April 29, 2009

Money Spent = Money Saved?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 Posted by Ryan , , , , , , No comments
Although it’s still cold and windy outside this week with unseasonably low temperatures, the warm weather is almost here and that means the end of the heating season. Last fall we replaced our 1987 oil burning furnace with a new 92%+ efficient gas burning furnace. Of course at the time I started collecting bids heating oil as nearing $5 a gallon and I was understandably concerned about the cost to run that oil burner al winter. Then the prices dropped. Well, oil prices fluctuate – or, they do now at least. I gave myself a conservative estimate on the return on the investment or 6 years back in September and well, we’re a little behind on that. The price of heating oil dropped back to $2.29 in February and that put a damper on my speedy ROI.

However, just because we’re not “saving” as much as I planned/hoped doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a good investment. We are saving money. In fact, our heating bill for the ‘08-’09 winter is around 50% of the estimated oil cost. And the price for natural gas is actually supposed to go down for next winter so maybe we’ll make up some of that momentum.

Estimated ’08-’09 cost of heating the house with oil: $896.35

Estimated ’08-‘09 final natural gas bill: $470.43

Dollars saved: $425.92!

April 16, 2009

Save on your taxes! Buy a house!

Thursday, April 16, 2009 Posted by Ryan , , No comments
Everyone told me that my tax burden would be significantly less when I bought a house. I’d be able to deduct everything and pay so much less. It didn’t quite work out that way. Maybe if we already had a bunch of things that were “itemizable” but we are apparently a household with little to deduct and came up a few hundred below the standard deduction. We were still able to deduct a portion of the real estate taxes – that was nice – and since it was all still so simple this year I took advantage of a free online preparation program and free e-file.* Really it’s a good thing that we came up short on the deductions because it means we aren’t paying a lot in interest. I mean it’s a lot, don’t get me wrong, we don’t have one of those swanky 4.8% mortgages that people can get now. But it isn’t the 14% that my parents paid. Maybe the low rates will stick around and we’ll re-finance and get a 15 year, or buy the vacant lot.

*Apparently I wasn’t paying enough attention while completing my tax preparation online because I got an email this morning with the subject “Your Federal Tax Return Hasn’t Been Filed”. What! I finished it I swear, I remember entering in my account number and routing number and “signing” the return with my new PIN, what do you mean to tell me (the day after taxes are due) that I haven’t filed? I logged back onto the web site and figured out there were three more “next” buttons to click to finish filing. Don’t you think they could have sent me an email yesterday? “Make sure and file your taxes since you obviously forgot to click Finish?” Or maybe when I closed the tab a warning popup could have asked “are you sure? You haven’t actually sent the IRS anything yet.” I know it was my fault, but it still sucks. And I’ll have to pay a fine of something between $1-$28 and if I don’t pay in a timely manner the IRS will demand 20% interest. Yay.

April 7, 2009

Cook & Clean

Tuesday, April 07, 2009 Posted by Ryan , , No comments
Not so much cleaning as yard work (gardening?). I made a simple lamb stew, with very little effort this week. Before we went on the weekend hardware store trip (1pm) I threw 2 small packages of lamb stew meat (neck bones) into the crock pot with a bay leaf and covered 2/3 with water. I turned it to low and we left. This weekend was the first nice weather we've had so far this year so I felt both obligated and determined to get stuff done outside. If a fit of laziness I got nothing done on Saturday, so Sunday was my last chance. The lumber yard is closed Sundays, so we went to Lowes to peruse the fencing materials (super disappointing). I did however get one potted plant marked 1/2 off (a pink heather plant) new garden clippers that promise to stay sharp 5x's longer, a spading fork (i broke both pitch forks on the rocks in the yard already) 1 cu ft bag of compost, and some bright colored string for marking out fence levels and such. We made a trip to the new Winco (grocery store like Costco and Walmart in one) and stopped at the Tacos Tumbras to grab some tacos (real tacos, not american tacos). The last stop was the NW seed & pet for the annual seed purchases, a mix of flowers and food stuffs. I also noticed the price for bagged compost was much better here (of course it was) so I'll come back for a bunch more when we plant the vegetable plot. We still have to wait 5 weeks to plant seeds outside so maybe I can get some started inside this year.

After we returned home I was determined to get some stuff done outside because it was so nice and still so light (~4:30pm). I cut down a 10 section of our pointless wire fencing (it doesn't keep anything in or out of the yard) and made a 3' diameter compost bin. I moved the fritillary to the front yard and divided it in 2 sections in front of the clematis to hide the ugly parts and shade the roots. We also planted the heather, some purple coneflower plants I got as Costco a while back, and moved the current bushes from the back to the front.

Of course after all this, it was 7pm when I got back inside to finish dinner. I chopped up onions, carrots, potatoes and celery and sauteed the onions and celery before adding the rest of the vegetables to a big pot on the stove. After skimming the fat off the top of the crock pot and removing the bay leaf, I added the broth contents to the stove pot along with 1 can of minced tomatoes. I let this simmer for 20ish minutes to cook the carrots and potatoes. While the vegetables were cooking I scraped off the meat from the neck bones. Uh, don't do this. It's a pain in the but and the meat is mostly fatty and not worth it. IN the future I'll probably pick up some shoulder chops at the same time and chop and throw those in with the veggies to cook (and just toss the neck bones meat and all when you're done with them). After adding some salt and pepper, it was done! Because the bones simmered so long all the good collagen stuff came out and thickened the stew and gave it that buttery mouth feel.

It really was easy and I even got some more work done in the yard at the same time.