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Slash Your Power Bill With CFL and LED Bulbs

Learn how you can save 30% on your power bils by switching to CFL and LED bulbs.

Most couples I know want to see their monthly bills slashed without drastically diminishing their quality of life.

One way you can do that is by tackling your big bills. Optimizing your monthly and irregular home expenses can provide you with some huge savings.

For those ready, July is all about slashing your home bills – mortgages, utilities, maintenance, and more. We’ll examine ways you can improve your house and save money regularly.

Replacing Your Lights with CFL and LED Bulbs

To start us off I want to share an easy fix that can save you a ton – replace your inefficient bulbs with compact fluorescent or LED bulbs.

You may think it’s too simple, but taking inventory of your current lighting situation and appropriately replacing lights can help you cut down on your energy bills.

The Department of Energy estimates that just replacing incandescent bulbs can save you at least 25% and they will last longer. (According to CNET ,CFL bulbs can last around 10,000 hours and LEDs on average are about 20,000 hours. )

If you have an older home, go ahead check all of your lights, you may need to switch more bulbs and fixtures than you think.

Tips for Buying More Energy Efficient Lights

When replacing your bulbs, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Take your old bulb with you.  I have a hard time remembering the brightness of the bulb I’m replacing so to make sure you’re getting a good match go ahead and grab that old bulb. You also want to make sure you get the right ‘warmth’ or ‘cool’ tone with your light.
  • Check with your power company and see if they offer rebates. Save more money and take advantage of rebate programs your utility provider may offer.
  • Keep receipts. Got a bad bulb? If it’s an Energy Star bulb, you may be covered under a warranty.

When deciding on CFL or LED, please keep in mind that even with prices dropping on LED bulbs, it can be expensive if you’re buying large quantities. You may want to go with compact fluorescent for now.

On the other hand, when you do dispose of CFLs, you need to recycle them as they have a tiny amount of mercury.

If you’re looking for more helpful information, Consumer Reports has plenty of articles. (Some require a subscription):

Save Money, Make Money

Congrats to Kristy for winning June’s $20 Date Night Challenge!

New month means there’s a new contest. For July, our social contest is Home Smart!

Share your money saving tip to help others on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and use #homeSmart. Like last month, once I confirm you’re a Couple Money Newsletter Subscriber, you’ll be entered for a chance to win $100 (Paypal or Amazon Gift Card).

What Are Raleigh Homes Selling For Now?

Find the latest info on house prices in Raleigh, NC

As we continue our house selling and hunting project, I thought this guest post will give you an idea of the local market. 

During the search for homes in Raleigh, you’ve likely come across a wide assortment of price points, with variances dependent on specific neighborhoods.

Each offers a selection of recreational activities, restaurants and nightlife hotspots, but first assess the median housing prices and match your budget accordingly.

Check out the following five neighborhoods that have sold the most homes in Raleigh recently.

North Raleigh

Almost 6 percent of all homes in North Raleigh have sold in the past year, making it a top neighborhood for sellers, and also buyers looking for variety.

Parents of young children have many options for outdoor entertainment without having to leave the city limits, making North Raleigh a convenient option for families.

North Raleigh is home to many recreational attractions, including the Williams Park Community Center, Durant Nature Park, Greystone Recreation Center, multiple golf programs and stores.

Additionally, FUNdamental Playgrounds is a full-service park and recreation center located in North Raleigh. The median home value in North Raleigh is $244,400, up 5 percent year-over-year.

Falls of Neuse

Falls of Neuse is located in North Raleigh, just south of Route 540. About 5.8 percent of all homes in Falls of Neuse have sold in the past year, with a median home value of $258,200, representing an increase of 3 percent in the past year.

Just south of the neighborhood is North Ridge Country Club, which offers 400 acres of outdoor space, perfect for avid golfers. There’s also a 70,000-square-foot clubhouse, family-size pool, fitness center, tennis court and an advanced golf maintenance facility.

Buyers looking for a community feel in a capitol city might consider Falls of Neuse as a top contender.

Northwest Raleigh

Nestled between the Northern Wake Expressway and Wade Avenue, Northwest Raleigh is home to the North Carolina Museum of Art, Crabtree Valley Mall and the community of Leesville.

Northwest Raleigh is also one of the closest neighborhoods to Raleigh-Durham International Airport, in case you’re keen on travel. Prices in Northwest Raleigh are fairly comparable to other neighborhoods in the city, with a median home value of $249,900.

