Overcoming Rising Energy Costs! Thursday, Feb 24 2011 

Hey everyone – How about that gorgeous weather last week? I don’t know about you, but I loved the opportunity to throw open the windows and let in a blast of fresh air. Heaven. Along with all of the great news on the weather, however, was sobering news reports regarding fuel prices, power costs and their expected climb for the foreseeable future.

I’m already receiving emails from local consumers requesting suggestions to offset spikes in power costs, especially as another summer rolls around. Let’s face it, if this summer proves to be anything close to the utility headache this winter was, it’s never a bad idea to come at July with frugal forces blazing to keep costs to a minimum. In my pursuits, some of my power-saving strategies were a definite hit, others were filed forever in an ever-expanding “Cost-Cutting Comedy” file. Here are the tactics that packed some proven punch:

(1) Research alternative energy providers. Yes, many of us got stomped with the (approximately) 30% rate hike last year. Boo hoo. Pity party over. In defense of local utility companies, rates hadn’t been raised in ages, and I’m certainly not going to begrudge a company the right to make a reasonable profit. That being said, the timing stinks. Unemployment is up, people are dipping into personal savings just to keep at the status quo, so any strategy we can put in play to combat higher utility rates is going to be a good move.

Until now, when it came to energy providers, we went with the one automatically provided. Since the rate hike, I was BOMBARDED with mailers from alternative providers. When our household switched over to an alternative supplier last September, we were guaranteed savings of 15% over current rates (a nice dent in the 30% rate hike). If you’re getting hit with stacks of mailers from these alternative companies as well, take some time to tear a couple of them open. Do some number crunching and see if any might be a good fit.

Somewhat related note: I’ve come across an energy-analyzer that can tell you pretty much what every, single appliance in your home (from freezer to hairdryer) will cost you to run & use. You go in thinking you’ll spend 30 seconds to determine what a new hot water heater would save you, and suddenly you’ll become obsessed by how much the light in the fridge is costing you whenever you open the door (or maybe that’s just me). Take a look when you get a chance: http://www.energyguide.com

(2) Reducing electric dryer dependence to almost nothing. Those of you familiar with my blog already know I’ve been drying my clothes, the kids’ clothes, sheets, towels, etc on our clothesline for over a year now, and it’s taken down costs fabulously. To create even bigger savings this year, I’m going to try to do more towels on the clothesline, even though significant-others-who-shall-remain-unnamed really aren’t crazy about the final result.

Yes, I’m the first to admit there is a marked difference in air-dried vs. dryer-dried towels. Basically, it takes the concept of exfoliation to the level of a North Korean torture camp. That being said, towels are an energy HOG to dry in the dryer, especially when I watch the meter just outside the laundry room window spin like a Russian skater on steroids. Who needs that? I’ve heard from fellow frugalistas that putting air-dried shingle-like towels into the dryer for 5-10 minutes has them coming out fabulously fluffy. Sounds promising. Stay tuned.

(3) New-fangled light bulbs. I replaced eighteen 60-watt bulbs with the new squigeldy GE Energy Star bulbs (they’re 13 watt bulbs that light like 60 watts). Boiling down the math as described on the back of the package, I’m supposed to save approximately .92 per month per bulb, so these bulbs alone should save me around $17/month, or $204/year. I’ve had these in the house for a while, and believe it or not, they do seem to be bringing down costs. That, and their reputation would suggest they’ll last somewhere into the 23rd century. Okay, not that long, but the savings are there, and significant, so it’s a good move if you want to bring down costs.

(4) No more dishwasher use. Again, I’ve had this strategy in play for over a year, to great success. Energy costs came down huge, this even though I have an “energy efficient” dishwasher! At this point, I’m using my dishwasher strictly as a drying rack, and running it once every two weeks on low settings just to keep it in good shape.

