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Archive for October, 2008

Cable's Best Kept Secret?

October 25th, 2008 at 10:31 am

I was browsing personal finance blogs yesterday and came upon a post that really got me excited. The author was talking about the upcoming February 2009 conversion of analog TV to digital TV.

I heard before that if you already have cable TV, you won't lose your reception, but if you don't, and you have an older TV, you won't be able to get a picture without getting a digital converter box.

But what got me excited is that the author was saying you could get a picture with the digital converter box and WITHOUT cable. In other words, by getting one of those $40 coupons they're offering online for free and then spending $10 out-of-pocket for the converter box, that could give you a picture if you're willing to settle for the basic network channels. Hey, that's what I'm getting now, but I'm spending $15 a month for the privilege.

It would be great to do away with that monthly expense if I could, since I don't watch much TV.

The author of the post also noted that they got a better set of rabbit ear antennas for their TV and said they didn't have an outdoor antenna on their roof.

Still no heat:
Boomeyer - Missouri
monkeymama - Northern California
debtfreeme - Northern California
Ima Saver - Georgia
scfr - Texas
snoopycool - Florida
sevenofseven - Northern California
princessperky - Charlotte, North Carolina
toyguy1963 - Ohio
Analise - northern California
Little gopher - Minnesota
Joan.of.the.Arch
canoineag - Denver
Buckeye - Ohio
Koppur - Massachusetts

Those who already turned on the heat:
Househopeful - Delaware Oct. 23
dmontngrey - Massachusetts Oct. 22
Fern - Oct. 19 Connecticut
mbkonef - SE Pennyslvania - Oct 17
Creditcardfree - Oct. 15
Nancy - Oct. ??
MilehighGirl - Oct. 11
wyozozo - Wyoming - Oct. 10
Mech - Oct. 3 Massachusetts
ME2 - Oct. 3
myenglishcastle - October 1 - Wisconsin
homebody - October 1

No Heat Challenge: Another One Bites the Dust

October 19th, 2008 at 05:26 am



Halloween in my town is a big event. If yo want to have a rockin/ time, even if you don't have children, Main Street is the place to be. What better backdrop for pint-sized ghouls and goblins to do their trick or treatin' than among the many Victorian and Colonial era homes on Main Street? The homeowners go all out to decorate their historic homes.

One home in particular features a gigantic spider that each year sprawls across a web that extends from the rooftop of the house and across the front yard. It's all great fun.

Despite all the fun that Halloween promises, I must admit to falling asleep early last night around 10 pm. I intended to stay up late to watch Tina Fey.

I woke up rather suddenly around 1:50 a.m. for no particular reason. But this is why I know exactly when my heat kicked on. Yes, I'm afraid I'm out of the contest. However, I set the thermostat to 55 degrees, day and night, round the clock. I set it last night because temperatures were supposed to get down to freezing, statewide. I heard the heat kick on at 2:05 am, and then it cycled back on and off throughout the rest of the morning as I tossed and turned.

It'll hopefully stay there, at 55, for this month and next. When we get into the bitter cold, I'll have to notch it up, but I never go above 65 degrees. I don't like to start out at that temp since I'll get accustomed to it, so I'll do it by "degrees."

I have a bad habit of writing things down on a notepad by my bedside when I waken in the middle of the night, or early in the morning before I'm fully conscious. I do some of my best work then (!), but if I don't turn the light on and scribble down my thoughts, I'll forget most of what I "wrote" in my head by dawn.

And that's what happened last night. Actually, I was writing this blog post, but i forgot half of what I intended to say.

I watched the best movie last night. It's called American Splendour. Have you seen it? Normally, I'm pretty stingy with my 5-star Netflix ratings, but this one was really good.

Without giving too much away, it's a story about a down and out guy living and working in Cleveland as a file clerk in a VA hospital. Not much in his life is going well. Actually, there's not much going on, period. One day, while filing away records in the "Deceased" section, he reads one file which lists "Born, 1938, Cleveland. Died, 1979, Cleveland." You know he's wondering if he's going to have that kind of seemingly meaningless existence.

