Bathroom Fan

“Bathroom fan” usually means a fan that takes air from the bathroom and moves it outside, i.e., it’s an exhaust fan.  A bathroom fan performs two functions: (1) removing unpleasant bathroom odors, and (2) removing humid air from the bathroom.  If it’s the first function you want, the typical bathroom fan connected to a duct that leads outside is what you need.  But if you want to reduce the humidity in the bathroom, there’s an alternative you might want to consider, especially in the wintertime and perhaps also during the months of moderate temperatures when you’re neither air-conditioning nor heating.

First: It’s a good idea to reduce moisture and humidity levels in the bathroom and running a fan to move air out of the bathroom is a good way to do that.  If you take a shower or bath and then do nothing to dehumidify the bathroom, you will almost certainly eventually have problems with mold and mildew, peeling paint, rusting metal, rotting wood, decaying drywall, … and your towels won’t dry between uses.  These problems will be all the worse if more than one person uses the same shower.  You might also get nasty stuff growing on your shower curtain (but you can wash your shower curtain instead of throwing it away and getting a new one).

In the summertime, it makes good sense to use the bathroom exhaust fan to remove the post-shower warm, humid air from your bathroom and replace it with cool dry air that comes from the rest of your house.

But in the wintertime, your house actually could use that warm humid air.  If you move it outside with a bathroom exhaust fan, you’re not only getting rid of something useful, but you’re also getting rid of air that you paid to heat with your home’s heating system.

desk_fanDuring cold weather, I’ve had good results dehumidifying the bathroom with a desk fan placed on a bathroom shelf with the airflow directed out the open door.  In fact, I think this does more to eliminate the problems that come from bathroom humidity than careful cleaning, spraying the tub with bathroom-cleaning products, and having a mildew-resistant shower curtain.  After a shower, the fan moves the warm humid air from the bathroom to the hallway, and from there it circulates throughout the rest of the house.  As humid air moves out of the bathroom it is replaced by drier air from outside the bathroom.  Some of it comes in from the hallway, as the fan is mixing the bathroom air with the hallway air.  But there is also some air movement from the bathroom heating duct of the forced-air system.  Houses generally need some additional humidity in the wintertime, and this practice helps in that regard.  It also helps warm the air inside the house by capturing the heat from the hot water and humidifying the air in the house.  All in all, it seems to work.  The bathroom, and everything in it, gets dry.  The rest of the house gets a little heat and humidity that it needs.


Beware of Amazon-eBay Arbitrage

If you’re a person who tries to spend money efficiently, you shop around.  You most likely wouldn’t see something for the first time and buy it immediately.  You’d look elsewhere and compare prices for the same or similar items.  Fail to do that, and you’re asking for someone to take advantage of you.

If you have shopped around, you might have noticed some items on eBay that are priced higher than on Amazon (or elsewhere) — for the exact same item, even when it’s a new, never-used, item.

ebay_amazonThat’s “Amazon-eBay Arbitrage”.

Basically this is what’s happening: Very sharp eBay sellers, let’s call them arbitragers, “sell” products on eBay for higher prices than the exact same products on Amazon.  Not only that, but these sellers “sell” products that they don’t actually have in their possession.  They don’t order the product from the legitimate seller (by legitimate, I mean the seller who actually makes or stocks the item) until you order it from them.

The process works like this: You find an eBay listing for something you want, you order it from the eBay arbitrager and pay for it.  The eBay arbitrager then orders it from Amazon and has it shipped to you.  As long as the price on eBay is higher than Amazon’s price, the eBay arbitrager makes money.  Some of these eBay arbitragers even have computers running software that continually analyzes prices on Amazon and eBay so as to find the products with the most profit potential.

Note that this only works if you, the buyer, fail to do a little comparison shopping.  Which might happen if you go to eBay without thinking, assuming that eBay always has the lowest prices.  That’s the assumption that gets you in trouble and makes “Amazon-eBay Arbitrage” possible.

Be smart.  If you don’t want to put your money into the arbitrager’s pockets, then do what mama said, as in my mama told me … you better shop around.

Think About Spending in Annual Terms

Changing the way you think about money can help you change your spending and saving habits.

You probably have a good idea of how much money you earn each year:  Your annual salary, your gross income (that’s the total you earn before any deductions for taxes, insurance, and of course, … your contribution to your retirement savings account).

For the purposes of this discussion, let’s say we’re talking about someone who earns $50,000 per year (which is pretty close to the average in the United States).

Saving more means spending less, and that means carefully considering everything you buy.  One thing that might help is to think of your spending in annual terms, which means multiplying a thing’s cost by the number of times during a year you spend money to buy it.

If it’s an expense you have, say, 5 times a week, then you might multiply that expense by 250.  (5 times a week × 50 weeks per year = 250 days per year; we’ll assume you’ll miss at least 10 days.)  Then compare the annual expense to your annual income by looking at it in percentage terms.

