[Editor’s note: Several of these tips are only doable if you own a home, but don’t worry — there are plenty of useful hacks here for renters, too! — Holly]
When we started our journey to financial freedom, we knew that we had to save money everywhere we could. One of the things we did was to start looking at our recurring expenses — namely, utilities. You know, those pesky expenses that come out every month that we don’t think about.
Often, we overlook these expenses, because they come and go every month. If you can start to trim away the excess, you can start to see huge rewards over time. The best ways to save money on utilities is to take each one, and ask what you can do to lower the costs. There are a lot of ways to save money on utilities without making huge sacrifices. Here are some tips to help you save money on utilities, and hold onto your hard earned cash.
Can’t live without it. It’s literally costing you every second of the day. Your electricity is one of your biggest costs around, and you need to make sure that you are not overpaying on it. Let’s go through the list of things you can do to cut this cost.
1. Test Appliances for Electricity Usage
Ok full dork confession, about two years ago I got really motivated to cut down my electrical bill. So I picked up one of these. It measures the amount of electricity that an appliance uses. You can enter in how much your cost per kilowatt of electricity. Then, leave the appliance plugged in for a day or two, and see how much it uses. Some items will surprise you.
For instance, to charge my phone uses less than $2 a month, based on charging it once a day. Thought it would be waaaaay more. My remote control docking station uses $0.75 a year when it’s in charging mode. Our TV system that wasn’t turned on uses $17 a year to sit idle. And no one ever uses…So we unplugged it. Simple.
2. Turn Off Appliances When You Aren’t Using Them
Computers is honestly the easiest place to save money on utilities, because you set it once and then you are done. If you have a computer in the house (and you most likely do), do you leave it on all day and night? That means there is probably 8-16 hours a day where it isn’t being used but still using power. Go into your power-saver settings for it to shut down at a certain time of night. (Here’s how to do it on a Mac and how to do it on a PC.) You don’t need it running all night long. By doing this, you will cut 33% of your power consumption on this gadget turned necessity. Plus it could extend the life of your computer as a bonus.
The same goes for other electronics and appliances. Like I mentioned earlier, that power meter shows me how much phantom power each appliance drew. (Phantom power is power that an appliance draws when it’s turned off but still plugged in). Some of them were surprising to say the least. If you aren’t using something for months and months, unplug it. From coffee makers to lamps many things draw power even when you aren’t using them. Make sure to unplug them and keep the extra money.
3. Ditch the 1970’s Beer Fridge
Speaking of phantom power, that mini fridge is probably sucking a lot more electricity than you are benefiting from. We got rid of ours this year. Our hydro company had a program where they take it away, and pay you $50 for it.
4. Don’t Use the Oven on Small Things
An oven is great when you are making a big meal. But if you really want to save money on utilities, get a toaster oven. It can do the same thing at a fraction of the cost. The toaster oven will offer you the same heat in a smaller container, giving you some nice savings.
5. Fill Up The Dishwasher
This is a must. Always wait for the dishwasher to be full until you use it. They take a ton of energy to run. Doing a half-load isn’t worth it — leave it until it’s full, or wash dishes by hand if there are only a few. Dryers also suck up a huge amount of power. If you have the time and space, hang up your clothes, and let the air dry out your clothes. It will help you to save money on your utilities.
6. Rechargeable Batteries
If you have kids (or maybe even if not), you know that your batteries are always getting replaced. Pick up some rechargeable batteries and enjoy the savings over the next few years.
7. Use the “Free” Freezer
If you live anywhere that gets below freezing in the winter, outside is basically a freezer. Animal concerns aside, make use of the cold climate if you can.
There are a few ways to save on lights. The first one is to turn them off when you aren’t in the room. (I’m having a flashback to the hundreds of times my dad told me this in my youth). It’s a simple thing. Will it save you tons, over the long run? Yes.
8. Turn Off The Lights
And in that one sentence I became my father. This was the quintessential father comment. “Turn off the lights when you aren’t in the room” was the one I always heard. Now that I own a house I realize why. Every second that the lights are on and you aren’t using them it’s sucking money out of your pocket. Stop the madness!
9. Replace your lights with LED
LED Bulbs are great for saving energy. I wrote about LED bulbs here. They are more expensive than traditional bulbs, but they cut your costs dramatically. In simple shortest terms, LED lights save you a ton of money and you can recover the cost in a few short year. Bonus! These lights last forever. Which is awesome. Because it means only switching lights every other decade, rather than every year. (Which isn’t big, but changing light bulbs is a nuisance.)
10. Install Dimmer Switches
If you want to cut down your lighting costs even more than just using LED, you can install dimmer switches. They use less power when you go to lower light settings. Stack that with the LED lights, and you are going to see some nice savings over the years.
Heating and Cooling
Heating is the biggest utility for most people. When you are looking to save money on utilities heat should be your # 1 focus. There is no way around heating a house when it’s cold outside, so here are some ways to cut those utility costs.
