6 Conveniences We Forget to Be Grateful For

Gratitude is good for you.  It makes you healthier, happier and yes, even wealthier.  But there are some things most of us take for granted, unless they are taken from us.

Here are six conveniences we forget we have, because they are so much a part of our lives.

 Hot and cold running water, with indoor porcelain.

Indoor plumbing didn’t take hold in America, even in the White House, until the 1830’s.  Prior to 1885, no US city had a large scale sewage system.

Not until the 1930’s did rural American homes (for the most part) have access to indoor plumbing.

Why I’m grateful.

In my family, indoor plumbing was not a fact of life until the 1950’s at home.  I have vivid memories of going outside to the outhouse to do my business.  My grandparents didn’t have indoor plumbing, nor hot and cold running water until the 1970’s, so a visit to their farm was always an adventure.

As kids at the farm, Grandma condescended to put out a chamber pot so we didn’t have to trek outside at night.  I’m sure that was no fun for her in the morning!

Why it matters financially.

Sure, you spend money on the water, electric (or gas) and sewer bills to ensure your access to indoor plumbing, but can you imagine the time you would spend trying to drink, cook, bathe, and dispose of sewage if we didn’t have these things.  Time is money.

 Electricity.

Until the 1930’s most of the world did not have electricity.  In rural areas, only 10 % of homes had electric lights then.

Why I’m grateful.

Most of my life, I took electricity for granted.  Then one cold early March day, we had an ice storm that took down our neighborhood power lines for more than a week.  I was a stay at home Mom with two small children, no nearby relatives and no excess money for motel rooms.  We were cold!  We were without our  normal entertainment options (lights for reading, television, etc) and our gas furnace didn’t work because the house fan was powered by electric.

Why it matters financially.

Many of us work from home these days.  Without electricity, we can’t get our jobs done.  If it is really cold (or really hot), you may elect to spend funds for a temporary place to stay – so you don’t freeze or overheat.  You might hop in the car and eat out more often, especially if your home stove is electric and you have.

 Central heat.

Before 1900, most American homes did not have access to heating other than space heat (fireplaces, and stoves).  From the Civil war through around 1900, many different furnace manufacturers started to produce usable home products.

Why I’m grateful.

In my family, we used a coal stove (space heat) until I was 7 years old.  Dad or Mom would take a bucket outside to fill it with coal, bring it in the house, load it into the front of the stove and start the fire.  Until the fire reached a good flame, there was no heat.  I would get up after that, and tip toe (the floor was cold) to the stove, warm my backside, then turn and warm my front side.

At my country grandparents home, they used propane stoves, but they only heated one or two rooms of the house.  I slept in a bedroom that was piled high with homemade comforters, but the temperature dipped below freezing at night.  We had to warm up our clothes by the fire before we would put them on.

As a young married couple with a new baby, we rented a farm house that had one propane stove to heat the entire ranch house.  Although we didn’t have to get up to start the fire, the heat didn’t reach the bedrooms or kitchen.  The baby slept by the stove.

Why it matters financially.

Today we have a central gas powered forced air central heating system.  Natural gas is a lot cheaper than propane.  With the smart thermostats we now use, it costs us a lot less to heat a larger home.

 Fast communication.

Until 1861, in America, there was not a systematic way to send a message rapidly across the country.  In that year the Western Union Telegraphy Company laid the first transcontinental telegraph line.  Pioneers crossing the country prior to that in wagon trains waited months to send and receive mail.

Why I’m grateful.

I reached adulthood (indeed, middle age) before we had the internet.  Being able to sit on my couch and send an instantaneous email message, or look up something from an ever increasing pool of human knowledge and experience seems almost a miracle to someone who grew up when the telephone had no dial or buttons.  We just picked it up and an operator asked us who we wanted to call.  We had party lines too, and you could listen in (and be listened in) on any conversation with the folks on your line.

Why it matters financially.

Most of my life accomplishments could not have been achieved without fast communication.  From grade school book reports (when I called different states to get travel information for the report), to publishing and selling my own book on the internet, fast local and long distance communications have made many inventions and industries possible.

 The microwave.

Although invented after World War II, home microwave ovens weren’t much of a thing until Amana introduced a countertop model in 1967.  Even in the mid 1980’s only about a fourth of US homes had one.  It wasn’t until the late 1990’s that most of us were able to get one.

Why I’m grateful.

Until 1989, our household was among the have-nots on the microwave front.  I did most of my kid raising (and meal fixing) prior to 1989.  It required planning ahead.  If I forgot to take the hamburger out of the oven for supper, I either had to change menus or cook it frozen and chip away at the sides until it thawed and cooked.  If we wanted baked potatoes, I had to start dinner 45 minutes prior to serving time, just to cook those taters.

