Our electric heaters can’t keep up, but we have an air conditioner!

The temperature outside is only barely below freezing, but the electric heaters in our townhouse are having a hard time keeping up (currently 2 degrees below the set temp, and falling).  Luckily we bought an air conditioner about a year and a half ago.  But as you may have guessed, this is no ordinary air conditioner.  It is a DeLonghi Pinguino portable 4-in-1 with heat pump!  (may not be the exact same model we have)

Yes, it does keep us cool in the summertime, but I waited years before they finally came up with a reversible unit that would heat as well as cool, and this is the first one I found and it works great!  They say:

The AN140HPEWKC Portable Air Conditioner has a maximum cooling capacity of 14,000 BTU/hour and a WHISPER COOL function to provide 50% less sound power for a quieter cool. Perfect for rooms up to 500 square feet, this machine also comes with a dehumidifying and fan function to optimize the balance between temperature and humidity. Additional features of the AN140HPEWKC include a 3810 Watt heat pump, 3 fan speeds, a 24 hour digital timer and thermostat, and an exclusive condensate recirculation system with NO DRIP technology.

We use this unit to keep our entire 1,300 sq ft unit cool in the summer.  It is in the living room, but you still feel some cool in the bedroom on the opposite end of the unit, this unit somehow pushes the air nicely down the hallways.  It’s Real Feel mode does save energy by balancing the temp and humidity to make both my wife (who is always hot) and I (who am always cold) happy, while also being whisper quiet.  Every once in awhile you hear it come on and blow a few puffs, and somehow this keeps us both comfortable.  This Real Feel is definitely worth the extra money.

But enough of summer, it’s a distant memory in this cold weather.  No, the main reason I purchased this unit is because of the heat pump.  They say that this thing puts out 3810 Watts of heat, but using about half that amount of power, but somehow it heats our home to summertime temps, and still cuts the power bill in half!

Why do I say summertime temps?  I have a genetic condition called Hemochromatosis, and while it is not a common symptom, it causes me and the other men in my family to feel cold all the time.  So, most people who come to visit find the 26C or 80F way too hot, but it is comfortable to me.

Enough about me, back to the heat pump.  Until the temperature dropped to freezing, this little unit heated our whole 1,300 sq ft to these summertime temps all by itself.  Well, I did have to turn the heat on in the bedroom at night, but it is on the far side of the house and it was only was on for a few minutes to take the chill from the window out.

Now that the temperature has dropped below freezing the heat pumps become less efficient, but I found a workaround for that too.  Turning on our electric heat has given this unit a big boost again!  Unfortunately the heater is right behind this unit, and every time it came on, this unit got hot, and stopped, but once I diverted the direct heat away from it, the heat pump and electric heat now works in perfect harmony keeping me at summer temps, with very little effort.  You see the electric heat warms the room enough that it feeds back into the heat pump and the heat pump basically multiplies that heat like ten fold.

So, while the electric heat may supplement the heat pump more during these freezing temps, the heat pump is still doing the majority of the work.

So, this wouldn’t be a good review if I didn’t include the con’s…  They have this NO DRIP technology that vents to the outdoors when in air conditioning mode, but in heat mode there is an undocumented water reserve tank that fills up in our humid environment very quickly.  It took me a while to find out what this weird error message “LH” (if I remember correctly) was, there was no documentation on it.  But I eventually found that there is a water reserve, with a drain by the power cord.  I emptied this I think 3 times the first day, before I put the unit up on a stand, and left the plug open with a bucket underneath.  I have to empty it daily in the fall, but it is definitely worth the hassle.

Also, the remote we have is defective, it kept changing all the settings, like from hot to cold.  Removing the battery seem to do the trick.  However, when in heat mode, the temperature set seems to go up or down.  I think it probably uses heat sensitive touch pad, which responds to the units own heat.  But it is easy to correct the temp once a day.

I would definitely recommend this unit for all year comfort and energy savings.

How to get out of debt: Part 4

The bipolar budget:

I am calling this the bipolar budget, because my wife is bipolar, and she blames her lack of financial control on her bipolar. Whether it is the reason or not, it makes a good title. But the truth is this system will work for anyone.

If you are a person who just can’t have money without spending it, then the thing that you need to do is to hide it, or make it inaccessible to yourself.  I found the best way to do this with internet banking.

Internet banking typically has no fees, so you can transfer money between accounts as often as you like. The Dutch ING bank made this popular in North America with the commercials with the “guy with the accent” telling you to “Save your money”, and you know what, he was right!   🙂

The Canadian branch was then bought out by Scotiabank in 2012 and was rebranded Tangerine in 2014, while the US branch by Capital One who rebranded it Capital One 360.  So, why the history lesson? Because I found that the system I setup with them works. There may be other internet banks out there with similar services, and if you know of one, please let everyone know in the comments below, but I will describe why I use Tangerine, and how.

ING had the highest interest rate that I found at the time, and it had no fees, so I did save money, and it grew.  But that is not all. I used its automatic transfer to pay my bills before I have the chance to spend it.  I do have a normal bank as well, but I try to do as little with it as possible to avoid the fees.

