Do Infrared Heaters Save Money?

Earlier this winter, I posted about 10 Ways to Lower Your Heating Bill. I took my own advice on the idea of “heating just the space you occupy”, by purchasing a used EdenPure US1000 Infrared Heater as well as a DeLonghi Oil-Filled Radiator for comparison. How did they perform vs each other and do infrared heaters save money? Let’s find out.

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Do Infrared Heaters Save Money ? Yes, they CAN!

The operative word here is CAN. First you have to understand the limitations of the heater. So, don’t expect a 1,000 watt heater to pump out the high BTU heat of your central heating system during the coldest winter nights. Ideally, you should set your central heat (remember, this is supplemental heating, not a replacement) to as low of a temperature as you can comfortably handle while moving about the house in your warm winter clothing. For us, this is about 62 degrees. You can then either place the infrared heater centrally in your home and put it on max heat which will keep your central system from turning on as frequently (this is useful for supplementing a higher cost energy source like heating oil), or you can place the heater in the room you will be using primarily throughout the day and aim the heater at yourself. Remember, the way infrared heat works is by heating objects rather than just circulating heated air (like your central air system does).

So, how much did we save this winter? I calculated we saved easily over $500 by using these two heaters. Here are very non-mathematical calculations:

  • In December, we burned through 100 gallons of heating oil at a cost of $380
  • I bought the heaters at the beginning of January and used them almost continuously in the manner described above. They added a mere $50 total to both my January and February electrical bills combined (yes, we have cheap electricity here in Pennsylvania).
  • At the beginning of January, I also bought 150 gallons of oil for $570. Based on the very cold temperatures in January/February, I calculated we should have burned twice that much oil to heat our 2,000 square foot home. It is March 2nd, and we still have oil in the tank from that 150 gallon purchase.
  • So, we saved $570 and spent $50 on electricity for a net energy savings of $525.

Now, you could argue that the capital expenditure on the heaters needs to be included in this cost saving equation. I paid $250 for the refurbished EdenPure Infrared Heater, and $65 for the oil filled radiant heater for a combined $315. That would bring my total savings down to only $210, however I still have those two very good quality heaters that I hope to get many years of service from, so overall the heaters were definitely worthwhile.

Infrared Heater vs Oil Radiant Heater

oi-filled-radiant-heaterHow did these two perform against each other? If I had to pick just one, I’d choose the infrared heater. I found the infrared heater was better at heating a larger space than the oil filled radiant heater. Why? Because, the infrared heater has a fan that pushes the hot air away from the infrared heating elements and circulates this heated air throughout the room, whereas the radiator simply uses the process of convection to heat the air and objects around it (a much slower process). What I ended up doing was to use eaach heater for different tasks. I placed the infrared heater centrally in my home to supplement my central heating system and used the oil-filled radiant heater to heat just one room (office or bedroom) which it did quite well. I never tested either unit, but I have a feeling the oil filled radiator actually uses less power than the infrared unit due to the fact that the infrared unit is always on (if set to maximum temperature) and the oil unit cycles off as the oil reaches a high enough temperature and subsequently cools down during the convection process.

Conclusion:

Infrared heaters will save you money, but don’t expect a miracle heater. And to be honest, if you have natural gas heat in your home your savings will not be near as pronounced as ours. As always, your mileage may vary. Many comfortable warm winters to you!

Links to the heaters we bought from Amazon:

Posted in Product Reviews, Save Money, Simplify | 2,619 Comments

Trip Report – Tokyo & LA – First Class JAL Experience

It all started with the AA devaluations. I decided I wanted to burn some miles on a 1st class experience before the ‘price’ jumped by several thousand miles and sooner rather than later. Deciding on a destination was based on which first class cabin I wanted to experience. The JAL 1st class suites really piqued my interest after reading this trip report. So, using the BA website, I looked for one way availability on either the ORD, JFK or LAX to NRT routes. Amazingly, the ORD-NRT had 2 seats available April 5th which coincided perfectly with the cherry blossom season in the Tokyo area. Yay! I called AA and booked the flight on JAL using 62,500 AA miles. Incidentally, at the time I booked this trip, the ticket was showing up for over $13,000 (not that anyone would actually pay that price).

Below, I’ve listed the highlights and posted some photos of my experience. At the bottom of the trip report you’ll find my spending totals in miles and USD.

IMG_9734 Flagship Admiral’s Club Lounge at ORD Food and drink options were excellent. I got in early enough to sample both breakfast and lunch offerings at the lounge.

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First class check-in and boarding experience. After walking past the long line of economy passengers I was whisked to seat 1K

Once airborne, the flight attendant set my table with a slightly faded brown table cloth and presented me with a menu and hot towelette to wash my hands.

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The menu contained a six course meal with either Western or Japanese menu items. I chose the Western menu as I wasn’t sure how the Japanese menu items would affect my digestive experience. Most of the food was excellent, except for the garlic bread that tasted like it had sat forgotten in a lunchroom microwave for a day. I had caviar for the first time and enjoyed it.

