Saving Money: You can save money by cutting energy use!

Today we received our first electricity bill of the summer! And we got a shock! It was much…..


… than we had expected originally. We saved about NT$1700 on our bills vs. the same period last year… And we really didn’t do that much yet. But if we focus, we could save about 15%~20% of our annual energy bill, and cut carbons by a similar amount.

Exercising our discretion

So what did we do? Well, as luck would have it, it just hasn’t been THAT hot this year so far, so we decided to delay turning on our ancient A/C in the main office. In fact, we only turned it on about three or four times before July started.

We found that we just didn’t need it as much as last year, partly as we had fewer employees than last year, and we turned the other a/cs only as we needed them. In other words, we monitored our superfluous requirements, and exercised discretion. It’s amazing how much energy you waste just out of ‘habit’!

Turning off switches at night

This was also an obvious one: turning off unnecessary appliances AT THE SWITCH. In some cases, we simply turned off the entire power bar, too. It was astonishing how much energy our always on water heater/cooler drinks machine actually used at peak power (that’s 910 watts!). Turning just that off at night saved quite a bit. We also turned off power bars on PCs to cut ambient power going through them.

Switching to more efficient machines

Last March we started transitioning to more energy efficient monitors. We went from having only 3 pcs with 3 CRT monitors that were on 7~8 hours a day, and generated QUITE a bit of heat, to no CRT monitors and four PCs / one notebook. Naturally, the LCDs and notebook are a lot more efficent, and generate considerably less heat. This in turn requires a lot less A/C cooling.

Now we’re about to replace our 8 year-old A/C with a more expensive but smaller machine that is brand new. And we’re considering replacing our older second-hand computers with new ones that are either energy efficient or notebooks.

Substitution appropriate equipment

In one or two cases, substitution works well. Our drinks machine provides hot and cold water, as well as regular temperature water. Since we never drink cold water, it’s not necessary to chill the water. We primarily use the hot water for tea-making, and occasional other use so it is excessive to have hot water on all day or even some of the day. Result: we’ll substitute our hot water machine for an electric kettle that is boiled only several times a day (at most), and turn off the water machine entirely.

Power Saving Bulbs

Installing power saving bulbs was something we had done for quite a few years, as they were just more appropriate than typical strip lighting. But we didn’t use them exclusively at first because we couldn’t find the right sizes in the stores. Now, though, there are all manner of power saving bulbs from 0.5 watts upto nearly 50 watts. So we switched to 100% power saving bulbs about a year ago. There’s little excuse these days NOT to use such bulbs.

With increased interest in global warming, we have all started to become acutely aware of our impact on the situation. To that end, I’m beginning to wonder how far we can cut our power bills. Given our success this year, we’re now going one step further…

The Complete Lighting Inventory

Doing a power inventory will take a while, and will produce some quite exhaustive lists once you get started. I did one for our office and classrooms, and was quite surprised just how many items we had that required power in some form or other. Through the power inventory we were able to detect some obvious places where we were wasting power: especially in our lighting arrangements.

So our plan is simple “LEARS” …

Lights: Eliminate, Add, Replace and Select

We installed 9 spot lights at 50 watts each in two rooms to increase the lighting in the room. And for 4 years we burned them as much. Only when I did a power inventory a few days ago, did I realize just HOW large a portion of the power bill these 9 bulbs represent… over 15% of our bill and we have nearly 135 separate light bulbs in our school. By replacing just those 9 bulbs with LED spots and upping the nearby main bulbs, we figure we could save a large part of our usage, maintain light quality, and cut ambient temperatures in the rooms involved.

Replacing strip lighting with newer power saving bulbs would also save an additional 25% or more because we would cut the number of bulbs in use by about 30%. We’d be able to space out the lights more appropriately and use variable wattages when necessary. In other words, we would make the choices about lighting instead of letting the traditional strip lighting tell us where it goes.

I decided to vary the wattages involved instead of using a standard wattage throughout: not significant until you remember how many bulbs we’re talking about.

  • So corridor areas will have 18 watt bulbs, with 25 watts in desk or corner areas.
  • Reading areas will be given higher wattages, too, to create visual foci on the areas that are important.
  • Classrooms will have the higher ratings (we haven’t decided yet) bulbs, like over 30 watts.
  • Spot lights will either be replaced entirely with LED spot lights or removed.
  • Kitchen and service areas will receive 11- or 13- watt bulbs as necessary because supplemental lighting is adequate. And these areas are not accessed by students, anyway.

Unlike many cheapskate schools and business in Taiwan where people sit huddled around 1 lamp or lights are simply turned off (I know I’ve seen a few where there’s only one strip light in the classroom or living room, and it’s almost impossible to read because the building is so poorly designed), we’re not about to go down that route. It’s just bad for business.

But such buildings are a reminder: architects should be doing a better job of providing natural lighting for businesses, homes and people. If architects and builders built environmentally friendlier buildings, society as a whole would pay less in unnecessary power bills and emit fewer carbons!

What are you doing to cut carbons in your home or business?

Save Money: Choose the right model, the best finances, and drive carefully!