Let’s say you buy coffee every workday: maybe it costs $2.30 per day.  Calculate:  $2.30 × 250 = $575 per year.  $575 is a little over 1% of a $50,000 per year.  So you ask yourself:  Is it worth spending over 1% of your total income for your daily coffee?  What if you drank coffee you made yourself, the most financially-efficient way possible.  Or maybe tea?

(If you’re not clear on the percent-of-total income calculation, it’s the annual expense divided by the annual income, which in this example is: $575 / $50,000 = 0.0115.  Multiply the answer by 100 to put it in percentage terms: 0.0115 × 100 = 1.15%, which, as stated, is a bit more than 1%.)

Maybe you spend $25 each week for something, maybe it’s beer and pizza at a restaurant or bar, or movie tickets, or whatever.  Do that every week for a year and that’s $1,250.  ($25 × 50 = $1,250.)  That’s 2.5% of a $50,000 income.  Is it worth it?

a_new_hatMonthly expenditures are easily annualized and percentaged (or maybe it’s “percentualized”?).  Just multiply by 12.  Do you buy $100 worth of clothes that you don’t need each month?  That’s $1,200 per year, which is 2.4% of a $50,000 income.  Or maybe your cable TV bill is $120 per month.  That’s $1,440 per year, which is  nearly 2.9% of a $50,000 income.  Is it worth it?

Ask yourself:  Is it worth it?

If you’re adding a good-sized percentage of every dollar you earn to your retirement savings, if you have wisely invested your retirement savings and seen them grow from the compounded earnings they generate, and if the total of all your retirement accounts is several times your annual income … then maybe you can reward yourself by paying someone to make your daily coffee.  Maybe you can afford a weekly outing for pizza and beer or a movie.  Maybe cable TV isn’t a a big deal.

But, if you’re spending 6% of your income on coffee, pizza, beer, movies, and cable TV …and you’re not putting 10% (at the very least) to 15% (or more) of your income into your retirement savings accounts … then I would suggest that you think it over.

Hand-Powered Washing Machine

wonderwashFor a long time, I’ve wondered if maybe some day I might take an old washing machine and hook it up to a stationary bicycle such that peddling the bike powers the washing machine.  Maybe some day.  While thinking those thoughts I searched the internet for inspiration and I discovered a hand-powered washing machine called the Wonderwash.

Basically, it’s a bucket with a watertight top that is attached to a base that allows the bucket to spin on an axis when a crank is turned.  Put dirty laundry in the bucket, add water and detergent, close and spin, … you get the idea.

Recently, the goddess of good luck smiled on me and I found a Wonderwash machine at the local Goodwill.  As it was only about 1/5 of the normal price, I couldn’t resist buying it.  After using it a few times, here are my thoughts.

First, most people will probably find that it won’t replace a full-size washing machine.  You will still need your regular washing machine to do large loads, especially for things like blankets or towels.  But for small loads, the Wonderwash is a good alternative to using a regular washing machine — especially if that would require transporting clothes to a laundry room or laundromat (as apartment dwellers often need to do).  I can easily see how someone could save time and money by using the Wonderwash for washing loads of small things like underwear, tee-shirts, and socks.  It might also be useful for camping trips or in a cabin or vacation house that doesn’t have a regular washing machine.

Most videos of people using the Wonderwash show them using it in a kitchen.  I thought it made more sense to use it in the bathtub.  I did a load of 3 tee-shirts, 3 shorts (underwear), and a fitted sheet, which seemed like a good-sized load for the Wonderwash.  I filled it about half way with hot water, using the bathtub’s handheld shower.  I added just a small spoonful of liquid laundry detergent.  After screwing on the top, I turned the crank a few times to spin the bucket, then let the laundry soak for a minute or so.  I should mention that the bucket is well-balanced on its axis and spins quite easily.  I continued to crank few times each minute or so for about ten minutes.  (During this time I took a shower, with the Wonderwash right there in the tub with me.)

The machine has a drainpipe at the bottom (which you need to attach to use, but need to remove to spin the bucket), but as I had the machine sitting in the bathtub I thought it was easier to just dump the water out the same way it went in, by removing the top and tilting the bucket.  Then I added fresh water for the rinse cycle, closed the top and spun it a few times.  I like my clothes well rinsed, so I repeated the rinse cycle.  After dumping the rinse water out, I removed the clothes, wrung them by hand to get out most of the water, and hung them up to dry.  The next day, the clothes were dry and seemed just as clean as if they had been washed in a regular washing machine.

Overall, I’m glad I have the machine.  Even though we do most of our laundry in a regular washing machine in the basement, this is a good alternative for small loads or when the regular washing machine is unavailable because someone else is using it.  And, as already mentioned, if I lived in an apartment and didn’t have my own washing machine, I’d certainly consider getting one of these so as to minimize trips to the laundry room or laundromat.  Using the Wonderwash in a apartment would save all the time (and perhaps money) it takes to transport clothes to a laundry room or laundromat.