Archive for July, 2015

Money Saving: Putting your savings into a savings account

Putting your savings into a savings accountOne of the best ways to save money, is by putting your savings into a savings account and then not touching it. Other people have funds deducted from their paycheck and deposited directly into a savings account, 401k retirement account etc. But we want to talk about another way of saving for rainy days and emergency funds. For example take all of the change in your pocket at the end of the day and throw it into a jar. How much money would you have at the end of the week? Another approach is to just place $5 in an envelope or jar each day. At the end of one week you will have $35 to spend on dinner or just keep it and let it build until you need it.Would you miss the $5 or the change from your pocket? Probably not and that is really the message. Pick a number that you know you will not miss and make a habit of saving that money each day. At the end of the month put it in your savings account so that you will not be tempted to use it.

Putting Your Savings into a Savings Account

A friend of ours uses this approach to save money for his vacation. Both he and his wife throw their spare change into a large glass jar with a sealed top. When vacation time comes along, they break open the jar count their money to see how much they have. Sometimes they will have as much as $1000 towards their vacation.

With electronic banking and automated payments, consumers can set up auto payments as a means of putting your savings into a savings account with no effort at all.  It takes 5 minutes to set up the automated electronic transfer into your account and your done. The bank will look after the transfer every month or whatever period you choose, depending on what you afford. All you need to do is make sure there are sufficient funds in your account to cover the transfer. It is that easy.

Issues to Consider When You go off the Grid

off the GridBelieve it or not, it is illegal in some states to go off the grid! At a time when conservation, alternative energies and being responsible is the thing to do. Some states are actually saying you must be attached to the electrical and water grid. We wonder why this is the case. The only reason we can think of is control of our private spaces. Also being able to monitor even if it is in a small way our activities. This will be an ongoing battle, however in the mean time there are more practical issues to think about when you go off the grid or are considering taking this approach. Many people will consider going off the electrical grid to save money or in some cases there is no service provided in remote areas. We will explore some of the issues to consider in this post.

Issues to Think about When You Go off the Grid

Getting Started Cost – For many people the initial up front cost may be a show stopper. Obtain several quotes so that you fully understand what it will cost to have your system installed and become operational. Costs vary across the country, but numbers in the thirty to forty thousand range are not unreasonable.

Payback Time Frame – Once you know the get started cost and have added the DC appliances cost you need to calculate the total cost and how long it will take to repay all of your costs from the savings in electrical costs. If it is more than 8 to 10 years, and your system will last 15 to 20, your risk is going up quickly. Look for the shortest payback period you can obtain.

Cost of Major Appliances – Appliance such as your fridge are quite inexpensive if it operates on AC power. However they can cost 3 times the normal cost if they run on DC power. You want DC because you lose a lot of power converting from DC to AC power.

Cost of Minor Appliances – Factor in the cost of small DC appliances such as toasters, lights etc

Monitoring Energy Use

Once your system is installed, consumers should monitor the system to ensure that it is operating as advertised. How long do the batteries last, do they fully charge during the day and do you need to fully charge them once a month.

System Maintenance – Consumers will need to keep the solar panels clean, check the batteries and fully charge the batteries according to the instructions you receive from the company your purchased them from.

Heating Water and Cooking – Many consumers will use propane to heat water and cook with to conserve electrical power and manage the overall cost of your system and appliances. You will need to purchase a propane stove, perhaps a propane water heater and a propane furnace for heating.

This all works if your electrical rates are high since it drives the payback period to a smaller number. Do the math and make the right decision.

Money Saving: Buying in bulk

Buying in bulkConsumer buying in bulk can definitely save money if they purchase products that they will use. The problems start when you purchase items that are on sale when buying in bulk but you really don’t need all of that product. For example the picture shows this consumer buying toilet paper. She is obviously getting a good deal and is stocking up on toilet paper. There is no question that she will use all of this product and save money at the same time. But what about other products that might not be used as quickly. For example, if you purchase 5 bottles of ketchup which have an expiry within one year? Will you use all of the ketchup within that time frame. If you do not and have to throw out some of the bottles, have you really saved any money?

Buying in Bulk When it Makes Senses

Items like toilet paper, paper towels, cans of fruit and vegetables, items you can freeze etc are usually good buys when you buy in bulk. Buying fresh vegetables in bulk makes no sense at all, nor does it make sense to buy fruit this way unless you can freeze some of the product for later use. We tend to purchase meat in bulk, separate it into reasonable portions and then freeze it.

The same applies to bread and buns. Soap for dish washing, soap for washing clothing and similar products can also be purchased in bulk. Occasionally we will purchase some products in bulk that have an expiry date in a relatively short time frame. We tend to give away some of the product to other family members rather than see it spoil.

Before buying in bulk, ask yourself can I use all of this product prior to the expiry date. If I have to give some away or let it spoil will I still save money compared to purchasing the same thing at a regular price.


Going off the Grid

Dream of going off the grid and saving thousands of dollars! Not so fast, it is a little more complicated than it would first seem. For example, some states actually have laws that make it illegal. We are not sure what the rational is. But we suggest that you check first before making plans to go off the grid at your home or cottage or cabin in the woods. Secondly if you are expecting to save money, it may take longer than you planned. This is based on the economics of what you pay currently for electricity and how much your system will cost.

Don’t forget to add in the cost of special appliances, lights etc that will be needed when you go off the grid. You can can use an inverter to convert from DC to AC. However your system is less efficient when you do this. Either way you will spend more money on solar panels or appliances so don’t forget to include these.

Going off the Grid – Do the Math

Unless you really don’t care about the cost or how long the system will take to repay itself, do the math. So that you know what you are getting into in terms of total cost and how long it will take to pay for itself. Some people don’t care because the cost of bringing an electrical line into their cabin or cottage is prohibitive, leaving no alternative but a solar or wind or both generation system complete with batteries for backup and storage.

If you live in an area were you do not get full sun all of the time a wind generation system might be considered as a back up for those cloudy rainy days. You can generate power at night with a wind turbine with the wind blowing. Your electrical system consultant should be able to provide you with some guidance in this area as well. Don’t forget that the neighbors might object to a wind turbine marring their view if they live close by. These are some of the practical issues to consider when you go of the grid.


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