When To Make The Switch To LED Christmas Lights?

We got our decorating done this past weekend. Usually, we go in full force the day after Thanksgiving, but we decided to start a bit earlier this year.  We have a mix of LED Christmas lights and regular lights.  Pretty much everything inside is regular and outside is LED.

Benefits of LED

According to the site Holiday LEDs, there are many benefits of switching to LED lights, which include:

  • Much less energy use – They say that LEDs use about 90% less energy than traditional light strings.
  • Longer life – They say that the bulbs last 50,000 hours, which is up to 20 times longer than a normal set of bulbs
  • Safer – LED bulbs throw off a lot less heat than normal bulbs, which reduces the risk of fire caused by overheating
  • Easier to use – Many LED light sets do not suffer from the frustrating problem of a loose, missing, or broken bulb causing the entire line to fail.
  • Brighter – The LED lights typically emit a more bright, crisp light, so you don’t use as many lights on the tree.

Drawbacks

  • Price – The price has come down for LED bulbs.  Still, they remain higher than regular bulbs

    Image from morguefile courtesy of earl53
  • Performance – We replace at least 1-2 lines of outdoor LED lights per year. The bulbs might last, but the lines don’t.  I expect being outdoor lights, they won’t last as long.
  • Availability – Last year I saw quite a few stores carrying them, but most had a limited selection or were sold out quite early.
  • Color – We use regular lights inside because they’re much warmer lights.  The LED bulbs have made some strides. Still, they’re much more harsh lights.

We definitely see a bump in our electricity bill during the holiday months.  I think this would be higher if it weren’t for our mix of bulbs.

So far, our mix of bulbs seems to work for us.  I would love to switch more of our internal bulbs to LED lights, especially since we have one pre-lit tree that now needs lights strung over about 80% of it, since other lines have burned out. I think it will take a while. Maybe in a few more years we’ll get there.

Readers, have you made the switch to LED yet?

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.

Do You Believe These Money Myths?

There are a lot of different things you’ll read when it comes to your money.  The personal finance world has lots of people with many opinions.  I’m one of them!  But with so much out there, it can often get confusing.  What do you believe?  What’s true and what’s a suggestion?  I don’t have all the answers.  But there are a few money myths that I’ve seen come up more than a few times.

#1: Always Pay The Higher Interest Loan First

The higher the interest rate means that less of your payment goes to your principal.  This is true.  So, you should always pay the highest interest loan first, right?

Not always.

I think you have some flexibility here.  If you have a loan with a low balance, maybe consider paying that off first.  It will free up some cash flow.  Plus, paying off a loan will give you a ‘win’ on your scorecard.  Those can be very important and might be worth a few bucks in higher interest in the short term.

#2: It’s Too Late To Start Saving

Many people start saving for retirement or their first home right out of the gate.  If you’re one of those people, then congrats.  But if you’re not, don’t worry.

It’s never too late to start saving.  I don’t care how old you are.  Many people who give this answer are just making excuses to continue bad habits.

I don’t care if you have friends that are your age who are already retiring and you haven’t saved a buck.  You should and you can start making a difference.

#3: You Have To Choose Between Paying Off Debt Or Saving Money

I’ve read at least a thousand pieces over the years on this topic.  Which is better if you have extra money?  Paying off debt?  Or saving/investing?

I’ve never understood why people think it has to be either or.  It doesn’t.

If the answer isn’t clear or you don’t have motivation toward one, why choose?  Try a mix of both.  Either one is going to help you in the long run.  And, you might find that one excites you more than the other.  If that happens, then you can make adjustments.

#4: Having An Emergency Fund Is Good Enough

OK, so you saved $1,000 for an emergency fund.  You’re covered, right?  Wrong.

The fact is that even if you’ve built yourself a cushion, there is still work to do.  What if you have an emergency greater than $1,000?  How will you restore your fund if an actual emergency depletes your fund?  What if someone comes to you with an emergency of their own?

Be prepared.  Think ahead.

#5: Following Someone Else’s Budget Is Your Ticket To Success

A budget that works for someone else may not work for you.  Everybody has different circumstances and different needs.

Also, many people are at different stages of how they can handle a budget.  Someone who’s never used a budget should start simple. If they tried to use the budget template of someone that’s had one for twenty years, it probably won’t work.

Budgets come in all shapes and sizes.  There is no one size fits all.

#6: Focus On Cutting Spending To Save Money

This isn’t bad advice.  It’s actually really good advice.  However, it may not always be the best advice.

After all, the advice here only focuses on one side of the equation.  Spending.  This is great, but there’s also opportunity that comes by making more money.

Consider that we all have limited time in our lives in which we can focus on saving money.  If your time allows you to cut $1,000 per month in expenses, that’s great.  But what if you focused that time on earning more money instead?  If you could earn $2,000 per month with the same effort, then focusing on cutting expenses could actually be costing you $1,000 per month.

#7: The Stock Market Is Always Going To Go Up

It may seem like this is true given that it pretty much has for the last ten years.  But it doesn’t.  And it won’t.  Don’t believe people on CNBC that tell you that ‘this time it’s different’.  And that the market can go up forever.

It’s not and it won’t.

Everybody needs to keep an eye on the market and recognize that it’s not a one way only road.  The experts that tell you that it can only go up probably have a plan in place.  And when the market starts going down, they’ll have executed their plan before they go back on the air and talk about the downturn.  Trust me on this.

The fact is, they don’t care about your money.  They care about theirs.  Don’t get the two confused.

Readers, what advice have you heard that may need some corrections or clarifications?  What do you think about the items I mentioned?  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.

10 Easy Things I Do To Save Money

Saving money is a big deal.  Many people don’t know where to start.  It doesn’t have to be hard.  In fact, when it comes to saving money, think small.  A small saving is easy to do.  And many small savings add up to BIG savings.

