Making a budget and religiously sticking to it is a great start toward reducing debt and having money to set up in savings. Mortgage, cable, and credit cards tend to have a stable monthly rate and are easy to set a budget by; utilities, however, are not. Utilities are priced on usage, which can be drastically altered based on the season and the care of the homeowner. Here are a few common sense tips on how to reduce your utility budget.
Be careful about water consumption; don’t just let the faucets run unattended. If you are shaving, fill the sink with a pool of hot water and shake your razor in it to clean off the hair and cream. When you brush your teeth, don’t leave the faucet running; turn it off after each time you rinse the brush. After you are done with the morning grooming, wet a rag and wipe the sink. Unless your daily routine makes you intimate with large quantities of dirt and sweat, it is not necessary to take a shower every day; two or three times a week may suffice.
Invest in a dishwasher; they use a fixed amount of water to run through their cycle, so are more economical than running the sink. If your home cannot support a dishwasher, then fill a sink with soapy water and wash dishes there, only using running water for rinsing. Make sure to turn off the faucet after every rinsed dish.
If you are the type that has to water your lawn, you will save in the long run by installing an automatic sprinkler system. This will make sure your lawn will be watered at a set time at a set amount.
Natural gas is a non-renewable resource, which makes it the most costly and unstable of utilities. Over the years, the rates of this utility will fluctuate. If it is possible for your home, it would be more economical to convert to all electric. Fortunately, natural gas is limited to heating water, heating your home, and running your stove.
If you can’t convert the house to electric, at least invest in an electric stove. I have one that can boil water in two minutes, so heating efficiency is not lost by switching. The biggest expense that gas will cost you is heating the house in the winter. This is where insulation is key; make sure all of your outside walls have some form of insulation in them. The foaming insulation is more expensive to install, but is more effective at trapping heat in your home. Also the spray insulation is ideal for attics; spread it on thick. My heating costs took a noticeable drop of around fifty dollars a month when I did this.
Another small trick to reduce heating costs is to close off the vents in rooms that you don’t use very often, such as guest bedrooms or spare bathrooms. Keep the thermostat at a tolerable level; by lounging around in a polyester blanket with a reduced thermostat, you lower the effort your heater has to work to maintain the temperature. If you have a fireplace, you can take advantage of burning wood to keep the heater from clicking on too often. Thermopane windows also lower the amount of cold air that seeps into the house.
Invest in central heat and air, because window units allow more draft and don’t spread through the house efficiently. While the heating portion of the unit can run on gas, the air-conditioner is electric. Acquire a programmable thermostat; this is a handy device that allows you to set up a schedule for your home’s temperature. If you know that no one is going to be home for a long stretch through a day, you can set the house at a temperature that is less consumptive on the unit; i.e. colder for winter, warmer for summer. This will save you on spending money for comfort that you aren’t available to enjoy.
Keep an eye on lights. If no one is in a room, turn the lights off. If you are watching television and no one is doing anything that is necessary for them to see, turn the lights off. You’ll be able to see the picture better anyway without the competition. Be sure to use florescent or LED bulbs in your light fixtures; they may be more expensive than normal bulbs, but they use up a lot less power. Also, they don’t have to be replaced nearly as often. In the six years I have lived in my house, I have only had to replace one of my bulbs.
Make sure you don’t leave unnecessary appliances running. If no one is watching the television, turn it off. If you have more than one television, and various members of your family are watching the same program on multiple units, insist they make it a group event and turn off the excess televisions. Unplug your phone or battery chargers when they are not currently in use.
Some of these items may not seem to be much, but they reduce waste, which is a big chunk of your utility bill. Exercise your eyes to look out for wasteful practices and you will see lots of little things to conserve power, gas, and water. With due diligence, all these little things accumulated over a month’s period does add up to savings and a comfortable budget.