Running Shoes

I’ve taken up running on the treadmill in the morning’s before work.  Actually, I run three days, do a high incline walk one day, and a simple walk another day.  I take the weekends off.

One thing I quickly realized that I needed was a pair of shoes to fit the habit.

I actually waited several weeks to make sure that I was going to committ to the routine.  So far, so good.

So, at the recommendation of a friend, I started looking around for some Asics running shoes.  My friend runs about 20 miles per week, and has used Asics for a good portion of the time he’s been running.

I looked online and determined some of the ‘better’ reviewed types.  Armed with that information, I went to my favorite store for shoes:

Kohl’s.

Although I didn’t get the help to properly size them, I felt it was pretty easy.  The 8-1/2’s felt too small and the 9-1/2s were way too big, and the 9’s fit perfect.  So, pretty easy choice.

The local store had a pair that I wanted on sale from $89.99 to $64.99.  On top of that, I had a printable 15% off coupon that I used over the Labor Day weekend.  All told, including taxes, they were slightly over $58.

And, after using them for a week and a half, I love them!  They feel like I’m running on air.

In an earlier post, I mentioned that my parents gave me some cash for my birthday to spend on myself.  I’m happy to say that a portion of their money went towards these shoes, and I couldn’t be happier with them!

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No Kung Fu For You (OK, Really For Me)

Wow, I wish I had an extra $130 per month. But it’s disciplined spending and a dose of reality that makes me keep a level head and not blow $130 per month.
My wife and I were walking around our local downtown area a week or so ago when I walked by a new place and stopped. It was a martial arts academy, and it reminded me a lot of a martial arts academy that I had participated in for a few months years ago.
Back a number of years ago, I can’t even remember, but I’d say probably 10 or so, a friend of mine brought to my attention a martial arts academy that he wanted to try. I was looking for something fun so I tried it out and I loved it!
The academy featured kung fu as it’s main discipline. It was taught not so much from the perspective of physical combat as it was for self-defense, self-discipline, and to achieve grater peace. Taking part in mediation practices along with the physical training was highly encouraged, especially for those who were working at higher levels.
I never got to the higher levels. As much as I loved it, there were a few drawbacks at the time. It was pretty far away from where I lived. It was probably 30-40 minutes away, which made getting to class as often as I liked difficult. It was also expensive. After the initial sign-up deal, the prices went up to a pretty steep price per month. I don’t remember exactly but it was probably $90.
But back to my story.
Walking by, the logo and the name looked familiar, though it was quite a few miles away from where I practiced.
I ventured in just to see what was happening, and after a minute of conversation, the person I was talking to indicated that it was familiar to me for a reason: It was a second location of where I used to practice!
How awesome. I instantly had thoughts of picking up where I left off. I don’t do as much physical training as I should, and I really enjoyed what I was doing back then. Now, I wouldn’t have the location issue, as the current location is only about three miles from where I live. Getting there and back would be a cinch.
However, there are two things that would simply make this prohibitive. First, is cost. It’s now $130 per month. If I were to use it, I would certainly get benefits of going. And paying that much, I’d definitely be motivated to go and to get as much out of it as I could. But, that price tag is way too rich for our budget. We simply don’t have the wiggle room in our budget with everything else.
The second factor in the way is time. My wife stays at home, but our life is certainly much more busy now that we have a newborn. He’s eight weeks old now and our evenings and weekends are pretty full as it is. As it is, from the time that I get home until bedtime, or from wake until sleep on the weekends, I’m not even sure where all the time goes. I think it would be completely selfish to take the four or five hours a week that I’d be pulling out to go do that.
I think the way I have to approach it is this:
Maybe someday I can do that. It’d be a ways away according to any budget I can come up with, but one can hope, right? But in the mean time, this should serve as motivation to use the workout tools I have. We have a treadmill right in our basement. We have sidewalks around our neighborhood. I have a perfectly good bike in my garage. I could probably take 2 hours a week to engage in these activities, and do them for free. Admittedly, I don’t do much of those now, so I should at least start somewhere.
This is definitely motivation. It’s a bummer that I won’t be able to pick up my martial arts, but that’s simply a luxury item that there isn’t room for, neither from a time nor a budget perspective.

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Can You Really Save Money On Utilities By Cutting Back?

