Alone in the Dark, Silent and Still

I've been trying to save money on electricity while I am home by myself.  This is difficult for me because I enjoy electronic devices so much (computers, game systems, mobile devices, ham radio, Kindle, and so on).

But as I write this, my laptop computer is the only thing in the entire house that is switched on.  Everything else, from electric lights to electric blankets, from television to Xbox, is turned off.  Indeed, I am alone in the dark, silent and still.  I am the zen master of my little green house.

Why do we modern people fear solitude and darkness so much?  Along with turning off the electronics comes a mental decluttering.  I can hear myself think more quickly.  I am more attuned to by body's rhythms (pulse, respiration, and so on).  I meditate on the whimsy of our cats' movements around the house.  And the pace of our modern electronic lifestyle seems instantly slower.

If you are reading this, I dare you (no, wait; I double dog dare you) to spend just 15 minutes alone in the dark, silent and still.  Can you even go 15 minutes, or has our modern lifestyle taken over your inner soul completely and silenced your inner voice?  Do you think more clearly?  Breathe more deliberately?  Daydream more peacefully?

Sit alone in the dark more often, like Descartes scripting his Meditations by candlelight, and try to recapture the power of the human mind left to its own devices.  See where your mind can take you.

Compound Interest Calculator - $1,000 Per Month for 30 Years Equals $1,468,150.42

The single most powerful tool I have found for motivating myself to take retirement investing seriously is a compound interest calculator, such as the one found here:

Let's do a sample calculation with the following assumptions:

  • Start with a $0 balance today
  • Contribution of $1,000 per month
  • Average annual growth of 8%
  • Compounding for 30 years

According to the compound interest calculator, this yields a future value of $1,468,150.42.

This number should surely grab your attention.  If this doesn't motivate you to start taking retirement investing seriously, I don't know what will!  Investing only $1,000 per month can make you a millionaire.

Now let's say you wait 5 years to begin investing, and you invest for only 25 years instead of 30 years.  This yields a future value of only $947,452.98

This is a dramatic difference.  Waiting five years to begin investing can cost you half a million dollars in your future retirement.  So, young people reading this: start investing now, right now, today!  You will thank yourself later.

Winter Electricity Savings

This winter, we have been making conscious effort to reduce our energy consumption at home. Here are some of the things we have been doing this winter to reduce energy consumption and save money on our electricity bill:
  • Replace old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) or Light Emitting Diode (LED) light bulbs. CFL and LED bulbs use only a fraction of the electricity of traditional incandescent bulbs.
  • Use an electric blanket instead of the central heating to stay warm at night. Electric blankets use significantly less energy than central heating. And turning the heater off at night can actually help you sleep better and reduces snoring.
  • Dress warmly at home instead of using the central heating. Long-sleeve shirts, socks, slippers, and a hat can make you just as comfortable as blasting the central heating while at home.
  • Open the window shades and use natural sunlight instead of turning on the lights. Natural sunlight is good for you and may help cure those winter blues while saving you a few bucks at the same time.
  • Turn off or unplug appliances not in use. Examples: video game systems (Xbox and Wii, in my case), desktop computer, coffee maker, stereo system, and so on. While each of these may only save you pennies, you'll be amazed at how many things you have running simultaneously and silently behind the scenes.
Note that there is a difference between being needlessly ascetic or austere and being intelligently minimalist about reducing energy consumption. I am not suggesting freezing to death at night.  Like most people, I enjoy my creature comforts. But making smart choices, such as using an electric blanket instead of central heating, can give you those creature comforts while reducing your energy consumption and costs.

For further reading, here is the absolute best website I have found for tips on saving electricity: