Debt free empty nesters...ready to stretch our wings.
Life is good and we plan on making it even better. This blog is mostly about our trips to Vieques Puerto Rico, with a few odds and ends thrown in about our life after the mortgage.
The average american household does 400 loads of laundry a year. That comes to 7.69 loads per week. That's according to the Consumer Energy Center.
It has been reported that Tide is the clear winner for the first place spot in laundry detergents according to Galtech.
So...if the average household does 400 loads a year and uses Tide laundry detergent they're spending roughly $118 a year on laundry detergent. I searched and the best price I could find for Tide was at Walgreens. Using the 50oz bottle from Walgreens @ $9.49 they would have to buy 12.5 bottles in the course of the year to do the 400 loads. That's roughly 30 cents a load.
I have a way you can do the same amount of laundry for 2 cents a load. Is it worth 15 mins to save over $100? It is for us and has been for years.
You'll need one bar of Fels Napha Soap. We buy it at Krogers for $2
One cup of 20 mule team borax. A box (76oz) of this will cost you $4. You'll get 10 cups out of the box. So one cup will cost you 40 cents.
One cup of "Arm and Hammer Washing Soda". Now that's washing soda, not baking soda. It's gonna cost you $4 for a 55oz box. That means one cup is gonna cost you 57 cents.
Add all this up and you have a grand total of $2.97. We'll round up to $3 and that's for 5 gallons of laundry detergent. At 1/4 cup per load you'll get 160 loads and that's 1.87 cents per load. I rounded up to 2 cents per load.
Here's how you make it:
Grate the entire bar of Fels Napha soap. We just us a metal grater. In a large pan bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add grated bar soap, stir and dissolve. Remove from heat and add 1 cup borax and 1 cup of washing soda. Mix well. Pour this into a 5 gallon plastic bucket with lid. Fill the bucket with warm water to the rim. Detergent will form a lumpy consistancy and will need to be stirred prior to use. Use 1/4 cup per load.
You can make 7 loads or 35 gallons of detergent out of the box of washing soda. The only thing you'll have to buy is a bar of soap.
Just got off the phone with AT&T. The reason for the phone call was to cancel our local phone service and go to a dry loop DSL line (that's a phone line with DSL only..no local phone). We already have cell phones with AT&T. Our current phone bill with DSL was $52. They gave me a promotional offer for 12 months for phone and DSL for $39 total, including tax. The dry loop was gonna cost me $30, so I'm getting the phone for $9 a month. I took the bait. One phone call just saved me $156 a year.
Make the phone call...your in the drivers seat..they're losing customers.
"5 ways to save $2000 a year." That was the title of the video on Yahoo "Shine" that Lorrie and I watched last night. Always ones to be interested in finding new ways to save some dough, and at $2000, we gave it a view. I've got to say it was worthless, well almost. They did say negotiate with your cable provider to see if there are any promotions they offer. That's the wrong approach. If your gonna do battle you had better bring some artillary.
Thinking about just how worthless that clip was and knowing full well there are so many other tangible ways to save some money, take control and live debt free, I've decided to share some of what we've done to get us to where we are. You know..."After the Mortgage."
1. To take control you've got to know where your money is going. There is no secret system to getting out of debt. Dave Ramsey and all those others are just putting a different wrapper on what's nothing more than simple math. What's coming in minus what's going out. You want the incoming larger than the outgoing, of course. When we were first married, "ahem", some 24yrs ago.....I used to take a calendar and mark each week with what bills had to be paid and how much money was left over. I did this every January and did the whole year. That way, each week, Lorrie could look and see just how much money was left over, also showed you when to pay each bill. Not the best system in the world but at least we knew where it was going and we were in some sort of control. Now I use a simple spreadsheet in Micorsoft works:
For us the spreadsheet is not really necessary anymore, I still maintain it anyway. The point is one should know exactly how much it costs to live. Include everything. All utilities, insurance, food, car gas, car payments, day care, monthly memberships. If you pay your insurance bi-annually then divide that amount by six. If you pay your house insurance once a year then divide it by twelve. If you don't know how to set up a spreadsheet you could always go to the library and get a book or inlist the help of your child or a friend. You could always do it on paper, but it doesn't offer you the flexibility to see what happens if you pay off a car. You immediately see the change to the bottom line. That $400 car payment means another $4800 a year. The beauty of this is you only have to set it up once. You can always add a bill or changes incomes.
This is the part that most people don't like. Mostly because they don't want to face reality, secondly because many are just lazy. How many of your friends know exactly what their living expenses are and I'm not talking about the mortgage only? Once you do it, and you know exactly where you are at, it will influence your financial decision making or at least it should. If you've only got a few hundred dollars extra each month the premium channel subscription on DirectTV might not be as appealing. Somehow make sure you know your bottom line and check it regularly.
