Time to bring the Frugal life out of me this season! As the cold weather approaches, our bills tend to go a little higher, more specifically our gas and electric bills. Living up in the mid-western part of the country, as well as any northern state, we tend to crank the heat to hide away from the winter temperatures that consume us. Even with the cold temperatures and the temptations to crank the heat to above 70 degrees – lets ask ourselves if that is we truly need or if it the sense of being uncomfortable or the fact that the Jones’s next door have their temperature set to Southern Florida during the months of November through March. There is a balance between a scolding 75 degrees with walking around in a t shirt and shorts and a point where you are wearing an Eskimo jacket lined with bear skin or something that sounds like the breaking post of frost bite. Let’s see how we can keep more of the frugal balance this winter.
There is a balance between being frozen and getting a tan within your house during December – I call that being frugal during the winter. Frugal, to me right now, means having that balance where you aren’t freaking out because you aren’t consuming anything (Energy, food, shelter) and to the point of over-consumption (eating too much, wearing the same quality clothes but buying designer, AC during the summer at 55 degrees with the heat on at 75 during the winter, etc you get the picture!). Therefore – a balance is necessary during the winter and amongst life itself. A balance is key because it allows you to take everything in moderation, get the most out of life and to truly fulfill what you need vs. what you/society wants you to need/want! Before we conclude on the balance that is necessary, let’s talk about 5 important ways to save and REACH your balance point, very similar to how Bert found his balance between buying a new TV or upgrading it. The 5 ways to save should help mold where your balance is for saving money in a way that isn’t over or under consuming resources.
5 Ways to Save on Energy Costs
- During the winter – wear a long sleeve shirt/sweatshirt! It totally blew my mind when my siblings were in clothes they could rarely wear even when it’s not during the winter. Here they are walking around in shorts and T-Shirts. Instead, when finding out what’s comfortable, to help find ways to save when you lower your thermostat, try a long sleeve shirt or sweatshirt. This traps in heat around your entire upper body. If you pair that up with pants/sweat pants – you are covering more and trapping more heat that your body gives us. If you throw in a pair of socks – boom – your body should automatically be generating warmth no doubt. This will lead into the next bullet point on how this saves you money…
- The Thermostat – The big ticket item during the winter. The average temperature in the month of December, for example, in Ohio is around 25-30 degrees Fahrenheit. We rarely receive weather above 70’s consistently and in fact, from reviewing our weather history – our highest annual average temperature for the year was 60 degrees with the lowest being 43. I can probably say our normal/average temperature when combining all days is somewhere in the 50-53 degree range. With that – why would you have the thermostat set to over 70 during the winter? It’s not like we get that often during the year and in fact, months September through Mid-May – we definitely don’t come close to that temperature. I don’t think 70 degrees is the way to go for striking a balance. My family had the temperature at 70 degrees and I scratch my head, as I see them in T-shirts and shorts walking around the house. I don’t think that helps anyone in the house in saving close to 60% of their income or even close to it… no wonder my mom freaks out when the gas bill comes. With those temperatures in mind, I don’t think 53-55 degrees is the answer either, as during the months of November through March – we probably won’t touch those temperatures unless we have a weird anomaly day like we had (where my family lives – it was in the 60’s yesterday but in the 30’s today – thanks Ohio!). That temperature requires usually a lot of layering and you also don’t want to run the risk of frozen pipes – as us northerners need to definitely be concerned with this (as frozen pipes can lead to frozen water which can lead to bursts and cracking, yikes). The extreme level when you are at your house would be 55 degrees then I would say; which brings us to the balanced spectrum – 70 degrees on one end with 55 on the other – now the question is – how do you strike the balance? Cut it down the middle to 62-63 degrees?
