Archive | March 2012

Use Kill A Watt To Measure Your Energy Costs

We have a kill a watt watt meter that we use to measure our electricity usage.  We have an older model that requires you to do some calculating.  The newer one that I linked to does all of the calculations for you.  All you have to do is enter your cost per kilowatt hour.

I was not surprised that our refigerator, our 50″ plasma screen television, and my husband’s 7 computers that he keeps  on at all times (he’s a software engineer) were using a lot of energy.

The kill a watt can also be used to check on the energy usage of regular light bulbs versus the use of compact flourscent bulbs.

Also, remember that most modern electronics use electricity even when they are off.  The kill a watt can measure the “usage” of your devices even when they are NOT being used.  This may justify the use of a switched power strip to cut the electricity entirely.

Another possible use would be for someone interested in purchasing a solar system or generator.  You could use the kill a watt to add up all of your important devices and design or purchase a system to meet your needs.

Please note that the kill a watt will NOT measure 220 volts.  It won’t measure the water heater, the dryer, or central air conditioning.  To measure these you will need a clamp-meter.  I will consider a post on a clamp meter if you are interested.  If you are, please leave a comment!

This is linked to Frugal Friday.

I Quit My Trainer

I started working out when my youngest child turned three.  I was 42 years old, in bad shape, not sleeping well, and in bad spirits because of these factors.

A guy from school is a trainer.  He loves all things athletic, especially biking.  He invitied me to come on a run.  I did.  I made it about 50 ft. before I thought I would die.  In order to impress him, I kept going.  We did 4:1, which is when you run 4 min., then walk 1 min. repeat over and over until you cover your desired mileage.  That first day we did about 2 miles.  It was the longest 2 miles of my life.  No Joke!  I was proud of myself for keeping going as best as I could.  I kept at it and eventually I was doing regular workouts.

I kept training.  A few moms joined us on our journey.  We would do a longer run on the weekend and workout on our own during the week.  Then some moms would hook up for an occasional  workout during the week.  We now have about 12 in our group.  We can usually hook up for a workout with someone who wants to work out at the same time and do the same activity.

Our trainer gives us the workouts for us to do.  We were doing them religiously in the beginning, then slowly over time we did some of his workouts, some of our own etc. based on how tired we were, what our next race was etc.  We also met with them once a week for speed workouts.  The problem is that I don’t really care about speed.  I am happy to be working out regularly.  I know I am slow and I am ok with that.  We were meeting really early in the morning once a week.  I couldn’t sleep the night before because I was afraid I would over sleep.  I was dragging all day and couldn’t wait to get to bed.  It took a couple of days to recover.  After 2 years of this, I realized that I can do the job myself.

I am working out regularly.  I am able to work out when my kids are in school.  I have no real reason to get up that early.  It was giving me more stress than I needed.  It was hard to come to this decision, but I think at some time, I have to be responsible for my own journey.  My time is now.

The ball is in my court.  I will  have to be responsible for my fitness.  I think I can do this and I will!!

Do you have a trainier?  Do you think a trainer is necessary?  I would love to hear about what you do to stay in shape!

Pinewood Derby 2012

We had the Pinewood Derby this weekend.  My 1st year Webelo, T and my Tiger cub S, were in it.  It is usually a good time, but our cars are never very fast.  We try to let our boys do as much of the work as possible.  My husband cuts out the cars, but he lets them sand and paint with spray paint.  They enjoy doing this, but they aren’t very detail oriented.  They are happy to draw out the design, sand for a couple of minutes and use the can of spray paint.  That’s about it!

Each year there are a couple of cars that seem to be awfully good for being done by a child.  This year, 10 out of about 30 were obviously not done by a child.  It is unfortunate.  My kids don’t even want to do it next year because they just can’t compete wth these awesome cars.

My husband said it was a competition of the fathers, not the kids.  The rules weren”t enforced.  They are supposed to use the parts in the box and there were obviously rules broken.  The only rule that they enforced was the weight.

It is a shame.  It could be a lot of fun.  It seems the more our Pack becomes established, the less fun parts of it become.  Maybe it is because I am getting older, maybe it is because it is our 4th and 5th boy doing it.  I don’t know, maybe I am just getting tired.

Consider Insurance On Glasses

We have a son, T, who is 10. He has worn glasses since he was 19 months old.  His eyes were fine up to 17 months old and then one day his eyes weren’t following at the same speed.  Within a week, his eye was turned in to the corner and didn’t come out until we got his glasses.   We got the referral from the Pediatrician right away, but we had to wait to get in to the Opthamologist.  This was the hardest 2 months ever.  Once we got the glasses, I thought all of our problems would be over.  WRONG.  First, he wouldn’t leave them on…because he wasn’t even two…then he finally realized that he could see with them which was good.  But then we would find him without the glasses and have no idea where the glasses were.  He usually wasn’t any help in finding them.  We had enough sense to buy the insurance which covered breakage, but not loss.  We LOST several pair because he took them off and set them down somewhere and couldn’t remember where.  He lost a pair out in our woods.  He even ate the nose pieces off of the glasses for a while.  After the losing them phase, we have had the ” rough, tough, boy” stage where he is super rough with them.  He has broken several pair.  The latest break was 2 weeks ago.  The insurance covered the break, and all we had to pay was $20 for the front section of the glasses.  Otherwise since the glasses were over a year old, we would have had to buy a whole new set of frames.