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The lie-flat bed was comfortable, with JAL issue PJ’s and Bose sound canceling headphones A personal coffee pot and the unique JAL coffee mug with the long handle that touched the table was served to me for breakfast. Arrival at Narita airport Passport control was a breeze with no wait time. Finding the Hilton shuttle at bus stop 26, not 16 as indicated on Hilton app was annoying but made less so by a helpful attendant who spoke no English but recognized the Hilton picture on my phone and pointed out the number of the bus stop.

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Check in to hotel High tech toilet with spray options and music was entertaining. Complimentary bottled water. bathrobe and disposable slippers were a nice touch. There was an a-la-carte bar containing various drinks and snacks with prices listed on a sheet of paper that I didn’t make use of.

IMG_9927 Woke up early due to jet lag. Took first shuttle at 4:45 AM to ORD, only to discover that Keisei ticket counters open at 7. Bought round trip Skyliner and 48hr subway pass deal from Keisei Electric Railroad for $46.

IMG_9970 Tsukiji Fish Market – I arrived in Tokyo in the pouring rain, bought an umbrella, and immediately took the subway over to the fish market. On the way, I stepped around a fight breaking out between two men on the subway platform. Police took five seconds to respond and break it up. It was the weirdest fight. No shouting. Just grunting pushing and grappling without any exchange of words. Walked to fish market from closest subway station and successfully dodged all the small truck/carts that were racing every which way.

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Got my fill of fish smells and dead fish viewing and moved on fairly soon.

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Imperial Palace – this place was very quiet with a few brave tourists hanging out in the pouring rain and looking at the ancient buildings.

IMG_0022 Aoyama Cemetery. The combination of rain, cherry blossoms and very ornate tombstone arrangements was tranquil and inexplicably enjoyable.

Shibuya Crossing was next. I bought a sandwich at Starbucks, headed to the second floor viewing area and took a time lapse video of the Shibuya Scramble on my iPhone.

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I then explored the Shibuya shopping district and ate some amazing sushi at a stand up sushi bar I found right next to Burger King.

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Meiji Jinju shrine – I walked around for an hour or so. The actual shrine is way back from the main road and is a bit of a hike to get to.

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Metropolitan Government Building – This building had fairly decent, if not crowded, daylight views of the city.

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But I was after something more. So I quickly headed over to another spot I’d heard of that had an even better view.

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World Trade Center – I was able to time my arrival at the World Trade Center’s 40th floor observation deck right at dusk as the rain clouds were being swept away, revealing all the city lights and the Tokyo Tower lit brilliantly. I took many photos and just relaxed in a chair with me feet propped up on the window sill for awhile.

IMG_0196 IMG_0185 Capsule Hotel – Exhausted, with fairly sore feet from so much walking, I made my way to the capsule hotel I had booked for $21 USD and fit my six foot frame diagonally in the capsule for a good night’s sleep. Yes, the capsules are small, but I had earplugs and a sleep aid and slept just fine.

IMG_0237 Asakusa Shrine – Early morning, found me headed over to the Asakusa Shrine. I wandered around, just people-watching for awhile. Many people on their way to work would stop briefly to pray at the various statues.

IMG_0266 IMG_0263 IMG_0251 Shinjuku Gyoen Park – This place was on my wish list to do some more people watching and relax amid the cherry blossoms. Upon entry, all bags were being sniffed by security personnel for presence of alcohol which is prohibited in the park (I’m not kidding!). Apparently Japanese people like to drink rice wine and look at cherry blossoms. Who knew? The guard didn’t even bother sniffing my bag or the Australian ahead of me in line as we weren’t the ‘target market’.

IMG_0300 IMG_0295 Takeshita-guchi Street Shopping Area – What a name, right?! This was a fun side excursion as I started wending my way back to the airport. Ueno Park Shopping Area – I realized I hadn’t picked up any souvenirs yet, so I stopped by the ‘Japan Shop’ just outside the Ueno train station.

Back to NRT via return Skyliner Express ticket. Something new for me was airport security providing slippers to go through the metal detector as I had of course removed my shoes. At the departure gate, a drum band dressed in traditional garb, played for about 45 seconds and then provided a photo op for waiting passengers at the gate.

IMG_0379 IMG_0377 IMG_0396Stopover in LA – I had a stopover in LA, where I rented a car and drove around for a few hours. It was my first time in LA, so I went up to the Griffith Observatory, drove through Hollywood on Sunset Blvd and checked out some back roads in the Beverly Hills including Mulholland Drive. Then I finished up with a walk on the Santa Monica Beach before heading back to the airport to continue on my journey home.