2. Raise your deductable on your insurance as high as possible. When I tell people this they say "But what if I get in a wreck? I don't have $1000 for the deductable." I say you do because your paying out each month, albeit a little bit at a time. I say raise your deductable and open a home equity line of credit. Use it only if you need it in case of an accident to pay the deductable. A second option is to get a no annual fee credit card and use it to pay the deductable. This should save you at least 10-15% each month.
3. If you have a cell phone dump your land line. That's a pretty simple one. Why pay twice for the same service? If there are other services you have that are dependant on a land line then evaluate whether they are necessary or not. i.e. security systems, sat tv, internet.
4. This brings me to one of the biggest leeches out there, sat TV. We have become so conditioned to think that we've GOT to have 100's of channels of TV, do we? Is it worth the cost? I mean really. If your not ready to dump the sat TV try this: If you've been a subsriber to say DirectTV for some time call them up and say you want to cancel your service. I did it before we were ready to totally get rid of it. They gave me a $10 rebate each month for a year. Not only that they did it twice, two years in a row. I'm telling you that the internet is eating into their business and they are losing customers. You have the advantage here. We totally dumped sat TV and now use the internet and Netflix online.
5. Along those same lines if you use ADT security and have been with them for awhile you can call and say that your want to cancel your service. They cut ours in half before we dumped it all.
6. Get a dry loop DSL line. You don't have to have local phone service to have DSL.
Up to this point I've only talked about changes that really don't require any effort on your part. But to really get ahead of the game you've got to put some effort into it. So here we go:
8. Take your lunch with you. The savings from this are huge but you've got to do.
9. Drink water at work and I don't mean bottled water either.
10. Only buy used vehicles, never new ones. Huges savings on insurance not to mention the underlying cost of the vehicle. Did you ever think what the purpose of a vehicle is? It's to get you from point A to point B. Well if you buy the brand new vehicle the cost of getting to point B is darn high. Especially when you figure in insurance and gas, somewhere in the neighborhood of $700 a month or $8400 a year. I used a $400 a month car payment, $100 full coverage insurance and $200 a month gas.
11. Buy used cloths. yeah I know...but I can save 1k year by going to resale shops. You pay the premium price....I'd rather spend a month in Vieques.
12. Recycle, compost and burn (if your in an area where you can) the rest. I canceled our trash service and built compost bins and a incenerator. Compost bins are nothing more than plastic garbage cans with holes drilled in them. The incenerator cost $200 to build. I was paying $18 a month for trash service. I'll recoup my cost for the incenerator in the first year. After that we are saving $200 a year.
13. Make you own laudry detergent. We make 5 gallons for under $2. We used to buy the ALL free and clear. It cost would .25 cents a load to use. Our own costs less than .02 a load. Roughly you'll save between $50-$70 a year.
14. Learn the lost art of cooking and eat in. I don't mean microwaving a frozen meal either (huge waste of money not to mention how unhealthy it is).
15. Un-plug all charges and electronics that are not in use. If you've got a TV in the basement that is rarely used, unplug it. Use compact fluorescent bulbs.
16. Use your local library instead of buying books. Your already paying for it...so use it.
Hopefully this may be of use to someone. By far the biggest living exspense for most is their mortgage payment. Pay it off and the rest is easy. You pay it off by diverting as much extra cash as possible towards it each and every month. If it means forgoing a vacation, then do it. If it means taking your lunch and having co-workers look at you strange, do it anyway. If it means not driving the latest and greastest new car, then do it. I can't tell you just how great it feels to watch your extra cash grow each month once you reach the debt free point. Everything changes.
Just for the heck of it we decided this evening to put up some maps of places we have snorkeled on the island and places we plan on snorkeling in 8 weeks. (can you tell we're anxious to be back on the island!). Ok...here's the way it works...yellow on the maps shows areas we have snorkeled (Some of these places we have video of too), orange are areas we plan on hitting in 8 weeks. The first map is of Caracas:
We were unable to get to Garcia beach this last visit because the road was closed because of the all the rain. It looks to be much easier to reach the island via Garcia. We also thought that the south end of Garcia might be interesting. All the sea fans I filmed this last time were off the east side of Caracas, the area I have circled in yellow.
Next photo is of Puenta Arenas. I have included an inset on this map that shows of close-up of a really nice spot to stop and watch the sunset (that is IF you can stand the sand fleas). There's this lone palm tree that provides the most perfect spot to camp out.
