Could you use an extra $100? How about $1,000? Whether you're looking to beef up your savings or need the extra cash to make your mortgage payment this month, every extra dollar counts, and you may be able to find a few in these unexpected places.
During the height of summer heat and the bitter chill of winter, your home's energy bills can sky rocket. Rather than blindly handing over $10s or even $100s of dollars to your energy companies, consider these simple tricks to cutting back your energy usage. Over the course of a year, you could save several hundred dollars.
- First, pick up a pack of compact florescent light bulbs (CFLs) if you haven't already. While these oddly shaped bulbs may not look quite as nice in the dining room chandelier, they drastically reduce the amount of electricity used, and last up to six times longer. One CFL alone can save you up to $40 over the course of its lifetime. With 30 to 40 light bulbs in the average home, consider the impact of switching every bulb in your house.
- Next, make sure every new appliance you buy is rated as an energy star model. This ensures your new technology isn't guzzling power, which dramatically increases the overall cost of your new purchase. Energy star appliances like washing machines use significantly less water, can handle more clothes per load and use less electricity to run. According to Energy Star, if every washing machine bought this year in the United States was Energy Star rated, we would save 790 million kWh of electricity, 32 billion gallons of water, 2 trillion BTUs of natural gas and about $350 million.
- Finally, make the switch to washing all your laundry in cold water. Nearly 90% of your washing machine's energy usage and two thirds of its greenhouse gas emissions is a result of heating water in order for detergents to work properly. Detergents specifically designed to work in cool water have been proven to clean as, or more, effectively than traditional warm or hot water washes, slashing your laundry routine's energy costs, and subsequent energy bills. Also, if you've had trouble with clothing shrinking or fading, switching to cold water will eliminate the problem, sparing you the expense of replacing damaged clothing over time.
Landscaping and Water Bills
You typically associate wasting water with long showers or leaving the sink on while you brush your teeth. While these habits may be costing you a few dollars a month, they're likely not the worst water wasting habits in your home. For the real money draining mistakes, look outdoors.
Watering landscaping accounts for 30% of the average home's water usage, and shoots up to 70% for extremely dry climates. This amounts to about 7 billion gallons per day across the United States. Finding smart ways to cut back your landscaping needs and water consumption is one of the best methods for slashing bills and saving cash, all without sacrificing your home's curb appeal.
Consider a water-smart makeover by replacing your current moisture-sucking plants with drought tolerant and native options. By using plants, trees and ground cover designed to live off minimal to moderate watering, you'll reduce both your water and landscaping bills. Other water-smart landscaping tips to consider include reducing the size of your lawn, installing rain shut off devices to stop sprinklers during rainfall and replacing sprinklers with drip irrigation systems for smaller, more precise watering. Take a look at your home's water bill. Could you benefit from keeping 30% or more of that money each month?
Home Entertainment Bills
Even on a tight budget, nearly every home has an entertainment budget. From movie tickets to popcorn buckets, keeping yourself and your family entertained is getting pretty expensive. Consider the average cost of one night at the theater for a family of four. Four tickets, popcorn and drinks will likely run $80 or more. Rather than spending $960 per year on one movie night per month, consider adjusting your home's entertainment budget without sacrificing the fun.
If you can stand the wait, utilizing your cable or satellite company's on demand video service is a great way to see recent movie releases for far less than at the theater. The average on demand movie costs around $5, meaning the same family of four previously spending $80 could view a film at home, within about two months of its release, for merely $1.25 per person. Pick up bags of popcorn, soda and candy in bulk from a warehouse store, and your total entertainment budget could be reduced by hundreds of dollars per year.
If you or your family enjoys specific television shows along with movies, then changing how you view your favorite media may mean an additional savings of several hundred dollars per year. Switching from a standard cable or satellite contract costing around $100 per month to an online video streaming service like Netflix, Hulu Plus or Amazon Prime costing between $7.99 and $15 per month, instantly drops your home's entertainment costs. Services like these offer thousands of instantly streamed television shows, movies, documentaries and specials, all available the moment you want them, right on your television, computer, phone or tablet. While you won't view cable shows the same night they air, the one to several day wait is well worth the huge savings over traditional TV costs.
The Bottom Line
If you began employing these household-bill-reducing tactics today, you'd likely see a savings of several hundred to several thousand dollars over the course of a year. From replacing light bulbs and reducing lawns to washing laundry in cold water and viewing your favorite movies at home, the choices you make each day have bigger impact on your budget than you realize. Spending less on energy, landscaping and entertainment is the perfect way to find the extra cash you need to start a savings account, pay off other bills or take a much needed vacation.