Wednesday, February 23, 2011

See Your Budget Benefit From A Power Down

Unfortunately, there's no magic bullet when it comes to budgeting. If you want to make your sure your finances are stable, by cutting your cloth to fit, the solution lies in a whole lot of trimming - across the board. The reason why this can be difficult is that it means changing many ingrained habits, gained over years of consuming and spending. So maybe the best way to get yourself back in budget, without despairing, is to tackle each area of spending in turn. That way you have smaller hurdles to leap, and can build on your success as you go. An easy place to start, with your budget plan, is your energy use.

That's because our energy use is, to be blunt, pretty wasteful. Lights are left blazing in empty rooms, TVs are all too often found blaring with no viewers, whilst computers whir away pointlessly, without a user in sight. This is something that most of us can tackle head on, with just a few simple rules. But the drawback with focusing on power use is that the savings are not exactly visible. You won't see the effect on your bottom line, not until your bill hits next month, or even next quarter.

That's not helpful - if you're putting in, you really want to see what's coming out. One way around that is to become a meter fiend. Keep a track of your daily unit usage, by checking your meter every day, around the same time, and jotting the readings down. These are in kilowatt hours (kWh), and you get charged a lower rate for the first few hundred each month (known as the baseline allowance). It's worth checking your bill to see what your baseline allowance is – if you can get your daily use close to that, you'll make major savings.

Another way of looking at your energy savings is to directly measure the power use of each appliance you have plugged in. You can get an idea of this by looking at the kWh rating, which most appliances have printed on their plug. Or you can measure directly, using a watt-hour meter. These are pretty cheap, and are great for devices that don't drain at a constant rate, like a refrigerator or electric heater. By getting an accurate measure, for all of your household appliances, you can see where you will get the most gain, for the least pain, by conserving use of those appliances.

Now let's look at three simple rules that will quickly get your bill down, and your budget back on track. The first one is to limit your energy use to the room you are in. Only turn lights on, and have power sockets switched on, where ever you are at. If you move from one room to the next, turn off the sockets, and then turn off the lights (importantly in that order!). Turning the sockets off helps, because even devices that are stand-by still consume some power. But more than that, by getting into the habit of switching off, when you leave, there's no chance of things like TVs and PCs humming away merrily by themselves.

The next thing you can do is to turn the dials down (or up). That's to say, in winter, keep you heating thermostat down a notch or two, and in summer, keep the air-con up a couple of degrees. Your body adjusts to different room temperatures pretty quickly, and you'll find you can be comfortable at temperatures much lower (or higher) than you've gotten used to. This can really make a big difference to your power bills.

Finally you need to think efficient. If you have to replace a fridge or a washing machine, don't just go for features or looks. Check out the power use – many devices these days have an Energy-Star rating, to show that they conform to the most energy-efficient technologies. If you progressively replace older power-hungry appliances, with modern efficient ones, your bill will sink progressively lower too. Saving money through saving energy is a no-brainer. It just needs a change of mind-set. And your new habits will not only help your budget - they'll polish up your green credentials too.

Wozniacki is the co-author of an ebook titled Ripped Cut Buff, which offers tips & workout routines on how to get buff naturally.
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