He starts writing a comic strip that chronicles the minutiae of his life. It's real, it's gritty, and it takes off. He lands an appearance on the David Letterman Show. He develops a following. And he ends up doing this for 20 years, although he never gets rich from it. I think it's a true story.

Anyway, if you get a chance, check it out. I loved it.

Still NO HEAT:
Boomeyer - Missouri
monkeymama - Northern California
debtfreeme - Northern California
mbkonef - Southeastern Pennyslvania
Ima Saver - Georgia
scfr - Texas
snoopycool - Florida
dmontngrey - Massachusetts
sevenofseven - Northern California
princessperky - Charlotte, North Carolina
Househopeful - Delaware
toyguy1963 - Ohio
Analise - northern California
Little gopher - Minnesota
Joan.of.the.Arch
canoineag - Denver
Buckeye - Ohio
Koppur - Massachusetts

Those who already turned on the heat:
Fern - Oct. 19
Creditcardfree - Oct. 15
Nancy - Oct. ??
MilehighGirl - Oct. 11
wyozozo - Wyoming - Oct. 10
Mech - Oct. 3 Massachusetts
ME2 - Oct. 3
myenglishcastle - October 1
homebody - October 1

Throw on the Sweaters and Don't Turn on the Heat!

October 15th, 2008 at 03:34 pm

Here's where we stand again, with a few corrections...

Still NO HEAT:
Me, aka fern - Connecticut
monkeymama - Northern California
debtfreeme - Northern California
mbkonef - Southeastern Pennyslvania
Ima Saver - Georgia
scfr - Texas
snoopycool - Florida
dmontngrey - Massachusetts
sevenofseven - Northern California
princessperky - Charlotte, North Carolina
Househopeful - Delaware
toyguy1963 - Ohio
Analise - northern California
Gamecock 43 - Florida!!!
Little gopher - Minnesota
Joan.of.the.Arch
canoineag - Denver
Buckeye - Ohio
Koppur - Massachusetts

Those who already turned on the heat:
Creditcardfree - Oct. 15 (You gave it a good shot!)
Nancy - Northern Colorado, turned it sometimes last week?
wyozozo - Wyoming - Oct. 10
Mech - Oct. 3 Massachusetts
ME2 - Oct. 3
myenglishcastle - October 1
homebody - October 1

Be a Heat Miser!

October 15th, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Here's who is still in the game for America's #1 No Heat Miser! There have been a few dropouts.

Me - Connecticut
monkeymama - Northern California
debtfreeme - Northern California
mbkonef - Southeastern Pennyslvania
Ima Saver - Georgia
scfr - Texas
snoopycool - Florida
dmontngrey - Massachusetts
sevenofseven - Northern California
princessperky - Charlotte, North Carolina
Househopeful - Delaware
toyguy1963 - Ohio
Analise - northern California
Gamecock 43 - Florida!!!
Nance - northern California - has a wood stove!
Little gopher - Minnesota
Joan.of.the.Arch
canoineag - Denver
Buckeye - Ohio

Those who already turned on the heat:
Creditcardfree - Oct. 15 (You gave it a good shot!)
wyozozo - Wyoming - Oct. 10
Mech - Oct. 3 Massachusetts
ME2 - Oct. 3
myenglishcastle - October 1
homebody - October 1

I'm thrilled that it's exactly mid-month and I've wasted no drops of my precious heating oil. I'll be patting myself on the back sometime in January when I squeeze an extra week out of my tank before the next fill-up.

Still, the really hard part is coming soon, here in the Northeast. Tomorrow, temps will begin to drop and this weekend I believe we're only expecting highs in the 50s. I can deal with indoor temps of 55 degrees, but not much cooler, during the day, anyway.

So the challenge is rapidly becoming, well, a real challenge! If you crank up the heat, please remember to post a reply on this post because I may otherwise miss it if you post it to your own blog during the week.

Fuel Efficiency Has Stalled in the Past 10 Years

October 12th, 2008 at 02:26 pm

I've been tracking my fuel economy for the last 10 tank fill-ups. I'm getting an average, since this past mid-July when I started taking note, of 38.4 miles per gallon with a high of 42.6 miles per gallon and a low of 34.9 miles per gallon.

