We are a one income family. Therefor my task is to stretch dollars in order to improve the quality of our lives since I am unable to increase our income due to family responsibilities. Life’s difficulties have increased over the last six years and we’ve hit the bottom of our reserves – time to make changes.
The first look is at our Fixed Expenses, which are well, fixed, so no wiggle room there except to get out of debt, which would greatly free up income and that is a huge priority. The other category of money flow is Variable Expenses. The area where you can make the most immediate change. At the moment I’m researching and forming habits to lower our electric bill.
The first thing I did was to look at what appliances use the most electricity. 1. Central air conditioning averages 1450 kwh a month. I am very thankful we don’t have central air.
2. Next greatest drain on the electric bill is the water heater at 310 kwh. Our granddaughters can drain all the hot water from the tank in one shower if you let them. With four granddaughters and two old fogies all contending for hot water, it is a large source of contention. As a family, we have been working on wearing our clothes more than once if possible and definitely not changing clothes multiple times a day and putting the barely worn ones into the hamper rather than hanging them up once more. Got kids, you know what I’m talking about. Grouchy grandma with the evil eye has that one finally nixed. But “Get out of the shower” is still a work in progress.
3. The next energy hog is your 3. 17 – 20 cubic foot refrigerator which averages 205 kwh a month. To lower your bill there, you need to keep your fridge full but not too full, maintain the correct temperature, inspect seals, keep your fridge off the wall, and most importantly keep the door closed. Kids have finally learned the last one.
4. The dryer uses on average of 75 kwh a month. I’ve been working on this area as our dryer clanks and groans every time it turns on. Hold on baby, hold on! To buy time and save money, I began hanging clothes on the clothes line outside despite it being winter but lately we have been having a series of snow storms every two days bringing with it high winds. The day it isn’t snowing I’m plowing with our antique tractor. I have one clothes rack and a bar to hang clothes on hangers so I’m using them. I’m even putting the clothes rack in front of the wood stove in the living room. No one can get up our road anyway so who’s to see the undies hanging for all to see but us?
I’m buying a gallon of paint to get the ceiling in the laundry room done so I can finally hang the English ceiling clothes line we bought. Hanging clothes raises the humidity and means I don’t have to buy a humidifier, nor pay for electricity to run it. I just learned that humidity of 50 % or more in the home makes it feel much warmer saving you money on heating bills. Besides air drying doesn’t wear the clothes out as fast.
5. For every degree you lower your thermostat full time the rule of thumb is 3% off your heating bill. To save more drop your heating 5 to 10 degrees while you sleep and save 10 to 15 percent. We heat with wood in the daytime and keep our electric heater temperature way down at night.
6. Heat loss is something few realize is such a big deal. We have poor, poor windows and sliding glass doors. We are working on replacing them but this house is packed with windows making it a financial struggle. In the meantime, I am putting plastic on the worst of the windows and sliding glass doors. Others have insulated curtains, most store bought but a few have higher quality ones I’ve made. The air conditioner has an outside cover and a quilted one I made for the inside. When we reside that section of the house we will replace the air conditioner and update so there is not as much air leakage. The doors have seals and even the electrical outlets on the inside of the house that run around the perimeter have foam inserts behind the plate to help keep the cold out. You’d be surprise how many of them leak. Can you get a house too tight, yes, but not likely to happen here.
7. The last energy hog is the oven range which averages 58 kwh a month. That one I will admit I’m just starting on. I try and bake multiple things in the oven at once and since the oven is heated up, it is less expensive to fill several times in a row just like with the clothes dryer since it is preheated. I need to use my Instant Pot if only the instructions weren’t so confusing. The crock pots need to come out more too and I am making more one pot meals. Another area I’ve just begun to explore is using residual heat to finish cooking things.
7. Change out appliances for those that are more energy efficient. The well pump went out last summer and we replaced the water pressure tank too since it was old and if it goes, it can ruin the pump. We put in one a big larger and better since the well pump will not have to cycle as often saving on wear and tear of the pump. I figured the water heater would be next and it was. Each time we try and replace with a better quality, which isn’t hard, with an eye toward energy efficiency. Pretty much everything needs replaced here. A good reason to pinch pennies for.
7. Finally, there is that phantom energy to be mastered. Today, I am going to figure out how to turn the light off on the refrigerator for the ice cube and water dispenser we don’t even have hooked up. ( Still trying to figure that one out.) I put the microwave on a power switch and we turn it on and off with each usage. The stove clock I’m lost on how to shut off. The television is on a power switch as is the tower computer and I am switching to only turning it on later in the day and having our home schooled granddaughter doing her typing course then. Someday we will just have two lap tops. It doesn’t hurt to turn your Roku off at night and the kids are getting better about not leaving their phones plugged in while they sleep. It wears out the batteries and drains energy even when they are charged. As you can see, we have some areas to work on. Not least of which is the garage light which the family insists on using the switch which turns on four lights when all they need is one.
Is it all worth it? You be the judge. If I can save $ 40.00 to $50.00 each month then I could easily afford a new clothes dryer at years end. Or I could buy parts to put together the roof water collection system that would save on the water pump wear and lower our electric bill. All this work for a little savings? The work load is mainly in the beginning. I figure once I know what is worth saving on like I’ve researched quite a bit on the water heater to see if a timer is worth it For us it isn’t since our electric bill is not peak rated. Then I need to set things up and form habits which is the most time intensive. Once a routine is established it should take only minutes a day. I guess really it is those minutes against the money saved which you are figuring.
But even more than that is the principle, “When is it wise to waste money?” I want to be frugal but not a mister for I wish to remain generous. The more I have the more I can give and really isn’t waste a lack of appreciation?
So appreciate yourself and the those who work hard to give you the quality of life you enjoy. My goal this year is to control money, not allow it to control me.