Three Fabulously Frugal Investments for 2013! Saturday, Jan 12 2013 

Every January, I detail a list of inexpensive “investments” that I personally recommend for hard working people looking for smart purchases. By “investment”, I mean that the cash you shell out to buy it will be (without a doubt) rewarded with even greater value that its purchase price within a short amount of time. Past suggestions included warehouse club cards (My Sam’s Club card pays for itself as soon as I buy tires for my car) a crock pot (Pot Roast, come to Momma!), continuing education (learn how to change the oil on your car), a library card – you get the point. Without further adieu, I give you the list for 2013! Invest your hard-earned money in some (or all) of the following items, and watch your investments reward you with a marvelous return!

(1) A fake gorgeous Christmas Tree – yes, the holiday season is just past, so it may seem odd to bring this one up. However, January is – by far – the best month to purchase one of these beauties. Several retailers found their holidays falling short and still have them available on their showroom floors at huge discounts. I recommend taking the frugal route in an even more delicious direction and hitting your local Goodwill or Consignment store, where already 75% discounted trees, still new in their boxes, have been discounted yet again for an even more reasonable price. It’s divine. We have a spectacular eight-foot fake Christmas tree in our living room, purchased seven years ago on Craigslist for the bargain-basement price of $80. It’s beautiful, looks real, is easy to put together, and – given the skyrocketing price of real trees in past years – has saved us easily $600 in the past few years. Cha-Ching!

(2) Programmable thermostat – These are delightful little devices that automatically program the temperature in your house according to your wishes. If you don’t have one of these brilliant little gizmos, stop what you’re doing and go get one. They’re marvelous, and getting better every year. For less than $50, you can get a thermostat that may easily save you 20% on your energy bill. Depending on the size of your house, we’re talking about $500-$700 in savings in one year’s time. Hard to beat!

(3) A backup power generator for your house – Thunderstorms, high wind, hurricanes… you name it, we’re enduring it, year after year. Summertime brings the storms, fall brings the hurricanes, winter brings the snowstorms. Chances are excellent we’re all going to get smacked around this year as well, and yet another power outage is entirely likely. Save yourself the hassle, stress and upheaval of packing the bags, kids and parents and bundling off to the nearest hotel for a cramped hotel room at $150+/night. Invest in some serious peace of mind with a generator. You’ll love it. The power goes off, no worries – the generator goes on. As Hurricane Sandy barreled up the coast last year, thousands of people invested in new, mack daddy generators at top prices… and now no longer need last year’s mack daddy model. Hit Craigslist to find deeply discounted ones near you, you’ll see the vast majority of them are being offered at well over 50% off, and have been used 10 hours or less. Chances are they might even deliver it to your home if you offer a couple of extra bucks. Viva electricity!

You work harder than ever for your money, by all means invest it in useful items that are guaranteed to make your life easier, and your bank account even bigger. Here’s to a 2013 filled with many happy returns – Frugal On!

Got Caulk? Winterize your Home! Tuesday, Oct 16 2012 

The month of October is the perfect time to winterize your home – the weather isn’t too hot, isn’t too cold, and there’s still lots of daylight. It’s a great opportunity to move around your home on a beautiful weekend afternoon to plug up energy leaks before they cost you big time in upcoming months. Read on for five easy tips that will save you hundreds of dollars this upcoming winter.

(1) For Drafts around Doors & Windows: these pesky drafts are everywhere, and are often responsible for upwards of 20% of your energy bill! Forget the home shows that would suggest getting rid of drafts requires a contractor or pricey new technical gizmos. Instead, hit your local hardware store for a few tubes of caulk and some easy-to-use weatherstripping! With a few dollars worth of materials, you can save hundreds on energy bills with just a few hours of work.

