Facing Facts: Our Old Camper Is Near The End Of The Road

I’ve written a few posts over the year about our camper.  From our first post announcing we were considering the idea to our posts about subsequent misadventures, we’ve chronicled our journey well.  The bottom line, though, is that our old camper isn’t doing well.

Our Camper Is Old

We have a 2004 Jayco hybrid.  This is it’s 15th camping season.  We’ve only had it for seven of those seasons, but it’s showing it’s age.

Many campers can survive much longer.  Ours hasn’t done so well. The primary reason is the type of camper it is.  We have a lightweight hybrid.  At the time of our purchase, we had a mid-size SUV that could only tow a few thousand pounds.  This limited us on what we could get.  We didn’t want a pop-up, so this was about the biggest we could get with a traditional trailer.

It was great, but unfortunately, there are tradeoffs.  A couple of years back, I had a conversation with our repair shop, and he said that these types of units have a shorter lifespan than traditional units.  They use lighter and thinner wood.  The frame is made of less accomodating materials.  The shell is fiberglass, which eventually delaminates.  Simply put, they typically don’t last as long.

He pointed out that ours was in great shape….for a unit as old as it was.  He could tell that we took care of it and kept it up well.  But he was honest and said that it would continue to have problems.  And it has.

Current Problems

Soft spots on the floor

We had a rubber seal fail in a storage compartment over the winter a few years back.  This allowed water draining off the roof to enter and created a couple of soft spots.  They haven’t gotten any worse over time, but soft spots are an automatic no for many buyers.  It’s never been worth it to fix it, as we would have had to take apart the cabinets, the walls, the water tanks, and other key areas to fix.

Sagging ceiling

The roof support system is made of wood beams.  Because of their lighter weight, they eventually settle.  This happens especially in the middle with the weight of the A/C unit.  As such, water puddles around the A/C unit. When we’re storing it, we just tilt it to have the water run off.  But, when we’re camping, the water around the A/C actually starts prohibiting the condensation from draining, so it starts dripping back in.

Small leaks here and there

I caulk pretty regularly around the sides and joints.  Still, the lightweight design means that things regularly expand and contract.  Plus, the outside is made of fiberglass panels, which start to separate.  So, while there’s never a major leak to cause new soft spots, there have been a few water stains here and there.

Fridge half works

The refrigerator typically works on electricity or propane.  Ours quit working on propane.  Even our repair shop couldn’t figure it out.  This is usually fine as it’s insulated enough to keep things cold during travel.  However, we had a 24-hour power outage on one of our trips this summer.  Our fridge had to be emptied.

Leaky water heater

The drain plug on our water heater drips.  It’s just a small drip, maybe a drip every few seconds, but it’s just annoying enough to be a problem, as the pump turns on every so often.  I’ve tried new drain plugs and even some teflon tape around the plugs, but still to no avail.

Canvas fatigue

The awning and beds are both made of materials that seem susceptible to pinholes or stretching.  These aren’t usually big time repairs, but the problems won’t stop happening.

Other Issues

Outside of the problems, our camper has other issues for us.

Lack of bunk beds

Our kids are of the age where we would like them to have their own sleeping space.

Small tanks

One of the ways they made the camper small was to reduce the size of the water and waste tanks.  We camp for up to eight nights at a time.  With the size of the tanks, I’m adding water every day and we’re unable to put more than a gallon or two into the tank per day.  That’s really not a lot.

Very little storage

We have very little storage outside the camper.  I’m cramming anything that goes outdoors into two 2′ x 6′ x 1.5′ compartments.  Inside, there’s very little space for clothing and food.  It’s either one or the other.

Setup and pack up time

Our beds fold down, just like in a pop-up.  This adds time for us when we setup, in folding down and making the bed.  It’s also extra time to pack up and leave.  This isn’t a dealbreaker.  But, we go camping a lot.  We probably do six or seven trips per year.  That time adds up.  I know, first world problems, right?

 

Our Camper Today

The bottom line is that our old camper is undersized for how we use it.  We camp over twenty nights per year over many trips.  As my wife pointed out, it’s probably best designed for weekend trips.  With those, the tanks wouldn’t be a problem. Folding the beds in and out wouldn’t be as frequent.  The issues with the fridge and water would be more minor annoyances.

