Why Buying A Chest Freezer Is Saving Us Serious Money
Last month, Mr. Frugalwoods and I made a startling discovery: we’ve been harboring an energy hog in our basement. When we bought our home three years ago, it came outfitted with a behemoth, aged refrigerator in the basement in addition to the newer, smaller fridge on the main floor. Huh, we thought at the time, a second fridge! Not a looker to be sure, but it was already there and we figured we could put it to good use. We proceeded to store a few items in it, dub it “The Hulk,” and not think much more about it.
Enter: The Energy Use Monitor
Until… Mr. FW was beset by a nagging suspicion a few weeks ago that this hulking downstairs cooling machine was responsible for sucking up the vast majority of our energy bill. The horror!
To corroborate this theory, he trotted out our energy use monitor, which measures the amount of electricity a given device uses over time. The beauty of this gadget is that it averages energy usage over time and thus, isn’t merely measuring what the appliance utilizes in a given moment.
This averaging capability is crucial for fridges since they naturally cycle through higher and lower periods of energy consumption. And, the monitor translates this usage into cold, hard cash–you type in how much you pay per kilowatt hour (printed on your handy dandy electricity bill) and it displays how many dollars per month, kilowatt hours, and pounds of C02 the device in question consumes/emits.
We have this monitor because we like the interface, which has a monitor with a lovely external display–much easier to employ with an appliance such as a fridge that’s difficult to snake behind in order to read an outlet-mounted monitor.
After allowing the energy use monitor to gather data for four days, we inspected the results and were faced with the grim realization that our benign assumptions about this monstrous fridge were entirely suspect. There was no doubt about it, the basement fridge was gobbling up a shocking amount of our otherwise meagre monthly energy usage. A fie upon you, monstrosity fridge!
The Never-Ending Quest For Strategic Frugality
Here we witness the Frugalwoods confronted with yet another instance of discovering a lapse in frugality (not to mention environmentally-friendliness!). Much like our Costco coffee reckoning whereby we learned we can save $214.11 per year on coffee beans, and last month’s great homemade seltzer discovery in which we unearthed savings of $483.84 per year, and last year’s notorious revelation that Mr. FW can (and now does) cut my hair at home, netting us a whopping $200 more in our pockets annually. Oh yes, it’s another one of those. And to be frank, if we weren’t so darn honest here on Frugalwoods, I don’t think we’d even admit this lapse in judgement to ya’ll since it’s quite obvious we should’ve ameliorated this problem when we first moved in.
This particular frugal shortcoming is primarily driven by our negligence. We’d periodically wonder about the energy usage of monstrosity fridge, but we never actually did anything about it. This is a prime example of how inertia can quietly and stealthily steal your money… It’s often easier to keep spending money unnecessarily than it is to implement frugal change.
Remaining vigilant about our opportunities for saving, streamlining, and creating efficiencies in our spending is a trait of the inveterate frugal weirdo. We try not to rest on the laurels of our 71%+ savings rate–nay, fair readers, we’re on constant alert for innovative ways to further trim our spending. And the crucial element of every one of these discoveries is that they don’t involve us eliminating something we enjoy from our lives. Quite the contrary! They facilitate our lifestyle of luxurious frugality by enabling us to have the things we love (like coffee, seltzer, cut hair, and a supplementary refrigerator) for less. This, my friends, is strategic frugality.
It’s not about never spending any money–it’s about spending money in the most optimized way possible. And yeah, we feel pretty dumb each time we uncover one of these arenas for saving, because we should’ve been doing these things all along. But that’s the nature of being a foible-filled human being and, there’s no use harboring any guilt over it. Plus, since I get to share these stories with you all, it makes our mistakes totally worth it! Mr. FW and I love exposing savings like these and it’s a constant game for us to ever-frugalize our lives. It’s telling that, despite our extreme frugality lifestyle, we still manage to find new ways to save all the time. Keeps us on our frugal toes!
The Case For Secondary Refrigeration Capabilities (aka we’re having a baby)
Ok enough frugal philosophy, back to the dire refrigeration situation at hand! Now thusly confronted with the undeniable fact that this energy hog needed to go, we suddenly realized we’d come to depend upon our auxiliary food-storage system. Oh woe is us! We’d experienced lifestyle inflation of the refrigerator!
