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Hilary Thompson

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My house was sucking my money down the drain; here’s what I did

I’m a saver. I only spend money on things that are necessary. When my husband and I became first-time homeowners, I was shocked at how much money it took to keep my home functional and comfortable. We were spending way more than I wanted to, but it was necessary. The money spent on electric bills went to powering our home. We had to pay the gas bill to avoid freezing during the winter. It felt like our house was sucking every penny out of our budget. To avoid breaking the bank, we started doing a few simple things around the house to save some money.

Turn off the A/C

I like to keep my home at comfortable temperatures, especially during the summer. I can’t stand the feeling of a hot, stuffy house. But the cost of cooling our house was getting out of control. I hated seeing money fly out the window every time we turned on the central air. But there are plenty of ways to combat energy loss during the summer, other than roasting in a hot home. First, I bought some heavy drapes to keep out the sun and turned the A/C way down at night. We found that once the temps get low enough, the thick drapes helped block the sun from making it too hot during the day. We also started using our ceiling fan a lot more when we were home. These simple tricks helped to keep our electric bill at a price that wasn’t breaking our budget.

It’s all about insulation

When we first bought our house, the insulation wasn’t that great. We could feel cold air seeping through the windows and doors during the frigid winter months. We were turning up the heater way more than we should, which drove up our gas bill. After doing some research, we found a few, easy ways to insulate our house. Spraying some insulation in the attic; adding weather strips to the windows; and replacing the older, weather-beaten front and back doors with newer ones helped to keep the house better insulated. Remember the heavy drapes I bought over the summer? It turns out they’re great for winter too. On the coldest of days, we would close them, throw on a sweater and some woolly socks, and become totally warm. We rarely found ourselves turning the heater up past 60, which dramatically reduced our gas bill during the winter months.

Install CFL and LED lights wherever it makes sense

If you’re still using incandescent bulbs, you need to stop. They’re expensive, don’t last long, and use six times more energy than an LED light. I made the switch to LED lights as soon as we moved into our new home, almost three years ago. To this day, we haven’t had to replace a single bulb. And we’re using a lot less energy than we did in our previous apartment where all we used was incandescent lights. Replacing a few bulbs in our house was fast,  easy, and helped us to keep our electricity costs down.

Doing these few, simple things around our house helped us to save so much money on our gas and electric bills. But it didn’t stop there. Once I discovered how much money we were saving, I wanted to find even more energy-saving hacks. Here are a few of my personal favorites.

  • Turn off all lights when you leave a room; also, take advantage of the natural light whenever you can.
  • Invest in power strips and turn them off when you’re not watching  TV, using the computer, or playing gaming consoles.
  • Perform a weekly maintenance check on your appliances; make sure they are clean and working properly.
  • De-clutter every room. We actually made some fast cash by selling all the stuff we didn’t need—plus it made my house feel so much cleaner.
  • Making more crockpot meals helped us to save time and money, since most meals involve three ingredients and almost no prep time. Plus, they’re delicious and make me seem like an even more talented chef than I am.

What are some ways that you’ve saved money on your home? Let us know in the comments below.

 

       

 

How to maintain a relationship after children

When my husband and I first started dating, the world felt like ours. Time was just a mere construct too limiting for our love! We had forever ahead of us! And then…we had kids.

Too soon, the once endless expanse of our universe slowly contracted and time suddenly became very real. We turned our skills at researching the best weekend getaways into researching the best pediatricians, instead. Our pillow talk turned into shop talk as we managed pregnancy symptoms and a barrage of obstetrician appointments.

Our perfectly planned pregnancy became a high risk pregnancy when the preterm labor symptoms predicted by a test I took turned into early labor, adding a new slew of challenges, worries, and fears – all competing for our collective time and attention.

If you don’t decide what your priorities are, something else always will. Our new health concerns with this pregnancy consumed us. We tackled each obstacle with the kind of ferocity and naivete that only first-time parents can have. Our relationship became reactive instead of proactive, draining our reserves and leaving us depleted. We had to face the paradox that even though our family was growing, we were growing apart as a couple.

We needed structure, some scaffolding to hold us up. We realized some of the things that had come naturally at the beginning of our relationship, we now needed to deliberately do to keep growing as a couple. Here are a few things we learned that brought us closer together.

Make time for each other. We were busy before we had kids, but there still always seemed to be enough time. But our time slowly became scarce, and we felt stretched thin, handling each new thing that came up – feeling run down rather than replenished. It became easier to put off date night because we were too tired (or busy with our favorite kid activities) until the occasionally missed plan became habitual. We realized that replacing date night for a doctor’s appointment didn’t replace the closeness we felt when we took time for just us. Now, we make it a priority to carve out that time together, because there will always be something vying for our attention if we don’t: work, chores, soccer games, homework, you name it. We find little ways to check in with each other, whether it’s having coffee together before our day starts or cuddling at the end of the day to unwind. There are more minutes in a day than hours, and it’s the small, everyday gestures that make up a relationship more than the big, occasional ones.

Don’t get used to each other. There’s that notorious sliding scale of effort that exists in the first year of a relationship; the dichotomy between wanting to impress each other and becoming more comfortable with each other. Skinny jeans turn into sweatpants. Going out turns into staying in. You both exhale a silent sigh of relief at not having to try so hard anymore. It’s natural that with more intimacy comes less mystery; your pre-date ritual is no longer top secret, and you now know what happens when they eat Indian food – intimately. But getting too comfortable can turn into taking each other for granted. Sometimes all it takes is a little shift in perspective: remember how you felt when you saw your significant other for the first time? Or when you only saw them once a week and wished you could see them every day? Well, now you have what you wanted. But don’t get used to it. Look at them like the rare being they are and see if it doesn’t ignite some of the feelings that sparked your relationship in the beginning.

Connect with each other. I mean really connect. Physically and emotionally. When time becomes scarce, the quality of your time together becomes even more important than the quantity. Don’t stop doing the little things that strengthened your connection at the start of your relationship, whether it’s kissing at red lights or just texting them during the day to tell them you’re thinking of them. And yes, be intimate. Have sex — even if you have to schedule it. Spontaneity sometimes has to die on the altar of adulthood, and if it’s choosing between scheduling time to be alone together vs. waiting for the right moment, sometimes the right moment never arrives.

If my husband and I have learned anything from our challenges, it’s that lasting love is an action. It’s like Newton’s first law of motion: love at rest tends to stay at rest, and love in motion stays in motion. Love with purpose, not passivity, and take back your time together.