Tag Archives: money

Save the Environment, Save Your Money

It seems to me, that there is a direct relationship between the cost of products and their environmental impact.

Monster Turtle in Bangor!
How many miles per gallon, or would it be gallons per mileLawrence Whittemore / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

If the primary use of a vehicle is for personal transportation, it is pretty obvious that a 4 wheel drive, one ton, dually is much more costly than a compact car. It is also pretty obvious that the manufacture, and daily use, of the larger vehicle has a much more profound impact on the environment.

The same holds true for housing. The larger a house, the more the cost to yourself and the environment. The cost does not stop at the end of construction. Energy use and on-going maintenance is necessarily more for a larger home.

Of course, if cost is not a factor and you are not concerned with your personal impact on the environment, then there is no point in reading this. You are unlikely to be reading it anyway. Most people ,however, will use some type of justification for the money they spend, and for their effect on the environment. I wonder at the validity of many of these arguments.

There is no way that you can live or that industry can operate without an impact on the environment. A basic definition of humanity is that we modify our environment to suit us rather than adapting to conditions. The mold was set from the first use of fire, the first use of clothing and the first construction of shelter. We are not totally unique. Birds build nests and many animals construct burrows.

Campfire Pinecone
Foter.com / CC BY-SA

We are unique in our use of fire. Our use of fire seems to have had the single most detrimental effect on our environment. It has also been the single biggest boon to mankind, without which civilization would not exist. Nor could we support the six billion or so people who now populate this planet.

So are there practical alternatives today? Probably not.The cost factor suggests to me that converting totally to solar may not be a solution. Wind is really just another form of solar. It is difficult to calculate the fuel energy cost of solar because of the many variables The manufacture of components, transportation, and maintenance of solar all require fuel energy at this time. The cost suggests to me that the gain may be negative for many projects. In other words, solar conversion may use more fuel than it saves. This is not to say that we shouldn’t begin to convert. There should be a break even point where solar starts to provide an edge. This may come quickly as more solar is used for manufacture and transportation.

Well what do we do? I think the first, and most practical, step is to reduce our dependence on energy. Simply put, don’t use  as much energy. This can save money and may make alternative energy sources more practical.

The number one choice should be to reduce your direct use of energy. Drive less and drive smaller. Use less heating and heat smaller spaces. This can entail some major lifestyle changes. It also means some major changes in personal priorities.

If you drive a large vehicle, what is your justification? I am going to try to list some I have heard along with some I have assumed.

(1) Prestige – A large vehicle is a way to display wealth and power. Well, you can’t have it both ways. You are either concerned with the environment or how you look to your neighbor. More and more, that prestige item is making you look like a greedy consumer, using more than your share of diminishing resources.

Deadliest countries to drive in!
Probably the result of a bad decisionbrizzle born and bred / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

(2) Safety – There is a perception that a large vehicle is somehow safer for the occupants. There is some evidence that survivability is better in a larger vehicle involved in a collision. Probably true, if that collision involves a smaller vehicle. If you are going to head on with a semi, I don’t think it matters. It has occurred to me that the smaller vehicle is also a much smaller target. You could probably improve your safety more by investing in driver training for your family

(3) Comfort – Some validity here. A small car can be a little less comfortable, especially for a large person. It comes down to priorities. Is it really necessary or wise to drive for long hours at a stretch. At shorter distances, I don’t really notice a difference, and I am a rather large man. Manufacturers are improving considerably in this area.

(4) Space –  You might need the space for transporting your kids hockey team and all their equipment. This seems pretty valid. Most families, however, have 2 or 3 vehicles. Choose an appropriate one for the job. Consider if a mini-van would work as well as a Hummer. There is a reason for the popularity of 5 door or hatch-back compacts. They can provide even more cargo space than even a large luxury car.

These justifications actually assume that they confer an advantage. Actually, there are many advantages to a smaller car. Not all are related to less cost, environmentally or financially.

Welcome to Polk county, FL.
Is there a purpose for jacking so high?Ant1_G / Foter.com / CC BY-ND

(1) Parking – There is a tremendous difference between a large vehicle and a small car.

