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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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Last Updated on March 4, 2019

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

Many people will suggest that the best thing to do with your credit cards during these tough economic times is to cut them up with a pair of scissors. Indeed, if you are already in huge debt, you probably should stop using them and begin a payback strategy immediately. However, if you are not currently in trouble with your credit cards, there are wise ways to use them.

I happen to really love my credit cards so I will share with you my approach to how I use mine without getting into deep financial trouble.

Ever since about 1983 when I got my first Visa card, I continue to charge as many of my purchases as possible on credit. Everything from gas, groceries and monthly payments for services like my cable and home security monitoring are charged on credit. Despite my heavy usage, I have maintained the joy of never paying any interest fees at all on any of my credit cards.

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Here are some tips on how best to use your credit cards without falling into the trap of paying those nasty double-digit interest fees.

Do Not Treat Credit Cards as Your Funding Sources

Too many people treat their credit cards as funding sources for major purchases. Do not do this if you want to stay out of trouble. I use my credit cards as convenient financial instruments so I do not have to carry around much cash. In fact, I hate carrying cash, especially coins. When you buy things on credit, the purchases are clean and you will not get annoying coins back as change.

I do not rely on my Visa, MasterCard or American Express to fund any of my purchases, large or small. This brings me to my golden rule when it comes to whether I will pull out any of my credit cards either at a retail or online store.

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I never purchase anything with my credit cards if I do not have the actual cash on hand in my bank account.

If I really cannot pay for the item or service with cash that I already have at the bank, then I simply will not make the purchase. Remember, my credit cards are not used as funding sources. They are just convenient alternatives to actual cash in my pocket.

Make Sure to Always Pay Off Balances in Full Each Month

The next very important part of my overall strategy is to make absolutely sure that I pay the balances in full each and every month no matter how large they are. This should never be a problem if the cash has been budgeted for my purchases and secured in the bank. I have always paid my full balances each month ever since my very first credit card and this is why I never pay interest charges.

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Using Credit Cards with Rewards

Most of my credit cards are of the “no annual fees” type, including one MasterCard on a separate account I keep at home as a spare in case I lose my wallet or incur any fraudulent charges. However, I do use a main Visa card which does have an annual fee because all purchases on that card reward me with airline frequent flyer points. For me, the annual fee is worth it since I do travel and I get enough points to redeem many free flights.

You have to decide for yourself if you will charge enough purchases on credit each year without paying interest charges to warrant a credit card that rewards you with airline points (or other rewards). In my case, the answer is “yes” but that might not be the case for you.

I occasionally use a MasterCard or American Express card on small purchases just to keep those accounts active. Also, I have been to the odd retailer that accepted only a certain type of credit card, so I find that having one from each major company is quite handy. Aside from my main Visa card which earns the airline points, the rest of my cards are of the “no annual fees” variety.

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So this is how I use my credit cards without getting into any financial trouble with them. This strategy is recommended only if you are not in debt, of course. In fact, it is worth keeping in mind once you’re out of debt so that you can keep your credit cards active and treat them responsibly.

What are your credit card usage strategies? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear what methods you use.

Featured photo credit: Artem Bali via unsplash.com

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