Making the Cut: How Low Can We Go?

Another way we’re working to keep our living expenses low is by challenging ourselves not to use the air conditioner (or the heat at other seasons of the year) for as long as possible. Actually, we haven’t technically set the goal for “as long as possible,” but we are trying to make it until June without turning on the AC! Only 1 more week! But Greenville’s May weather this year has made it hardly difficult at all. So, perhaps we’ll set our goal to make it through June, too! I love seeing electric bills for under $50 or $60! (Because our winter heat bills more than make up for the difference…even if the heater doesn’t work! :))

Our house is poorly insulated, and the upstairs (which is where our bedroom and our little girl’s bedroom are located) gets quite hot in the afternoons. Thus, there have been a few times when it really has been a struggle not to go flip on the air conditioning. Here are a few things that have helped us stay cool:

  • Fans. Really, this is one of the biggest things you can do to keep a house cool. We have a box fan in our upstairs bedroom window at night, as well as an overhead fan. It hasn’t really gotten hot enough to need to use fans in our downstairs yet, though.
  • Keeping the blinds closed when it is sunny and really hot.
  • Doing high energy activities in the morning.
  • Going somewhere cool if it gets really hot.
  • Our 15-month old takes a nap during the afternoon heat; so if it really hot, she sleeps in just a diaper and we spray her down (she loves it!) before her nap. She still wakes up slightly sweaty, but she seems comfortable.
  • Drinking lots of water.
  • Going to bed after a cold shower and with wet hair.

All told, going without AC during some hot times has been a great experience for us, particularly as we anticipate be living in more “rustic” settings. Not working in an office or constantly being in a heavily air-conditioned environment has made it easier for my daughter and I to adjust to the change of weather. Though, in the dead of summer it sure makes church seem cold! But we are still spoiled; and if it gets super, super hot, this pregnant lady plans to turn on some air conditioning. Additionally, we rarely use lights during the daytime, but there are probably still a lot of areas where we could cut back on our use of electricity.

What about you? I know lots of people who set a “no AC” goal–how long does yours go? What are your tips for staying cool?

potential savings:
Rating: 5.6/10 (1216 votes cast)

Making the Cut: Getting Rid of the Land Line

A little over a month ago, my husband and I did something new. Something daring, I suppose. Something frugal..but something that many others are doing these days. We dropped our landline, and now have only 1 cell phone between the 2 of us.

When we first moved to our present location, my husband worked a non-office job, and I was adjusting to staying at home alone in a neighborhood that is sometimes considered a little “rough.” So, we made the plunge we never thought we would and got a cell phone. For safety, we felt we should have 2 phones. We were debating between getting 2 cell phones at the time, but because we had to have a landline in order to have our internet service, we went with 1 cell phone and 1 landline.

Earlier this year, we learned we no longer needed a landline to continue our internet services (Bellsouth/ATT). My sister also offered to let us join her Verizon family plan and pay just the additional fee (she was reciprocating what a friend’s family had done for her for a few years), which comes out to about $10/month. We rarely make calls to the non-Verizon service holders during the daytime, so we would not be using up any additional minutes on her plan. Since we were part of another Verizon family plan that had a few more features and minutes than we needed, we switched over to my sister’s account which has the most basic plan possible. Between my sister, my mom, and our family we still don’t use all our monthly minutes.

We also decided to go ahead and drop the landline. We just have 1 cell phone between us, but now that my husband works at an office with a phone, it has not been much of an adjustment at all. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages we’ve found:

Advantages:

  • No more telemarketers!
    • I have really enjoyed having fewer calls, and feel like I get a lot more done during the day.
  • We’re saving around $35 a month (cell phone switch, and land line drop) which comes to $420 for the year.
  • Our phone was in an inconvenient location before (wiring), and now I don’t have to risk my life to pick it up in time. :)
  • Dropping our land line did not affect our internet service at all.

Disadvantages:

  • Not being able to get in touch with each other at times when my husband isn’t at work, but we’re in separate places.
  • Not having a home phone number to put in required forms.

Other factors:

  • My husband’s parents live internationally. Fortunately we both have high-speed internet and are able to talk for free via Skype’s video calls. We prefer this over phone conversations anyway.
  • Almost all of our family has the same cell phone service provider that we do, so our calls to each other are free minutes.
  • We try to limit our non-service-to-service calls to times that are free.
  • We also considered getting a Magic Jack. If you’re not quite ready to get rid of a land line all together, but want to get rid of your phone bills, you may want to consider getting a Magic Jack. You can call anywhere in the US or Canada for free. All you need is a computer with a broadband connection and you plug the device into your USB port. You can try it for free for 30 days, and the service is $19.95 per YEAR(!) if you decide to keep it. I’d be interested in hearing if you like this if you’ve done it.
  • Eventually, we’ll probably get a second cell phone. Probably even before this year is over, but for now, we’re enjoying just 1!

What about you? Have any of you had a similar experience? Anyone with no phone? Anyone without a cell phone still? Anyone try the Magic Jack or something similar?

My husband also wrote a brief article on the subject/our experience, which has been featured here.

Wondering why we are paying for internet? :) Well, from a financial perspective, my husband’s second job requires home internet; and also, so does this website, which earns more than enough to cover our internet fees. But even before that, we found that by using printable coupons and deals I found online, we could save much more than we were paying for our basic high-speed service.

MagicJack

potential savings:
Rating: 5.3/10 (1324 votes cast)
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