So, I set up the following bank accounts:

  1. My internet banking chequing account. It is called a chequing account, but I don’t write cheques on it, I use Interact / Debit, so I will call it a Debit account instead. My paycheque goes in here every second week, and it has automatic transfers to take the money out before I can spend it.
  2. My wife’s internet banking debit account. It is actually our joint chequing account, but that is only so I can transfer money into it, she does all her shopping with it.
  3. My wife’s joint internet banking savings account. I transfer money into it, and it transfers out to her personal, pet and other accounts.   She can’t spend money from here, she has to transfer it to her debit account when she needs it.
  4. My wife’s pet account.   Obviously for pet food, etc.   Again she needs to transfer money out to spend it.
  5. We both have personal internet banking accounts, but currently we don’t put much if anything in them. I have some birthday money in mine, but I have no monthly personal budget.  Whatever is left after my paycheque is divided up I can use for personal, but I try to put into savings.
  6. My internet banking savings grocery account, is used to transfer money to my wife on a weekly & daily basis, so she can’t overspend.  Weekly she gets about $150, and daily about $7 for the little things that come up, like running out of milk.
  7. We also have one old fashioned joint chequing account. My wife’s disability pension goes in here at the end of the month, and I pay the monthly expenses from it.

The down side of the separate accounts is that you need to estimate how much you need before you go to the store, vet, etc. so you can transfer the money.  We do use internet banking on our smartphones, but it takes time to transfer, and the people behind you in line are not always impressed.  But if you only transfer the money before you go to the store, you know that you can’t overspend, and you have to put a few things back if you don’t have enough.

How to get out of debt: Part 3

Who are you making this budget for?

Who are you making this budget for? 

Again, a budget is not going to work as long as you are impulse buying, so if you haven’t already, please read Part 1: Stop Impulse Buying.

Now, is this budget for you, or you and your spouse?  Are you in this together, or separately?  If it is just you, then great!  If it is you and someone else, you need to decide if you are putting all of your money together or are dividing up the expenses.  We first decided that we were going to divide up our expenses, but we soon decided that we would pool all our resources and then divide up the tasks.

It took a few years for my wife and I to trust each other enough to have joint bank accounts.  Initially she had her expenses, I had mine, and then she gave me half of the shared expenses.  While this may work, this is not a model I would recommend, as someone always feels like they are paying too much and not getting enough of something.  Also, it doesn’t build trust, and a marriage needs trust.  Consider this one of those “you fall backwards and I will catch you” kind of trust building exercises.  You need to work together to build a budget.  That being said, I collected all the bills, debit slips, bank statements, and I added everything up and figured out how much we were spending on what, and made a preliminary budget to show my wife.

My wife was of course upset that she wasn’t part of the process, but I said that she could look over my shoulder while I was doing it, or she could look at this draft and give me feedback and I will go work on it again (she could look over my shoulder again if she wants 😉 ), that’s just the way I work.  So, she did ask questions, I answered, she gave me feedback, and I went back and reworked the budget a bit, and this happened several times.

I say all of this because I want you to realize that making a budget when you are used to spending freely, is a hard thing particularly when you are doing it for more than one person.  At least we don’t have kids to budget for, but we do have pets….  And you have to keep in mind that each person has different priorities, and you have to take that into account.

I made sure that my wife had a clothing budget.  It wasn’t much, I think it was $10 per month so she could save up to buy a seasonal outfit, but it was much bigger than my $1 per month.

Stop laughing!!!  We were very broke, and were overspending about $500 a month.  We had to cut back somewhere!!!  As it turned out, my wife made the decision on her own to put her clothing money into what became the general household / grocery account.  While I did break my budget down into every conceivable expense, what we ended up doing was consolidating a lot of them into the basic categories.

My Income
+ My Wife’s Income
= Total Income

Less Expenses:

Housing 10%
Car payments & insurance 8%
Electricity, Cable TV, Telephone, & Internet 14%
Auto Fuel 5%
Pets 10%
My wife’s budget for food, personal care, gifts, etc. 24%

That totals 71%.  So where does the other 29% go?  To paying off debt.  That’s right, we have almost (not quite 1/3) of our net income just paying the minimums on our credit cards, etc.  My budget is nonexistent.  Basically anything on my paycheque above what is automatically withdrawn from my account on payday, is mine.  It’s not much, and I try not to spend it.  The day before my next payday I put what is left into paying off bills.

So you might notice that I didn’t follow a lot of my recommendations in Part 2, but that is because everyone is different and every situation is different.  With 1/3 of our income going to debt, that throws out almost any chance of what most people would call a normal living.

How to get out of debt: Part 2

Setting priorities for a Budget!

Setting priorities for a Budget!

A budget is not going to work as long as you are impulse buying, so if you haven’t already, please read Part 1: Stop Impulse Buying.

As I was learning when I was making up my budget, everyone is different.  If you are really far in debt as we were, your budget will probably not work right away, and will need to be refined.  When I did our first budget, I found that we were overspending big time, and couldn’t find anywhere to cut back.  Several things that I thought were a need, were actually wants, and it took us a lot of time to figure out what was a need and what was a want.

