Frugality runs through our lives like a quiet, gentle stream: subtly, beautifully, and often without notice.
12 AM Our programmable thermostat has automatically adjusted for the night, letting the normal outside temperature control the temperature in the house while we’re sleeping. The cool Iowa night-time air rarely gets above 80 degrees at night, meaning our house doesn’t use any cooling during the night time hours. We leave our windows open on clear nights to let the wind gently blow air through our bedrooms. Money is saved while we sleep.
1 AM Our outdoor solar lights finally flicker off, well past any time we would be up and about. These lights use no additional energy and provide perfect ambient lighting when we’re outside relaxing in the evening.
2 AM The snails and slugs and worms slowly crawl around in our garden, moist with dew. They naturally process the soil, help take care of pests, and make our vegetables more healthy when we harvest them. The cost of gardening is minimal compared to the bounty of fruits and vegetables we get out of the garden.
3 AM Our clothes, hung out to dry the night before in the guest bedroom, slowly dry in the cool night air. An occasional gentle breeze blows in the window, drying out the laundry instead of using the dryer. A bit of money back in our pocket.
4 AM Our tightly packed deep freezer kicks on for the first time today. It rarely kicks on because it’s full of frozen food – the temperature rarely changes inside, so it doesn’t use much energy. The food stored inside is a huge savings – we were able to buy a quarter of a cow’s worth of beef at once directly from a meat locker, saving us a lot of money.
5 AM We start to wake up and begin our day, starting with a diaper check on the young ones. The cloth diapers are dry from hanging in the guest bedroom, so we put them on our children, saving money from the cost of disposables. Wiping is done with a reusable cloth and a gentle spray of water (usually the “extra” insert cloth from the cloth diaper), saving money again from the cost of wipes.
6 AM A family breakfast consists of homemade oatmeal, a very inexpensive and tasty favorite that provides a great way to fuel the day. We use our own homemade oatmeal packets, making each of our delicious breakfasts cost just pennies.
7 AM My wife and the kids leave for the day. Since I work from home, there’s no fuel costs or miles put on my vehicle. Instead of burning through a couple gallons of gas each day (read: $8), I stay at home and save some cash.
8 AM Instead of going to the gym, I stay at home and do my own exercise routine, using free online tools like Gyminee and Wii Fit to track my progress and the motivation of my friends to help me move forward.
9 AM At work, my wife uses her breast pump to produce breast milk for our infant daughter. Our daughter has eaten 80% breastmilk throughout her infanthood, making our formula costs minimal and also improving her health by providing natural disease resistance and appropriate proteins for growth.
10 AM I do a batch of laundry, using our homemade laundry detergent, which has completely replaced store-purchased detergent use for us. Each load is now eighteen cents cheaper than before.
11 AM My wife takes advantage of her work benefits, snagging a healthy lunch from the cafeteria for free. This is a valuable perk afforded to her and she doesn’t hesitate to catch it every day.
Noon I enjoy a nice lunch made up of leftovers from the night before with some additional spices on top. Flavorful, healthy, and very cheap – active use of leftovers means we can prepare more for meals to begin with, which opens up more bulk buying opportunities. That reduces our overall food cost dramatically.
1 PM It’s a warm day, but instead of cranking up the air conditioning, I turn it off and open up several windows to encourage a natural breeze through our home. A couple of small well-placed fans encourage the natural air flow – far, far cheaper than running the full house air conditioning.
2 PM During an afternoon break, I go grocery shopping. But instead of just heading out to get the two or three things I know we need (and likely winding up with several more things on the cart), I make a shopping list and take along the coupons that match what we need. Sticking strictly to the list keeps the tab at the checkout in check and keeps me from going home with impulse buys – I’d rather have cash than that impulsive bottle of a new flavor of Mountain Dew.
3 PM I come home and take a nice shower. We have a low-flow shower head, plus the shampoo and the soap in the shower were bought almost for free using the one month coupon strategy. Total cost? Almost nothing.
4 PM Late afternoon arrives and I need some informative entertainment. Instead of staying glued to the computer, I shut it down and turn on a small transistor radio, tuning it in to the local NPR station, and get started on household chores. NPR is hugely entertaining and informative and I can get it on my radio for almost no cost at all, not even energy – the tiny radio uses very little juice.
5 PM The family arrives home and instead of eating take-out or something like that, we work together to watch the kids and prepare a homemade supper. The cost benefit is amazing – we often eat a nutritious and tasty dinner for less than $1 a head.
6 PM Evening entertainment time, and it doesn’t involve the television. We play in the yard, or sit somewhere nice and read books checked out from the library.
7 PM My mother calls using Skype. We talk for free, then switch onto videoconferencing mode so she can see the kids before they go to bed. She lives in another state, but the total cost of the call and the video is next to nothing.
8 PM The kids are in bed, so it’s time for evening chores. We fill up the compost bin with scraps from supper, which not only reduces the amount of trash we throw away (keeping our trash removal bill in check), but provides us with free organic fertilizer for the lawn and for the garden. Let some mature compost dry out and you can spread it quite easily wherever you need it.
9 PM Time to relax with my wife. We could fire up the television and the DVD player and start sucking down the watts, but instead we enjoy a cool summer breeze out on the deck and watch the sun go down while sharing a glass of homemade wine. Bliss… and it only costs pennies.
10 PM We curl up with books or play a game to unwind, or find something else free and enjoyable to do together (use your imagination).
11 PM We go through the house and turn off all of the lights and most of the electronic devices before bed. Eliminating 500 watts worth of electricity means saving 9 kilowatt hours of energy between now and 5 PM the next day (when we might turn stuff back on) – that’s a $0.90 savings for a minute worth of walking through the house as part of the bedtime routine.
Around the clock, a little here and a little there, the savings add up and, before you know it, your debts are shrinking and your life seems far less complicated than it did before.