Now I can leave the meat in the freezer until 10 minutes prior to prep time.  I can cook an entire meal in the microwave (from frozen to done) in under half an hour.

Why it matters financially.

In households where adults are generally involved in work activities for 8 – 10 hours a day, taking time out from work to come home and start a meal so it can be ready in time for dinner could cause issues at the job.  In our home, there is less waste because we have the convenience of the microwave – to thaw, cook and reheat food.

 Our road system.

Until President Eisenhower signed the Federal-aid Highway Act in 1956, there was no interstate highway system.  The nations roads were primarily 2 lane, 2 way mostly paved roads which followed the hills and dales, curves and included multiple stops in small town America.

Why I’m grateful.

Limited access, high speed highways made possible many cross state trips for us, first to visit parents, and now to visit grown children.

Why it matters financially.

Although I complain mightily about the big wheel truck traffic when I’m traveling the interstate, it provides the opportunity for my grocery to carry fresher fruit, more variety and at cheaper prices.  Because of superhighways throughout my city, I was able to take a job more than 50 miles from home and still have a reasonable commute.

What conveniences do you think we forget to acknowledge?

Saving Money On Things You Don’t Even Want to Buy But Have To

Save MoneyThere are lots of costs in life we would rather pass on. Most of these things fall under the category of insurance. Life insurance, homeowner’s insurance, business insurance, auto insurance, renter’s insurance, health insurance: they are all things that we pay a premium for and hope that we will never ever have to use (well, except for life insurance; so far skipping death hasn’t been doable).

This makes a lot of us opt, almost across the board, for the cheapest policies available. Paying as little as possible takes the sting out of having to pay for this (hopefully) non-usable thing a little bit. Unfortunately, this is the wrong way to go. When you buy bargain basement policies you set yourself up for future financial disaster. Why? Because the bargain basement insurers are great at finding loopholes and technicalities that get them out of having to pay out on your policy at all. With a bargain basement policy you are literally paying for something you won’t get to use and isn’t that that’s worse than hoping that you won’t need it?

We don’t mean to say, though, that you should fork over all of your cash for the most expensive policies either. Just because something is expensive doesn’t mean it is necessarily better.  No, what you have to do is look for the right policy for the right price. Here is how you do that.

Do Your Research

At this stage in the game, you need to learn everything you can about what this particular type of insurance policy actually does. You need to learn the lingo. For example, “deductible” is the amount of money you can expect to pay out of pocket before your insurance policy kicks in and covers everything else. You’ll also want to look at coverage terminology, as well as the basic laws of insurance and insurance coverage in your state. The more you know about what insurance is, the language it uses and how it is governed in your state, the better able you will be to pick a policy that will actually work for you…and the less likely you will be to get taken advantage of by an insurance company.

Reduce Your Costs

The type of car you drive plays a large role in the amount of money you will pay for an insurance policy. Newer cars, cars that have safety issues, etc. are more expensive to insure. The more expensive your belongings, the more your home or renter’s insurance policy will cost. Now, nobody is going to tell you to trade your car in for an older model or to get rid of family heirlooms. If you’re in the market for a new car, though, consider an electric and super safe model. Consider keeping smaller expensive and important items in a safety deposit box instead of in your closet.

Look for ways to reduce the amount of coverage you need where you can. For example, if you’re shopping for a homeowner’s policy, consider installing a security system. It will cost more now, but you could make up that cost in insurance savings.

Shop Around

Once you know how to read and compare policies and you know the value of what you’re covering, it is time to go shopping. Take your time here. Compare the details and price of each car insurance policy. Which companies give you a better value for your dollar? Which policies will actually cover you and pay out when you need them?

Whenever possible, do your research and shopping around with real people. Talk to or, even better, meet with actual agents in person. Get each quote in writing. This way, if you decide to buy, they can’t unexpectedly charge you more than you had talked about in your initial consultation. Written quotes also give you leverage when shopping for a policy. Most insurance companies want your business and are willing to price match to get it. If you can provide written proof that the same coverage costs less with another agent, you might be able to negotiate a cheaper rate.

The point is that you don’t have to settle for terrible coverage or ridiculously high prices. When you do your homework and you take steps to reduce the amount of coverage you’ll need (where applicable), there is no reason that you shouldn’t be able to get the perfect amount of coverage for the perfect price.

Have you recently found a hack that will allow you to reduce the cost of those expensive necessities in life (the kind you don’t want to buy but can’t go without)? Share your advice in the comments!

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