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02/06/17 Debt , Investing # ,

Financing Solar Panels for Your Home

Financing Solar Panels for Your Home

The sun’s energy is free, but harnessing it isn’t.

Figuring out how to finance solar panels can be tricky, with more options for putting solar panels on your roof than there are loan options for buying a home.

Solar panels and the equipment that goes with them to convert the sun’s energy into electricity is expensive. Based on the average house paying $75 per month for electricity, a solar system that generates that much power costs around $25,000 to $35,000, according to the Solar Power Authority.

Utility company incentives, tax breaks and other subsidies can cut the cost in half, but even then it can take years for the solar panels to pay for themselves in energy savings.

A system that costs $18,000 — which includes installation, labor and the solar power system — has a payback period of about 20 years, the Solar Power Authority estimates.

Cost considerations for solar panels

How many solar panels your home will need and if solar power is worth installing depends on a number of factors. These include the size of the roof, amount of sunlight your home gets, energy needs and how much electricity you’ll still need to buy from your utility company.

Since the sun doesn’t shine on your home 24 hours a day, it won’t generate power all the time. Unless you live in a sunny state such as Arizona or don’t use much electricity and your solar panels produce more electricity than you’ll use, you’ll need to buy electricity from the power company when it’s dark or your solar system isn’t providing enough electricity.

The good news is there are many ways to finance solar panels and eventually power your home for free with power from the sun. Continue reading

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01/10/17 Work # ,

How to Set Rates as a Freelancer

How to Set Rates as a Freelancer

 

One of the more difficult things I did when starting to work as a freelancer was setting the rates I charged clients.

I didn’t want to be too high that they thought I wasn’t worth it, or too low that my time was undervalued. I also had to figure out if an hourly or project rate worked best for my time as a freelancer.

Like many freelance writers starting out, I charged a low rate just to get my foot in the door. After a few months of that, I asked for raises and got it at a few websites that I wrote for, but mostly found that websites were willing to drop you as a writer because they could find other writers elsewhere who would write for low pay.

freelancerYou get what you pay for, and I suspect that many of those people who wrote for low pay either didn’t have the writing and reporting skills that I have or they were so desperate for a paycheck that they’d accept $25 per post.

Before I get too deep into how to set your rates as a freelancer, I want to mention that much of this information is covered in a podcast I did in early January with Liz Theresa on her “Liz on Biz” podcast. Listen to episode 17 for the fun of hearing me in stereo. Continue reading

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01/06/17 Minimalism , Saving # ,

Dollar Shave Club Changed How I Look at Shaving

Dollar Shave Club Changed How I Look at Shaving

 

It has taken me about two years to go through a 24-pack of Gillette razors I bought at Costco for some unbelievably low price. That freedom from having unused razors clutter up my bathroom has finally given me the chance to try a new razor at Dollar Shave Club.

After only two months of use, I’m resold on where I buy my razors and how I shave.

First, I should say that I’m not being paid by Dollar Shave Club to review it, and that my only goal here is to share my shaving joy with the company, DSC for short.

Two years in the making

What got me started on this path was a story I wrote in November 2014 for AOL about razors being sold everywhere online and if they were a better deal than buying them at a store. DSC was the best deal in my price comparison, and it still offers the same prices it did then: four cartridges for $6 or $9, depending on if you wanted four or six blades.

Like many online businesses, DSC and others jumped on the fact that razors were unnecessarily expensive in stores. Monopolies by Gillette and Schick, along with huge advertising budgets, created high prices. Continue reading

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11/29/16 Children , Debt # ,

How I’m Trying to Rein Christmas Spending

How I’m Trying to Rein Christmas Spending

Every year around Thanksgiving, I vow to buy fewer Christmas gifts and rein in my Christmas spending. I’m rarely successful.

I try to spend only cash, but that usually doesn’t work and I end up facing a big credit card bill in January. It’s not something I want to do again and again.

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year, especially with a child (our daughter is now 12) and seeing her light up on Christmas morning as she opens her gifts. But seeing many of her gifts unused a month later always gets me to thinking about how we’ve got to buy her fewer gifts next year. Continue reading

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11/07/16 Personal Finance , Saving # ,

My Stupid Impulse Purchase of the Week

My Stupid Impulse Purchase of the Week

No one plans on making impulse purchases. That’s what they are — an impulse. But it seems like every week or so I make a stupid impulse purchase that makes me wonder if I have any control over how I spend money.

My latest impulse purchase: Coffee.

It was $5 for a small bag of raspberry chocolate I saw by the checkout counter at Marshalls. Here are the reasons that ran through my head of why I should buy this wonderful sounding coffee:

  • I like coffee.
  • I like trying new things, including different types of coffee.
  • I like raspberries.
  • I love chocolate.
  • Raspberries and chocolate together sound awesome.
  • It’s only $5.

What makes it a stupid impulse purchase is that it was lousy coffee. And that I wasted $5. Continue reading

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Hi, I'm Aaron Crowe. Welcome to CashSmarter. I'm a personal finance freelance writer who enjoys spending my money wisely and using minimalism to make my money last longer while increasing income.