Friday, November 23, 2007

Reducing bathroom costs

Bathroom expenses tend to go unnoticed because they lie between the realms of required for survival (i.e. rent) and luxury (i.e. bacon cheese burgers). It's a tiny crack in your budget that if properly filled in, it could save you a surprising amount of cash.

Toiletries encompass a wide range of products and together produce a multi billion dollar a year industry. Sure, a lot of products are essential for your physical and professional well being, but at what point does one draw the line? Are all soaps created equal? Is saving $1.50 on shampoo really going to help you get out of the hole?

While I'm not going to suggest you forgo grooming for the remainder of your debt issues, I am going to mention a couple of ways you can reduce your costs in the bathroom and remain (or become) nicely scented and groomed.

  1. Keep the season in mind: Depending on your geographic location you may find yourself in either very humid or very dry situations. By U.S. law every restroom (including those within dwellings) must contain either a window which is capable of being opened easily, or some sort of ventilation system. Use this to your advantage. How?

    Hot and humid: If it's summertime and you're running the air conditioner, close the door to the bathroom and turn on the ventilation system. Why? Adding hot, humid air will make your air conditioner and/or dehumidifier work harder and thus expend more energy. There's a reason why your electricity bill spikes in the dead of summer.

    Cold and dry: If it's wintertime and you're running the heater or humidifier, open the door to the bathroom after you're done showering. Why? Humid air holds heat more efficiently than dry air does. You're losing all that warm, humid air the second you turn on the vent. That's going to make your humidifier and heater work that much harder.

  2. Wash clothes efficiently: Each time you wash your clothes you are adding to three distinct bills. Your water bill (for the water), your electricity bill (for heating the water) and your grocery bill (for detergent and fabric softener.) How do you cut costs here? Easy.

    If the clothes being washed do not expressly say "warm wash only" set the machine to wash and rinse with only cold water. This will cut down your energy consumption. Unless you have really, really filthy clothes, you can probably stand to use 1/3 less detergent than you are now too. The same is true for your fabric softener. Do you have an especially tough, specific spot stain, from say, that meatball sub you had for lunch? (I hope you made it yourself!) Well, that's fine. Instead of using more detergent, place a little blob of it on the stain and rub it in.

    What about loading? Use medium loads. Small loads waste space and resources. Large loads make the machine work harder for less work done. The average person is typically going to do a medium sized load. This is what washing machine companies optimize their machines for.

  3. Air dry clothes: Especially in the winter. Your heater is working hard to keep your house warm. String a line indoors during the winter near your baseboard / central air vents. Not only will it add humidity to your home in the winter, but it'll save you the cost of running your dryer.

    Couple it with the dryer if you have more clothes than space. Air drying just one load will still save you. If it's summer, or if you live in a warmer locale, string up a line outside between two trees.

  4. Reclaim heat: There are devices out there which hook up to your dryer hose and redirect the hot exhaust air back into your home. If you're going to spend the money to run the dryer, you may as well use that energy twice. You can buy kits, complete with instructions for less than $15 at your local hardware store.

    On the flip side, consider running your dryer in a room isolated from the air conditioner. Even if it's dumping all that hot, wet air outside the dryer itself is still going to radiate a lot of heat.

  5. Shampoo less: Were you aware it's actually healthier for your hair if you shampoo and condition your hair every other day instead of once or twice a day? Shampooing strips essential oils from your scalp. Your body, looking to prevent dry skin will actually begin producing more oils if you frequently shampoo your hair. Not only will you have healthier, damage free hair, but you'll be saving money in the process.

    Furthermore, most shampoo manufacturers suggest you use a dime size deposit for each shampoo. You likely use much more than necessary.

  6. Turn down the heat: It's your first reaction on a chilly winter morning to hop into a scalding hot shower. Your water heater eats an enormous amount of electricity. Taking shorter showers, or cooler showers (luke warm or warm is acceptable, it doesn't need to be hot) will cut your energy consumption down by a lot.

  7. Stop buying things you don't need: What toiletries can you live without? Hair dye and their associated conditioners, leg wax (a razor works just fine, confused men and ladies), bubble bath, bath salts, elaborate perfumes and colognes, etcetera.

  8. Paper products: Okay. Sure. Allow yourself the luxury of extra soft toilet paper. But do you regularly use makeup removal wipes? What about paper towels to dry you hands after washing? A clean washcloth is a perfectly acceptable alternative. Not only are you living cheaper, but it's promoting a greener life style.

  9. Wasting water: Lack a low flow toilet? Consult a plumber (meaning research instead of suing me), but if you remove the reservoir lid, you'll likely find an inflated ball on a thin metal shaft.

    This tells your toilet when the reservoir is full, so it doesn't over flow. The inflated ball floats on the water and when it reaches a certain height, it'll turn off the auto fill mechanism. Bend it slightly at a downward angle. This will cause you to use less water each flush. Sure, bend it too far downward and there's a point at which you start leaving presents for the next user, but you can likely stand to use less water than you are now without any ill effects. You can always bend it back if it doesn't work out. You'll notice a drop on your next water bill.

  10. Soap Saver: Have a bunch of little soap slivers that you're not getting any use out of? Ever take a piece of wisdom from the Simpsons and attempt to make a conglomerate soap out of all those tiny bits, only to have it fall apart on you?

    Me too. Use a soap saver.
These are just a couple of ideas I've come up with so far in my travels. Have more ideas? Post them in the comments portion of this blog and I'll link back to yours in my next post!


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