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Should I Upgrade to Spray Foam Insulation?

b36d70d48ebf4896ab8af9b0fcf8ff44Summer.  In most places in the country that’s a good thing.  In Phoenix it means hiding indoors and getting burned by your steering wheel.   Our summers aren’t about picnics and backyard water balloon fights.  They are more about finding dark air conditioned rooms, i.e; the movies and bowling.

It’s also when our electric bills hit their all time highs.  $375 a  month anyone?  One problem we have at my house is that the newer houses aren’t that well insulated.  Not like the old fashioned brick homes.  Those things will keep the sun out.  But stucco and styrofoam don’t do all that much.  They didn’t even require city inspections for insulation until 2013.  My house was built in 2004 so shoot, I’m not even guaranteed to HAVE insulation.  There are companies that will come and squirt that foam insulation into the walls and attic.  We’ve seriously been thinking about doing that.  They say it will save us up to 50% of our electric bills.  I’m guessing that’s for summer time only though.  It’s not going to make it less expensive to watch the entire series of Breaking Bad in one sitting.  Ok, maybe two sittings.

I dug out an old electric bill to see our usage.  It’s not an exact science but I figured out that we use roughly 1,000 kWh per month extra in the summer.  That’s an average of the 6 hot months over the 6 not hot months.  (1,766 average from May – Oct. vs 733 average Nov – Apr.)  Ok, so let’s say that spray foam will save us half of the extra electricity in the summer.  So we would use about 500 kWh less per month for the 6 summer months, or 3,000 kWh less per year.  Following me?

What about the winter?  We don’t really use our heat.  We might turn it on at night in Jan and Feb just to make sure the kids stay warm but it’s not even worth calculating.  It’s very minimal.

Ok, back to our savings.  At about 11 cents per kWh I would save about $330 per year.  We plan to be in this house for about 10 more years.

That gives me a lifetime savings of roughly $3,000.  I doubt that installing spray foam is cheaper than that.  I probably wouldn’t ever make back my money.  I would be saving energy though.  But according to this energy conversion calculator it would still take me 403 years to save up the 1.21 Gigawatts that I need to power my time machine.

 

Looking around on forums doesn’t seems to give me any idea of prices.  For those posters with houses my size the prices range from $3,000 to $7,000.   So even on the low end I’m not looking at good news.  I guess I’ll stick with the pink stuff for now.

 

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It’s Netflix for Clothes!

290374805_78930fc0c7_bI came across this the other day and it seems really cool.  The best way I can describe it is that it’s Netflix for clothes.

Think about that for a second.  I’ll wait…

While you’re thinking I’ll let you know that this review is not paid, but the link is a “refer a friend”  link to get an extra item for one month.

Ok, back to it… Maybe you’ve started a new job and don’t have the cash to go buy a new work wardrobe?  Night out on the town?  Special event coming up? Going on vacation?  Just don’t want to be seen twice in the same outfit… like ever?

It’s called Gwynnie Bee and it works like this, once you sign up you can put clothes into your closet.   Items are sent from your closet, you can keep your items for as long or as short as you like.  When you return and item another item is sent.  See… just like Netflix.

There are different level plans starting at $35 a month for one item at a time and going all the way up to $159 per month for 10 items out at a time, with stops along the way.

The size range is from 10- 32.  Which I like as well.  I think that’s cool that they are catering to what would be considered “larger” women even though the average size in the US is a 12 (last I checked).    I know finding amazing clothes for the bigger sizes can be a total buzz kill so it’s just another reason I’m in love with this idea.

I’m certainly not a style expert.  Not by a long shot but from what I can see the clothes are all super cute and they have a big selection as well.  I don’t think you would run out of clothes to wear!

My first thought, after this is so cool!, was “great, I’ll find something I can’t live without and then I’ll have to pay $35 a month for the rest of my life to keep it”.  But actually, you do have the option to purchase the clothes if you find something you adore.  I thought that the clothes would be outside my price range to buy but checking out their shop of retired items they don’t seem overly costly.  Granted you are buying used clothes.

Speaking of being well above my price range, I think that’s half the point.  This seems like a great way to level up your wardrobe for an affordable price.  Some added benefits are that you keep your closet clutter free because when you are done with the item for a while you can just send it back.  Getting it out of your closet.  Also, they wash the clothes!  So you get to skip out on a bit of laundry as well.

I’ve signed up for the free 30 day trial.  I’m undecided if I will keep it past the trial. I work from home so it’s hard to justify spending a lot on clothes.  I could stay in my PJs and no one would ever know.  So for that reason even the cheapest plan is more than I would like to spend.  I’m very interested in the concept though and if I worked somewhere where I had to dress up a lot I would be totally in.

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Evaluate the Risks and Rewards

If you have ever talked about investing, there is no doubt that you discussed risks and rewards (whether you really knew you were talking about it or not). Typically, when you invest your money and you want a large return in a very short period of time, then you are most likely about to make a very risky investment. The opposite is true as well. If you want your investment to be very safe, then you can plan on earning very little with your investment. Let’s take a look at some common investments for the various areas of risk.

