Posts filed under ‘expenses’

No Longer Delaying Gratification: $164,000 Worth of Remodeling and Repairs!

Each month my husband dutifully records each and every financial transaction in GnuCash. He reconciles the checkbook and then documents the credits and debits associated with our four credit cards.

Every so often I run income and expense reports to provide a snapshot of where our money is going. I usually do this on a monthly or yearly basis, but yesterday I decided to run an expense report detailing costs for repairs and maintenance over the past fourteen years.

The total stands at a whopping $164,000!
Expense Report

After many years of focusing solely on long term plans for early retirement and purchasing a vacation home, my husband and I began hiring contractors to fix up our primary home. We started by replacing the windows, painting the house, installing a generator and remodeling our bathrooms.

This year we agreed to remodel our basement, which started out with a modest $20,000 estimate but will most likely cost $35,000 to $40,000 when all is said and done.

I must admit that I have changed my tune quite a bit from the early days of home ownership. There was a time when I was willing to live with windows that didn’t open, paint that was cracking and 1950s bathrooms.

My change of heart is a direct reflection of the change in our financial situation. As our retirement accounts continue to grow and the mortgages on our two homes shrink I no longer wish to delay gratification.

I no longer want to avoid the eye-sore we call a basement or force myself to use air conditioning because the screens in my windows can’t hold back the bugs.

While it is painful to part with such large sums of money it feels good to look around my home and see how much more comfortable, cozier and cleaner and it now feels.

For the record not all of the money was spent on upgrading our home. A good chunk of the cost involves big ticket items like replacing air conditioners and other household appliances. Certain things needed to be done whether we liked doling out the money to do them or not.

I also believe there is a good deal of bleed over of expenses from our beach house. I have a feeling a number of expenses were incorrectly categorized. In North Carolina a lot of the contractors require cash payments and those ATM withdrawals most likely showed up in the books from our primary house rather than our rental home.

Still $164,000 is a whole lot more than I would have guessed we spent over the last fourteen years. I would’ve ball parked that number about half that amount!

January 22, 2015 at 5:08 PM 6 comments

Four Speeding Tickets in A Month!


I’m a pretty good driver. I pay attention to the traffic in front of me. I check my mirrors and I always look before switching lanes. I don’t text while driving and I use bluetooth whenever I’m on the phone. In the twenty years since I started driving I have only been in one minor, fender-bender type accident. Technically I think it might have been my fault, but the police who were called to the scene blamed the other driver.

The only trouble I have with driving is my inability to drive the actual speed. I tend to push the gas a little harder than I should. Up until now I’ve never paid for a speeding ticket. I received two or three warnings many moons ago, but nothing in the past ten years. So you can imagine my shock at finding four speeding tickets in the mail over the course of three weeks!

Technically I am only responsible for three of the tickets; my husband triggered the speeding camera on the fourth one. The speed light camera catches anyone traveling 12 miles over the speed limit and in three of the four tickets we were traveling exactly twelve miles over.

Each ticket cost us $40 and each charged a $2 or $3 fee for processing. So just like that we are out over $160! On each occasion I was in a hurry, which isn’t an excuse for driving too fast, but is true nonetheless.

I need to add a little extra time into my travels, so I’m not in such a hurry moving forward. It looks like I also need to drive a little slower from this point on…

Photo Credit

June 3, 2014 at 4:19 PM 2 comments

Are You Willing to Spend More for Clean Energy?

A few weeks ago I received our rate renewal form from our electric supply company. I read over the documentation and noticed that there were two options available.

Here are the original rates in the renewal notice I received:

  • .0929 per kWH for 5% wind
  • .097 per kWH for 50% wind

As you can see if I want to receive 50% of my electricity from a renewable source, (in this case wind), I have to pay more per kWH hour. Here is some information on wind power from the company who provides my electricity.

Wind power, the world’s fastest growing energy resource, displaces conventional power, reduces carbon dioxide and your carbon footprint, and helps eliminate air pollution problems such as smog and acid rain. Plus, wind is an unlimited resource with an unlimited supply! 

I googled wind powered energy and after reading some very interesting details about wind farms I decided that I was willing to pay a higher premium for clean, renewable energy. Of course, before sending in the renewal form I called the electric supply company to inquire about rates. I also researched comparable rates for other companies offering clean energy alternatives.

