When To Make The Switch To LED Holiday Lights?

We got an early start on Christmas decorating this weekend. Usually, we go in full force the day after Thanksgiving, but we decided to start a bit earlier this year, only because of how quickly Mrs. Beagle tires out now due to the pregnancy (which is going very well so far!).

Last year, and this year, I’ve spent time thinking about the switch to LED bulbs instead of the traditional bulbs. So far, we haven’t made the switch.
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.

These seem like great reasons, so then why haven’t we switched?

  • Price – The up front cost is very high compared to traditional bulbs. I would guess they’re probably about 10 times more expensive.
  • Availability – Last year I saw quite a few stores carrying them, but most had a limited selection or were sold out quite early.

We definitely see a bump in our electricity bill during the holiday months, so I have no doubt that the energy savings would be there with the switch. But, the up front cost is the biggest obstacle. We have 900 lights outside, for example, and the replacement cost of that would be several hundred dollars. That’s a pretty steep bill.

I’m thinking maybe starting to set aside $10-15 per month might make it so that we can start switching them out over the next couple of year. Heck, maybe the price will start to fall as prices on newer technology usually do over time.

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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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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.

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!
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.
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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