Personal Finance

How To Save On Utility Bills

How To Save On Utility Bills

Here are an easy to do list on how you can easily save on utility bills. Why pay extra money to a utility when you can spend the money on a movie or nice dinner?

Cable TV – Cut the Cord

More and more people are “cutting the cord.” For years, we just put up with bad service, endless price hikes, and too many unneeded channels. Well, this is coming to an end. Thanks to the Great Recession and tech-savvy Millennials, more people are disconnecting their cable service. A year ago, I too cut the cord. I now subscribe to basic internet service and Netflix. I got a digital antennae for local TV and Hulu for taped TV shows. Other than the occasional sports event I don’t miss cable TV. Netflix, Amazon Prime, and on occasion, Red Box take care of my movie needs. Many content providers like the Food Network put their shows online that you can watch on the site. In any event, like millions of people have already done, you can give up cable TV and save yourself $50+ a month and not miss a beat at all.

Electricity – Small Changes Equal More Change in your Pocket

In an average home, the things that consume the most electricity are the refrigerator, central heat or air conditioning, water heater and dehumidifier. Some small appliances like the toaster, hair iron, hair dryer, vacuum cleaner, coffee makers, ranges, and dishwashers also use up a bit of juice. However, because they typically run for a short period of time, they are not constantly on like a refrigerator or water heater. Digital devices like laptop and cell phones also suck up power.

So how do you lower your electricity bill? Here are some ideas:

-Charge cell phones when driving, at work, or in coffee shops (yes, electricity use hasn’t been reduced; it’s just someone else paying for it)

-Adjust the refrigerator’s temperature so it’s just cold enough. In the winter months, I typically “raise” the temperature slightly in the freezer and refrigerator sections but never so much as to compromise the quality of the food.

-Get rid of the extra frig. After college, I continued to use my dorm frig when I moved back home. Eventually, I decided I didn’t need the dorm frig and donated it. The month after, the electricity bill dropped by 25% just on that change alone.

-Change light bulbs to LED light bulbs; switch to lower watt bulbs if their brightness is sufficient and watch your usage decline.

‘-Decrease the number of light bulbs used. For example, in my 8 foot hallway, there are sockets for three light bulbs, and given the short length of the hallway, I took out the ones at each end and left only the one in the middle. There’s still plenty of light there.

-Use timers/sensors. Outdoor and bathroom lights are especially appropriate for this. With sensors, lights only turn on if there’s motion.

-Use a power strip. Use a power strip to connect electronics and turn it off when you’re gone (even just for the day). When I go away for a weekend or longer, I unplug everything. It takes me a minute to replug everything and turning off strips and unplugging can save electricity by 5-10% or more per month.

-Kill two birds with one stone. My oven is electric and when I use it, I bake multiple food items. Tonight, the oven was on for 35 minutes, and I baked salmon, chicken, and broccoli at the same time. The food came out great and I saved energy. Another example of this is steaming vegetables / bread while boiling pasta if you have a pot that has a steamer.

-Use a crock pot. Crock pots are known to be energy efficient. When I cook a big hunk of meat, I usually use a crock pot. In addition to saving energy, the slow cooking makes the meat very tender.

-Pile up the laundry. I only do laundry when I have a full load. When I use the dryer, I try to run two consecutive dry loads since the dryer is already warm and less energy is used just to warm up the dryer. Always remember to clean the lint trap.

-Air dry clothes. Having a backyard helps with this, but you certainly don’t need one to air dry clothes. As long as you have hangers and places to hang your clothes, you can air dry clothes. This past weekend, I washed seven pairs of jeans and pants and I hang dried all of them. I always hang dry my dress socks because the dryer will shrink them. There are indoor clothes racks you can buy at Walmart, Target, etc. that don’t cost much. Or you can just use regular hangers and hang them in your closet. A roommate of mine used to do this all the time. In addition to saving electricity, air drying is better for your clothes and the environment.

-Use natural light. Whenever I can, I open the curtains to let natural light come in. Natural lighting cheers me up and adds warmth to a room.

-Use energy intensive appliances in the evening / weekends. Power rates tend to be lower in the evenings and weekends, so that’s a good time to run your dishwasher, washer/dryer. The worst time to run appliances is during the middle of the day in a hot summer when rates are at their peak.

-Replace older inefficient appliances. Often, local utilities will offer incentives to turn in your older appliances. Of course, getting newer appliances will result in lower energy (and sometimes water) use.

Related: Learn how to have fun without spending a fortune.

Gas – Don’t Get Burned Financially

In my house, only the range, fireplace, and water heater use gas. As mentioned in an earlier article, my gas bill once dropped below $6 in one summer month because I was making more salads during the summer and turned the water heater temperature way down. During the winter, I use the fireplace a bit because it’s cheaper to heat the house using that instead of the central heating system. I only turn on the fireplace when I absolutely need to. In the winter, I wear long pants and at least two layers and I typically wear a wool cap.

Read about how to turn small savings into a brand new Mercedes Benz.

Water – Don’t Let Your Money Drip Away

The biggest uses of water come from the bathroom. Using efficient toilets, showers, and faucets can save a lot of water. Also, turning off the faucet when brushing teeth and shaving helps. Some people turn off the water when they are lathering. For those in drought impacted areas, some very ecologically sound people avoid flushing every time they do #1 (I recommend flushing each time after #2). Spreading out the days when you water the lawn helps too. I live in a dry area and we’re only allowed to water the lawn 2x a week. Right now, we’re in rainy season and I haven’t watered my lawn for 2-3 months given the natural rainfall and the morning condensation on the grass. If you have an auto sprinkler system, turn it off during rainy season or install a moisture detector so it doesn’t go off when it’s raining.

Watch this short video on saving on water utility bill.

Cell Phone Bill – Talking Can Be Cheap

Other than not talking at all, here are a few simple things to do:

-Family plan. Put the family on a group plan and qualify for a lower rate.

-Employer / school discounts. If you work for a large company or government agency or attend a certain university, you likely qualify for discounts.

-Limited talk/text. These plans work for people who stay within certain usage limits. The downside to these plans is that usage above the maximum tends to result in higher per minute charges.

-Use work cell phone. Many workplaces provide their employees with a mobile phone. Generally, it’s not a good idea to mix work and pleasure, but if you don’t use a cell phone much for personal use, relying on your work cell phone could be a way to save some money. However, there’s a good chance that your calls and emails are tracked, so what you save in money, you give up in privacy.

-Prepaid. Prepaid phones tend to have certain limitations and restrictions, so read the fine print, but this could be a way to save some dough on the mobile phone bill.

-Call and negotiate. If you’ve fulfilled your contract, consider calling up the company and asking for a discount or risk losing you as a customer. While I haven’t done this with my cell phone, I’ve done it with my cable company and have gotten discounts as a result of a single call.

Additional Resources:

Learn about more ways to save on utility bills.

Read about ways to save money on electric bills.

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