I'm going be posting one hands-on, nothing fancy, anyone-can-do-this frugal suggestion each month of this year. If I'm on my game, these posts will appear at the beginning of each month. If not, well...we'll see. My goal is to offer money saving tips that will be suitable for either renters or homeowners, and to make them practical for as wide an audience as possible. Some Action Items will challenge you to try something new, some of them will have a seasonal flavor, and some of them will be once and done tasks. I will also sometime offer alternative action items on the chance that you may have already taken care of that month's task.
January's Frugal Action Item is to replace your standard light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. I'm suggesting this one right now for several reasons. First of all, I know a lot of you out there got gift cards (for Target, Home Depot, Kmart, grocery stores, hardware stores, etc.) for the holidays that you can use to pay for the CF bulbs. Second of all, we run our lights for more hours per day during the darkest months of the year. And finally, the sooner you replace your standard bulbs with CFs, the sooner you start saving money. So this Action Item can't wait!
If money is really, really tight for you, buy however many CF bulbs you can scrape up the money for, and put them in the lights you use most often. In addition, be aware that many, many local electricity providers offer coupons or rebates for the purchase of CF bulbs. It never hurts to do a google search for coupons either. As you begin to save money each month on your electrical bill, apply the savings to the purchase of more bulbs and replace more of the lights in your home, in order of heaviest use.
If you're a renter or a homeowner planning to sell anytime soonish, save the standard bulbs for any built-in light fixtures. Take your CF bulbs with you when you move, replacing them with the standard bulbs you saved.
Alternative Action Item: If you've already swapped out all of your standard bulbs for CFs, it's a good time of year to have a look at your hot water pipes, if you can get at them. This is especially important for homeowners who heat with hot water radiant systems, and doubly important for homes with copper water pipes. (PVC water pipes are less conductive, so they lose less heat over a long run.) Pipe insulation has come a long way, baby. If your pipes have old insulation tape on them, it's time for an upgrade. If they're completely naked, throw some synthetic rubber insulation over them. This cheap foam-like insulation is extremely well priced. It's super easy to install and all you need is a box cutter to trim the insulation to fit.
While I can understand that renters may not want to bear the expense of insulation, this is still worth considering. First talk to your landlord and see whether he or she will reimburse or split the cost of the insulation. If not, you may still want to eat the cost if you plan to stay in the rental for a while or if you live in a very cold climate. The synthetic rubber insulation is really very cheap, and the return on investment is likely to be pretty fast. And hey, if you're a lucky renter who doesn't pay for heat, you may want to pursue this anyway, as it's good for the environment. And if your landlord's expenses are kept in line, you may be less likely to see a rent increase.
Happy New Year, everyone! Let's fill 2009 with frugality, good food and home cooking, and warm camaraderie.
Further Action Items:
February: Kitchen Competence
March: Rein in Entertainment Spending
April: Go Paper-less
May: Solar Dryer
June: Raise the Deductible on Your Auto Insurance
July: Stay Cool Without Touching that Thermostat
August: Repair It!
October: Preventative Health Care
November: Frugal Holiday Wish List
December: Plan Next Year's Garden