(5) Turning into the Power Nazi. At night, and when I leave the house during the day, the computer goes OFF. When it’s a bright, summertime day, there’s no need to turn on lights, unless complicated surgery is being performed in the 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 (my kids are muffin hounds and I’m often on cake detail for family celebrations), 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.

Now, with all of these strategies in play – and they really are pretty easy to implement – utility costs here at the house have been reduced by about 20-30%, easily accommodating the recent spikes in rates. If I can do it, anybody can. If you find your pretty little blue utility envelopes giving you an itch between the shoulder blades, try any or all of these tactics for a powerful punch in savings. Frugal On!

“Frugnobyl” / Cloth Diaper update – One year later, $2700 saved! Wednesday, Oct 13 2010 

www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Hey guys! How about this amazing weather! Gorgeous blue skies & 65 degree weather here in Chester County, PA!

Frugalista geek checking in with boring-yet-substantial math update!

Some of you might know, as of September 2009, I officially gave up on my “energy efficient” dishwasher & started washing dishes by hand. At the same time, I gave the “energy efficient” clothes dryer a semi-permanent break by hanging laundry on an easy makeshift clothesline (only using the dryer on rainy days).

Hanging clothes & washing dishes took a surprisingly fast 20 minutes of easy labor per day. Startup cost: $4 for rubber gloves & clothespins, + $80 for 20 cutesy cloth diapers on Craigslist.

Comparing electric bills over the last 12 months, and factoring in the 30% PP&L increase effective January, 2010, I’ve now saved $1600 on the electric bill, and $1100 in diapers, for a total of $2700 (AFTER TAX bucks!) saved!! Any investment that costs less than $85 to start, requires only 20 MINUTES of easy effort a day, AND yields $2700 in the bank in one year’s time, well…. that’s blog-worthy baby!

If you’ve got a household similar to mine, and you’re in the mood to keep an extra $2700 in the bank over the next year, give it a try!

Any energy-saving ideas, send them my way! Have a good one, everybody!

Woo Hoo! The utility bill is in! Tuesday, Sep 21 2010 

Just got the mail, and the utility bill is in. Last Aug, the bill was $256. Tack the new PP&L 30% increase on, and this August bill should be at least $332. Instead, with a couple of easy, boring-yet-effective tricks, this August’s bill is $220. HOORAY! And you KNOW I’m getting old when I get excited about the utility bill. Freaking embarrassing.

www.pplelectric.com

Operation Frugalight CONCLUSION: The July electric bill is in! Monday, Aug 9 2010 

www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Okay gang, moment of truth. The July electric bill is in. Here’s where we find out if Operation Frugalight was a success.

Our Goal: to reduce our electric bill/usage by 30%, which would erase the effects of the recent 30% INCREASE in rates by our electric company.

In order to aim for this lofty goal, I put several energy reducing strategies in play:

(1) Switched our electric over to Dominion.com, which guarantees a 15% decrease in rates. The switchover to Dominion was on July 8th, so hopefully that’ll be a huge help.
(2) Last july, I was still drying clothes in the clothes dryer. This July, I’m doing everything on the clothesline. It’s been doing us a lot of good since we started doing it last September; with any luck it’ll contribute nicely to lowering this month’s bill.
(3) Last july, I was still using my dishwasher. This july, the dishwasher is ME. I use the actual dishwasher as a drying rack only, and run it once every two weeks just to keep it in good shape.
(4) I replaced eighteen 60-watt bulbs with the new squigeldy GE Energy Star bulbs (they’re 13 watt bulbs that light like 60 watts). Boiling down the math as described on the back of the package, I’m supposed to save approximately .92 per month per bulb. These bulbs alone should save us around $17. Let’s hope!
(5) Turned off the computers whenever not in use. I used to keep them up & running even when I was out of the house (I know, I know…), but this month, if I was out, the computer was out too.

Last year’s bill was $217.57. My goal is to have this July’s bill at 217.56 or LESS. If I had done nothing differently from last year, the bill would be 30% higher, or $282.84.

