Being eco-friendly is more about changing the way your family uses energy than buying new things to reduce usage. Remember, every item we buy requires energy to manufacture, package and ship. Even though a product helps you save water or electricity, energy is expended to create it.
If you want to make your home a greener place to live, there are easy ways to reduce energy use without making a single purchase.
Choose Utility Providers Wisely
Who supplies your energy and where the energy comes from can have a profound impact on your eco-footprint – and your monthly bill. In deregulated energy areas, people can choose from numerous providers and dozens of plans. Some of those plans are now powered by renewable energy.
Simply taking the time to compare providers, rates, and plans can lower your monthly expenses and reduce carbon emissions. Companies like the one found at this link are helping consumers compare electric rates and find providers that offer green energy plans.
Here are a few more tips related to utility providers:
- Look for providers that offer rebates for green updates so when you do make a purchase you can offset the price.
- Use account features that show your daily and weekly electricity usage. Some providers will even show you what’s using the most energy in your home.
- Sign up with a provider that’s invested in renewable energy. Research their involvement in green energy, investments they are making and what they’re doing to support more efficient infrastructure.
- Ask if the provider offers time-of-use plans. These plans charge slightly different rates depending on the season and time of day. If you use energy mostly at night when demand is lower you could end up saving money.
Heating and Cooling
Heating and cooling is the biggest chunk of the electric bill for most Americans. It’s easy to push a few buttons on the thermostat to make your house warmer or cooler, but it’s not very energy efficient. There are plenty of ways you can cool off without air conditioning and warm up without a heater.
These good habits can also help you become less dependent on the HVAC.
- Use the programmable thermostat if you have one. It can save you up to 10% on electric bills.
- Put the thermostat at the most efficient settings. In the summer keep the temperature around 78 degrees and bump it up a little when no one is home. During the winter keep the temperature setting at 68 degrees or as low as 60 degrees when you’re away.
- Change or clean the air filters every two months.
- Clean the vents and make sure nothing is blocking the airflow.
- Close the vents in rooms that are rarely used.
- Use fans instead of decreasing the temperature. It can create a wind chill effect that makes the room feel up to four degrees cooler.
- Make sure the fan is turning counter clockwise in the summer so the air pushes straight down.
- Have the HVAC system serviced annually. It will cost a little money up front but professional servicing can help the system run more efficiently and increase its lifespan.
In the Kitchen
More energy is consumed in the kitchen than just about anywhere else in the house. Between the power-hungry appliances and cooking kilowatt-hours add up fast. Make these small adjustments and you’ll see a big change in your bill.
- Check the refrigerator and freezer temperature settings. The refrigerator can be set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit without any concern of bacteria growth. Freezers should be set to 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Keep the refrigerator and freezer as full as possible so it takes less energy to cool.
- Clear frost out of refrigerators and freezers so they run more efficiently.
- Clean the vents at the bottom of the fridge for maximum efficiency.
- Wait until the dishwasher is fully loaded before washing dishes.
- Skip the heat dry setting on the dishwasher.
- Don’t preheat the oven unless a recipe specifically says to do so.
- Use the microwave, toaster oven or a crockpot instead of the oven whenever possible.
In the Laundry Room
Another place where a disproportionate amount of energy and water is used is the laundry room. Dryers, in particular, require a significant amount of energy each time they’re run. With the tips below you can keep using your washer and dryer while reducing energy usage.
- Only wash and dry full loads of laundry.
- Line dry as many items as possible.
- Wash clothes in cool or cold water to reduce energy usage by as much as 90%.
- Only use the sanitary washing cycle if necessary.
- Use the high spin or extended spin setting on the washer.
- Use high efficiency detergent when possible.
- Dry loads of laundry back-to-back so there’s no cool down period.
- Use the moisture sensor to cut down on drying time.
- Put a towel in with lighter fabrics to reduce the time needed to dry clothes.
- Clean the lint filter before using the dryer.
I often hear that raising kids is sooooo expensive. I honestly don’t think that has to be true. Yes you will spend more than you would if you were childless but it doesn’t have to break the bank. It is all in how you choose to live. Frankly if you do not raise kids in a consumerist driven home environment and you do not fall into the trappings up keeping up with the Joneses and the Joneses children, you can manage quite well financially. You can manage quite well AND give your children a good life.
