This winter, we’re determined to keep our natural gas bill as low as possible. Last year, we lived in a small and cramped but newer and well-insulated first floor apartment that kept itself pretty warm for not too much money. Yes, the gas bill was not insignificant but coupled with the electric bill we rarely spent more than about $100 a month total. This year, we live in a house that is about twice the size and three times as old as our apartment was, and although I haven’t had anyone in to check the insulation, I am guessing by the temperature of the walls when you put your hand on them that it isn’t the best it could be. A number of the first floor windows are also on the older side (single pane glass with a drop-in storm window behind it) which does not help at all. So our gas bills are much higher in the winter than they were at the apartment. We expected this trend, but we didn’t expect it to be quite as bad as it has been.
So, we keep the heat as low as we can bear. That seems like the smart choice, and it probably is. But in keeping the heat lower – we wear more clothes. A lot more clothes. And blankets. And our increased use of clothing has actually added one to two loads of extra laundry every week. It seems silly, but it is true. Our water bill and electricity bill (we have an electric dryer) will go up to lower our gas bill.
I’m not sure how to calculate the difference, but my gut says the gas savings will outweigh the electric and water increases. In this case, we keep the heat low and we absorb the increased costs elsewhere, with the feeling that we are ending up ahead in the end. But sometimes, the tradeoffs are not so simple to determine. I think I am being frugal but if I did all the math, I might not be as frugal as it seems on first glance.
For example, I shop at multiple stores for groceries. I feel like this is frugal because I get the best value at each individual store, and if I shopped at any one of the three stores individually, my overall spending would be higher. But, shopping at three stores versus one increases my gas cost. And although I have a route I follow in which I don’t really add any extra driving to get home once I get to the first store (the other two are on my natural way home), if I eliminated the furthest away stores and only shopped at the one closest to my house, I might save enough money in gas to offset the increased prices.
Maybe. My gut again says no, I spend less money overall with my current system, but I honestly haven’t done the math to see. And if we factor in the idea that time is money, and going to three stores takes me two hours versus the hour it would take to do all my shopping at one store…
Sometimes choices that on the outside seem frugal really have tradeoffs that may be unconsidered by the average consumer and negate or partially offset the overall frugality. Like driving all over town to save a few cents a gallon on gas.