June 30, 2009

Home Energy Cost Cutting Project : Bids for Insulation work

Previously I laid out my plan to improve our homes heating energy usage. We started with a home energy audit and then we got air seal and duct seal testing done.

The goal of the project has been to duct our home energy usage in the most cost effective manner while making sure we were making a good investment.

Our latest step in the process has been getting bids on having all the air seal, duct sealing and insulation work done. We got bids from three different contractors. The first contractor was the one that did the air & duct seal testing with the door blower. We also then got estimates from two other contractors. The first and second bids were both around $6,000 total and the third bid was well over $8,000.

These numbers seem high to me, but theres a few factors causing them to be higher than I might like. First of all they are doing not just insulation but also air sealing and duct sealing. For insulation alone the 1st bid was about $4,100 and the 2nd bid was about $4,500. The air sealing, duct sealing and work on our venting in the ceiling as well as fixing some other misc. items. Another reason the bids are likely a little higher is that the contractors we'd need to use are on an approved list of certified contractors that know how to do the insulation to meet the standards required by our local utility to get their rebates. I have to use contractors from their limited list of certified contractors or we won't get the rebates from the utility. But I'm assuming that the contractors on that list know their work has built in benefit by ensuring the rebates so they probably charge a premium. I don't know this for a fact but I'm pretty sure its a safe assumption that the certified contractors typical fees are higher on average then all contractors.

While I think the costs are a little higher than I expected, they aren't out of the ballpark of what it should cost. I found this reference on Cost Helper that says the cost to fully insulate a home is $2,500 to $5,500. So the insulation costs are around the middle of that range. I also took a look at materials at Home Depot and I guesstimated that the insulation alone to do the job would run in the ballpark of $1500 to $2000. Plus I shouldn't be surprised if the cost is higher than I would expect, since this seems to usually be the case.

So we had two contractors bid about $6,000 to do the work. Between the two we decided we prefer the second contractor. They seem to have more experience and knowledge overall plus they'd won a couple awards for their work.

The contractor bid is the full cost of the work. We won't have to pay the full $6,000 in the end as we'll get a number of rebates and tax credits. Between our utility, state tax credits and federal tax credits we'll get about $2,200. So in the end our total out of pocket cost after all the rebates and tax cuts will be about $2,800.

Is it Worth The Cost?

To determine if its worth spending $2,800 out of pocket to air seal and insulate our home I'd have to know about how much money we'll be likely to save. There is no single source to find out what all the improvements we're looking at will save us.

Energystar says that air sealing and insulating a typical home in the northern US will save 19% on average for your home heating and cooling costs. Our home is very close to the 'typical' home they discuss.

This site Energy Boomer has an equation to figure out the payback period for adding insulation to your attic. I used their formula and it says the payback period is 12 years based on a cost of $1,500 for the attic insulation alone. I'd assume that equates to about $125 savings per year from attic insulation alone.

Duct sealing alone can improve energy efficiency by as much as 20% according to Energystar. If we got 20% improvement on our energy efficiency from duct sealing then that would equate to a around $200 per year difference. I doubt our ducts are that bad but even if we got 5% improvement thats $50 a year.

Our floor currently has ZERO insulation. I'm sure that we're losing a lot of energy through our floor. I remember last year when it was winter and I was outside I could feel hot air coming out from under our crawl space. Adding air sealing and floor insulation to our crawl space should have a good impact on our energy savings.

Between the savings from air sealing, duct sealing, increasing attic insulation and insulating the floor I'm going to guess that we should be able to see something in the range of $200 to $400 a year in energy savings. Right now our energy heating costs are around $1000 per year for a full winter. So thats about 20-40% reduction. Based on our cost of $2800 that would be a 7-14% annual return and a payback period of 7 to 14 years.

While its hard to know exactly how much money we'll save in advance, I think that the estimate is pretty safe.

I think this is worth it. My wife and I are going to go ahead and have the work done by the second contractor we mentioned.

After the insulation and air /duct sealing is done we may or may not continue to investigate additional improvements. The next options we will look into is having a heat pump installed and maybe getting solar panels added.

