Bills!! Welcome to the last and final installment of the ‘How to afford a vacation’ series, and here are more providers that expect a chunk out of our paycheck every month and how to save on them.
Here is an industry that sees many changes happening now and in the near future with solar and wind energy becoming more popular. Some argue that it means steeper electricity costs for those of us who still rely on the grid, because somebody has to pay for the maintenance and upkeep on the lines and power stations, but I don’t know. Here in Southern California we get a green energy rebate twice a year which virtually makes my bill only $8-10. Ha! I wish it was like that all the time! For those months that we have to pay through the nose, here are some budget friendly tips.
In Extreme Temperatures:
Try and suck it up. I know it’s so hard. I hate being uncomfortable too, but resist the urge to take the easy way out. Using climate control is like eating at a restaurant. At the time you’re all for it and want everything on the menu, then when its over you regret having to pay the bill.
In winter wear as many clothes as you can, this is the cheapest option by far. If you have a fireplace shop around and purchase a cord of wood. It might cost a couple hundred bucks upfront but is much cheaper than electric options. I normally do this for the really cold days and for the rest of the time I make do with an electric blanket and I sit upstairs in bed working and watching TV. It’s certainly a lot cheaper to warm one room compared to the whole house.
Last winter I was up in my wood cabin 6,700 feet up and a tree fell on the power lines. I was without all electricity for 3 days and it was extremely tough. I had to cook food on an open fire like a cave woman and I kept myself blissfully warm and unaware by being drunk most of the time trying to warm my stomach with brandy. You don’t realize how much you appreciate modern conveniences until your neighbors tree takes them away. It did teach me that I can survive and so can you.
In Summer wear minimal clothes and keep your house well ventilated. Purchase a water spray bottle from the dollar shop and keep spraying your body with water when needed. It really cools you off and it’s essentially free. You can also fill it with rose water, Aloe Vera juice or cucumbers to make it therapeutic. Air conditioning is super expensive and only use it if really needed. Try keeping it on for only a few minutes at a time to take the heat out of the air and switch it off.
As an Australian I think I’m a pretty good authority on extreme heat. I remember days when the roads were so hot they would take the skin off your feet and it was hotter in the swimming pool than it was outside. We would also turn everything into a Popsicle. fruit and drinks were kept in the freezer and eaten frozen (grapes and juice boxes were my favorite). My grandmother would also load us in the car and take us down to the shopping mall….Why pay for electricity when you can use somebody else’s. Keep spraying yourself and if it’s impossible to sleep at night strip off and keep a fan on low circulating the air.
Other power usage tips:
Do a walk though before bed every night. Make sure everything is turned off and unplug things you are not using regularly. Remember everything that’s plugged in is receiving a small current. This goes for computers, kitchen appliances and personal care products. When going away on vacation unplug everything. If its for an extended period of time switch your power off at the mains.
Start using energy efficient light bulbs. We don’t really think about it but we use lights for hours and hours every night and it can add up. Also clean/replace your air filters and if you are not a complete transient like me, think of upgrading your fridge and washer/dryer to a newer more energy efficient model. It will pay for itself in savings before too long and it also pays to only use dishwashers/washers and dryers when you have full loads to do.
when I first came to the states I was completely shocked at how much water was being used. everything from households to landscaping. I remember seeing lush green grass over here for the first time in many many years. I took off my shoes and reveled in feeling it between my toes for hours. While it’s all fun and nice to look at it’s incredibly wasteful of one of our precious resources, one that we all need to survive. I’m using to living in the depths droughts and after a while it becomes second nature to turn taps off and only use exactly what you need.
I also don’t like wasting money on bottled drinking water, what a scam that is! I brought a Brita filter jug
and use a recycled bottle to drink out of. It tastes better and cleaner than most commercial brands anyway.
Landscaping: If I owned a house I would definitely get fake grass. It costs a bit to purchase but saves so much money and time. no watering, no mowing, no hassle, its awesome!
Also plant drought resistant plants and succulents. I know they might look boring but some of them flower and offer great design characteristics. Experiment and have fun, you could also grow medicinal plants like aloe or edibles like prickly pares. If you can turn your landscaping into something you can eat or utilize, all the better!
