My favorite energy saving tip (I hope the downstairs neighbors aren't reading this) is to live in a second story apartment above someone who likes to crank up the heat in winter, and make sure the exhaust flue for their heater runs right up the middle of the apartment. I haven't had to use the heater in about 4 years, even the pilot light is off. Winters here are mild anyway.
I just converted the whole place to flourescent lights. Previously I had 4CFL's but then my electric bill went up to around $13 a month over the summer with all the heavy fan use (35watt window fan) so I said, "I can't take it, this has got to stop!" and now the whole place has CFL's.
Since I'm an apartment dweller I don't pay for water, which means I also don't pay for hot water. A hot shower in the winter does wonders for shaking off the cold. I also like to let drained spaghetti water sit in the sink instead of running down the drain. It keeps a little heat and humidity inside.
A few sets of situps, pushups, and deep squats warms me up, too.
My dirty laundry 'hamper' is a cardboard box. I've had it for about 8 years now, still in great shape. I carry it carefully since it doesn't have handles so it lasts longer. I can't imagine paying money for a plastic laundry basket that breaks every year or so, gets thrown in the landfill for eternity, then spend money on another.
A budget and accounting for how I spend my money was the single most helpful tool for getting the best bang for the buck.
I first noticed this when at my old job I would get a snack rather than lunch.
Snickers bar and a soft drink from the vending machine.
$2.75 per day and I rationalized that I was being cheap.
One day my girlfriend and I were shopping and found a 10 pack of the snickers
bars for $3.25 and a case of the soft drinks for $5.00 with a dollar off.
Same stuff for only .54 cents per day. Saved $2.21 per day for 20 days a month (roughly).....$44.20 per month!!!! I was hooked!
Got my brother hooked also.
Garage sale Christmas is fun also.
I already have all but one Christmas present for this year.
Plan well ahead for known purchases. I bought my next set of tires and wheels for girlfriends car last night. Young friend bought some big shiny things and took his 2000 mile tires and wheels off. $225!!!
(17" Mustang Bullitt wheels with Goodyears)
Coupons, sales, rebates, last years models.
Went TV shopping and sales lady told me that floor models where on sale next week so I waited. Found an HD 48 inch Sony for $998. Had a coupon book from Sears that gave me $100 off for purchases up to $999.
Noticed the TV next to it was 52 inch and $50 more but I had a coupon for $150 off for $1000+ purchases. Sony website and bonuses that I signed up for when I purchase a digital camera got me an additional $200 off and then 10% for using my Sears card and 10 % for buying on sales days.
Bought $250 worth of gift cards which got me 2 cheap FM radios (The Incredibles) for stocking stuffers AND a $25 discount. Due to some stock lawsuir I had a voucher for $300 for Sears merchandise. Out of pocket....
$210...delivered. 14 months no interest or payment that I payed off in 4 months from my budgeted funds.
Buy DVDs at the pawn shop for $2..cheaper than renting and swap with friends. Buy tool there too.
Find cheaper method to get what you need.
I discovered I needed a fence so I shopped for fence. I could have just paid the fence guys and not worried about it, but It would have cut my funds for my Mexico vacation.
I could have bought fence stuff and done it for less.
Then I discovered that what I really needed was an acceptable method of blocking a 150 foot area from view from the road to meet city ordinance.
Free 8 foot pallets from the industrial hose place that I do some Hotshot work for and $84 worth of other supplies, I was able to build my own in 2 weekends. Looks great too as I found the paint in the cheap part of Home Depot for $5.
Utilize your skills and those of your friends. Our "We Tight" group has mechanics, housepainters, electricians, restaurant managers (Free pizza!) and college teachers.
We rotate around and have roofed my house, wired my friends shop, restored several cars, designed Advertising campaigns, Got scholorships for 3 kids (Lawyer, College professor and environmental chemist).
I have a group of college kids working on my hybrid car right now as a class project.
Avoid items that provide no direct asset to you.
I work hard to avoid Interest, taxes (legally), advertising and my own desire for the newest and shiniest.
If you can discipline yourself to keep track of ALL you expences for one month...do it.
