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How Your Phone Can Help You Reduce Your Energy Bill

How Your Phone Can Help You Reduce Your Energy Bill

Heating and cooling your home can really hike up the price of your electricity bill, especially if you live in an area with extreme temperatures.

For instance, in the south, where humidity and heat are both high most of the year, homeowners tend to run their A/C constantly. When they don’t, the temperature inside their homes can become unbearable.

Not only is this bad for energy consumption, it’s terrible for the environment. Higher energy consumption means more fossil fuels are needed, and that translates to an increase in greenhouse gases. That’s why everyone should do their part to reduce their energy footprint as much as possible.

To save money on heating and cooling, you can do basic maintenance on AC units, swap out thermostats for more efficient ones, and even seal up ducts. Most of that stuff requires you to get in touch with a professional, however.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could reduce your energy footprint on your own, without outside help? You might know that your smartphone can make you more productive, but did you know there are apps and devices that can help you save money? That’s right, you can use your phone to save money on your electricity bill.

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Kill-Ur-Watts

In 2012, the Department of Energy held a contest that tasked developers with creating “apps for energy,” which would essentially help people reduce energy consumption. During the event, KeyLogic Systems Inc. came up with the app Kill-Ur-Watts.

It is a free tool that allows you to track how much energy you use — after entering consumption data on your own — via a relative score. You can then take the score and apply it to reduce your energy footprint.

All information entered into the app is presented visually through charts, graphs and indicators. You can even square off with friends to see who gets the better score. It’s a great way to get motivated and save some money.

Get it: Kill-Ur-Watts on iTunes | Free

Energy Cost Calculator

Want to quickly track how much energy you’re using in your home and find out the estimated cost? You can do all that with the Energy Cost Calculator app.

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Just take a look at the power meter on the outside of your home and use the numbers you gather to estimate a few stats. You must type in your estimated power consumption per hour, the hours of energy you use each day, and the cost per watt or kilowatt, which you can find on your power bill. The calculator will then tell you how much energy you’re using and roughly how much that costs.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration calculated the 2015 residential average was at about $114 per month. You can compare your bill to the average to see just how high your consumption ratings are.

Get it: Energy Cost Calculator on iTunes | Free

Energy CURB

Energy trackers and power calculators are great, but if you don’t know how to cut down on the amount of energy you’re using, they won’t make a lick of difference. That’s the point of Energy CURB, which offers you helpful advice for reducing your energy consumption. This app could be the Cadillac of energy apps.

If you’re looking for something that you can apply to your home and integrate everywhere, then CURB will work for you. It will help you allocate a specific budget and notify you if you’re close to the limit — and you can track trends over time. You can also integrate with other smart or green energy sources, such as your electric car and solar panels.

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When you make the right moves, you could save up to 20 percent on your home’s heating and cooling costs. The tips are valuable and will certainly help you save some money.

Get it: Energy CURB on iTunes | ~$300

Nest Learning Thermostat and App

The Nest learning thermostat is a “smart” home device, or more specifically a smart thermostat to replace your “dumb” one. It comes with a free companion app for Android and iOS.

While the Nest can interface with a variety of smart home products, increasing its practicality, the true allure is the cost savings it can offer. The thermostat works autonomously to help reduce energy usage in your home. It learns your habits and preferences, and then automatically adjusts the temperature in your home accordingly:

  • You can set it up so it turns off the air when you leave for errands or work, and turns it back on when you head home.
  • You can have it track your location via your smartphone
  • You can control everything on the thermostat through your phone

The companion app is free, but the Nest is not. Nest claims its smart thermostat will “pay for itself in cost savings” over time by helping you to reduce your energy bill. In fact, some energy companies will refund you the cost of Nest when you install the device and sign up for select plans, simply because you can save so much.

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Get it: Nest Learning Thermostat | $249

Light Bulb Finder

Believe it or not, one of the most egregious power hogs in your home may be your light bulbs. You can actually save quite a bit of money by swapping out your traditional bulbs with more energy-efficient ones.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, changing to more efficient bulbs means you will use about 25 percent to 80 percent less energy. These more modern bulbs tend to last 3-25 times longer than traditional ones, saving you even more money.

With the Light Bulb Finder app, you can find local stores that sell energy-efficient bulbs. The app also provides a bunch of helpful tips, namely concerns you’ll want to know about regarding traditional bulbs. It will even recommend different types of bulbs.

