Monday, 9 December 2013

Saving Money in the Winter


            I hear people complaining about fuel bills this year from as far away as Malaysia. Today’s blog will have a couple of suggestions on saving money. If you wish, think of it as economic survival tips.

            You probably use more hot water than you need. When I was in Brazil one of the things I noticed was that most household sinks only had a cold tap. Hot water was often only found on baths or showers. When I got back to the UK I found I had got out of the habit of automatically running the hot tap when washing my hands etc. It turns out you don’t really need hot water as much as you think. I still like a hot bath or shower, but for general hand washing cold water is just fine. Supposedly razors shave sharper if you use cold water (although that may be just straight razors since I saw that on a gangster film!). My girlfriend claims washing with cold water is better for the skin. Don’t know if this is true, but I have noticed using more cold water has been very good for my heating bill.

            While in the general area of the bathroom, have you ever thought about how much time you spend in the bathroom and how much time you spend heating it? Unless I am in the bath or shower I am seldom in this room for more than a couple of minutes, so why heat it for hours at a time? If I am in the shower or bath, I am warm anyway! Turn off the radiator in your bathroom. The heat from the rest of the house will keep it at a temperature comfortable enough for the time you spend in there. If you have a particularly cold bathroom or spend a long time in one consider a heater that you can turn on only when you need it. If you are the forgetful type who would leave such a heater on consider fitting it with a time switch, similar to the light switches beloved by many landlords.

            Many days it is just me in the flat, so unless it is really cold there is little point in heating the entire place. Before you crank up the heat try putting on a jumper or throwing a blanket over your legs as you lounge around watching the TV.

            One thing I would have thought is self-evident, but apparently is not is that if no one is in a room you do not need the lights on. Perhaps this is a product of all those movies and TV shows where every lamp in the house is always on, even if it is mid-day and a character is telling us “the place evidently hasn’t been occupied for months..” My insistence that unnecessary lights be turned off got me accused of being obsessive when my girlfriend and myself were first together. Then she had to live in a place where she had to feed the meter and turning lights off suddenly changed to being called “Being clever like Philip”. In Rio de Janeiro we stayed at a place where the corridor lighting was linked to motion sensors, which was quite a smart idea and one I’d like to see more widely used.

            When I first moved into my current flat the local 99p store was selling hot water bottles and knitted covers. Quite possibly the best £1.98 I ever spent. When the night is cold I simply boil a kettle, tuck the bottle under the duvet and sleep snug and warm. The trick to keeping a hot water bottle serviceable is to not fill it with boiling water. Click the kettle off before full boil, or add a cut of cold water to the bottle before you pour the boiled water in. Only fill the bottle two thirds full and squeeze out some of the air before plugging. Don’t leave water standing in the bottle for any length of time. Empty the bottle and place it to drain first thing in the morning. I used to use the still warm water for my morning shave, but I grew a beard so don’t need this anymore. The beard is a different sort of energy conservation. I get an extra five minutes in bed because I don’t have to shave.