Since we never eat out, don’t waste any food, buy in bulk at Costco, and Mr. FW cooks all our meals at home (often in large quantities), we’re forever in need of ample vaults for our vittles. As we wanted to unplug the beast ASAP, we did manage to cleverly consolidate all of our foodstuffs tetris-style into our kitchen refrigerator and freezer.
And while this would suffice for our family of two (Frugal Hound’s kibble, mercifully, is stored at room temperature), the arrival of a certain Babywoods in less than three months will be the harbinger of more food–for us and for her.
To prepare for our first few weeks as new parents, chef Mr. FW intends to whip up and freeze a number of meals for us to consume as we navigate the bleary-eyed sleepless trenches of early parenthood. We’ve heard from many a new parent that they ordered take-out alarmingly often, which strikes fear and loathing in our frugal hearts. Our solution? Make the “take-out” ourselves in advance and then take it out of the freezer when we’re starving and wholly unsure of the day/time.
In addition to this prepper-style survival method of frozen meals for harried parents, I plan to breastfeed Babywoods and thus, will need space to both freeze and refrigerate pumped breastmilk. Looking further down the road, Mr. FW will be homemaking all of Babywoods’ little baby meals, which will all require some form of modern food cooling. Hence, we anticipate a lot more perishable food in our not-so-distant future.
Since our kitchen fridge and freezer is packed to the gills with our current retinue of food items, we quickly accepted the fact that we’d need to devise a solution for all of these baby-related foodstuffs. But what to do…
Enter: A Great Trash Find
As most of our best stories do, this one features a perfectly timed great trash find. On my way home from (free) yoga the other evening, I spied a minifridge positioned by the side of the road with a tempting “Free! It Works!” sign taped to the front. I confirmed the veracity of this claim when I opened the fridge and felt it was still cold! Bonanza!
Ever the trash opportunist, I called in the cavalry of Mr. FW and Frugalwoods-mobile and we carted home our new baby fridge, defrosted it, cleaned it out, and toted it down to the basement (ok I should clarify here: Mr. FW actually did all that stuff, I just spotted the fridge). Minifridge is now happily plugged in and chilling our food (namely a large watermelon I bought on sale because, yum watermelon).
We anticipated we’d find a free fridge during the epic September 1 Cambridge move-out and have actually since spotted three other free fridges by the roadside… so if you live in Boston and need a minifridge, now’s the time to scope the trash!
Thus solving our refrigeration problem in one fell, free swoop, we turned our attention to the slightly more nuanced and complex challenge of a freezer…
Enter: One Chesty Freezer
After ample exploration into the subject of modern freezing options, Mr. FW arrived at the conclusion that our needs would be best met by a chest freezer. Large freezers basically come in only the chest varietal as that configuration is exceedingly more efficient than the traditional freezer-with-fridge layout.
Chest freezers are well insulated and when you open the top, the cool air doesn’t all rush out with a whoosh (a phenomenon that does occur with a front-opening freezer). Thanks to the swell science fact that cold air is denser than warm air, it stays where it belongs: inside the freezer.
We didn’t want to buy more freezer than we need, but we also didn’t want to get a minuscule freezer we’d soon outgrow. And so, Mr. FW commenced researching freezer prices online at retailers including Amazon, Wal-Mart, Best Buy (was not even aware they were still in business), and Sears (similarly unaware of their continued viability). Mr. FW quickly zeroed in on Energy Star certified freezers, which are especially efficient. He discovered that the Igloo brand sells an Energy Star model in our desired size: 5.1 cubic feet.
After exhaustive price comparison work, Mr. FW deduced that Amazon and Sears were the most expensive, Wal-Mart would deliver it to us with free shipping, but that we could get the freezer for $50 cheaper at Best Buy if we went to pick it up.
Thanks to the fact that we live in the city, can drive 15 minutes to the nearest Best Buy, and are in possession of the stalwart Frugalwoods-mobile, our decision was easy. If we were out on the homestead, we likely would’ve gone the route of free Wal-Mart shipping, so I’ve filed that intel away for future use.
