Through the depth of the financial crisis, it is has been important for me to find ways to cut down our household expenses. Here are 5 ideas you can use now to save real money each month managing your household.
First, eliminate your household telephone land line. When we took a hard look at how often we used our home telephone, we realized that our incoming calls were primarily political solicitations and calls from the school. We also realized that we were not using it at all for outgoing calls. For emergency telephone (911) calls, you will want to check with your cellular provider and your community’s 911 system on whether you can be located via your cell phone (most communities can now do this) and remember to alert important parties like the schools of the change. We cut down about $30 per month in fixed charges plus local and Federal taxes and other use charges by eliminating our land line.
Second, change all of your lightbulbs to CFL bulbs. While this will seem rather trivial at first in terms of energy savings, CFL bulbs can cut down on your household energy use and can save money in replacement light bults. Per the Energy Star website, if every American home replaced just one light with an ENERGY STAR light, we would save enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year, save about $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to those from about 800,000 cars. The compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulb is about 3 to 8 times as expensive but they last upwards of 3 or more years without replacement. In addition, there are a number of websites that sell CFL bulbs in bulk and at significant savings to single or multi-pack purchases. CFL bulbs for specialty light fixtures are also available.
Third, consider the programmable thermostat. We are often gone from our home for up to 6 hours each day for work and school. We set our programmable thermostat to 62 during the winter when we are gone and allow it to get as high as 76 during the summer. While I cannot calculate the savings since we have done this for so many years, I can state that our natural gas expenses during the one winter month when our kids are out of school for the holiday for half of the month (and when we do not change the household temperature) results in about a $100 increase in our bill. A new programmable thermostat will run between $30 and $60.
Related to a programmable thermostat, turn off your air conditioner or heat whenever possible. A nice spring or fall day can be a perfect time to open your windows and to allow the exterior to keep your home comfortable.
A fourth idea for cutting household expenses is to check your household insulation. Insulation keeps your house warm in the winter and cool in the summer. A visual inspection of your attic should yield information about the thickness and the type of insulation that has been used. Most climates require R-38 and colder climates need R-49. Using the government’s ENERGY SAVERS website along with other do-it-yourself websites and home centers can direct you to your particular climate’s needs as well as help you with adding more insulation yourself. Typically, it is a project that can be done in a weekend. Other related activities like caulk, insulating windows and walls, and insulating around exterior doors will also keep your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Insulating will also help your furnace and your air conditioner work more efficiently, extending the lives of the equipment, as well. There will be real savings in your monthly utilities.
Finally, stop mailing bills. I pay almost all of my bills using a free bill payment service provided by my credit union. I probably make 20 or more payments a month between utilities, car payments, my mortgage, and charge cards plus payments to schools, my kids lessons and activities, and miscellaneous donations and other payments. I have cut $8 to $10 per month in mailing costs over the past year through using online bill payment and by using credit cards, a debit card, or other online payment options. Even our local PTO will now take PayPal for certain donations and fundraisers! Also, make sure that you are not paying monthly surcharges to your financial institution for having a checking account. For example, credit unions rarely charge monthly maintenance fees for even small balance accounts in most areas. Also, make sure you are not paying for check copies or paying for a paper statement when you can get the same information electronically. Shop around and do not be afraid to change banks (financial institutions).
Even with some recovery since the depths of the financial crisis, it remains important to cut down on household expenses whenever possible. This has been a list of five possible solutions for you to use to save real money and the savings are not just short-term savings, but long-term expense reductions that can mean extra money in your account each month. Good luck with these ideas.
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