What’s Next

We will probably start looking into the idea of a new camper soon.  We’ve talked about it for a while.  We knew the day would come.  I think we’re just seeing that the issues aren’t going to go away.  We know more will come, not less.

When we bought the camper, I wasn’t sure about it at all.  I didn’t grow up camping.  My wife did.  Everything was new to me.  I didn’t know how to take care of it.  I really wasn’t sure if I’d truly like it.  To be honest, I had a lot of reservations.  The good news, though, is that I do like it.  I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable about towing and taking care of a home away from home.

So, we’ll probably start looking to see if anything stands out at us.  We want something newer.  It would have to be something bigger.  We don’t want anything lavish.  It just has to suit our needs.

The budget for it would be a combination of several things.

Selling our old camper

The current camper would hopefully work for someone.  We would likely get very little compared to what we purchased it for.  This is a bummer, but I’m pretty OK with it.  Why? Because of how much we’ve actually used it.  If I were to add up the number of days and nights we’ve used it since we bought it, we’ve gotten some great use out of it.

Savings

We have been putting money toward a new camper for awhile.  It’s been slow as we are a single income family, and we are also saving toward other items.  We’ll need a new deck.  Our furnace, A/C unit, and water heater are all of the age of caution.  We put most of our savings toward retirement.

Loan

We may take out a small loan to pay for the balance.  We’re trying to keep things on the affordable side.  I don’t want to take out more than a few thousand dollars for a loan.  It’s never my ambition to take on a new loan, but I know the payment would be small.  Plus we have  a student loan payment ending in a year or so that we could shift the payment to largely cover a loan payment.  It wouldn’t put a financial strain on our budget.

All in all, our camper has provided us with a lot.  Many great memories.  Shelter during some heavy storms.  Lots of great places to stake our ground.  We get to vacation more at a fraction of the cost compared to more frequent hotel or rental vacations.  So, while nothing is in stone, we’re opening up ourselves to the idea that a new (to us) camper may be in the works.  Just more memories to be made, I hope!

Readers, what have you owned that eventually ‘got old’?  At what point did you decide it was time to move on?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  Thanks for reading.

Copyright 2017 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.

Kids And Money: Things My Children Have Learned

It is so fun watching kids learn, isn’t it?  Our kids are nine and seven, and they learn new things each day.  Even during the summer, they learn lots of new things.  As a personal finance blogger, seeing kids and money connect is satisfying to watch. My wife talk about money with them and explain many of the basics, but many things they figure out on their own.

We went on a recent camping trip, and it stood out how much they’ve learned. Of course, many of these things they wouldn’t be able to verbalize, but as a parent, it hit me that they are building an understanding.  Here are a few money lesson I have seen our kids figure out.

Work For Your Money

Our kids have enjoyed visiting the park stores this summer.  When camping, many campgrounds have small stores.  They often sell ice cream, candy, and basic supplies.  Our kids love going in their and want to buy small items.  They’ve figured out that if they do some extra work around the campground, they can sometimes earn money.  Picking up sticks for starting fires is a popular activity.  We’ve not run out so far this summer!

Save For Costly Items

Our kids typically earn a dollar apiece for their work around the campsite.  Sometimes this is enough for what they want.  Other times, they want something that costs more.  So, they’ve learned the concept of saving up for bigger items.

Better Items (Sometimes) Cost More

Kids have learned that not all candy costs the same. Sometimes, the premium stuff (or what they consider premium) is more than other stuff.  They learn to make choices.  They’re also learning to differentiate and also to form their own opinions.

Working Together Can Pay Off

The kids went to one store where small bags of candy were a dollar each.  Then, they saw that they were two for $1.50.  They figured out that if they agreed to each get a bag, they would pay less.  Seeing each of them walk away with that extra quarter was pretty cool!

You Have To Make Choices

That first time the kids walked into a store with some money in their hands, their eyes sparkled!  Oh, the possibilities!  But it didn’t take them long to realize that they had to make choices.  They didn’t have enough for the haul they wanted.  It’s amusing to see them walk around and discuss their options.  Picking out the right treat is serious business for kids!