Toilets: Not many people in this country make use of low-flow toilets. They really are helpful and make complete sense! Not every trip to the throne requires a full flush. If you don’t want to or can’t invest in a new toilet, then fill up and cap off a half gallon bottle of water and put it in the cistern. This will trick your toilet into using much less and then thinking it’s full.
showers: I’ll tell you a secret. I really don’t like bathing or being clean and only shower 2-3 times per week and less in the winter. It might be my English blood, but I’m like a puppy that stands there with my head down whimpering and crying the whole time. I just have soo many things to wash and clean and shave, it’s so tiring. I pretty much have it down to a science now, get in, get it done and get out. Time yourself if you must but really, there is no reason to be in there for more than a couple minutes. You can also keep a bucket in the shower with you and use it to water your plants.
BANKING AND FINANCE –
Examine your statements: This is the time to really sit down and look at all of your monthly expenditures. My neighbors recently looked over their finances and discovered they are still paying hundreds per month in online services and subscriptions they haven’t used in years. Granted these people aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, but you’d be surprised at how many things can slip through the cracks when you aren’t paying attention to them, and these companies are certainly going to keep taking as long as you let them, especially the ones who use automatic billing in their fine print upon signing up. This is basically a license to steal money from those who don’t keep an eye on the bottom line and banks are also guilty of taking hidden fees and services out of your accounts.
The good thing about online banking is the transparency aspect. You have instant access to view all of your transactions for the month anytime you want and make full use of it. Check it every few days to make sure no one is drawing on it that shouldn’t, and if you do see unusual behavior then contest it immediately.
Credit: Yup we love using credit and it’s so easy to forget that this money DOES have to be paid back. Please don’t feel bad if you have been caught up in credit card debit at one time or another in life. It’s happened to me and it’s happened to many good people and some of the situations behind it, like being laid off or having an unforeseen health problem or emergency, are understandable. Of course other people are just irresponsible, but no matter what, try and avoid getting caught up in it at all costs. My mother always said “If you cant afford it, chances are you don’t need it”, And she’s right. Most things in life we can live without. If you are in debt call around and try and get a consolidation. It might not save a huge amount of money, but only having to pay back one bill helps and stops the urge to ‘Take from Peter to pay Paul’. Credit card interest charges are HUGE and Pay it off as soon as you can and stop using it until you are well in the clear again. If you can’t learn how to use credit responsibly then simply don’t have it.
Have a good look at what cards you do have, what are costing the most money and what ones your really don’t need. It’s flattering to get offered a new credit card, but if you don’t need it don’t accept it. Look at what services you need in your life and what you don’t. For example, if you travel a lot, look for a credit card that not only offers good rates, but also frequent flyer miles and hotel discounts. You may as well be getting some perks out of it.
Debit: I have a friend who is a compulsive gambler. She wont come directly out and admit it, but after years of being yelled at by friends and family, and finally realizing she could have paid off her house, brought a new car and gone on several vacations by now, she’s starting to finally see the error in her ways. She now takes action to curb her spending habits whilst still enjoying her vices. One of these ways is leaving her debit and credit cards at home. This is an excellent tip. If you are going out and you know you will be in a place of temptation, or consuming alcohol, take a set amount of cash with you and leave everything else at home. That way you are not using more than you’ve allowed yourself and not putting on financial strains that you will later later regret. Just make sure you have enough money to get home.
I hope you have enjoyed the 6 part ‘How to afford a vacation’ series and can get plenty of ideas and practice use out of it. Remember you and only you are responsible for your finances and if you don’t keep on top of your money, nobody else will. Make being responsible and conservative a part of your daily life and be sure to teach your children the value of a dollar and how to save for their future. It’s a very unstable world and who knows what will happen in times to come. Making small steps to hold on to what you do have now is rewarding in itself, and will help towards having a happier, more comfortable and more stable home life. Save now, enjoy your vacations, and here’s to a great future.
cheers and thanks for reading! 🙂