You may be shocked at how much some activities are wasting and how little some are helping.
As a mechanic, I see a huge waste in not maintaining your car.
2 example are Automatic transmission fluid change.
90% of folks will not do it and at 100,000 mile the $4000 car breaks and they
get a new one rather than pay $1500 for a rebuilt. $300 worth of scheduled maintainance and the car will keep going.
I bought a 98 Mustang with a blown tranny for $400.
Nice car..girlfriend drives it every day!
Item 2: Cooling system! Maintain it and fix early.
96 Mustang was getting hot and blew a head gasket sold it to me for $600.
I already knew that it was still covered under an extended factory warrenty
for this problem so I got it fixed for free!!
Niece is driving a 98 Escort ($100) that got hot and blew a head gasket.
$200 for a new waterpump and head gasket and it was a great car again.
Shop and study before you buy....TV listed above is identical to the newest model with some cosmetic changes and was listed $580 less than the new model.
Buy value..not just cheap.
Particleboard furniture is a TOTAL waste of money.
I went through 3 "kit" computer desks that fell apart in 3 years before I found a solid oak desk at a junk shop for about the same money...15 years and it will outlive me.
Quality clothes...boots in this example.
$200 boot have lasted 11 years with 2 resoles at $30 each.
Before I bought $79.99 boot that lasted maybe 2 years.
Do the math.
Terrific examples and ideas Bruce. I'm definately on-board with the boots thing. Those $80 specials in the department stores are for people who don't really need to work in them. Paying twice that much typically gets one a boot that is made in the USA that will last at least 2-3 times as long.
In other words, cheap does not always mean less expensive.
We have a local furniture store that I want to do business with because all of their stuff is both locally made and is of solid wood construction. We don't need anything right now however, but that is definately where we will go when we do.
I am also very much the DIY type when it makes sense. We installed solid oak flooring into our house over the course of a week for about $1200 + our labor which about doubled the cost. That alone saved us at least $1000 over outsourcing it and gave us a new appreciation for similar projects in the future. Plus out of that $1200, I now own another $600 worth of tools!
Bingo on the flooring.
Discovered that some of the houses in a nearby town were to be demolished.
I was allowed to scavage in one for 2 days before it was knocked down and bulldozered off to a landfill.
I got about 3000 square feet of Oak flooring, iron railings, 2 clawfoot bathtubs, Some curly pine panelling (extinct species), 6 oversized doors and a lot of glass doorknobs among other fixtures.
I was in the process of pushing the house over so I could get the 8 40 foot columns out front and the 8x10 cypress beams when the guy with the demolishion contracts ran me off and let his school buddy with the antique store loot the other 3 houses.
I REALLY wanted the 3 floor cast iron spiral staircase from the house next door. Heard the antique guy got 45,000 dollars for it.
Solar PV powered off grid house. Solar water heater. 50 MPG car. 80 mpg motorcycle. Ponytail and beard so no haircuts or razors. Buy wheat and grind it myself with a hand grinder to make bread. Vegetarian so no high priced meat. No cable TV and $9.95 internet. House and car paid for so minimal insurance costs. No debt so no interest payments. There's more but I can't think of them right now.
My kind of guy. Our place is grid-connected, we use the grid as back up, and have a wind generator and PVs. My wife trims my hair and beard every month or so, my dial-up internet is a perk from work. No debt unless you count the phone bill. Bought our place 18 years ago 2 miles from work as I expected fuel/energy prices to keep going up (I remember the 1970s gas crisis).
Always take "left overs" for lunch at work, and seldom (just for special occassions) go out to eat in our home town--cheaper to eat at home. Grow a good percentage of our own food, and can/freeze/dry/root cellar it for year-round use.
a bunch of items my wife and I changed:
12 out of 19 light bulbs to fluorescents
rechargeable fan .01kw vs fan use .02kw x 8hrs run time.
rechargeable razor 10-14days before recharge.
hang wet clothes 1/2 the time outside
tv/pc/printer off with power strip
don't flush unless its a stinker or more than a day.
some Anderson windows get the plastic shrink wrap also, big diff in room temp
high efficiency washer, wife used distilled water when tide is 1/2 gone, makes it last longer and still cleans good.
