Cost Savings

Cold Air Return in Basement

Cold Air Return in BasementThe question many people were asking recently is whether you needed to have a cold air return in  basement. Before we answer this question it is important to understand why you need cold air returns in the first place and whether the basement is finished or not. A cold air return is only used with forced air systems where there is a furnace located within the home. Hot air is forced throughout a duct system by a fan located on the furnace through ducts to every part of the home. The furnace draws air from the cold air return ducts which channel air through ducts that also connect to every room in the house.  This arrangement allows for a continuous feed of air throughout the home.

Cold Air Return in Basement – Unfinished

If your basement is unfinished, there is really no need to be concerned about a cold air return vent. There is usually enough leakage in the system that some air is still drawn from the basement into the system and replaced by heated air from a hot air duct. In fact many people prefer this approach since the basement is unfinished and they really do not want to heat it anyway. It is however important to make sure that the temperature is above freezing levels to avoid water pipes located in the basement freezing and causing water leaks.

Cold Air Return in Basement – Finished Basement

Once a basement is finished, there is a need to make sure that it is warm enough to be enjoyed and that means air must be allowed to flow in as well as out of the room. Air flows in through the hot air duct and out through the cold air duct. The cold air duct should be located at floor level where the cold air settles and it should be open to allow air to enter and return to the furnace to be heated.

In some cases if there is poor air circulation, consumers will install an auxiliary heater such as electric heat or fireplace to heat the basement rooms. basements are difficult to keep warm since hot air rises and cold air falls making basement rooms very cold. A small gas fireplace with a fan will heat up a basement room in no time at all. There is no need to worry about chimneys now with the new high efficiency fireplaces. All you need is a properly installed vent out the side of the house and you are ready to go!

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Use an Electric Chainsaw

Use an Electric ChainsawIf you are going to use an electric chainsaw, it is important to understand that this tool like all other power tools needs to be operated in a safe manner to avoid injury to yourself and anyone neat where you are using it. Note also that we are not necessarily promoting the type of chain saw portrayed in the picture. It just happens to be the one we selected to add color to our post. It is an excellent chain saw and will do just about anything the average home user will need for small trees and shrubs. A small chain saw for yard work trimming trees is an excellent tool to have and as long as you have electricity, you are good to go.

Use an Electric Chainsaw Safely

These are powerful tools and can rip through flesh in a second if not handled properly. We suggest that consumers purchase the most powerful electric  chainsaw available when they are making their purchase. A more powerful chain saw will ensure that you can deal with just about any size tree or shrub that you may find on your property. It can be a bit tedious trying to saw through something when you do not have the power you need.

Also make sure that your electric extension chord delivers the maximum power to your chainsaw. Your manufacturer will state what kind of extension chord that is needed to operate your electric chainsaw properly.  Always wear safety glasses, a hard hat, leather gloves and safety footwear to ensure that injuries are prevented or at least minimized.

Use an Electric Chainsaw for Small Trees

I have an electric chainsaw and it works very well for small trees. However I would never use it for a large tree on my property. The simple reason is that I would be concerned about the tree falling in the wrong direction and either hitting my home or perhaps the fence or even my neighbors home. These are large trees that stand at least 50 feet high and could do a lot of damage if they fell on something they were not supposed to. This decision really has nothing to do with whether I have a gas powered chainsaw or an electric one. I would just prefer to be safe, so I use my chainsaw on the smaller trees and the shrubs.

It is also very useful for trimming branches off the trees that are beginning to encroach on the yard, the fence or even the house. Each year I cut some off in an effort to trim them and the electric chain saw is perfect for this job. It also means that I do not have to store gasoline at home for the chainsaw.


WiFi vs. Data Plans

WiFi vs. Data PlansThis website is all about saving the homeowner and the consumer money on their maintenance costs for the home as well as operating costs on a monthly basis. We decided to tackle a common issue more and more people are dealing with – WiFi vs. Data Plans.

Most cell phone or mobile subscription plans require that you sign up for a data plan. In fact unless you turn your data off on your phone, you could incur huge monthly bills for accessing the Internet and just updating your apps if you do not have a data plan or unless you use WiFi exclusively .

If you must access data for app update , Browsing the Internet, getting your email, and downloading music or movies on your phone then you must have either a data plan with an unlimited amount of data that you can download or you must turn off your cellular data so that you do not incur any data charges. If you do not believe this try using data for a month without a data plan and prepare to be shocked.

Turn Cellular Data Off

If you can purchase a smartphone without a cellular data plan, make sure you turn the cellular data off to avoid any unnecessary charges. There is a solution to turning your cellular data off.

Using WiFi wherever it is available is usually sufficient for most people unless you must have real-time access all the time. WiFi is now available in most hotels, coffee shops, home hardware stores, and even some laundromats. It is amazing how much free WiFi is available. WiFi is becoming more available all of the time and it is usually free. There is a down side to free WiFi. Security issues can be a concern and also if you using WiFi at a hardware store for example, they are learning information about you. what products you are looking at, the area of the store you are in, time of day to shop and on and on. They can also have access to your email and social networks if you chose to use them.

WiFi vs. Data Plans – Reduce Charges

This is a great way to reduce your monthly charges from your cellular carrier and still have access to the Internet for all the things that you like to do from a smart phone perspective. Most high-speed modems for consumers now come with the option of WiFi as well as a wired Internet connection. Most people will turn the WiFi on and make it available to their friends and families. Whenever you’re visiting someone always ask if they have WiFi available and ask if you can connect to the WiFi system to browse the Internet and retrieve your email.

These private systems should always be protected by passwords that are not easily broken. This is for your protection as well as the protection of your host as well.

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Get Rid of Your Land Line Costs

Get Rid of Your Land Line CostsThe telephone companies are being forced to give up land lines as a business. Many people are just going with either cell phones, mobile phones or they are installing voice over IP telephone lines. They’re just so much cheaper, with many more features and much more convenient. Although it is sometimes difficult to change, it is definitely worth your while to make the change. At least look into it and consider your options. Get Rid of Your Land Line Costs and reduce your monthly utility costs.

Reducing Your Monthly Bills

This is another great way to reduce your monthly bills and save money. Check out voice over IP lines from your local carrier, as well as new entrants that are offering voice over IP over a DSL line or cable TV high speed access. You will need to make sure that you have a high enough speed line to accommodate your VoIP service as well as your regular data.