Over the phone I was provided with the following rates:

  • .088 per kWH for 5% wind
  • .092 per kWH for 50% wind

I had already decided to select the 50% wind option, but hearing the new rate sealed the deal. I received the environmentally friendly choice at less than I would have paid for only 5% wind power, (.092 versus .0929), if I had sent in the original renewal form.

I certainly could have saved more money by choosing traditional energy sources, but from an environmental perspective I feel good about my decision.

So what about you? Would you be willing to spend more money for clean, renewable energy?

April 3, 2013 at 11:23 PM 1 comment

What’s Next? Another Unexpected Expense!

The past few months have been filled with unexpected expenses. First we had trouble with the car, then extensive work was required to repair cracked pipes that left our house smelling of sewage, the pipework left huge holes in our walls so then there were costs for repair work and now on top of everything else our air conditioner stopped working! I’ve been hesitant to review the numbers but today I decided to add up the total.

Pipe Work & Plumbing (Due to Sewage Smell)

  • $900 – Original Fix Replaced Toilet & Resealed
  • $4700 – Replacement of Cast Iron Pipes to PVC
  • $165 – Drain Cleaning
  • $700 – Replacement of Metal Sink
  • Total = $6465.00
Repair Work to Walls Damaged by Pipe Work
  • $2200 – Repair and Painting of Walls Damaged From Pipe Work
  • $143.69 –  Paint Required for Damaged Walls
  • Total = $2,343.69
  • $875.19 – Car Maintenance Costs
  • $40 – Diagnostic Cost for Car
  • Total = $915.19
Air Conditioner
  • ?? – Analysis Performed Friday (Fuses Replaced)
  • $4000 – New Air Conditioning Unit (Fuses blew again)
  • Total = $4,000+

Total for unexpected repairs so far: $13,723.88!

In addition to the unexpected expenses we also refinanced two properties which will cost us an additional $7,000 or so in closing costs. Refinancing will save us $151,000 in interest over the life of the two loans, but right now an additional $7,000 in costs stings.

Add it all together you see $20,000 in unexpected and unusual expenses for the month! That’s a crazy amount of money!  Fortunately, we’ve been able to utilize home equity loans to finance some of these expenses.

July 30, 2012 at 10:40 AM 4 comments

Why Yes That Is Sewage Water You Smell

Ahhhh, nothing like waking up, walking down the hall and smelling the glorious stench of raw sewage. That’s exactly how I spent the first few minutes of my morning. My house was built in the early 1950s and the drains for the shower can be accessed through a panel in our hallway. As I walked past that little door this morning I was inundated with the oh so pleasant smell of garbage and sewage water.

So, what’s a girl to do but call the plumber and hope for an easy and not too expensive solution. Before calling the plumbers I noticed that the room beneath that bathroom had some water damage in the ceiling. Hooray, hooray we’ll fix the bathroom issue and then fix the damaged plaster.

The plumbers came out about an hour later and explained that a rickety old toilet may be the culprit. They pulled the toilet back from the floor and showed me how all of the parts in my 50 year old toilet had rusted out. They further explained that the toilet was barely holding onto the floor and that the hole to the sewage line was exposed whenever the toilet shifted about on the one screw that seemed to keep it bolted in place.

The fix $300 to $400. My suggestion to go ahead and replace the ancient commode another $600 after parts and labor. $900 later I am now the proud owner of a newly installed toilet. The plumbers took their money and happily offered to return if any other problems arose.

Well I’m afraid to say I just wondered upstairs and noticed that the stink of sewage is not dissipating. I now wonder if the toilet was not causing the water damage or stench in my home after all. Let’s hope another call to the plumbers is not required tomorrow.

June 21, 2012 at 9:00 PM 4 comments

A Little Advice… Clothes for the Hospital

I was wondering if any of the moms out there could help me decide what to pack for the hospital. The little one is due in just under five weeks and I’m not sure if I should buy a nursing night gown or simply bring along a top and shorts.

I think a nursing nightgown might be a little easier, because a couple of people told me it’s rather difficult to bend down to pull your pants up and down after delivery. Of course I don’t currently own a nursing nightgown, so if I need one then I need to head online or out to the store to purchase one.

