The basic rule of budgeting are pretty straightforward: Don’t spend more than you take in, and cut out the nonessential spending first. None of us really need to be swinging by Starbucks every morning, or eating out twice a week, or filling our carts at Target with cute stuff we could easily live without. And down most of us know that, even if we don’t always abide by it. In fact, this general principle is even the basis for the 31 Days of Living Well & Spending Zero challenge here at LWSL.
Thus while tempering that non-essential spending is super important for a healthy financial life, it is also a very smart idea to regularly take a good hard look at those things we DO need to spend our hard-earned money on, things like electricity and water and utilities. After all, none of us want to to pay more than we have to!
Here are 12 super smart (and fairly painless) ways to save on utilities:
1. Turn it down
Turning down the heat in the winter and the air conditioner in the summer is one of the fastest ways to see a significant savings on your electricity bill. Here in Florida we try to keep our A/C set to no less than 79 degrees, which still feels comfortable and cool compared to the outside temperature. In cooler climates, try keeping the thermostat set at 68 during the day and then turning it down to 65 at night. For additional savings, be sure to also set the temperature lower while you are away.
Likewise, turning down the temperature on your hot water heater can make a significant difference as well. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, reducing your temperature from 140 degrees to 120 degrees will save at least $2 a month.
2. Turn it off
Keeping lights and ceiling fans turned off when not in use is one of the best habits you can develop. According to Florida Power & Light, just one ceiling fan running constantly will add an extra $7 a month to your electric bill! Develop a “turn it off” rule for all overhead lights, lamps, and appliances. Be sure too to fully turn off electronics that go into “standby” mode such as computers and printers, as they are still drawing electricity in standby mode. Unplugging appliances when not in use can help a lot too.
“Electricity is a big one for us – not just for the money, but for overall conservation as well. The kids were always leaving lights and electronics on – so we started keeping a tally – every time the kids leave their light or TV on in their room, they owe us a quarter – that is deducted from their “allowance” – they have learned to turn lights out pretty quick!“~LWSL reader Gerri Lawall
3. Stop pre-rinsing
This little nugget of research just killed my husband who is as engineer-obsessive about pre-rinsing as he is about well, everything! Gotta love him. The truth is that most newer model dishwashers are designed specifically to remove and break down food particles from dishes, leaving them sparkling clean with no pre-rinse required, and skipping this step can save up to $70 dollars a year! (Source: FPL.com)
4. Air dry
While it might take just a little longer, air-drying your clothes, dishes, and even your hair as often as possible can cut a big chunk out of your power bill each month. Start by changing your dishwasher settings to air dry rather than heat dry, then, whenever possible, line or flat dry your clothes. When you do need to use the dryer, use the auto sensor function to avoid drying longer than possible. (And don’t just keep tumbling the clothes because you don’t have time to fold them! Not that I’ve ever done that…)
“I line dry inside as much as I can during the winter months. I place the rack under the ceiling fan; helps with humidity issues as well. I also bought complete blackout drapes for all the rooms and on days when it is uber cold, I keep em closed to keep the heat in; or heat out in the summer. I do the majority of my laundry at night, never run a half load in the dishwasher, and cook/bake as many things as I can at one time to lessen how often my oven is on.” ~LWSL reader Katherine Schaefer Meredith
5. Keep it clean
Be sure to clean your dryer lint screen before each use to help it run more efficiently. Likewise, keep your air filters clean and changed regularly in order to save energy on heating and cooling the house.
6. Be stingy
Look for ways to use less water in your every day activities, including adjusting your washer to use the lowest water setting necessary when doing a load of laundry, and not letting the water run while brushing your teeth or washing dishes by hand. Consider replacing shower heads with low-flow heads, or place a bottle filled with sand in your toilet tanks so that they use less water each flush.
“We saved about $10 (20%) on our water/sewer bill by putting a 50% water reduction aerator on our kitchen faucet, putting an 87% water reduction aerator on our bathroom faucet, and putting a large peanut butter jar filled with rocks in our toilet tank to reduce the amount of water used with each flush.”~LWSL reader Hollie Payne
7. Check for leaks
Hidden water leaks can result in abnormally high water bills, and none of us want to pay for something we’re not even using! If you’re not sure why your bill is so high, do a leak test by checking your water meter right before bedtime and then as soon as you wake up. If the numbers have changed, you may have a leak somewhere. Try these six tips for finding it yourself, or else call a plumber.
8. Eliminate drafts
Drafty windows can be a huge source of heat loss during cold winter months, so be sure to cover them up as much as possible. Use a ready-to-go winterization kit, or create your own with tape and plastic, sheets, or blankets. If the drafts are really bad, consider installing heavy insulating curtains as well in order to improve energy efficiency. Be sure to also keep the damper closed on your fireplace when not in use to eliminate drafts through the chimney.
9. Add insulation
Poor quality (or no) insulation will make your home cold in the wintertime and unbearably hot in the summertime, and can add hundreds of dollars to your utility bills over the course of a year. It is worth the investment to add additional insulation to your attic and walls. Be sure to first eliminate any drafts, as insulation will not stop air flow.
“A few years ago we had more insulation blown into our attic. We lost our attic storage, but we went from getting oil 3 or 4 times a winter to once a winter. Totally worth it!” ~LWSL Reader Carol Schwanger
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10. Pay smart
If possible, consider setting up your utility bills to be paid with a credit card that offers rewards or cash back, such as Discover. Please note that this is only a good option if you able to be 100% diligent about paying off your balance on time each month. The rewards will be completely neutralized if you have to pay interest or late fees! However, if you are very disciplined when it comes to bill-paying and credit cards, this is a great way to earn a little extra on something you have to pay anyway.
11. Get efficient
When purchasing new appliances or fixtures, be sure to opt for the most energy efficient styles available. This goes for large appliances such as refrigerators, ovens, dishwashers, and washers & dryers, but also for things like toilets, shower heads, and faucets.
“We bought energy efficient appliances. Our bill was almost $50 less the first month! We also installed a programmable thermostat and hang dry almost all the clothes, which helps add moisture to the air in the winter too!” ~LWSL reader Cheri Olson
12. Cut it out
Consider eliminating land line phone or cable service altogether. My husband and I have not had a traditional land line telephone in years; instead we rely only on our cell phone service. This saves us about $50 each month, or about $600 a year. We also use a ROKU box to stream movies and television shows from Netflix and Amazon Prime which has probably saved us at least $1,000 on cable over the past 3 years.
There are no shortage of ways to save once you start looking; sometimes it is just a matter of thinking outside the box! Another great option is to look at a service such as BillCutterz. This innovative service helps negotiate better rates for all your bills, and then splits the difference with you, which means that they only get paid if they are saving you money. You can find out more HERE.
How do YOU save on utilities? Please share your ideas and tips in the comments below!
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This post was written as part of the Discover Preferred Blogger Program and sponsored by Discover. All opinions are mine. Discover has no higher priority than to reward its customers with the best service in the business. The company is committed to helping its customers spend smarter, manage debt better and save more so they can achieve a brighter financial future.