A reason to use bottled water

WHAT?!

That’s your gut reaction.  The bottled water industry is not regulated or regulated less stringently than tap water.   Second, those plastic bottles are filling up our landfills.  Third, how do we know the water’s source – from a spring versus filtered tap water.   Fourth, did you not see the documentary, FLOW:  For Love of Water?

I agree with all the above points but if you reside in the District of Columbia, bottled water is far less threatening that tap water.

Federal and local political leaders, D.C. parents and health advocates reacted Thursday with a mixture of anger and fear to news that a federal agency mislead them about the harm that lead in the District’s water had caused – – and might still be causing.

The furor came as a House investigative subcommittee released a report showing that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention knowingly used flawed data when telling D.C. residents that their health hadn’t been harmed by spikes in lead in the drinking water in 2004.  The investigation, the subject of a congressional hearing Thursday, also disclosed new cause for alarm:  Internal CDC research shows that an effort to fix the lead problem since 2004 puts residents in 9,100 D.C. homes at much higher risk of lead poisoning.

Some city parents, along with Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), accused the CDC of engaging in a coverup to shield the water utility and federal regulators from blame.

From the May 21, 2010 edition of The Washington Post, written by Carol Leonning (Staff  Writer), page B05.

The third to the last paragraph of this article states

The congressional investigation placed most of the blame for the 2004 report on Mary Jean Brown, the CDC’s director of lead poisoning prevention.  It found that she ignored missing data and contrary conclusions.  She gave her fellow authors three hours to review her analysis before publication.

OUTRAGEOUS.  Mary Jean Brown obviously does not care for the children of the District of Columbia. And I doubt she lives in the District of Columbia.  She likely lives in the ‘burbs (MD or VA).   I can’t imagine Mary Jean Brown is a mother because she had NO regard for the children of the District of Columbia.

The CDC, a federal agency, KNOWINGLY used false data.  You can’t trust big corporations and you certainly cannot trust Federal Government agencies.

And not every resident can afford to purchase New Wave Enviro Products, Inc .’s 10 stage water filter (which does remove lead) at an approximate cost of $150.00 and then purchase a replacement filter yearly at an approximate cost between $50 and $65.

So, under such circumstances, wouldn’t you purchase bottled water?

With Mother Nature’s Help, Reducing My Water Bill

Last Thursday I had two rather large rain barrels installed, connected to the gutters descending from the roof of  my house.  And since those rain barrels have been installed, it rained significantly on Sunday.  This morning I watered the flowers on one side of the house with the rain water stored in my rain barrel.  I watered flowers and plants on the other side of the house in part with rain water stored in the other rain barrel.  I have not purchased garden houses for these rain barrels but plan to this weekend.

The rain barrels each have a 500L/132 gallon capacity.  Wow.  And they cost $30 each.   How so inexpensive?  I’ve signed up for the RiverSmart Homes Program offered by the District of Columbia’s Department of the Environment.  Participants in this program pay only 10%, meaning those rain barrels cost $300 each.

Rain barrels are a great way to collect and use Mother Nature’s gift, reduce my water usage from the spigot and thus save money.

More homeowners should consider this option.  Even if you have to pay the full price for a rain barrel, you should see lower water bills.  Hence, over time, the savings will pay for that rain barrel.

Counting My Blessings

Friday, May 14th was like a Friday the 13th.  That same day I had a car problem (which ultimately cost $1,127), I was also told I had a hole in the roof of my house and the chimney was loose.  Financial nightmare.

This morning the contractor stopped by for the balance of payment.  I had paid him $500 the day he started.  The roof & chimney issues were unexpected.  I anticipated an additional cost of $500  (prefer to overestimate rather than underestimate).  The contractor spent virtually the entire time on these unexpected issues on the first day.

I asked the contractor – how much more for the roof repair?  He responded, for the roof and chimney, an additional $100.  WHAT?!  Shockingly low IMHO.

I gave the contractor a $200 tip for the hard work he and his crew performed.

Counting my blessings – issues discovered and fee for these additional services did not break the bank.

Amazed by the car maintenance fund

I mentioned in my post yesterday that one friend congratulated me on having a car maintenance fund.  Her exact words were, “God bless you for having that fund!  Most people would not.”

A second friend sent me an e-mail today stating, “You have a car emergency fund!!!!!  Girl, you are no joke.”    A third friend told me he was impressed with the amount of money I had set aside.

For those of you who use Dave Ramsey’s “Allocated-Spending Plan”, he lists “Repairs and Tires” under Transportation expenses.  But what truly inspired me to set aside money every pay period for car maintenance is the book, America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money by Steve and Annette Economides.

