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How to get your kids to care about rising energy bills

The latest hikes in energy bills are enough to leave anyone cold.

According to Ofgem, people on default tariffs paying by direct debit will see an increase of £693 and pre-payment customers will see an increase of £708, which is an alarming amount of cash for most families.

As a single mother, money is tight at the best of times, and trying to work out how I can magically find the extra dosh will be tough.

Having spent a LOT of time in the house in the last two years has meant we’ve definitely tried to make it as comfortable and warm as possible.

Yes, I must admit the kids (aged 10 and 13) and I have been pretty loose when it comes to energy use! Multiple devices all streaming at the same time, heating up to sauna levels, and leaving every light on as we slouched about the house in our tracksuits.

But all this has to change!

I needed to magically transform my energy-guzzling household (kids) into environmentally-conscious and indeed money-saving champions. But how would I do it?

Most of the time when I ask them to do anything “worthy” they roll their eyes and moan. So, I decided to task them with some fun challenges over the school holidays and during a delightful bout of Covid-enforced isolation.

Here are some of the things we did to keep that energy meter from ticking over...

Lights out

To begin with, turning off lights in rooms we weren’t in seemed like a massive ask. My kids can barely remember to flush a loo, let alone reach for a switch.

To be honest, in the beginning it was just a lot of me shouting “LIGHTS!” when then went upstairs and having to double check, but we slowly got into the habit.

And one of the big changes was making sure we all hung out together in the same room a bit more.

That’s right! It was also a bonding experience. Rather than letting my kids skulk off to their own rooms on a tablet, we changed the rules about screen time being in the lounge only – Mum included!

Who knew saving money could be so good for family time?

Speedy showers

Who doesn’t love a long luxurious hot shower? But sadly, they are big energy zappers.

Everyone in my house loves to just stand there collecting our thoughts, spending far too long steaming up the bathroom.

I asked the kids how we could cut our shower time. My ten year-old suggested he have a shower once a week. Hmm… no thanks, Hugo!

But my daughter came up with turning the taps off when she was shampooing her hair, and has stuck to it.

Also, another way to reduce time is get them to do it in an ad break, or incentivise them with the promise of pudding after dinner – and we now call it the “In and Out Shower”!

I give them a set time to run upstairs shower (with soap please!) and get back down in 10 minutes, then we’re all allowed to get stuck into the ice cream and the Masked Singer. Boom.

Challenge your kids to an “In and Out Shower”- set a timer to see who can wash up the fastest

Washing mountains

As a parent, there’s nothing more daunting than all the relentless piles of washing and making sure you have the PE kit ready for Monday morning.

One of the best ways to reduce energy consumption with this endless task is to do all your washing at 30 degrees - and even a cold wash works brilliantly with the less dirty items.

Many machines have an ‘eco’ setting too, which reduces running times.

Also, try to get your kids to wear clothes more than once.

I also took the chance to give a whole lot of clothes to the charity shop. Reducing the amount of clothes you have certainly cuts back on the washing too!

And although it takes a little longer to dry, try not to use the tumble dryer as much.

Cosy up and keep it down

Reducing the heating in the house was a tough one, especially as, since I’m an Aussie, I like to stay warm on most days of the year.

And, I must admit I still have an old-fashioned thermostat with a dial.

So, in order to reduce my heating bills and keep the house at around 19-20 degrees - a good 3 degrees cooler than I am used to - I got out an old red Sharpie and put a red dot next to the maximum temperature.

No one is allowed to go into the ’red zone’!

So instead of the usual indoor heatwave to keep us toasty on cooler evenings, each of us has our own blanket we keep by the sofa and cosy up on movie nights, or when we are really connecting by all staring at our own devices. Family bliss!

Now the days are getting warmer, and the need for hot meals is getting less, we like an indoor picnic

Mind the gap

I used to laugh at my mother drawing the curtains at night when I was a child, and using those old fashioned ‘draft sausages’ along the foot of the door. But it turns out she was right (on this and many other things!).

The kids and I enjoyed going around the house to see where the cold sneaks in.

You can get some great (and very funny) draft excluders from Etsy - who knew there were so many to choose from.

Get up and at ‘em

Keeping things on standby is another way to waste energy. It takes a bit of getting used to i.e. switching off the telly properly, and switching off chargers and devices at night, but it will be worth it in the long run.

And yes, that means getting up when you’d rather be kicking back. Just think of it as an extra little work-out before bed.

Indoor picnics

Are your kids fussy eaters like mine?

I have been known to cook three separate meals on many occasions - all hobs going at the same time.

Now the days are getting warmer, and the need for hot meals is getting less, we like an indoor picnic - put out lots of fun things out on plates and stay away from the stove!

Not using the oven or microwave saves a good whack of cash over time.

It has been fun and a strangely bonding experience trying to cut back on our somewhat errant energy consumption. And it’s important to be able to have bigger conversations about money and bills with your kids, too.

When they take responsibility and have a chance to take charge of how the house runs, it makes a refreshing change to you always shouting, and prepares them for when they are actually in a house of their own.

Don’t forget that while you may think that this article is brilliant, it is intended for information purposes only and should not be mistaken for financial advice or recommendations.

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