This may mean that your kids don’t eat at restaurants very much. It may mean that movie theater trips are not very frequent. Extra curricular activities that are accompanied by a healthy price tag may not be on the table. Kids can still thrive when we aren’t throwing money at their entertainment desires. Sometimes the answer is no and sometimes you just find a clever way to achieve the same result without the expenditures. Not only will you save money, you will raise better kids, in my humble opinion. Are you up to the challenge?
Ways to Raise a Family and Not Go Broke
No Unnecessary Baby Stuff – In our culture when we find out we are expecting a baby it is not unusual for the excessive spending to start. We need lots of baby clothes, burp rags, receiving blankets, bouncy chairs, baby swings, bibs, baby toys, pacifiers, a custom designed nursery, a fancy stroller, an fabulous crib..the list goes on. Well, you don’t need any of it. Really you don’t. All that cute baby stuff is mostly a vanity purchase by parents. The clothes will be outgrown in weeks. The baby won’t play with toys for a few months and even then they would rather play with the measuring spoons from the kitchen and not the silver baby rattle you bought. They will hate the baby swing and your fancy stroller will be such a pain to lug around solo that you will decide it is ultimately too much trouble to use. Skip all the baby purchases and buy the bare minimum. Co-sleep, wear your baby, and buy used clothes and toys as you need them. Easy peasy.
Nurse Your Babies & Make Baby Food – Why spend a year or longer buying baby formula when you can breastfeed? Not only is it a hundred time healthier than sugar laden, heavy metal containing baby formula, it is FREE. Breastfed babies are sick less often and they find great comfort in the act of nursing. It is also more convenient. No need to be in the kitchen warming formula on the stove at 3AM, you have milk warm and ready in seconds when you breastfeed. Store bought baby food is also a huge waste of money. Just puree regular foods and freeze servings in ice cube trays so you always have some on hand. This healthier and cheaper.
Hand Me Downs – You will have to buy some stuff, that is true. If you hang on to these items you can pass them on to future children and not worry about starting from scratch with each child. Even if your first child was a girl and she had pink onesies, your new baby boy can wear them around, at the very least around your own home. Why buy new stuff because it the wrong color? Use what you have instead of buying new.
Conserve Resources – With every person that enters the home we use more resources..more power, more water, etc. We need to recognize this and stay on top of it. More people means more laundry so it may be time to start line dry clothes, at least some of them time. Electric clothes dryers are one of the worst energy sucks in your home. Lights that turn off automatically when you leave a room are handy because small kids won’t remember to turn off lights. Teach kids that when it is yellow let it mellow and when it’s brown flush it down. This little act can save tons in the toddler years when they have to pee every ten minutes. Also use a shower bucket (or bath bucket) during all those frequent toddler baths.
Public Schooling or Home Schooling – Yep, no pricey private education. With parental assistance kids can get a good public school education. If there are learning gaps you can address those yourself or seek outside help as needed. It would still be cheaper than a private school. If the environment worries you then homeschooling is an option but in all honesty the environment you want to shield them from in public schools is the same environment they will have to function in as adults. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to pay for private schooling because others in your faith or community do. That is just another way of trying to keep up with the Joneses.
Annual Passes – The best ways to experience local entertainment usually is with annual passes or memberships. A yearly membership to the zoo, the science museum, the play museum, or the waterpark often pay for themselves in one or two visits. And you don’t need to get them every year. If you visited the science museum ten times last year because you had a membership then go for a zoo membership this year. We all want our kids to have fun experiences and this is a way of cheaply providing it.
Thrift Store Shopping – Most of your home purchases can be made at second hand stores. You can buy clothing, back to school gear, dishes, bedding, toys, decor…you name it. Just make a pact with yourself that whenever your kids need something you will look at thrift stores first. Chances are you will find what you need and save yourself lots of money.
Music Lessons Online – Many parents want their children to learn some sort of musical instrument. If your public school does not have a free or low cost option there are always online options. Youtube is full of instructional videos. The Hoffman Academy offers free online piano lessons, The Violin Lab offers online violin instruction for only $6.50 a month. In my area we were able to get a violin for our daughter for $21 a month and that goes 100% towards the purchase price. We are basically renting to own with no interest. There are many, many options.