Look For A Sale Sticker

They were pretty excited once when they came back having got an item on sale.  A toy that was normally $2 was on sale for $1.  And, they didn’t have to do anything special like pool their money.  They learn to watch out for sales stickers.  If it’s something they like, they realize they can get more for their money.

You Pay For Convenience

Our kids love candy bars.  Of course they do!  But, they know that their favorite candy bar isn’t always the same price.  It can be $1 in one store, $1.25 in a vending machine, and up to $2 in a park store.  Why?  Much of it has to do with convenience.  Park stores charge more because they’re offering the convenience to buy things without having to leave.  The kids have learned that if they want something there, they may be paying more.  They are figuring out that sometimes waiting and buying their candy ‘in town’ is a more economical option.  Of course, sometimes they choose to pay more, because they want candy now!

Taxes Suck

The first few times that my kids had to pay sales tax was eye opening.  It really didn’t make sense why they would hand over $2 for a $1.50 item, and only get 41 cents back.  Where did the other nine cents go?  Sales tax!  They’re now getting to the point where they expect it.  But, they still don’t like it!  Since nobody likes paying taxes, I guess they’ve figured out that lesson early! Kids and money lessons don’t always leave smiles on their faces!

It’s really cool to see our kids learn about money.  We’ve started making sure to bring them a few dollars on each trip.  To me, it’s an investment in their money education.

Readers, how do your kids learn about money?  Do you have any kids and money learning stories to share?  Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  Thanks for reading.

Copyright 2017 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.

9 Small Frugal Ideas That Add Up To Big Savings

If you want to be more frugal, join the club!  There are always ways to save money.  But, where to start?  Many people think that frugality involves cutting big costs.  While this can be the case, it’s not always necessary.  You can save money by taking on small actions.  Here are some small frugal ideas that can add up to big savings.

Don’t Wash Clothes If They Don’t Need To Be Washed

Many times people throw everything into the dirty clothes basket.  This doesn’t always have to be automatic.  Many shirts, pants, dresses, and jeans can be worn multiple times.  This will keep the clothes lasting longer.  Plus, you will save in reduced costs for laundry.

Drink Water.  From The Tap!

Are you paying money for drinks?  Coffee? Soda?  Even bottled water?  You can save money by drinking regular old tap water.  Now, you don’t have to cut every purchase out, but even starting with half can make a big difference in your budget.

Use Rags Instead of Paper Towels

When we get new dishrags or towels, we keep the old ones for rags.  These are great to use instead of paper towels.  Every sheet of paper towel you don’t use is one less you have to buy.  Even a few rolls per year can cost a few bucks.  This won’t make you right, but hey, every bit helps, right?

Make Your Own Coffee

If you have a coffee habit, which I do, you can save money by making your own.  I actually spend a little more on extras like real half-and-half, but I still save tons compared to buying it at a coffee shop.

Pack Lunches

If you love going out for lunch, you’re probably spending big bucks to do so.  You can still go out, but mix in some packed lunches.  This can save a few bucks per week, which adds up to a few utility bills if you think about it.

Use Your Library

I love our library.  I rent books, movies, and music.  They have expanded their electronic resource catalog, so I can get books on my Kindle without even leaving the house.  They even have museum passes that you can use.  Check out what your library has to offer.  You can almost certainly save some money.

Look For Free Activities

If you love to get out and go, that’s great.  But, how much is this costing you?  There’s good news.  You can go out and do many different things with no cost at all.  Communities have fairs, festivals, and many different activities.  Look around social media or your community website to find out what’s going on.  There are probably many fun and free things for people of all ages.

Buy Stuff On Sale Whenever You Can

This seems like a no brainer, but hear me out.  Start looking at things you buy and figure if you can get it on sale.  Many people pay full price for things when they need it.  Ask if you can wait until it’s on sale.  Is it even on sale at all?  Can you get it somewhere else?  You don’t have to go too crazy here, but if you can wait to buy that pair of jeans until you know they’ll be on sale at the event a store has every year, consider waiting?