Shelling out the cash ($159.36 to be precise) to purchase this chest freezer is a fabulous example of the ways in which frugality gives us options. Having the ability to make relatively spontaneous, large purchases without the need for financing or gnashing of teeth is a luxury that frugality enables in our lives.
But Mrs. FW, I Thought You Said To Buy Everything Used?!?
Too true, too true. I’m usually an ardent devotee of the venerable used market, but in this case, the used market was not panning out. Mr. FW spent several weeks scouring Craigslist and perused many an ancient chest freezer for sale. However, when he researched the energy use of these antiquated freezers, he learned that they consume 2 to 4 times the energy of a new version. Another hidden energy hog!
Evidently, there’ve been improvements in chest freezer technology in recent years. Plus, the used versions weren’t even that much cheaper than the brand new ones. In the size we wanted, used freezers were going for $100 on Craigslist and we bought our new model for $159.36.
We’re happy to pay the $59.36 extra in order to enjoy the reliability and increased efficiency of a new freezer. This is a great example of the power of informed frugality–and its key differentiation from cheapness. Investing in a superior product that’ll save us money in the long run is a wiser, more frugal selection than immediately pouncing on the dirt cheapest option.
The Frugal Weirdo’s Secret Weapon: Research
A central component of this story (and most of our epic frugal hacks) is the power and necessity of ample research. We don’t just know this stuff off-hand folks (nifty as that would be). Nope, we research it to freaking death. Mr. FW estimates he spent 8 hours or so researching this decision to migrate us to a minifridge and chest freezer. Why? Because research always yields the most economic, strategic purchases. He admits he probably could’ve gotten it done in 1.5 hours, but he’s a research fiend–the man will research any topic ad nauseam (a trait I’m most grateful for). This research also yields–for your express enjoyment–the below numbers!
Energy Consumption Costs (data courtesy of our energy use monitor):
|Kilowatt Hours Per Month||Kilowatt Hours Per Year||Cost Of Electricity Per Month||Cost Of Electricity Per Year|
Money And Energy Savings:
|Kilowatt Hours Per Month||Kilowatt Hours Per Year||Cost Of Electricity Per Month||Cost Of Electricity Per Year|
|Old Fridge Total||133.23||1,598.73||$27.18||$326.14|
|New Minifridge & Chest Freezer Total||33.24||398.91||$6.78||$81.38|
According to Mr. FW’s calculations, our new minifridge and chest freezer scheme will pay off in 7.8 months and we’ll save $244.76 per year with this energy efficient configuration. Well worth the start-up cost of $159.36 to ensure lowered energy usage for the duration. Plus, we anticipate our utilization of this chest freezer will only increase on the homestead, making this a sage longterm investment.
Monstrosity Fridge: An Unresolved Situation
You might be wondering what we’re going to do with our old fridge. Well, we’re wondering this too. Initially, we thought we’d avail ourselves of Massachusetts’ fantastic incentive program for recycling junker second refrigerators.
It’s an excellent system–the state will come and remove your energy-vampire fridge and pay you $50 for no longer using so much electricity! A total win. However, there’s no provision from the state if you can’t actually fit the thing out of your home…
Based upon rigorous calculations conducted with a measuring tape and our eyeballs, our ancient fridge is a hefty 31.5 inches square, which makes it WIDER than the basement staircase (the only method of egress).
How does such a thing happen, you (and we) wonder? We posit that the previous owners, who lived in our home for over 25 years, must’ve put that fridge in the basement prior to finishing the current basement staircase configuration.
At some point in time, the previous owners quasi-finished the basement with carpeting and drywall and must have somehow made the staircase narrower in the process. We can’t think of any other explanation besides possibly UFOs and/or divine intervention. Hence, I think monstrosity fridge will reside in our basement for time and all eternity as an unplugged, unused appliance… unless anyone has an angle grinder with a cutoff wheel we could borrow to cut it into pieces/remove the doors?
Updated to note: the real issue is that, aside from the narrow entryway to our basement stairs, the stairway itself is too narrow to facilitate the turning radius of monstrosity fridge (which is perfectly square).