(2) Exterior Vents: wherever you have a vent leading out of the house (dryers, telephone, electrical, cable, gas, water lines), you have huge potential for energy-draining gaps and leaks. Behold, an easy to use caulk gun! It’s a top notch asset in any frugal household, and – let’s face it – the kids think you look totally cool when you pull one of these out and put it to work. “Look! Mom’s fixing that hole in the house with a big tube of toothpaste!” If it saves big energy costs and entertains the kids, that’s a win-win in my book.

(3) Clean out your air/furnace filters – the windows are about to stay shut for months, and the furnace is about to go into overdrive. Keep your air quality high (and the workload on your furnace as low as possible) by keeping the filters changed on a regular basis.

(4) Wrap your pipes! It sounds like a boring chore (and let’s face it, it is). Trust me on this tho, experience has shown me time and again that it pays off huge as soon as we have our first deep freeze. Where the neighbors will have frozen pipes (or even worse, burst frozen pipes), you’ll have running water and far fewer mornings with a hair dryer trained on a ceiling pipe in the basement.

(5) Buy a sweater! Looking for a frugal investment that costs $5 and can save you up to $500 (or more!) in the three months of winter? Behold, a fabulous, thick, gorgeous designer sweater, purchased for 95% off at your local consignment or thrift store. Even in the coldest winter days to come, wearing a heavy sweater keeps your body comfortably warm even if you turn the heat down by as much as 5 degrees. That kind of lower house/office temperature translates into huge savings when the winter energy bills roll in.

Kristen Hagopian is a Syndicated Radio Talk Show Host, Syndicated Columnist, Motivational Speaker & Author of “Brilliant Frugal Living”. The Kristen Hagopian Show airs Nationwide via Business Talk Radio Network. She resides in Chester County, PA with her husband and two kids. You can find her online at http://www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Five Frugal Tips for Summertime Savings! Thursday, Jul 14 2011 

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Well, we’re halfway through a gorgeous summer, and while we’re all enjoying the blue summertime skies, the heat-related bills are definitely adding up as well. Cool off your summertime spending with these easy, money-saving tips!

(1) Time to Tweak the Thermostat – when we first fired up the air conditioning this summer, the heat was just starting to inch up to the 80-degree mark. Now that we’re kissing the melting edge of 90+ degrees several days a week, it’s time to tweak the air conditioning a bit as well. If you’re used to setting your air conditioning at 68 degrees, do yourself a favor and bring it up to 70 (or even 75 degrees) instead. Many experts agree that a simple 20-degree difference between outside and indoor temperatures are ideal for optimal comfort. Regardless of how you’re cooling your house, you’ll enjoy tremendous savings with the increase of just a few degrees in your thermostat. This is also a perfect time to replace your air conditioner filters (if you haven’t already) for maximum output at minimum costs.

(2) Fans to the rescue! – Daytime temperatures are hitting 90-plus degrees at their peak, and air conditioning is a must. However, nighttime temperatures are still consistently in the 60-to-70 degree range, so put Mother Nature to work for big time savings! Open up bedroom windows when you hit the sack – using a box fan during nighttime hours alone will save you big bucks on utility bills and give your cooling systems a well-earned break. For those who fear their unbearably hot sunrooms are currently off limits (unless you want to fry an egg on the coffee table), give serious thought to installing ceiling fans for fabulous air movement and far superior comfort levels for friends and family.

(3) Cool off the Kitchen! – No doubt about it, cooking at home rather than eating out saves big bucks on your food bill. One of the few downsides is the resulting heat it creates. Keep your kitchen fabulously cool (and save money doing it) with some simple tricks. First, a utility FYI: your microwave costs a fraction of your other appliances, and gives off far less residual heat than stove burners or oven broilers. With that in mind, keep your stove cooking to a minimum and utilize your microwave instead. if your family loves pasta like mine does, try cooking a double batch on the stove next time, keep the extras in the refrigerator, and microwave leftovers as you need them for fast, simple meals that won’t take a lot of time or require heating up the stove. Tip: when you do cook on the stove, keep pots covered to reduce heating costs as much as possible. Does your family love French Toast? Great! Make a triple batch, keep the leftovers in the fridge or freezer, and simply reheat as you need it in the microwave, rather than cooking batches time and again on a hot stove in an already warm summertime kitchen.
Another fabulous summertime trick – put your grill to work! If you can, designate at least one night a week to grill outside rather than cook inside. Hotdogs, hamburgers, chicken, fish, you name it – it all tastes fabulous grilled outdoors, and saves the money and hassle of cooling your kitchen back down after an already-hot day.

