1. Buy a small battery-operated scooter, either to add to the existing petrol-operated two-wheeler or as a replacement. It costs around Rs22,000-Rs25,000 and, if you ride about 1,500km per month, you will easily recover the capital cost within 11-14 months. The recovery of capital cost is even faster – if you run a business of any sort, which requires home-delivery of small parcels or similar work, including office run-around. It doesn’t need registration and can be taken home for charging at residential electricity rates.
2. Line the ceiling of your car, the sun-facing windows, the roof of rooms where air-conditioners are used, with thermocol. At about Rs6-Rs10 per sheet, this is the most effective way of reducing power bills for cooling in summer, and heating in winters. These are available not just in white, but also translucent shades, for better natural light inside.
3. Consider taking the train, especially for routes that involve using toll roads and crossing state borders. Booking tickets over the Internet or using mobile phones is amazingly easy now – even up to a few hours before the train’s departure and en route reservations are managed with precision, which removes tension.
4. See how you can replace cooking gas with microwave as much as possible. I run a full kitchen in our company’s transit flats in Pune and Bangaluru without cooking gas and, barring rotis, we can cook almost everything including the most complicated of Indian recipes in a microwave oven with minimal cooking oil. The cost:benefits are almost 1:5, and the health benefits are immeasurable. No dealing with thieving gas agencies, either.
5. Walk about every now and then and switch off all stand-by power switches on things like televisions, ovens, microwaves, radios, stereos, etc. Just switching the television off at night, from the wall socket, will save you over Rs80 a month on your power bills. Your building society may not permit you to use the roof for solar solutions as yet, but you can certainly start by switching things off.
6. A decent solar-powered lamp, using LED bulbs, will cost you around Rs2,000, and will work on one day’s charge through three nights with light bright enough to study under. This means a monthly saving of about Rs150 per light. Assume you have three lights that need to be on through the night (staircase, bathroom and outside) and that’s a straight Rs400 saved per month. The replacement battery is nowadays the same as the one in your mobile phone, costs less than Rs150 and needs to be replaced after two-three years.
7. Keep air-filters clean in whichever utility it is fitted to; that can save around a third of costs. Cars, two-wheelers, air-conditioners, fridges – everything that draws air has a filter, which needs to be cleaned. In addition, keep tyre pressure to a couple of pounds more than suggested and see fuel economy go up, especially if you are in city-based, stop-go kind of fuel-sucking driving situation. Inflation is headed up and is no longer a number on a TV screen. It is a bigger hole in your bank balance as well as monthly spends. Saving and investing is one thing; managing expenses is another. Most of the solutions are already there. Reach for them.
[Veeresh Malik is founder/director of Pacific Shipping (1985) and Infonox Software (1999), and is very worried about rising costs impacting not just him, but his employees too.]
Higher oil prices will impact India more than other countries. Here are some solutions from...
Meanwhile, there are a couple of positive blows on behalf of long-suffering airline customers. So far, airlines have got away by penalising passengers cruelly for cancellations and reschedulement while they themselves have no responsibility for frequent and last-minute cancellations when travel plans have been made many months in advance, precisely to avail of attractive low fare offers.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued new rules on refund of tickets at the end of May. These mandate that airlines will have to refund the entire passenger service fee of Rs225, congestion surcharge of Rs150 and fuel surcharge of Rs1,950 plus.
The DGCA has also said that tickets booked by paying cash will have to be refunded immediately and those booked through credit cards will have to be refunded within seven days. This should ensure that passengers actually get a good chunk of their money back on cancellation of flights. But don’t start the celebrations yet; airline companies have got together to find ways to restructure the fares so that a larger amount is shown as basic fare and can be retained on cancellation. While that is bad news for fliers, it will at least cut the hypocrisy of airlines charging tiny fares (as low as one rupee sometimes) and loading big chunks of the cost as fuel surcharge, congestion surcharge or service charges.
Meanwhile, the Delhi State Consumer Commission has also slammed airlines for cancelling flights on frivolous grounds and then forcing customers to run around for a refund. The Commission imposed a fine of Rs50,000 on Air Deccan and warned all other airlines as well. It was running a case filed by Ajay Goel of New Delhi, who had booked a promotional fare ticket, as much as six months in advance to avail of a Rs300 fare for a Mumbai-Delhi flight. A few days before the flight, the airline called to say it was cancelled. Goel alleged that the airline had cancelled only the budget flight but no regular fare flights were cancelled.
The problem of cavalier treatment by airlines is apparently a global one. Customer satisfaction from airlines has hit a seven-year low in the US because of cancelled flights, lost baggage and worse – airlines going out of business – according to the latest University of Michigan American Customer Satisfaction Index.