Hey guys – Happy 4th of July weekend!

Thank you, thank you and thank you again for the amazing notes & messages during & after the June “Frugalista Diet” Challenge. WOW! You are all fantastic, and your ideas, humor & words of encouragement were VERY appreciated!

Okay, I’ve had two days to recoup, as well as enjoy my first piece of post-diet pizza. Power is back up & running after the late-June monster storm, and I’ve started to get the major points together for our July Challenge.

First, some history. Last July, we had an electric bill of $217.57. Not bad, but could be much better. Since then, PP&L has raised rates 30%. Granted, their rates were very reasonable to begin with, AND they hadn’t raised rates in years. I’m not going to begrudge any company making a decent living. That all said, the timing completely reeks. Unemployment is up, raises are pretty much non-existent, personal savings are being dipped into just to stay afloat already, so a spike in rates right at this point in time is rather breathtakingly crummy timing.

Ah well, boo hoo. Deep cleansing breath. Pity party over. Electronic kavetching via blogging isn’t going to put a penny in our pocket. (Trust me, I’ve tried. A lot.) What WILL work is thinking a bit outside the box, using some tried & true tricks, and perhaps incorporating some new & improved ones.

Therefore, your Frugalista Heroine’s seemingly-impossible goal here is to keep this month’s electric bill BELOW last year’s bill. When the month is done, I need an electric bill of $217.56 or LESS to succeed. Yes, again, this despite a 30% increase in rates. If I use energy this July like I did LAST July, the bill will be around $300. Unacceptable. Therefore, my goal, nay, my quest, is to find ways to lower my household’s power usage by at least 31%, without sacrificing quality in my utterly spoiled, appliance-addicted, energy-dependent life.

Here’s the four-pronged, electric cattle-prod approach to making this happen:

(1) Research alternative energy providers. Until now, when it came to energy providers, we went with the one automatically provided by PP&L. Since the rate hike, I’ve been BOMBARDED with mailers with info on alternative providers. One that seemed a good fit was Dominion. Their website is at http://www.dom.com. They’re currently running an offer in which – if you switch to them for your energy provider – you have a guaranteed savings of 15% over your current rates. They work with customers in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic & Northeast regions of the U.S., where approximately 40% of the country’s energy is consumed. If you reside in these areas, take a look at their website. Could be a good fit!

(2) Reducing electric dryer dependence to almost nothing. It’s July, somewhat famous for the heat, lending itself nicely to drying clothes on the line in record time. Those of you familiar with my blog already know I’ve been drying my clothes, the kids’ clothes, sheets, towels, etc on our clothesline since last September, and it’s taken down costs fabulously. Should be helpful again this month. To create even bigger savings this month, I’m going to try to talk Victor into letting me do more of his towels on the clothesline. Yes, I’m the first to admit there is a marked difference in air-dried vs. dryer-dried towels. That being said, towels are an energy HOG to dry in the dryer. Wish me luck.

(3) No more dishwasher use. Again, I’ve had this strategy in play since last September, to great success. Energy costs definitely came down. At this point, I’m using my dishwasher strictly as a drying rack, and running it once a week on low settings just to keep it in good shape. I’ll keep doing that, it will no doubt help.

(4) Turning into the Power Nazi. At night, and when we leave the house during the day, the computer goes OFF. When it’s a bright, summertime day, there’s no need to turn on ANY lights, unless complicated surgery is being performed in same room. If I’m cooking on the stove, I cover pots & turn the heat down to simmer. If I’m baking like a crazy woman (kids are muffin hounds & I’m usually on cake detail for some celebration or another), I use only one of the ovens in my (yes, ultra-spoiled) top/bottom convection wall unit (purchased when I was part of a “Dual Income, No Kids” household. Ahem). If I’ve got a lot of different things to bake, I’ll now keep it to one oven, alternate pans on different racks & switch it up halfway thru the baking time.

(5) Give me ideas! What has worked for you? What has failed miserably? What strategies of yours have fallen somewhere in between! No idea is too small, too silly, too ridiculous. Bring it ON.

As I have updates, fresh ideas, etc, I’ll blog to elaborate. I figure I’ll be throwing a few blog entries here every week – can’t wait to see how this works out!

Have a fantastic holiday weekend, everybody! K