Our American Dream series, I’m exploring different ways to build wealth. This week we are talking about franchising.


What is a franchise?

A franchise is the right to sell a licensed product or service using the operating methods of the franchise. McDonald’s is probably one of the most recognized franchises. Franchises are available for many different businesses: service industry, retail store, restaurant.

Why operate a franchise?

The benefits of operating a franchise are that you receive the operating methods of the franchise. In the case of McDonald’s, you would receive the right to sell McDonald’s products, operating instructions to ensure your location produced the same products as other McDonald’s and the ability to use the McDonald’s name. As a new business owner, the training and brand recognition provided by purchasing the franchise rights allows you to start-up without going through the learning curve of developing your own brand. Customers know what to expect when they see the sign and are lined up for opening day.

In comparison, suppose you started your own fast food restaurant. You would have to develop the products, find suppliers, locate the optimal location and develop your brand. Business would likely be slow when you first open since your brand is unknown.

How much does it cost to buy a franchise?

Franchise fees and other start-up costs vary.  What type of franchise are you buying? Will you need a storefront?

Initial costs include:

1. Franchise fee – the fee you pay to use the trademark, products and services

2. Other Start up costs – real estate, equipment, legal fees, business licenses, working capital

Is the franchise fee the only franchising cost?

That depends on the company you have a franchise license with. Many franchise agreements require payment of  royalties and marketing fees in addition to the initial franchise fee. Royalties are ongoing fees that may be due weekly, monthly or yearly. Royalties are usually a percentage of sales or a flat fee. Marketing fees are generally a flat fee.

Isn’t a franchise for people who already have wealth?

Not necessarily. The startup costs for a franchise range from $2,000 to over $1 million. It depends on the type of franchise you want to own and the location. Do you need an office or storefront? Can the franchise be operating from home? How many employees do you need for startup? These are all important questions to ask.

How do I learn more about franchises?

Start by doing some research on the Internet. Attend a Franchise Expo. Try to speak to the operator of a franchise you are interested in.

Like any new business venture, do your research. Is this a viable business? Do you have the resources to open and operate a franchise?

If you own or have owned a franchise, let me know about your experience. Would you recommend owning a franchise?


Photo Credit


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