Getting Our House Ready For Fall

A quick Google check confirms it:  The first day of fall is September 22.

I had to look that up just to be sure, because the high today was 91 degrees, which is decidedly un-fall-ish.

In just a few weeks (hopefully!) the weather will turn and fall will be here.  In preparation, I’ve been working hard to get our house ready for fall – and the winter to follow.

Outside -

Rain Gutters – At the end of summer and winter, I clean out our rain gutters.  With several large oak trees in our yard, it’s important to routinely remove fallen leaves from our rain gutters.

Vinyl Siding – Our house has vinyl siding and I pressure wash the siding (at least) twice a year.  I’ll do so this week, washing off the dust of from summer mowing, so that house will look nice for fall.

Tool Shed – The summer is a busy time in the yard – and that means that tools get used – and often misplaced.  I like to take the time, while the weather is still nice, to organize my tools.

Lawn Mower – I use my lawn mower year round – to mow the grass in spring and summer – and to mulch leaves in fall and winter.  So, at the end of each summer, I sharpen (or replace) the blades, change the spark plug, drain and refill the oil, and replace the air filter.  I’ll repeat this at winter’s end.

Pipes and Spigots – We rarely have to worry about long periods with freezing temperatures, but I’m still mindful of the need to insulate exposed pipes and outdoor water spigots.

Shrubbery – We have a few shrubs which require annual pruning, which I’ll take care of, as soon as temperature drop.

Inside -

HVAC – We have electric heating and air.  I recently replaced all HVAC filters throughout our house.  This is important, because a clogged filter reduces efficiency, which increases electricity costs.

Refrigerator Filter – Our refrigerator has a water filter which needs replacing every 6 months.  I replace at the end of each summer and winter.  These things can be quite expensive – so I buy the 2-pack and save a few dollars.

Carpets – We have a mixture of carpet and hardwood in our house.  At the end of each summer, I’ll clean the carpet in our den.  I’ll also spot-clean throughout the year.  We don’t have pets, so we’re dealing mainly with foot-traffic.

Detectors – There are several smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in our house – and I change their batteries each year, on the first day of school.  It’s an odd habit, but it’s my way of always remembering!

Laundry Room – I visually inspect the hoses that connect our washing machine to the water supply.  I also clean out the dryer vent and dryer vent hose.

Clothing – Our kids just keep on growing, which means they have clothing that no longer fits.  Now is a great time to sort through their closets and get rid of, via charitable donation or yard sale, clothes they do not need.

I love the fall, with milder temperatures and lots of football.  It feels good to get the above mentioned tasks taken care of – so that we can better enjoy the season to come.  Blessings.

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My DIY Adventures

Over the past few years, I’ve worked to improve my DIY skills.  Here are a few of the projects I’ve tackled – with an eye towards saving money and doing it myself.

I replaced the garbage disposal below our kitchen sink.  This project was relatively simple.  I worried a little bit about the electrical connection, but I figured it out.  The disposal connects to the bottom of the sink via a special bracket and connects to the dishwasher via a long hose.  Prior to disconnecting the old disposal, I snapped several pictures of its various connections.  When connecting the new disposal, I referred the the pictures, and installation was a snap.

I built three shelving units for our kids. We have three kids and they have stuff. This past Spring, I built each of them a shelving unit. Using my Kreg Pocket Hole Jig and the table saw, these were simple, easy-to-build projects. My real struggle – I like to build but I’m not much of a fan of painting!

DIY Bookshelf Shelving UnitI replaced our dishwasher’s drain hose. This hose connects the dishwasher to the garbage disposal. This was a bit of a challenge, because I had to unscrew the dish washer from the kitchen counter brace, roll it out, and then remove the drain hose. The drain hose was filled with water, and removing it caused a bit of a mess. If you plan to tackle this project – be sure to have plenty of towels on hand! Side note: Finding the correct size hose was a bit of a challenge. For some reason, the fitting-size (on the end of the hose) isn’t universal.

I replaced the dryer belt on our dryer. Now, this one was a bit of a struggle. For some reason, the dryer belt on our dryer was slipping. (I’m pretty much convinced that it was over-stretched when the dryer was built – or damaged during transport.) I took dozens of pictures during dis-assembly. I had to remove the dryer door, the metal casing, and the back panel. Then, I had to figure out how to support the drying drum, removed the old belt, and then put the new belt on. It took me some time (and a few skinned knuckles), but I managed to replace the belt – and put the dryer back together. Now, it works just fine!

I repaired the trim around our back door. Our back door is exposed to the elements – and water had damaged much of its trim. I replaced the wooden trim with vinyl. This was a super-simple repair, made much easier because I could rip the trim with my table saw.

I (tried) to repair our toilet. This was a huge fail. Our toilet needed a new wax ring – and after watching several videos and talking with a couple of friends – I was convinced that this was a project I could tackle. Well, I manage to break one of the bolts needed to attach the toilet to the floor, drop a wrench down the toilet drain, and buy, not one, but two incorrectly sized wax rings. In the end, I called a plumber – and $75 later, the toilet was repaired. Lesson learned.

I like DIY projects. It feels good to fix something – and to save a little money.  Most of the time, I can figure things out, but there are times when I get in over my head, and it’s good to have professionals to call.

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I Still Buy Stuff I Do Not Need

I have been writing about personal finance (as in, my own) for nearly a decade.  In that time, I’ve had some financial success – paying off my consumer debt, purchasing a new home – and some blogging success – mentioned in the New York Times, interviewed on television and on radio – but the truth is: I still buy stuff I do not need.