We never buy the extra insurance on TV’s, electronics, etc.  But having a boy who wears glasses full time (only takes them off to sleep) has made me glad to have the insurance.

I’m sure every situation is different, but it has been a blessing for us!

This post is linked to Frugal Tuesday Tip.

2 Hives Alive-1 Dead

2 of our bee hives have made it through the winter, but one didn’t make it.  Bummer.  We are in the process of trying to get a nuc hive to replace it.  The difference between a nuc hive (about $125) and a 3# package (about $80) is that although they have about the same number of bees, a nuc hive already has an accepted queen who is laying eggs and comes with 4 frames and brood.  The big difference is that the nuc hive is already a family of bees.  They are established with each other.   They have accepted the queen.  They aren’t thrown together like a package of bees.

We could do a split with our current hives at no cost, but we are trying to get a lot of honey this year as we are constantly needing more honey.  We have some established customers who like our honey and want it pretty consistently.  This increases our chances for getting honey.  A package of bees spends a lot of time in the beginning trying to get established.  A nuc needs less time to get established, like a couple of days, instead of a month like a package, and therefore the bees can spend more time foraging and establishing their colony.  This gives them time to make honey for them and us!

Bee packages don’t usually get extra honey their first year, but nucs generally will produce some extra honey their first year.

How about you, how did your bees do over winter?  I’d love to hear about it!

This post is linked to Homestead Barn Hop.

Fixing Your Own Stuff–A Real Life Example

My mother-in-law called at 9:00 p.m. to tell us that she had no hot water.  She said the temperature was between ice cold and luke warm.

Since they didn’t need the hot water last night and we visit each Sunday morning it was okay to wait until this morning to look at the problem.  My husband and son measured the voltage to the water heater.  There was no voltage. The breaker was popped, so they reset the breaker.  It started working, but the old dirty contacts started glowing red  melting the plastic thermostat housing.  Over time dirt or oxidation gets in the thermostat and increases the resistance.  It glows red because the contacts gets so hot and stays hot that they get stuck together and  can’t turn the heating element back off.  He knew from the glow that the thermostat was damaged.  It took 5 minutes at most to locate the problem.  He turned the breaker back off.

Off he went to Lowe’s and for $14 dollars he got an new thermostat.  Since he was going out we hot White Castle coffee too.  Yum!

He returned and put the new thermostat in in 5 minutes   The water was hot before we were finished with our usual weekly visit.

This saved a service call at $75.  Then they would have charged another $50 for the new thermostat and labor (this is a total guess as we have never had a service call).  So $125 to do a 30 minute job including the trip to Lowes, which was most of the time involved.

Total savings: $125-14=$111.

My husband wanted to say that it is a good idea if you keep a spare thermostat and heating element about $25 (smaller units) or 2 thermostats and heating element $35 (larger units) and keep them handy you can do your own repairs anytime day or night without a trip to the home improvement store.

My Chicken Tractor

I thought since I told you about my broiler chicks coming in April, you might want to see what it looked like.  It is made out of 2 x 2’s and chicken wire.  We have a cover over half to keep them out of the rain and sun if they want.  It is a pretty easy thing to make.  My husband and kids made it in a few hours.  I love knowing where my birds are grazing and what they are being fed.  It makes me feel better when we eat them that they were well taken care of and didn’t have a horrid life.

We move the tractor each day so that the chickens have fresh greens daily.  They don’t move too much so moving the tractor is just a couple minute job.

The only trouble that we had with this tractor is that we had a few issues with some kind of animal trying to kill the chickens through the fence.  There isn’t enough of a barrier between the chickens and any potential predators.  We are correcting that problem this year by putting a perimeter fence around to keep any predators at least 2 to 3 feet away from the chickens.  We will either use chicken wire or a electric fence that is easily moveable.

The other issue is that we had some pretty hard rains last year and the roof on the chicken tractor collected rain in the middle.  To correct this problem we used a long broom handle to create a slope so that the water would run off and not collect in the middle.  It worked great.

A final issue is that we didn’t have any way to secure the lid.  I didn’t want to put any more money into it, so we used a large brick on the 2 corners where the lid is able to be lifted to feed, water, and care for the chickens.

Do you have any other ideas?  I’d love to hear!