Here are some quick and easy things I do to save.  Hopefully some of these work for you.

Call The Cable Company

Every year or so our bill jumps up.  Every year or so I call them and ask them to lower our bill.  Guess what?  It works.  We save at least $40 compared to regular pricing.

Make My Own Coffee

I brew my own coffee every day. Even at work, I bring my own ground coffee.  I indulge in buying Half & Half.  All told, it costs a fraction of what I’d spend at Starbucks.

Use Reward Credit Cards

I barely swipe our debit card anymore.  Now, I use a credit card whenever possible.  Why?  Because all of our cards generate rewards.  We have one airline card and three cash cards.  Since we pay off the balance every month, it’s just free flights and money.  You can’t really beat that, can you?

Watch My Mileage

Often when driving around, I’ll switch my dash display to show my mileage.  Why?  Because when I watch how I’m driving, I drive better.  With gas prices back up again, every less bit of fuel used is a savings.  Why burn money that you don’t have to?

Avoid Vending Machines

I stopped buying things out of the vending machines a couple of years ago.  Now I refuse to.  Not only is what’s in there generally bad for you, it’s always overpriced.

Stack Savings

We stock up on some items at the grocery store.  The trick is to buy things you’ll use.  Also, make sure that they won’t go bad before you use them.  If you have items on that, look for coupons and use them when the item is on sale.  It’s savings on top of savings!

Order Water

Sometimes at a restaurant I’ll get a cocktail or a glass of wine, but otherwise it’s straight water.  I don’t order soft drinks or lemonade.  If you do this, though, make sure you tip as if you did buy something.  After all, the waitperson had to keep your water filled.  Even so, you save money.

Photo by EthanN77 courtesy of MorgueFile.

Borrow Books From The Library

I read over 50 fiction novels a year.  But, I can’t tell you the last time I bought one.  Instead, I do most of my reading through the library. This is a huge money saver.

Take A Break On Impulse Purchases

If you come across a great deal but you didn’t plan it, consider waiting.  Just give it a day and see if it’s still something you want.  Often times, I will take a day or two, and often times what I thought about purchasing is no longer important.

Buy Generic

Brand names are what you think of for most items.  But that only means you see more advertising.  It doesn’t mean it’s a better product.  Take a chance on generic or off brand items. In many cases, they’re the same or better quality.  And if they aren’t, well then it’s OK to go back to the brand name.

Readers, what are some ways you look to save money?  Are there any simple and easy tricks?  Let me know your secrets 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.

6 Easy Tips for Saving Money This Summer

It can be easy to overspend during the summer. From increased energy bills (you have to crank that air conditioner during those hot days) to vacation costs, spending seems to snowball during the hottest season of the year. Instead of leaving the summer with far less in your bank account, find ways to ease the strain on your wallet—while still having a great vacation season. Keep these simple strategies in mind and ensure your finances don’t get hit by the summer spending trend.

  1. Turn Down Your Hot Water Heater

Many homeowners turn up their hot water heater during the winter months to keep their showers warm. However, they forget to turn back the settings in the summer months (when all most of us want is a cold shower). The Department of Energy recommends having any tank-based hot water heater set to around 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Do a double check and find out where your temperature gauge is sitting to ensure you’re not wasting energy and money on heating water you’re not using.

  1. Automatic Savings

If you’re not the best at self-discipline, it’s a good idea to bolster your savings account automatically. Instead of manually setting aside a chunk of your paycheck each month, have your bank account set up to do it for you. Most banks offer automatic transfer; simply set it up and you never have to worry about it.

  1. Plan a Staycation

Summer is the season for vacations, but sometimes, planning that trip to a beachside oasis is too costly. Week-long vacations can easily cost upwards of several thousand dollars, and for tight budgets, it’s just not feasible. That doesn’t mean you can’t capture the vibes of rest and relaxation. Plan a staycation and get away from it all. Book a hotel room in your city through hoteltonight.com for an amazing discount, or go camping in your backyard to get back to nature. It’s important to set some ground rules for your staycation. If you’re at home, it’s easy to let the normal tasks and stressors affect you. Make a commitment to abstain from chores, and turn off your phones and tablets.

  1. Invest in a Home Energy Audit

If you’ve got an older home and haven’t made any energy efficient upgrades since purchasing, it’s likely that your house is wasting a great deal of energy and water—which means excess costs. Understanding how much energy you’re wasting and learning ways to cut down on this waste can save you hundreds to thousands of dollars each year. Book an appointment with an energy professional; they’ll come in and audit your home’s energy use, uncovering hidden energy leaks and providing you with invaluable advice on how to fix it. Most audits find small issues that are easy to repair on your own, while others find major problems that could become disastrous if left untreated. Making the investment in a home energy audit is more than worth the money you’ll save—especially during the summer months when your air conditioner is likely to be on full blast.

  1. Grow Your Own Produce

Summer is the time for fresh fruit and vegetables, and nothing’s more satisfying than a light, crisp salad on a hot day. Instead of throwing money away for overpriced produce at your local supermarket, plant a garden and begin growing your own produce. Start small with easy to grow herbs and vegetables and move onto more difficult plantings as you get the hang of your gardening.

  1. Pay Off Lingering Debt

We’ve just left tax season in the dust, but for those who still the IRS, the struggle continues. If you’re in tax debt, one of the most important things you can do for your family and wallet this summer is focus your spending on paying off these bills. Forgo the summer vacations and costly meals out and focus on getting your debt paid off. Using a company like Community Tax to negotiate payment plans and installment agreements with the government makes it easier to begin breaking down your debt. This effort now will pay off in the long run.

Saving money this summer isn’t as difficult as you might think. Keep these tips and strategies in mind and bolster your savings this season.

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.