A voice over IP line can be installed anywhere that you have a high-speed data connection. They work over DSL as well as high-speed cable. In fact once you have transferred your regular telephone number to a voice over IP line, you can move the voice over IP modem to any DSL line which means you take your telephone number with you. Now you can travel and still receive calls as if they were local calls from your friends, family and business associates.

Voice over IP lines also come with many more features. For example in addition to the standard features like voice mail, calling line ID, calling name and call forwarding consumers can receive an email of their voice messages left on their voice mail with the wave file attached. They can listen to voice mails on their computers as well as other smart phones without having to make long-distance phone call, Or use airtime.

Get Rid of Your Land Line Costs – Adding Extensions

In addition one great feature that I really like is that I can designate specific phone numbers as extensions to my main voice over IP line. I can now designate my cell phone as an extension and regardless of where I am both my home phone as well as my cell phone will ring at the same time and I can choose to answer the call on my cell phone or if I’m at home on my land line. The land line of course is a voice over IP line.

Not all carriers will offer this service, so you will have to shop around and make sure that you pick up a voice over IP service that offers the features that you’re looking for. Regardless they all provide many more features than what the typical Telephone Company land line service will provide. In addition the cost will be much lower as well for the same service plus all the new features.

After having used this service for a few months, we can definitely confirm that we are really satisfied with the service. Between the voice mails that are emailed to you, the extensions that can be added using your cell phone as well as all of the regular features, we are more than satisfied with our service at the low price that they have offered us. Do not be afraid to check around and obtain the best service you can find at the best price.

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Downsizing to one car from two cars!

Downsizing to one car from two carsDownsizing to one car from two or even three cars in a family can save you a great deal of money on your monthly bills while at the same time making it more difficult to coordinate everything that you’re doing within the family especially if you have two or even three or four drivers in the family. Yes you may spend more gas because your car is always going to be on the road, but it will still cost much less overall since there will be less insurance and maintenance to be concerned about.

Benefits of Downsizing to one car from two cars

On the plus side you save all of the expenses associated with the car. For example there’s no monthly payments, there are no maintenance and repair charges, no license fees, no insurance fees and you’re only driving one car so there’s less gasoline that you’re spending, and the big item is that the car is being devalued over the time that you own it so now is the time to sell it and recover as much money as you can.

One last point is that when you downsize to one car, you save or reduce the amount of car insurance that your pay. This can amount to $500 or more a year depending on the age of the driver, where you live, whether someone drives it to work or not and the type of car that you drive.

More coordination Required

On the negative side of downsizing to one car, is that there is much more competition for the car from multiple drivers. A lot more coordination must take place in terms of getting everybody to where they have to go. This is particularly true for families with children who are engaged in various activities, or working outside the home.

When you downsize to one car you must coordinate and make sure that you have a schedule for everyone so that you can get people to where they need to be. And if you combine trips you can actually reduce the amount of gasoline that you would have spent and used compared to having two cars on the road at the same time going in the same direction.

Another savings opportunity is the reduction in your insurance particularly if you have teenage drivers. If for example one of the drivers is designated as a driver on a car your insurance will be much higher, however if you are the sole designated driver for car and the teenagers are the secondary drivers, your insurance is going to be much lower.

The writer’s family has been driving one car for the past couple of years. Initially it was difficult and we had to really coordinate, But then we got used to it and the reduced expenses associated with having one car instead of two made up for the inconvenience that we have. Occasionally one of us will have to drop the other off and then go on do other errands etc. but this is a small price to pay compared to the amount of money that you can save by downsizing to one car only.


Dress to Get the Best deals

Dress to Get the Best dealsDid you dress to get the best deals this morning? Everyone knows that you dress well for interviews to make your best impression and  get that all important job. You want to look your best and make a positive impression on the person who will interview you. The first 30 seconds often makes the impression that will count with the people who will interview you, some times before you even open your mouth to say hello. They will observe how you are dressed, whether you are well manicured, whether your hair is neat and tidy and whether your clothes are great looking. They do not have to be expensive, but they have to be great looking, they have to be clean and they have to match.

Dress to Get the Best deals

Dose the same apply when you are looking for a great deal when you are buying something? How about a car, a home or purchasing furniture? Assuming that you are going to negotiate the best deal you can, what is the impact of buying something when you look your best? How much will you pay?

Dress Down to Negotiate

We happen to think that you should dress down to get a good deal. Again first impressions make an impact on the sales person and the person who approves the deal. If they think you are well heeled they may not be quite as willing to lower the price in order to close the deal. There are many factors that go into whether you can negotiate a better deal. We just happen to think that if you dress expensively, you are going to pay more than the guy who is not dressed as well. Why would they cut you a deal when you look like you can afford it?

Look like you do not have $$$ to be able to afford the deal.  Remember that the sales person wants to close the deal, they want to make a sale and they want to extract as much money as they can from you. If they think that you can afford it in addition to really wanting whatever you are buying, chances are they will hold out based on the feeling that you can afford it!

Experiment to See what Kind of A Deal You Can Get

If you look well off they will ask for more. It is that simple. What do you think about this thought and have you tried buying something at different stores based on how you are dressed? Try negotiating for the same product at two different stores and see if the way you are dressed makes a difference in the price you are offered.

You may be surprised at how much less you pay when you are well dressed compared to when you are not. This only works of course where the price is negotiable and the person  you are dealing with has the authority to negotiate. If you are dealing with some who does not have the authority, ask to speak to someone who does and then see what happens! It does not always work, bit often enough it does and you save money as a result.


Paying Down Debt

Paying Down DebtThe holiday season is over and all of the credit card bills have arrived to give us that holiday hangover we get every year. If you do not pay the balance in full, these credit cards will trigger interest charges to the level of 17% or even higher for store credit cards. These interest rates are high and generate a lot of extra cost to those bargains that you might have got when you made your purchases. Anyone who only pays the minimum payment is paying almost all interest and very little principle. As a result your charges next month for interest will be about the same or higher if you charge more to your credit card.

Paying Down Debt – Credit Cards

Always pay down your credit card debt or do not spend the money if you cannot pay this debt off immediately. Another approach if you really must make these purchases is to use some of your savings which is only generating may be 2% income compared to the 17% that the credit card companies are charging.

