Don’t buy a house if you can’t afford it

I see the advice all the time not to buy a house if you can’t afford it, but rarely do I see a good explanation of what that means.

It’s really easy. Let me explain it, as someone who paid off a 30-year mortgage in five years and now co-manages rental property and has to determine if someone can afford to rent from us or will be over their head. And no, just because I’m a landlord doesn’t mean I think everyone should rent. There are definitely times when buying makes sense. Read more

What to look for in a motherboard

I’ve been building PCs for more than 20 years and I tend to keep them a very long time, so it occurred to me that someone might be interested in what I look for in a motherboard to ensure both a long, reliable life and a long useful life.

Of course what to look for has changed to some degree over the years, but this is what I look for in the mid-2010s.

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Why you should avoid home warranties

Consumer Reports advises not to buy home warranties. (Scroll past the horror stories to see the general advice why.) I agree. I’ve bought four home warranties and never got half my money’s worth. The last one I bought will be the last. Here’s why I avoid home warranties. Read more

Clean your air conditioner at home

Last week I had to get an air conditioner serviced. The air conditioner was cooling fairly well, but struggling to keep up on hot days when it had kept up just fine last year. So I bit the bullet and paid $79 for a cleaning and health check. In the process I learned it’s possible to clean your air conditioner at home. And save a bundle.

I also learned is that a cleaning can make the difference between running all day and being able to maintain a comfortable temperature while cycling. So cleaning the air conditioner makes it more comfortable and more efficient, saving you money. I also learned that the most important part of the cleaning is something you can do yourself, very easily. If your air conditioner isn’t under warranty anymore, you can save the $79, which adds up.

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Buy or rent? Here’s a datapoint

I looked at a house this week that spoke loudly to the question of whether to buy or rent. The asking price is about $100,000. It last sold in the late 1980s for $79,000.

Selling for $100K now isn’t a profit. That is why I couldn’t get a house I don’t want out of my head. Read more

The Debt Tsunami is a gimmick, but it probably doesn’t matter

I saw some people passionately advocating both for and against a new method of paying off debt: The “Debt Tsumani,” which focuses on paying off debt in the order of its emotional impact on you.

As someone who paid off more than $150,000 worth of debt over the course of about four years in the last decade, maybe what I have to say about that matters to you. Read more

Linus Torvalds likes SSDs, too

Linus Torvalds called hard drives evil, nasty platters of spinning rust in an interview this week, while saying he likes SSDs.

I didn’t say it. He said it. Though it’s no secret that I like SSDs too. Read more

Exceptional–as in exceptions–budgeting

Consider the following scenario:

In [a consumer finance] study, the authors, Abigail Sussman of Princeton University and Adam Alter of New York University, ask you to imagine that one of your favorite bands is performing nearby. The ticket costs more than you would ordinarily spend, but you have never seen this band live and decide the experience is worth the cost.

The next week, your television breaks and you buy a pricey replacement because you only buy a new TV once every few years. A week later, you are celebrating your 10th wedding anniversary. Since this is a once-in-a-lifetime event, you decide that the occasion warrants a splurge.

Here’s how I would handle that sequence of events–a sequence of events that the study found many people Read more

How to calculate savings from reduced cooling costs when considering energy-saving improvements

I learned something incredibly useful this week: For every 3 watts of energy consumption you save, you save an additional watt of power in cooling costs during the cooling season.

I bought my first CFL bulb a little over 9 years ago. I knew this was helping my AC costs too, but now I know how much.
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