- Shop for your gas supplier! I think there are individuals out there that may not know you can now shop for who supplies your gas. What’s interesting, is that some even reward you for switching – say $50 visa gift cards or an Amazon gift certificate. Great way to reduce your gas rate and also be rewarded for doing so. Example: I pay $6.39 per MCF usage. I just searched for natural gas prices and have made a switch to this, as seen in this screen shot (may have to click to view. I switched to a $4.57 per month provider and received a $25.00 promotion to do this! How awesome is that? During January last year I used roughly 18 MCFs, therefore, a reduction of $1.82 per MCF has the potential to save me $32 for one month alone! I’ll take it, as well as my Amazon promo! Research your utility company for gas and see what offers they provide for your natural gas!
- Take a “Green” day – once per week. I am going to on a vow to myself – where one day during the week, I shut it down. What do I mean? I will keep the thermostat low, not drive the car, limit my usage of electricity (plugging/unplugging) and just being more aware of what is going on with my surroundings. What’s funny is this really means: No TV, no hard usage of the laptop, use natural light from windows in your house and using dry type foods (cereals, sandwiches, snacks, salads) and thinking of alternatives for transportation. This reduces your utility bills, not only during the winter, but every time you perform this act. I think more times than not we are using more than we need and there are days where we don’t need to keep the sink running, taking a 20 minute hot shower and having two laptops plugged in, heavy usage of the phone to keep it charged, the TV constantly on.. amongst other things. Taking ourselves away from these items pushes us to go out of our boundaries and to meet people. I recently watched the Secret Life of Walter Mitty and wow… talk about just going out and doing things rather than being couped up by our consumeristic mindset.
- Hot Water Tank. Another fun little thing I learned a few years back was the way to conserve energy on your hot water tank. You can purchase a Hot Water insulation blanket that wraps around your tank, which allows the tank to heat up faster and to keep the water at a temperature for longer, while reducing the usage to do so. Further, you can adjust the temperature knob at the bottom of the hot water tank and reduce the degrees/adjust downward. Why? Most of us have our hot water tanks set to a temperature way too high. How often do you turn the shower on full heat and realize you are burning the crap out of yourself?! Or washing your hands and the heat literally scolding your hands? That is because the temperature/max temperature you have set is extremely high on the water tank itself. What this means, is that the hot water tank is constantly keeping the water at a very high/hot temperature so that you can get to that max temperature in case you need it. Therefore – reducing this down to where the max level, literally is the max level that you can even comfortable stay in the shower or wash dishes will save you money on your energy bill. It’ll also go into another facet by reducing your water consumption as you won’t be playing with nozzles to make sure you aren’t too hot or finding that “right” temperature. Here is a nice clickable link to Amazon for a solid insulated blanket for the tank:
Concluding on Ways to Save and the “Right” Balance
To bring this back full circle, the Diplomats are attempting to save 60% of their income and it may take finding that right balance where energy costs are at their peak for us – during the winter. When I am at my house with sweats, a long sleeve sweatshirt and socks – my body is producing an extreme amount of heat and warmth. When looking back – I usually kept the thermostat around 67-68 degrees in the past, but I will now adjust this to show you where my balance is at. When I am out of the house for a long period of time (2 hours +) – I will reduce the thermostat to 57 degrees. When I am home, I will increase this to 65 degrees instead of having it higher. If guests are over – I will tweak this to their levels though – as I can’t predict their balance levels! I believe this will save me quite a bit on energy – for comparison – my gas bill was $100.19 for December 2013’s usage. I have switched my gas provider to save some cash as well, and will also adjust the temperature on my hot water tank to conserve money. My balance will help me achieve my 2015 goals, as I’ll have more cash to pay down my mortgage or invest, as well as possibly take on a few of my other goals of learning an instrument/language, as well as saving for a road trip or two. Definitely looking forward to saving money this winter, as when I lost my roommate – it is in my full control now!
Where is your balance to saving on energy costs and being comfortable? Where do you draw the line on the thermostat for my other midwesterners and northerners? Is my thinking too extreme above? What do you do to keep warm during the winter? Thanks everyone for stopping by and as always – appreciate the feedback!