Convenient Water Saver

Convenient Water Saver

I had an occasion this winter to go to the local big box hardware stores. This is never good because my imagination gets carried away with all the projects I could do…if only I had the time and I tend to spend way too much money on stuff that never gets finished (I’m talking about you, galvanized wire and uncut tree limbs that will make a new garden border). But while I was there I picked up some seeds. Nothing special, just some perennial wildflowers and chamomile and mint. I got the chamomile specifically for tea and have every intention of adding some tea bushes for black tea to the garden. We go through a lot of black tea in this house. But I knew I really really wanted a tea kettle to heat my water because they’re cute and they whistle so I would stop getting involved in something and the pot of tea boiling over before I remembered it. So I hit up Amazon and Target and the tea websites trying to find one that was super adorable and whistled. I had no idea they were so expensive!  A whistling tea kettle costs more than a coffee maker!  Eventually I gave up looking because I had other things to do and the reasonably priced ones seemed to have horrible reviews. Well, while I was BJ’s the other day, I saw they had tea kettles!  Reasonably priced and actually the exact Cuisinart version I had eyeballed. But they also had almost the exact same kettle from their house brand Berkley & Jensen for just $24.99. I knew from my days working there that BJ’s gets good product for their house labels. I also knew that if it didn’t work properly they would take it back and give me a refund or store credit with zero problems so I bought it. It works just fine and boils more water in the same amount of time as my pot I was using for tea. 

What on earth does this have to do with saving water?  I went to clean a pan this morning and was about to flip the faucet on and wait for the hot water to come out when my shiny kettle looked back at me. I’ll hang on to that cold water until you can use it, it said (OK, it didn’t actually look at me or say anything, but if it was a TV tea kettle it totally would have!). So I ran the cold water into my kettle and cleaned the pan when the warm water came out. I used the cold water to water my plants. I already paid for it when I turned on the faucet, and it just rushing down the drain every single time I needed hot water annoyed the crap outta me. Especially knowing that I would have to run the faucet again to water my plants. So from now on, I have a new habit of keeping a pitcher, tea kettle or watering can right by the sink to catch that cold water I don’t need right now. I can’t wait to see how this impacts my water bill!


Strange things that saved me money 

Strange things that saved me money 

It’s always fun to find that some accidental change in your lifestyle saved you money. Here are some things I have done, mostly by accident, that have saved me money. 

Using an electric razor to shave my legs cut my water bill by 10%

Yep, because my showers were 5-10 minutes shorter my water bill dropped. Now 10% of our regular water bill was only $7, but that’s lunch out one day. Over the last 2 years, that saved me $168.

I had a phase of super dry itchy skin and started skipping showers

Gross, right?  Except that I work an office job and really only need to clean those parts of my body that touch each other regularly and my feet. So I grabbed a soapy washrag and cleaned those and flipped my head into the tub to wash my hair and face. Skipping showers eventually led to skipping washing my hair too. I used some dry shampoo instead. My water bill dropped another 20%. Bonus: I’m not in the slightest bit oily or itchy. My skin adjusted and my hair is slowly getting used to less washing. If I worked out every day, this routine would obviously need tweaking but um…I don’t do that. 

I kept forgetting to buy dog food before we ran out so I set it up to be delivered to the house automatically

I’m a horrible dog mom. I was constantly running to the store at the last minute or feeding my babies extra cookies to get their bellies full when they didn’t have a full bowl of food left. Or my wife would leave the food in her trunk and they wouldn’t get their dinner until she came home from work-at 10pm. I killed both these birds with 1 stone and set up Amazon subscribe & save. My babies all have plenty of food & cat litter, I can’t forget anything and if I have 5 items delivered each month, I get a 15% discount on all of them. I saved $5 a month on cat litter alone! The program has free shipping too so there’s no extra cost to have everything delivered vs driving to the store. Add that to no impulse buys from walking through the pet store…well, lets say I’ve been know to drop an extra $30 on treats and toys. 

I quit using the brakes in my car-as much. 

I spend an hour each morning and each evening in stop and go traffic to get the 18 miles from my house to the office and back.  Eventually I realized I needed new brakes-badly. Instead of gassing just to brake 25 feet away, I just let my car roll slowly so I never gassed or braked in those long lines at the stop lights. I’m now able to get an extra 36 miles out of a tank of gas and my new brakes should last much longer than the last set. I save about $52 a year in gas just on my commute (at $2/gallon) plus the extra brake job of $120. 

There you have it folks. It may not be much, but when you’re on a budget, every little bit of savings helps!  What strange things have you done that saved you money?

Things I Learned from Upsizing

This month marks our 5th anniversary in this house. It seemed great at first but about 2 years ago, I realized we never did, and never will, need this much space. 

We moved out of a cute little townhouse of about 1300 sqft. There wasn’t anything special about it-totally typical 2 bed 2 1/2 bath place built in 2006. By the end of our third year there we were screaming about how small it was and how we needed a bigger house with a yard for our dogs. Hysterical notion looking back. 

