This is Part 3 of our Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck series.
Written by Mr. Crumbs
True story: The first year of our marriage, we lived in a small, one-bedroom apartment in Fort Worth, Texas. Our electric bill one August totaled around $350. Absolutely insane.
Granted, the reason our bill was so high was because our air conditioner was malfunctioning and acted more like a fan circulating hot hair, rather than an actual air conditioning unit… and because it never reached the set temperature, it ran 24/7.
Looking back, this bill could have drastically been reduced by at least a $200 if we’d had any common sense during those first few months of marital bliss. Simple things like calling maintenance earlier, buying a small “working” window unit, or just turning the air conditioner off and driving over to an air conditioned building for a day (like the mall) to hang out.
The smartest thing really would have just to have had the apartment maintenance guy come over and fix it, the minute it started blessing us with hot air.
In any case, we’re going to discuss a few simple ways, in which you can lower your utility costs each month and bless your bank account.
7 Tips Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck: Utilities
(1) Power Strip… Everything
You know how when you turn off your television or dvd player, you still see little led lights? While the appliance is “off” – it’s still drawing power.
The quickest way to lower your electric bill, is to put as many items that draw power (while off), on a power strip. Items like televisions, stereos, DVD players, video game systems… you know, all those items in your entertainment area? Place those all on one (or as many strips as necessary) and simply turn your power strip off after each use.
One button. Presto! It requires very little effort, and can save you big each month.
(2) Unplug Stuff
While it’s not practical to have a large power strip or surge protector on your kitchen counter – for the microwave, the workaround is to simply unplug it.
Those kitchen appliances like blenders, toaster ovens and microwaves – many of them draw power too. Since most of them have a clock, or LED feature of some sort, there is a good chance they are increasing your electric bill while you’re sleeping!
Now, while this may seem trivial (it may be), we lowered out electric bill 26% one month simply by implementing one power strip for the entertainment portion of our house and unplugging the microwave after each use. It’s turned into a habit that we don’t think twice about.
If you are paying way too much to heat and cool your house, use both the thermostat AND the time of day to your advantage.
During the summer months:
- Open the house up in the morning when it’s cooler, and turn on a fan or two to get the outside air circulating around the house. When it gets too warm inside, turn on the air conditioner to where you are just comfortable. Every day, try to raise the temperature on the air conditioner by one degree, until you have naturally become acclimated to a warmer temperature.
- At bedtime, you may be able to turn the air conditioner off, since it will be cooler outside and your house will not heat up as quickly.
- Additionally, consider preparing full meals on the grill, not heating the house with an oven. (Here’s a free grilling meal plan!)
During the winter months:
- Growing up, my dad would always tell us “if you’re cold, put on a sweatshirt.” It works! So, if you would like to run your heater less, dress in layers and learn to like coffee or hot tea. Plus, colder weather makes for great sleep.
- Same principles for opening and closing up the house apply here as they do during the summer, except in reverse.
(4) Do you really need that Smartphone?
I’m obviously biased here, but I don’t have a Smartphone. My phone is from the prehistoric era and at one point in its earlier life, was able to send a basic text message.
The cost of a data plan is through the roof now. Back in the day you could get unlimited data for what… like $20-30/month? Now you get 2GB of data, with a basic plan for $40/month? Correct me if I’m wrong, but if you like streaming music or surfing the web, 2GB won’t get you very far.
Anyhow. Just to be clear, I’m not judging you – as my wife owns a Smartphone.
My point is this, do you really need it? Most of us have internet at work, home and in public places – do we really need a phone that can do the same thing a tablet or laptop can do?
UPDATE: You actually can have the smartphone AND save money! Find out how here.
(5) Internet/Cable… and more Phone stuff
Now that we’ve discussed the taboo of getting rid of your smart phone, let’s talk about your home phone. If you have a cell phone, do you need a home phone?
Internet: Consider lowering your internet package to a slower speed. We found that the lowest plan of 3mbps streams Youtube and Netflix just fine.
Cable: You know where I’m going with this one… Do you really need cable? If you have internet, you do realize you can watch the same shows on the internet… right? In fact, I’d argue that you have a greater selection online, and you can avoid the commercials!
(6) The Trash Can
I said it. The trash can.
No, don’t get rid of your trash can… unless you have a truck and can haul your garbage and/or recyclables to the dump each month.
Practically, downsize to a smaller garbage can (if the cost of trash pickup is dependent on the size of your can). This will encourage you to recycle more, waste less, and will allow you to save a few bucks in the process.
Do not drink less, but use less.
If you have a water hungry dishwasher, consider washing your dishes by hand – rinsing only at the very end.
Before you hop in the shower, don’t turn on the water full blast waiting for it to warm up. Turn it on low and you might be surprised that it heats up quicker!
We’ve been faithfully using this technique and save $5 every month (which is a lot when your total bill is only $35).
Tip: Stick a bucket under the faucet as the water heats up, then use this water to water your plants and garden!
When you wash clothes, set the dial set to the appropriate sized load: small, medium or large. Ensuring the washer is completely full each load is one easy way to trim water expenses.
Use a homemade water displacement system to reduce the wasted water when you flush toilets.
This is list is certainly not all-inclusive, but contains a few practical, simple ways you can reduce utility costs around the house without much effort.