My Next Project Around The House Became Clear To Me Today

I went down into the basement today and it became clear that some work needs to be done down there in order to protect against heat loss. I noticed two things:

  • As I was scooping out some kitty litter, I felt a cool breeze. I felt around and could feel that there is actually air coming in from the cheap windows. It’s really cold here as highs are around 20 degrees Fahrenheit these days, so the chilly air became very apparent.
  • On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s a part of the basement that’s a bit too warm. About half of our basement is finished and as such, it has a drop ceiling. I went into one of the rooms, and felt a rather warm breeze coming from a part of the room where part of the ceiling is open to let light in (from one of the windows that’s letting in cold air). I investigated and found that it’s very warm in the space between the drop ceiling and the joists for the first floor. How is this? Well, the duct work for the heating system is contained within the drop ceiling. So, this tells me that there is some serious leaking going on, which is common, as the metal duct work is not air tight.

So, the solutions appear to be:

  • New glass block windows for the basement windows – This is something I had been thinking of having done anyways. I wonder if it’s too cold to get them installed or if I’ll have to wait until springtime.
  • Sealing the duct work with insulating wrap that’s designed to do that – I did a small portion last year, but the amount of heat loss I am guessing is happening warrants going through and doing this for the rest. This is something I can do myself but will take some time, as I’ll probably do little bits and pieces as I have free time. It isn’t fun having to work around the false ceiling either.

Still, I think that getting both of these things taken care of will help tremendously with energy efficiency which will hopefully save money by lower bills. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes!

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Leveling Out Our Monthly Expenses

There are certain recurring expenses that I keep track of and fund out of a ‘virtual’ sub-account in our checking account. The way that this happened is that these are the types of expenses that I used to pay from my checking account, where most of the other expenses would be drawn from my savings account. Now, we only use a checking account and then a long term savings. So it’s sort of a checking and ‘virtual’ checking account if you will.

But, the type of expenses I track with this are, for example:

  • Netflix Subscription
  • Utility Bills
  • Car Insurance Premiums
  • License Tab Renewals
  • Auto Club Membership Fees
  • Charitable Donations

I am usually pretty on the mark when it comes to projecting the expenses that fall into this category, but what I’m trying to do now is to level out the expenses each month. See, many of the expenses above are monthly and around the same cost, but some are not. This is because of seasonal changes (higher electric bills in the summer, higher gas bills in the winter) or billing cycles for bills that aren’t monthly (the water bill every two months, the garbage bill every three).

So, what would happen is that some months I would set aside $800 where other months it might be higher. What I’m trying to do is estimate the costs over the course of a year, and even them out, so that I’m setting aside a consistent amount of money every month. Many times the electric company or gas company will do this for you, so in a sense, this isn’t a new concept.

I’m just starting to get into leveling the expenses out. I figure it will take a few months to adjust to where they’re smoothed out, and I won’t really be able to judge myself until the first year is done, but I’m confident that I will estimate correctly. Why? Because I’ve been tracking all of the actual costs of these categories for about 18 months, and I’ve added a cushion to where I should definitely not come up short.

Wish me luck!

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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.

Catching Up After A Long Weekend

Back in the swing of things after a nice relaxing holiday weekend. My wife and I spent most of the time decorating and relaxing. I will get back to my posting schedule starting….now! Thanks for being patient.
Odds and ends from the holiday weekend:

  • Giving Thanks – We had a lot to be thankful for this year and it was wonderful to get to spend time with our families. Even though we have a troubling financial year, it’s nice to remember the things we have to be thankful for. In our case, we have wonderful families, my wife and I both have jobs, we have Baby Beagle on the way, great friends, and so many other things. It’s nice to reflect on that and hopefully we all take the time to do it more often.
  • Black Friday – We didn’t do too much shopping. We weren’t planning on going out at all, but we both woke up around 6am, which is our normal time for getting up for work, and decided to go look around. I got some LED Christmas lights at 50% off for one of our indoor trees, and my wife got some odds and ends at Michael’s at door buster prices. So, we didn’t actually buy any gifts but we did get some good deals and do our part to add to the mad rush. Surprisingly, none of the stores were that busy, but I guess it seems that most of the attention is reserved for electronics for the early rush.
  • Health Insurance – I am not happy with our insurance provider, Empire Blue. They sent an explanation of benefits that about sent me through the roof, for my wife’s first doctor’s visit. Apparently they are claiming that some of the services fall under a ‘routine checkup’ which are limited to one per calendar year. I have to call them this week to verify that is the case, and see what needs to be done to re-classify the visit.
  • Fantasy Football – It was a depressing week for me in my fantasy football league. I’ve been atop the standings for most of the season, and the regular season winner gets $40. I lost my last two games to knock me down into third place, which means I got nothing. The playoffs start next week so I’ll have a chance for some additional money, but even the small money would have been nice. I know, such a small thing to be concerned about, but it’s fun to share!
  • Recession – So the markets tumbled 8 or 9 percent today on news that we really are in a recession. Wow, that’s news? I had thought the markets were supposed to factor in future events. And the fact that we’re in a recession is the oldest news out there, so I’m surprised that the market dropped in such dramatic fashion on that news.
  • Snowfall – We had our first snowfall which required shoveling. It was actually very beautiful and looked a lot like this picture (which is just a random picture). I was very pleased with the new shovel that I bought, much more so than the plastic coated one that I used last year and was good for only one season.
  • Disappointed in JoAnn Fabrics – We bought a new Christmas tree on November 13th, as it was on sale and we wanted to make sure we got it before they ran out. It listed for $180, and we got it for $100. They had a sale following Thanksgiving where it was $90, plus they had a ‘door buster’ coupon for an additional 20% any sale priced item. They didn’t have any more in stock, and they refused to do a price adjustment, as they said that they normally only do those for 7 days after the purchase. I am used to retailers price matching for 30 days or so. This will probably prevent me from considering JoAnn for any future purchases of higher priced items.
  • Baby Update – Mrs. Beagle reported that she felt the baby move for the first time this past week. She described it as feeling like a muscle spasm, which matches what others say the first noticeable movements feel like. Exciting times!