June 29, 2009

Planes, Trains, Buses and Cars - Picking How to Get There

I usually fly for longer trips and drive my car for trips within 500 miles. Sometimes I might fly for shorter trips but I try not to since it costs a lot more. I might fly for a shorter trip if its winter and I am concerned about getting stuck in my car in the middle of nowhere in a blizzard. I've occasionally looked at travel by train but usually discounted it as not much cheaper than flying and no better than driving. But maybe I'm missing out on a better alternative with bus or train travel?

Below I'll compare the roundtrip costs for a trip to cities about 400 and 200 miles from my home. These are both trips we might take to visit friends & family. The costs and travel times for air, train, bus and driving my own car are as follows:

Trip #1 = 400 miles

Airline fare is $167 roundtrip per person and flight time is 2hr 15min total round trip. Morning flights each way.
Train fare is $92 roundtrip. Travel time is almost 15 hours. Train arrives at destination around Midnight and leaves on return around 2AM
Bus fare is $54 roundtrip. Travel time is 13 hr 20 minutes. Departures in morning and arrivals in afternoon or evening.
Driving my car is about $73 in gas and $64 in mileage depreciation for 1-4 people. Travel time is 13 hours round trip. Departures and arrivals are whenever we want them to be.

No surprise that bus is cheapest and air is most expensive. The train seems like an OK compromise between cost and time but the departure and arrival times are geared towards night owls.

Note that I'm using 8¢ per mile as the cost of mileage depreciation. That means I'm figuring that every mile I put on my car reduces the value of the car by 8¢. This is not an immediate out of pocket expense but is still a real expense that I should account for.

Trip #2 : 200 miles

Airfare is $159 roundtrip. Travel time is 1hr 40min. Departure/arrivals are in morning or afternoon.
Train fare is $56 roundtrip. Travel time is 7 hours total. Departure and arrivals are in the morning/afternoon.
Bus cost is $29 roundtrip. Travel time is 7 hr 25 minutes. Departure /arrivals are in the afternoon.
Driving my car is about $36.5 in gas and $32 in mileage depreciation for 1-4 people. Travel time is 7 hours round trip. Departures and arrivals are whenever we want them to be.

Again the costs are no surprise with the bus being the cheapest and the plane most expensive.

Whats the total travel time?

When I fly anywhere it seems to take an extra 3-5 hours in addition to the actual flight time. We have to drive across town to the airport. Find parking at the economy lot and catch the shuttle to the airport terminal. Get through checkin and then stand in the line for security. Plus you have to be there 30 minutes in advance of the actual flight. Then when the plane arrives at the destination you have to wait to get off the plane then get your baggage. Finally you have to get yourself home from the airport one way or the other which is often another trip across town. That all adds up.

It doesn't take as long to check in and check out of the train or bus travel. One reason is that security takes longer at the airport. My local airport recommends you arrive there 2 hours before your flight during busy morning hours. Amtrak recommends you get to the station at least 30 minutes before train departure. Greyhound says to arrive at least an hour before departure if buying tickets but they also say that "Advance purchase tickets do not guarantee a seat." Still you've got travel time to and from the train or bus station just like travel to or from the airport. Overall I think you can safely add an extra 2 hours each way when traveling by air. When traveling by train or bus I'd have to add probably 1 hour extra.

Fastest = Air
In both trips traveling by air is the fastest. But traveling by air is also the most expensive option.

Cheapest = Bus or Car
If you have 1 person then the bus is cheapest. If you have 2-3 or more people then traveling by car may be cheaper.

The downside to driving your own car is the time you're spent driving is not relaxing. You can't read a book or otherwise 'tune out'. It can be a bit of work to drive a long distance. It may not seem like real work to simply drive your car but I'm usually a little weary after a 6 hour trip. However the hassle of dealing with boarding a plane or bus and the total freedom you have when driving your own car generally balance that.

If you need a car at your destination then driving your own car is generally the most economic option since you can save the cost of a rental car.

Conclusion: Driving the car is usually going to be our best option. My wife and I are traveling together so gas costs are less than roundtrip bus costs. Plus we generally need a car at our destination. But if time is important then traveling by air is the best choice.

