smart spending

Save by unscrewing extra light bulbs

Sometimes, money-saving ideas are right in front of our faces. That was the case for this month's Frugal $ense winner, Lynn Bulmahn of Waco, Texas. She saved on her electric bill by unscrewing some light bulbs that provided extra light she realized she didn't need.

September's Frugal $ense winner: Lynn Bulmahn
Lynn Bulmahn won $100 for submitting the following tip:

Fewer bulbs, more savings
"If you have a bathroom that has a strip of several incandescent bulbs across the mirror, much like a movie star's makeup mirror, all that extra lighting is costing you money. It also heats up your bathroom and works against the air conditioning in summer months. So here's a quick fix for the problem: Simply unscrew a few of the bulbs -- not all the way, but just until the bulb doesn't light. Depending on the lighting in the room, you can turn off all but one bulb, or maybe every other one. Keep just enough bulbs working so that you can see well. You can also use this trick with ceiling fan light fixtures that have three, four or more bulbs in them."
-- Lynn Bulmahn, of Waco, Texas

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Bankrate: How did this idea come to you?

Lynn Bulmahn: When I lived in Florida, just the opposite happened. One time it got real cold. My pastor, (the) Rev. Margaret, told us that what she did was get incandescent light bulbs and put in 60 watt or 100 watt light bulbs everywhere where she had fluorescent light bulbs and it helped make the room a little bit warmer in her condo. So I thought, "Hey that's a good idea." And so I took out my little fluorescent light bulbs and we put the (higher-watt light bulbs) in and that helped make the room a little bit warmer. I'm trying to really save money on electricity. And so one day I was coming out of the bathroom in my town house -- we have those real nice town houses and they have a strip of lights, you know big old round incandescent lights, above the mirrors in the bathroom, above the dressing areas. I was coming out (of the bathroom) and I thought, "My gosh it's hot." And I thought of (the) Rev. Margaret and how she was heating her room. So I turned off the lights, waited until it got cool, and I unscrewed the light bulbs just enough (so they were off). I didn't take them out. So one of my friends said, "Why don't you just put your fluorescent lights into the sockets?" And I said, "No. 1, you'd have to buy some more fluorescent lights. No. 2, it wouldn't fit on this particular (socket)." So I just unscrewed all but a couple. And you know, it's enough for me to be able to see just fine, and it doesn't compete against the air conditioning. Now when it gets real, real cold, I'll screw them all back in. It will warm up the bathroom. Sometimes it's the most obvious things (that save money).

Bankrate: You also used this strategy with your ceiling fans?

Lynn Bulmahn: I just put in one little fluorescent bulb and I unscrewed the incandescent bulbs. I had like four incandescents in one and six in another, so I just put a couple fluorescents in the (fan) with six because that's my computer room and I need a lot of bright light. And then in my kitchen I just put in one and just unscrewed the (others). By unscrewing those light bulbs, especially above the mirror, it doesn't cost you a thing but it saves you money.

Bankrate: How much money have you saved by unscrewing the light bulbs?

Lynn Bulmahn: I got my electric bill this month and it was only $91 and that's real good for an 1,800-square-foot town house. The month before, I know I saved at least $10 on electricity. But it was a little bit of a cooler month. August was hotter than you-know-where. It regularly gets to 90 to 100 degrees in the summertime here.

Bankrate: Have friends and family caught on to this idea?

Lynn Bulmahn: I've told them about it and they thought it was a neat idea. I have an elderly Sunday school teacher, she said, "Oh, I couldn't do that because I need the real bright lights to be able to see." Everybody else thought it was a neat idea.

Bankrate: How many places do you have track lighting in your home?

Lynn Bulmahn: I have two and a half bathrooms in this town house. The half-bathroom has, I think, three or four of those lights. I just unscrewed them and had one light burning. Since it's gotten darker in the mornings lately, I'm up to three in my full bathroom upstairs. There's another bathroom downstairs, I just have two burning down there. It's perfectly adequate, you can see just fine, and it doesn't compete with the air conditioning.

Bankrate: Do you have any other advice on being frugal?

Lynn Bulmahn: When I was in Florida, I happened by your contest one time, and I thought, "This is a neat thing, winning $100. This is a money-earning hobby for me. I'll enter the contest and then when I win I'll drop out and wait for a year or more, then I'll enter it again." The first time that I won, I had a lawnmower that died on me and it couldn't be fixed. I saw another (lawnmower) at the repair place, it was really nice. And I had looked at Walmart and I knew how much their bare-bones model of the lawnmower cost. And then I looked at this one (at the repair shop), and it was a self-propelled lawnmower and it had all the bells and whistles on it. It was a walk-behind, it wasn't a riding one. But it was still real nice and it was for less money than the one at Walmart. So I just went ahead and bought it and of course the repairman will stand behind it if I ever have any problems. I guess being a gal, I never thought to look at a lawnmower repair place to buy a lawnmower.

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