Either you’re the one who goes around the house turning off lights behind everyone else, or you’re the one scolded for wasting electricity. Chances are that you spent most of your childhood as the second one, but quickly changed to the first category after receiving your first electric bill.
Utility bills are a modern convenience that will cost us money for our entire lives. (Assuming you don’t go off the grid, which is a whole different topic.) While other bills come and go, we constantly use utilities, and constantly get billed.
Developing healthy habits for using utilities will save you over and over again. You’ll want to find a good balance between living comfortably and living expensively.
The Best Tips for Saving on Utilities
Let’s tackle the bills one at a time.
Our family has an unusual water situation. We don’t have “city” water that comes through pipes. But we also don’t have a cistern or well that we can use for personal use. Our family lives on giant tanks. We’re at the mercy of a man who hauls water to us as we need it.
As you can imagine, this has lit a fire under us to conserve on water usage. Read all my best tips for saving on water here.
Do you still have a landline? Cutting it can often be a quick way to save. On the other hand, sometimes having a landline actually saves you more money. We have one because we get cheaper internet by adding a phone line. I’m not sure why it works that way, but I do like having the phone for the kids to use in case of an emergency.
If you don’t have a free or cheap landline, and cutting it is not an option, there are other ideas to explore. Here’s a fairly comprehensive review of Vonage and MagicJack devices. Both are cheap alternatives to traditional landlines, but they do require high speed internet.
As far as cell phones go, you’ve got more choices than you think. Mr. Money Mustache likes Google Fi and Republic Wireless for cheap options.
If you’re stuck in a contract…stop signing contracts! Save up and buy the phone you want. Be sure it’s unlocked so you can shop around for the best option. I use this cellphone, which isn’t at all flashy. It does call, text, and let me use the apps I want to use. Admittedly, I’m no early adopter, and I care more about saving money than technology. But if I wanted a fancy phone, I’d save up for one before I’d sign a contract for a “free” phone.
You’ll have to decide how important a flashy phone is to you.
If you follow just one rule, it should be If you can unplug it, unplug it. “Vampire electricity” is the term for appliances and electronics that suck up your electricity, even when you aren’t using that device. This source claims that it costs Americans $19 billion per year.
Do we really need 4 different clocks in our kitchen? None of them ever read the same time, anyway. Unplug the coffee maker when you aren’t using it. Flip the switch on the power strip to turn off all the devices attached.
Sometimes it will save you enough money to justify purchasing some power saving devices. (Don’t spend money on anything not guaranteed to save you money based on your own habits.)
Things that might save you money on electricity:
- Electric switch for hard to reach appliances and things you want to turn off.
- Drying rack for clothes.
- I love this rack for drying socks, unmentionables, and winter accessories.
- Plug in programmable timer.
- Window kit to keep heat in
- Programmable thermostat (Best for families that are often away from home. Otherwise, just turn the thermostat yourself!)
My friend Emily wrote a great post on How to Stay Warm When You’re Keeping Your House Cool. Turning the heat down and the a/c up saves tons of money.
Trash is a bill that is different everywhere. Removing trash might be part of your taxes or rental fees. You may pay more or less for recycling.
I know people who didn’t pay for trash removal, but loaded their trash in the back of the truck and took it straight to the town dumpster or the dump themselves. Others recycle nearly everything to avoid this fee.
Our own trash bill doesn’t cost much, but it is a pest because the bill shows up every 3 months and always surprises me. It’s the perfect candidate for a sinking funds category.
I have lived nearly my entire life without cable or satellite television. And I’m still living and breathing! My Hubby and I bought cable for 6 months when we were first married. But we ditched it when we bought our first home.
These days, there are so many alternatives that paying an expensive cable bill seems silly. For a long time, my Hubby was missing sports. But Sling media offers sports channels at a much more reasonable price than cable. (He’s used a free trial offer, but otherwise this is #yearofno’ed until we pay off debt.)
Obvious choices include Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. You can often get a free trial of these services to see if they are right for you. You can also stream shows and movies on Youtube and network websites. Local channels come free via an antenna like this one.
Try cutting back on cable or eliminating it altogether.
Take These Steps:
- Decide which utility you’d like to save money on first.
- Choose one or two changes to try for that utility.
- If you have the time and energy, choose a way to save on each utility in your budget.
- Repeat as necessary until you see big savings on your bills.
- Bank the difference in your account.
This was day 9 in the Secure Your Savings and Find Peace in the New Year series. Go to the bottom of this post to find all the money saving and money making posts in this series!
You might find that saving on utilities is much easier than you expected.
And if you purchase an electric saving device, you don’t even have to be the bad guy of the house.
How do you save on utilities?