We’ve owned a delightful car for over 3 years… This year, we’re expecting to make our final payment in about six months. We could’ve done it sooner but we decided to delay. We purchased the Mazda 323 in the 1.6 liter version. This is an older model car, and is likely to be phased out in the future, but it was economical, reliable and affordable for us.

100 0650

These days, though, the price of oil is now greatly increased in the four years since I bought the car. In my first year, we could fill the tank for less than NT$1000, but now we can only fill 2/3rds of the tank. Four years ago, we’d have a couple of hundred in change, but not now. It’s not the only thing that has risen in recent months, too. For many people, interest rates are rising on mortgages, and ARMs are resetting for many recent mortgage owners at much higher rates than they originally settled for. So, owning a car is now a much less affordable option for many people. Drivers in the UK have had to deal with significantly higher gasoline prices than in the US, so we’re well accustomed to looking at the efficiency of cars. But even now, there is still pain at the pump when drivers fill up.

netcars finance

If we were buying now, we’d probably make some changes to what we bought, how we financed it, and how we drive it. Making these changes would mean that driving is more affordable than it currently is, but there is no denying that owning and using a car is a lot more expensive than it used to be.

1. Choosing the model

We didn’t spend a lot of time researching the model of the car or any of the statistics of the particular kinds of cars. We had no idea about such things; instead, we went shopping for a dealer we could relate to, who’d help us through the first-time purchase, and whom we could call if we had stupid questions.

Korean or Japanese?

This time, though, we’d definitely spend more time researching the models and brands to see what the relatively better cars are. Living in Taiwan, we’d have a preference for Japanese brands, which are more reliable, easier to repair (available parts), and broader dealerships. In addition, we didn’t think that European cars were offering good value for money; American cars were either hideous, hideously big & expensive, or just unavailable; and Korean cars weren’t as good as Japanese in terms of reliability. Worse, Korean car parts were difficult to get hold of. So, we’d choose a Toyota or another Mazda definitely. Suzuki have some interesting offers in the small car size, but their sedans aren’t good or particularly safe.

Engine Size

Given that one of the predictors of economy is energy size, last time we chose a 1.6 liter. We wouldn’t shoot for much smaller than that, though. Perhaps we’d consider a 1.5 liter, which in a smaller or lighter car would be quite enough. We’d also consider choosing a diesel model. Toyota now produces some interesting models in the Yaris series. Suzuki also offers a great mini-car, called the Swift. This is a very popular model in Taiwan, but I’d definitely prefer the 1.5 model.


Given the cost of choosing less efficient cars, I’d be striving to find a car as efficient as possible. You’ll be looking to find one that uses gas meagerly, even in city driving; and one that is light on emissions. Carbon taxes are in everyone’s future.

2. Consider the financing

We originally financed Ed about three years ago, but four years for a car loan seems a little long now. Perhaps this wasn’t the best choice we could’ve made. But we didn’t have a clue about financing a new car, so we just took the deal at the showroom, and hoped we didn’t get screwed over. Could we have shopped around? Probably.

Shop Around for Financing and Insurance

You should always shop around for good rates. But you will need to be aware that there are additional costs that will need to be taken into account. Sometimes these additional costs will be included in a higher APR, but in lower APR you may find that the additional fees are separately charged. Do your homework.

Trade-In Values

If you already own a car, and would like to trade that in, this will likely offset some of the cost of the deal. Of course, you will need to get some idea of what is a fair market value for your car before you agree to do a trade-in deal.

Consider Second-Hand

Purchasing a good quality late model second hand car may save you a lot on the first few years depreciation. In fact, this is perhaps the single most effective way to save money on purchasing a car. You will also be likely to find a good deal in the model you want. Of course, you won’t get ALL the latest frills, but if you are considering price, perhaps the frills aren’t all that important to you. And you can get good financing on second hand carsnow.

3. Consider your driving

Once you purchase your dreamcar, you will need to give some consideration to how you want to drive the car. Let’s give examples to highlight what I mean.

Burn, baby, burn!

Gasoline is the single largest expense after ownership (barring any accidents!). While shopping around may help you save a few dollars in the short term, how you drive and when you drive will also affect your gasoline bill. For example, driving in rush hour with heavy traffic will significantly impact your fuel economy. You may decide to switch to carpooling to save time, money and stress. Also, you may decide to alter your route to work or school.

Parking: No longer an afterthought!

Going downtown in Taipei in recent years has increasingly given me sticker shock when I try to park. Though I shop around now for good quality inexpensive parking for longer periods, I now recognize that driving and parking is becoming more expensive than simply taking a taxi or subway. Parking downtown Taipei can cost more than $2.50 an hour in some public lots, and more than double that at more expensive urban locations.

Insurance: Choose the RIGHT products for YOU!

Don’t let the salesman strong arm your insurance policy. We just accepted the salesman’s recommendations for the first couple of years, but as the company kept changing our renewal terms and conditions, we began to feel that we were a conduit for the insurance company’s finances. Eventually, we went through the insurance plan and cut most of the items that we were being charged for. It’s wise to find out what is legally required, what is good policy, and what is excessive. When the policy exceeds 1/10 of the secondhand value of the car, we realized that we were being gouged.