(2) Maintenance – Tires, batteries, wash jobs and storage can all be substantially easier and less costly.

(3) Turning radius – Can be very convenient and time-saving with a small vehicle.

(4) Space requirements – The garage or driveway space required can be substantially less.

Once, while in a barroom conversation, I was bragging about my commitment to the environment by driving a small car. A friend pointed out that surely there was a financial consideration. He meant, I think, to infer that I drove a small car because I could not afford a larger one. There is some truth to that. I prefer to spend my resources on other things.  I could, however, buy a three-year old luxury car, instead of a new compact. I would have to drive it less. I just can’t see any advantage to this route.

john hejduk, berlin tower, social housing 1988
Efficient, but something like an anthillseier+seier / Foter.com / CC BY

This blog is primarily about housing, but with the exception of turning radius, the above advantages apply and much of the justifications are similar. A smaller house uses less space, less non-renewable resources, and can be much less costly. Of course one could live in an efficient apartment and use nothing but public transportation, but we are talking about reducing the impact of the suburban or rural lifestyle. This lifestyle may become unaffordable for many, if we do not.

Going small seems to be a win win situation, reducing environmental impact and saving money. Now how do we spend that money without having too much of a negative impact. You could hire a maid, buy land and return it to nature, or help a third world family. I am sure you can think of many options.

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A house for less than 100000 dollars


Can you build a house for less than 100000 dollars? Yes, it is possible. In fact, you may be able to build for much less than that.

There are many designs available, or you can use your own design, that can be built very inexpensively. Here is how.

I am going to use a hypothetical location typical of a small town in central Alberta. You may be able to do much better.

a house for less than 100000The first requirement is land.

. Property values are quite low in many areas. For this discussion, we will include a value for the land, which may or may not be applicable to your area or situation. In my area, you can buy a single lot of 5000-6000 sq. ft. (465-557 sq. meters). for 25,000 or less. Sometimes much less. Two serviced lots, near where I live, were recently sold by closed tender, for under 5000 each. In some cases it just takes a little luck. I will start with a land cost of 20,000.

To keep keep cost down, services need to be along your property boundaries. In many subdivisions, water and sewer are located under the street in front of your property. Material. labor and equipment cost, to bring it to the house, should be less than 3,000. I will use 2,000.

There are several ways to build a house for less than 100000

By Dwight Burdette (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Natural gas, electricity, and telephone are usually available from the alley. Bringing them to the house should cost less than 1,500. I will use 1,500. I am going to assume that the property does not need undue shaping, or leveling, before you are able to build. Twenty four hours with a skid steer at 75 dollars should do the leveling, excavation, and back filling. Total cost, 1,800.

Hey, we haven’t even started, and we have already spent over 25000, you are thinking.

Land cost, services and preparation is a significant portion of the cost of a house, and one over which you have little control, other than the choice of location. There are a few areas where you can effect savings. Perhaps you could rent equipment and do your own excavating and site prep. Maybe a plumber friend could help you run the water and sewer services.

Now you need your permits. Cost for these can vary enormously, depending on many factors, but permits have cost me less than 1,500 on my last couple of house builds. It might be a little optimistic but I am going to use 1,500.

you can build a house for less than 100000 using locally sourced material

Using locally sourced material

It is time to build. We know that to build a house cheaply, we must use simple and efficient design. The house will be rectangular with a gable roof. Patios, decks and landscaping will be left for when we have a little more cash available. We will look for the best for the least, but will try to build so that future operating costs are as low as possible.

In many areas, building on a concrete slab will have the lowest foundation cost. In others, a preserved wood stem wall will be the least costly. In my area there is not a lot of difference in cost, but PWF might win if you are doing your own labor.

We want a comfortably sized house, so I have settled on a two bedroom ranch style of about 1000 sq. ft. (93 sq.meters) for this example.  Many people would be happy with less than this.

We will try to plan the house for ease of future expansion. This means planning the house with the extra additions included, and then removing them. Possible additions would include an attached garage, bedrooms and bathroom.