IMG_0435 Points & Miles Spent:

  • ORD-NRT 1st Class on JAL – 62,500 AA miles
  • NRT-LAX-DFW economy on AA metal – 25,000 AA miles
  • Hilton Narita – 20,000 HHONORS points

USD Spent:

  • Food/Drinks: $65 I ate sushi and trail mix mostly. Drinks from vending machines.
  • Capsule Hotel: $21
  • Skyliner Express and Subway Tickets: $46
  • Souvenirs: ~$50
  • PHL-ORD flight $40
  • DFW-PHL flight $53
  • Car rental at LAX to drive around and sight-see (first time in LA) $56
  • Under 21 days out AA booking fees $75*2 = $150
  • AA booking airport taxes $5.60*2 = $11.20

TOTAL USD: $492.20 for 5 days of travel

I could have saved in several areas (I splurged on the Narita Express train and a full size car at LAX), but $100/day all in, for a 5 day trip to Japan and LA is still a great deal in my experience. I also could have saved $150 on the AA booking, but was looking to sample the first class experience and last minute travel holds a certain thrill for me anyway. Three things made this trip enjoyable and a memorable experience:

  1. Planning every detail of travel as well as building in some flexibility in the itinerary.
  2. Traveling with only a 12 lb backpack.
  3. Downloading Tokyo specific apps on my iPhone with full offline capabilities.

Tokyo is an incredible city and I will definitely be back. The efficiency of the subway beats anything I’ve seen (and I’ve been to 20+ major global cities like NYC, Vancouver, Amsterdam, DC, etc). I hope this trip report inspires someone else to go out and explore our world helped by miles and points. 🙂

Addendum:

Here’s my complete packing list for this trip:

Travel Documents / Currency

  • Passport
  • Driver’s License
  • Printed copy of passport and license
  • Printed copy of trip itinerary
  • Wallet w/credit & debit cards (w/travel notification done on each)
  • Primary: CapitalOne QuickSilver, Capital One 360 Debit for free ATM withdrawals. You can get $20 if you sign up for a Capital One 360 checking account through this link. It’s my number one card for when I’m traveling and want to pull local currency out of an ATM with no fees.
  • Secondary/Backup: Capital One Venture, Fidelity Cash Management Debit
  • Health insurance cards
  • Cash
  • Small paper pad and pens

Food/Snacks

  • Trail Mix
  • Energy bars
  • Dried fruit/veggies

Personal & Health

  • Toothpaste and toothbrush
  • Contact lenses, accessories and glasses
  • Pain killer
  • Laxatives
  • Sleep Aid
  • Allergy Pills (non-drowsy and drowsy)
  • Inflatable neck pillow, face mask and earplugs
  • Deodorant

Clothing (in addition to what I’m wearing)

  • 3 pairs of underpants
  • 3 pair of socks
  • 3 good t-shirts
  • 1 sweater

Electronics/Media

Posted in Save Money, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Why You Should Hire a Mortgage Broker as a First Time Home Buyer

When you are in the process of buying your first home, it can be overwhelming to understand all the steps required before you get the keys to your place. With so many moving pieces to this type of transaction, it is a good idea to find the right professional to smooth out the process and explain all the options and confusing terms.

This is where a mortgage broker can really help. Their advice gleaned from years of experience in the mortgage and home buying industry is worth at least the small fee that you’ll pay in order to make the process less confusing and save you a bundle as well. Let’s take a look at the 5 most important reasons for why you should hire a mortgage broker.

why you should hire a mortgage broker

1. Using a Mortgage Broker Will Save You Money

Who doesn’t want to save money on what might already be the biggest purchase of a lifetime? Unless you are already a financial industry expert, a mortgage broker will save you money. How, you ask? Simply by having access to all the available lending options and knowing what works for your specific financial situation. Little details like PMI (private mortgage insurance), points, APR and bi-weekly mortgage payment options are all up for discussion here. A mortgage broker will be able to find you the best option and potentially save you thousands and in some cases tens of thousands of dollars.

2. Mortgage Brokers Will Save You Time

Time and money go hand in hand. Instead of having to research all the options yourself, you simply fill out your financial details and a mortgage broker will go to bat for you. Time is already in short supply for most people considering a move, so this is an important benefit to consider.

3. A Mortgage Broker Will Have Access to a Wider Selection of Mortgage Lenders

You might know of a handful of big name mortgage lenders like Wells Fargo, but what about the local credit union or your options as a military veteran? Tom of Mortgage Craft, a mortgage broker in Lancaster PA says, “we as mortgage brokers will know which banks tend to turn down applications as well as which banks are currently offering the best interest rates”.

4. Mortgage Brokers Negotiate with the Lender for You

Without knowing which rates and terms you qualify for, lenders can come up with their own seemingly arbitrary rules and interest rates. When they are dealing with your mortgage broker, however, they know that they have to put their best foot forward or the next lender in line will get the deal.

5. A Mortgage Broker Will Walk You Through the Process

I’ll be the first to admit, buying a house is an education all to itself. Having a mortgage broker on your side will help you side-step any pitfalls and avoid disappointments in the home buying process. They will also fill out the reams of paperwork for you, so when it comes to closing, all you have to do is sign the completed paperwork and drive away with the keys in your hand and a smile on your face.