11. Get a Programmable Thermostat
I was surprised at how much this helped our bills. We had it set to drop at night, which was better for sleeping. Then the furnace would kick on before we got up, and go back down while we were at work. The savings were significant.
Added bonus! Many companies are seeing the benefits, and you can get rebates on your new thermostat. Make sure to check with your utilities company.
12. Turn Down the Thermostat
If you don’t want to spring for a new thermostat, turning down your current thermostat is a easy way to go. This can save quite a bit of money. Don’t like the cold? Pop on a sweater or cozy up with a blanket. It’s the easier option.
13. Open Your Windows at Night
Another way to ways to save money at home in the summer is to open up the windows overnight and let the cool air in. During the day, close up the house and draw the curtains — this will keep the house cooler for longer. It’s not an end-all-be-all solution, but it does add up.
14. Upgrade Your Insulation
There are a lot of programs out there that will cover your upgrade, or give you grants to do so. You should check your area’s utility provider before doing this. Since you may need approval before getting started. If you are in an older house, upgrading your insulation will help cut your heating costs in the winter, and cooling costs in the summer. If you are in an older house, the insulation could be quite old and in need of upgrading.
15. Don’t Upgrade Your Windows
My personal belief is that upgrading your windows for the energy savings is dumb. While the windows of today would embarrass the windows of earlier generations. Windows are expensive, and in all honesty, you probably won’t see the cost savings from the upgrade.
Another thing to consider. If you do have an old house, upgrading the windows won’t give you much savings when the walls still have 100-year old insulation in it. Just my thoughts.
16. Stop the Air from Leaking Out
No matter what you do, make sure to plug any hole you might have around your door and windows. Leaking air can quickly add up in the cold months. If you can see through the crack in the door, it’s probably a good time to fix the gaps.
17. Replace Your Furnace Filter
I have a reminder set for this one. All the dust from your house goes through your ducts and ends up in that filter. When the filter gets clogged, the furnace needs to work more to get the heat through. Replacing them can help you save money on utility bills.
18. Reduce your Cable Bill
I hate negotiating with the cable company as much as anyone, but the truth is the squeaky wheel gets greased. A 10-minute call could save you for months to come. I won’t get into cutting the cable, since it’s not something I’m personally familiar with, but I will say that I use Netflix more and more.
19. Look at Bundling Your Internet, Mobile Phones and Cable
The big three! These are some of the biggest expenses we have, and we usually get pretty complacent with them once we start up. You can cut your cable, reduce your data, and even ditch the landline. there are more possible savings to be had. If you use any two telecom (cable, broadband, wireless) services, consider bundling. By grouping your communications packages into one bill, you can often get a discount. Better yet, it may save you from that call of having to beg for a discount with your current provider. The bundling we do every month saves us $40.
20. Switch from a Landline to VOIP
We switched over to Ooma three years ago and we love it. They have a great app for making long distance calls and rank high in consumer reports.
Water and Waste
21. Install Low-Flow Shower Heads
This has become almost second nature in different places but if you haven’t put a low flow shower head in your house, it’s worth looking into. The water savings could add up. Check out this calculator to see your savings.
22. Put Insulation Around your Hot Water Pipe
The majority of heat loss is from the first couple of feet coming out of your hot water tank. According to Energy.gov you should look to insulate the first three feet to preserve energy. Check out the video here on how to do it.
23. Install an Aerator
This is like a low flow shower-head for your sink — it attaches onto the end of your tap and makes the water flow more efficiently while not lessening the pressure.
24. Install a Dual Flush Toilet
If you pay for water, you are literally flushing money down the toilet. Throw some kids into the mix, and that’s gonna hit the college fund at some point. Dual flush toilets are a great way to save money on your water costs.
25. Stop the Drip
If you have a leaky faucet in your house, you should fix it as quickly as possible. Consider this: if you have one leaky faucet that drips five times a minute, that’s 173 gallons a year. If you want to play with the numbers more, check out this calculator.
26. Maximize Using Your Dishwasher
We touched on this for electricity, but it goes for water as well. When possible, skip pre-rinsing your dishes, and make sure your dishwasher is full when you use it.
27. Practice Using Less Water
Shorter showers instead of longer ones. Turning off the water when you shave or are washing veggies. Just turn off the tap when you aren’t immediately using it. Your wallet will thank you.
28. Recycle, Reduce and Reuse
When it comes to saving money, there are often a lot of things you can do with your trash to make it easier on your waller. Especially if you’re charged for for trash pickup, make sure to recycle whenever possible. When you can compost, try to do so. Finally, make sure to use the earth’s resources when you don’t have to pay — a rain barrel is a great way to save money on your water bills when it comes to watering your garden and plants.
Andrew Daniels is the blogger behind Family Money Plan, where he writes about how he and his family paid off their mortgage in 6 years and are now beginning their journey towards financial freedom.
Image via Unsplash