How to Create a Budget

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When I went away to college, my parents told me to “make a budget”.  When I graduated from college, my parents told me to “make a budget.  When I was planning my wedding, my parents told me to “make a budget.”  When we were looking to buy our first home, my parents told me to… you guessed it, “make a budget.”

By this time in my life I should probably be an expert on budgeting, but I am not.  Like most people, I occasionally fail to see the big picture and give in to impulse buys or spend too much money on a pair of jeans, or eat out too many times per week.  But, that does not mean I should throw in the towel and just spend money all “willy nilly”.

Occasionally I hear my father’s voice reminding me to “tighten the purse strings” and that “money doesn’t grow on trees”.   This is my conscience reminding me to sit down to redo our loathsome, yet necessary household budget.  I am after all, a reasonably responsible adult with a child who will be going away to college in less than 8 years.

There are many factors that play a role when creating a budget from scratch, especially if it is your first time.  The task may seem overwhelming, but there are a few very basic tips to follow.

  1. List all “fixed” expenses.  These are expenses that do not change month to month.  These may include rent/ mortgage, car payment, insurances, utilities, loans, credit card bills etc.
  2. List all “variable” expenses.  These offer some flexibility such as groceries, entertainment, travel, eating out and general “fun money”.
  3. Know all sources of monthly income.
  4. Do the math… subtract fixed expenses from income.  Then factor in variable expenses.
  5. Don’t forget to factor in all of your savings/ retirement plans!

That’s it!  You now have a very basic household budget to work off of.  Once you have a budget created, whether you choose to use any of the many software options available, or if you prefer to create your own spreadsheet, keep it handy.  Look at it often.  Remember to reevaluate and adjust your budget over time as things in your life change and evolve, as they will naturally.

Remind yourself of your long-term goals.  This will help strengthen your will power and make it easier to walk away from those $100 jeans or that $6.00 cup of coffee. Personally, I hope to be able to retire and live comfortably when the time comes.  I want to be able to travel some and spend plenty of time on some beach.  That dream, along with my parents voices saying “make a budget” help keep me on track.

To help keep your budget on track, visit FiltersFast.com for all of your water and air filtration needs.

How To Improve Indoor Air Quality: The Facts about Indoor Air Pollution

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Image Credit: home.howstuffworks.com

Alright, so maybe your family isn’t wearing gas/breathing masks at home. However, if you knew the problems with indoor air quality, you may be moved to take steps to protect yourself from it too. You may think you don’t need to be that worried about the air in your home, but consider this:

1. Indoor air pollution is 2 to 5 times worse than the air outdoors (an estimated 87% of American homeowners are not aware of this)

2. The EPA has ranked indoor air pollution among the top 5 environmental dangers

3. An increase in the number of children with asthma and severe allergies has been linked to increasingly poor indoor air quality

4. A recent study referenced on indoorairqualityhvac.com states that 86% of homes have high levels of particles and bioaerosols like pollen, dust, and viruses

Indoor air pollution is clearly a problem.

Fortunately it is a problem that can be managed. To do so, you have to first identify the common sources of indoor air pollution such as:

  • Cleaning and personal care products, pastes, glues
  • Building materials such as carpet, insulation, cabinetry, and more
  • Combustion products such as tobacco smoke, gas, oil, kerosene and wood stoves or fireplaces
  • Pet dander, mold, dust mites, viruses

 

To improve the air quality in your home, there are three important things you need to consider:

1. Change your HVAC filter on a regular basis. In addition to improving the efficiency of your HVAC unit (thus saving you a lot of money) it also acts as a line of defense between you and many of the air pollutants outlined above.

Tip: Your HVAC filter should be replaced every 3 months.

2. Increase ventilation. Consider opening the windows more often during warmer temperature days to increase a steady air flow through the home. Homes with poor air circulation tend to have poor air quality.

Tip: Avoid home ventilation on days with a high pollen count, as it can cause flareups for allergy sufferers.

3. Consider outside sources to improve your indoor air quality such as investing in an air purifier to help reduce dust mites, mold, pet dander and more.

Tip: Certain house plants such as the Peace Lily can help purify the air, but should never be considered as the sole source for better air quality.

With the right tools you don’t have to worry about wearing masks in your home as long as you pay attention to your air quality. Changing your air filters more regularly, buying an Indoor Air Quality Test Kit, or any other method can make your home the safe and healthy sanctuary it should be for you and your family.

Spring Swimming Pool Opening Tips and Checklist

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With spring right around the corner, it is never too early to start thinking about reopening your swimming pool for the season.  With temperatures rising and kids getting tired of being cooped up inside, why not focus on what’s to come…. swimming, frolicking and general pool merriment!  This process does not have to be a huge hassle with a little preparation and time management.   If you are sure that winter cold weather is behind you and temperatures seem to be stable, usually in the 70’s as a rule of thumb, then the time to reopen the pool has arrived!

Here are some basic steps to follow:

  • Clear debris from OUTSIDE of the pool.  This is often overlooked, but can be a real time saver in the long run.  Make sure to clean up any leaves, branches, dirt and other debris in the surrounding pool area that would later be tracked into the water.
  • Remove the cover.  Clear all debris and standing water from the top of your cover to avoid a big mess later when preparing the cover for storage. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on cover removal and use all appropriate tooling as needed.
  • Add water to appropriate operating level for your pool.
  • Change plugs and check skimmer baskets/ basket strainers for damage.  Make sure to remove all of your winter plugs and parts that were installed to prevent freeze damage.  Replace with your in-season plugs and parts.
  • Clean debris from pool bottom.   Add a chemical clarifier to help breakdown the debris. Start by raking out the largest debris, and then use your vacuuming system for a thorough cleaning. Don’t forget to brush the pool walls as well. Visit Acepools.com to find a variety of cleaning systems.
  • Start the pump and filter system.  Follow instructions carefully.  Check filters for damage and water leaks at connections. Backwash your filter if needed. Replace filters as necessary.
  • Shock, test and stabilize the water. Chemically shock your water, then 24 hours later, test it. Once desired chemical levels are achieved, don’t forget to stabilize or condition your water to prevent rapid loss of chlorine due to UV rays.  Throughout the season, make sure to use a high quality algaecide to kill any present algae and to prevent it from forming.
  • Take inventory and replace needed items.  Now that your pool water is ready, go ahead and check other pool parts such as lighting, steps and ladders, pool toys, and all other equipment and maintenance items.  Repair and replace as needed.
  • Set-up your outdoor sanctuary. Clean and set-up your outdoor furniture, table and chairs, tiki torches and barbecue grill. 

Now all you have to do is wait for the truly warm weather to arrive so that you can start enjoying your backyard oasis!  Please visit Acepools.com, part of the Filters Fast family, for all of your swimming pool needs.