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Saving money

Do programmable thermostats save money?

Programmable thermostats used to be really expensive. But today, you can get one for as little as $25, about the same price as a non-programmable digital thermostat. But should you get one? Do programmable thermostats save money? Do they save energy?

If you have a conventional forced-air furnace and air conditioner, a programmable thermostat can save you $25 a month or more, especially in the summer and winter. But not if you have a heat pump. If you have a heat pump, you probably know it.

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401(K) asset allocation

When you’re enrolling in your employer’s 401(K) plan, one of the most difficult questions is your 401(K) asset allocation. They’re limited in what advice they can give you, so I’ll share what’s worked for me.

The key to 401(K) asset allocation is to get a good mix of stocks of large companies, medium-sized companies, growth stocks, international stocks, and bonds. This helps you to do well over the long term, even when the market has bad years.

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Roth 401(K) vs traditional

My employer started offering a Roth 401(K) option this year. I was pretty excited about it, but it confused most of my coworkers. I walked them through the Roth 401(K) vs traditional 401(K), and my explanation helped them enough that some of them opted to take that route. Let’s look at the differences so you can decide which is right for you.

A traditional 401(K) is tax-deferred, which means you get a tax deduction this year for contributing, and you pay taxes on it in the future when you withdraw it. A Roth 401(K) offers no tax deduction this year, but you owe no taxes when you withdraw it, no matter how much it grows.

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Geothermal heating and cooling pros and cons

I know several people using geothermal heating and cooling. My neighbor really wanted me to switch to it. But what is geothermal heating and cooling? What does it cost? it didn’t make sense to me to replace a highly efficient furnace and AC that were working properly. Now that my furnace needs a costly repair, I’m looking at geothermal heating and cooling pros and cons. Here’s what I found out.

Geothermal heating and cooling is very environmentally friendly, and under the right circumstances, saves you a large sum of money every month. It’s not for everyone, but the people who like it like it a lot.

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Are home warranty plans worth it?

Are home warranty plans worth it? Do you need a home warranty? As a longtime home owner and landlord, I have experience with home warranties. Here’s when I’ve found they’re worth it, and how I decide when to go without.

Offering a home warranty certainly makes your home more marketable when you’re selling. But when it comes to buying one myself, I don’t bother anymore. Here’s why.

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Goodwill by the pound

Goodwill operates thrift stores all over the country, but most major cities have one Goodwill Outlet as well. These stores, nicknamed Goodwill by the pound, sell merchandise by weight. It’s the last stop for merchandise before being recycled.

Goodwill by the pound offers tremendous opportunity for bargain hunters with a sense of adventure. If you’re willing to dig, and fix up what you find, you can save a ton of money at these stores.

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Is debt a sin against God?

I had lunch with a new friend one recent weekend. We talked about a lot of different things, but one of those things was debt. Is debt a sin against God? I know where that idea comes from. It’s something we struggled through together a bit. Here’s why I push back against that argument.

The Bible talks about money a lot, but not nearly as much about debt specifically. The Bible speaks more about the sin of pride than it talks about debt, and I see lots of pride on both sides of the debt argument.

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Buying tools at estate sales

While there are some potential pitfalls, you can do very well buying tools at estate sales. Probably 1/3 of my hand tools came from estate sales, and so did my most expensive corded power tools. Here’s how to find the best tools and the best deals.

The key is knowing what you’re looking for and what the tools you’re after are worth. Whether you’re buying tools to use or tools to collect, you don’t want to overpay. After all, you’re investing a lot of time, gas, and mileage. Factor that in.

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We buy houses for cash. What does that even mean?

I’m sure you’ve seen the signs attached to telephone poles. They say “We buy houses for cash,” stapled to a telephone pole or maybe stuck into the ground. They include a phone number and maybe a promise of a cash advance or a quick closing. You may have even received a post card in the mail offering to buy your house for cash. Who are these people, and should you consider selling to them?

If you’re not interested in selling and aren’t already working with a realtor, you have every reason to ignore those signs and postcards. If working with a realtor isn’t an option for you and you do need to sell your house or risk losing it, going the cash route may be an option for you.

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Insulate an overhang properly and safely

When the polar vortex brought single-digit temperatures to St. Louis, our kitchen pipes froze. They didn’t burst, but we had to go without a kitchen sink until I could thaw the pipes. Our kitchen is partially on an overhang, which makes it colder than the rest of the house in winter and warmer than the rest of the house in summer. I finally did something about it. Here’s how to insulate an overhang properly.

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