The Finance Fiend

Getting Financial Freedom by 35!

Saving Money at the Pump May 13, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rebecca @ 12:20 pm
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While gas prices are much lower than they were last year at this time, they will of course rise again. Summer is also the traditional time for travel since children are out of school and inclement weather is far less common. So how are you going to save yourself money on your car? Here are a few easy tips to help you out.

Check your tire pressure

Tire pressure can greatly affect your mileage in your vehicle. If your tires has less air in them, more of the tire surface is touching the road.  This means the engine works harder to move the car.  While, having more of the tire touching the road may be good during poor weather conditions, it does decrease how far you can get on a tank of gas.  Last weekend we checked our tire pressure after the check engine light went on. (For the car newbies, the check engine light can mean anything, but I knew it had been several months since adding air.) It was at 31mpg, and I like the pressure to be close to 40 in the summer.  After filling the tire, the check engine light went off, and we noticed that our in town gas mileage increased by about 3mpg to a reasonable 24mpg.  Last weekend we did some highway traveling for Mother’s Day and got about 33mpg for the trip.

Change Your Air Filter

Air filters are another simple maintence for your car that can affect engine effiency.  It won’t necesarialy increase your mileage, but it will affect acceleration.  A clogged filter will slow air from entering the eingine area, making you push on the gas pedle more to accelerate.  While there is no tested increase in gas mileage, if you have to push harder on the gas to get anywhere, you will be using and wasting more gas.  This also affect wear on your car engine.

Get a tune up

When you get a tune up on your car, they check your your spark plugs and throttle, as well as things like fuel and air filters.  Proper maintenence can easily save you money in repairs as well as at the gas pump.  Fuel filters are made to last $5000 miles or more depending on how dusty of an area you live in. If you drive on gravel roads often, tis a good idea to replace your fuel filter.  Once they become completely clogged your car won’t start and that can mean a trip to the mechanic as well as a tow.

Get an oil change, and use the right oil

When you get an oil change, they replace the oil filter and remove al lthe old oil from your car.  Oil is lubricant for the car’s engine.  All those moving parts of your engine move smoothly thanks to oil.  Also, check your manual and find out what kind of oil is best for your engine.  Using 10W-30 if you car needs 5W-30 will make your car work harder and decrease your gas mileage.

Combine Trips, and shop early

If you run 3 errands and make threetrips from home for each of them, you are using more gas than you need to.  I don’t like to do all my shopping in the one stop stores, but it can save your car some hard work.  If you need to mail a package, and go to the grocery store, it might make sense to go to the grocery store that has postal capabilities.  Even if you don’t choose to go to these stores, its helpful to time your errands properly.  If I run errands early in the morning it can take half the time of later in the day.  Lines are shorter, there is less (or no) traffic, and sales people are more helpful.  Maybe its because they have just started work, or maybe its because they have less customers to assist.  Some stores even do thier discount markdowns in the morning and you can find a larger selection of discounted items at 9am than at 9pm.

Last of all, Lighten the load

Keep your car light! If you went to the store and bought 200 lbs lf mulch for your yard and have it sitting in the car for the next week until you have time to put it down. Stop! You are effectively carrying around a large adult, or three kids in your car at all times.  Even if you can’t put the mulch down immediately, out it in the garage, or on the porch.  Also, if you usually carry sand or kitty litter in your trunk in the  winter, take it out.  Most parts of the country don’t have to worry about freak snow storms by mid may.

 

Saving Money while keeping Cool May 7, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rebecca @ 3:25 pm
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This is really a post about saving money on heat and cooling your home/apartment/mansion but since winter is on its way out, I will focus on the cooler part.  No one, after all, likes to get sweaty right after taking a shower.

1. Open your windows.

This tip won’t help once its in the upper 90s, but for late spring when its just starting to get hot its great.  If you can open windows across the house from each other you can great a significant cross breeze.

2. Turn your cieling fans to the Summer setting.

That means the blade turns in a counter clockwise direction and pushes air down.  The hotter air will sit above the fan and not circulate. Did you know it will feel a good 5 degrees cooler under a ceiling fan? Some companies claim it can feel even cooler with ceiling fans.  If you have ceiling fans in the rooms you use every day, you can set your thermostat warmer. Speaking of thermostats…

3. Install a programmable thermostat.

All you renters, I am sorry you don’t have this option (though if you ask your landlord they might install one for you).  We installed a programmable thermostat in our house this last January.  It only cost us about $40 (can’t remember the exact price) and we got at the local big box store.  Our heating bill was much lower than last year, and we had a crawler/new walker on our hands.  There is only so many times you can let your child crawl on the floor and come back to you with chilled hands and feet.  Anyway, I figured if we could decrease our bills by $3.30 eah month we would pay for the thermostat by the end of the year.  Even with a 11% rate hike by the utility company we saw a decreace in our overall bill.

