***UPDATE: Shortly after this article was written, Mike and I were offered to live rent FREE with an older couple we have gotten to know over the last year and a half. Check out the cool story!***
I hope you have enjoyed this series so far! In case you’ve missed it, we spent the first week of March talking about extravagant giving, giving on a budget, the motivation for starting a budget. Yesterday I posted the steps Mike and I followed to set up our budget, and the plan we came up with. Let the scrutinizing begin. 🙂
The first category Mike and I thought through as we began to think about ways to cut costs was the area of housing and utilities, which for us is just an energy bill.
Mike and I live in an old apartment above a garage out in the country, and we really like our landlord neighbors. We also enjoy pretty cheap, month-to-month rent for a two-bedroom apartment in this area. What we don’t necessarily enjoy is that we have to drive to go anywhere– there are no sidewalks and we are 7 miles from the nearest towns- and gas is NOT cheap! However, since, Mike is looking for a job that could take us up to an hour away from our current apartment, we decided that it doesn’t really make sense for us to even consider moving.
We have thought, however, about what we would look for if we are still in debt when the time comes for us to move and we need to save as much as we can on housing. The basic question we asked ourselves was: What do I really need?
I’m going to tell you a secret. I’m really wierd. When I was little I used to imagine how I could live in my bathroom if I really needed to. I had it all planned out- I could install a mini-fridge under the sink, keep a roll out mat to sleep on. I would have running water and a toilet easily accessible. What more could I need? I’ve also reasoned out loud in the past with Mike about how easy it would be to live in a mini-van (he FREAKED out when I started talking about it because he thought I was saying that’s what I literally wanted to do).
So Mike, and everyone else out there, that’s NOT what I am suggesting we or anybody else do! I’m just saying that when you start to think about what the real necessities in life are, you can make do with a whole lot less than you think you can.
So anyway, if we had to move tomorrow, Mike and I would look for a one bedroom apartment with a walk-in closet that is ideally within walking distance of Mike’s job and/or of a grocery store, library, and park.
A one bedroom for a family of three? Yep. Olivia is only 8 months old and she won’t really need her own space until she is much older (and, define need). We could easily fit her crib into walk-in closet, and really, that’s all the space she needs. Plus, automatic dark for naps and bedtime? That’s a bonus in my book!
Other than the walk-in, we’re going to look for the cheapest possible rent for something that is still safe and liveable for our family. No big fancy perks (unless they come at a dirt-cheap price!) Someday maybe, but not while we are squeezing every dime out of our budget to become DEBT-FREE!! I’m pretty sure the momentary sacrifice will be worth the gain…
Here are some other thoughts and ideas about rent:
I have heard of families that share a room with their kids, or who use the living room as their bedroom and let the kids have the bedroom as their room. I’m not saying these are ideal situations, but rent can be a BIG chunk of the budget and if you are trying to get out of debt or save up money quick, these are some big-time money saving options to look into!
A few of our friends have also bought big houses, or rent an apartment with an extra bedroom or two, on purpose and decided to rent out the extra bedrooms or basement to other friends (single or with families). These people highly value community living, which is definitely not easy, but can be a great way to build relationships, learn about yourself, and save some money while doing it. Roommates. Love it. 🙂
The Energy Bill
The next thing Mike and I had to consider was our energy bill. This pesky bill has gotten way to high recently as the weather has turned colder and our heat has been kicking on more frequently. Also, like I said earlier, we live in an old apartment above a garage. Read: big-time energy UN-efficient.
However, this winter we have been able to cut our energy bill in half by doing a few things:
- Keep it cool: We keep the thermostat at 62 degrees. We also wear sweatshirts, socks, and hats or hoods a lot!
- Temporary insulation: We went to Wal-Mart one afternoon and picked up a few $10 window kits, and then spent the afternoon sealing our windows with shrink wrap. They actually don’t look too bad, and it has definitely helped keep the drafts out. My friend from Alaska tells me this is what everyone does every winter.
- Sealing ourselves in: A major heat drain in our house is our front door. It has virtually no insulation, and it does not fit the frame well. So on really cold windy days, I could stand by the door and feel the blast. Not good. So we bought a $3 roll of sticky foam insulator and sealed our door and frame shut. And we haven’t left our home since. Just kidding. We have a back door. 🙂
- Keep it clean, and nothing else: Another thing we do to lower the energy bill? We take shorter hot showers. This is a big bummer for me because I like to relax in the shower, but it costs money to heat that water!
- Other energy drains: We unplug electronics when they are not in use, especially the laptop and the printer because even when they aren’t on, they use energy. We always turn off the lights when we leave a room, and rarely turn the lights on when it’s light outside. We try to keep our stove and oven use to a minimum (a small toaster oven has been helpful to use sometimes), and we also try to be efficient in our use of the washer and drier. I almost exclusively use the cold/cold setting to wash our clothes, and we only wash full, large loads so we don’t have to waste the energy on both machines. I bet we could even just start line drying (and that would help to humidify the air!), but don’t like how “crunchy” air dried clothes feel. Maybe that’s lame, but oh well. I only turn the drier on for 30-40 minutes instead of an hour, so hey, that counts for something!
What do you do to keep housing and energy costs down? Have any other great tips for lowering the energy bill (or any other utility bills)? Have any real life experience living in a jam-packed situation- either good or bad? Leave a comment and tell me about it!
Go To: My Budget Boot Camp Day 6