Cost Cutting Ideas We Can Learn From India

The following is a guest post from an American, Kristy, who now lives in India, just the opposite of us. Enjoy reading.

When I lived in the United States I listened closely to all the things we were taught of saving money and energy and the environment.

Those of you who live there know very well how many commercials run and how many innuendo’s there are in everyday television shows. Even when I followed all the tips such as replacing my light bulbs with incandescent lights, turning off the water while I was brushing my teeth and other such money saving tips my light bills were still too high. I tried all of the usual tips but nothing seemed to lower that one massive bill enough.

In the pursuit of a life change and to alleviate some of the problems I was having in my personal life I decided to move to India and marry my long time fiancé. I knew ahead of time how the lifestyle was going to be but I didn’t fully understand just how green I would be living once I got here. It’s taught me quite a bit and those tips are well worth sharing so that others who are trying like I was and aren’t successful enough can benefit from them.

  1. Turn down the hot water heater. I love hot showers like any other American but in India most people have on-demand water heaters and I had never used those before. What I’ve learned is there are several adjustments you can make to these units that will lower your power bill even more.
    1. You can purchase a lower wattage power unit and save even more money or, you can lower the overall temperature that it heats the water to.
    2. If you have a gas unit, you can lower the gas setting and turn up the heat setting and achieve the same hot shower without using as much fuel.

Now for the tip!

In the winter time set your heat setting lower if you have a water tank that holds the hot water. It’s actually hard on your body physically to adjust to the extremes differences in the temperature and you can lower the heat setting 10 degrees and it will save you up to 5% on your energy bill and actually feel better when you turn the water on. When you get out, you won’t feel as cold either. If you have an on-demand water heater the water will be slightly cooler already and no adjustment is needed.

  1. Strategic heat and light use.
    1. Get outside. This has many benefits for your life, your health and your energy bill. Use the natural energy of the sun to warm your body. Set up a chair or swing set any place that gets good sun coverage. The sun will be the warmest between 11 AM and 3 PM, even in the winter. That’s four hours you can utilize free light and heat in the winter. Additional benefits include:

i.      Absorbing more Vitamin D which lowers your risk of depression.

ii.      Get a better nights sleep

iii.      Relieve symptoms of arthritis and muscle/joint fatigue

  1. Open windows and doors to allow light into the room instead of turning on lights. The sun’s light is easier on your eyes and creates fewer shadows than artificial light. So it’s much easier to read by and the light that comes in will also help warm your home in the winter.
  2. In the winter time close off all the heating vents on the second floor of your home. Heat naturally rises and this will keep you from paying to heat an already warm area. Likewise, in the summer close off the vents downstairs to prevent cooling the areas of the house that is already the coolest. Cut costs even further by:

i.      Closing off vents in rooms you don’t use daily. The guest room doesn’t need to be heated/cooled if you don’t have guests coming for example.

ii.      Don’t air condition the basement. The basement will naturally be cooler because It is below ground. Using the air conditioner down there is a huge waste of money.

iii.      Close off vents in rooms you don’t use during the day and open them about an hour before the room is needed. This includes your bedroom. You’re barely in there during the day so why pay to keep it cool/warm? Simply open the vents an hour before you go in and you’re the temperature will be pleasant when you get there.

Some home décor tips will save you money on your power bill as well. A few points I’ve found that work the best are:

  1. Use thicker drapes in rooms on the sunny side of the house. There are even light blocking drapes available at most stores in the US now. Use them. They will block out the sun as well as the weather and save you money all year round. The drapes are only slightly more expensive than standard sheers which means they will have paid for themselves in the first month of use as long as you:
    1. Close them at night to keep out any cool night air in the winter.
    2. Close them during the hottest part of the day during the summer to keep out the heat from the sun
    3. Set the curtain rod so that both edges of the window are well covered to eliminate drafts escaping from around the panels.
    4. Utilize a ceiling fan. These are a great addition that will save you money year round and with the current decorative models can even add to the comfortable feeling of the room.
      1. In the winter set the blades to turn clockwise and they will push warm air back down making the room feel warmer using less heat.
      2. In the summer set the blades to turn counterclockwise to pull more heat upwards and  push the colder air down where you want it. This makes your room feel up to 8 degrees cooler which means you can raise the temperature on the thermostat and save as much as 10% on your energy bill.
      3. During Spring and Fall use the fan along with open windows during the day instead of the heat or air condition and enjoy a pleasant feel to the room.

