I’m always amused by people who brush off energy-saving efforts as being part of some “global-warming” conspiracy. Then I show them how much we’ve saved on energy bills, by making simple changes; they change their tune quickly. Even if you believe the scientific community has it wrong on the environmental crisis we face, think of the money you can save by being more energy efficient at home.
There are many things we can do to use energy wisely. One of the easiest things to do is turning lights and other appliances off when we’re not using them. I’ve gathered a few tips to help you use energy wisely.
- Install motion sensors to turn lights on and off automatically.
- Use a programmable furnace thermostat to reduce energy use when you’re not at home.
- Install blinds or curtains on windows to keep your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
- On sunny winter days, keep curtains open to allow the sunshine to help warm your home.
- On sunny summer days, keep the curtains closed to keep the house cool.
- Use timers on Christmas lights and car block heaters instead of using power all night.
- Replace worn weatherstripping on doors and windows to reduce winter drafts.
- Use a ceiling fan: blowing down in the winter and up in the summer.
- Use energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs which are four times more efficient and last about eight times as long as incandescent bulbs.
- If you use incandescent bulbs, install a dimmer switch; a bulb dimmed by 25 per cent uses 10 per cent less energy.
- Save energy by using small appliances such as a microwave, a slow cooker, an electric kettle, or a toaster oven instead of the stove or oven.
- Run a dishwasher late at night and let your dishes air dry.
- Switch to cold when doing your laundry. 85 – 90% of the energy used to wash your clothes is used to heat the water. By turning the dial to cold on your washing machine, you help the environment, save energy, and save money.
- Use a clothes dryer late at night or hang clothes outside to dry on a sunny day.
- Clean or replace the furnace filter every 1-2 months – a dirty filter reduces the airflow and forces the furnace to run longer to heat your home.
- Use plastic window covers to help prevent heat loss in the winter.
- Install low-flow shower heads and faucets.
- Dripping taps can waste 9,000 litres of hot water each year. Replace leaky washers and save the hot water.
- Take short showers instead of baths. A five-minute shower uses about half as much water as a bath.
- Replace large-volume toilets with 6-litre-per-flush models, saving at least 70 percent of the water used.
- Turn off the tap when you brush your teeth and save 7-12 litres of water per minute.
- Close the damper in a wood fireplace to prevent warm air from escaping through the chimney and ensure the damper fits properly.
What other suggestions would you make?
Friends of ours were at work, one day a couple of years ago, when they received a phone call they didn’t want. Their house was on fire. They live in a newer neighbourhood where houses are close together. The fire started in a neighbour’s house and quickly engulfed two others.
Our friends lost everything. Insurance covered rebuilding the house and replacing contents, but it couldn’t bring back mementos and personal itmes.
Every day we see news reports of homes being destroyed by fire or devastated by flood waters. Even more numerous are the unpublicized instances of break-ins and home thefts. For the most part, these accounts fade into the background as we think to ourselves – ”it’s okay, I have insurance.” And while the peace of mind that property insurance provides allows us all to sleep at night, most don’t realize what a traumatic experience these events can be.
“Trying to remember all the items in your home can add to an already stressful event. Having an inventory of items in your home is one of the best ways to prepare yourself,” states Stefanie Hay, insurance and claims expert with Aviva Canada.
Besides helping ensure you have the right amount of insurance; an inventory will help settle your insurance claim faster and verify losses for your income tax return.
Sure, but who has time to go through every item in their home? The task need not be onerous and can be as easy as taking a video account of each room in your home.
Many insurance companies also prepare content lists that can act as a helpful starting point. AvivaCanada.com recommends separating the contents into categories:
- Clothing, books, tools, toys, bicycles, and other items
- Jewelry, silverware and other valuables
- Computer equipment, gaming consoles and software
Whether you conduct a video or written inventory of your home, don’t forget to keep your inventory in a safety deposit box or at a trusted home. That way you’ll be sure to have something to give your insurance representative if your home is damaged. You should also keep a record of legal documents, such as birth certificates and passports, and financial documents, such as bank account and insurance policies on your inventory.
Here in Canada, there are Federal and Provincial laws that govern how organizations protected the personal information in their care. There are steps you should take to protect your privacy and safeguard your personal information in the marketplace. Here are just a few:
- Before you reveal any personal information, find out how it will be used and if it will be shared.
- Always read the fine print on sales agreements and magazine subscriptions and check the “no thanks” box if you don’t want your information shared.
