Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Put on a Sweater

When it's cold out, and you're relaxing at home, put on a sweater.  A thick sweater is worth 4 degrees.  To put this in perspective, most experts assume a 2.5% energy reduction per degree.  That's 10% off of your bill.

If a family of four lives in the midwest, and their heating bills from November to March range from $250 to $400, each of you put on the ugliest sweater you can find (make a game out of it).  Turn the thermostat down $4 and start saving money.

You could save as much as $175 a year and look like a dork in the process, but nobody cares because you're at home.


The Frugal Maestro


Saturday, February 25, 2012 has NCAA event tickets for the following Universities for the Buffalo BullsButler Bulldogs and the BYU Cougars college basketball football and all other events at those colleges.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Stuff You Can Claim on Your Income Taxes

Every year, we find ourselves pulling together this fiscal summary of our past 12 months.  It seems like Uncle Sam is always finding new ways to get his hands in there.  It's important to make sure we're taking advantage of every possible deduction.  Below is a list of possible deductions.  Obviously, you should talk to your CPA about your specific ituation.

1) If you bought a boat or vehicle or airplane, you get to add the sales tax you paid to the amount shown in the IRS table for your state.  The same goes for home building materials.

2) Out of pocket charitable donations.  Things like canned goods for the food pantry, ingredients for cookies that you bake for nonprofit organizations, etc.  Keep your receipts.  If your donation exceeds $250, you need a letter from the charity.

3) Airline Baggage Fees

4) Jury Duty Pay - in the situation where your employer pays your full salary while you're on duty, and then requires you to turn over your jury pay.  Since the IRS requires you to report these as taxable income, you are able to deduct the amount that you turn over to your employer.

5) Points on Refinancing With interest rates remaining so low over the past few years, lots of homes have been refinanced, sometimes more than once. Any points you pay to refinance your home can be deducted on a monthly basis over the life of the new loan.

6) Any health insurance premiums you pay, including some long-term-care premiums based on your age and Medicare premiums you pay, are potentially deductible. But you have to add these to your medical expense pot. Medical expenses have to exceed 7.5%  (as of 2011) of your adjusted gross income before they give you any tax benefit.

7) If you're a teacher and each year you're buying kleenex and crayons and computer equipment with your own money, you can deduct up to $250 per year as of 2011.

8) Business related parking and tolls, and business related mileage ($0.51 per mile as of 2011).  You can't double dip if your employer is reimbursing your mileage though.

9) License Plate Tabs

10) Zoo Membership


The Frugal Maestro

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Use of Ceiling Fans In the Winter Months

During the winter months, those of us in colder climates spend a lot of money heating their homes.  Furnaces run constantly, raising the gas bill. 

Ceiling fans can help.  Hot air rises.  A ceiling fan (running clockwise) that pushes the hot air "back down" can help recirculate heated air that is otherwise, on it's way out of your home.

Most ceiling fans use no more electricity than a 100 watt lightbulb.  Studies have shown that this technique can improve your heating efficiency by as much as 10%. 

Ceiling fans can be purchased at most hardware stores and big box stores, such as Lowes, Sears, or Home Depot for anywhere from $40 to $300.  They can also be purchased online at a site like Amazon.

Let's a family of four has three bedrooms, and a ceiling fan in each.  Assuming 100 watts per fan, $.09 per kwh, and around-the-clock use of the fans, as well as the following heating bills, we get :
In this example, we save almost $53 per year.


The Frugal Maestro

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fireplace For Heating A Home

In the winter months, there's this temptation to have a fire in the old fireplace.  Here's the problem:: a typical wood burning fireplace is about 20% efficient.  They draw up to 400 cubic feet per minute.   In a 3,000 sq. ft. house, this massive flow would force the heating system to re-heat all the air in the house three times every hour. That’s why operating fireplaces may actually have a negative efficiency.

The situation isn’t much better when the fire dies down, because you must leave the damper open until the fire is totally dead. Dampers often stay open all the time. You might as well leave a window open. Even when closed, dampers could have as much “leakage area” as all the windows and doors combined. Energy analysis standards often ignore these losses. So your house really isn’t as energy efficient as you think.

If you feel the need to have a fireplace going:   Look into electric fireplaces that use Hollywood-quality illusion to create a convincing fire.  If you must have an operating fireplace look into one of the new models certified by the US Environmental Protection Agency for efficiency. These are specially designed “air-tight” woodstoves that fit in masonry or wood-framed walls. They look very similar to traditional fireplaces.

For more info, please refer to this page.

The Frugal Maestro