Overspending and Oblivious!

My cashflow right now is in pretty good shape and by that I mean that I am not spending more than I am bringing in. This will fluctuate a bit from month to month depending on unplanned expenses but in general I have been able to save money over the year. So does this mean that my finances and my expenses are in check? Hell no!

In order to make sure that I’m on top of this I take a few months out of the year where I am extremely diligent about tracking my spending down to the last penny. I try to keep this going all the time but I’m not always able to keep tabs on everything so I make a particular effort a few times a year.

October was a month for tracking all of my spending and the results shocked me!

I have never hidden the fact that I am a smoker (yes I know its stupid and very bad for me) and the fact that I like my beer and wine. I don’t drink excessively but I do like to have a couple of beers after work or some wine with dinner and I just don’t think anything of it because I’m not drinking to get drunk or as an escape mechanism. I got a bit of a wake up call when reviewed my spending in October. Between the Beer and Smokes I was spending literally hundreds more than I thought per month (to keep this in context both are expensive where I live).

I am not strapped for cash and I like to enjoy my life, the experiences in life are important to me, but I am also looking to get my financial house in order so seeing these results was surprising. The net result is that at the least the beers are being cut down – unlike smoking it’s far easier to cut down without getting jittery and cranky in a pretty major way. The smoking will be tackled pretty soon.

Aside from the most obvious problems I noticed a few more when I looked at that spending. Between snacks and lunch at the office I was spending about $250 a month! The worst part about this is this is mostly for nourishment; there was no enjoyment or experience tied to it. This was pure laziness. So I’ve already started taking lunch with me on most days and the snacks have simply been cut out.

I’d like to think of myself as a pretty smart guy but when I see things like this it makes me feel really dumb for not being careful about how I spend my money. And this is exactly why I make sure to check take a look at my spending in detail every so often because it’s easy to get lazy with things.

When there are no obvious problems its easy to become oblivious to the hidden ones!

Everyday Home Problems That Could Be Costing You Money

Your home should be a haven, one that welcomes you with warmth and good company. But how would you feel about your home if you knew that it was also draining your bank account with every second that you are there, and even when you are not there? Unfortunately, many homeowners and apartment dwellers experience exactly that in the form of common issues that can drive up monthly water, heating, and electricity bills. However, with a few easy replacements or adjustments, you can fix the everyday home problems that could be costing you money.

One of the most common things adding onto your energy bill each month is “phantom electricity.” This peculiar term refers to the extra power that many appliances draw even when they are switched off. This means that even though you may not be using your computer or television, if it is still plugged in, it will continue to draw energy. Though each individual appliance’s phantom electricity use is small and seemingly insignificant, when you consider all of the appliances that remain plugged in even when not in use, the figures begin to add up and can actually tack on a noticeable amount to your monthly electricity bill, according to Planet Green, a website run by the Discovery Company. In fact, all of the annual energy wasted through phantom electricity could power your home for an entire month. The best way to combat phantom electricity is to either unplug electronics when they are not in use this includes kitchen appliances like toasters or to connect everything to power strips so that you can switch the strip itself to “off” when you are done in order to completely cut power to the appliances.

Something else that homeowners and apartment dwellers do not typically pay attention to is their windows. Windows are great accents for a home, but they can also be pricey money drainers. Often, windows are improperly sealed due to aging or may even be siphoning money because you never got around to buying the right window treatments for them. Your heating and cooling expenditures could literally be flying right out of your windows if you do not make some adjustments. Improperly sealed windows allow for your precious air conditioning to sneak out and for hot air to come streaming in, driving up your cooling costs. The same goes for heating, when your warm air escapes through cracks in the window’s sides and the cold air you were trying to shut out comes in instead. A good way to fix this is to either install new storm windows or to use caulk to fill in the areas where there are gaps. Drapery is important as well, as the big glass surfaces on windows are also prone to sapping energy out of your home. Use an opaque curtain made out of an adequately heavy material to keep your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Finally, maintenance of electricity heavy-hitters is essential to keeping your monthly energy bills low. The two machines that consume the most energy in the average home are the air conditioner and the dryer. By simply performing some basic maintenance procedures, you can make sure that these machines are working efficiently and not just tacking more unnecessary costs onto your bills. With the air conditioner, ensure that the filter remains clean. A dirty air conditioner filter will have to work harder to cool your home because dirt blocks the air intake and some dust particles may even damage the intricate parts inside the unit. Replacing a dirty filter will lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by up to 15%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Keeping your dryer’s lint trap clean follows the same principle. The lint trap can prevent the warm air inside the dryer from moving freely, thereby preventing it from working as efficiently as it could if the lint trap were unobstructed during each dry cycle. You could end up having to crank up the temperature or dry your clothes longer than usual if the lint trap is dirty. To fix this, you only need to clean out the lint trap before each dryer use. You will keep the dryer performing at maximum efficiency and also reduce the need for longer, energy-draining drying times.

Luckily, when it comes to reducing the costs of living at home, you only need to make a few adjustments. This way, you can spend your money on making your home even cozier rather than spending it on ever-increasing energy and heating bills.

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This guest post is contributed by Roger Elmore.