Homes in Northwest Raleigh have increased in value 3 percent year-over-year, and 7 percent of all homes have sold in the past year.

Glenwood

The Glenwood South District in Downtown Raleigh is known for being progressive, energetic and trendy. In fact, 900 new condos and apartments are being built in Glenwood over the next few years in order to accommodate high demand without risking surging housing prices.

Currently, the median home value in Glenwood is at $553,900, up 4 percent year-over-year and 5.5 percent of homes have sold in the past year. Don’t let high home prices deter you if you’re looking to move to Glenwood on a tight budget.

Try searching for rentals in Raleigh instead. The median rent list price in Glenwood is $710 per month, making it a popular neighborhood for leaseholders.

Northeast Raleigh

Northeast Raleigh is located just east of Falls of Neuse. The median home value is below the city median at $151,600, which is a 2 percent increase from last year.

Good news for upcoming sellers: 5.9 percent of all homes in Northeast Raleigh have sold since the July 2014, indicating the area currently has a strong housing market.

Thoughts on Selling a House in Raleigh

Whether renting or buying in the City of Oaks, assorted price points and neighborhood attractions make Raleigh a practical, exciting place to call home.

For readers in the area – what are your favorite spots around Raleigh?

Developing a Money Making Hobby

Learn how you can make money with these three easy and fun hobbies.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I admit that I have been guilty of vegging out in front of the screen. Not the TV, but the computer. But I realized that after getting sucked into a game or Netflix, I wasted too much of my time.

A few years ago we decided to try and home brew our own beers and eventually meads. If you haven’t done it, I want you to know it’s not complicated (just watch your temps and make sure everything is properly sanitized) and it was a fantastic way to unwind.

And the best part was at the end of the process, we had something we could sit back and enjoy by ourselves or with friends. (People tend to like free beer!)

Have Some Fun and Make Some Money

So what does this have to do with the Summer of Savings?

I want you to find a new (or rediscover an old)  hobby that you love and will make you some money on the side. (Sorry while I highly recommend home brewing as a hobby, you can’t sell your brews :( )

I’ve came up with some hobbies you can try out where you can tap into your creative powers, provide something useful, and make some money on the side. I narrowed them down to skills that you can learn online or with a short weekend class in town.

That money can be used to build up your savings, pay down down debt, or seed money to start your own business. The choice is yours.

Computer Repair and Building

When my mom told me how much those big box tech services were charging her to get programs installed and removed, it drove me crazy. Fortunately she was in that windows of free coverage, but I worried about what would happen after that.

Since we’re not in the same town, we can’t help out sometimes. Using YouTube though, my mom has gotten much better with computer maintenance and she now helps others with their tablets and laptops. Go mom!

It goes to show that there is a need for technical help and you can teach yourself the essentials.

Besides software, there are also hardware repairs like cracked screens on phones that can be terribly expensive that you can do at home at a fraction of the cost.

If you know some basics, you can be a neighborhood tech guru and earn some cash being a hero.

Where to Hone Your Skills

Upgrade your own computer and extend its life as you get some practice. There is so much available online that you can pretty much get everything you need without leaving your home. Sites like IFixIt can be an incredible resource for you.

Restoring and Refinishing Furniture

Furniture can be pricey so if you can help others keep their stuff lasting longer and looking good, you’ll be saving them a ton of money.

While you may think that you have to be a master craftman or woman, some pieces, especially wood furniture just need a little TLC.

You can start with small projects around your house to update your space. You can offer your help with neighbors or you can pick up pieces from yard sales or buy them cheap, restore, and sell on Craigslist.

Where to Hone Your Skills

The great news for those starting out is that there a ton of free and cheap resources you can tap into when it comes to DIY furniture restoration. Many home improvement stores have classes throughout the year. YouTube has lifetime amount of video tips to give you ideas and techniques on home improvement. I also like subscribing to channels like Mike and Lauren and see what projects they come up with.

Meal Prep

Are you a pretty decent cook? Can you get great deals on groceries? You might want to combine those two skills and make some cash.

Since eating out every day can drain wallets, offering some gourmet style meals that your neighbors can take to work is a win-win for everyone.

Buy and cook in bulk and you can cut costs down, allowing you to make a profit with your convenient meals.

Where to Hone Your Skills

Practice and improve your skills right in your own kitchen. There are also a ridiculous amount of cookbooks, videos, and sites you cna borrow or buy to learn more. If you’re looking at mastering the essentials fairly quickly, try out the Meta and Domestic section of The Four Hour Chef.

