Photo Credit: Stuart Miles
With only one income now, we really have to tighten our belts since the reduction is more than half. However I want to live in a dignified manner and not stress out over every single cent or dollar. Therefore I try to find the things that I can put the least effort and without adversely affect quality of life or comfort. Below are some of the things I do so that I can help our family save.
1) Save on Electricity
I have calculated that it often pays to purchase a more expensive electronic appliance that saves on electricity (with as many ticks as possible) because you’d save on the long run. If the electricity tariffs increase, you’d be thankful too.
We try not to on the air-conditioner unless it is intolerable. Try to use fans and even have your bed near windows for better air circulation and comfort while sleeping. If you can’t live without air-con, get an inverter. More expensive upfront, but save on the long run. Inverter saves electricity because it has a variable-speed motor, and works according to the load required as opposed to the traditional motor that runs on constant speed.
Switch off all the appliance at the plugs whenever possible on any appliances, especially those that would have light or emit heat even when it is off. They are electricity vampires and in our home I’ve saved about $10 a month after doing so.
Go gas if you can. Simply because Singapore’s power stations are mainly powered by gas to generate electricity. Thus it is easy to deduce that gas will always be cheaper than electricity even if both goes up, which is almost for sure. I’ve got instant gas water heater and intend to get a gas dryer soon.
2) Save on Water
Before I had bad backache, I used to save baby’s bath water to flush the toilet. Unfortunately because my bathroom and toilet is separate I have to manually transfer the water over which is bad for my back. Once baby is able to sit steadily on his own, I put baby in a smaller tub (enough to sit only) and I use less water this way. I also try to use the bath water to pre-wash baby cloth diapers or soak clothes if required or use it to scrub the bathroom. If you are able to access the washing machine water, do drain it into a pail during the last rinse if you can and use it to flush the toilet too. I learnt this from my aunty. (I am not able to do it because the layout of the home is not practical for me to do so. Besides, having to monitor two kids and the machine is simply not possible)
I also like to soak my vegetables to get rid of odd tastes (due to pesticides or too much fertilizers in the soil?) If the vege isn’t too muddy I would use the same water to soak the dishes after a meal or just use it to wash the sink.
I found it easier to wash pots and pans soon after cooking/serving. The longer you wait, the harder to get rid of the stuff that is stuck on the pots & pans. You’d not only save effort to scrub, but also water and precious time too.
Also as usual, don’t wash dishes or hands or even shower with the water running all the time. Trust me you can save a lot by just making a concious effort to off the tap while you are soaping or scrubbing and later it will become a good habit. Teach your kids that as well. Install the entire house with water saving taps and never use a screw type tap. The screw tap waste water while you on/off the tap and over the years, little bits add up. Water is a precious resource! We shouldn’t waste it even if it was free.
My utilities bills (from PUB) range from $50 to $80 on average even with all that cooking and washing. Our air-cons are rarely on but they are God-sent on hot days.
3) Eat at home
If you have many people and home and they eat a lot, I assure you it is way cheaper to eat at home than to go out to eat. Economies of Scale! However, I understand that there are times when you are alone with a little baby, who eats only milk and home cooked porridge, it may actually be cheaper for you to eat out. That is, if you have easy access to coffeeshops in your neighbourhood who sells meals at reasonable prices, and doesn’t take you long or huge efforts to go there. To tell the truth, I don’t always cook my lunches if I am alone with baby. Simply because the coffeeshop downstairs sells a decent $2.50 for 2 vege and a meat with rice. Sometimes it cost me more than $2.50 just to buy the raw ingredients. Nevertheless, the coffeeshop food is not very good quality, usually poor cuts of meats and vegetables not washed properly, oily, MSG etc. I don’t think you want to eat that everyday either! Similarly, if you order tingkat, I actually think that they give poor quality food at $5 a meal compared to coffeeshops, just that they have added service to deliver to your doorstep.
If you are like me, who don’t know how to cook (in the beginning), just try with one meal a week first. Slowly, you will be better and better. I think it pays to make this effort to learn to cook simple meals.
Similarly, it is expensive to buy baby commercial food. They exist for convenience, but don’t use it everyday! Try to make them yourself instead.
4) Wake Up Early
I am blessed with a wet market here and I found that there are certain stalls which sells fresh and good seafood which are cheaper. The crowd at the stalls are bad by 8am and they definitely close by 9am because they finished selling. To eat good food and yet not have to pay so much, I have to be down by 7.30am. Whenever I steam the fishes, prawns or cook the squids or crayfish, I felt this effort is well worth it. Not many can afford, and able to eat fish almost everyday. In my home, we do. I am so thankful for that.
Proverbs 31:15 (NASB) She rises also while it is still night and gives food to her household and portions to her maidens
Well I must confess that I wake up only when the sun is bright. And I do not have maidens to feed.
5) Save on that Soap!
After I hit my late 20s, I found that I frequently have itchy and dry skin. I thought I have bad skin but actually it is simply because even the most “gentle” soap will strip you of your natural oils which are meant to protect your skin. The real gentle soap are those you get from pharmacy which are very expensive. So instead of always applying moisturizer (which is more expensive), sometimes I just do not soap*. I routinely exfoliate though, and it helps to keep the skin smooth and clean as well. DH (dear husband) actually have the same problem as I do. By not soaping, you save on that soap (actually not that expensive if you use those off-the-supermarket-shelves soap, but they are BAD for your skin, even those that claims to be gentle or moisturize your skin…) AND that moisturizer or the expensive soap for sensitive skin. I also don’t shampoo everyday, as I’ve got very long hair. Shampooing too much simply makes my hair end split and makes it very dry and frizzy.
*Please, if you are a sweaty and someone who excretes much oil, use your discretion that you should maintain hygiene! And, if you don’t soap, please at least shower!!!
For washing your clothes, I found that you need not follow the recommended amount of washing powder to use. It is often way too much. If you see lumps of soap in your clothes, or even bubbles in your machine during the last wash or rinse, you are putting too much powder. I found it is safe enough to reduce the amount of washing powder recommended on the box by half. I also routinely add a bit of vinegar with the soap to remove odours. The combination works wonders and less soap is needed!
Are ideas ticking in your head now? Do stay tuned for Part 2!