Money To Live

July 7, 2013

Grow your own

Filed under: cost analysis,home,savings,simplify — by moneyconsciously @ 11:20 am

Assuming an already-established garden spot, i.e. neglecting start-up infrastructure, growing your own fruit and vegetables can be extremely cost effective.

Arugula / rocket lettuce: Half a dozen healthy plants in the garden provided my salads every day or every second day. Cost of seedlings: ~$4. Cost of arugula: $8/month. Savings: $4 in the first month, then $8/month.

Kale: I’ve just planted kale and estimate at least the above savings.

Kumquats: A mature tree in citrus season produces a lot of fruit! Cost of a small tree: ~$10. Cost of a jar of marmalade or relish: ~$5. Savings over three jars/year for five years: ~$65.

Herbs: A variety of herbs can be used for garnishes, flavour, sauces… Cost of four varieties of herb seedlings: ~$15. Cost of one store-bought fresh herb per month over a year: ~$30. Savings: ~$15.

Sweet potato: When a sweet potato in the kitchen started sprouting, I sliced off the sprouting piece and nurtured it. Cost of starter slip: free. Cost of half a dozen sweet potatoes: >$5. Savings: >$5.

Gardening can be yummy, fresh and cheap!


August 16, 2012

Pet-sitting and House-sitting

Filed under: home,savings,travel — by moneyconsciously @ 3:25 am

Do your friends enjoy vacation? Great! Do they have plans for taking care of their pets, garden, mail, car or home while they are away? Perhaps you can be of service…

Over a one year period, I committed to approximately half a year of pet-sitting and house-sitting. In exchange for taking excellent care of my friends’ pets and homes, I lived rent-free. Without my own home, I eliminated my home rent expenses whilst on extended travels. In experiencing different home environments and housewares, a try-before-you-buy opportunity that informs my purchasing decisions, I will save money in the future too.

My friends saved money on board for their pets (who stayed stress-free at home). They received continuous maintenance of their home, garden, car and mail. They didn’t worry about the unexpected, including fixing damage after a storm or replacing low batteries in a fire alarm.

Pet-sitting and house-sitting arrangements can be a fabulous win-win. Collectively my friends and I saved money on rent, pet board and maintenance expenses. Plus, my friends enjoyed their vacation with peace of mind.

February 13, 2012

Mortgage milestones

Filed under: debt,home,loans — by moneytolive @ 10:21 pm

Paying off a mortgage is a long slog. While we make extra principal payments each month, it is sometimes hard to get excited about our progress.

Last month, though, we reached an important milestone. Our monthly principal payment is now larger than our monthly interest payment!

As with any big goal, it is helpful to break it down to more achievable mini-goals. Any time we reduce the principal by another $10,000, that’s reason to celebrate. Last year, we got excited about our mortgage balance when it matched our non-home assets. Theoretically, if taxes and transaction fees did not exist, we could pay off our house with our other investments and retirement savings. Since paying off the mortgage is only one of our financial goals (along with saving for retirement, a new car, and a rainy day), we won’t actually do this.

September 13, 2010

A simple life is … not so simple.

Filed under: home,insurance,simplify — by moneytolive @ 5:00 am

I hope this doesn’t come off as too whiny, but here goes: A simple life takes a lot of work!

Since moving into R’s house and merging our lives (belongings, finances, etc.), I have been repeatedly surprised by how much work it is. We aim for simplicity. While we are definitely on the path to a simple and low-maintenance lifestyle, it is a long path, and the going is slow.

Combining Insurance

We got quotes for combining our insurance policies, and sure enough, we could save money by merging our policies to one account. This seems like a simple plan, and over the long-term it does yield greater simplicity. In the short-term? A huge and not very simple headache. It took more than one month from getting quotes to receiving the final paperwork for all of our accounts. I sent/received 41 emails with my agent, sent in several checks, and received two refund checks (they sent out duplicate bills to us and the bank; despite several conversations on the details of these transactions, they didn’t send out the proper bills). After we are married, we are changing the names on a few of our accounts (adding each other to car titles, etc.), which will mean another round of emails and paperwork with the insurance agent, which should lead to more reductions in our premiums.

Removing a hot tub

The previous owners of our house had a hot tub. R had it winterized a few years ago and never opened it up again. We thought a lot about whether or not to keep the hot tub, and, ultimately, we decided to get rid of it because the annual costs (and time for maintenance) exceed the enjoyment we would get from using it. Getting rid of a hot tub is not the easiest thing to do. R posted it on Craigslist for free, and four people came to look at it. All said they would come back to get it, but no one did. This went on for several months, with no serious takers. We recently replaced our deck, and time ran out for the hot tub. To remove the hot tub before starting on the deck, we had to pay someone to haul it away. The simple hot-tub-free lifestyle cost over $300. We are glad to have the hot tub gone, and we (mostly/ sort of, but that’s for another post) like the deck that stands in its place.

As we make changes, I try to remember that we’re working toward a simple lifestyle. With the hot tub gone, we have reduced the maintenance for the house. By combining insurance, we’ve reduced our total number of bills and the amount we pay in bills. It took many hours to take care of these, but they are now done. While we will check insurance rates every few years, at least all of our coverage is consolidated.

I think the biggest downside to uncluttering/organizing/simplifying is simply the time and mental energy needed to pare down my life. There are big dividends, which make it worth the effort. What I consider the biggest benefit is that it reduces future the need for time and energy in the future. All of those conversations about the hot tub? Yes, while we had many, many conversations, they’re over now. We don’t have to talk about the hot tub ever again.

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