Oct 17 2012

How to Save Money on Web Hosting

By |October 17th, 2012|Blog, Life|4 Comments|

In the last few weeks you may have noticed my website running a little faster. You also may have noticed that my new faster web hosting is cheaper than my old host. Wait, no, you wouldn’t know that.

That’s why I’m telling you now!

This website has been moving slowly for months now, and I’ve been wanting to do something about it but my new website Reward Boost is taking up so much of my time (and will be launching a new exciting feature soon) that I hardly have time to write blog posts, much less optimize my site performance.

web server pic

photo credit: DeclanTM

While I wasn’t even thinking about a new web host, luckily I saw on my twitter feed that one of my personal finance blogging friends Andrea has started her own web hosting service. I asked her for some information and here’s what she told me:

  • My old hosting was sharing servers with thousands of other websites. She currently has way less than thousands of clients, so my website has all the resources it needs. That means it’s going to be faster.
  • I get personalized service from someone I can trust. I can just call or IM Andrea and she will fix it. I’ve already had her address a few things and it’s the best customer service I’ve had!
  • She’s actually running her business with a server from my previous host, so I know the hardware is is going to be reliable.
  • Best of all, I get all of these benefits at a lower price than my previous host!

I’m now an engaged man, which means I need to spend my free time with my fiancee and planning our wedding, while I need to save as much money as possible so I can pay for it. My new web hosting with Nuts and Bolts Web Hosting makes running this website as hassle free as possible while also lowering my expenses.

I know many of my readers have their own websites. If you are paying more then $5 a month for your hosting and aren’t getting incredible personalized customer service, I definitely suggest you check out Andrea’s hosting plans.

I’m saving about $50 a year using her plans, which might pay for a couple chairs at my wedding. It’s not much, but every little bit helps!

Oct 16 2012

Landlord Insurance Makes Renting Your Home Safer

By |October 16th, 2012|General Personal Finance|1 Comment|

This is a post on behalf of Vicky

One of the best ways to increase your income is to have a rental property and become a landlord. If you can find a tenant at the right price then you can not only have someone pay your mortgage and build more equity in your home, but also earn a few extra bucks in your pocket every month.

However, as with any business there are risks and it’s important to make sure you aren’t on the hook for a huge bill if something goes wrong.

That’s why it’s important to consider landlord insurance if you are going to rent your home. Landlord Insurance for Direct Line can give you financial protection against death or bodily injury and/or loss or damage to third party property.

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt Your Tenant (and You!)

house for rent

photo credit: cdsessums

You never know what’s going on inside the walls of a home. There could be structural weaknesses due to poor construction during the build or a renovation. Maybe termites found their way into the house without your knowledge. Maybe it’s such an old house that the structure just isn’t sound anymore. It’s also hard to be sure that all the electrical was run safely and that all the appliances were installed properly.

If your tenant falls through an old rotted floor and breaks his leg then you’re going to have to pay for his medical bills and probably more for his pain and suffering. If some bad electrical wiring causes a fire and your tenant loses all his belongings, he will be looking to the landlord (you) to replace all of his things.

Hopefully these things never happen, but if they do then these situations can seriously damage your financial well-being if you aren’t covered by landlord insurance.

Protect Yourself Against Catastrophic Loss

One of the most important principles of personal finance is to make sure to protect yourself against catastrophic loss. You can probably afford to fix a water heater or to have a vacant home for a few months.

You probably can’t afford to replace everything your tenant owns or pay for his medical bills and pain and suffering. Landlord insurance is a great way to make sure an unfortunate situation doesn’t turn your rental business into a trip to bankruptcy court.

Oct 15 2012

Saving Money Takes Motivation

By |October 15th, 2012|Blog, Personal Finance Tips|12 Comments|

I’ve been writing about personal finance for over two years now. I’ve been running numbers, finding out the smartest ways to pay down debt. On multiple occasions I’ve identified places where I spend too much money (like on eating out). And in many instances I’ve recognized a problem and done nothing about it.

Why worry about spending too much money on eating out? I was still paying all my bills, contributing 6% to my 401k, and saving a heck of a lot more money which was used to pay off student loans and then to save for a theoretical house.

Then I got engaged and everything changed.

Now I know I need to save money because I have a wedding to pay for. I may be buying a house in the near future as well, which means I need to pay for the down payment, repairs, updates, and anything else. If I get a house then I want to adopt a dog, which also costs money. And then after Tag and I are married we will eventually start having kids which (you guessed it) costs money.