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Roof Repair vs Replacement

asphalt shingle new roof repair vs replacementRoofs will all eventually wear out and need replacement. The question is, how do you know if your roof just needs a quick roof repair job or whether it needs to be completely replaced? If you replace your roof to soon, you might just be throwing money away. Alternatively, if your roof is in terrible condition and has multiple leaks over a wide area, you may end up spending more money in the long run due to water damage in your home’s interior. To know which decision is right for you, let’s look at a few key factors in deciding to repair or replace a roof.

Roof Repair vs Replacement: The Statistics

Here in the US, according to Remodeling’s Cost-vs-Value Report, the average cost for a new asphalt shingle roof is just under $20,000. If you were to sell your home, you would recoup about 62% of that cost. Depending on materials, your roof replacement could cost significnatly more. For example, some high end roofing materials like standing-seam metal roofs could cost you as much as $40,000. If you have a smaller rolled rubber flat roof, your cost may be as low as $7-10,000.

But, back to the question of whether you actually need to spend all that money on replacement or whether a low cost fix will keep your home protected for a few more years. As a rule of thumb, if your roof is in good shape, it makes better sense to repair any small leaks that might occur. If however, you are approaching the end of the roof’s expected lifetime, you might need to consider the possibility of a replacement.

Keep an eye out for signs of a leaking roof

Check your roof once a year. If you can’t see your roof from the ground and aren’t too keen on climbing ladders, you can always get a reputable local roofer to come out and inspect it for you. Jaylan Martin, a local roofing contractor in Lancaster, PA says, “Early signs that your roof might need some attention would include water marks on interior ceilings, paint peeling off your roof’s overhang and soffit areas, and any extra humidity or mold spots on walls and ceilings directly below your roof.”

If you inspect your roof from the exterior of your home, look for missing or damaged shingles, loose flashing or damaged sealant around chimneys and worn areas around pipes and skylights. Another concern is large areas of roofing covered by creeping ivy, dark green moss or light green or brown lichens. Any kind of green growing plants with a root system in your roof is going to compromise the protection from the elements your roof provides for your home.

When to Choose a Roof Repair

When your roof is in overall good condition, you can usually get it fixed quickly and eliminate any risk of ongoing damage to your home. The cost of the average roof repair will run between $75 to $1,000 depending on the complexity of the repair and which materials are needed. Keep in mind, if the cause of damage is hail, wind or other weather related event, your insurance will probably pay for the repair. Most home insurance companies do require you to do everything in your power to prevent further damage. So, get out those tarps. Or, call a local roofing company who can come out as soon as possible to cover the damaged area with a tarp to prevent leaks causing more damage to the home’s interior.

When to Choose a Roof Replacement

With a roof replacement costing as low as $5,000 to as high as $40,000 and up, it isn’t a decision to make lightly. If however, your roof is in generally poor condition and won’t benefit from yet another repair, it’s time to bite the bullet and find a way to pay for a new one. Once you know you need to buy a new roof, you will need to find a reputable roofing contractor. Check home improvement directories like Yelp, Angie’s List or even the Better Business Bureau and get several bids for the roof replacement. Most bids should be fairly close in price. While tempting, you might not want to go for the lowest bidder. Going cheap on a new roof will only mean more repairs in the future. Pay for quality materials and workmanship and your new roof will reward you by protecting your home and loved ones for years to come.

Related Resources:
National Roofing Contractors Association – http://www.nrca.net/
GAF Roofing Contractors Directory – http://www.gaf.com/Roofing/Contractors
Professional Roofing Magazine – http://www.professionalroofing.net/
Roofing Contractor Magazine – http://www.roofingcontractor.com/
City Line Roofing – Lancaster PA Roofing Contractor – http://www.citylineroofingpa.com

Posted in Home & Family, Save Money | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

How to Save Money on Food and Eat Healthier

When it comes to our monthly budgets, food seems to take up a big chunk of change. We all eat at least three meals a day plus snacks, desserts, and even drinks. This all adds up fast and can consume too much of your time and money. Beyond that, however, there is also the issue of health. Many people today are overweight. Much of that weight is due to overeating or eating the wrong things. Filling up on junk foods and sugary sodas has led us to an epidemic of obesity. The health concerns associated with obesity and overeating are horrid. However, there are some ways that you can learn how to save money on food while eating healthy. Here are some ideas that may be able to help you to live a happy, healthier and more affordable life style:

