Add Up Your Household Energy Savings

We’re deep into the hot summer months.  Air conditioners across the country are doing overtime keeping our homes and businesses cool and comfortable and keeping the heat outside.  Unfortunately, it won’t be that much longer before we’re turning on the heat and repelling the cold of winter.  All of that comfortable air, hot or cold, comes with a cost.  Sometimes you’ve got to do what you can to find whatever energy savings you can.

Here in the northlands of North Dakota, we’ve got plenty of options for powering our air conditioners and furnaces.  Predominately, we use natural gas for heat and electricity for the air conditioning, but also have options for dual gas/electricity appliances.  Our house uses electricity for AC and gas for the furnace.  (If you’re trying to compare services, using something like this energy conversion calculator can help figure out which service is really the better deal)

Add up Energy SavingsIf you’re looking for energy savings, comparing services is a great place to start, but there are some other ways that you can help cut the cost of your energy and make it’s impact on your wallet a little lighter.

Adjust the temperature

Adjusting the temperature on the thermostat a few degrees can reduce the amount of time that the air conditioner runs in the summer or the furnace runs in the winter.  Turn the thermostat up a few degrees in the summer and use some small fans to help move the air around to adjust the comfort level.  Do the opposite in the winter.  Turn the thermostat down a few degrees and use blankets and heavier clothing to help adjust your comfort level.

Invest in thermal shades

Even if you have a really efficient home, you’ll still lose thermal mass.  And the biggest culprit for that is your windows.  Investing in thermal shades and blinds can help keep the heat out in the summer and the cold out in the winter.  They’re more expensive, but unless you’re redecorating your house every year, they’ll last years and make up for the added cost in energy savings.

Program your energy savings

Does it matter to you if your house stays nice and cool during the summer while your at work?  Or nice and warm in the winter?  If we’re honest, we really only want our house warm or cold when we’re there.  If the house is empty for 8 hours or more a day, there’s really no reason to waste all that energy while we’re gone.  Buying and installing a programmable thermostat is the best way to be able to adjust the temperature while your away and still assure that your house is comfortable when you return for the day.  Set a schedule to adjust the temperature up or down by 5-10 degrees while your out of the house (or sleeping) and to return to your “comfortable” temperature just before you return home.

Spread the cost out

Once you’ve maximized the full energy savings potential, you still won’t be left without any energy costs.  There’s still going to be a bill showing up each month that will need paying.  If you’ve got one energy supply feeding your air conditioner in the summer and another feeding your furnace in the winter, like I do, chances are your bills will spike during the hottest and coldest months of the year.  Most utilities will have some sort of payment system that will allow for you to pay an even amount each month.  We’ve got both our electricity and gas accounts on such a program.  We pay a relatively flat rate each month to each utility, and avoid paying large bills during the extremes of the seasons.

What other ways do you employ to create energy savings for your household or business?

New Addition to the Beating Broke Family

Things have been a bit hectic around here over the last week or two. We had a baby!  Surprise.  I seriously realized after she was born that I hadn’t even mentioned the fact that we were expecting on here.  I guess when it’s the third child, the excitement level and having to tell the whole world aren’t as high.  :(  So, sorry about that.

We’re Pregnant!

Better late than never, right?  Never mind that it’s close to 11 months later.  Our little baby is now a little over a week old.  Insert cute picture of infant here:

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If there’s one thing that we’ve noticed with the third child is that it’s so much different than the first two.  With the first one, we did the typical new parent thing and bought every little gadget and gizmo that all the ads tell you that you need to have.  We had so many clothes, diapers, and formula that we could have opened up our own infant store.  With the second one, we already had a bunch of the gadgets and furniture, so it was cheaper.  Plus, we’d already done this once, and knew what we thought we needed.  We only bought the stuff that we thought we needed.

The third child is a totally different thing.  We’ve done this a couple times, but the last one was 5 years ago.  We’d thrown out most of the furniture, car seats, and most of the toys.  We’d also given away most of the other stuff we had.  But, instead of going out and immediately re-buying all that stuff again, we did it the cheap way.  Some friends of ours recently had a child, so we have borrowed a lot of the gadgets.  Car seats, swings, etc all are  from them.  Another friend of ours recently had a baby that had conveniently just grown out of her newborn clothes.  We had an instant closet full of clothes for our baby. There are some other things that we had to go out and buy, but our costs for new things has been pretty minimal.

Of course, there’s no level of borrowing or purchasing that will get us full nights sleep right now. :)

Thinking back, we were early to the baby-making game among our friends.  Borrowing stuff, and receiving hand-me-downs wasn’t really possible with the first two.  I’m glad it is possible here.  I highly encourage you to find as much stuff to borrow if you’ve got friends that have kids.  And it helps if you’ve got friends that have recently had babies too.  Especially when they’re ready to get rid of the boxes of clothes that they’ve gathered.