Cash Under the Mattress – Assuming that no one is going to break into your home and steal your cash, this is a very safe investment. You won’t lose any money with it under your mattress, but you also wouldn’t expect to gain any money with this method would you? This is a no risk, no reward scenario.

Savings Account – Bank accounts tend to be very safe investments. There is a slight chance that the bank will not be able to repay you, but the risk is very slim and will probably never happen. So, they pay you a return, but it is quite small. Low risk, low reward.

Bond Investing – When you buy a bond, this is typically a pretty safe investment. It’s a little riskier than a bank account, so the return is slightly more. Moderate low risk, moderate low return.

 Stock Investing – Stocks are a little riskier. Over time they tend to increase in value, but they can jump up and down and all over the place and there is no guarantee that you will make any money. Higher risk, higher reward.

Gambling – If you want a massive return on your investment, then you might want to head out to Caesar’s slots. Your risk is high, but your potential return is massive.

What kind of investor are you? Are you a safe investor or do you like risk?

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BLU Phones: A Review

Blu phoneI needed a new phone for work.  I’m still smack dab in the middle of 2 year contract so my phone upgrade time is still significant.  So what’s a girl to do?

My requirements:

  • New
  • Good call quality
  • Smart Phone
  • Works on the AT&T network
  • Less than $100 (It’s now more expensive on Amazon.)

That’s a all order for a phone.  I really didn’t think I would find anything.  I mean, even new old-school flip phones are like $250.  It’s crazy.  So… I was skeptical when I came across BLU phones on Amazon.  But great need (and a 4 star Amazon rating) overpowered my skepticism so I dove in to learn as much as I could.  By the way, this review is not paid.  I didn’t get a free phone or any compensation for this review.  I just want to share my experience.  

 What I found:

After reading what seemed like thousands of reviews I noticed trends.

I read “great phone for the price” on both positive and negative reviews.  That phrase was said over and over again.  Great phone for the price!  Always with that qualifier, “for the price”.  I guess I can’t expect miracles in an $80 smart phone.

The most common complaints were about the camera and the memory.  Apparently the camera isn’t very good.  There were also lots of comments about lack of memory.  Many people said that if they have too many apps open that the phone will start to force close some of them.  Luckily neither of these complaints are something I care about in a work phone.  I have a nice expensive phone that takes great pictures and I only want to run 3 apps on the work phone anyways.  So the common complaint weren’t a big deal for me.  

The uncommon complaints however were giving me pause.  A few people said that the phone drops a lot of calls.  This I can’t deal with.  I take all the phone calls for a busy landscaping company.  At the height of summer I might get 100 calls a day.  I can’t be dropping customer calls.  No, that’s a deal breaker.  A few other people said the phone turns off or reboots randomly.  Again, deal breaker.  I need the phone to be reliable.  Too many people are depending on that phone ringing.  If customers can’t reach us then we go out of business.  No go.

My experience

At the end of the day I laid $85 on the line and gave the BLU Advance a whirl.  I’ve had the phone for about 3 weeks and overall I’m pretty happy with it.  I haven’t had a memory problem but I don’t stress the memory.  I run a weather app, a voicemail app, and an app that puts the phone on and off silently automatically. That’s it. So really, I don’t give the memory too much to handle.  I also haven’t taken pictures with the phone so I can’t comment on the camera.

At first the phone was dropping pretty much every call.  It dropped 4 of the first 5 calls.  I was about to pack it up with less than an hours use but then I figured out the problem.  You know when you put the phone to your ear how the screen turns off so you don’t push buttons with your cheek?  That wasn’t happening.  The screen would flash on and off.  I could see it in the corner of my eye.  So I tried to train myself to hold the phone away from my face.  But that is hard to do, and I often have to hold the phone with my shoulder.

My husband suggested turning the screen off manually with the side button after I answer the phone.  That works.  I’ve gotten in the habit of answering then shutting off the screen before saying “Hello”.  It’s not perfect, but it works.  No more dropped calls.  I don’t think the screen problem is an issue on every phone.  I’m sure these phones are made someplace cheap so the quality can be hit and miss.  I got a bad one, but I found the work around.

I was also having the problem with the phone randomly shutting off.  Then I realized it wasn’t random.  Everyday at 8:30 AM the phone would shut off.  I thought “could that be a setting?” so I went hunting.  Sure enough I found a setting in the phone where it was a choice to have the phone shut off every day at a specified time.  Why 8:30 AM is the default I have no idea.  But I unchecked that option and now it’s fine.

So, once I figured out the phones quirks it turns out to be a nice little phone.  It certainly works for what I need.  It’s a great phone… for the price!

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resources

You can’t out earn your spending.  The only way to become wealthy is to save and invest the money you earn.  I don’t care if you make a million dollars a year.  If you spend $1.2 million a year you will not be wealthy.  You might live a high lifestyle sure, but you will not be building wealth.  When that income stops you will be on the street.

25% of people who earn $100,000 are living paycheck to paycheck.  Pro-athletes go broke in retirement.  Celebrities are bankrupt when their show gets canceled.  It happens all the time.

It doesn’t matter how much money you make.  If you don’t use it properly you will never be rich.