In Chapter 4 Cars: Cutting Car Costs, there’s a discussion about keeping the car running.   Steve and Annette discuss their experience with owning older cars, then they write

Based on this experience and information gleaned from Consumer Reports, we’ve determined that the average car requires $1,000 – $1,500 per year for maintenance, and that’s money above and beyond gasoline.  With each paycheck we put aside money specifically earmarked for keeping our vehicles in tip-top shape.  Having maintenance money and/or the ability to repair most problems  has allowed us to keep our cars until they are fourteen to sixteen years old–and still sell them for at least $1,000.

Page 73.

My total repair expenses so far this year = $1,261.77.  Exceeding the average of $1,500.00 appears very likely.

Grateful that I had the car maintenance fund and inspired to rebuild it ASAP.

There Goes the Car Maintenance Fund

As I mentioned yesterday, I had to have some expensive repairs to my car, namely, “remove  and replace a set of spark plugs and wires, replace set valve cover gasket to correct oil leak.   Remove radiator assembly and front engine cover to replace timing belt.”  Also it was close enough in time so I requested change of engine oil and filter and a check of tires.   Total cost = $1,126.21 ($687.45  was just labor).

Well, my car maintenance fund had $1,088.81 and I have to keep $25 in the account to keep it own.  So, tonight I transferred $1,063.00 from the car maintenance fund to my checking account.  Then I borrowed an additional $64.00 from the savings account to cover the remaining balance.

Now my car maintenance fund totals $25.81.   I must begin anew to rebuild this fund.  Because my car (Subaru Forrester) is 10 years old, $50 a pay period is inadequate to cover future expenses.  Thus, I will need to increase my per pay period contribution to $100 [now where will I find that extra $50?].

As one friend told me, thank god you had funds set aside for car maintenance.  Yes, I’m glad I planned for the inevitable big-ticket repair.  But I realize I didn’t set aside enough.

At least Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman would be happy I didn’t have to use a credit card to pay for this expense!

Unbelievable, Financially Stressful Friday

I guarantee that you don’t want to experience a day like this.

Last Friday, May 14th, I departed my house, started my car, drove about 2 blocks and then the check engine light came on, flashing rapidly about five times.  Luckily, my mechanic is about five minutes from my house so I dropped the car off and took public transportation to work.

So, arrive at work.  Then I get a call from my mother.  The contractor was cleaning my gutters and noticed a hole in the roof.  Yikes!!  He observed some water damage in the attic.   He noticed that some tiles were loose.  It appeared birds had been pecking at the tile.  Additionally the contractor noticed the brick around the chimney was loose.  Thus, the contractor spent the vast majority of the day taking care of the roof and chimney.

Meanwhile, later on, I called my mechanic to find out what was wrong with the car.  He told me the timing belt needs to be replaced.  He told me this task  will take two days.  I could pick up the car for the weekend (he said I shouldn’t have any problems) and that I should return the car on Monday.

Friday was payday and that morning I transferred $50 to my car maintenance fund, something I do every pay period.

I had set aside certain funds for the contractor to (a) clean the gutters, (b) remove wall paper from ceiling and paint the ceiling, (c) replace a window in the basement with brick glass [somehow this fourth window was missed; the other three windows were replaced with brick glass,] (d) paint the remaining walls on one side of the basement, and (e) paint the floor on that side of the basement.  The contractor gave me his price for these tasks and I set aside that amount.  Now, I don’t know how much more the unexpected roof & chimney repair will cost.

Fast forward to today, Monday, May 17th.  I returned my car to the mechanic [was able to drive around this weekend without any problems].   When he called me later, he told me the prices for individual parts:  timing belt, gasket, wires, & spark plugs.  Adding those prices plus labor, the  estimated cost is $1,100.  Well, I have $1,088 in my car maintenance fund, so I’m $12 short [before sales tax].  Yikes!!

What an unbelievable Friday!  One friend told me that I should have read my horoscope before leaving home Friday morning.

Well, with such financial stress, I could have the perspective of  “the glass is half empty.”  Instead, I have the mindset of  “the glass is half full.”  Here’s why.

Although the projected total expense for repair work on the car exceeds the balance of my car maintenance fund, hey, at least I have a car maintenance fund.  🙂  I will not have to use a credit card to pay for this unexpected expense.   My discipline of setting aside money for car maintenance every pay period has really shielded me from a deeper financial hole.

With regard to the unexpected roof and chimney matters, I’m thrilled the contractor discovered these problems [the contractor took a photo of the hole and showed it to my mother].  His name is Raphael and I told him Friday evening – Raphael is an angel, right?  You are my angel.  If  Raphael had not noticed the hole and the loose brick around the chimney, the financial consequences would be greater.

Still nervous about the total bill from the contractor.  Am draining my savings rapidly.  But I can rest assured that I have some savings.

Now, I need to start setting aside money every pay period for a home maintenance fund.  Don’t know how I will fund this.  My budget is extremely tight presently.  I’ll have to realign some of my “priorities.”

Mother’s Day

When I was younger, we celebrated Mother’s Day by fixing my mother a special breakfast, cleaning the house or ordering a special dessert.

