I have to admit to being a bit of a gadget freak. I'm drawn to tools and devices that do cool things. And when I discover that cool includes being a money saver, that turns a purchase into an investment with a guaranteed rate of return.
Here are several items I've found that can save a lot of money and whose cost you can generally recoup in less than a year.
PROGRAMMABLE THERMOSTAT. If you have a central heating and air conditioning system, you need a programmable thermostat. There are less expensive options available, but a high-quality option like the Nest Programmable Thermostat will result in very precise temperature control. You can program it (easy) to automatically lower your air conditioning and/or heat use while you're not home. Just set it and then forget about it. Nest will automatically adjust things for you so that you aren't wasting expensive electricity -- without any noticeable changes for you and your family.
SPACE HEATER. The most efficient and easy way to reduce your home heating costs is to maintain a comfort level in rooms that are occupied while keeping your furnace set quite low, say, in the 60 degree F range. For a living situation where many of the rooms are unoccupied, especially at night, a great way to keep heating costs down is to use a space heater to make the occupied rooms comfortable.
The Bionaire Silent Whole Room Heater is an excellent space heater for so many reasons. First, Bionaire is silent -- remarkably so! I find it annoying and disruptive to hear a heater fan cycle on and off, so this feature may be the biggest reason I love my Bionaire. The Bionaire creates immediate warmth -- a nice, gentle kind of heat -- rather than constantly warming up to hot and then shutting off until it gets cold again.
BAR MOPS. A bar mop is a white terrycloth squarish-sized towel about 16 inches by 19 inches -- the perfect size to dry a dish, wipe down a counter or clean up a spill. A bar mop also makes a great oversized cloth napkin. In my kitchen, bar mops mostly replace paper towels, paper napkins and traditional kitchen towels.
I have six dozen bar mops and rotate them frequently. Actually, I use them with abandon -- in the same way I used to use up paper towels -- tossing them into a second handy kitchen trash can that I use as a hamper. When it's full, into the laundry they go.
Bar mops are durable. I've had the same collection for many years. In every wash load I use a small amount of detergent plus 1/8 cup liquid chlorine bleach in the wash cycle and 1/2 cup of white vinegar in the final rinse -- plus an extra rinse. That keeps them sparkling white, stain-free, soft and fluffy.
My conservative calculations are that a family of four uses about $104 per year in paper towels alone. Add in the cost of paper napkins and it's easy to see that an investment of $96 in bar mops ($16 times 6 dozen) will pay for itself in less than a year, even taking into consideration the cost of laundering them.
If you would like specific resources for these money savers and several more, I've put that information together for you at EverydayCheapskate.com/3moneysavers. Enjoy!
Mary Hunt's column, "Everyday Cheapskate," can be found at creators.com.