Spending a hundreds of dollars a month at restaurants and fast food places wasn’t a big deal 8 days ago. It all changed when I got engaged.

We Are Shedding for the Wedding (and the rest of our lives)

Tag and I made a decision after we got engaged that we can’t eat out anymore. Not only is it too expensive, but we can’t do that to our bodies. Our wedding pictures are going to last forever. We’re going to have those pictures in our house for the rest of our lives, and we darn well better look good in them.

The more we eat out, the harder it will be for us to get to our ideal weight for the wedding and the harder it will be for us to save up enough money for the wedding and the house.

Then once we get married and have kids, the costs of eating out (both financial and health related) are multiplied even more.

That means I actually have to start cooking. This past week I’ve cooked Mexican (shredded chicken with taco seasoning, great for tacos, burritos, and salads), Italian (ground turkey with arrabbiata sauce, served with wheat pasta), and Beef Stew (I added garlic, took out the mushrooms, and substituted beef broth for water in this recipe). Overall I had delicious and relatively healthy meals at a fraction of the cost of what I usually pay to eat out.

my beef stew

Here are the leftovers of my delicious beef stew.

True Motivation Changes Your Life

I was never really motivated to change my habits because the only reason to change was theoretical. I knew I would get married and have a house one day, but that stuff wasn’t tangible until I got engaged. All of a sudden I really have a family and a house to prepare for, and I need to start preparing NOW!

Readers: Do you have true motivation for your financial and life goals?

Oct 9 2012

I’m Engaged!

By |October 9th, 2012|Blog, Life|38 Comments|

On Sunday October 7th I asked my girlfriend to marry me.

I had been planning to ask her to marry me for a little while and the original plan was already in motion to take her to where we had our first kiss and do it there. Then the plans changed.

This weekend was Tag’s sister’s birthday and we spent almost the whole weekend with her family. Every moment I spent with her was like torture because I wanted to ask her so badly; I didn’t want to wait any longer. I almost made it through the whole weekend when she went home to study while I went to church on Sunday afternoon.

As I was thinking about how badly I wanted to be Tag’s fiance and eventually her husband, I was greeted at church with readings all about marriage. Here was the first reading, Genesis 2:18-24.

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

But for Adamno suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the ribhe had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

I felt like the Big Guy Upstairs was just telling me that I shouldn’t wait any longer and I need to ask her tonight!

I stopped at her parents’ house and asked for their blessing (while crying like a big fat baby) after church. And FYI, I’m not a crier.

In the 3 years I’ve been dating Tag I’ve cried three times: one when we broke up for a short time; two was when I found out my mom had cancer; three was talking to her parents. I actually sat in the car for a while trying to practice asking them for their blessing without crying. After about 15 minutes of miserable failure I just decided to go in there and let it all out. Luckily my future mother-in-law and father-in-law gave their blessing.

After that I called my mom and told her I was going to propose, and she of course gave her blessing as well. It was time. I picked up some flowers at the store and headed home.

When I got home I gave Tag the flowers (which she loved) and then she asked me how church was. I said it was really great and that there was a great reading that I wanted to share with her. I went into the closet and grabbed the ring while she stopped her cat from eating her flowers.

We sat down with a Bible and I read her that passage. Then I said, “I feel like God was telling me to do this,” and I got down on my knee and asked her to marry me.

She was stunned and said, “Oh my gosh, are you serious? Are you serious?” I said, “yes” and was getting a little scared that she might say she wasn’t ready.

The she said yes and I became the luckiest man in the world. We spent the rest of the night on the phone telling everyone about what happened and just enjoying the evening together.

engagement ring

My finacee’s ring

Tag and I are so excited and have found it hard to concentrate on anything else. Our favorite part of the whole situation is that we can stop talking about “IF we get married” and “IF we have kids” and start talking about “WHEN we get married” and “WHEN we have kids”.

We couldn’t be happier together, and right away we are going to have to figure out marriage stuff. How we are going to pay for a wedding? Are we going to get a house? How do we get in shape so we aren’t big fat slobs on our wedding day? Do we even want a honeymoon, and if so where should we go and how should we pay for it?

Luckily she didn’t want a diamond for her ring so I didn’t have to shop for one on www.diamondqueensland.com.au or any other diamond broker’s website.

As you might imagine, this blog is going to start covering a lot of these topics in the near future. I hope you are looking forward to it as much as I am!