I hope that everybody had a great weekend!

Thanks for reading! Please subscribe to my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, or check out my Facebook page. Copyright Money Beagle. This post is authorized to appear only on www.moneybeagle.com. Thank you for reading and remember: It’s a great day to be alive!

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.

Changes To Benefits For 2009

It’s that time of year where it’s time for open enrollment for medical and other employer sponsored benefits.

My company sold a 51% stake in themselves to a private equity firm, so we changed insurance providers, though they kept benefit offerings along the same line as they did with the old company. Hopefully that carries past 2009 because it seemed to work out well.
Some changes I made in our benefits for next year:

  • Changed to a no-deductible PPO – This past year, our PPO had a deductible of $150 per person for in-network charges. This year I switched to a no-deductible PPO. The zero deductible applies to in-network providers, with the trade off being that the out-of-network provider deductible is significantly higher, as well as the annual ‘out of pocket’ cost have a higher cap. I went through all of our medical bills for 2008 and confirmed that all of our doctors are in-network, and also spent time talking to the hospital that will be doing our delivery to make sure that all aspects of our expected childbirth is covered. They are and were very helpful in answering questions. I think this will be a good trade-off.
  • Added extra life insurance – My employer offers life insurance up to 10-times my salary, and also offers a policy for my wife. With a newborn on the way, this is something I wanted to address. I contacted our normal insurance provider to see what a comparable policy would be, and it was almost three times as expensive, so I’m sticking with the policy from work. The downside, of course, is that the employer policy would go away in the event that something would happen to my job, but I figure that if something were to happen, I would address that when the time came, but will enjoy the savings for now.
  • Contributed to an Health Savings Account – I have never contributed to this, but I wanted to this year since there will be some bills coming with the delivery of our baby as well as costs that are incurred for a newborn. The benefits of this are that it allows us to contribute throughout the year, and also is tax deductible, which reduces the overall cost. The downside is that you have to use all of it in 2009, so if you over-contribute, you could potentially use it. However, I’ve found that there is pretty good flexibility in how you can spend this, in that drugstores will allow you to spend it on many items, including humidifiers, first aid care, off-the-shelf medicines. In other words, the chances are pretty low that this will go to waste, especially in the first year of having a newborn.

The costs aren’t too bad. If I hadn’t added the extra life insurance, the cost per paycheck would actually be about the same as 2008. The extra life insurance will raise it slightly, and of course the HSA contributions will deduct as well, but this will be offset by less recurring monthly expense in money that I personally earmark for medical related expenses. I also calculated what the contributions will be once we have the baby and move to family insurance. This will add an extra $50 or so per paycheck once Baby Beagle comes to the world. I’m going to just start setting that money aside now to ensure that the effects won’t be noticeable once we have to sign up for that coverage.

Luckily, I just got my annual raise so the ‘bottom line’ won’t result in less take home after the contributions. That’s good to know.

Also, I wanted to give a special thanks to ShtinkyKat, a fellow personal finance blogger. She read my earlier post in which I was unsure about the possible out-of-pocket costs for childbirth. She asked a friend who had recently gone through it, and provided some very helpful information which led me to come up with a more firm number for my HSA contributions. Part of the fun of blogging and motivation is building a rapport with fellow bloggers and readers, and it’s nice to know that there are people reading and willing to help. Thanks again!

Thanks for reading! Please subscribe to my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, or check out my Facebook page. Copyright Money Beagle. This post is authorized to appear only on www.moneybeagle.com. Thank you for reading and remember: It’s a great day to be alive!

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.