We’ve only owned a car for more than three years, but when we do purchase a new one, we will be much more astute than before. But we do like our salesman, Mr. Hwang, so it is likely we will seek him out first. That’s got to be good advice, isn’t it?

Brought to you by NetCars.Co.Uk Car Finance.

That’s $900 off! Twisting Language in the Stores of America

Have you ever looked at advertisements carefully? Next time you do… look carefully at the wording, and how they twist common words and phrases that play with your ideas. Amazon is by no means unique in this respect. Let’s take a classic example:

save money on lcd tv

You’ll notice in the ad how we are encouraged to ‘save money’. That’s a great idea! But how? By buying their product! We’ll save over $900.00 (that’s 31%) of the total. That’s impressive.


Now let’s look at the meaning of the words “Save” or “Save $900”! But for the savvy shopper, these are warning signs about how companies play with common meanings of words to highlight their own products, appeal to our emotions and encourage us to open our wallets…

There are a number of meanings that we need to note:

Meaning #1: to put aside as a store or reserve

Naturally, this indicates that we are putting money away somewhere, somehow in a store. In the modern world, stores would include a bank, a broker (perhaps), ETFs… any of a hundred ways. The actual meaning of the word ‘reserve’ means to keep something for a particular purpose or for future need.

Money is defined by Merriam Webster’s as “…a medium of exchange, a measure of value, or a means of payment”. So the term saving money means “putting away something of value for another reason or for future use”.

There are lots of typical examples of ‘saving money’: a single man saves money for his new car, a couple save money for a deposit on a house, an older woman saves money for retirement, … whatever. The idea is that when you save money you are delaying gratification of your purchase of items that would be bring you present comfort, joy and possession. Such gratification may be increased later by purchasing a new car or retiring in comfort to Tuscany.

Meaning #2: to save money on a deal or special offer

Like the advertisement said, you could buy and save at the same time. How? You buy a brand new LCD TV for your living room AND you would save an extra $900 on the purchase price. Let’s forget about price competition, product rotation, and such like…

The term “save money” here simply means to spend less money than previously or than elsewhere. We’re all accustomed to this idea of saving money!

If you buy this LCD TV, are you really saving money?

No, of course not. You are simply spending less than you would otherwise have had to spend.

  • For some people, this may be an added bonus (unlikely) since they may well simply spend the extra $900 on a bigger screen size, a more expensive buy-and-save offer, or lots of extra cables and doo-dahs.
  • For others, this means that they would buy this model rather than a smaller one because the extra $900 brings the TV inside their budget.
  • Still others would simply finance the whole deal, forget about the $900 and worry about how to make the monthly minimum payments on a loan purchase agreement, consolidated loan or credit card. They would likely end up spending more than $250-500 over two years in additional interest payments (based on 13% and 21% financing).

What each of them would likely fail to take into account is that in saving money on the purchase price, they are still spending a whole bunch of money that could be otherwise saved and put in a future store. Of course, the advertisement wants you to spend your money on that item. That’s good for the company selling the item and the company that makes the item. It may not necessarily be good for you.


By playing with the language, these companies will try to confuse you by encouraging you to spend while saving despite the fact that it is impossible. You may delight yourself in this fantasy for a while, but when you open your credit card statement, you WILL know the truth: that LCD TV still cost nearly $2,000; and that money must come from SOMEWHERE.

But is it legal?

This is not the only instance where companies will play with language to confuse, befuddle or intimidate the customer. Some of the tricks that they use are legal, some may be gray, and some will be illegal. Whatever the nature of the legality, it is always in your interest to put your interests first, because the advertisers CERTAINLY won’t. Whatever they claim in their commercials or advertisements.

save money on amazon

Such tricks may include: time-limited offers, only x in stock, best value in town or the difference back, seasonal sales, … the list goes on and on. Whatever: we live in a world of abundance, and esp. in tech items, the next generation will ALWAYS be more powerful, less expensive, smaller, lighter and more desirable. In less technologically related areas, you will always be able to buy more towels at great prices, or shoes at 50%… why? Because next season there’s another sale. There’s always going to be another sale.

With sales revenue down in most stores, more people trading down, and customers leaning towards more economical purchasing, stores are going to become more aggressive in their sales tactics, pricing strategies and marketing campaigns. Since wallets are tighter with increasing mortgage payments, skyrocketing fuel and food costs, and increasing weakness in the economy, shoppers may increasingly find themselves vulnerable to smarter strategies in the markets, supermarkets, malls and department stores of America.

Have you seen advertisements that tempt customers to spend by creating confusing slogans? I always remember the “buy now! pay later” ads that were common when I was growing up in the UK. Who cares when you have to pay, YOU STILL have to pay?…

My own sales pitch – Two for the price of one!

So, share some of the more egregious examples here! Come on, you know you want to… oh, and for each comment on this blog, I’ll comment in this thread and follow you to your blog and comment there, too! And that’s a promise! What are you waiting for? Comment today, comment tomorrow, but COMMENT!