Monthly Archives: May 2007

Network To Host Carnival And I’m Going On Vacation!

The No Credit Needed Network will host next week’s Carnival of Debt Reduction. Head over to the No Credit Needed Network for more information.

My family and I will be going on vacation, starting Friday. We are headed down to Saint Augustine Beach, Florida. We are staying in a condo that our friends own. My kids are excited about going to the beach and swimming in the pool. Me? I’m ready to relax, read, and chill out. As I’ve mentioned before, my kids don’t really enjoy “theme parks” or “water parks”, so our vacations are always pretty “chill”. Rest and relaxation.

I’ll be blogging while on vacation. For me, blogging isn’t really “work”. I enjoy blogging, writing about my day-to-day life and personal finance. So, the laptop goes to the beach!

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The “Once A Month, Check It” Technique For Avoiding Expensive Repairs And Saving Money

Edit: I’ve received several emails and comments with suggestions for more “Once A Month, Check It” items. I’ll add those suggestions to the bottom of this post. If you have a suggestion, leave a comment and I’ll add it to the list. If you write a similar post, contact me and let me know!

We live in a “ranch style” house. The air condition intake is located in the hallway. Once a month, I check the air filter and replace it. I’ve been using those use-once, throwaway air filters. I buy 12 of them in January. At the end of each month, I throw away the old filter and replace it with a new filter. For some reason, doing this gives me a great deal of satisfaction. I feel as I’ve improved air flow, reduced the dust in our house, and lessened the strain on the air conditioning unit.

We live on a dirt road. (Actually, we live on a clay/sand/dirt road.) We are constantly battling the dust that is stirred up when cars drive by our house. So, the air filter is always ‘clogged’ at the end of the month. During the summer, it gets very warm here in Georgia, so the a/c needs to be functioning at full capacity. To function properly, the a/c needs a clean filter.

According the Energy Star site:

Check your filter every month, especially during heavy use months (winter and summer). If the filter looks dirty after a month, change it. At a minimum, change the filter every 3 months. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm or cool — wasting energy. A clean filter will also prevent dust and dirt from building up in the system — leading to expensive maintenance and/or early system failure.

Changing the air filter in the house got me to thinking about changing the oil in my car:

Over at Gen X Finance, Jeremy wrote this really interesting article about changing the oil in your car in your car. Jeremy questions the need to change your oil every 3,000 miles. My favorite snippet from the article is:

New oil is generally an amber type color, not black like most people picture. Oil turns black over time in the engine as it picks up debris in the engine and as it breaks down from heat and wear. So a good practice would be to check your oil occasionally once you hit the 3,000-4,000 mile mark. If you notice it is very black you may want to go ahead and have it changed.

See, with your oil and oil filter, there are so many variables to be considered when determining when or if you should change them. With an air filter, it’s as simple as looking at the filter, checking to see if it is dirty, and replacing it. But, on the flip side, there’s no little red button that will light up to let you know when to check the filter. That’s why the “once a month, check it” technique works so well.

Here’s a list of things around the house that I check at the end of each month:

Air Conditioner Filters

Tire Pressure

Gas Cans For Mowers / Trimmers

Locks on Windows / Doors

Automobile Fluids

Smoke Detector Batteries

So, how about a little feedback? Any ideas about other items to check once a month?

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2007 Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday Florida June 1 – 12

Hurricane Season (June 1st – November 30th) starts Thursday. If you live in Florida, take advantage of the 2007 Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday. From June 1 – 12, the following items (and more) will be available for purchase, sales tax-free:

Reusable Ice
Self-Powered Light Source
Battery-Powered Flashlights
Battery-Powered Lanterns
Gas-Powered Lanterns
Gas / Fuel Containers
Batteries (Including Rechargeable)
Cell Phone Chargers / Cell Phone Batteries
Tarps / Plastic Sheeting
Ground Anchors / Tie-Downs
Portable Generators
Radios / Weather Band Radios
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Storm Shutter Devices

For a complete list and more information, view this PDF file.

For more information, visit

I never realized that Hurricane Season lasted SIX months.  Wow.  If you live in Florida, now would be a good time to ‘stock up’ on these items.  If you shop smart, you should be able to find some great bargains AND prepare yourself and your family for the hurricane season.  Win, Win!

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Annual Expenses: When Dividing By 12 Doesn’t Work

My wife and I both have term life insurance policies.  My annual life insurance premium is due in November.  Her premium is due in December.  In a perfect world, I’d divide my annual premium by 12, place that amount in my checking account each month, and then pay the bill in full when due.  But, what do you do when you have an “annual” expense, but you don’t have 12 months between the due date and today?

Option 1:  Calculate the number of months between today and the day the annual bill will be due.  Divide the premium by the number of months.  Let’s use my life insurance premium as an example.  The bill will arrive at my door at the end of November.  So, counting November, there are about 6 months between now and then.  Simply divide the annual premium, say $300, by 6 months, and deposit $50 per month in your checking account.  When the bill arrives, make the payment.

Option 2:  Simply budget for the expense in the month that it occurs.  Let’s take a look at my wife’s premium, at $250.  So, in the month of December, I’ll create a budget category labeled Life Insurance.  I’ll simply budget $250 in December for Life Insurance.  If you use this method, you must be prepared to cut expenses in another budget category, Entertainment, perhaps.

Option 3:  Create a budget category labeled Annual Expenses.  This works really well if you have several, similar annual expenses.  You might have an automobile insurance premium due in January, a life insurance premium in April, a renters’ insurance premium due in September, and automobile taxes due in December.  Estimate the total amount of all of these annual expenses, divide that amount by 12.  All of your annual expenses become one big budget category.  In some cases, you might be paying a different annual expense each month.  So, instead of breaking down each expense into it’s individual category, one category will suffice.
Option 4:  Don’t budget for annual expenses.  Instead, set aside as much as you can in savings, every month, and then make annual payments as they come due.  This is similar to Option 3, but allows for the fact that your annual expenses may change, you may incur new annual expenses, or you simply don’t like to deal with the “math” involved.

Option 5:  Ask the companies with which you do business to bill you on a monthly basis, instead of an annual basis.  For instance, I have the option of paying my automobile insurance monthly, annually, semi-annually, etc.  (Bonus fact:  MANY companies will give you a discount if you pay your bill on an annual basis.  Do the math!  Determine if the discount is worth it.  Or would you be better off leaving your money in the bank, accruing interest?)

There are some annual expenses which vary, year after year.  Examples include property taxes and health care expenses (out-of-pocket).  Let’s assume that the maximum out-of-pocket expense associated with your health care plan is $2000.  You have a choice to make.  Do you divide $2000 by 12, and deposit that amount into your checking account each month, “just in case”?  Or, do you hope that your family has an extra-healthy year and not worry about it?  Here’s what I do.  I acknowledge the fact that I could have to fork out the maximum amount.  But, I also know that we’ve never come close to paying out that much in one year.  So, I split the difference.  I budget a specific amount for Medical, each month, and then I prepare to “dip” into my Emergency Fund, should expenses be higher that I anticipated.

One more thing.  If you use a savings account to “stash away” money for annual expenses, be aware that MANY savings accounts have limits on the number of withdrawals you are allowed to make in a month (or quarter).  For this reason, I prefer a money market account or interest-bearing checking account.

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