• DIY,  Saving

    Phantom Loads

    Phantom loads, parasitic power, vampire power, so many names for the same thing; your electrical devices slowly making you poorer!  These terms all refer to the power drawn by electrical devices that are plugged in but not being used, yet still drawing power.  Think of power supplies plugged into the wall, computers, TVs, kitchen appliances, fire alarms, and garage door openers.  All of these draw some power, even when not being used.  Some items can draw considerable standby power that really adds up.  This article will detail our process for tracking down and taming electrical gremlins. AEP Power Bridge and Kill A Watt Meter Our interest in this topic all started after attending a fair…

  • Investing

    The Perks of Being a Shareholder -The Mystery Package

    One of the fun things about being a shareholder is that some companies give free perks.  I started tracking companies that provide an extra benefit to being a shareholder. (See my list below.) We purchased some shares of National Beverage (FIZZ) earlier this year and were quite surprised when this unexpected 7lb box showed up on our door step. Unexpected Gift from LaCroix The UPS driver was pulling up to our house right as we were both in the kitchen cooking dinner.  Neither of us had any idea what he could be delivering.  Once I saw the National Beverage logo on the side, I was intrigued.  I was hoping it…

  • Investing,  Personal Finance

    Our Mortgage Battle

    One debt that most people accumulate in their lives is a mortgage.  A few fortunate souls out there might be able to plunk down the purchase price of a house in cash, but we were not among that group!  This article will detail exactly how we plan on tackling our mortgage, with the expectation that we pay it off early. One topic that is hotly debated is weather it is better to invest extra money, or to pay down low interest rate debt.  This was a topic we have been torn over for quite some time.  When I say torn, I don’t mean that Sam and I disagreed.  Exactly the opposite,…

  • Investing

    What is a dividend anyway?

    If you are new to investing, one topic that often comes up is dividends.  But what is a dividend, and why should you care about them?  Where do they come from?  Why are some higher than others?  Should you only invest in companies that pay dividends?  Lets take a look at how dividends work. ` Companies exist to earn a profit for their shareholders.  When you buy a share of stock, you become a fractional owner of the business.  As part owner of the business, you are entitled to a proportional fraction of what the company makes in profits.  Now does that mean you get all the money earned by…

  • Investing

    Stealth Dividends

    Some companies pay regular, predictable dividends on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis.  Most companies usually stick to quarterly payments, but there are some exceptions out there.  But what about companies that do not declare regular dividends, but instead opt for “special dividends”.  These do not  show up in screeners or on finance sites as part of the dividend yield as they are irregular payments without the expectation of recurring. But some companies pay these special dividends very regularly.  If a company pays a “special” dividend every year, in a sense it – almost- becomes a regular dividend.  This leads to me calling these “stealth” dividends.  Why stealth?  Because almost all the…

  • Investing

    How We Got Free Trades for 15 Years

    Recently, our longtime broker, Scottrade, was acquired by TD Ameritrade.  The transition was smooth and uneventful.  All our positions transferred over and I have not experienced any disruptions because of the change.  I initially had no intention of switching brokers, but a deal popped up that was too good to pass up.  Charles Schwab is offering a “tenure trade offer” to all former Scottrade account holders.  They will give you free trades for as long as you have been a Scottrade customer.  Initially I though it went something along the lines of , if you were a customer for 5 years, you got 5 free trades.  This is not the case. If you were with Scottrade for…

  • LED Filament bulbs
    DIY,  Saving

    Make the Switch to LED Bulbs

    Early on, LED bulbs were expensive, did not start immediately, could not dim, and had a weird color that was nothing like traditional bulbs.  These days, those concerns have all been addressed.  LED bulbs can be had for under $1 for a 60W equivalent bulb.  I recently priced one at my local hardware store for a mere $0.74.  It puts out the equivalent light output as a 60W bulb, but uses only 6.5W to do it!  In addition to the power savings, you will also reduce unwanted heat in your house.  Not a big deal in the winter, but in the summer, not only are you using more power with a traditional…

  • Investing

    Doing Your Own Work

    In school, teachers always told us to do our own work.  We were not to copy other students homework or cheat off their tests.  While not enforced in your investing life, it is a good practice to always do your own work.  What does this mean?  Never rely on any statistics published by a financial site when making an investment decision.  I cannot count the number of times these statistics have been off, or just flat out wrong.  The issue is that these statistics are generated automatically, and are not checked for accuracy by anyone.   A friend of mine once bragged about buying a company at 4x earnings, a…

  • Investing

    One of the Best Shortcuts in Stock Research

    As I mentioned in an this article, you should never use statistics from a finance site (like Yahoo! Finance) to make your investing decisions.  However, one shortcut I recommend is exploring Value Line.  Each Value Line report is created by expert analysts. Because of this, the bad data issues I have come across on sites like Yahoo! Finance and Google are not a concern. A subscription to Value Line is not cheap, ranging from $200 to $800 a year.  Before you write this off, I’ll let you in on a special secret for getting these reports for FREE. How to Get Value Line for Free   Ready for it…? …your local…

  • Featured,  Investing

    Investment vs Speculation

    What is investing?  In theory, it is quite simple.  It is the outlay of money today with the reasonable expectation that you will get more money back in the future.  The concept is very simple, but in practice it is much more complex.   What makes a good investment? What is the difference between an investment and speculation? Are you investing or speculating? Lets start with narrowing down the difference between investment and speculation.  An investment involves purchasing a productive asset.  What is a productive asset?  A rental property, a share of stock in a company, or purchasing something larger like a car wash, self storage facility, or other business.  The…