(4) Keeping your car cool – Summertime is synonymous with lovely, long drives, beautiful day trips and fabulous car vacations. All of that extra mileage, usually with air conditioners blowing non-stop, can take a serious (read: expensive) toll on your car if it isn’t properly maintained. Luckily, maintenance is as easy as getting the occasional tune-up, regularly checking the filters, getting the oil and fluids changed on schedule, and keeping tires at their proper pressure for optimal use and top-notch gas mileage. By investing in proper maintenance, you’ll save in the long run with lower amounts spent on gas, tires, and longer life of the car itself. It’s a no-brainer.

(5) Emergency Power Outage Kit – I’m still trying to figure out if the violently stormy summer weather is getting progressively more dangerous each summer, or if I’m just getting old (both, perhaps?). With each summer that passes, my mind is filled with increasingly-vivid memories of storm-induced power outages that catch me off guard in some way or another. During the next power outage, keep your comfort level high, your irritation levels low and your expenses to a minimum with a brilliantly frugal Power Outage Kit. Here’s the basics to include: two flashlights per person in your household, with enough new, fully charged batteries to replace the flashlights at least twice. Add a small battery-powered radio and/or television set to keep up with news and weather announcements, as well as your Deluxe Scrabble game and a full set of playing cards for some perfect power-outage entertainment. Make sure you have a car-charger for your cell phone (you obviously can’t charge it in the wall outlet at the moment) and if you currently have only cordless phones in your home (unusable in power outages), give some thought to installing a hard-wired phone for emergencies.
Then, write down your utility company information on an index card, including phone numbers for the power company to report the outage and your account number. Please trust me on this, there’s nothing more annoying than rummaging through a pitch dark home office at 1:00am groping for the file cabinet so that you can then search for an impressively-elusive account number. Next, have an inexpensive ice chest at the ready, with blue-ice packs in your freezer ready to throw in there to keep food, beverages (and if necessary, medications) cold. Talk about a money saver! Keep a water supply handy, the general guideline being one gallon per person in your household. Add some easy-to-eat food items like cans of mixed nuts, granola bars, crackers, canned fruits, etc., as well as paper plates and plastic cutlery. Keep a well-stocked first-aid kit handy and close to your Power Outage kit for any (dare I say “inevitable”?) slips, trips, bumps and wipeouts inherently connected with pitch-black rooms. Put together a Power Outage kit for yourself pronto, and give some thought to creating a few for friends and family as well. Any friends that initially respond with raised eyebrows and good humor will no doubt follow up with worshipful feedback after the first black out with stories of how it saved their sanity.

Above all else, remember that the numerous hassles inherent in a power outage are more than offset by how fabulous we look playing Scrabble by romantic flashlight. Viva triple word scores!

Enjoy a Fabulously Frugal 4th of July! Tuesday, Jun 28 2011 

Hey everybody – Happy Independence Day! Read on for some effortless ideas on doing up this wonderful red, white and blue holiday without spending a lot of green!