Pay Down Line of Credit Debt

Some consumers like to use a line of credit that is secured with the equity in their home. When you secure a loan with a home, the interest rate can be very competitive. It is a very good idea to use this line of credit to pay off your credit cards with this line of credit. When you are paying something in the order of 4% on a line of credit it only makes sense to pay down your debt on your credit cards using the line of credit funding.

The danger of course is if you run your line of credit and your credit cards up to the maximum, you are really in trouble, since now you have nowhere to turn. Using a line of credit really requires a lot of discipline to make sure that you pay down this debt on a regular basis and do not allow it to build up beyond what you can afford.

Pay Down Your Car Loan Debt

Many people will purchase a car and take out a car loan when they do. As we write this, car companies are offering zero interest rate loans for up to seven years. In situations like this if you have any other loans that have an interest rate above zero pay down these loans first, before you pay down your car loan.  Otherwise always pay down debt that has the highest interest rate first.

Paying Down Debt is a High Priority With Retirement Planning a Close Second

Consumers know they should pay down debt and they also know that they should save for retirement. Both are incredibly important, the more so as you get older and your earning power goes down or at least enters the fixed income area. I hear lots of seniors complaining that they are now on a fixed income. This is no surprise, they should have known that they were going to be on a fixed income and planned for it. We think that paying down debt is important; with retirement saving being even more important.

Develop a financial plan that tells you how much you need to save to get you were you need to be financially. Then implement that plan to ensure that you are financially stable when it comes to be retired and live the life style that you would like. Your financial plan should also include paying down debt that you may have whether it is a mortgage, car loan, personal loan or credit card debt. Include any credit line that you may also have.

Consumers should get a handle on their financial plan that leads to retirement early in life. If you do the easier it will be and the better off they will be when they retire. Start early in life and you will not need to save as much each month compared to someone starting in their 40’s. Begin saving for retirement in your early 20’s, in fact as soon as you start working with the rest of your surplus money going towards paying down debt.

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Reduce Your Monthly heating Costs

Reduce Your Monthly heating CostsWinter is here and most of us have turned our furnaces on to begin heating our homes. It is also the time to have a technician come in and check your home’s furnace to make sure that it is ready for the next season. Cleaning, a tune up perhaps and any parts that might need replacement will be on the menu for these checkups. While you are at it have your gas fireplace looked at and also your hot water heater. These all use energy and if they are working properly they will reduce your monthly heating costs and also operate safely keeping you and your family safe for the coming heating season.

Should Consumers Purchase Insurance

This was a question that the writer recently had to face as part of my annual furnace check up. I called a technician who is in the business of doing annual checkups and cleaning. His proposed fee was $80 to come in, inspect the furnace, clean it and prepare an estimate of costs for any repairs if any are needed. I would have to pay labor and parts for any repairs that he identified. Sears, coincidentally sent us an insurance proposal that had a fee of $230 coverage for 16 months. This fee includes check up and cleaning fees, plus any repairs including parts and labor for our furnace. Our furnace is about 11 years old at this point and we originally purchased it from Sears. We decided to pay the extra fees just in case there are parts to be replaced. We normally do not suggest that consumers buy insurance of this kind, however the costs are too high if parts are needed. We would rather pay a little extra to have peace of mind and to potentially save some money.

What Other Steps to Take to Reduce Your Monthly heating Costs

The cost of oil has gone way up in the past couple of years and the cost of natural gas has not gone up as much, however depending on demand you can be sure that your heating bill is going to be higher than it was last year. Anything you can do to reduce the cost of keeping your home winter this winter will be money in your pocket instead of the oil or gas companies. Here are a few things that home owners may want to consider, if they haven’t already:

  • Annual check up of your furnace
  • New air filter for your furnace
  • Install an Electronic thermostat
  • Set temperatures at least 1 degree lower on average
  • Set temperatures lower during the day if the home is empty
  • Reduce your temperature at night
  • Ensure all windows and doors are air tight and properly caulked
  • Upgrade windows to a higher insulating value
  • Add insulation in the attic if it is old and does not meet today’s standards
  • Avoid leaving windows and doors open
  • Adjust the water temperature lower on your water heater
  • Heat only the rooms you live in(be careful of rooms with water pipes)

This is a great starter list of ways to reduce your heating cost this coming winter. Depending on your home and lifestyle there may be other ways to reduce your energy cost. Take a look at the way you live and how you use energy and make adjustments to reduce your cost of heating even further. Let us know so we can add them to our list for other readers.

If you decide to turn the heat off in some rooms, a word of caution is in order. If that room has water pipes in the walls or feeding that room, consumers should be careful to avoid the pipes freezing in cold weather. A room with no heat could possibly go below freezing and freeze the water in the pipes causing them to burst the pipes and cause a serious water leak.

A final word regarding purchasing insurance coverage for your furnace. It is really all about the amount of risk that you want to take and whether you can afford the bill if and when it needs to be repaired. The return on investment is really peace of mind and not how much money you are going to save. Do the math and make a decision about whether you can afford the risk vs. paying for insurance. Saving money on insurance could help pay for a new furnace if you avoid paying insurance for a long enough period.

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Living Pay Cheque to Pay Cheque

Living Pay Cheque to Pay ChequeWe normally talk about how you can save money by doing things yourself around the house. However we felt that this topic was so important that we wanted to post it here on this web site. If you can get your monthly budget under control and develop some savings, you will be at far less risk of losing your home. Living pay cheque to pay cheque can also be very stressful. Saving money around the home will make it much easier to survive a job loss. Read on and let us know if you have comments that would assist our readers. This is your emergency fund that you can rely on when a financial emergency occurs.

Living Pay Cheque to Pay Cheque

The following survey is a sad picture of Canadian savings habits. It also high lights the exposure that over 60% of Canadians have to losing their homes, cars and more if they were to lose their jobs. The blunt advice that these people need to follow is :

  • Save 10% of your paycheck every month
  • Have 3 months salary in  savings available if you should lose your job
  • Get your budget under control and learn to live with less money so you can prepare for the future.

Survey Results

The results of the survey follow and it is a sobering message for many Canadians. Almost 60 per cent of Canadians live pay cheque to pay cheque and say they’d be in financial difficulty if their pay cheque were a week late.

A new survey from the Canadian Payroll Association released Monday showed some troubling signs about Canadians’ personal finances.

The 59 per cent figure is the same rate as the one found in last year’s survey. It is the second year that the agency has undertaken the payroll survey.

Almost half of respondents to a national survey said they are saving five per cent or less of their income. Financial planning experts generally recommend a retirement savings rate of about 10 per cent of net pay. They should also hoard three months’ worth of expenses in an emergency fund.

