Soooooo…. with no jobs to be had – and the remaining funds from my retirement rapidly dwindling – I have to figure out some way to keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellies just a little longer.  Finances are something that I enjoy juggling and my ability to pinch a penny into being convinced that he is a dime – is renown!

Let’s examine some Frugal Finance tips to save on utilities around the house…

Electricity:

We unplug and turn off everything in the house when we are not actively using it.  Power strips are GREAT for this!  That kills any “vampire draw” that modern electronics seem to all have these days. They have lights and hidden electronics that continue to run even when the appliance appears to be not in use!

A wonderful tool is the Kill A Watt meter, to discover how much electricity your household items use and when.  Available for about $20 at Home Depot or Amazon (P3 P4400 Electricity Usage Monitor) although they only have a six month warranty because they are prone to failure when used CONTINUOUSLY… buy local if you are going to keep the load going through your KillAWatt!  If you are only going to use it for data collecting, purchase the cheapest option, even if it might require mailing it back to Amazon.

Collect your household power usage! Plug it all in an Excel spreadsheet as you collect the info, because you won’t be able to retain it all.  This makes for quick sorting and prioritizing.  Decide where to best cut back on your energy consumption.  Unplug and sell things, turn off power strips feeding the items you decide to keep, and chose to replace energy-hog items with alternatives.

Note:  Anything that uses electricity to create heat is a hugely inefficient item.  Think of your oven, space heaters, hair dryers, clothes dryers, HVAC, etc.

Electricity Saving Tip:  My rent house has a brand new Energy Efficient electric (OMG!) oven and range.  It uses a horrendous amount of electricity to cook things. partially because of its large interior capacity that needs to be brought up to temperature.  I bought a little $20 toaster-oven which uses substantially less than the big “real” oven.  I am cooking for only two, so this makes it worthwhile to use. An even bigger savings, even though it still uses electricity to make heat, is using my 1980’s crock pot!  It uses substantially even less electricity, even when factoring in that it is running for 4-8 hours.  And what is even more efficient is using a solar oven… free, quiet, sustainable, no smoke like a fire pit would have, and for the $300 investment – a lifetime of free cooking.  (All American Sun Oven)

 

Water:

This one is more tricky because the things that you THINK are saving you water, might not be as efficient as you imagine.

We wash dishes by hand because we eat once or twice a day, and make very little in the way of dirty dishes.  When we cook, we don’t make huge messes or piles of dishes. And there is only the two of us…

Most families, though, would spend more water hand-washing their dishes, than were they to run a modern, efficient automatic dishwasher.  Check the make and model of your automatic dishwasher and see if he is more of a water waster than were you to fill the sink and wash/rinse your dishes by hand.

Showering can be your second biggest water usage.  Most Americans shower daily, and take 15 minute showers, using equipment that claims to be water restrictive delivery.  A quick check of showerheads over the years has proven to me that most of them have the restrictor plates removed!  Check yours and see if it is a water saver version.

Water Saving Tips:  

Shower every other day, unless you’ve done something icky.  The act of scrubbing all the oils off your skin, only to slather on man-made lotion back on, simply boggles my mind, Ladies!  Wash your face and pits and groin – and call it good!

Invest in a bidet.  The rest of the world knows what really needs washed and when. How come Americans, with all their phobic bathing, fail to attend to the one time and place that needs a good cleaning?  I’ll leave it at that…

Collect rainwater and wash your hair with it. The perfect water, cold or room temperature, is a treat for your lovely locks!  This doesn’t save you water; it saves you conditioner! You can thank me later.

I am a conscientious objector to the low water HE clothes washing machines.  I will not get on my little soap box on this topic.

Internet:

Shop around!  It is misplaced dedication to remain loyal to your ISP if they are not also being loyal to YOU.  I spent years, decades, using the same ISP – and when it dawned on me that I had to call them every 90 days or so to make them lower my bill again, and again, and again. I had essentially created a job for myself to force them to give me reasonable rates that they freely gave to new customers. I got fed up!  They never rewarded my loyalty.  So, I moved all my eMails over to gMail accounts and started comparison shopping…  I increased my speed by 100x and reduced my bill to 1/3 of what I had been paying for decades.

Groceries, Food, Household Items:

For one month, log every single cent you spend on food, laundry soap, body soap, cleaning products, dog food, anything you purchase at your local grocery store.  Inspect every single receipt when you buy grocery and household items. Very critically look at every expenditure.  This is our most flexible expense.

I admit that my one indulgences is food.  I don’t know if I starved to death in a previous life or what… but I eat well. And I only buy good food.  By good food, I mean only whole items, or identifiable parts and pieces.  I don’t like processed foods.  I find it yucky.  And generally, it makes me feel poorly when I do eat junk. (Placebo Effect or reality, I don’t know, but it makes me feel ill.)

That’s not to say that we don’t eat lots of beans – we do.  There isn’t a much cheaper meal than a big ol’ crockpot of red beans and rice, and it is good for you! Rich in fibre and low in fat (and the fat that it does have is good ol’ meat fat) and a good balance of proteins to carbs.  And it is yummy!

We also pick up huge slabs of steelhead “salmon” and cut it into 6 oz. servings.  We eat asparagus.  And make stuffed mushrooms.  It is a balancing act.  We eat well, and the dogs eat a good quality dog food, and in exchange we make our deodorant and laundry soap and yogurt — plus houseclean with vinegar and super washing soda and ammonia. Cut back where you can and splurge within reason.

Which brings me to my final suggestion…

Budgeting

Yeahhhh, I know, I know. The dreaded B-word… sigh.

But if you do not know where you money is going, it will go where it wants and do what it wants.  You will always be standing there at the end of the paycheck, wondering where it all went and who allowed it!

Think about it.  Last time you filed your taxes – did you look at your annual income and know exactly where those dollars (or rupees, pounds, Euros, peso, lek, yen, real, franc, rand, dong) or ducat WENT?

Get a leash on your expenses and a lasso on your income.  You will be able to make it all work FOR you instead of meandering off without you…

If you haven’t already listened to any Dave Ramsey, I suggest you do.  He has some very great advice. The stuff our grandparents knew, but somehow has gotten lost in the translation as we, as a society, have become rabid consumers. His podcasts are very uplifting, especially if you are one of those folks who needs a little reinforcing and cheerleading to get you started or keep you going.

I don’t like his budgeting app. I found it awkward and too data-entry intense, and the $100 fee to have it work with my bank was a bit too steep for my budget.  Go figure!

I prefer YNAB for my budgeting needs.   You Need A Budget has an app that for $50 a year, works seamlessly with your bank to import every transaction.  It also has a website presence that is easy to navigate.  Cash transactions can be manually entered, if you are a cash-kinda person.  It is easy to adjust, edit, add, or remove Categories with YNAB, too.

This is the abbreviated version of my frugal household economics.  I skipped vehicles, insurances, and all sorts of stuff.  These are some of the big ones that most everyone uses.  Most everyone can easily slip the belt a notch tighter without keeling over…

What do you do to reduce your household budget?  How do you cut corners without feeling like you’re being punished?  Share your thoughts and experiences!

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Tali

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