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February 2, 2021, 9:41 am

Ways to Save Money on Heating and AC Energy Costs

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Personal Finance

If you want to reduce your energy usage, stop worrying about the light bulb hanging from the ceiling and look at the air conditioner instead. Heating and cooling your home consumes a third of the energy used by the average family. That’s why you should invest your time and effort into getting more out of your AC or heat pump. Here are a few ways to save money on heating and AC energy costs.

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Replace Your Air Filters

Odds are that your home’s air filters should have been replaced weeks or months ago. A dirty air filter is clogged. The AC has to work longer and harder to bring in the fresh air it needs. This accelerates wear and tear on the system. It also forces it to use more energy to get your home as cool as it would if you had fresh air filters in place. Note that replacing your air filters in the fall will also reduce your heating bills. You also need to clear away fallen leaves and other debris from around the air intake vents before winter comes.

Have Your AC Repaired As Soon as Issues Arise

If your air conditioner is leaking refrigerant, you may notice the unit having to work longer and harder to get your home as cool before it stops working outright. This results in increased energy consumption as great as if you had turned the thermostat down a couple of degrees. If the unit is repaired early on, you won’t have to replace the motors or add as much refrigerant. Work with a good AC repair San Antonio based firm, so that your HVAC system can be regularly maintained and quickly repaired when necessary.


One of the best ways to save on your energy bills is to insulate your home. What can you do if your home already has thick insulation? You might want to arrange an energy audit to look for gaps in the insulation. There might be cold spots in the walls because of leaking pipes, too. You can add more insulation to your home, too. You could hang insulated drapes in the windows, reducing your heating and cooling bills. Put draft stoppers under doors. In some older homes, you might want to consider replacing the front door with a more solid, insulated one. Put another blanket on the bed before you turn up the thermostat at night. 

Find More Energy Efficient Ways to Stay Cool

How can you keep cool without turning down the thermostat and driving up your electric bills? Turn on the ceiling fans or portable fans instead. You don’t have to go for a swim, but you might feel better after taking a cold shower. Or give everyone cool drinks. Tricks like these may be what you need to get through the hottest part of the day without cranking up the AC. You may also need to eliminate heat sources that offset the cooling effect of your air conditioner. Don’t bake or take hot steaming showers when your AC is struggling to keep your home cool. Close the blinds on the side of the house being hit with the summer sun. Wait until the evening or early morning before you turn on the clothes dryer.

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November 17, 2020, 10:22 am

How much will my house be worth in 5 years?

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Personal Finance

There’s no purchase as dreaded and as expensive as buying your first home.  Most homeowners have a lot of trepidation, considering the immediate future and the distant one.  Starting with what their new property will be worth in five years, they try to work out from there.  Unfortunately, it’s not that simple since most homes have a price that fluctuates on the house by house basis.  If you still want to figure out whether you’ll be losing or gaining money, here are some simple things to consider.

Current Condition

What condition is your home currently in?  Is there damage to any of the siding?  How recently was the roof replaced?  Go through your new home with a critical eye, and try to see what parts of your home will depreciate.  If you’re unsure, you can hire a professional to walk through and tell you what needs repairs.  Generally, there aren’t any huge issues with most homes, but small changes and updates can make a world of difference.

How Well Can You Maintain A Home?

Do you think you’ll be able to maintain your home or keep up its current value?  Before asking yourself, “What is my home worth?” consider if you’re willing to put in the work to at least keep it at the current price.  To best maintain your home, clean your gutters often, paint your home when needed, clean inside and out, and pat attention to any changes like shifting or smells that could warn of mold.

Are You Doing Updates?

Updates add a ton of value to homes, as long as they’re carried through intelligently.  Don’t waste your time updating a basement or bathroom since studies show that these updates lose money.  The best updates to bring cash back into your pockets at the sale are bedrooms and kitchens.  Although the kitchen is expensive to update, it’s a sacrifice that will raise your entire home’s property value.   

Do You Have a Plan If The Market Fails?

Although the housing market is running on a giant cyclical loop, and houses ride that wave going up and down in price, you need to have a plan for if the market fails when you’re trying to sell.  Unfortunately, we can’t always help the circumstances that make us sell, and we may get trapped in a buyers market.  A buyers’ market can be stressful for homeowners because the control is outside of their hands.  Buyers can barter, argue, and grift homeowners into losing money on a home so they can save some cash.  Make a plan ahead of time to get stuck trying to sell in this situation accidentally.

