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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 January 2, 2019

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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How It Leads to Financial Improvement

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

Types of Personal Finance Software

When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

When to Use Personal Finance Software

So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

1. You Have Multiple Accounts

There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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How to Get Started

From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

Final Thoughts

Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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