Get it: Light Bulb Finder | Free

By following these tips along with a few others, you’ll save money on your heating and cooling costs, as well as reduce your carbon footprint. Plus, it’s kind of fun to challenge yourself and see how you can reduce your costs.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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Megan Wild

Editor, Freelancer

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Definitive Guide to Get out of Debt Fast (and Forever)

The Definitive Guide to Get out of Debt Fast (and Forever)

Debt can feel crushing, like a weight that is always weighing you down. Looking at those numbers, it can feel as if you’ll never get out from under it. However, if you really want to learn how to get out of debt, it is possible with a great deal of focus and self-control.

Getting out of debt isn’t impossible. Like any big goal, all that it takes is an action plan to identify where you are and creating a plan to zero out your debt.

Identifying All of Your Debts

The first part of paying off your debt is getting a complete picture of what you owe. When you have everything written out in front of you, it makes it much easier to create an action plan. Depending on how much you owe, it might also help you realize it’s not as bad you might have originally thought.

Here’s how you can get started identifying your debts:

1. Own Your Debt

Before you start identifying all of your debts, take a moment to process that you have debt but want to get out of it.

Forgive yourself for any past mistakes, missed payments, or overspending. It might be painful to accept how much debt you have at first, but you must own it.

2. Make a Debt Tracker

It’s astonishing how few people ever created a tracker to understand their total debts. Most likely, it comes from not wanting to accept the guilt of having debt, but, if avoided, it can make it nearly impossible to get out of debt.

Open up a new Google or Microsoft Excel sheet and list out all of your debts. Start with the name of the creditor, interest rates, total balance, loan term length (if any), and the minimum amount due each payment. This will include student loans, credit cards, and any other type of debt owed.

3. Get Your Debt Number

Once you’ve made your debt tracker and taken the other steps, identify your total payoff number. This is crucial, as you will have a starting point and a clear goal that you are trying to achieve.

Prioritizing Your Debts

All debt is not created equal. It’s imperative to understand that there are different types of debt.

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1. Understand Bad and Good Debts

Bad debts are usually paying for things you want instead of always need. While there might be some emergencies that max out your credit cards, often times it’s excessive spending[1].

There are three main types of bad debt:

  • Credit Card Debt: The average American household owes over $16,000 in credit card debt!
  • Auto Loan Debt: According to CNBC , the average auto loan in the US is $30,032!
  • Consumer Loan Debt: Consumer loan debt isn’t as common as credit card and auto loan debt, but it’s still considered bad as interest rates are usually between 10-28%.

Good debt is identified as investments in your future. Here are three common types of good debt:

  • Student Loan Debt
  • Mortgage Loan
  • Business Loans

2. Decide Which Debt to Pay off First

Once you know each type of debt and their interest rates, you can begin to pay off debt quickly.

Focus on paying off bad debt first, regardless of if it is a credit card or auto loan. Start by paying off the loan with the highest interest rate first.

If you have several credit cards with different interest rates, you want to focus on the one with a higher APR. You will actually save more money by eliminating the card with the highest interest rate.

3. Don’t Pay the Minimum Amount

Paying the minimum amount digs you into a hole as interest rates will offset your payment. Even a small amount more than the minimum can help you pay off debt much faster.

Removing Obstacles to Pay off Debt Quickly

Creating a debt tracker and prioritizing a plan is simple, but avoiding temptation can be difficult.

1. Set a Reminder to Track Your Debt

“If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.” -Peter Drucker

It’s so important to track your debt to ensure that you get it paid off quickly. Similar to working out and measuring your results, you need to track your debt constantly. Start with a weekly reminder, where you sign on and log your updated number. Did you increase, decrease, or stay the same?

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Regularly tracking your student loan balance can be incredibly motivating, as well. You will get a huge confidence boost each time you see your total debt amount decreases.

Set weekly and monthly goals so you can have short term wins and keep the momentum going.

2. Hide Your Credit Cards

If your biggest debt is credit cards, you need to eliminate temptation and remove them from your wallet.

Some people have gone to extreme measures by freezing their credit cards. Why? This would create an ice block around your card, which would require you to chip away at it slowly. This will give you time to think if it’s the best idea to buy that thing you’re about to buy.

