1-Year Update on Our Solar Panels

Solar panel updateAbout one year ago, we shared in the post entitled “How We Get Paid By Our Power Company with Solar Panels” how we installed solar panels to offset our electricity bill. Ever since then, we haven’t paid a dime to the electric company. We’ve also built up a nice cushion of credits in our account to draw down when our electricity usage in the winter (due to our electric heat pump system) outstrips production. This has been a big help in reducing our monthly cash outflow, particularly helpful since Deb will be staying home to be with the baby real soon.

I made some projections at the time based on my research and the information given me by my local installer. I have one year’s worth of real-life data now to analyze, so I wanted to give you an update on how we did. [Read more…]

Cheap Ways to Stay Cool in Summer

Cheap ways to stay cool in summerLast winter, I wrote a post called “Cheap Ways to Stay Warm in Winter” and seeing that we have just experienced our first solid week of 90+ degree weather here in Tennessee, I thought it was an appropriate time to share the counterpart post of how to stay cool in the summer without breaking the bank.

The Primary Objective

There is one primary objective when trying to beat the heat without busting the budget, and that is to stay comfortable while using the air conditioning as little as possible. The reason is very simple. The AC is very costly to run and so the less we use it, the more crumbs we save. [Read more…]

Free Unlimited Online Photo Storage with Google Photos

Free Unlimited Online Photo Storage Google PhotosOn and off through the years, I’ve dabbled in the hobby of photography. (Even back before digital cameras were in vogue!)  Particularly since the advent of smartphones with decent onboard cameras, I’ve been dealing with the decidedly first world problem of storing, organizing, backing-up, and accessing the tens of thousands of photos in my collection.

There were no good solutions. Downloading and organizing photos on external hard drives was my primary mode of operation, but that was getting laborious and required ever-larger hard drives through the years. I’ve gotten to the point where the moving of the gigabytes of photos from one hard drive to the next required transfer times of many, MANY hours. Of course, hard drives crash too, so I still needed to back them up some other way!

Over time, with the growing diversity of wireless devices that can take and view pictures (computers, multiple smartphones, tablets, etc.) it became clear that storing all the photos on one physical drive not only wasn’t the most secure but it also meant that it was a huge hassle to ever access them! (Pull out laptop, plug in hard drive, search for photos, transfer them/email them to the other devices, etc.) Moreover, with the huge number of photos in my collection now, it’s well nigh impossible to efficiently sort and search through them.

I said this was a first world problem, didn’t I? [Read more…]

Is Borrowing from the House a Good Idea?

Is borrowing from the house a good idea?In what can be considered part two to last week’s post on whether our home is the best financial investment, I want to take a look at one common practice that was not mentioned last time: Borrowing from the house.

Indeed, the ability to build up equity in a home and to borrow against it is considered one of the greatest financial “hacks” of modernity. It works like this: You buy a house and build equity in it by paying down your mortgage. All the while (assumedly), the value of your home appreciates. Then you can borrow against the now higher value of the equity that you have built up in the house.

Here’s a hypothetical example to illustrate: You purchased a $200,000 home some time ago and you’ve paid off $100,000 of it—meaning you have 50% equity in the property. In the intervening time, the value of the house doubles to $400,000, and so that 50% equity stake has appreciated to $200,000. So you theoretically have an extra $100,000 now to “borrow” from. Not only that, the interest on what you borrow is sometimes even tax-deductible! Sounds like free money, right? [Read more…]

Is a Home the Best Financial Investment?

A home the best investment?It’s often been said that buying a home is the best financial investment–but is it? Based on my unscientific observations, there are several assumptions that lead to this conclusion:

  1. Homes never go down in value.
  2. A home is a safe, risk-free investment.
  3. Home values will always keep up with inflation.
  4. The mortgage interest deduction is good for our taxes.
  5. House payments are a good “forced” savings program.
  6. Owning is better than renting.

There may be a few other lines of reasoning that make it almost proverbial in the US that homeownership is a cornerstone of financial security and wise investing. But I want to take a careful look at this assumption to see whether it’s really true. [Read more…]

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