Wednesday, July 16, 2008

In light of my impecunious status as of the end of the spring semester, I've decided that it would be best to start sharing some of my "tips" for survival. These will not only be hilarious insights into my life, but also clear lessons to learn from should you ever end up being broke.

That being said, there are a few clarifications to make.

First off, all of these tips will assume that the individual in question has at least $500 (or a relatively similar amount if you live in a low- or high-cost of living area) to live on for almost three whole months. Secondly, that said individual knows how to budget the limited amount of funds, especially when he or she does not have a job. Next, that said individual has access to local resources such as parents, friends, and public spaces (e.g. your local library, your office [if you have a job and if you have one!]) for a variety of reasons to be explicated later. Finally, that said individual has a great sense of humor and manages to wake up everyday (whether in the morning or late afternoon!) knowing that he or she will, in fact, be alright.

With that settled, I introduce Strapped Summer Survival Tip#1


In the absence of a job and any sort of accountability to anyone else, it is likely that you are home most of the time. While this may, in fact, be enjoyable after a strenuous semester, it is also potentially expensive. Whether you are playing video games, watching television or movies, cooling off with the air conditioner, or reading a good book at night, chances are your energy bills will be on the rise. While most bills are lest expensive per rate during the summer, it is still likely that your bills will be more expensive in terms of energy usage (per unit) during these months. Therefore, I recommend the following:

  • Unplug any electronics not in use or unnecessary devices. Not using the cellphone charger? Unplug it. Leaving the TV and DVD player plugged in when you aren't home? Unplug them or buy a phantom powerstrip to cut the power when they are not in use. According to Diana McLaren of, these electronic devices (specifically TVs) can "cost your almost $80 in wasted electricity." While that cost is an annual average, it figures out to about $20 over three months. And while that $20 may not seem like a lot, it will buy you three to four small bags of rice or two big bags of rice (enough to survive three months on). Plus, unplugging unused and unnecessary devices contributes to increased conservation of natural resources. You can be a hippie AND be cheap, who knew!
  • Replace your light bulbs with energy efficient ones. This works best if you already replaced your light bulbs when you had money! Energy Star certified light bulbs "use about 75% less energy than standard lighting, produce 75 percent less heat, and lasts up to 10 times longer." Again, the costs are minimal in a three month period, but it is likely you'll save around $20 to $60 by making the switch.
  • Use your resources! That is, use your family, friends or public spaces. When it comes to family and friends, don't be a pest and demand or request to use their resources for your gain. Rather, use them as they allow you to. Chances are your family and friends will allow you to plug you laptop in, surf the Internet, and hang out at their place. Therefore, don't overstep your welcome.
    Given the limited amount of offsetting you'll get out of your family and friends, it is best to use public spaces. Public libraries, the opiate for the public and the poor, allow you to not only find a quiet place to work, but typically allow you to plug a laptop or cellphone into an electrical socket for free. This way you can get work done and not have to worry about the cost of energy! As an added bonus, you'll likely be in a cool location where you don't have to worry about adjusting the AC for the right temperature.
    If you think you can afford it, you can cruise to your local coffeeshop and use their internet (if it is free), but you'll probably have to pay for a cup of joe and suffer through the local noises.
  • Get outside! When everything else fails, make sure to spend more time outside. If the weather is nice and you know of a few places where you can sit and read or enjoy yourself, then go there. Staying at home only increases the chances that you'll use energy when you do not need to. In fact, it is likely that you'll use more energy because you will try and find things to do if you are at home all day.

Of course, it is evident that these little insights will not make you rich nor save you massive amounts of money. However, in all frugality, they will save you some money that you can easily use elsewhere. In fact, the money you save on electricity in two months can be used to pay for the electricity of the third month if you manage it appropriately. Or you can use the money for something lavish, like a pizza. Either way, you'll feel better knowing that you have a little extra cash through conservation and the cost of someone else. It is a bit selfish, but, then again, I didn't say the tips would be virtuously moral!


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