Today, upon opening the mailbox, I immediately spotted the robin’s egg blue of the utility company envelope, and tore it open with breathless anticipation! The bill for this month…$235.17. WHAT?! An INCREASE! It’s 8% HIGHER than last year’s bill! ARRRGH!

Okay, thru my new red-rimmed vision, I notice that the average temp last July was 72 degrees, where this July’s average temp was 79 degrees. No doubt that played into it. But STILL! An INCREASE! Craaaaap! Okay, an 8% increase is better than a 30% increase but COME ON! Sheah. Ah, well.

Thanks to everybody who sent in their FANTASTIC ideas on saving electricity. No doubt your feedback & great ideas helped put money back into a lot of hard-working people’s pockets!

On to a new challenge! We’re deep into August at this point, so start throwing me ideas for a frugal challenge in September!

Later, guys! K

Operation “Frugalight” Complete! Saturday, Jul 31 2010 


www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Hey guys! Hope you’ve all got a fabulous weekend planned!

Okay, over here at Chateau Frugal, I’m wrapping the final day of my Operation Frugalight Experiment. My goal: to have my July, 2010 electric bill come in at LESS than my July, 2009 bill, this despite the fact that rates have been raised 30% since last year. Actually, I have to expand upon that last statement, as I’ve just been informed by the electric company that the rates may have been raised even MORE than that, given that it’s a “sliding scale” on rates dependent upon usage prior to the increase…whatever the freakin’ heck that means.

Okay, so the month is almost up, and – compared to last July – here are the specific strategies I’ve used in my quest to make the bill nosedive:

(1) switched our electric over to Dominion.com, which guarantees a 15% decrease in rates. The switchover to Dominion was on July 8th, so hopefully that’ll make a good sized dent.
(2) last july, I was still drying clothes in the clothes dryer. This July, I’m doing everything on the clothesline. It’s been doing us a lot of good since we started doing it last September; with any luck it’ll contribute nicely to lowering this month’s bill.
(3) last july, I was still using my dishwasher. This july, the dishwasher is ME. I use the actual dishwasher as a drying rack only, and run it once every two weeks just to keep it in good shape.
(4) I replaced eighteen 60-watt bulbs with the new squigeldy GE Energy Star bulbs (they’re 13 watt bulbs that light like 60 watts). Boiling down the math as described on the back of the package, I’m supposed to save approximately .92 per month per bulb. These bulbs alone should save us around $17. Let’s hope!
(5) Turned off the computers whenever not in use. I used to keep them up & running even when I was out of the house (I know, I know…), but this month, if I was out, the computer was out too.

With any luck, this 5-pronged attack will result in savings over & above the rate increase from last year. I usually receive the bill around the first week of the month. As soon as I get it (sometime around August 8 or so), I’ll let you know how we did. Between now & then, keep your fingers crossed!

Operation FrugaLight Update – so far, so good! Tuesday, Jul 13 2010 

www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Hey guys! It feels wierd not doing daily updates on Operation FrugaLight (like we did with The Frugalista Diet). Hope everybody is doing great!

Well, so far, so good. Thermostat is tweaked, and as of July 8th, the power has been switched to a lower-cost supplier. I’m psyched to see the impact that’ll have on the bill.

Something I neglected to mention before – I’ve replaced dozens of light bulbs in the house with those new curly-cue ones that are supposed to save tons of power. Between all of the above, and drying clothes on the clothes line & keeping dishwasher use to a bare minimum (once every two weeks to keep it in shape), I’m hoping that’ll do the trick to reduce the bill to LESS than last July. Keep your fingers crossed!

What I need more than anything is your great tips – the more “outside the box” the better! What’s worked best? What do you keep your thermostat at? Do you have central air or window airconditioners… perhaps no air conditioners at all? What is your biggest energy hog, and how do you tame it in the summertime? Send any and all tips, advice, stories of theories & strategies gone right (and wrong!).

