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Energy-Saving Tips for Every Season

Energy-Saving Tips for Every Season

No matter what time of year it is, there’s a pretty good chance you’re using more energy than you need to be using on a daily basis. Through winter, spring, summer, and fall, there are many different tweaks you can make to your home to reduce your energy usage, and save some money in the process. While many of these energy-saving methods overlap throughout the seasons, most target a specific time of year in which they will be most useful.

Saving Energy in Winter

Most people’s energy usage spikes throughout the winter months. The cold, snowy weather, coupled with early darkness, means heat and lighting will be used throughout the majority of each day. While there isn’t much you can do to get around using your heat and lights more than you would during other times of the year, there are many ways you can ensure you’re using this energy to its maximum potential during the winter.

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No matter how cold it gets, keep your thermostat programmed to a warm 68°F. This level of temperature will keep you comfortable and not put excess stress on your heating system. In turn, you won’t see a spike in your heating bill—it should remain fairly constant, even throughout the coldest weeks of the year.

Be sure to clean, maintain, or replace your furnace filter as necessary. A blocked-up filter will also result in a stressed-out heater, and an increased bill. Not only that, but if warm air is being blocked by a clogged filter, you air you do get won’t be nearly as warm as you’d like (which will likely result in you turning up the heat, and wasting more energy and money).

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Check the areas in which your house comes into contact with the outside. This includes windows, doors, and your plumbing system. Ensure the space between the inside and outside is completely sealed so warm air can’t escape. Again, if you’re losing warm air in any way, you’ll end up turning up the heat. Don’t take the easy way out; check the seals around your home and keep the warm air in.

Saving Energy in the Summer

The summer months are a great time to save energy. Though it may get incredibly hot in your area of the world, it’s much easier to deal with heat than with extreme cold—at least in terms of energy usage.

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If you use an air conditioner or central air system (for which I don’t blame you!), again make sure your filters are clean and your windows and openings are sealed. Like using the heat during the winter, clogged filters and open seals will mean your cooling system will be working overtime—which will lead to much larger bills for you each month.

There are other, less obvious ways to stretch your energy usage throughout the summer months, too. When possible, give your clothes dryer and dishwasher a break; use a clothesline when the sun is out to dry your clothes, and use a simple drying rack rather than relying on your dishwasher’s drying cycle. You likely don’t need your clothes or dishes right away, so let the naturally warm air do its thing for you, free of charge.

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You might notice your refrigerator works overtime in the summer months, as well. You can combat this by stocking it as much as possible. Think about it: the smaller the amount of space, the less it has to work. It’s why I don’t mind living in a small apartment rather than a gigantic mansion (or at least that’s what I tell myself!).

Saving Energy in Spring and Fall

The transitional periods of the year, spring and fall, are actually the times in which you should be most diligent about your energy usage. Since the temperature can fluctuate from day to day during these times of year, you shouldn’t rely on an automated thermostat; it will likely waste more energy starting up and turning off throughout the day than it’s actually worth. Instead, play it by ear: open or close your windows depending on your preference rather than using excess energy.

These transition periods are a good time to prepare for the extreme hot or cold weather ahead. Do all the maintenance discussed above (filters, seals, etc.) while the weather is comfortable, so you’re not scrambling to improve your situation in the dead of summer or winter. Think ahead, and you’ll be sure to stay comfortable year-round.

Featured photo credit: 2 / Stanley Zimny via farm2.staticflickr.com

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Published on September 17, 2018

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

2. When you want something big, wait

Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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So, you get the itch.

You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

Here’s where you have to take a step back.

Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

3. Live smaller than you can afford

You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

4. Practice smart grocery shopping

Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

Create a grocery budget

Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

Make a list… and never deviate

Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

Eat before going grocery shopping

It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

5. Cancel your gym membership

Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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