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8 Ways to Save Money on Utilities

8 Ways to Save Money on Utilities

When it comes to major purchases made throughout the year, utilities are usually an afterthought. You can remember buying a new TV or reflooring your basement, but you really don’t think of how much you spend on a daily basis on electricity, water, and heat. And it all adds up.

However, there are many ways to save money on utilities over the course of your lifetime. First and foremost, you must stop thinking of utilities as a passive expense. By remaining conscious of every time you use specific utilities, you’ll know how and when you can cut back and end up saving in the long run.

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Go solar

More and more people are starting to see the benefits of switching to solar power. Although the installation can be a little pricey, you’ll end up recouping your losses through cheap monthly payments within a relatively short period of time. You can also take measures to ensure your home is prepared for solar installation, cutting down on maintenance and other fees related to installation. With solar energy, not only will you be saving money for yourself, but you’ll also be doing your part to help the environment.

Install an irrigation meter

Many people don’t know that when you use water from your faucet, you’re being charged not just for the use of the water, but for its disposal as well. While it makes sense that water that ends up going down the drain needs to be filtered once again, not all of the water you use goes down the drain. If you have a pool, or you use a lot of water in your garden or yard, you shouldn’t be charged a “maintenance fee” of sorts until the water actually goes back into circulation. An irrigation meter will document the discrepancy between water used and water drained so the water company charges you accordingly. If you use a large amount of water for anything other than washing yourself, your dishes, and your clothes, you might be throwing a ton of money down the drain.

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Steady your water heater temperature

Your hot water heater doesn’t need to be set any higher than 120°F. First of all, water warmer than that will almost certainly scald your skin. Second of all, there really isn’t much use for water that’s below the boiling point but still too hot to touch. Lastly, setting your water heater higher than 120°F causes it to work overtime, meaning it will likely end up dying out sooner than later. Keeping your hot water heater regulated can save you around $50 a year, plus lessen your risk of needing to repair or replace it.

Use reusable HVAC filters

It’s tempting to go with cheap filters for your heating and cooling units, thinking they’ll save you money and work just as well for the time being. But, despite being 2-4x more expensive than their single-use equivalent, permanent filters will save you money in the long run for a variety of reasons. Most obviously, they won’t have to replaced year after year. They’re easily cleanable, and are meant to withstand long periods of use. As long as you keep up with their maintenance, reusable filters ensure your HVAC system is not strained to the max. Like your water heater, if you don’t strain your HVAC system, you’ll decrease the chances of having to pay for maintenance or replacement later on down the road.

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Seal your home

You wouldn’t leave your door open all winter, would you? Everyone knows this would result in massive heating bills. But you might not realize the cracks in your walls and windows are doing just as much damage as an open door would do. Check your windows and door frames for cracks that will let cold air in, and fill them up with caulk or expanding foam as best you can. Do the same for any walls that meet the outside, especially where pipes come in and out of the house. You won’t realize the difference it makes to your comfort, and your wallet, until you do it.

Use Energy Star products

From lightbulbs to TVs and larger appliances, Energy Star products are designed to save you money while saving the environment from excess usage of resources. Under EPA guidelines, Energy Star products must not cost customers more than a conventional product would. Although they may be more expensive up front, Energy Star products are guaranteed by the EPA to save you money over a 5-year period.

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Use a thermostat

As mentioned before, utilities are too often considered an afterthought. Heating or cooling your home is perhaps the most effective illustration of this concept. When it’s cold out, you’ll turn on the heat to warm you up. But you likely won’t recognize when you’ve had the heat on for too long, and will end up allowing excess energy to be expelled to maintain the high temperature. Using a programmable thermostat allows you to forget all about your heater or air conditioning and let it do what it needs to do, when it needs to be done. Better yet, if you are able to set your thermostat on a timer, you can be absolutely certain you never go over a specific amount of time or energy, and your bill will stay relatively steady all year.

