Use Kill A Watt To Measure Your Energy Costs

We have a kill a watt watt meter that we use to measure our electricity usage.  We have an older model that requires you to do some calculating.  The newer one that I linked to does all of the calculations for you.  All you have to do is enter your cost per kilowatt hour.

I was not surprised that our refigerator, our 50″ plasma screen television, and my husband’s 7 computers that he keeps  on at all times (he’s a software engineer) were using a lot of energy.

The kill a watt can also be used to check on the energy usage of regular light bulbs versus the use of compact flourscent bulbs.

Also, remember that most modern electronics use electricity even when they are off.  The kill a watt can measure the “usage” of your devices even when they are NOT being used.  This may justify the use of a switched power strip to cut the electricity entirely.

Another possible use would be for someone interested in purchasing a solar system or generator.  You could use the kill a watt to add up all of your important devices and design or purchase a system to meet your needs.

Please note that the kill a watt will NOT measure 220 volts.  It won’t measure the water heater, the dryer, or central air conditioning.  To measure these you will need a clamp-meter.  I will consider a post on a clamp meter if you are interested.  If you are, please leave a comment!

This is linked to Frugal Friday.

Do The Job Yourself

One of the biggest ways we save money is that my husband fixes almost everything the breaks in our house.  We have never had a plumber in our house, we have never had someone tune-up our furnace, we have never had to pay for a water heater to be installed.

Not having anyone fix our problems has saved us tens of thousands of dollars.

A friend just had their water replaced.  Cost $786.00.  A water heater costs between $215 and $300 for an average model.  The rest of the cost is for labor.  Why not learn a new skill and save that money?  There are lots of home improvement books, that go step by step explaining how to do common household repairs.  Some people don’t want to mess with repairs, but when you can save from half to three-quarters or more of the cost for some time and effort, it is worth it.

Some people complain that they don’t have the correct tools to perform a job.  My husband firmly believes in buying the tools that you will need to complete the job.  With each tool, you are better prepared for the next job that will certainly come along.  For example, if you learn how to replace a water heater, you buy the necessary tools, and do the job yourself, you will be able to replace any other water heaters in the future, thus saving money each time that job needs to be done.

Also with each job that you complete, you gain skills, knowledge, and confidence that will carry over to future jobs.  We currently have 3 teenage boys.  My husband works with each child while doing jobs around the house.  Our boys work with him changing the oil in vehicles, putting new brake pads on, etc.  They are learning how to take care of our home and vehicles while also learning to gain skills and save money!

This post is linked to Frugal Friday.

Staying Under Budget–Telling Your Money Where To Go

We have been following the Dave Ramsey approach for several months.  My husband bought the whole DVD, CD, Financial Peace University set.  I have a love/hate relationship with the budget.  Before Dave Ramsey I would buy happily on my credit card all month long.  I would watch the balance occasionally throughout the month, but with little concern.  Then when the bill would come, I would cringe and try to figure out how we would finagle everything so that I had enough money to pay the full bill.  We always pay the full bill!

If I couldn’t manage to cover it within our regular checking account, I would take money from our Money Market fund.  It is a slush fund.  But my husband would get angry because we were supposed to be putting money into the fund so that it could then go out for the proper bill.  Money is to go IN and OUT, not just out, which is what it always seemed to do.

Fast forward.  We are now doing mostly a Dave approach, but we still do use the credit card for most of our purchases.  We can track our expenses there easily.  I am really trying to stay on budget, but it’s hard!  I am now always thinking about what category each purchase comes out of and if there is enough money in there to cover what I am buying.

Now instead of stressing out once a month when the credit bill came. I feel a lesser amount of stress…, but we are getting  money into the Money Market fund like we are supposed to, which is great.  I love getting more control over the money, but I don’t love the restraint it takes to have control.

Sorry for whining, but I love just deciding that I want to go somewhere or do something with the kids, then I will think about the budget and wonder where the money is coming from and realize that it just isn’t in the budget.  When you have 6 kids every fun thing costs a chunk of change.

Since I feel that I am limited on our spontaneity, I have been trying a different solution and I hope it will help when we want to just up and go with the kids.  I have been putting some of our miscellaneous money aside for a fun outing.  I have less cash in my wallet during the week, which I think is helping to keep my little purchases under control, which is great!  I am telling my miscellaneous money where to go, which is a fun outing with the hubby and kids.  Right now I have about $100 just sitting there  waiting for a fun time.

Dave Ramsey has helped me to stay on budget, and still do the fun things that I want!

This is linked to Frugal Friday.

Take Care of Your Health

One of the best and frugal things that you can do it to take care of your health.  I was active as a child, through high school and in college.  As I have aged, and watched others around me age, I have learned some things.  I lost my athletic ability gradually over the late teen and early twenties.  I was busy studying in college, then I was starting my career, then I was dating my husband, then we were newlyweds, then I was pregnant with the first child, then my second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth children.  I was tired, exhausted much of the time.  Exercise was the farthest thing from my mind.  Fast forward 25 years, I was heavy and in bad shape for my age.  I had a lot of aches and pains, low confidence and now many children and responsibilities. If I had stayed active through all of this time, I could have gradually adjusted to my life as it changed.  Instead, I started changing after my life was already very complicated.  I started running a couple of years ago and it was hard.  I jumped in to exercise and a more active lifestyle with major parental responsibilities, being a wife, keeping the house clean, cooking and laundry… plus the responsibility of trying to return myself into a healthy person.  With time, I realized exercise was the best thing I could do.  As I watch others around me I see obesity, sedentary lifestyles, and sickness.  I am aware of how I seem to be getting stronger and in better shape and other moms around my age aren’t.  Stay active. Don’t make excuses like I did. Don’t let the years get away from you.  Make time in your schedule for you!

This is linked to Frugal Friday.

Getting My Kids Off of Cereal

I used to buy cereal and milk a couple of times a week.  I  thought it was ok because I was buying the low sugar kind.  I only would buy corn flakes, rice krispies, raisin bran,  etc.   Then I began to see that it was getting more and more expensive as the children were growing.

They would fill a cereal bowl to the top, then pour the milk freely.  I was buying 4 gallons of milk a week and buying cereal frquently too.

I calculated milk at $2.50 a gallon x 4 = $10.00.  Cereal was the generic brands at about $1.89 x 5-6 boxes per week = $9.45 to $11.34. So, about $20 per week.  CRAZY.  It took a lot of cereal to fill them up!  Also, they used too much milk.   No matter how much hounding I did, there were always a couple of bowls with milk left in them that missed.  Money down the drain!

The kids about had a stroke when I stopped buying it, but I held firm.

I now make waffles, pancakes, and muffins and freeze them.  I also have sausages, hard boiled eggs, toast with peanut butter, or nutella available daily.  They survived without the cereal.  As a compromise I buy some sugar cereal when we go on vacation during the summer.  They really look forward to it.  It has really helped me to lower my grocery bill too.

This is another example of how staying out of the grocery to buy cereal and milk saves me money during the month.