I really can't complain, but what will I replace my 10-year-old car with when the time comes some day? Only a hybrid will beat my Honda Civic's gas mileage.

How important is fuel efficiency to you when you're considering a new car purchase?

Do You Have a Bucket List?

October 11th, 2008 at 01:22 pm

You probably know what a "bucket list" is, even if you didn't see the movie by that name. I didn't see it, but after a friend started talking about it, I began musing about what would be on my list.

I thought it would be fun to come up with a Bucket List made up of learning experiences.

1. Travel to every national park in the country. I love visiting national parks. Aside from unique and fantastic scenery, our national parks are an incredibly affordable vacation destination. And with park ranger-led talks and walks, it's a learning experience as well.

I get my Parks Passport book stamped each time I visit a national park. It's a nice memento of your travels. It would be fun to plan a week's vacation around a string of parks in close proximity to each other that you could hit all in one trip.

2. Read a biography of every American president, starting with George Washington and ending with President Obama. (Just making sure you're reading this.) I'm more interested in recent history that i've lived through, but I'm sure there are interesting things to learn about our earliest presidents. I'm getting more and more interested in history, and this would be a good way to go about it.

If I were really ambitious, I might add this goal: Read three books of my choice from the New York Times best-seller list each year.

In other news...
I filled up my oil tank last June, which is usually a time when prices are depressed. But when I scheduled my furnace cleaning, I asked what the going rate was now, and they told me $3.09 a gallon. That's cheap(!) compared to the $4.24 i paid in June x 192 gallons = an overpayment of $220 with just that one fill-up, but who knew?

However, the Energy Information Administration has forecast an average per gallon oil price of $3.90 this winter, so my advice to you would be, if you haven't filled up, do so now! Especially since OPEC is concerned that the dip in oil prices to around $87 per barrel is getting a little too low; they like to maintain oil prices at between $80 and $100. So they're meeting in November and will likely cut production.

Today's high was about 69 or 70 here, so I threw open all the windows at about 1:30 pm when I saw it had reached 68 outside and my indoor temp was still 60! Despite doing that, and then closing all those windows around 3:45 pm, I managed to increase the indoor temp to only 61.

This house seems to retain the cooler temps, a nice thing in summer but not so nice now. Still, with mild temps forecast through at least Wednesday of next week, I'm thrilled to continue deferring use of my heating oil. Each day I avoid turning it on now means an extra day's worth of heat I'll get in the dead of winter, when I really can't avoid using it.

Dismal News on Rising Homeowner Costs

October 9th, 2008 at 02:05 pm

In case you were in any kind of denial, here's an excerpt from a story on Market Watch.

"All major categories of homeowner expenses increased faster than incomes between 1996 and 2006, the center reported in "Stretched Thin: The Impact of Rising Housing Expenses on America's Owners and Renters."

"While mortgage payments increased 46% during those 10 years, utilities increased 43%, property taxes increased 66% and property insurance increased 83%, according to the study. But homeowner incomes increased just about 36%.

Here's the full story.

Kudos to all those who remain in the no-heat contest. No one else has written to tell me they turned on the heat, so we're all still in this together.

Fortunately for us in the Northeast, we're expecting mild temps in the low 70s for the rest of the week. And with all the terrible economic news (the Dow dropped again today like a lead weight), I'm looking at this no-heat challenge as more and more a necessity, not just entertainment.

On top of that, Accuweatheris forecasting the coldest winter in the Northeast in five years. So hang onto your mittens!



7 New Contestants Join the No Heat Challenge

October 5th, 2008 at 04:09 pm

I thought I'd do a final weekend update on the "contest." But first, I just want to say that we don't want you to do any harm to your health by sitting in a cold house. So if you are in poor health, or have seniors or very young children at home, please don't go to any extremes.

That being said, here's who is still in the running for America's #1 No Heat Miser!

