What I have been hearing these past couple of years from people on a low income is that their utilities bills are becoming very much unaffordable. Pensioners are sitting in their homes freezing and afraid to turn on their heating, some spend their days in shopping centres to make use of their heating (and alternatively their cooling in summer). There is nothing we can do about the cost of electricity or gas, the only thing we can really affect is our consumption of these utilities.
When faced with this reality, that the only way to reduce the cost of utilities is to reduce consumption, most people despair as life becomes miserable without the comforts of ample heating within the home. Living a frugal lifestyle when it’s forced upon you rather than a lifestyle choice, can be miserable. We don’t always have a lot of power over certain situations we find ourselves in, but we do have a choice on how we react to those situations. So, we can choose to be miserable about it, or we can turn frugal living into an adventure, a challenge, a lifestyle.
Any knitter or crocheter will be able to tell you how warm and uncomfortable it can be to knit or crochet big items in warmer weather. This is because woollen items sitting on your lap as well as hands constantly moving keep you warm. You know what it’s like on a cold day when you sit on the couch and shiver, but if you get up to do the dishes or vacuum the floor, all of a sudden you’re sweating and looking to turn the heater off. If getting up to do housework isn’t an option for you but you can knit or crochet, this might be a way to keep warm, if not to turn heating off altogether, to at least maybe turn it down to a lower setting and reducing your consumption that way.
If you do happen to be a knitter or crocheter, then you have the talent to make beautiful items to keep you warm during those cool winter months. If you have already stockpiled your home with beanies, scarves, afghans, blankets etc. then how about making items for charity? A lot of hospitals, animal shelters etc. accept donations of knitted or crocheted items. This way you can keep yourself warm by knitting or crocheting and then enjoy that lovely feeling that comes with being able to help someone less fortunate. I find that being able to make a usable donation when you yourself are on a low income is an empowering thing and can make you feel more gratitude for your particular situation.
If sitting and doing a big project from start to finish is difficult for you then a handy little thing to do when you have five minutes to spare here or there is to crochet a granny square. You can do this from leftovers/scraps of yarn, it doesn’t take long, and you can add it to a collection that months later when there are enough squares, you can then stitch them together to make a blanket or afghan. They don’t need to be the same size squares or a particular colour pattern, as sometimes an eclectic patchwork of granny squares makes a wonderfully interesting, yet functional blanket. Below is a blanket that I am working on that is inspired by Mabon/Autumn Equinox. It’s an easy little project to do in front of the TV, and you can do as many or as few as you feel like (as long as you are in no rush to finish it).
In my 9-5 day job I work with many people on a low income. Some have become quite resourceful over time about living frugally. Some tips I’ve picked up from people along the way, to reduce gas and electricity consumption (and water consumption) are as follows:
- Switch all power points off at the wall when not in use.
- Don’t leave televisions and other appliances on standby.
- Only boil enough water in the kettle for the amount of cups you need (i.e. don’t boil a full kettle to make one cuppa).
- Consider what appliances you really need particularly during high consumption periods, for example do you really need a coffee machine? If you decide the answer is yes, then consider if you really need a kettle? Or can you boil water on a gas stove top instead?
- Reduce shower times or shower with your significant other! Share a bath.
- Don’t leave lights burning in rooms that you are not in at the time, for example don’t leave the bathroom light on if everyone is in the lounge watching TV.
- Get out of the house and stay active where you can, less time in the house means less consumption of utilities.
- Catch water where you can, if your shower takes a while for the hot water to come through then catch the wasted water in a bucket and use it to water the garden.
With winter fast approaching here in Australia it is time to prepare for the cold months ahead with our heating bills in mind. I hope you found these few tips helpful, if you have any to add please feel free to leave them in the comments below.