To be honest I haven’t worn pants of any type much since a few weeks after I found out that I was pregnant. I was very bloated early on and found all of my old pants uncomfortable. I bought a bunch of soft cotton dresses, pulled a few more out of the closet and have been living in them for months! I’ve been really comfortable with this approach, which is why I’m leaning towards a nursing nightgown over the alternatives.

On the other hand at home I tend to sleep without clothes, so I hate the idea of buying something I only plan to wear for a day or two. If any of you have suggestions on what you wore or maybe more importantly what you wished you wore I’d love to hear from you!

September 25, 2011 at 2:30 AM 12 comments

Budgeting for Baby

You should’ve seen me yesterday. I must have opened ten different browser tabs, gnucash (our financial tracking software) and three different spreadsheets. My goal: to figure out just how much money we have and how much money I would like us to have before the baby makes his or her appearance.

Our retirement accounts look really solid, (I guess that’s what 10+ years of bi-weekly contributions and a bump in the market bought us), but our main brokerage and checking account are not as large as I would like them to be. My husband and I shell out a decent chunk of cash each month in the form of two mortgage payments. One to our primary home and the other to our beach house. When we refinanced we opted for 15 year mortgages and slicing 15 years off a mortgage really makes that payment jump.

I’m not terribly concerned about our finances, but my job feels very unstable lately. I recently switched to a new department and I now realize that my new job is not in the most secure part of the company. Well, honestly, I’m not sure if any department is stable at this particular juncture.

I’ve been unhappy with my position for quite awhile and now I secretly wonder if they’ll hold my position through my maternity leave. The company recently cut a woman who was just beginning her leave and another who was only half way through.

Actually in the best scenario they would keep me through maternity leave and then cut me just after I get back from it. That would provide me with a relatively decent package that would enable me to stay home for an extra few months with the baby.

I just want to make certain that I’m prepared for all of the worst case scenarios. Honestly, if they cut me a month or two before the baby is due I most definitely won’t look for a new job. I’ll just wait until the baby arrives and then take a few extra months before looking for work.

I’m not worried about costs related to raising an infant. I know my husband and I will purchase the minimum amount of things necessary and I have a lot of friends and family who will probably chip in with amazing gifts.

I’m more worried about our current monthly expenses and trying to keep a reign on general spending prior to the baby’s birth. Now I know how much money we have, but I really need to find out how far my husband’s paycheck can spread if I’m not employed for a bit.

I plan to spend tomorrow with another set of spreadsheets, just working out the numbers.

May 12, 2011 at 3:16 AM 6 comments

How Much Did We Spend On Lunch?

As I looked over the 2007 income statement I wasn’t surprised by too many of the numbers. As usual we spent quite a bit of money on our two homes. Over $37,000 in interest payments alone. My husband’s new $10,000 camera equipment was a little higher than I expected, but we both see that as an investment towards a future career. For the most part we kept our discretionary expenses at a minimum. Books, clothing, furniture, and travel expenses were all quite low. Although I would, of course, like to see some of those categories even lower.

I was surprised by one and only one number: our food bill. My husband and I live alone, no children, no relatives. Our total food bill was roughly $10,500. $4000 was spent on groceries while $6000 was spent on eating out. Broken down $4000 averaged over 12 months is $333 and $6000 is roughly $500. Those numbers don’t seem as horrible, but the amazing thing about that figure is that my husband and I almost never go out for dinner.

Honestly, it’s not so much an issue of frugality as it is an issue of time. My husband and I often work late and drive long distances to and from work. Whoever arrives home first starts cooking dinner, in the hopes that it will be ready when the other spouse arrives home.

What’s amazing about the $500 a month figure is that the majority of these expenses come from purchasing weekday lunches. It’s $5 here, $7 there, and then a few weekend lunches and wham you’re up to $500 a month.

But the problem is I no longer see lunch as a clear discretionary expense. My husband and I both enjoy eating lunch out. Lunch provides a short escape from the work world with people who’s company we enjoy. Although I’m frugal in just about every other aspect of life this is one area I cannot seem to overcome. I realize this is probably the sign of a bigger problem, like the need to find a new job, but for now I need to decide is the brief escape from work worth $6000?

January 8, 2008 at 4:15 AM 8 comments

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