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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 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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