There seems to be a small (but vocal, oh God how they are vocal) minority of the personal finance blog-o-net that somehow thinks taking cold showers is a worthwhile thing you should be doing. And not just after a failed sexual escapade, either.
As far as I can tell (to be frank, the logic of doing such a thing eludes me), the thinking goes something like this. Cold showers are uncomfortable. If you put yourself in one uncomfortable situation and realize it isn’t so bad then you’re likely to do so with other similar situations. Suddenly you go from a warm shower havin’ FAT CAT to a frugal warrior who’s saving 50% of their income, working a 30-hour per week side hustle, and riding your bike around town like a BAWSE.
And all it takes is one cold shower. You’ll be hooked, guaranteed.
Cold shower naysayers see things a little differently. These RAT BASTARDS think the cost savings are negligible and the practice’s fringe benefits are exaggerated. Most folks who are dedicated enough to save a large portion of their income already don’t really need the help. They think people should focus on eliminating large expenses and not really sweat the small stuff. It just doesn’t make that big of a difference.
Related: why the latte factor is stupid.
Us here at Financial Uproar (me and six dust bunnies the Roomba missed) think the little things only matter if they become big things. Most people would be far better off making one or two big changes — like selling a spare car and taking public transit or downgrading from a too-big home — rather than focusing on little things that bring us pleasure.
Eliminating warm showers is extra dumb because it costs almost nothing. Let’s investigate just low little it costs.
Cold shower savings
The fine folks at ATCO Energy were nice enough to give an estimate of how much it costs to operate a gas-powered hot water tank annually.
Many people around here lust for having an on-demand hot water system, but as you can see they’re much more expensive over the life of a typical machine.
For the sake of this blog post we’re only concerned with the amount of energy it takes to heat your water, since you’re going to need a hot water tank for other purposes besides cleansing yourself. We’re looking at $150/year assuming $6/GJ in natural gas prices.
But wait. Natural gas prices in Alberta haven’t hit $6/GJ for years now, thanks to low commodity prices. We’re paying closer to $1.25/GJ today, plus charges to get the gas to our house. So that $150/year price tag is already down to $31.25. Let’s estimate $50/year in costs to heat our water, which implements a little wiggle room.
Next we have to figure out what percentage of hot water tank usage ends up going towards showers. Here’s a small list of what I use hot water for:
- washing dishes
- washing hands
Note that laundry isn’t in that list. We use cheap cold water, baby.
i’m going to estimate that approximately 75% of our hot water use is from showering. Doing dishes is the only other thing that could affect this in a big way, and we don’t really have that many dishes. So 75% of $50 is a mere $37.50 spent annually on taking hot showers versus cold ones. That’s $3.13 per month.
Hopefully that squashes this debate. Taking cold showers is, quite literally, the least you could do to save money. Feel free to let the warmth embrace you, sparky.
Easier ways to save money showering
If you are interested in saving money while showering for some reason, here are a couple of ways you can still have hot showers and save money.
The first is installing a low-flow showerhead. Note that you should only do this when it’s time to replace your showerhead anyway, since such an activity will cost you at least $100, and that’s if you install it yourself. You’re looking at a $250 bill to get a professional to do it. The ROI on that is, to use a technical term, the absolute shits.
The other solution is something you can implement today. It’s easy, no fuss, and will have other benefits too.
You can cut down your shower time.
I started taking 2-3 minute showers back when I was a chip guy. I’d rather sleep in an extra five minutes than spend them in the shower. You just have to be efficient when you’re in there. Trust me, it’s not hard. Hell, I take 60 second showers when pressed for time today.
It’s all about results
If you’re looking to save money showering, we have two options. We can either take cold showers or reduced hot showers.
Taking cold showers will save approximately $37 per year, or a little over $3 per month.
Taking 50% shorter hot showers will save approximately $25 per year, or a little over $2 per month.
Frankly, you can make the case that even switching to abbreviated warm showers is a dumb way to save money. It’s $2 per month. Who cares? I would not argue with this conclusion.
So it comes down to this: is taking a long-as-you-want warm shower worth a mere $1 per month to you? If the answer is yes, then feel free to shower in warmth without guilt. Taking cold showers is truly a dumb way to save a tiny bit of money.