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Guest Post: Reduce Your Energy Bills Effortlessly

February 24, 2010 · Filed Under Frugality · 4 Comments 

Winter is a time of increased power consumption, and therefore a good time to mobilize and begin saving energy to make bills as painless as possible. Easy to say, but is it difficult to do?  It doesn’t have to be. Here are some simple changes that you can introduce to your daily routine to save some cash with little effort.

  1. When cooking, use as little water as possible and cover the pot with a lid. This simple rule can save up to 15% on energy, and your meal will be ready faster!
  2. If you have a pressure cooker, use it when possible. It can save you up to 40% on energy.
  3. Don’t keep refrigerators and freezers colder than necessary. The correct temperature for refrigerator compartments is 38° F, and 5° F for a freezer. If possible, don’t keep the fridge close to heaters and don’t leave the doors open longer than needed. It will use more energy to cool back down.
  4. Defrost food in the refrigerator. It will give away the cold, resulting in consuming less energy. On the other end, don’t put hot products inside the fridge, as the appliance will have to work harder to keep the temperature low.
  5. Remember that electronic devices left on standby are still considerable power eaters. Fortunately, they can be stopped without incurring any additional spending. Simply shut them off completely when going to work or to bed. TVs, radios, DVD and CD players, electric toothbrushes, printers, scanners, copiers, you name it. Stop them from eating your money!
  6. Most computers have power management features, so use them! Set up your PC so that the monitor enters sleep mode after 10 minutes of inactivity and turns off after 30 minutes.
  7. Surprising as it may be, a charger left in the socket still consumes energy. Unplug it once your mobile phone or MP3 player is fully charged.
  8. Run your washing machine only when fully loaded. In many cases, pre-washing or high temperatures are not necessary and require more energy. If possible, let your clothes air-dry.
  9. Use 100% of your dishwasher’s capacity, and check for eco-friendly options.
  10. Avoid excessive heating or air conditioning. If you feel cold, try putting on a sweater before turning the thermostat up. Turn the heat off when leaving doors or windows open.

As you can see, it’s easy to start saving on utility bills today. You just need a little patience and practice to make use of these simple tips in your everyday life. Of course once you put aside a little bit, I encourage you to invest in energy-saving solutions. Always look for the Energy Star logo when choosing appliances, lightning, heating and cooling systems, home electronics, or office equipment.

Today’s guest post was contributed by  Visit them online to find energy-saving appliances for sale.

Weekly Bible Verse – Acquiring Wealth and Honor

February 22, 2010 · Filed Under Weekly Bible Verse · 1 Comment 

Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honour and life.  Proverbs 22:4 (NIV)

So the latest get rich quick scheme of using Twitter to send out tweets about selling an e-book that shows other people how to get rich by sending out tweets about selling an e-book is maybe not the best way to ensure wealth? (note to self: cross that off  todo list)

In fact, according to Proverbs 22:4, you can acquire not only wealth but also honor and life by following this piece of advice (even if you can acquire some wealth by sending out those tweets, I can pretty much guarantee you that path won’t lead to honor for you!).  So how do you get acquire all this, you ask?  The answer is through “humility” and “fear of the Lord.”

Maybe that’s not the answer you were looking for?  It certainly falls about 180 degrees from the manner to achieve wealth and honor preached by our society.  No, the world tells us that we need to be hard-charging, to work longer hours than everyone else, to devote ourselves to our work above all else in life, and certainly not to ever be humble about anything!  Are you surprised that’s not the exact path laid out by the Bible?

In contrast, what the Bible is telling us is to devote ourselves to God above all else and to rely on Him to provide us a path to wealth.  Now, I’m not a Biblical scholar, but from what I can tell this isn’t a case of the word for “wealth” actually meaning something possibly more nebulous like “prosperity.”  It appears to be used in the Bible to mean actual “riches” and “wealth.”  That notwithstanding, please don’t skip over the other two words in this verse – especially the last.  I would argue that “Life” is much more valuable than money.

So, humbling yourself before God, having that healthy respect/fear for Him,  devoting yourself to His purpose, relying on Him, that brings you not only wealth and honor but also life?  Yes, please – sign me up for that!

God bless and have a great week…

Monthly Net Worth Update – February 2010

February 16, 2010 · Filed Under Net Worth · Add a Comment 
Cash + Money by Terence Chang

Yikes – I wasn’t really paying attention last month (probably because of the impending birth of my 4th child!) and I encountered a rude surprise when I updated our net worth this month.  Let’s get right into the carnage…

Our assets decreased almost 4%

Every single asset category dropped last month.  Some dropped a little (like our cash assets) while our assets exposed to the stock market dropped substantially.  My stock options dropped the most (more than 20%) while the rest of the categories dropped in the mid-single digits.  Our house value also continued to decrease – this is the fourth month in a row with a small (1-2%) decrease.  The net result of all of that is that we are even more underwater on our mortgage and have 4% less assets compared to last month.

Of course, all of this is now exacerbated by the birth of our daughter two weeks ago.  There, of course, will be many new expenses associated with that (hospital bills, we decided to do blood cord banking, truckloads of diapers, etc) while at the same time my wife won’t be receiving a paycheck for another couple months at least (or indefinitely if we decide that she should retire).  All that adds us to a few interesting months to come finance-wise!