When you Google “saving money on utilities” you get 18,700,000 results.
This is obviously a very well written about subject.
However, the rationale behind the most recent water rate hike by the City of Detroit for water (Detroit provides water to the city and most of the outlying suburbs) made me wonder how much money we can truly save by cutting back on utilities.
From the Detroit News, here is a summary with two reasons as to why water rates went up:

Customers are set to see bills go up about 8 percent, an amount Detroit Water Department officials say is needed to bolster declining revenues and counter surging interest rates on money the system has borrowed for capital improvements.

The reason for the declining revenues? Lower consumption.
People in the Detroit area have been cutting back water usage. With the economy in a downturn, people are trying to cut back the non-essentials. Whether it’s letting their lawns go brown or taking quicker showers, the average water usage has gone down.
So, how are people rewarded for their ability to use less? They simply get charged more.
See, the water company depends on a certain amount of revenue a year to cover costs. If they don’t meet that revenue, they can’t pay for the employees, for the electricity, for the maintenence of the infrastructure, and all the other costs that it takes to deliver water to millions of households.
It then begs the question as to whether you can really save money on utilities by cutting back? I suppose the ‘above-average’ saving household could still save, but if you if you cut back by the rate at which consumption drops, you really won’t save money. Yes, you’ll be preventing your bill going up even more than if you hadn’t cut back, but it is still discouraging to reduce consumption and see your bill come in the same. Or more.
And, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that this type of pricing model holds true for just about all utilities. Electricity. Gas. I would guess that they all have a level of expected revenue that they will figure out how to cover, no matter what.
So, is it worth it to cut back?
Despite evidence that I’ve presented, I still say it is.
Why?
First, I think that it’s important to preserve our natural resources. Bottom line, the water and the electricity use natural resources that are limited in supply, and also can cause pollution, global warming, and other problems with our planet. Reducing usage will only prolong the life of our precious Earth.
Second, it does slow down the increase in hit that you’ll feel in your pocketbook. The argument could be made that the utility companies would raise the prices even if demand didn’t go down. In that case, your out-of-pocket costs would rise even faster.
And, quite honestly, even when I’ve ‘cut back’ on usage in the past, I’ve never reduced the budget that I expect to pay for utilities. Simply because I expect that costs will continue to rise. I might not budget an increase over time, but I guess I have sort of accepted the fact that the utilty companies, by and large, are going to collect what they feel they need to no matter what. Short of getting ‘off the grid’ altogether, which simply isn’t possible for the majority of people, we simply have to try our best and hope for a delicate balance between increased costs and cutting back.

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Our Energy And Water Saving Washing Machine

When we moved into our house last summer, we had to purchase a new washer and dryer. I owned a condo before we bought our house, and had a traditional (top loading) washing machine and a matching dryer. But, I had to leave them behind as the offer for the condo stipulated that I had to leave the washer and dryer. Given that the real estate market was already soft, I was more than willing to include this.
Once we started looking, it was apparent that the biggest decision would be whether to go with a top loader or one of the ‘newer’ front loading washing machines. The up front cost of the front loader is much higher, often $400 or more difference.
The main benefit, however, is that they are much more energy efficient and use a lot less water and a lot less energy than a top loader. Up to 65% less in both cases. That’s many less gallons of water wasted per year, as well as a lot less energy usage.
In the end, we decided to go with the front loading machines. I’m happy to say that we are pleased with the purchase. The part that makes me happiest is that the water usage difference is significant and is more of an impact because of the water rates in our city.
For some reason, the cost of water in our city is one of the highest in the area. Since we moved in, we’ve been hit with increases of 15% and 12%. Therefore, it became apparent that any way we could save water is welcome. I would have very much regretted it if we would have chosen the top loading machine.
When we purchased the machines, one of the salesman told us that the top loaders will most likely be phased out over the next few years. I don’t know if that was just ’salesman’ talk, but in these days of trying to save energy, this would make sense. After all, I have also heard from numerous sources that the incandescent bulb is expected to be phased out within the next 5-10 years in the interest of energy conservation.
As water and energy become more expensive and more valuable, it would only stand to reason that a gradual switch to front loading, energy efficient washing machines would also make sense. In our case, the difference is huge, and as we expect to use the washer even more once Baby Beagle comes, the savings will continue to add up.

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