How to Save Money on Food – Take the Simple Approach

  1. how to save money on foodPlan your meals – The first thing I advise when you are attempting to eat healthier is to plan your meals for the week. By planning out what you are going to eat you can make healthy, informed choices. You will be far less likely to splurge on a greasy hamburger and French fries if you have a healthy salad and chicken meal all ready to eat in your slow cooker at home. You can also buy all the ingredients you need for the recipes so that you do not get frustrated and give up. Planning meals also helps you to be more creative and varied with your cooking so that you do not get burned out on one meal or become nutritionally unbalanced. Meatloaf may be your favorite, but eating it three times a week will burn anyone out. By planning your meals in advance you can look up new recipes, try out new foods, and have more fun with your cooking. It is no fun to dig through a cookbook when you are tired and hungry, so save yourself the trouble and plan ahead.
  2. Buy on sale –Another aspect of panning your meals ahead of time is that you can cook, and shop, according to sales. Most grocery stores have ads in the local paper and even deliver them right to your mailbox. Take a look and see what foods are on sale and then plan your meals around that. Not only can you save money, but you will also create more varied dishes based on those sales. It is a win-win!
  3. Make a list and shop only once –Speaking of sales, one thing I always stick to is shopping only once a week. I get in, get only what is on the list, and get out. The list is vital. It saves me from making unnecessary purchases like junk food and desserts. Instead, I stick to my list and only buy the things I really need. I plan on snacks like fresh fruits and veggies and healthy dessert options, but try to avoid the cookie and candy aisle. By shopping only once I give myself less temptation to but that candy bar and I also stick to my budget. I do not know about you, but when I stop in to get ‘just one thing’ I end up spending fifty dollars or more. No. Once a week will have to do it.
  4. Do not eat out – Another way to avoid wasting money and help you to eat healthier is to never eat out. Okay, well never is an exaggeration. There will be special occasions or days with friends where eating out is acceptable. However you should not make it a habit. Food that is not made in your home has far higher levels of fats, sugars, and salt. They also give you less bang for your buck. I can make the same thing at home for a quarter of the price and it will be healthier as well. When you do have to eat out, try to eat small portions. Order off the appetizer section and remember that you do not have to stuff yourself. Enjoy the food but keep your waist line and wallet in mind.
  5. Avoid prepackaged foods –The same idea goes in the grocery store. Prepackaged meals are just not good for you. Not only do they contain high levels of salt and preservatives, but they are also tiny and not worth your money. Most of the meals they sell can be easily made with fresh ingredients for a far better price and will be better for you too. Not only that, but homemade tastes much better! Do not give into the temptation of a quick and easy meal. Instead when you are pinched for time you can try:
  6. Freeze a meal – Freezing a meal is a great way to have something tasty and good for you on hand in a crunch. Many times I have made a new recipe only to find out I had tons left over. Instead of eating on it for days (yuck) or throwing it out, I froze half for a meal later. That way when I am tired and everything in my day has just gone wrong I have an easy meal all ready to go. Most meals can be frozen and last for months with no problem. You can even mix and match meals for great new flavors like turkey chili hot dogs with leftover chili.
  7. Know your portions –One big obstacle that many people have when they are cooking or eating is portion control. Most of the things we eat are way too much for us. However there are programs that will help you to better be able to understand what a normal sized portion is. Cutting down your portions into reasonable sizes is the first step towards healthier eating habits, and cheaper food bills. Having a balanced meal does not mean having equal portions of everything either, so watch what you eat and make sure it is balanced.
  8. Cut down on meat – Speaking of portion sizes, meat is something that most of us eat way too much of. When you are cooking, try not to make meat your main dish. Instead, focus on incorporating a bunch of foods into your meal, with meat being just a small addition. You can also work on creating one or two meatless meals a week. Replacing meat or reducing it can drastically reduce your food bill as it is often the most expensive part of your meal. You will also be eating less fat and not feel as heavy after meals, which could mean you take that walk around the block. Altogether, cutting down on your meat consumption is a healthy and smart move.
  9. Take leftovers to lunch –While it may not sound like a yummy concept, leftovers at lunch are not bad. I think you will find, as I have, that by the time noon rolls around you are more than ready to eat that food again. Plus bringing your food to lunch cuts down on food you have to buy and is a healthy alternative to a sandwich or burger. By eating a balanced meal for lunch you will be left satisfied and not as likely to go crazy at dinner time. You can also avoid the temptation of an afternoon snack.
  10. Buy in bulk –When it comes to saving money, buying in bulk is a good idea. Many foods can be preserved by freezing, so things like meat are easy to buy in family sizes and then separate and freeze into individual portions. Buying food in bulk is only good, however, if it is food you will actually use and will not spoil on you.
  11. Drink water –“Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.” That famous quote holds true for most of us. Every day we are surrounded by fresh, clear water that is good for us and calorie free and yet we choose to drink sugary carbonated drinks instead. When you start drinking water you will feel better, lose weight, and even think better. Water makes up so much of our bodies, it is no wonder it makes us feel so good when we drink it. By replacing sodas with water you also can cut down on your grocery bill and dentist bill. A simple change can make a big impact.
  12. Shop seasonally –Shopping according to what is in season is a foreign concept to many of us. We have grown up in an era where everything is available year round. However, fruits and veggies that are in season taste better and are better for you. When you shop seasonally you also get the opportunity to try new foods and sample new recipes.
  13. Shop locally – This goes hand in hand with shopping seasonally. When you get your fruits and vegetables from local farmers you are not only supporting the local economy but you are also easting healthier. Because these vegetables have not had to travel as far they are fresher and probably do not have as many chemicals sprayed on them. You are also reducing the number of trucks on the road, which can only help the environment and your health.