Our liabilities decreased 0.12%

Our mortgage drops approximately 0.12% each month.  It is frustrating to me how small of a drop that is each month (I now wish I had followed Dave Ramsey’s advice to take out a 15 year mortgage but I hadn’t heard that advice when we bought our house!)  Unfortunately, it is difficult to do anything with our mortgage because we are under water with it.  With the next few months bringing increased expenses and decreased income, I am especially wary of making any big moves that would deplete our savings and investments significantly.  So we stand pat for now until we see how this all plays out.

Our net worth decreased almost 8%!

Overall, our net worth dropping a whopping 7.7% which is the largest single-month drop since March 2009.  Also, saying it in percentages doesn’t sound as bad as the actual dollar value that was lost!

So, we enter a period of uncertainty with the changes in our finances and I’m not sure right now how it will all play out.  I will be trying hard to focus on God and rely on Him and not get too worried about all of it.  Now, I don’t want to overplay it – it’s not like we are in dire circumstances or anything like that.  We have been saving and investing for a while and also have a healthy emergency fund.  For me, however, I just really don’t like the idea of spending more money than we bring in each month.

Weekly Bible Verse – Even More Important than Planning

February 15, 2010 · Filed Under Weekly Bible Verse · 1 Comment 

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.  Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

I have lots of ideas (most of them collected in a huge and therefore virtually indecipherable mind map) and I’m sure you have many as well.  They run the gamut from being pretty good, well-formed ideas all the way to pie-in-the-sky, no-way-I-could-make-that-happen ones!  The most important aspect of planning for my ideas, though, is something that I don’t have much control over actually.  As stated, God’s purpose is what will prevail.

Previously, I discussed the importance of planning and committing your works to the Lord. And today’s verse builds on top of what I discussed in that post.  I previously stated that the purpose of committing your plans to God was not to convince God that we have a great idea so that He agrees to bless it.  Rather, it was to get yourself in line with what God wants you to do.

Today’s verse further underscores the importance of aligning yourself with God.  Why waste your time by running off on your own attempting to pursue that which is not God’s purpose?  Go through the process of committing your plans to God and discover whether you should pursue your ideas or abandon them and move on to something more worthwhile.  And it’s a win-win since you’ll be a better person as a result of going through the process!

God bless and have a great week…

Guest Post: Options for Term Life Insurance Death Benefits Payouts

February 12, 2010 · Filed Under Insurance · 2 Comments 
Today’s guest post was contributed by Denise Mancini of Accuquote.  If you are looking for term life insurance, (and you probably know I am a big proponent of life insurance, especially term life insurance) Accuquote is a good place to start investigating specific term life insurance policies.

There are pages written about how to buy term life insurance, but very few devoted to death benefit claims and payouts. Sadly, this topic is so neglected, that awareness levels on this matter are very low. Term life insurance is the best kind of life insurance available today, and it would be a shame if your beneficiaries do not know or are misled about payout procedures. This article
will help fill the gap and provide some insights into the types of term life insurance payouts.

The first step
When a loved one has expired and the funeral formalities are finished, you, the beneficiary needs to submit a certified copy of the death certificate to the insurance company. The death certificate is a must in order to file an insurance claim. Instead of contacting the insurance company, contact the agency or agent that sold the policy to the insured. Numbers of both the agent/agency and the life insurance company are usually found on the policy itself. The agent will help you understand the procedure better, and will ease the process for you in your time of grief.

Death benefit payout options
When your claim has been filed and approved, the life insurance company will ask you how you would like to receive the death benefit amount. There are two main payout options:

Lump Sum
Almost every term life insurance policy allows you to withdraw the entire death benefit amount in a lump sum. Most beneficiaries opt for this payout plan if there are pressing financial commitments like loan payments or an urgent need for the entire amount. Some beneficiaries prefer to withdraw the entire amount, and then direct it to tax-deferred investment vehicles.

Annuity Methods

For those who do not wish to receive the death benefit in a lump sum, life insurance companies offer several types of annuity (yearly) payout options depending on how you want to receive the amount. These include:

  1. Life income: The beneficiary is guaranteed an annual income as long as he or she lives. The insurance company determines the payment amounts based on the age and gender of the beneficiary. If the beneficiary dies, the insurance company retains the balance amount.
  2. Life income, period certain: The beneficiary is guaranteed an annual income for life, or a specified period of time, whichever is longer. If the beneficiary dies before the specified period, his or her beneficiary i.e. a second beneficiary receives the outstanding payments.
  3. Last survivor income: If there is more than one beneficiary, life payments will be made until the last surviving beneficiary dies.
  4. Specific Income: The beneficiary gets to choose how much and for how many years death benefits will be received, until the entire death benefit is exhausted. If the beneficiary dies before the last payment, his or her beneficiary receives the remaining payouts.
  5. Interest income: This is a great option for minor beneficiaries. The beneficiary is guaranteed payments on the interest paid on the death benefit for a specified time, or until the beneficiary reaches a certain age. The original benefit is then made available to the beneficiary.

Always think your options through

Before choosing a payout option, evaluate your financial needs to determine which option is best for you. It is always wise to speak to a financial advisor or a tax consultant. Though the payment options are relatively simple and easy to comprehend, it is wise to understand them thoroughly and know the implications of each kind of payout method. Beneficiaries must be aware that though the lump sum benefit is tax-free, all interest amounts received on the lump sum are taxable.

If you do not own a term life policy yet, the Internet is a great place to shop around and get free term life quotes. Just make sure that your beneficiaries are kept in the loop about the options available to them when claiming your death benefit.

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