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Is it Scooterable?

I live in a city that demands you have a car.  Everything is widely spread out and public transportation isn’t really feasible for most people.  We are a car driven society. That’s why I was taken off guard when I was making plans to meet up with a friend at a near by restaurant and she asked me if it was scooterable.

“Scooterable?  What the heck is that?”

“Can I get there on my scooter?”  She replied.

I was picturing like a razor scooter or something. Turns out, it was more of a vespa type scooter.  She bought it used for around $3,000 and the insurance on it was crazy cheap too.  Plus, don’t forget about the gas! Gerry Bucke, general manager at Bikesure, “Scooters will save you a fortune in fuel costs.  Depending on the model, a decent scooter can do as much as 100 mpg and uses anywhere between 55% and 81% less fuel than a car.”

It was the perfect solution for her.  She worked from home and her kids were grown.  The scooter will take her the few places she needs to go while her husband has their one car at work.  She is saving thousands of dollars a year by scootering instead of driving.  

I read somewhere once that the average person spends 25% of their income on their car.  I laughed… no way, I thought.  Then I did the math.  Between car payments, insurance, gas, and maintenance I was, in fact, spending 25% of my money on my car.  Insane!  If there is a feasible alternative option you would be wise to take it.  Take the gas alone.  100 miles per gallon, and you probably aren’t driving super far on a daily basis.  So let’s say you ride your scooter 10 miles per day.  It would take you 10 days to use one gallon of gas!  So we are talking like $10 a month in gas.  Crazy right?!

Now, while I don’t see myself driving a scooter any time soon it does seem like a great option for those who can pull it off.

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amazonI love Amazon.  They are my store of choice.  They have everything I could ever want at low prices and I don’t have to leave my house.  Win, win, and double win!

First I signed up for a Prime account to get free 2 day shipping plus tons of other perks.  Love!

Then heard about their monthly subscribe and save program to save money on stuff you buy every month anyways.  I haven’t signed up yet but I really need to look into it.  You can save 15% on your regular monthly purchases.

And now I can have them donate a portion of the money I spend on Amazon to charity.  How cool is that?  I spend a ton of money on Amazon so I think this is great.

I chose St. Jude’s hospital as my charity of choice, which was one of the automatically listed options, but it seems like you can choose any charity you wanted.  I looked for a few just to check it out and all the ones I could think of where there in the search.

It seems that the only tricky part is making sure you go to smile.amazon.com instead of the regular Amazon.com.

I don’t know how much they actually donate but since it costs me nothing I suppose any amount is great.  I also don’t know if the subscribe and save program counts towards the charity amount.  Maybe if you set them up through smile.amazon.com they would?  That’s something to look into.

 

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224c622309314cf9bf16cb5de9f93ffe (1)You know that the earlier you start saving for retirement the easier it is right?  Not only do you have that many more months to save you also have that much more time in the markets.  Time does amazing things to money.  Imagine if you got started saving as a kid?

One of my friends has an 11 year old daughter that recently started a pet sitting business.  She has been doing really well with it and has made just over $2,000 in the past year.  Amazing really.

My friend is a Dave Ramsey fanatic.  She did the debt snowball, she teaches FPU, she buys Total Money Makeover books by the case and hands them out to people.  So  you see why we are friends, right?

The other day we were hanging out and she mentioned how great her daughter is doing at her little business and Jackie over at the Debt Myth (who happened to be hanging out with us) says “Why don’t you have her invest some of that into a Roth?”  What a fantastic idea!

Anyone who has earned income can contribute to an IRA.  Yes, the 11 year old will have to file a tax return but it’s doubtful she will have to pay any taxes with only earning $2,000.  Plus, what a great learning experience for a child.  Taxes, deductions, earned income, investing, planning for the future.  Who couldn’t learn more about that stuff?

So I ran some quick numbers and if she saves $2,000 now she will have about $290,000 in 50 years.  (10%, compounded monthly).  And that’s just from a one time investment, imagine the power of it if she does it for a few years.  Aww yeah.

If your child has a little business then this is definitely something to consider for them.  If you have your own business you can hire your children at the age of 8 years old.  That’s another way for them to have earned income.  Remember, you can only contribute EARNED INCOME into an IRA.  Birthday money from Grandma doesn’t count.

Another thought is if you are financially able to set something aside for them you could open a Roth for them and contribute to it yourself up to the amount of their earned income.  They would still have to file a tax return in order to show their earned income, but they wouldn’t have to part with the money.  But saving for your child’s retirement is absolutely last on the financial to do list.  I just mention it for the sake of being complete.

Have you thought about getting your children to start saving for retirement?

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My Debt Free Interview

microphoneI gave a debt freedom interview with Jackie over at The Debt Myth.    Head over and check it out.  I talk about my debt free story and give some tips to those who are going through the same things.

The Debt Myth is a great blog so poke around while you are over there. Jackie is totally debt free… including the mortgage.  She mentioned to me the other day that she hasn’t bought a car since 1991.  I thought she meant her husband does the car buying.  No.  She is still driving the car she bought in 1991.  Go her!

She also has a debt snowball app that will help you figure out how to pay off that debt!

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