Friday, April 30, 2010

Saving money on utilities for renters (and owners) - Part 1 Water

Earth day was recently here and with that in mind I'd like to put in my two cents on how to save money for rents who may think it's a challenge.

Water, next to oil, is one of the most important resources that's very difficult to renew. Yes there are desalination plants, water purifying systems, distilling plants and equipment, etc, but all of those require tremendous amounts of energy and money to clean large amounts of water. So we should be aware of this and try to conserve as much as possible. How did we do it here in our apartment? For our faucets we used an aerator as shown in the picture. This aerator is actually the one we use here, it has a flow rate of 0.5gpm (gallons per minute) which is considerably better than our old one which was 2.2gpm, a 77% reduction!  We still have clean hands and toothbrushes so don't worry!  We don't even notice it anymore.  It's really a great thing.  We use this in all of our faucets besides the kitchen one because we don't want to wait forever to fill up the pot with water.

Shower head is next on the list.  I love taking long showers so this was a huge saver for us.  And I can thank this shower head for saving us approximately 10950 gallons per year!  This guy will flow at a rate of 1.5 gpm compared to our old one which I think was 2.5 gpm.  So needless to say this saved us money right off the bat and we saw savings right away.
Perhaps you're worried about installing these items?  Installation is a cinch and completed in just a few minutes.

Our last water saving device that we currently have is the toilet "bank".  It's called the bank because it saves water in its pouch so that there is less to fill after you flush.  This can save up to 0.8 gallons per flush.

I wanted to install one other device into our toilet which would make it a dual flush, one for the liquids and one for the solids, however my partner in crime thought it was a bit much.  Coming from Europe, I was surprised by her reaction against it!  All of these things are under $35 and can be found on amazon's website.

The last few things that deal with water would be things like the dishwasher, laundry machine, etc.   Our solution to this is just to purchase things that are water saving and running the machine at optimal loads.

My next post will be about energy!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Book review coming up!

So I was checking out my buddy's website, J$, over at and he was giving away books! So I of course can't give up a free book, so I applied and won! So you'll be expecting a book review of "The Hero with a Million Dollars."

For those who are interested this is what amazon
The Hero with a Million Dollars uses Joseph Campbell's path of the hero as a template to help people define their purpose, discover their passion and build a life of wealth and fulfillment. With practical advice and immense wisdom, The Hero with a Million Dollars packs a volume of advice in a book that can be read in a single sitting. The Hero's Journey has been used as an inspirational source for movies and novels for decades. Now, William Radford expertly applies the stages of the journey to help readers define their purpose, discover their values and create outcomes that lead to success.

Have you read this book? Any other suggestions of books to read? or give away?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Increasing your credit score

On August 7, 2008, I paid ($1) to found out what my score was, 761 at the time and recently on April 11, 2010 I did it again and I found out something horrible! It's gone down to 737! Okay, so maybe it's not that horrible, but I am a little disappointed at it. However, I’m still in the “very low risk” category, which is good.

So, here’s how you can increase it with some examples. I recently moved from NY to Texas so coming here, I had to get new car insurance agent, bank, etc which resulted in me getting a couple of hard inquires, 2 to be precise. Luckily for me, in 2008 from August to October were the other 4 inquiries, so by the end of this year, those will be erased and my score should go up approximately 9 points. Below are some rough limits for when your score will change and how my credit score would change if they were moved into that category:

Available credit using:
0-15% (no change - I'm at 7%)
16-29% (-3 pts)
30-50% (-13 pts)
51-64% (-19 pts)
65%+ (-24 pts)

Hard Inquiries:
0 (+31 pts)
1-2 (+9 pts)
3-4 (+9 pts)
5-6 (no change - I sadly have 6 inquiries)
7+ (no change)

Open Installment loans:
0 (+5 pts)
1-2 (+5 pts)
3-4 (no change - I currently have 4 loans which account for my debt)
5+ (-9 pts)

Declared a new bankruptcy?
No (No change - Thank goodness!!!)
Yes (-169 pts)

Delinquent accounts?
No (no change - Always pay off everything each month)
Yes (-42 pts)

Getting a mortgage?
No (no change - Currently don't have a mortgage)
Yes (+10 pts - This really surprised me)

There are obvious things that will increase your score:
Pay on time,
Vary your types of credit and limit unnecessary credit accounts,
Don't max out your credit card,
Don't go on an account-opening binge,
and Don't apply for too much credit.

Another one I found was having 2 revolving credit lines to every installment. So in my case I have 4 installments (my student loans) which would mean I need 8 credit cards. However you want to be careful also to not apply for too much credit.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

What impacts your credit score?

Your credit score can vary dramatically. Each year it's possible to ask the three scoring companies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) what your report is (not your score), however, sadly it's a trade secret what exactly the formulas are that calculate and determine what your score turns out to be.

From my research, there are 5 categories on which your score is determined: payment history (35%), types of credit used (30%), amount owed (15%), how long or your length of history (10%), and your new credit (10%). There are, of course, other factors like your public records, which include bankruptcy, foreclosure and judgments; all of these things stay on your report for the next 7 years (Hint: Try to avoid them!).

Payment History - 35% - This is simple, pay your bills on time and you'll do fine here! These bills you can typically paid in full or the minimum and as long as you pay the minimum you'll be okay here. But who wants to pay just the minimum, you'll never get out of debt doing it that way! If you are late in payments, there is definitely a difference in a bill that's 60 days late versus 90 days, so get them all current and paid!

Type of credit used - 30% - Fair Isaac Company, or FICO, like to see a variety of credit, this includes credit cards, loans (car, student & mortgages all fall into here) and consumer finance accounts i.e. credit cards.

Amount Owed - 15% - This is where having high limits will come in handy, you'll want to show a low debt used to available credit here. So although you may never go and use that $10,000 limit, having it will come in handy here especially if you come close to your limit each month

Length of credit history - 10% - If you're constantly closing cards because you never use them, you might want to keep your oldest card. The longer you've been using credit the better your score will be here.

New Credit - 10% - If you constantly open credit cards to get discounts at stores that will show here. Each of these credit cards will affect your score along with all of the inquiries made. Preapporoved offers are usually soft inquiries, which will not change your score; only the hard inquiries will affect your score, which they have to ask you for your permission (read the fine print!).

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Scam Parody

About two days ago I watched this video and really thought it was great.  I hope you’ll enjoy ....

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Net debt - April 4, 2010

Student loans: -$83,259.83
Car loan: $0.
Revolving Credit card debt: $0.
Net debt: -$83,259.83

How the little things add up....

Recently in the news I read how, what appears to be a homeless man, died at age 60 a millionaire.  Curt Degerman rode around inside of a town in Sweden on his bicycle collecting cans and eating scraps of food that he would find.  However when he wasn't doing that he would go to the public library and pour of the financial sections and invest what little he collected.  By the time he was 60, he died with $1.4 million, a house, and 124 bars of gold. 

This is truly amazing and definitely shows how the small stuff like collecting cans really can add up and living well below your means will create a fortune!  However in his case, I feel pretty bad, he left it all to his cousin and now the rest of his extended family is arguing over the money. 

This year I'm hoping to become slightly more active in my stocks and mutual funds along with opening up a roth IRA.  Do you have any plans now that the new tax year is almost beginning?  Any examples of how the small stuff added up for you over time?  We're collecting all of our pennies in a nice jar and are eager to open it once it's full and see how much we've collected. :-)