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Energy-Saving Tips for Every Season

Energy-Saving Tips for Every Season

No matter what time of year it is, there’s a pretty good chance you’re using more energy than you need to be using on a daily basis. Through winter, spring, summer, and fall, there are many different tweaks you can make to your home to reduce your energy usage, and save some money in the process. While many of these energy-saving methods overlap throughout the seasons, most target a specific time of year in which they will be most useful.

Saving Energy in Winter

Most people’s energy usage spikes throughout the winter months. The cold, snowy weather, coupled with early darkness, means heat and lighting will be used throughout the majority of each day. While there isn’t much you can do to get around using your heat and lights more than you would during other times of the year, there are many ways you can ensure you’re using this energy to its maximum potential during the winter.

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No matter how cold it gets, keep your thermostat programmed to a warm 68°F. This level of temperature will keep you comfortable and not put excess stress on your heating system. In turn, you won’t see a spike in your heating bill—it should remain fairly constant, even throughout the coldest weeks of the year.

Be sure to clean, maintain, or replace your furnace filter as necessary. A blocked-up filter will also result in a stressed-out heater, and an increased bill. Not only that, but if warm air is being blocked by a clogged filter, you air you do get won’t be nearly as warm as you’d like (which will likely result in you turning up the heat, and wasting more energy and money).

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Check the areas in which your house comes into contact with the outside. This includes windows, doors, and your plumbing system. Ensure the space between the inside and outside is completely sealed so warm air can’t escape. Again, if you’re losing warm air in any way, you’ll end up turning up the heat. Don’t take the easy way out; check the seals around your home and keep the warm air in.

Saving Energy in the Summer

The summer months are a great time to save energy. Though it may get incredibly hot in your area of the world, it’s much easier to deal with heat than with extreme cold—at least in terms of energy usage.

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If you use an air conditioner or central air system (for which I don’t blame you!), again make sure your filters are clean and your windows and openings are sealed. Like using the heat during the winter, clogged filters and open seals will mean your cooling system will be working overtime—which will lead to much larger bills for you each month.

There are other, less obvious ways to stretch your energy usage throughout the summer months, too. When possible, give your clothes dryer and dishwasher a break; use a clothesline when the sun is out to dry your clothes, and use a simple drying rack rather than relying on your dishwasher’s drying cycle. You likely don’t need your clothes or dishes right away, so let the naturally warm air do its thing for you, free of charge.

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You might notice your refrigerator works overtime in the summer months, as well. You can combat this by stocking it as much as possible. Think about it: the smaller the amount of space, the less it has to work. It’s why I don’t mind living in a small apartment rather than a gigantic mansion (or at least that’s what I tell myself!).

Saving Energy in Spring and Fall

The transitional periods of the year, spring and fall, are actually the times in which you should be most diligent about your energy usage. Since the temperature can fluctuate from day to day during these times of year, you shouldn’t rely on an automated thermostat; it will likely waste more energy starting up and turning off throughout the day than it’s actually worth. Instead, play it by ear: open or close your windows depending on your preference rather than using excess energy.

These transition periods are a good time to prepare for the extreme hot or cold weather ahead. Do all the maintenance discussed above (filters, seals, etc.) while the weather is comfortable, so you’re not scrambling to improve your situation in the dead of summer or winter. Think ahead, and you’ll be sure to stay comfortable year-round.

Featured photo credit: 2 / Stanley Zimny via farm2.staticflickr.com

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Last Updated on January 2, 2019

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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How It Leads to Financial Improvement

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

Types of Personal Finance Software

When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

When to Use Personal Finance Software

So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

1. You Have Multiple Accounts

There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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How to Get Started

From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

Final Thoughts

Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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