Rule #3 for Cheap Living

Look around your house.  How many electric gadgets do you have? 

Television, DVD, game machines? What about a microwave or hot water heater?

How many clocks do you have plugged in right now?

Here’s the big question:  How much of that crap are you actually using right now?

How much was your electric bill last month? Do you enjoy paying that much?  You don’t have to.

Some of the biggest wasters of electrical energy are the devices that we turn off.  Companies design them to use energy constantly—to keep the time or even without excuse.  They are energy vampires, sucking down our money like monsters from a bad movie!

Personally, I think they are in league with the electric producers. If their devices suck energy constantly, it raises our bill.  The higher our bill, the more money we have to pay, and the more those big-suited bozos get to play with!

You can stop them from forcing you to pay for stuff you are not using by simply unplugging the devices when you are finished with them.  Power strips are great for this because you can shut off the power to multiple devices without manually unplugging each and every one. Go through your house and make sure that everything is unplugged that is not actually in use—who would you rather have your money, you or some fat cat?

Use the device with the lowest power consumption whenever you need to do something.  A portable radio will use less electricity than a component stereo system and a small television will suck down less juice than that big screened monster.

Use multi-purpose devices. Do you need 20 clocks when everyone in the house has a cell phone?  Unplug all of those things and use the cell phones to keep track of the time (which you are already using anyway).

If you are not using it unplug the thing. You can’t watch television and listen to the radio at the same time, to turn one or the other off instead of wasting that energy.

Get rid of those little plug-in air fresheners.  Why waste electric when you can place a few coffee grounds out and eliminate bad smells that way? You can also take cotton balls dampened with essential oils and place them strategically to deodorize your home as well.

Unplug that coffee pot.  Keep your coffee warm in a thermos instead of wasting electricity.

The Water Heater

A water heater’s job is to keep water hot until you need it.  The hotter you set it, the more energy it will use to keep that water heated.  Turn that sucker down to the lowest temperature you absolutely need.  If you do need hotter water on occasion boil some on the stove. 

When you get some extra money, insulate around the water heater to help it keep in the warmth better. 

Put it on vacation mode if you don’t plan to use much water over several days, or flip the breaker off entirely. Why have it using electric to heat water that you don’t plan to use?

Remember:  The less hot water you use, the less you have to pay to heat more up.  This means don’t take super long hot showers, or leave the water running to rinse your dishes.  Wash clothes in cold water instead of warm or hot.

The Refrigerator

When your current fridge goes kaput, buy the smallest one you can get away with.  The smaller and more energy efficient, the less electricity that puppy will suck down. 

Keep your freezer full for best results. If you don’t have much in it place bottles of water in there to freeze and hold the cold.  This will also help in case of a power outage.

If you don’t store much in a refrigerator consider investing in a deep freeze and a cooler instead.  You could freeze jugs of water in the freezer to keep things cold in the cooler.  This would give you a larger area to store frozen items while saving on the electric bill.  Who says you NEED a refrigerator if all you plan to keep in it is a bottle of ketchup and a couple of beers? If someone says something ask them if they are willing to pay your electric bill!

The Dryer

Why spend money using a dryer when you can hang your clothes outside and dry them for free?  If the weather is bad string up a line indoors or use one of those clothing dryer racks. If the neighbors complain tell them what bridge to jump off of, or volunteer to stop if they will agree to pay your electric bill!

Dryers are convenient.  I must admit mine has me rather spoiled as well, but they do suck down the energy.  Wean yourself off of them on sunny days, then work towards eliminating them entirely.  If you have a thick item to dry, a well-placed fan works wonders (and is a lot cheaper than a dryer).

I am honestly debating on what to do when my dryer inevitably fails. They have clothes spinners available that spin almost all of the water out of clothing, enabling it to line-dry much faster and cost less than a traditional dryer (as well as taking up less space and using less energy to operate).  I could invest in that, or simply just hang them up and let them dry the old-fashioned way full time instead of just on sunny days!

Lights

Open the curtains and let the sun shine instead of turning on a light in the daytime. If you have nosey neighbors place a layer or two of sheer curtains up so they can’t see your business but you can still get the benefit of sunshine.

Stop being such a night owl—take advantage of the sunshine by reducing how much you are awake after dark.  There used to be a term for that—Farmer’s Hours.

LED lightbulbs use the least electricity of all the light sources available. A 40-watt LED bulb only uses 1.5 watts of electricity compared to an incandescent.  A florescent would use 9-13 watts at the same light output. Keeping the lights out is the cheapest option, however.