These ideas are great ways for you to discover how to save money on food and eat healthier. You do not have to do them all at once, but making small changes over time can lead to a healthier, more affordable lifestyle.

Jason Miner, an expert freelance writer loves writing articles on different categories. He is approaching different bloggers to recognize each other’s efforts through “www.blogcarnival.com”. He can be contacted by e-mail at jasonminer8atgmaildotcom.

Posted in Home & Family, Save Money | 32 Comments

4 Films About Money – A Great Way to Get Money Education

Money is a fascinating medium. If you look at the back of a $20 bill, you will see these words “This note is legal tender, for all debts, public and private”.  But, what is tender, what makes it legal, and what are public and private debts? These five films about money will teach you all this and much, much more.

1.  The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=4Xx_5PuLIzc

2.  Inside Job (a film about the economic crisis of 2008-2009)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=FzrBurlJUNk

3.  Life and Debt (how money affect real lives)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=db-tBG_F64E#!

4.  Frontline: Inside the Meltdown (a PBS film)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=iZunMPWcOLY

 

Posted in Education, Finance | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Should I Fix or Replace My Broken Computer?

It’s a question we ask ourselves when something major goes wrong with our computer — “Should I fix it, or just replace it altogether?” Purchasing a new computer is a fairly large expense, right up there with purchasing a flat screen TV or an appliance. Usually, we’ve stored all our irreplaceable pictures, documents, music and videos on the PC as well, now inaccessible due to something as simple as a cracked screen or a broken laptop power jack.

Fix or Replace? Get a Diagnosis

The first step you should take if your laptop or desktop pc has ‘bit the dust’ so to speak, is to get a diagnostic from a competent computer repair service. These guys will be able to determine which hardware components have failed or whether it is simply a software issue that can be repaired quickly with no parts necessary.

Software Issues – Fix vs Replace

Most software issues are caused by a virus or some other form of malware and can be resolved by a skilled technician in just an hour or two of shop time.  The technician uses specialized scanning software to scan the computer for specific types of malware. Once the software finds the malware, the virus or spyware is removed. Sometimes, the operating system has been damaged which will require additional repair work by the computer technician. If software is the only issue, and your computer is less than 5 years old, repairing your computer is definitely worth it.

Hardware Issues – Fix vs Replace

Hardware issues are a mixed bag. If your computer is a desktop, the components will be cheaper, and easier for a technician to access, so repairs will cost less. Laptop repairs can, in some cases, involve several hours of labor if a component attached to the main circuit board has failed requiring the complete replacement of the motherboard (as it is called). Other hardware repairs are trivial. These include: keyboard failure, optical drive failure and power cable failure. A few minutes at most is all that is required to replace these components, usually. Strictly replacing a hard drive takes a brief amount of time, but recovering data from the old drive and restoring the operating system, software and files on the new drive can take hours. If your laptop is less than 3 years old it is usually a good idea to repair it. Older than that, and the replacement cost starts to match the repair cost, meaning you should start shopping for a new machine.

If you are looking for computer repair in Lancaster, PA, check out this website. Also, you can find more computer tips and helpful advice by visiting Lancaster PA Computer Repair. You’ll discover how to find the best local computer service in your area.

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5 Tips for Stretching Your Holiday Budget

With the holiday season approaching fast it is important for to know how to get the most out of your holiday budget. You might think it isn’t possible to stretch your holiday budget without pulling out the credit card, but really, it comes down to choices. To help you out, we have compiled a few tips for stretching your holiday budget for the upcoming season of joy.

1. List Everything You Need to Purchase

The first thing you are going to have to do before you can even come up with a budget is to see what expenses you are going to have holiday wise. This means list out all of the gifts that you hope to buy and even include things such as wrapping paper and tape because they cost money as well. Also, you are going to want to include a Christmas tree, lights, outside decorations, and food if this is something that you are going to be responsible.

2. Shop Online

If you were planning to purchase everything in the store think again. This is because during the holiday season many stores have sales online that cannot be found in the store. If you are worried about shipping that is something that is usually going to be free if you spend a certain amount, say $50. However, if you plan to shop online you will want to order your items a few weeks in advance so you can be sure they are going to arrive before you need them. Also, when shopping online you can guarantee that you are going to get what you want versus going to the store to find out that they have already sold out of the products that you need.

3. Don’t Be Afraid To Say ‘No’

Obviously, during the holiday seasons we want to give our friends and family what they have their heart set on. But, when it comes to really expensive items that we cannot afford it is okay to say no. Simply ask them to give you a list of items that they would like and pick something affordable. This way they will have a gift to look forward to that was also within your budget.

4. Use Coupons to Save on Your Holiday Budget

Coupons are available throughout the web for a variety of different products. If you are shopping online, sites such as Retail Me Not may be able to help you out immensely. You should check out your local papers for deals as well.