cook outside with propane, cooks faster no extra heat inside for ac to struggle.
use better pots/pans, food cooks way faster.
comcast dsl/cable tv $140+ now we have verizon fios $107 and faster internet/with dvr/and 30 hd channels extra
thermostat auto adjusted when not home/or sleeping
wife, me, 2 big dogs heat up the bedroom in winter, feels like 5 degree diff. from rest of house.
new lawn mower uses 1/2 the gas as the old one.
my dad gave me an very old reel mower, i use on front part 2days after i cut w gas just to keep it trimmed.
planted ivy around 2 rear trees, this saves a load of grass cutting from the square foot of the ivy.
rechargeable weed wacker, no more gagging on 2stroke fumes.
1 new plastic trash can collects rain water for watering plants on dry days.
I always repair my own car/trucks with discounted factory parts.
I do some scrap metal recycling money goes to help with bills.
I fly 2xs a year with wife, i missed the last 3 flights
i use ebates.com to save a little also on online purchases
credit card has flyer miles that add up too.
cell phone, pay as you go, 14 a month. I don't really use it but its good for emergencies.
2 small gardens for food.
and of course hypermile to get extra free milage/gas.
buy a energy star ac window unit to cool 1 room
solar panels(someone on this site got me hooked on)the 500 deposit,free installation/maintenance, using sun instead of coal sounds good as long as the company doesn't go under.
solar heating, that will help lower my gas bills since my house's insulation stinks( built in the early 60s)gas bill should drop 40-60% will get my money back in just a few years.
i'd be really interested in what everyone does around the house besides energy conservation to stretch the shrinking dollar.
1) I use VoIP (internet phone) on top of my broadband connection, to keep the costs of phone service down. Not only does this give me an "unlimited" outbound USA/Canada residential phone line (in addition to the main phone line my telco requires me to have to get the DSL), it also gives me a local number to where I work (my home is in the next county and rate center over from work). This means I can phone home to the wife "for free" when I'm in the office. BTW: The VoIP (including the "unlimited LD") costs me aprox $10/month, beyond my other phone/internet costs (and I would need the internet anyway)...
2) I shop for non-perishable food (that I otherwise use) based upon sales when possible, and then I "stock up" at the discount price. In particular, I try to buy enough during the sale to last until the next sale for the same item (since store sales often go in cycles). For example, I just picked up 30 cans of Progresso soup for $1/each (this was the premium soups that are normally around $2.40/each). I just put them down in the shelf in the basement, and we will slowly eat those soups up over the winter when we are in the mood for a decent hot but quick meal. And we also bought 6 boxes of cereal today. Why you ask? Because the current promo is buy 6 and get $10 off + also get 2 free gallons of milk on your next visit. With the cereal boxes running between $3 and $4 a box, that makes the total cost (after discounts) aprox $13 for 6 boxes of cereal AND two gallons of milk. We will store the cereal in an airtight box until ready to eat, and the milk we will drink right away...
3) I often use coupons when taking my wife out to dinner. This doesn't mean we necessarily go to cheap restaurants (sometimes we do, but sometimes we go to fancy places). But we do like our discounts. After all, if your meal is $18/plate, you can still get out of the restaurant for around $25 if you have a 2 for 1 coupon.
4) Instead of a health club, my wife and I are now getting annual passes to a local water/theme park. We figure this gives us just as much exercise as a health club, for less than 1/4 of the cost. And as an added bonus, the rides (not to mention the water slides, etc) are more fun than just sitting on an exercise machine.
5) During the summer we purchase fresh produce from the local farmer's market. Save some money, and the produce is nicer as well.
6) We often save money by cooking our own food. And items like our pressure cooker just make this easier than it is for many people.
7) When eating at a buffet, we often go for the lunch specials. Less cost than dinner, and a large lunch saves on being as hungry at night.
8) When paying for stuff, I often do a quick cost/benefit calculation. For example, sometimes the big quantity isn't the cheapest way to buy something ("unit pricing" calculations, etc). And in other cases you can get something equivalent for much less. For example, on our recent trip, we saved aprox $30 one night, simply by calling ahead with our cell phones, and arranging to drive an extra hour (towards our destination) one night, vs stopping in the town we were already in.
