Ways to Save Money—and the Planet
With recent increases in the cost of living, certain environmentally responsible actions can save you a lot of money. Here are some easy tips to hold on to more of your hard-earned cash.
Shockingly higher electricity costs
Energy costs may be lower in the summer, but there are still things you can do to save big.
In Canada, when it comes to electricity bills, household appliances come in third (13% consumption) in the unholy trinity of worst offenders, after heating (63%) and hot water (18%).1
Of all household appliances, the dryer accounts for 34% of all energy consumption at about 945 kWh/year for non ENERGY STAR models. Using clotheslines or portable dryers can save you money.
As for hot water, washing clothes in cold water is another way to really cut energy costs, especially if you don’t have major stains to deal with. But if your kids have been rolling around in the grass or mud in their white pants, no big deal—the odd wash in hot water won’t leave you taking out a second mortgage! Washers, especially Energy Star models, use a lot less power than dryers.
In terms of heating and cooling, opening your windows when temperatures dip is a great way to cool your home naturally. On the other hand, closing blinds and curtains on sunny days helps keep rooms from getting too hot. You’re better off closing the curtains than opening an extra line of credit to pay off sky-high air conditioning bills!
Exploding gas prices
If you drive a gasoline-powered car, the recent and dramatic increase in prices at the pump could be a drain on your budget.
Of course, walking, cycling and public transit are great ways to save money.
But if you can’t completely ditch the car, here are some simple tips on how to use less fuel.
For the longest time, people thought starting a car used more fuel than letting the engine idle for a while. But today’s modern fuel-injection cars consume little fuel when restarting. Even just 10 seconds of idling uses up more fuel than starting your engine. According to the Government of Canada, if you have to wait more than 60 seconds, it’s better to just cut the engine.1 What you save on fuel should more than offset any increase in maintenance costs from extra wear and tear on your car’s ignition or battery.
Idling to “heat up” the car in the winter has a minimal impact on the temperature inside your car and is a waste of gas. Actually driving is the best way to heat your car. So don’t start the engine until you’re ready to go, even if it means leaving your tuque and mittens on until the cabin warms up. An average vehicle with a three-litre engine idling for 10 minutes uses 300 millilitres of fuel, and consumption shoots up to half a litre for a 5-litre engine.2
On hot summer days, is it better to use A/C or roll down your windows? On the highway, the air conditioner draws power from the engine, but only at a rate of 2.4 litres per 100 km (1 mile per gallon), so staying comfortable won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Plus, at high speeds, open windows create drag that makes your car use more fuel.
But in the city, opening your windows will save you more gas than using A/C. Just remember, if you like belting out your favourite oldies when the radio’s on, you’ll likely attract some admiring (or not) glances.
Lastly, taking good care of your tires can save a lot of money.
The air pressure in your tires supports 95% of your car’s weight. Properly inflated tires are less likely to “tire out” your vehicle. A Transport Canada study shows that 23% of vehicles on the road in Canada have tires that are 20% underinflated and 70% of vehicles have tires that are 10% overinflated. Both underinflated and overinflated tires are much less fuel-efficient. Maintaining recommended tire pressure (between 30 and 35 PSI) increases tire life and saves fuel.3
Rotating your tires regularly also offers the same win-win of longer tire life and fuel efficiency.
Last but not least, proper tire rotation and inflation also help keep you and your passengers safe.
Mushrooming food prices
When it comes to food, buying locally, sharing food and repurposing leftovers are all great ways to avoid spending too much on groceries. Check out our article, How to make the most of your grocery budget, for more tips on how to stretch your food budget.
2 Idling – Frequently Asked Questions (nrcan.gc.ca)