5. Make Some of the Gifts

If you have a friend or family member who is not too picky about the type of present you get them, or you are particularly gifted in using your skills to create things, simply make them a gift. Homemade gifts are still in. They are not only fun to create, but they show the person that you are making them for that you actually spent some time and put some thought into their gift.

Lastly, when it comes to stretching your holiday budget the best thing to do is to plan ahead.  If you see something that someone would like during the summer months buy it for them and just save it in storage until the holiday season comes around.

Author Bio: Izzy Mackey works for Obares a financial information website.

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How to Save Money on Heating – 10 Ways to Reduce Your Heating Bill

how to save money on heatingWe just paid for our first delivery of 100 gallons of heating oil, to the tune of $379. It is a temporary expense, since we hope to convert our 26 year old oil furnace to a gas burning one some time in the near future. Natural gas is probably the cheapest heat source in the US currently with all the shale explorations happening in the Midwest right now. Paying a lump sum like that got me thinking of ways to stretch those 100 gallons of oil to their maximum heating potential. Listed below are the heat and energy saving tips you can use to learn how to save money on heating your home.

1. How to Save Money on Heating – Lower the Thermostat!

A programmable thermostat is probably one of the best investments you can make on your path to a lower heating bill this winter. We use ours to set the temperature at 68 degrees during the day, while dropping it by 10 degrees to 58 after we are warm and cozy under the covers at night. The theory is that a colder house loses heat slower than a warm house, thus saving energy and money. You can get a fairly basic programmable from Amazon for a little over $20, or you can pony up two and a half Benjamins for the state of the art Nest Thermostat which among other things, lets you use your smartphone to adjust your home’s temperature. The Nest happens to be Amazon’s #1 bestselling programmable thermostat right now.

2. Close Off Unused Rooms

We have just over 2,000 square feet of living space in our home. Obviously, we don’t use all of that space all of the time. So, we simply close the forced air heating vents in several rooms, and shut the doors. This reduces the amount of space being heated, saving a bundle on our heating bill. Just remember not to close too many vents if you have a forced air system as this will put unnecessary wear and tear on your blower unit.

3. Change Your Filters Regularly

This is again assuming you have a forced air heating system in your home. Changing your filter regularly reduces the amount of dust build up which blocks airflow and heat from getting to where it needs to go. 🙂  We purchase our furnace filters in bulk from Amazon and change them every 3 months or so.

4. Cover Windows and Doors

Since about 30 percent of the total heat loss in your home passes through your windows and doors, it pays to know how to reduce that airflow. Thankfully, we bought a house with energy efficient double paned windows. Even with good windows, however, a good set of thermal curtains on each window can eliminate any drafts or radiant ‘heat leaks’ besides adding a cozy look to the room’s appearance. For your doors, just be sure they have good weather stripping that isn’t cracked or warped. A secondary storm door can help also, as it creates a cushion of air which has an insulating effect on the main door.

5. Stack Those Layers

Our home night time temperature varies by 20 degrees depending on whether it is January or July. In July, we set the AC at 78 and in January, our heat is set at 58. How do we cope with this range of temperatures? By layering our clothing and bed covers we can regulate what our bodies need in order to feel comfortable without spending a dime extra. During the winter months, I always have a sweater on and some type of footwear to keep my extremities warm. Some frugal fans go as far as wearing hats and gloves so they can drop the temps even further, but there’s no need to be that extreme.

6. Switch to Natural Gas or Geothermal Heat

With all the controversial ‘fracking’ activities producing a surplus of natural gas, combined with volatile oil prices due to the unrest in the Middle East, there has never been a better time to switch from oil to natural gas heat. Depending on which state you live in, electric heat may still make financial sense for you, but for most folks natural gas is the cheapest heating method available. If you have an existing oil furnace (like we do), you can get a conversion kit put on it for a very reasonable price. Long term we hope to make this switch, but for now that big oil tank in our basement is staying right where it is. If you have the big bucks to shell out (read $8-12k) you can install a high efficiency geothermal heat pump. To help you out and move the country towards less dependence on fossil fuels, the US government is willing to pay 30% of your monster sized geothermal system installation bill.

7. Heat Only the Space You Occupy

Most homes have a central heating system, but if you spend most of your day in only one room (an office for example), you can drop the temperature in the rest of the house and use a high efficiency electric space heater. Stay away from most of the small, noisy ceramic space heaters. They are cheaply made, break down quickly and can be a fire hazard as well. Here are two recommendations for quality space heaters that are easy to maintain and should give you years of trouble-free use:

  • iLiving Infrared Portable Space Heater– This heater easily heats a700-1000 square foot area and blends in with your other furniture in the room. It has an electronic thermostat and even comes with a remote control!
  • DeLonghi Oil-Filled Radiator TRD0715T  –  During my bachelor days, I spent some time living with a host family (long story). They provided me with one of these very quiet portable oil heaters for the winter months since my room was one of the draftiest in the house. It did the job efficiently and well, however this unit takes longer to heat up a room than heaters with electric blowers on them.

