Contemporary Window Treatments: Don’t Always Think Dollars

Anyone who has kept track of the window treatments industry over the years will have probably been astounded by the sheer developments that have taken the place. Once upon a time we were used to roller blinds, Venetian blinds and perhaps even the odd blackout thrown in there – but now these very same products are actually viewed as old and ineffective when compared to the newer models.

However, don’t be fooled into thinking that this industry has immediately closed itself unless you happen to be worth a small fortune. While some technologies are costly, on other occasions you just have to engage in a little creativity to experience the true benefits of modern blinds on a budget. As the title of this post has indicated, we’re going to specifically target the treatments which focus on contemporary homes – those, which in theory in least, should cost us mammoth amounts of money to furnish.

Fortunately, they don’t. If aesthetics is your thing, and you’re not bothered about the mod-cons such as motorized blinds, some of the contemporary-looking materials will barely make a dent in your bank account.

For example, wood is viewed as one of the most premium materials around in this industry and unfortunately, it still remains expensive. Manufacturers have realized the desirability of wood blinds though, and released faux products which mimic the appearance but aren’t made from the natural material itself. Ultimately, you’re left with a hugely contemporary looking window treatment, at a fraction of the cost of what a normal set of wood blinds would cost.

We’ll now turn to another example; aluminum blinds. This is a type of product which has always been known to have been one of the cheaper ones within the blinds industry, but it also had a tagline of being somewhat unreliable. Now, manufacturers have improved their techniques and aluminum blinds are still inexpensive, but hold contemporary qualities that could work in any modern home.

All is not lost if you do want to benefit from some of the major technology that has affected this industry over recent times as well. Motorized blinds might cost significantly more money than the options we have ciphered through above, but the savings that can be prompted through them can be incredible. The ability to have your blinds left open, and then closed, at set periods of the day should not be understated and this is something that you should consider when you are making your purchase decisions. It might involve a lot more initial cost, but over time the savings will completely dwarf this.

The above can be used in several of the other modern window treatment examples. Solar shades and insulated blinds are more expensive than most traditional products, but the savings that they can bring to the typical household can border on the unbelievable. As we said initially though, if you do just have aesthetics in mind don’t be under the impression that this industry is only reserved for the filthy rich. Manufacturers have adapted and contemporary blinds, which still perform very well, can very much be purchased on a budget.

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Guns: I Just Don’t Get It

Guns.  I just don’t understand it anymore. Let me start off by saying this post won’t be talking about gun rights or gun control.  I’m not here to take anybody’s guns away, but I’m also not here to defend anything to do with guns.  What I’m here to do is simply to vent.  To throw my hands up in the air and express frustration at everything that seems to be associated with it.

I don’t know.  I don’t get it.

Death By Guns: Recent Stories Have Hit Me Hard

A few stories have hit me hard lately that I’ve read or heard about.  Way too many of these involve children.

  • Last month, there was a pretty big story about an Idaho woman who was carrying a loaded gun in her purse while out shopping.  While at WalMart, her son was playing with her purse, found the gun, and shot her.
  • Last week, a nine month old baby was shot by his five year old brother, who found a loaded gun that his grandfather had in the house.
  • Also just last week, a two year old was in his parents car, found his fathers loaded gun in the glove compartment, and accidentally shot himself in the chest.
  • A co-worker sent out a note last week that he’d be missing some time due to a tragedy.  Come to find out, his wife’s sister was engaged.  Her fiance was cleaning his gun, and it turned out to be loaded.  He had it pointed it at himself when it went off.

All four of the people died.

Four stories.  Four deaths.  How many lives changed.  Children dead.  Little kids that did the accidental shooting either ending their own lives, or ending the life of their brother or mother.  A woman who will never get to walk down the aisle with the man of her dreams.

All for what?

I don’t know.  I don’t get it.

