How To Get Your Monthly Electric Bill Below $25.

OK, so this might not be possible for everyone, especially those with large families. But for the past 3 months, our electric bill has not been over $25 a month – and it took some steps to get it to that point. It was averaging about $45-$50 a month up until that point. So I figured that if we could do it, you might be able reduce your bill by just as drastic an amount too. Here are some of the things that we did around the house to cut our electric bill in half:

Unplug everything when not in use. And when I say everything, I mean everything – microwaves, toaster ovens, computers, TVs, VCRs, cell phone/iPod chargers, stereos – everything.

Remove some bulbs. In our bathroom, the main light fixture had 8 light bulbs in it…until I removed 4 of them. Neither of us needed to feel like we were onstage on Broadway while we brushed our teeth in the morning.

Hang your laundry out to dry. There really is absolutely no reason to run your dryer when the sun and wind can dry your clothes for free. And during the winter, you can hang them inside on drying racks to continue the savings.

Set the temp on the freezer and refrigerator correctly. OK, don’t do this if it is already set at the optimum temperature, but chances are that you have yours set to be too cold. The freezer should be set between +2°F and 0°F, and the refrigerator should be set between 36°F and 40°F.

Wait until you can fill the washing machine before you do laundry. Washing a half load of socks is just a waste of energy.

Use task lighting correctly. Instead of turning on every major light in the room you are in, just turn on smaller lamp that lights up the area you are working in. And be sure it is a CFL bulb!

Try using fans instead of air conditioning when possible. We don’t even have air conditioners at our house, but I know most people do. But before you turn it on, try using a small desk fan or a ceiling fan to try to cool down the house. Open some windows to get some breezes blowing through.

For small meals, use a small oven. And by that I mean use the toaster or convection oven instead of the full-sized oven, so you don’t have to heat up all that empty space.

Just by concentrating on saving energy and by being conscious of our decisions around the house, we cut our energy bill in half. And for me, not only do I love spending less money on the bill, but I also take satisfaction in the reduction of our energy use from month to month. But what about you? Have you taken any steps to lower your electric bill? I have friends who spend over $150 on electricity and insist that they cannot get it any lower. Yet when I look around their house, I see that everything is plugged in, multiple lights are on, and nothing is on power strips. Even a little bit of effort can go a long way!


Credit Card Research: IberiaBank Gold Cash Back Rewards Card.

Since I get emails all the time asking about different credit cards and if people should be signing up for this, that, or the other one, this will be a new feature every week about different credit cards. This week’s card is the IberiaBank Visa Gold Cash Back Rewards Card, which enables cardholders to earn a 1% cash rebate per dollar spent on all purchases. There is no limit to the amount of rebates cardholders may earn and rebates do not expire for the life of the account. There is also a 0% introductory rate on balance transfers submitted during the first three months. (If you are reading this by RSS, you might have to click through to see all the details)


Money Quote Friday – Thought Of As Poor Edition.

Thousands upon thousands are yearly brought into a state of real poverty by their great anxiety not to be thought of as poor.“””Robert Mallett

Isn’t that the truth? Have a great weekend everyone.


What Is Your Debt Philosophy?

While I am not a fan of carrying consumer credit card debt (yes, there are some people who don’t mind), there are three kinds of debt I don’t necessarily have a problem with. Going into debt to pay for a home, for an education, and even for a needed car are the only three times I feel it is OK to go into debt. Most people don’t have the income or savings to pay cash for their home, so they take out a mortgage for 30 years. Some people might want to get a better job, and might need to borrow the money to go back to school. And some people don’t feel comfortable shelling out $20,000+ in cash for a new car, so they might have to find a way to borrow some at a low rate. The only debt we have right now is our one car payment; our other car, my Jeep, was paid for in cash because it was a lot cheaper. The car debt is for another 4 years at 3.9%, so it’s not all that bad to take. While I use credit cards to pay for almost everything each month, I pay the balance off when it is due. This helps me get rewards points or miles, and keeps my credit history moving and current. However, some people have a different debt philosophy than me…

Credit Cards
Creative Commons License photo credit: Andres Rueda

Some folks don’t mind carrying debt because it allows them to live beyond their means. I don’t mean this is a good thing; rather, I believe that they think that because they can afford the minimum payments every month, it’s all good. After all, “living large” is the American way, right? Making the minimum payments for years on big screen TV’s, cars they shouldn’t buy, vacations they shouldn’t take – it all doesn’t matter as it allows them to have a make-believe lifestyle. That is their debt philosophy, and obviously it is a lot different than mine. I used to do some of those things, and paid dearly for it…and now you couldn’t get me to carry around consumer debt like that again just so I could play “pretend” around my friends and family. It’s not worth it.

Because of my own debt philosophy, I get to live the kind of life that I want – which was the ultimate goal. What’s your debt philosophy, and why do you choose to live by it?


If You Could Pick Your Benefits At Work, What Would You Pick?

Although in this economy, you might not have a choice – and you might be lucky to get a lollipop on your way back to your cubicle. But if you could pick, and/or if you are in the position as a business owner, than hopefully this post will garner a little bit of a discussion about benefits at work. I have worked for companies that provided 100% of my health care, free gym memberships and dry cleaning, unlimited days off (as long as it wasn’t abused), etc. – and I have worked for companies that didn’t provide anything at all other than a paycheck. And now I am self-employed so I have to create whatever perks I want, which is the way I would want it over anything a corporate gig could offer me. But since most people do in-fact work corporate jobs, let’s first take a look at a company well known for their incredible work/life perks: Google.

Google offers some amazing things to their employees, depending on which campus you work at:

  • Gourmet lunches
  • Use of plug-in Prius’ to run errands during the day
  • Free on-site massages and doctor visits
  • Gym memberships
  • Game rooms
  • Quiet rooms for taking breaks
  • Dogs are ok to bring to work
  • Pools
  • Free shuttle service to and from work
  • Hair salons
  • Child care

…and the list goes on. This is a company that fully understands the concept of “take care of your employees and they will take care of you”. And while I realize that not every company can afford to do this for their employees, and neither can every eligible worker get a job at Google, but every company could use to take a look at what works for Google and try to implement at least a few perks for their people. A few benefits can go a long way towards making your employees happy, and if I could choose, here is what I would pick:

  • Paid health insurance.
  • Flex-time for working at least 1 day a week from home.
  • Paid 2 or 3 week vacation (Every other major country on earth gets about a months paid vacation. We are lucky to get 2 weeks at best.)
  • A matching 401K would be nice, but not a requirement. I don’t have it now, and I still am saving for retirement.
  • Time off for volunteer work, separate from vacation and/or sick time. I think encouraging employees to volunteer helps morale and gets people to care about things other than work.
  • Mandatory, scheduled reviews. Too many people toil away at jobs, without reviews/rewards/raises, because they are afraid to ask or the company doesn’t think it’s necessary.

So, those would be my first picks if I were to do corporate work again…what would be yours? If you could design your perfect benefits package, what would it include? In reality, I already have my perfect benefits package – I work for myself, from home, on my own time. I couldn’t really ask for much more right now. But what would you ask for if you could?