Photos by bfraz, Professor Bop, Roadsidepictures, The Eggplant

June 28, 2009

Cash Back with BigCrumbs

I recently found another site that gives you rebates on online shopping named BigCrumbs.com. BigCrumbs.com is pretty similar to Ebates in general. Like Ebates if you join BigCrumbs you can get a % back on purchases you make with retails you browse to via the BigCrumbs website. Simply log into BigCrumbs, find the link for the retailer and click on it, make your purchase at the online retailer and you will then be credited with a rebate at BigCrumbs.

One twist that BigCrumbs has is that they give you the option of earning higher rebates for your own purchases or getting a % cut of the rebates of people who you refer to BigCrumbs. They have two programs the CrumbSaver and the CrumbEarner. The CrumbSaver gets a higher % on their purchases and the CrumbEarner gets more money off referrals. You can choose which program you want to be in and switch later if you want. Most people would do better in CrumbSaver as I doubt most of us will be referring large networks of our friends who would in turn do a lot of shopping for us.

Lets compare the cash back rates at Ebates to BigCrumbs. I'll be looking at the CrumbSaver rate for BigCrumbs since its higher for an individual shopper :

Ebates BigCrumbs
Target 4% 2.7% to 6.3%
Sears 4% 1.80%
JCPenny 4% n/a
Home Depot 5% 3.6% to 4.5%
Starbucks 8% n/a
Hotels.com 3% 4.50%
Hotwire 2% 1.80%
Orbitz 1% $1.80 to $19.80
Newegg 2% 0.9% to 1.8%
Apple Store 1% 1.80%

For those 10 stores Ebates gives a better discount in 6 of the merchants, BigCrumbs is better in 2 cases and the two sites are roughly equal in the other 2. Overall based on this semi-random sample I'd say that Ebates rebates are better on average with a few exceptions where BigCrumbs comes out ahead. But don't take my word for it. Go check out Ebates and BigCrumbs yourself and see what rebate rates they each give for the online stores that you shop at most. If your favorite stores have better rates at one or the other then your choice may different than the random stores above.

You might benefit from joining both programs and then shopping at the one that gives the biggest discount. Also consider comparing to the Shop Discover service form Discovercard. Their rebates are also relatively high.

If you know that you can refer a number of friends who would then all do some shopping in turn then you might come out ahead with BigCrumbs. But I think very few of us are in that situation.

June 27, 2009

Use CreditCardTuneUp.com to find good Rewards Credit Card

The site CreditCardTuneUp.com is setup to help you find the best rewards credit card for your spending habits. Basically you just enter your spending habits on a monthly basis and then it calculates which cards will give you the highest rewards.

It seems for most spending combinations that the cards that come out the best are usually the : Escape Card by Discover, the Citi Forward card and the True Earnings Amex card from Costco.

The CreditCardTuneUp site is easy to use. Simply enter your typical monthly spending in the boxes at the upper right side, for example:

Then click the button to get your Tune-Up results :

I cut off the image above, the results will actually give you over a dozen cards in priority order of the highest to lowest rewards rates.
When you look at the results you'll see your #1 recommendation at the top and how much you are expected to get for rewards in the first year. In the additional columns on the right you see the results of 2-card and 3-card combination. This means how much reward you might get if you are using 1 card for certain purchases and a 2nd card to maximize rewards on other category of purchases. For example if you have a Escape Discover card and a Citi Forward card the Citi card gives 5 rewards per $1 on restaurant purchases which is pretty high so in a 2 card combo you might use your Citi card at restaurants and your Discover card for other purchases.

The site has a selection of rewards cards but the number of credit cards they compare seems limited. For example, I notice that the site does not have the new Schwab cash back card which deposits 2% into a Schwab account.

I would only use this site as one tool. If it recommends a certain card then I wouldn't blindly go sign up for that card. Things to consider: What are the annual fees for the card? What kind of rewards does the card give and how likely are you to cash them in for maximum value? How practical would it be for you to juggle using a 2-card or 3-card combination?

Overall CreditCard Tune-Up is a handy tool but its got some flaws.

June 26, 2009

Best of blog posts for week of June 26th

Jim W at Bargaineering has a friend who works in debt settlement and he talks about How Debt Settlement Works

Frank at Bad Money Advice presents Curmudgeon’s Law of Numerical Fiction which relates to the use of bogus numbers. They also talk about a new "shopping" site Swoopo: Entertaining Yes, Shopping No

Lazy Man's wife authors a guest post with her story on Poor Money Choices Ruined My Parents’ Life

Good news and Bad News : Savings Rates are Up

This AP article Wall Street Slips on energy, saving rate says that stock market was down partially cause worries that the increase in consumer savings rates may negatively impact the economic recovery. The article says: " Savings jumped to a record annual rate of $768.8 billion, the highest level since record keeping began in 1959."