The 2nd Amendment: I Get It, But I Don’t Get It

Look, even with all the tragedy, as I mentioned before, you won’t get me lobbying to repeal the second amendment.  Trust me, I get it.  I respect it.  I’m also pretty sure that it’s something that is not going away in my lifetime.  It’s just like the air we breathe.  It’s here so I’m not going to spend any time on it.

Now, what I don’t get are the people that stand behind the second amendment to make it seem like, not only do they have the right for gun ownership, but they act like they have the obligation.

That part I don’t get.

People will stand behind a piece of paper that was signed in 1791 as the basis of why theyOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA just have to have guns and why they have to have them on or around them.

That’s 224 years ago.  The people that are dying are right here.  Today.

The world was a different place 224 years ago.  Now I don’t know nor will I ever know for sure how much of the world changes we’ve seen were envisioned by the people who made it a constitutional right to bear arms.  Could they possibly have envisioned the evolution that we would take as a society, and the technological advances?  Probably not.  I can’t even begin to think what the world will look like in 224 years, but I just can’t imagine any decision that we make in 2015 holding to the same absolute standards of the world that will be lived in the year 2239.

So, while I respect the 2nd Amendment, I just wish people wouldn’t stand behind that one piece of paper as the reason to tote a gun around a purse, or keep it in the house, or otherwise.

I wish that people would think of better reasons than they have a gun simply because they can, at least as their primary reason.  Now, I’m not saying that the people involved in the tragedies above were anything like that.  I’ll never know.  But, I have personally spoken or heard from way too many people who abide by that philosophy.

I don’t get it.

Don’t Tell Me It Can’t Happen To You

Here’s what happens and I bet has happened as a reaction to every one of those stories. A gun owner reads the story, shakes his head, clucks his or her tongue, and says, “They made a mistake, but that would never happen to me.”

Say what you want, but I don’t buy that.

I’m pretty doubtful that every person involved probably had no idea that their actions would lead to fatal consequences, either for themselves, or for someone else.  The grandfather probably thought that keeping the gun in a locked cabinet was safe enough.  It wasn’t.  The fiance probably thought he’d checked to make sure that the gun wasn’t loaded.  It wasn’t.  The mother probably let her son have access to her purse a hundred other times, and never thought that it would translate to her dying.  It did.

Does every other gun owner think that they are immune to such mistakes?  That even if they’ve checked and double checked everything safety wise that they might forget just one times?  Not me, right?

I’m sure that’s what the people who are now dead or grieving once thought, too.

So, What’s My Point Exactly?

I guess the short answer to that question is that I don’t have one. I just want to vent.  To try to see if putting the thoughts into words and the words down on a computer screen might help make some sense to me.

I know it seems like I’m probably taking sides here, but I assure you I’m not.  This leans definitely toward the ‘get rid of guns’ sentiment, but there are times when I’m not looking at a list of tragedies where having guns makes sense to me.  So, don’t lecture me about wanting to take your guns away.

Trust me, I don’t want them.  But I won’t try to take them from you.  But what I will ask is to think whether they are really needed.  Are you carrying them because it’s your right? Are you carrying them for safety?  Do you keep one in your house that you think will make you safe?  If so, tell me how you’d get it if your home got invaded or robbed.  Are you really going to get to it in time?  Or is your curious kid going to find it first?

Nobody knows.  But every day people find out.  One way or another, they find out, don’t they?

Maybe some day it will make sense.  But, I’m guessing that to the little boys who one day found out that they killed their family member, the inevitable guilt and the loss will affect them monumentally through their life.  My mother died when I was young (nothing involving a gun), and though I’m too young to remember her, there’s still a hole that exists that will never be filled.  I imagine it’s the same with a sibling.  For the kids here to eventually grow up and also know that they played a part, no matter that it was a tragic accident, I can’t imagine what that will do to them  They now have this with them every day.

I’m guessing that to the woman who was essentially left a widow before she ever got to be a bride, it’s probably not going to make much sense.  One minute you’re somewhere in the process of planning a wedding and looking forward to what the rest of your lives hold, and suddenly you’re planning a funeral and looking back at what life was lost.

