Sunday, June 1, 2008

Ch Ch Ch Changes

It's June 1st and it's time for changes around here.

Life in the past couple of months has been spinning out of control. There hasn't been any sort of routine - - - and anyone who knows me knows that I thrive on routine. I am not a fly by the seat of your pants kind of girl.

Since Vern is going to be out of commission for any sort of projects or work around the house, I figure that now is as good of a time as any to start to get a little bit of routine back into our lives. We definitely need it.

I'm going to focus on a couple of areas this month.
  1. Purging.

  2. Conserving.


Since we moved to this more modest much smaller ungodly tiny house almost five years ago, we've been slowly reducing the amount of "stuff" that we have. Let's face it, it's easy to forget how much you have when you live in a 4,000 square foot house, but not so easy when your living space is reduced down to 1,600 square feet. We've had several garage sales and given hundreds of boxes to charity.

However, it's still not enough. I've posted a few times before about purging efforts, but I'm stepping it up a notch in June. I'm vowing to get rid of 300 things this month.

The rules are simple:

  • Ten items per day, every day.

  • Does not include true trash; only items to go in the garage sale (and won't come back into the house) or charity.

See? Simple. Ten a day is nothing. I can do that with my eyes closed.


This one is actually a little harder for me. We've made some efforts to be more green around here and conserve but it's been sort of a half-assed effort. To make it a little more defined, I'm going to divide it into a few categories.

1. Resources - We've been part of a program every summer for the past four years that allows our power company to cycle our air conditioning off and on during high peak times. We get $10 per month off of our bill during the four summer months and honestly, we've noticed no difference in cooling our house. We'll definitely continue with that program.

Last year we also signed up for an experimental program where instead of paying a flat rate for each KWH for our electricity, we pay a "real time" rate. The power company purchases power on an hourly basis and the rates change dramatically over the day, with the lowest rates being early in the morning and late at night. It has actually saved us several hundred dollars over what it would have been on the flat rate program, but we haven't really made much of an effort.

This month, I'm planning on printing out the daily rate prediction and tailoring our usage as much as possible around those rates.

Here's an example of today's predicted rates for the entire day and the actual rates per hour (in red). The flat rate - if we were on that plan - is 7.5 cents per KWH, so you can see that with a little creative juggling, it's not hard to stay below that for most of the day. (It gets a little harder as the summer goes on.)

We're also purchasing our utility gas from a utility company that has guaranteed lower rates than our normal provider for the first year and historically has had lower rates anyway.

Gasoline prices have affected us as much as anyone. We live rurally, so a trip in to the closest grocery store, or even gas station, is 40 miles round trip. That really adds up if you make a trip every day or occasionally more than once a day. Vern also works 120 miles round trip from our house, although that's one positive of him being on sick leave - no trips to work for the past couple of months.

We're going to make an effort to combine our trips into town and purchase gas where we can get a discount. Our jeeps aren't exactly fuel efficient, but they are paid for and we do need the four wheel drive and the space, so we won't be trading them in anytime soon.

2. Going green at the grocery and beyond - I've tried to use reusable bags at the grocery for the past few months, but like all of our other green efforts, it's been sort of hit or miss. I'm definitely going to make a huge effort to ONLY use reusable bags not only at the grocery but also at all other stores. I'm going to make a few more bags (from fabrics I already have - have to recycle and reuse where I can!) and carry them with us all the time. Reusable bags aren't big around here in rural Illinois, but I'm a leader not a follower, so I'm going to make my own push at using them even if the cashiers and baggers look at me like I'm some crazy lady.

3. Money - I plan to get back into playing the Grocery Game. If you don't know what that is, here's an information page that I prepared a couple of years ago explaining it.

It does take some work, but it's totally worth the effort for us. I've learned over the years what we do and don't use, so I don't stock up on items that we will never use. What's the point of having 100 boxes of Hamburger Helper if you don't eat it? But the amount we have saved on food and cleaning items we do use has been huge in the past, so as grocery prices are rising, I need to rededicate myself to making the most of our grocery budget.

So, there you have it. My plan for June. Want to join me?