And one more thing: Tag is an acronym for ThousandAire Girlfriend. Now that she’s my fiancee and I don’t want to call her TAF I need a new nickname for her. Suggestions are welcome.

Oct 8 2012

How to Improve Security Without Breaking the Bank

By |October 8th, 2012|General Personal Finance|2 Comments|

In this day and age, it is only natural to worry about theft and crime – particularly when it comes to that all important sanctuary from the rest of the world: our home.

Burglar alarms and home security systems can be a drain on our finances, so it is worthwhile to consider other cost effective measures that can create greater peace of mind about the safety of our property. Here are a few handy tips on how to make your home more secure with relative ease and without spending a fortune.

With doors leading directly to the outside, always make sure there are at least three ‘locking points’. The Metropolitan Police Service recommends using a 5 point mortice deadlock on all front doors. When it comes to doors with glazed panels such as patio doors and French windows, these should ideally be fitted with additional top and bottom locks. (source: http://www.crimestoppers-uk.org/crime-prevention/helping-prevent-crime/-and-property/home-security-tips).

Light also acts as an important deterrent to burglars, so try to ensure there are lights installed outside every doorway and in darkened access areas such as porches or a side path alongside the house. Motion sensitive lights are even better, as they will immediately alert you and other members of the family to any unexpected movements outside – even if it’s just a fox rummaging the bins.

Make sure to keep garden shed and garages locked and consider fitting them with battery operated alarms. Don’t leave garden tools or ladders lying around outside that could assist or encourage someone in their attempts to break in.

If you haven’t already, get a suitable home insurance policy put in place so the contents of your home are protected in a worst-case scenario. RIAS house insurance offers a high level of cover specifically for the over 50s market and there are many other providers available for homeowners of all ages and circumstances.

Whenever you leave the house, always close and lock all doors and windows, even if you think you will only be gone for a short time. Burglary is an opportunistic crime and this will decrease the likelihood of your home being targeted.

If you’re going to be away on holiday or for an extended period, think ahead and cancel any items you may have ordered for delivery to your house. Ask a trusted neighbor to keep an eye on things and to regularly pick up your post– one of the key tell-tale signs to burglars that no one is home. Get them to draw the curtains or switch a light or two on if they are popping in every evening: It is always good to give the impression to outsiders that there is someone at home, even when it’s not the case.

Oct 1 2012

Higher Teacher Salaries Won’t Improve Education

By |October 1st, 2012|Blog, Economics / Politics|35 Comments|

A few weeks ago I got into a fiery exchange on twitter with my friend TeacHer about teacher pay. She thinks teachers should be paid more, while I think overall teacher pay should remain flat or even go down. You can read TeacHer’s opinion at her website if you’d like.

She’s a teacher and I’m not, so it may seem that she’s more qualified to speak to the topic. However, I’m an economics nerd and math/engineering major, so I’m going to approach this from a numbers perspective.

When you have an emotionally hyper-charged topic such as this one very few people look at numbers, data, and facts to explain their opinion. For example, my debate opponent today refers to teachers as “people who do society’s most important work”.


That’s certainly a debatable opinion. Are teachers more important than police officers who keep us safe, farmers who provide us with food, trash men who make sure we don’t wallow in our own filth, engineers who make sure buildings and bridges don’t collapse, truck drivers who make sure all the stuff we want and need can get from a factory to the shelves of a store, business owners who own the factories that make the goods or the stores where we buy all the things we want or need, or any other number of jobs?

The fact is these are all important jobs. If they weren’t important then they wouldn’t exist. Yes, teaching is an admirable and important profession, but to say it’s “society’s most important work” is not only a debatable opinion, but one that distracts from the financial reality of the situation.

First I want to mention that we both agree GOOD teachers need to be paid more. Where we disagree is the idea that teachers overall are currently underpaid (she agrees, I don’t), and that evaluating teachers to determine who deserves more and less compensation is too difficult (she agrees, I don’t).

More Education Spending Doesn’t Make Students Smarter

There’s a general feeling in America that “if you throw more money at it then it will get better”. It’s a very lazy idea and ignores the fact that spending the same amount of money more effectively can be better than spending a lot of money wastefully. Paying teachers more money has not resulted in higher achievement over the last few decades.

The following graph originally posted at Heritage.org consisting of data from the US Department of Education, the National Center for Education Statistics, and the National Assessment of Educational Progress, shows that per-pupil spending has risen from $4,060 in 1970 to $9,266 in 2005 while reading scores have remained essentially unchanged.