- Minimize the identification and number of cards you carry.
- Never disclose your PIN to anyone. No one from a financial institution, the police or a merchant should ask you for your PIN.
- Carefully check your bank account and credit card statements and report any discrepancies immediately.
- Never give your credit card number over the phone unless you are certain you are dealing with a reputable company, or you initiated the call yourself.
- Tear or shred receipts, credit offers and insurance forms you get in the mail before disposing of them.
Now that we’ve finished with the season to be jolly, ‘tis the season to file income tax returns. If you’re looking for powerful, but inexpensive income tax preparation software, check out StudioTax.
StudioTax is bilingual personal Income Tax preparation software made by Canadians for Canadians. StudioTax was initially distributed using a donationware licensing model. As the popularity and functions of the program have improved and increased, they no longer offer it for free (with one exception). However, the cost is $15.00 for a single license good for the maximum number of returns (20) allowed by the Canada Revenue Agency.
They still offer the software free for users whose total income is less than $20K and for northern residents (NT, YT, NU). In this case you don’t need a license or need to activate StudioTax 2021 to Netfile and print your returns.
If you are concerned about the security of your personal information from cloud-based applications, StudioTax gives you full control over your security. StudioTax installs on your computer’s hard drive, saves your returns on your computer’s hard drive, and absolutely NO information, personal or otherwise, leaves your computer, apart from what you file with the CRA.
People often think having a budget is the same as not spending money. Nothing could be further from the truth. Budgeting is about tracking and controlling your spending, not living like a hermit in a cave.
Even when finances are tight there are ways to get the most out of life, without excessive spending. The four keys to living cheap:
- Plan your meals, outings, and social events.
- Learn your options: free events, cheap movie nights, discount nights at restaurants, coupons, special sales, etc.
- Conserve and avoid wasting electricity, food, heat, hot water.
- Be creative and find ways to save while keeping life interesting.
Developing an interest in food and cooking keeps your grocery budget down and improves the quality of what you eat. Preparing food from scratch is cheaper than buying processed foods and is healthier for you. If you develop basic cooking skills, you will be able to make dishes which are better tasting than those served in many restaurants. Once you get the hang of preparing home-made burgers, you’ll never eat in McDonald’s again.
- Plan your meals. Use your plan to develop your shopping list.
- Get containers for storing or freezing leftovers.
- Pack a lunch and snacks.
- Buy no-name instead of name brands.
- Get inspired by recipes. Find them on the internet or buy recipe books from used bookstores. Share and exchange recipes with friends.
- Variety is important. A boring meal plan makes it too easy to end up splurging.
- Avoid convenience stores. There is a cost for the convenience.
- Replace cleaning products with cheaper environmentally friendly alternatives. Use vinegar and hot water instead of a window cleaner. Baking soda has a number of household uses such as scrubbing pans, clearing drains or deodorizing.
- Replace paper towels with old clothing or rags for cleaning.
Buy in Bulk
- Cereals or granola. Try to avoid highly priced boxed cereal.
- Buy meat in family packs, then freeze in meal-size portions. Make sure you wrap the well before freezing so as to avoid freezer burn.
- Buy a bag of popping corn instead of expensive microwave popcorn. Use an air popper (you might find one at a yard sale) or pop it on the stove.
- Snacks. Nuts or other bulk items make great snacks.
- Spices are very expensive when bought in containers. Cheaper in bulk.
Make Smart Choices at Home
Small choices can equal big savings.
- Television: Do you really need cable? If you have high speed Internet there are places where you can watch some shows for free or buy episodes.
- Buy Used: Get to know the used marketplace, like Value Village, Frenchy’s or go to garage sales.
- Call long distance during discount times or get a calling card. If you don’t know when the cheap times are, or if you’re using a cell, you’re probably paying much more than you have to.
You don’t have to give up your social life, just because you’re living cheaply; find creative ways to be sociable for little or no money.
- Get physical. Go for walks, hikes, tobogganing or biking. Camping if you want to get out of town.
- Free events in your community, such as lectures, movies, farmers’ markets, art shows.
- Rent a movie with a bunch of friends. It is a lot cheaper than going to a movie. (see popcorn above)
- Dinner parties. Have a potluck or invite a group of friends over to make sushi or tacos.
- Order too much at a restaurant? Take it home in a doggy bag for tomorrow’s lunch.