Lower your utility costs to free up cash

Written by
Peter Dunn

Your utilities are a necessity, which is often why they are the budget category that gets the least attention. Necessities tend to equal an "it is what it is" attitude in people. For many it's easier to cut costs in the less necessary categories like gifts and entertainment, but I want you to rethink this attitude. There are actually plenty of ways you can lower your utility bills, and most of them are free. Just because you need water and electricity doesn't mean you have to pay huge chunks of money for them each month.

Consider doing any of these 5 things to lower your utility costs:

1. Turn off lights when you leave a room

I'll start with the most obvious one. Seriously, if you aren't turning off lights when you aren't using them, you need to get yourself together. Change your habits now because your carelessness is costing you. The same goes for outdoor lights. Lighting a backyard for 12 hours at night isn't the best use of money. Switching to a motion-detecting light will save you money and fulfill the same purpose of detouring intruders.

2. Conserve water

Conserving water gets a bad rap. I'm not asking you to cut down your shower time or to stop watering your yard (although doing both of these would cut your water costs), there are other, less invasive ways you can lower expenses. The easiest option is to invest a few bucks in low-flow faucet aerators and low-flow shower heads. The best part isn't the money you'll save, it's how you won't notice a difference in the water pressure. It's the same pressure, just less water. Wrap your head around that one.

3. Check for air leaks around windows and doors

Even newer homes aren't immune to air leaks. Walk around your house with your hand around the doors and windows. Do you feel drafts? If so seal it up. There are plenty of easy and inexpensive ways to seal air gaps. You are paying to heat and cool your house, so assuring that the conditioned air stays inside is a priority.

4. If you're cold, do what your mom told you and put on a sweater

You want your house to be a place of comfort, but sometimes it isn't worth the extra cash. You may like a warm and cozy home, but the higher your thermostat is set, the more you'll spend. So put on a sweater or turn on a fan in the summer. Keeping your thermostat set a few degrees outside of your comfort zone will mean lots of savings on your next bill.

5. Install a programmable thermostat

Buying a programmable thermostat is taking #4 to the next level. A programmable thermostat may cost a few bucks, but being able to keep temps at a more energy efficient level when no one is home just makes sense. If you can't afford a programmable thermostat, don't sweat it, just get yourself in the habit of lowering or raising the thermostat before you leave for work. Your house may be a little warm/cool (depending on the season) when you get home, but your system will catch up to your desired temp quickly.

Don't let utilities become a "fixed" expense in your budget. What you do impacts your utility spending. Making small physical changes as well as creating new energy-efficient habits means you can reduce your utility expenses. Another common utilities concern is how unpredictable and uneven your bills are throughout the year. Many utility companies offer a budget option which usually means you pay a flat rate throughout the year based on your past year of expenses. At the end of the year you either get a reimbursement check or a bill for the difference. It can be a great program, but do your research and determine if it's the right thing for you.

Step up your financial wellness game.

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