So its both good news and bad news. Its great news that we're saving more as a nation. But the increased savings means we're spending less and that is bad news as far as the impact on the economic recovery.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) tracks savings rates and they had a news release on it today which said that "Personal saving as a percentage of disposable personal income was 6.9 percent in May" You can also see a chart of savings as % of disposable income by quarter on their site.

Stop Unwanted Credit Card Offers with OptOutPrescreen.com - step by step guide

You'd think in this economy that the credit card companies would stop mass mailing pre-approved applications to sign up new people for new credit. While they might slow down on the deluge of mail they send out daily they won't stop entirely. I used to get a lot of unsolicited offers for credit cards but some time ago I opted out of the offers and they've stopped entirely. Now the only credit card related offers I get are from credit cards I've already got.

Its easy to opt out of unsolicited credit card offers. The FTC explains the process on their page.

Call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (567-8688) or visit www.optoutprescreen.com and do it there. The whole process on the website can be done in a few minutes. Below I give the step by step process for opting out.

Step #1: Go to the Opt Out Prescreen site:
Step 2: Click the button at the bottom.
Step 3: Choose to opt out electronically:
You could also chose to opt out via mail permanently if you want. That process requires you to print out and mail a form in.

Step 4: Fill in the form with your information:

You have to give your name, date of birth, social security number and address. You'll also have to fill in the random security code at the bottom.

Step 5: You're done and you should get a confirmation to print.

The confirmation has the notice at the top :

It will then list your name and other information for reference. Print out the confirmation and keep it for your records.

It will take a few days for the opt out to get processed by the credit bureaus. After that the credit card offers should stop within weeks. If at some point you want to opt back in then you can repeat the process above but choose the opt-in option in step 3. Opting out via the website lasts for 5 years. So you will need to renew the opt out again in 5 years.

June 25, 2009

Can you Make money with Online Surveys? First test: MySurvey.

I've heard that you can make some extra money filling out survey's online. But I haven't really seen much on how you go about it and how much you can make. So I decided to test it out myself and see how practical it is and exactly how much money you can make doing it. I did a little searching and found some online survey websites. One of the sites I found is called MySurvey and I decided to try it out as my first test.

I started MySurvey about a month ago. Signup was easy. The way it works is you get new survey's to take and then earn points for each survey. Once you have accumulated 1,000 points you can redeem it for $10 in cash or a gift card. The surveys are all pretty simple consumer surveys about products and services we use or our household characteristics. I didn't have to do anything but answer the simple surveys which take a few minutes each. In total I've done 10 surveys and accumulated 140 points. Most surveys are 10 points and take 2-3 minutes. I've spent about 30 minutes total taking the survey's. Average time per survey is 3 minutes. The total of 140 points I've got would equate to $1.40 in cash value. So at this rate I'm making $2.80 / hour of work. That is roughly 1/2 of minimum wage.

Easy system
Quick surveys
No strings attached

Infrequent surveys
Low earning power
Could take several months to cash in minimum $10
Occasionally flaky website

Overall I thought MySurvey was OK experience but you won't make much money doing it.

Would I recommend it? Not exactly. I think most people would be better off doing other things with their time. Most people would be better off spending their extra few minutes doing research on the web to find cost cutting ideas or other ways to decrease spending.

June 24, 2009

Net Worth Distribution of Americans

Net worth of Americans dropped a lot over the past 12 months. But there is still a significant amount of wealth in the USA.

How does your net worth stack up to other Americans?

Census data on net worth from 2002 is the latest that I can see that breaks it down into different net worth amounts. THis is a bit old but I doubt the overall trends have changed radically since then.