9) And yet I won't always get the cheapest of something. Sometimes I do (yes, I do shop at dollar stores, among other places). But I will also pay more for quality when it seems appropriate, instead of being "penny wise and pound foolish". This is especially true of "durable goods". Get quality "durable goods" that really are "durable", and you could easily (over the life of the item) save a bundle over just getting cheap items that easily break.
10) I try to plan my cash withdrawals to avoid ATM fees. I'm usually (but not always) successful at this.
11) I buy my gas using my AAA (yes, the auto-club) branded credit card. This gives me 2%-5% cash back on my gas purchases. Yes, I use techniques to minimize my total gas needed (I wouldn't be on this site if I didn't), but I still rack up a lot of miles (many of the commuting) over the year. So I might as well also save a little on the gas I do end up buying...
12) Speaking of AAA, I have their "AAA Plus RV" (gold) service. Yes, between me and my wife it runs aprox $120/year, but we also get useful discounts/maps/guides/etc. And a single tow during the year (and that plan has emergency 100 mile towing "for free") can (and has in some years) paid for my entire membership fee all by itself.
13) When we got the chance a few years back, we "locked in" a 15 year FIXED RATE mortgage at a little under 5.2%. Naturally, with rates going back up, that "refinancing" is proving to be paying for itself (and may continue to pay for itself for years to come).
14) I use my Credit Union's free "bill payer service". Not only does this make it easy for me to schedule payments in the future (for example, schedule the payment today, but don't actually pay the bill until a few days before it is due), I don't even have to pay the stamp to mail the money out! But the thing that makes this service so great, is that you can setup a schedule of future payments, to make sure you always pay certain bills "on time". As a result of that ability (to auto-pay on time, every time), I've held onto a 2.9% teaser rate with American Express (and therefore been very slow to pay off that bill) for a few years now (even though the 1st missed or late payment would lose me that extra low teaser rate)...
This project is for me on-going, I started about 3 years ago, here goes:
- Replaced all light bulbs with CFL's, also downgraded one step in wattage (100w's became 75's, 75 > 60, 60 > 40, 40 > 25).
> Wow, $20 a month on the electric thou the next step helped as well.
- Replaced shower faucet with a water-saver (cost $7).
> Reduced water bill by $5 a month.
> Almost literally never run out of hot water, not recommended to test it, but I can
- Replaced heat pump's mechanical thermostat with a digital one.
> Not sure on the savings, but I like the accuracy.
> Mine happens to be programmable thou I think the digital part is the thing.
- Turned the hot water heater down to 130.
> Not sure on savings here, might be part of the $20 a month, but it helps.
- Acquired a kerosene space heater.
> This thing is 98% efficient, at $3 a gallon this thing dumps out 125,000 btu's / gallon, I usually run it 3-4 hours / day at a cost of $30 / month.
> Reduced winter heating costs, more so on very cold days.
Other notes: Start-up / shut-down are the worst part of it, this thing needs to run for at least 3-4 hours, longer is better but it dumps out a lot of heat
- Increased ceiling insulation from R-11 to R-19.
> Can't wait until next year, when I can afford the additional R-30 unfaced to put on top of the R-19, specs call for R-49.
> Not sure on the savings yet but I can feel it, the heat pump kicks on less, and for shorter periods of time.
- Hang clothes outside to dry in summer, run ONLY full loads in the dryer in winter.
> A half a load takes 55 minutes, a full load only 100...
> Once that dryer is HOT it does its best work.
- Every bill except water and for now credit card is on auto-pay.
> Saves money first in stamp check and envelope, then in time spent writing out the check, last but not least never a late fee or interest. Technically it's worth it just in peace of mind alone, only drawback is I recommend maintaining a minimum balance equal to at LEAST two months worth of bills, the money HAS to be in the account, why I'd have to mention this
> For those of you who can, Direct Deposit helps a ton as well.
A FE gauge should be standard equipment in every vehicle.