Me, aka fern - Connecticut - takes hot baths before going to bed at night!
monkeymama - Northern California
wyozozo - Wyoming
debtfreeme - Northern California
mbkonef - Southeastern Pennyslvania
Ima Saver - Georgia
scfr - Texas
snoopycool - Florida
dmontngrey - Massachusetts
sevenofseven - Northern California
princessperky - Charlotte, North Carolina
Househopeful - Delaware
toyguy1963 - Ohio
Analise - northern California

...and 7 new players!
Gamecock 43 - Florida!!!
Nance - northern California - has a wood stove!
Little gopher - Minnesota
Joan.of.the.Arch
canoineag - Denver
creditcardfree
Buckeye - Ohio

Those who already turned on the heat:
Mech - Oct. 3 Massachusetts
ME2 - Oct. 3
myenglishcastle - October 1
homebody - October 1

If there's anyone else who's turned on the heat, 'fess up now!


Get Yourself a Sheepdog, But Don't Turn the Heat On

October 5th, 2008 at 07:00 am

Looks like I need to update my list as some have turned the heat on and others are still stubbornly clinging to their sweaters.

Here's who is still in the running for America's #1 No Heat Miser!

Me, aka fern - Connecticut
monkeymama - Northern California
wyozozo - Wyoming
debtfreeme - Northern California
mbkonef - Southeastern Pennyslvania
Ima Saver - Georgia
scfr - Texas
snoopycool - Florida
dmontngrey - Massachusetts
sevenofseven - Northern California
princessperky - Charlotte, North Carolina
Househopeful - Delaware
toyguy1963 - Ohio (I'm sorry, you were on my handwritten list and somehow your name dropped off on the post)
Analise - northern California

Those who already turned on the heat:
Mech - Oct. 3 Massachusetts
ME2 - Oct. 3
myenglishcastle - October 1
homebody - October 1

So four have dropped out and there are still 14 in the running!

I must say I wavered a bit this weekend. This morning it is 55 degrees in my house and very chilly. Yesterday when sitting at my computer I couldn't seem to get warm. I started the day with a turtleneck, then was still cold, so I put a lightweight sweatshirt on over that. I was STILL cold, so I put on an over-sized corduroy shirt on top of that and finally Ii was warm, though I couldn't move!

Someone asked if using an electric blanket was "cheating." I don't think so. I imagine the energy used for that is a lot less than heating the whole house. My own strategy last night was to soak in a hot bath and then jump in under flannel sheets and two lightweight quilts, with a heavy comforter on the side, just in case.

Truth be told, even the most stalwart among us will have to cave in when the temps drop to the freezing level, since no one wants to risk frozen pipes. But even when I do turn the heat on, I plan to start off gradually with the thermostat set only at 55; at that setting, it will only kick in at night.

I remember last winter that I kept the heat down so low that I actually looked forward to getting in the car or going to the office because I knew it would be toasty warm!

Here in Connecticut, tomorrow will be the chilliest day of the week with a high of about 57, but by the end of the week it will warm back up to a high of 71. Go figure.

A No Heat Contest Update

October 4th, 2008 at 06:43 am

It's great to see so many of you are game for the No Heat Challenge.

Here in Connecticut, the weather has turned decidedly cooler, with highs in the mid 60s during the daytime. This morning it was 38! I think we had a frost last night because I can easily see the white stuff on the roof of my family room from my bedroom window.

I'm going to summarize where we stand now. If any of you have turned on the heat since my original post last weekend, please let me know what day you turned the heat on so I can update the list. Also, if you're willing to share what state you're in, that would be good for further "analysis."

Three cheers for those who are still "in the game" with NO HEAT turned on:

Me, aka fern - Connecticut
monkeymama - California
ME2
wyozozo - Wyoming
debtfreeme
mbkonef
Ima Saver - Georgia
scfr - Texas
snoopycool - Florida

Those who already turned on the heat:
myenglishcastle - October 1
homebody - October 1

The clothes are on the line, hopefully drying. I'm skeptical they will; as I recall, even with temperatures in the 60s, unless direct sun is shining on them all day,it won't be enough to dry damp clothes. It's pretty cloudy out right now. I just hate like the dickens to start using the dryer again. (It's just like turning on the heat.)

Introducing the First Annual No Heat Challenge

October 1st, 2008 at 04:01 pm

As I recall, it's usually sometime in early October when I have to turn the heat on. It's been awfully warm here lately, so I have high hopes of perhaps setting a new record for living without heat. Care to join me??