Get Free Entertainment

Are you paying for video games?  Why not play free games that are available for anyone to download?  If you’re paying for music, why not get a free streaming app and listen that way instead?  The downfall with many free things like this is that you either have to watch ads or listen to them, but that can be a small price to pay for some money in your pocket, don’t you think?

Those were just some of my ideas.  What I like about these is that, for the most part, they’re easy.  Most people give up on frugality because it’s too hard.  That can come from taking on too much all at once.  With the tips above, you can get started and start making a difference today.

Readers, what are some of your favorite small frugal ideas?

Copyright 2017 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.

Affordable Web Hosting Hacks You Can’t Afford To Ignore

It’s time to bring your business idea to life, and one of the most important aspects of that is having a powerful online presence. That being said, you also want to stick to your startup budget, which means choosing affordable web hosting. The good news is that there are a few hosting hacks you can employ.

From pricey hosting add-ons to the different types of hosting services, there is much to consider. The following questions can serve as a quick guide that may save you a few hundred dollars.

What Type of Web Hosting Service Do You Need?

Choosing the right hosting service is a very essential factor is an essential element to launching your new online business under budget. There are plenty of web hosting services to choose from, but not all are created equal, and cost-effective. Three types of hosting services to research are:

  1. Shared Hosting 

Shared hosting is the most common of all website hosting services. However, this doesn’t make it the best. Yes, shared hosting is the most affordable, but it is important to be honest about your site needs, like bandwidth, disk space, control permissions, and more.

The biggest advantage of shared hosting is the price tag. You can launch your site on a shared server for as little as $5 per month. The disadvantage is that you’ll be sharing a server with hundreds of other websites. This can cause performance issues, like slow page load times, and even server downtime.

  1. Cloud Hosting

 Another web hosting service that has value, and relatively new, is cloud hosting. This is exactly what you are probably picturing, hosting services via the cloud. Cloud hosting works by drawing from a number of cloud servers to act as one. This has big time advantages, such as scalability, enhanced server security, and affordability.

The cost of cloud hosting used to be quite expensive, but since its inception, the cost has reduced significantly. If you know your business is going to grow fast, the scalable nature of cloud hosting may be worth the price to avoid long-term site growth issues.

  1. Dedicated Hosting

 Lastly, you can utilize the power of having your very own server with a dedicated hosting service. This is of course an ideal option if your soon-to-launch business has a large built-in following eager to visit your website. You will probably crash a shared server with thousands of people visiting your website daily after launch.

A dedicated server gives you more control with root permissions and also keeps your site performing at optimal levels. The downside is cost. You can expect to pay $100 at the very minimum to secure a dedicated server for your website, so be sure to evaluate all server types.

Do You Really Need Those Add-On Features?

If you have already done a bit of web hosting research, you probably ran into the long list of add-on features hosting providers serve up. These add-ons can be costly and eat away at your budget quickly. The good news is that you probably don’t need most of them.

For example, add-ons like multiple Microsoft 365 accounts. Do you even have five people that need access to Microsoft 365? And why not just use Gmail instead? Sure it’s good to have a domain name email, but there are hosting plans that include this in the price.

Other add-ons like SEO or marketing can all be added to your website later via WordPress plugins for free. To save you time and money, skip the add-ons you don’t need right away, because you can always get them later.

Should You Purchase the Long-Term Hosting Plan?

This is a question that you’ll ponder prior to purchasing your business’ website hosting plan. Should you get the long-term plan? Absolutely! Are you planning on being in business for only 12 months? Probably not, and the bonus is that you can save a truckload by looking toward the future.

For example, a three-year plan can be as much as 60 percent off the regular price. This depends on what hosting provider you choose to partner with of course. And do a bit of comparison research too, because often times the three year plan is the same price as the two-year plan.

Think long-term for your new business, and you’ll probably have more growth and success. Do a bit of shopping around and take your time as well, since there are always seasonal deals and promo codes out there you can find and use to save even more money.

Stay Under Budget When Choosing Your Hosting Service

Web hosting is more affordable than ever before, especially as new technology surfaces, like cloud hosting. This can push the needle down on prices, making it very cost-effective to purchase the perfect website hosting service for your business. Think about what you really need and don’t forget you will have success, so prepare for it.

Copyright 2017 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.