Do routine sweeps

Do a quick run through of your house (after reading this, of course). I can almost guarantee you have some electronics turned on that aren’t currently in use. Maybe a faucet is dripping. Or maybe you have the heat on but left a small window open in a bedroom. Be more conscious of these little things, as they pile up over the months and years and equate to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars wasted that could have gone elsewhere.

Featured photo credit: Pat Glennon / 63/365 v2.0 / Flickr via farm4.staticflickr.com

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Published on May 7, 2019

How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

When it comes to stocks, I bet you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

Everyone who’s not a financial expert has been there. I’ve been there. But, time is passing and you need to be crystal clear with how you’re investing for your retirement.

Otherwise, it’s back to work until you can afford not to. So, how can you invest for retirement when you’re not a financial expert?

You take the time to learn the fundamentals well. If you do, you can grow your wealth and retire happy. The best part is that you don’t need to be a financial expert to make smart investment decisions.

Here’s how to invest for retirement the smart and stress-free way:

1. Know Clearly Why You Invest

Odds are you already know why should invest for retirement.

But, maybe you know the wrong reasons. It’s time you get clear on why you’d like to retire. Here are some questions to help you get started:

  • Will you spend more time with your family?
  • What does retirement mean to you?
  • Are you looking to launch that business you’ve been holding off for years?

Everyone wants to retire but not for the same reasons. Once you’re clear for why retirement is important for you, you’ll focus on making it happen.

Investing in the stock market allows you to take advantage of compound interest.[1] All this means is that your money earns money on top of its interest. A reason why investment in the stock market is one of the best ways to plan for retirement.

2. Figure out When to Invest

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”– Chinese Proverb

It’s true if you’d had started investing when you were 10 years old, you’d have a lot more money than you do today.

The reality is that most people don’t start investing until it’s too late. So, if you’re currently waiting for the perfect time to start an investment, it would be today. Open your calendar and block out 2 to 3 hours to choose how you’ll invest for retirement.

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A quick way to get a snapshot of where you stand is to use Personal Capital. Input all your personal information and spend some time setting your retirement goals. Once completed, you’ll know where you stand with your retirement.

Having a savings account for retirement isn’t planning for retirement. Why? Your money loses value when you factor in US inflation.[2]

3. Evaluate Your Risk Tolerance to Create the Perfect Portfolio

Investing your money well depends on your emotions.

Why?

Because when the market drops most people panic and withdraw their money. On average, the US stock market yields an annual 6% to 7% ROI (return on your investment.) But, this won’t happen if you’re worried about short-term loses.

Before you invest your next dollar, know your risk tolerance.[3] Your risk tolerance determines the number of risky and safe investments you’d have.

Regardless of your investing style, you need to view investing for retirement as a long term game. Know that some years you’ll lose money but recoup this in the long-term.

Avoid watching market-related new. Also, create a double authentication to log in your investment account. This way you’re less likely to withdraw your money.

4. Open a Reliable Retirement Account

Depending on your circumstance, you may need to open a new brokerage account. This is the account is where you’ll invest your money.

If you’re currently working for a company, odds are that they offer a 410K investing account. If so, here’s where you’ll invest most of your money. The only problem with this is that you’re limited to the stock options that are available.

You do have the option to open a separate IRA (individual retirement account.) Here are some of the best brokers:

  1. Vanguard
  2. TD Ameritrade
  3. Charles Schwab

5. Challenge Yourself to Invest Consistently

Committing to invest for retirement is hard, but continuing to do so is harder.

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Once you’ve started investment for your retirement, you run at risk from stopping. Often you’ll want to contribute less, so you’d have more money in your pocket.

That’s why it’s important that you create a budget that allows you to invest each month. If you’re working for a company, you can set a percentage for the amount you’d like to contribute each month. Most people by default contribute 1% but aim to contribute 10% to 15%.

Be the judge for how much you can afford to contribute after covering important expenses. To stay motivated, use Personal Capital to view your net worth.

A benefit to contributing money to your retirement account is not taxed. For example, if you earn $100 and invest 10%, you’d contribute $10, then get taxed on the remaining $90. As of 2019, the most you’re able to contribute towards your 401K is 19K but this can change.