Once again the yellow is where we have snorkeled. I have some video of a box fish loaded from this last trip. There is a very long line of coral to snorkel in this area. Thing is it was difficult to find a place to get out of the water. Your better off entering and leaving near the closeup area I have above. The rock and coral comes right up to the beach in this area. Seemed to be larger areas to snorkel here. We saw more larger fish too.
Next photo is of Playa Chiva (blue beach). Unfortunately we don't haven any video of this because we were unable to snorkel out to isla chiva because of all the rain. The water clarity was terrible on Playa Chiva this last trip. The trip prior we had some wonderful snorkeling at Playa Chiva.
Once again the yellow are areas we have snorkeled. When we were there in March another couple saw sea turtles in the coral line close to the beach that I have marked in yellow. The best snorkeling was out off the island. I've also marked in orange some areas off of Orchid beach we plan on snorkeling this next trip. We've never snorkeled off of Orchid.
Since this post we've snorkeled some other areas on the island. I made a list of what we think are the best spots we've found so far. You can find it here updated snorkel maps.
Reading the news this morning has taken me down a tangent that ended with an article I just finished this evening about living on a boat. Crazy that an article about how a U.S. official reportedly said that the administration is willing to increase the U.S. contributions to the IMF led me to end the day with reading about living on a boat, but it happened. I already knew that the U.S. is the largest contributor to the IMF. Reading the article outraged me so I decided to watch a movie on Netflix. Just so happens one of the movies that came up was "Life and Debt". Director Stephanie Black's documentary on how policies of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other aid organizations have altered the Jamaican economy over the past 25 years, leaving the locals to struggle in poverty. I was already primed because of the article so I thought "what the heck". The movie is eye opening and worth the watch. I encourage people to watch it.
So what does all this mean? I see so many people trapped. Be it in an upside down mortgage, credit cards or just being hooked on the plethora of gimicks that are designed to steal your hard earned $'s. I listen to co-workers regurgitate sporting stats with the exactness of an neuro-surgeon, yet if I ask them what the IMF is or what their supposed function is, all I get is a "deer in the headlights" look. Uninformed. All the time wondering if there's going to be any overtime this week, as if that's the answer. Mortgage, credit cards, cell phones, sat TV, car payments...it's a trap and the vast majority of people are nothing but plankton that the sharks feed on . The same sharks that have now put so many countries begging to the IMF. You buy the new car....you pay higher insurance, along with a hefty car bill and don't get me started on depreciation. Cell phone....biggest trap out there. Is there a limit to how much the can actually get people to pay each month? They're like leeches sucking your money from you, and you let them. Our friends just couldn't believe it when we dropped our sat TV. I'm telling you we've haven't missed it AT ALL. We've got dsl in the house and get all of our news off the internet. IMHO the $25 a month I pay for my DSL is one of the biggest bangs for the buck out there. Not only do I get my news off of it, we listen to free internet radio (it's what feeds the background music on this blog), we pay all of our bills via online bill pay and watch all of our movies via the web. I was paying Direct TV $83 a month. They're leeches. We went to liability on all of our vehicles. Our friends thought we were nuts. "What happens if you get into a wreck?" they would say. Well...we would buy another USED vehicle and pay cash. They just can't understand how one could have the cash to buy a vehicle. Well...take some that money your pouring into sat TV, cell phones and all the other sheit you don't need and save it. Better yet take it and pay off your mortgage. Your not going to get 5% return on the money in a savings account, so why pay the banksters the 5%. Nope..they would rather study sport stats. None of our friends could understand why we never amortized our property taxes nor house insurance, when we had a mortage. Well...if you write that check out you know exactly what it's costing you. You also pay more attention to any change in your taxes or insurance. But no..that's not the American way. We've got to have in idiot proof and absolutely painless and that's the trap. It's the same trap the IMF is setting for the global community and the same trap Greenspan set for U.S. homeowners.
People need to wake up and take responsibilty. Live within our means. At the very least start somewhere. Take your lunch to work. Dump the texting on your phone (do you really need texting?). We dumped our trash service and I built compost bins and an incinerator, we recycle the rest. We even make our own laundry soap. What if I told you that we make a 5th of Kahlua for 3 bucks. How about making your own exspresso or cappuccino at home instead of Starbucks. Stop buying pre-packaged meals and learn the lost art of cooking. Take all those little steps together and they add up. It can work, we're proof. Our biggest monthy expenses now are food and gasoline. I've even thought about biking to work, it's 9 miles one way. You don't have to buy into the game the crooks have ginned up. When you realize this your whole perspective is shifted.
You'll spend your evening reading about living on a boat or you'll spend one month a year in a place like Vieques.