To make up the budget, you have to seriously think, “What is the one thing that I can’t live without?”  Could you live without a home?  It is hard to picture yourself there, but yes, there are lot of homeless people out there.  So, what do you need more than anything else?  Food!

Food is your #1 priority!  If you are not eating properly, you can’t work, earn money, and be able to pay for everything.  You may end up homeless if you don’t eat properly, and fast food is not the answer.  I used to love my fast food, but the chemicals, GMO, and processing gave me more food intolerances than you would believe.  Basically I am now allergic to almost anything that comes from a factory.  You need to eat healthy home cooked meals to get out of debt.  So you need to budget not more than 1/3 your net income for it!

Actually, you will probably find that home cooked meals cost less than what you are spending on junk food now.  If you need to, get a cook book on quick and easy meals.  Cooking is much easier than you think.  For example, put some meat in a hot frying pan for 3 minutes, flip it over for another 3, and then put it on a cookie sheet in the toaster oven for 10 minutes.  Most toaster ovens have a timer, this way I don’t burn things.  If you poke the meat and it bleeds, put it on another 10 or so minutes depending on the size.  Put some rice in a rice maker with some water, cut up some lettuce, tomatoes & cucumbers, and add salad dressing.  Dinner is done and wasn’t that easy?

So, what is the next thing you need?  You guessed it before – a home.  You need a home to get ready for work to earn money to pay for everything, but you need to make sure that it is within your budget.  Again, you should not be spending more than 1/3 of your net income on your home.  That 1/3 of your income includes your mortgage payment, strata fees or rent; plus electricity, telephones, cable, and other utilities.  If you are spending more than 1/3, then you really need to look at where you can cut down on this.  You really need to ask yourself, do I need cable TV?  Do I need all these options on my telephone line?  Do I need high speed internet?

What’s the next thing that you need?  Transportation to work, stores, etc.  You probably want to limit your transportation costs to less than 10% of your net income.  That 10% should cover your bus fare, or car payments, auto insurance, maintenance and fuel.

Oh, and you obviously need clothing…  However, you can usually find free stores, thrift stores, etc. so I didn’t list this as a priority, you can probably find something cheap to wear if you need.  I think social assistance will even fund some clothing to go to an interview to get a job.  Remember, they want you to get a job and get off assistance, so they will do what they can to help you.

One more thing….  You do need some form of recreation & entertainment, but you can usually find a lot of this free or cheap at a community center as well.  For my wife and myself, walking the dog, and a TV with basic cable, and Netflix satisfies most of our recreation & entertainment needs.

Almost everything else that you might think is a need is probably not a need but a want, and you can probably do without.  Think about it, and I will be back with some more tips next time.

Next:  Who are you making this budget for?

How to get out of debt: Part 1

Stop Impulse Buying….

Stop Impulse Buying….

Easier said than done, eh?  Actually, it is not as hard as it sounds.  I read a book on money management, and 90% of the way through the book, I was still asking the question “Okay, how?”  I won’t do that to you, here are some quick tips to get you on the road to recovery right now.  “Just the facts mam, just the facts!”  😉

A friend is in A.A. and while I don’t know much about the program, I found a few of his tips helpful.

  1. Not Today! My wife and I started using this one way back when.  It is very easy to use, especially when we are together.  I was finding that when we were together it was easier to say, “Sure, why not” when she asked me should we buy this.  As soon as I learned about “Not Today” those joint shopping trips cost a lot less.  It works when you are on your own too, whether you say it out loud or not.  😉  Take each day one at a time, if you don’t need to buy it today, then don’t.
  2. A higher power!
    1. God! Many Christians have heard the concept of treating your money not as your own, but as God’s money.  We are all stewards of his money, therefore we have to think “Would God want me to buy this or not?”  If you believe in God, or another higher power this might work for you, but if not what then?
    2. Your Partner! Another Higher power is your spouse, you pretend that the money is theirs, and they pretend that the money is yours, therefore you still have to ask “Would they want me to buy this or not?”
    3. Your creditors! Who do you owe the money too?  The bank?  Friends?  Family?  If all else fails, every time your reach for that candy bar at the grocery store counter, or want to go out for fast food, picture the person you owe money to standing there asking how you have money to waste on junk food, when you owe them money.  Of course the double edge sword here is that if you suffer from depression already that this depresses you more, and drives you to want more junk food.
  3. Smarter Buys! Try replacing those impulse buys with smarter buys that cost less and last longer.  For example buying healthy food and cooking meals, rather than going out to eat.  Buy carrots and celery sticks instead of candy bars.  Scale back slowly if you have to.  Instead of going and spending $50 to go see a movie with popcorn, buy the movie for $20 on DVD and watch it at home.  Then instead of buying the movie, rent it on Pay per View for $4.  And finally, instead of renting it, wait for it to come out on Netflix or another streaming service with unlimited movies for $8 per month.  That may be twice the price of one Pay per View, but if you watch one per weekend, that’s $16, so Netflix is half the price!  You could then make your own popcorn a nice meal for a stay-in Date Night, and you would still be saving money in the long run!

 

Next:  Part 2:  Priorities