Although they don’t appear to be having much success doing so, 60 per cent of respondents said they were trying to save more money than they used to. The remaining 40 per cent said they were not trying to save any money.

Impact on Retirement

“The most significant result of Canadians continuing to live pay cheque to pay cheque is its impact on their  personal finances and retirement,” CPA chair Cindy Forget said.

Younger workers feel especially vulnerable. 65 per cent of respondents aged 18 to 35 saying they would find it difficult to make ends meet if they missed a single pay cheque.

More than two thirds (69 per cent) of respondents said it would be difficult to find comparable employment with a similar salary if they lost their job.

For the survey, the agency interviewed 2,766 Canadian employees across the country. The survey is considered to be accurate within 1.86 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

It was taken between June of 2009 and July of 2010.

“End of Survey”

Summary

In case US citizens are reading this and feel that they may be better off than Canadians, think again. You have just gone through and are beginning to come out of a major recession which Canada pretty much avoided. You need to adopt these savings approach even more than Canadians, since jobs are more difficult to come by in the US than they are in Canada. If the past 4 years was bad enough, hopefully we all have learned that having some free cash available when you have an emergency can make a huge difference in your life.

In some cases having that emergency savings can mean the difference between putting food on the table or not. If you live pay check to pay check, and your pay check stops for some reason, there is no money to pay the bills or even buy groceries. Start saving now!

For more cost saving ideas, click here.

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Save Money – Pay your Bills after the Holidays

Save Money - Pay your Bills after the HolidaysWell the holiday season is pretty much over and the bills are starting to come in for all of those gifts you charged to your credit cards. It does not matter if it is Christmas, Valentines or just a big birthday party. If you do not pay these credit card bills right away, the interest is going to start and the credit card companies charge a lot!  Their interest rates can be as high as 29% for store based credit cards and 19 to 20% for bank based credit cards. Of course, the best way to avoid these expenses is to not buy them in the first place, however for most of us this is just not realistic. So Pay your Bills after the Holidays on time before the due date.

This site is about helping people save money and we usually do not talk about credit cards. It is more focused on do it yourself projects, and methods to reduce the operating costs for your home,  however given the time of year we thought it would be appropriate to introduce this subject. You might have worked all year long to save money on various projects, kept the heat low or turned the air conditioning off only to pay a lot of  interest on a credit card balance you really did not anticipate.

Credit Card High Interest Rates

Many bank credit cards will charge up to 19% interest on unpaid balances, while store credit cards sometimes charge as much as 29% on unpaid balances. That is a lot of interest and it can take a long time to repay even a small balance especially if you only make the minimum payment each month.

In keeping with the objective of the web site, we would like to encourage our readers to really make an effort to repay your credit card balances as quickly as possible to avoid losing all of that money in interest charges. You can reduce your heating cost, your air conditioning and your hydro usage only to lose all those savings in a few months to added interest charges. Even if you have to take out a small personal loan to repay your credit card balances, you will be ahead of the game since you will pay a much lower interest rate than what you will pay with your credit card. We cannot emphasize this enough.

Pay your Bills after the Holidays on Time

One last thing about paying your bills after the holidays.  Make sure you pay them by the due date or a few days before the due date to make sure you do not trigger interest charges as a result of missing the due date by one or more days. I have had this happen to me. I missed the due date by one day because the bank I deal with took 3 days to transfer the money. I ended up paying an additional $30 in interest charges, because they calculate the interest due on the full amount for the full time period since the item appeared on my credit card. If you get caught like I did, you can try to get the bank to refund this charge, however it did not work for me.

You might think that the bank was in error and they should have refunded the money to me. Well if you read the fine print, it says next business day for most transaction and a specified period to transfer funds to an external company from your bank. I always allow 3 business days now to transfer money to pay bills I have and this is the minimum.

If I am concerned that it might take longer due to holidays and increased business, I will send the money even sooner to pay my bills on time. Paying bills around Christmas time and other holiday periods mean that it takes longer to process payments. Always allow for this extra period when you are paying your bills to ensure you meet the due date and avoid any penalties or additional interest charges.

For more cost saving ideas to save money around the home, click here.

 

 

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Adjusting Cold Air Return Vents in the Fall

Adjusting Cold Air Return VentsOur last post was all about adjusting cold air return vents in the fall and the importance of having enough of them to ensure excellent air circulation within your home. This post is really just a reminder to adjust your vents for the coming heating season.

Most people have air conditioning and in modern homes there will be a hot air return vent located near the ceiling just above the cold air return vent which will always be at floor level. You will also only find these hot air return vents on the second floor of two story homes since hot air always rises and at the ceiling level in one story homes. In the spring you may have closed the bottom cold air return vents which forces the air return to the furnace to be drawn from the ceiling were the air is hottest. This improves the cooling effectiveness of your system and provides a more comfortable environment in your home.

Cold air as you may know falls to the lowest levels while hot air rises.  By closing the bottom vent you are forcing the hot air to be drawn into the return system to be cooled by the air conditioner. Opening the cold air vent in the fall allows the cold air to be drawn to the furnace and heated.

Adjusting Cold Air Return Vents

Our cold air return vents actually have a lever that allows us to open or close the vent depending on the time of the year. It is a small lever that you can push up or down depending on what you want to do. Some homes may not come with these kinds of vents so home owners may need to place a magnetic cover over the vent to prevent air from entering.  Make sure that you are covering the cold air vent at the floor level and not the one at the ceiling. You would only do this in the spring when you are about to turn on the air conditioning. If you do not have a hot air return vent at the ceiling level, then do not cover your return vent, since the furnace will not receive sufficient air to circulate.

Winter Time – Open Your Cold Air Return Vents

Once winter comes around, and you are now heating the air, you want to have the cold air which is at floor level drawn into the air return system at the floor level. It is time to open these vents if they are closed and allow the cold air to return to the furnace to be heated by the furnace. Since cold air is so heavy, it will automatically flow to the lowest level into these cold air return vents and to your furnace.

Why Should we Open and Close These Vents

There are a couple of reasons. The most straightforward reason is that you want the air to flow in an optimum way and either cool or heat your home as fast as possible so that you are comfortable. Another reason, which is becoming more and more important as the cost of energy increases, is that you want to save as much money as possible by reducing your energy foot print. By using your homes air circulation system efficiently, you can actually save money and reduce your annual costs to heat and cool your home.

