Posted on Wednesday, 30th November 2016 by

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About two years ago I purchased hearing aids from Costco and talked about the process in an article titled “Did You Hear That? A Fitting End to a Frustrating Problem.” The two hearing aids were only $1699.00 and my FEHB plan reimbursed me for the total amount. I had to have Costco send one of the hearing aids back to the manufacturer about a year after the purchase and I received a new replacement within a week. I purchased my hearing aids from Costco because of their reasonable prices, thorough and comprehensive hearing tests, and the fact that we travel and I can have them serviced at most Costco outlets nationwide.

We were on a fall vacation trip last month and one of my hearing aids failed. I took it to a local Costco in Myrtle Beach and they put a rush on the service. I had a new unit within three days. I still have a year on the full replacement warranty and after that if one fails they only charge $125 to have it sent back and serviced! Costco provides an additional one year warranty on the serviced unit; not bad. The first pair that I purchased through a local doctor’s office five years ago cost almost twice as much and after the original warranty was up they charged me $250 to refurbish a unit.

I also noticed that the Costco in Myrtle Beach employed three audiologists and they had three fully equipped sound booths in operation. Their hearing aid program seems to be growing. My FEHB GEHA plan covers $2,000 for new hearing aids every three years and I’ll be able to pick up a new pair next October.

The one thing I plan to do when I upgrade is get the more expensive aids. The next level up is $2,600 for the pair, I’ll have to pay anything over $2,000 but I believe it will be worth it.

Keeping Active

My wife and I both have a FITBIT One activity tracker that I first mentioned in the Lifestyle Update section of a recent article.  I’ve been using my FITBIT One since April of this year. A recent weekly report showed that I walked 77,824 steps, 35.69 miles, walked up a total of 66 flights of stairs, and burned 18,022 calories. This is about my average weekly activity. My wife always beats me by about 1,000 to 1,500 steps each day. From late April 2016, when I first purchased my tracker, through October 30, 2016 I walked 1,965,696 steps, 901 miles, climbed 1,938 floors, and walked a total of 790 miles!

An activity tracker encourages you to meet or exceed your daily target and if I see that I’ve been at my desk too long, I check my FITBIT and get up to work on other projects or start walking. During the winter months I walk on our treadmill and my wife walks in the house. She has a fixed daily routine that really racks up the miles.

Just getting up and stretching can make a difference. I keep a small squeezable ball at my side when watching TV and use it to do dynamic tension exercises. I try to keep active as much as possible, it’s too easy to put things off and become a couch potato.

Energy Saving Thermostat Installation

I like to talk about projects I’ve worked on that proved to be worthwhile and economical.  I called two HVAC companies for quotes to install a smart thermostat for my HVAC system this year. Our electric supplier was offering a $125 rebate if we replaced our existing thermostat with one of the four on their prequalified list. Both companies quoted prices to install the Carrier Cor thermostat; one estimate was $525 and the second $745! Santee Cooper, our electric supplier, listed four preapproved thermostats including the Nest Learning, Carrier Cor, Honeywell Lyric, and Bryant Housewise.

After researching several, the one that stood out for me was the Nest Learning model. I called the company with the low bid and asked them for a quote for the Nest installation. One of my primary concerns was that the NEST controls humidity levels in your home without having to install a dehumidifier plus I could control and monitor the new thermostat from anywhere with my iphone. The thermostat connects to your local Wi-Fi. It has a cool to dehumidify setting that kicks in if the humidity rises about 65%. You can also program the fan to run for a set time each day, I set ours to run for 60 minutes from 8:00 to 9:00 each morning to circulate air.

After waiting several days and no call back, I visited the NEST website and discovered just how easy it was to install the unit myself. They even provide a wiring diagram for your unit if you send them a picture of the thermostat mounting face plate. I purchased the NEST from Lowes for $249.95 and they gave me a 10% veteran’s discount. After the $125 rebate my total cost was around $150 including sales tax. This saved me over $400! It only took about an hour to change out the old thermostat. I could have done it quicker but took my time to reconfirm every step and connection plus I contacted tech support to help me connect the NEST to my Iphone app. A novice can easily install this thermostat.  They take you step-by-step through the process and even include a small screwdriver to disconnect the wiring after you turn off the power to your system. No other tools are needed and their installation video is excellent.

All in all, it’s a great thermostat. I can monitor and adjust my home’s temperature, humidity, and energy usage from my iphone. It also displays outside temperature and weather conditions.  I was about to close out this article until I read a black Friday ad featuring the NEST at Lowes for only $199. I purchase the nest for $249 two weeks ago. I took my receipt back to Lowes and they honored the lower price and credited my card for the difference! I ended up only paying just under $100 with all of the rebates…, quite a deal.

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Disclaimer: Opinions expressed herein by the author are not an investment or benefit recommendation and are not meant to be relied upon in investment or benefit decisions. The author is not acting in an investment, tax, legal, benefit, or any other advisory capacity. This is not an investment or benefit research report. The author’s opinions expressed herein address only select aspects of various federal benefits and potential investment in securities of the TSP and companies mentioned and cannot be a substitute for comprehensive investment analysis. Any analysis presented herein is illustrative in nature, limited in scope, based on an incomplete set of information, and has limitations to its accuracy. The author recommends that retirees, potential and existing investors conduct thorough investment and benefit research of their own, including detailed review of OPM guidance for benefit issues and for investments the companies’ SEC filings, and consult a qualified investment advisor. The information upon which this material is based was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but has not been independently verified. Therefore, the author cannot guarantee its accuracy. Any opinions or estimates constitute the author’s best judgment as of the date of publication, and are subject to change without notice. The author explicitly disclaims any liability that may arise from the use of this material.

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