The biggest no-brainer purchase EVER!

I’m doing a new challenge, one I’ve decided not to blog about until it’s complete.  Well, I guess I’m breaking my own rule here, as the challenge is for 2 months and I haven’t even completed the first month.  The challenge is to buy nothing new.  This excludes groceries and toiletries, of course.  I’m keeping a list of things I would have bought or potentially bought.  In the first 10 days, my imaginary purchases totalled over $500!!!  Seriously.

scotts push mowerYesterday, I made a purchase.  It’s one I’ve been considering for a while.  I bought a lawn mower.  Not just any lawn mower, a manual push mower.  I weighed all the pros and cons, and the answer was clear.  Buy it now.

Pros

  • Save $.  I’m saving $810 a year, as I had a yard service.  I’m not lazy, just busy.  Besides, my yard tools caught on fire several years ago and I just knew that was a sign from God to get a yard guy.  :)
  • Help global warming.  A typical gas-powered mower used for one hour is the same emissions equivalent of driving your car for 100 miles. (about.com)
  • Eco-friendly.  This shocked me.  More gas is spilled refueling mowers each year than the oil spill from the Exxon Valdez.  Wow. (EPA)  Continue reading

$206 was my highest electric bill this hot summer

Yes, that’s my thermostat.  It’s reading 92°.   No, I don’t want to turn my air conditioner back on.  One cool day is all need to motivate me to turn it off until the heat is needed.  I’m tired of the high electric bills.  I’m fine in the low 90’s down in Mexico, why not here as well?  Honestly, for the record breaking hot temperatures we had, my utility bills were substantially lower than many people I know, even with similar sized houses.  How is that?  My highest bill this summer was $206.  That’s with a non-efficient 1,780 square feet.  What I mean by non-efficient is that I have 18′ ceilings with a loft floor plan, cheap windows with broken seals, exterior doors that don’t fit properly and crappy insulation.  So $206 isn’t bad at all really, but it could be better.  How did I achieve that low bill?  Here’s a few things:

    • Programming the thermostat.  I keep the programs high, like 82°.  Sometimes that’s comfortable, sometimes I turn it down.  If we’re not home, at least it’s not cooling the place to low temperatures.  Good to change your filter each month too.
    • Involve my kids.  Their incentive is any utility bill under $50, they get $10 each.  No doable in the summer, but it is in the winter.  I also charge them for leaving lights on.  Sounds mean, but it works.  Sometimes they turn off the lights, other times, they’re willing to contribute to the cost of the utilities.
    • Cook all at one time & outside.  Cooking several meals to freeze and microwave works well.  We limit the oven use too.  Sometimes we use one or two burners on the stove and rotate pots off the already heated cooking elements.  We also use the outdoor grill much more than cooking inside.
    • Laundry limits.  We do laundry after dark when it’s a tad cooler.  Full loads only with a partial dry cycle.  The damp clothing dries very quickly in the heat, but the clothes are still soft to the touch.
    • Use fans.  Only when in the room.  I don’t run them unless we’re in front of them.  I also added a fan in the kitchen, which helps while cooking.
    • Energy-efficient lighting.  90% of the bulbs in my house are the energy-efficient type.  This costs a bit more, but well worth the conversion in the long run.
    • Fix the ridiculous stuff.  The attic access in my house was putting out so much hot air, you could feel it when you walked under it.  I spent $6 and added weather stripping to it.  And even though my doors fit terribly, I replaced the weather stripping around them.  $40 made them a lot better until I can afford to replace the doors.  I sealed and caulked the large gap under the door that goes to my garage.  It cost me nothing, as I used leftovers found in my garage.

These are a few simple things we did that must have worked, because in the past, I’ve had electric bills well over $300 when the heat wasn’t near as bad.  Every little bit helps.  :)

a 25¢ lesson cost me hundreds [day 241]

Yes, I made a judgement call based on 25¢, a quarter I thought I would loose.  Listening to some bad advice, I decided not to try a new grocery store in my area, a store that opened over a year ago.  Some person (I don’t remember who) told me that the new Aldi grocery store charges 25¢ for the use of their carts.  What this yo-yo neglected to tell me is that you get your quarter back when you return the cart.  So instead of checking this out, like I normally would, I decided not to.  My 25¢ lesson?  Make my decisions based on my own research, not something someone says. Of course I will always take advice and opinions into consideration, but I should always see things for myself.  I do this with people, I should do it with everything.  Lesson learned, but not just one.  There were many great lessons from this experience that I would love to share.

What is Aldi? “ALDI is a discount grocery chain that operates over 1,000 stores in 31 states. Through a select assortment and convenient grocery shopping approach, we’re able to offer our customers the highest quality everyday items at the lowest possible prices—honest to goodness savings.” Read more about them and why they’re different at aldi.us.

So why the quarter for the cart? “At ALDI, we cut costs every way we can to keep prices low. Our shopping cart deposit system is a good example. You insert a quarter to release a cart. When you return the cart, you get your quarter back. This system cuts down on the labor of collecting carts left in the parking lot, damage to cars, and we pass the savings on to you.” I like this.  In addition, it keeps the carts from hitting the cars in the parking lot and the carts seem to be in better condition.

I decided to shop there a few days ago.  It was the closest store and I just needed 2 items.  After the great experience, I decided to go back.  This time was to shop in efforts to try some of the different brands, buying one or two of each thing we normally purchase.  After seeing first hand, the incredible savings, I decided to do a cost analysis.

Last night, my kids and I went to our local grocery store to compare prices.  It was nice to get out of the house and I forgot my phone, which was nice, as my kids and I had fun doing this.  Who would have thought?  Here’s the results.

Aldi price: $65.40

This is pre-tax.  There was only one thing that was a name brand I usually buy, Amy’s vegetarian meals.  All of the other things were Aldi or generic brands.

Name brand price: $139.51

I priced the name brand items that were comparable in size and type to get this number.  The name brands cost 113% more than the Aldi brands.  Whoa!  that got my attention!

Off brand price: $99.33

To get this number, I used the same criteria as above, but with generic  or off brand items.  There were a few things that didn’t have generic brands, so the brand name item price was inserted.  Shopping at the major grocery store for off brands cost 52% more than Aldi.  Again, wow!

I’m sure you have some of the same questions I did before going in here, so I will address them now.  I had some very unexpected shopping results, that were much more than just saving money.  I also got me thinking about my shopping habits and how I have some room for growth.  Continue reading