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Itsy, Bitsy Savings

Homebuyer Associates Sept-Nov. 2009 E-Note   


             Itsy bitsy savings…


Homebuyer Associates             www.homebuyerassociates.com

414.254.4129                          homebuyeba@gmail.com


Michael D. Holloway/Seamus Holloway

Lynn Sarver/Paul Wollersheim


There is a good deal of talk these days about living “greener.”  To many that means a hybrid car, photovoltaic electricity, solar panels and the like.  Green is a concept I embrace but prefer to start with small changes and changes that will save me money.


People tend towards the big things – big real estate companies, big financial companies, big stores.  Parroting E.F. Schumacher and his concept that Small is Beautiful, I first look at where I can make simple changes and savings.  I note savings because the

average home spends about $2,200 annually on energy costs.




This time of year I think about next year’s personal and business budget.  When I worked in city government, budgets were built from the preceding year’s budget.  That didn’t make sense to me, but what did I know, a 25-year-old liberal arts major?  I thought elected officials and department heads knew what they were doing.  How wrong I was.


Owning a small business, along with age, has taught me that “zero- based budgeting” makes the most sense when crafting a budget.  It provides an analytical method of arriving at a budget and forces me to ask questions about how I live and where my money goes.  In short, this is a method of budgeting in which all expenditures must be justified each new period, as opposed to only explaining the amounts requested in excess.


(Zero-based budgeting is also a good method for first-time or second-time homebuyers to help determine what they can comfortably afford.)


In working on my budget I came across some ideas that offer savings potential.  None of these are original thoughts but I thought they might serve as good reminders for all of us.


Light bulbs:  My mom was correct, “Michael, turn the lights off when you leave the room.”   I recently replaced many of our lights with Energy Smart lights or Compact Florescent Lamp bulbs (CFL).   (They don’t work with dimmer switches.)


CFL bulbs can cost as much as 4-5 times a traditional bulb but cost 1/3rd the annual cost of a traditional bulb and pay for themselves in 4-6 months.  Do the math. (Yes, disposal is an issue).


Water Heater:  While the best option may be a tankless water heater, an easy fix is to turn down the water heater from 140 to 120.   

It can’t cost you more which means it must cost you less.


Thermostat:  I’ve had programmable thermostats but as often as not I couldn’t figure them out.  The simple method was to turn the heat down to 58-60 at night and to 55-58 when I’d leave for the day.  As long as my dog didn’t complain I was fine and I was saving money. 


Insulation/Caulking:  I’m late in mentioning this but it’s not too late to plan for insulating your home next year.  According to Federal figures, homes consume 21% of all energy used in the U.S.  The most thorough method of determining what needs to be done is to hire a specialist to determine where and how your home wastes fuel.  The WE Website is a good resource.  The diagnostic tools used to analyze a home are a blower door, duct blower, manometer and flow hood. 


Absent that, insulating the attic and caulking your home on your own will result in savings and you may be eligible for a tax credit.


Travel:  I try to limit how often and when I use my car.  This requires that I then plan my trips to complete my errands.  I try to walk or bike when possible.  My “payoff” is that my car lasts longer (savings), I use less gas (savings) and I stay healthier (savings).






While these tips make sense it is easier to write than to do and easier to read than enact.  In previous E-notes I discussed inertia bias, people continuing to do things because that is easier than change.  I think part of the strategy to winning this battle is to recognize this bias – and then do something about.  It maybe the “carrot” of saving money and better health will be the nudge to get more of us thinking along those lines. 


Please call me if you have questions about the preceding and thanks for reading.



Michael D. Holloway

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Homebuyer Associates
1835 N. Riverwalk Way
Milwaukee, WI 53212
Phone: 414-254-4129