Thoughts on Productive Hobbies

Will you be masters overnight? No, but you’ll have a practical skill that people could use which can earn you some cash on the side.

How many of you have a talent that you use to help others and make some cash? How did you learn to do it? Any tips for those just starting?

Staying on Top of Your Money

Stay on top of Your Money without losing your mind with these free and easy tools.

The year is halfway through and this has been one of the busiest we’ve had in awhile. We had our second started at the beginning of the year and with her arrival came LOTS of bills. It took a few months, but we finally got them squared away.

I’m still trying to adjust to my new work routine as I take care of both girls during the day. So far I’ve settled into a split shift schedule where I take care of work in the early mornings and wrap things up in the evenings.

We’re also in the process of selling our current home and hopefully buying another place more conveniently located. Oh, and we’re taking the 2015 Moneystepper Savings Challenge with goals to increase our net worth by 30% and have a 20% savings rate by the end of the year. 😛

Watching Our Money

As you can see we have a lot going on, so now would be a great time to do a Mid-Year Financial check up. Doing these check-up regularly has some wonderful benefits to your marriage and finances.

  • Net worth reviews gives an opportunity to talk. These reviews don’t have to be massive sit down, crunch the number sessions. It’s just a reason to get to together and chat about your numbers.
  • Comparing the budget to actual spending is valuable. Life happens and our finances can be a reflection. Maybe an adjustment has to be made so the budget is more realistic.
  • See progress (or lack of) on financial goals for the year. It’s  handy tool for checking up on annual and long term goals.

While I share how we’re doing so far, I’ll also show which tools we use to stay on top of our finances.

Staying on Top of Your Budget

We’ve been doing a pretty good job taking care of our bills, paying down that student loan, and keeping a buffer with our joint accounts. However I think it’s never a bad idea to review spending to see if there are any money leaks that we may have missed or an expense we can optimize.

I know for many couple the thought of going through a ton of transactions seems daunting and can be enough to push you away from running the number, but there are plenty of ways you can do this quickly and easily.

Our current favorite is using Mint. We’ve used them for years (you may remember their charts showing up on our old net worth reviews). Setting it up was a cinch – it took about 20 minutes or so to get all of our accounts imported and organized. Now I can log on, go to the trends section, and see where our money has been going without any hassle.

If you want to use Mint to manage your budget, I’d say it’s a handy tool to use.

Looking at Mint, we’re doing well sending in the extra payments for the student loans, but I noticed that our vet bills have been higher than normal. I also see we could do a better job with our grocery bills.  I’ll look at planning our meals for the next few months and see if we can used the money saved to speed up the debt pay off.

Staying on Top of Your Investing

If you are looking at getting a snapshot of how your investments are doing, Personal Capital has some wonderful tools to get you ready. We have several investing accounts between us and so it’s handy to have all this information at our finger tips.

Personal Capital offers a free portfolio review so you can  check up on your portfolio to make sure things are truly squared away. Besides making sure that your asset allocation meets your plan, you should also see if there is a way you can lower your fees.

Reviewing our accounts, I’ve noticed that we have to go over my husband’s 401(k) to see if we can find investments with lower fees. the benchmark Personal Capital gives is .5% and right now we are at 1.03%. Definitely room for improvement.

Thoughts on Financial Check-Ups

So you know how we’re doing with our money; how about you? How are you guys doing so far in 2015? Any unexpected bonuses or setbacks?

Staycations, Past Financial Fails, and How to Become Financially Independent

Elle Martinez and Couple Money Staycation tips

I think this post title may be overloaded, but it’s a perfect description of this past week. I will be noticeably quiet this weekend as I recharge with my family.

Last Sunday I had a wonderful pick me up when Kristia from Family Balance Sheet took a snap of a newspaper article she was reading on Staycation tips. Guess who was included? [See the pic above :)  ] I was so excited to see that and immediately showed it to my husband and family.

Cheesy, I know, but it felt so good to share it with them.

Couple Money Around the Web

Here are few things I’ve been busy with on the podcast and around the web this past week:

I will say, even though Matt’s book is packed with information, I was finished reading fairly quick. He gives plenty of examples to help you get a solid foundation on finances.

Money and More Posts I Loved This Week

Getting the house prepped and ready for sale has eaten up most of our free time, but I did find some posts that made me stop for a few minutes and review how we see and handle money.

I hope to have some good news next week about the house, but we’ll just wait and see. Have a wonderful weekend!