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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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04/14/16 Personal Finance # , ,

Financial Lessons I Learned From My Contractor

Financial Lessons I Learned From My Contractor

We’re at the tail end of a bathroom remodel in our home, and like anyone who has had a contractor take over an important part of their home for a few weeks, I’ve learned it’s not something I want to do often.

If you’ve dealt with a contractor or construction crew in your home, then you probably have a horror story to tell. I’m not here to tell you our horror story. Delays and mistakes are common in dealing with anything as big and complex as a house.

As a personal finance freelance writer who almost always considers things from a personal finance perspective, there were some financial lessons that our contractor inadvertently taught us. Among them:

Low prices are low for a reason

I used an app called Thumbtack to find professionals to come to our house and give us a price quote after reviewing the job and our needs. Of four contractors who responded to my request through the app, one didn’t get back to me, one offered an exceeding high price for the size of our small bathroom, one offered a fair price, and one didn’t meet our deadline for submitting a bid.

Which contractor did we pick? The one with the lowest price, though with only one other contractor providing a price, the competition wasn’t fierce. But after contacting references, I was confident he was a good choice.

But then his low price, which didn’t seem alarmingly low and was a fair, started to make some sense. He wasn’t as organized as I expected someone to be who was in charge of multiple things being replaced in a bathroom. A few things weren’t measured correctly. Continue reading

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10/13/15 Debt , Personal Finance # , , , , , ,

Comparison Shopping Not So Popular for Big Ticket Items

Comparison Shopping Not So Popular for Big Ticket Items

Years ago when I was a business desk copy editor at a newspaper, I was amazed at how often the paper wrote about gas price increases and the best places to shop for gas. Long before the GasBuddy app was available, the newspaper put out a regular graphic on where the lowest gas prices were in the area, and regularly interviewed shoppers about comparison shopping for gas.

We didn’t do as much reporting on the changes in milk prices, showing readers where the best prices for a gallon of milk were. Milk and other groceries were regular household expenses, but they didn’t warrant the attention that gas prices did.

Comparison shopping for everyday expenses such as gas is common among American shoppers, but not so big for big ticket items such as buying a new car or taking out a personal loan or mortgage, according to a recent survey by LendingTree.

Shopping for gas, but not auto loan

More than 80 percent of people surveyed said they’d go out of their way to save 10 cents per gallon on gas, but only 17 percent of car owners negotiated the interest rate when financing a new vehicle, the survey found.

More than 67 percent use comparison shopping websites for electronics and airfare, while 14 percent do the same for loans. Continue reading

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08/14/15 Insurance , Saving # , , ,

How I Saved $350 by Finally Shopping for Insurance

How I  Saved $350 by Finally Shopping for Insurance

I’ve been writing about personal finances for years — for this site and others as a freelance writer — and I almost always take my own advice and the advice of experts I’m writing about. But when it comes to shopping for insurance, I’ve gotten lazy.

Almost every other piece of personal finance advice I’ve written about I’ve implemented myself: have an emergency fund, set up a college account for my daughter early, buy value stocks, cooking dinner at home and buying a used car with cash, among other things.

Shopping for insurance is one of the easiest things to do, taking minutes online or a five-minute phone call to an insurance agent. Up until about a month ago, the last time I went shopping for insurance was about a dozen years ago when my wife and I bought a house and needed homeowner’s insurance. 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.