As we enter our fourth week of daylight saving time, it might be good to check our progress. Is your piggy bank filled with extra sunshine that we can sock away for — literally — a rainy day? Because that would be great.
You’d wake up on a gloomy morning, reach into the pantry and open a Mason jar of your saved daylight, and the whole day would instantly get brighter. We could then apply the same technology to our presidential candidates, in hopes of nudging their IQs up the chart from “gang of drunken gerbils” to “flock of poorly house-trained monkeys.”
But if you do want to see something where daylight saving time makes things a little lighter, check your wallet.
It turns out that, beyond accomplishing the extraordinary feat of getting hundreds of thousands of Americans to show up at church early one Sunday out of each year, turning the clocks ahead by an hour doesn’t save us consumers any more money than if we turned our Crock Pots sideways.
Burning daylight — or money?
Daylight saving time came out of World War I, when it was thought that longer daylight hours would cut coal consumption. Since the era of the biplane, however, mankind has had air conditioning, which means that more sunlight in the warmer months equals increased energy consumption, according to several studies. As for reducing fossil fuel use, daylight saving time is highly effective, as very few Americans use coal-fired air conditioners.
And the spending doesn’t stop there, says Michael Downing, a Tufts University lecturer in English and author of “Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time.” The extra daylight shining when we leave work for nearly eight months prompts consumers to drive to the mall, head to movies, hit the golf course and fire up the grill.
The biggest lobbyists for expanding daylight saving time — twice — have been the Chamber of Commerce, the golf industry and even the National Association of Convenience Stores, which wanted to see it stretched to include Halloween.
“The barbecue grill and charcoal industries say they gain $200 million in sales with an extra month of daylight saving,” Downing says on the Tufts University blog.
I gots them propane blues
If you want to put any real savings into daylight saving time, resist the impulse to run out and make your summertime purchases before you check that pile of stuff stacked behind the snow blower and the sleds. Patch last year’s beach toys instead of just chucking them and buying new ones, and see if you can’t get the patio furniture through another season with a good cleaning or a fresh coat of paint.
For bigger items, such as barbecues and gardening tools, a tune-up and a few replacement parts can keep your old model going for years. I got one grill to last more than a decade just by replacing the burners and grates. To handle your own lawnmower tune-up, check out the instructions from Weingartz, a chain of outdoor power equipment stores, at https://weingartz.com/expert-advice/. Even if you didn’t take shop class, you can change your own air filter.
Our natural tendency to spend more as the days get longer means you can end up wasting a lot more than the hour it took you to figure out whether to set your clocks back or forward. But tackling a few do-it-yourself repairs can keep daylight saving time from beating the daylights out of your budget.