As adults we tend to treat my mother to a meal at a restaurant.  But my mother detest crowds (when we were younger, she would take us to the beach early in the morning.  By 10:30 a.m., as the crowds would begin to build, we would pack up and leave.  It fostered a desire in me – I wish we owned our own beach!).  So we celebrate Mother’s Day the Sunday after.

There are a few benefits.  We don’t pay the “jacked up” prices restaurants charge for Mother’s Day.  Two, there are no crowds.  And therefore, three, we can sit leisurely at the restaurant and enjoy our meal, without a waiter/waitress waiting impatiently for us to depart so the next family can sit down for their Mother’s Day meal.

Bottled Water vs. Filtered Tap Water

Boy, we Americans sure got suckered into buying bottled water.   Maybe, you are a little savvy if you purchase  a pack of 24 bottles on sale for $4.00.  Shame on you if you pay $1.25 or $1.50 at an eatery for bottled water.

The use of bottled water by many Americans (including myself) has contributed to a significant pile of plastic bottles at our landfills.  Even if Deer Park & Poland Springs use 30% less plastic for the bottled water, it’s still too much unnecessary trash.

From an economic standpoint, it makes sense to drink your tap water (filtered).  The cost of a filtration system will quickly pay for itself.   And, if you use a stainless steel or other reusable bottle, you definitely earn the ‘green prize.’   (And, I’ve practiced what I preach.)

But you think, aah, the taste.  Bottled water is superior in taste to tap water, right?  Well, there have been blind taste tests.  And tap water has repeatedly (and unexpectedly) won as best tasting water.

Save money, reduce your carbon footprint and drink filtered tap water.

Packing One’s Lunch

Some people can’t figure out “where their money went.”   Often it is not a largest expense but the smaller, daily ones, that seem so trivial, which definitely have a huge impact on one’s budget.

Do you buy lunch daily?  Let’s say lunch costs $5 per day.  That’s $25 per week or $100 per month.  Okay, that $1,200 per year.  And you say you don’t have extra money to save or pay down debt?

Obviously, you still have to pay money for making your own lunch but packing your lunch daily is still cheaper than buying daily.

And you can make your homemade lunch as boring or as exciting as you like.  It should be something you like since you prepare it.  🙂

But, if you are presently in the habit of buying your lunch daily, slowly wean yourself from this habit.  Prepare a lunch one a week, then twice a week, then three times a week, etc.   Take it slow.  Over time, you should find it easier and much cheaper when packing your lunch. Hopefully, the lunch you pack will be healthier or as healthy as what you buy.

And, you’ll notice more money in your wallet.  That should definitely bring a smile to your face.

Saving v. Paying Down Debt

Before the Great Recession,  interest rates were higher than today’s bottom feeder rate.  Funny, back then, Americans, generally, weren’t saving much.  In fact the savings rate was either zero or a negative number.

Since the Great Recession, the savings rate has leaped to a high of more than 4%, maybe close to 5%.   With so many Americans out of work, the fear of not having money, not being able to pay the mortgage, not being able to feed one’s family, has caused Americans to make savings a #1 priority.

So, should one consider paying down debt in such an environment?  I say YES.

Maybe someone else would say NO.  Be like a squirrel and hoard all your acorns.

IMHO, one should definitely have a  savings cushion (personally, more than the $1,000 that Dave Ramsey recommends.  That’s not large enough of a safety net for me).  But once you have a safety net (emergency fund) you feel comfortable with, start paying down that debt.

Before the Great Recession, when interest rates were higher, I did save quite a bit one year.  I purchased a one year Add-on CD from my credit union.  The minimum amount to open – just $100.  The minimum “add-on” amount – just $25 per transaction.  I experienced a thrill, a high , as I added every extra $25+ to the CD.  And I save a lot more than I originally expected.

But the high, the thrill of saving a lot of money DOES NOT COMPARE to the pure satisfaction of paying off a debt.  Between 3 October 2008 and 15 May 2009, I paid off a home equity loan (for my rental property) totaling $24,646.18.  When I paid off that loan on May 15th, I sent e-mails to lots of friends, basking in my MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.   [Funny, I didn’t send such an e-mail when I saved a lot of money one year].

Presently, I’m paying down the rental property’s mortgage.  On 2 January 2010 the balance was $35,974.00  As of two days ago, 1 May 2010, the balance is $18,351.01.   And, if all goes according to plan, I’ll send out another Mission Accomplished e-mail by the end of this October.

Paying off debt is more rewarding, definitely a greater sense of accomplishment. Even Dave Ramsey knows it.  On his radio program each Friday, he encourages listeners who have recently (within the last two weeks) become debt free, everything but the house or everything including the house, to call and make their I’m/We’re debt free scream.

Interestingly, there is no special recognition, positive encouragement or celebration for those who have achieved step three – a fully funded emergency fund (3 to 6 months of expenses).  Ever wonder why?