Although this could vary, depending on location, my recent experience is that material costs for this type of house will be about 50 dollars per sq. ft.. Our 1000 sq. ft. house will have a material cost of about 50,000 including all plumbing, electrical and mechanical. This should allow for upgraded shingles, colored vinyl siding, extra insulation and perhaps an extra bathroom. Cabinets will not be the cheapest but will be in the lower range. Windows and doors will have to be in the mid to low cost range. There should be room in this for a few frills, such as shutters, for appearance. It should allow for a high efficiency furnace and water heater. If your main goal is economy, you can probably lower this cost considerably.

To build a house for less than 100000 it is necessary to do considerable work yourself

Working on your house

I am, of course, assuming that you will be doing almost all the work yourself, without resorting to trades people. I am also going to assume that you will need to hire some help, just to stay on a schedule. Although it is more than I usually require, I will allow for 2 laborers for 12 weeks at 40 hrs. per week and pay them 20 dollars per hour. Remember, this is Alberta. Our labor costs are quite high. There goes another 19000.

There are a few more costs, which would include insurance, interest on interim financing, property taxes while building, deposits on services, and material for a driveway and walk (Just gravel for now). The 4000 we have left from our 100,000 should cover that nicely.

This little exercise has left us with a house that has a cost of about our target of a house for less than 100000.

Could we build for even less? The answer is an emphatic, yes.

We have included the cost of the land, which is not really part of your house building costs. It does, however, contribute to what money you have available. You may already have the land, or you may find a less expensive location. We have assumed an easily serviced property, but the costs could be more, or less. Perhaps you will be replacing a mobile home, or something similar, and the required services will already be there and usable. These scenarios could lower the cost by as much as 25,000.

Wise buying choices.

Planning for savings

You might have the time, and the inclination, to do practically all the work yourself. Savings could be up to the 20,000 allowed for labor.

You could go the cheapest possible on material and equipment and save 20% or more. There is another 10,000.

You could build smaller and realize a proportionate saving on material.

It is theoretically possible that you could end up with a livable house for as little as 40,000, if you already have the land. Even less, if you are fanatical about it.

It may seem crazy to try to build a house for under 100000

Not so crazy ideas

About now you are probably thinking, “this guy is a total loony.” Well, you don’t have to be crazy to build a house on your own, but it helps. It takes a tremendous amount of hard work, and perseverance, and I am not putting any monetary value on that. If you have a career paying a couple of hundred thousand per year, you would be a damn fool to take time off to build your house. It is for someone like me, who would not be doing anything else of value, or would be building for someone else anyway. The advantage is, I do not have to pay any taxes on the money saved building my own house.There are other little perks as well but they are a good subject for another article.

As an example, I built my current house in 2006, and the cost was less than 100000. This was just under 1,800 sq. ft. including the attached garage. It included two full baths and the garage is fully heated. The high efficiency furnace and demand water heater were considerably more costly than they are today (the water heater alone was 2,500 with out fittings or vent). I used shingles rated for 30 years which were more costly at the time. The windows were all awning or casement for less leakage. My backyard fence was included. A jet tub and a one piece 4 ft. shower was installed instead of cheap tubs. All the appliances including a freezer and central vacuum were paid for. I used 2 helpers for two months at 15.00 per hour. The cost of land was included but, I had purchased the lot for only 5,000. Cabinets were purchased ready to assemble, inexpensive, but not the cheapest available. My actual material cost was about 65,000. The only things left to do when I quit counting was the driveway, walks, deck and landscaping. I even managed to pay myself a modest 1,500 dollars per month for the 5 months it took me to complete the project.

We moved in 3 months after I did the excavation.

There is no doubt about my accounting since 100,000 was all I had, and I did not borrow any money.

From what I can tell, the costs today, are not substantially different. In some areas, they may in fact be lower. Alberta is not known for low construction costs. I expect my current build to cost about 85,000, including land.

I have now nearly completed my new house. For a look at costs follow this link

To build a house for less than 100000 rquires bargain hunting

Bargain hunting

Of course, I have had a lot more time to shop for bargains.

