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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 September 17, 2018

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

2. When you want something big, wait

Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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So, you get the itch.

You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

Here’s where you have to take a step back.

Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

3. Live smaller than you can afford

You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

4. Practice smart grocery shopping

Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

Create a grocery budget

Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

Make a list… and never deviate

Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

Eat before going grocery shopping

It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

5. Cancel your gym membership

Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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