Who Wants to Loan Me Money So I Can Pay Off Some Debt?

We bought our current home in 2009. We financed it with a 30-year note at a very good interest rate for that time: 4.375 percent. We planned to stay in the house paying off that mortgage for the next couple of decades. Over time, we would become able to pay extra toward the mortgage and, we hoped, pay it off by the time Brenden left for college. I didn’t think interest rates could get much lower than that.

I was wrong.

Interest rates for 30-year mortgages are now available under 4 percent. I’ve even seen them under 3.5 percent. And for a 15-year mortgage, some lenders are offering around 3 percent. That’s crazy. Now I’m REALLY sure they can’t get much lower. Really, really sure.

So we’ve started the process to refinance with a 15-year. It feels weird to type that. Refinancing is something moms and dads do. (oh wait!)

With these crazy rates, we can pay off the house at least 15 years earlier and save $50,000-60,000 or more in interest, and our payment will only increase by about $200-250/month. It might not be the sexiest thing to do with surplus cash, but it seems like a smart move to me. If I have a good experience with my lender, I’ll post an update later. We won’t close for several weeks.

If you have a mortgage, you ought to look into refinancing, especially if you bought your house more than three or four years ago. Check out this calculator to see whether or not it would save you money.

Interconnected Smoke Detectors

Like most houses built in the 1980s or earlier, our house came with old-school smoke detectors and not many of them. Both were in the upper hallway outside the bedrooms on the second floor. We had none downstairs or in any of the bedrooms. I guess the builder figured the smoke would rise through the atrium and eventually trigger the alarm, presumably waking up someone in one of the bedrooms behind their closed door.

Yeah, that didn’t sound very comforting to me, either.

In the 1990s, the building code changed to require new homes to have interconnected smoke detectors. That way if one went off, it activated all the others to increase their chances of being heard. Our first home had this feature, and I loved it. However, I didn’t want to hire an electrician to rewire my current home. My solution?

Kidde Wirelessly Interconnectable Smoke Detectors

Designed specifically for situations like ours, these detectors can talk to each other wirelessly. I installed one in each bedroom and two downstairs. If one detects smoke, everyone in the house will know about it within a few seconds. The setup was very simple, and they work great. The price wasn’t too bad, either. If your home doesn’t have interconnected smoke detectors, I highly recommend giving these a try.

Bathtub Remodel

OK, it’s not a full remodel (yet), but we finally pulled out the remaining 80s brass fixtures from the boys’ bathub. Now the only remaining brass bathroom fixtures are two bathroom faucets, and we plan to replace them whenever we replace the corresponding countertops.

As usual, I ran into a couple of minor hiccups, including a sheared-off screw. It had been stuck in place for so long that it preferred to snap in two rather than leave its home. But I found a workaround.


We plan to resurface the bathtub and tile at some point, making them pure white rather than chipped and speckled and finished with sloppy grout. But at least those beaten-up fixtures are gone.


A Better Deal on Green Power

We’ve been with Green Mountain Energy for about 3 years now. I’ve always been willing to pay a little more to support cleaner electricity, and the company employs good people. Thanks to Green Mountain’s success and the growing interest in green products, several power companies now sell 100 percent renewable electricity at rates lower than Green Mountain’s. So I switched.

I was paying 11.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is high but much less than I was paying a couple of years ago. On PowerToChoose.org, I found a host of companies offering the same renewable electricity for under 9 cents/kwh. Yes, please.

TriEagle Energy won my business with a 12-month fixed-rate plan for renewable energy for 8.2 cents/kwh plus a $4.95/month service fee, making the effective rate for us about 8.6 cents. We’ll be saving about 25 percent over our current rate. I like the sound of that.

You Dirty Rat

We have a rat; ’tis sad but true
I’m glad we know just what to do
He stole our seeds for starving birds
At least I haven’t seen rat turds

Somehow they’re cute when in a cage
But in my house, they stir up rage
In me and Mrs. Box alike
At least she hasn’t gone on strike

I saw him first in the garage
Perhaps in search of some fromage (shut up – my options are limited)
Up on a shelf just out of reach
He scurried off – “Can’t touch this, beech!”

Next night I heard a scratching sound
From in the walls – he must be found
Our lazy cat can’t get it done
Is it that hard? There’s only one

So soon he’ll learn that cheese can kill
Forbidden fruit meets manly skill
From then our home will be rat-free
And I’ll have saved my family.