November 27, 2012 AsktheBuilder Newsletter
I want to warn you upfront. This newsletter is light on home improvement tips, but HEAVY on tips on how to save money. I felt that's really important with the tough economy and Christmas bearing down on us.
Next week I'll have my Top Ten Tools List for you if you need Christmas gift ideas. Some things on the list will be very high quality for very little money. Wait till you see the powered Worx screwdriver that resembles a pistol. Watch for that next week.
I spent part of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend cleaning the garage allowing me to put Kathy's car back in it for the winter. She's happy now that her car is tucked behind the door.
Now I've got to work on the other side so I can get my truck under cover. Believe me, it's a real treat to not have to deal with frosty windshields. I also don't know anyone who looks forward to brushing snow off cars or chipping ice from windshields.
I'm back at editing and uploading the DIY Shed videos. I got a good chuckle the day after Thanksgiving when Marshall Stewart, a subscriber to this newsletter, and his friend Diane stopped by to see the shed.
Marshall lives in Virginia, but came up to spend Thanksgiving here in New Hampshire. Diane lives about 30 miles south southeast of me, and the two of them drove up on a brilliant late fall New Hampshire day to get a tour of the shed.
Marshall ribbed me about my delivery time line for the finished videos. What follows is not the exact wording of his quote, but it's close. As he descended the stairs from the shed attic he quipped, "I've edited my share of videos and your optimism is fanciful!"
Well, all I can say is that this week those that purchased access to the videos will be starting to watch quite a few! Hurray!
TIP OF THE WEEK - SAVE MONEY ON YOUR HEATING BILLS
This newsletter is focused on saving money. Would you like to save money on your heating bills? Of course you would!
Every year you hear the same old advice: Caulk air leaks, check weatherstripping, add insulation, install a programmable thermostat, etc. Yes, those are all great ideas, but for some people, that list could be challenging. Maybe you don't have the money to buy the things you need to SAVE money.
So just do this one time-tested thing that absolutely works. How do I know? My father-in-law did it back in the 1920's when he was a small lad.
Put on more clothes and turn down your thermostat. I'm serious. Right now I'm wearing a tee shirt, a long-sleeve synthetic tee shirt and a hooded sweatshirt. I have on heavy long pants and insulated boots. I'm toasty warm in my house, the boiler is only coming on every so often and I'm saving money on propane.
My father-in-law often tells the story about the frost on the covers as he climbed under them in his unheated bedroom. He's still alive at age 93 to talk about it. You don't have to go to that extreme to save lots of money.
I'm here to tell you that wearing long underwear, hooded sweatshirts and more clothes will keep you toasty warm in your house if you lower the heat setting. Will you be fashionable? No. Will you have extra money for other things? Yes!
SAVING EVEN MORE MONEY
Each week, I get replies to this newsletter from subscribers that are being crushed by the tough times and horrible economy. Well, the dismal economy is hitting the Carter family right between the eyes. We're right there with you in the same boat.
Kathy and I are doing all sorts of things to save money. More importantly, we're looking at all of our current expenses to see where we can trim some additional excess fat.
For starters, we just refinanced both our first and second mortgages. Just shaving one percentage point off the interest rate on our first mortgage will save us over $500 per month. That's significant money that can be either put in savings or used to pay off the debt faster.
If you've not refinanced your home lately, the rates are at historic lows. You could save enormous amounts of money.
Don't wait to refinance. It's practically impossible for the rates to get any lower than they are right now. How can I know that? It's easy.
Let me give you an example of how it all works. A farmer grows wheat. He sells the wheat, hopefully for a small profit, to a large wheat co-op. This co-op then sells, at a profit, the processed wheat to giant processed wheat distributors.
These distributors then sell the bags of flour to commercial bakeries. The bakeries use the wheat to make bread that they sell to grocery stores. You then buy the bread from the store. Each time the wheat changes hands, a profit is usually made.
The banks that lend (sell) you and I money get it from other banks. Those banks buy (borrow) their money from the Federal Reserve. In an effort to stimulate the economy, the Federal Reserve lending rate to these monster banks that distribute money to other banks is at or near zero percent.