Cook At Home – When you need to keep costs down, eating out is a rare luxury. This is okay though because I think it is valuable to teach kids that making food at home is the norm and they can learn to do the cooking themselves. It is a truly wonderful thing when your teen children can cook for themselves, their siblings, and for the whole family. Eating out can kill your budget in a matter of days to get used to home cooked meals and packing lunches.
Modest Holidays & Birthdays – Just take a look at Pinterest and you will see the crazy amount of time and money that many people put towards birthdays and holidays. I personally chose to not fall into that trap. We have always done modest Christmas celebrations of maybe $100 per child and decor that we sourced exclusively from yard sales and thrift stores. Halloween decor is sourced the same way and costumes can be made at home. Easter baskets were filled with thrift store finds. Birthdays are also modest…a dinner of their choosing, a home cooked cake, and a gift worth about $50. We don’t host holiday or birthday parties either. We makes these times special and memorable without spending lots of money.
Smart Shopping – For groceries we shop at Aldi almost exclusively if you have one near you I highly recommend you check it out. We also use Amazon Prime for the low prices, the free two day shipping, the music streaming, and video streaming, etc. I do a lot of price checking before I make purchases. There are also apps that reward you with cash back for buying certain products. There are loyalty programs that pay you with gas credit. There are credit cards that give anywhere from 1% to 5% cashback on purchases but you have to be disciplined enough to not carry a balance and pay interest. There are lots of tricks you can use to shop smarter and it is actually kind of fun to do.
No Snacking & Simple Meals – In our house we essentially avoid snacking. We all get our three meals and then perhaps fruit if they get hungry in between but I do not buy snack foods in general. Our meals are also fairly simple with cheap ingredients, definitely not Pinterest worthy. We eat a lot of leftovers, we eat a lot of salad, and we eat a lot of whatever proteins I could find the cheapest that week. I like to keep dinner costs at or below $10 per meal or $2 per person. If I go over $10 a meal then that meal needs to provide leftovers for packed lunches.
Garden and Homestead – You can make your grocery bill go further and put your home to work by gardening and homesteading. Homesteading basically just means that your home is “productive” rather than just a money suck. It produces for the family in some way. Start a garden that provides a couple hundred pounds of fresh produce a year. Plant some fruit trees so that you don’t have to buy things like apples, pear, cherries, or peaches anymore. Raise some animals on a small scale such as chickens, rabbits, or quail and then you have a low cost supply of eggs and/or meat. When times get tough you will be happy that you have this resource and its great for kids to be in this sort of environment.
Cheap or Free Community Entertainment – If you look, you will often find lots of free community events that you can take the family to such as festivals and block parties. There are also great park systems to be had in cities and also at the state or national level depending upon where you live. Look for places to hike, picnic, camp, etc. Look for local waterfalls and swimming beaches. City pools are also very affordable usually. I know in Columbus they are about .50 cents per person per day whereas the pools in the suburb areas are $10 a person/day. Really learn about your community as much as you can and find all the hidden gems.
Libraries – I am raising readers. My husband and I also love to read. Instead of buying books we use the library and we request books so that they are delivered to the library closest to us. Libraries also have free events for kids of all ages.
Modest Vacations – We are not going to be that family who does a six day park hopper pass to DisneyWorld and stays at one of the on location luxury resorts, with a dining plan, and breakfast with Mickey. I am okay with that. It is not worth the money in my opinion. We don’t vacation every year and we actually rarely vacationed when the kids were little and not old enough to value the experiences. They were happy just going to the fair to see fireworks.
We chose to do a few weekend trips that took us to various parts of our home state rather drop a few grand on a week long trip out of state. We stayed in Motel 8s rather than resorts. We brought food with us when we traveled so that we didn’t have to eat out. I also took children with me on business trips if I could. My oldest got to go to DC with me once and my daughter went with me to New York City where we did lots of sightseeing. Now that the kids are older we are traveling more but we still do it on a tight budget.
If you are tight on money do not feel as though your kids are missing out on anything. They aren’t. You can provide a wonderful life for them while on a budget.