Net Worth Percent of Population
$0 or less 17%
$1 to $4,999 9%
$5,000 to $9,999 5%
$10,000 to $24,999 8%
$25,000 to $49,999 9%
$50,000 to $99,999 13%
$100,000 to $249,999 20%
$250,000 to $499,999 11%
$500,000 or over 9%

Graphically that looks like this:
As you can see 17% of Americans have a net worth of $0 or less. Those folks have debts that are more than their assets. The top 20% of Americans have over $250,000 in net worth. Most Americans fall somewhere in the middle with 63% of us having a net worth between $1 and $249,999.

These figures are for ALL Americans and it doesn't look at how net worth varies based on age and income levels. Generally speaking younger people have lower net worths and people with lower income have lower net worth as well.

June 23, 2009

Graphically Comparing Four Classes of Investment

Lets look at some charts. I like charts and graphs.

Below I've got charts of 4 different investments and their growth from 1990 to 2007/2008. I normalized them starting in 1990 at a starting point of 1. I then show the growth rate in future years in multiples of the initial investment. So if you start with 1 in 1990 and it hits 2 in 2008 then that means it doubled in price in that time. If you'd put $1000 into that investment then you'd have $2000 18 years later.

OK so now lets look at each of the investments labeled A, B, C & D in turn.

Investment A:

This investment was pretty flat for the first 14 years. It actually lost money over the first 12 years and then recovered back to its initial price a couple years later. In the last 5 years the investment started to grow pretty well and it more than doubled in that time. Investment A was up 134% in 18 years for an annual growth rate of 4.8%.

Investment B: The chart shows the growth of Investment B over the period from 1990 to 2007. Investment B grew at a pretty gradual and steady pace over the full 18 years from 1990 to 2007. In the first 5 years it was pretty flat and didn't gain. But then it gradually grew more and more. Investment B was up 104% in the 17 years for an annual growth rate of 4.2%.

Investment C:

Investment C grew quite well over the 18 year period. From 1990 to 2007 the investment was up 319%. Thats an annual growth rate of 8.2%. However the investment was more volatile and had large swings in annual ups and downs. In just a few years from 2000 to 2003 the investment lost over 38% of its value.

Investment D:
The returns on Investment D were very steady and had no swings in volatility. From 1990 to 2008 the investment received an compound annual growth rate of 5.5%.

Now lets compare and contrast the different investments.

Comparing A, B & D
Investments A, B and D all had similar return rates. The charts look relatively similar with gradual increases over the 17-18 year periods without much wide swings in values. Investment A had the longest period without growth and took the largest dip in value. Investment D had the steadiest growth and didn't drop in value at all. Investment D grew the most and was most consistent.

C versus the others

Investment C was the clear winner in terms of overall growth. Its growth rate of 8.2% was far above the other 3 investments. However investment C also had the widest swings in value and the largest drop.

Whats best A,B,C or D?

If you compare the investments C looks the best in overall rate of return, but it has high volatility thus high risk. Investment D appears better than A or B since it has higher returns and the returns were steady with no volatility. Investment C and D are the better choices for different reasons. Investment C gives you a good safe, steady return and investment D gives you high growth with some risks.

I'm sure some of you can guess what investments C and D are. Investment C is the stock market, specifically S&P 500 index fund. Investment D is a AAA rated long term bond. Investment A and B are probably harder to pick. Investment A is gold and Investment B is real estate median home prices.

Whats the point?

I don't think that anyone should walk away from this with the idea that Bonds are better than real estate or gold. Each class of investment has its own pros and cons. Bonds are a fixed return and have low risk, but theres also no up side. Gold or Real estate have the potential for higher earnings in a boom. Stocks have a lot of potential for high earnings and a lot of risk for losses.

I guess my point is that if you are looking at the returns of an investment then you should look at the general trend over a long period of time and consider the historical volatility as well as historical returns. Don't think that gold going from $300 to $1000 an ounce in 8 years is a normal trend. Don't think that stocks losing 40% in a year is typical either.

June 22, 2009

How a Business can get an 18% return by Installing a Hand Dryer

My wife is impressed with the hand dryer that they have installed in the restrooms in a local store. It might be hard to see why anyone would be impressed by a hand dryer. My wife likes it because it actually works as opposed to the old hand dryers which don't really get your hands dry unless you stand there and rub your hands for half a minute. The handdryer in question is the Dyson Airblade. The Airblade blows your hands dry in a few seconds and it really gets them dry. This hand dryer blows uses very high pressure air to blow the water off your hands rather than the traditional hot air heater style of hand dryer.

