Friday, December 17, 2010

Living on Less.

I went to give an estimate for chimney repairs recently. The customers said that they could not afford the repair because they were broke. A familiar story.

They did not use their chimney/fireplace, but it did need repair. They said that they would think about it and I left.

After I left their house I got to thinking about what I had seen there and decided to do a Blog on 'Living on Less.' Julia and I had been forced to do this when she had been very severely injured in an accident 35 years ago. We were both working at the time so were living quite well. In fact Julia was doing so well in her business that I was thinking of quitting mine and helping in hers.

After her accident we were forced to live a frugal life.

The first thing that I noticed in my customers home was that the heat was set at 75 degrees. It was uncomfortably warm for me because I was used to 68 degrees. They were dressed very lightly in thin t-shirts and shorts. In the driveway was a large SUV.

It occurred to me that many Americans have no idea when it comes to saving money or to frugal living - because they have never had to.

I read the Blog of a lady who espouses Frugal Living. She does a post every day. In case anyone would want to check it out you can take a look at it at

I also have a "Book" that I wrote called "Half". It tells how we lived on half of what our friends lived on. After the accident, that is what we had to do, without Julia's income, and with only me working and having to take care of Julia and our 4 year old daughter, who was also badly hurt in the accident, our income was more than halved. I can e-mail the 'book' to you, if you are interested.

No one has asked me, but in these hard economic times maybe some would be interested in how to save money - from someone who is an old hand at it! Our parents lived through the Second World War in England, where you were forced to live on practically nothing. A lot rubbed off on us and here are some ideas if you really do need to live on less in these hard times.

I should emphasize here that it does involve some sacrifice, you can't spend half of what you are used to spending and live exactly the same as you do now. However I think the sacrifices are minor compared to the savings. You can adjust to suit your circumstances, some may want/need to save only 10% or 20%, others may want or need to save more than 50%, both can be achieved, depending on your habits. I have seen the way some people live and we could live happily on a quarter or even a tenth of what they live on!

Starting with the couple with the chimney that needed work who 'were broke'. Their thermostat was set at 75 degrees. I am sure that was comfortable to them and what they and their two children were used to. They probably had no thought of turning it down, after all 'why should we, that is what we have always had it set at, and what we want it set at.' might have been their reply had I suggested it.

Well I am going to assume that you are different, if you have read this far maybe you are serious about cutting your expenses, unlike our chimney repair friends.

So here goes: - for every degree that you turn your thermostat down you cut your heating bill by 7% . Bet you didn't know that? So if they turn it down from 75 to 68 - still comfortable in my opinion- they will save 7 X 7 = 49% (7 degrees times 7%) In other words, they could cut their heating bill by almost half! We save even more than that, because we also turn it down a couple more degrees at night, and if we are going to be out most of the day. And no, it does NOT cost more to turn the temperature down and then turn it up again. That is a fact. Lets think about that, common sense (Which incidentally is not very common!) will tell you that if you set the thermostat at 60 degrees it will use less power than it will at 70 degrees. At 70 the whole house is warmer and the warmer any object is, the faster it will lose heat. To go to extremes if the outside temp is 30 and your house is 40 it will lose a lot less heat than if it were 90. At 90 the heat would be pouring out everywhere, at 40 it would barely change. In fact your body heat, plus the heat from cooking, lights and the TV might keep it at 40 indefinitely. I don't recommend it, but if needs must, you'd cut your heating bill to just about zero! As I said I don't recommend it.

Our philosophy about heating/cooling the house is - if it is winter, act like winter, wear more clothes. Wear a sweater and you will be comfortable in temperatures 5 or even 10 degrees lower than without one. And the sweater costs almost nothing, you probably have a drawer full of them. And as a bonus, not only are you just as comfortable as if the thermostat is set at 75 but your heating bill is cut in half! How great is that? Just by wearing a sweater. If you REALLY want to cut your costs wear a coat and set it even lower! We don't go that far, but you could if you really needed to. And why heat the whole house when you are in bed? Turn the heat down by a few degrees and throw another blanket onto the bed. If you are going to be out for a few hours cut the thermostat back. You can turn it back up when you return, if it is too cold just keep your coat on until it is comfortable again. More savings, more money in your pocket, instead of the power company's pocket.

In summer, I have been in houses with the A/C set so cold that you want to put on a sweater! (We have been to movie houses where I have gone home to get sweaters to wear while watching the movie. How stupid and wasteful is that?) In summer we wear light clothes and set the thermostat up. Hey it is summer, what is wrong with being warm? Instead of having the thermostat at 75 in winter and 65 in summer, be sensible and do what we do, if you want to cut costs, set it at 68 in the winter and 78 in the summer.

Here's another interesting fact - the average American throws away 25%, to as much as 30%, of the food that he buys! Right away you can see that you could cut your food bill by 25% if you didn't throw away any food! We don't throw away any food. (Don't forget to check out if you want to save on food.) I'm sure most people don't believe that, and don't think that they do. But they do. We accomplish not throwing away any food by the simple expediency of using everything that we buy. This means that we try to not buy more than we need. Julia plans the meals, if there is some left over she puts it in the refrigerator or the freezer for another day. We have food in the freezer and in cans so that if we should "run out" we have food. This saves a lot of money instead of overbuying. My story "Half" goes into more detail but one example is a chicken or a turkey. Many people throw away the carcass after a meal, with "We don't want to keep having the same thing for a week." Or "We don't want leftovers." This is fine, I guess, if you have unlimited money. Here is what happens in the Liddle household. After the initial meal, there is a lot of meat left on the chicken, this meat is taken off of the chicken and used for something different. It could be sliced for sandwiches or it could be cut up for a stew or a curry or ?. But even then it is not finished, the remainder is then cooked for soup or stock. This means the whole carcass, the bones, skin, remaining scraps of meat, everything, goes into a pot to be cooked and then used to make chicken soup or as a base for another soup or to cook rice or something else in. In this way our chicken makes at least three or four and maybe more meals instead of just the one that some people get out of it.

So there with just a couple of tips you have saved up to half off of your heating costs, 25% off of your food costs, and if you continue to apply these 'Cut your Costs' ideas to everything else in your lives you'll be able to save even more. Maybe you'll even be able to reach the goal of 'Half" as we did.

I have dozens or maybe even hundreds more ideas. Many are ways to save a few dollars or even cents, they may not seem worthwhile bothering with, but if you can save a dollar a hundred times! And there are ways that savings can be $10 or $50 each time, multiply that by 100 and see what you get!

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