Saving Money By Mulching The Leaves

We have a lot of trees on our property, and so the fall brings lots and lots of leaves.
I’ve been raking them and bagging them, but my pack of 25 bags that I bought at Costco ran out last week, and I forgot to buy more. I started wondering if I could just mulch them instead with my mulching lawn mower. I did a little research and found that mulching leaves can be very beneficial to the lawn as it will provide nutrients.
I’ve since read additional information that helps me believe that using the mulching mower is not a bad thing. Unknown to us, there are still earthworms in the ground that will use the mulched leaves to create valuable nutrients that will help the lawn next spring.
So, this past week I actually used the mower and it looks great. The mower shreds the leaves a lot smaller than I would have guessed, and it saved me from having to buy more yard waste bags.
Some highlights from the article, others that I’ve read, and from my own personal experience:

  • It’s better to mulch leaves when they’re dry. Mine were still damp from a rainfall the previous night. If they’re damp, you just have to go slower to let the mower have more time to mulch
  • If there are too many leaves, you should probably stick to raking. When you cut your grass and it leaves clumps, that means it’s probably too high and you should bag it. The same principle applies to mulching leaves. If they’re more than an inch thick, the mower probably won’t be effective at mulching them and it’d be better to rake and bag.
  • You can collect the mulch and spread it around other areas. Apparently a layer of mulch a couple of inches thick around bushes and flower beds will also help provide nutrients to those areas.
  • I probably wouldn’t mulch every time since we have so many trees. I figure if I never collected the leaves, I might be placing too much mulch down would not be doing any benefit after a while. I’d recommend mulching no more often than every other time.

Happy raking and mulching!

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Not Missing My Magazine Subscriptions

I was cleaning out my office over the weekend and came across several unread magazines from subscriptions that I had in the past which I’ve let go. I just realized that I don’t miss them…..much. At various times I had subscriptions to:

  • Maxim – This was a fun magazine that I had for a stretch in my late 20’s and early 30’s. I actually let this one run out a couple of years ago when I realized that I had outgrown it, that my future wife might not appreciate me getting it, and most importantly, from having the feeling that I’d read just about everything. I didn’t miss this one bit.
  • Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine – I love to read and this was one of my favorite magazines as a teenager, as it contains a lot of short stories in the mystery genre. I had subscribed to it for two years, but let it go about three years ago. I enjoyed it but it was hit or miss. Since I still have a couple of unread copies, I guess this was no big loss.
  • Entertainment Weekly – This was probably the hardest to let go. I had subscribed to this magazine since I was a freshman in college, when I got hooked into one of the ‘deals’ that they throw at newbie college kids. I really enjoyed this magazine for the 15 years or so that I subscribed, but it got to where I wasn’t reading it fully anymore. When I found out that my local library carries back copies, I decided to let it go. I do miss this one a little bit, but I plan on keeping up with their ‘preview’ issues through the library, which are the ones I enjoyed the most. These were regular previews of things such as the Fall TV season, Summer Movie season, etc.
  • Us Magazine – This one wasn’t for me but was my wife. She signed up for a really good deal a little over a year ago, and decided not to renew it as she felt that it was very repetitive.

So, we are currently not paying for any subscriptions. We have three monthly magazines that come to us, but they’re free. One is for Better Homes & Gardens which was free inside a cookbook my wife got for a gift. A second is a pregnancy magazine that my wife found somewhere. The third is a professional publication for my profession (project management) that is included in the annual membership dues for the national insitute. My employer pays those dues, so there is nothing out of pocket for me.
In all, although I miss the magazines occasionally, I realized that the money I’m saving by not having the subscriptions is worth more to me, especially since I have an outlet to read the magazine that I do miss the most. Just a little bit more that we can apply towards our debt!

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Net Worth Review: November 2008

Well, as expected the month of October was brutal because of the stock market. Not that it’s a consolation, but I saw many other personal finance bloggers report similar results. At least I’m in good company!
Totals
Overall net worth was down 12.2% from October. After a 17.9% drop in September, that brings us down to a net worth level that I haven’t seen in six years. Wow!
Retirement assets have dropped about 1/3 during that these last two months. Luckily we aren’t retiring for a long time, so we have time for recovery. In fact, I increased my 401(k) contribution recently. I had been contributing 6% because that’s the company match, but I increased it because I still feel that this a buying opportunity.
Our property value stayed roughly the same, so not much changed in how property values affect our net worth. For some reason, both of our cars dropped in value a lot this month (I use Kelly Blue Book). It usually goes down a couple percent per month, but this was closer to 10%. Weird.
Debt
We continued to make excellent progress in our debt, which is what keeps me positive these days. Because of the extra $2,700 we were able to apply to debt, we paid off a full 1.56% of our debt, which I define as our auto loans (currently $0), student loans, and mortgage.
In fact, we hit a noteworthy milestone this month. In terms of non-mortgage debt, our peak amount of debt was in June of 2006, which is when my wife (we were engaged at the time) purchased her new car and had a brand new loan. Since then, we’ve paid off the auto loan and have made significant progress in the student loan debt. The milestone: we have paid off 50% of the non-mortgage debt from it’s peak amount. In 29 months, we’re halfway to having only a mortgage. Pretty cool stuff!
So, it was another down month if you look just at the totals, but I still feel confident in our financial progress!

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My City Government Is Helping Residents Save Money

One of the things that was new to me when we bought our house last year was having to pay for garbage pickup. Prior to that, I had lived in a condo and so the garbage pickup was included in the monthly association fees.
When we were buying our house, I investigated and found that garbage pickup in our city was up to each individual household. There are five trash haulers licensed in the city, and our subdivision has a recommendation of using one of the five haulers. I signed up with them.
The cost varies with fuel costs, but most recently the cost was approximately $80 for three months, or approximately $27 per month.
I was surprised that there wasn’t a single trash hauler, and did a little bit of research on the subject. I found that the residents had actually voted it down a few years back. The details in the archive news stories were a little sketchy, but I think that the residents were nervous about it being an additional tax, some didn’t like the government ‘taking it over’, and yet other residents didn’t want to pay because they don’t use the service all year. A lot of retired people in Michigan are ’snowbirds’ and spend the winters in warmer climates such as Florida or Arizona. Many of these people felt it would be cheaper for them to pay as you go.
Recently, I heard that the city council has been inundated with requests from residents to consider this again. The costs have gone up tremendously versus what it was a couple of years ago. Plus, the fact that there were multiple haulers meant multiple trucks. This added to traffic, wear and tear on the roads, and the general displeasure of having to look at garbage on the curb as well as listen to garbage trucks going by.
Apparently, the city council is bypassing the city vote. Instead of rolling it into the taxes, they’re basically still making residents pay the garbage hauler, but they’re eliminating all but one of the trash haulers licensed in the city. People that leave for the winter can turn the service off, with a nominal re-activation fee in the spring.
And, the price for three months will be $45. That’s $35 every quarter, or $140 saved per year. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Even people that leave for four or five months will save for the time that they’re using the service. Plus, we’ll have one day of trash pickup in our subdivision, less wear on the roads, and I believe they actually provide better service. They’ll take more recycling than they do now, they’ll provide residents with larger trash bins and recycle bins, and they’ve agreed to purchase all new equipment.
For us, the hauler that was chosen is the same one we’re using, so I’m hopeful that the transition will be relatively seamless when it happens.
I can’t really see a problem with this and am glad that our city government is helping our residents save money.

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