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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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Matt Duczeminski

A passionate writer who shares lifestlye tips on Lifehack

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Last Updated on September 2, 2020

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Personal finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. That’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways to set financial goals and actually meet them with ease.

4 Steps to Setting Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task, if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps to get you started.

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream, and this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore, if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it’s for. It could be anything, including your child’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car, etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives that you foresee in the future and put a value to each.

2. Keep Goals Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a Pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going beyond what you can realistically achieve will definitely hurt your chances of making meaningful progress.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic, as it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said: “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman.” This quote sums up what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore, account for inflation[1] whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far into the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years from now, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is a mere 3%. Always account for this to avoid falling short of your goals.

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4. Short Term Vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach to achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It’s important to bifurcate goals into short-term and long-term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal that is due in next 3 years should be termed as a short-term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long-term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short-term vs long-term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

By now, you should be ready with your list of financial goals. Now, it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

How to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a two-step process:

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self-realization is the best form of realization, and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your spending. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you will be surprised by how small expenses add up to a sizable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different buckets so that you know which bucket is eating most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pumping up your savings rate.

If you’re not sure where to start when tracking expenses, this article may be able to help.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classic mistake when setting financial goals. We pay ourselves last!

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Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world, i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement this is to put the savings on automatic mode, i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (mutual funds, retirement accounts, etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will help release some control and compel us to manage what’s left, increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick With It

Learning to create a budget is the best way to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be organized

Nowadays, several money management apps can help you do this automatically.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely, but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options, and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that, in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counterintuitive to many, there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

  • Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Weekends are more expensive.
  • If you are a travel buff, try to travel during off-season. You’ll spend significantly less.
  • If you go shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

The key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice, which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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5. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission.

Therefore, in order to stay the course, surround yourself with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

6. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

If you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energized to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot easier for you to track your progress.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However, savings, when invested wisely, can do wonders.

1. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investment doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so it’s wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings, and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

2. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about the common ones, like a savings account, Roth IRA, and others.

Just like “no one is born a criminal,” no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference[2].

As a general rule, for all your short-term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature, for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds, etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less compared to equity instruments.

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3. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding:

“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.”

Use compound interest when setting financial goals

    Make friends with this wonder kid. The sooner you become friends with it, the quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

    Start saving early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

    4. Measure, Measure, Measure

    All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments and taking stock of how our investments are doing.

    If we don’t measure progress at the right times, we are shooting in the dark. We won’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not, whether the financial advisor is doing a decent job, or whether we are moving closer to our target.

    Measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

    The Bottom Line

    Managing your extra money to achieve your short and long-term financial goals

    and live a debt-free life is doable for anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort. Use the tips above to get you started on your path to setting financial goals.

    More Tips on Financial Goals

    Featured photo credit: Micheile Henderson via unsplash.com

    Reference

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