In the winter time also utilize the suns rays to heat your home in the day time and close the blinds in the evening to provide that extra layer of insulation around your windows. The reverse would be done in the summer time were you want to prevent the suns rays from coming into the home and heating the house.

It Only Takes a few Minutes

This is a simple thing to do and it only takes a few minutes twice a year to do. The motivation of our site is to help home owners save money and this is another way to do just that. It leaves more money in your pocket for other needs.

If you have thoughts about this, please leave us a constructive comment. Our readers will appreciate it.

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Look for discounts and coupons

Look for discounts and couponsHave you watched any of these shows lately called, Extreme Couponing”? We have watched a few and are amazed at the amount of money that these people save. Now many people look for discounts and coupons since it can save them a great deal of money. Sometimes they buy a thousand dollars worth of food and end up paying a couple of dollars for the food items they are purchasing because of the coupons they collect and use. They end up with many items of the same thing, and I guess that is ok as long as it will not spoil. Some even donate what they cannot use to charity which is a really great thing. They need to have lot’s of storage since they are buying many things on special with these coupons.

Look for Discounts and Coupons – Other Peoples Garbage

It has sparked another kind of problem. Apparently because of these shows, there are people now who are rummaging through garbage bins on garbage day and collecting coupons that people are throwing out. Others are collecting coupons by stealing them from the inside of newspapers before they are delivered. This is clearly wrong and we do not condone this method as a means of saving money. There is a lot of money to be saved and there are sufficient coupons for everyone. I am also not sure that the stores really want this type of savings through mass coupons, unless it is good advertising for them as well.

Save your Coupons and Obtain all of the Discounts

Still, if you can collect coupons, it is a great way to save money on things you need. My neighbor recently received a coupon in the mail for Philips fluorescent lights. It had a value on it of $3.27 and he figured that he would get a discount of that amount off the regular price. Instead when he got to the cash register, the $16.00 cost for three lights had been reduced to $3.27 for $12.73 cents savings. Add sales tax to that and it is even higher. What a great deal. On top of getting such a good price, he is also going to save money as well on his electrical usage!

We are not big collectors of coupons, however after watching these shows and seeing what my neighbor saved we are considering saving coupons. It is a lot of work to collect them, sort them and then remember to use them at the grocery store. I used to think that only poor people would use coupons, but when you can save hundreds of dollars , why not use coupons? It really comes down to how much effort you want to put in to saving money.

Where You Live Makes a Difference

Now each country is different. Apparently in the US, coupons have a much greater overall value than they do in Canada. For some reason they are not used as much here and are not as popular. But as my neighbor demonstrated there are still lots that can you save you money. While you may not reduce a thousand dollars of groceries to almost zero, still saving a few hundred dollars is well worth the effort!

Coupons are also moving to online web sites. Consumers are using their smart phones to collect coupons now. At some grocery stores you must sign up as a user and then you will receive all the coupons electronically. Your usage will  be tracked and coupons will be targeted more closely to your buying habits. We still have to explore how this works and plan to try it in the near future on our smart phone. We are going to try out this approach shortly and will add a post about electronic coupons.

If you have coupon stories let us know. I am sure our readers would love to hear about these money-saving deals too. Especially people who are using their smart phones to find deals and use coupons displayed on their smart phones at the register.


Use Your Gift Cards

Use Your Gift CardDo you still have a gift card hanging around from Christmas? or perhaps your birthday? Did you know that department store gift cards are one of the most profitable businesses to be in for the department stores simply because many people forget they have them and either lose them or they become out of date. The money your family and friends paid to acquire them goes to the store and you got nothing for them in this case. In some cases if they are not used in a specific amount of time they are considered dormant and then canceled. Millions of people every year lose money this way.

Gift cards are just like cash and can be used by anyone who holds them. They are not registered and if someone else spends the money on them, well too bad for you. Don’t lose them, forget about them or let them fall out of your pocket. The difference between cash and gift cards is that they have a shelf life. In other words they will get out of date at some point and they tie you to one store which can be a problem under specific conditions.

Store Goes Bankrupt! What happens to my Gift Card?

Another thing that happens with gift cards and a strong reason why you should use your gift cards as soon as you can, especially after Christmas is that many business go out of business in the winter months and suddenly that gift card you have is worth less. Some small companies who are struggling and many that are not really depend on the Christmas season to make or break them. They will do 90% of their entire years sales in 2 months time. If for some reason sales are not what they expected or they end up with too much inventory left over after Christmas, they can find themselves in financial difficulty.

If your family purchased a gift card from one of these companies and they in turn declare bankruptcy because their sales are way down, you might  find that your gift card is worthless. If you must  purchase gift cards as a Christmas or birthday gift always try to purchase one from a well-known store that is part of a large healthy chain of stores. This is probably the best way to avoid this kind of situation. Next you just have to make sure your friend uses the card.

Forgetting to Use Your Gift Card

Sometimes they get lost in all of the wrapping paper. Sometimes they are set aside in a safe place, never to be found again for many years. Sometimes they just sit in the drawer or even in your wallet and you forget they are even there. These are just a few of the reasons many people do not ever use their gift cards.

As a result the great idea that someone had to give you gift card is completely wasted and the store made 100% profit. The best advice we can give from our web site for gift cards that you receive is to make a conscious effort to use them as soon as possible after you receive them to make sure they do not get lost. After all this web site is about saving money so the only way to do that with a gift card is to spend it. It is just like cash except that you can only use it one store or chain of stores.

The next best thing is to purchase something on sale with a gift card. So now you can really stretch it as far as possible and get a few things that you might not have otherwise.

Let us know by leaving a comment if you have run into these problems or have lost your gift card. What can you do to avoid losing a gift card.

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Reduction of Your Mobile Phone Costs

Mobile Phone CostsThis was a big cost reduction that we just came across and it personally saved us $20 a month on our mobile cell phone costs. That is $240 a year that we saved just by making a call to our service provider!  This site is about saving the average consumer money and this is an easy one to follow up on.

Here is how we reduced our cell phone charges.

My cell phone was pretty old and about to die due to a failing battery. It was time to renew my old cell phone and as always for me at least this is a complicated task. What phone do I get, how much will I pay, how much talk time is there, how much standby time and what features should I get. Do I want a smart phone or just a regular phone? You can see were this is going, I try to avoid making this decision.

