Wednesday, August 1, 2012

365 Ways to Save - August

Saving money and saving the environment often go hand-in-hand.  Whether you are trying to save money by using less water, less electricity, or less gas, your cost-cutting efforts will benefit the planet as well as your wallet.

The Basics
Although these ideas are well-known to most tightwads, I mention them here because they are essential components of any money-saving regimen:

201. Save energy and reduce your electricity bill by turning off lights whenever you leave a room; setting your computer to "hibernate" after 10 minutes or so of non-use (and turn it off altogether at night); and by unplugging chargers and appliances that suck electricity even when they are "off" (including programmable coffee-makers, TVs, and more) - make it easy to unplug them every night and when you leave for vacation by plugging multiple items into a surge-protector strip.
202. Keep your home a few degrees warmer in summer and a few degrees colder in winter, and set your thermostat to use less air conditioning/heat at night and when you are away from home during the day.
203. Use compact florescent bulbs or LED light bulbs which are more like incandescent but use less energy and last up to 17 years.
204. Wash clothes in cold water.
205. Keep your freezer running most efficiently by keeping it full of food (or ice).
206. Similarly, keep your refrigerator running most efficiently by keeping it full of food (or containers of cold water).
207. Make sure your home is well insulated, especially around windows and in the attic.  To make sure your home is in good shape insulation-wise, consider have an energy audit (many utility companies will do it for free) to find leaks that may not otherwise be obvious.
208. Close curtains and drapes during the day in warmer weather to block the sun's heat; open them to take advantage of daily sunshine in cooler weather.
209. Run your dishwasher, washing machine and clothes dryer at night or at other off-peak hours.

Dealing with Drought
In areas where water prices are high, being careful about water use can save you lots of money.  And since the nation has been especially hard-hit with drought this summer, it is not a bad idea for everyone to consider how to conserve this precious resource.  Most people already know that they shouldn't run the tap while they brush their teeth and should take short showers (rather than baths) to conserve water.  Here are some other water-saving tips to consider:

210. Reuse your cooking water, either for another cooking use (for example, use the water you use to steam or boil vegetables for making pasta, rice or soup -- which has the bonus of adding flavor without cost or calories) or to water your plants.
211. Use as few pots and dishes as possible so you'll use less water to clean up. For example, one pot meals, like stews and stir fries, require less dish washing (and as a bonus, use less energy to cook).
212. Don't run the dishwasher until it is full and then run it on the shortest cycle that is still effective.  And unless you have an older, less efficient dishwasher, don't worry about rinsing off dishes in the sink first -- almost all dishwashers are now designed to allow you to skip this step.  Note that dishwashers generally use less water than hand-washing the same amount of dishes.
213. Catch any water you normally run down the drain when waiting for the water to warm up (or cool down) in a bowl or pan. Use this water for your house plants or in the garden.
214. Insulate hot water pipes to keep water warm longer (so you don’t have to run the tap for several minutes to get hot water); and insulate your hot water heater, too.

Keeping Cool Without Blasting the Air-Conditioner
Struggling to find ways to stay cool without resorting to turning up your own air conditioners, or enjoying someone else's air conditioning by escaping to a costly movie theatre, or a shopping mall where there is no end to the expensive temptations?  here are some ideas for beating the heat on a budget:

215. Hydrate. Drink plenty of cold water to keep your cool. And spray yourself with a spritz of refrigerated water for an extra cool boost.
216. Eat icies. Make ice pops from fruit juice and eat them often to keep your temperature down. (It's been proven that melting ice makes the mercury fall faster than just freezing something - that's why the old-fashioned ice cream makers required salt for the freezing process.) Freeze fruits like seedless grapes, watermelon, and bananas, too, for more frugally frigid treats.
217. Turn off the lights. Not only do light bulbs increase a room's temperature, but a darker room will just feel cooler.
218. Take a tepid (not cold) shower, since the shock of cold water will only make your body work to conserve heat. Follow up with lotions that you've cooled in the fridge for a bit..
219. A frequently overlooked resource, your local library is the perfect place to escape indoors – and the best part is that it won’t cost you a dime. Pick up a good read, find a quiet nook, and relax for an afternoon in air-conditioned comfort.
220. Employ cooking strategies that rely less on your oven, thus keeping your kitchen from over-heating.  If you must bake something, consider using your toaster oven's convection setting instead of the regular oven. It's so much smaller that it creates considerably less heat than a conventional oven, and you'll be surprised by how much you can fit into the toaster oven. Use your slow cooker instead of the stove burner for soups, stews and sauces. Because it is contained, it will not overheat your space. Cook as efficiently as possible, broiling instead of baking when you can (food cooks more quickly and you don't have to preheat the oven), and being sure to cover pots on the top of the stove so they cook faster.

No More Gas Guzzling
The gas saving tips we offered as part of our money-saving travel tips in June (and also in a previous post) are a good way to ensure you are getting the most mileage out of every gallon of gas you buy.  Here are some additional ideas:

221. If you can walk, bike or take public transportation to work instead of driving - even part of the time - you can realize significant savings in several different ways: you'll save gas money; you'll save on your car maintenance; you can save on your auto insurance - call to let them know how many fewer miles you'll be driving on an annual basis and your fees make decrease by more than $100; you won't have to buy a gym membership; and the additional exercise will make you healthier, reducing health care costs.

More Ways to Save Money & the Environment

222. If you’re buying new energy-efficient appliances – either because you’re old appliances pooped out or because you’re upgrading as part of a plan to live a greener lifestyle, find out if your state or community provides a rebate for doing so. A list of incentives organized by state is at DSIREUsa.org. You might find that the rebate plus the on-going savings on your electricity bill adds up to a lot of green!

223. Buy in bulk rather than individual servings so that you aren't paying for excess packaging or sending it into a landfill.

224. Remember that the three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) are not just eco-friendly; they are also wallet-friendly! Doing with less -- whether it is a smaller house (that is less expensive to buy, to heat, and to air condition) with a smaller lawn (that requires less water, fertilizer, and gas for the mower) or fewer possessions in general so that you don't have to invest in expensive storage solutions -- will always help you save money.  Similarly, reusing what you already have, even if it must be slightly re-purposed for another use (e.g. dying old shoes to match a new outfit) is a good way to pinch pennies. And what family isn't familiar with the classic money-saving recycling technique of handing down clothes from an older sibling to a younger one?

Want to see more of our 365 ways to save? Check out the list of tightwad tips from January, February, March, April, May, June and July.