You all stay cool out there! 🙂

Fantastic MSN Money article re: saving on your electric bill! Friday, Jul 9 2010 

www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Hey gang! Hope you’re all handling the summer heat! Be honest, this IS still FAR better than the wintertime snowstorms…

Just read a fantastic article on MSN Money regarding saving on your electric bill. Plays beautifully into our Operation Frugalight Challenge to slash July’s bill by 30% or more. Take a look at the link when you get a chance! Some of the recommendations you’ll probably have already heard, and perhaps even implemented. How did it work out for you? Other recommendations in the article will be brand new ideas for you – think you’ll try them out?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, AND keep those fantastic ideas coming in YOUR best strategies for saving in the summertime heat!

http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/savinganddebt/finddealsonline/p42610.asp

An enlightening Homework assignment: how much are YOUR appliances costing you? Tuesday, Jul 6 2010 

www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Hey everybody! Hope your week is going great!

I’ve stumbled upon a utility-related website that I felt was appropriate to mention during our Frugalight Challenge. It’s an energy-analyzer that can tell you pretty much what every, single appliance in your home (from freezer to hairdryer) will cost you to run & use. You go in thinking you’ll spend 30 seconds to determine what a new hot water heater would save you, and suddenly you’ll become obsessed by how much the light in the fridge is costing you whenever you open the door! (or maybe that’s just me).

Anyhoo, if you’re curious at ALL as to what your appliances (Big screen TV vs. little regular model) are doing to your budget, have a click onto this site & see what you’re paying. Could be eye-opening (or at the very least, an excellent reason to put off that big-screen for just ONE more year…)

Question for you – what are YOUR biggest energy hogs? Were they the ones you thought (clothes dryer, dishwasher), or were you surprised by something new? Would love to hear your findings!

Have a great day, everybody! K

http://www.energyguide.com/ha/ApplianceCalcRes.asp?referrerid=223&sid=453&bid=ppl

Operation “Frugalight” Update – switching to Dominion.com on July 8th! Monday, Jul 5 2010 

www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Hey guys! Hope you had a fantastic holiday weekend!

Okay, quick update regarding July’s Frugalight Challenge. The official switchover to Dominion (as the electric supplier) is going to be July 8th. After that point, we should be saving 15% on our electric bill. Great stuff. If the numbers prove true, it’ll be a huge help in reversing the financial whammy of our recent 30% rate increase by PP&L, as well as a big help in hitting Operation Frugalight’s Goal: to get the next bill down to a lower number than July of last year.

I’m also using power strips on the computers. If what I’m hearing is true, I’m going to want to stab myself for all the money I’ve wasted over the years leaving my computer on when I’m asleep/out of the house. Serious ding in the Frugalista Badge on that one. My bad.

Also, the weather. Hello. Freaking hot. Emphasis on freaking. The upside to this is that laundry on the clothesline goes from soaking wet to bone dry in about 14 minutes. Okay, not that fast, but much faster than say, a cool day in March. That’s the good news. The bad flip side to this is that it’s going to about 100 degrees today, and thou shalt not deny me my air conditioning. Another serious ding in the Frugalista Badge, I’m well aware, and yet, I’m willing to take the hit.

Okay, so good stuff is that Dominion will be throwing me a serious bone in the electric bill starting July 8, power strips are running on the computers, and I have absolutely NO need for my clothes drier, considering the temperature in my backyard would suggest I live about 2 miles from the surface of the Sun. Downside is the air conditioning required to keep The Frugalista cool and uncranky.

How are you guys beating the heat? I’ve got our air conditioning set in the mid-70’s – what do you set yours at? If you aren’t connected with PP&L, who is your electric supplier, and what do you think of their service / rates? Send any and all advice on beating the heat, especially if you’ve got kids in the house. Do you hit an airconditioned mall once a week? Perhaps a bookstore or the library? Would love to hear your ideas!

Stay cool, everybody! K

July’s Challenge: OPERATION FRUGALIGHT! Saturday, Jul 3 2010 

www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

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