I Miss Pizza and Paper Plates: A Guy’s Take on The 31 Days of Living Well and Spending Zero Challenge

Editor’s Note-I’ve noticed that most of the blog tour posts on #31DaysLWSZ seem to have all been written by women. I though Jon should give his view on the guy’s take on #31DaysLWSZ. EJ

The 31 Days of Living Well and Spending Zero has been going well!

On the first day of October, Emily (aka Jane Doe) informed me that we were starting the 31 Days of Living Well and Spending Zero Challenge. My response? “This is great!”

I spent too many years as a starving graduate student to ever be able to spend money freely. No portrait of Ebenezer Scrooge on the wall…yet! Emily has teased me for years about some of the lengths I will go to in order to save money. Hah! Her turn!

There may be a pair of Bob Cratchit gloves in her future.

We have been eating well in spite of drastically cutting our food bill. Not only have the grocery bills been less, but restaurant and takeout outlays have been zero dollars.One factor that has made the challenge easier is that we were well stocked with food and groceries at the beginning of the month. Okay, maybe we were a little over-stocked.

Unfortunately, we were not overstocked with frozen pizza or paper plates. My go-to easy dinner solution was only available once this month, and I washed way too many dishes.

I bought our daughter $20 worth of books at her school Book Fair.We are still buying paper towels. I continue to have my daily coffee.

So we have tried to bring a certain level of reasonableness to the challenge. It’s really made it relatively simple to commit to the challenge and save money.

So Let’s Talk Guy Stuff: Fuel, Power and Car Repairs

We’re also doing well on gasoline. So far we have only spent $114 in gas this month for both cars. I’ve also had to replace the brakes on my car, but I only bought parts and did the labor myself. Even though we were on the month of no spending, I bought premium brake pads. I like saving money, but not at the expense of safety and taking good care of our cars.

Historically, October is our lowest month for electricity consumption. So we will spend less this month on power as well as all that we are saving through #31DaysLWSZ. Last month we had a very economical $95 electrical bill for our 2300 square foot home.

I have been going around the house looking for any incandescent lights in operation. We have replaced most of the old incandescent lights with florescent and LED bulbs. The Heat pump thermostat is set to a balmy 67 degrees.

With 5 days left this month we have used about 700 Kilowatts, or about $70. Turning off lights, keeping the house at a reasonable temperature and taking shorter showers has paid off.

The Hunt for Incandescent October

We still have a couple of 100 watt flood lights to replace. I have purchased 15 watt florescent floods to replace them, which will be a significant wattage reduction from 200 to 30 watts. It hasn’t been a priority because the lights aren’t on a lot.

The next month should be interesting from an electric power consumption viewpoint. We are switching to Residential Time of Use (R-TOU) with our power company. This means that the power company will bill us at different rates for using power at different times of the day. It sounds complex, but it’s not. You get a discount for load shifting and trying to use power at off-peak times.

R-TOU requires some expenditures for equipment to help shift power usage effectively, like a timer for the hot water heater and a programmable thermostat. It also requires some shifting habits, like using the slow cooker and convection oven more often, timing showers and baths, and moving laundry day to the weekends.

We’ve started making the switches this month, even though we have not officially gone on the program. We feel this is not just money saving, but also ecologically responsible. When customers load shift, the power company can generate power in more efficient, less polluting ways.

Once the power company gets us hooked up, we should save a lot of money on our power bill. Off-peak electricity usage will cost about half our current rate.

This Guy’s Take on #31DaysLWSZ

Despite the current lack of snack food in our house, we have found the challenge a reasonable and easy task. No one has suffered great hardship from a lack of pizza and paper plates. I am looking forward to buying some ice cream and tortilla chips on November 1.

We have learned lessons that we can apply to our day-to-day expenditures. I think we’ve gotten an eye-opener on some of our spending habits, and we’ve had to come up with some alternative ideas to stay entertained. We had some family fun, even if I ended up watching way too many Disney Channel Original Movies.

As Ben Franklin said, “Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.”

Emily and I made a commitment this summer to find ways to live more frugally that fit into our lifestyle and long-term goals. We’re looking for one new way to save money each month, and October had two. We tweaked our food buying expectations and we signed up for R-Tod. Not bad ways to reinforce the hull of the USS Jividen.




8 thoughts on “I Miss Pizza and Paper Plates: A Guy’s Take on The 31 Days of Living Well and Spending Zero Challenge

  1. I don’t think my husband would be quite as pleased as you if I announced a challenge like this, but he would probably be better at it than me. I’m still impressed that you guys didn’t run out of food!

    • Jon is really good at not spending. He drives a 13 year old car, which replace one that was 25. He eats sardines on saltines regularly for lunch. He does most of our car repairs and home repairs himself. I have been corrupting him over the years with things like good cheese and microbrews, but he’s changed me too.
      I did break down yesterday and buy a box of Cheezits. I was having to get a little too creative with my daughter’s school snack.

  2. This is great! We would miss the frozen pizzas, too. There always seems to be one week out of the month when frozen pizza and paper plates feel like a necessity. I am so inspired up by you guys taking on this challenge!

    • Our response to those days has been breakfast for dinner. Eggs, toast, and cheese grits are quicker to make than pizza, even if the cleanup takes a little longer. Since Little Bit doesn’t actually like pizza but loves breakfast, that has been the part of the challenge that she likes best.

    • I think if we get on R-Tod it will be fine. They came to install the meter for it the other day, and evidently we have to replace the base for the meter before we can actually get on the program. The power company told us that we’ll have to get an electrician to do that. So while we really want to do the R-Tod, we’re going to see how much the cost for the new base and recalculate the cost/benefit analysis.

  3. How much do you think you’ve saved by switching from incandescent bulbs to fluorescent bulbs? Our electric bill every year is usually pretty high, and I’ve heard that they save money. I think we should do it, but my husband thinks it’s unnecessary.

    • Hi Jenn,

      Thats a great question. Quick answer: Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFL) can save alot!
      Switching from a 100 watt incandescent to a 9 watt CFL can save about
      $11 dollars a year per bulb in your house.

      *(Home Depot has the EcoSmart “40 Watt Equivalent” 9 watt CFLs on sale, 4 pack for $2.97) I would suggest trying out 4 bulbs in the lights you use the most, to see if they work well for you all.

      Now for the math, if you average 3 hours per bulb per day, and yearly usage of 365 days, and you are currently using 100 watt bulbs yields:

      3 hours X 365 days X 100 watts = 100,905 watt hours per year

      Converting to kilo watt hours (KWH), Electrical usage is measured in KWH.

      100,905 / 1000 = 1095 KWH per year

      Current price per KWH is about 11 cents.

      1095 KWH X .11 cents = $12.045 dollars per year for one incandescent bulb.

      Here is the math for one 9 watt CFL:

      3 hours per day X 365 days X 9 watts / 1000 X .11 cents = $1.084 dollars per year

      ***So, $12.04 – $1.08 = $10.96 savings per bulb per year

      The “actual” savings will depend on usage and your electrical rate.

      Don’t laugh, but I have replaced the 6 bulbs that we use the most in our house with
      5 watt LEDs. The LEDs are a little more expensive than the CFLs, but they save you even more! They are 20 times more efficient than a 100 watt incandescent. Of course,
      I had to wait for the LEDs to go on sale!

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