Kristy Robinson is a professional freelance writer who blogs at International Criminal Justice and a personal blog, American Punjaban PI, about adjusting to life in India.

SB’s Thoughts: I know it probably more than many of my readers, what it is like living in India. I was born there and spent 29 years of my life there. Frugality was the only option while growing up. For me, these are not a change of habit. Rather, these are the way of living.

Readers, are you inspired?

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  1. says

    You have many great tips in this post most of which we try and do to keep costs down in the home. We did in fact or I should say, I installed ceiling fans in all the bedrooms. It’s made a huge difference in the summer time and if you keep your eyes open for a good deal they won’t be a budget buster.

    • says

      Ceiling fans are ones we grew up with. AC was a luxury during my childhood. We never machine dried our clothes. It was always clothes line out in the sun. We also warm water by putting buckets under sun. We used room heaters instead of central AC. Thanks for your comment!

    • Kristy Robinson says

      Great plan! It’s always good to save money on purchases and now you’ve cut your costs even further by adding in the fans.

    • says

      We have a concept of split AC in India, it cools one room. We need to insulate the room before turning on the AC. Its a great cost save

    • Kristy Robinson says

      You’re right, these tips work anywhere but I was surprised how many people I knew in the US who don’t even think about them.

    • Kristy Robinson says

      Thank you! These are all very easy to implement as well. You won’t even notice the difference in the feel of your home when using most of them but you’ll definitely see a difference on your energy bills!

  2. says

    Great tips, many of which would not be considered by most people in North America. The tip about strategically using a ceiling fan is awesome. Most people would just think they’re only good to help cool down a home on a hot day. You wouldn’t think about how it can also be used to push warm air down in colder months.

    • Kristy Robinson says

      Thank you! You’re right. Most of the time we don’t even realize the fan can be switched to turn both directions or how to use those directions wisely.

  3. says

    Good tip on getting outside for Vitamin D. This might be one that’s actually overlooked by a lot of people, even if not directly money related. Of course, better health = better financial prospects, right?

    • Kristy Robinson says

      You’re absolutely right! Getting the vitamin D from the sun saves on doctors bills, blood tests and also money you would spend on comfort items to fight the depression you would get from having a vitamin D deficiency. This tip saves money in many areas of our lives.

    • Kristy Robinson says

      That’s surprising! Here in North India it gets down to below freezing and individuals still sit outside in the sun. They do cover more of their skin but just the warmth they get from it shining down on them warms them up considerably. It’s interesting though because the feel of the sun is quite different here than it was in the US whether it be summer or winter.

  4. Dannielle B says

    I like your statement “Frugality was the only option while growing up.” That was your way of life, and now so many people are pushing that lifestyle. I live in Barbados, and something as simple as hanging your laundry on lines outside to dry is what we are used to. It’s not seen as a cost cutting measure because it’s the norm.

  5. PFM says

    2 things I’ve done recently to reduce hot water use are 1) wash clothes only in cold, I haven’t noticed any difference in cleanliness 2) only run the dishwasher on the light wash setting and not use the heated dry (to save electricity too), the dishes come out just as clean.

  6. Kristy Robinson says

    That’s great PFM. I used to open my dishwasher in the US to dry my dishes rather than using the heat as well. That not only saves energy from the use of the dishwasher but saves cooling costs in the summer from all the heat that escapes into the house.

  7. says

    Great article and I totally agree with the intro about how we are told so many tips in the US on saving energy and money and yet we remain quite wasteful! My apartment stays very cool, we actually turned off the heater from the main circuit breaker in the house so that we never turn it on accidentally. we don’t have a dishwasher and don’t really miss it. Our water heater is shared for the whole building so I don’t have the option to turn it down. But I will take less scalding hot showers, saving them only for when it’s “cold” out (under 50 degrees?)

    • Kristy Robinson says

      That’s a good tip as well, taking less scalding hot showers. It’s really not so bad to do that either. I used to think so but now that it’s not even an option I realize that I’m not missing much by using a lower temperature water. I still feel just as relaxed and ready to face the day as I did before.

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