We have a family of five, and with my recent ankle surgery to repair two torn ligaments (they apparently should have healed on their own, but didn’t), we were forced to move from a tri-level to a single level home out in the country. We didn’t plan for the complications that would follow: a DVT blood clot, de-conditioning of my body forcing my heart to work harder, etc. As a result of all the extra medical bills, my husband took on four jobs and I started looking for ways to save every penny, nickel, dime, and dollar that I can!
Since we don’t have a car payment, credit cards and utilities are part of our largest bills (after the mortgage and student loans, of course). Saving on utilities will be the focus of this article, and we’ll get into ways to save on credit cards, student loans, and the mortgage at some point in the future. The following ideas are just some of the ways we are trying to save money on our utilities. If you have other ideas, please feel free to share them.
When brushing your teeth, do you leave the water running, or do you shut it off while you are brushing, and then turn it back on when you need to rinse off your toothbrush? I have found that with five people in the house, brushing their teeth two to three times per day, or more (we have a little girl who is concerned about her teeth because her older brother had to have a root canal, and my husband who has been obsessed with brushing his teeth ever since he got braces) we can conserve water by rinsing off the toothbrush, shutting off the water, applying toothpaste, brushing teeth, and then turning on the water only when we are rinsing off the toothbrush again. This method probably save several gallons of water per day.
Another way to save water is to collect the water that is being used when water is heating up. Saving empty milk, or distilled water jugs, gives you the ability to save the water that is otherwise going down the drain. The saved water can then be used for cooking, giving water to pets, drinking water for yourself, water for plants, and vegetables, and hand-washing nylons and other hand-wash items that don’t need to be in warm, or hot water.
When shaving, if you pull the plug up and collect the cold water with the hot while it is heating up — then the ultimate hot water will heat up the cold and you have conserved a bunch of water. If the water still is not warm enough, drain a little out, and add more hot water — this way, you’ve conserved at least some of the water.
Outside, you can save on your water bill by watering during off-peak hours, and by watering when it is not so hot that your water dissipates before it has a chance to soak into the ground. Call your water company to find out the least expensive times to water your lawn.
Power Strips. We have personally found that we can save about $5 per month by plugging as many items as we can into power strips. Of course, you cannot plug your freezer, or refrigerator into a power strip, but just about any non-essential appliance can be plugged into a power strip and powered off when not in use. Although this means that you may have to wait a couple of minutes for the power to get to your television, you’ll be surprised at how much money you’ll save in the long run. I know $5 per month may not sound like much, but Pennywise Families will realize that every little bit adds up — $60 per year might be an extra tank of gas for the car, or a family meal out to celebrate a big event.
Second, if it is an option for you, use flat pay, or level bill pay, whenever you can. Flat pay can save you money per month by leveling out your bill, so you don’t have unexpected expenses and you pay the same amount every year — no more $300-$400 bills in the summer from your air-conditioning usage! We did this at our former house, and we went from $300 bills in the summer, and $75 bills in the winter, to $120 bills per month all year long for a 2575 square foot house. Apparently, if you are the first owner of a house, you can’t use level pay until the house has been lived in for a year, so it’s not an option for us just yet, but will be next June!
Line Drying clothes. You’d be surprised at how much this option can save. Although resistant at first, I have learned that your dryer uses a lot more energy than you might think. By adding an extra spin to the washer, excess water is already out of your clothes. When you hang them to dry, be sure to give them a snap, and ensure you have as many wrinkles out of them as possible. Hanging them for a few hours, then drying them in the dryer will soften stiff clothes like jeans, towels, and sheets.
Windows. Since we live in a home, we are able to use our windows for light during the day. Opening up the blinds provides us with enough light to see by during the day, and we only have to use the lights at nighttime, or when we go into our closet (deep inside our bathroom where no natural light gets to it).
Another way to save money with regard to windows, is to use blackout blinds to block out summer heat, add insulated fabric to drapes, or add plastic film to your windows during the winter.
Oven use. In the winter, the oven can help heat the house. It’s also when we want to do more baking for the holidays, for gifts for neighbors, etc. If you’re going to use the oven, have it do double-duty, or more, if possible cook two meals at once — tonight’s and tomorrow’s and then reheat tomorrow’s meal; bake a pie, or brownies while you are baking dinner; and then leave the oven open all the way (if you don’t have little ones, or leave it open a crack if you are worried someone in your house might get burned) to let the heat out, allowing the oven to heat up your house while it cools down.
During the summer, barbecue or use slow-cooker to prevent your house from heating up while the meal cooks. Otherwise, your air conditioner will need to come on to cool your house back down.
Programmable thermostat. Use a programmable thermostat to set a temperature that is comfortable, and then forget it. Keeping the same temperature actually saves more money than having the air-conditioner, or heater fluctuate on and off all day long.
Seal attic walls, doorways, and windows, and add insulation to your attic and crawl spaces. Be sure you check your home for leaky windows, spaces underneath your door, or in your attic. Add insulation to your attic, and crawl spaces, after you’ve checked to ensure all areas are sealed. By adding insulation, you can keep the warm, or cold air you’ve already paid for in your house, instead of allowing it to seep out through places that have no insulation.