I’m guessing that the grandfather who probably didn’t lose just one grandson, but probably access to any other grandchildren he might have, I’m guessing that he might see things differently now.

You can blame it on error or mistakes or not following proper safety measures.  You can say that checking safeties or emptying chambers might have helped avoid these tragedies.  If you say these things, I can’t argue with you.  But, I do know that sometimes all the locks in the world, all the double checking in the world, the highest shelves in the world, they might not be enough.  They might not hold the answers.

So what is the answer?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that I still don’t get it.

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Instead Of My Desk Job

I’m pretty comfortable at my desk job.  I’ve always been more of an office guy.  I’m definitely not what you’d consider rough and tough, and while I enjoy working on things and getting things done, there are very few things I’ve thought of as potential jobs outside of going to work and sitting behind a desk.

I figured I might as well play a game of ‘What if?’ and ask what if I were to step outside of my desk and take on a different job.

I guess the qualifications for this would be pretty straightforward:

  1. I’d have to enjoy it
  2. I’d have to be good at it

There’s always the whole factor of could I realistically make a living at it, but since this is just hypothetical, I figured I’d throw that out for the time being.

There are a couple of things that I could see myself doing:

Cleaning Carpets

Last week, I had the house to myself for around 24 hours, and I decided that I wanted to get some carpet cleaning done.  I had purchased a small steam cleaner a few months ago, more to fill in times between getting them professionally cleaned, but since it’s been a while, I wanted to get a few rooms done.

mb-2015-01-carpetI set about doing some of the highly used rooms in our house, and with the time constraints and all, I didn’t spend time moving furniture or what not, I just did the main traffic and open areas.

I had figured each room might take an hour, but given the amount of dirty water I was dumping out, I just kept going until the water was relatively clean, and it took about 2-3 hours per room.  And, the thing was, the extra time didn’t bother me!

Many times I would be doing such a task and would either simply stop after the time I had allocated, or would be checking my watch to track the time and thinking of things that I could get done instead.  For some reason, the extra time didn’t bother me.

Cutting Lawns

I have my dad to thank for getting me into the practice of cutting grass, as I would help him cut the lawn at my parents house while growing up.  He taught me a lot of the various nuances and tricks to make sure that you’re not just cutting the grass, but doing so in a way to keep it looking good, and I’ve enjoyed taking that knowledge with me as I now have my own home.

Of course, it’s the dead of winter so I haven’t cut the grass in a few months, but when the season rolls around, it’s something that again, I don’t mind doing at all.  In fact, if anybody gets annoyed, it’s my wife, because sometimes I’ll set out to do it just a couple of days after having done it last time.  While I’m not escaping, as she half-jokingly suggests, it is nice to be able to throw on my headphones, listen to some music, get a little fresh air, and a little exercise, all while keeping the yard looking good.

Things I Would Instantly Disqualify Myself For

Here are two tasks I definitely would not consider if it ever came down to it:

  • Painting – I’m pretty good at painting but generally only in short stretches.  After a couple of hours, I start to get sloppy and I’ll end up yelling at the paintbrush as I go over drips or wipe wall paint off of the ceiling.
  • Shoveling Snow – I do our snow with either the shovel or snow blower, and will help out with others, but I had two hernia surgeries years back, and for some reason the snow aggravates the areas where I’ve had them.  While I’ve been assured that there’s little risk of giving myself another hernia, that it’s probably just pulling on tight scar tissue, the feeling is bothersome enough that I would not want to do it regularly.

Readers, have you ever considered, without truly considering, what types of things you would do if you decided to completely change your career approach?  Have you or anybody you know ever traded in your desk job for something else (or vice-versa)?

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Set Your Debt Free Date And Stick To It!