In addition to being effective at drying your hands its also effective at saving money. This analysis of the savings of a Dyson Airblade shows that over a year a business can save about $710 per dryer. The machines cost $1200 - $1400. So they should pay for themselves in around 2 years give or take.

Say you spent $1500 to get one and have it installed. Your initial cost is $1500. Assume you save $710 in paper towel costs over a year. 5 years later you would have saved a total of $3,550. If you had taken $1500 and put it in the bank you would need to make 18% annually to equal $3,550. So installing a Dyson Airblade at a business is like investing $1500 at 18% annually.

Now it should be said that installing a hand dryer is not going to be worth the cost unless you get a certain amount of use. The savings analysis cited assumes that you have 100 uses per day and many restrooms do not get that much use. It would certainly not be cost effective to install such a device in a family home.

Now I know most people don't own businesses that have restrooms getting 100 uses a day. But you likely have opportunities your own own home where you could spend a bit of up front cash to get a good annual savings. Buying and installing Compact Fourescent Lamps (CFL) or simply buying a reusable grocery bag are a couple examples.

June 21, 2009

5-20% off online shopping with Discover Card

The Discover Card has a discount shopping service called Shop Discover. The system is setup for online shopping and you follow Discover Card's link to major online retailers and you can get a 5-20% discount. Plus on top of the 5% or more off you still get the Discover card cash back reward (up to 1% usually). Most of the rebates are in the 5-10% range and only a few are in the 15-20% level. But there are a lot of good merchants in the 5-10% level.

As I've discussed before Ebates gives you cash back on purchases through online merchants so I figured I'd compare Ebates to the Shop Discover rebates. In every case below Discover beats Ebates.

Below are a few of the retailers that you can get discounts from. For comparison, the Ebates discount is in parentheses ().

Shop Discover 5% discount at :
Best Buy (1% at Ebates)
Cabelas (3%)
Bluenile (3%)
Dell (4%)
Gap (1%)
Hotels.com (3%)
Hotwire (2%)
iTunes (3%)
Kohls (2%)
Lego (1%)
Walgreens (4%)

10% at :

Footlocker (5%)
1800 contacts
Nike (6%)

If you have a Discover card then these are some pretty good discounts. I still like Ebates but the Shop Discover discounts generally beat them for merchants that Discover covers.

June 20, 2009

Number of Millionaires by State

Ever wonder how many millionaires there are in your state? The table below lists the total number as well as the percent of the population. The figures are from 2004 and actually its not exactly $1 million but $1.5M (close enough I figure).

# people % of pop
Alabama 18,000 0.4%
Alaska 1,000 0.2%
Arizona 36,000 0.6%
Arkansas 11,000 0.4%
California 428,000 1.2%
Colorado 32,000 0.7%
Connecticut 47,000 1.4%
DC 8,000 1.4%
Delaware 7,000 0.8%
Florida 199,000 1.1%
Georgia 56,000 0.6%
Hawaii 7,000 0.6%
Idaho 5,000 0.4%
Illinois 101,000 0.8%
Indiana 32,000 0.5%
Iowa 18,000 0.6%
Kansas 21,000 0.8%
Kentucky 18,000 0.4%
Louisiana 22,000 0.5%
Maine 8,000 0.6%
Maryland 50,000 0.9%
Massachusetts 83,000 1.3%
Michigan 47,000 0.5%
Minnesota 33,000 0.6%
Mississippi 8,000 0.3%
Missouri 33,000 0.6%
Montana 7,000 0.8%
Nebraska 13,000 0.7%
Nevada 15,000 0.6%
New Hampshire 7,000 0.5%
New Jersey 79,000 0.9%
New Mexico 9,000 0.5%
New York 168,000 0.9%
North Carolina 59,000 0.7%
North Dakota 1,000 0.2%
Ohio 61,000 0.5%
Oklahoma 17,000 0.5%
Oregon 15,000 0.4%
Pennsylvania 86,000 0.7%
Rhode Island 8,000 0.7%
South Carolina 14,000 0.3%
South Dakota 6,000 0.8%
Tennessee 25,000 0.4%
Texas 108,000 0.5%
Utah 8,000 0.3%
Vermont 4,000 0.6%
Virginia 59,000 0.8%
Washington 50,000 0.8%
West Virginia 12,000 0.7%
Wisconsin 26,000 0.5%
Wyoming 5,000 1.0%

Data is from : The population estimates at the Census. Census estimate on the number of $1.5M net worth holders per state.