New Cell Phone Plans, New Smart Phone Features

Also when you do call  the mobile company , they always want to review your plan to see if they can sell you more features or a more expensive phone.  I dread this because really what I want to do is to decrease my costs nor increase them.

This time was different. I started by telling them that I was thinking of moving to another carrier which immediately got their attention. They send you to the RETENTION desk at this point and this is really who you want to talk to. They can make decisions and offer discounts to help you make a decision to renew your service contract with them.
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Twelve Money Losers & Expenses

Twelve money losers and expenses that home owners need to watch out for. We recently saw an article about this subject and decided to put our own spin on this list of hidden money expenses and losers. Two more were added which we think would be of interest to our readers as well as potential money saving ideas.

We decided to try to estimate how much money is involved and how much you might save each year. You can plug your own numbers into this list as well to see what your savings would be, to help you decide if you want to pursue savings in this area. Here is our list:

  • Short Car Trips
  • Bundled Cable or Phone Services
  • Leasing Hot Water Heaters
  • ATM Fee’s
  • Lottery Tickets
  • Gourmet Coffee
  • Cigarettes
  • Infomercial Impulse buys
  • Brand Name Groceries
  • Eating Out
  • Unused Gym Memberships
  • Daily Internet Deals

For each of the items below we have estimated the cost for the average person or family and summarized this cost at the end of this post. It is pretty amazing. Do your own calculations if any of these situations apply to you to see how much money you might save if you were to reduce or eliminate the charges for these items.

Money Losers – Short Car Trips

We all forget things and have to run to the store for an item we need for supper, however with a little planning many of these trips can be eliminated. Every time I run to the store I drive about 5 miles return. This works out to 84 cents per trip in gas alone assuming 25 miles per gallon and $4.20 per gallon. Assuming 3 trips a week for a variety of items this works out to $10/ week or $131.40 a year
Bundled Cable or Phone Services

This is a tougher one to estimate, however if you eliminate one feature that you do not use and save $5 on cable and $5 on your phone services, that is also $10/month and $120 / year. Check out your service packages to assess what you use and whether you can eliminate any services that you do not use very often or not at all.
Leasing Hot Water Heaters

We recently replaced our water heater at a cost of $700 and purchased the unit. Previously we had rented the unit at $14 / month. At this rate it takes us a little over 4 years to pay for the upfront cost. From then on we save $14 a month for as long as the hot water heater lasts!

ATM Fee’s

Most people do not pay ATM fees when they withdraw funds from an ATM at their own bank. However it gets very expensive if you make a WD at another banks ATM. Some charge as much as $4 per WD. Let’s assume twice a week for a total of $32 / month and $416 per year. That is a lot of money you can save by avoiding this charge. Use your credit card or plan your money use to control these fees.

Lottery Tickets

Everyone wants to win the lottery, yet the odds are very low that you will win. You can check with your favorite lottery to find out the odds, however let’s assume you spend $5 per week. This adds up to $260 per year for a small weekly lottery purchase and many people purchase much more than this.

Gourmet Coffee

Daily gourmet coffee can get expensive. Even if you purchase only one gourmet coffee at $4 per coffee, think about how much you can save if you purchase a regular coffee at say $2 per coffee. Some regular coffee is priced even lower. Assuming 5 days a week, your annual cost difference works out to $520!

Cigarettes

Think about how much better you would feel and how much money you would save if you gave up that pack a day habit. Prices vary, but we used $8 a pack to calculate the annual savings of $2920!

Infomercial Impulse buys

Do you make these impulse buys? How often do they work out and you get the value that was advertised. If you resist, would it be the end of the world if you do not have this item advertised on infomercials? We assumed one a month at a cost of $30 per charge. Plug in your own numbers to get the real cost for you.

Brand Name Groceries

This is a tough one to estimate. Experts feel that brand name products are often as much as $2 per item higher than non brand name products. We assumed that you purchase 10 items per week and could save only $1 on each item, not $2 to get and annual savings of $520, which we actually think is very low.

Eating Out

Restaurants are expensive and the cost varies a lot depending on were you live, what you eat and how many people are in your family. Could you eat out one night less per week at a fast food place and your family of 3 would each a lot healthier as well. Home made food is so much better for you and costs so much less as well. We assumed you would save $20 once a week after taking into account the cost of the food you would consume at home for an annual savings of $1040

Unused Gym Memberships

Many of us get the urge to sign up for a gym membership, go a few times and then stop. We still have to pay whether we use it or not. Don’t sign up. If you cannot go for a walk each night, you are not going to work out at the gym. Memberships can cost as much as $30 per month or annually $360

Daily Internet Deals

Do you purchase internet access while traveling or when you are out somewhere. At an average of $5 this can add up. Some hotels charge as much as $15 per day. We assumed $5 once a week average for a total cost of $260.

The total cost is pretty amazing, $6800 per year. You can really do a lot with all of that money. Plug in your own numbers and figure out how much you would save!

Cost Areas Per Instance Monthly Annual
Short Car Trips $.84 $10.00 $131.00
Bundled  Services $ $14.00 $120.00
Leasing Hot Water Heaters $ $32.00 $140.00
ATM Fee’s $4.00 $32.00 $416.00
Lottery Tickets $5.00 $20.00 $260.00
Gourmet Coffee $2.00 $40.00 $520.00
Cigarettes $8.00 $240.00 $2920.00
Infomercial Impulse buys $30.00 $30.00 $360.00
Brand Name Groceries $1.00 $40.00 $480.00
Eating Out $20.00 $80.00 $1040.00
Unused Gym Memberships $30.00 $30.00 $360.00
Daily Internet Deals $5.00 $20.00 $260.00
Total Costs $372.00 $6807.00

 

 

 


Save Money – Split Meals at Restaurants

Save Money - Split Meals at RestaurantsWe really enjoy watching the biggest loser. This past week we also learned that we already do some of the things that they discussed on the biggest loser which helps us control our weight and also save money ! Portion control is one way to manage your weight and we have taken this to restaurants that we go to by splitting meals and reducing the amount of food we actually eat when we go out. This step also helps us to save money as well when we go out. It is an inspirational show, we actually learn a few things about diet and about how to manage our food intake.

Portion control!

Portion control is really the biggest thing to help you control your weight, lose weight and manage your diet.  Eating less also has a side benefit. You spend less money buying food and preparing food!  It is the old adage, energy in must be less than the energy you burn if you are going to lose weight. So one way to manage this is to control the size of the portions you are eating and also save money.

