52 Weeks to Wise Money Management

Those Predictable But Irregular Bills

Things like property tax, car registration, the half-yearly car insurance bill, holiday spending, vacations, big car repairs, replacing appliances are all things we know will happen. Because they don’t happen every month like rent/mortgage and utilities, it’s harder to plan for them.

Years ago I had a system for that. I added up all of those expenses for the year, divided by twelve, and put that much in a savings account each month. It worked very well. I never had to use credit to pay anything, and felt a certain financial serenity that was very nice.

An article in the Dollar Stretcher today informed me that that method is called a “sinking fund.” According to Dave Ramsey, this is different than an emergency fund. The items in the sinking fund aren’t unexpected emergencies, they are expected but irregular expenses. https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/stop-the-panic-sinking-fund

 

 

Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and paperback versions.

amazon.com/author/mariebrack

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52 Weeks: Water – Dishes

Which dishwashing method costs less, hand washing or machine washing? It depends on how much water you use when washing by hand. If you leave the water running throughout the wash and rinse process, that will use a lot of water. If you run a couple inches of water in each sink or in dishpans and wash and rinse using just that, well, that’s a whole lot less. You can compare for yourself.

First, find out how much water your machine uses. It will say in the manual or on the manufacturer’s website. Then wash a similar amount of dishes by hand and track how much water you use. You can use dishpans and measure how much water they contain. Or, you can use the sink directly and measure the water as you put it in, perhaps by filling a quart pitcher repeatedly and pouring it into the sink.

Luckily, you only have to do this tedious stuff once, just to find out the comparison quantity of water. When comparing costs, you also have to factor in the cost of buying, maintaining, and repairing the dishwasher itself. Hand washing has none of those costs. Hand washing still uses electricity to heat the water, but doesn’t use any to power the washing, nor for drying.

52 Weeks: Water – Bathing

There are low flow showerheads available to limit water use in the shower. They can cost anywhere from $8 to $50. You can find them at hardware stores, discount stores, and online at Amazon.com. According to Florida Power and Light, if it takes less than twenty-four seconds for your shower to fill a bucket to the one gallon line, you can save money by switching to a low flow head.

Also useful is the type of showerhead with a handle on it to turn off the water flow. You can have the water off while soaping or shampooing without having shampoo run into your eyes when you lean over to turn the water back on. Or you can buy a controller valve that screws on above your existing showerhead and allows you to turn the water volume down or off. They cost about $10.

I bought one and I like it very much. I have the luxurious feeling of lots of water when it’s on full flow. I can turn it to low flow when I want to and I can turn it off for part of the shower. This method uses less water than just a low flow showerhead but still leaves me feeling like there’s plenty of water in my shower. There are flow-restricting aerators for sink faucets too. Most places I’ve lived already had those in place.

Is It True? Most sources assume that showers use less water than baths. I doubt that’s an absolute. People shower for more or less time and showerheads vary in flow rate. Tubs vary in size and in how much you choose to fill them. You can test this for yourself by putting the plug in the tub drain when you start the shower. See how much water is in the tub when you finish.

I did this with a normal flow showerhead. The tub filled to about where I would have filled it for a bath, nearly full, 32 gallons. And that was a simple shower with no time spent letting the hot water run over my back, no leg shaving, nothing extra. Later I did the same in the shower that has a lower flow showerhead and used 18.6 gallons.

Next, I went back to the full flow shower and took a “military shower.” In a military shower, you get wet all over, turn off the water, soap and shampoo. Then turn the water back on just long enough to rinse off. That used 11 gallons. A military shower in the lower flow shower used 9.13 gallons.

I’ve tested the drought-inspired idea of showering with the drain plugged and then bailing the water from the tub into a bucket for other uses. I thought I might be able to use the shower water for all of the toilet flushing. The bailing was easiest with a lightweight, shallow four-cup plastic food storage container. After a week or so, leaving water in the tub for days made the non-skid strips come loose, so that was the end of that.

52 Weeks: Water – Laundry

In the summer of 2012, many areas in the U.S. and Australia had a severe drought. People posted on message boards about using less water. They also reused water that used to go down the drain.

Some folks in very parched areas are saving the rinse water from the washing machine. They pour it back in to the washer to be the wash water for the next load. In a drought situation, whether a drought of water or of money, there are ways to do less laundry.

Outer clothes that are not actually dirty can be hung up, either indoors or out in the fresh air, to air out before wearing again. Sheets can be aired instead of washed, perhaps every other time. You can reuse towels more times if you hang them up so they dry instead of souring. If your washer has settings for different levels, only use as much water as you need for the load.

52 Weeks: Water – Flushing

Thanks to the investors who sold me my current condo, I have the new water-saver toilets. Newer toilets have small tanks. There’s nothing gained by putting something in the tank to cause it to use less water per flush.

Pre-1995 toilets usually have larger tanks, so putting something in the tank to make it hold less will save water. The advice used to be to use a brick. Now they say bricks may fall apart and damage the mechanism. So if you use a brick, seal it up in a Ziploc bag. Or, maybe use a plastic container full of water, in a shape that suits your tank and won’t block the mechanism. You can weight it with pebbles or sand so it won’t float around.

There are also adjustable flappers available now that let you set the flush volume. I recently learned about a thing called a toilet fill cycle diverter. It stops older toilets from wasting water during the refill phase. You can get one from, among other places, http://www.niag ara conservation.com and www.nextag.com.

The old saying, “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down” would cut the water used for toilet flushing to probably less than half.

Some articles say to put a dye tablet in the toilet tank to check if the tank leaks into the bowl, wasting water. You can do this with food coloring just as well. Put a few drops in the tank. Don’t flush for fifteen to twenty minutes, and look to see if the water in the bowl takes on color. If it does, it may be time to replace the flapper that closes the hole through which water goes from the tank to the bowl.

Or, the chain may be lodging under the edge of the flapper, or maybe it’s too short and the flapper can’t go all the way down. There might be debris or hard water build up around the edge where the flapper sits. On my own experience, replacing the flapper and making sure the chain is the right length have always fixed it.

52 Weeks: Water

Home water usage breakdown charts on the Internet vary a little bit as to the exact percentage each function uses. Most of them put it in this order:

  • Toilets use the most, around 26%
  • Laundry, about 22%
  • Showers come in third at 16% to 18%
  • Cooking and drinking use about 9% to 15%
  • Dishwashers around 1 to 2%.

The rest is accounted for by leaks and faucet uses like washing hands and face, brushing teeth, etc. Leaks are more common than I thought. All the charts included leaks. To find out whether you are paying for any leaks, turn all the water off and go look at the meter. If the reading changes, there’s a leak. For wells, if the pump kicks on when you aren’t using water, there’s a leak.

52 Weeks: Wills, etc. – Funeral and Wake

Funeral

A traditional funeral with casket and viewing can be very expensive, but it doesn’t always have to be. A great book on this subject is Jessica Mitford’s “The American Way of Death Revisited.” It explores the realities and scams of the funeral industry. You don’t always have to buy everything the funeral home tries to sell you.

Costco sells caskets at low prices. If you are having a viewing followed by a cremation, some funeral homes will rent you a casket just for the viewing. The law does not always require embalming. If the funeral director says it does, get a second opinion. Family members don’t have to ride in a car provided by the funeral home. They can use their own cars if they prefer to do so and save money.

Wake or reception

Many people find the social get-together very supportive and healing. If money is tight, friends and relatives could perhaps be asked to bring a dish. Finger food is ideal, cutting down on cleanup and cutlery needs.