One of the disadvantages of living in Idaho is the massive swings in climate this part of the country experiences throughout the year. Summers are hot, with days over 100 degrees not uncommon. Winters, on the other hand, bring freezing temperatures for several straight months. Of course, these drastic temperature changes bring about the need for many to suck down endless kilowatts to control the temperature within their homes. Energy bills during the more extreme months tend to be outrageously high. Last month, (January) we experienced a ridiculous cold front here, and consequently my power bill was nearly double its norm. For many, it can cost hundreds of dollars to heat and cool their homes every month.
So how are we to lower the costs associated with keeping our residences at an acceptable temperature? After all, how can it be possible to cut back on the cost of such a normal part of modern living?
To answer that, I am introducing a new category on this blog: Financial Superpowers. Financial Superpowers are skills that you can learn, lifestyle changes you can make, and tolerances you can build up that will help you go above and beyond in your quest to save money and build wealth. And to kick these off with a bang, I am showing you all how you can lower your air conditioning and heating costs by learning to survive and thrive in any environment.
Most human beings are used to living in an environment that is always one temperature. They set their home thermostats at 68 degrees or so, drive a car that is roughly the same temperature, and work in an office that is as well. The walk between a car and a building is the only time this changes. Many people don’t realize the drastic costs that kind of habit brings.
The temperature control unit in my apartment is rarely used, despite the fact that all of my neighbors use them liberally. During the warmer months, my apartment typically hovers in the 80 degree range, and it hits 60 for most of the colder months. When some people hear that I do that, they ask if I have had my mental health examined lately. After all, those kind of temperatures are just crazy!
While that may be the case if you are a weak consumer who is happy to send hundreds, and eventually thousands of unnecessary dollars off to the utility companies, we want financial superpowers! We want to get the most value of out of our hard earned dollars as possible. We want our money to work for us, and maybe even achieve financial freedom!
By allowing the temperature in my apartment to swing like that during the different seasons, I save myself a massive amount of money. In fact, my electric bill most months is around $30. When you consider the fact that I have all electric appliances, an electric water heater, electric heat, and my work computer is a double-screened behemoth, that bill is absurdly low. During the winter months it runs a little bit higher (this January was nearly double the norm, as I mentioned before, because of an unusual cold front which required me to use my heat many times more than what I normally do to keep it at 60), but it still is a fraction of what most people pay.
So how have I learned to survive and thrive in these temperatures? With a little help from some classic Mr. Money Mustache articles and some experimentation, I’ve figured out the best ways to stay comfortable in temperatures that send regular consumers running.
Believe it or not, the human body survived just fine before the inventions of air conditioning and furnaces. In fact, it has systems in place to help cope with all kinds of temperature ranges and extremes. Sweating is the most obvious to help you stay cool in the heat. Making sure to drink plenty of cold water in the summer allows you to sweat without getting dehydrated, and cools you down at the same time. Your body is also pretty good at dealing with cold. There is a reason people have been able to survive in Alaska for thousands of years. Remember that your body can handle the relatively mild changes in temperature I suggested above without problems, it is your mind that has always told you to crank the heat and A/C in the past.
One of the best ways to get acclimated to the changes in temperature at the beginning of a season is to just be out in it. The temperatures outside are always going to be more extreme than inside, so make coming inside a treat. Spend a few hours out in the heat during the summer doing some hard physical work, and coming inside will feel amazing, even if it is still 80 degrees inside. Same goes with the cold. Go for a walk in a snowstorm, or have a snowball fight.
I have a couple personal examples of my own quick acclimation experiences. For instance, during the winter I will go duck hunting. You have yet to experience true cold if you haven’t stood in a river that is up to your waste in water barely above freezing at 6 am in the middle of January in Idaho. As far as adjusting to the heat, last summer during a church business trip to Pittsburgh I wore a full suit around downtown in 90+ degree weather for ten straight days. Sure I was sweating the first day or two, but I adjusted quickly. Now you don’t have to go to those extremes to truly adjust to different temperatures, but it doesn’t hurt.
Of course, the most obvious way to deal with different ranges in temperature is to adjust the clothing you are wearing appropriately. If it is the middle of summer, you shouldn’t be wearing a sweater and cranking the A/C. In the winter, consider wearing long underwear on a daily basis, and always dress in layers. There is nothing wrong with wearing a sweatshirt indoors in the middle of the winter, or to not wear a shirt wear in the summer.
Just Man Up Already
Come on, you don’t think Bruce Wayne became the caped crusader by being comfortable and hitting an easy button, do you? This financial superpower does require you to “man up” and get out of your comfort zone. But you’ll find that the temporary discomfort quickly fades, and is replaced by a new found confidence, and a fatter wallet.