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Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-27-2006, 10:09 PM   #1
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Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

OK, how about some discussion about those consumer investments or decisions you've made that pay dividends by reducing your expenses ... helping you further LBYM?

This could be a hybrid car (debatable on savings ...), photovoltaic cells on your roof, solar hot water heaters, a magic 200 mpg carburetor, etc.? What have you discovered was a great investment / decision because it reduced your cost of living?

Years ago, we installed a solar hot water heater in Phoenix, and that worked out great. 3" styrofoam insulation under stucco turned our home into a big cooler in AZ as well ... worth the extra $2.5K at the time ... we had the lowest electricity bill around. We use Consumer Reports regularly, and are convinced we've been able to make wiser purchase decisions in a number of cases.

Not a product purchase, but moving to TN turned out to be a money saver ... much lower cost of living here, and lower taxes. Paid off all three cars (for three adults), and that worked out well.

Looking into solar cells for the house, but so far, hard to pin down true cost / payback. Anyone else had luck with photovoltaics?
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-27-2006, 10:38 PM   #2
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

A new front load washing machine. A thermal cover for my water heater.
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-27-2006, 10:59 PM   #3
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

I took an opportunity buy of a car from a relative at a reasonable price and owner financed. I sold my truck (late model extended cab 350 V8). It halved my monthly payment, lowered my insurance, lowered my gas usage and was cheaper overall and paid off sooner. It really helped me snowball the debt reduction.

I'm going to sound like a broken record, but eliminating the consumer debt has powerful returns. I was paying probably a couple of hundred or so in interest...paying for stuff I had bought long ago. After getting rid of the debt I feel like I'm rolling in money sometimes.

After having new car fever for a few months I instead put $2k into replacing my head gasket & intake manifold gasket, getting the heads machined and paying a ridiculous fee to get the turn signal switch replaced. Paid cash. ($2k includes rental car.) With a little luck I'll keep driving this paid off car another couple of years quite cheaply.
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-27-2006, 11:15 PM   #4
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

I've had photovoltaics since last summer. With the California Utility Comission rebate ($3.20/installed watt) and the California income tax credit, the installed cost was about $4.25/watt installed nameplate (STC). The way I calculate the economics, with a time-of-use meter the ROI will be about 3% over the rate of power price inflation. A fairly conservative investment, but a decent hedge against increases in energy prices. So far the performance of the system has been at or above expectations (when it hasn't been raining).

I've bought all the components for a solar water system, so now I just need to find the time to put it together and install it.
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-27-2006, 11:28 PM   #5
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

Things that have made the biggest financial savings differences in my life:

1. Go to a state college. And go to college. I had no loans when I got out.
2. Buy first car used for $670. Drive it 170K miles (12 years) and sell it for $700.
3. Buy second car (new). Drive it 140K miles.
4. One of our current cars (minivan) has 205K miles on it, going strong, original owners. We're buying a replacement car in the fall!
Note: think of all the money we've saved in car costs and interest over 22 years.

5. Always pay off credit cards.
6. Pay mortgage more aggressively than the loan expects.

I do other smaller things, but on a pure dollar basis these are the biggies.
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 12:33 AM   #6
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

I think the greatest savings in the way we've budgeted compared to the average middle class American has been in automotive costs...we mostly buy lower-end used vehicles with 25K-40K miles on them, then run them into the ground, doing much of the maintenance myself. We've never had a car payment or full coverage insurance.

We've also been "late adopters" on electronica such as microwaves, VHS, then DVD players & 5.1 sound, high speed internet, cell phones and the like. We wind up with this stuff eventually, but the costs are usually down substantially from the first wave. Except these damned monthly fees for HS internet & cell service...

Cb
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 04:18 AM   #7
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

OK, the two savings ideas that have worked for me:

* Investing in Index funds instead of managed funds -- this alone probably saves me over 5 figures per year due to lower investment costs, deferred taxes, and proper diversification

* Rent a 1 bedroom apartment (I am single) -- in Silicon Valley the consumption item is real estate, and people mortgage their futures for it -- it is eery -- colleagues spend 10 to 100s of thousands on all kinds of house upgrades -- and disrupt their life, etc. -- one colleague has an interest only loan of over 1M dollars


I live modestly, but everything else is pretty much in the noise compared to those two things.

I try to take a 3 week international trip each year nowadays which tend to be low budget, but that is not really "saving".

Kramer
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 08:18 AM   #8
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

The "slightly-used car, and drive them into the ground" is a huge deal.* I was in the car business for 13 years, and for some of that time we leased luxury cars (from our Lexus / Land Rover / BMW stores).* Even at my cost, those were dumb moves.* Older car folks, away from the business, will always advise against trading new cars every few years ... that strategy is indeed a money pit.* Only exception ... new cars heavily subsidized, sometimes with lease terms.* For those retired, who drive less ... another tactic is to buy classic cars, and don't put too many miles on them.* Very little depreciation, and sometimes you'll hear a story of appreciation. And, you've got a neat ride!

We've done the late adopter routine as well.* Still higher on the curve than I'd like, but we finally bought a wide-screen, flat panel TV ... much smaller than our friends, much cheaper, but a big step up from the 12-year-old one that died.