When we moved into our new place that was built during the same time period at double the size on a quarter acre lot, we rejoiced. The space we needed! And the same payment! 

Then reality set in. We didn’t have enough room. I figured we just collected more stuff so a thorough cleaning out was in order. So we donated a lot of stuff to Goodwill. Helped, but the house was still a mess.  I totally got how our old closet was overflowing, but the new closet was twice the size. There was no reason for this!  So I set out on a mission to better utilize the space we had. 

Lesson 1: Proper storage is key. 

I got some of those adjustable Rubbermaid systems for our closet. I was totally guessing on the layout when I started but when I was done, we were able to move out dressers into the closet. And it was tidy. And it mostly stays that way except for laundry day.  I was even able to roll my sewing station in there. That was the day I realized our house was too big. 

Lesson 2: One person cannot cook, clean and maintain this size house when other people and pets live there.

At least, not while working a full time job with 2 hours of commute time a day. Maintaining this property is a full time job. I spend every evening cleaning and most of my weekend either fixing something or keeping up the yard to HOA standards.  Rare is the moment I can relax and enjoy the space around me. Where’s the fun in that?

Lesson 3: People just wanna have fun. 

Nobody wants to spend all their days and nights living in a mess or toiling away their lives working on their living space (at least the sane people). Yes, I enjoy it to a degree which is why I’m always waiste deep in DIY projects, but this is just ridiculous. If I miss a day of scrubbing something then I’m already 2 days behind. I want to read a new book. I want to take my dogs to the park. I want to be able to get sick and not have to spend a week trying to put my surroundings back in order. (Let the universe please note that I do not want to get sick and that this was merely and example!)

Lesson 4: Nobody needs as much space as they think they do. 

We need less stuff and less space than we think. I went all Konmari and cleaned out a lot of things and that helped. There are empty drawers and empty shelves in our cabinets in our kitchen. The space is all wrong for what we kept, but that goes back to Lesson 1.  I’m working on a (DIY) plan for accommodating the awkward items. And yes, I’ll definitely share that project with you! 

The bottom line is I now know that the quality of the space we have is better than having lots of space. Awkward shaped rooms, long hallways and poor storage choices waste a lot of the house and keeping things simple and small allow for freedom of your time and money. Often,m when upsizing, we taking into consideration the mortgage and tax and utility increases in our budget, but not other things such as double the house means double the cleaning supplies and time to maintain it. If we choose multifunctional spaces instead of lots of individual rooms, we can live larger on less. And that is exactly what I plan to do in our next home. 

Let’s get another round…of budgets

I have a new coworker who is in his first job out of college. With super sweet parents who are paying his college loans and cellphone and car insurance, his expenses are minimal. So, when one of our insurance agents approached him about purchasing life insurance, I agreed that it was a great idea. Being young and healthy now helps him lock in reasonable rates on permanent insurance and gets the expense into his budget early in life. 

Except, he didn’t have a budget. 

My mouth dropped open and I just stared at him. He’s a smart guy and took the hint to lay out all his expenses on paper so he could evaluate the real expenses in his life. You know, the ones you completely forget about like oil changes and gaming memberships? I reminded him about the things he wasn’t paying: cellphone, car insurance, renter’s insurance and deductions from his paycheck like health insurance, disability insurance, and 401k that he wasn’t eligible for yet.

It was his turn for a jaw-drop. He looked at me and said “I have no money.”  

I just smiled, because I had been there, and told him that entry level professional pay doesn’t stretch far even in a major southern city with 4 roommates. I told him that budgets aren’t just for people like me who are desperate to turn their financial life around, but are a tool to stay financially healthy from the start. I also told him the purpose of that life insurance policy was to leave money for his heirs…ones he didn’t have. I suggested he rethink the $500000 worth he was just sold at a premium of $300/month. 

I went home that night and made him a priority list of savings, insurance and investments based on his situation. Here’s what I came up with:

  • General savings of 3 months income
  • Medical savings in an HSA that covers the out of pocket maximum on the policy
  • Disability insurance 
  • Renter’s insurance

From here, I suggested a balance of life insurance and retirement savings. The policy he was sold left no room in his budget for retirement savings which on the grand scale of things is pretty morbid. This strategy assumed he would die an early death and wouldn’t need money for his golden years. I don’t know about you, but spending my retirement on government assistance with a boat load of life insurance sounds sad. 

The next morning I gave him my little sheet of paper explaining the why behind each priority. I’m pretty sure he disregarded the renter’s insurance, but did tell me he was changing the life policy. 

I feel so lucky to have helped him on his way. He told me I should be a financial planner. I laughed my head off. If only everyone had such straightforward circumstances, that might be a great idea. For now, I’ll stick to my day job. 

*This post is a real life example of why I think everyone needs to budget and manage risks in their life and is not intended to be financial, investment or tax advice of any kind. I made these suggestions to my coworker as a concerned friend only.