Reducing spending is my favorite pastime, more fun than a Pokémon or any other video game. Finding new ways to reduce costs provides me more pleasure than any other activity I engage. I bike to work as often as feasible, blasting my transportation costs to a minimum. Our home hot water is supplied by a geothermal heat pump. In the summer there is no reason to keep the geothermal on except for hot water so we put it on a timer, reducing our electric bill to almost nothing. (We use hot water in the evening to hand wash dishes and wash up after working outside.)
There is one more energy hog in the house we need to address: the clothes dryer. We launder our clothes in cold water. Most people drop the wet clothes into an electric dryer and crank the beast to the highest setting for an hour. Not me. We have devised a system where we dry our clothes, even on vacation, without a clothes dryer.* The energy cost of running a clothes dryer has been known to send frugal people (like me) into epileptic shock. The first time Mrs. Accountant ran the dryer I went outside to watch the meter. I hurried Mrs. Accountant to the meter to see the damage with her own eyes. She agreed. The dryer stopped and the clothes lines were put to work.
Before you start sending nasty emails on why you can’t air dry your clothing, listen first. I agree I have it made living in a rural setting. I have clothes lines outside, in the basement, and a clothes drying rack. I have pictures in this post on some of my setups. Living in town can be a challenge, especially in an apartment. It is hard to have clothes lines in the basement if you don’t have a basement. Bare with me.
Starting with the easiest and best way to dry clothes, the outdoor clothes line is cheap and efficient. Two trees can do the job. Clothes lines can be strung between any two objects. There are traditional poles you can use to string line between, too. Witness my rural setup. Not pretty, but effective. Three unused treated 2×2 fence posts, a few hooks, line, and the detached garage did the trick. You need land to set up an outdoor clothes line. Without land you need to apply other methods.
In NE Wisconsin it gets cold in January. Clothes hung outside tend to get stiff
rather than dry. This is where the indoor clothes line comes into action. Rainy summer days or frigid January afternoons are no reason to fire up the sinkhole of money called the electric dryer. The indoor clothes line works great in the coldest winter months and during wet outdoor weather. My basement is kind of a junk collecting area the kids use; welcome to old farmer central. Still, the basement has a few great uses. We cycle the cool air around the home in the summer for free air conditioning and dry clothes in the winter. Once again, the setup is less than pretty. Since I am not trying to impress anyone other than my wallet, I don’t care. A few hooks and one package on line solved the problem.
Many readers here don’t have access to outdoor or basement setups like I have. The laundromat is your only option for washing clothes. The cost of drying clothes at a laundromat is massive! For you the clothes drying rack is an investment with an annual 1000% return. Mrs. Accountant used a clothes drying rack from the day we met. She is an awesome lady! Now you know why I married her. Clothes drying racks can be set up anywhere: in the living room, balcony, porch, or side room. We use our drying rack mostly in the winter when outdoor clothes drying is out. (The clothes line is usually under snow or we would use it.)
Indoor use of a drying rack has multiple benefits. Clothes dry fast when placed by a furnace vent adding moisture to the dry winter air. No need to buy a humidifier when you dry clothes naturally indoors.** Personally, I think air dried clothing feels better on the skin. The greatest advantage of all is how long your clothing lasts. Mechanical dryers twist and tumble the clothing causing damage. Natural air drying allows clothes to last a really long time, another money saver.
Get ready to fire some hate mail; you’re gonna like this one. Up front, I really do this stuff. Good thing I’m married. Considering my lifestyle I doubt there would be many takers for an old farm boy who travels like this.
First, you realize most hotels have a clothes line near the shower, right? I use mine. I travel light and launder clothes along the way. And I don’t stink (unless I ate goulash for lunch). On the road Mrs. Accountant and I hand wash our clothes and hang them on the line provided or over a chair.
Second, I frequently wash my clothes by either wearing them into the shower and soaping up good or washing them while I shower and immediately wearing them when finished. Hint: It is best to shower wearing your skivvies first, then rinsing, followed by putting on your outer clothes and showing them. (Please use the comment section below to indicate your opinion of my level of intelligence.)
Mrs. Accountant prefers to air dry her clothes; I prefer to wear damp clothing until it dries. My way is faster. Body heat and the air movement while I walk around have my clothes dry within an hour or so. Cold weather is even better. Cold air is dry air. Combined with body heat, damp clothes is dry in twenty minutes when the temperature dips. Hot, humid environments are a different story. My clothes were dry in the aforementioned twenty minutes in Edmonton, but took over half a day in Costa Rica. (Come to think of it, my clothes were never dry in Costa Rica.) Yeah, yeah, the guy who does not like to travel has been to Costa Rica and Edmonton. Deal with it.
Money in the Bank
The math is clear, electric and gas clothes dryers dry your wallet faster than your clothing. The machine does make great, if not expensive, nouveau art. You can drastically reduce your energy costs by eliminating the clothes dryer. Invested in an index fund, your savings could turn into a nice nest egg. You can also travel much lighter (no more baggage fees) when your mindset includes naturally dried clothing. I am sure there are a few who will disagree. Don’t care; I am right.
I have included several photos of clothes drying setups around my farm. I also included a few links to clothes drying racks from Amazon. Hint: the old fashioned wooden drying racks were sturdy; the new ones are frequently too flimsy. I am fortunate enough to have an old wooden rack from grandma. The metal racks are the best option today. My advice is to spend a bit more upfront for quality; you do not want to buy a new rack twice a year because the old one keeps breaking or falling apart.
* I did make the mistake of buying a dryer many years ago when we remodeled our old farm house. The washer and dryer was a set and Mrs. Accountant said the dryer would be nice to have, just in case. To date, the dryer has been used a total of three times in fifteen years. The last time the machine ran was several years ago. The dryer does make a great shelf in the laundry room, however. A bit expensive for shelving, but one uses what one has on hand.
** Don’t vent a clothes dryer into your home. The moisture comes out too fast and tends to cause mold and it is a fire hazard. I had renters many years ago who tried this stunt and caused serious mold issues.
The DIY movement is alive and well. Taking the bull by the horns and getting a job done can save massive amounts of money. Early retirees get to their exalted status because they kept costs low. Frugal people are drawn to DIY projects like flies to honey. With so many people undertaking projects on their own it is time to ask an obvious question: Should you be doing that project on your own.
I have seen some really bad DIY jobs over the years. Buying a large number of rental properties over the years revealed some doozies. Still, I handle a large percentage of jobs around the office, home and farm on my own. There are times I do need to take a knee and bring in somebody with experience.