The Food – Nowhere in literary or movie history have I witnessed a 4th of July menu that required champagne, filet minion and crème brulee. We’re talking hotdogs, hamburgers, chips, lots of cold beverages and some fabulous apple pie here! Et Voila! Fourth of July menu perfection achieved! If you really want to dazzle, finish off the meal with a delicious red, white and blue-themed dessert. Try a light cake topped with white buttercream, blueberries and raspberries! Or perhaps a gorgeous fruit salad loaded with watermelon, blueberries and raspberries! Hit your local discount gourmet grocery to stock up on the best brand names for a fraction of the price, and remember at all times that calories don’t count when you’re celebrating America’s independence. Trust me, Betsy Ross didn’t snack on Fiber One bars while she was creating the American flag. I’m sensing she went straight for the carbs. If weather permits, save on utilities by cooking outdoors on the grill! It keeps the kitchen cool and saves loads on air conditioning.

The Sales! – Stores nationwide of all shapes, sizes and offerings, whether they’re huge Department Store conglomerates or corner Mom & Pop shops, long for a worthwhile reason to drive shoppers thru their doors. Black Friday is legendary in the wintertime, what’s slightly lesser well known is its summertime twin – 4th of July weekend. Sales are everywhere! Have a look in your favorite stores – if you’re in need of housewares, clothes, appliances, even automobiles – 4th of July weekend sale offerings could fit the bill nicely.

The Fireworks – I don’t know about your neighborhoods, but around me, stands and tents are everywhere offering these colorful little explosives (‘scuse me, “fireworks”) for sale. It could be the Mom in me, but every time I drive by one of these lovely tents, I cringe. Huge. If I see anything other than hand-held sparklers in the neighborhood kids’ hands, my pupils tend to dilate wildly. Trust me folks, the statistics on injuries is insane. Save yourself the effort, expense, and potentially painful and pricey emergency room visit by heading to one of the dozens of parks near you for a fantastic, professionally-run, free fireworks display!

The Clothes – Make it clear to the world you’re proud to be an American by wearing your most fabulous red, white and/or blue outfits – and the more colorful, the better! Dig deep into your closets for some fun combinations, or hit your local thrift stores for a few new pieces – the sales are huge! Some ideas? Try a fantastic casual white dress, paired with navy blue pumps and a red scarf or belt. Or have some fun and go totally flamboyant with pumps of different colors (one red, one blue), paired with a white blouse and red skirt. Or just make it a Bruce Springsteen kind of holiday, with your classic blue jeans and a fabulous white t-shirt. Pull some red flats out to complete it, et voila! A fitting 4th of July wardrobe for next to nothing.

The Fun! – if you’re looking for some inexpensive activities to enjoy, check your local newspapers and get online! A few minutes of searching on Google (try entering “4th of July festivities”) will turn up fairs, festivals, and – if you’re lucky – a parade or two within close distance. Important Frugalista Tip: Pack a snack (that $2 soda cart is selling items you can buy for .15 at your local discount grocer… you get the point). Bring small flags for everyone to wave (available on sale in just about every hardware store and dollar store this time of year) and have a ball!

Above all else, remember that thinking, acting, and adoring all things frugal is as quintessentially American as apple pie – what better way to celebrate America’s independence than to do it with some fabulously frugal fun? Happy 4th of July, everybody!

Kristen Hagopian is a Motivational Speaker and Author of “Brilliant Frugal Living”. You can listen to her money-saving tips Wednesday mornings on Montgomery County’s WFYL 1180AM, (stream it live at http://www.wfyl1180.com!) and her book is available at her Web site http://www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com.

A Frugalista’s Guide to Summer Savings Friday, May 27 2011 

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If you’re anything like me, you’re loving this fabulous turn to warmer springtime weather, especially after the crazy winter we all just endured. I mean, really, was Mother Nature totally hormonal last winter, or just plain mean? Both? When it comes to the warmer months that lie ahead, there’s no better way to welcome a spectacular summer than to dive into it well prepared, and for as little cost as possible.

The Clothes – We all want to freshen up our wardrobes with some fabulous new pieces. Shorts, summer dresses and suits, bathing suits, shoes — ladies, start your shopping engines. Did you just get an amazing deal on a summertime cruise? Upgrade with a new fabulous wardrobe to match! However you’re ringing in the summer, forget the cheaply made polyester knits, go for the designer names that make you look and feel great! Just don’t dare to buy them retail, not when they can all be found (for easily 50-95 percent off) at your local meticulously run consignment stores, thrift stores and church stores. I’m a bit of a fanatic when it comes to these goldmines, and trust me when I tell you, the best of these stores are taking couture clothing to an art form.