To figure out how much your home will be worth in five years, calculate these numbers together, and decide what your home will look like in both a good and a bad market.  After five years, the average home’s price shift isn’t that large without an update, so don’t be afraid to put in a little elbow grease!

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October 14, 2020, 9:32 am

5 Things to Consider Before Taking Out a Business Loan

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Personal Finance

If you are about to launch a business, there are all sorts of issues that can arise when getting your venture off the ground. Whether it’s buying equipment, finding office space, taking on employees, or cash flow issues, many entrepreneurs decide that a business loan is the right option to take.

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But, while a business loan can help turn your dreams into a reality, you should never take one out before thoroughly analyzing your situation. To help, here are five things to consider before taking the next step.

Establish the Purpose of the loan

The first thing to consider before taking out a business loan is defining why you need it. If you’re a small startup, you may not have a lot of money in the bank. So, taking out a business loan may saddle you with more debt than you can take on. Once you’ve established the purpose of your loan, you need to be realistic with how much you need. It can be all too tempting to borrow more, but when you factor in the fees on top, you could end up in a mountain of debt.

Know Your Credit Score

To be accepted for a business loan, your credit score will be a primary factor that lenders look at. Understandably, the healthier your credit is, the more chance you have of everything running smoothly. Before you even apply for a business loan, it’s wise to get a copy of your credit report. That way you can check to make sure it’s accurate and take further steps to improve your score.

Determine When You Need the Loan

Once you’ve decided how much you need and have checked your credit score, you need to establish when you need your business loan. The less urgent the need, the better your options will be. If you have lots of time before applying for a business loan, you may be able to boost your credit score, as well as look around at different lenders. If you’re in desperate need of cash, you may make the wrong decision that could come back to bite you later on.

Shop Around

If you are looking for funding for your startup, there are various types of business loans that you should look into. Visiting will give you a better idea of the types of options you have available. There are pros and cons to every kind of business loan. So, make sure you examine every option and look into business loan alternatives if need be.

Read the Fine Print

No matter what business loan you take out, there will be terms and conditions attached that you must understand. If you don’t take the time to read the fine print, you may sign something that could haunt you in years to come. Be aware of the payment structure and if there are payment penalties.

Launching a new business can be daunting. With so many factors to address, it’s vital that you have the funds required to get up and running. If you’ve decided that a business loan is right for you, the factors above will make the decision process easier and help you stay in control of your finances.

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October 8, 2020, 3:14 pm

Do You Know How Much Smoking is Affecting Your Finances?

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Personal Finance

Smoking is a dangerous and destructive habit, it’s true; but do you have any idea of how much the habit is affecting your finances? Smoking is expensive, and tobacco prices seem to be continuously rising as the years go by. If you’ve been smoking for a number of years, you’ve probably noticed your costs slowly climbing the longer you smoke or dip.

Let’s take a closer look at what kind of damage you might be doing to your finances by smoking. There’s never been a better time to quit, and you’re about to learn all of the reasons your wallet wants you to leave smoking behind!

Trying To Quit

Before we even dive into the expenses of the act of smoking, let’s look at how much it costs to try to quit. While there are affordable options like tobaccoless alternatives from and CBD gummies/tinctures, most cessation options are costly.

Nicotine gum and nicotine replacement therapy can cost hundreds of dollars per month. And nicotine withdrawal is incredibly unpleasant. The symptoms can range from sweating and headaches to irritation, mood swings, and even digestive issues. You’ll likely spend money on OTC medications to alleviate these symptoms, furthering the cost of your cessation journey.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t try to quit; this is more for people who have only just started smoking or might start in the future. The best thing to do is to never pick up the habit at all.

The Cost Of Cigarettes

Now let’s look at the cost of buying cigarettes on a daily or weekly basis. For the sake of argument, let’s say you’re a heavy smoker. A “heavy smoker” is defined as someone who smokes as many as or more than 25 cigarettes per day. Heavy smokers make up about 26% of the total population of smokers in the US, so while they’re not the majority, they still represent nearly a third of all smokers.

