Probably all of us have heard the old adage that owning a home is a path to wealth.
Recently, this truism has been debated quite a bit, but I believe most people will still come down in favor of owning over renting. However, something I realized today is that even owners rent. And this renting is costing them a lot of money. Take a look at your bills.
Allow me to enumerate where you rent, and how you could become an owner:
1) Electric power: (payoff time for ownership ~10years)
You are renting because the machinery of power generation is not in your hands.
My wife and I recently installed solar panels, and I’ve finally come to realize that a big chunk of our electric bill is a fixed cost the utilities charge just for running a line to your house. Since we’re using a “grid tied” system, I can’t escape that cost. I expect the generation of our own power to pay off in about 10 years (faster if inflation pushes my power costs up). I would save a lot more money by being completely off the grid, but I don’t think the battery technology is up to a cheap initial investment yet.
2) Television content (payoff time for ownership < 1 year!)
We’re paying our cable company $70/mo for cable we almost never watch, just so we can use the DVR that we love. Well, forget that. Last night we bought a TiVo (with lifetime service) for $600. Simple math tells you that we can record broadcast TV to our hearts’ content and earn back our investment in under a year.
Services like netflix, hulu, and the internet in general will let us keep up with non-broadcast shows for a lot less money.
By owning a TiVo and a computer, we’ve put the method of distribution and recording in our own hands.
3) Cell phones (payback for ownership = ? quick?)
This is the next bill I plan to attack. Why are we paying $100/mo when services like Skype let you talk for free. I believe there are already “skype phones” out there that completely hide the mechanics of VoIP and just let you worry about your conversation.
What other bills could we get rid of? Natural gas is cheap, and converting to be all electrical would be expensive. Certainly one can imagine a gas-free home pretty easily, though. I don’t see how we can avoid paying for internet. Gasoline bills can be reduced by owning a more efficient car, or even (in the future) a solar one.
So, my advice for today is to examine where you can become an owner. It gives you power and saves you money.