The money you and I 'buy' (borrow) at the closing table has usually gone through two or three bankers hands. Every step of the way each banker needs to make a little profit. Because the Federal Reserve rate is at or near zero, I was able to get a fixed loan for 15 years at an astounding rate of 2.75%. The Federal Reserve rate CAN'T drop below zero percent.
The mortgage broker I dealt with here in New Hampshire was fantastic. He was ultra professional, and worked his you-know-what off to get us a fantastic rate.
The next thing we're working on is saving money on our cell phones. Oh my gosh I simply can't believe what we spend on those devices! With Kathy and my two kids, it's easy to have a total monthly bill north of $300. That's insane.
I have a data plan on my phone because of my business travel and it acts as an emergency connection to the Internet in case our high-speed cable service goes offline. That plan plus my meager 450 minutes a month costs me close to $120 a month!
By the time you read this, my new SIM card should be here and I'll have UNLIMITED talk, text and data for only $45 a month. Are you sitting down? It get's better, much better.
THERE'S NO CONTRACT!
You can even get pay-as-you go if you want. Chuck's been using this service for about two months and has had no issues. My daughter Meghan has been using it for about a month here in New Hampshire and it works flawlessly.
Watch the hilarious videos at top of this page and see if this service will work on your phone. Halfway through the third video I was laughing out loud.
Your existing phone may not work on Straight Talk, but if that's the case, Straight Talk sells phones that do work. There are two different standards when it comes to cell phones.
Chuck explained it to me this way, "StraightTalk uses the GSM network, not the CDMA network. This means you can insert a new StraightTalk SIM card into your old phone that uses the GSM band, such as an old AT&T phone or T-Mobile phone - or any of the phones that StraightTalk sells."
The bottom line is that you can significantly lower your cell phone bill, have unlimited minutes, and forget about the fear of a huge bill.
NEED TWO IPHONES!
Did you upgrade to an iPhone 5 and have an iPhone 4 that you no longer want? I'm in the market to purchase two used iPhones to put onto the Straight Talk network for Kathy and my son.
I'd love to buy your iPhone if it's in fantastic shape and you want to unload it. Reply to this email and quote me your lowest price. Change the Subject Line to: iPhone for Tim
GREAT DEALS AT AMAZON.COM!
Ron Thompson, who lives in North Carolina, wrote to me overnight.
"I used the Amazon link through your newsletter and purchased about $X,XXX.xx worth of stuff at Amazon. Don't know how you can track it, just thought I'd let you know. Thanks for allowing me to help your site out. Take care and Merry Christmas!"
No, Ron, thank you for helping me out! The tiny commission I get from Amazon will help me grow AsktheBuilder.com so I can produce more FREE tips and tool reviews for you.
Ron's email came at a perfect time because I've received emails from subscribers wondering if I can *see* exactly who buys what when they go to Amazon.com. They're worried about privacy. I totally get that.
Have no fear! Amazon issues a report each day of what was purchased, but there are NO NAMES associated with the giant report. Look at a small screen shot of the report I can see. This is just a small portion of the huge report.
One of the great things about Amazon are the deals they email you each day. You get these emails once you purchase something and then go back to browse around looking at products.
Amazon remembers what you're interested in and IF that product goes on sale at a later date, Amazon sends you an email alerting you of the better price.
So, you can SAVE MONEY by browsing around at Amazon looking for things days or weeks ahead of WHEN you need them.
But remember, Amazon can only alert you if they know how to reach you. So buy something now and you'll start to get the money-saving alert emails. Those emails are among the first I look at each day.
For example, overnight I got an email about how I can save $25 if I spend $100 on select DeWALT tools. I had been looking at a DeWALT drill / driver combo kit, and Amazon remembered that.
TOTALLY FREE PHONE CALLS
Now here's an interesting scenario. Let's say you want to make a phone call on a cell phone and do it totally for free? It's possible. My buddy Bob Rankin writes about how to do that if you use BobSled.
Read Bob's quick article now on how to use a WiFi enabled cell phone to make free calls!
That's enough for you to chew on this week.
I'll have lots of new information for you next week.