We’ve entered the most wonderful time of the year. No, not Christmastime, but the shoulder months betwixt winter and summer when we can coast by without the use of heat or air conditioning. This climate control-free period provides the perfect opportunity to save money and breathe fresh air. It might seem like a minor shift in daily life, but we relish the chance to live without it. Despite the fact that we have a slew of techniques for keeping our heat lower than average, we’re still beholden to it during winter (to prevent frozen pipes and frozen noses). Hence, summer is our season to save.
Windows and Doors (and their proper use)
Our primary mechanism for enabling the absence of air conditioning is the window-n-door method. Yep, we open our windows and doors. Pretty advanced, I know. But there is an element of strategy involved–we wake up early when it’s still cool outside. By opening all of our windows and screened doors (ok, so we only have one screened door) before the heat of the day strikes, we’re able to take advantage of temperate breezes. Opening the windows upstairs gives us something of a stack effect and hot air is freed from the house.
Then, we close everything up tight before the temperature rises. And, critically, we draw all of the curtains and blinds in order to keep the sun out. Whereas we throw open all the shades in the winter to capture every iota of solar warmth we can, it’s the opposite while we’re trying to keep cool.
When using this patented Frugalwoods window-n-door method, it’s important to assign someone as the “temperature sheriff.” A job not to be taken lightly, the temperature sheriff is responsible for monitoring the outside temp vis-à-vis the inside tempt and then blowing a bullhorn* to signify when the two have equalized. Once this happens, the temperature sheriff deploys all family members to batten the hatches. If the outside temp rises above the inside, you’ll end up heating up your house.
While we can often repeat this process in the evenings, sometimes it’s not cool enough until much later at night. Hence the beauty of waking up early to take advantage of crisp mornings.
*The bullhorn is optional, but think of how much your neighbors will appreciate this public service announcement every morning! You’ll be so popular.
I should also highlight the terrific opportunities for closeness with your partner while living with doors and windows open. When your partner is say, taking a shower, while the main room windows are all open, you can be a good friend and close them before they emerge and say “whoops.” Not that
Mr. Frugalwoods anyone would walk out of a bathroom in a towel without first remembering that the windows are all open… Let’s just say it’s another chance to show your thoughtful love and devotion!
Good Morning, Let’s Start Cooking!
Doesn’t everyone want to start cooking dinner at 7am? I knew you did! Off-peak cooking is another key tactic we employ. The oven and stove heat up the house tremendously and so, Mr. Frugalwoods has discovered the novelty of cooking in the mornings. We’ve also started to trot out our no-cook summer favorites, like homemade hummus with raw vegetables, but some things still require a bit of heat. Mr. FW made our rice-and-beans, along with a red pasta sauce from scratch last Saturday morning while the doors and windows were still open.
Although the house gained a few degrees thanks to his culinary excursions, we were able combat the increase with our open windows. Had we delayed cooking until a more traditional hour of the day, we would’ve been forced to resort to AC in order to keep Frugal Hound’s panting at bay. I swear that dog is only comfortable in a 10-degree band of temperature: 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything outside of that and she’s either shivering or panting. It’s a tragedy, really.
Mr. FW and I also accept and ascribe to the idea that we’ll be warmer human beings during the summer months. Mainstream culture fights valiantly to squash every element of nature from our indoor dwellings, but it just ain’t natural. It’s cold in the winter and warm in the summer–this shouldn’t be a surprise to us.
Mr. FW and I change our wardrobes and our climatological expectations. Gone are the layered sweaters over sweatshirts we don in the winter, and out are the short-shorts and tank tops (ok maybe not quite, but we do wear less clothing). This is another beef I have with traditional workplaces–they’re climate-controlled to the point that the season is rendered unrecognizable! The AC is so frigid in my office these days that I end up in tights and sweaters every day… even though it’s 80 degrees outside.
Acclimating ourselves to accept, and even welcome, the gradations of each season’s temperatures enables us to save just that much more money and keep the climate control machines off for just that much longer.
Not Rocket Science
I’ll admit it, none of these tactics are earth-shattering, or even terribly inventive, in their approach. They’re just the result of considering options before immediately defaulting to the automatic switch of the AC. Before Mr. Frugalwoods and I were of the extreme frugal weirdo persuasion, we were sometimes guilty of auto-piloting our way through life. If it was hot, we’d flip on the AC without thinking.
Frugality encourages us to be aware of our surroundings–it causes us to stop and think, and it results in creativity. If we rely on the easiest, laziest, paid-for solution, there’s no incentive to innovate and to optimize our lives. But since Mr. FW and I are always on the hunt for opportunities to realize efficiencies in our spending, we enjoy the luxury of a life truly lived.
This might sound a bit extreme for simply not turning on the AC as early as everyone else does, but I think it’s indicative of the larger message of living this delightful, frugal life. Mr. FW and I are deeply conscious of the choices we make on a daily basis and very few things are executed without careful consideration. This process isn’t arduous, it’s liberating. We’re in control of our spending and consequently of our impact on the environment in a way that unconscious, automatic spending doesn’t allow for.
This Is About More Than Not Turning On The AC
There are a plethora of benefits to frugality beyond the obvious one of saving a ton of money and, oh yeah, being able to retire early. Several readers, including my introspective friend The Goblin Chief, pointed out in the comments section of last week’s Is Frugality Sustainable Without A Goal that the very act of frugality is an ethical stance.
I agree. Frugality causes us to use fewer resources (such as less electricity), to be more thoughtful about our waste (can’t remember the last time Mr. FW or I threw out any food), to consume less (haven’t bought any clothes in 16 months and counting), to expel fewer carbon emissions (indicated by our one tank of gas per month), and so much more.
And plenty of frugal folk do even better than Mr. Frugalwoods and me. We consider ourselves to still be in a largely consuming state–in other words, our household consumes more than it produces at this stage. One of our hopes on the homestead is that we’ll transition away from consuming so many resources and start generating more of our own.
Beyond the positive environmental implications of frugality, I love the peace, simplicity, and joy that it brings to our lives. We have fewer decisions to make because we don’t buy much, we’re constantly mastering new skills as we need to fix or repair or build things, our entertainment options are uniquely original since they’re free, and our marriage has been strengthened by the clarity of purpose that leaving the rat race delivers. And we haven’t even quit our jobs yet!
I’m practically giddy with anticipation to discover what frugality will yield for the rest of our lives and the ways in which we’ll grow and evolve. I see frugality as a gift of lifelong creativity, learning, and contentedness that we’re giving ourselves. After all, we don’t waste our time or money lusting after the next big thing–we find happiness right here at home, with our doors and windows open.