You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

In the spring of 1993, my life was chaotic to say the least. In the last 5 months, I had lost my wife, moved to another state, and started a new job. I was working hard to try to figure out what life would now be like for my three children and me. Most days it felt like trying to run with a full glass of water; you know somethings going spill.

One afternoon, I was going through some of the moving boxes that still resided in my garage, and what did I find? A stack of mail. Mail from this week, and maybe that week, and so on. I didn’t remember putting it there. But I didn’t remember a lot about what was going on at the time either. So, there was a mystery.

There was no mystery, however, that some of the mail contained overdue notices. I had no idea there were overdue bills because I relied on the mail to prompt me that something was due. Trying desperately to maintain some resemblance of control on any one part of my life, I decided this was something I could easily do better. Grabbing a pencil and paper, I went through the mail, my checkbook (remember those), and anything else I could find which would help me list out my financial obligations, and their due dates. Having this one simple sheet of paper greatly reduced the amount of anxiety I had about bill payments. I still use a ‘more modern’ version of it. No more mystery about what is due when!

The other mystery, about how the mail was misplaced, was soon solved too. As it turned out, my sweet 4-year-old daughter was “…just trying to help me.” And I guess, in a round-a-bout way, she did!

I’ve made a free, downloadable, bill payment spreadsheet is available at While you’re there, take a look around for other items and ideas to help organize your home and life. What tricks or tools do you use to help keep life on track?

Thanks for reading. Please like and share!
And remember to take the next step.

Drafty Widows and Doors

Fall Is here today! In my last post, I suggested opening a window to get some fresh air in the house and giving the a/c a rest. That’ll save on bills for now, but as the weather turns cooler you’ll no longer want that gentle breeze blowing through your home. Fall is the time to fix those drafty window and doors.

We’ve all seen it. On those windy days, there’s that curtain that’s dancing in the wind, even those the window is closed. That’s a sure indicator that the window’s seal is in need for some adjustment. But if there’s no brisk wind, finding a leaky window may be a little more difficult. Here are a few steps you can take to locate those costly gaps:

  • Have someone stand on the outside of the door with a flashlight and shine around the edges and the bottom of the door. Any light that come through is a sure indicator the air will get through as well.
  • If you have a whole-house fan, or attic fan, you can use it to check for drafts around windows and doors by turning it on and closing all the windows.
  • There are new tools available at a reasonable price. One is a handheld infrared thermometer. Black and Decker makes one specifically for such household use. It’s not a thermal imaging camera, which is way more expensive. It’s more like a the touchless thermometers we now use to take someone’s temperature. It has a digital screen which displays the surface temperature directly in front of the device. By moving it around closed windows and doors, you can detect a large change in temperature.
  • Of course, if you really want the big picture. A thermal imaging camera is a great tool to have in your home. It comes with a big price. But it has many purposes. It can be used to show which dual pane windows have lost the seal between the glass, where the attic insulation may be insufficient above the ceiling, electric outlets and switches which are generating heat due to bad connection, circuit breakers getting hot, overheating bearings, and pretty much any use in which a larger than normal temperature difference is a sure diagnostic clue.
  • To help detect the leaking airflow, Cirrus makes an inexpensive battery-powered handheld smoke generator which will highlight even a subtle breeze.
  • Windows and doors aren’t the only places where your home may leak air. Here are some other places which commonly lose heat during the winter

Once the gaps are located, you’ll have a better idea of what’ll be needed to seal up the house for the winter. Depending on your budget and the need, there are lots of products and services that can mend or fix the problem. Most of which will pay for themselves by saving on heating costs this winter. If your budget doesn’t cover replacing windows this year, and you know it needs to be done, start saving for the project now while you investigate your options. There can be an incredible price difference in windows and their installation. As with most projects, a large investment in time up-front, will lead to a substantial savings in time, cost, and effort later.

For more information on managing life and home, please visit the rest of

Thanks for reading!
And remember to take the next step…

Asking For Discounts

My first boss, Chuck,  taught me many things about working in the professional world; for which I will always be indebted. One of the best things I learned from him was “Why not ask?” Chuck was a master of this simple, yet effective technique; and he applied it everywhere. He wouldn’t hesitate to ask for a discount for an item or service. Likewise, his simple and direct approach often led to others agreeing to go “an extra step” with just a simple request. And although my first job had nothing to do with negotiations, my next job did. And I know that his simple technique gave me a good foundation for that role. Learning to ask for a lower price or rate on just about everything from household purchases and groceries, to credit cards, mortgages, and insurance can save you serious cash. To begin doing this…here are a few Steps for Today.

Negotiation is a skill anyone can learn. Here are the basic principles:

  • Be respectful. Businesses are there to fill a need or provide a solution. Their employees are trying their best to meet their company’s policies and keep their customers (and bosses) happy. A simple “Can you help me please?” will go a long way.
  • Have a clear request. It helps if you have an advertisement for a lower cost from another company.
  • Having an explanation for your request will help, but it’s not always necessary. Sometimes just saying ‘it never hurts to ask’ is reason enough.
  • If you can’t negotiate a lower rate for an item, ask if there is a less expensive item that will meet your needs.
  • Always be thankful for the service. Treat people like you’d like to be treated.

These steps can be applied just about anywhere; even discount stores. I remember the first time I asked for a discount was at Builder’s Square. They had a sale on a certain reciprocating saw. When I saw they were out of stock, I asked the associate if I could get a discount on another model. With a little wait, I received a pretty good discount on a better model saw. And everyone seemed happy to do so.

Using this for everyday shopping is great. But the real savings occur when it’s used on your monthly bills. Here are some Steps for doing just that.

  1. Get your list of your monthly expenses (If you don’t have one, create one).
  2. Work with your highest expenses first.
  3. Call the customer service number on your bill and ask to speak with someone about reducing the rate or amount.
  4. Many companies have special programs for reductions, but leave it up to the customer to ask. So begin by politely asking if there are ways to reduce your bill. Most customer service professionals I know really do love to help other people, and are happy to have a thankful customer.
  5. Ask your credit card company what you may do to receive a lower interest rate.
  6. Likewise, ask your mortgage company if they can reduce the rate, or if a refinance could save you money.
  7. And ask your insurance company if there are programs which will reduce your rates.
  8. Even ask your electric company on ways to save on your charges. They may be able to tell you, for example, that rates are lower at night. Therefore using dishwashers, clothes dryers, car charges and other high energy demand devices at off-peak times will save you money.

So why not call and ask. It takes time, but could certainly save some money.

I’d love to hear your stories about asking for discounts or ways to save money.

As always, thanks for reading.
And remember to take the next step…