June 19, 2009

Best of blog posts for week of June 19th

Trent at The Simple Dollar has a good way to avoid clutter in your email inbox while you sign up for deals online. He recommends making a A Deal-Collecting Email Address

My Money Blog discusses how Income-Based Repayment of Federal Student Loan Debt Starts July 1st

JD at Get Rich Slowly covers An Investor’s Manifesto: 20 Guiding Principles for Investment Success from Kiplingers which has a good set of points to live by as an investor.

Eyeglasses for under $13

You can get a pair of prescription eyeglasses including lenses for $6.95 at CoastalContacts.com. They have at least a few models on sale : Dockers 138 , Metalurgy 1003 Taupe , Nikon 6006 Gunmetal, and Savvy 263 Blue. Shipping costs will run you another $6.95 for priority USPS and there is a $0.48 handling/insurance fee. So you're looking at $14.38 total. You have to know your prescription when you order.

But you can also get discounts via Ebates. With the coupon code EBATESDEAL10 you can get 10% off the order. 10% off the product cost would be $0.70 off bringing the charge down to $13.68 PLUS... you can get 7% back on your CoastalContacts order via Ebates. That would be an additional $0.95 back.

After the Ebates discounts your cost would be $12.73.

So total cost you're looking at under $13 for a prescription pair of eyeglasses. Its hard to beat $13 bucks for a pair of eyeglasses. This would make a good way to get a pair of backup eyeglasses.

I found this deal on Fatwallet.

June 18, 2009

Gas Taxes By State

The TaxFoundation has a list of taxes by state. Below I broke out the gas tax per gallon as well as the 'typical' expense of gas tax per year for an average driver. The average driver figure is based on getting 20 mpg and driving 12,000 miles in a year.

Tax / Gallon Typical annual Cost
Alabama $0.21 $125.40
Alaska $0.08 $48.00
Arizona $0.19 $114.00
Arkansas $0.22 $130.80
California $0.35 $211.80
Colorado $0.22 $132.00
Connecticut $0.34 $205.80
Delaware $0.23 $138.00
Florida $0.35 $207.00
Georgia $0.12 $74.40
Hawaii $0.34 $201.60
Idaho $0.25 $150.00
Illinois $0.32 $194.40
Indiana $0.29 $175.20
Iowa $0.22 $132.00
Kansas $0.25 $150.00
Kentucky $0.23 $135.00
Louisiana $0.20 $120.00
Maine $0.30 $179.40
Maryland $0.24 $141.00
Massachusetts $0.24 $141.00
Michigan $0.31 $183.00
Minnesota $0.26 $153.60
Mississippi $0.19 $112.80
Missouri $0.17 $103.80
Montana $0.28 $166.80
Nebraska $0.27 $163.80
Nevada $0.33 $198.60
New Hampshire $0.20 $117.60
New Jersey $0.15 $87.00
New Mexico $0.19 $112.80
New York $0.41 $247.80
N. Carolina $0.30 $181.20
N. Dakota $0.23 $138.00
Ohio $0.28 $168.00
Oklahoma $0.17 $102.00
Oregon $0.25 $150.00
Pennsylvania $0.32 $193.80
Rhode Island $0.31 $186.00
S. Carolina $0.17 $100.80
S. Dakota $0.24 $144.00
Tennessee $0.21 $128.40
Texas $0.20 $120.00
Utah $0.25 $147.00
Vermont $0.20 $120.00
Virginia $0.19 $114.00
Washington $0.38 $225.00
West Virginia $0.32 $193.20
Wisconsin $0.33 $197.40
Wyoming $0.14 $84.00
D.C. $0.20 $120.00

The lowest state gas tax is in Alaska at just $0.08 per gallon and the highest is New Yorks rate of $0.41 per gallon. The average among states is at $0.25 and the median is $0.24. An average driver is going to spend about $150 a year on state gas taxes. The range in typical state gas taxes per year is $48 in Alaska to $247.80 in New York.

