What Now? Lessons Learned from the Campaign Trail
Wow. It’s been so long since this whole election process started that I hardly know what to do with myself now that it’s over. Now that we no longer have to sort through tons of political junk mail, now that our phones have stopped being assaulted with automated messages, and now that the focus of the entire nation is no longer on our state, now what do we do? Well, just like after every other general election, we get back to taking care of ourselves, resigned in the knowledge that we’re not likely to see or hear from any of those politicians until the next election cycle.
But fear not, because even though I’m a healthy skeptic as to how many campaign promises will actually see the light of day, that’s not to say that we can’t take something from this election process. Looking back, there are a few lessons from the campaign trail that I think can help us all this winter. But, like sorting through dozens of anonymous polls, it’s just a matter of knowing how to interpret the data.
Lesson One: Sometimes it’s best to filter out the negative. I know I’m not the only one who got tired of being bombarded with negative advertising. There was and still is a lot of bad stuff on the air, literally. Now that the cold weather is here, furnaces everywhere are kicking into high gear, and if all of your ducts have been sitting dormant all summer long, I don’t have to tell you how much dirt, dust and debris has settled in. For a couple of bucks, you can get a new furnace filter that will catch most of the stuff you never wanted to breathe in and your furnace will run a whole lot more efficiently and effectively.
Lesson Two: Avoid blowhards. Politicians who do nothing but blow hot air are not nearly as costly to the average home as a door or window that leaks it. A simple way to check for gaps is to walk around the inside of your house with a lit cigarette on a windy day. Hold it up to all of your door and window frames. If the smoke goes anywhere but straight up, you’ve got a problem. If a window doesn’t close completely, seal it with insulating tape or plastic window wrap. If the leak is through the jamb, then you can easily plug the gap with commercially available insulating foam (always check the label for proper application techniques).
Lesson Three: Like ACORN says… register, register, register. And just like with the election, you don’t need a photo ID. But in this case, I’m talking about floor and wall registers. There’s a reason those vents are adjustable. Take a couple of moments to close up the registers in rooms you don’t use and open up the vent closest to your thermostat. And speaking of thermostats, if you haven’t already, it’s time to buy a programmable one. There’s no point in heating a house with no one in it. Most units are relatively cheap when you consider the nearly immediate savings you’ll realize. And installation is not as difficult as you might think.
Lesson Four: Don’t be afraid of Joe the Plumber. He might not have been the deciding factor, but love him or hate him, Joe was a tremendous influence on the election. Likewise, getting a little help from a heating and cooling expert can be tremendously beneficial in finding ways to save on your gas or electric bill. A furnace or boiler isn’t a hands-off appliance; it needs a checkup once in a while, not just to ensure efficiency, but also safety. Which reminds me, now is as good a time as any to check your smoke detectors and make sure you’ve got a good carbon monoxide detector in the house.
And, Lesson Five: Apparently, change is important. If nothing else, I think we all learned that Ohio, and the nation as a whole, is ready for change. But the kind of change that will make the most difference to you and I isn’t going to come from filling out a ballot. A politician may or may not be able to affect the economy, but each and every one of us has the ability to change our habits, change our methods of consumption, and most importantly, change the way we live, and that is the quickest way to achieve a positive outcome.
Like I said before, the election is over; we’ve done what we can in that arena. Now it’s time again to move the focus back to the variables that are within our immediate control. The time for speeches is gone; the time for action is now. Barack Obama won an election by motivating the individuals, who by themselves might not seem significant, but when added together were essential to success. All of the suggestions listed above, taken individually, may seem insignificant, but I promise you that if you take the time to address them, together they will bring you considerable savings. And that is a change I can rally around.