4. Get thermal window treatments.

Our house came with some cheapo blinds, but if its not broke don’t fix it.  Last fall I decided we needed curtains.  Partly because the blinds had tiny holes in them so people could see in at night when our lights were on, and partly because winter of 07-08 we had a $160 heating bill one month, and I did not want to repeat that.  Fall of 2008 I was on a mission. I sewed one curtain panel that I lined with polyester fabric, and after discovering I cannot sew a straight line, I decided to price curtains.

I went to the local box store and looked at what they had and decided on some thick fabric curtains.  Then when we were going to leave I noticed they had some curtains at the end of the aisle marked clearance.  Of course the discounted price drew me in and I started putting my initial choice back on the shelf.  Among the marked down drapes were a set of thermal lined curtains in a shade that would go nicely with my living room.  After fruther incestigation I found the same drapes on the shelf for twice the price! These drapes had been returned and the store just marked them down to sell them fast.

The rest of the thermal curtains in our house were bought one window / room at a time. Its made the drafty windows feel less drafty.

5. Can I get some caulk?

After living the winter with a blanket literally nailed up covering our fireplace all winter, I found out about cement caulk / furnace caulk.  It typically comes in black and its meant to go between the doors and the black fireplace.   And I thought it would require hiring a professional to take out the fireplace door/cover thingy and putting in more insulation.  Now, I just need to spend my $10 and get some.

Around the fireplace cover isn’t the only place where caulk will help.  Any place where there is an opening to the outside you shuld caulk.  Around doors, windows, trim on the outside and inside.  If there is a crack, chances are caulking it wold be a good idea. We did some major caulking and sealing of holes last year after discovering a mouse got in and had babies. Spring is a good time to check the old caulk and if its cracked or separating, replace it.  There is nothing worse than ants in the springtime.

6. Upgrade your windows.

This isn’t for everyone, in fact its not something you can do anything about if you aren’t an owner.  Its also quite pricey.  I priced windows and supplies and to replace the 6 windows in our home it will cost about $1000 for supplies.  While part of that is tax deductible (supplies only  because the windows are energy star rated), its a huge project.  Especially the two windows in the upstairs.  That will require assistance, and possibly borrowed or rented scaffolding.  If we paid someone to do it, even just the two windows on the second floor, it will increase the cost significantly.  Still, the new vinyl windows are leaps and bounds above the 30 year old metal framed with poor seals that are currently in place.

Thoughts

So there you go.  Some things are simple, raising the thermostat two degree, turning on a fan, or opening some windows; others will cost thousands of dollars and some hard work.  Try doing at least one of these and see if you can save money keeping cool this summer.

 

Death and Taxes May 2, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rebecca @ 10:37 am

Today I was scheduling our house payment.  I am proud to report that we are currently doubling our monthly payment in an attempt to pay off our house faster. But, as I was looking at things I got stumped.

Then I got sort of annoyed. You see, starting this year our escrow account requires a ‘reserve.’  I don’t know if this is standard, but its about 30% of what we will be paying for the year to house taxes and insurance.  Thats fine and dandy, but I noticed that even though I gave them an extra few hundred dollars last month to help meet this reserve, its not reflected in the escrow analysis.

I also noticed that even though the city has claimed out house has dropped in value by about 5 percent, the property taxes are increasing by about that much.

In a time when Americans are feeling the squeeze of overspending and not enough jobs, why does inflation continue to rise? I haven’t noticed any new programs around town, in fact most programs are losing funding, so I don’t understand why they feel its right to tax me more. I was also sort of annoyed that the tax value had decreased, until I noticed the appraiser’s job is up for grabs.  Looks like the county appraiser in podunk Kansas makes about 70K a year (its a little more than double the average household income for the county. (the majority of residents are single, the average male income is 33K and female 19K)

So moral of the story, if the housing market crashes get a job as the local appraiser.  You will be set.

Of course the whole property tax thing has me a bit perplexed anyway.  I don’t understand of the taxes paid in April are for 2008 or 2009.  I am aware that on the valuation notices they have a disclaimer saying it doesn’t matter what they value your property at, they can make you pay whatever they want. So yeah, confusing times.  I will write another post if I figure it out.