A recent article in USA Today caught my attention and made me think. The article, “Households take up challenge to be chilly” covers families who have taken up the challenge to see how long they can go without turning ontheir furnace. Partly for economic reason and partially for eco reasons families across the nation are having freeze outs. One interviewee who was trying to save money considers it a modern concept to heat the home saying “Over 120 years ago, people had a stove fireplace, and that warmed their homes to a point. They didn’t walk around in T-shirts and shorts all year long.” I agree with the statement but people 120 years ago weren’t sporting 3000 square foot houses either. The smaller your home the less there is to heat, the less windows/doors you have to leak heat out. I like the concept but it seems somewhat extreme, at some point these people end up turning on their furnaces but the article doesn’t really talk about what they heat their houses to when they give in.
One man in Maine even bought a house with no furnace at all. I am certainly willing to take some hits for frugality but at what point is the cost savings not worth the sacrifice to your quality of life. I think two of the biggest reasons people balk at being frugal are 1.) fear of losing their social status and 2.) thinking it lowers their quality of life. The majority of good, common sense, frugal practices should have no effect on either one of these. When people start reporting about these extreme cases of frugality or green living people start to associate the two things. That guy was nuts to save a few dollars so anyone saving a few dollars must be nuts right? Of course we know this couldn’t be further from the truth but it is these types of stories which make impressions on people.
Another good example of this was an episode of the TV show Wife Swap I saw one day. One of the wives was huge into coupons. I don’t mean your normal type coupon clipper, this lady had a coupon for everything. In addition to her collection of coupons it looked like she bought everything that was on sale. The impression was that she was sacrificing her family for the couponing and stockpiling. Coupons are good things when used properly and this was a case of coupons gone bad. People with little experience couponing might get the impression that coupons are either to much work or you have to go nutso to realize any savings. It is seldom you see a story of the average person doing little things to save money. Each of those little things adds up to something spectacular but it doesn’t make spectacular TV.
It seems whenever there is a good frugal tactic to save a little cash you are going have people taking it to the extreme, like freeganism and that gets the coverage. In regards to the home heating story, a good middle of the road type tactic would be to inspect your home for the winter and make sure it is as weather tight as you can make it. Utilize a programmable thermostat, or do it manually if you are diligent, to set the temperature in your home to be comfortable when you need it and cooler when you don’t.