If you are not in a room turn the lights out.  Period. Do you like throwing money away?

Don’t use more light than you actually need.  Use task lighting where appropriate instead of wasting energy lighting the whole room.

Solar torches have greatly lowered in price.  Use these instead of outside lights and brighten your outdoors for free. Wal-Mart sells these for less than five dollars apiece so there is no excuse.

If you enjoy a scented candle, use this for mood lighting instead of an electric bulb.  Double the benefit from a single item.

Heat

If you heat with electric, keep that thermostat turned low.  There is no reason to heat the whole house when you are only actually using one room.  Keep the rest of the house cooler and use a form of area heat for the small area you are actually occupying. When you aren’t home or are snuggled in bed turn the heat down even more and close off rooms that no one uses.

Cooling

Our ancestors didn’t have air-conditioning and they survived just fine. Open your windows and use fans to circulate the air instead.  Take bandannas dipped in water and place them in the freezer, then tie them around your neck or on your head for a quick cool down.  Go outside and sit in the shade if you have a tree nearby, but don’t use air conditioners unless you absolutely have to.

I keep them turned off during the day but turn them on during the hottest nights to knock the edge off of the heat while sleeping.  Mostly we use fans to cool us however—it’s cheaper that way. If I even think of getting grumpy I remind myself of my childhood spent in a mobile home without any trees nearby for shelter – not once did we consider complaining about the heat, for it was far better in the summer to be too hot than in the winter to be too cold, and I routinely had frost crawling up my walls on cold winter nights after the fire went out of our wood stove!

In Conclusion..

Quit giving money away when you don’t have to! You don’t have to install solar panels to save on your electric bill—but you do have to start thinking about how much electric you are using. It isn’t hard to reduce your electric bill, and by consciously monitoring your usage you can keep even more money in your pocket.

Have I missed anything here?  Add your tip to the comments for the rest of us!

Bubble Wrap

Once again I have managed to achieve my goal of washing the dishes before bed. Maybe I’m starting to get the hang of this!

My daughter and I spent the day watching movies – though I took some time out to grab a snack for dinner. Simple snack of summer sausage with cheddar.

I used bubble wrap to line the windows in the kitchen today. I want to see if what they say about it keeping in more heat is true. I don’t know yet but I don’t feel as chill sitting by all of these windows in the kitchen now. I will miss my view here in the kitchen. I don’t look out the other windows so they won’t be missed.

I am hoping to have enough bubble wrap to give two layers to at least some of my windows for added insulation. They say that a single layer of bubble wrap will add an extra R-factor to the insulation value, so I am hoping it will help my single-pane windows.

I was going to just put some plastic on them, but cannot locate it since the move. Figured since I had to go purchase something, might as well try something new, you know?

Just a sign that I have too much stuff. If I didn’t have so much I wouldn’t be so disorganized!

Here in the kitchen the thermometer on the fridge says it is 65F in here, and the one near the ceiling says 68F. I will turn it down lower tonight and raise it back up in the morning. Thankfully we keep a stockpile of quilts.

I am a touch nervous about the first heating bill here, so we are keeping the heat low at first. I have been told that the highest heating bill here was $184 one month, but one never knows… I have lived in places and had $600 heating bills, so I want to make sure this place isn’t one of them.

When we lived in a 10×50 mobile home, even with horrible windows (with plastic you could still feel a breeze) the highest electric bill for heating was slightly over $200, but that was several years ago. I am heating 576 square feet here, not much more, and this place is in much better shape, especially the windows.

It will be okay.

Let’s just face it: I’m cheap.

Right now I would feel soo much better if my daughter and I were living in a tumbleweed house: she could have the attic, and I could sleep in the living area like I do now – and live in the kitchen, like I do now! It would be much less expensive to heat this winter, and I could pack up my whole home whenever I wanted to travel to visit my family!

Ah well – I’m happy nonetheless. I am living my version of the American Dream sans house and car payment – doesn’t get much better than this! But we all have little things we like to think about!

It is late, so time to walk the dog and hit the sack.. Goodnight everyone!

