Raising children can be expensive, can’t it? Before having kids we were all warned about the cost of nappies, buggies, and those sweet little outfits they wear exactly once before a random growth spurt or a carrot-puree incident. But what they don’t tell you is that the basic costs of running your house will spiral upwards too.
Before having children, most likely you spent about an hour at home in the morning, and a few hours at home in the evening before bed, and heated the house accordingly. Similarly, meals were quick on-the-hob affairs if we weren’t ordering pizza or enjoying a pub lunch out with friends.
Enter your wrinkled little baby, wanting to be fed at all hours of the night and demanding that you spend hours playing on the floor at his level. In a bid not to freeze, you start leaving the heating on the whole day… and sometimes through the night to cope with those chilly night-time feeds. Lying on the floor doing Tummy Time with baby, you become more aware of just how cold that floor is, and crank the heating up a couple of notches.
Your steamer, blender, washing machine and dishwasher seem to be switched on almost permanently, and with daily visits from local mums and friends, your kettle is being put through its paces.
It’s around this point that many of us realise our energy bill is suddenly sky high. With only one income to work with, this is the last thing we need!
It will get better, we tell ourselves. Toddlers are little bundles of energy themselves – surely we won’t need to heat the house so much! Alas, with toddlers and preschoolers and as your children grow older, you will spend more and more time using the TV, computer, and iPad charger. As you begin cooking more casseroles and roasts to feed your growing family, your energy bill creeps up even higher. Sadly, no-one has yet invented a way to capture your child’s abundant energy and use it to heat the house.
Our top 11 tips for saving money and energy around the house:
1. Keep tabs on it. Have your free British Gas smart meter installed and use it to monitor your energy consumption.
2. Make it fun. Children love a good gadget and a challenge, so why not make up a Smart Meter Game with rewards for staying in the Green?
3. Stop it from escaping! As our parents used to say, we don’t want to heat the whole neighbourhood! Take the time to install draft excluders, lined curtains, insulate your hot water cylinder, and take British Gas up on their offer to install free loft and/or cavity wall insulation.
4. Wait for a full load. Yes, we know that’s hard with teeny tiny baby clothes, but you really should wait until you have a full load before running the washing machine. Even if there’s been a little nappy leakage, you can always leave the clothes to soak in a bucket rather than washing them right away.
5. Roll up your sleeves! I hate washing dishes too, but the best way to wash baby bottles is to roll up your sleeves and give them a good scrub with a bottle brush and fairy liquid. You’ll also need to run the dishwasher much less often, and save plenty of energy and money.
6. Cook more efficiently. Check out slow-cookers or double-ovens (the ones with a small compartment) as an alternative to the enormous oven you’re using for casseroles and fish fingers. The amount of energy used in cooking varies greatly from brand to brand, and you’re best off speaking to a John Lewis kitchen appliance specialist, but in general if you heat a smaller area on a lower temperature, you’ll save money.
7. Get into gadgets. Make the most of simple energy saving gadgets like standby power savers, energy efficient light bulbs, and eco kettles. We especially like those poky little eco balls for the dryer. While they look disturbingly like something from Spielberg’s Super 8, they actually work by creating space between the clothes in the dryer, allowing hot air to circulate properly so your tumble dryer doesn’t need to work so hard.
8. Put on a jumper. Really, your grandmother was right after all. If you invest in a cosy jumper and some stylish slippers, you won’t mind turning the heating down a degree or two.
9. Play upstairs. Here in the UK most of us live in fairly old houses, and with them come drafty windows and very cold floors. You’ll find, though, that there are a few pockets of warmth around the house. Ours is our daughter’s room – with double glazing, carpets and the sun streaming in, her room easy feels 5 degrees hotter than the lounge. On cold days, we use her room for play time, stories, and making dens, and find we can leave the heating off (or lower) for longer.
10. Eat well. While this may feel like a strange inclusion, you will honestly find that if you feed your body healthy, low GI food and use winter warmers like ginger in your tea, you will feel warmer. I promise.
11. Be nice to your fridge! When you make baby food or have leftovers from your meal, leave them to cool on the kitchen counter before placing them in the fridge – otherwise your fridge needs to work much harder to maintain the correct temperature. You can also give your fridge a helping hand by defrosting baby purees and frozen food in the fridge overnight.
Do you have any other tips to add? Have you found a way to harness your toddler’s energy and feed it back to the grid? Leave a comment!
I’m participating in the British Gas Smart Meter campaign. Smart meters work with an in-home display to show how much energy you’re using in pounds and pence. You can see how much you’re spending by leaving your phone charger plugged in all the time, or the heating on at night. And when you can really see how much you’re using, you can start to make small changes to become more efficient. Smart Meters automatically send British Gas readings so they represent the end of estimated bills! British Gas is committed to install 1.5 million smart meters by the end of 2012.
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