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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Honey, I Shrunk the Utility Bills

The Poor Man’s Guide to Saving $$
On Your Water Bill & More

Due to a death in the family, my wife and I recently moved back to Michigan from Arizona. We had been gone 10 years and boy, were we in for a shock. Despite what we saw on the nightly news about the demise of Michigan, there is no recession here.

Why do I say that?

Other than Detroit and Flint, most places seem pretty normal. Elsewhere, we’ve found customers overflowing at restaurants and retail stores and loads of road traffic. And the biggest clue we’ve found that there is no recession is with the government and utilities.

Utility costs are significantly higher here now and the government sure has tacked on a bunch of ‘fees.’ A basic $19.95 landline phone, for instance, costs $35 a month when all the government fees are included…pretty much the same for gas and electric bills. Don’t get me started on car insurance, which I found 40% higher than what I was paying in AZ (and believe me, Arizona drivers are among the worst in the nation).

That leads me to think local governments and utilities feel there is no recession and that everyone can afford sky high rates!

Imlay City, MI has one of the highest water rates in the state of MI and they want to increase it again according to a recent newspaper article. They have a budget shortfall, so they’re going to stick it to the consumer. The rate here is $20 a month higher than what I paid in the desert! It sure sounds like Detroit is sticking its neighbors with fee hikes galore to bail themselves out – imagine that in a state surrounded by the largest fresh water system in the world!

Unless you own your own well, you’re going to pay some steep rates. Here are a few ways I’m cutting my water bill down (stay tuned to find out how you can save even more money on your monthly utilities.

I’ve launched my own beat the government campaign and have installed water barrels at outdoor downspouts to capture rainwater for gardening. Home Depot sells flex pipe used for irrigation and such but only in 100’ or 10’ lengths; not exactly conveniently packaged for most homeowners.

The old folk wisdom that says place a brick in your toilet's water tank is partially correct: It's an effortless way to save water, but a brick isn't the best choice of object. Use a plastic bottle filled with water instead.
Don't worry, you don't have to turn hippie and "let it mellow if it's yellow" in order to save clean water — which is an increasingly scarce resource. Most toilets will flush perfectly well with a little less H2O. The average model uses three to seven gallons per flush. A bottle in the tank will displace enough water to save half a gallon to a gallon each use, or up to about 10 gallons a day in a typical home.

All you have to do is drop a little sand or some pebbles into a ½ gal. plastic bottle, fill it with water, and put it in the tank, making sure not to disturb the toilet's working parts.

Read more:

Composting toilets used to be the sole domain of survivalists and backwoods campers, but they are becoming increasingly common in areas where drought conditions and water restrictions are a fact of life. Commercial models are more expensive than traditional flush toilets, but their design makes the transition to a composting toilet easy and inoffensive. You can save a significant amount of money by building a composting toilet yourself. A homemade model can be as simple as a toilet seat mounted on a 5-gallon bucket, or you can build it into a cabinet structure to hide the evidence of decomposing waste.

The cost of buying one, even used, runs $800 and up – which amazes me for something that essentially has no plumbing fixtures. I figure I can build for less than $50 and here are a few sites offering free plans for creating one. Check them at:

Of course, using water miser shower heads, using gray water techniques to recycle water, turning water off when shaving or brushing your teeth, not watering your lawn (use gray water or rain barrels instead), making sure you have no faucet drips, etc., will all help cut your water usage.

Want More Free Tips – You Could Save
An Average of $175 a Month
--that’s $2100 annually!

Something else I discovered here…Consumers Energy of Michigan, for example, does not offer free (or even paid) home energy audits. In most parts of the country, this is a given. Simply amazing!

Prior to moving back to MI, I performed one of these on our AZ home and for less than $100, we managed to cut our utility costs by $175 a month – you can too and I’ve developed a free guide you can use.

The Poor Man’s Guide to Low & No Cost, Low Tech Eco Friendly Ways to Save Money – it’s a 30-page PDF which can be downloaded from my site (main page, lower right) at: http://www.PoorManSurvival.Com

You’ll find other useful, free, consumer-friendly resources at my site but perhaps the most useful resource I can offer is a free subscription to my weekly emailed Poor Man Bulletin. Also contains my politically incorrect insights about the government. To get this opt-in only subscription (we never rent or sell you email address), send an email to:

Yours for better living,
Bruce “The Poor Man”

P.S. Feel free to share this with your family, friends and co-workers.

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