Electric usage and Mini blinds

For those who are curious as to how much electricity a device uses, I found a post where someone checked just that. I was surprised to discover that the microwave used less electricity than an electric oven, considering that I have heard that 110 will always use more than 220 in terms of electric devices. Hmm…

I have scavenged two mini blinds and placed them in the big window in my kitchen, where I spend most of my time. It seems soo much lighter and cleaner in here with just that small change! I have one more window here in the kitchen, and I am debating on whether or not to go ahead and purchase a mini blind for that window as well.

My concern is the dog. I fear she will destroy them as she has destroyed mini blinds in the past. Personally I prefer open miniblinds combined with a sheer curtain to not only let in light but give privacy as well, or just plain mini blinds in areas where people looking in are not a concern. In summer when you want the light blocked out the white is great for reflecting the heat, and sometimes I will put up simple black curtains. Before anyone asks, I gave up on colors several years ago due to an inability to mix and match the colors and patterns just so. Besides, simple solids are just peaceful.

Time to go back to cleaning. One benefit of minimalism is less to clean, unfortunately I’m not quite there yet.

Winter Conservation and Solar Homes

It was rainy this morning. My daughter had set her alarm and was getting dressed in hopes that I would let her go to school, for they were having a play today. The child slept most of yesterday and was obviously still ill, so I kept her home. She cried and was upset. I am so thankful that I have a daughter who wants to go to school!

It seems a bit quieter in here with one less computer running at all times. Every little thing I manage to turn off is one less thing adding to my electric bill. I tell myself this every day.

My microwave and toaster oven are both without those digital displays so common in the machines. My cook stove has an electric clock, but it is not digital. I wonder if digital one would use less energy but it would cost more to replace this perfectly functional stove than I would save. Perhaps one day should this one fail I can invest in a propane stove and oven. There are some videos about a man who has salvaged a propane stove and refrigerator from a camper and is now using them in a cabin he built:

“I have 6 video clips on you tube describing my simple solar homestead, solar cabin, and the systems I use to run the homestead.

Each clip is about 5 minutes long. you can watch them all or pick the ones you are interested in.

1- Solar Homesteading Introduction:

http://www.youtube. com/watch? v=lXu45MHrnTk

2- Simple Solar Homesteading Intro continued…

http://www.youtube. com/watch? v=QyPkT5P5ysQ

3- Solar electrical system:

http://www.youtube. com/watch? v=KLnZLypphgk

4- Cabin Interior:

http://www.youtube. com/watch? v=FacIm3bHbYc

5- Composting toilet and solar tv:

http://www.youtube. com/watch? v=QdG6hOqFTd0

6- Loft and office:

http://www.youtube. com/watch? v=UZLJ3CkgdZE

I hope you like those videos! I hope to use some of his ideas to reduce my current electric usage more. Perhaps if I create a small solar setup I can use it to provide electricity to my smaller devices like the laptop and the cellphone?

My electric bill last month, even using air conditioning on the rainy (and sweltering) days was $51. That also included running the clothes dryer for my obsessive cleaning. I do not have extraneous items like electric clocks – my alarm clock is my cell phone and our two wall clocks are battery operated, only requiring a AA battery once a year (which I recharge). We don’t have a television, DVD, VCR or game machines, but we do have a desktop computer that we use for radio, television etc. Eventually that desktop will be replaced with a more energy-efficient laptop. Since there are two of us and we both tend to use the computer simultaneously at times, two computers are a must at this point.

I am in hopes to keep it down year round, but all I have to go on is the previous occupant – he said the highest electric bill he ever had here was in winter – and that it was $184. The goal this winter is to keep from going over that amount. Perhaps by closing off the back bedroom I will accomplish that goal? The room is 12 foot square, so that will reduce the square footage by 1/5 if I close that room off.

I moved the coffee table into the back room yesterday, and have placed the rattan loveseat back there today and brought my futon out here and closed that room off. I will still have to go into that room for my clothes and various items, but if I keep the door closed it will still save energy. The living room looks quite bohemian! I took a picture of the new couch and uploaded it here. It is low-slung, but works for us.

I told my auntie what I was doing, moving my futon into the living room and closing off the back bedroom for this winter, and amazingly she thought it was a wonderful idea! At first that surprised me, but come to think of it my grandparents did the same thing in the winter – I remember going to their house and discovering a full-size bed in one corner of the living room – perhaps that is where the idea came from, just from watching my frugal grandparents!

I repurposed some white plastic bags to seal off the vent in the back bedroom, and plan to use more of them to insulate the area that contains an unused central air return duct.

I am researching more options to save on energy this winter. If anyone has any ideas please leave them in the comments.