Oct 31 2007

A quick (or, sort of quick) energy audit


Here in the Pgh, it has been getting pretty chilly at night for the past week. We’ve seen lows in the low 30s and even upper 20s. Yeesh. The days are still nice, with highs in the 50s and 60s.

As you might recall, I am trying to use the heat as little as possible, to cut down on energy usage and costs.

It’s the last day of October, and I’m happy to report that our heat has yet to turn on this season. The temperature in the ol’ homestead has not dropped below 65, but it did hit 70 yesterday after dinner.

If you’re already freezing your buns off at home (or, if your heat has been on all week), let’s do a quick energy audit.

  1. What’s the temperature your thermostat has to hit before your heat kicks on? Can you set it lower? How about setting it so its colder at night, when you’re already warm and under your covers?
  2. Are your closet doors open? Why?! Can you please tell me why you are paying to heat your closet?
  3. The same principle goes to any unused room. During the day, if you aren’t spending a lot of time in your bedroom, how about closing the heat vent to the room and shutting the door? You don’t need to heat rooms that aren’t in use.
  4. Are you using an exhaust fan during your shower? Try to not use it during the winter. Exhaust fans, by design, pull all that warm air up and out of your home. Now, why in the world would you want to do that? The whole point is to keep warm air in, right? If you don’t like foggy mirrors, use a wiper on the mirror. When you’re done showering, leave your bathroom door open to the rest of the home until the bathroom cools off. Then, close the door just like you would any other room.
  5. If you can safely do so (no pets or small children), leave your oven door open when you’re done cooking. That extra little heat it will send into the room will feel lovely. The same goes for the dishwasher, if it is warm at the end of the cycle.
  6. Are your vents dust-free? This is a good time to clean them and check your air filter on your heater.
  7. Are your vents obscured? If you have a sofa covering a vent in your living room, it’s probably not going to do its job.

If you’re ready to kick it up a notch, then take some serious steps to winterize your home by sealing windows and keeping that cold air where it belongs.

If you’ve done all of these things and you’re feeling chilled, don’t turn up your heat just yet. Make a hot drink. I like tea in the mornings , but coffee and hot chocolate will really make a difference.

Wear socks and slippers. Pile on those cozy sweaters and maybe use a small blanket like a shawl.

Heat up a rice sock and hold it.

If none of these things do the trick, set your heat as low as you can without risking your pipes freezing and get out of your house. Go run errands, hang out at the library or somewhere that the heat is on and paid for by someone else.

I don’t know about you, but this certainly works for me!

Oct 30 2007

"I can’t do it! I can’t save money like you can!" Yes, you can. You can probably do better than me, even.


Some of my friends and some blog commenters have been surprised when they see my dinner menus. Not surprised at the food I serve–they’re surprised at how much my menus cost.

For the last few weeks, our lunches and dinners have cost around $15 for the week for two people. And, eying my savings sidebar to the left, they want to know “How in the world are you getting all of that free stuff?”

It’s actually pretty easy. You need to be willing to learn, and you need to devote some time at first until you get really good at the whole frugal lifestyle.

Follow some of these ideas, and you’ll be saving money in no time:

  1. Get all of that negativity out of your head! Tell yourself, “I am frugal, and I’m going to work on being even more frugal because being good stewards with our family’s money is important to me.”
  2. Get a copy of The Complete Tightwad Gazette and read it! You can win a copy from me, or try the library. And, read the comments for that post–all of those tips compile a mini-tightwad gazette of sorts. This will help you find little ways to save and get in the frugal mindset. Remember, saving a little here or there will add up.
  3. Start slow. Take a look at your credit and debit card purchases and look for patterns. Are you eating out several times per week? Buying things you don’t need? Make an attainable goal for yourself, such as eating out X numbers per week, or cutting out spur-of-the-moment purchases.
  4. One thing you really can control in your monthly budget is your groceries. Figure out how much you are spending on groceries each week. Now, lower that by 5-10%. Spending $150/week? Cut that to $135 or $140. Cutting $10 off of your weekly grocery budget will save you $520 per year. Keep it something you can do, but make it a challenge.
  5. Start doing deals at CVS, Walgreens or Rite Aid, if you have one in your area. If you don’t know how to work these deals, you just have to ask for help!
  6. Read frugal blogs. They’re encouraging, inspiring, and most of all, if you surround yourself with frugal-minded people, you will become more frugal. The alternative: surround yourself with people who don’t manage money wisely, and you’re more likely to adopt those habits as well.
  7. Adopt a grocery-slashing strategy:
  • If you have an Aldi near you, go there! You don’t have to do all of your shopping there, but most of the time, you’ll save money on whatever you purchase.
  • Gather all of the weekly grocery sales fliers in your area, or look online for them. Even if you have only shopped at Kroger and love it, look at sales at other stores. How can you be sure you’re getting the best deal if you don’t know what the other store charges? If your store charges $2.50/lb for ground beef, and a competitor charges $1.99/lb, why pay $0.51 more per pound? You might find that the second store has many items for way cheaper. True, you’re probably busy during the week. But isn’t having more money to spend (and save) a priority?
  • Combine coupons with sales (I love www.couponmom.com to help me with this)
  • Plan your weekly menu according to those sales and using items you already have in your kitchen
  • Make your shopping list to your menu. If you know the prices of items on your shopping list, punch them into your calculator or write them next to your shopping list.
  • Use a calculator while at the grocery to keep a running tally of your cost. You should know what your cart will cost before you check out–don’t allow room for surprises.

Hey! I'm Kacie, wife and mother of 3. I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

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