8. Reduce Your Living Space

Other than closing off sections of our house, we haven’t taken this advice very seriously. 🙂 Our home has 9 foot ceilings which means we have an extra 4,000 cubic feet of space to heat than if we had 7 foot ceilings like the home I grew up in, north of the Canadian border.

9. Use a Personal Heating Device

A personal heating device is probably the most efficient way you can keep warm, since they usually work by direct contact with your skin. Inductive heating keeps you toasty, even if the air around you is chilly. One advantage to using these, besides cost savings is the fact that cooler air is easier to breath and isn’t as friendly to the viruses that cause colds and flu. Here are some suggestions for personal heating devices:

  • Indus-Tool Cozy Electric Foot Warming Pad  –  As mentioned, the most efficient way to heat anything is through direct contact heating through induction. This foot warmer does just that, keeping your toes toasty warm and heating the rest of your body up as well. It uses only 90 Watts (roughly 1 penny per hour to run) and if it enables you to to drop the temperature in your house a few degrees while you work in your home office, it could provide significant cost savings!
  • Hot Water Bottle  –  This ‘technology’ has been around for a long time, but it is still just as efficient. We’ve used a hot water bottle for a foot warmer, blanket heater, and for joint pain relief. Every household should invest in at least one of these.

10. Invite Lots of People Over!

My wife and I had almost 20 people stay at our home over the Thanksgiving holiday. With all those warm bodies in the house, I simply turned the heat of entirely. We didn’t need it! In fact, we had to crack open a few windows at times when we had the stove going to cook the turkey and ham for Thanksgiving dinner. A friend of mine who works in the HVAC industry told me once that each adult produces the same amount of heat as a 100 watt light bulb. Imagine having twenty 100 watt light bulbs lit up at the same time in your house. Of course, you have to feed all those people, so you won’t be technically saving any money, but your home will be toasty warm! 🙂

 

How do you plan to save on energy costs this winter? Sound off in the comments below.

 

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Spend More Money On What You Want and Less On What You Don’t Care About

We all have that friend. The one who turns every conversation about debt into a sob story. They can’t stop talking about their awful credit card debt and horrible student loans. Meanwhile, they’re burning through credit card-financed chai lattes at an alarming rate and always seem to have new designer clothes.

On the flip side of that coin is “The Monk”. Your friend who’s so proud of his minimalist lifestyle that he can’t shut up about how he only eats lentils or rice and sleeps on the floor because “mattresses are so bourgeois”.

Somewhere in between those two extremes is you. Your occasional credit card binges and shopping sprees leave you feeling a little guilty about how much you’re spending. Perhaps you’re even slowly racking up debt that you know you can’t realistically repay each month. Fortunately, there’s a better way to live.

Conscious spending is the idea that you get to decide when and how you spend your money. Instead of just dropping cash (or worse, credit) on everything, you purposefully evaluate how much enjoyment you get from it. If it’s worth it, you pay. If not, hold back. It’s not some challenge that’s meant to torture you. Instead, it gives you full control over your spending habits. Here are four questions you should ask yourself to get started:

 

Where are you spending right now?

Look, really look, at your spending habits. If you’re so inclined, write down all your purchases for a month. Don’t beat yourself up over it. You’re just trying to become aware of where you spend money. If you’ve dropped $100 a month on overpriced coffee, it can be shocking. But don’t worry – you don’t have to cut out your frappes completely, unless you want to.

 

Does spending money on [whatever] make me happy?

Fill in the blank on this one. Does your frappe give you enjoyment? If it truly takes a frappe to make your day a little bit better, then by all means, keep purchasing them. Try cutting back on the extras: If you don’t care about the bagel, don’t get it. Instead, make one at home. If your heart flutters when you think about cutting something out of your budget, then hang on to it. Just stop spending on the things you don’t care about.

 

What do I get out of spending money on [whatever]?

Some people buy coffee simply for the caffeine. Others purchase it because they’re rushed in the mornings. Some people get it to enjoy sitting and people watching. Figure out what you get out of the deal when you spend money. Could you get the same thing somewhere else for less? For instance, if you really get a morning coffee because you like having somewhere to sit and do a crossword puzzle, try sitting on a park bench or finding a nice, quiet and free space.

 

Is there somewhere else I’d rather spend this money?

Whether they’re saving up for a vacation or just to pay off debt, almost everybody has at least one or two financial goals. When you purchase something, think about whether or not you could use the money elsewhere. Would you get more happiness by using the money for another purpose?

 

Conscious spending is a great first step to deriving financial goals that make sense for you. If you’re perfectly happy spending on fancy coffee, even if it means slowing down your retirement savings, then keep doing it. Just make sure you do it consciously.

 

About the Author

Frugal may be her middle name, but Carly Lance does it with class – which is why she loves to write about saving money, to help others learn from her cheap (but classy!) ways. Carly is also a blog coordinator for Personal Bankruptcy Canada”, a company that helps with bankruptcy in Canada – whom she also blogs about finances for.

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