Monday, January 19, 2015

Frugal Living

Anyone who knows me personally knows that I do not like to spend money, especially on things or in places that I shouldn't have to spend money. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy eating out, traveling, buying clothes and nice things. However, I love saving money more. Saving money for the future, for emergencies, and just to save. My husband and I are what people would call extremely economical, sensible, and definitely not wasteful of resources. But please, don't call us cheap because that just isn't what frugal people are. We are educated when it comes to money and know when and what to spend our money on. We take vacations, have nice things and take great care of our children. We just don't go overboard...and we're definitely not splashy or pretentious.

I take being cautious of how I spend my money very seriously, and when it comes to my utility bills, I like to make it more of a game to see just how low I can get my bills each month. Summer time in southern California is like the the championship of frugal living for me. The challenge of seeing just how low I can get my electric bill when everyone else I know is complaining about paying $100, $200, $300+ a month because of air conditioning is a real joy for me. Or how water bills goes up because we're all watering our lawns more. In the winter people are more prone to run their heaters which affects their gas bills, and of course, we are all affected by the ever changing gas prices for our vehicles (which has been so low as of late). So here are some suggestions of how I save money on my monthly utility bills that might help you save some money, too.

Electric Bill: I have So Cal Edison. Edison provides lots of ways to save money on electricity with their rebate and incentive programs, solar rebate program, and summer saver plan, which allows customers to earn bill credits ($) off their bill. This is my personal favorite as my July 2013 bill was a credit of $2.00! I know, not much money but it beats paying $100+ because of air conditioning. Most people won't sign up for these plans -that anyone is eligible for- because they either don't know about them or they think it's beneath them (which is silly because who would ever even know?).
Other tips I do to save money year around on my electric bill are:
  • Watch the use of lights; we have a rule in our home that only two lights (2 rooms) are to be on at a time. 
  • Always turn lights off in rooms that aren't being used.
  • Don't sleep with the TV on. 
  • Use a power strip for computers and TV's so that everything powers off at night; no standby, power down.
  • Don't have the TV on if no one is watching.
  • Use candles; it's great for after the kids are in bed and makes the house smell nice. 
  • Run the dishwasher, washing machine and other big electrical devices in the early morning or evening.
  • Run the air conditioning at night to cool the house down when it's not as hot out.
  • Use fans in individual rooms so that the air conditioning doesn't run as much. I know it's hard in the hotter months and in two story homes, however, it will help lower the cost of the electric bill. Also, close the air vents in the rooms that are not being used so that the air is distributed in the rest of the house faster. 
Gas Bill:

  • Turn the water heater down when you know you're not going to be using hot water... when your out of town, or if you live in warmer places where the heat outside will heat the water naturally. The water heater doesn't need to be on all the time if you're using water wisely. If you heat it once a day (at most) it should stay hot all day. 
  • Plan meal prep. If you know you'll be using a gas oven for baking multiple times a week, try and plan it so that you only have to heat the oven once as opposed to many times. You might be running it for a longer span of time, but you don't have to keep reheating it and using more gas. 
  • Get a space heater. We have one for our bathroom and it is a life saver in the winter. I see no point in heating every room if we are not using them all. If you must heat the house, set it no higher then 65 degrees. If it's cold enough outside for the heater, then 65 will feel great without over heating the house and running up your gas bill. 
Water Bill:

  • Water the lawn/garden before the sun comes up and after the sun goes down (in the non-freezing months). 
  • Now this is a very European trait as I've yet to meet an American who does this but turn the water off between tasks in the shower. Such as, get wet, turn off water. Shampoo hair, rinse, turn off water. Wash body, shave, rinse, turn off water. Condition, rinse, turn off water. There is no need to have the water run the whole time while showering. And yes, it will suck at first, especially in the colder months when the water is warm and the air is cold. But this is a huge saver of water and this practice will lower the water bill.
  • Make a shower schedule...if you have more than one child, shower/bath them together. If there are older kids who shower alone, set a timer so that they aren't taking overly long showers. 
  • Shower at the gym, the pool, work, etc. There are weeks that my husband and I both shower at our respected gym's and end up not using our shower at all. It might not be as nice but if you do this even a couple times a month, it will save you. If you are paying for the gym, health club, or whatever, use their facility. 
Trash Bill: There's not much you can do here as it usually is a fix rate for trash. My bill comes every three months and is about $70.00. The best thing to do is to divide whatever the three month bill will be and set aside a third each month so that it's not $70.00 one month but $24.00 each month.

  • Make sure you recycle... it won't save you money on your bill but it will put money back in your wallet; and it's good for the environment, which is a major bonus. 
Gas (Vehicle):

  • Plan routes. I know too many people who will drive wherever, whenever. Plan ahead; if you know you're going into town for one thing on one day and another on another day, plan to get both things in one trip. Be smart with how you drive, don't drive out of the way if you can help it.
  • Slow down. Driving fast uses more gas in a shorter amount of time. If you're not in a hurry, slow down.
  • Don't pin it/floor it after stops and lights. This also uses more gas than if you were to just step on the gas easily. 
Making slight changes within your spending can make big changes within your wallet, and help to pay down debts, add to or start a savings, and help alleviate the pressure of living paycheck to paycheck. Five truths that I've learned about people who live frugal are 
1. They budget, all the time. (I can not stress this enough). 
2. They have little to no credit card debt. (In part to the fact that people who are frugal don't run up credit cards).
3. They know where their money is going (and they care where their money is going).
4. They don't worry about not having money (because there is a difference between being aware of your money and how it's being spent and worrying about how your money is actually being spent).
5. It's a lifestyle and people who choose to live this way do so wholeheartedly.

I hope this helps those who are interested. I know many have asked me how I keep my bills so low. It truly is a lifestyle and a mindset. I will say that even if someone makes the smallest changes in their spending habits, they will start to see a change in their ability to save.
Have a great Monday.


  1. This is great advice! I do most of these things, except that we have our heat up to 68 during the day when we're home because we found that when we are too cold, we get short-tempered and don't get much done because we are always holding hot drinks or just staying in bed!

    You might be interested in my tips for reducing electric lighting and surviving without air conditioning, or my real-world savings with a hybrid car.

  2. Thank you for sharing... i will have a look!! Have a great Friday!! xx

  3. This is great advice! Thanks so much. :)

  4. Some great ideas for saving money on utilities. Feeling thankful that living in NY I don't have a trash bill.