Kids’ clothes – Looking to update your kids’ wardrobes as well? Do your shopping in about five minutes time, for easily 90 percent off, with a click or two on Craigslist. As I type this, parents (far more organized than I) are cleaning out their kids’ closets, piling well-made, sturdy, easily washable designer name clothes into bags, and getting rid of it for $10 (or less!) online, often with detailed pictures you can comb thru to make sure it’s the right style for your kids. I’ve done this countless times, folks and I’ve never had a bad experience. Find a mutually convenient place to meet (local diner, school, church) and update your kids’ wardrobes with dozens of new outfits, often spending no more than $20 total. It’s a fabulous summertime ritual that does this Frugalista’s heart good.

The tax-write offs! – Somewhat-related clothing note: Once the weather starts hitting 80-degrees on a regular basis, you’re also in prime time to donate your winter clothes and gear to a local thrift shop or church store. Get rid of the sweaters, slacks, boots-that-never-quite-fit and old coats (you know, the ones in the back of the closet that you never wore), and above all else, make sure you get a receipt so you can detail the amount in your charitable contributions on your next tax form.

The utilities – To all of you who still wake up in a cold sweat thinking of last summer’s utility bills, I have an easy, lucrative challenge for you. Head to your local home improvement center for about 30 feet of clothesline ($5 tops), and tie it to whatever is standing upright in your backyard. Porch railing, swing sets or a hook attached to the garage. Then hit the local dollar store for $2 worth of clothespins. Start drying your clothes (especially your bath towels) on this handy, easily-taken-down clothesline, and watch your utility bills plummet compared to last year. To those of you with association rules against this activity, have a polite chat with your neighbors, then with your association board. Assure all involved that this new addition to your home will be virtually unseen by passersby, and casually mention that the savings (in the hundreds, if not thousands) will lend itself well to paying your yearly dues. The iron-clad association rules of years past (in the days of ever-rising home values and lower unemployment) may be somewhat more flexible in the current economy.

The beach gear – if you’re planning a beach trip and looking to get the kids a few new things for it, hit your local Dollar Store for everything you need! Shovels, pails, sand sifters, toys, nets, games to play in the car, and just about every other beach-worthy item they might enjoy burying in the sand.

The tan – if you’re over the age of 5, you’re well aware of the dangers of tanning unprotected in the sun. Not only does it prematurely age you at an exponential rate, but who the heck has the time to lay out in the sun for hours anyway? Hit your local discount grocery’s cosmetics section, and find the brand name spray-on tanners for easily 50-80 percent off. They look incredible, they take five minutes (yes, that’s minutes) to apply, they easily last for a week, and your gorgeous skin gets thru the summer looking perfect and protected.

Air conditioning – I know, it seems absurd to be thinking about air conditioning, especially since it feels like many of us turned off our heaters, oh, last week. But trust me on this, the frigid days of winter will feel a long way off come the first heat wave. One of the biggest money-saving tips for summer is simply being prepared for it by the end of spring. Now is the time to have your air conditioners serviced and finely tuned for optimal cool air production come summertime. The same air conditioner repairmen that can make you a same-day appointment today are going to have to put you on a five-day waiting list at a $100-just-to-visit premium to get to you in the 95-degree heat come August. If your air conditioner is on its last legs, now is the time to shop for a new one, and shop carefully for the one that will cool the square footage of your home in the most energy-efficient, lowest cost manner possible.

After this crazy winter, we all deserve a fabulous summer in the sun! Spend a couple of minutes utilizing these easy strategies, and you’ll not only save your skin, but your hard-earned cash as well.

Frugal On!!

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!

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