Friday, 15 August 2014

I like big butts and I cannot lie!

First of all an apology to all of those who came here looking for something saucy. Today's musings are about water butts.

which butt are you here for?
What are they?
A water butt is a container that connects to your drainage downpipe (from the roof of your house/building) and collects the rainwater.

Why would I want one?
Because for a cheap initial outlay, over the course of its lifetime, a water butt will save you loads on your water bill costs.

How do they work?
A water butt comes with plenty of parts, the things to look out for in your kit are the following:
  • the drum (it would be a pretty useless kit without anything to hold the water)
  • the stand (not necessary, but it lets the drum sit higher off the ground, allowing you to use the tap to take water out of the drum - you can frugally make a stand out of bricks or any other durable material)
  • the tap - this lets you take water out of the drum into watering cans or buckets)
  • the diverter - this is a simple hose that connects your downpipe to the drum
  • water butt link kit (not necessary, unless you want to connect multiple drums to act as a giant storage unit)
As it rains, the roof of your building acts as a giant collector and all the rain that it collects, come down through your downpipes and collect into the water butt. Once it is full, any excess rainwater, continues to drain as normal.

But I hear you scream, "tap water is dirt cheap! How frugal can you get?"

Hold your horses. I pay 97p for a cubic meter of water from severn trent on my current tariff. That sounds cheap. 1000 litres of water for 97p ~= £0.001p a litre (rounded for easier calculations). Still cheap. Flushing the toilet uses 15 litres of water, and costs 1.5p, flushing twice a day for a whole year costs costs £11 a year. For a family of 5 - that's £55 a year of good clean water, flushed down the toilet per year - which has a high energy requirement to produce and pump around the country, so it is not only wasteful of precious water, but also burns precious fossil fuels to produce. 

That was the napkin calculation for a 15 litre toilet flush. Shall I get started with that lazy soak in the bath that uses 120 litres of water, or the 300 litre car wash or the watering can fiesta some of us have in our gardens during summer? ... I will spare you the details. But let it be known that I do believe with all my heart and soul, that we are a wasteful society and it is in our nature to spend the resources that we have in abundance. Not for once thinking about the bruises and scars we are leaving behind on the surface of the earth, in our mindless exploitation of it.

For all intents and purposes, we can use tap water for pretty much anything and everything, but do we need to? For drinking and hygiene - yes (although it is perfectly safe to boil water to clean it to drink). But watering a garden patch, flushing the loo or washing a car does not need clean, expensive tap water, with fluoride added to it, does it? 

And in those situation why would you use expensive water? For £20~50 you can get water butts of all sizes and shapes. Not only is it good for the environment (and generally speaking, this is one situation where the bigger the butt, the better it is for the environment) as it saves water and energy, it is good for your finances. depending on your water usage, a water butt will pay for itself within the year. So what are you waiting for, get your butt to the store and get a water butt!

Monday, 4 August 2014

Musings on tyres

Oh how fickle the heart is, it wants what it wants. I have said it before and I will say it again. Owning a car is expensive. Owning a luxury car is even more so.

The underlying costs of owning a car is what really mounts up; insurance, road-tax, MOT, repairs, and fuel - are all part of the on-going drainage on the wallet. But here at the smart wallet HQ, even in the face of defeat, we will save a few quid.

Todays topic of discussion is tyres. Cars get a lot of wear and tear, especially if your job role see's you travelling up and down the country, and meeting clients and discussing projects - a mans got to make his money somehow. Of all the parts on a car, the part that gets the most wear are the tyres. They are on the ground all of the time and are subject to contact with mud, water, tar, metalworks, pot-holes, stones, grit, sand, rubbish, heat, cold, ice, snow - you name it, the tyre comes into contact with it.

I have recently discovered a split in the sidewall of one my rear tyre. The tyre itself is still in great condition, with loads of tread left on it. I am a little unsure of how the tyre split, as it looks very unnatural. There are 2 distinct cut marks on the tyre, almost like a stabbing from some sharp metallic object.

The damage is by no means extensive, it is just superficial and on the surface. The cuts are barely more than a mm deep. But it is alas, enough to warrant an MOT failure, or so I am told.

So, I will now need a new tyre. But no, to ensure even performance, and wear and tear, I will need to replace BOTH rear tyres. (you can image, the new tyre has more grip than the other, and then if you apply the brakes harshly - one side of the car will brake faster than the other, leading to swerving or spinning of the car - not a situation you want to find yourself in).

So, what are my options? Well, my first port of call to the Lexus showroom in Birmingham, 2 recommended manufacturer tyres - £155 each, plus fitting, plus geometry and tracking of all 4 tyres - total cost was just shy of £600. No thank you.

Part worn, again you cannot be sure of the safety of part worn tyres. I mean, they are all not bad and will not kill you, but there is a small risk in putting on part worn tyres, also as they are part worn, they will wear out faster, lead to MOT failures or problems faster than new tyres. It is in my opinion, not much financial economy to be gained using taking this route.

I then proceeded to call a few local tyre fitters, having experience with them in the past, I was a little wary. The tracking and geometry of performance cars is very subtle and should ideally be taken care of by a professional, who has enough reference material to look up exact angles, weights and variances to set the position and angle of the tyres correctly. A lot of small garages, use a string and hammer to measure and set tyres straight - which isn't accurate and may not be best for your car. Again, there were savings to be made here - I could get 'like new' tyres for £50 each, fitted - but again, there is no financial economy or reassurances on doing a shoddy job on car tyres - the only point of contact that I have to the ground at any speed.

Then I turned to a hybrid approach. My plan is to buy tyres online, at low markup. This is possible as a lot of online only companies have very little in the costs of storage (small warehouse or even no warehouse - stock is bought in, as and when ordered), employee costs (very minimal administrative tasks), and very little running costs (web hosting, no large office or building costs). Some reputable ones that I have found are listed below: (who will fit and balance tyres for you on your driveway, you will still need to go to a garage for the tracking) (Whom I have used in the past, with plenty of success)

Most will do price matches too, so you are able to research your tyres across all of these sites (read reviews and performance metrics), and find the cheapest and get them all to price match each other, to see if you can save a little money. Plus also search online (google: websitename voucher) to see if there are any current discounts for the site in question.

Well, with delivery of 2 goodyear performance efficientgrip tyres 245/45/R17 at £220, fitting at £10 (local garage, I then got Lexus to do the tracking at a one off cost of £99 - a total cost of £329 for what would have cost £600 initially. I also sold my old tyres through gumtree, as a set (clearly stating the issue with the defective tyre) for £60. (so total cost of £269)

Not a bad result, but it still stings that I had to shell out unnecessarily in the first place.