A pack of cigarettes contains about 20 cigarettes. If you’re smoking 2-3 packs per day, you’re spending quite a bit of money on the habit. The average cost of cigarettes varies from state to state, ranging from about $4-$5 in some places to well over $8-$10 in others. Let’s put out average at $7.50 a pack, right in the middle. If you’re smoking two packs per day, you’re spending $15 per day on cigarettes. Multiplied by seven, this comes to $105 per week, $450 per month, or about $5,400 per year.

How much could you get done with an extra $5,000 per year? An extra $450 per month? You could probably pay off your car or house quicker, upgrade your living situation, or even help fund your higher education.

Healthcare Costs

Smoking carries with it the inevitability of health complications. There’s no possible way to be a heavy smoker (or even a light smoker, for that matter) and not develop health problems. Smoking is a direct cause of lung disease, cancer, heart disease, hypertension, and more. There’s no way to escape it; you will develop health problems, and in some cases, your insurance won’t cover the expenses entirely.

The US spends about $170 billion in direct healthcare costs for smokers every year. Cancer is an especially costly health complication, with treatments reaching well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of their lifetime. Treatments can last for years with aggressive cancers, and heart complications often require expensive surgeries to remedy.

You could also incur costs that stick with you for the rest of your life, such as oxygen tanks or other medical equipment to help you breathe. The cost of smoking goes well beyond just wasting money on cigarettes. It could potentially put you into crippling medical debt, as well.

Your Home

Did you know that smoking inside of a home can reduce its potential value by nearly a third? That’s right. Smoking damages the interior of your home, pollutes the air, and can compromise your ventilation systems and furnace. Not to mention, it’s nearly impossible to get the smell out of carpets and walls without replacing them, and smoking damages hard surfaces, as well.

Your Vehicle

You didn’t think your car was safe, did you? The same effects that smoking has on the home it will also have on your vehicle. Hard surfaces, upholstery, and the very quality of the air in your vehicle are compromised when you’re a smoker. This can significantly reduce your vehicle’s value, which undermines your investment in the vehicle itself.

The Bottom Line

Smoking is something you’d do well to stay away from if you want any kind of financial security in the future. It’s difficult enough to build a sustainable financial future with today’s wages without the added difficulty of a habit like smoking!

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September 9, 2020, 10:44 am

10 Things to Do During a Sudden Cash Shortfall

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Personal Finance

If the past six months have taught us anything, it’s that we can’t always rely on the income we usually receive. Even when a global pandemic isn’t smothering the economy and resulting in massive job loss, we’re vulnerable to layoffs, sudden business downturns, and factors that could reduce or eliminate our income streams. That’s an unquestionable fact of life in the current economy.

What can you do about this? When you suffer a sudden reduction in your income, how can you keep yourself afloat? The answer isn’t simple or easy, but you can take action. Here are 10 critical steps.

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10 Things to Do When the Money Isn’t There

1. Stop Digging

There’s an old saying: “If you find yourself at the bottom of a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.” This is true and essential for financial holes. The second you learn your income will be cut, cancel plans to spend extra money.

Shopping is a typical way of dealing with stress. It may feel good in the moment, but it will make every problem from your cash shortfall worse in the long term. Do what it takes to stop unnecessary spending in its tracks until you have things under control.

2. Run the Numbers

Sit down and find out how bad things are. Go through your past few months of bank statements, and look at your calendar for upcoming irregular expenses like a child’s birthday, a doctor’s visit, or scheduled maintenance for your car.

Whether or not you usually stick to a budget in your regular financial life, it’s essential to know as accurately as possible how much money you have to spend in the coming weeks and months. While going through this process, note habitual spending that’s necessary and what you can do without for a while.

This process tells you exactly how much trouble you’re in and can help you form a plan to get yourself back on track.

3. Review Terms

Review the payment terms and late payment policies for your regular bills, like utilities, rental storage, car insurance, and your mortgage. Use this to prioritize payments if your shortfall is massive enough that you can’t pay all your bills in a given month.

For example, say your garbage company has a hefty penalty on 10-day late fees. However, your electric and water bills have no fees until you’re 90 days late. In this case, you should pay your garbage on time monthly while staying a bit looser with your electric and water payments.

Of course, you ideally want to pay all your bills on time every time. But this research will help you make the smartest possible decisions if that proves impossible.

4. Cancel Subscriptions

Subscription services like premium sports channels, box deliveries, and print magazines tend to be a sort of sleeper cell in your finances. They don’t cost much, and you’re used to them slowly bleeding your finances, so you don’t really notice them. In good times, this isn’t necessarily a problem, but when you’re struggling to make ends meet, reducing these expenses can make a big difference.

