Delving through my life trying to find someplace where I can "cut back" to save a dollar here and there has certainly alerted me to areas where I over-indulge ... but it hasn't give me many clues to what I can do without. We keep our thermostat at 68 degrees anyway; I only wash full loads of laundry and we turn off the lights when we aren't in the room but these economic times are making it very apparent we need to conserve more.
They are also a gentle reminder of the things I have that I think I can't do without. For instance, the automatic coffee maker ... I used to use a percolator on top of the stove. I have even been known to boil the brew but neither method wakes me up with the delicious aroma of early morning coffee wafting into my bedroom. Much better than the nerve-jangling "brrrt" of the alarm clock ... so I guess I won't be saving electricity by getting rid of my electric coffee pot -- but I did get rid of the electric alarm.
I could start my kitchen savings with the microwave! It uses a lot of electricity, but only in short bursts. Although I've had one since before they had digital readouts, I sure didn't learn to cook with one and I might be able to get along without mine, but I'm not sure I want to try. No softening butter at the last minute, no melting chocolate, no heating a cold cup of coffee. Hubby would really suffer as he muddles through the leftover maze on Thanksgiving if he has to turn on the stove.
The logical thing to give up would be the dishwasher, except I don't have one. The kitchen didn't have one when we moved in many years ago and it would have taken a major redo to put one in. Although I have owned dishwashers in previous lives, we moved here from 10 years in the Bush where we were lucky to have electricity and running water, so not having a dishwasher didn't seem like much of a hardship. I didn't grow up with one. Mom taught me to do the dishes as I dirtied them, or at least get them into a sink full of hot soapy water. A dishwasher countermands that impulse, I learned. So because there are only the two of us, we decided we could do without one. When we have a crowd around it is either grilling outside, paper plate season, or the daughters-in-law are here and make really good dishwashers. So, in the fever of savings, I still won't get a dishwasher, thus saving on hot water and electricity (is that 2 points?).
And I was afraid I wouldn't be able to cut back anywhere in the kitchen. Now to examine other areas of my life:
My bad habits don't cost anything unless eating counts, so they don't even offer a spot where I can feel virtuous by giving up something to save money. And my good habits (perspective is everything) are also pretty benign. I read a lot, but I get most of my books from the library. The last time I bought a book I spent a quarter on an "already-read" paperback.
We cut out most of our magazine subscriptions a few years ago when everything turned to ads, and I feel morally obligated to continue the morning delivery of the Clarion ... besides, the paper boy needs the work (virtue points).
That leaves the Internet, but I figure the money I save on telephone calls and stamps by e-mailing everyone I know evens that out. Postage is going up again in May so I can save a little by not sending birthday cards to my six siblings. They'd just as soon not be reminded of another year gone anyway.
That leaves travel. I could walk downtown, but for a good part of the year the streets aren't conducive to walking and even when they are, Hubby drops me off on his way to go somewhere else, so I'd have to hobble him to save on driving the car. We go Outside once a year for family reasons and probably shouldn't even think of deleting that trip, not if we value family ties at least (and family values are the ultimate virtue, so they say). So, we'll be going to Idaho rather than Bahrain where all the international travel info suggests going for vacation. TV spots highlight it as the place to experience conspicuous consumption first hand, but, in the spirit of frugality that everyone should undertake now, we won't be going there this year. And probably not next year, either.
I was getting worried. Looking at my life and not finding ways to cut was preying on my mind, but I traded my alarm clock for an automatic coffee maker; I'm still not buying a dishwasher nor traveling to Bahrain on vacation.
Sounds like a savings plan to me -- and I didn't even need legislative input.
Virginia Walters lives in Kenai.
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