How do you help make baby cheaper?

 

 

Keeping Up With the Smiths

Keeping up with the Joneses is bad.  We know that.  From a financial perspective, we spend a great deal of our time overcoming the green monster called envy in order to keep our lives in some semblance of financial order.  We know the Joneses down the street with their big, fancy new SUV.  We see them going on long family vacations.  And we know the guy that mows their lawn.  But, we also know that there’s a pretty high probability that they still owe a ton of money on that SUV.  That that family vacation likely was financed through a credit card.  Their entire financial life depends on them keeping their well-paying jobs.

Forget the Joneses

I’d like to talk about another family.  The Smiths.  You don’t know them.  We don’t talk about them like we do the Joneses.  Why don’t we?  Because, outwardly, their lives are nothing to be envious of.  They don’t own a big house on a double lot.  They don’t drive a brand new Escalade.  Their family vacations consist of weekend trips to state parks or trips to visit family a couple of counties over.  Outwardly, they may even seem a bit downtrodden.  They may seem (GASP!) a bit poor.

Sometimes they are.  Sometimes, they are truly victims of their circumstance, or their poor financial choices along the way.  But, for every one of those families, there’s at least two that aren’t poor.  They have well paying jobs.  They have money in the bank.  And they occasionally barbeque a steak on the cheap grill they have on their back deck.  It’s those Smiths I’d like to talk about.

It’s the Quiet Ones You Have to Watch Out For

Why don’t we know the Smiths?  Because we live in a society that is enamored of our celebrity.  We hang on every word that that famous athlete, or famous actress says.  We try and model our lives after theirs.  They live a glamorous life, full of flashing photography, red carpets, and any number of endorsement deals.

Keeping up with the Smiths

Who wouldn’t want to be like that?  Short of being famous, we decide that we’ll see how close we can get.  The bank doesn’t turn us down for that big house, big car, or vacation to the same beach that the celebrities hang out on.  Maybe we’ll even get to see one of them!

But, it’s the Smiths we should know.  We should know people who live their lives responsibly within their means.  We should know people who live for more than having our fellow neighbors think about how rich we are, and how rich our lives must be.  We should be the Smiths.  We should be the people who drive the reliable older car without the flashy rims and booming sound system.  We should be the people who live in the smaller house that we try and repair ourselves.

Society may push us towards that Joneses sort of lifestyle.  After all, what would become of some of the companies if we stopped trying to keep up with the Joneses and stopped buying all their luxury goods?  What would the news and tabloids cover if we weren’t constantly buying their rags in order to find out what sort of clothes the princes and princesses of some foreign country were wearing this spring?

Shiny Facades, Crumbling Foundations

All around us, there are Smiths.  We don’t notice them, and we rarely get to know them.  We’re surrounded by the Joneses, and the shiny facades of businesses and economies that are driven by their reckless spending.  But, under those shiny facades is a crumbling foundation.  The economy of the world is on shaky ground.  We saw just how shaky it really was in 2008.  When the housing market crashed, it very nearly brought the entire world economy with it.  Luckily, the economy was strong enough at the time to take a beating.  It wasn’t strong enough to bounce right back.  It’s been a long slog back to where we were.  We aren’t even back there yet.  There are still parts of the world that are hurting economically.

Imagine, for a moment, if we rebuilt that economy, not on the sands of bailouts and extended unemployment benefits, and instead built it on the bedrock of hard work and frugality that got us where we were in the first place.  Imagine if we had seen the folly of our loose spending ways and tightened our belts, stuck to our budgets, and started building an economy that doesn’t shake and quiver at the smallest rise in unemployment, or the slightest miss in an earnings report?

What if, instead of running around willy-nilly chasing the lifestyle of the Joneses, we were calmly working ourselves into the stable economy of the Smiths?  What if we all didn’t have wait for our next paycheck to buy gas because our last paycheck went to our mortgage and car payments?  What if we were able to fill a tank of gas from the cash in our bank account and know that we still had our emergency funds to help us along should a real emergency come along?

We can.  We can bring our spending in line with our earning.  We can sell the fancy car that we don’t need.  We can downsize our house to something that we can afford.  Sure, the dependable used car you buy might not have as much chrome as the fancy one.  It might not have the same heated seats.  And the house you downsize to might not have a walk-in closet, or a jacuzzi bath tub.  I’ll let you in on a little secret.  You don’t need them.  They’re luxuries.  You only think that it’s normal to have those things because the Joneses told you it was.

We should be keeping up with the Smiths.

We can be the Smiths.