6. Consider Where to Invest Your Money

The most common way to invest your money is in stocks, but it’s not the only way. Here are other ways to invest:

Robo Advisors

Robo-advisors[4] are fancy algorithms that’ll choose the best investments for you. Sites like Wealthfront make it easy for first-time investors to invest their money. You’d input information about yourself and set your risk tolerance.

Then, set your monthly contribution amount and your robo-advisor would do the rest. Robo-advisors charge a fee to manage your money, but less than regular advisors.

Bonds

Think of bonds as “IOUs” to whomever you buy them from.

Essentially, you’re lending money and charging interest. Like stocks, not all bonds are equal. Some will be riskier than others depending on their rating.

Here are the different types of bond categories:[5]

  1. Treasury bonds
  2. Government bonds
  3. Corporate bonds
  4. Foreign bonds
  5. Mortgage-backed bonds
  6. Municipal bonds

Mutual Funds

Picture a group of people dumping all their money in a jar that’s managed by a professional. This is how mutual funds work. The fund manager manages the money looking to earn capital gains (interest.)

One of the best types of mutual funds is index funds. Since these funds don’t try to beat the market and instead follow it, they need less research. Because of this they often charge the lowest fees and yield the best long-term results.

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Real Estate

Yes, buying a home is an investment when done correctly.

Imagine buying a home and using it as a rental property. After repairing it, you receive a monthly surplus check of $100 to $200.

This may not sound like a lot, but repeat this process enough times and you’d earn a large amount of passive income. That’s why real estate is one of the best investments to not only retire but become wealthy.

But, it requires a lot of money to start and you should expect losing money along the way as you learn the process.

Savings Accounts

Your money can still grow in a savings account. Nowadays most online banks offer a 2% annual return. Although the average inflation is higher your money will be available when you need it.

7. Master Disincline to Dodge Short Success

Investing for retirement is a long-term strategy. That’s why you need to master delayed gratification. All this means is delaying short-term pleasure for something bigger in the future. Research shows that those who have delayed gratification are more successful.[6]

So how can you master delayed gratification?

By building your discipline.

Think back to what retirement means to you. A clear purpose will help you avoid withdrawing your money during a market downturn. It’ll help you contribute more towards retirement when you’d want to waste it instead.

Your journey towards retirement will be long, so reward yourself along the way. Choose a reward that’s relevant and meaningful, so that you reinforce positive behavior. For example, after contributing more towards retirement, treat yourself to dinner.

8. Aggressively Invest on This One Investment

I’ve mentioned several types of investments but haven’t covered the most important one.

It sounds cliche but here’s why you’re your best investment towards retirement. The more you know, the more money you’ll be able to make. The more good habits you adopt, the more secure your retirement will be.

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More importantly, investing in yourself is an investment that no one can take away. There’s no market downturn nor tragic circumstance that’ll wipe your knowledge and experience.

But, how can you invest yourself?

Reading books, blogs, and anything that’ll help you learn new topics daily. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks on your commute to/from work.

Save money to buy courses and hire coaches. I used to believe hiring coaches was a waste of money when I could learn the subject alone.

But, coaches see your blind spots and hold you accountable. Hiring the right coach will help you achieve your goals faster than you would’ve alone.

Retire Happy with Excess Money

The key to a secure financial future doesn’t only belong to financial experts.

It’s possible for you and I. What if you were able to retire earlier than most people and weren’t a financial planner? What if you were able to focus on what you enjoy doing the most while your money was working hard for you?

I know this sounds impossible now, but the truth is you’re capable of taking charge of your retirement. I’m not a financial expert but I’ve learned how to invest my money by reading books and learning from others.

Investing your money is scary. So start small and invest a small amount of your money with a robo-advisor. Feel your money drop and rise for a month or two. Then, invest more and keep this up until you’re aggressively saving for retirement.

One day, you’ll wake up with a net worth you’re proud of – confident about your retirement. You now know a few strategies you can use to invest in your retirement. Will you take action to retire happy?

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Featured photo credit: Matthew Bennett via unsplash.com

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