3. Automate Everything

Willpower can be a huge downfall to paying off your debt. By automating your bills each month, you will ensure that willpower isn’t involved.

4. Plan Ahead

Getting out of debt will require some sacrifices, but with enough planning, you can make it work.

For example, if you know that you have a friend’s birthday or family dinner coming up, plan ahead for the costs. Whether you need to cut back on spending the week before, pick up a side job, or meet them after dinner, do what is needed.

5. Live Cheaply

The only way to get out of debt is to make some sacrifices on your spending habits. Find ways to save money each month so you can apply that amount to your outstanding debts. Here are some ways to save money each month:

  • Live with roommates
  • Cook dinners and prepare lunches for work instead of eating out
  • Cut cable and choose Netflix or Amazon Prime
  • Take public transit or bike to work

Finding the Lowest Interest Rates

The higher your interest rates, the harder (and longer) it will take you to pay off any debt.

If possible, you want to find ways to lower your interest rates to help get out of debt quickly. Here’s how you can get started:

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1. Maintain a High Credit Score

Your credit score will have a large impact on your ability to refinance your loans and receive a lower interest rate. If you have a low credit score, it’s unlikely you will be able to refinance your loans. Use these credit tips to increase and maintain an excellent score:

  • Never miss a payment
  • Don’t exceed 30% of your credit limit
  • Don’t sign up for more than one card at once
  • Limit hard inquires, like auto-loans and new credit cards
  • Monitor frequently with free credit-tracking software

2. Find Balance Transfer Offers

Start by opening a free account on credit.com. Credit.com offers you the chance to open a free account and see what type of balance transfer offers you can receive. Some of your existing credit cards might already have 0% or lower APR balance transfer offers available.

Contact each of your credit card providers to ask about lowering your rate for a one-time balance transfer offer[2].

If you do take advantage of this option, make sure that you use a balance transfer and not a cash advance. Cash advances have a ton of high interest fees (15-25%, depending on your credit card) and will only compound your debt problem.

How to Get Rid of Debt Forever

Setting up a plan, removing temptations, and getting the lowest interest rates is the first step to get out of debt.

1. Keep Monitoring and Adjusting

Once you have a plan, don’t get comfortable. Track your debt payoff plan and make the necessary adjustments when needed.

Monitor your credit scores with a free site like CreditKarma. The higher your credit score climbs, the more likely you will be to secure a new, lower-interest loan.

2. Earn More Money

There are only so many ways to save money. Instead of clipping another coupon or making sacrifices for your morning coffee, find ways to earn more money!

Think about it…it is much easier to find ways to earn an extra $1,000 per month than find $1,000 to cut from your budget.

Here are some examples of ways to earn more money:

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Talk to Your Boss

Have a conversation with your boss about current salary and/or commission rates. If you’re not satisfied or want a change, don’t be afraid to look around at other positions. Some of them might even have a student loan debt reimbursement plan!

Start a Side Hustle

This could be coaching students on the weekends, driving for Uber, or taking paid online surveys. There are tons of ways to make money outside your 9-5. Now that you have a clear plan to pay off your debts, you’ll be more motivated than ever to figure out creative new ways to earn money.

Build an Online Business

There are so many websites and blogs that earn money from ads, affiliates, and other online products. Find your niche and get started.

3. Celebrate Your Wins

As you progress in your debt payoff journey, don’t forget to celebrate your wins. You need to always reward yourself for the hard work and discipline that is required to get out of debt.

While you shouldn’t celebrate so big that it increases debt, make sure to factor in little rewards to keep you motivated.

4. Set New Financial Goals

Eventually, with a plan and these steps, you can rid yourself of your debt. Once you do, make sure to celebrate your monumental achievement, but don’t stop there.

Now, you can focus on acquiring wealth and increasing your net worth. Set new financial goals so you have a new target to aim toward. Here’s how to set financial goals and actually meet them.

These could be anything now that you are debt free! Think about where you want to travel, buying your first home, or saving for your future retirement. Just like before, make sure that your goals are specific, measurable, and achievable.

Conclusion

Congrats, you can now set a plan in motion to finally pay off your debt quickly (and hopefully forever)!

Remember, if you want to get out of debt quickly, it’s not always easy. Just like any big goal, there will be sacrifices, challenges, and problems to overcome.

More Tips on Getting out of Debt

Featured photo credit: Pepi Stojanovski via unsplash.com

Reference

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