The federal gas tax is 18.4¢ per gallon and thats in addition to the state gas taxes listed above.

This site API.org has a page with a map of the USA by state showing the total gas taxes per state including local, state and federal rates.

June 17, 2009

Auto License Fees By State

Did you know that if you move from South Dakota across the border into Minnesota that it could cost you an extra $450 a year to license your car? It can. This is a worst case scenario but every state has a different auto license fee system and the costs vary widely across the nation. The lowest rate is just $8 a year in Arizona and the maximum nationwide is $483.75 in Oklahoma. Most residents of OK won't pay that much however as their fee is based on a % of the price of the car and declining with age. So the more expensive the car the higher the fee.

Here are the automotive license fees per state with the minimum, maximum and typical license fees given for every state:

Minimum Maximum Typical
Alabama $ 24.25 $ 24.25 $ 24.25
Alaska $ 35.00 $ 35.00 $ 35.00
Arizona $ 8.00 $ 8.00 $ 8.00
Arkansas $ 17.00 $ 25.00 $ 17.00
California $ 28.00 $ 28.00 $ 28.00
Colorado $ 19.00 $ 28.20 $ 25.80
Connecticut* $ 70.00 $ 70.00 $ 70.00
Delaware $ 20.00 $ 20.00 $ 20.00
DC $ 55.00 $ 88.00 $ 55.00
Florida $ 27.10 $ 45.10 $ 35.10
Georgia $ 20.00 $ 20.00 $ 20.00
Hawaii $ 63.82 $ 114.31 $ 88.70
Idaho $ 25.25 $ 49.25 $ 37.25
Illinois $ 48.00 $ 48.00 $ 48.00
Indiana $ 12.75 $ 12.75 $ 12.75
Iowa $ 14.00 $ 428.00 $ 27.00
Kansas $ 27.25 $ 37.25 $ 27.25
Kentucky $ 14.50 $ 14.50 $ 14.50
Louisiana $ 10.00 $ 41.00 $ 15.00
Maine $ 23.00 $ 23.00 $ 23.00
Maryland $ 35.00 $ 48.50 $ 35.00
Massachusetts $ 30.00 $ 30.00 $ 30.00
Michigan $ 29.00 $ 211.00 $ 58.00
Minnesota $ 35.00 $ 475.00 $ 35.00
Mississippi $ 23.75 $ 23.75 $ 23.75
Missouri $ 45.00 $ 51.00 $ 51.00
Montana $ 10.25 $ 15.25 $ 15.25
Nebraska $ 21.50 $ 21.50 $ 21.50
Nevada $ 33.00 $ 33.00 $ 33.00
New Hampshire $ 19.20 $ 31.20 $ 31.50
New Jersey $ 25.00 $ 50.00 $ 25.00
New Mexico $ 23.00 $ 42.00 $ 23.00
New York $ 17.25 $ 37.00 $ 24.85
North Carolina $ 20.00 $ 20.00 $ 20.00
North Dakota $ 36.00 $ 90.00 $ 60.00
Ohio $ 21.50 $ 21.50 $ 21.50
Oklahoma $ 42.25 $ 483.75 $ 100.75
Oregon* $ 30.00 $ 30.00 $ 30.00
Pennsylvania $ 24.00 $ 24.00 $ 24.00
Rhode Island $ 30.00 $ 30.00 $ 30.00
South Carolina* $ 24.00 $ 24.00 $ 24.00
South Dakota $ 21.00 $ 40.00 $ 21.00
Tennessee $ 23.00 $ 23.00 $ 23.00
Texas $ 40.80 $ 58.80 $ 50.80
Utah $ 14.50 $ 14.50 $ 14.50
Vermont $ 42.00 $ 42.00 $ 42.00
Virginia $ 26.50 $ 31.50 $ 26.50
Washington $ 23.65 $ 23.85 $ 23.85
West Virginia $ 30.00 $ 30.00 $ 30.00
Wisconsin $ 40.00 $ 40.00 $ 40.00
Wyoming $ 15.00 $ 15.00 $ 15.00

* Connecticut, Oregon & South Carolina all issue licenses for 2 year periods.

I found the information in the Summary of State Motor-Vehicle Registration Fee Schedules document on the Federal Highway Administration site. For more detail on a specific state refer to the source.

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