We more than doubled spending and saw very little benefit. Awesome.

Student Performance

Moving further along these lines, a study from George Mason University shows that US Education per-pupil K-12 spending is more than any country in the world except Switzerland.

Since we spend the second most in the world, we should have the second best performing children, right? Wrong. According to USA Today:

“We’re kind of in the middle of the pack [in educational achievement among countries],” Phillips says. “Being in the middle of the pack is really a mediocre place to be.”

Middle of the pack. Mediocre. That’s what all of our education spending is getting us.

Obviously more spending (higher teacher salaries, newer schools and equipment, the latest editions of textbooks, etc) isn’t getting better results. We won’t get smarter kids by spending more overall on education; we need to spend more on great teachers and less on crappy teachers.

Teachers Should Be Evaluated Like Employees in Any Other Industry

We don’t need to increase teacher pay overall. That’s just going to give the crappy teachers even more incentive to keep teaching. Instead we need to stop paying teachers based on years of experience and start paying them based on how well they actually teach.

“But Kevin, you can’t measure how good a teacher is. Every classroom is different and every student is different… blah blah blah whine whine whine.”

I agree that every classroom and student is different. That’s why test scores should have little or no impact on a teacher’s performance rating. You identify the good teachers just like you identify the top employees in any company; you watch them work and you talk to their clients (in this case, students and their parents).

I work in the corporate world. My old boss (thanks to my promotion!) lives 1,000 miles away and the last time I saw him in person was 2011. In addition managing me and 5 other people, he has about a million other things that he does on a daily basis.  We have 1 on 1 discussions maybe 1-2 hours per week. And I have a really great, attentive boss; other I know have even less interaction with their manager.

teacher pay

If my boss can evaluate my performance based on that amount of interaction then surely a principal, who is in the same building as his teachers every day and has constant interaction with the teacher’s clients (the students and parents), can evaluate teachers.

Principals should observe teachers, and should do it frequently. And if they don’t have time to do it themselves then they should hire someone devoted to teacher evaluations (this person’s salary would pay for itself many times over if they successfully identified the best and worst teachers and compensated them accordingly). They should drop in on classes unannounced, observe teachers in the hallways, talk to students and parents, etc.

Great teachers leave the profession because they aren’t compensated for their incredible work, and it’s just plain laziness to say “evaluating teachers is too hard” when employees are evaluated in basically every other line of work.

Don’t Forget Supply and Demand

The last reason teachers shouldn’t make more money is because the market doesn’t demand it. If I’m a principal, why would I pay someone $80,000 to teach if there is another highly qualified teacher who would do the same job for $50,000?

Nurse Anesthetists make between $78k and $185k a year. Why? Of course they do very important work, but the high pay is because when a hospital or doctor needs one, there are very few to choose from. Supply and demand economics have set both nurse anesthetists and teachers salaries where they should be. And if your response is, “Well that just means low teacher pay is going to result in bad teachers,” then I’ll refer you to where I suggest we pay great teachers what they are worth.

Our Only Hope is to Privatize Education

From a practical standpoint, I realize most schools are run by the government and the government never does anything efficiently. They don’t pay for performance in basically any profession, and they are more concerned about getting a bigger budget next year than they are concerned with actually doing their job. I don’t live in some fantasy world where I think the government could ever make public schools work like a free market educational system.

Privatizing K-12 education is the only way to get competition back into education and get schools and teachers competing to be the best. The first step is to eliminate the federal Department of Education and give education back to the states (which is where our founders intended it to be). Then you’d have states implement voucher systems and school choice becomes real.

However, the implementation of my theoretical system is beyond the scope of this already extremely long article, so with that being said I’ll summarize.

Money Doesn’t Fix a Problem

I’m sure TeacHer wants more money. So do I and so does everyone else in the world. But there are three problems:

  • History has proven that more money spent on education hasn’t resulted in smarter kids
  • The educational system encourages crappy teachers and discourages great, hard-working teachers with it’s reluctance to pay for performance
  • The principle of supply and demand suggests there is no reason to pay teachers higher salaries

Paying teachers more money will solve one problem: putting more money in teacher’s bank accounts. Unfortunately it won’t make kids smarter and it will put even more pressure on overstretched local and federal budgets.

One more thing: don’t forget to read TeacHer’s side of the story!

Readers: Do you think paying teachers more money will make kids smarter?

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