Awhile back, the apartment complex where I live sent out surveys to everyone. I filled mine out to complain about the garbage not being picked up in a timely fashion. I usually go home to have lunch, and lately, the garbage I left by the stairs at 730 AM is still there at noon. Eww.

One question on the survey that piqued my interest was “How can we help you save energy?” I’d like to say I thought about it out of altruism (you know, “save the planet” and all that) but the truth was, I was trying to spend less cash so that there would be more left for Fun Stuff. For what its worth, I do recycle my newspapers, plastic grocery store bags, and soda cans.

I thought to myself: “What uses up the most juice?” Since this is South Texas, the answer was quite simple: The Air Conditioner! Despite leaving it off when I was not home, and using fans to help keep the apartment cool, I was somewhat shocked to find my electric bill jumped to $82 in July. But what could I do about the A/C?

On a hunch, I figured that installing a digital thermostat would save electricity for two reasons: first, it would allow me to exactly determine how high I can raise it and still be comfortable, and second, it would actually work as advertised, since the existing one was probably as old as the building and perhaps didn’t work as well as it used to.

I smiled at my ingenuity, dropped the survey in the mail, and forgot all about it.

Then, one day, I returned home from work to find a new digital thermostat installed on the wall. I was pleasantly surprised, even more so when I discovered that the installer left no instructions on how to actually use the thing. Fortunately, my Google-fu is strong, and I was able to find the instructions out there on the tubes. For the most part, it worked just like the old one, but has all these neat buttons that I’m pretty sure do something. I never did bother to program it, though.

I figured I would be happy if my electric bill dropped five or ten bucks or so. After all, it didn’t cost me anything to have it installed, so any savings would be gravy. I continued to use the A/C as I had before, thinking that any change in habits would break the experiment.

I got about $24 worth of gravy in one month: that $82 electric bill for July (719 KWh) turned into a $58 electric bill (561 KWh) in August. Granted, it is a one-month comparison, and there were 2 fewer days in the August billing period, but I will gladly take the 21% decrease in electrical usage and the cash!

I don’t know if the trend will continue, but for now, I’m pretty happy. Thanks, apartment people!



I usually keep a spare change container of some kind at home, the receptacle of choice right now is an old-style glass milk bottle like the ones you see in the old Tom and Jerry cartoons. For no good reason, I took a picture of it and made it into a desktop, you can see it here.

The downside to this is taking those coins to the bank. If you’re lucky, your bank has a coin counting machine. The teller takes your change, runs it through the machine, gives you cash (or deposits it if you’re smart) and everyone’s happy. If you’re unlucky, your bank will only take rolled-up coins, and if you’re REALLY unlucky they ask you to write your account number or some other such nonsense on the rolls. There’s a Coinstar machine at the grocery store, but they charge 8.9 percent, and I want it ALL, baby!

I place the change into a plastic container and drive to my bank (IBC Bank) to see if I can get lucky. Well, how about that! They have a machine, and I don’t even need my account number! I hand my bounty to the teller, she goes into The Secret Room With The Magic Coin Machine and I wait…and wait…and wait. After about 15 minutes, they tell me the machine’s busted and they’re going to return my change. The teller goes back into The Secret Room With The Magic Coin Machine, and soon pops her head out and exclaims the machine is fixed! Woo-hoo! Or not. woo. After another five minutes I leave change-full and cash-less. I give them a silver star for trying, though.

But hey, no biggie, there’s another branch just down the road…I get there to find it closed. Fark. Okay, there’s another one not TOO far away, I’ll have to drive through some crappy traffic, but it’s a nice day.

“We don’t have a coin-counting machine…” After hearing that, I’m left wondering “What kind of craphole bank doesn’t have a coin-counting machine?” It was in a nicer part of town, though, so maybe its beneath them or something. Jerks.

As Fate would have it, I had planned to go to another part of town to do some apartment-hunting. There’s a bank branch in the area so I figure its worth a shot, and I can browse around the nearby mall for a bit afterwards and spend my loot. I can’t find the damn bank, though (there should be a special place in hell reserved for the moron who designed the layout of the roads in that area) and the parking lot at the mall is PACKED SOLID. Mental note: stay the hell away from La Cantera until after Christmas.

I figure I’ll try one last time, surely my luck can’t be so bad I strike out for the 5th time. Unfortunately, my Spidey-sense starts tingling as I drive up, so I don’t even bother to take the change with me inside the bank. Come to discover my luck IS that bad; they only take rolled coins. For bonus points, the cashier is an blithering idiot who starts babbling about coin wrappers. I make a smartass comment about ‘no wonder Coinstar is in business’ to the mouth-breather and walk out.

I tell you, this kind of crap only happens to me…IBC has 31 locations in San Antonio, I visit 4 of them and can’t get satisfaction. Now, I can either pay the Coinstar tax, or get a bigger bottle and play this game again in a few months. Then again, I wonder if EB Games would take $58.22 in change, its not like its all pennies!