Review your statements for recurring charges, and ask yourself how vital each one is to your happiness. There’s nothing wrong with keeping that sports channel if you watch it with glee every week. But that membership to the gym you never visit, or the subscription box shoes you rarely wear, should go.

5. Find Extra Cash

For short-term financial hits (like a week without work or a tax bill), this might mean finding spare cash in a savings account or going through coat pockets and couch cushions. It can also mean selling used books or old sports equipment. Whatever it takes to make up for the temporary shortfall and keep things moving forward.

For a longer-term problem (getting laid off or a major economic downturn), you need to find extra ways to earn cash. This could be a side hustle, a regular part-time job, some kind of passive income project, or whatever else you can find. The point is to create a regular stream of extra funds however you can.

It pays to get creative. Look at your resources, both physical and mental, and brainstorm how to turn them into the cash you need. Who knows? You may find an option you like better than your current solution.


Under no circumstances should you even consider using a payday loan outfit to provide this extra cash. Their interest rates are extremely high, and you risk getting trapped in a spiral of paying fees every month moving forward. This makes your financial situation much worse when you should be taking steps to make it better.

6. Call Around

Once you learn you will experience a budget shortfall, call the vendors you’ll owe money to in the coming months. Find out how flexible they can be with due dates, late fees, finance charges, and even pricing. You might find that a company — especially one you’ve done business with for a long time — will offer you deals to keep you happy when you’re having trouble. Many companies that won’t offer a discount will still put your account on hold so you don’t have to pay or incur new charges until you’re back on your feet.

During these calls, ask for the representative to email you any offer made in writing. That way, you have a reference to look back on later and proof of the offer if you talk to a new person when you take advantage of the offer.

7. Hold a Fundraising Event

A one-time cash infusion can help in any budget shortfall. Consider holding a garage sale, crowdfunding event, or training course related to what you do for a living. As with finding extra cash, get creative. Think of how to make a few hundred, or a few thousand, dollars with your energy one-shot expenditure.

For short-term problems, this might be all you need to get by. You could even experience one of the best months of your financial life so far. In a longer-lasting financial dilemma, aim to earn enough money to help a little for several weeks or months to come.

8. Identify the Silver Lining

We’re not telling you to be cheerful about financial stress. However, most causes of an income shortfall also come with opportunities. For example, getting laid off can mean lowered expenses from gas, work clothes, and eating out.

Look hard at what caused your income shortfall. Find the ways it can save you money or create opportunities to earn income in other ways. Leverage these small advantages to help you make it through this lean time, and even to refocus your priorities once your income stabilizes. 

9. Cut Corners

Go back through your statements and look for every way you can reduce any given bill by 5% to 10%. Some common opportunities include:

  • Reduce utility bills with simple changes in your habits
  • Cook large, inexpensive meals and eat leftovers instead of dining out
  • Downshift your cell phone plan to less data per month
  • Carpool to work to save on gas
  • Opt for a less-expensive plan at a gym, day care, or other service
  • Skip alcoholic drinks when eating out
  • Put premium entertainment options on hold
  • Skip a costly event you go to regularly

The goal isn’t to reduce your life to a joyless experience with only the essentials. Instead, just trim a little fat off everything you do, just long enough to make it through the crisis. When it’s over, consider how much of the fat you can leave off and still be happy.

10. Cure the Disease

Finally, look deeply at the cause of your sudden cash shortfall. In some cases, the cash shortfall is a symptom, not the disease. The disease might be the tenuous position of the career you chose or a lack of financial discipline in your personal finances. It could even be a personality trait or home situation that leads to getting fired frequently.

Be honest with yourself and assess what changes you could make in your situation to prevent the next hiccup in your income. Once you’ve identified what you can do, create and execute a plan for doing it.

Final Thought

If you’re experiencing a sudden cash shortfall right now, the best thing you can do is go through the list above. If you aren’t experiencing a shortfall, there’s an important step you can take right now to help yourself in the future: start your emergency fund.

Do whatever it takes to get $500, then $1,000, then one month’s worth of expenses saved in an easily accessible account. That way, if you suffer a cash shortfall in the future, you can borrow money from yourself and keep moving forward.

Sean Picket is a financial journalist in Florida. Over the years, he’s used many of these strategies himself to contend with financial rough spots.

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