I also use unnecessary dashes and commas when I write, but that’s a topic for another day.

Convenience Items – I am a sucker for anything that makes life easier.  I tend to spend too much on convenience items – because, you know, they’re convenient.

Tools – I love new tools, used tools, old tools, broken tools, cheap tools, and expensive tools.  My woodworking skills are minimal, at best, but I love hanging in the shop and building stuff.  The problem is – I’ll buy tools, just to own them.  While not a complete waste, I do have to pace myself.

Entertainment – Dude, we went to one of those 3D-surround-cinemas the other night – and we were out nearly $100 for the 5 of us!  (The movie, by the way, was awesome.)  My kids are still young, but growing up so fast, that it’s easy to justify the expense.  (They’ll only be young once…)  But, I need to do a better job of finding inexpensive, but still awesome, things to do.

Snacks – Again, we have three kids – and it’s super-simple to pull into the convenience store, pick up a few snacks, and head down the road.  Obviously, this isn’t the healthiest thing in the world (although, I will say, my kids are all in very good shape, and eat less junk food than I did at their ages).  We’re working on packing healthy snacks, prior to trips and vacations, as well as for school lunches.

Entertaining – This one is a little different.  We often have folks over to our home – and I often am in charge of large group outings – and I tend to over-spend when preparing meals and get-togethers.  (On some level, even though I’m a guy, I think I would make a pretty decent grandmother.)  I like for folks to be comfortable when they come over, so I always buy more-than-enough.  I’m not so sure this is a bad thing, so I’m not going to beat myself up over this one.  Sharing a meal with friends or family is one of life’s great blessings.

I’m a relatively frugal person, but I do have areas where I struggle and I still buy stuff I do not need.  How about you?  Do you have any areas where you are not as frugal as you’d like to be?  Leave a comment below or via Twitter @NCN.

Side note – For me, if I know I have an area where I might spend more than I should – I don’t ignore it.  I put it in the budget.  If I’m going to spend more than I “should” – I, at a minimum, want to plan for it.  The last thing I want to do is over-spend, and use credit.  Worst-case, I pay cash and it’s in the budget.

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Fight For Your Independence And Get Out Of Debt

Let’s not wait until January 1st to focus on getting out of debt.  It’s July – It’s time.  Fight for your independence-  and get out of debt, today!

No doubt, a little dramatic, but you get the point.  Today is the day to start planning for tomorrow.  Here’s how I paid off my consumer debt – including credit cards and an automobile loan – plus some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.

Stop Borrowing – This is the key, first step.  Put the credit card in the wallet, and stop using it.  You don’t have to cut it up, or freeze it in a bucket water.  Make a decision to stop going deeper into debt – and then work hard every day to honor that decision.

Start Saving – I know, I know.  It’s easy to want to skip ahead and start paying off debt – and I’m the last person who wants to dampen debt reduction-based enthusiasm.  However, if you are going to make it through the entire process of getting out of debt, you will need an emergency fund.  The amount to save before beginning debt reduction?  I’ll leave that up to you – for me – I always tried to maintain a minimum of $2000 in emergency fund savings, even while paying off debt.

Pick A Strategy – There are several debt reduction strategies, including the debt snowball, the debt avalanche, and my own creation, the debt deluge.  They all work on the same basic principals:

  • List your debts – in the order determined by your strategy – and make minimum payments to all accounts.
  • Make an extra payment to the first account on your list.
  • Continue to make extra payments until the first account is paid off and eliminated.
  • After paying off the first account, take the combined amount (minimum payment and extra payment) which had been going to the first account, and apply it to the second account.
  • Repeat until all of your accounts have been paid off and your total debt has been eliminated.

get-out-of-debt

Live On Budget – If you know where the money is coming from and where it is going, you can know how much “extra” there is for debt reduction.  I’ll have more on creating a budget, later this week.

Think About Interest – I always hesitate to talk too much about interest rates, even though they are very, very important.  I like the idea of living on a budget – and focusing on a sound strategy – and then looking for ways to reduce interest.  When I was getting out of debt, I “surfed” a balance from a high-rate card to a low-rate card, and this saved us a little money.  So, as you reduce your balances, you may want to take advantage of similar offers.  From time-to-time, one of my affiliate advertisers offers a decent interest rate – and if they do – I’ll share that information with you.

Time Is Money – With most credit card companies charging interest based on average daily balance – the sooner your payment arrives, the sooner it is applied to your account, and the lower your average daily balance will be.  Over time, this can save you a not-insignificant amount of money.

Get Pumped – Now, a bit about the psychology of getting out of debt and fighting for your independence.  We were created, I believe, to be both free and connected.  When we got out of debt, we were free from the “weight” of our debt – the worry and associated fear.  We were then able to spend time connecting with the people and things that were truly important to us.

Do It - For years, I listened to radio programs about debt reduction, I read books about debt reduction – I even attended a special conference about debt reduction.  Then, one day, I sat down, put my credit cards in my wallet, opened a savings account, drafted a debt reduction strategy, and I actually did it.  That’s the key – Start today for a better tomorrow.

Getting out of debt can be a struggle – but man is it worth it.  We don’t have to wait for a New Year’s resolution.  No, right now, we can declare our independence, fight for it, and get out of debt!

Insert “USA! USA! USA!” chant, here!  :)

Be blessed.

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