The problem with frugality is that it can easily turn from a smart move, living within your means, to becoming a game of "lets see how little I can do without" even when you can afford to have that, even when doing without that is hurting you and your family. But its hard sometimes to spend money on yourself, especially in ways that you've previously talked about doing without, because as much as you know it's a good idea, you still feel like a failure, like you're letting people down. Because if even you, the "frugal queen" decide not to skimp in this way, why should anyone else?
That's one of the things tough about this blog.
I feel like some of you put me on such a pedestal as the "ultimate frugalista", that even when it makes sense to do something less frugal, even when I can afford it, and being extra frugal ends up making me and my family suffer and not have as good of a life as we could have, I feel pressure to still not do it, because I have to be an inspiration to my readers, that I can't "cave in", that I have to be a good role model and not let y'all down.
But summer is one of those times when I just suffer. And my husband does even more than I do.
Mike is a very light sleeper, and has a really hard time sleeping in the summer in the heat. Our house gets no breeze in the summer, even with the windows open, and there's only so much that a fan helps. During the summer, it sometimes gets so hot that all the typical cooling methods don't work- a fan blowing on you feels like you're standing in front of a blow heater. And when you turn on the cold water in the shower, hot water comes out.
And when that happens, everyone suffers. I suffer tremendously, dehydrate, can't function, just lay around in a daze, unable to do anything. And my kids are cranky. And my husband also is cranky, can't function, and can't sleep.
He's wanted to get an air conditioner for years already. I said no, we needed to save the money for needs, not extras like an AC unit.
We tried making a swamp cooler, but I'll be honest- it barely works.
And my husband really, really, really wanted an AC.
But I really, really, really didn't.
Because I was afraid our electric bills would be sky high, even after paying a fortune for an AC unit and then more money to get it installed, etc...
Then I spoke to some frugal minded friends locally who did have an AC unit that they used as needed, but not all the time. And fortunately, her electric bill didn't get so high in the heat of the summer, even using the AC. So I became convinced that smartly using an AC unit won't triple or quadruple our electric bill. But still- laying out the money for the unit, paying to install it, then paying to move it and install it in a new apartment, and then fixing up the hole in the wall from the old apartment... (The standard "window units" people have in the US don't work with the types of windows we have here- I'm not even sure they are sold here.)
Mike really wanted an AC, and I was starting to get convinced that I really wanted one as well, after we started having heat waves in the 90s and 100s already in April... But I STILL didn't want to lay out so much for the unit and installation.
My husband did some research and discovered that there was this portable AC unit, that you could roll from room to room as needed, and just put the pipe out the window, 2 screws and 2 minutes to install. (Slightly more complicated than that, but no, the cold air doesn't escape, just the hot.) And it cools off just as nicely as a regular AC unit, and is very energy efficient (has a top energy efficiency rating). It actually uses less electricity than an installed unit, but cools just as much.
But even once we found what we wanted, I didn't want to pay full price. So we found one that was gently used on our local version of Craigslist (he got rid of it after a short time, because he installed central AC) for half price.
And have been enjoying the AC since then!
We're not using it much. We're using the fan mostly, and the AC part of it only when it's really, really, really hot.
We're not doing what most people do and making the house so cold with the AC so they need to wear a sweater in the middle of the summer. We're only using it when we feel like we're melting, and only after we try the fan and it isn't doing the trick.
I was bummed out when I saw that the AC didn't come with a timer to be able to turn on and off whenever you'd want it to, which meant it either was on the whole night or off the whole night, but couldn't be on sporadically...
But then we had a blackout the other day and I saw that the AC came back on even after the blackout. Which made me realize that I could use the AC on a timer, that it would turn itself back on... That's exciting, because it means I don't have to have it on constantly but still can keep the place pleasantly cool...
So there's the story.
We have AC.
For the first time in 7 years of being married.
After some very, very unpleasantly hot summers.
Yes, our electric bill will be higher. (Still waiting for the first one to come.)
But it's worth it if it means not suffering the entire season.
And of course, even with unfrugal AC, we're trying to do this as frugally as possible.
Do you have AC? What type? Do you find your electric bill is much higher in the summer, or is it pretty reasonable? What are your tricks to keeping down your electric bill despite having AC?
If you don't have AC, do you think this is something sustainable, or do you think you'll eventually cave, like we did?