If you are at home, use a small plate. I know for myself if I use a large plate, I have a tendency to fill it up, while I do the same thing with a small plate, there is only so much food I can put on the plate. BY the time you have finished the food on the small plate you are starting to feel full and if you can wait 5 minutes, you will definitely feel full. Sure you might go back for a second helping, but again you are using a small plate and it will only hold a small amount of food. Sure you are tricking your mind and your stomach, but if it works why not use every trick you can to lose weight.

When you are out of the home dining in a restaurant, it is a bit more difficult, so we have another suggestion that will also help to save some money as well.

Split Meals at Restaurants – when dining out!

As we travel around the country, one thing we notices is that the size of the meals served at restaurants are huge. Portion sizes at restaurants have gotten out of hand. Many restaurants and I guess their patrons as well feel that they must serve large portions to attract their guests.

We have found that for many meals if we split the meal it is more than enough for each of us and we save money at the same time. The restaurants for the most part are ok with this, and sometimes will even split the meal for us, serving it on two separate plates. Sometimes they will bring us a second plate and let us split the meal our selves. Either way we eat less and we save money. What a deal! Many of our meals costs us half of what it will cost other people! Some would call us stingy, but I am more concerned about weight and on top of that I get the side benefit of spending less.

There are some places that want to charge a fee for splitting the meal. We just do not go back to them and we tell people as well. They end up losing business as a result. So when you go out to eat split your meals.

Portion Control and Buffets

Buffets are really difficult. You cannot split meals here and you cannot save any money as well, so unless it is a really good deal, it is best not to go to them. If you have a problem controlling how much you eat, it is probably best if you avoid going to a buffet. With all of the excellent food it is usually best to just not go, because it is human nature to overeat when all of that food is just sitting there. Use the small plate approach and eat slowly, but we are pretty confident that you will still over eat in this situation.

Eat slow, Wait 20 Minutes So your  Stomach Feels Full!

This post is about saving money, however it is also a message about controlling your weight so we talk about eating slowly which in the end will save you money as well. This is one of the best ways to manage the portion size and how much you eat. Apparently it takes a little time for your stomach to register that it is full and let your brain know that you have eaten enough. Some people say wait 10 to 20 minutes and then decide if you are going back for second helpings.

Fast eaters tend to over eat, so if you wait even 5 minutes before getting that second helping you may find that you have eaten enough. We find that discussing topics over the dinner table is a great way to slow down your eating and also get that full feeling. Let’s face it you cannot eat when you are talking, at least you should not, just for good manners. Talking slows you down and forces you to enjoy the food more and provides time for your stomach to register the fact that you are full. maybe you will realize that you are full and will avoid going for that second helping!

Use Every Trick in the Book

Aside from just deciding to not eat as much, we are suggesting that you use every trick you can to control how much you eat and save some money as well. If you use a couple of little tricks to manage your eating, so what. At least you are losing weight, or controlling your weight.

Bottom line, you need to deal with the long term reason regarding why you have over eaten. Using these tricks will help you get going, but to maintain your weight or lose weight you do have to deal with the reasons why you over eat.

There are probably a lot more tha can be used as well. If you know some of these tricks to control the portion size, why not leave us a comment and let our readers know about it. Spam comments will be auto deleted!


Closing Vents in Unused Rooms

should I close vents in unused roomsClosing vents in unused rooms is a great way to save money heating or cooling your home. Closing the vents off and also the cold air return vents is a great way to save energy and only heat those areas in your home that need to be heated. If you close the cold air vent return, make sure you have a hot air vent return close to the ceiling before closing the cold air vent. Older homes may not have a hot and a cold air vent return. If you are not using them, why heat them or cool those rooms? Remove all of your plants and anything that might be damaged by excessive heat or cold and save yourself some money.

This is a great way to save money, however there is a smart way to shut the vents off.  We would appreciate your comments as well, since we are always looking for ways to save money.

There are a couple of things to watch however and take into consideration, especially in winter when it is below freezing.

Closing Vents in Unused Rooms 

Heating Rooms With Water Pipes

Any pipes with water in them will freeze and a leaking pipe can cause a lot of damage. If there are pipes in the room such as a bathroom, you pretty much have to heat that room to avoid any possibility of a frozen water pipe. Take this suggestion very seriously, because water can cause thousands of dollars in damage.

Cooling Rooms

On the other hand if you are trying to save money by cutting down on the air conditioning, you can pretty much shut off any vents you want to avoid cooling more area and save on the cost of cooling. Always make sure that there is a clear area for air to flow in rooms you want to have cooled. There must be a vent delivering air to the room and a vent to return the air to the furnace for central air conditioned homes. If you do not complete this circuit, the air conditioning will not work properly and may damage your air conditioning unit and cost even more.

Location of Your Thermostat

In order to effectively save money you must take into account the location of your thermostat. If it is in a room that you do not use and want to shut off from either heating or cooling you are out of luck. The thermostat will control the temperature in the room that it is in and this impacts the rest of the house. Shutting off the vents in this room is only going to cause the furnace to run longer in a heating situation and the same with cooling since there is no air circulation in the room. So leave the vents open in this room were your thermostat is located including cold air return vents and hot air return vents.

Cold Air Return Vents

This is another issue to take into account. Most homes will have a cold air return vent located in all of the major areas of the home. For example, we have two downstairs, one in the family room and another in the living room which is the 2nd part of the house. In addition there are two more upstairs, one in the hallway and the other in the master bedroom. These vents must be left open for air to circulate properly.

Hot Air Return Vents.

These vents are located in the same location as the cold air return vents, however they are located at the ceiling level instead of the floor level. In the winter time cold air settles to the floor and is drawn into the cold air returns located at the floor.  In the summer hot air floats to the ceiling and this hot air is drawn into the hot air returns along the ceiling. These vents should also be left open during the cooling season, however you can close them during the winter time. Similarly the cold air returns can be closed during the summer time and must be open during the winter.

Vents in your Basement

If you do not use your basement, you probably should shut the vents off in the summer time to avoid cooling this area as well.  Be careful in the winter, since there are lots of water pipes in this area of the home and they must nor freeze in the winter time.

As with all cost savings suggestions there is often a smart way to save money and another approach which could even cost you more. If you have any doubts leave the vents open,or get a professional opinion.