I hope this makes you a little less hesitant about starting on your own project.

One thing to remember, everything depends on careful preparation and diligent planning. If you take enough time to do this well, the rest will be easy.

Take the time to explore this site.There are many money saving ideas and alternate solutions to some costs.

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Saving bucks

 Most everyone likes to saving money. I mean spending less as opposed to actually putting it in the bank or in a sock under the mattress. Those ads saying you will be saving money on this or that are really telling you to take the money out of your pocket and put it in theirs. You won’t be saving  money by spending it but you can certainly spend less or get more for your buck. Building a house is a large project that provides numerous opportunities for saving.

When purchasing material for your home building project there are several ways to spend less. Sometimes much less.

saving moneyWatch for sales of course but it is no saving to buy a Caddy at 25% off if all you really want or need is a Mini.

Ensure competition by asking for quotes from at least three suppliers on major purchases. Your framing package is one place to do this successfully. Most contractors simply drop a set of plans off at a couple lumber yards and let them do the rest. It is much better to compose your own material list so that you are sure that everyone is bidding on the same thing. Doing a reasonably accurate materials list takes knowledge of and experience in construction so you may be wise to enlist the help of a carpenter friend or construction estimator. Include everything that you can reasonably store until used. The larger the order the more you are likely to be saving. There is reason not to include shingles and drywall but items such as siding, house wrap, insulation, vapor barrier, rebar, foundation coatings, windows and doors could all be included. You could also include the hardware and fasteners that will be used during the framing stage. Be specific about grades, brands and quality where it matters. If you have a company name use it to imply that you may be a continuing customer. Have delivery included.

The same applies to contractors especially if they are supplying material and even if you already know who you will be hiring. The difference is to qualify them before asking for a quote. Check on their reputation for promptness, quality of work and liquidity. Plumbers, electricians and HVAC (Heating,Ventilation, Air Conditioning) people will need a set of plans. Contracts are a good idea if your project is large enough to warrant it.

If you are doing part or all of your mechanical work you will need to buy a large amount of hardware and equipment. Shop around for savings on larger items such as furnaces and water heaters both with local suppliers and the internet. If buying on the internet stick to known brands and factor in freight and possible border duties and brokerage fees.

I once ordered a freight paid item from Florida. Total cost about 200.00 dollars. I knew I would need to pay 5% GST (Gouge and Screw Tax) when it entered Alberta but I wasn’t expecting the 30.00 dollar brokerage charged by the freight company to pay the 10.00 dollars of tax. My savings pretty well evaporated

A good ploy with smaller hardware items is to take a list to local stores and and ask for a percentage discount. This works best with smaller locally owned businesses ( many stores may appear to be a chain but are actually local owned). The more work you do for them the better the deal will be. With many stores you can get their stock numbers off their internet catalogue. If you can use them on your list it can save the business owner a lot of work and eliminate a source of errors.

If you have the cash available start shopping considerably ahead of the time you need the stuff. Wintertime is a good time for this in northern latitudes. Watch for sales but unless the savings are over 20% you can likely do as well or better with the methods mentioned previously. You can often get excellent deals on cabinets and vanities at this time of year if your planning is far enough advanced to allow it.

Shop local internet sites that provide free classified advertising. They are a good source of great deals on both new and used items. In Canada an excellent one is Kijiji. You will be saving money and saving the environment by reusing.

If you are not working weekends in the summer you can shop yard sales. This is a lot of fun and you can usually find stuff you need for almost nothing. Almost any home owner has lots of left over bits and pieces from construction and often just want to get it out of their hair without throwing it away. Don’t forget to bargain, it is part of the fun.

Every city has numerous stores that sell used or recycled (or often new) products related to home building and renovation. There are often great deals to be had but you will need to stop by often as their inventory is constantly changing. Habitat for Humanity has many such outlets usually called “ReStore”. Buying from them is also contributing toward a very worthwhile charitable organization.

Well I am just plumb wore out from all this shopping and saving.

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