Do The Job Yourself

One of the biggest ways we save money is that my husband fixes almost everything the breaks in our house.  We have never had a plumber in our house, we have never had someone tune-up our furnace, we have never had to pay for a water heater to be installed.

Not having anyone fix our problems has saved us tens of thousands of dollars.

A friend just had their water replaced.  Cost $786.00.  A water heater costs between $215 and $300 for an average model.  The rest of the cost is for labor.  Why not learn a new skill and save that money?  There are lots of home improvement books, that go step by step explaining how to do common household repairs.  Some people don’t want to mess with repairs, but when you can save from half to three-quarters or more of the cost for some time and effort, it is worth it.

Some people complain that they don’t have the correct tools to perform a job.  My husband firmly believes in buying the tools that you will need to complete the job.  With each tool, you are better prepared for the next job that will certainly come along.  For example, if you learn how to replace a water heater, you buy the necessary tools, and do the job yourself, you will be able to replace any other water heaters in the future, thus saving money each time that job needs to be done.

Also with each job that you complete, you gain skills, knowledge, and confidence that will carry over to future jobs.  We currently have 3 teenage boys.  My husband works with each child while doing jobs around the house.  Our boys work with him changing the oil in vehicles, putting new brake pads on, etc.  They are learning how to take care of our home and vehicles while also learning to gain skills and save money!

This post is linked to Frugal Friday.

Trying Broilers Again This Year

We are trying broiler chicks again this year.  I am doing Cornish Rock Cross again.  We didn’t have very good luck last year, but I feel like we should try again to really evaluate if it was the weather, the type of chicken, or anything else that I might have done incorrectly.

Last year I kept the chicks inside for 10 days like some article or book that I read.  I can’t remember where the info came from, of course!  I think it is Pastured Poultry Profits by Joel Salatin.  After the 10 days, I moved them outside  to our chicken tractor.  It is chicken wire all around.  It opens at the top to access the chickens.  There is a roof on one side to protect the chickens from the rain.

Well last Spring, it rained non-stop.  It rained and rained.  Tne birds were cold and wet.  Slowly they died, one by one.  I ended up losing 12 out of 25.  I am not sure if was the rain or the lack of shelter.  The birds also had leg problems.  I did the vitamin supplement that I bought sporadically.  They grew so fast, it was weird.  I was very apprehensive to do these again until I tasted the birds.  They were GREAT!  Nice, meaty, birds…and I knew what they were fed, and how they were taken care of… and that inspired me to give it another try.

I ordered another 25 birds.  I will get them towards the end of April instead of April 1st.  I am hoping for less rain.  I will religiously give them the vitamin supplement with each watering.  I will restrict their feed after 4 weeks.  I have read feed am and pm, and no feed during the mid-day allow them to digest and clear out their gut.  I have also talked to a fellow farmer who said to feed 3 days, none on the 4th day.  The only problem with restricting their feed is that I FEEL BAD ABOUT IT.

The difference between the broilers and the Rhode Island Reds is amazing.  The Rhode Island Reds take 16 weeks to maturity and the broilers take 7 weeks.  The meat on the broilers is juicy and plentiful.  The Reds are tough and there is a lot less meat.  I have to cook 2 Reds to 1 broiler and the broiler still has more meat.

I have to do something as I have about $60 in these birds.  I pay around $2 to get them processed, and pay for the feed.  If I feed them and then they don’t make it into my freezer, I am losing money.

Have any of you done Cornish Rock Cross?

I have heard of Freedom Rangers, but our local hatchery doesn’t carry them.  Do you like them better?

Talk With Your Kids About Money

I like to think that we are pretty good with our money.  My husband has an MBA in finance and he has taught me the key principles in money management.  Some of the ideas come pretty easily to me, some are harder.  I am amazed how whenever my husband and I go over certain topics involving money my thinking goes back to when I was a kid growing up.  We grew up with completely different ways of thinking about money.  How we are raised with money affects us.

We follow Dave Ramsey’s ideas for the most part.  We bought Financial Peace and the whole CD and DVD set.  My tip is to talk to your kids about money.  We have been watching the Financial Peace University DVD’s for 30 minutes each Sunday evening.  We put it on the schedule…it’s that important.  We have had some interesting discussions with our children.  Dave Ramsey is entertaining while still getting his point across.  If there is something we want to discuss further, we can pause the DVDs and have an open discussion about the current theme.  Money is something we should talk about.  Sometimes I think it is good for our children to hear what like minded people have to say.  Sometimes I think they get tired of hearing from us about the same subjects over and over.  This has given them a fresh outlook on the same sort of principles.  The more you talk, the more opportunities your children get to listen and communicate what they are thinking.  This can help them own their beliefs and be a stronger advocate for what they believe and rebuke the lies and inconsistencies that are out there surrounding  money.