We’re doing a different sort of challenge this fall around here. Fuel prices are so high that heating our house is going to be really expensive this winter. Here in Minnesota most people heat their houses with either natural gas or fuel oil (basically diesel fuel). Some people also have fireplaces and wood stoves, but furnaces do the major work. We’re a fuel oil home.
I spent all summer researching alternative energy options but right now there aren’t a lot of other options for us. We don’t get much sun in the winter so solar panels don’t contribute a lot. If we had a lot of land I’d really consider geothermal (which also cools and costs almost nothing once it’s installed) but it requires way more yard than we have to lay the underground coils. I don’t want to be dependent on oil but for the immediate future we are, like it or not. And this winter that is going to be spendy!
We live on a very tiny income (partly funded by money my mother left me when she died) and really stretch it. We bought our house for $2,000 cash 15 years ago. We buy our vehicles used for cash and don’t use credit cards for anything (though we have debit cards linked to our checking accounts). I make most of our meals from scratch, keep a garden, buy from local farmers and cook vegetarian. We use Freecycle if we can when we need something, and we pass things on to others there. We get most of our clothes used or on clearance and we rely on lots of free stuff like the library and art museums for fun. We also volunteer, which gets us free admissions and perks (though that’s not why we do it) and we help others, which often brings unexpected rewards (again, not that it’s the reason we do). We also barter and know how to just do without.
For what it’s worth, we don’t feel poor at all. We eat well, we love our house and we don’t need for anything. I think homeschooling is another advantage for us here, because our kids aren’t in an environment where they think that things like Wiis, cell phones, designer clothes and fancy homes are necessities.
But the upshot is that we get by on a very tight budget!
I’ve challenged myself this fall to see how long we can go before turning on the heat for the first time. I know it’s only a matter of time, but it makes it easier to add another layer and cook up some Mix & Match Cake to heat the kitchen up a little if it’s a challenge! 🙂 I figure every extra day is that much less fuel oil we’ll use. It’s better for us and I suppose a smidgeon better for the planet too.
Today it’s a nice sunny day but it is cold inside! My hands are like blocks of ice. I’m wearing two sweaters, thick pants and fuzzy socks, and still shivering. Perhaps it’s a sign I need to do some exercise like heavy cleaning. 😉 I’m plugging away and leaving the thermostat alone though. Every day I make it is another X on the calendar and another tiny feeling of satisfaction.