For those installing photovolaics, how did you find a good vendor?
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 09:21 AM   #9
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

I totally agree with CB and Charles on the car thing. I've always felt that financing (paying interest) on something that was depreciating in value was a no win situation.
Try to find a quality used car with low miles, pay cash if you can, and maintain it properly. I belong to an auto maintainence discussion board and there are members who routinely get 300K miles from Toyota/Nissan/Honda engines. These guys normally run a synthetic oil with a good filter. By good filter I mean anything but Fram.

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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 09:33 AM   #10
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

We threw out our massive 80 gallon electric hot water heater that came with the house and installed an instant tankless hot water heater. It not only takes up a fraction of the space in our laundry room but it has cut monthly electric bills by about $25/month (since water is heated only when needed instead of being kept hot 24/7). It allows us to take a hot shower for as long as desired with no fear of running out of hot water. We've had it for a little over a year and it works very well.

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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 09:40 AM   #11
 
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

Ditto on the tankless water heater.

Wood stove: my heating costs for next winter will be zero (firewood from downed trees).

Ditto for moving to the country.
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 10:06 AM   #12
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

Bicycle to work instead of driving a car.
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 10:19 AM   #13
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

Just curious........Has anyone changed their incandescent bulbs for fluorescent bulbs? If so, what did you look for in a fluorescent bulb? I see several different types on the shelf. Any feedback on savings using the fluorescent?
Thanks

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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 10:26 AM   #14
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Poundkey
Just curious........Has anyone changed their incandescent bulbs for fluorescent bulbs?* *If so, what did you look for in a fluorescent bulb?* I see several different types on the shelf.* Any feedback on savings using the fluorescent?
Thanks

.........#........
I've used compact fluorescents for years, since the NYC area always has had high electric rates. I just buy the cheapest ones at Lowe's and they work fine. Since they use about 1/10th the electricity and last for years, you get a return pretty quickly. Savings is # hours light is on per day X wattage rating of incandescent X .001 X .9 X cost per KWH X 365. So if you use a single 75W lamp bulb 6 hours a day and pay $.12 a KWH, you save 6 X 75 X .001 X .9 X .12 X 365 = $17.74 in the first year. Those $3 bulbs look pretty good, don't they?
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 10:26 AM   #15
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Poundkey
Just curious........Has anyone changed their incandescent bulbs for fluorescent bulbs?* *If so, what did you look for in a fluorescent bulb?* I see several different types on the shelf.* Any feedback on savings using the fluorescent?
Thanks

.........#........
I Googled this a while ago...IIRC the cheapest ones at Home Depot, etc are prone to the phenomenom of a subtle "pulsing" of the intensity of light when using 2 or more in a room. That'd probably drive me krAZiE (admittedly, only a short drive), so I've used that as an excuse to do nothing, a favorite pastime of mine.

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Old 04-28-2006, 10:37 AM   #16
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cb
I Googled this a while ago...IIRC the cheapest ones at Home Depot, etc are prone to the phenomenom of a subtle "pulsing" of the intensity of light when using 2 or more in a room. That'd probably drive me krAZiE (admittedly, only a short drive), so I've used that as an excuse to do nothing, a favorite pastime of mine.

Cb
If you don't like the ones at Home Despot, check out the extensive selection at www.bulbs.com
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 10:42 AM   #17
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

Quote:
Originally Posted by brewer12345
If you don't like the ones at Home Despot, check out the extensive selection at www.bulbs.com
Sams has a pretty good selection also. I replaced most of our incandescents with the "curlycue" variety a few months ago and have been happy with the results in reduced elec. bills. Haven't noticed any pulsing issues, but they do take 30 seconds or so after you turn them on to get up to full brightness.
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Old 04-28-2006, 10:42 AM   #18
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

Cloths line....who needs dryer sheets ..Of course, being in the country makes it nicer since I know folks in town in some places cant have them.

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Old 04-28-2006, 10:54 AM   #19
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Poundkey
Just curious........Has anyone changed their incandescent bulbs for fluorescent bulbs? If so, what did you look for in a fluorescent bulb? I see several different types on the shelf. Any feedback on savings using the fluorescent?
.........#........
I bought my first CF bulb back over 5 years ago now. Since back then they cost a bit more I just replaced each bulb as I burned out the old ones. I still have yet to replace a single CF bulb. Cost savings are insane when you apply it to the entire house. I turn off lights and run all CF bulbs and my power bill is about half of my neighbours. ($35/month) I got all my CF bulbs at IKEA. They have great sales on them every few months, so keep an eye out.

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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 11:07 AM   #20
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

Photovoltaic vendor: local phone book, competitive bids, call references. Here in northern California there are a lot of solar vendors, so the yellow pages worked. I went with Real Goods, and have been quite happy with their service. I'll give you their phone number if you like.

I bought a case of CF bulbs on eBay for less than $1 each. In researching them it seems that if they are Energy Star compliant then they have been tested well enough that they should last for at least a few years. The only ones that aren't Energy Star compliant these days are some of the very cheapest Chinese ones you find at the $1 discount stores. There are spirals and mini-spirals. The mini-spirals fit in pretty much all fixtures while the spirals are too big for some.
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