Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Making Big Steps towards Better Snow Removal in Minnesota

Can you believe it?  It’s snowing!  October 15th, and this is the third snowfall this week. It feels more like Christmas in Minnesota, our new temporary home, than Homecoming.

The snow doesn’t bother me much – it thickly dusts the ground.  But it reminded me of last year in Ohio, when Cleveland (one of the biggest salt mining cities in the nation) ran out of salt to spread on its roads.  That made for a very slippery winter!

For those of you who don’t live in snow-laden areas like Minnesota and Northeast Ohio, let me explain.  Simply put, when the temperature is around the freezing point, the plow trucks spread salt on the road, which keeps the moisture from icing up and making the roads slick.  It also melts existing snow.

But it also wreaks havoc on the roads, the sidewalks, and the watersheds.  It speeds up corrosion of metal in bridges and cars.  In a place like Minnesota, they have to use a LOT of salt to keep the roads decent.  Which results in the two Minnesota seasons: Winter and Road Construction.   (That’s a common phrase, but I’ve lived lots of places – believe me – it’s true in Minnesota!)

roadclosed

Last night I was watching the local news and they highlighted a research development between University of Minnesota professor Raj Rajamani and MNDOT – Minnesota Department of Transportation . Rajamani’s and Minnesota’s concern for the amount of salt spread on roads in the US every year led him to a brilliant invention – one that is such a simple solution, you have to wonder why no one every thought of it before.

The idea is to place a small wheel at the front of the plow, which measured the iciness of the road and immediately places salt (located at the back of the truck) on only the areas that need it.  Fairly simple, but it will save cities like Minneapolis and Cleveland millions of dollars in rock salt and premature road repairs.   It will also save tens of thousands of tons of rock salt from entering the waterways near roads.

snowplow2

This, to me, is significant.  It is exactly the type of measure I am trying to take in my own life.  How can I find a different way to do something that will reduce my consumption and waste?  How can I be creative every day and not take the “easy way” out?  It’s a work in progress!

The Cost of Raising a Child?

I just read an article about the government’s calculations on how much it will cost to raise a child who is born this year until they are 17.  Since I have a child who was born late last year, I was shocked to see the number – about $212, 000 ($292,000 if you include inflation.)

$212,000?  I couldn’t believe it. How could what we are spending now equal so much money in 17 years?

Baby E - Will it really cost $292,000 to raise him?

Baby E - Will it really cost $292,000 to raise him?

So I set out to do the calculations myself.

Right now, we pay about $900 for the mortgage, including taxes and insurance.  It’s a bit incorrect to factor in the cost of housing this way, but I divided the cost by four, since there are four of us living here.  However, we lived here when we were three, and if we were two, we’d still probably live here, so I don’t know if I can attribute a full quarter to a child and be accurate.  Nevertheless, I will.

Housing: $225/month, $2700/yr.

Electric runs about $150 a month, averaged over the year: $450/yr. Again, I felt a bit awkward using this number – obviously it’s skewed – I use a lot more electricity than my one-year-old does.

Heating Oil/firewood: about $400/yr per person.

Food: We have a budget of $200 a month, and since we don’t buy a lot of junk food or paper products, it works.  That’s $600/yr per person.

Clothing: I spend more on myself, but for the kids, we might spend $100/yr. Garage sales, clearance, and grandmas are our friends!

Now, so far we are up to a total of $4250 a year per person.  Multiply that by the 17 years the article states, and we get $72,250. Not even close yet!  At this point, I could send my kids to a $30,000 a year school and they will still have room to spare!

But wait!  I haven’t calculated child care or education expenses.  At this point, we don’t have any of either of those.  In the interest of frugality and also my desires to be home with my kids, we decided I could stay at home.  We lose an income but we don’t have certain expenses to pay.  Since we’ve only briefly ever made two incomes in our nearly 10 year marriage, it didn’t phase us to make that decision.

However, to be fair I should include them:  The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) estimates that child care costs for us would be about $500 a child (more for E and less for G, since he’s a preschooler now.)  So that’s $1000 a month until age 5.  Right there, I’ve spent $60,000!  I’m not sure what childcare would cost once they are in school.

I also haven’t included educational costs – school supplies, activity fees, uniforms, supply fees, or any other additional expenses.  I also did not include the cost of furniture (come to think of it, with the exception of a $75 bunk bed, a $10 rocker-glider, and a $30 toy box, all bought second-hand, everything is handed down in both boy’s rooms!) or toys (we rarely buy any – thanks grandmas!) or bedding.

So we were at $72,250 for the 17 years.  I think we could easily add on another $500 for furniture and bedding, and probably $5000 each for toys/hobbies.  I’m just guessing about both, but you know we are frugal and look for deals, or if we need it new, we ask our parents to give it to them at Christmastime or birthdays.  I expect that as the kids get older, they’ll want the more expensive toys – game systems and the games, skateboards and bikes with all the safety equipment, etc.

That puts us up to $77,750. Medical insurance?  Wasn’t mentioned.  I’m sure that would have doubled the total cost listed in the article!  Maybe they are still thinking ahead to a possible socialist-based national health plan, where our taxes would cover it.

So could you spend $212,000 ($292,000 when adjusted for inflation?)  I think you could.  We have a ways to go to reach that projected number, but those little things can add up fast.

What do you think?  Did I miss anything?

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