Readers are encouraged to leave their comments and suggestions as well to help everyone save money. Spam comments will be deleted.


Save Money – Set a Budget

Save Money - Set a BudgetThis may seem like an odd title to write about for a blog that is dedicated to managing home maintenance costs. However when you think about it if you know were you spend your money, then you can make some decisions about what to spend and what not to spend. Developing a budget is one of the tools that can help you with this objective to manage your overall home costs. Get started and set a budget.

Save Money – Set a Budget

There are a number of guidelines when it comes to building a realistic budget. Here are a few:

  • Be realistic about your budget. Setting it too small or too large will not allow you to achieve your objectives
  • Track your expenses against your budget so that you can compare
  • Develop your budget with the family so they can help you meet your targets
  • Need vs. Want. Evaluate whether the planned expense is something you need to have or merely want to have.
  • Always look for alternatives and ways to save money. This can be the difference between meeting your budget objectives vs. overspending
  • Just because you have not spent all of your money in a specific area of your budget avoid the tendency to spend it anyway. You might need this to offset an over expense in another area
  • Pay yourself as well. this is important so that you and your family have some mad money to spend on dining, hobbies etc

There are probably many other tips and areas that should be considered when setting up a budget. Based on my own experience, these are the important ones. If you have tips of your own, please feel free to leave comments on our blog. Spam comments will be deleted.

Categories for Your Budget

You probably cannot identify every budget item that needs to be included. We have listed some of the main ones for you to consider.

  • Auto – including gas, maintenance and repairs
  • Insurance – including home, auto, life, health insurance costs
  • Groceries – self evident
  • Utilities – cable, phone, cell, electrical, heat
  • Taxes – federal, state, city, provincial taxes, property taxes
  • Entertainment – including dining, movies, shows, etc
  • Vacation – travel costs and hotel, including dining and vacation entertainment
  • Home Maintenance – this is a big one and the expenses can be large. You may want to draw up a maintenance plan and then decide how much you need to set aside every month to ensure that you have sufficient funds to deal with the major expense. These include – window replacement, furnace , water heater, air conditioner replacement, roof repairs, driveway repairs, fence repairs etc
  • Home Decoration – Allow some money in your budget for decoration and furniture additions or updates
  • Pay yourself budget – although this may be a small item, budget to allow yourself to spend some money on frivolous items from time to time.
  • Clothing – plan your expenses around sales and updates to your wardrobe. Take advantage of sales to stay within your budget.
  • Office or work related expenses – lunch, transit, coffee at work
  • School – folks with young children will need to set budgets in this area as well, particular for that back to school time frame.

Keep Your Budget Simple

Sounds like a lot of work to set a budget and track it. It can be unless you keep it simple and really assess if you really needs things or just want them. It can be very rewarding at the end of each month to know that not only did you meet your budget, but you saved some money as well.  Stick to your guns with the family as well and set a time each week to over how you are doing relative to the budget for the month.

For more information about cost savings and set a budget, click here.

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Renting RotoTillers

Renting RotoTillersShould you purchase a rototiller or rent one, and what kind should you get. We have a garden that is roughly 10 feet wide and 20 feet long. It is too big to dig by hand although I have done it and this was really a workout, believe me. For those of you who are into exercise, digging up your garden by hand and then raking it and working the soil until it is pulverized and ready for planting will definitely give you a workout! On top of that you will also save money since you do not need to purchase a tiller or go to the gym. You save money which is the point of this website, however it is not really the point of this post.

I have been renting a roto tiller for the past 5 or 6 years and have found them to do a really good job, they are small enough to fit in the trunk of my car and I only need the tiller for perhaps 2 hours. There are a couple of issues about renting a tiller. First how long you rent it and when you rent it can make a difference in how much you pay. In addition, you need to consider the size of tiller that you use, to ensure that the job gets done quickly and to your satisfaction. Last should you rent or buy.

Renting RotoTillers – When should you Rent?

Most places that rent equipment of this type to home owners as well as construction people, have standard rates and there is really not too much negotiation that  you can do regarding the price. However there is several little tricks that you can use to make sure you pay the minimum. First they will usually rent for a minimum hour time, sometimes it can be for 2 hours and then you pay be the hour after that. For example the tiller I rented was $16 for the first 2 hours and then $3 for each hour after that. If you can get your job done in 3 hours or less you are going to pay $19 and that is not too bad.

I always try to go in just before closing and rent my equipment for the minimum time frame. This way I would pay $16 for the tiller, yet I would have it for a full 24 hours instead of just two hours. Now you need to be able to get your work done in the evening, since it does get dark early depending on were you live. Another good time is just before a long weekend. The shop is usually closed for the holiday , so you might it lucky and have the equipment you are renting for a full 48 hours at the 2 hour price. Now that is a deal!

Size of the Tiller you should rent?

Always make sure you rent a tiller that is large enough to do the job. A small tiller will take you longer to cover the area that you are working up, as well it may not be heavy enough to really dig into the soil if it has dried out and become hard. This was my case, and my light tiller would only work into the soil about 4 inches. I would have liked to go deeper and have before, but this year the soil is dry and hard. WE simply did not get enough snow this year.

A larger rototiller would have been more difficult to transport. It would have been heavier and possibly would not have fitted into my trunk. However I know a heavier tiller would have done a better job in this case. Even though it would have been more expensive to rent,  I would have rather used it to do a better job.  So do not go for the smallest tiller if you are looking to work the soil to a deeper level. It will also complete the job quickly. They are  more powerful and heavier so they will go deeper and work faster.

Should you rent or buy a rototiller?

I have been renting a tiller for the past 5 or 6 years. I have to say this is the best approach for me. Each time it costs me about $25 with taxes to rent the tiller.  I have spent approximately $150 over the past 6 years. This does not come close to what a new one would cost. Now I tend to keep my tools a long time and maintain them. I know that a roto tiller would definitely pay for it self over the long run. However I only use a tiller once per year for maybe 2 hours at a time. Gas can go bad and gum up the carb. Iit just is not worth it for me to purchase my own rototiller.

For larger gardens it might well be worth while to have your own. You would probably use it more often and then it makes it all worthwhile. So save yourself some money by renting a rototiller. If you really want to save money work up the soil by hand. The job will be almost as good, and you will really get a lot of exercise.

That is it for this post. If you like this post, leave your comments and suggestions for more posts. We area always trying to save some money for everyone and we look for great new ideas.


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