When I started catching up on e-mails that piled up over the holidays last month, one of the first ones I opened was from Jackie at The Debt Myth, a fantastic personal blog that tackles debt in real and sensible ways.  She had a great idea to get as many bloggers as possible to write a blog post centered around the theme “Debt Is Not Forever”.

The Debt Is Not Forever Idea

The idea behind her theme is so simple that the words really speak for themselves.  It’s basically to acknowledge that debt is something that is temporary, even though many people have made it a permanent part of their lives.

Think about it.  We have car loans, mortgages, credit card bills, home improvement loans, student loans, and the list can go on and on and on.  Looking at the list as well as the figures that many people have attached to them, it can seem like debt is constant.

Although it may seem like that, it really isn’t.

How To Think of Debt As Temporary

mb-201402creditcard400For the last couple of years, I’ve had Jackie’s principle of ‘Debt Is Not Forever’ in my head, but in a more abstract way.  Reading her e-mail which asked me to write this post, gave me the a-ha moment, and put some framework around my approach.  So, what is my approach, you ask?  It’s pretty simple.

  1. Gather a list of all of your debts
  2. Find the debt that is set to be paid off last
  3. Set that date as your debt free date.
  4. Manage your debts within that time frame.
  5. Stick to it!

Sounds pretty simple, right?  It is!  A little too simple?  No, not if you plan and work.

Applying Our Plan To Get Debt Free

So, let me put our plan in action.

Gather a list of our debts
Right now, we only have two debts.

  • Student Loan
  • Mortgage

List created.  See, this is easy.

Find the debt that is set to be paid off last
The mortgage is the debt that is scheduled to be around the longest out of all of our debts, in October 2026.  The student loan will be paid off in 2018 with normal payments.

Second item, done.

Set that date as your debt free date

I just said that October 2026 is the date that the last payment on our current debt is scheduled, so I guess October 2026 it is.

Third item, done!  We’re flying right now.

Manage your debts within that time frame

OK, here’s where it probably gets a bit tricky.  Here it is just January 2015, and we have to figure out our debt situation for the next eleven and a half years?   I knew this would get tough.

Or is it?

Not really.  Actually, planning your debt is pretty basic if you give yourself only two options.

  • Take on no new debt during that time – This is the ideal situation, and if you can pull this off, you’ll be assured to hit your mark on or before the current date of your final payment.  That’s simple, cool, and will work 100% of the time.  Unforunately, it isn’t always practical, which leads to the second option….
  • Manage any new debt within your schedule – Let’s face it, you may have to take on debt between now and the time your last debt is scheduled to be paid off.  Ideally, you wouldn’t have to take out a loan for a car, but you might.  In a perfect world, all home improvements and such can be paid for up front, but maybe that can’t happen.  The winning strategy here is to make your debt payment date a priority.  If you willingly take on any new debt, make sure it’s done so in a fashion where all new debts will be paid off within the date you just set above.  Period.  So, if you have to get a car loan (or multiple car loans within the time), fine, or you want to take out a home equity loan to pay for some upgrades, no problem, just so long as you can commit to having that new debt paid off before your debt is scheduled to end.  If you’re unable to commit to that, then the solution is simple: Don’t take on the new debt!

Stick To It!

Again, this part will get tricky, and you may have to go back a few times, especially depending on how long it is before your debt is scheduled to be gone.  But, if you establish that date, write it down, remind yourself of it, get a calendar popup on a regular basis.

Start Thinking Of Debt As Temporary Today!

Whatever it takes, ingrain that date in your head.  Whether your debt free date is a month from now or thirty years from now, it really doesn’t matter.  Just so long as you establish it and stick to it, you’ll get there.  And, once you do, you’ll realize that debt is not forever!

Readers, please share your strategy on ending debt, or your story of how you did it if you’ve already hit this goal.  In addition, please visit Jackie’s page on this important topic over at The Debt Myth.  

Many thanks to Jackie for organizing this topic and including Money Beagle.  I’m proud to share!


Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.